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Inspiration and anecdotes for health, wellness & eco-friendly living.
Pause for self care surveillance. Here is your invitation to “press pause to begin”, to reconnect with yourself, reflect, rethink assumptions, regain clarity to a better path.
by Deanna Minnich, PhD
“Detox” has become a relatively common term these days. Everywhere you turn, you hear about celebrities doing a “cleanse,” and numerous books on the danger of toxins continue to proliferate. In the past two decades, the word “detox” has taken on a much broader meaning other than its traditional reference to withdrawing from drug and alcohol use — now we know it as assisting the body with the removal of everyday toxins. That’s right — the “run-of-the-mill” things that we eat, drink, and breathe can affect how the body functions. In fact, the medical literature continues to support the growing association between exposure to popularized toxins such as heavy metals (e.g., mercury, arsenic, lead), exogenous hormones (e.g., recombinant bovine growth hormone and synthetic estrogens), and industrial plasticizers (e.g., bisphenol A) and the rising incidence of neurobehavioral, reproductive, and musculoskeletal diseases — everything from attention deficit disorder to autism to infertility to fibromyalgia. It has been estimated that there are over 80,000 chemicals presently used in the United States, with some of them not extensively tested for their effects on human health (1).
More than five decades ago, toxins weren’t as visible on our medical radar. Increasing recognition came after the launch of Rachel Carson’s book titled Silent Spring (1962), in which she pointed out the detrimental effects of modern pesticides — compared with what was used in the past, they are significantly more potent, slowly decompose, and concentrate in fatty tissue. She stated: “For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.”
And, indeed, the entire span of one’s life is vulnerable to these effects, especially the unborn, young children, women of all ages, especially pregnant women, and older adults. If an individual has a depressed immune system, such as a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy, they may be even more risk. It has been proposed that the skyrocketing rates of infertility, certain cancers, and precocious puberty is connected to exposure to environmental toxins, present in everything from plastic baby bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides. Furthermore, some toxins are thought to play a role in metabolic disturbances such as insulin resistance, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes, which is why these disrupting substances are even referred to as “obesogens” (2).
Of course, as our knowledge about these toxins grows, it becomes essential to assess one’s exposure. However, the point is not to become overwhelmed by fear of toxic exposure, but to take health into your own hands by working with a functional medicine health care professional on safe ways to keep the body vital and capable of optimally processing and excreting environmental toxins. The five organs that orchestrate good clearance of toxins include the gut, kidney, skin, liver, and lungs. When it comes to a well-rounded detoxification program, it’s important to consider not just the physical removal of toxins, but also the emotional aspects which need to be released as well. Here are four essential steps to get your team of organs on the path to coming clean:
1. Go with your gut
It’s best to begin any type of cleansing program by first ensuring that the intestines are in good shape so that you can excrete toxins without difficulty. Many patients find it unusual when I ask them about their bowel habits; however, removal of toxins is of utmost importance. Constipation would seem to lead to toxin buildup — the longer it takes for the body to remove toxins through the bowel, the greater the possibility that they will be reabsorbed into the systemic circulation. Normal bowel movements are at least once a day in the form of soft, well-formed stools. One food-based ingredient that keeps you regular is the fiber. It not only “traps” toxins within its matrix, but also assists with generating movement in the intestines so that toxins are promptly eliminated. Good sources of fiber come from legumes, non-starchy vegetables, beans, fruit, seeds, nuts, and flaxseed meal. Black bean soup is an excellent lunch or dinner selection for helping you to get your daily dose of fiber. Otherwise, choose a dietary fiber supplement — psyllium, cellulose, oat fiber, and rice bran, to name a few — to add to your daily routine to ensure that you are getting sufficient amounts of fiber. The general recommendation for fiber is about 25 to 30 grams daily for women and 30 to 35 grams daily for men (3).
When it comes to the emotional aspects of the gut, think about the outdated emotions you have stored inside and now need to “excrete.” Make a list in a journal and come up with safe ways to release or replace toxic emotions you have held within. Deep breathing is an example of one way to not only rid the lungs of stagnant air and contaminants, but also aid in moving the gut. When we breathe in deeply, the diaphragm moves down gently, massaging our intestines, and when we exhale, we create space in the gut area, allowing waste to move through us. Deep, belly breathing creates relaxation and peace of mind, keeping you in the present moment.
