6 Simple Ways to “Spring Clean” Your Health
Spring is in the air! When I think of the spring season, I think of two things: the growth and rejuvenation of life around me and, of course, the “spring cleaning” of winter’s clutter around the house. Chances are you use the spring season as a trigger to make a clean, fresh start with your surroundings, but — like many — neglect the opportunity to reset your body and boost its ability to clear the plaques, chemicals and fat that accumulated over the winter. Spring is the perfect time to reset and rejuvenate your body’s internal organs and cleansing mechanisms so that you can regain energy, start healthy habits and cleanse the health-harming remnants of winter splurges. But – contrary to what many cleansing regimens lead you to believe — this “spring cleaning” of your body doesn’t have to be complicated.
Here are six simple things you can easily start incorporating into your daily routine that will cleanse your body of toxins, boost your energy levels, strengthen your immune system and improve your overall well-being.
1. Boost your Glutathione Levels
The liver is your body’s hub for all things detoxification, and in today’s world of chemical-laden cosmetics, pharmaceutical drugs, contaminated water and environmental pollutants, your liver needs all the help it can get. This is where glutathione comes into play; it boosts liver function, which is essential for the body to be able to remove the aforementioned metabolic waste and environmental toxins. Thus, your ability to produce and maintain high levels of glutathione is critical.
Glutathione is one of the most important molecules in the human body, yet many people have never even heard of it. It is often referred to as the “mother of all antioxidants” for its ability to act as an antioxidant independently while also reinforcing the antioxidant system by generating Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD), a free-radical defense for nearly every cell in the body. Without adequate stores of glutathione, the body’s ability to recovery from chronic illness and to prevent disease is greatly reduced.
The good news – there are a few things that you can do to increase your glutathione levels:
- Eat Sulfer-rich Foods and Cruciferous Vegetables: Garlic, onions, broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and watercress are some foods that have been found to boost glutathione levels.
- Increase your Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) levels: ALA has been dubbed the “antioxidant generator” for its ability to recycle and promote glutathione synthesis in the body.
- Take a Daily Milk Thistle Supplement: Milk Thistle can support a healthy liver by detoxifying the liver and helping to boost glutathione levels.
2. Avoid the “Dirty Dozen Plus”
It is important to eat organically grown produce whenever possible, as these are not exposed to the high doses of pesticides that have been linked to hormone imbalances, brain and nervous system toxicity and cancer. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides™, certain foods are exposed to either higher concentrations of pesticide, or hit the grocery store shelves with higher levels of pesticide residues. If you cannot buy organic on a regular basis, you can still lower your pesticide intake by avoiding these 14 most contaminated fruits and vegetables: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, imported nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale/collards and summer squash. (Thanks to the folks at Suja for whipping up this “pinnable” graphic so we can have the list at our fingertips)
3. Re-establish your Healthy Gut Flora
Stress, lack of sleep, antibiotic use and poor diet can all reduce and/or alter the proper balance of the friendly bacteria that reside in your gastrointestinal tract. It is important to maintain a healthy gut flora in order to maintain optimal health. And since 90 percent of the immune system exists in the gut, your body is likely exhausted from fighting the viruses and infections it encountered all winter.
There are two ways to replenish your healthy gut flora:
- Eat fermented foods: Foods such as yogurt, kefir, kim chee or natto are all great food souces of probiotics.
- Take priobiotic supplements: Supplements such as probiotic pills or greenfood powders that contain probiotics are great sources that often contain high bacteria counts of multiple bacteria strains.
4. Maximize your Health with Mushrooms
Mushrooms are rich in a range of essential nutrients, provide antioxidants and also contain potential anticancer compounds. These nutrient-dense specimens will not only strengthen your immune system, but also provide a variety of health benefits. These include the inhibition of cancer and cancer growth, balanced cholesterol and blood sugar levels, improved cognitive function and improved asthma control and lung health.
5. Rejuvenate your Body with Green Foods
If you have never tried a green food supplement before, you are missing out. These drink powders often contain ingredients like chlorella, spirulina and barley grass which can really give your system a much needed energy and immunity boost. When shopping around for a high-quality green foods, make sure it includes the top three green super foods. The typical American diet rarely finds ways to sneak these health saviors into the diet, so adding them in an easy-to-drink form can take your health to a whole new level.
- Chlorella:Chlorella is rich in chlorophyll and has the unique ability to eliminate unwanted metals and toxins from the intestinal tract.
- Spirulina: This nutrient-rich, blue – green algae provides protein, B-complex vitamins, chlorophyll, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and numerous minerals. It offers great antioxidant benefits, and has even been shown to be an effective cholesterol-balancing agent.
- Barley grass: Barley grass is a powdered, dried cereal grass which is rich in vitamins, chlorophyll and protein. Barley grass is particularly beneficial because it acts as a free radical scavenger in the body, which can result in reduced inflammation and pain.
6. Ditch the High Fructose Corn Syrup
Not all sugar is created equal! Fructose, which is naturally found in fruit, can become unhealthy when consumed in large, chemically concentrated quantities far above the levels naturally found in fruit. The problem: the overuse of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) by food manufacturers results in unnaturally high consumption of fructose. Eating large quantities of HFCS can overwork the liver, which must metabolize the fructose for it to be used by the body. Once the liver starts getting overloaded, fructose will be metabolized into fat rather than liver glycogen, which can lead to obesity, the collection of fat around vital organs and insulin resistance.
What can you do? Read all food labels carefully and do not eat any foods that contain HFCS. For further insight into the foods to avoid, be sure to check out our recent article “10 Foods You Didn’t Think Had HFCS.”
Carolyn has a Master’s of Science degree in Dietetics from D’Youville College and is truly passionate about the science of nutrition. She currently works as a Dietitian in the integrative health industry and is an advocate for natural wellness, nutrition education, and food policy change. She also has advanced expertise in the nutritional care of gastrointestinal disorders and is an expert on the gluten free diet. In her spare time, Carolyn enjoys shopping at her local farmer’s market, traveling with her husband, reading nutrition research, walking her dog, and working on her blog, DC Wellness Scout.