Monthly Archives: February 2014

How Does the Body Detoxify Itself?

Detoxification and cleansing have become “fads” that are being used to sell products, programs, books and seminars all over the world. Although we each need to set aside time to detoxify on a regular basis, the fact is that our bodies never stop working to neutralize and eliminate toxins. Our body puts a very high priority on detoxification and Interior of body and detoxification organscleansing. This is why many signs of illness are actually signs of detoxification and show the body is working overtime to eliminate the toxins associated with the illness. For information on how to tell if your body needs detoxification, please read How to Tell You Need to Detox.

Our body’s detoxification process is far more complex than most people realize. The body uses five basic “organs of elimination” to neutralize and eliminate toxins. The organs of elimination all contain high levels of a chemical called Cytochrome P-450 which is directly responsible for neutralizing toxins. There are over 100 Cytochrome P-450 enzymes. Their job is to convert fat-soluble, non-polar toxins into polar, water-soluble chemicals that can be more easily broken down and eliminated from cells.

The organs of elimination include:

  • Skin (Integumentary System):  Our skin is an amazing two-way sponge that excretes toxins and absorbs toxins or beneficial nutrients applied to it. Sweat is one of the best detoxification systems our body has. Daily exercise, sweat-inducing activity or baths and saunas are good ways to help our body eliminate toxins. Signs of toxicity that appear in the skin include acne, boils, rashes, inflammation, etc.
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  • Lungs (Respiratory System):  The lungs are constantly filtering the air we breathe. The lungs also ecrete certain toxins via exhalation. This is one of many potential causes of bad breath. You may notice that people who are sick or who have been exposed to excessive toxins (such as alcohol) may have exhalations that smell particularly offensive. The body may also use mucus as a method of trapping and expelling toxins from the lungs.
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  • Digestive Tract (Digestive System, including the stomach, large and small intestine):  The digestive tract is miraculous in that its job is not only to absorb nutrients but is also to filter and eliminate toxins from food and drink. In cases where an extreme toxin is consumed (such as botulism), the body will quickly eliminate the toxin via vomit and diarrhea. Many people have the impression the digestive tract is a big, simple tube food follows as it is digested. In the simplest sense, that is true, but the digestive tract actually contains multiple structures and performs a wide variety of duties. Digestion starts in the mouth, where enzymes in saliva begin breaking down carbohydrates. In the stomach, enzymes continue the digestive process.
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    The small intestine has three sections: the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. As food passes from the stomach into the small intestine, hormones in the small intestine stimulate the liver, gallbladder and pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes and bile to help digest the food so that cells in the small intestine can absorb the food’s nutrients. The small intestine’s main job is to absorb the nutrients from food and drink and to separate the nutrients from the toxins. The large intestine contains six sections and is primarily responsible for absorbing water from food and drink. After the water is absorbed, the remaining waste (feces) is then excreted.
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  • Kidneys (Excretory/Urinary System):  The kidneys are responsible for multiple transactions related to detoxification and cleansing. In addition to serving as a filter to remove toxins from the blood stream, the kidneys are also responsible for maintaining a healthy balance between sodium, potassium and water. After the kidneys filter the blood, they return the essential minerals to the blood stream while sending the removed toxins to the bladder for elimination via urine.
  • Liver (Digestive System):  The liver is the body’s master organ of detoxification, responsible for an amazing number of highly complex chemical reactions that neutralize toxins and prepare them for elimination. In the simplest terms, two phases of detoxification occur in the liver. Phase 1 detoxification involves the Cytochrome P-450 enzymes and is the phase that sets the stage for toxins to be broken down into water-soluble chemicals the body can more easily eliminate. Some toxins are able to be turned into water-soluble chemicals during Phase 1, whereas others wind up having a reactive site created that enables them to bond with other chemicals during Phase 2 detoxification. Unfortunately, some toxins actually become more toxic after Phase 1 detoxification, which makes it important for Phase 2 detoxification to occur efficiently and to not be hampered. .
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    Phase 2 detoxification finalizes the process of breaking toxins into water-soluble, polar molecules that are easily expelled from cells. Phase 2 detoxification relies heavily on a process called Methylation. Methylation is responsible for activating genes and enzymes essential for cellular detoxification, repair of DNA, and creation of new cells. Obviously, Methylation is necessary for good health. Methylation can often be impaired by a lack of methyl groups, by various nutritional deficiencies, and/or by genetic anomalies.

