Holistic Health Counseling | Erin Livers, Nutrition Therapist

Please, detox me!” is the plea I hear from many, while I observe many more who put their bodies through rigorous, nutritionally restrictive and dangerous practices all in the name of cleansing or improving their health. Read on in order to understand my philosophy of cleansing programs (diet & lifestyle), which I recommend twice yearly. If you’d like to renew your commitment to health, learn about eating with the seasons, all while enjoying delicious food, consider one of my Cleanse Programs (click on this tab above) or purchase my Spring or Fall Cleanse & Rejuvenation Guidebook.

As the Earth’s energy flows from birth to growth, maturity, harvest, death, and decay, we see evidence of this cycle in our seasons. Our bodies thrive when we live in harmony with the rhythm of this natural cycle.

Spring

Throughout history as we lived in close contact with nature and the seasons, winter found us eating foods that helped us stay warm and even put on a few extra pounds. While we still performed physical work, more time was spent indoors and fresh fruits and vegetables were limited. Boiling and roasting were common cooking methods to make the hearty winter vegetables and meats more palatable and warming. Once spring arrived, however, we would throw open the windows, spend more time outdoors and begin tending to the early spring greens sprouting in our gardens. These early green foods were just what was required to rejuvenate our bodies under the growing light of spring. The Chinese have understood this for thousands of years. In Chinese Five-Element Theory, the season of Spring correlates to the color green and the liver and gall bladder organs. So to live in harmony with the energy of Spring is to nourish ourselves with early spring vegetables and greens. Their rising energy specifically nourishes the liver. Spring is also a good time to clear out of our environment all we have accumulated over the winter that no longer serves us.

Summer, which correlates to the element Fire, finds us feasting on cool, raw foods to help balance the heat of the summer sun, which pervades our long days. Lighter meals fuel our active, outdoor lives. In late summer, the time of the Earth’s harvest, food is plentiful as are the occasions to enjoy it.

Fall

Autumn is the time of the element Metal, when our late summer harvest begins to wane and plants begin to die. The earth’s green leaves turn brilliant shades of red and orange, reflecting the exquisite beauty of the phytonutrients we’re able to see when the leaves’ chlorophyll returns to the core of the plant. The leaves then wither and fall as all plants send their energy downward to their roots, where they build a store of sugars that will nourish the plant throughout the winter.

Autumn is the season of letting go, when the crisp air and penetrating blue sky compels us to breathe deeply, to expand our lungs and exhale fully, circulating the Chi or Prana (energy) throughout our body. There is clarity and sharpness that you can feel during this season as we prepare for winter. While we are deeply inspired by the beauty of nature, we are a bit saddened at summer’s end and thoughts of the cold months that lie ahead. This is another time of the year where it benefits us to focus on our diet and lifestyle to ensure we’re prepared for the change in our environment. Winter gives us a chance to pause and reflect as our attention turns inward. Winter also requires that we draw upon our reserves to survive the harsh elements and the lack of fresh foods. So Late Summer through Autumn is the time to build those reserves.

In Chinese Medicine, this time of year, Autumn, expresses itself through our lungs and large intestine. These two organs are responsible for the elimination from our bodies of anything that is no longer useful. The large intestine disposes of wastes, from food and experience, that once fueled our body yet now are rendered useless and must be returned to the earth to replenish the soil. The lungs take in fresh oxygen to keep our cells vital, moment to moment, breathing in new life, while releasing carbon dioxide, the waste that feeds the plants around us. The Fall Cleanse Program’s diet is designed to gently cleanse and detoxify body, mind, and spirit. It is warming, nutritive, and fortifies our body and immune system so we feel strong, healthy and prepared to reap the most benefit during winter, the season of rest and rejuvenation.

Food As Medicine Cleanse Programs

According to the Vitalist School of Medicine, it is our life force that both animates and heals the body. One aspect of keeping the body’s life force vital is to ensure that we have proper digestion and optimum nourishment from our diet. What we put into our body has a huge impact on whether we have a strong life force and are able to heal ourselves. So it’s no surprise that Vitalist philosophy does not recommend eliminating foods to create health, but rather increasing their nourishing power. Today, it’s very common to hear people say they feel “toxic” and need to cleanse or detoxify their system. Many people choose to do this several times per year via fasting, high-fiber supplement products and sometimes via more heroic methods such as colonics. But what we must remember is that our body’s normal detoxification processes are at work everyday. Our conscious drive to “cleanse” may just be our instinctive feeling that winter is over and it’s time to transition our diet and our lives into spring just as our ancestors did.

Often, a “toxic” feeling is caused by both the psychological and physical effects of: lack of sleep; poor digestive function of the stomach, small intestine, spleen/pancreas, liver, gall bladder, and/or large intestine; food sensitivities; nutrient deficiencies; inadequate protein; improper hormone metabolism; a stressed adrenal system and/or poor blood sugar control. Any and all of the above issues can compromise the body’s normal detoxification process, so a seasonal cleanse and rejuvenation program can help restore that process. This brings the body back into balance, and in the process we learn how to better care for ourselves throughout the year.

The diet slowly removes animal and vegetable protein and reduces fat, allowing the digestive system a gentle rest. This in turn reduces stress on our entire system. The diet contains no sweeteners other than fruit sugars and natural sources. It is designed to optimize blood sugar regulation, balance mood and decrease inflammation. Clearing and building a strong immune system means developing a healthy colony of micro-organisms in our digestive system. By eating fiber, beneficial fats, and cultured foods, we nourish and fortify the bacteria that reside in our gut to digest our food, breakdown our waste products, and be our immune system against colds and flu. Our bodies work most efficiently when a general rhythm with meals is followed. Eating and exercising at relatively the same time each day strengthens our nervous system and promotes sound sleep. Achieving this consistency requires planning ahead. Many of the recommended meals can be prepared in advance and some can even be frozen. 

What I consider to be a “natural” cleanse program is a two-week vacation that includes plenty of rest, water, and good food! My Seasonal Cleanse and Rejuvenation programs are a break that allows the organs of your body to rest and rejuvenate.

Benefits include: balancing the organs, eliminating symptoms of dis-ease, and increasing energy. Often, but not always, weight loss is a pleasant side effect. These improvements in the body happen in a variety of ways.

First, we check in with the current state of our physical bodies. How do we feel? This question is a theme of my programs as it’s important for us to re-establish our relationship with your bodies. Before we begin, we record our symptoms and document how we feel.

Because normal detoxification and elimination happens via the liver, the digestive tract (stomach, spleen/pancreas, small intestine and large intestine), the lymph system, the skin, lungs, and the urinary tract, these programs support the proper function of these systems of the body using both dietary and lifestyle recommendations. They also encourage and support drainage and elimination so toxins can be properly eliminated.

Removing chemical-laden food and other toxins from our environment gives the entire body a break. These include: alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sugar, and processed foods. Optionally, you can also choose natural body care and household cleaning products.

To find out more about my Spring & Fall Cleanse Programs, please contact me at foodasmedicine@comcast.net.

Erin