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Posts Tagged ‘digestion’

Ah the cleanse is over. Sort of! After doing such a nice job of cleaning up our insides, we couldn’t exactly jump right back in to eating everything we ate before. What a waste that would be! Not to mention rough on the digestion after it had such a nice, long break. I ended my vegetable cleanse with a gentle gravity colonic so I think I put my colon through enough exercise without adding a sudden rush of all sorts of food right away.

Ah yes, I really did a colonic. They sound intimidating but if you go to the right practitioner they are a relaxing, soothing and rewarding experience. I felt great afterwards! While doing a cleanse without finishing it off with colon therapy is not a waste, it makes sense to me to get out all of those toxins. I’d cleaned up all that trash in my system, so I wanted to be sure to clear it out from my body. Otherwise you run the risk of getting all that garbage out of your cells and letting it stagnate inside you. I went to Kim at Nadha Brahma and she was fantastic.

photo by graur codrin

My biggest focus was to make sure I drank tons of water. During the cleanse and definitely after the colonic! The first food I brought back was quinoa. I felt like I needed some more texture and specifically I was craving a bit of grains. But grains tend to give me problems so I stuck with only quinoa. It was definitely time to add some fat back in to my diet – my skin was getting really dry – so I started using some olive oil to my raw veggies and coconut oil to the cooked ones. I’ve never had issues with nuts so I added them back in too. Finally, I really missed fish so I had some last night with dinner. And I’m back! There isn’t much more to add.

photo by Salvatore Vuono

One other thing to note is the importance of chewing. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but especially after a cleanse and colonic you want to help your digestion out by doing your part!

One thing I am trying to be careful about is something that I adhered to during my cleanse. The rules of food combining can be extremely helpful for your digestion. Basically, you never combine nuts, starches or meat and dairy in one meal. Any of those categories can be eaten with vegetables but not with eat other. For example, if you have vegetables with your fish, you wouldn’t want to eat grains too. Fruits are only meant to be eaten on an empty stomach so they are best in the morning and not for the rest of the day.

You may not be interested in getting this vigilant, but I find it really helps me. Plus, it’s not that far from how I have been eating anyway. In case you’re intrigued, here’s a quick rundown of the reasoning behind the rules. First of all, fruit breaks down much faster than any other food. So when you add another food at the same time, it causes the fruit to stick in your system longer even though it’s broken down and thus it starts to ferment. Not something helpful to have sitting around in your gut! Also, different types of food are broken down by different groups of enzymes. For instance, when you eat meat you secrete pepsin to digest it; when you eat grains your system sends out an amylase to break them down. Send out both of these at the same time and they neutralize each other, making it difficult to digest properly.

photo by Arvind Balaraman

Doing a cleanse is a great time to experiment with an elimination diet. In other words, reintroduce foods one by one to see how your digestion reacts. I’ve done this in the past and it’s what led to me finally discovering which foods were responsible for my digestive troubles. To narrow it down it might help to focus on the common contributors to health issues – dairy, eggs, gluten, peanuts and tree nuts, shellfish and other fish and soy. Of course if there are any other foods that you have ever thought might not agree with you, try to add these in one at a time as well. As for things like processed, packaged foods, refined sugar and flour and the like… it’s safe to say we don’t need to add those back in at all!

Time for a run!

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That’s not quite accurate. Diary of a mostly raw fruit and vegetable cleanse. Much better, right?! 7 days of fruits and vegetables, piece of cake!

photo by Suat Eman

Cleanses seem to be a big topic these days. You see people with their Organic Avenue or BluePrintCleanse juice bottles everywhere you turn. Some people are aggressively, and I mean aggressively, against them, some people swear by them, some people try them out of curiosity (especially lately with all the attention they are getting) and some to lose weight. Personally, I wouldn’t say you need to do them regularly to be healthy but I do think they can be a great addition to a healthy diet. And while the pre-packaged juices are convenient (I like Organic Avenue best), you can pretty easily make your own at home.

Ideally, you would get all the right nutrients in the right ratios and whatnot. Certain vegetables in unique combinations to get a variety of vitamins and minerals and some nut milk to add fat, etc. Really when you are embarking on a three- or five-day cleanse, you don’t need to be that worried. As long as you follow a healthy diet overall, you will get the nutrients you need. The cleanse is supposed to give your digestive system a rest so your body can devote its energy to repairing the rest of your body. If you don’t get the right amount of Omega 3’s for this short period, it’s not going to harm you. (Of course, if you are currently underweight or have a known health concern you should consult your doctor or refrain from doing a juice cleanse.)