In my next post, I will finally start sharing ways you can help your body detoxify and help each of the elimination organs function more efficiently.

How to Tell You Need to Detoxify

It cannot be denied we are surrounded by toxins. They are in the air we breathe, our tap water, our food supply, our clothing, and even our thoughts. Our body constantly works to remove these toxins and cleanse itself, but it sometimes needs help. This series of articles focuses on detoxification and cleansing of body, mind and spirit. This post shares a few signs your body uses to get our attention and convince us it’s time to detoxify. Full Trash CanFuture posts will focus on a variety of ways to detoxify your organs and body systems.

The following 20 signs are indicators you may benefit from a detoxification program. Keep track of how many of these statements you agree with:

  1. You have chronic skin challenges such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, etc.
  2. You have areas of skin that have darkened
  3. You have pain in the upper-right section of your abdomen, under your bottom rib
  4. Your tongue has a thick white, yellow or green coating
  5. You have frequent headaches
  6. You have frequent sinus congestion
  7. You get sick frequently
  8. You suffer from depression or anxiety
  9. You exercise and eat well but can’t lose weight
  10. You have “brain fog” and often find it difficult to concentrate
  11. You are irritable or have frequent mood swings
  12. You have body odor, stinky feet, bad breath, foul smelling urine and bowel movements, etc.
  13. You get frequent canker sores
  14. You feel tired all the time
  15. You do not have at least one bowel movement daily
  16. You have more than four bowel movements daily
  17. You have frequent gas, bloating, belching, etc.
  18. You have food cravings and/or food allergies
  19. Your joints ache frequently
  20. You experience frequent edema (water retention) in your face, hands, legs, feet, etc.
  21. You have back pain unrelated to activity

How did you score? If you agreed with five or more of the statements shared above, a detoxification program may be wise.

Let me also say that excess toxicity is not the only thing that can cause the symptoms shared above. If you are experiencing multiple health challenges, it is an indicator you need to find a health practitioner who will work with you to identify and address the causes of your symptoms. Helping your body heal itself is a task that should be your top priority.

Graphic shared courtesy of Andreas Solberg but is not an indicator of his endorsement of this site or its content.

Top 11 Low Carb Breakfasts

Yesterday I was asked to share what a “normal” day’s meals are for me. I thought I’d start by sharing a few of my favorite Simple Summer Marinarabreakfasts. Please keep in mind my eating style is what works for me. It may not be appropriate for anyone else. As someone who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1967, I eat very few servings of carbs per day and try to stay away from foods which have a high glycemic impact. I also tend to avoid foods which are known to exacerbate autoimmune issues.

Most people in the US eat 3-5 servings of carbohydrates before they even leave the house. High-carb breakfasts don’t sustain the body and often lead to mid-morning hunger, fatigue and/or blood sugar crashes. My goal in choosing breakfasts is to incorporate adequate protein and fat, both of which help maintain and sustain energy and blood glucose levels 

Following are a few of my favorite breakfasts. Please note that everything I mention is organic:

