Detox Your Liver for Vitality

Your liver is frequently under appreciated, yet is one of the most important organs in your body! The liver has hundreds of different functions, two of the primary being to store vital nutrients for your body and to filter and breakdown chemicals that would otherwise be harmful to our bodies. As our world has become more industrialized, we are now more commonly exposed to both natural and unnatural substances that our livers must filter. These substances can come from a variety of sources, be it chemicals (pesticides, industrial chemicals, solvents, toiletries etc.), drugs and medications, or poor diet (including alcohol, caffeine, and sugar). Exposure to these substances can lead to your liver being overburdened, and an overburdened liver can lead to chronic fatigue, allergies, improper digestion of food, body aches, headaches, brain fog, depression, and fatty liver disease. Some, including myself, argue that an overtaxed liver will result in a toxic body, promoting the ideal environment for almost all chronic diseases and disorders!

There are a number of options to consider when it comes to finding a protocol to help detoxify and cleanse your liver. Some protocols are more extreme than others, so always choose the option you feel most comfortable with. Small changes in your lifestyle can have a dramatic effect on how you feel and your quality of life. That being said, some of the more ‘extreme’ options can be more effective than other ‘less extreme’ options.

Diet and exercise are the foundation of a quality life and is one of the most important protocols for keeping your liver in tip-top shape. Processed foods lack essential nutrients your body requires to function optimally — this includes allowing your liver to work its magic and keep your body clean! Additionally, most processed foods contain preservatives in the form of chemicals, which put a great strain on your liver to eliminate. Usually, they also contain sugar, another substance your liver must eliminate. Keep your foods as simple and whole as possible to provide yourself with the most amount of nutrients, and test yourself for food intolerances and allergies — these foods can put an enormous strain on your entire body, not just your liver. Be sure to include high quality fats in your diet, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or even butter! Your liver works in conjunction with your gallbladder, the organ responsible for digesting fats. If you give your body the proper fats it needs, your gallbladder will release bile for digestion. The magic is that bile is actually created from the toxins your liver removes from your body! Limiting or eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and sugar consumption will also take tremendous strides in detoxifying your liver.

Milk Thistle

Herbs and cleansing foods are another facet to consider to detoxify your liver. Milk thistle is one of the most well known and well researched herbs when it comes to aiding and cleansing your liver. It contains numerous antioxidants and compounds that not only help your liver function more optimally, but also help prevent your liver from absorbing any dangerous compounds it filters while it works. Two other herbs include artichoke and dandelion, both which have been used for thousands of years to promote better digestion and aid the liver. These three herbs can be found at health food stores in whole, capsule, or tincture form, and are frequently placed together in various tonics. Adding specific foods known to help cleanse the liver can also be a great asset to liver detox. Such foods include dark leafy greens, including the three herbs above in their whole form, other green vegetables (such as cabbage and asparagus), garlic, turmeric, citrus fruit, carrots, beets, and apples in their various form. Apples contain two important substances for helping to detox the liver: pectin, a form of soluble fiber, and malic acid, which can help fat digestion and help break down gallstones in your gallbladder.

Dandelion

Liver cleanses and fasting are the more ‘extreme’ methods of detoxifying your liver, and different variations can also be more ‘extreme’ than others. Such variations can include the olive oil liver cleanse, coffee enemas, apple juice fasting, vegetable juice fasting, and water fasting. Each of these techniques deserves their own post, as each requires its own unique protocol while being conducted. Look for a series of upcoming articles beginning this week, starting with the olive oil liver cleanse!

6 Natural Remedies for the Common Cold

With Fall upon us, the wind arising and the weather changing, now is one of the most common times for people to fall prey to the dreaded common cold. While there are many things you can do to help prevent a cold — like staying active, eating a whole foods diet, and avoid those that already have the cold — what should you do once you actually have the cold? Rather than taking over the counter medications (which do have their place in extreme circumstances), there are many natural and time honored remedies to utilize to ensure you get back on your feet as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that the flu and the cold have similar symptoms, with the flu typically creating a great fever in the body. Both are can be characterized coughing, nasal congestion and runny nose, body aches, headaches, sneezing, and sore throat. Fortunately, most natural remedies that can be used to aid your body in combating the cold can be used to combat the flu, as well.

