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Monday to Friday 8-4pm and by appointment

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Ask a Naturopathic Doctor: Spring Cleansing

Katherine Willow N.D.

It’s time to think about inner cleansing again as we head toward spring equinox. Canadian weather makes it tricky, with cold temperatures and snow inclining us to heavier foods while the increasing sunlight stimulates our bodies to unload toxins accumulated over the winter.

When these conflicting influences are not balanced we can end up with a cold or flu, depending on our constitution and lifestyle. Signs that we are heading in that direction include a diminished appetite, not knowing what to eat and at the same time fighting cravings; bloating and other digestive symptoms; headaches; restless sleep and waking in the wee hours of the morning; irritability and depression; and a heavy sense of fatigue, especially in the mornings.

Here are some tips for balancing in early spring in a cold climate:

  1. Start lightening the diet moderately: move from meat and poultry to fish and vegetarian proteins; consume less fat (nut butters, organic butter, cold-pressed oils and coconut oil are good); increase greens—small salads and otherwise cooked; replace wheat with lighter grains such as rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat; only have one serving of fruit daily as it is still too cooling for this time of year; eliminate or decrease dairy products; avoid obvious culprits such as sugar, white flour, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine as much as possible; limit even healthy sweets for a time.
  2. If you are able, replace one meal daily with a protein drink that is room temperature several times weekly, preferably for dinner and then stop eating for the rest of the evening.
  3. Drink herbal tea or lemon water (rinse teeth after) first thing in the morning and between meals. Types that stimulate the digestion and cleansing include: ginger, dandelion leaf (root for fall), peppermint and many wonderful detox blends.
  4. Make sure bowels are moving regularly. I often suggest bentonite (1 tablespoon) and psyllium (1 teaspoon) mixed quickly in a cup of warm water ½ hour before breakfast as a gentle bowel cleanser.
  5. Cleansing is blocked when we are in chronic stress. Consider yoga, learn to meditate, get regular massages or do some emotional resolution to offset the hectic energy of modern life.
  6. Add specific cleansing herbs in a low dose: milk thistle, homeopathic detox remedies, cleavers, Alveo, etc. Use 1/3 regular dose in the mornings.

All of these actions will lead to gentle cleansing without symptoms in most people. Energy will gradually increase, appetite will sharpen, sleep improves, mood brightens, libido reawakens and mind clarifies.

If we end up with a cold or flu despite our best efforts, the best solution is to move immediately to a liquid diet of hot water, lemon water, broth made of cooked veggies and/or bones from grass-fed animals, room temperature protein drinks and herb teas. Products made from elderberries (Sambucus) have been shown to shorten the length of a flu much more than flu medications. If done right away, one can abort a seasonal illness in a few hours rather than spending miserable days in bed!

Cleansing is part of most spiritual paths. Lightening our digestive load allows us to focus on higher levels. This awareness can be accompanied by feelings of lightness, spaciousness and bliss which are strong motivators to continue eating a clean diet and cleansing regularly which in turn helps us find our true selves and contribute happily to the Universe.