Spring cleaning for your mind, body, soul—and medicine cabinet

The Spring Equinox occurs this month, on March 20. For both humans and Nature, it marks the beginning of the season of birth, change, and renewal.

Spring’s extended daylight and warmth awaken physiologic processes in our bodies and minds, and we begin to feel more jubilant, energetic, and inspired. In addition to how we react subconsciously, these processes provide the perfect opportunity to think about new beginnings.

For many people, that means “spring cleaning.” The practical aspect is to open up, air out, and clean the soot, dirt, and grime accumulated during the winter. But there’s also a symbolic and psychological aspect to clearing things out and organizing your life.

Spring cleaning often contributes to feeling healthier and more productive. In fact, studies show that being in a clean and organized setting can lower your stress levels. (Not to mention, living and working in disorganized spaces is associated with poorer diets and less physical activity.)

That’s why this year, I suggest you “spring clean” not only your home, but also your health.

I’ll start with my top four steps to cleanse your mind and body. And don’t worry: I won’t be recommending any fad diets or dangerous “detoxes”…just simple, scientific solutions you can easily incorporate into your daily life.

And in the era of pandemic shutdowns and telehealth (as I discussed in last month’s issue), it’s more important than ever to keep yourself as healthy as possible. That’s why I’m also including my spring cleaning guide for a well-stocked medicine cabinet.

So, without further ado, let’s “spring” forward…

Your internal spring cleaning guide

In recent years, Spring has become associated with complicated dietary “cleanses.” But some of these trendy recipes and regimens can actually be unhealthy…and the only thing they cleanse is your wallet.

That’s why I recommend you ditch the detox potions. Instead, cleanse your body and brain with these four simple steps that really work.

1.) Balance your diet. There are two easy ways to instantly make your diet healthier: Eat more organic fresh fruits and vegetables from the rainbow spectrum of colors. And cut sugars, and processed foods and ingredients.

Of course, there are other steps you can take to improve your diet—which I discuss regularly. But for your “spring cleaning,” start with these two. You’ll feel better physically and mentally before the dawn of the Summer Solstice.

2.) Make a splash. Water is the staff of life, but the quality of the water you drink is paramount. As chemicals increasingly flow into our rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, it’s more important than ever to purify your drinking water.

That’s why I recommend only drinking filtered water (there are good-quality commercial filters you can attach to your faucet or pitcher nowadays). Another option is to opt for natural spring waters, bottled at the source in glass (which is recyclable).

Also, because chemicals and pollutants in the water supply can easily be absorbed through the skin, it’s important to bathe in clean, pure water. To remove chlorine from bathwater, simply toss a teaspoon of powdered vitamin C into the tub and wait five minutes before starting your soak.

You can also add half a cup of Epsom salts to your bath. The magnesium in Epsom salts naturally helps your body flush out toxins, reduce inflammation, boost circulation, and improve muscle and nerve function. In addition, I also suggest installing water filters on your showerheads.

3.) Be in Nature. To boost your health in a myriad of ways, get outside and take a walk in Nature—or play with your children or grandchildren in the Spring sunshine.

For most people in the northern hemisphere, March is the first month of the year in which the sun’s rays start penetrating the atmosphere at levels that allow your body to naturally make vitamin D. Just 15 minutes of daily exposure to sunlight on your bare skin (without toxic sunscreen) will help your skin produce optimum levels of D.

Plus, your ramble in Nature will contribute to your sensible goal of moderate exercise totaling 140 to 150 minutes per week. And enjoying the Spring light and air naturally lowers stress—the No. 1 hidden factor behind chronic disease.

4.) Take a mental break. Spring is all about activity, but don’t forget to slow down every once in a while. One of the best ways to do this is to devote a few minutes each day to reflection and meditation.

(Note that I said “a few.” You don’t need to enter a monastery to get the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of meditation.)

My book with Don McCown, New World Mindfulness, shows you exactly how to incorporate daily meditation into your busy life—right here, right now. (Order yourself a copy from the “books” tab on my website, www.DrMicozzi.com.)

Not only can you boost your mood and lower your stress levels, but research shows that meditation can also improve your sleep (as I discuss on page 4), help control pain, and lower your blood pressure.

“Spring cleaning” for your medicine cabinet

Of course, another place that needs some “spring cleaning” is your medicine cabinet. In fact, Spring is a good opportunity to rethink your entire approach to at-home healthcare.

Keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet can help you treat many common ailments—and keep you away from doctor’s offices and hospitals during the pandemic. It also gives you the chance to reassess your use of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

I often warn about the dangers of prescription drugs, but the OTC drugs you keep in your home can also have serious side effects. In fact, adverse events from these medications are a leading cause of emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

Plus, any foreign chemicals (like those found in drugs) tax the liver and kidneys, because the body must metabolize and excrete them. So do your body a favor by ridding your home of them before they get into you and, ultimately, burden your health.

