In Chinese medicine, spring is an excellent time to cleanse and renew. Much like the buds sprouting on plants outside, the body is energized and ready to emerge from its winter dormancy. The buzzword “detox” can evoke thoughts of deprivation with a dash of lemon-cayenne water, but there are many avenues for resetting your health. Below are some gentle ideas.
One key component of detoxification is minimizing sources of everyday toxic exposures. Set aside a Sunday afternoon to go through the products you use on a regular basis, including skin and hair care, cosmetics, and cleaning products. The Environmental Working Group is an excellent resource for rating the toxicity of various products. For cosmetics and hygiene products, use their Skin Deep database and aim to use products with a score of 3 or lower. Using their Guide to Healthy Cleaning, toss out and replace any cleaning products with a score of C or worse. Consider also revamping your cookware, replacing non-stick pans with well-seasoned cast irons, substituting glass tupperware in place of plastic, and switching out plastic spatulas for wooden and stainless steel implements.
Get into the habit of removing your shoes when you get home. This prevents heavy metals, pesticides, and other harmful substances from getting tracked inside by our shoes. Use your low toxicity home cleaning products regularly, removing toxin-carrying dust from surfaces and flooring. Consider investing in an air purifier; IQAir is top of the line. Indoor plants also work as mini-air purifiers, and a 1989 NASA study identified the best species for this purpose (click here for full list).
Drink filtered water. If you have particular concerns about water quality in your area or increased sensitivity to exposure, consider investing in a reverse osmosis water filtration system. From a dietary perspective, eat only organic whole foods during a cleanse. Two helpful hints: avoid foods that come in packaging, and stick to foods found along the edges of the grocery store. If finances are tight, aim to purchase organic versions of foods found on the Dirty Dozen list.
Supporting Detoxification Pathways
The human body has several natural mechanisms for removing waste: bowel movements, urination, breath, sweat, and tears. With a cleanse, it’s important that all these pathways are optimized. When these pathways are sluggish, toxins are allowed to reabsorb into the body.
A good goal is 1-3 well-formed bowel movements daily. If you are pooping on a less than daily basis, increase your dietary fiber intake (or consider supplementing), hydrate well, and make sure your having some exercise daily. If you still struggle with regularity, consult a naturopathic doctor. Support regular urination by having a glass or stainless steel water bottle carrying filtered water with you at all times. A good rule-of-thumb is if your urine is pale yellow or clear, you are drinking enough water.
Cardio exercise is great for detox via the lungs and skin. During a cleanse, see if you can get 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in 5-7 days per week. For added detoxification via sweat, follow exercise with time in the sauna, then rinse off with a cool shower. It’s important to shower shortly after sweating, so the toxins released are rinsed off rather than reabsorbed.
Finally, let the tears flow, or more generally, allow for emotional release. Emotional repression leaves us in a state of chronic tension, which affects our nervous system and consequently every aspect of our being. Consider what emotions you need to release and how you can do that in a safe and productive fashion. Perhaps a good cry over a sad movie would do the trick, or a kickboxing class, or venting with friends, or a calming meditation. While you’re doing this internal and external “spring cleaning,” consider engaging with a counselor to help develop healthy emotional habits and avoid repression in the future.
These are some gentle and simple ideas to do a spring time cleanse. If you have a heavier toxic burden (i.e. from workplace exposures) or increased sensitivity to typical exposures (such as a diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivity), consult with a naturopathic doctor who can assess and address these issues.
Sometimes I catch patients off guard by mentioning perimenopause as a potential underlying cause of their symptoms. In some cases, this is because the woman didn’t realize the menopause transition could cause more than hot flashes and night sweats. At other times, it’s because the person doesn’t realize that perimenopause can occur at their age. (more…)
Melanoma is the most common cancer in women ages 25 to 29 years and the second most common cancer in women ages 30-35 years. Due to ozone depletion, incidence has doubled every 10 years. Therefore, it is important that women be educated on the risk factors and signs of melanoma in order to identify a potential malignancy and monitor skin changes. Similar to self breast exams, women should become familiar with their skin and monitor for changes monthly. (more…)
Varicose veins are a common concern for women as they age. They range from being an unsightly nuisance to being painful and debilitating. Surgical treatment is becoming increasingly sophisticated, but there are many lifestyle and nutritional steps that can be taken to help prevent them in the first place. (more…)
Did you know that anytime you have your lipid (i.e. cholesterol) levels tested, your results are compared to what would be considered the average range for male values? As is the case with many different lab types, women’s averages are generally lumped together with male averages. This happens because women are often underrepresented in research studies, and without enough women to represent a general population, “the normal range” is biased in the direction of “normal” for men. (more…)
Metabolic syndrome occurs when certain health metrics (waist circumference, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol) trend away from the healthy normal. The condition is common; it affects a quarter of adults in the United States and climbs to nearly half of all adults over 50. While the parameters might seem trivially different from normal (fasting blood sugar more than 100, blood pressure 130/85 or greater), these slight elevations put together have significant impact on long term health and wellness. (more…)
Our homes are meant to be a sacred space for us to rest, restore, and enjoy time together with family and friends. The last thing we want is for our home environment to endanger our health in terms of air quality, water supply, home care products, and the foods we eat and cook. There are many simple ways to avoid harmful exposures. Here are some of my favorite tips on how you can freshen things up and feel good about time at home and the lifestyle you live. (more…)
Melatonin is well-known for being a sleep aid, but this humble hormone isn’t only useful for insomnia. Emerging research suggests melatonin’s antioxidant action is helpful for acid reflux, tinnitus, and pelvic pain caused by endometriosis. (more…)
Many patients will ask for non-pharmaceutical/natural medicine support for anxiety, depression, and/or decreased ability to concentrate. These are very common concerns that occur either due to physiologic imbalance, stressful experiences, and/or secondary to a medical condition or medications. The goal of treatment is to begin by identifying the root cause of these concerns and remove any obstacles to healing. In addition, amino acid therapy can be an incredibly effective tool; a great alternative to pharmaceutical intervention and without the side effect profile of many medications. (more…)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition characterized by irregular bowel habits (constipation and/or diarrhea), abdominal discomfort, and excessive gas. Though it presents through the digestive system, IBS illustrates the complex interplay between the mind and physical body. Accordingly, the aim of treatment should be to balance the gut and the brain. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) developed with the understanding that the mind and physical body cannot be separated; therefore, acupuncture can address both aspects of IBS elegantly. (more…)