My Best Friend

There are plenty of ways to go about cleansing, it doesn’t have to be juice-only. You could just eliminate certain things from your diet, like common allergens or all white forms of sugar for example. Or you could eat only raw vegetables until dinner and then eat a healthy, balanced cooked meal. There are tons of options! I am not going to get into the specifics of how and why to cleanse here – it would need to be a series of entries! But let me just say I think it can be very beneficial if done right.

After seeing Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, my husband agreed to do a cleanse. It’s an inspiring movie, I recommend it if you haven’t yet. Of course, without hesitation, I jumped on top of his willingness! Seeing him not eat pizza or burgers or heavy foods for an entire 7 days? Sign me up! In the movie, Joe Cross lives on nothing other than smoothies for 60 days. That’s way too extreme for us – let’s just say Joe had a lot more ‘stored energy’ than we do. But to keep things simple and free of lots of complicated rules, we stuck to the raw fruit- and vegetable-only idea. It’s not the most balanced but it’s easy and gives our digestive systems a nice break. Juices, smoothies and good ol’ chopped up raw produce. Our friend Kathy just recently found out she has cancer so we decided to do the cleanse in her honor. If she can fight that beast and keep up her amazing positive attitude, the least we can do is a quick cleanse!

Today begins Day 5 already, I can’t believe it! The first couple days I was a bit tired and had a slight headache, not to mention a rumbly stomach. My husband, who was missing coffee and tends to eat a much heavier diet than I do on a regular basis, was suffering a little more. By the end of Day 3 we were so sick of raw produce. It was 7, 7:30, and then 8 pm and we were still sitting around saying we were hungry but couldn’t get motivated to eat any more vegetables. There was no way we were going to make it through 4 more days. We almost threw in the towel. Veggie sushi rolls across the street at Whole Foods was calling my name.

Out of desperation, at the last minute we decided we would add in some cooked vegetables and WOW I can’t tell you how good they tasted to us! Steamed vegetables with a bit of garlic and thyme? I would never have found this so exciting in the past. Not a trace of oil or salt? Boring! Our taste buds seem to be re-adjusted, which is reason enough on its own to do a cleanse in my opinion. When you eat foods with extra salt and sugar your taste buds start to need these things to find foods satisfying – but salt and sugar make you want more salt and sugar. Without them, we are finding so much pleasure in the natural taste of foods and able to stop eating when our bodies tell us they are full. There’s no getting confused by our heads telling us they want more even though our bellies are busting.

I’m totally rejuvenated and thrilled to be eating this way – not feeling trapped or limited at all! Day 4 I had tons of energy and continue to feel that way this morning. Tons! No help from caffeine or sugar or any other stimulant. Mr. Honey B is feeling great too!

It will be nice to add some fat soon, as my face is getting very dry. This way of eating is way too restrictive and missing in nutrients to continue for much longer, but it’s great for now. My digestion is loving it! Husband is almost giddy with his success in this department too – who knew I would be getting such details!? For two people who tend to have issues (and differing ones, at that) with this when not eating carefully, this is quite an achievement!

Come back in a couple of days to hear how the rest of the cleanse went! I’ll also talk about food combining, colonics and how to end a cleanse and re-introduce foods back into your diet.

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The honeymoon, that is! Yep, we’re back! And not 100% thrilled about it, what with the drastic weather change and the reality of going back to work, but… it’s the Year of the Rabbit and it’s going to ROCK! In no small part due to its strong start – what better way to kick off a year than spend over a month with your favorite person in the world exploring new continents and NOT worrying about your day job? It sounds obvious but a good dose of vacation does wonders for your health, both mentally and physically. The nuts part is that people we met along our travels weren’t the least bit shocked by our adventure – only in the US is it outrageous to take more than a few days holiday at one time. I gotta say, my body has never been happier.

It’s never really been a secret that I prefer 80+ degree weather to sub-freezing temps and heaps of snow. (I mean really, what better way is there to eat a meal than this?) Most of the health- and fitness-related lessons from the trip were equally unsurprising, but it was nice to put theory into practice and see that I actually know what I’m talking about and can follow my own advice.

Lesson #1: I work out most days in general, but on the honeymoon getting to the gym was not my top priority, and rightly so. We went a few times and also got in some great outdoor runs, but mostly we just did a ton of walking. And wow did we cover a lot of hills! On most days here at home, we sit at work all day and then hopefully get an hour or so of gym time. My body was much happier with the constant movement. And I hardly even noticed I was exercising because it was fun, not something I was forcing myself to do! (That’s key to keeping it up.) But what can you do, we have to work to make a living and most jobs tend to be sedentary. At least we can make an effort to break it up a bit. I can’t tell you how much your body will appreciate it! Try to get up every hour or so and walk around, or go for a brisk walk outside. How can you expect everything to function properly when you sit all day – if you are stagnant, your insides are going to be stagnant too (if ya know what I mean!)

