‘Health is the expression of a harmonious balance between various components of man’s nature, the environment and ways of life – nature is the physician of disease.’ -Hippocrates
WARNING: Detoxification or fasting is not recommended for people with diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic medical conditions. Detox diets should be avoided if you are pregnant or have an eating disorder. Please consult your doctor or healthcare advisor BEFORE attempting any dietary changes. This naturopathic guide is intended for use by healthy individuals.
Healthier Lifestyle is a choice we make to improve our vitality and quality of wellbeing.
We all need nourishment - Choose to eat seasonal whole food, locally sourced if possible
We all breathe - Choose to breathe consciously
We all need rest - Choose to Sleep according to the rhythm of sun and moon cycles
We all need activity - Adopt functional movement to preserve your physical wellbeing
Well-being can be achieved by regulating our circadian rhythms with the natural cycles and eliminating processed foods. This is the basic rule of a detox.
My first experience of a seasonal detox was 1997, having entertained many full moon fasts with my Mother & Grandmother, I was familiar with the process. However, naturopathy introduced deeper fundamental principles and profound detoxification experiences at a cellular level to aid personal wellbeing and healing. Over the years, I have embodied and mastered various techniques and arrived at the realisation that there are three vital steps to a successful detox:
Let’s explore these one by one.
TIMING: The Healing Power of Nature.
Equinoxes and Solstices provide key transition times in Nature offering a window of opportunity for detoxification, fasting and healing.
The key dates are:
· Winter to Spring (March 19-22)
· Spring to Summer (June 19-22)
· Summer to Autumn (Sept 19 – 22)
· Autumn to Winter (Dec 19-22)
Learning to adapt to the Seasonal and lunar transitions aids our connection with the cosmic life force that serve our well-being. Mother Nature always provides her prescriptions for vitality and health in a timely way. Unfortunately, life is often lived against the natural grain. We are not taught the skills to connect with these subtle healing energies, nor to listen to our intuition, our internal navigation system that always serves to protect our survival.
The purpose of this naturopathic guide is to prepare the body-mind to respond to the Seasonal transitions and let Mother Nature work her magic!
Springtime is associated with new ideas, inspiration, and nurturing new projects. In the Spring our energy moves up and outward. We want to move more, we have more energy within us and we want to do something with it. The feeling of Spring within our microcosm can be quite aggressive, rising from our feet to our head, changing from YIN state (restful state, sluggish, slow, inward energy, Wintertime) to YANG (active energy, growth and expansion). This sudden onset of energy can contribute to restless legs, tension across muscles, particularly across the pelvic and shoulder girdles, causing tension headaches and irritability.
Here are my top tips as a naturopath for a healthier detox experience.
The fundamental key to renewing the body-mind is in the preparation.
Most people will start a detox overnight without any thought or consideration to the impact it has on the Human frame, at an energetic, physiological, psychological and emotional level.
Any dietary change shocks our physiology into STRESS mode, as it shifts gear to protect it’s survival. All of a sudden, the body is being starved, leading to unsettled blood sugar levels!
The stress response causes cells to shift into a lockdown state to preserve their cellular integrity. This could mean loss of appetite and decreased libido, restlessness, inability to sleep, and excess production of ‘cholesterol’.
Yes, that’s right! Stress creates an increased production of cholesterol in an attempt to protect and restore cellular integrity.
The Liver is the organ of detoxification.
“When the liver is harmonious, there is never stress or tension. People with vital livers are calm. They have unerring judgment, naturally effective as leaders and decision-makers.” Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods
In Western medicine the liver plays an important role in digestion, metabolism, detoxification, coagulation, and immune modulation. In Taoist and Eastern medicine the Liver is responsible for the regulation of emotion, the promotion of digestion and absorption, the maintenance of the circulation of blood, and body fluid, as well as reproductive function. It is responsible for planning, and oversees our path in life. It relates to emotions, generates anger, a clearing force, to keep things moving and flowing. When anger dissolves, this energy transforms into faith, optimism, and wisdom. The Liver controls the sinews and muscle tone. The Liver rules the health of nails, vision, and the eyes. Liver stagnation or hyper-activity can lead to extreme emotional states. A healthy Liver transforms potentially repressed emotions into true, reliable emotions. Blood returns to the Liver through the gallbladder and liver meridians (energy channels) from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., and it is therefore recommended for people to be in a deep sleep state during this period of time. Failing to do so means the liver will fail to get enough nourishment from the blood and cannot perform well in storing blood which manifests as irritability and distraction. Anger is considered one of the most disruptive emotions to internalise as it upsets and displaces mind-body-spirit balance.
So, how do we prepare for a detox?
Block book a week off either side of the Spring & Autumn Equinox (or anytime within the month of March / September) – this ensures you have dedicated time to enable the detox and healing process to serve your wellbeing.
Working whilst detoxing is not recommended.
Both energy and rest are required to support the body to heal. Demanding jobs may tax your energy leaving you feeling fatigued and overwhelmed. This may manifest as auto-intoxication or inflammation which defeats the objective of a healthy detox. The most common symptoms of ill-prepared detox regimes are an initial ‘high’ overwhelming surge of energy followed by a ‘energy crash’, leaving the individual feeling deplete and low, creating an acute healing crisis.
The ideal length of time for an optimum naturopathic detox is 21 days.
· week 1: Preparation - The elimination diet
· week 2: The Master Cleanse – managing the movement of toxicity
· week 3: Renewal Diet - to heal & invigorate
If you do not have ‘time’ for lengthy detox, and want to experience vitality, eliminate foods that are congesting and stimulating (follow elimination diet days 1-6) This process is far more beneficial for your health long term than a badly prepared detox.
