When I spotted a bluebird attempting to get a good look at itself in a parked Toyota’s rearview mirror last week, I knew that spring was finally here. It’s a time of year when, much like bluebirds, people feel inspired to make sure everything looks sharp. We beat the dust off our rugs, clean the refrigerator, and ditch the moth-eaten sweaters. For some health-conscious types, these springtime rituals have expanded to include an increasingly popular tradition: cleansing.
“Psychologically, everybody thinks of a cleanse as a fresh start for themselves,” says holistic health counselor Margaret Lively, whose business Decades of Health is located in Pittsfield’s Crawford Square. “It’s a way to reset your body’s clock, step away from bad habits, and start eating the way your body wants you to.”
As part of her professional duties, Lively has tried every cleanse under the sun—from the late Dr. Burrough’s lemonade blend of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup, and water to a heavy metal cleanse that counteracts toxins found in everyday household products like Windex and Ajax. She says she’s learned that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cleanse.
“I have some clients who can juice for seven or ten days without batting an eyelash,” she says. “But then I also have clients where this is all new and really scary—so we’ll start by taking away a meal and introducing juice or a smoothie in its place.”
One of Lively’s standby cleanse recipes for newbies and old pros alike is her green-machine smoothie made with kale, parsley, and apples. (See recipe below.) The smoothie packs a super-food punch. Kale is rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin-A, parsley is chock-full of vitamin C, and apples have plenty of digestive enzymes that help your stomach break down and absorb nutrients.
For those looking to wipe the nutritional slate clean this spring, Lively says that three days of juicing, paired with some rebounding in your exercise routine, can help activate your lymphatic flow and fight congestion. Cleansing can also be a great way to prime yourself for healthier eating habits—once you survive the first pangs of caffeine withdrawal. “Once you get past that, you also push past cravings for sugar and salt and fat, and start naturally gravitating toward healthier foods,” Lively says. “You’ll think, ‘I really want to have more broccoli or apples or greens,’ versus ‘Hey, McDonald’s sounds great right now.”
Hudson nutritionist Erika Laurion, who works with Hudson Wellness Collective and Escape to Shape: Destination Detox, says that cleansing at the start of each new season has multiple benefits. “It can boost your energy, clarify your thinking, and make your skin more radiant,” she says.
Laurion’s cleanses emphasize digestive health, which helps the body regulate insulin and fight off intestinal problems. That means eliminating alcohol, cutting down on grains, and upping your intake of colorful vegetables, eggs, olive oil, and herbal tea. She also recommends chowing down on lacto-fermented foods such as sauerkraut and pickled vegetables to rebuild intestinal flora.
For first-timers looking to dip their toes into cleansing waters, Laurion recommends a simple 24-hour juice cleanse. (See recipes below.) “Start one evening by skipping dinner and make a really nice juice instead,” she says, “then go to bed with just that.” Drink as much juice as you want for the day, and conclude with a salad dinner. “Then you’ve already done 24 hours without solids,” Laurion says. “That’s very good to kind of restart the engine and give your body just enough time to start detoxifying.”
If you’re not in the mood to dive into a cleanse full-stop, Laurion says there are plenty of ways to incorporate key elements into your everyday diet. Drinking water with lemon in the morning is a good way to alkalize your blood, while herbs like dandelion, burdock, and milk thistle help keep your liver clean. Ginger is great for digestion. And turmeric and beets can treat inflammation and remove toxins. Laurion often combines an array of these ingredients in a vegetable broth for a pick-me-up drink that’s sure to put a spring in your step. —Sarah Todd
Margaret Lively’s Green Machine Smoothie
Combine a handful of kale, a stalk of celery, a quarter of a bunch of parsley, and an apple in the blender. Add coconut water or regular water, and blend.
Erika Laurion’s 24-Hour Juice Cleanse
Start the morning with beet kvass, a Ukranian drink that’s very good to clean the blood and work on the stomach flora. Combine beets, whey, water, and a little Celtic salt, and let ferment for a couple days before drinking.
Mid-morning, try making a smoothie with banana, pineapple, kale, and water. That really fills you up.
At lunchtime, try another juice with any vegetable—carrots, a green apple, some dandelion greens. Maybe beets again, with some parsley and coriander.
In the evening, you might want to eat a big salad at dinner time. Or, if you are in pretty good shape, at night you could do another juice and a lot of vegetable broth.
Photo of Erika Laurion and daughter by Frank Spinelli.
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