As we emerge from the slow darkness of winter to the excitement of spring, we often feel like we are ready for a new beginning. Spring is a time of renewal when we look at old things we wish to let go of so that we can begin to create the new things we dream of. So then, energetically, spring is the perfect time for a cleanse.
There is so much information out there that it can be confusing. I find it comforting to go back to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, a system of preventative medicine that has been continually practiced for centuries.
Why do we need to cleanse? There are many obvious reasons why we might need to cleanse as toxins build up in the body from a poor diet, smoking, drinking, stress, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, insecticides and environmental pollution. However, according to Ayurveda there is another reason for toxic build up in the body. In Ayurvedic medicine, the health of our body depends greatly on the health of our digestive fire or agni, the "fire in your belly". If you have sufficient fire, then the food you eat is "burnt up", broken down, distributed and absorbed according to the particular needs of the body. If, on the other hand, you have insufficient digestive fire, the food you eat on a daily basis is not properly burnt up and broken down, so there is "smoke" or waste products produced which toxify the body.
Some signs of toxic build up include poor appetite, bad breath, body odor and a coating on the tongue, constipation, headaches, lack of mental clarity, tiredness, heaviness and feeling unmotivated.
Most cleanses advocate reducing our food intake and eating more easily digested foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This reduces the work of the digestive system so less resources are spent on digesting food and more on cleansing the body. Rather than using our fire or agni to burn so much food, it can begin to burn up our toxins.
There are many different types of cleanses including juice fasts, raw diet cleanses, the Master Cleanse, liver cleanses, bowel cleanses, blood cleanses… The list goes on. Cleanses have a very strong action on the body and if they are undertaken without careful consideration they can cause healing crises. Some questions to consider include:
– What is the reason for the cleanse?
– What do I hope to get out of it?
– Will I have time to take it easy and relax during the cleanse?
– Do I have efficient elimination? (if not then a cleanse can end up causing even more health problems)
– Am I prepared to deal with the emotional effects of the cleanse? What support do I have?
– What longer term health goals do I have?
Using the wisdom of Ayurveda we can gain additional, long term benefits from a cleanse. Not only will you cleanse your body of toxins, but you will build the body’s capacity to burn up toxins even after the cleanse by building the strength of your digestive fire. This can be done through the use of some simple herbs and spices.
Finally, to be effective, a cleanse really needs to be a part of a long term change towards healthier eating habits.
Anna Louise Dodds is a registered holistic nutritionist practicing in Nanaimo. She works with diet to address health issues, teaches healthy cooking and baking and even gets people started on their own vegetable gardens. She can be reached by calling 751 9751.