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To cleanse or not to cleanse, that is the question…

This autumn, there has been an increasing number of clients who are telling me, “I’m thinking of doing cleanse”… And then, I spend a bit of time talking them out of it. As a Chinese Medicine practitioner, what are my thoughts about it?

Fall is rolling in foggy, chilly and damp. You can start to feel the chill seeping into the evening and early morning. And damn, you’re considering putting on socks again.

We are entering a season change, from the dry, balmy, leisurely days of summer into a tightening, declining and faster paced season of autumn.

I am a transplant to the We(s)t Coast and having lived most of my life in Ontario, I am more accustomed to the dramatic changes season. And now with a deep understanding of Chinese Medicine, I also have developed an innate awareness of cues from watching nature around me.

I strongly associate autumn with stocking up and nesting in preparation for the impending winter season. The dropping temperatures, weather systems and shortening daylight signal to us that its time to start gearing down. In many parts of the continent (namely ones with snow), observe the animals – they are fattening up and preparing to hibernate. And I find it very counter-intuitive to do a cleanse at this time of year.

Here are reasons why I would advise against an autumn cleanse:

  • Quite simply, “cleansing” is not part of our Chinese Medicine scope of practice. We may utilize principles of draining, reducing and regulating, which might be similar to a cleanse, but to temporarily change your diet and flush out your system may only yield temporary benefits or may in fact be depleting. I would much prefer working on strengthening and improving your organ function and regulating imbalance rather than to flush junk out of your system. That is just the approach I have been trained.
  • You are going against the natural flow of the season. The gradual seasonal are the cue for nesting and resting. Time for wool, covering up and staying warm. This includes shifting your diet towards heartier, warming foods such as animal protein, root veggies, ginger-garlic-chili, soups and stews. Flushing your system out during a time where you should be reserving and building can leave you susceptible to poor immunity, digestive unrest and deficiency (low energy, anemia, etc.). Not your best entrance into autumn.
  • Autumn is Lung season. The focus is to build resistance to disease and protect Lung function. The Lung is associated with the Metal element and it brings to mind creating a solid barrier, contracting and inward movement of energy. As autumn hails cold and flu season, avoid depleting your system and compromising immunity.
  • There is a 17-18 day period betweenold5elements seasonal shifts.
    In that period, the energy of the exiting season re-enters the Earth element to recharge before transitioning into the next season. During this transition, a variety of symptoms – digestive, respiratory, emotional, may arise as energies from nature (which includes energy inside you) will fluctuate. Deciding to cleanse may rock the boat more than would be preferred and disrupt this process of seasonal recharge.
  •  Adjust rather than cleanse. Why not just incorporate adjustments to your diet and skip the cleanse? Most cleanses are involve abstaining from sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine and processed foods – all culprits to feeling yucky in general and should generally be kept to a minimum. In addition, staying hydrated, increasing fruits and veggies and whole foods, not to mention lovely fermented foods would be a healthy and sufficient shift if you’re feeling like you’ve overindulged without stripping your system of much needed nutrition.
  • Spring IS cleanse season. Spring signals warmer, sunnier days. Taking the cue from nature, this might be a more suitable season to shed the winter build up, stimulate your metabolism and lighten your energy. Spring is the season of the Liver, associated with upward surging of energy, growth and renewal. During this change in season, with an increase and renewing of energy levels, you will be less susceptible to illness. Nature is signalling a logical time for a cleanse!

5-elements-table
To cleanse or not to cleanse; listen to your body, look around at nature and do what feels right. And remember, your body is wisest when intentionally connected to nature, just my two cents ;)

And if you’re feeling a little rough for wear during this transition into autumn, an acu-nap is ALWAYS an excellent way to get you back into the groove of things! Book an appointment today!

Your friendly neighbourhood acupunk,
Christina Chan, R.Ac.

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