Thursday, March 17, 2011

Time for Spring Cleaning

I've always wondered why most of us choose January 1st to be the day we embark on our new health and exercise programs. I've always thought it would make more sense to start in the Spring. It is, after all, the season of rebirth and renewal. Seems logical to start then.

If you're still committed to your new eating plan and exercising like you said you would on January 1st, good for you. Statistically, however, most of us have fallen off the wagon. But since it's spring, here's your chance to begin anew.

This is the ideal time of year to "clean house". Just like that old ritual of spring cleaning around the house, the same thing can be done with the body.  The liver and kidneys are our main filters and they have important work to do. The liver alone has over 800 functions. There is no way you can live without it. If you imagine that this poor organ has been filtering all sorts of toxins, drugs and environmental hazards from your system since Day One, it's been working hard. Give it a break.

I recently heard my naturopathic doctor speak about allergies and her advice was that if you are suffering from them, are feeling a bit sluggish, or feel a cold coming on, it's a good idea to "unclog the filter". Like a car gets an oil change every 3,000 miles, the body's filters should ideally get a chance to get a rest every so often.

The best way to do this is to commit to a period of time, like 2-3 weeks, during which you avoid things that clog or require a lot of energy to break down. Things that are considered clogging are dairy, wheat and most of the processed grains, and sugar. Try focusing on fresh fruits, beans, clean protein and organic vegetables, as well as fresh vegetable juices and "green drinks". My folks used to make a really delicious green drink at home. These rich sources of cleansing nutrients can help us get more of those fruit and veggie servings we aren't getting. You'll need a juicer to make them yourself, or of course you can head to your favorite juice bar and order one to your liking.

Green drinks are getting a lot of press these days in health magazines. The reason for this is that they are just packed with nutrients. Basically the juices of a variety of green things like spinach, kale, chard, wheatgrass, celery, cucumber, kiwi, bell peppers, zucchini, you name it. I like to add something a little sweet to it to round it out, like carrot or pineapple juice, but if you're wanting to cut out anything with sugar, you'll want to forego them and stick just to the greens. Enormously beneficial, you will have loads of energy after drinking them.

But to clean the filters, any type of change you make will be beneficial. Even modest cutbacks can help. Maybe you drink too much soda or eat too much processed food. Simply cutting these out for a while can make a difference. Try replacing them with pure water flavored with lemon or lime, or eating whole grains instead of "the white stuff" It doesn't have to be radical or be nothing-but-juice-for-3-weeks (unless you want it to be). It can be just making better food choices. The important thing is to start somewhere. You will see the benefits.

If you've done any detoxing before, you might find this helpful. One of the best books I've found on the subject is called "The Detox Diet". It offers a variety of detox diets to choose from, depending on what you're comfortable with, from radical water fasts (not meant for most of us), to smoothie and fresh squeezed juice plans, to raw fruit & veggie plans, to avoiding SNACCs. To explain, here is a quote from Dr. Elson Haas, author of "The Detox Diet":
"Most people have daily habits of one or more of the SNACCs--Sugar, Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Chemicals (in foods, environment, and medications). We use all of these substances to deal with life’s stresses, but they also tax and weaken the body and its functions, including our eliminative and immune systems. Thus, our cells and tissues can’t keep up, and we become congested and toxic. Many symptoms and problems relate to this, from stuffy noses and skin rashes to most inflammatory disorders. This in part comes from these SNACCs and refined foods, and a heavier, animal-based diet that is more acidic and contains more chemicals. This acidic, congested, and inflammatory condition causes the degeneration and aging in the human body. Thus, detoxification is the missing link in balanced health--and a key healing therapy for the common disorders that most of us experience as we age."
A cleanse is a great way to clean the filters and super-charge your cells to get some vitality back into your life. Perhaps the first step to feeling better is to do some spring cleaning. Now's the time.

To your health!

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