It's that time.
Outside, it's becoming lovely and fresh. On nice days, we open the windows and air out the house. We clean all of the nooks and crannies. We follow nature's lead and freshen up our homes.
Some of us take that a step further and freshen up our lives. Spring is a great time to refocus our intentions, make new plans for the rest of the year, to rejuvenate our bodies and minds.
Like planting seeds in freshly turned soil, Spring rejuvenation is most effective when it comes with a physical cleanse. Turning the inner soil? Ok, maybe that's not a perfect analogy, but I suspect you see where I'm going here.
After months of being indoors, most likely getting less physical activity and eating heavier holiday and cold-weather foods, our body needs a cleanse of its own.
A physical cleanse is greatly enhanced by setting intentions and making goals, by re-prioritizing what matters in your life, or by deepening any spiritual practice you may have. This is also a good time to begin a new fitness routine, begin a creative project, or join in a new club or social gathering. These many addenda to a Spring Cleaning can be a fun way to put yourself back on track to a productive and happy year.
But, the physical Spring Cleaning is the essential, albeit more difficult, part of this rejuvenation.
Jason and I are about to undertake our yearly five day juice fast. I find this to be the most effective way to do a detoxifying cleanse.
Without getting too deep into the science, I will briefly explain how fasting and juicing are a powerful combination.
Fasting, or limiting caloric intake for over 24 hours, has a unique effect on a cellular level. When we eat, our body produces a very important protein called insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. IGF-1 is responsible for the body's ability to make new cells. Important, right? Yes, very. But....
When we stop eating, the body stops making IGF-1. And when IGF-1 is not present, instead of making new cells, the body heals the DNA of our existing cells.
Health science nerds can understand my enthusiasm. DNA damage is responsible for almost all age-related disease, for cancer, and for aging itself.
So by merely abstaining from food for a period of time (greater than 24 hours), we engage this DNA-healing ability in our own bodies. We are essentially giving our bodies the ability to prevent cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, Type 2 Diabetes and much much more.
For more information on the science behind this type of "intermittent fasting", view this article on BBC News about the documentary that began intermittent fasting's growing popularity among the public.
So, fasting is great. But why go through all of the effort to juice produce? You have to buy, it clean it, clean the juicer... well, it's not really all that hard, and it's an essential part of cleansing.
While fasting (consuming only freshly made juices) allows the body to heal cellular DNA, juicing gives the body the tools it needs to cleanse. Produce is loaded with antioxidants. These nutrients are usually hard for us to get out of the plants' cell walls via digestion, but juicing allows us access to much greater amounts of these nutrients by breaking the fibrous plant cells apart for us.
Antioxidants are NEEDED by the liver in order for it to detox. Without antioxidants, no luck. Liver detoxification is how the liver breaks down chemicals we have circulating through our body (in the blood, stored in fat tissue, in lymph, etc) so those chemicals can leave our body. Otherwise, they are trapped inside of us.
That's a long-time accumulation of chemicals: car exhaust, cleaning products, plastic from your water bottle, sulfates in your toothpaste, herbicides on your produce, hormones in your milk, GMO chemicals in your bread, and so on.
An over-burdened liver can be responsible for, or associated with, a wide array of physical problems like being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, immune and autoimmune problems, digestive diseases, fertility and hormonal issues, neurological problems and more.
Giving our bodies a short break, like a five day fast, and including large doses of antioxidants through juicing is a powerful way to allow our livers to "clean house."
Jason and I do five days of fasting only because that is what works best for us. Many people choose to do 3, 7, or even 9 days. We drink lots of well or spring water between our juices, and try and watch inspiring documentaries during times of day when we may normally be entertaining ourselves through cooking and eating.
I highly recommend the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, which you can watch online for free. If you've never wanted to do a juice fast before, you certainly will after watching this inspiring film.
Below, I am attaching a downloadable guide to juice fasting that I shared at our recent Wellness Workshop on detox. Detoxification can be hampered by using the wrong combination of vegetable and fruit juices, so refer to the image for guidelines.
Juice fasting may not be for everyone, especially children, diabetics, and anyone with very serious medical conditions. Otherwise, juice fasting is an incredibly powerful, affordable, and simple way to prevent disease and rejuvenate the body.
If you are interested in learning more about juice fasting and detox in general, give us a call at Radiant Family for a consultation.We're happy to share our knowledge; the more happy and healthy we all are, the better our world will be!
I've experienced a lot of health this past year. It's been great. No illness, great energy levels.
Jason and I really do a pretty good job of keeping ourselves healthy through diet and healthy lifestyle habits. But we're not saints, and we experience challenges too.
Returning to Thailand this January, it was distinctly apparent that I was healthier. Sleeping in my same old bed in Hua Hin, breathing the same air, visiting the same beach, I felt so much healthier.
It was a good reminder of how small things can get overlooked when they become chronic. If not overlooked, at least tolerated.
In years past, my energy levels weren't as good, I frequently caught colds, and had a harder time managing my stress. This time around in Thailand, I felt GREAT. At least, at first.
"Living in Thailand" for a few weeks probably evokes images of coconuts lazily sipped beachside....fresh seafood and lots of tropical fruit. Well, the tropical fruit did happen, but so did loads of MSG, questionable quality bottled water, and harsh chemical bug sprays in the air.
