Is it time for a Spring clean? Tips on how to reap the benefits of a gentle detox.

4 months ago by Dr Ruth Dyson

Springtime is traditionally a time of cleansing and new beginnings, and it can be an ideal time to detox your body and lifestyle. In fact, many Naturopaths consider the Spring equinox in late March as a great time of year to do this. Signs that you may benefit for a detoxing approach include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Dull skin or skin complaints/rashes
  • Digestive issues
  • Aches and pains, headaches
  • Frequent infections, allergies

We are all exposed to many toxins throughout the year including those from our diet (particularly in processed or non-organic foods), environmental pollution, household cleaning products, skin care, alcohol, caffeine, etc. Cleansing your body and cleaning up your diet and lifestyle can help to eliminate these toxins and improve function in many body systems. It can be a “start as you mean to go on” approach with a spring clean setting up a habit of a regular detoxification, ideally every three months or so.

The benefits of an effective cleanse or detox can be wide ranging, including improved digestive function, increased energy, reduced bloating, clearer skin, improved concentration/memory, and better mood. Some people also experience some weight loss and improved metabolism. There can, however, be short term symptoms associated with the process as toxins are metabolised and excreted e.g., headaches, skin breakouts, fatigue, digestive upset, and frequent urination. These symptoms are usually transient, and patients tell be they are worth the long-term benefits! You should also be cautious and seek medical advice before any formal detox regimen if you are pregnant/breastfeeding or have any chronic medical conditions.

There are two key elements to the process, firstly approaches to help the body process and excrete toxins, and secondly reviewing your diet and lifestyle to identify how to reduce your ongoing exposure and maintain the benefits. In the following paragraphs I will describe a simple, safe, accessible approach to a gentle detox and then discuss ways to bring some of these approaches into your day-to-day life to support you in detoxifying your diet and lifestyle.

The detox

Your liver is the main organ of detoxification, it processes toxins which can then be excreted via the gut and the urine, it therefore needs support in any detox regimen. To flush out those toxins you also need to keep hydrated and have good kidney and bowel function. To make this practical I would suggest a 2-day detox which can be easily slotted into your routine. Some people choose to do a longer or stricter regimen, but this is a good place to start.

  • Choose a time when you can be flexible with your diet and schedule e.g., on a weekend.
  • Reduce your commitments – we’re aiming for a low stress approach as stress itself is a toxin.
  • Cut out alcohol and caffeine, avoid sugar and artificial sweetener, reduce salt intake.
  • Eat and drink only organic produce.
  • Avoid gluten and dairy. Cut out any other foods to which you have an intolerance.
  • Drink plenty of filtered water, vegetable juice or herbal tea (see below) – at least 1.5-2L daily.
  • Herbal teas helpful for detox can include dandelion, burdock, artichoke, nettle, milk thistle, fennel, liquorice or cleavers. I often recommend Pukka, Yogi or Nutratea brand teas to my patients.
  • Aloe vera juice can be particularly helpful, or organic vegetable juices. Avoid fruit juice or keep to just one serving daily as it is high in sugar which can also be a toxin for the body.
  • Another useful fluid to include is organic bone broth – you can buy this commercially or make your own at home.
  • If you tend to have sluggish digestion, consider taking a mild laxative e.g., psyllium husk or a product to bind GI toxins e.g., Enterosgel.
  • Give plenty of time between meals for your body to process and eliminate e.g., at 12 - 16 hrs fast overnight, at least 4-5 hrs between meals.
  • Keep meals light and easy to digest e.g., herbal tea, juice or smoothie for breakfast, salad or organic bone broth for lunch and a light soup or stew for your evening meal.
  • Include plenty of brightly coloured vegetables/salad. Consider adding greens powders to smoothies or juices.
  • Avoid environmental pollutants (e.g., traffic fumes, cleaning chemicals, pesticides) and allergens you are sensitive to (e.g., pollen, pet dander, house dust mite) as much as possible.
  • Take at least an hour’s gentle exercise daily in the fresh air in a “green or blue” space e.g., woodland, seaside, park.
  • Also include daily activities to de-stress e.g., gentle yoga, breath practices, meditation, a relaxing bath or listening to music.
  • Connect with those who bring you joy and help to calm you, put on hold those more stressful social connections or family commitments – this is your time.
  • Avoid screens and social media as much as possible – a digital detox is part of the process.

What next?

After 48 hrs of following the above guidelines, you should be feeling rested, refreshed and more energetic. Then, how to maintain these benefits? It is important to take forward some of these practices into day-to-day life. Perhaps start by including one or two of these approaches regularly and build from there. What resonated with you most? What would be easiest to maintain on a regular basis? It is also helpful to review your environment for toxins and try to think of ways to reduce exposure. Consider taking a less polluted route to work, swapping beauty products to organic versions, avoiding plastic food packaging/containers, filtering your water, or switching to natural household cleaning products for example. This article is a useful introduction to how to reduce the toxic burden in your home. While it is written by a patient who has been affected by breast cancer it is relevant for anyone wanting to reduce their toxin exposure and increase wellbeing.

Occasionally a short detox and the reduction of your ongoing toxin exposure described above is not sufficient to improve your symptoms. If you do not notice an improvement, or feel you need support with a more structured programme, then please speak to our reception team about booking an appointment.