Detox

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Shake off the winter doldrums from the inside out with this super-simple, non-fasting spring cleanse.

IT'S A FAMILIAR URGE. Come spring, you can't help but throw open the windows and scour every inch of your house to get a fresh start on the new season. So why not take it further? After all, you've spent the winter in hibernation mode, eating more, exercising less, and getting less sunlight and fresh air. Wouldn't you like to peel away the stale, tired layers from your body just as you shook the cobwebs from your home?

"Spring is an optimal time to detoxify," says Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., author of The Fast Track One-Day Detox Diet (look for it in stores in May). "A long, hard winter can leave you feeling lethargic and wanting to lighten up on all levels. As the world renews itself, your body yearns for replenishment as well."

Detoxing doesn't have to be a grim chore. A simple spring cleansing program can increase your vitality, bolster your immune system, and leave you with healthy habits to live by all year long.
trash talk

Detox is a perfectly natural process — in fact, your body already detoxifies itself as it goes about its business.

Think of it as a well-organized sanitation system. Your five main detox systems — lymphatic, respiratory, urinary, the gastrointestinal tract, and the skin — work in concert to neutralize and eliminate potentially harmful substances, from the outside (pesticides, food additives, airborne allergens) as well as the inside (free radicals, metabolic waste). The hydrochloric acid in your stomach kills bacteria; your colon readies wastes for expulsion; your skin secretes toxins via sweat. The tiny vessels that make up your lymphatic system act like garbage trucks that shuttle fluids, fats, and waste throughout your body, channeling these to your liver, which constantly filters and purifies the blood. ("The liver decides which substances the body needs, and which to purge," Gittleman says. "It's the key to life.")

Look deeper, and you'll see that all this activity begins at the cellular level with glutathione, a molecule made up of amino acids. Just as we identify trash by placing it at the curb, glutathione binds with harmful wastes, tagging them for expulsion from the cell. Normally, the availability of glutathione adjusts according to the amount of toxins present.

But there are limits. "Pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals — we get rid of these with the help of glutathione," says Sharol Tilgner, N.D., a naturopathic physician and owner of Wise Acres Herbal Educational Center in Pleasant Hill, Ore. "But as we do more damage to the planet, our bodies need to work harder. Glutathione gets used up more quickly — faster than we can replace it."

If too many harmful agents accumulate, your body is unable to expel them. The mercury your liver can't eliminate, for example, likely ends up in your hair, while xenoestrogens take up residence in your fat cells. This "body burden" can result in immediate problems like fatigue, headache, and low-back pain, and over time, it may create conditions ripe for disease.
the new renew thing

"People used to take up cleansing as part of the old puritanical idea that our bodies are dirty, evil, and in need of purging," says Tilgner. "But our bodies are these beautiful temples that extract all the nutrients and fluids we need from food and get rid of what w don't need. So the question is really: How can we restore normal body function and elimination?"

The answer is easy: This spring, earmark three days for renewing and supporting your organs of elimination. Cleanses vary in intensity and duration, but effective ones blend nutrition, herbs, rest, and movement to stimulate and enhance our own natural systems, says Scott Blossom, a yoga therapist and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda in Berkeley, Calif.

"Clearing your schedule for a cleanse allows you to watch, moment to moment, the cause and effect of food and lifestyle choices that often remain unnoticed," notes Blossom. It also provides a time for reflection and fresh insights into how diet and lifestyle habits are serving to support or undermine our health, he adds.

Opposite, you'll find a recipe for a basic cleanse; you can follow it exactly or adjust it to meet your personal needs. It calls for a light diet, herbs to support organ function, and beneficial yoga poses. This cleanse provides the benefits of fasting without the hardships. (When toxins are released from fat reserves during a fast, the body has insufficient nutrient support to rid itself of them, says Gittleman; this often results in headache, fatigue, and other problems, so anyone tempted to fast should consult a physician.)

As you cleanse your inner dwelling, take time to purge your outer environment as well. Do you slather yourself with lotion containing artificial colors? Do you fill your shopping cart with only non-organic foods? Bit by bit, you can lessen your body's toxic load, leaving more energy for battling the factors you can't control. (See "Lean & Green Spring Clean" on page 87 for ways to keep a healthy home.)