Rest and sleep are the primary remedies for curing any illness. And while these things may seem like a glaringly obvious remedy to many, we live in an extremely active culture. A cold (or the flu) is a sign that it is time to give our bodies a break, relax a bit, recharge our batteries. Resting allows our body’s immune system to get to work, to attack the opposing bacteria/virus and expose of it as needed. In addition, sleep allows our body to repair itself. Having a cold and sleeping as a remedy can do wonders for your body beyond simply exposing of bacteria — it can make your stronger, more ready to tackle the world once you’re back to your best. So take easy, let your immune system and other organs take care of you.

Fasting is more of an unconventional remedy when it comes to curing a cold and is typically not proscribed by medical professionals. Yet, fasting — obtaining from food for 24-48 hours while you are sick — can take a significant amount of strain off your entire body. Digestion is among the most energy taxing processes in our body, a significant amount of energy is actually required in order to extract energy from the food you eat. By not eating for a short period, this energy can be diverted to the systems in your body where it most required. In this instance, toward your immune system and liver to better defend and dispose of offending organisms. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids while fasting — you may want to consider a juice fast if an full fast proves to be too much for you. Dilute fruit juices with water, or consider using freshly pressed vegetable juices.

Honey has be utilized traditionally in many, many cultures throughout the world as an aid for the flu. Numerous studies have shown that utilizing honey as an aid for an irritated or sore throat, and as a cough suppressant, to be effective, especially for children. While it isn’t completely understood why honey may be beneficial as a natural remedy, its effectiveness is widely attributed honey’s natural antioxidants obtained from the flowers from which bees harvest the pollen, as well as its wide array of natural enzymes. Use honey in moderation, as it is still a sugar.

Garlic, the lovely stinking rose, it a widely touted natural remedy for the common cold. Cultures throughout the world have used garlic in various forms for thousands of years, creating a variety of concoctions to be used as a natural remedy. Modern research attributes garlic’s effectiveness to a molecule called allicin, a potent anti-bacterial and anti-fungal compound that also gives garlic it’s potent kick as an herb. Garlic can be infused into easy to digest foods, such as broths and vegetable soups, but is most potent for fighting a cold in its raw state. Try crushing raw garlic and mixing it in a bit of warm water to make it more palatable, or be daring and eat it whole!

Immune System Boosting Herbs have also been used throughout time to help fight the cold. Three of the most common herbs utilized throughout the world (other than garlic!) are: ginseng, astragalus, and echinacea. In addition to help boost your immune system, all three of these herbs are considered to be adaptogens, herbs that help your body perform better under any form of stress, and thus are excellent to be taken any time. I will be doing a future article on herbs to boost your immune system, and will explain these three herbs in greater detail. Know for now that these three herbs have a long tradition of use, and can be found in pill or tincture form in many health food stores. Tinctures, where the herb’s essence is extracted using alcohol (thus making it more potent), are the easiest form in which to take these. Try adding a small amount to a class of water — you may start to feel a difference immediately!

No natural remedy list for the cold would be complete without Vitamin C! While it is best to obtain Vitamin C naturally from nutrient rich food, such as from Vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables (Oranges, Bell Peppers, Strawberries, Cabbage, etc.), when sick, it may be of some benefit to supplement yourself with some extra Vitamin C! Vitamin C can be found easily over the counter and almost any drug store, market, or health food store. Try adding a couple thousand milligrams to your repertoire when sick. In addition, Vitamin C has been shown to help rebuild your adrenal glands, which help manage stress in your body — you may even find your ability to cope with stress and illness increase after being sick!

Self Testing for Food Allergies and Intolerances

Many common ailments that affect us can be linked to either a food allergy or an intolerance that go (mostly) unnoticed. Headaches. Flatulence. Poor bowel movements. Lethargy. Fatigue. Depression. Sudden weight gain. There are numerous indicators; many can be common among multiple people, but they can also vary on an individual basis. An allergy, an intolerance, or a sensitivity to a food all have one thing in common, however: once they are removed, a greater sense of well-being returns.

