It’s that that time of year when the body kicks its natural cleansing process into overdrive. If you’re like many folks, your body has built up a few extra toxins from the Holiday season. Too much sugar, refined carbs and poor fat sources congest the body leaving our cleansing systems backed-up. When your elimination systems aren’t working optimally, your immune system becomes compromised leaving your body open to colds, flus and other infections.
There are several things you can do right now to keep the “bug” at bay.
Increase your vegetable intake, especially antioxidant rich foods such dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots and winter squash. Dark leafy greens are full of nutrients that support a healthy body and mind. They are also hydrating and full of fiber which supports regular bowel movements. Both dark leafy greens and orange colored veggies like sweet potatoes and winter squash are full of pro-vitamin A/beta-carotene which is a crucial nutrient for the immune system. Vegetables should be the foundation of any diet as they are the most nutrient rich foods out there and won’t congest the body. If you’re not a fan of eating vegetables, consider juicing them, blending them into a smoothie or pureeing them into a soup.
Hydrate with bone broth and fresh vegetable juices. Hydration is key to keeping nutrients moving into your cells and wastes moving out of them. Water also helps to support elimination. Finally, your body has numerous mucus membranes which protect the body including those in the lungs, nasal passages, eyes and digestive tract. To keep the mucus from becoming too thin or too thick and sticky, the body requires adequate hydration. If your mucus membranes aren’t functioning well, you’re leaving yourself open to pathogens.
Eat your sea vegetables. Sea veggies are full of important minerals and omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial co-factors for many processes that the body must accomplish each daily to stay healthy. In particular, sea veggies are full of calcium, iron and iodine which nourishes the thyroid. The thyroid keeps the timing of all of the body’s processes on point. If the body is running too slow, one can become constipated, stagnant and eventually sick. If the body runs too quickly, it can wear out important tissues and organs. Last but not least, sea vegetables help to detoxify and transform toxins in the body so they can be excreted harmlessly.
Dump the sugar. Sugar and other refined carbohydrates are one of the most congesting and acidifying foods for the body. Holistic health practitioners agree that disease does not survive in an alkaline environment. Sea veggies, dark leafy greens, bone broths and other mineral rich foods help to keep the blood’s pH slightly alkaline. Instead of refined carbs, consume complex carbohydrates found in whole grains and vegetables.
Relax and take time to play. One of the biggest toxins attacking our immune systems is in our heads – STRESS. Believe it or not, stress is more toxic than a Big Mac (sorry to pick on you, Big Mac). So, it doesn’t matter how healthy your are if you’re a stress bucket most of the time! Your body is designed to respond to short-term stressors. It doesn’t know the difference between a bear and your boss (although for some of us, our bosses look more like bears every day). As a result, your body produces stress hormones which in time, take their toll and compromise the immune system. The only prescription for this condition is relaxation and play. Relax or play each day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. When you relax, you’re telling your body that the emergency is over so it can go back to doing what it does best – taking care of all your body’s systems, not just the ones involved in an emergency situation.
Pick the thing on this list that resonates with you the most first. Then add one new tip each week over the next month or so. If you can commit to it, I guarantee this works better than any flu shot!
The liver is the largest organ and is the “king” of the detoxification organs. In addition to its detoxification function, the liver also helps us with the following:
- produces bile which emulsifies fats and prepares them for digestion
- produces cholesterol which is the basic molecule that forms our sex hormones
- processes a variety of nutrients and turns them into their active forms that are used by the body most efficiently
- stores a variety of vitamins and minerals
- metabolizes amino acids (protein) and fatty acids (fat)
- stores and releases glycogen (stored carbohydrate energy)
- regulates blood sugar levels
- produces blood clotting factors and other components of the blood
As you can see, it’s very important to take care of your liver so it can continue to do these powerful functions!
