VAIL — As winter ends and signs of spring start popping up, the idea of “spring cleaning” becomes more attractive. By cleaning up the house and culling our closets, it’s as if we’re attempting to sweep away the accumulated detritus of winter. But along with our environments, spring is also a time when cleansing ourselves is also an attractive idea.
While cleaning out your internal systems takes a bit more time than dusting the shelves, natural health practitioners believe it’s possible to detoxify your body in just a few days with a general cleanse.
“A cleanse is good to do in the spring to help increase energy, vitality and to help with weight loss,” said Deborah Wiancek, a naturopathic physician from the Riverwalk Natural Health and Natural Pharmacy.
During the winter, it’s as if our bodies are hibernating, even though we don’t slow down a bit. A cleanse can jump-start our systems, explained Wiancek, helping to lighten up the body from both winter weight gain and toxins that have built up in the system.
Toxins, according to Wiancek, can include chemicals in food, heavy metals in water, chemically-laden cosmetics and body products, car exhaust, alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs, stress from work and family and electromagnetic radiation from computers, cell phones, televisions and microwave ovens — just to name a few.
“Everyone should consider a cleanse to decrease the toxic burden,” Wiancek said.
How do you know if you’re overloaded with toxins? Some of the common symptoms include: Fatigue, anxiety, depression, allergies, frequent infections, weight gain, trouble losing weight, joint pain, muscle weakness, brain fog, memory loss, inability to focus, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, gas, skin rashes, skin eruptions and acne and recurrent yeast or fungal infections.
That’s quite a list and, it’s probably safe to say that most everyone experiences some of these symptoms at least some of the time.
But can cleansing really alleviate all these symptoms?
Well, yes, according to proponents of the practice.
“An option for a simple cleanse would be to eliminate all caffeine, alcohol, sugar and white flour for three to 10 days,” Wiancek said.
This is perhaps the most basic—and cost effective—method for cleansing. It doesn’t require a visit to a store and actually will save money that you might have spent on trips to the coffee shop or bar.
If you’re wondering about the benefits, Wiancek listed a decrease in cravings for sugar, alcohol, caffeine and carbohydrates; help with weight loss; increased energy and vitality, among the perks.
These benefits make sense. If you cut out those things that are generally accepted as not-that-great-for-you, then your cravings for those ingredients will fade. Ditto on the weight loss: fewer calories from sugar and alcohol will contribute to weight loss.
Of course, that’s just the beginning of cleansing.
“There are many different type of cleanses to treat allergies and to decrease heavy metal exposure such as lead, mercury and cadmium,” Wiancek said. “There are juice fasts. There are elimination diets, which eliminate the most common food allergies such as gluten, dairy, corn, peanuts, soy, eggs, sugar, preservatives and dyes. Changing your diet and taking some supplements alone will not eliminate heavy metals and allergies. This is why cleanses are individualized depending on the person’s health condition.”
The Riverwalk Natural Pharmacy carries several basic cleanse kits that are designed for 10 to 14 day programs. In addition to supplements that detox the liver and intestines, these cleanses also recommend healthy diet changes. The store also carries a detox tea that detoxes the liver, skin, intestines, lungs and blood.
If you’re ready for a more extensive cleanse, the Riverwalk Natural Pharmacy is also conducting a Four-Week Clinical Detox. This personalized detoxification program involves a combination of a cleansing diet and/or short-term fasting; herbal medicine and supplement protocols; physical therapeutics; relaxation routines and mental, emotional and spiritual exploration.
Over the course of four weeks, participants will learn to avoid further toxic exposures, eliminate the current toxic load, reduce symptoms associated with toxicity and achieve a new level of health and well-being.
Conducting a cleanse is an individual decision. Before signing up for or starting a cleanse, be sure to consider your current overall health.
“Cleanses can be very complicated,” Wiancek said. “If one has any health issues, it is best to do a cleanse with a physician’s guidance.”
There are no studies that prove that cleanses are necessary or even advantageous. Rhonda Galer, clinical nutrition manager at the Vail Valley Medical Center, explained that if you eat enough fiber, that will keep your gastrointestinal tract functioning at an optimal level. Unless it’s damaged, your liver does a great job of removing toxins without any additional help.
“We don’t endorse them [referring to cleanses],” Galer said.
There’s no proof that deep cleaning your house in the springtime is necessary, either. But, it often makes you feel better and gets your space in order, prepared for the future. Think of a cleanse in the same manner. If you’re looking for a boost for the spring season, a little interior cleaning might be in order, too.