2. Flow with fluid
If we aren’t excreting toxins in our stool, they could end up in our urine and sweat, which is why drinking adequate water is an imperative for healthy detoxification. Fiber works best with fluid, and being properly hydrated allows toxins to move in and out of cells freely. Monitoring your fluid intake by the color of your urine is one method to assess your hydration status — if it is dark to medium yellow, you may need more water. Please note that certain vitamins, such as the B vitamins, may also darken the urine, giving the perception that you need more water. A general guideline for fluid intake is just a little over 2 liters for a 70 kg person (5). Ensure that you drink purified water throughout the day (not just at meals) in a non-plastic container, preferably glass or stainless steel. If you find yourself becoming bored by water, add fresh slices of orange, cucumber, and/or strawberry to give it a fruity taste. Another way that water is important in detoxification is by sweating. If possible to spend time in a sauna (preferably an infrared one), you can maximize toxin excretion through the large surface area of your skin. Please note that you want to check with your health care provider if you have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or if you are pregnant before using a sauna. Don’t forget to rehydrate your body after your sweat with water in addition to important electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium.
Aside from the physical aspects of water washing out physical toxins, the water element represents emotions and creativity. During your detoxification, think about the tears you have yet to release and any sadness that you are holding within your cells. Tears are thought to help our bodies release inflammatory cytokines. In one clinical study by Dr. Ishii and colleagues at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo (6), they showed that being easily brought to tears is associated with a better response for the immune and neuroendocrine systems, specifically for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Also, engage in creative activities so that your emotions can be expressed — some of my favorites are listening to music, singing, painting, dancing, and photography. Let the emotional and creative juices flow!
3. Liven the liver
The liver is the classic “hub” of metabolic detoxification and acts as the head of the army of attack against toxins. There are two phases by which toxins are cleared by the liver — the first phase makes the toxins more water soluble and the second phase packages them up so they can be excreted from the body. It is important that phase II enzymes are working efficiently because the phase I compounds can often be more chemically toxic to the body compared to the form they were in when they started out. Some people have an overactive phase I system in their liver and an underactive phase II process. The variability in phase I and/or phase II could be due to genetics, in addition to a lack of the nutrients and other actives that help these pathways perform efficiently. One of the basic requirements for these enzymes is protein, which is why a juice or water fast may impede effective liver detoxification. High-quality, hypoallergenic protein such as rice protein with added amino acids is one example of a protein source that can provide the raw materials to get toxins packaged for their exit out of the body. There are other substances in the diet (and/or dietary supplements) that can help streamline the processing of toxins through the liver, with some of my favorites being green tea, curry, and cruciferous vegetables. Epigallocatechingallate, otherwise known as EGCG, found in green tea, can assist with boosting phase II enzymes, as well as providing antioxidant protection against phase I metabolites. Drinking decaffeinated green tea throughout the day is one way to get your EGCG, and if you don’t like to drink green tea, you can always look for a quality supplement that contains this protective compound. Another powerful substance for liver detox is curcumin, the active compound of the yellow root, turmeric, which is used in Indian curries. Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory substance that balances phase I and phase II activities. Don’t be afraid to add the yellow-punch of curry to your favorite stir fries for flavor and for enhancing the detox ingredients of your meal. Lastly, my favorite foods for supporting liver detoxification are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Ensure you get at least one serving daily, like steamed Brussels sprouts, oven-roasted kale leaves, or a mixed green spinach salad topped with broccoli sprouts.
When it comes to emotions, traditional medicine would say the liver is about action, which is why anger is often associated with this organ. Anger is simply a “call to act.” It is a catalyst that wants us to change something or make a statement about our boundaries. As you put your focus on liver detoxification, note the presence of anger in your life — do you express it or stuff it within? Find ways to vent your anger that are healthy rather than just reacting in a volatile way.
In summary, detoxification is an essential process for most individuals nowadays due to the increased toxic burden we carry. There are ways that we can make the most of our daily detoxification through foods and drinks that assist in the functioning of the gut and liver. Whether you eat foods for daily detoxification or undergo a targeted, more intensive program with a healthcare professional, approach it in a holistic way, including the emotions together with the physical body.
A recent test by dermatologists found that 83 percent of the top-selling moisturizers that are labeled “hypoallergenic”contained a potentially allergenic chemical.
by Michael Arloski, PhD, PCC, CWP
Wellness always seems to be working at answering one critical question: Why don’t people do what they know they need to do for themselves? Providing people with good information about physical fitness, stress management, nutrition, etc., is important, but insufficient. It is not a matter of lacking information.