The view at the top was worth it!

Lesson #2: Eat real food! (“Not too much. Mostly plants.”) I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Don’t eat stuff out of boxes. Don’t eat low-fat, sugar-free adulterated garbage, just eat real fruits and vegetables! I barely had any dairy while we were away but the very little I had was full-fat, regular milk. (In Japan I had a few soy lattes and wow was their soy milk better than ours in the states!) In any case, we didn’t find the fake stuff so easy to come by – not that we would have wanted it. Look at this delicious real meal – best sushi I’ve ever had! Note the not-huge portion size.

And look at how tiny this restaurant was!

OK I’ll admit this traditional Japanese breakfast left a little to be desired.

But dinner the night before was amazing!

Lesson #3: Take your time at meals, enjoy the company and focus on what you’re eating. It’s so easy to eat in front of the TV at night and not really pay attention to the fact that you happen to be shoveling food in your face. We tend to eat way too fast. Often while we’re on the go, running from one place to the next. When you’re forced to eat out at restaurants almost every night, watching TV isn’t usually an option. Relax, slow down so your food can digest and enjoy the person you are sitting with. What’s the rush!

Lesson #4: Eat at home! Good God, after all the restaurant-eating we were dying for home-cooked food. Thankfully we had a few visits with friends and family along the way, so we were able to get our fix. I really missed the ability to eat clean and make the things I want the way I want them. I never knew how much I would crave plain vegetables! Grilling! There isn’t enough space in this blog, or your attention span, to begin to describe all the benefits of making your own meals. Have fun with it! Even if you don’t think you are a good cook, it can be so great to experiment – we all have to learn somewhere. Make the effort to choose organic vegetables, humanely-raised meat. It’s much more satisfying to eat when you’ve gone to all the work of preparing everything. I can’t tell you how thrilled we were to get to my cousin’s house and find a whole salmon in the sink.

Lesson #5: Be thankful for what you have. 🙂

Happy New Year!! The year of the rabbit is my year so I plan to make it ridiculously good. And why not?

 

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As someone with a whole lot of digestive trouble, it’s a good thing I went in to Nutrition. Who knows if I would ever have figured out (and solved) the issue! And thankfully this has come in handy with clients, as digestion seems to be a very popular enemy these days. Go figure, with all the crummy processed food out there. Not to mention the things sold as food that really, by my definition, don’t qualify! There are soooo many things that can cause an imbalance in your system and the cause is generally a puzzle. People are plagued with these problems for years or even decades because they can’t get to the source of them. (Come see me!)

In any case, one of the most interesting things I noticed with my own experience was not something I was expecting. I’ve tended to be a creature of habit – actually not really, but I definitely have been where food is concerned! I would go through phases where I would eat the SAME EXACT thing for breakfast. EVERY day. Sometimes I would even crave it again for dinner! This can be (though is certainly not always!) a sign of a food allergy. For one reason or another your body can become addicted to something and by the time you wake up in the morning, after hopefully several hours of sleep, you are practically suffering from withdrawals! I had a pancake phase, a toast with nut butter phase… there have been a few iterations. No matter how much I told myself the night before that some healthy kale would be a welcome change, I would wake up the next morning with no power over the usual starchy craving.

In the course of my return to health, one of the things I did was temporarily give up a lot of the foods that I craved and the foods I believed were causing me problems – wouldn’t you know there was a lot of overlap! It was tough at first, but it quickly got a lot easier. And by the time my gut started to heal and things began to work properly, I realized something. I craved variety for the first time I can remember. If I had something for breakfast one morning, I would not want it again for a few days. This forced me to come up with a variety of different things to eat which, of course, provides a variety of nutrients for a healthy body. One day it would be egg whites and veggies, another veggies and nuts with yogurt and another day oats with all sorts of fun stuff thrown in. And on and on.

To bring a long story to an overdue conclusion… this is the way it’s supposed to be! You need to eat a VARIETY of foods at every meal. Try not to eat the same thing twice within a 4-5 period. Whatever makes you include veggies, go for it, I am not going to complain – but if you can, try to eat different ones each day and throughout each day. And if you are craving the same thing day in and day out, well… you might want to think about why!

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A calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie. 50 calories of gummi bears is very different from 50 calories of vegetables, and I don’t just mean the way they taste. Are you someone who pays more attention to how many calories you are eating than where those calories are coming from? It’s OK if you count calories if that’s what you need to do to help you lose weight or maintain it, but there are a few other things that are crucial to consider.