  1. Chia Seed “Pudding:” Blend 1/4 cup of Chia seeds into 3/4-1 cup purified water (or milk alternative). If desired, add cinnamon, cloves or pumpkin pie spice to taste. Let the blend sit overnight. In the morning, you will have a delicious “pudding” that is loaded with nutrients. It is also very filling. Feel free to stir in 1/2 cup of blueberries for extra antioxidants and a light amount of added sweetness.
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  2. Omelet “Muffins”: Whip eggs and blend them with a wide variety of chopped veggies and spices. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full with the blend and bake until firm. (I don’t usually add cheese or meat, but both are viable options.) These make great grab-n-go meals that store well and are nutritionally dense. Reheating them is optional, but they heat well in a toaster oven.
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  3. Tex Mex Scramble:  Scramble eggs with diced veggies, avocado chunks, onions and cayenne pepper to taste. Top with homemade salsa.
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  4. Hummus and Veggies:  Use purchased organic hummus or make your own. Use a wide variety of veggies. The hummus provides a good blend of carbohydrates and protein that will sustain you until lunch.
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  5. Leftovers:  Yes, leftovers. Combine last night’s meat with some fresh veggies and you’re set!
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  6. Smoothies: I blend an avocado with leafy greens, protein powder, nuts or seeds (or nut butter) and an assortment of vegetables. I try to use foods that are high in Vitamin C (such as tomatoes, peppers, lemon/lime juice, etc.) to help improve absorption of the iron in the leafy greens. I add stevia and sweet spices to provide just a hint of sweetness.
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  7. Stuffed Peppers:  Cut the top off of red, green or orange bell peppers and remove the seeds. Cook and drain bulk breakfast sausage. Fill the peppers 1/2 full with the breakfast sausage, add some chopped onions (and garlic and mushrooms, if you like) and break an egg over the mixture. Top with the pepper “lid” and bake at 350 degrees until firm. Makes a quick and easy breakfast that even kids love!
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  8. Sausage Bowls:  Mold small “bowls” out of bulk breakfast sausage and bake until meat is completely cooked. While cooking, blend equal parts almond butter and Greek yogurt (coconut yogurt works well, too). Stir the seeds of one pomegranate (or diced blueberries) into the mixture, fill the sausage bowls with the mixture and serve. It may sound unusual, but it is delicious and packs a nutritional wallop without raising glucose levels too much.
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  9. Cauliflower Fritters:  Cut one head of cauliflower into florets and steam until soft. In a food processor, blend the cauliflower with 1-2 eggs, diced onion and 2 tablespoons of coconut flour. (If mixture is too crumbly, add 1-2 tablespoons purified water.) Form into patties and fry in extra virgin coconut oil until heated through. Top with guacamole or salsa. Any combination of veggies can be added to these fritters. They are also great made with coconut flakes and diced cashews.
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  10. Guacamole:  Make your favorite guacamole, but stir in one serving of unflavored protein powder. Serve on veggies, eat our of the bowl, or use as a topping for any of the dishes shared previously.
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  11. Salad: Yes, salad!! Salads make wonderful breakfasts, especially when loaded up with nuts and seeds for protein. (Bacon, eggs or meat work, too.) Instead of dressing, I use extra virgin olive oil combined with fresh herbs and lemon or lime juice.

What’s your favorite breakfast combination?

Twelve Ways to Say “I Love You” Without Spending a Dime

Today is Valentine’s Day. That holiday that is grossly over-emphasized to the point it is hated by many. The most common Picture of a Love Poemcomplaint I hear about Valentine’s Day is that it encourages too much focus on materialistic displays of affection and not enough on practical expressions of love. Those of us who are older than dirt and happily married know healthy relationships require daily expressions of appreciation. We’ve left behind the juvenile fixation on shiny objects and know those tokens are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. (I have nothing against gifts of diamonds, jewels or motorcycles as long as they’re received as signs of appreciation and are not regarded as measuring sticks to gauge the size of someone’s true love.)

Here are a few simple ways to express your love on a daily basis:

  1. Thank Your Loved One for a Great [insert item of choice]:  While dating, most couples easily and frequently express appreciation for a fun day, meaningful conversation or special time spent together. Those expressions of gratitude often disappear after the “new relationship glow” wears off. Don’t give them up! Go out of your way to let your loved one know how much you enjoy spending time with him or her, even when you spend time doing chores or other normal things.
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  2. Take a Road Trip or Plan a Staycation:  Purposely plan time to have fun together. For a road trip, pick a location near or far, turn off the radio, and enjoy the time spent talking without interruptions. If you can, plan a special weekend at home where you act like you’re on vacation but have no travel stresses.
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  3. Invite your loved one to do something you hate but s/he loves:  Every couple has activities that one partner loves and the other hates. Pick an activity your loved one enjoys that isn’t high on your list of favorites and invite your honey to join you. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Trust that your loved one will recognize your desire to share special time together. One more thing … have fun!
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  4. Call or Send a Text for No Reason:  Take time out of your busy day to send a text saying you can’t wait to see your love, that you’re thinking of his or her smile, or other tidbit of mushiness. It only takes 30 seconds to share a surprise that will brighten your love’s day. If texting isn’t your thing, call to say, “I just wanted to hear your voice.
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  5. Leave a Surprise Note Expressing Your Affection:  Leave a note on the mirror, coffee pot, steering wheel, or inside a briefcase to surprise your love with a reminder of how special they are.
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  6. Ask How You Can Help:  Is your partner’s day loaded with responsibility? Ask how you can help. If your independent lover can’t think of any ways you can help, drop off lunch, stop by with a surprise cup of coffee, clean out their car while they work, or come up with another personalized way to help lighten their load.
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  7. Recognize Your Loved One’s Effect on Others:  Let your loved one know you recognize how much his kindness blessed someone. Chances are he or she isn’t aware of how they bless others. Let your recognition return the blessing!
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  8. Look Your Loved One in the Eye and Acknowledge Something Special:  Take time out of the blue to let your partner know why you love him or her. Look her in the eye and mention something special about her that makes you love her. You’ll be glad you did.
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  9. Serve Them:  We often get so caught up in the busyness of life that we stop serving our partner. Take time to do something special for your loved one. Wash her car, clean the bathroom, cook a favorite meal, do the laundry … find a practical way to express your love.
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  10. Write a Love Letter:  It’s not as hokey as it sounds. Put your heartfelt feelings on paper. Express why you love your special someone. Remind him or her of what first caught your attention. Share things about him that you love but no one else appreciates. Put your love into words and find a creative way of sharing it. The picture illustrating this post is how my husband once expressed his love. Find your own way to immortalize your classic love story..
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  11. Admit When You’re Wrong and Learn to Say “I’m Sorry” With Ease:  No need to explain these.
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    And …
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  12. PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN!