Unfortunately, certain lifestyle choices and conditions can cause the liver to become sluggish including:
- regular use of alcohol or recreational drugs
- chemical exposure
- high use of pharmaceutical drugs
- a junk food diet full of additives and devoid of nutrients and fiber – especially sugar and other refined carbohydrates
- excess fat and protein intake – in particular, poor fats such as heated vegetable oils and trans-fats
- toxic bowel and Candida albicans (yeast) overgrowth
Signs of a congested liver include:
- acne, rashes, psoriasis and other skin conditions
- elevated blood cholesterol
- dry skin
- very dark urine
- achy joints and muscles
- headaches and sinus problems
- foggy thinking
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time for a detox! I’ll be writing more about detoxification in coming posts, but in the meantime, try these five simple steps:
- Increase fruit and veggie intake, especially dark and bitter leafy greens.
- Reduce congesting foods such as sugars, refined carbs and dairy.
- Drink more water! (You should be drinking half your weight in ounces every day. So if you weigh 150, you should be drinking 75 ounces of water each day.)
- Drink a liver flush formula as soon as you wake up! (See below for details.)
- Get to bed by 11pm because that’s when the liver begins its peak hours of functioning.
Liver Flush Tonic
Enjoy this cocktail first thing in the morning and follow with 8oz of plain water. You can repeat four or more times throughout the day. Alternating the tonic with apple cider vinegar and/or chlorophyll in water work well, too.
- 1 cup grapefruit or fresh apple juice
- 4-6 TBSP fresh lemon juice
- 2-3 TBSP EVOO
- 1-3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- plain water
Winter is here and “germs” are everywhere. Guess what? They always have been. Unfortunately, germs are blamed as the cause of sickness when a weak immune system is the real culprit. Why are our immune systems weak? A variety of factors contribute to this weakness including stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise, overuse of alcohol or medications and dehydration.
So what can you do to support your immune system this winter? I suggest adding alkaline, nutrient-dense foods in your diet such as chlorophyll-rich greens like kale, parsley and cabbage, anti-microbial veggies such as garlic, high-mineral sea veggies and other seasonal goodies. In addition, fats such coconut oil (high in lauric acid), butter from pastured cows (high in vitamin A, E, selenium and conjugated linoleic acid) and cod liver oil (high in vitamins A and D) are great immune system builders. Flax oil, fish oils and wild-caught, cold water fish such as salmon and sardines contain omega-3 essential fatty acids which reduce inflammation in the body. Also, be sure to incorporate lacto-fermented foods and/or a good probiotic which build healthy intestinal flora and support immune system health. Lacto-fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchee, miso, kefir and yogurt, to name a few.
In addition to fat, make sure you are getting enough good quality protein in your diet. This can be from sprouted or soaked legumes, pastured meats or wild-caught fish. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and support the growth, repair and maintenance of every system in the body. Without it, your body doesn’t have the building blocks it needs to support your immune system. Be sure to balance your animal and vegetarian sources of protein. Everyone is different. Some people need more animal protein sources and less vegetarian protein, while others benefit from more vegetarian protein sources. Start with a 50/50 ratio and experiment! You may find that you need more protein or a particular type of protein during certain seasons or when you engage in more activities.
Remember that poor diets can lead to leaky gut syndrome, compromised digestion, nutritional deficiencies and Candida overgrowth (yeast). The health of the gut is very important to the health of your immune system. If you experience allergies, skin conditions, gas or bloating, for example, you may need to look a closer look at your diet, stress levels and digestive system health. If you’re feeling rundown, it’s really important to cut back on sugar, refined carbs, alcohol and commercial dairy. The sugars in these products feed the opportunistic bacteria and yeast. In addition, water supports the mucosal lining of the gut where the friendly microbes live, so make sure you are hydrating well in the colder months.
Regular, appropriate exercise and sunlight (rich in immune-system boosting vitamin D) have been found to support a healthy immune system. Be careful with working out too much however, because for some it can weaken the immune system further. Some people benefit more from intense workouts, while others benefit more from more calming workout such as walking or yoga (although yoga can be quite intense as well). The important thing is to move your body regularly and listen to it.
