Springtime brought empty storerooms and little to eat but fresh greens. This made spring a mandatory season for sparse eating and (if the winter had been very hard) fasting. When we were hunter-gathers and then farmers, late fall was the season for gathering and storing food. Fall and early winter were the natural times for putting on a layer of protective fat.It was the season to enjoy the young, fresh, bitter and sweet greens found in meadows and forest floors. Although we now can eat bountifully year-round, spring is still the natural time in the cycle of seasons for taking a break from rich, heavy foods and consider detoxing the internal organs.
Detoxing refers to the elimination of toxic waste that builds up in the liver and colon. Traditional water fasts are no longer encouraged because increased exposure to environmental toxins makes water fasts too harsh on the sensitive organ tissue. Gentler forms of detoxing that will do no harm include: simply eating less food (while eating fresh, in-season foods), enjoying an organic vegetable juice fast, or trying an herbal detox cleanser.
According to the Chinese Five Element Theory, spring is associated with new growth, the color green and the element of wood. Anger is considered the expression of the element off balance. When in balance, spring is an immensely creative time. Liver is the associated organ and the liver/gallbladder meridian (or pathway) its expression.
The liver is responsible for processing all toxins, while the colon transits the indigestible waste out of the body. Detoxing helps restore liver functioning by giving the organ an opportunity to catch up and filter environmental toxins, additives and preservatives that the body has stored in the fat cells (cellulite).
While holding potential nourishment, the fat cells also hold the toxins we ingest from chemical residues and indigestible substances until the liver has the opportunity to filter and send the discarded waste through the colon. The variety of approaches for detoxing include the use of Western and Chinese herbs, body brushing to stimulate elimination through the colon and skin, and changing dietary habits.
Whichever combination one tries, the idea is to give the organs a time to stop working so hard and to allow the body to do a little internal spring cleaning. Taking a week or two to detox in the springtime can help you feel revitalized. Eating energy-packed young greens will keep you feeling refreshed.
Liz Koch is the Way of Life health education coordinator.