A Closer Look at Panera Bread’s New “Green” Smoothie

Panera Bread recently added a new “green” smoothie to their line of specialty drinks. Good for them! I applaud their efforts to add healthier options to their menu. I do, however, have a few concerns.

Green Smoothie

Please note this is a general picture of a green smoothie and is NOT an example of any products sold by Panera Bread.

The nutritional information for the smoothie states a 12.5 oz serving contains:

190 calories
49 g carbohydrates
4 g fiber (More on this below)
2 g protein
0 g fat

Although I still think this smoothie is a better option than much of the Panera menu, I have the following concerns:

  • The high amount of carbohydrates (and calories) and low amount of fiber concerns me. Part of the reason this “smoothie” is so low in fiber is that they are using vegetable juice concentrates instead of making a true smoothie using real veggies. Had they used the real thing instead of juice concentrates, the fiber content would be much higher. Fiber serves to slow the digestion and absorption of carbs.
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  • This smoothie contains more than three servings of carbs in a paltry 12.5 ounces. That means every ounce contains about 4 g of carbs. That is an incredibly high amount of carbs and is a concern. A teaspoon of sugar contains 4.2 g of carbs, so this smoothie is very similar to plain table sugar in terms of carbohydrate load. (It does have more nutrients, but sugar is sugar as far as the body is concerned.) Before ordering this smoothie, please pause to consider that the sugar content is the same as eating 12.5 teaspoons of sugar.
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  • The other ingredients in the smoothie and the lack of fiber definitely give this item an extremely high glycemic impact, meaning it will raise blood glucose levels to a high level very quickly. This is NOT a good option if you have any form of blood glucose or metabolic imbalance. It is also NOT a good option for weight control.

Ingredients Breakdown

The ingredients identified on the Panera website are: Vegetable and fruit base (apple [juice, puree and juice concentrate], pineapple puree, kale, celery and cucumber juice concentrates, water, fruit and vegetable juice concentrates [color], lemon juice, pectin, natural flavors, vitamins [vitamin C, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, B12], spirulina), water, banana.

Let’s look at these ingredients more closely … 

  • They are adding pectin as a thickener. Again, if they would use real vegetables, no thickener would be needed. Most pectin used today is derived from non-organic fruits which may be genetically modified. Pectin has zero nutritional value, so it disappoints me that Panera is using a highly-processed additive instead of real, whole foods.
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  • Vitamins: The fact they are adding vitamins means they are adding synthetic vitamins which cannot be easily absorbed. Again, simply using real food would eliminate the need for synthetic additives.
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  • Natural Flavors: If you’ve done much reading about food ingredients, the term “natural” is not regulated. Some “natural flavors” are known to include GMOs, MSG, plastics, animal extracts, and/or food allergens. It is difficult to say which flavorings have been added to this smoothie, but the term “natural flavors” always makes me a bit leery. After all, if they were simply adding a cucumber extract, they would say so. The fact they aren’t willing to name the specific product being used is a warning sign. If you’re not drinking one of these daily, the exposure is probably minimal, but be aware of the potential.

So there you have it. What are your thoughts about these new smoothies?