When you look at living a healthier life, there seem to be certain factors that have emerged from the last twenty years or so that the wellness movement field has identified.
1. Wellness is a holistic concept. Anything short of that is incomplete and ultimately ineffective. We need to look at the whole person and plan lifestyle changes for mind, body, spirit and environment. Just working at the dimension of wellness that you already like, such as exercising and minimizing the others, like stress management or nutrition, doesn’t work in the long run.
2. Self esteem is the critical factor in change. Wellness is caring enough about yourself to take stock of your life, make the necessary changes and find the support to maintain your motivation. Heal the wounds. Find what is holding you back from feeling good about yourself and work through the blocks, not around them. Acknowledge your achievements and express the “real you.”
3. Who we surround ourselves with either helps us stretch our wings and soar, or clips them again and again. We tend to follow the lead of our peers and find it hard to “go against the grain.” Positive peer health norms encourage wellness lifestyle changes. Mutually beneficial relationships with friends, lovers, family and colleagues who care about us as people are what we need to seek and create in our lives. Rather than being threatened by our personal growth, they support it. Do your friends (partners, etc.) bring out your OK or NOT OK feelings? Giving and receiving strokes are what it’s all about. Friends keep friends well.
4. Break out of the trance! Conscious living means becoming aware of all the choices we have and acting on them. It involves a realization that we don’t have to run our lives on automatic pilot. We can turn off the television (remember TV stands for “time vacuum”), read labels, turn off the lawn sprinklers when we have enough rain, notice how our food tastes, notice how tense and contracted we are when we drive fifteen mph over the speed limit, etc. It means consciously working on our relationships, life-goals, and maximizing our potential.
5. A sense of connectedness to other people, other species, the earth and “something greater” grounds us in our lives. We are all of one heart. Much of this sense can come out of the land we live on. By identifying with where we live, getting to know the plants, animals, weather patterns, water sources and the landscape itself, we develop not only a love for it, but feel that love returned. Through our commitment to our place on earth we value and protect our environment by the way we live our lives, and by how we speak at the ballot box. Through our contact with the natural world we experience a solid sense of belonging, peace and harmony.
6. We are primarily responsible for our health. There are the risk factors of genetics, toxic environments and the like, but our emotional and lifestyle choices determine our health and well-being more than anything else. As much as we’d like to cling to blame and cop-outs, we must be honest with ourselves. The flip side is the empowerment this realization gives us.
7. From increased self-sufficiency comes the confidence and power that overshadows fear. The Australian Aboriginal people say that when a person cannot walk out onto the land and feed, clothe and shelter themselves adequately a deep, primal fear grips their soul. Recognizing our interconnectedness, we grow tremendously when we can care for ourselves on many different levels. Skills, information and tools that enable us to: choose our food wisely (or even grow it ourselves); become more competent at our career; adjust the shifter on our bicycle; take a hike into a wilderness area; bake bread from scratch; etc., all increase our self-respect and self-confidence. We need to learn these skills and teach them to others, especially our children.
8. As much as we all need time with others, we all need time apart. Solo time, especially in the natural world, helps us relax, de-contract, and get beyond the distractions of modern life that prevent us from really knowing ourselves. There are some powerful reasons that peoples from all around the world have spent time alone (usually in a wilderness setting) in order to gain vision about the direction and meaning in their lives.
9. You don’t have to be perfect to be well. Perfectionism often pushes us to feel ashamed and feeds a negative view of ourselves. Workaholism, anorexia and other addictive behaviors can result. Wellness does not mean swearing off hot-fudge sundaes. It just means not b.s.’ing yourself about when you last had one!
10. Play! We all need to lighten up, not take ourselves (and wellness) so seriously. Remember the lessons of the coyote and be playful, even ornery in a non-malicious way. Let the child within out to play. Give yourself permission.
Even with these tenets there is no concrete wellness formula. You have to discover what works for you and add your own tenets to the list.
Vitamin-C helps to fight off free radical damage caused by sun exposure, and is necessary for the body to produce collagen.
1 1/2 oz baby kale
4 oz pineapple
1 kiwi – peeled
1/2 tsp matcha powder
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 cup water
1 cup ice
Blend & Enjoy!
by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.