Get fresh with yourself
Who among us has ever managed to endure a long, cold Canadian winter without feeling sluggish and congested by the end of it? Not I, that’s for sure. All those decadent comfort foods that kept us warm during long cold nights tend to clog up our tissues with mucous and create inflammation in the intestines. The foods we crave in cold weather (meat, dairy, wheat, sugar) can cause inflammation in the body over time, also known as “toxic heat” in Chinese Medicine theory. (The body responds to inflammation by creating mucous, a thick sticky substance that clogs organs, intestines, lymphatics, and skin.) This can leave one feeling slow, lethargic, headachey, and irritable.
With the arrival of spring comes the urge to purge, to shake off the dross of winter and free ourselves from its burden of lethargy. Spring is the season when chi rises in the liver, so it’s an ideal time to pay special attention to this hardworking organ. Hair dyes, drugs (prescription or recreational), stale indoor air, heavy comfort foods, all have a cumulative impact on the liver. Thus many of our best spring remedies work to clear and restore its tone and strength. Those of us who have rested well in winter, as nature intended, will feel ready and able to vigorously undertake the task at hand. Whereas those who have continued to overwork and push themselves too hard may now be plagued with symptoms of an exhausted immune system – colds, congestion, and chronic fatigue – and will need to take things a little slower.
Switching to a cleaner, greener diet is an excellent first step in the process. Dandelions are one of the first plants to emerge from the thawing spring soil, and in fact are one of my favourite herbs for liver cleansing. You don’t even have to wait for the wild ones to appear since organic cultivated dandelions can already be found in health food stores. To bring their healing power into your daily diet, simply start adding the raw leaves to your salads and sandwiches. Dandelion leaves, according to Susun Weed’s Healing Wise (Ashtree Publishing, New York; 1989) are high in vitamins, minerals, and medicinal sap.
As well, dandelion roots are a favourite of herbalists for liver strengthening and clearing; simply pull them out of the ground in uncontaminated areas of gardens and parks, chop them up, and then steam or stir-fry. (Best used right after the ground thaws and before the buds form on the plant.) According to Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal (Storey Books, 2001): “The entire dandelion plant is restorative and rejuvenating. The root is a prized digestive bitter, particularly stimulating to the liver, inducing the flow of bile and cleaning the hepatic system.”
Overall, the liver cleansing properties of dandelion work to alleviate menstrual problems, improve mood, clear headaches, and restore that spring joie de vivre. Regular consumption of the leaves and/or spring root also improves digestion, reduces cholesterol, and cleanses the blood and lymphatic pathways.
EAT YOUR BEETS
Revered for its ability to enrich the blood and cleanse the kidneys, beet root is a fabulous spring tonic. I like raw beets; simply slice the beetroot thin, place in a bowl, add a couple tablespoons apple cider vinegar, plus a splash of Japanese mirin vinegar and tamari, and it’s ready. Use as a crunchy side dish with your spring suppers. If that’s too tart for your taste, try this recipe from A Diet for All Seasons by Elson M. Haas, MD (Celestial Arts; 1995):
Russian Beet Salad (Serves 4 to 5)
8 healthy beets
1/4 cup unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
1 medium clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup minced red onion
2 scallions, minced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (okay to remove yolks)
2 Tbsp minced fresh dill or 2 tsp dried
1 to 2 cups yogurt or sour cream to taste
fresh black pepper to taste
Trim the beets of their stems and greens, and place in a medium-large saucepan. Cover them with water, bring to a boil, and cook until they are tender enough for a fork to slide in easily (about 25 minutes).
Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, garlic, honey, and salt in a medium large bowl. Stir until well combined.
Rinse the cooked beets under cold running water as you rub off their skins. Chop them into 1/2 inch bits, and while they are still warm, add them to the vinegar mixture. Let stand 30 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix well, and chill until very cold.
JUICE YOUR NUTRIENTS
If eating whole beets is not for you, then combine them with your favourite fruits and vegetables for a juicy morning pick-me-up that will make your liver sing in spring. Here’s a recipe from The Raw Energy Bible by Leslie Kenton (Vermillion, London; 1996):
Juicy Beet Treat
“You have to be careful how you handle beetroot juice, which is most valuable for flushing the kidneys and enriching the blood, but can cause a dramatic cleansing action if taken in quantities of more than half a glass at a time. Cut the fibrous rootlets off the bottom of your beets, but there’s no need to peel them so long as they’re thoroughly washed. You can include the leafy tops too.
In a juicing machine combine the following:
1/2 whole beetroot, including leafy top
1 stalk of celery
3 cm section of cucumber
Turn on the juicer and process. Drink immediately to get the full enzyme complement from the juices. If you’re too busy to make up fresh squeezed juices in the morning, use powdered green drinks instead. Products such as greens+ by Genuine Health are chock full of high octane nutrients which can cleanse the blood, liver, and lymphatics in a jiffy; simply add a tablespoon to a glass of water or juice first thing in the morning, drink it down on an empty stomach, and you’re away to the races.