In addition to eating well and exercising, getting plenty of sleep and relaxation will protect you from most viruses and other infections. Make sure you have time to decompress everyday. It can be staring into space, closing your eyes to meditate or visualizing something soothing or joyful. In my opinion, this is the most effective way to stay healthy, even if you consume a lot of junk. Guess what? People who eat well but don’t rest get sick. Create a self-nourishment or play menu and pick something from it each and every day. It can be as simple as giving someone a hug, smiling more, going for a long walk or enjoying a cup of tea or glass of wine with a loved one.
So instead of worrying about the flu vaccine and stocking up on hand-sanitizer, put your time and and energy into eating well, relaxing, playing and loving yourself and others a little more. As they say, laughter truly is the best medicine.
Eat & Drink Mindfully.
I’m not saying to skip the cookies and the wine, (and not just because those happen to be my favorite things) but enjoy them mindfully. Believe it or not, our bodies do know when to stop if we are paying attention. Alas, we often get caught up in the excitement of social gatherings and ignore the signals (flares in some cases) our bodies are giving us. Enjoy your food, slowly. Savor each bite and sip. Now, if you overdo it, don’t beat yourself up as this is not helpful and creates even more guilt and anxiety during the Holidays. When we have negative feelings or anxiety around particular foods, it creates a stress response in the body. Cortisol levels raise, blood sugar levels rise and a host of other physiological responses that create weight gain. Enjoy it, call it an experiment and let it go. Stay mindful and just notice how the food or beverage affects you right after you eat or drink it, a few hours after you consume it and even a day or so after the event. How’s your mood? Energy levels? Digestion? Are you having any cravings?Also, if you reduce sugar and highly processed foods where you can and cook whole, nutrient-dense foods at home, you’ll still manage to keep your energy levels up, maintain good digestion and keep your mood stable. Finally, remember to drink your water! Although the weather might be frightful and it feels as though your water needs are less when it’s cold, many of the foods and beverages we consume (i.e. refined carbs, alcohol, animal protein, sugar and caffeine) during the Holidays actually increases our need for hydration.
Deconstruct Your Cravings.
What are you craving? Why do you think you’re craving chocolate? Sometimes cravings are due to either a lack of nutrients or an over-abundance of certain foods. For example, to little or two much protein or fat can cause cravings. In addition, an overabundance of sugar and refined carbs in the diet can create sweet cravings. Cravings can also be due to dehydration, hormones, stress or a desire to embrace the seasons by incorporating particular foods. Perhaps your life is missing some sort of sweetness this time of year or reminds you of a happy time in your life that you are looking to re-create. Cravings aren’t a bad thing. They are your body’s way of telling you something important so embrace them? Understanding them will help you to make lifestyle changes that will result in increased energy and happiness.
During the my last post, I wrote about the importance of hydration and gave you a few ideas about hydrating beverages. Well, this time I want to touch on how to hydrate through foods! I don’t know about you, but when it’s hot, I hate turning on the stove and the oven. I find myself preparing a fair amount of salads, smoothies and cold soups. The beauty of cold soups is that they are easy to make, hydrating, cooling and pretty darn tasty. Because their base is fruits and vegetables, they are also nutrient-rich. In addition, because many chilled fruit or veggie soups are raw, they are filled with enzymes that promote good digestion.
Some of the fruit soups are particularly delightful because they satisfy that sweet craving and help curb the need for ice cream. Although they are sweet, many recipes call for accessory ingredients such as herbs, hot peppers and ginger to balance the sweetness and lend a savory flavory. Simply a party in your mouth! For added protein and fat, you can always blend in some almond milk, yogurt, sour cream, pureed beans or pureed quinoa.
I am including a link to one of my favorite summer recipes. I love Deborah Madison and I am mad about her delicious Chilled Tropical Melon Soup. Yum!
One of my favorite recipe sites, Foodily.com, had quite an assortment of recipes. Check some of them out below!
Have fun and enjoy.
