The spring equinox is upon us and the perfect time for cleansing and purifying the mind, body and spirit. I recommend a thorough holistic cleanse after winter as low sun exposure, an abundance of heavy, cooked food and often times less than ideal time spent in nature, leaves our bodies heavy with excess toxins. This is natural during the winter but spring, with its crisp air and budding flowers is the fresh start you need to refresh and rejuvenate for the warmer months (they’re coming, I promise!). In fact, our bodies are so in-tune with this natural cycle that it will often attempt to detoxify itself. If not supported, this can be a leading culprit behind the illnesses that surface during this time of year as your body tries to rid itself of toxins. Nature also shows the harmony behind the seasons as spring gives rise to naturally lighter, more cleansing foods. Before doing any extensive detox, it’s important to do a preliminary cleanse to prep the body. This holistic spring challenge is a simple start to cleansing and is catered to you so you can reap the benefits no matter your current diet or lifestyle!
What cleansing can do for you:
- Increase focus and mental clarity
- Look and become more toned
- Decrease digestive discomfort
- Improve the look and health of your skin
I decided April first would be my time to get motivated and begin and I want to invite you to do this HOLISTIC SPRING CLEANSE. Are you in? Or in the words of “How I Met Your Mother” (with the finale upon us)… “Challenge accepted?!”
Here it is! And don’t be intimidated, this is your cleanse, you can choose one or all of the following food transformations.
For the month of April I am going sugar-free, dairy free, gluten-free, caffeine free, alcohol free, processed free and soy free. Many of these I already am and so the cleanse may be less dramatic than for some. If eliminating these is a major task for you, pick a few that resonate with you and commit to eliminating those. Here are some practical guides to going “whatever you choose free” and remember, stick to what you can commit to whole heartedly for one month.
- Going sugar-free is more than just eliminating white sugar. This means no sugary syrups, no dried fruit, no high glycemic LOAD (not index) foods and so forth. High glycemic load foods will spike blood sugar and should be avoided until the body is more balanced. Don’t be mistaken, bananas and other high glycemic LOAD foods are typically good for you so long as the body is balanced and blood sugar stabilized.
- For me, sugar elimination also means no stevia and I highly encourage this. Why? Though stevia doesn’t spike blood sugar, these alternative forms of sweetness stimulate your receptors and can cause you to crave sweets. Another benefit of cutting this out is that it gives your body time to rework your taste buds. This takes time but eventually, your taste buds switch to taste sweetness in things you typically wouldn’t find sweet. The receptors are so sensitive that even veggies start tasting sweet! So even when you reintroduce some sweetness, you won’t need nearly the same amount nor crave it in the same way.
- Another food to avoid? Bread and any simple starches. According to the book wheat belly, bread can spike your blood sugar higher than a chocolate bar! In fact, when you chew bread, you can taste a sweetness if you chew long enough because this starch is converted to glucose in your body. In other words, simple starches are also sugars.
Tips: when avoiding breads and pastas etc: opt for whole grains such as quinoa, steel cut oats and seeds such as chia and flax seeds. When you have a craving for sweets opt for sweet veggies such as red peppers, herbal teas or stevia only if absolutely needed.
- This includes products that contain dairy. Look at labels, you’d be surprised how much dairy creeps into things in the form of powders etc. Also beware of bakes goods, butter is included in the avoidance of dairy as is yogurt etc. Most substitutes such as Daiya cheese are highly processed and full of body clogging ingredients so stick to whole food choices as much as possible.
Tips: opt for coconut milk or almond milk and homemade almond cheeses (you can find the recipes online if you’d like, they are relatively simple).
- Another sneaky one. This is great as awareness of the issues with gluten has forced companies to switch to many gluten free products. Just be sure you are not getting sucked into the health traps. Always read labels to see what is in it. Gluten free does not constitute as healthy.
Tips: here are whole food gluten free grains:
Coconut flour, almond meal, quinoa flour, buckwheat flour etc. are all great to work with in baking. You can easily look up their conversions online. As far as cleansing, however, try to stick to whole food choices to reap the benefits of the grain’s nutrients and fibre.
For pastas I am obsessed with raw zucchini noodles or kelp noodles.
What’s the deal with oats? For most people, oats are okay. The problem here is that though they do not naturally contain gluten, there may be a problem with cross contamination. If you have a gluten intolerance or allergy, you may want to avoid these and test them later to see if you have any reaction to them. Otherwise, steel cut oats are a great option for a cleanse as they are high in fibre and great for blood sugar stabilizing.
- This goes for chocolate, green tea, coffee etc. Cut the caffeine.
Tips: opt for herbal teas and herbal coffee substitutes such as Teeccino (there’s even a chocolate mint and a hazelnut flavour!) which alkalizes the body. Here is the link: http://teeccino.com/ as well, some health food stores carry this.
Decaf coffee is usually full of unwanted toxins and should be avoided. As a bonus, by getting away from the taste, you will start to crave it less and as your body stabilizes, you won’t need to rely on it for energy any longer.
- Another sneaky culprit so be sure to check labels. It is often masked as soy lecithin, soy protein and so forth and is hard to avoid. Miso and tempeh are allowed as they are unprocessed sources. Tofu is not.
Tips: The best way to completely avoid it? Eat whole! And when in doubt, go without.
- This is huge! It will have you shopping in the aisles of vibrant fruit and exploring the cascade of veggies before you. This is the transformation to a whole food lifestyle. Keep to organic as much as possible to fully reap the benefits, at least for the dirty bakers dozen. This category includes staying clear of bottled fruit and vegetable juices.
Tips: cut up and wash your veggies as soon as you get home from the grocery store to save time later. We make a huge, and I mean huge, container of salad and store it in the fridge.
