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From MBG, by Dr. Martha Calihan
Have you ever thought about doing a “detox” but weren’t really sure what that meant or what it would involve? Maybe you were worried about a lot of digestive upset and GI symptoms. Or maybe you assumed it’d be very expensive or involve only drinking juice for a week.
As a doctor of functional medicine, I frequently have patients ask me about detoxes, especially since there isn’t yet a lot of research in this area.
There are, however, some really good reasons to consider a detox as part of your health program — and the start of the new year can be an excellent time to experience the many benefits of a good detox.
To begin with, it’s important to have a good understanding of what detoxification really is and how it can affect your health.
The body has some amazing and very intricate processes to deal with all the substances to which we are exposed — from our food to environmental chemicals, hormones, pesticides, and so on. Our liver is the major organ of detoxification, and there are a host of specific detoxification pathways that help keep the body unencumbered from toxic accumulation. When we eat food, it’s broken down and eventually passes through the liver, which filters the blood, removing any toxins. From there, much of the toxic burden passes through the bile into the intestines, where it can exit the body.
A good detox program has several goals. First, we want to reduce, for a time, the burden on the digestive system and the liver, to allow it the resources to function at an optimal level. We also want to support the detoxification pathways with the proper and necessary vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.
Plus, we want to reduce the burden on our immune system of repeated exposure to the excessive inflammatory foods that are too often in our diets. And finally, we also want to make sure that the digestive tract is functioning well so that the toxins can be easily excreted from the body.
It’s helpful to plan your program with the help of your health care practitioner to make sure you’re being supported in a way that’s most appropriate for you. A detox could last anywhere from a week to a month, depending on one’s health concerns.
It often starts with reducing the amount, and types, of food you ingest. This is to reduce the burden on the digestive and immune systems. So in the first several days of a detox you’ll eat a small variety of fresh whole foods, or perhaps just a quality protein shake that is supplemented with the proper nutrients.
Virtually all programs will have you avoid specific foods, typically the most inflammatory foods, including wheat, dairy, corn, and soy at the minimum. You’ll also be avoiding sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
Further specifics will depend on an individual’s particular situation and goals. But in general, during the course of the detox, all processed foods are avoided and the goal is to consume only fresh, organic when possible, foods.
The program might also include specific supplements to support detoxification at the cellular level. Milk thistle is commonly recommended to support the liver, the major organ of detoxification. Dandelion root, artichoke, and beet are all additional nutrients that support detoxification.
You’ll need good hydration to have effective elimination, too.
During the first several days, you may notice some food cravings, particularly for sugars and other carbs. These can be addictive substances, and there can be a sense of withdrawal from them. You might experience some fatigue or other physical symptoms. Typically these will subside in a day or two.
But eventually, you are likely to notice that you actually feel better. Your energy may increase; you may notice reduced joint pain, brain fog, fatigue, and lethargy. You are likely to lose some water weight and feel less puffy. Your mood may be improved and you might sleep better.
This all can happen because you are supporting your body to function more efficiently with the reduced burden of toxins and inflammatory foods.
When you’ve completed your detox, the food reintroduction process is just as important as the removal phase, because this is when you can pinpoint which foods make you have symptoms. It’s wise to reintroduce one food at a time and give it two or three days to see how you feel before you add in anything else. You might be surprised by what you learn.
I’d encourage anyone to think about a detox program to help you feel a real increase in your energy and well-being and to lower the toxic burden on your body. The experience will probably change the way that you eat, even after the program, as you’ll have gained an awareness of what you feel like when you eat certain foods. It can help set the stage for long-lasting healthy choices.
You can generally do a program several times a year; it’s a great way to mark the changing season and give your body a boost. I suggest that you work with your health care provider to choose the best program for you and give it a try. You might just feel amazing!
From: MGB, by Alexandra Jamieson;
Green smoothies are an easy and delicious way to get healthy produce into your body, but drinking them in winter warrants special warning:
Don’t freeze your chi!
