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Spring Cleaning for the Body

by Marian Brown

“Americans have learned to live not feeling at their optimum,” said Joyce Vopni, Certified Herbalist. Vopni explained spring is an ideal time to do a spring cleaning of our own body – internally and experience rejuvenation.

Previously, winter storages of food would be dwindling this time of year and people would be taking advantage of fresh greens and spring plants. These would naturally begin cleansing our system from the “heavy” winter foods of stored meat and grains. Today, we don’t take advantage of seasonal changes. We rely on processed food, fast foods, and “junk” foods.

Historically, this is also a time of fasting with religion holidays during the spring. However, Vopni doesn’t recommend total fasting in today’s world. “We live more active lives now,” she explains, “and, we are exposed to far more pollutants.” These pollutants are stored in our bodies’ fat, and during a fast these toxins would be released in a “great rush.” This could cause a liver overload. The liver’s job is to filter every ounce of blood and screen out the bad.

The modified food diet (not a weight loss diet) is designed to cleanse and support your liver and digestive system. The diet stresses rice. Rice (whole grain, brown, jasmine, and others) is easily digested and contains an acid that is actually healing to the intestines. Everyday rice is a part of your intake. You can add variety, Vopni explains, by using rice cakes, rice crackers, etc. However, NO wheat. It is hard to digest and many people are allergic to wheat and don’t know it.

Also to stay away from is alcohol, meat, eggs, dairy products and soda. Grapefruit is also a no-no as it contains chemicals which prevent the liver from doing its job.

Your diet will contain lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. These can be steamed or eaten raw. Key vegetables are beets and broccoli. Broccoli helps remove chemicals from your system. Vopni recommends organic fruits and vegetables. She points out the money you save by giving up the meat, alcohol and soda will make up the difference for the slightly more expensive organic produce.

Sugar is a big no-no. At the turn of the century, we consumed 5 pounds of sugar per person per year. Now we consume 150 pounds per person per year. Sugar is added to almost all our foods – yogurt, breads, etc. explains Vopni. It also suppresses the immune system. Our body uses the B vitamins to process sugar instead of producing much needed antibodies. After each time we consume sugar, our body is not working optimally for 5 hours. Honey will also suppress the immune system. Sugar substitutes, like aspartame, should also be avoided. Stevia, a naturally sweetener can be used.

Preparation is also recommended. Prior to starting the detoxification, Vopni recommends cutting back/stopping caffeine, alcohol and smoking. Exercise is also recommended.

Toxins will be in your lymph system and, unlike the heart that pumps the blood, the lymph system has no pump and required exercise to keep it moving. Without exercise, the toxins will just sit. Gentle exercise is what Vopni suggests. “Sweating is good. It is one way our body removes toxins,” said Vopni. A brisk walk that produces a gentle perspiration works well. In addition, a hot bath and peppermint tea, followed by bundling up in your favorite, cozy blanket can work wonders!

Your diet and lifestyle work in combination with the herbs to support and cleanse your system.

Vopni recommends the Auyvedic herbal combination called Triphala. It is a 3-1 support system. Also, harataki is a gentle laxative and can help rejuvenate your intestinal system. Liver support is key during the time of detoxification. Herbs to consider are dandelion root, milk thistle, and licorice root. Between 2 am and 4 am is a peak liver function time and taking liver herbs at bedtime can help support this functioning. Start small and work up to your ideal dosage Vopni advises. Nettles and raspberry leave tea are also good. For kidney support, dandelion leaf, burdock root or Gobo may be used.

Ayurvedic herbalists have long been recommending fiber as a cleansing agent. Fiber sweeps accumulated wastes and toxins from the digestive system. When combined with detoxifying herbs like those listed above, an herbal fiber colon cleanse can be a gentle yet thorough path to detoxification.

In addition to spring cleaning, this time of year is also the time for allergies. Allergies are a result of becoming overexposed to the allergen at a time when the immune system is undernourished and over-stressed Vopni explained. Herbs can be used to both relief discomfort and to build up the immune system for a long-term prevention.

Herbalist, like Vopni, work with the person to examine the “whole person.” There are many pieces to the puzzle and finding the root of the problem is key.