Organic, slow food appeals to the health-conscious, modern culture. Yet, when it comes to good health, digestion may be a better focus. From metabolic processes to important neurochemicals, the body requires nutrients that don’t just come from the food we eat. They come from the food our bodies assimilate.
According to ancient healing systems, good health is linked to good digestion. When the digestive fire is strong, it breaks down food, incorporates nutrients and eliminates wastes, creating healthy tissues while building deep vitality and immunity. When digestion is weak, food ferments in the intestines and wastes accumulate as toxins. We end up feeling fatigued, bloated, gassy, and achy. We get sick more often and live with low-level symptoms of illness.
Cleansing is an ancient practice used to reboot the digestive fire. Originally, we cleansed ever night, the twelve-hour fast between the last meal and first, as indicated by the term “break-fast”. Today, we can support digestion by returning to this daily fast, adding a morning drink of warm, lemony, salt-water and gentle liver supporting teas.
Yet, given life demands, blood sugar imbalances, and the practice of food as entertainment, twelve-hour fasts may be hard to incorporate as regular habit. In addition, our foods, air and water have more toxins we must process. For such cases, ancient wisdom suggests seasonal cleansing.
Both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda recommend cleansing in harmony with the season. Winter cleanses provide simple, warming, nourishing foods that dispel the damp and cold. Summer cleanses incorporate fruit and vegetable juices to rest the digestion and cool the summer heat.
Spring is considered the best time to cleanse, in part, because the very season supports it. The first spring greens - chickweed, violet and dandelion leaves - are all gentle cleansing herbs. Chickweed and dandelion leaf cleanses the liver and violet leaf clear stagnant phlegm, often a bi-product of a cold, damp winter. When we lived more closely with the earth, these would have been incorporated into our spring diet, naturally clearing toxins and building the digestive fire.
Today, our food is less seasonal, and cleansing is often confused with weight loss and dieting. Though a potential side effect, a good cleanse is more about restoring balance.
A simple way to start is to eliminate foods that cause inflammation. Start by removing all processed, packaged and prepared foods. Take out anything with hydrogenated fats, rancid oils, caffeine, alcohol, and sugars. Next eliminate foods that have a high incidence of allergies – wheat, corn, nuts, diary and eggs. For one to three weeks, replace these items with lightly cooked, whole foods you recognize from the garden - broccoli, beans, brown rice, bock coy, beets, and particularly anything in season. Drink nourishing herbal teas and room temperature water, as cold water extinguishes the digestive fire. Supplement your diet probiotics or fermented foods to rebuild gut health.
These few simple steps strengthen the inner fire that turns our food into medicine. While it may require support, it is worth the price, as it helps us live with more energy, vitality and clarity.
This article contains general information about medical conditions and complementary treatment, and is not to be considered expert advice. Always consult your physician and other qualified healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment, diet, or fitness regimen.
Jackie Dobrinska is a wellness coach and owner of A Simple Vibrant Life (asimplevibrantlife.com). You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 828.337.2737.