Chi is a Chinese word meaning aliveness, life force, or energy, and is also known as Ki, Qi, or Prana.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, doctors recommend against drinking cold water with meals as it “chills the digestive fires.” Drinking a green smoothie filled with frozen fruit may have the same effect and can cause stomach pain, bloating, and other digestive issues.
Your ability to stay warm and energized may freeze up if your smoothies are too cooling energetically or if the ingredients themselves are frozen.
This little-known truth about cold smoothies is leaving a lot of health seekers feeling like failures, when in reality, they could feel a lot better in and about their bodies with a few simple tweaks.
In my Cravings Cleanse + Mindset Makeover program, I provide clean eating inspiration and healing to help people heal their bodies and their mindset about food with functional nutrition and positive psychology.
If you have a hard time staying warm in the colder winter months, or are working to heal your digestion and want to take your smoothies to the next level, take these steps to protect your energy, chi, and digestion:
Foods that take longer to grow, like winter squash and collards, are more warming than foods that grow quickly, like lettuce and summer squash.
A food is more cooling when it’s frozen than when it’s thawed.
Thaw your frozen berries overnight in the refrigerator or even leave them out for an hour on the counter to take the chill off while you do your morning run or yoga.
If you forgot to thaw your frozen berries overnight, scoop them into a plastic baggie and run under warm water before adding them to your blender.
Blue, green, and purple foods are more medicinally cooling than orange, red, and yellow foods. Think of lime as cooling, lemon as more warming.
Tropical fruits such as banana and mango are more cooling than foods grown in temperate zones like apples and pears.
Coconut oil, coconut or almond butter, avocado, nuts, seeds, hemp, or pea protein help your body stay warmer. They keep you full longer, too!
In Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine foods are believed to have an overall cooling, neutral, or warming effect.
While opinions differ slightly, the following foods are the most warming ingredients that commonly show up in smoothie recipes:
Puree all ingredients together in a blender until smooth.
Puree all ingredients together in a blender until smooth.
Cover photo: iStock
Photo Credit: Stocksy
Tip # 32: Inverted V – Sun Salutation, posture #8
Exhale, tucking your toes under and raising your hips to come into the inverted V. Do not move your hands or feet as you come into the position.
Tip # 31: Arch your chest – Sun Salutation, posture #7
Inhale as you slide your body forward and bring your hips down to the floor. Arch your chest forward and tilt your head back. Slightly bend your elbows into your body.
Tip # 30: Lower Chest to the floor – Sun Salutation, posture #6
Exhale. Lower your knees to the floor and your chest straight down between your hands, without rocking your body. Bring your forehead to the floor (a beginner may need to lower the chin instead).
Tip # 29: Push-up Pose – Sun Salutation, posture #5
Retain the breath. Bring your left foot back, next to your right foot. Keep your spine straight and do not let your head or hips drop.
Tip # 28: Leg Back – Sun Salutation, posture #4
Inhale as you stretch your right leg back as far as possible and bend your right knee, lowering it to the floor. Stretch your head and look upward. Your hands should stay in the same position throughout the movement.
Tip # 27: Bend Over – Sun Salutation, posture #3
Exhale as you stretch forward and bend down into the third Sun Salutation position. Bring your hands down to the floor, and place them next to your feet, with the palms downward. Your hips should be kept as high as possible. If necessary, bend your knees so you can touch the ground. Tuck your forehead in toward your knees.
Tip # 26: Arch Back – Sun Salutation, posture #2
Inhale and stretch your arms up over your head. Arch your back so your hips come forward, and stretch as far is comfortable.
Tip # 25: Prayer pose – Sun Salutation, posture #1
Stand up straight with your feet together and your arms by your sides. Take a deep breath, and then exhale while bringing your palms together at chest level.
Tip # 24: Purpose of the Sun Salutation
The Sun Salutation is a 12-part warm-up exercise. It limbers up the body and mind in preparation for the ensuing yoga session. Each of the 12 positions brings a different vertebral movement to the spinal column and is tuned to the inhalation or exhalation of the breath, thereby instilling a feeling of balance and harmony. The positions follow one after the other, making this Salutation graceful to perform. Attempt to do at least six sequences at the start of every session.