Another morning tonic for alkalinizing the blood and clearing inflammation from joints and tissues, is 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water, daily on an empty stomach. If you want to increase the liver cleansing capacity of the drink, add some fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice to the mix.
If you want to do a super detox, try the “Master Cleanse” (invented by Stanley Burroughs) for a couple days: Juice 6 to 8 lemons or limes, add 6 cups of distilled water, plus 3 Tbsp of maple syrup, and 2 pinches of cayenne pepper. Drink throughout the day to rejuvenate your digestion while cleaning the liver, kidneys, and bowels. And of course this makes a great kick start to any weight loss diet, since you’re going without food. (Try it on the weekend when you can relax and take it easy.)
CLEAR THE MERIDIANS
Any manual therapy that functions to clear congested lymphatic pathways, cleanse the blood, and reduce the toxic burden on liver and kidneys should be stepped up at this time of year. Such therapies can include massage or shiatsu therapy which utilizes finger pressure to clear the tissues, infrared sauna therapy to sweat out the toxins at a deep level, acupuncture, and lymphatic drainage techniques that target the body’s garbage disposal system. All of these therapies help the body to throw off accumulated waste, thereby reducing the load on the liver, kidneys, and intestines.
REDUCE HEAVY METAL LOAD
Air pollution, dental amalgams, junk foods and sodas, and home renovations can all significantly increase your toxic load of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Spring is a good time to start detoxing these heavy metals via the skin and organs of elimination. Do exercise at an intensity level that will cause you to sweat, or spend time in an infrared sauna (at least a couple hours per week). As well, make plans to start having your old dental amalgams replaced with the more modern non-toxic variety, and be sure to take 5,000 to 10,000 mg of vitamin C per day for two weeks after the dental work since vitamin C will bind with any heavy metals released, and help carry them out of the body. In the longer term, a maintenance dose of 2,000 to 3,000 mg of vitamin C per day (in several doses of 500 mg each) is strongly advised to keep the arteries clear and reduce any lingering inflammation. If you’re going to use the infrared sauna for ramping up detoxification, be sure to read Dr. Sherry Roger’s Detoxify or Die first. It contains hundreds of helpful tips on how to make your sauna experience more effective, and how to replace the minerals lost in sweating. The book is available at Eternal Moment Bookstore, or through
FRESH AIR THERAPY
The therapeutic benefits of walking or working outdoors in a park, forest, or other fresh air environment are not to be underestimated. By walking at a moderate pace and observing the budding trees and singing birdies you are bringing your body and mind into balance with nature’s cycles. Deep breathing the oxygen rich air has a tranquilizing effect on the nervous system and a rejuvenating influence on the kidneys and bloodstream.
During your walks in the park, avoid sunscreen. By allowing the sunshine to penetrate your skin, your body is able to manufacture much needed vitamin D, a nutrient that most northerners lack due to low levels of sunlight. If sunscreen is used, then the ability to manufacture vitamin D in the skin is impaired. After years of telling everybody to wear sunscreen at all times, scientists are now realizing that was bad advice – not only are we all deficient in vitamin D, making us more prone to cancer, but the chemicals in many sunscreens actually harm the body over time.
And remember that the more muscle tissue you develop, the faster your metabolism will burn calories. So try walking up and down hills to increase the challenge to your muscles and encourage formation of new muscle cells.
RAMP UP YOUR DIGESTIVE STRENGTH
Weakened digestion is an unavoidable consequence of poor food combining and a lifetime of consuming substandard foods. This can result in undigested matter floating around in the bloodstream, creating pockets of inflammation and congestion in various tissues. To clean up the blood, there are a number of ways to improve your digestive power such that foods and supplements are completely digested and therefore fully utilized by the body.
Firstly, correct food combining goes a long way toward repairing faulty digestion and paving the way for rapid weight loss. This means avoiding the combination of protein and starch at the same meal, since each one requires a different set of digestive enzymes. (In other words, no steak and potatoes, hamburgers and fries, tofu and rice, pizza with cheese, etc.) Instead, a protein meal can only be eaten with vegetables; likewise a starch meal can only be eaten with vegetables. (Vegetables go with everything.) Further, fruit is eaten only on an empty stomach, never after a heavy meal, as it impairs digestion of starch and proteins. For more on this, check out the various books on proper food combining, including the excellent Eating Alive: Prevention Thru Good Digestion by Dr. Jonn Matsen, ND (Crompton Books, 1991).
As well, those with weak digestion can benefit tremendously from daily consumption of a digestive enzyme with meals. This helps the meal to be completely digested, leaving no residual undigested particles floating around in the blood to cause inflammation of the intestines and mucous in the tissues. For the majority of those who produce inadequate amounts of their own digestive enzymes, eating heavy meals results in bloating, gas, and heartburn. By taking supplemental digestive enzymes with meals, these symptoms are alleviated, the load on the digestive organs is considerably reduced, and the blood is not contaminated with undigested particles. (There is a theory that undigested proteins circulating in the blood can easily lead to the type of inflammation that causes cancer.) As an added bonus, spring allergies will be greatly reduced.
