Spring is the ultimate time for targeted detoxification. A spring cleanse in 2021 may be more necessary than other years due to the pandemic and its impact on health routines and an increase in stress.
The word detoxification means to remove a harmful substance. These harmful substances can come from our environment (think diet, chemicals, pollution) or from internal processes in our body (bacterial by-products from poor or incomplete digestion). There are popular detox or cleanses out there that involve celery or juice fasting, and restricting calories. But these trends can sometimes leave some people confused and worse off than before.
A common thread of all these detox programs is they eliminate processed foods. There are some benefits to fasting, but consistent under-eating may decrease the number of minerals, amino acids, and co-factors you actually need for proper detoxification. Fasting as a dietary habit may actually impact thyroid, insulin, and cortisol function as well.
How to do a healthy and effective spring cleanse
Firstly, think of detox as a daily or long-term strategy rather than a miserable two weeks of using laxative teas. However, a short, focused set of strategies can help kickstart healthier habits throughout the year.
The following article will outline 9 focus areas to understand and incorporate into your spring cleanse protocol so that you can achieve functional and healthful detoxification. You will also learn which mushroom extracts you can incorporate to support each of these 9 detox focus areas.
The 9-points of focus for your spring cleanse are divided into two categories as follows:
- Avoiding or Eliminating Toxemia
- Reducing Oxidative Damage and Inflammation
- Spring Cleanse Mushroom Recipes
Spring Cleanse Your 6 Detox Organs (Emunctories)
The major detoxification organs in your body, also known as your emunctories, are your liver, kidney, colon, lymphatic, and skin. Environmental and internal toxins, along with stress, can decrease the function of your main detox organs. We guide you through the function of each of your emunctories, how you can support them, and what mushroom extracts can be used to enhance their performance.
The liver functions in distinct phases to detoxify harmful substances from your body.
Phase 1 is all about converting toxins using the family of enzymes known as the P-450 system via three reactions: oxidation. reduction and hydrolysis.
Phase 1 changes the toxins into something more usable for phase 2. This phase innately creates a lot of free radicals as it’s dealing with harmful, reactive molecules. Therefore, having a diet and lifestyle that encourages ample antioxidants that will neutralize free radicals is what the body needs.
Medicinal mushrooms are a source of ergothioneine and glutathione, two key antioxidants that can aid with oxidative stress in the body. In fact, medicinal mushrooms are the top dietary source of ergothioneine out of any food (1).
Medicinal mushrooms also have compounds called beta-glucans that have been studied for their antioxidant properties. Studies on Chaga have also shown it to have substantial antioxidant properties (2).
Some mushrooms that may help support the liver, specifically, are reishi and shiitake. In fact, the triterpenes in reishi have been found to modulate processes related to liver function. There are in-vitro, animal, and human studies that demonstrate the possible hepatoprotective properties of Reishi (2). More research is needed to determine how molecules in mushrooms support the liver.
Other required co-factors for phase 1 include: vitamins B, E, and C. Medicinal mushrooms contain B vitamins, a small amount of vitamin C, selenium, zinc, vitamin D, and choline, all important nutrients for our body’s detoxification processes.
Phase 2 liver detox is all about conjugation, meaning it takes toxins that have been processed in phase 1 and adds different compounds to make it easier to excrete through your stool (via bile) or urine.
Co-factors required for phase 2 include cruciferous vegetables, citrus foods, resveratrol-rich foods, amino acids, vitamin B12, glutathione, sulfur, and minerals. Functional mushrooms are a food rich in amino acids and are especially handy if you are vegan or vegetarian. They also contain important minerals like phosphorus, sodium, and calcium.
Bitter herbs and foods are important for the adequate release of bile. The liver releases bile and toxins that are stored in bile for elimination via the stool (and other emunctories when needed). Reishi is a bitter-tasting functional mushroom that can interact with the bitter receptors in your body which support digestive function, vessel function, and possibly detoxification.
Key Takeaways: Your spring cleanse will best support your liver’s detoxification processes if it includes cruciferous vegetables, citrus, resveratrol-rich foods (such as grapes, cranberries, and peanuts). Use a reishi mushroom supplement to support healthy liver function and a chaga supplement to add a powerful antioxidant punch to your diet.
Kidneys flush water-soluble toxins detoxed from the liver out of the body while keeping important electrolytes and minerals. Kidneys remove extra acid produced by reactions and metabolism in the body, thereby keeping our acid-base balance in check. When the bowels are not moving well, and/or the liver is taxed, toxins spill into the blood to be cleared by the kidneys.
High blood pressure, puffiness or water retention, and low energy could be signs of decreased kidney function.
