Archive: Digestion

The Power of Cleansing

Well, it’s that time of year again…the days are shorter, the temperature is dropping and the leaves are starting to change. Summer definitely flew by!

For most, summer is a time of indulgence. Barbecues, drinks on the patio or dock, and ice cream are staples of many while at the cottage or camping. The long bright days and warm weather keep us energized and active. Fall is the time for us to prepare for the shorter and colder days of winter, when energy is typically lower and our immune function is greatly depressed. The climate of fall is moderate, which is perfect for a cleanse. If we attempt to cleanse during the extreme heat of summer or the extreme cold of winter; added stress is placed on the body, and we are more likely to get sick or experience unfavourable effects.

Doing a cleanse is ideal to clean out all of the “gunk” that has accumulated over the previous season/year and to get our bodies tuned up for winter. Unfortunately, we are exposed to toxins in our food (pesticides, herbicides), water, cosmetics, body care products, plastic products and in the air that we breathe. In Chinese medicine, fall is the time when the lung and large intestine are most active. If we don’t clean out the toxins from the body before winter, we are more susceptible to illnesses in these organs, such as colds, the flu, bronchitis, asthma flare-ups, and digestive concerns. Not only can a cleanse help to boost energy levels and mood, clear up skin issues, resolve digestive problems, and jumpstart metabolism and weight loss, it will also give the immune system a much-needed boost to prevent those dreaded colds and flus that commonly start as the temperatures drop.

A cleanse typically involves at least 2–3 weeks of dietary changes to give the body a rest from foods that are harder to digest and have negative effects in the body. You will most likely need to cut out all gluten, dairy, non-organic meat, peanuts, shellfish, corn, soy, alcohol, added sugar in any form, artificial colours and flavours, preservatives, and caffeine (except for green and white tea in some cases). Foods that may be avoided include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and mushrooms (as they can cause inflammation in the body). It is advisable to discuss your individualized food plan with your Naturopathic Doctor to ensure you are getting the appropriate nutrients.

In addition to dietary changes during the cleansing period, it is beneficial to include homeopathic remedies, herbs and nutrients to support the body’s detoxification pathways. Be sure to consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner (such as a Naturopathic Doctor), as we all are unique and require different supplements for proper detoxification. The Naturopathic Doctor will make sure that what you are taking will not interact with any medications you take or any conditions you may be suffering from. He or she will also focus on where you need the most support. Some patients may need extra fibre and herbs to help eliminate through the liver and digestive tract, others may need more support for the kidney, lung or lymphatic system. It is really important to make sure you are cleansing in the right ways. If done improperly, you can activate and accumulate toxins in your body, when the goal is to eliminate them completely. Following the right meal plan and cleansing protocol are needed to make sure you reap the most benefits and avoid any negative side effects.

Expect to feel a little cranky and agitated in the first several days. You may notice some digestive changes, mild headaches and some fatigue. After about 3–5 days, you may notice that your energy levels have increased, your mood has improved, and your body is more balanced. Your body and mind will be better suited to deal with the harsh days of winter.

Here are some easy ways to gently detoxify on a daily basis. For a complete and individualized cleanse, please consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner for the best results.

