With spring edging its way in, it’s time to plant the seeds ready to bloom this summer with a cleansing detox. Our naturopathic nutritionist Rhi Hepple shares her tips to restore your natural vitality
After what feels like the longest and coldest winter we’ve had for a while we are definitely ready to embrace spring, bask in its blue skies and feel the sun on our face. It’s time to shed the layers and unveil our natural vitality.
In naturopathic nutrition practice we follow the Chinese medicine cycle of The Five Elements. This is a belief that there is a natural cycle the body goes through, during which specific organs work harder at different times of the year to nourish and support us.
Support your liver and gallbladder
The spring season is called ‘wood’ and it is all about the liver and the gallbladder. This is the time of year to support your body’s natural ability to detox. We should avoid foods that are heavy on the liver and gallbladder so there is more energy to do what they naturally need to do. Adding specific foods and herbs to strengthen the liver, support our other elimination pathways, improve our digestion and encourage a natural detox.
The liver is our largest organ in the body and its main job is to filter toxins out. It also helps us to break down fats and sugars to convert into energy, it metabolises protein, filters our hormones, and supports our immune system. It is part of our digestive system so if the liver isn’t functioning well then neither will our digestion. It carries out 500 roles within the body including maintaining our cholesterol and blood sugar levels and it is the only organ that can regenerate. It also is a storehouse for vitamins A, D, E, K and B12 and minerals iron and copper. If we overload our body with too many toxins and fatty foods or have a high sugar diet then the liver will struggle to function properly and we may also become deficient in those essential nutrients.
The Chinese believe our liver is our ‘planner’ in the body. So on a mental level if our liver is overburdened then it will energetically affect our ability to plan, organise and think ahead. Sluggish liver, sluggish mind. On an emotional level when our liver is overburdened we feel irritable, angry or frustrated. We all know when someone is feeling ‘liverish’!
The gallbladder stores bile that the liver has made to break down fat. In the Five Element system the Chinese look at the gallbladder as helping us to make decisions. If we are going through a period of having to make lots of decisions then the flow of bile slows down as energetically we are using up the energy of that organ on a mental level. If our gallbladder is out of balance you may feel bitter or resentful, just like the saying ‘of all the gall!’.
Physically, signs of a dysfunction in our liver or gallbladder are digestive issues such as bloating, nausea, and indigestion. Also migraines, skin problems (such as acne or psoriasis), sinus issues, arthritis, PMS, heavy or scant periods or eye problems, fertility issues, sluggish energy or depression. You may find your bowels become looser, more slippery, especially after a rich meal or after snacking on too many nuts.
If our liver and gall bladder are out of balance we may feel rigid, unsettled and feel a need to control or be judgmental. We may feel unmotivated, indecisive or lack ambition. But when they are working optimally you will feel organised, with a clear vision or goal. You will feel motivated, strong and rooted. You will prefer structure but are able to be flexible in your plans without feeling irritated if those plans need to change or adapt.
Nurturing your liver
Your body is an amazing machine but if you make its job too hard then it will slow down. Our livers are really busy during this season, naturally detoxifying and planning ahead for our more fruitful time in the summer months so by nurturing our liver in spring we will reap the benefits later on in the year as well.
- Reach for some fantastic liver tonics Apple cider vinegar, turmeric, dandelion, milk thistle or chicory root.
- Get juicing and make them green! By blitzing lots of different vegetables and fruits you are giving your body a fantastic boost of essential nutrients. To go a bit deeper you could do a one-day juice fast as this is an excellent way of resting your body but providing it with already broken down and essential nutrients.
- Use local bee pollen If you are more prone to allergies in this season then bee pollen is an excellent aid in calming our histamine levels. Ideally use local bee pollen as this will help give you natural immunity to the local pollens so if you know a local bee keeper then speak to them about collecting some pollen. Sprinkle it on salads, add to smoothies and cereals. Bee pollen is also rich in essential B vitamins providing us with an energy boost. We also stock honey from bees in Boldre which contains local bee pollen.
- Keep hydrated When our body is dehydrated it goes into stress alert mode which will increase our histamine levels, making us more prone to allergies. By keeping our body well hydrated not only are we calming that over sensitive reaction, we will also be less anxious, cope with stress better and we also need water to support our detox pathways.
- Use nettles The nettles are growing fast and nature has provided us the ideal tonic in spring. Wearing gloves you can collect them and dry them yourself or brew them in hot water for a few hours (or even overnight) to make a rich, potent tea. You can also make a delicious nettle soup. Nettles are an excellent blood purifier, rich in vitamin K and iron and a natural support to detoxification. You can buy already dried nettles at The Guilded Teapot on Lymington high street or they are easily available online.
- Add spirulina powder to your juices and smoothies. Not only is it a powerhouse of nutrients, spirulina binds toxins from the body making it an ideal support in this naturally detoxing phase.
- Dry brush Take an extra 5 mins in the bathroom in the mornings to dry brush. By dry brushing your body you will be stimulating the circulation and boosting your lymphatic system. The skin is also the largest organ in the body and one of our detox pathways, so regular body brushing clears away the toxins that have been released through your skin. Let the brush do the hard work, you don’t have to put much pressure on it, just brush up from your toes up towards the heart, down your arms and down your chest and upper back toward the heart. Follow with a shower to cleanse off the dry skin cells.
- Increase fibre in your meals to help bind toxins such as psyllium husks, gluten-free oats, legumes and pulses and up your intake of raw vegetables. Heating foods will damage some of the nutrients so to get the most out of your vegetables it’s best to eat them raw. Try and have some greens with every meal and get sprouting your pulses to sprinkle onto your dishes to really boost your vital nutrients. Other foods to strengthen the liver include:
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir
- Brussel sprouts
- Sweet potato
- Butternut squash
- Reduce caffeine and choose herbal teas such as milk thistle, turmeric, dandelion, nettle, fennel or peppermint and avoid foods high in saturated fat, sugar and processed foods. Alcohol, cigarettes, gluten and dairy are all taxing to the liver.
- Time for digestive enzymes and probiotics Taking digestive enzymes and a good probiotic can be really beneficial in supporting the role of the liver, improve digestion and support detoxification. Here at The Hub we have an extensive selection of probiotics, plus the digestive enzyme Similase from Nutri.
Detoxing on a deeper level is a unique experience for everyone and not always suitable or particularly easy. But the rewards are immense, increasing your energy, improving your mood and reducing pain and inflammation.
If you feel a need to go deeper on your detox this season then book a naturopathic nutrition appointment with Rhi who can guide you through a deeper detox with nutritional support that is right for you and your needs. To book click here