Although there is no single physiological detox action you can do to support the kidneys, it is important to support a healthy lifestyle with foundational strategies like stress management, water and electrolyte intake, decreasing toxins, and avoiding substances that increase blood pressure and stress on the kidneys, such as excess sodium and caffeine. Medicinal mushrooms contain minerals that can support the body’s electrolyte needs, such as potassium and magnesium.
Interconnected with the kidneys are the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are responsible for the release of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. The adrenal glands are a key indicator of one’s level of vitality and stress management – two important things to consider when thinking about detoxification.
Many of the functional mushrooms are classified as adaptogens meaning they can help the body develop resilience to stress through their unique compounds. Reishi is particularly good at helping to calm and balance the body.
Key Takeaways: Your spring cleanse will best support your kidney function if you increase your water and electrolyte intake, reduce sodium and caffeine intake, and manage your stress levels. Consider taking a supplement of reishi, touted as the most versatile functional mushroom, to help balance and calm your body and make it resilient to stresses.
Bowel movements and healthy poops are a top priority when looking to start a detoxification journey. Having a bowel movement at least once and up to 3 times per day is considered healthy.
We need daily elimination to remove the conjugated toxins released into the stool. There are many factors that can impede proper bowel function including spinal misalignments, poor thyroid function, poor nutrients/vitamin or mineral status, stress (holding on), microbiome alterations or dysbiosis, dehydration, and poor diet.
High fiber diets provide bulk for the stool and can act as a binding agent along the way. Medicinal mushrooms have around 1 gram of fiber per 1 cup (approximately 70 grams of raw mushrooms). Also, exercise can improve the function and structure of our gut health.
Increased gut wall permeability, and food sensitivities or intolerances can increase gut inflammation which may contribute to constipation and a dysfunctional bowel. Oxidative stress and antioxidant depletion may enhance gut wall permeability. Therefore, antioxidants are necessary to support healthy mucosal barrier function. (3,4,5). Functional mushrooms that are loaded with antioxidants, such as Chaga, may be of interest here for antioxidant supportive effects (2). Chaga also stimulates bile flow, which is important for fat digestion.
Key Takeaways: Your spring cleanse can best support your colon and gut health by including foods high in fiber and antioxidants. Consider adding a Chaga supplement for an antioxidant boost and support for healthy digestion.
If toxins and elimination wastes aren’t removed through the liver, gut, and kidneys then these will back up into the skin or lymph. Skin is not an efficient “detoxer” — pores get congested, and skin manifestations occur.
It is healthy to support the skin on a regular basis via sweating. Sweating is easier in the summer but harder in the winter to achieve. Sweating can excrete certain heavy metals and lipid-soluble waste products. Sweat is also very healing for the skin, as it has inherent antimicrobial properties.
Skin brushing can support both the skin via exfoliation and the lymphatic systems via increased lymph drainage. Sauna, exercise, healthy skin products, hydrotherapy, and massage are all efficient means to support this organ of elimination.
Tremella mushroom and Chaga extract powders can be used internally and topically to support healthy skin. Explore our article on mushrooms and skincare for ways to use various mushroom extracts to benefit your body’s largest organ.
Key Takeaways: To support your skin health during your spring cleanse, sweating and exfoliating are recommended. Now would be a good time to visit a hammam or sauna and to receive a full-body salt scrub. Exercise regularly, stay well hydrated and consider taking a tremella supplement or Chaga supplement to support healthy skin rejuvenation.
The lymphatic system is made up of lymph fluid, lymph nodes, vessels, and other key organs like the spleen, thymus, GALT, tonsils, and adenoids. This system becomes important for health maintenance because of the connections it has with many systems of the body: circulatory, immune, and endocrine, for example.
This system is crucial in helping the body defend against infection (by producing and delivering key immune cells, known as lymphocytes) and in transporting and removing waste products from the body’s different organs, tissues and cells.
When lymphatic fluid has proper flow, the wastes and toxins can make their way into the blood and to other emunctories. Unlike the heart, the lymphatic system needs help from muscles or some form of movement to propel the lymph fluid through the body. Exercise, lymphatic massage, electrolytes, rebounding, vibration, hydrotherapy, and sweating can help support the lymphatic system.
Adaptogenic mushrooms, such as cordyceps, reishi, or lion’s mane, are a great coffee replacement to sustain healthy energy levels so you can keep moving your body and keep your lymphatic system happy and healthy. Also, one of the mushroom’s main mechanisms of action takes place in the lymphatic tissue in our digestive system. To learn more about this check out our beta-d-glucan article.
The lymphatic system also helps our brains detoxify during deep sleep when toxins and wastes are removed from our central nervous system. This is known as the glymphatic system. Proper melatonin secretion is needed for this to work. Sleep is a time for deep healing, as our sleep-wake cycle hormones and nervous system tone act as conductors for our hormone and immune systems. Reishi has been used traditionally to aid in sleep support.
