By: Dr. Casey Carr, Naturopathic Medical Doctor
Hi Dr. Casey,
I am thinking about doing a spring detox, but I am unsure how to do one. What do you recommend as a spring detoxification regimen? I don’t even really know where to start or what would be best.
– Amy C.
This is a great question, and a common one I often get this time of year. I think many of us can feel that “spring fever” energy that comes with longer days, melting snow, increased animal activity as they begin to come out of their winter hibernation mode. It is often felt as a mobilizing energy and makes us wonder, should I be doing a self-cleaning in addition to my spring house cleaning?
When I get asked the question, “What should I do for a detox?”, I always return with the question, “What are you trying to detoxify from?” While the question is generally aimed at how to clean out the physical body, there are so many ways we can relieve a toxin burden that are often not thought of. As a physician who cares about whole-person care, I ask patients to consider emotional and energetic pathways for detoxification, too. For example, one of my favorite forms of “cleaning out” is a Digital Detox. When is the last time you haven’t looked at your phone or computer for a whole day – just turned them off and disconnect from technology? While perhaps uncomfortable at first, it is incredibly freeing and can allow your mind to clear out some potentially toxic pathways and make space for new thought patterns. Alternatively, when is the last time you have taken intention to break away or set boundaries from toxic relationships that may be present in your life? In many ways, I think the ultimate detoxification is having time to sit and be with yourself, away from technology and other distractions, and see what comes up. Afterall, the very definition and goal of detoxification is to remove all the blockages that may be leading to poisonous build-up in your life and allow for new pathways to flow easily and clearly. I can likely guess these are not the forms of detox you were asking about, Amy, but as a primary care doctor who cares for mind, body and soul, I feel like this alternate perspective is worth leading with.
For the more classically thought of “physical detox,” I still inquire about what my patient may be trying to detoxify from: heavy metals or other environmental toxins? Sugar? Alcohol? An organ-specific detoxification of the liver? There are so many ways to perform a detox, so you must get really specific on your objective goal so that outcome measures and therapeutics can be implemented in a targeted fashion that is suited to your individualized health needs. Trying to tackle too much can be overwhelming for both you and your body. It is great to have a naturopathic medical doctor or other health professional on board for this process to help guide you in tailoring a plan for your specific requirements. They can also be an invaluable resource should you begin to experience Herxheimer reaction, which manifests as flu-like symptoms during detoxification.
I recognize I am still dancing around your question, though, so let me try to be a bit more specific. For heavy metal detoxification, I like to get pre- and post-urine heavy metal toxin profiles before beginning a regimen that can be either supplement-based or pharmaceutical-based depending on the heavy metal burden. Make sure to include lots of binders, such as chlorella or charcoal and at least 35 grams/day of dietary fiber, as you go through this process to help escort the unbound metals from your body into your feces for permanent elimination. I also think doing a period free from sugar and alcohol is a great “re-set,” but ensure you have adequate quality protein and fiber-rich vegetables incorporated to help support detoxification pathways. While just about every single one of our organs and cells have their own methods of detoxifying, the liver does get the award for bearing the brunt of the load. In addition to supporting the liver through liver-loving foods such as beets and artichokes, there are a variety of supplements that can support the different phases of our liver-specific detoxification pathway.
Personally, I like to keep my “spring detox” quite simple and approachable. In many ways I try to mimic what is going on in the natural world around me: increased flow of rivers and snow melt, increased flow in trees with sap production, and oftentimes increased flow with more rain. I think about getting my internal fluid system moving more vigorously in a variety of ways: increasing sweating production through exercise or sauna, doing contrast hydrotherapy between hot and cold water to increase my own circulation and mimic the freeze-thaw cycle that is often naturally happening in 24-hour cycles this time of year (cue sap runs), and leaning on many of the herbs that are usually the first to pop their little green heads out this season: nettle leaf, dandelion leaf, horsetail and cleavers. These four herbs, found locally and in abundance, are diuretic (helps get rid of water through the urinary system) and lymphagogues (helps aid in the flow of the lymphatic system). I drink generous amounts of tea made from these herbs, and I also love using nettle leaf in just about every dish as a green addition and make plenty of nettle pesto. I also allow a bit of extra space and time to spend intentional time outside and leave my phone behind. I want to see what else may surface from a mental or emotional perspective that I may need to spend some time processing and clearing this season.
In nature, Spring is the time for prepping the soil and flushing things out to clear the way for an abundant summer season of growth and activity. Humans are no different – we are a part of the natural cycle, even if we often forget it. However a spring detox looks for you this season, I encourage you to observe all the changes that are also occurring in the natural world and how you may mirror them.
You can check out more of Dr. Casey’s writings through the local Natural Wellness magazine publication and sign up for newsletters at her website, https://www.drcaseycarr.com/