Willow: My personal spring cleanse

Hello and apologies for taking so long to write another column. I’m blaming it on COVID-19. Trying to work and homeschool a youngster (my grandson) who doesn’t want to be schooled took a while to sort out. We finally ordered an attractive workbook with his four main subjects (math, English, science and social studies) for his grade and hired a young person to do the job. Which means I get to catch up now!

To get to my topic, let’s first define a cleanse.

What we mean by cleansing in the natural health field is the process of lightening the diet and using herbs and supplements to decongest inner organs, especially liver, kidneys, lymph and colon. There are other methods, such as saunas, foot baths and specialized massages that can be included as desired or appropriate for certain conditions. Cleansing is a key tool to revitalize and heal.

My body had been giving me a number of symptoms for quite some time that told me I needed to cleanse: lower energy, food cravings, irritability, distended veins and poor sleep, all signs of a congested liver. I finally committed to a light cleansing program focusing on the liver for the month of May, a time when my routine was stable, and the season was perfect, not too hot or cold. Here is what I did:

  1. On arising: drank a cup of warm water with one teaspoon food grade bentonite clay, which you can get from health food stores or online. This pulls toxins, including heavy metals, from the body, which likes to dump unwanted debris in the morning. Then went back to bed to do some breathing exercises to prepare for the day.
  2. ½ hour later: took one capsule of milk thistle with another cup of warm water, an herb which is safe and effective for cleaning the liver, the organ that filters our blood. As a bonus, milk thistle also strengthens a weak liver.
  3. ½ hour later: whole grain rice porridge with stewed fruit, a teaspoon of seed butter, almond milk and cinnamon. Light, easy to digest, avoiding milk products, white sugar and caffeine (which I don’t use anyway, but thought I would mention for others; herbal coffee is a good substitute during a cleanse as coffee is too acidic).
  4. Went to work for the morning; drank two glasses of water between breakfast and lunch; had some protein powder and almond milk if I got hungry.
  5. Rested 10 minutes before lunch. The rests were to help the body rebuild its energy reserves as I was tired.
  6. Lunch: rice, red lentils, steamed veggies or other non-dairy vegetarian dish. Olive oil drizzled on top. Bitter greens chopped in tiny pieces and mixed in to stimulate bile flow from the liver, which cleans it out and promotes digestion (dandelion leaves are perfect and free).
  7. Back to work for the afternoon. Another protein drink if needed or fresh fruit or veggies with hummus.
  8. Rested 10 minutes after work, slowing the breath to allow the body to relax and recharge.
  9. Took a milk thistle capsule ½ hour before dinner.
  10. Dinner: another vegetarian dish without dairy, adding some steamed beets daily, which are fantastic for detoxifying and building the liver. I eat them with horse radish to offset the sweet taste. More olive oil and chopped bitter greens mixed in. Stewed or fresh fruit for dessert.
  11. Went to bed by 10am to maximize the healing time for the body.
  12. Read uplifting books to help clear some negative mental habits at the same time I am cleansing my body.

The results? 

By week two I had lost all my cravings and was forgetting to rest because my energy had improved. The simple food tasted better each day. I was sleeping through the night most of the time. Irritability disappeared — except for the first three days when it got worse, very common when doing a cleanse.

Now I am back to normal eating but have committed to reducing chocolate and cheese to a quarter of my usual amount, foods that I love but that very clearly irritate my system. And I will eliminate red meat as it is hard for my A blood type to digest and I don’t like it that much anyway. Fish and chicken sit better for this body.

As cleansing is best done in spring and fall, I am now planning my fall cleanse where I might try some juice fasting on local produce and wild herbs to give my whole system a rest. I will start with the cleansing program above and when feeling good, do one to three days just on juice, then back onto the program for another few weeks, maybe adding more juice days one or two days per week. I am determined to start cleansing more regularly as I had fallen into some grumpy patterns and resisted doing what I know to do. So human, eh?!

If you are interested in doing a cleanse for your specific body type and condition, you can join our fall retreat in October if we’re out of lockdown (we might do it online in that case) or come and see me on an individual basis. I will show you how to assess your body for the level of cleanse appropriate for you and suggest a regime that you can use safely and effectively whenever you get the signals that your body is congested. If you are healthy and fairly relaxed, you can try the program that I used, it’s gentle and safe. Just don’t cleanse if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, extra stressed or taking medications.

That’s it for now. Hoping things keep loosening up so we can enjoy the summer with each other.

Katherine Willow practices naturopathic medicine at the Carp Ridge EcoWellness Centre, just north of the village of Carp.  She is a fourth-generation naturopathic doctor via her family in Germany and has been practicing for 35 years.  Her specialties are fatigue, allergies, children’s conditions, women’s health and cancer, although most conditions can benefit from naturopathic medicine. www.ecowellness.com