Key Takeaways: Exercising your muscles will help to keep your lymphatic system flowing well as you undertake your spring cleanse. Rebounding on a mini-trampoline is a good exercise for promoting the circulation of lymphatic fluid, but brisk walking and other forms of activity will do the same. Consider getting a massage that focuses on lymphatic drainage. Also, consider using a reishi supplement to promote restful sleep so that you can properly detoxify your central nervous system.
Our lungs expel waste products in the form of volatiles and gases daily. Our lungs also ensure the rich oxygenation that our cells and mitochondria require for optimal detoxification.
Traditionally, cordyceps mushrooms were used for tonifying the lungs in Chinese medicine. Cordyceps also has some evidence suggesting it may impact athletic performance, depending on someone’s existing lung function (6).
Our lungs are also a key organ for stress management, as breath awareness and breathing exercises provide a direct gateway to our autonomic nervous system — the original biofeedback.
Key Takeaways: To support your lung health during your spring cleanse, consider taking a cordyceps mushroom supplement. Now is also a time to incorporate mindful breathwork into your daily routine if you haven’t already. While it likely goes without saying, eliminating smoking of any kind and minimizing exposure to air pollution are essential for optimal lung health.
Spring Cleanse Your Nutrition
Avoiding or Eliminating Toxemia
A spring cleanse is an opportunity to address health concerns that may be caused by or exacerbated by what you eat. One of the problems that can occur from an improper diet is toxemia.
Toxemia, also known as metabolic endotoxemia, is an immune response that becomes a driver of persistent, smoldering inflammatory processes due to endotoxins, the most common being lipopolysaccharides (LPS).
An increase in LPS (and other endotoxins) results in increases in inflammation. Inflammation is a risk factor for pain, decreased mental clarity, and low energy.
As bacteria in our gut die, they create LPS which is part of the outside wall structure of gram-negative bacteria. These LPS particles create inflammation by getting through tight junctions in your gut (i.e. gut wall permeability — think little holes in your intestinal lining which are very thin in width). Around 65-75% of bacteria in our guts are gram-negative.
Nutrition and lifestyle are two big factors that can lead to toxemia. If you are eating foods that don’t agree with your body then your body doesn’t digest them properly and over time, can lead to toxemia. If digestion and absorption are weak, then toxemia is more likely to occur because of the partially digested foods which then feed the inflammatory bacteria referred to above.
Toxemia can lead to long-term inflammation and dysbiosis which is not conducive to creating optimal health.
Steps to Avoid Toxemia
In order to avoid toxemia, eliminate foods from your diet that you can’t digest properly or that cause inflammation in your body.
This is unique to every individual but the major foods to consider removing to see if they have this negative effect on you include dairy, processed sugar, refined foods, and gluten for some.
Enhancing stomach acid production through bitter foods (artichokes, dandelion, bitter greens), activating the parasympathetic nervous system (stress reduction), and using mushroom extracts like Chaga to support gut health are recommended.
Reducing Oxidative Damage and Inflammation
Oxidative damage happens anytime there is an imbalance between the number of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that accumulate in the body from major reactions (e.g. liver detox, exercise, sun exposure). When there aren’t enough antioxidants to counteract their numbers, an excess of free radicals can lead to damage of fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in your body.
Oxidative damage will more commonly occur when the body is taxed from environmental toxins, stress, indigestion, other detrimental effects on the body’s natural state of functioning.
A common symptom of oxidative damage is excessive inflammation. Excessive inflammation can look like: joint pain, heaviness, brain fog, skin issues, low energy, low sex drive, poor sleep, and much more.
Steps to Avoid Oxidative Damage and Inflammation
Your spring cleanse is an opportune time to address excess inflammation and oxidative damage in the body. The main takeaways are to eat a diet rich in colors, flavonoids, and antioxidants (such as those found in an ergothioneine supplement).
To decrease unnecessary oxidative stress, also focus on regulating your circadian rhythm, staying hydrated, and getting restful sleep. Decreasing oxidative stress requires limiting the number of toxins and chemicals you are exposed to through your food, toiletries, environment, and from overworking the body (chronic stress). Optimize your rest with the tips found in our sleep article, and you will help support the resilience of your internal systems.
Spring Cleanse Mushroom Recipes
Spring Cleanse Mushroom Bowl
This robust recipe is an ideal and comprehensive nutritional boost for your spring cleanse. It contains B vitamins, sulfur compounds, amino acids, healthy fats, is fiber-rich, and contains immunomodulating polysaccharides from mushrooms.