WEEK 1: The Elimination diet
Gradually eliminate the following suggestions over a 1 or 2 week period (plan the dates to suit your lifestyle)
Day 1. remove chemical stimulants from diet (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, recreational drugs ) - you may need to support this process (seek professional, medical help)
Day 2. Processed food - including refined sugar, salt and processed meals (introduce magnesium 200mg, B12 and vit C to support energy levels)
Day 3. Eliminate meat products (replace with veg & short-grain rice or barley)
Day 4. Eliminate dairy products (replace with soups)
Day 5. Eliminate nuts, beans and seeds (replace with congee)
Day 6. Eliminate grains, in particular wheat & gluten, refined foods. (replace with Veg)
Day 7. Eat only fruit and veg, with a handful of short grain brown rice or oats to aid elimination (steamed, stewed or souped) include ginger and turmeric
Eliminating foods from the diet creates physiological changes
Symptoms may include:
· Inflammation (digestive, sensory, skin)
· Joint & muscle pain
· Low mood
These are common signs of ‘toxic load’ aggravating the organ of detoxification, the liver.
WEEK 2: The Master Cleanse (Spring)
Introduce Naturopathic Techniques :
Epsom salt baths and castor oil massages to support routes of elimination.
Day 8 & 9: consume vegetable broth only (fresh homemade)
The next step should only be introduced if you are familiar with fasting. Do not attempt this without consulting your GP or healthcare practitioner. Do not attempt this if you do not have regular bowel movements or suffer with constipation.
Day 10 : The Spring Master cleanse formula
· 1 litre hot water
· 1 lemon freshly squeezed
· 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
· 1-2 tablespoon Maple syrup
· Cayenne pepper
· (optional Apple Cider vinegar with Mother – often used for Autumn cleanse)
Drink throughout the day. Rest & Sleep.
Every season has a particular flavour, color and emotion associated to it according to the TCM body clock. Springtime is associated with the sour flavour which penetrates the Liver and Gallbladder, aiding detox. Maple syrup is abundant in Spring and acts as a natural energiser, supporting the lungs at this time of year. Cayenne boosts metabolism. Olive oil and water oversees hydration levels, lemon (or lime) supports the liver and digestion.
Day 11. Introduce naturopathic techniques. Herbal teas such as liquorice, dandelion, neem or milk thistle to support the elimination of toxins from the gut.
· Apply Castor oil massages daily – paying attention to the abdomen and adrenals.
· Epsom salt baths – daily
· Herbal or water Enemas – consult a naturopath for bespoke guidance.
· Yin yoga and breathing exercises
Rest rest rest ! Allow the body to heal during this time.
Day 12: Continue with the Master cleanse or re-introduce Veg broth.
Cravings for sugar and sweetness or your comfort food are a sign that the toxic load is in transit and requires help. People often succumb to cravings, this is a sign the toxins are circulating in the blood. Toxins stuck in the lymph May cause inflammatory response swollen glands.
Persist with Naturopathic techniques which serve to eliminate toxins such as;
· Skin brushing
· Hot and cold showers
· Castor oil massages and Epsom salt baths
· Herbal enemas
· Magnesium 200-400mg, sunflower lecithin, B vitamins, a natural antioxidant such as Vit C, neem supplements will support the body and aid the natural detox process. Milk Thistle tincture.
· Wheatgrass is an excellent addition during the Spring detox
· Herbal teas such as ginger or turmeric, dandelion and nettle, senna leaf, anise and fennel.
WEEK 3: POST DETOX – RENEWED DIET
This is a vital step to the detox process, often neglected. Most will return to their habitual patterns, and step in and out of crash detox plans or faddy diets which eventually take their toll on the human frame and energy levels.
A slow and steady approach in response to the seasonal transitions is a much healthier way to experience sustainable and enhanced energy levels.
Day 13 /14 onwards, introduce a cleaner diet over the course of the week.
Start with Vegetable broth or simplified congee, slow-cooked. Include celery, greens, root veg, ginger, turmeric, and a handful of short grain brown rice (soak overnight).
Breakfast: Eat like a King or Queen! Begin with a glass of warm water, with olive oil and lemon. Either have warm Congee or Oatmeal porridge (with grated apple, and flaked almonds, seasonal fruit)
Lunch: Veg Broth or soup with greens
Introduce wheatgrass in-between meals.
Remain hydrated with herbal teas that continue to support the body's physiology.
Avoid introducing stimulants and refined chemicals after a detox.
Opt for healthier alternatives such as fish, seasonal fruit and veg, pulses, sprouts.
Never skip breakfast. This is the most important meal of the day.
The month of March is often too cold and does not favour juicing in cold climates across the Northern Hemisphere, hence I do not advocate juice fasts at this time of year until the weather warms up. Ingesting cold liquids or foods impedes the Spleens function to nourish the body, aggravating the stomach which may lead to nausea. I have seen this pattern repeat itself time and time again. Bespoke detoxes aligned to your constitution may differ, but for general advice, stick to souping between Winter and Spring. Wait for the weather to warm slightly before introducing juices (around May time).
Activity: during the detox, conserve your energy. Most people will begin a fast and begin a heavy workout routine, which exerts stress upon the body's physiology. Take regular walks, attend to the garden, practice yoga, swim, try Tai Chi, dance. Keep movement simple. Step up activity after the detox, when you have surplus energy to spend.
Detoxes performed at times of seasonal transitions are far more effective for healing than untimely ones. The difference between living in rhythm with the seasonal signals rather than man-made ones? Well, I’ll leave that to you to explore.
Wishing my readers a happy and vibrant Spring.
NHS Lifestyle & Wellbeing Coach (HNPCN)
(For bespoke naturopathic guidance please arrange an online consultation).