Just say no to fasting. Cruciferous veggies and turmeric can be powerful tools in your spring detox plan. Read more tips from Dr. Stacie Stephenson, an expert in regenerative, functional, and natural medicine.
Your body has a very complex and effective detoxification system, so while a spring detox isn’t necessary, there are certainly things you can do to support that detoxification system, especially after a long winter of being sedentary and possibly overeating.
That being said, I do not recommend juice cleanses or any kind of juice fasting. While there are some medical conditions where this can be effective under the supervision of a doctor, I believe that food, not the lack of it, is the best way to support detoxification. Juice has concentrated nutrients but it also has concentrated sugar and it lacks the fiber your digestive system needs to sweep away waste. In fact, it is particularly important not to detoxify when your digestive system is sluggish because the primary way your body gets rid of toxins is to flush them out through the digestive system. If you are constipated, those toxins will sit in the digestive tract where they could be reabsorbed, defeating the whole purpose of detoxifying.
So the short answer is that a spring detox can be useful, but it should concentrate on facilitating digestion, not eliminating food. Here are my keys to a spring detox that will support your body safely:
- Eat at least one or two servings of cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, every day. The liver is a primary detoxification organ and it has a two-phase detoxification process. Cruciferous vegetables contain detoxifying compounds called glucocinolates that, when broken down through digestion, support both phases of liver detoxification to protect you from the toxins being removed and to facilitate their removal from the body.
- Eat a little fruit every day, especially berries. The polyphenols in berries are antioxidants that help to lower inflammation, which can promote easier detoxification. They have also been linked to better weight management and a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. One cup of berries per day is all you need to get these benefits.
- Eat fiber and resistant starch, especially in the form of vegetables and legumes (like lentils and beans). Not only does fiber keep your digestion moving, but it feeds your good gut bacteria, boosting the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate that have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and immune-boosting functions in your digestive tract. SCFAs help to keep your intestinal lining strong and promote more efficient digestion along with the growth and abundance of good bacteria.
- Drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Staying well hydrated is one of the most important ways to support healthy waste removal.
- Take (or use) turmeric. This common kitchen spice contains curcumin, which is a substance that is a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. Some research suggests that curcumin is just as effective as ibuprofen in reducing inflammation, but without the burden on your liver, which you want to keep freed up for detoxification. Shake a little into your food (along with some black pepper, to help with absorption), or take a supplement to calm down inflammation. (Try this recipe for turmeric roasted roots.)
- Manage your stress. When you are stressed, your body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated (the “fight or flight” response), and it tends to hold on to fat as well as toxins in order to conserve resources for what it senses is an impending emergency. For best detoxification, your body needs to switch into parasympathetic mode (the “rest and digest” response), and send your body the signal that all is well and it’s okay to divert energy to burning fat and detoxifying. Whatever helps you relax, make that a part of your spring detox. For me and many others, meditation, yoga, and taking some quiet time every day do the trick. I also suggest delegating more non-essential work to others, and learning to say “no” to obligations you don’t really care about.
We asked Dr. Stephenson if she has any favorite herbs or supplements for the transition between spring and winter. Here is her advice:
I believe everyone should be taking vitamins D3, C, and B complex, along with turmeric and probiotics, all year long, but in the spring, it can be useful to add dandelion root and milk thistle (you can find both in tea form) for liver support.
Dandelion root helps to flush both the liver and kidneys without leaching potassium from the body, and is thought to help prevent kidney stones.
Milk thistle helps to protect the liver from the damaging effects of an influx of toxins, increases cell regeneration, and increases glutathione production, which is another antioxidant that helps to protect you from free radical damage and also supports detoxification.