This time of year is so beautiful with everything in bloom. For some people, the arrival of the blooms also means the arrival of seasonal allergies. When seasonal allergy symptoms kick in many people will report they feel sick and have symptoms such as watery, stinging and congested eyes, sinus congestion, nasal discharge, sore throat, aches and pains in joints and muscles and an overall sense of fatigue. Many people just feel "sick." So, what can be done about seasonal allergies? Next month we will have a feature article about all the ways you can deal with these, but here are some tips to get you started:
During spring, nature goes through the lovely process of renewal. Cleansing and detoxification is a gentle and effective way to bring the energy of renewal into our own lives. Spring cleaning is more than just detoxifying the body, it can also mean avoiding toxins in our thoughts and emotions, as well as our environment. Below are some gentle and safe ways to bring the energy of spring cleaning into your life, from the inside out.
Cleansing the Body
Our bodies are exposed to toxins on a daily basis from the air we breathe to the products we use. There are several body systems that help us eliminate these toxins such as our liver, our kidneys, and even our sweat. But, these systems can get overwhelmed and often need a little help and support. This is often referred to as doing a “detoxification.” Modern living can bring us into contact with so many toxins that everyone could use a good detox, especially in the spring!
Detoxification is the process of reducing the amount of toxins that we are exposed to in order to rest the detoxification pathways in the body, as well as encourage the release of toxins that are stored in the body. There are a variety of methods for detoxing the body. Most consist of resting the body by eliminating solid foods for a short time and instead consuming cleansing foods such as special broths, juices, teas, herbs or supplements. After the cleansing period is over, a very clean diet is slowly reintroduced.
It is important to seek the assistance of a Naturopathic Doctor for any detoxification. Several hidden factors can complicate a detox if undertaken without professional help such as blood sugar issues, or if a person has been exposed to heavy metals or other dangerous toxins.
Cleansing the Environment
A clean body will only benefit us so long without the support of a clean environment. There are several sources of toxins in our environment that need to be addressed. The most important is toxins in our food supply. It is important to be eating organic fruits and vegetables, organic meats, non-GMO whole grains, and limit processed foods as these contain dyes, flavor enhancers, preservatives, and other industrial chemicals. Clean water is also a must, including filtered water in non-toxic containers. Glass is the best storage container for water, followed by stainless steel, and BPA-free plastic.
Another area of toxic exposure is in our homes. Household cleaners, laundry products, lawn care chemicals, and bug sprays expose us to numerous chemicals and petroleum based toxins. Even cosmetics, perfumes, shampoos, face washes, deodorants, and toothpastes have chemicals that can disrupt our health. Health food stores offer environmentally-friendly, all-natural products.
Cleansing the Spirit
One overlooked area of detox is our thoughts and emotions. To truly embrace the benefits of a spring clean, we must also look at the mental and emotional environment we live in every day. Chronic stress is one of the most toxic emotions to live with on a daily basis. Not only can it tax the body by stimulating stress hormones, it taxes the spirit and positive mental outlook. Other toxic emotions such as anger, resentment, jealousy, anxiety, and depression need to be dealt with. Naturopathic Medicine helps support more than just your body, it helps support the whole person including one’s emotional state. By working with a Naturopathic Doctor, you can gently release negative emotions and embrace your own innate health and vitality.
Some strategies everyone can use to help support their spring cleaning are deep cleansing breaths, meditation, staying hydrated with clean water and exercising.
Lindlahr, Henry, and Jocelyn C. P. Proby. 1975. Philosophy of natural therapeutics. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel Co.
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Vasey, Christopher. 2009. The Naturopathic Way: How to detox, find quality nutrition, and restore your acid-alkaline balance. Rochester, Vt: Healing Arts Press.
The term “Greens Drink” is used to describe a combination of green vegetables that are blended or juiced into a single drink for their amazing healing and synergistic benefits. These drinks are often green due to the chlorophyll that is released from nourishing foods like spinach and other leafy greens, celery, cilantro, parsley, wheatgrass, algae, and seaweeds. Greens drinks are chock full of vitamins and minerals, many of which work together for better absorption. Because greens drinks are blended, much of the fiber particles are pulverized making nutrition more bioavailable to the body as well as easy to digest. One unique benefit of a greens drink is its high chlorophyll levels, which are very cleansing and detoxifying for the body. Another unique benefit of a greens drink is that it is often low in sugar, depending on the recipe, and won’t spike blood sugar like some fruit juices and smoothies. You can find mixes for greens drinks in your local health food store, though it is recommended that you talk with your Naturopathic Doctor before using a new supplement. The truth is, not all food supplements are created equal. Your ND will help you get the highest quality product to ensure you are getting the best nutrition value for your money. You can also make greens drinks at home in your blender or juicer by adding in some leafy greens, wheatgrass, celery, and other healing foods. Add in some blueberries or stevia to your green smoothie for sweetness that doesn’t spike blood sugar. Blend the ingredients with a liquid base such as green tea, almond milk, filtered water or tomato juice.
