It’s the first day of spring officially, but here in Minnesota it is still a chilly nine degrees with plenty of snow on the ground. Never the less we can feel Spring in the air, the daylight is shining longer and the sun feels warmer on our face. It is this time of year that I get asked a lot about “Spring Cleanses” to clean up a winter of fatty, rich foods and over-indulgence.
Cleanses are a very popular marketing term for any diet, dietary aid, or combination of these used to clean-up the body, especially the liver in order to rid the body of toxins. Proposed benefits of these cleanses include weight loss, more energy, better complexion, clearer thinking and much more. While the verdict is still out as to weather or not these store-bought cleanses actually do “cleanse” the body of toxins, the concept of cleansing in the spring is not new.
In Chinese medicine there is a concept of the five elements - wood, fire, earth, water, and metal. Each element corresponds to a distinct stage in nature and a particular time of year as well as organs in the body. Spring is represented by the element of wood, and the corresponding organ is the liver, with the complementary organ being the gall bladder. This is a time of cleansing, regeneration, increase of activity, renewal of spirit and new beginnings.
So the concept of a spring cleanse is not a new one. What is new is the overwhelming marketing of boxed or created cleanses. What the Chinese figured out thousands, yes thousands, of years ago was that nature provides us with the ultimate cleanse possible. So using the basics of Chinese and Taoist thought, here are some basic tips to truly cleanse your body:
1. Move - Exercise promotes the flow of Qi in the body which can increase the flow of blood to and from the liver to the tendons and muscles. Try adding a light 5-10 minute movement routine to your morning. This can be yoga, qigong, dance, or any authentic movement. Just watch your pets and let it flow.
2. Spring Foods - Nature is WAY smarter than any science, marketing firm, or nutrition guru in that it has provided you with all the necessary foods for proper, healthy cleansing. Spring is the season of bitter greens, dandelion greens, garlic, ramps, etc. These foods are well known for their ability to detox and move the bodies qi. They also support the liver and it’s ability to cleanse the body. So experiment with some new, exciting foods this spring.
3. Get Outside - The sunshine is lasting longer and the sun’s angle is getting higher which means that it is warmer too. Get outside for at least 10 minutes each day and really get the cleansing juices flowing.
4. Let Go - Taoist thought talks about letting go of things that do not serve you or are unnecessary to you current state. This means moving on from the heavy foods and comforting habits that have been created during the Winter months. This is the time for new habits, lighter foods, lighter thoughts and new beginnings.
So the next time you think about buying the latest cleanse at you local health food store, remember that nature already has you covered. Get tucked into some good bitter greens, get outside and get moving. That is a cleanse that I can stand behind.