Fun fact: Februus, the Latin word from which February originates, means purification or purging.[i]
This likely comes from ancient cultures connecting the longer, warmer days between winter and spring with a natural cycle of renewal.
The shifting season thaws the ground and brings tender greens and sprouts — which creatures large and small nibble on as they begin to shed their heavy winter coats and fat layers.
Increasing daylight and warmth brings about hormonal shifts in the natural world — which of course means lots of adorable baby animals!
Spring brings hormonal and metabolic shifts in us too. After the rich, sweet foods that come with winter festivities, we tend to want to lighten up as well.
Have you noticed you are drawn to fresher foods and greens at this time of year? It’s natural — greens play an important role in our body’s detoxification processes.
The first plants of spring are those that best support detoxifying and cleansing our body and liver.
Arugula, dandelion, asparagus, artichoke, peas, and avocado are among the richest sources of chlorophyll, a molecule that binds with toxins like heavy metals and carries them out of the body.
While ancient cultures were aware of this season of renewal, they didn’t have had to contend with the body burden of modern chemicals from skincare, cosmetics, pesticides, and artificial ingredients in foods.
They also didn’t experience the secondary health effects of an over-taxed liver — things like hormonal imbalance, poor digestion, skin issues, nights sweats, and disrupted sleep.
We modern humans could use a little more februus, or purification; particularly to unburden our liver and digestive systems, which pave the way for healthy hormones and metabolism.
Our liver functions like a waste treatment plant.
Our liver is crucial for filtering everything we take into our bodies — whether swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Our liver filters our blood (at the amazing rate of 1.5 liters every minute) separating out nutrients, then doing its best to neutralize, re-package, and dispose of wastes, excess hormones, and toxins.
When wastes and toxins can’t be eliminated, they accumulate and form a sort of sludge that congests the liver. This lessens your ability to fight off bacterial and viral pathogens, and contributes to gallstones when your liver is simply too sludgy to produce healthy bile.
When your liver is full, toxins are stored in the fatty layer under your skin as… “liver spots”.
And, when your liver can’t filter your blood as well, wastes accumulate there too. Picture a swamp versus a fresh, clear stream.
Healthy Liver Function Is the Underpinning of Hormone Balance
A healthy liver is REALLY important for hormone balance for 2 main reasons:
1. Your liver activates hormones. Thyroid hormone is a perfect example. Your liver is supposed to convert inactive T4 into active T3 that your cells need for energy and metabolism. A congested or even damaged liver that isn’t converting properly can underlie thyroid symptoms such as low energy, cold hands, thinning hair, and weight gain.[ii]
2. Your liver deactivates and removes used hormones. If old hormones aren’t broken down due to a sludgy-liver, excess cortisol and harmful estrogen by-products could be continuously cycling through your system, wreaking havoc because your liver, like a dirty air filter in your car, isn’t clean enough to remove them.
For women especially, if your liver can’t properly break down excess estrogen or testosterone, you may be dealing with estrogen dominance, irregular cycles, PCOS, cystic acne and have a higher risk of estrogen-related cancers.[iii]
In our practice, following lab testing, one of the first and most important steps in rebuilding hormone health and metabolism is nutritional support for healthy liver function.
Even without labs, there are indicators that nutritional cleansing could benefit your metabolism and hormones:
1. You’re feeling sluggish after too many holiday sweets or adult beverages, or crave sweets after meals
2. The whites of your eyes are more yellow and appear bloodshot even when you’re well-rested
3. You have night sweats or wake between 2 and 4 am, the time when your liver is working hardest to filter your blood
4. You have skin signs such as frequent itching, break-outs, or painful acne along your chin line
When choosing how to support your liver through purification, it’s as important to know what to avoid as what can help.
Many “detox” products contain synthetic vitamins that don’t come with the needed co-factors and co-enzymes that are present in real foods.
These incomplete chemicals use up your body’s vitamin and mineral reserves to assimilate, and can leave you depleted and dehydrated, ultimately doing more harm than good.
Your body does best with clean, organic whole foods that provide adequate supplies of nutrients, including their natural co-enzymes and co-factors present in nature. Your body can select exactly what it needs from real foods, just like from a salad bar.
Your body needs synergistic foods, not antagonistic chemicals.
For mild cleansing, begin simply: take a tip from nature and start by getting more fresh tender leafy greens, drink extra water to flush out wastes, and get moving outside on these brighter, longer days!
If you are considering nutritional cleansing, seek qualified support to guide you successfully through what your body needs, and to work through any challenges that may arise. This can’t be over-stated, especially if you have multiple symptoms, are taking medications, or desire specific outcomes.
Dr. Kimberly Higney assists patients in looking and feeling their best by helping them reset their hormone health and metabolism through lifestyle. She has a private practice on the Seacoast of New Hampshire. For more information visit www.cardeaseacoast.com
[i] Riva MA, Riva E, Spicci M, et al. “The city of Hepar”: Rituals, gastronomy, and politics at the origins of the modern names for the liver. Journal of hepatology. 2011;55(5):1132–1136.
[ii] S Nomura, CS Pittman, JB Chambers, et al. Reduced peripheral conversion of thyroxine to triiodothyronine in patients with hepatic cirrhosis. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1975;56(3):643–652.
[iii] HV Thomas, TJ Key, DS Allen, et al. A prospective study of endogenous serum hormone concentrations and breast cancer risk in post-menopausal women on the island of Guernsey. British Journal of Cancer. 1997;76:401–405.