A food allergy differs from a food intolerance. A true food allergy can be measured by your doctor through a blood test. This test is conducted by measuring your immune system’s response by accounting for the amount of allergy antibodies in your blood, called immunoglobulin E (IgE), in response to an administered food. A high level of IgE indicates an allergy. Often, however, our bodies will not create a full immune response when a food is ingested or placed into our bodies, and thus these tests are not always accurate. A food intolerance can be a mild, prolonged immune response that is otherwise undetectable, but can also be a digestive system response. Both hamper your body’s ability to function at optimal levels. Common food allergies and sensitivities include foods such as grains, gluten (a unique protein in wheat, barley, and other grains), soy, milk (both the proteins and lactose), eggs, tree nuts, and peanuts (it’s really a legume!).

There are three common ways to self test for a food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity:

The Pulse Test is on the fastest and easiest ways you can see if you potentially have a food allergy or intolerance. Your pulse can be taken anywhere you can feel your pulse best, or have someone take it for you!

  • Upon rising and after being awake for about an hour, take your pulse for 60 seconds. This will give you your average resting pulse rate.
  • Just before a meal, relax and again take your pulse rate for 60 seconds. If you have been quite active throughout the day, later in the day it may be higher than usual. If it is higher, note that it is higher, but still keep in mind what your average resting pulse rate is. Then, chow down!
  • 30, 60, and 90 minutes after the meal, again take your pulse rate. It is important not to take your pulse immediately after eating, as your body is sending extra blood to your stomach to begin digestion, creating an increase in your heart beat. If the rate ranges at least 10 beats more than your resting pulse rate, you may have a food sensitivity to a food you ate. Create a journal and write down what you ate if this is the case (more on this below!)
  • The next step is to isolate all the foods you ate when you note an increase in your heart rate. Test them systematically with the same process as above. Any food with a continued elevated heart rate may pose to be problematic for your body, and may be best removed from your diet. You may want to try an elimination diet for this food. More on this below, as well!

Keeping a Food Journal is one of the most effective ways of tracking foods that may pose potential problems for allergies or intolerance. At its basis, it is simply logging all foods you take in over any given period of time, and also logging how to feel after you eat. Log how you feel immediately after eating, shortly after (30,60,90 minutes), before you go to bed, and when you wake up the next day. If symptoms such as headache, lethargy, dizziness, sneezing, body ache, or any symptom you might find peculiar or curious (even if you experience it all the time!), write it down! Try eating similar foods, and see if the same symptoms occur. As with the Pulse Test, you will want to try isolating each food and log how you feel in reaction to each. If and when you find a reaction, you may want to avoid this food entirely or try…

The Elimination Diet. This diet can also be referred to as a rotation diet, and is best utilized in conjunction with a food journal. Elimination diets can vary, but at their core they follow a simply procedure:

  1. Eliminate all foods from your diet that you believe may be causing your trouble, OR reduce your diet down to basic foods that are unlikely to cause most people trouble: fruits, vegetables, lightly cooked meats (if you eat them), and easily digestible grains (primarily white rice).
  2. Log how you are feeling in your food journal. Simply by reducing potential problematic foods and following a more simply diet, many people will note an increase feeling of well being. Be specific in your food journal. How do you feel? What is your mental energy like? Your physical energy? What are you not feeling?
  3. Slowly reintroduce potential problematic foods to your diet, one at a time, and keep them in their most simple form. For example, if you think soy may pose a problem, try eating some soybeans or tofu rather than a processed soy product. Note in your journal how you feel immediately after eating, and again before bed and the following morning.
  4. If you find you react to a certain food, you may want to avoid it for a while again, and then try reintroducing it once or twice more. If you continue to find you react to the food, it is probably best to eliminate it entirely. However, frequently an intolerance can develop from eating a food too often. By eliminating some foods for a prolonged period of time, you may find you tolerate it again at a later time. Try reintroducing it slowly, however.

Food allergies and intolerance can develop for many reasons. Sometimes our bodies are simply incapable of processing a specific food properly. Other times, various conditions can trigger our bodies to create an intolerance, such as emotions, stress, or even eating a specific food too frequently. It is always important to be mindful of the food we eat and the mental state in which we eat them. Choose your foods wisely, respect the signals your body gives you.