My favourite brands are Infla-Heal by New Roots Herbal, and Multi-Zyme by Omega Alpha. One tablet with regular meals, or two tablets with heavy meals does the trick.
BANISH THE CELLULITE
If the thought of donning a bathing suit this summer leaves you shivering in horror, then you likely have some measure of cellulite. This abnormal type of fat cell has been the bane of women everywhere ever since our diet and environment became polluted by modern industrial practices. The fact that it’s not “normal” fat is proven by the fact that it can show up just as easily on thin women as fat ones. Leslie Kenton, author of Cellulite Revolution (Ebury Press, London; 1994) believes that cellulite is a symptom of disturbed body ecology caused by the combined effects of air and water pollution and poor diet, which in turn overburdens the immune system. Men don’t get cellulite because they lack the female hormones that initiate the laying down of fat cells in the subcutaneous layers of the skin.
According to Kenton, examination of cellulite tissue under a microscope reveals distended lymphatic vessels and decreased elastic fibres. “The circulation of the blood, too, has been slowed and connective fibres have undergone a sclerotic hardening so that the fluids, and wastes they contain, become trapped in an unpleasant network which pinches nerve endings ... and creates stasis in the tissue – rather like a polluted swamp where energy exchange is reduced.”
WHAT TO DO?
Kenton recommends a multi-pronged approach which includes both dietary and physical measures.
• Eat apples daily: apple pectin is a natural chelating agent that binds heavy metals (aluminum, cadmium, mercury, lead) and eliminates them; important because these metals upset the body’s ecology and contribute to cellulite. She even suggests a three-day apple fast to kickstart the tissue cleansing process.
• Daily skin brushing with a natural bristle brush (for lymphatic drainage) followed by a sea salt or epsom salt bath to pull out the loosened toxins.
• Daily consumption of pure aloe vera juice for general body detoxification (2 Tablespoons each, morning, noon, and night, on an empty stomach).
• Regular consumption of seaweeds to remineralize the body.
• Daily supplementation with bioavailable organic silica derived from the Horsetail herb (2 - 6 tablets a day with meals on an ongoing basis). According to Kenton, as we age the amount of silica decreases in the body yearly, causing fragility of the skin, arteries, and connective tissue. Silica supplementation helps to replace old weakened tissue with new ground substance to take its place so that wastes are no longer trapped in those “orange peel” pockets of cellulite. This also helps protect tissue from forming cellulite in the future. (Recommended brand: “Florasil” by Flora Manufacturing, an aqueous extract of springtime horsetail.)
• Regular massage to improve circulation and help lymphatics drain waste from tissues. (Check out the new article entitled “Rebounding for Lymphatic Drainage”)
At this point, I would add here a remarkable treatment new to Toronto, currently available at Pure + Simple spa. Called Endermologie, this deep tissue massage done with a European designed machine specifically targets the subcutaneous layer of fat where cellulite resides.
According to Jean Eng, proprietor of Pure + Simple:
“The Endermologie Therapeutic Massager is based on a patented process. In combination with gentle suctioning, two electronically controlled motorized rollers, located in an airtight treatment chamber, apply a three dimensional rolling action to the body. Depending on the type of cellulite and location, a pre-set program is selected and specific manoeuvers by the technician are applied to gently treat the connective tissues where cellulite is located. Circulation is increased, collagen function is restored, toxins and abnormal water buildup are expelled as connective fibres are stretched. The result is cellulite reduction and a smoother body.”
When I arrived at Pure + Simple for my first Endermologie session, I was a little intimidated when they wheeled in this machine that looked like something from Star Wars. But after a half hour of having the the robot-like arm of this machine rolled across every square inch of my body, I could have melted into the table. It’s hard to believe that being suctioned and vibrated from stem to stern could actually be comfortable, but it was lovely. And the thought crossed my mind ... those stubborn cellulite cells don’t have a chance against this hi-tech device.
Now that spring is here, I plan to return for a series of Endermologie sessions, so that the hard fibrous coating of my stubborn little cellulite cells will start to break down and release the wastes stored in there. And if I really want to turbocharge the process, I’ll make a point of jumping in my infrared sauna afterwards to expedite the release of waste products through my skin. By sweating it out, the eliminative burden on kidneys and bowels is dramatically reduced. Furthermore, Dr. Sherry Rogers believes that some toxins, such as the xenoestrogens from plastics, and certain heavy metals, can only be released through the skin since the organs of elimination just can’t handle them. So in my mind, Endermologie followed by a sauna session is a winning combination. After that, an epsom salts bath and a nap, and I’ll be ready to face the bathing suit heebie jeebies.
Julia Woodford is the Editor-in-Chief of Vitality Magazine.
Vitality Magazine is The Trusted Source for Natural Health Solutions, one of Canada's largest publications on natural health, alternative medicine and green living.