  1. Avoid exposure to toxins in the first place.Eat organic producelow-mercury fish and organic/free-range meats whenever possible. Make sure the cosmetics you are using are safe, limit your use of plastic, and ensure you are drinking pure water and breathing clean air.
  2. Fresh lemon or lime in water 5 minutes before meals.This sounds too simple to help, but the sourness of the lemons and limes really help the liver to detoxify and get the digestive juices flowing.
  3. Sweat it out.Many toxins can be eliminated through our sweat. Plus, exercise has so many other wonderful benefits. Detoxifying is just one more great reason to get out there and get active!
  4. End your shower with 30 seconds to 1 minute of cold water.This stimulates circulation and lymphatic flow to help move toxins out.
  5. Get enough fibre.We eliminate toxins through our bowel movements. If you are constipated, the toxins can be reabsorbed into the body. Increase your consumption of hemp hearts, salba or chia seed, ground flaxseeds, sweet potatoes, and vegetables. Ensure you are having at least one complete bowel movement a day, ideally 2–3 per day.
  6. Drink enough water.Our kidneys are a major route of elimination, so it is important to stay hydrated. Aim for approximately 2–3 L of water per day, more if you are sweating and exercising intensely.
  7. Breathe deeply.Our lungs are a major detoxifying organ. It is important to take complete breaths to fill the lungs with fresh air and to exhale any airborne toxins, including carbon dioxide. Make sure you breathe using your abdominal muscles and diaphragm for maximal effects. Inhale for four counts, hold for four counts and then exhale for four counts.
  8. Deal with emotional issues.Toxins are not only found in our external environment. The body produces toxins as byproducts of many metabolic processes. Negative emotions also act as toxins in the body, impairing hormone balance and interfering with normal physiological functions. Anger, sadness, jealousy and resentment are all emotional toxins that need to be dealt with. Make sure you journal, talk about your feelings, and/or see a psychologist or psychotherapist to work through these emotions.

With these small changes and an individualized cleansing protocol from your licensed healthcare practitioner, you will be well on your way to a healthier and happier you!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

We Can All Use a Little Spice in Our Lives: Why Not Ginger?

Ginger, oh how I love thee…

This root, I find, is underutilized and overlooked for some reason. It offers a vast array of health benefits, from boosting immune system function, and reducing pain and inflammation to reducing gas, bloating, nausea and digestive upset. It is cheap, and full of potassium, magnesium, copper, vitamin B6, manganese and gingerols, which are powerful anti-inflammatory substances.

It is a carminative, which means it reduces gastrointestinal upset, as well as an intestinal spasmolytic, meaning it reduces spasms and cramping in the digestive system. It has been shown to prevent or reduce the symptoms of sea-sickness, as well as to reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women.

It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and reduces the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. If you are suffering from knee pain or a sport’s injury, it can help you recover faster and reduce your suffering.

Who wouldn’t benefit from ginger?

Ginger is a warming herb and supports healthy sweating. It boosts immune system function, and can help prevent colds, flus and sore throats. If you do get sick, ginger can reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms. It is great to drink in a tea (see recipe below) on a cold winter’s day, but you can also prepare it as an iced tea to refresh and replenish you after a hot day in the sun.

And it tastes great, too! It’s pungent and spicy flavour kicks up any meal several notches, and you get the added benefits to your health as well.

You can chop it up and add it to stir-fries to bring out some heat, or you can put it in the water that you are using to steam broccoli. Simply peel a 1- to 2-inch cube of ginger (with a spoon is easiest), slice it up, add it to a pot of water, bring to a boil, then place the steam basket with the broccoli in it on top. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat and simmer for about 5–10 minutes until the broccoli is done to your liking. If you are using organic broccoli, you can even use the leftover ginger water for ginger tea (see recipe below).

Here is a recipe for a Ginger, Honey and Lemon Tea. It is one of my favourites to drink when I am starting to feel sick, when I am feeling run down and cold in temperature, or if I am sore after a long, hard workout or run. You can drink it iced in the summer. Prepare as instructed below, let it cool in a glass jug on the counter and then put it in the fridge.

Ginger, Honey and Lemon Tea

1–2 inch cube of fresh ginger root

1/3 fresh lemon, sliced

Boiling water

Honey, to taste (optional)

Add slices of ginger to a pot, measure out 2–3 mugs of water and pour into the pot with the ginger. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add honey, squeeze the juice of the lemon into the mug, and then add the lemon slices as well. Pour in the hot ginger tea, then enjoy! You can drink this tea with the ginger root and lemon slices still in the mug, or can strain if you prefer.

Here is an even quicker and easier recipe, if you are feeling lazy:

Peel and slice the fresh ginger root. Place in a mug. Pour boiling water over the ginger slices and squeeze the juice of the lemon into the mug. Add the lemon slices to the mug. Allow it to steep for 3–5 minutes. Add honey to taste.

Aim to drink 2 cups a day.

Drink up and enjoy!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.