Some readers may be aware that an annual spring cleanse has long been regarded as a necessity for the maintenance of abundant good health. Indeed, cleansing prodedures far predate the industrial revolution, and were considered a key to health long before we as a species considered it to be OK to foul our own nest with industrial filth. It was a priority even when all of the food we consumed was what we now call “organic.” Even in those environmentally pristine times, our ancestors recognized that our own digestive processes inevitably leave a toxic residue that in particular was known to accumulate in the course of the long winter.
So here, in non-humorous homage to the soon-to-retire David Letterman, we offer the top ten reasons to cleanse in the spring:
1) It feels great. This is the top reason why Americans do pretty much anything. Cleansing lifts a burden off the body that leaves you feeling stronger, lighter and more flexible and agile.
2) Cleansing is sattvic. The hectic, strained and over-burdened American lifestyle is typically fueled by meat, sugar and caffeine, all eased down with a little alcohol and anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medicines in the evening. All of these things, and the lifestyle they support, are what in Ayurveda are called rajasic. Rajas is the energy that supports motivation, inspiration and enthusiasm as part of a balanced life. Our lives are typically sorely lacking in balance, and as a result rajasic energy becomes strained, frantic and turbulent. Sattva is the energy of peace, balance, compassion and kindness, elements sorely lacking in modern life. The foods that support cleansing are sattvic, and help you feel the centered peace that you may be longing for.
3) Cleansing prevents disease. It’s a shame that these basic concepts once known to all have been lost with the advent of the scientific point of view. Toxins deposited in the tissues are regarded as the main cause of disease in Ayurveda as well as traditional naturopathic medicine. Removing them annually was the centerpiece of traditional living when we were close to the land, and possessed the wisdom that way of living engenders.
4) Cleansing treats disease. If you are already suffering from chronic conditions such as autoimmune disease, allergies, arthritis, heart disease, or even cancer, cleansing can be very healing. I’ve seen many a patient end a good spring cleanse with immediate and palpable decrease of symptoms.
5) Cleansing helps you lose weight. The foods that support cleansing also tend to naturally reduce weight without even having that as the main goal. Keep your focus on cleansing and health, and the weight slips off naturally. I’ve found it to be particularly helpful for women who have been feeling stuck, and report that they can’t lose weight no matter what they do.
6) Toxins accumulate in the tissues during the winter. The digestive fire, like all fires, is incapable of burning 100% of its fuel. The digestive fire runs a bit less efficiently in the winter, as it is dependent on and related to the fire of the sun. We’ve forgotten all of this as a culture, but it is true now as ever. In addition, the body tends to pull its energy within, much as do the trees, to hunker down through the winter cold. Under these conditions, what you could call the “ash” of the digestive fire is deposited as a toxic residue in the tissues, particularly in the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments. This, ultimately, is a major contributing cause to the development of arthritis as well as the stiffness, aches and pains we have come to consider as a normal part of aging.
7) Our food is not fresh in the winter. This is still also true, although we no longer, as a rule, pull our winter food from cold storage in the root cellar. Nowadays, many of us never consume fresh food, as we eat from the freezer or out of boxes and cans. Even our produce is not fresh, as it is routinely harvested unripe far away in distant lands, and shipped to out markets. Old food loses its vitality, and is harder to digest completely, thereby increasing the toxic “ash”.
8) The body’s Qi, or prana, attempts to rise in the spring. Your body is no less a part of nature than the trees, shrubs and plants that are visibly awakening around us. Just as the saps and juices of plants rise in the spring, so do our own saps and juices. Leftover winter toxic residues block this natural migration of our energy, and many people feel stuck at this time of year. You may also notice the skin breaking out in rashes or pimples, as the skin attempts to cleanse out toxins to assist an over-burdened liver. Cleansing frees our energy to flow in its natural and desired way, which helps us feel the wonderful energy inherent in the spring rejuvenation of the natural world.
9) Your liver will thank you. Chinese medicine recognizes the spring season as the season dominated by liver energy, or Qi. The liver is the main organ charged with the responsibility of cleansing the blood of the winter’s residue. There are many foods and herbs that help the liver with its task. Not surprisingly, nature provides these foods and herbs when and where they’re needed – fresh green sprouts, dandelions, etc. As food stores tended to be depleted, our ancestors routinely fasted, or ate very lightly, at this time of year. This helped the liver shift its energies from processing digested nutrients to cleansing the blood.
10) Your muscles and joints will thank you. The body, in its wisdom, cleans the blood by depositing and storing toxins in the muscles and joints, as noted above. A good spring cleanse allows the body to remove some of these toxins. When people do a spring cleanse, they routinely notice that old aches and pains diminish, and flexibility increases. In the long run, spring cleansing reduces the likelihood of developing arthritis, and can also be a big help in allowing the body to heal the arthritis it may already have.
Cleansing does not need to be a harrowing ordeal of deprivation and hunger. As I write this, my wife Dr. Devlin and I are wrapping up our spring cleanse. It’s been quite effective, and painless to boot. A good cleanse involves eliminating coffee, alcohol, junk food, processed foods, baked goods and rich, heavy foods. Instead, we concentrate on foods known to promote cleansing. The power of the diet is boosted tremendously by the addition of cleansing herbs, and immeasurably more by the therapies of panchakarma. Contact us so we can help you to plan your own spring cleanse and rejuvenation. We can help you with all aspects of a spring cleanse to make sure that you receive all of the tremendous health benefits a traditional cleanse can offer!