Tip # 23: Neck Exercises
Relax your neck by combining these four exercises. Sit cross-legged and practice each set of neck exercises at least three times.
1. Back and forth. Drop your head back gently and then slowly drop it forward
2. Side to side. Tilt your head to the right shoulder, to the center, and to the left.
3. Turn your head. Turn your head to look over each shoulder in turn.
4. Circling. Inhale as you rotate your head to one side, exhale to the other.
Tip # 22: Eye Exercises
Exercising the eyes releasing any buildup of tension and aids relaxation. When practicing, keep your head still and move only your eyes.
a. Stare at your thumb in front of you, then look into the distance, Relax and repeat
b. With eyes wide, look from side to side 10 times, then up and down 10 times and then diagonally 10 times.
c. Finally, after rolling your eyes in circles in both directions, cup your hands over your eyes for 30 seconds and relax.
Tip # 21: Kapalabhati
This exercise, using rapid breathing, is believed to be such a powerful cleanser that the face literally “glows” with good health. Before beginning the exercise, relax by taking a few deep breaths. Perform 25 rapid “pumpings” in each round. Relax between rounds by breathing deeply. Try to do three rounds.
Tip # 20: Alternate Nostril Breathing
When you are comfortable with single nostril breathing (tip #19), begin alternate nostril breathing, where you practice retaining the breath for a count of 16. The action of alternate nostril breathing is physical, but the greatest benefit is the calmness and lucidity of mind that results. Try to perform at least 10 rounds daily for best results.
The steps to be observed are:
1. Inhale through the left nostril to a count of four
2. Close nostrils and hold breath to a count of 16
3. Exhale through the right nostril to a count of eight
4. Inhale through the right nostril to a count of four
5. Close nostrils and hold breath to a count of 16
6. Exhale through the left nostril to a count of eight
Tip # 19: Single Nostril Breathing
The object of practicing Yogic breath discipline, or “Pranayama”, is to increase physical and mental health. You can practice the breathing exercises on their own or integrate them into your program of Yoga Asanas. Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position, with your spine and neck straight, but not tense.
Hold your head erect and gently close your eyes. Use the fingers of the right hand to close off each nostril in turn. Hold them in a position called “Vishnu Mudra”. For “Vishnu Mudra”, extend the thumb, ring finger, and little finger of your right hand and fold down your other two fingers into your palm. Rest the left hand on your left knee.
Breathe through the left nostril. Close right nostril with thumb, and inhale through left nostril to a count of four. Exhale to a count of eight. Repeat 10 times. Breathe through the right nostril. Close left nostril with the two end fingers, and inhale through right nostril to a count of four. Exhale to a count of eight. Repeat 10 times.
Tip # 18: Full Yogic Breath
Place one hand on your lower ribcage and one on your abdomen. Breathe in, trying to fill the lowest part of your lungs, then the middle, and then the top. Feel your chest and abdomen expand.
Tip # 17: Sitting Properly
Adopt this posture for the breathing exercises in Tips 18 to 21. Sit cross-legged, aligning your head, neck, and spine. Keep your shoulders straight but relaxed. If you are a beginner, sit on a cushion. This lifts the hips and makes it easier to keep the back erect.
Tip # 16: Abdominal Breathing
Learn to breathe efficiently. Lie flat on your back, placing one hand on your abdomen. Start to inhale deeply, feeling your abdomen rise; then feel it fall as you exhale. Breathing slowly and deeply brings air to the lowest part of your lungs and exercises your diaphragm.
Tip # 15: How The Lungs Work
On an inhalation, your diaphragm (situated below the lungs) moves downwards. Air you breathe in through the nose is drawn down the trachea to the lungs, which are protected by the ribcage. If you are breathing properly, the abdomen and ribcage will expand as you inhale. On an exhalation, your diaphragm moves upwards, compressing the lungs and pushing air out of them. The air passes back up through the trachea and out through the nostrils.
Tip # 14: The Importance Of Proper Breathing
Breathing gives life. Without oxygen no human cell can live for more than a few minutes. Many people use only part of thier full breathing capacity, taking in about one third of the oxygen that thier lungs could use. This leads to stress and fatigue. The yogic breathe discipline teaches you to breathe through the nose, to accentuate exhalation rather than inhalation, to cleanse the lungs and eliminate toxins. These techniques increase your physical and mental health.