Reference Information:

Panera Nutrition Information: Click the “ingredients” link to view ingredients

 

The Definitive Guide to Ending Dry Skin: Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part series on how to combat dry skin. Please read The Definitive Guide to Ending Dry Skin: Part 1 for information on the potential causes of dry skin and ways to address them. This article focuses on easy ways to moisturize and protect from the outside in. This article assumes you are already doing everything mentioned in Part 1. I’ve shared several recipes that allow you to make your own all-natural moisturizing products. I Dry Skin Helpincluded links so you can easily find the ingredients on Amazon. To find more natural ingredients you can use to make your own skin care products, please visit my Toiletry Making Supplies page.

The following items are easy to find and provide moisturizing benefits that can help alleviate the symptoms of dry skin:

  • Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil:  Few oils are as versatile or as beneficial as organic extra virgin coconut oil. It can be applied to the skin, nails or lips by itself or blended with other ingredients. It makes a wonderful moisturizer! My favorite coconut oil is made by Tropical Traditions. If you have never tried their coconut oil, I highly recommend it!
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  • Organic Vegetable Glycerin:  Vegetable Glycerin is a humectant, meaning it pulls moisture out of the air down to the surface of the skin. It is a bit sticky and is therefore best used blended with other ingredients. I recommend only using organic glycerin, as the vegetables used to make non-organic glycerin are often genetically-modified and coated with potentially harmful chemicals. Glycerin has the unusual trait of warming the skin when blown on. For that reason it is a popular ingredient in many adult products. It is a very beneficial moisturizer in spite of that.
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  • Unrefined Cocoa Butter:  Cocoa Butter is a fantastic moisturizer which also forms a barrier that protects the skin against wind, moisture and other drying elements. Cocoa Butter is very hard at room temperature but melts on contact with the skin. It can be used alone or blended with other butters and oils to make a softer blend. (See recipe that follows.) Cocoa Butter smells strongly of chocolate, a fact many people love.
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  • Unrefined Shea Butter:  Unrefined Shea Butter is a fantastic moisturizer that is rich in vitamins and other nutrients known to provide healing benefits to the skin. It is softer than Cocoa Butter, allowing it to be easily spread into the skin. Shea Butter can be used alone or blended with other oils and butters. It is one of my favorite stand-alone moisturizers. It has a slightly smoky odor but can easily be blended with essential oils that will cover the aroma. I recommend only using the unrefined version of Shea Butter, as the refined version is processed to the point that most of its benefits are removed. Be aware that Shea Butter will crystallize if melted at too high a temperature. The crystals do not affect the moisturizing ability of the butter, but will affect the texture. To avoid crystallization, melt or soften the Shea Butter over the lowest temperature possible. You will find it doesn’t have to be softened much to be easily blended with other ingredients.
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  • Jojoba Oil:  Jojoba oil is an amazing oil because its chemical structure almost exactly matches the skin’s own sebum. It is actually not an oil but is a wax that is liquid at room temperature. It is considered one of the best moisturizing oils for skin and hair. Although it may feel a little oily when first applied, it quickly soaks in. It also makes an excellent massage oil and oil for hot oil treatments applied to hair.
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  • Grapeseed Oil:  Grapeseed Oil is another oil that makes a great moisturizer. it is a little bit lighter than Jojoba oil, so some people prefer it. It sinks in quickly and is known to be excellent for “mature” skin.

Recipes 

Super-Simple Cleanser Recipe

Ingredients:

To make a super-simple cleanser that will not dry the skin, blend together:

To use, massage into skin, allow to sit for 30 seconds-1 minute and rinse with warm water. Your skin will be toned, moisturized and cleansed without using harsh cleansers. Feel free to add a few drops of an essential oil of choice if you’d like to enjoy the benefits of the essential oil and a nice fragrance while cleansing. I recommend adding PatchouliLavender or Chamomile essential oils for their known healing benefits for the skin.

Super-Simple Lotion Bar

Ingredients:

Combine oils and butters and melt over very low heat until just blended. (I recommend melting the cocoa butter first and then stirring in the other butters and oils.) Stir well and allow to cool for ten minutes. Then add desired essential oil(s). Pour into molds and allow to cool. (Egg cartons or small yogurt containers make excellent molds.) When cooled and solidified, pop out of the molds and enjoy. These create a solid lotion that melts on contact with the skin. I recommend using a plastic zippy bag for storage and to enable them to be tossed into a purse or put in a pocket. If you want the lotion bars to be harder, add more cocoa butter; if you wish them to be harder, add more jojoba oil. Many nurses swear by these, as they keep their hands soft and moisturized in spite of all the hand washing the nurses do. 

 Base Graphic Courtesy of Ayurveda Samskara