Spring Cleaning Your Body and Soul for Good Living
Published | 6 min read
Just as spring cleaning our home prevents clutter and disorganisation, spring cleaning our body supports healthy, happy living.
Just like a home needs spring cleaning or a car needs an oil change, our bodies also need time to cleanse and renew. There are four core aspects of “spring cleaning” for the body and mind, which reflect the holistic perspective of integrative health based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Seasons of the Body: “Spring Cleaning” in TCM
In TCM, the idea of spring as a time of cleansing and renewal is built into its framework and philosophy. Visceral manifestation theory in TCM centres on the functioning of the five organ systems relating to time and seasonality. This includes the day-night cycle (circadian) as well as the annual cycle (the four major seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter).
Specifically, spring (or lunar months one and two) is believed to be the season of the Liver – a time of cleansing, detoxification, and renewal. This fits well with modern medicine’s understanding of the Liver as a toxin-removing organ. In TCM, the Liver is also associated with the emotion of anger. It’s why skipping this “spring cleaning” can also wreak havoc on emotional health.
Translating this into today’s medical observation, Eu Yan Sang’s Senior Nutritionist Salome Tham notes that as we age, our detoxification and repair function deteriorates. This won’t be an issue if we maintain a self-aware style of living that gives our body the time it needs to regroup.
“Our modern diet often consists of chemical additives and medicines. Coupled with stress and toxins from our daily lives, our bodies cannot metabolise and detoxify in time. As time goes on, these toxins will turn into different forms and stay with us. They manifest as stress, free radicals, fat, bad cholesterol, lactic acid, gallstones, uric acid, bruising, and blood clots,” she warns.
According to Miss Tham, these toxins cause damage to the body’s cells and tissues, resulting in organ dysfunction, and even severe diseases or mental health problems. Giving our bodies a ‘spring cleaning’ regularly is essential for maintaining physical and mental health.
What Is Effective “Spring Cleaning”? (No, It’s Not Juicing)
Far from recommending trend-based juice detoxes or food fasts, Miss Tham emphasises that the body already has a detoxification system built in. She details four important key aspects of a simple yet comprehensive approach to spring cleaning.
It is no secret that sleep is critical to good health. It is also the most crucial and straightforward way to allow your body to detox regularly. This spring, get into the good habit of sleeping on time.
In TCM, the sleep-and-awake cycle is regulated by the continuous circulation of wei qi (卫气, protective qi). While wei qi circulates the body, it goes through the meridians (the channels where your qi, blood and body fluids move). Wei qi does this 25 times along yang meridians during daytime and then 25 more times throughout yin meridians at night-time. Using the meridian clock as a basis, the best time to sleep, according to TCM, is by 11pm. Staying up past 11pm prevents the regeneration of Liver yin and blood.
Recent brain research funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in the United States revealed that the brain flushes out toxins as it sleeps. While scientists have known for some time that sleep helps us store memories, this new research shows that sleep is also a time for the brain to detox.
From a digestion point of view, once we’re asleep, bowel movement starts to slow down. The digestive organs enter a resting state followed by activation of metabolic detoxification. “Sleeping relaxes the muscles throughout the body. At the same time, the body secretes vital hormones like growth hormones or melatonin, promoting the repair and regeneration of various cells, tissues, and muscles in the body,” explains Miss Tham.
“Selecting the right foods replenishes the nutrients needed to detoxify your body as well as keep external toxins at bay,” Miss Tham states. She recommends eating a rainbow of fibre-rich food as one of the most helpful ways to detox. While fibre promotes bowel movement, rich antioxidants eliminate free radicals. Miss Tham also suggests consuming good fatty acids so your body can metabolise and remove fat-soluble toxins in fat tissues.
A review of the science behind “eating the rainbow” highlighted research demonstrating that phytonutrients are essential to holistic health. For example, one Australian study revealed that increasing fruit and vegetable intake was positively associated with happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being.
As for intermittent fasting (IF), Miss Tham notes it’s necessary to recognise that intermittent fasting is not about deprivation. It’s more about timing your eating to allow the body to rest from the exhausting work of digestion. You should consult your physician before assuming IF is for you. For developing children, diabetics and those with chronic conditions, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, detoxes and fasting may not be suitable for you.
We know that sweating while exercising is one of the best ways our body removes excess sodium. Recent research has also shown that exercise among people with fatty liver disease significantly improves their health markers.
This underscores the necessity of physical movement in pumping our natural detoxification engine. For example, preliminary research published in the Journal of Liver Research indicates that exercise increases insulin sensitivity. This relieves the burden on the liver to metabolise and remove excess “unused” insulin in our system.
“The metabolic waste we get after digestion and absorption of food is excreted through urine, faeces, and sweat. Even though they are excreted differently, each excretion process requires water to get going. It is recommended that you consume water with a volume of your weight in kilograms multiplied by 35ml,” Miss Tham advises.
An extensive 2019 review on hydration and associated health outcomes confirms that sufficient water is vital for renal health, weight management, and cognition. The review also found that dehydration is frequently associated with increased negative emotions.
These four fundamental principles to spring cleaning your body and soul should happen year-round. Caring for our body based on seasonality can help us understand our biology as part of the natural world. The best kind of spring cleaning is one that helps your body heal itself.
- Thrive Global. 2018. Spring and Chinese Medicine: Wisdom for Cleansing, Renewal, and Peace of Mind. [online] Available at: <https://community.thriveglobal.com/spring-and-chinese-medicine-wisdom-for-cleansing-renewal-and-peace-of-mind/> [Accessed on 11 December 2022]
- Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences. 2016. Human biological rhythm in traditional Chinese medicine. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095754816301028> [Accessed on 11 December 2022]
- Nature Public Health Emergency Collection. 2020. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7356495/> [Accessed on 11 December 2022]
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). 2013. Brain may flush out toxins during sleep. [online]. Available at: <https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/brain-may-flush-out-toxins-during-sleep> [Accessed on 11 December 2022]
- Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2019. A Review of the Science of Colorful, Plant-Based Food and Practical Strategies for “Eating the Rainbow”. [online]. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7770496/> [Accessed on 11 December 2022]
- The Journal of Liver Research. 2018. The Effects of Physical Exercise on Fatty Liver Disease. [online]. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954622/> [Accessed on 11 December 2022]
- Multi-Disciplinary Publishing Institute (MDPI) – Nutrients. 2019. Narrative Review of Hydration and Selected Health Outcomes in the General Population. [online]. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6356561/> [Accessed on 11 December 2022]
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