Always have some cooked whole grains (such as quinoa or millet) on hand to be thrown into a fast stir fry or pasta with your already prepared veggies for a fast meal.
Don’t think in terms of mono meals. When you make a meal, make enough to carry it over to another meal. A stir fry for dinner can be tomorrow’s lunch over a beautiful salad to switch things up. With any meat products, go for whole sources: grass fed, free range, antibiotic and hormone free. Do some quick research ahead of time to see where you can get this.
It is critical to understand that a good cleanse can stir up a great deal of toxins within you. It is important to make sure that your body is eliminating these toxins as they surface so that they are not being absorbed into your blood stream and back into circulation. To manage this, pay attention to how you feel. If you experience headaches, nausea, etc, simply eat some heavier foods such as cooked vegetables or quinoa. These foods will slow the detoxification process so that your body is not overwhelmed. Also, drink more water to help your body flush out the toxins from your system.
Additional cleansing MUSTS:
- Oils to cook with: grapeseed and coconut oil used in moderation.
At least 6-8 glasses of water/day, hydration is critical for digestion and to flush the toxins properly from your system. There is no leeway here: get your 6-8! Stop drinking 30 minutes before eating and refrain until an hour after eating. You can jazz it up with organic cucumber, basil and/or lemon as well for nature’s flavoured water.
This deserves its own category. Lemon water first thing in the morning improves digestion, boosts immunity, balances pH, cleanses the liver, reduces inflammation and far more. Drink warm water with 1/2-1 fresh squeezed organic lemon first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before food.
To help push those toxins right out! 1-2tsbp of ground flax or soaked chia per day is a great way to incorporate more into your diet. You can put ground flax on top of your morning oats, or sprinkle them on salads. Green ands vegetables are another way to increase your fibre intake.
Your body cannot digest food properly when you are sleeping. It will not only offset your digestion causing the food in your stomach to ferment and create toxins (of which the point of cleansing is to rid yourself of this) but it will also offset your sleep. It may be hard to sleep or it may simply interrupt the quality of your sleep. Your body goes through certain stages during the night and detoxifying is one of them. If your body is burdened with digesting food, it will skip the detox portion. Going to sleep past 10pm may do this too.
- Don’t nook the nutrients out of your food
For so many reasons including radiation and altering the composition of your food: this is a must! Microwaves are off limits and should be unplugged.
Greens are critical for an acid alkaline balance and detoxification. They are also light and easily digestible for most people so eat these in abundance.
This goes for your diet and mind! For the diet, choose lighter foods and eat only until you are 80% full. For the mind, laugh like a fool. This is no joking matter, laughter is a powerful detoxifier and the movement of a full body, stomach clenching laugh can get the lymph moving and strengthen the flow of oxygen through your body.
7-8 hours a night for most people. You need energy in order for your body to properly cleanse. As I mentioned earlier, your body goes through natural cycles during the night including detoxification but in order for this to happen, you need to actually be asleep.
If you don’t move, everything in your body stays stagnant. In order to get the toxins moving out of your system, you need to move. Yoga for 10 minutes in the morning and night with a strong focus on breath is great. If your stuck at work, do the stairs on your break. If you have a trampoline, bounce for at least 20 minutes a day. Anything to get the lymphatic system in motion.
- Make breath your secret weapon
Though three deep breaths may not make your fiancé magically appear before you (last HIMYM reference, I promise), it may do even better! If you are feeling a craving coming on, take 5 deep breaths and move along.
Additional cleansing powerhouses:
- Aim for a diet that is 80% alkaline to 20% acidic
- Take your daily probiotics
- Use digestive enzymes with every meal
- Incorporate chlorella, garlic and ginger into your diet as well as spices such as cayenne pepper, cumin and turmeric
- Soul reads / movies – I love any books by Eckart Tolle and a peaceful warrior is one of my favourite movies
- Keeping a food journal/ journaling
- Multivitamin, fish oil, b complex
B vitamins support the liver and adrenals especially during times of stress where it is greatly depleted. It’s also important for energy and a critical component of mental health.
A good EFA complex works as an incredible alkalizer in the body and to reduce inflammation. They are important for water balance regulation, to boost immunity and balance sugar.
Proper detoxification happens in a body that provides and is rich in the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals for which the multivitamin is very important.
Talk to your holistic health practitioner about a supplement regime.
- Sprout into cleansing! Sprouting instantly raises nutritional value and digestibility of a food. The enzyme content can increase up words of 1000%! These can often be found at your local health food store and if you’re really adventurous, you can look into sprouting your own.
- Vegan/vegetarian for a week at the end of your cleansing.
Though I do not recommend going vegan or vegetarian for the long term, animal is one of the most difficult things to digest and removing it for a short period of time allows the body a great chance to thoroughly cleanse.
A final note:
Your mind body and spirit are incredibly interconnected. Understand that as sludge is kicked up in your body, mental sludge will often arise too. This could show up as irritability, being overly sensitive etc. No cleanse is complete without incorporating some cleansing of these realms as well, which is why I highly recommend yoga and deep breathing as it will help to ring the toxins from your body while at the same time balance your mind and spirit. If you notice emotions arise, take a few deep breaths wherever you are. If you can, take a walk, do some yoga, read your soul read, journal or just sit and breathe. By the end of the month, you will have noticed such a difference!
I hope you will join me and invite others to as well! Get a group of people to join you that will keep you accountable and motivated and have fun with this challenge. Experiment with new recipes and develop new lifestyle habits. Take these last two days to prepare and organize yourself to stay on track and prepare for a spring of natural health and vitality!
Best of luck on your journey,