Spring has sprung and along with changing over your seasonal wardrobe closets, setting your clocks back an hour (for most of us!), cleaning up flower beds and pruning trees and shrubs, you might want to ask your body if it, too, would appreciate a spring adjustment.
After all, spring is generally the time when your home gets a thorough cleaning. Should it also be the time when your body does too? The answer is maybe.
You’re probably familiar with the term “detoxification,” but you may not be sure what it means. That’s because detoxification, or “detox” if you want to be buzzy about it, has many different meanings to many different people. From a purely dictionary standpoint, detoxification means “to remove a harmful substance (such as poison or toxin) or the effect of such from.”
Specific detoxes can be used to help your body break an addiction from alcohol or drugs. That’s not the type of trendy detox that you generally read about in glossy magazines (unless it’s in a health magazine or written by a health writer), nor is it the type of detox we’ll be focusing on in this blog.
Instead, we’re starting with detoxes that flush out toxins as a means to give your digestive system a break and kick out that sluggishness that may have followed you through winter. Then, we’ll serve up a different idea for you to consider what spring cleaning for your body could mean.
Some people like the supposed benefits that a detox may bring—losing a few pounds, giving you more energy. But while a detox may sound fun and frilly, even the simplest detox should be approached with seriousness—we are, after all, talking about what you’ve put into your body, and how you’re looking to take it out.
The online website Healthline has a number of good articles about the topic, including this one, to help you start thinking about the topic. We’re planning to share a bit of that advice here, sprinkling in some additional thoughts as they’ve come to us. To start, Healthline advises that detoxes typically fall under one of three umbrellas:
- those that replace foods with liquids
- those that claim to support your body’s natural detoxification process
- those that “cleanse” your digestive tract via the colon
Healthline’s not too keen on detoxes, at least according to the article we’ve referenced, and they’re not alone. Other experts also raise some questions—and while we’re not suggesting whether or not you should detox, we’re simply saying this: first, consider whether a short-term method is the best way to approach your health for the long-term, and second, be aware that some of the initial results (e.g., if you do end up losing a little weight from your detox) may not last long.
If you’re looking for affirmation that detoxing is the way to go, certainly you can use the google and find lifestyle experts and others who swear by it.
So, let’s look at four common and popular detoxes as categorized by Healthline:
Juice or smoothie cleanses – these seem to be the most popular types of cleanses, involving temporary (typically from 3 – 21 days) replacement of solid food with fruit or veggie-based juices or smoothies. What could be bad about fruits and veggies you may ask?
Smoothies may be a fine addition to your diet—certainly fruits and vegetables are—but the concern comes about when that’s all you’re “eating,” because a liquid-only diet can remove the majority of protein and fat, likely leaving you feeling hungry. And, according to Ashley Reaver, an Oakland, CA–based dietitian and founder of My Weekly Eats, who’s quoted in the Healthline article, these types of detoxes “…. can lead to low blood sugar, brain fog, decreased productivity, and fatigue.” Not exactly what you’re going for.
Liver detoxes – here the goal is to kick your body’s detox system into gear by perking up your liver system. So, what’s the problem? Your liver isn’t asking for your help in this case. If you’ve got a healthy liver, Reaver said, “Fortunately, the liver is well-equipped to handle the toxins that we’re most commonly exposed to.” Therefore, the thinking goes that a liver detox isn’t really needed.
Food restriction – this may actually be a good idea, especially if you’re thoughtful in your approach. And this is an area where it would make sense to get a professional involved—like a registered dietitian—to help you along. Here Reaver advised that “Some people benefit from a cleanse because it removes food groups that may cause them discomfort, like gluten or dairy.”
The idea, though, is to figure out if you have sensitivities to some specific foods (or food groups) that might be dragging down your digestive system and depriving you of that healthy feeling. There are plenty of diet recommendations that focus on this philosophy, some more faddy than others—from nightshade vegetables that may result in inflammation to over-ingesting dairy products that could result in constipation, to name a few.
But there’s a key to unlock this type of detox.
The key is to eliminate specific food (or food groups) one at a time to see if the removal makes you feel better. The second step is then adding that food back to your diet to see if your symptoms return. Be cautious with food cleanses that eliminate too many foods or food groups at the same time—that doesn’t give you the chance to figure out which foods are potentially problematic for your system.
Also keep in mind, eliminating entire food groups may deprive you of nutrients that your body needs to be fully functional. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that, for instance, your body needs fat—the good fats, like omega-3s—despite the fact that fats sometimes get a bad rep. The same can be said about the need for calcium and vitamin D—dairy is a great source—so if you end up discovering that dairy products aren’t your friends, be sure you’re finding another way to get these nutrients into your diet.
Colon cleanses – this type of detox may be a little more extreme than the others and may be best approached under the supervision of a doctor. Also referred to as colonic irrigation or just colonics or colon hydrotherapy, they’re designed to remove built up waste.
And while they may do just that, if done incorrectly they can lead to discomforts like stomach cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting, and potentially dangerous outcomes including electrolyte imbalances or perforated bowels.
Not the most pleasant of processes.
Colon cleanses in simpler terms may refer to getting your colon moving to promote bowel movements via laxatives or specific supplements. While these options can be beneficial for some, for others, walking regularly, drinking more water, and adding fiber to your diet can also do the trick.
