Inspired living

Is it time for a spring cleanse?

Beetroot bunch healthy food vegetable

Credit: iStock

If you are feeling a little imbalanced from the sedentary winter months and your skin is looking dull and lacklustre, now is a great time to bring the body and complexion back into balance. With spring upon us, and with it nature’s bounty of cleansing, green fare, now is the perfect time to cleanse from within.

The skin is a good barometer of imbalance within the body’s systems. It is often described as the third kidney or the second liver. This is because if any of these elimination organs are overloaded and under-functioning, the skin will pick up the slack and try to push out more wastes and toxins. This is a common cause underlying many skin conditions. Assisting the body’s natural cleansing processes will help promote skin that has fewer reactions and is calmer and less inflamed.

With spring upon us, and with it nature’s bounty of cleansing, green fare, now is the perfect time to cleanse from within.

Cleansing is especially helpful for those who are experiencing signs of toxicity: general fatigue, digestive issues, weakened immunity, mouth ulcers, frequent colds and flus, metallic taste in mouth, strong body odour and skin imbalances, including sensitivities, redness, dryness and outbreaks.

A comprehensive cleanse is best customised to the individual and so best done under the guidance of a naturopath. However, you can follow these general rules to help ease you into spring feeling healthy and looking radiant.

  1. Reduce your consumption of and exposure to sugar, alcohol, white flour products, cigarettes and cigarette smoke, chlorinated water and high-mercury seafood (ie tinned tuna).
  2. Assist the liver’s phase-two detoxification pathway. There are two detoxification phases and it’s important to assist the body’s phase one detoxification by supporting phase two; this ensures that toxins eliminated are neutralised and mopped up, not left roaming around the body. Avoid processed, sugar-rich foods and eat nutrient-dense wholefoods. Foods especially helpful for supporting phase two include broccoli, beetroot, kale, barley grass, rosemary, St Mary’s thistle and dandelion. The pathways are responsible for detoxifying and excreting various chemicals, hormones, toxins, pathogens and allergenic food substances (salicylates, histamines, amines, sulphites, glutamates).
  3. Reduce or eliminate processed and packaged foods from your diet. Eat a variety of seasonal wholefoods and try to make sauces from scratch. The best way to do this is to prepare for the week ahead. Make fresh pesto, hummus, stews, sauces, spring vegie soup made with organic chicken broth in big batches and freeze for convenience. Keep a cooked organic chicken and cooked quinoa in the fridge to add to salads for lunch alongside fresh nuts, hummus, carrot sticks and celery sticks.
  4. Avoid common skin and gut irritants, including gluten and dairy. Opt for freshly made almond or coconut milk and try eating live sprouted seed breads — they’re lovely toasted with avocado, hummus and pesto.
  5. Avoid cooked vegetable oils as they are inflammatory and put another load on the liver. Instead, cook with a little coconut oil or ghee. Fats and oils are best consumed fresh and as part of a wholefood, like avocado, nuts and seeds. Olive oil is best consumed fresh on salads, not heated.
  6. Consume good sources of protein, which are important as the body requires amino acids to detoxify properly. Good sources include organic nuts and seeds, tempeh, organic eggs, low-mercury fish, organic chicken and red meat once a week if desired. If you eat red meat, opt for grass-fed as, unlike grain-fed meat, it’s rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.
  7. Eat lacto-fermented foods and food rich in prebiotics and probiotics. The fermentation process provides beneficial prebiotics and probiotics that support the detoxification and elimination pathways of the body. Ongoing research is constantly discovering new roles and benefits of probiotics that naturally reside in our gut.

Probiotics directly neutralise some chemicals and toxins so they don’t have to be processed through the liver, helping to ease its burden. They manufacture vitamins essential for the liver’s role in detoxification and methylation. They increase IgA levels in the gut, essential for a healthy gut wall coated with mucus and friendly flora. If this paste is stripped away, the gut wall is easily damaged and can become “leaky”. A leaky gut allows harmful substances (microbes, wastes, toxins, undigested foods) to seep across it into the tissue and blood, which have to go to the liver for further processing, thus placing more burden on the liver. Probiotics contain enzymes that turn soluble fibre into a mucousy gel that soothes, lubricates and feeds the bowels.

Prebiotics feed the probiotics and help them proliferate. Foods rich in prebiotics include chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, bananas, onions and legumes. Foods rich in fibre, including leafy greens, berries, beans and peas, help support the elimination process and remove toxins so they are not re-absorbed back into the bloodstream.

  1. Eat antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants are vital for the skin’s health and Beauty, particularly due to their anti-inflammatory role. All skin conditions have inflammation at their root; antioxidants help to calm inflammation and reduce redness, irritation and sensitivity.
  2. Start your day with lemon juice squeezed into water and drink two litres of filtered water daily. Many disinfectants are used in our tap water to remove pathogenic bacteria and algae; however, the body becomes the filter of these and other impurities present in our water. Filter out chlorine, ammonia, particulate matter, heavy metals, sediment and herbicides and pesticides with a good water filter.
  3. Minimise free radical exposure. Free radicals are formed in the body as a natural by-product of metabolism, but they can also be left behind by alcohol, diet (sugar, fried foods, burnt and charred foods), cigarette smoke, pollution, environmental assault, pesticides etc. The most effective way to combat these troublesome molecules — besides avoiding these foods and exposures — is to eat more foods rich in protective antioxidants.
  4. Do regular, moderate exercise and dry body brush to aid lymphatics. Dry body brushing is a very effective way to improve lymphatic flow, eliminate toxins and help reduce cellulite. It’s best to dry body brush in the morning before you shower. Start with light pressure until you’re used to the feeling, then move on to firmer strokes, working upwards from the soles of your feet. Brush for around 2–3 minutes, until skin is rosy and slightly tingly.
  5. Clean up your skincare routine. What we put on our skin can find its way into our bodies, which is why it’s important to lighten the toxic load on the liver with clean, green skincare and personal care products. Look for products that bear the certified organic logo.

Finally, while intermittent fasting can be helpful in bringing your body back into balance, it’s important to eat! Eating a variety of seasonal wholefoods rich in a variety of nutrients helps support the body’s detoxification process. Starving yourself will not assist this process and may lead to further imbalances. The skin is the last place to receive nutrients, which go to more important organs first, so eating nutrient-dense wholefoods and doing regular exercise are vital for good skin and health.

Note: The signs of toxicity listed above may be signs of other medical problems. However, often they are the body’s signal to you that it needs some cleansing from the inside out.


Carla Oates

Carla Oates is the CEO of The Beauty Chef, a natural beauty expert and the author of Feeding Your Skin and The Beauty Chef Cookbook.