Tip # 13: Balancing Both Sides Of The Body
Many of our regular daily habits tend to emphasize the use of one part or side of the body. To achieve a healthy and harmonious balance, it is important to keep all parts of the body equally strong and flexible. Yoga exercises make each group of muscles work equally on the left and right sides of the body to achieve equilibrium.
Tip # 12: Know Your Body’s Capablities
Before you begin your yoga asanas, it is important to recognize your body’s capabilities. Never force your body into a posture or try to go beyond your limit. Remember, yoga is not a competitive sport. Progress may be slow, but with time your body will become flexible. Ease yourself gently into each position and when you are holding a pose, check the body to see if you can feel tension building up anywhere. If you do, consciously try to relax that tension using the breath.
Tip # 11: Each Session: How Long?
For maximum benefit, you should set aside about 90 minutes. When you are busy, try a shorter session with fewer asanas. It is very important not to feel rushed, and to allow time for relaxation between poses. You can always perform the breathing exercises at a later stage.
Tip # 10: When & Where To Practice
Try to practice yoga everyday. At the same time, be gentle. Do not force yourself. A yoga session should be a joy. Set aside a time when you will not be disturbed and you will not have to rush. Morning practice helps loosen up stiff joints after sleep. Evening practice releases the tensions of the day. Whenever you practice yoga, avoid eating for at least two hours beforehand.
Tip # 9: What You Need
You do not need special equipment to practice yoga. Although you can buy foam yoga mats, a towel on a carpeted floor will do just as well. For practicing indoors, you will need an open space, clear of furniture. The room should be comfortably heated and free of disturbances.
Tip # 8: The Importance Of A Teacher
Whether you are learning yoga singly or in a group, it is always best to be supervised by a qualified teacher. A teacher will demonstrate how to ease your body gently into and out of the yoga postures and, most importantly, how to breathe correctly when holding a balance. He or she will ensure that you do not strain your limbs, and will help you to align your body in the asanas.
Tip # 7: Positive Thinking & Meditation
Meditation is a state of consciousness. When practicing meditation, you must first learn how to calm the mind, and focus your mental energy inwards. Meditation can help to relieve stress and replenish your energy. If it is practiced on a daily basis, you will also find it will enable you you to think more clearly and positively, and to be at peace with yourself.
Tip # 6: Proper Diet
The recommended diet for a student of yoga is a simple and wholesome vegetarian one, made up of natural foods that are easily digested. It keeps the body vital and healthy, and the mind calm and free from restless thoughts. Processed and tinned foods are to be avoided when possible.
Tip # 5: Proper Relaxation
The release of tension through relaxation is vital to keep the body healthy. Begin and end each session of yoga asanas with relaxation, and relax between postures. This allows the released energy to flow freely.
Tip # 4: Proper Breathing
Most people use only a fraction of thier breathing capacity. Proper breathing focuses on nasal breathing techniques to unlock energy and vitality. Breathing exercises concentrate on exhalation rather than inhalation, to cleanse the lungs of stale air and to eliminate toxins from your body.
Tip # 3: Proper Exercise: Yoga Asanas
The aim of proper exercise is to improve suppleness and strength. Each posture is performed slowly in fluid movements. Violent movements are avoided as they produce a build-up of lactic acid, causing fatigue.
Tip # 2: Check With Your Doctor
Yoga asanas can be practiced by young and old alike. While there is no one who should be excluded, check with your doctor before you begin a course if you suffer from a medical condition or have any doubts.
Tip # 1: What Is Yoga?
The word “yoga” means “union”. Yoga is a form of exercise based on the belief that the body and breath are intimately connected with the mind. By controlling the breath and holding the body in steady poses or “asanas”, yoga creates harmony.
Yoga practice consists of five key elements: proper breathing, proper exercise, proper relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation. The exercises, or asanas, are designed to ease tense muscles, to tone up the internal organs, and to improve the flexibility of the body’s joints and ligaments.
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