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Moving Winter’s Sluggishness in March – part 1

Mar 14, 2022

So how do we come out of the winter gracefully with our health in mind? A lot of things can happen to us during the winter months. We can become a little bit more sedentary, a little more sluggish, and we can stop moving as much that we have a downregulation of our bodies. It’s just a part of our natural pattern. But as we come out of the winter we want to make sure that we’re moving from one season to the next. With season transition in mind, the foods of spring help to move the body out of winter, to move the sluggishness of the liver, and get the filtration systems circulating and stimulated. There’s so much that we can do with the foods that we eat to help this process along. One of the things that we’ve been talking a lot about recently has been sugar. February was all about sugar and how to deal with sugar and our relationship with sweets. Think about those New Year’s resolutions that were made regarding sweets and sugar; or maybe even just some remnants of how we’re feeling about sweetness coming out of the holidays. This is step one of really understanding how to start to decrease this toxic load that we have on the liver – decreasing the amount of sugar that is in the diet. We’re doing a lot of prep this year to be able to get us ready for April so that we are ready to jump into really looking at how do we help the liver, stimulate the liver, and help our body let go of what it doesn’t need. This is the basic idea of detoxification. To not become accumulators of toxins, fluids, and hormones. These are things that we don’t want to be accumulating over time.  We also want to be able to release what we no longer need efficiently. 

How do we start to get the body into the transition zone as we move out of winter? How do we get the body moving again? How do we get the body moving from the inside out? These are questions that are asked when a body is transitioning from winter. One of the things we’ve talked about is the decreasing of sweets. When we’re thinking about creating less wear and tear on the liver. Sweets are one of the things that get stored as fat in the liver. And when we are decreasing sweets in the diet, we’re also decreasing the stress load on the liver. The timing of sugar decrease is handy since we discussed Sugar last month to be able to prepare us for the next transition. We also need to be thinking about watching out for things like salty foods this time of year too. Sweet and salty foods are going to be causing a little bit more taxation on the body than we want, and salty foods are linked to water retention. In that same vein of winter being a time of accumulating and stagnating a little bit – water retention can become a part of the reality for many of us. So salt is something else to keep an eye on. Since stagnation and water retention can become part of our lives during the winter months, we want to increase astringent foods. These are foods that have a drying quality to them and are going to be really useful this time of year to help soak up what has been accumulated and allow our body to excrete it naturally.

Energizing and fresh foods are what’s coming out during spring. It may not feel like spring yet if you are still living in parts of the country where 1 – 2 feet of snow is still part of your landscape, but somewhere there may be things sprouting and blooming around you. It may not feel like spring yet, but our bodies are starting the transition. Seeds are starting to show up in the stores this time of year. This energy and vitality is what we want to bring into the kitchen and create delicious meals from it. We also want to increase foods that support the filtration pathways. So not just the liver, but we also want to use foods that are supporting the urinary system, kidneys, and lungs. We’re looking to reduce phlegm that can cause respiratory congestion that is common this time of year. So, we are talking about foods like dairy products that are phlegmy and can tax the lungs. Another filtration system that often gets overlooked is the skin. Thinking about any foods that are known to cause rashes or irritation – those are things that we would want to stay away from to really support the filtration pathways. When thinking about these four filtration pathways, it’s important to think about them in terms of if one of them is under stress, then the other two or three must work harder to compensate since all the filtration systems work together. It makes sense. The next step is to think about how do we increase these foods. I want to get a little bit more specific on some examples of these foods. I want to showcase examples of some important foods. Hopefully, you can think about them the next time you go to the grocery store or are making your shopping list. Try to incorporate some of these foods and see what you think?

 Asparagus is one that a lot of people think of when they think about reducing water retention. This vegetable helps to strengthen the immune system. It’s one of the foods that are high in lithium, which is one of my favorite detoxifying nutrients and antioxidants. When we think about increasing our detoxification capacity – ionic-rich foods are important to be included in the diet. Ion-loaded foods are good for cleansing the kidneys and the urinary system. Also, moringa is kind of considered to be a superfood. And one of the reasons is because it has one of the highest nutrient levels that we can get for iron and vitamin C in a plant base. This is especially true in the iron aspect because iron is often the highest in animal proteins. We always think about foods like lentils and spinach for high sources of iron, but moringa is a big one too. It’s easy to make into a blended soup and recipes like that. Moringa has about 25% more iron than spinach – this gives us an idea of how strong it is. It is also a great source of calcium. Moringa is powerful at pulling toxins out of the body and supporting fat metabolism while boosting our immunity. So, it’s no wonder it’s considered a superfood. Moringa is a great one to bring into the diet this time of year. 