"We are creatures of habit," affirms Blossom. "We get into familiar patterns of eating, moving, resting, thinking, and feeling that aren't necessarily optimal, and a cleanse creates the opportunity to see things from a new perspective." In this sense, spring cleansing challenges those bad habits and sets a standard for a healthier lifestyle — one that mitigates the need for detoxifying in the first place.
5 Herbs for Cleansing

Your detox plan should support the organs and systems that naturally neutralize and eliminate toxins. These five botanicals offer a great start:

1. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), known for centuries as a liver cleanser, has been clinically shown to increase levels of glutathione, the amino-acid compound that's necessary for toxin removal. Take a teaspoon or two of the ground seeds twice a day, or ingest it as a tea or tincture, or in capsules, according to package instructions. (Sylimarin, which is a complex of flavolignans, is another option.)
2. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) supports the liver, the adrenals, and the immune system. It also acts as a gentle laxative. Take it as a tea or tincture according to package instructions. Licorice may not be appropriate for patients with high blood pressure, so consult your doctor before using it if you are at risk.
3. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) stimulates the gallbladder, the kidneys (as a diuretic), and the liver, increasing bile production. The more bitter, the better, advises herbalist Sharol Tilgner, N.D., at least in terms of increasing the liver's ability to function optimally. Harvest some fresh, or purchase as a tea.
4. Schisandra (Schisandra chinemis), a Chinese tonic herb, is a multitasker. "It's an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, a liver protector — they keep finding out more about it," notes Tilgner. Chew the berries, drink the tea, or take 10 to 50 drops of tincture, up to four times a day. (Talk to your doctor if you have high blood pressure.)
5. Burdock (Arctium lappa), the cleansing herb of our grandparents, can today back up its traditional use with research. It helps protect the liver and clears toxins that lead to skin eruptions like eczema and acne. Cook with the root, or take 20 to 40 drops of tincture up to four times a day.
6. Detox Foods

These foods harbor healing promise' for those looking to detox — and they're safe to consume every day.

* Apples and grapes are high in fiber to cleanse the colon. "The pectin present in apples helps detoxify the gut, while the phytonutrients in grapes support the immune system, which in turn addresses toxins in the body," says integrated-medicine specialist Elson Haas, M.O. Both fruits are easily tainted by pesticides, so buy organic if possible.
* Artichokes are a source of antioxidants and liver-supporting cynarin. "Artichoke not only cleanses this organ," says holistic nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., "but also helps convert the inactive 14 thyroid hormone to an active T3, which helps to increase metabolism and weight loss. Artichoke also helps the liver decongest fats."
* Cranberries kill bacteria in the urinary tract and contain digestive enzymes that cleanse the lymphatic system, says Gittleman. Unsweetened cranberry juice is available at health-food stores.
* Leafy greens like chard, kale, spinach, dandelions, chickweed, and salad leaves not only are among the most nutrient-rich vegetables, they help purify the GI tract, according to Haas. Buy organic — or collect fresh greens that are harvested in spring from untreated soil.
* Lemons contain antioxidant, antiseptic, and cleansing substances. Once ingested, lemon's alkaline effect helps counter excess acid, while its high vitamin-C content bolsters the immune system.
* Whey, a milk protein that's rich in amino acids, offers immune-system and bone support. Research has shown it also helps the body produce more glutathione, facilitating toxin removal. Herbalist Sharol Tilgner, N.D., advises buying the undenatured whey power (which needs refrigeration).

Detox Diet

Include the following on each day of the program:

* 8 ounces of lean protein.
* Fresh vegetables, steamed or raw, favoring leafy greens (spinach, kale) and high-fiber options (broccoli, celery). Eat as much as you want.
* 4 servings of fruit, including 2 organic apples for fiber.
* Lots of filtered water, as well as the Master Cleanser and Cranberry Elixir as prescribed.

MASTER CLEANSER

Elson Haas, M.D., founder and director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin in California and author of The New Detox Diet, recommends starting each day of your detox with this libation. Mix the ingredients together, and drink immediately.

* 8 ounces filtered water
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon maple syrup dash cayenne pepper

CRANBERRY ELIXIR

Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., author of The Fast Track One-Day Detox Diet, suggests this tonic concoction. Mix the ingredients together in a glass, and drink immediately.

1. ounce unsweetened cranberry juice
2. ounces water
3. teaspoons green superfood (chlorophyll/ antioxidant) mixture, such as Sweet Wheat wheatgrass powder

PHOTO (COLOR)

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By Jennifer Barrett

Photography By Glen Wexler

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