Embracing the renewal time of spring and detoxification

Embracing the renewal time of spring and detoxification

As springtime awakens, we may get the urge to declutter (detoxify), whether that’s our homes, gardens, cars, or offices, we’re often drawn to clearing out the old to make space for new seasonal beginnings. Similarly, we might feel compelled to lighten the load on our bodies and reintroduce healthier habits. This includes clearing out our body and removing that which may be sapping our springtime energy and vitality.

We often feel better in the spring due to the extended periods of longer daylight hours; this often gives us more motivation.  Without too much effort our hydration increases as we gravitate to more water-containing fruits and veggies, we might be inspired to dust off the juicer or blender to create some liquid nourishment from what nature has provided for us at this time of year.

All of this can support our detoxification pathways and elimination routes as many of our seasonal produce in the springtime such as watercress, spring greens, broccoli, asparagus, rocket, beetroot, radish and spinach, are supportive of these inbuilt detoxification mechanisms.


For our cells, tissues, and organs to detoxify they need nutrients which give them the vitality they rely on as detoxification has high nutrient and energy demands. Our body is constantly working to declutter and remove harmful substances which we call toxins. We are surrounded by toxins, with many more being introduced every year.

Chronic (long-term), exposure to a wide range of toxins has serious implications as it can deplete our antioxidants, damage enzyme pathways, affect organ function and interfere with hormone pathways, this can lessen our ability to detoxify efficiently. Genetic variants (SNPs) can also determine our ability to modify and detoxify optimally.[i]

Phase 1 and 2 detoxification

The main organ of detoxification is our liver, which has various pathways to protect us. We can divide this into 2 categories. Phase 1 pathways are stimulated by toxins and rely on our liver enzymes to render them less toxic, phase 2 uses different pathways and has the job of adding a molecule to the toxin to make it either water or fat-soluble to be removed by the eliminative organs.

Phase 3 detoxification

A lesser understood system that is highly concentrated in the small intestine called phase 3 known as the antiporter system is also an important factor in the capturing of toxins such as pharmaceuticals and other xenobiotics (synthetic chemicals that are foreign to the body).[ii]

Diet and nutrients

All this phenomenal work the body does to protect us requires energy and nutrients, the liver for example is a metabolically active organ and crucial for detoxification (biotransformation).  It needs a good supply of nutrients from our foods such as selenium, amino acids, choline, zinc, glutathione, and others. Foods alone may not always supply what we need, so many individuals will supplement their diet using specific nutrients in a formula to assist this crucial job or use at specific times during the year when they are detox-focused such as spring.

Without enough nutrients, our cells are not able to clear toxins so readily, which makes them vulnerable to more toxins, which leads to lowered energy and disease.

Our early naturopathic doctors understood this unhealthy cycle of low nutrient status creating low vitality and increased susceptibility to toxin damage as their ability to detoxify them efficiently was less efficient. Therefore, their approach was always to lessen exposure and focus on detoxification.


Detoxification is vital but so too is the clearance of toxins, whilst our body does a great job in protecting us by storing toxins, like any storage system we can become overloaded, and we may experience symptoms.

Imagine you have just decluttered and separated junk from your cupboards you no longer require and piled it in the middle of the room, this unwanted pile needs to be removed or it ends up from where it came from to get it out of the way. This is similar to detoxification, we need to ‘remove’ (eliminate) the waste. Our organs of elimination include our lymphatic system, kidneys, skin, lungs and importantly our colon (bowel/large intestine).

On a detox programme, you may have experienced what we call a Herxheimer reaction or simply put ‘a detox’ reaction with symptoms such as a rash, headache, over-whelming tiredness, skin breakouts, joint pains, fever, runny nose, loose stools and more. Often if these symptoms are too uncomfortable it is a sign that our outward channels (elimination routes) are not keeping up.

Early naturopaths called this a healing crisis but understood the importance of eliminations and would put great emphasis on colon cleansing for that reason.

Catching up

Eliminations are vital for efficient detoxification, this is the ‘removal’ phase, and the colon is the major route out for waste and toxins. Often this phase lags, and we may find we get too many unwanted ‘detox’ reactions if not removed efficiently.  We may also recycle some toxins back to the liver that are not removed, what a waste of energy and nutrients!!

With the stresses and strains of modern life, lower mineral levels found in our soils due to modern farming and food processing we are now showing deficits in minerals such as magnesium. The magnesium (Mg) content of fruits and vegetables has dropped 80% in the last fifty years.[iii]

This has major consequences on our health. Our colon (like the rest of the body) requires adequate nutrients, especially minerals to function optimally, the wave-like contraction (peristalsis) that propels food along and waste out and is dependent on magnesium to have the power as it is a muscle. Without this, the peristalsis becomes weaker and can affect eliminations.

Fibre is essential for sweeping through the colon as well as nourishing and encouraging our own microbes. Processed, devitalised foods (lacking in fibre and nutrients) along with excess mucous-forming foods such as grains and dairy can all slow our digestive system which results in constipation or sluggishness.

Other factors that can affect the colon include:

  • Stress
  • Ageing
  • Bile insufficiency
  • Imbalance of gut microbes (yeasts overgrowth, SIBO etc.)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Hypothyroid
  • Hormonal issues
  • Low enzyme activity
  • Low hydrochloric acid (HCL)
  • Excess gas production
  • Anxiety/depression/emotions
  • Medications

Elevate eliminations

Our physical spring clean/cleanse needs optimal clearance pathways much like our house needs the open door and windows to take out the unwanted junk. It may mean that working on elimination is put in place first before detoxification, basically preparing the body for detox.

Hydrating foods from vegetables and fruits in their raw state can also help, they deliver enzymes, natural water, and nutrients. Juicing, smoothies, raw salads, and sprouted greens, should all be a part of the detox diet in some way in a form that suits the individual. This can elevate our eliminative routes and give our alkaline reserves a boost. Use organic produce as much as possible to limit our exposure, no “retoxing” whilst detoxing!!

Enemas, and other colon cleansing techniques such as colonics or home clysmatic kits can be added to our home detox with ease, which helps move the ‘ junk in the trunk ‘and support our well-being.

Other additions include getting enough rest, movement, stress reduction, deep diaphragmatic breathing, massage and weaving in other naturopathic tools where needed to encourage elimination is important, especially for the colon and lymphatic system.


[i] Pizzorno J. How to Practice Environmental Medicine. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2017 Oct;16(5):8-15. PMID: 30936798; PMCID: PMC6438097.

[ii] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/13653312_The_Detoxification_Enzyme_System

[iii] https://www.clinicaleducation.org/metabolism/magnesium-and-its-crucial-role-in-human-well-being-unveiling-subclinical-deficiency-in-the-uk/

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Elisabeth Philipps

Karen Devine

Karen Devine

Shelley Harvey

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