Spring is the time for detoxing, is it not? Whatever your motivation, be it to trim down for beach season or to purge that junky feeling inside leftover from winter, you’re not alone if you feel an innate desire to cleanse your system and get ready for summer. And whether you have an annual cleansing routine or you’ve never cleansed before, adding warm lemon water to your morning routine is easy, low risk, and can add substantial health benefits to your life.
Let’s dig a little deeper and explore the motive behind detoxing, especially in the Spring. In general, most detoxification targets the liver, this is because one of the liver’s extremely important roles is that of… well, detoxification! The human body is introduced to new toxins daily. Even those of us who argue that we live healthy lifestyles are, unfortunately, exposed to fresh toxins all the time just from breathing, and sometimes from foreign elements we are unaware are in our environments or foods. The liver helps to sort out the “bad stuff” coming in, ensuring that’s what we excrete, sweat out, or release in other ways. The liver works really hard to make sure our bodies remain as clean as possible, while also playing a role in metabolism and blood filtration. So clearly, it is a very important organ that needs to be cared for.
To take this one step further, and to look at things through a slightly different lens than you may be used to, let’s explore the liver’s function from the perspective of Chinese medicine. In regards to mental-emotional health, our liver is the organ/channel system that is “in charge” this time of year. The liver provides us with an exciting burst of energy in the spring, but this energy needs to be harnessed and directed appropriately. Signs of balanced liver energy include strength and stability, motivation, and a strong sense of direction in life. Signs of imbalanced liver energy might show up as excess emotion and energy with an inability to handle it--in other words, outbursts of anger, irritability, and frustration. Depending on your genetic makeup, character, and personality you may be extremely affected by this season change, or you may hardly feel it. Either way, the Liver is running the show this time of year, and giving it a little clearing out can only help improve mood and motivation.
How does lemon water help detox the liver? It “jumpstarts” or promotes the detoxification action of the liver; most of the work of the liver is done at night when we sleep, and drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning has been shown to clear out any toxins that have built up overnight. Lemons are full of antioxidants, and despite their acidic nature, they actually have an alkalizing effect on the body once they are metabolized and enter the bloodstream. This promotes new, healthy cell regrowth and production. See this short video for more.
So let’s juice some lemons!
- Boil water in your kettle/tea pot-- warm or room-temperature water in the morning is something that is talked about a lot in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda because of its ability to get the systems of the body flowing in a gentle way. Cold water is a major shock to the system, especially first thing in the morning. It damages the spleen and our ability to help digest the food properly (more on this in a post to come)
- Juice ½ of a lemon--I quite simply use a fork and hold it over a strainer as pictured
- Sip and enjoy.
- Pro tip: This is best done on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - works in a similar way to the lemons, adds more detoxification to the drink, and can help lower blood pressure, sugar, and eliminate excess yeast (candida) overgrowth.
- Honey - makes the drink sweeter, but also the sweet/sour nature that the lemon and honey give to the drink help to nourish Yin. Yin represents the fluids in the body, and the honey and lemon together can help you absorb more fluid and feel more hydrated.
- Cinnamon - I’ve talked so much about cinnamon in previous posts, I’m clearly a fan. I like cinnamon in this case because of the flavor it adds and it’s ability to warm the hands and feet. It can jump-start the circulation of blood/fluids in the body.
Things to consider:
- Lemons can be harsh on the enamel of teeth, so sipping through a straw may be a beneficial thing to consider especially if you have weak enamel or sensitive teeth.
- People with severe digestive impairments, stomach ulcers, reflux, etc. should be careful when trying this. If you have any of these issues or an easily angered stomach in general, start small and see how you respond. Even though I have seen this work wonders for most of my patients, everyone’s physiology is different, pay attention to your own body and what it needs.
Cheers to happy livers everyone!