So, when considering any of these detoxes, do more research, and ask your own health experts. Three quick tips:
- Figure out why you’re considering a detox; in other words, what are your goals?
- Be sure to research fully the pros and cons.
- Consider that taking steps to be healthy year-round may make detoxes unnecessary.
We started this week’s blog talking about spring cleaning and we’re not leaving until we share some additional thoughts on the topic when it comes to detoxing. Our thoughts are not revolutionary, but they may provide some simple, easy to do steps that can recharge your energy, reset your thinking and freshen up your health routine.
After all, isn’t that what spring cleaning is really all about?
We also know that achieving wellness isn’t just a seasonal thing. Building healthy habits year-round is your best road to success. When it comes to diet, that means choosing a variety of nutrient-dense foods in proper portion sizes, combined with other healthy habits, and getting into a routine you can stick with. Crazy diets usually result in yo-yo poundage put-ons—you lose some weight, you go back to your unhealthy ways, you put on more weight than you lost. That’s your body’s way of saying “don’t mess with me.”
If you really want to be serious about spring cleaning your health, here are ways to de-cobweb your brain.
Tip #1: Rethink your food patterns; add something new. Are you eating enough fiber? Getting enough of the good fats? Liking what you’re eating? We’ve picked out five of our favorite healthy foods.
- Oatmeal—Most people just don’t get enough fiber in their diet. Fiber has heart health benefits and helps you have regular bowel movements. The latter doesn’t sound sexy, but oatmeal is. (Just watch the added toppings—don’t go overboard on sugar or calories here.)
- Salmon—Especially the wild kind. Rich in omega-3 EPA and DHA, fatty fish are good for your heart and also your mood, your sleep, your brain…and more.
- Asparagus—So many ways to cook them (roast, sauté, bake, steam—just don’t over boil them), so many toppings to add. Some people like them cold and crispy. Low in calories, high in fiber, asparagus not only helps keep you regular, some call it “nature’s diuretic.” And yes, “asparagus pee” is a thing. (Just hold your nose. The overall benefits of this veggie will be worth it.)
- Avocado—a great source of vitamins B, C, E and K, they also offer up omega-3 fatty acids (not EPA and DHA, but ALA), lutein and beta-carotene. And they’re simply delicious. Add them to salads, spread them on toast, make guacamole.
- Kiwi—yes, it may sound a little exotic, but who couldn’t use a little exotic in their lives. Kiwi, like oatmeal, is an effective source of fiber. It’s just a little prettier.
These foods not your jam? Here are some more suggestions.
Tip #2: Add a new supplement to your diet. If you’re not getting all the nutrients you need from food alone—and so few of us are—consider adding a supplement. Here are some you’re familiar with, and some that may be new to you. Just remember: supplements don’t replace the need to eat healthy, nor do they give you permission to leave behind other healthy habits.
- Omega-3 EPA and DHA from fish or krill oil (or algal omega-3s for vegetarians)—adding a supplement to get your omega-3 levels up to where they should be is not only a reasonable option, but also a smart one. Just make sure your check your Omega-3 Index level before you decide to supplement.
- Vitamin D—scientists continue to find new benefits for this wonder-nutrient, also known as the sunshine vitamin. In short, it’s an essential nutrient that you need to make your body run properly. And, it’s a difficult one to get from food alone and current recommendations are to watch your sun intake. Get your levels checked to see where you’re starting from and what you need to get to where you should be.
- Turmeric—you may first need to learn to spell it. Once you’ve conquered that, consider trying it. Like omega-3s, turmeric—through its active compound curcumin—helps reduce inflammation. And inflammation left unchecked contributes to so many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease.
- Probiotics, pre-biotics, post-biotics—the latter is just now starting to gain attention, but all three are believed to contribute to helping support a healthy digestive system. Think of them as gut health aides. Emerging research is also showing an important connection between a healthy gut and other health benefits.
- Choline—another essential nutrient, this one helps with brain development and may improve memory and cognition. It also helps protect heart health, boost metabolism, and more.
Tip #3: Kick Start a New Healthy Habit
- Drink more water—even the government’s CDC says getting enough water every day is important for your health. Water can prevent dehydration—which can cause unclear thinking, result in mood change, and cause your body over-heat or become constipated. And who wants any of that?
- Get back into nature—spring is generally a great time to stand in awe of nature’s promises. With flowers popping and leaves miraculously greening up trees, some say Mother Nature is in her full glory in spring. (Although others say its fall where she really outdoes herself.) If you’re an allergy sufferer, spring may not be your favorite time of year, so you may want to watch from your window.
- Exercise—most people make their exercise plans around the new year, but here’s another chance. Spring is a fine time to go out walking or running. Or taking up another form of exercise you haven’t tried before. Try Zumba, country line dancing classes (good exercise for your body and your brain) or a new trainer, perhaps. Pickle ball anyone? The point is, if you’re bored with your exercise routine, try something different.
- Sleep—oh, we blogged about this one before. All that needs to be said is this: you need proper sleep. Year-round.
- Pick up your paint brush—okay it doesn’t necessarily have to be a paint brush. But the goal here is to recharge your brain and find an outlet for jump-starting your creativity, now that winter is gone, and spring is here.
Happy Spring everyone!