You need to make sure you are eating a wide variety of foods, this is the only way you can hope to get all the nutrients your body needs. Your body needs vitamins and minerals, it needs fat, protein and carbohydrates, it even needs specific types of fat, protein and carbs. There is also the consideration of what happens to the calories you eat once they enter your system. This is why I urge you to eat REAL FOOD. Sure, there may be less calories in the fake version, but how much better off are you if you eat less calories and slow down your metabolism? Not much and maybe worse!

Cheaters never prosper, right? You can’t fake out your body by eating the diet version, it all evens out in the end. Just like if you cheat in a workout – who really loses when you aren’t getting in to the shape you want or don’t seem to be getting stronger? Well it works the same way with food. You can eat a nonfat version or you can go for real butter – one has less calories but it also slows your metabolism, not to mention a host of other issues it causes. That’s not going to help you lose weight and be healthy in the long run!

We are what we eat! Our brain is made of fat, as are our cells, proteins make up the enzymes we need to break down food and the neurotransmitters that serve as the communication system for our whole body, hormones are made from things such as protein and even cholesterol and so on. Do you want to have your body made up of fake ingredients like preservatives and additives and chemicals that don’t let your system function properly?

When you eat artificial sweeteners, they can’t communicate with your brain to let you know you’re full, they can’t balance out your level of insulin – basically they make you just want to eat more. The oils that get processed into margarine and similar “foods” just deplete vitamins and minerals you need from your body, create free radicals that give you even bigger problems, create a mess of your digestive system… nothing good, let’s put it that way!

In any case, you need fat for your body to work right. It’s good for you! As long as you are eating mostly good ones. I think we’ve all heard about the dreaded trans fats by now and there is no amount of those that is small enough to call healthy. Yet another benefit of REAL food – no labels to deceive you! (Trans fats can be included without mention on the label as long as they don’t exceed a certain amount. So guess what, the portion size just gets reduced so the trans fats don’t need to be mentioned!)

So, eat food! Real food!

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What is the single best thing you can do for your health? Hire a Health Coach, of course! Ha, gotcha. No really… it’s making sure your digestion is on track and working properly. Most of your immune system is located around your gut. How else would most of the things that make you sick get in, right? Through your mouth! You breathe, you eat, you drink… you get the picture.

Well, it’s surprising how many people suffer from poor digestion. It’s not always as hard to fix as you might think. And it is well worth the effort! The lining of you gut determines what gets absorbed into your body and what gets eliminated. Ideally, you want the vitamins, minerals, molecules of healthy fat, etc. to get in and the bad guys like toxins and bad bacteria to stay out. To make a long story relatively short and readable, you need a few basic things.

Well first of all, you need a strong supply of enzymes to break down foods so they can be absorbed properly. These come mostly from raw fruits and vegetables. Our diets tend to be full of things that wipe out enzymes, so you need to get enough to overcome this abuse. Digestive enzyme supplements can be easily bought to help you get on track (but you, of course, might want to do this with the help of a Health Coach).

You want to make sure you have a full supply of good bacteria. You get this from things like yogurt and fermented foods and if you need extra help you can take a probiotic supplement.

The best food on the planet and probably the one most lacking in our diets is the leafy green. Popeye knew what he was talking about. Spinach, kale, the whole lot of them. Get as many of these inside of you as possible. If you like them raw, even better! Green juice is a popular way to do this, but I think it’s best to make sure you also get them in their solid form because…

Fiber is crucial to proper digestion. Of course it is! Where do we get fiber? Well, leafy greens for one! All sorts of other fruits and vegetables in their non-juice form. Whole grains are a fantastic source as well but some or all of them tend to give some people problems, so pay attention to how they make you feel. Beans as well. One thing to note about beans and grains is that soaking them will make them a lot easier to digest. I never cook them without first soaking them for as long as possible. (It helps get rid of the phytic acid but that’s a conversation for another time.)

Thirsty? Water is probably the easiest AND mot important element to this whole digestion conundrum. I think you know where to get that.

Let’s not forget essential fats, otherwise known as Omega 3’s. They are, well, essential for healthy digestion. Everyone can benefit from a supplement. The best source is wild fish and lots of it. You can get it from nuts like walnuts, but it’s not as easy for our bodies to use. I take a fish oil supplement every day.

Of course this list is not exhaustive. There’s stress, eating too fast, a never-ending list. But we covered the basics The gut is a massive territory with a whole lot of room for complication. If you feel like you do everything right but you still have issues (you know that they are!) then you can take further action like an elimination diet or even get tests of your blood and stool samples. And yes… working with a professional is advised!

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