By Sean Michael Hall, L.Ac.
Spring is here. Time for a Spring Cleanse!!!
Spring is the perfect time of year to aid the body, and especially the liver, in cleansing and detoxification. The cleanse I recommend is very simple and consists of eating a stimulant-free, sugar-free, flour-free, whole foods diet for 10 days.
The addition of a liver cleansing drink each morning draws out toxins from the body, and an herbal tea taken throughout the day helps to support the liver and the rest of the body in this process. Happy cleansing!
Foods to Avoid:
- Stimulants (coffee, tea, yerba mate, chocolate)
- If you’re a heavy coffee drinker, drinking 1 or 2 cups of green tea a day the first few days instead is okay
- Sweeteners (sugar, corn syrup, agave, honey, maple syrup)
- Artificial sweeteners, colors, preservatives, and additives
- Avoid packaged and refined foods completely.
- Dairy, eggs, and processed meats like sausage and salami
- Processed meats contain nitrates, other additives and higher fat content that makes cleansing difficult.
- Small amounts of natural, lean meats are encouraged, as the protein helps the liver in its detoxification and elimination of toxins.
- I recommend avoiding dairy and eggs for the 10-day period, because they are common allergenic foods. Many people have developed sub-clinical food sensitivities to these foods that inhibit the detoxification process.
- Wheat and other flour products
- Many people also have sub-clinical food sensitivities to wheat, gluten and yeast, all of which are found in flour products. Simply eliminating these foods helps many to feel better.
In case it wasn’t clear, avoiding the above foods means no pastries, chocolate, sodas, sweetened drinks, prepared, frozen and canned foods, potato chips, and other similarly processed and refined foods.
Foods to Eat:
Everything else! But best to find organic, fresh, local and in season foods. Your local farmer’s market is a GREAT source for these foods. Here is a partial list:
- Drink lots of spring or filtered water, adding a touch of lemon or lime will help with detoxification.
- Eat lots of organic, fresh vegetables
- Be sure to eat at least 1 large, meal-sized salad a day
- Fresh vegetable juicing is highly recommended. Try a blend of cucumber, fennel, carrot, parsley and apple, or any others you can think of
- Eat lots of organic, in season, fresh fruit.
- Eat at least 1 or 2 apples a day, as the pectin in apples has a particularly cleansing effect
- Sweet potatoes, yams, squash and other starchy vegetables like beets and parsnips
- Grains like rice, oats, quinoa, millet, barley
- Brown rice is better than white during a cleanse, as the increased amount of fiber helps to cleanse the GI tract
- Meats like lean cuts of high quality chicken, beef, pork, buffalo, lamb
- Especially fish low on the food chain like salmon, mackeral, and sardines.
- Best to avoid tuna, swordfish, shellfish and shrimp as they can accumulate toxins.
- Legumes like black beans, lentils, and mung beans
- Fresh, raw seeds and nuts
- Best to avoid peanuts and roasted, salted and flavored nuts.
- Natural condiments and flavoring ingredients like: sea salt, pepper, spices, herbs, olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, vinegars, lemon juice, etc.
- Fermented foods like: saurkrauts, kombucha, umeboshi plums, etc.
The Morning Liver Cleanse*:
- Mix any fresh-squeezed citrus juices together to make 1 cup of liquid. Orange and grapefruit are great, but be sure to mix in some lemon and/or lime. The more sour the final mix is, the more cleansing. This mixture can be diluted with water if needed.
- Add 1-2 cloves freshly crushed and chopped garlic, plus 1 tsp. of freshly grated ginger
- Add 1 Tbsp. high quality, olive oil
- Mix and drink each morning. Follow with 1 or 2 cups of the liver detox tea described below
*taken from Christopher Hobb’s book “Foundations of Health”
Liver Detox Tea (parts by volume)
- Burdock Root – 1 part
- Dandelion Root – 1 part
- Yellow Dock Root – 1/2 part
- Oregon Grape Root – 1/2 part
- Sarsaparilla Root – 1/2 part
- Fennel Seed – 1/4 part
- Fenugreek Seed – 1/4 part
- Nettle Leaf – 1 part
- Peppermint or Spearmint – 1 part
- Simmer 1 part herbs (Burdock through Fenugreek) in 6 parts water, covered, for 20 minutes
- Turn off heat, add Nettles and Mint, then let steep for an additional 10 minutes
- Strain herbs and refrigerate. I usually make enough for 2-3 days each batch
- Drink 3-6 cups, hot or cold, throughout the day
*These herbs can be found locally at Lhasa Kharnak herbs (2482 Telegraph Ave, 510 548-0380) or at most Whole Foods locations.
An Optional, Integrated 3 Day Juice Fast
If you feel ready to do a stronger cleanse, and if you have the space in your life to do so, I recommend integrating this 3 day juice fast into the cleanse. Days 1 to 3 of the cleanse are exactly the same. On Day 4 however, eliminate all meats and starchy foods like potatoes and white rice. On Days 5-7 eliminate all solid foods except for fresh vegetable and fruit juices. On Day 8, break the fast with a salad, then slowly, over the course of the day, add in any other foods from the list above, except for meats and starchy foods. Days 9 and 10 are exactly the same as the cleanse described above. Be sure to continue the liver cleanse drink each morning, and the liver detox tea throughout the day for each of the 10 days.
Juicing yourself is the best method. I particularly enjoy juicing combinations of beet, carrot, celery, cucumber, apple, parsley or any other greens, fennel, purple cabbage and radishes. Very small amounts of ginger or garlic can also be tasty. Choose 3 or 4 from the list, making sure that at least 1 or 2 are sweet, like apple or beet, and add small amounts of these. Get creative!
- I also recommend going off all vitamins, supplements, fish oils and herbs for the 10 days of your cleanse. Your liver works hard to break these things down, so unless your supplements are doctor prescribed I would recommend taking a 10 day break.
- Moderate, daily exercise for the 10 days of the cleanse is recommended. Yoga is especially detoxifying and comes highly recommended. Please be mindful though, and listen to your body. If you are feeling shaky or fatigued, honor your body and rest. There may be days when exercise doesn’t feel appropriate and that is okay.
- A dry-brush massage, followed by a sauna or steam will greatly aid elimination of toxins through the skin. I recommend doing this a minimum of 3 times throughout the 10 day period. Natural bristle brushes for the skin can be found at most natural food stores. Use small circular motions over the entire body, then rinse and follow with some sort of sweating therapy.
- Cleansing, detoxifying and fasting can be a very cathartic experience. Setting aside 15-20 minutes each day for meditation or breathing practice can be very helpful in bringing awareness to this process. As we cleanse our physical bodies, a cleansing also happens emotionally and psychically. Please give yourself plenty of time and space for rest and introspection to honor and support this process.