Spring is upon us. The spring equinox was just a few weeks ago. The changeable temperatures of the spring season send mixed signals to the body. This flux in the weather demands more flexibility in the body, since the body senses the shift of seasons on a cellular level and begins a natural detox. During the cold winter weather we tend to eat more.
Food is our fuel which keeps our metabolism at a normal body temperature. The extra weight we put on in the winter keeps us warmer and feeling more comfortable in the cold weather. The increase of heavier winter food can also lead to the build-up of ama, or toxins. Just as animals in nature lose their winter fat in the springtime, we humans are programed to do the same. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda focus on seasonal regimes to help our bodies stay in tune with each coming season.
Spring is invigorating, a time of cleansing, renewal and rejuvenation. The days are sunnier and warmer, inspiring us to do "spring cleaning". This cleansing does not just apply to our closets and homes, but rather to our bodies and minds. Our physiology senses a natural opportunity for a fresh, clean start; our bodies are primed to lighten things up, cleanse ourselves of any accumulated imbalances, and rejuvenate our deepest tissues. A seasonal routine is actually one of our best tools for minimizing the excess pounds accumulated during the winter months and supporting the elimination and detoxification of those toxins. With a seasonal diet and lifestyle that invites a little extra lightness, sharpness, dryness, and heat into our lives, we can support our physiology in its natural process of springtime renewal and revitalization.
Many of us observe a natural shift in cravings as winter gives way to spring. The arrival of the warmer weather often marks a decline in our desire for the heavy, substantive foods so essential during the winter months. There is a preference for lighter fare. You may notice your appetite may decrease and you may find yourself craving fruit, fresh vegetables, and salads. This is your body’s way of telling you that it’s time for some spring-cleaning. Spring is a perfect time of year for a cleanse. Juice fasts with pomegranate or green juice help to detoxify the liver. If juice cleanses do not appeal to you, you can support your body’s natural purification and renewal process by flavoring your food with pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes as well as eating warm, light foods that are relatively easy to digest. This can help to balance mucus production, regulate moisture levels, and promote elimination and purification. Drinking room temperature, warm, or hot beverages enhances your body’s cleansing process as well. Spring season calls for a diet incorporating eating lots of fresh (but not necessarily raw) vegetables and a variety of legumes. These foods tend to be astringent and somewhat bitter. Light, cooked grains, steamed vegetables, legumes, fresh fruit or tea are often perfect choices to help stay in balance with the spring season. The spring is associated with the Liver energy and eating bitter greens can help to purify toxins from the body.
Protein sources like freshwater fish, tofu, and poached or hardboiled eggs are also appropriate during the spring season. Don’t forget to include those pungent flavors of onions, green garlic, ginger, black pepper, chili pepper, small amounts cayenne pepper, and an unlimited variety of garden herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley,sage) and spices.
In the spring season it is best to reduce your intake of heavy, oily or fried foods. Eat less meat; beef, pork, seafood, and duck is important as they are too heavy for this time of year. Dairy products sound be avoided as well in the spring season, as well as cooking with a lot of oil or ghee. Other foods that are best avoided during the spring include fast foods, sugar, sweets, soy products, and frozen ( iced, chilled drinks, ice cream) or refrigerated foods.
Applying these seasonal dietary changes during the spring season can help to keep colds, congestion, hay fever, and allergies at bay, and help us to overcome spring’s challenges, promoting optimal health so that we can truly celebrate the gifts this season has to offer.
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By Gaya Bhatnagar, Licensed Acupuncturist and Integrative Holistic Medicine Doctor at Senspa