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RECIPE: GREENS DRINK
This recipe makes 3 servings of a nourishing greens drink that is high in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein, and cleaning properties. Not only will it help renew the body, it helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. This will keep you satisfied much longer.
• 1/2 cucumber, seeded
• 2 cups torn kale leaves, stems removed
• 1 cup spinach or Swiss chard
• 1 cup parsley, cilantro, dandelion leaves (based on taste)
• 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled
• 2 teaspoons lemon zest
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon raw coconut oil
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree. Drink immediately.
Glutathione is an antioxidant that the body makes naturally. It is used to scavenge free radical damage in the body, which basically means stabilizing cells that have gone rogue. Unfortunately, due to higher levels of oxidative stress on the body from lifestyle, food quality, prescription drugs, emotional trauma, physical stress, and toxins in the environment, the glutathione we make in the body isn’t nearly enough. It gets depleted fast. The good news is that it is also found in fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Supplementing glutathione in your diet can be as easy as eating more foods like cabbage, avocados, garlic, onions, broccoli, kale, collards, cauliflower, and watercress. The best way to boost glutathione levels is through diet because of the way your body processes it. Rather than supplementing with glutathione, it is often better to supplement the building blocks instead to encourage your body to produce more glutathione on its own. For those who can tolerate dairy, a bioactive and non-denatured whey protein can provide the cysteine and amino acids the body needs to produce more glutathione. Other nutrients important in the production of glutathione are B vitamins, selenium, and vitamins C and E. Before supplementing with glutathione, it is important to consult your Naturopathic Doctor for an individual health assessment.
Hyman, Mark. Glutathione: Mother of all Antibiotics. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/glutathione-the-mother-of_b_530494.html
This common garden herb is a wonderful springtime addition to your diet because it is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc. Many cultures use Dandelion as medicine, from the Native Americans to practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. One of its most well-known properties is as a digestive tonic because of the bitter compounds in the leaves. By stimulating digestion, Dandelion leaves can help improve elimination, an essential role for cleansing and detoxifying the body. Dandelion root also promotes healing in the body. The roots are used to support and detoxify the liver and gallbladder, again, aiding the cleansing and renewal of the body. A common way to eat the leaves is to add them to salad for a slight kick. They can be quite bitter so they complement salads with a sweet element like cranberries, raisins and grapes. You can also boil the leaves, changing the water once to reduce the bitter quality, and then add butter, lemon and salt. The root can also be taken in teas and capsules. Before adding any digestive tonics to your diet, it is important to consult your Naturopathic Doctor.
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Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. 2000. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Saunas are rooms with an ambient temperature of around 180 degrees. The heat is created by placing water on very hot stones to release steam. Individuals will visit a sauna for about 10 - 20 minutes at a time to enjoy relaxing and healing benefits. Cultures from around the world have used this healing therapy, from Native American sweat lodges to Finnish steam houses. The heat in a sauna puts the body in a state of hyperthermia, which is a kind of artificial fever that stimulates the immune system. It also increases blood circulation at the surface of the skin, which can help the body release toxins stored in the skin and muscle tissue. The heat stimulates the body to sweat, which releases these toxins out of the body. The wet steam also helps stimulate respiratory detoxification as well. Not only does a sauna help with detoxification, it relaxes the muscles. This can help reduce stress and release endorphins that act as mood enhancers. It also gives the skin a beautiful glow.
Despite these numerous benefits, there are some precautions that must be discussed with your Naturopathic Doctor. For example, anyone with cardiac, kidney or respiratory issues must consult their doctor, and saunas are not to be used when pregnant. It is important to drink plenty of mineral-rich water to help replenish what the body is sweating out. Never stay in a sauna longer than 30 minutes. Try to let your body rest and recover from the heat before doing anything taxing like exercise. And before using an electric or infrared sauna, talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about the possible exposure to EMF. Your doctor can create a custom plan so that you get the most out of using a sauna according to your individual health needs.
Schreiber, James. Discover the Hidden Health Benefits of Saunas. Natural News. http://www.naturalnews.com/031215_sauna_health.html
Ernst, E. et. al. 1990. Regular Sauna Bathing and the Incidence of Common Colds.
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This Daily Habit Can Burn Heavy Metals and Toxic Chemicals Out of Your Body. Mercola.com. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/22/steve-benda-on-saunas-and-emf.aspx