Most of us are aware of the importance of drinking enough water. Water keeps our skin clear and hydrated, cleanses our organs and tissues and helps create the synovial fluid in our joints, our digestive juices and the blood-brain barrier. Think about your sinuses, your lungs, your eyes and other moist surface in your body. Water is vital. Even with this understanding, it can still be challenging to drink all the water our bodies deserve daily. In the summer, when our activity and sweat levels increase, it’s especially important to pay close attention to our water intake. Signs of dehydration include headaches, fatigue, cravings, dark colored urine, increased heart rate or respiration, decreased sweating, muscle cramps, nausea, tingling of the limbs and even the chills.
To help you start your day right, set a large glass of water on your night stand before you go to sleep and drink it as soon as you climb out of bed. When the first thing that flows through your body each morning is water, it pulls out toxins left over from the previous day and gives you a jump start on hydration. Try to drink most of your water during the first half of the day so you don’t need to drink before bed and disturb a peaceful night’s sleep to use the bathroom. Make sure you bring a water bottle with you when you work or play so you have access to water throughout the day. Having one close by will remind you to drink when you’re thirsty. The first sip will usually let you know how much more water you need. A sip or two may be enough, or you may need a big glass.
Folks often ask me about what type of water they should be drinking. I don’t recommend bottled water, but suggest some type of filter that removes chlorine, flouride and sediment, but keeps a good amount of minerals. Although, I’m not terribly particular about types of filters, I thought I would share this interesting article by Dr. Mercola about water filtration systems should you be in the market for one. Both he and Dr. Weil recommend a KDF or Kinetic Degradation Fluxion filter. This is a high-purity copper-zinc formulation that removes chlorine, lead, mercury, iron, and hydrogen sulfide from water.
Even if the water is filtered and tastes better than straight from the tap, some folks get bored with it. So, to jazz up your water, try adding a few mint leaves, a wedge of lemon, a sprig of parsley, slices of cucumber, a twist of lime or a squeeze of orange. Also, drinking herbal tea or juice and eating raw fruits and vegetables contribute to the hydration process. One of my favorite sports drinks is coconut water because it’s electrolyte balance is similar to our blood. It is a good source of electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and calcium. How much water should you drink? Dr. Batmanghelidj recommends half your weight in ounces each day so drink up!
Looking for something refreshing and hydrating that’s not water? How does a seasonal berry smoothie sound to you? Smoothies can be a great way to alkalize and hydrate the body. They can be a great breakfast, post workout snack or even dessert! You can create fruit smoothies, vegetable smoothies or an interesting combination of the two. Personally, I love smoothies for breakfast this time of year. You just need to make sure you have a protein and fat source in them so you’re not hungry in an hour. In addition, the protein and fat helps to slow down how quickly your body processes the sugars in the fruit. There are a variety of protein and fat sources that you can use including whole fat yogurt, whey powder, pea powder or hemp powder. I sometimes like to use a raw egg yolk, but I purchase my eggs from a trusted source and I don’t consume the white raw as it’s indigestible. I’ve also tossed cooked beans or quinoa into my smoothie for added protein. Some great fat sources include Omega-3 rich flax seed oil, coconut oil, coconut butter, avocado, kefir, almond butter or raw, soaked nuts. For extra minerals, I like to use an organic “greens” powder. I’ve also been known to throw some kale, spinach or lettuce leaves in my blender.
When they are in season, you can’t beat fresh berries in your smoothie. To enjoy them longer, I will purchase a flat of blueberries, strawberries and cherries from the farmers market when they are in season and then freeze them. It’s best to wash them and freeze them on cookie sheets before placing them in ziploc bags or whatever containers you like to use. Another tip is that when your bananas start to over-ripen, cut them up and freeze them for smoothies or frozen desserts. By using frozen fruit, you can skip the ice. Just add some water or almond milk to thin your concoction a bit.
Here is one of my favorite dessert smoothie recipes!
Raw Cacao Raspberry Smoothie
- 1 banana
- 1 cup frozen raspberries
- 1 cup milk of choice (raw dairy, coconut milk, almond milk)
- 1 rounded teaspoon unsweetened raw cocoa powder
- 1 TBSP coconut butter
- 1/2 cup ice
Blend everything until completely smooth. You can always sneak in some greens for added nutrients. Enjoy!