01 October 2010

Gentle Spring detoxing

There is a natural lightening that takes place in Spring – there is literally more light as the days lengthen and the quality of the sunlight brightens. The emergence of flowers, with their colours and perfumes, lightens the spirit. The longer and brighter days also help to lighten our mood, especially for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder during Winter.

If you’re a gardener, even if that means caring for a pot on the windowsill, you will notice the emergence of tender new growth on Winter-dormant plants, and the light tendrils of seedlings emerging from the soil.

Those seeds hold the potential energy of a complete plant within them – possibly a huge tree, metres tall. The delicate new seedling stretching up towards the sun is fragile new life with massive potential energy.

The ancient Chinese sages looked to harmonise the human being with the environment, always aiming for effortless flow. They noticed that these energies of Spring needed to be mirrored within the body, so that the inner and the outer were in balance.

This means that the natural dormancy, resting and contemplation during Winter, with hearty foods and plenty of sleep, now becomes transformed in Spring to encourage that Yang-energy of potential growth to move upwards and outwards towards the sun.

The basis of well-cooked whole-foods in Winter is equivalent to well-composted soil that has been resting fallow in the cold, dark months. It has provided the foundation for the new life in Spring to rise up effortlessly, nourished and supported.

So food in Spring is light and fresh, with none of the weight of Winter food. However, because Spring weather is changeable, you can bring in denser foods when the weather turns cool and have lighter foods when it warms up.

When the weather is warm and still
When the days are warm and still, choose lightly cooked stir fries with some pungent flavours like shallots and ginger, balanced with a “full-sweet” food such as rice.

Introducing some raw food is a good way to rejuvenate the Wood-element organs in Spring. It’s also helpful to decrease the quantity of food, especially in the evenings.

Food for windy days
On windy days, the general approach is to make use of the pungent flavour to bring the Yang-energy to the body’s surface and help the “Wei-Chi” (protective energy) to function well.

You can include more Wintry cooked foods on cold windy days, such as the “full-sweet” potato baked in sesame oil, with warm-pungent rosemary to simultaneously warm the core and bring warm energy to the surface.

If the weather is windy but the temperature is warm, try combining sweet and pungent food with lighter cooking methods, for example shiitake mushroom, julienne carrots and shredded cabbage quickly sautéed in sesame oil with garlic and a dash of white pepper.

Using pungent, sweet and sour flavours
Selecting from the pungent foods will help your Yang-energy rise like a new seedling from the Winter storage in the Kidneys and Water element.

Balancing this with “full-sweet” foods will help support the Chi-energy on the interior of your body, so the outward movement is balanced with inner warmth, nourishment and stability.

Using a little of the sour flavour can help to cleanse and regenerate the Liver and Gallbladder, and Spring is the ideal time for this as it is the corresponding season in the Five-Element system.

General detox suggestions for Liver and Gallbladder refreshment
Cut down on stimulants, intoxicants and unbalancing foods such as coffee, alcohol, tobacco, sugar, greasy food and strong spices. This will give your Liver a chance to cleanse and renew itself, sort of like replacing the oil and fuel filters in a car service!

When the Liver and Gallbladder are refreshed and unburdened, your blood can be purified and your mental and emotional state is light, flexible, balanced and decisive. If you are in a leadership role, you will find it more natural and effortless when your Liver and Gallbladder are supple and vibrant.

When Liver and Gallbladder are overburdened with the excesses of modern living, whether from food, intoxicants, pollutants or stress, then the whole system becomes sluggish and stuck, with symptoms such as:
  • irritability, frustration, resentment, anger or rage
  • indecision, procrastination or lack of courage
  • stiff neck, tight shoulders and between shoulder blades, “crunchy neck” (sounds and feels gritty when you roll your head), “Frankenstein neck” (tight knots in the neck)
  • discomfort, burning, full feeling or pangs beneath the ribs, especially on the right
  • digestion issues – including indigestion, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea or irritable bowel syndrome
In these cases, you can do a gentle “kitchen-cupboard” cleanse or you could try a stronger version with support from your health care professional. Chinese medicine herbalists can support this cleansing process with appropriate herbal preparations. Try it – you won’t believe how much better you can feel!

This can take place over a month or two. In addition to cutting out stimulants, as mentioned above, also cut out heavy meats, dairy, eggs, peanuts and have only small amounts of other nuts and seeds. The diet is based around whole, unrefined grains (like brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley, oats), legumes (lentils, chick peas, kidney beans etc), vegetables and fruits. This diet will gradually cleanse the Liver and Gallbladder.

If you have gallstones or sediment or have strong symptoms, you can add specific cleansing foods such as pear, parsnip, seaweeds, lemon, lime and turmeric. Radish is a specific cleansing food; daily you can have one or two radishes between meals for 3 weeks, plus five cups of chamomile tea throughout the day.

You can also use about a tablespoon per day of cold-pressed organic flax-seed oil poured over meals (can split between two meals), six days a week for about two months.

For five consecutive days, have a salad of organic greens as the evening meal, with two tablespoons each of olive oil and lemon juice as the dressing (be sure to consume all the dressing).

Please consult your health care professional for the strongest version of this process.

Source: Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford

See also: Zingy Spring Salad and Protection from the wind

This post is brought to you by Lois Nethery, acupuncturist and Chinese medicine herbalist at Ocean Acupuncture in Curl Curl.

Ocean Acupuncture is a natural medicine centre of independent health practitioners. The views expressed in this blog are the author's only and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other Ocean Acupuncture practitioners.
The information presented in this blog, and on the Ocean Acupuncture website, is for interest and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for health or medical information or advice. For health or medical advice, please consult your health professional.

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