Every spring, nature makes some dramatic shifts as part of its New Year strategy for optimal health. After a long winter of heavy, hard-to-digest proteins and fats, we have likely packed on some needed winter insulation.
Come spring, the insulation has got to go! If kept on too long, this extra fat can congest lymphatics that drain digestion and bog down intestinal villi, which are critical for detoxification and absorbing nutrients. From nature’s perspective, losing winter weight is not vanity; it’s function! Spring was classically a time of famine when food was scarce and insulation was a necessary fuel reserve.
Gaining some weight in winter can be a healthy part of your circadian rhythms, but if weight finds itself all around your belly, this is a red flag. The accumulation of fat around your belly, which is typical of a diet high in fats and sugars (comfort food), has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, cancers, obesity, muscle loss, hormonal issues, and diabetes.1 Dangerous belly fat is so common that after age 30, there is a 200% increased risk of visceral fat in men and a 400% increased risk in women.1
According to Ayurveda, winter weight can and should be evenly distributed.1 Come spring, in addition to shedding pounds, there is a total reset of fat burning. Using body fat as fuel is nature’s way to help us start nature’s New Year (spring). This fat burning reset is also the body’s chance to detoxify and cleanse accumulated fat-soluble toxins. This natural spring cleanse is a three-step process initiated inside the intestinal tract.
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Nature’s 3 Steps for Transitioning from Winter to Spring
As always, nature has a game plan—a strategy to remove winter weight come spring. This game plan involves a three-stage harvest of cleansing foods that work in beautifully orchestrated sequence to get us back to our natural warm-weather weight.
- Ancient humans, deer, and even some of our grandparents would dig up early spring roots like dandelion, burdock, turmeric, chaparral, goldenseal, and Oregon grape. These bitter roots are loaded with liver-cleansing, bile-moving, intestinal-scrubbing alkaloids that cleanse all the boggy mucus off the villi, the congestion out of the liver, and the excess fat off the intestinal wall.2 While it’s no longer so common to dig up roots, our ancestors survived on this practice. Perhaps they deserved the temporary spring name of hunter-diggers.
- Then, as nature’s symphony builds momentum, valleys fill with the chlorophyll-rich fluorescent green sprouts of mid-spring. These sprouts are loaded with nutrients and chlorophyll, which act as natural anti-inflammation agents of the intestinal tract, allowing new growth of your precious intestinal microbes.3, 4 Spring greens are also high in fiber, which is critical for development of your new spring microbiome.9 Without this step, our good bugs (which do the heavy lifting for our immunity, mood, energy, digestion, detox, blood sugar regulation, bone density, and just about everything else) would not sufficiently populate the gut.
- Finally, spring’s grand finale presents its first fruit to us in the form of berries and cherries. These antioxidant agents act as lymph-movers that flush congestion from the gut.6, 7 Remember: lymph concentrates around the intestinal tract as mesenteric lymph, and if not sufficiently cleansed in springtime, toxins can accumulate in the lymph, which has been linked to an accelerated aging process.8
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Every spring, the microbiome makes a major circadian shift that is key to our survival. In his book The Forest Unseen, David Haskell describes what happens to our microbiome when we eat out of season:
Sudden changes in the diet can disrupt this elegant molding of the rumen community and its environment. If a deer is fed corn or leafy greens in the middle of winter, its rumen will be knocked off balance, acidity will rise uncontrollably, and gases will bloat the rumen. Indigestion of this kind can be lethal.10
In other words, when an herbivore eats foods not in season, it causes a drastic shift in the microbiology, leading to severe indigestion that can actually kill the animal. When cows are taken from pastures and suddenly fed grain instead of grasses, they have to be medicated to pacify the rumen.
According to Ayurveda, every spring and fall we should flush our systems as a way to prepare for the next season. In the spring, we want to start off nature’s New Year on the right foot.