 Brussel sprouts help stimulate the liver out of stagnation which occurs during the winter season. We start to come out of that sluggishness with Brussel sprouts by stimulating the liver. It’s also really amazing for supporting the stomach and the large intestine. I want to give a little shout-out to all the cruciferous vegetables – not just Brussel sprouts but: cabbages, kales, cauliflowers, and broccoli. These vegetables are all wonderful foods for detoxification and liver health. This is especially true in women’s health since they all help to move estrogen and keep us from accumulating too much. Sunchokes are another fun one to play with. It’s a tuber that grows underground, but it’s void of any kind of starchy carbohydrates that we think of when we think of potatoes and other tubers. Sunchokes are high in something called inulin, which is used in medication for blood sugar regulation in diabetics. This tasty tuber is great for blood sugar regulation. And bonus, it’s good for lung health as well as supporting the liver. Sunchokes are a great food to bring in more whenever you can, and this is the time of year when people are digging them up. We are going to start seeing them more at the markets. 

 Continuing the conversation about sluggishness and stagnations – mung beans are great to think about. When discussing the sluggishness and stagnation of the winter months it’s important to remember that we may be harboring digested foods in the body. Foods that are hanging out as residue of the digestion process – mung beans are kind of little scrubbers with fibrous sides to them getting into the gut and into the colon to help scrub the insides and make sure that we’re not hanging on to anything that we don’t want. 

 Let’s switch gears to talk a little about fruit, and how fruit can help move the body. Pineapple is an interesting one because as many of us don’t live in areas of the United States where pineapples grow, they tend to not be super common in all markets. Most of the ones we get on the West Coast are coming from Hawaii. And March is the beginning of the pineapple season even though you can get them all year round. This is when pineapples are at their best. March through June are warmer, so we want to be enjoying pineapples and getting their alkalizing properties all while enhancing the digestive system. Alkalizing is what pineapple’s magic is. When talking about fruits and vegetables – these foods most often are going to be more alkalizing for the body than other foods. But pineapples are extremely alkalizing which we want to increase in the diet so that we’re not becoming overly acidic. When we become overly acidic our bodies can become breeding grounds for certain types of infection. For this reason, pineapple is a great addition. Pineapple is a great addition to smoothies and things like that. 

 In addition to the alkalizing properties of fruits and vegetables, we want to look at increasing greens in our diet for the reason they are good at increasing the bitter flavors in the diet. Fibrous vegetables help with the cleansing of the digestive tract. Increasing bitter greens in sauces, dressings, and pestos are easy ways that we can increase getting more of a concentration of our greens and are increasing the quantity that we’re eating. Some of these greens have been relegated as a garnish. This is true for Parsley. Whenever we are increasing bitter greens in our diet, we don’t want to use them as an afterthought, but as the main ingredient. Sauces, dressings, and pestos are a really great way to show off bitter’s flavors. Smoothies, and blended soups, are another great way to get more quantity of greens in this time of year. Bitter greens and astringent produce are really good for that extra movement of stagnation and stimulating the liver and the bile in the liver. And the liver loves bitter flavors.

  So, thinking about everything discussed in this post – getting our internal bodies moving, clearing up stagnation, etcetera. What is your favorite go-to bitter green? I know for me probably the one that I buy the most often is radicchio. I love it! It’s great to throw on the grill, it’s great to toss in a salad, and it’s really tasty in a stir fry. Radicchio adds a lot of flavors to whatever it’s added to. It’s a great one to have in the fridge for whenever a little bit more as a spicy one flavor is wanted. 

 Some of these vegetables might be new flavors to you. Take some time and try some of these foods that we discussed here and see how they play with your favorites. Next time we are going to continue our discussion on body movement. Until then if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Radiate Wellness. We want to make sure your questions are answered. And if you would like to book a Strategy Session one of our team members would be more than happy to help you get your body moving and help you lose some of your stagnation before we get any further into spring.

 

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Hi, I’m Frankie
Becoming a Functional Nutritionist was born out of my love of working in women’s health and my own health crisis that hit in 2011. It was then that I realized that the body cannot be taken for granted. With two cancer scares in one year, I decided to take my health into my own hands, guided by the intelligence of functional medicine. As a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, I use data and mindfulness techniques to motivate change. My client relationships are filled with loving connections and precise planning.

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