starting fresh!

Winter Cleanse

As we begin a new year, many people ask me about good “detox” protocols or “cleanse” diets – I assume, often as a kick-start to their new year’s health resolutions.  I often share my two-cents on the various G.I. cleanses or liver detoxes I have tried, but honestly, I really believe the best cleanse for your body is a sustainable food-based cleanse.  Unless you are following a protocol under the direct supervision of naturopath, I strongly discourage employing a more aggressive cleanse that involves the use of supplements (botanical or otherwise) and/or extended fasting.

Let’s discuss a few detox basics – first off, the term “detox” comes with a number of connotations, which is why “cleanse” is often preferred.  But for the sake of this discussion, detox will refer to cellular detoxification of bio-contaminants that have accumulated in the body through food and environmental exposure.

Second, the body is continually doing an amazing job of detoxifying –  four major organs involved in the detoxification pathway: skin, kidneys, lungs and liver. (The G.I. system is certainly key and will get its own post later…)   Promoting these organ pathways is key to detoxifying the body, which is why a detox protocol should include more than just liver-based supplements.  In fact, a week of daily sweating could be the best cleanse for your body!

Thirdly, in the Northern hemisphere the most supportive seasons for a full-blown detox are spring and summer – these are the months when your body is most supported by its environment to undergo such significant “losses.”  Nevertheless, for my committed new-year’s resolutioners – or those who believe their body is intuitively ready for an overall cleanse, here are a few winter-time, organ-centered, detox tips.

photo courtesy of new zealand spring water

Kidneys: water, water, water.  The recommended daily dose of water is approx 8 oz per 20 lbs of body weight or at least eight 8oz glasses of water per day.  Coffee, soda and sugar-y juices do not count – in fact, for every eight ounces you consume of these beverages, add another eight ounces of water!  But herbal teas or water with flavored electrolyte powders (such as Emergen-C) do count and are a great way to mix it up.

Skin: sweat it out!  Winter is a great time of year to visit the dry sauna.  When you sweat in the sauna remember to bring in two clean towels – one to sit on, and the other to wipe sweat – wipe sweat off the body and try to use new parts of the towel each time.  The goal with sweating in the sauna is to allow the body to release toxins – if you sweat and then allow it to dry on your skin (or wipe it back on with a soiled towel – or sit on a bench where others have sweated it out) those same toxins will just be reabsorbed.  Gross, but true.

photo courtsey of pinch my salt

Liver: eat liver-promoting foods.  In naturopathic dietary theory, certain foods have an affinity for the liver and support it in its natural detoxification activities.  In a word – roots!!!  Think beets, carrots, sweet potatoes… things that have come from the depths of the earth and are rich in dense nutrition (choose root veggies that have color all the way through – rather than white or light-colored centers).  Winter is the time for going into our cellars and reaping the harvest of our heartier vegetables.  Energetically, root veggies ground us and help us to be centered and attached to the earth.

In addition, consider other healthy, seasonal meals that give your digestive system a break – remember that heavy, animal-based protein demands much more effort from your digestive tract than complex carbohydrates.  In any case, choosing whole foods, unprocessed foods and more produce will bring incredible vitality to your table.

The Whole Food Nutrition Cookbook has a website here with dozens of incredible recipes online – it is a wonderful resource for whole foods cooking!

photo courtesy of

Lungs: breathe.

Take time to breathe deeply.  Whether sitting in meditation or taking sixty seconds in the car or at your desk.  Feel your lungs fill with air as you relax your belly and allow yourself to simply, breathe.  Winter is a time of stillness – in our frenzied, electrified culture it is easy to let the seasons pass us by – unaware of each month’s unique gifts through nature – may the breath take you back to your center.

Hoping these tips help your year start off with a fresh and health-filled cadence.  Let me know your thoughts!


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