Makes 4 servings
- 2 cups of rice
- 2 tsp turkey tail powder
- 2 tsp chaga powder
- 1 tsp dulse
- 1 tsp kelp
- ¾ cup shredded beets
- ¾ cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup broccoli sprouts
- 2 cups of raw shiitake mushrooms (sliced)
- ¾ cup broccoli florets
- ¾ cup cauliflower
- 1 medium fillet of wild salmon (optional)
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- ⅓ cup filtered water
- ⅓ cup tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ cups olive oil
- 3 tbsp tahini
- 1 tsp tremella extract (optional)
- Dash of salt
- Add more olive oil or dried material (yeast), depending on desired consistency.
- Cook the rice as you normally would, however, add the mushroom powders in with the rice as it cooks in order to steep them. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes. Optional: Soak rice the day before for 8-10 hours, which helps keep the rice nice and hydrated and removes some of the antinutrients.
- In a separate frying pan, pour 1 tbsp water and add the shiitake mushrooms. Cook until soft for about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring constantly. Optional: add 1 tbsp of olive oil or coconut oil plus 1 tsp of rice wine vinegar after the water evaporates.
- Shred the ¾ cup carrots and beets – set aside.
- Steam the broccoli and cauliflower (I like to drizzle the cauliflower in olive oil after steaming and baking it for 2-3 minutes to make it more crispy).
- If you are adding the wild salmon to this recipe, steam it for 10-15 minutes. Steaming the fish prevents oxidation of some of the omega 3’s in it.
- Make the sauce by adding all of the sauce ingredients into the blender and blending on high.
- Serve up this dish by using the rice as your base. Add the shiitakes, the cooked broccoli, cauliflower, plus fish (optional). Then, add the raw ingredients on top (carrots, beets, and broccoli sprouts).
- Drizzle the sauce on top and enjoy!
Best served in big bowls. Plates also work.
Spring Cleanse Gomae with Tremella
As referenced in this guide, eating many green vegetables, including leafy greens, bitter greens, and cruciferous veggies, is ideal for supporting your organs of detoxification during your spring cleanse. This recipe is a delicious way to prepare your greens and packs a punch of B vitamins, healthy fats, antioxidants, and the skin-rejuvenating power of tremella extract.
- 2 cups of raw dandelion greens
- 2 cups of raw spinach
- 2 cups of raw kale
- 3.5 tbsp of tahini
- 1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 1 1/4 tbsp water
- 2 tsp mirin
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp tremella powder
- 2 tsp raw sesame seeds for garnish
- Steam greens until tender and soft (5-10 minutes depending on greens). Combine the tahini, rice wine vinegar, tamari, water, sesame oil, and tremella powder. Stir until all mixed together.
- Combine the greens and sauce in a pan on low to medium heat. Toss the greens, spreading the sauce around. Serve warm with sesame seeds sprinkled on top.
- Kalaras, M. D., Richie, J. P., Calcagnotto, A., & Beelman, R. B. (2017). Mushrooms: A rich source of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione. Food Chemistry, 233, 429–433. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.04.109
- Sharpe, E., Farragher-Gnadt, A. P., Igbanugo, M., Huber, T., Michelotti, J. C., Milenkowic, A., . . . Bou-Abdallah, F. (2021). Comparison of antioxidant activity and extraction techniques for commercially and Laboratory prepared extracts from SIX mushroom species. Journal of Agriculture and Food Research, 100130. doi:10.1016/j.jafr.2021.100130
- Forsyth, C. B., Banan, A., Farhadi, A., Fields, J. Z., Tang, Y., Shaikh, M., Zhang, L. J., Engen, P. A., & Keshavarzian, A. (2007). Regulation of oxidant-induced intestinal permeability by metalloprotease-dependent epidermal growth factor receptor signaling. The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, 321(1), 84–97. https://doi.org/10.1124/jpet.106.113019
- Mankertz, J., & Schulzke, J. D. (2007). Altered permeability in inflammatory bowel disease: pathophysiology and clinical implications. Current opinion in gastroenterology, 23(4), 379–383. https://doi.org/10.1097/MOG.0b013e32816aa392
- McGuckin, M. A., Eri, R., Simms, L. A., Florin, T. H., & Radford-Smith, G. (2009). Intestinal barrier dysfunction in inflammatory bowel diseases. Inflammatory bowel diseases, 15(1), 100–113. https://doi.org/10.1002/ibd.20539
- Chen, S., Li, Z., Krochmal, R., Abrazado, M., Kim, W., & Cooper, C. B. (2010). Effect of Cs-4 (Cordyceps sinensis) on exercise performance in healthy older subjects: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 16(5), 585–590. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2009.0226