Spring is a time for transition from a sedentary winter to a busy summer. In winter, our metabolism slows - a survival mechanism - allowing us to pack on extra fat and conserve energy for the harsh, and sometimes unreliable, winter months. This survival tool also causes us to crave fattier foods to stock up our caloric reserve. When spring arrives, the renewed light kicks the body’s metabolism into gear and encourages us to cleans our insides and shed winter weight. At the core of this internal spring cleaning is the liver and there is plenty we can do to assist the cleansing process.
A Little about the Liver
The liver has a central role in the detoxification process. It first helps to break down waste products, hormones, toxins and chemicals, and then helps the body to excrete those waste products. In the winter, our toxic load can build because of inactivity and subdued metabolism. So as spring arrives, it is important to make sure we are supporting our livers.
Diet changes are at the core of our spring cleaning. Historically, a winter diet consisted of many root veggies, dried and cured meats, and dried fruit. There was a complete lack of fresh vegetables. While this is not the case with today’s abundance of supermarkets; our bodies still reflect this evolution in the foods we crave during winter: fatty, greasy and high calorie indulgence. Our bodies have also evolved to crave foods in the spring time that are naturally abundant during the spring months and can assist the detoxification process. Below are some suggestions for a spring diet:
- The world is green and so is your plate: Dark green leafy veggies are abundant this time of year. Drop the heavy meals and opt for a radiant salad packed with kale, chard, spinach, dandelion greens and other greens accompanied with a wide range of colorful veggies.
- Cruciferous Veggies: These vegetables, including cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, contain glucosinolates, a sulfur containing compound that protects the liver from damage and assists in the elimination of toxins.
- Drop the Crap: Stop eating crappy processed and refined foods, refined sugars, caffeine and alcohol. They all can clog your liver. The world around us is blooming in the spring so make sure your plate reflects that.
- Avoid the grease but keep the fat: Be sure to avoid heavy, greasy foods but make sure you are still getting your essential fatty acids required for healthy cell membranes and optimal liver functioning. Good sources include seafood, avocados, and raw nuts and seeds.
- Eat Raw: In the winter baking and frying food helps to warm the body on a deeper level. In the spring it’s better to eat more raw food, or you can lightly steam or stir-fry your food.
- Pass on Dairy and Avoid Cold Beverages: Spring is characterized by cold and damp weather patterns. The chill of spring can also be seen internally with the common occurrence of spring colds. Dairy and cold drinks increase mucus congestion, thus increasing your chances of getting a spring cold. Avoiding cold drinks and dairy products all together is the best approach, but if you must have ice in your water or cheese on your salad, eat them during the day and not at night.
Make Sure you’re getting enough…
- Zinc: Zinc is needed by the liver enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase to break down alcohol. If you are a drinker, zinc is a must have.
- Fiber: If you follow the above suggestions you should be getting enough fiber. But if you’re still feeling backed up, an extra apple a day can help.
- Vitamin K: The liver requires adequate vitamin K to produce proper blood clotting proteins. Vitamin K can be found in green leafy veggies.
- Arginine: this helps to detox ammonia, a toxic waste product of protein breakdown. This can be found in legumes (beans, peas and lentils) and walnuts.
- Methionine: is an essential component in the detox process and is found in legumes, fish, garlic, onions and seeds.
- Drink Plenty of Water: Water is essential in the detoxification process. It allows the body to adequately flush its system of toxins via urination and bowel movements.
- Lemon Water: Squeezing a lemon wedge in a warm glass of water first thing in the morning helps to stimulate the liver and aid in the detoxification process.
- Make sure you’re not constipated: Stool contains toxins and hormones that need to be excreted from the body. When you are constipated, the waste products can be reabsorbed into the blood stream, increasing your toxic load and causing the liver to have to process them all over again.
- Eating organic: Eating organic fruits and vegetables can help limit your exposure to xenoestrogens and decrease your toxic load.
- Stay Stress Free: Stress can end up wrecking havoc on your entire system making it difficult for your body to function, let alone transition from winter to spring.
- Exercise: It is important to get your body moving after a long winter of inactivity. Early morning walks can be helpful and yoga poses such as Fish, Boat, Bow, Locust, Lion and head stands are recommended.
- Skip the Nap: Naps during the day increase stagnation in the body and are not advised during the spring months.
- Herbs: There are plenty of herbs that are amazing at helping the body detox during the springtime. This topic will be explored in depth in my next post. So stay tuned!
There are so many thing you can do to prepare your body for the spring months. Don’t let your body stay stuck in the hibernation of winter. Rejoice that spring has arrived and help your body do some spring cleaning of its own.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.
Lad, V. (1999). The complete book of Ayurvedic home remedies. New York, N.Y.: Three Rivers Press.