Spring swept over the country this week unexpectedly, prompting me to shake out my summer skirts, air the house and prune away the dead plants of winter. In the midst of all this sunshine bustle, my body started to feel that it too would like a little spring cleaning. At lunchtime I looked in the fridge for something clean and crunchy and eyed the distant hills whilst I oiled my bike chain in readiness.
If you fancy a bit of a spring clean after the stodgy comfort and cosseting of winter food and warm jumpers, what can you do?
There are many ways to encourage your body to cleanse itself, from simple teas, to radical olive oil liver cleansing. I like to advocate the middle way - which can be customised according to your enthusiasm.
First and easiest, start the day with hot water and lemon, add a bit of fresh ginger and a little honey if you like. This time of day is ideal for eliminating toxins from the body.
Breakfast: this is often a mixture of carbohydrate and caffeine which can burden a body which wants to get rid of toxins in the first part of the day. For a couple of weeks, try starting the day with fruit and yogurt - just one kind of fruit, any type except bananas. Take some more of the same fruit to work with you to snack on mid morning and make sure you drink lots of water during the morning. This will help your body adjust to life without caffeine and help moderate any side effects from caffeine withdrawal and elimination.
Lunch and Supper: Cut out refined foods while you are cleansing, this includes food containing flour or sugar, or processed in some way. Avoid cheese, milk and cream while you are cleansing - a little butter on steamed vegetables is fine. Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as tea and coffee that stress the liver and adrenals.
Think about how far your food has travelled from its source and you will have a good idea of what to eat. Fruit, vegetables, fish, lean meat, eggs, pulses, whole grains, yogurt, fermented vegetables such as saurkraut, nuts, herbal teas and a little honey if you need it.
A bath with Epsom salts is a fantastic way to help your cleanse along because the magnesium sulphate stimulates the elimination of toxins. Epsom salts also relax the nervous system and relieve sore muscles so they are perfect to use after a hard day or when suffering from the side effects of detoxing.
You can start by doing a bath every night for a few days but after this, just once a week should be enough. If you have a liver or kidney problem then you should avoid Epsom baths - unless your healthcare provider has advised them. Epsom salts are available from chemists. To make up a bath just add a couple of cupfuls to running water and stir to dissolve. Soak for about 20 minutes and then rub your skin dry with a towel to encourage the circulation, wrap up warm and fall into a delicious sleep.
You can increase the effectiveness of your Epsom salt baths by dry skin brushing first - always brush towards the heart.
Herbs that help to detox need to be treated cautiously to avoid any adverse reactions. For home use I would advise trying the following:
Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianus): Supports the liver and reproductive hormonal system, acting to balance and restore function. Take 10-15 drops of tincture in a small glass of water twice daily. Take for a month and then take a break and asess whether you still need to take it - waking feeling full of life, skin glowing and don't need your coffee? Take a break from the milk thistle until you feel a little sluggish again.
Dandelion (Taraxacum): Supports the kidneys and also acts on the liver. Can be diuretic, but contrary to chemical diuretics which deplete potassium, dandelion is full of potassium thus replacing any lost through urine. The young leaves are also good in a salad. Take 10-15 drops of tincture in a glass of water twice daily. As above take for a month and then review, dark shadows and bags gone from under your eyes? Possessed by a feeling of calm and confidence? Then you don't need any more dandelion. Don't take for more than three months without seeking professional help.
Finally, the most obvious way of spring cleansing is to increase your intake of water. Try to drink small quantities regularly through the day rather than downing a pint and then drinking nothing for hours. This way your body can use the water more effectively. If you hate drinking water, make up a mixture of 1 part juice to 2 parts water and drink this. It's preferable to drink plain water though.