Spring Cleaning for Your Best Health

Thank goodness spring is a time of renewal. Because if your post-winter yard is like mine it looks like it was hit by napalm. As the foliage perks up so will our spirits and energy levels. But there’s an often overlooked aspect of spring as important to our state of health as sunshine and warm air is to our greenery. Think: internal  spring cleaning.  Detoxing the gunk at the change of season keeps the body strong in much the same way regular oil changes keep the car running smoothly.

And boy do we need it: this is one toxic world. Unless home is an ashram in the middle of the Carolina mountains there’s little escaping it. The EPA has identified more than 4-million chemical toxins in our environment.  And to find a sneaky source of toxins undermining your wellness look no further -than your plate.

More than 3500 food additives are approved for use by FDA, the majority of which are chemicals.  Others approved as  “indirect food additives” –such as adhesives and polymers– wind up in your chow from contact with machinery and packaging during processing. The average American reportedly consumes between 8 and 15 pounds of chemical food additives every year.  Uh…. check please.

Toxins can also come from stress and metabolic imbalances. They combine with chemical toxins and, like a steady drip into a bucket, can eventually overflow and create a health disaster.
But your body will give you clues that the toxic time-bomb is ticking.  It’s vitally important to listen. Headaches, constipation, weight gain, depression,  poor concentration, poor skin, poor memory, body odor, and even bad breath are signs of toxic overload.  Two or more of these symptoms and it’s time for a spring cleaning in the form of a systemic detox.

There are literally dozens of detox products on the market, some good and some not so good. That’s why doing your own research is important.  In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite detox techniques that are easy, affordable, and more importantly –effective.

Fasting
When the body isn’t focused on digestion it naturally turns its attention to internal cleansing; this is why fasting has been a popular method of purification since ancient  times.
We’ve learned that it’s healthier to prepare for a fast by eating only fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains for a few days before you begin.  Fresh juices (no citrus) and herb teas are a nice addition to a fast, and I recommend the daily water intake (distilled) be no less than two-thirds of your body weight in ounces.
The length of time you fast is up to you; some folks fast for one day every week… others 3 or 4 days at a time.  Just don’t jump in without knowing what you’re doing –particularly if you have any chronic health issues– and always restore with probiotics  following a fast.
Here’s a recipe for a great internal cleanse. It’s known by different names…  I just call it fabulous.

shutterstock_30680656 (Bonnie Walters's conflicted copy 2011-04-25)

Master Cleanse
-1 gallon distilled water
-the juice and skin of a lemon or lime
– 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses (or grade B maple syrup)
-a pinch or 2 of cayenne pepper
Drink a full gallon each day you fast. For first-timers, I recommend just a day or two, tops.

Herbs & Fiber
Many herbs have a long history of use in purging toxins through various body systems. For example, dandelion root and milk thistle are amazing liver cleansing  herbs, while marshmallow root removes hardened mucous in the intestinal tract. Check with a local herbalist or health food store;  there are dozens of formulas to choose from.
Fiber “sweeps” the digestive tract clean, absorbs toxins and escorts them out of the body. But don’t let someone sell you cleansing herbs combined with fiber. The fiber –by its very nature– will absorb whatever is nearby so you run the risk of reducing pharmacological action of the herbs.  Do take a fiber supplement – but a few hours away from your herbs, and with LOTS of water.

Hydrotherapy
This is a fancy name for taking a bath. The skin is a detoxifying channel for the body, so taking long hot baths (or sitting in the sauna or steam room) increases blood flow and capillary action near the surface of the skin, causing a faster release of toxins; it also increases sweating, opens up pores, and relieves stress. Remember, if you have health problems or high blood pressure, check with your doctor before you hop in a hot tub.

Exercise
This is often overlooked as an important aid to detoxification.  Exercise stimulates body systems so that metabolic efficiency is stepped up. This, of course, includes the systems that are integral to cleansing. It also strengthens the body and the mind, lowers blood pressure, and keeps you looking -and feeling – great.

Final Words
Chronic dehydration leads to many serious health problems, and most Americans are woefully bad water drinkers. Here’s an easy water rule to follow: drink one-half your body weight in ounces daily –minimum.  Water flushes toxins and waste from the body and transports nutrients where they’re needed. So get a filter for your faucet and bottoms up.

And finallyonce you’re “clean” you want to stay that way. This is the perfect time to make big changes if your diet hasn’t been up to snuff. We all know -instinctively- what’s  healthy and what isn’t. Keep it real. Keep it fresh. Make a conscious decision to be more personally responsible for what you bring into your home and put into your mouth. It’s really not that difficult. People do it all the time.

—Julie Brannon is an Herbal Educator, purveyor of tough love, owner of Bailey’s Naturals.  Article written for Destination Tampa Bay magazine