By Carrie Brown Reilly | Published April 2018

Eugene springs are beautiful as local neighborhoods pop with colorful flowers and trees blossom with the promise of ripening fresh fruit. This inspires me to spiff up a bit, too, and clean, clean, clean! I open all the windows in the house, clear out the dust, and breathe in the fresh air and sunshine. Spring is also a time when many people are thinking about doing a little extra internal cleaning and start wondering about detox protocols. Since our bodies are already equipped to detox 24 hours a day, with nighttime sleep having the highest potential for rest and repair, it’s important to first try to figure out the primary motivating factor to do a deeper clean. Individual needs aside, there are some general guidelines applicable to almost everyone.

First and foremost, begin with your pantry. Stop the stream of unhealthiness coming in and your body will have an easier job taking out the trash. And while some things are out of our control, others are not. Look at your fridge, freezer, and dry storage and apply some of my favorite rules taken from the Pantry Principle by Mira Dessy. She writes that if your food comes with an ingredient label that includes words that you cannot pronounce, have more than four syllables, are preceded by “enriched,” or contain all capital letters like BHT, then don’t eat that food. Also, if the ingredient list includes a number like red #2 or ends in “a-t-e,” don’t e-a-t it. These red flags indicate foods with damaging petrochemicals found to be carcinogenic, have endocrine-disrupting capabilities, and don’t belong on your plate, much less in your body. Please be sure to also nix anything with high-fructose corn syrup or that has been treated with an herbicide containing glyphosate. You may be surprised to find a higher percentage of these foods lurking around your kitchen and pantry than you thought, so clean them out.

Cooking methods, food storage, and kitchen equipment are just as important as your ingredient list. The debate over the use of microwave ovens is still raging, but they are off my list for safe methods of food preparation, especially when used to reheat leftovers in plastic containers or to heat infant formula and milk. It’s commonly known that smoking has a negative effect on your health, and this applies to cooking oil–produced smoke as well. Avoid this by not letting the oil you use for cooking get so hot that it smokes. Store food in glass containers or reusable or compostable bags—BPA-free ones. Choose stainless over aluminum for your pots and pans whenever possible; heavy metals that find a way into your system via nonstick coatings are hard to escort out.

Now that the kitchen has been detoxed, make sure that you are hydrating your body, as that is an essential part of the detox process. Your chlorinated tap water may not be a good option for this, however. While the chlorine kills off detrimental bacteria and keeps us safe from infectious disease, it can also kill off beneficial bacteria in your gut. Have your water checked or get a filter. A clean water source should also contain a balance of minerals and electrolytes; this will help with cell-to-cell communication and waste removal. Water is the most important nutrient in the body and one that our body does not store, so replenishing it is crucial. Freshly prepared soups and herbal teas are also beneficial ways of hydrating. They are nutrient-dense and can be paired with bitter green salads that stimulate the liver and aid digestion.

My final words on detox: Don’t re-tox, and thank yourself for all your efforts! Eating right is infinitely rewarding in so many ways but can also be really hard work. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way in supporting the proper state of being for all the aforementioned activities. Know that when you are digesting all your foods and moods properly, your body will do what it does best and thank you for the assist.