Fortunately, there are many safe, natural alternatives to effectively manage common ailments for the whole family. I recommend adding the following natural remedies to your medicine cabinet…

Colds and flus. OTC drugs only manage symptoms like congestion and runny nose. They also have side effects like anxiety, drowsiness, high blood pressure, insomnia, racing heart, and upset stomach. And they do nothing to actually help support your immune system to eliminate the virus.

To more effectively fight colds and flus, I recommend stocking your medicine cabinet with immune-supporting herbs like astragalus, elderberry, and echinacea, along with zinc lozenges.

I also like to include eucalyptus oil, which can be used in a vaporizer to help reduce congestion and improve breathing (and sleep, as I discuss on page 4).

Cuts and scrapes. You can skip the topical “antibacterials” and chemical antiseptics. These OTC ointments wipe out your immune response and delay and interfere with healing. They also disrupt the natural, probiotic microbiome of your skin.

Instead, stock your medicine cabinet with tea tree oil. It’s an effective, natural antiseptic with antimicrobial properties. Simply apply a few drops to a wound before bandaging.

Digestion problems. There are many OTC drugs for bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and gas. But I’ve written before about studies showing that these drugs can cause nutrient deficiencies, along with other serious side effects.

The good news is, there are plenty of natural and effective digestive aids. Licorice supplements have been shown in numerous studies to help improve heartburn. Peppermint oil or slippery elm capsules can lessen gas, bloating, and abdominal pain. Chamomile can soothe upset stomachs and reduce nausea. And ginger can do everything from reducing constipation to alleviating indigestion.

There are two digestion supplements, however, that I don’t recommend adding to your medicine cabinet: probiotics and fiber.

As I often report, probiotic supplements don’t work and are potentially dangerous. Instead, support your microbiome with foods that encourage your natural probiotics, like organic, full-fat cheese and yogurt, and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut.

Plus, while natural fibers are important to good health, fiber supplements can actually cause digestion problems. That’s why it’s best to let nature take its course by including plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, and some whole grains (in moderation), as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Dry skin and eczema. Changes in weather can be tough on the skin. So, your medicine cabinet should include natural skin moisturizers like organic aloe, lavender-based lotions, and topical vitamin E in oil.

Skin problems can also be helped with a poultice of ground colloidal oatmeal (not breakfast oatmeal). You can make your own by grinding whole oats in a coffee grinder, and mixing it with warm (not hot) water until it forms a thick, paste-like consistency. Then, you simply apply it to the affected area.

Pain, aches, and sprains. For centuries, medical traditions around the world have relied on natural pain relievers. And it’s only been in recent years that the drug industry got into the act—leaving death and destruction in its wake.

The dangers of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and the disaster of acetaminophen (Tylenol®) are, sadly, well-known. And now, opioid addiction is an epidemic.

But you can avoid this public health disaster by stocking your medicine cabinet with well-documented, botanical pain remedies such as my ABCs for joint pain—ashwaganda (winter cherry), boswellia (frankincense), and curcumin (turmeric).

For topical relief for aching joints or muscle sprains and swellings, use arnica (botanical or homeopathic preparations), calendula, or capsaicin ointments and creams.

For headaches, try butterbur root, feverfew, ginger, or magnesium. You can also apply lavender or peppermint essential oil to your temples or forehead.

Sleep and insomnia. Many OTC sleep aids contain antihistamines, which can make you drowsy well into the next day. They can also cause dry eyes and mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, and serious cardiovascular issues like low blood pressure and rapid heart rate.

Instead, I recommend stocking your medicine cabinet with plant-based essential oils that have been shown in studies to safely and effectively promote healthy sleep: chamomile, lavender, limonene, orange, and peppermint.

You can apply these essential oils directly to your skin, which has been shown in studies to induce calm, relaxation, stress reduction…and sleep. Or try breathing them through an aromatherapy oil diffuser. (For more about sleep solutions, see page 1).

Of course, just as seasons change, so do patterns in our lives. The Spring Equinox not only allows us to cleanse our homes and our health, but also gives us a chance to revisit our goals and obstacles.

It teaches us that our lives are not a line or a circle. They’re more like a spiral—taking in a little more, and slowly going on, with each passing rotation through the years.

So…embrace the Spring Equinox this year, and its opportunity for birth and rebirth. After all, life doesn’t always afford us the opportunity for a fresh start—so I encourage you to make the most of it. And be sure to check out next month’s newsletter as well—as I’ll be issuing yet another important spring cleaning guide as we welcome warm weather.