Spring has sprung and there is something in the air. Is it a touch of Spring Fever? Or just a vigor that was dormant during winter?  Here acupuncturist and health expert Andra Millan L.Ac. weighs in on how to put more, well, spring in your step for the coming warmer months with proper nutrition and a healthy cleanse.

There is the term we all know of as back in the saddle. In this case, the saddle seasons are not a reference to herding livestock, but the best times of the year to cleanse and recharge our body’s energy. For many centuries, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) emphasizes the importance of cleansing one’s system during seasonal shifts. The mild Saddle or ‘in between’ seasons of Spring and Fall occur between hot summer vacations and the cold, winter holidays.

Here in the U.S., major cleansing periods for our homes, cars and bodies tend to be when the weather is mild. Traditional Chinese Medicine states, Spring is the time of re-growth and renewal after a dormant winter season. Meaning, we soften, prepare and clean our liver/metabolism in order to wander freely and easily about in our world. In the Fall we harvest and gather for the storing season of winter. At this time our lungs and Wei Chi (the TCM equivalent to our immune system) should be strong against the cold and our storage vessel (the colon) should be cleaned and prepared.

Spring is the time of the year most related to the liver and gallbladder, the ‘wood element’ according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. The deep cleansing of Spring focuses on rejuvenating and cleansing the liver, the super filter of our body. Think of it in automotive terms, as a liver filter change and tune up to keep your body engine and transmission functioning at its peak. Detoxifying our bodies gives us a break from unhealthy stress, environmental toxins, residue from household and garden products, cosmetic products, pesticides and unhealthy additives that we come in contact with or ingest daily. Many people report experiencing increased energy, better mood, more restful sleep, clearer skin, loss of excess weight and more comfortable digestion.

A short seasonal cleanse can give your body a break from the effort it expends digesting rich food and instead, divert some of that energy into expelling toxins and healing itself. Wonderful benefits take place after eliminating stress. Reducing toxic intake and making small yet important improvements in our nutrition through cleansing allows us to reduce the likelihood or severity of allergy symptoms and degenerative illnesses.

Traditional Chinese Medicine suggests that sour flavored foods are best for cleansing and boosting the biliary system. Adding a tangy taste to one’s diet this season like pickled veggies, sour kraut, lemons and limes can be beneficial in moderation. Spring is the time for new awakenings and sprouting of buds. Visit your local farmer’s market for the greatest variety of freshly sprouted foods to add spice and color to salads, or try growing a sprout garden on your kitchen windowsill.

According to traditional Chinese lore, green is the color of Spring, so add lemony vinaigrette to a crisp, fresh salad or a tablespoon of super green food to your breakfast juice and feel instantly refreshed. Super green foods are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. They are available in powder or liquid form and are a quick way to get our daily veggies. Green foods help create a disease- busting alkaline environment in your body. Dr. Mitchell May developed the wonderful Pure Synergy products at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles available at TheSynergyCompany.com. Liver boosting supplements like silymarin (milk thistle), dandelion, and red clover teas help nourish your liver to keep it clean and working optimally. All are available in the health section of most grocery stores, and come prepackaged, or as loose teas.

During your saddle season cleanse, it is also important to incorporate more gentle forms of exercise. Some of these more beneficial forms are also stress reducing such as Tai Chi, yoga, walking outdoors, swimming and Pilates. Many people consider massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic to be therapeutic as well.

A word of caution against extended, medically unsupervised water fasts or beginning any cleansing program without professional medical supervision: it is highly recommended that all cleansing be under the supervision of a licensed health care practitioner. Frequently, doctors work with Chinese Herbalists, Naturopaths and dieticians to recommend appropriate herbs and supplements based on specific health concerns to maximize the best possible outcome for those who wish to have a successful cleanse experience. Most people do well with cleansing every six months or two times a year, preferably in the saddle seasons. Cleansing more than four times a year, especially for people who are weak, have just had surgery or given birth, can be quite taxing on their delicate systems and is not recommended.

There are many products on the market these days to help cleanse the colon or biliary tract. Only use the highest quality pharmaceutical grade products recommended by a health care professional. Begin and end your cleanse gradually and gently with a one to two day period of eating simple foods such as steamed vegetables and broths. Remember to drink lots of clean filtered water daily throughout your cleansing period. Before you know it, you’ll be ‘back in the saddle again’ and feeling your absolute best. Austin Onsite Acupuncture conducts supervised 10 day seasonal cleanses twice yearly and for more info, visit AustinOnsiteAcupuncture.com