After the first two weeks in Thailand, I noticed I wasn't sleeping after eating meals out--most likely due to the MSG. I began feeling sluggish and a bit tired. My earlier pep and vigor were quickly beginning to wane.
I concluded that more important than the MSG, water, and air coming in, were the healthy habits I abandoned in this different environment. I wasn't using my homemade personal care products, I wasn't eating my home-cooked food, and I wasn't employing any of the numerous healthy habits I keep here at home (other than oil pulling--oil pulling travels well).
I've been using only my own shampoo and hair conditioner for over a year now. I've also been dying my hair with henna and indigo. (For those who are surprised by the dying, I've had greys since I was in my early teens and am mostly white now- I dye my hair every three to four weeks). I use no products in my hair anymore, either.
Although this is only one area of many where I try my best to practice what I preach to keep myself healthy, this is the area that rebelled against my "vacation."
Just after I returned from Thailand, my scalp broke out in painful bumps. Red, painful, thickening, and eventually flaking off. My scalp slowly worsened over the first week I was back until I finally gave in and began treatment. After some self-acupuncture and daily herbal head wraps over night, it's almost completely gone. And, of course, I am back to my good habits.
I've never had any problems with my scalp in the past. Having your head painfully flake off is an unsightly and humbling experience. But it is a great example of one of the body's many possible methods for making its displeasure known.
Eczema, acne, headaches, intestinal symptoms-- there are many avenues for inflammation of express itself. And it is so often experienced by people who are making an effort to become healthier. As anyone who has gone down the rabbit hole of food intolerance knows, when you have avoided something your body does not like, it rebels so much more strongly if you slip back into old habits.
So I write this in solidarity with the chemically-sensitive. I never have been so before. But it is my body's way of reminding me that what was being done before (using chemical-laden hair products and toxic hair dyes) is not something I should ever do again.
Keep continuing on your own personal health crusade, and don't get frustrated when symptoms arise. Every small change we make in the right direction has innumerable effects that can't be seen or felt. Sometimes we pay the price for cleaning up our act, but it's worth the cumulative effect, increasing quality of life and maybe even adding years!
Fly forward into a healthy spring with some educational, empowering and inspiring health workshops from Radiant Family this March. Our workshops will be given at the Merging Rivers Zen Center on three Saturdays. See the flier below for more information.
We have tried to keep our workshops low cost in order to share this information with as much of the community as possible, so please share this flier with anyone you think would benefit! We hope to see you there.
Last week I promised to begin to share some of my favorite habits for keeping myself healthy during the cold and flu season. As mentioned last time, these healthy habits are too great in number for me to dish out all at once. So I'm beginning with three for this week, and more will come.
We all know that we could be doing more to keep ourselves healthy, but that it takes time and willingness to put the effort in to do so. I hope that by sharing a greater number of habits, some of which may be new to you, the number of habits you are likely to adopt will increase.
The key is in finding what resonates with you and what seems likely to fit into your daily life without counter-intuitively casing more stress. So, read on, and look forward to more next week.
I thought I'd start with one of my weirder habits to get your attention.
If you've never heard of oil-pulling, you can read more about it in a very thorough article on oral health written by Jason here. In brief, oil-pulling consists of swishing oil around in your mouth for 15 minutes or so, then spitting it out.
Exciting, I know.
Why would you want to do this?
Our mouths- teeth, gums, tongue, hard and soft palate, and the back of the throat- are a ripe environment for bacterial growth. Gross to think about, but it's true.
Brushing is very important, flossing too, but NOTHING has ever made my mouth feel more clean than oil-pulling. I'm not going to drag you into the details of what oil pulling does for your body. I encourage you to learn more, and if you want to, please read Jason's older article linked above. Oral health affects every corner of our body and is directly tied to numerous chronic diseases.
Specific to our topic, though, a cleaner oral environment means less likelihood of an upper respiratory infection taking hold there. How many of you first notice a head cold as a sore throat? Or swollen, irritated tonsils?
Well, knock on a tree, I have never gotten a sore throat or caught a head cold when I have been consistently oil-pulling. That alone is enough reason for me to continue doing it, but the systemic benefits are overwhelming.
Really, consider swishing some oil around your mouth every morning. The benefits FAR outweigh the effort. A good how-to for oil pulling can be found here.
I have a hard time empathizing with people who don't love sleep. I've met a few people who consider it an inconvenience and even resent that they need it. I LOVE sleep and it's one of my favorite things to do. Sleep is what I find most healing for my body.
If you suffer from insomnia, please forgive me for bragging about the benefits of sleep. And please, if you haven't already, give acupuncture and Chinese herbs a try to help alleviate your sleeplessness.
If you don't have time or the right environment to get enough sleep, then I am so very sorry. I hope you can find as much time as possible for rest, and that you are able to give it as high a priority as possible.
If ever I feel I am coming down with something, and I'm in the position to stop what I'm doing and take a nap (which I admit, is rare), my body will almost always be able to ward off the illness.
Many people put others first, obligate themselves to too many tasks, and then -surprise- they fall ill. Restful times- nightly 8 hours, naps, and quiet time spent doing absolutely nothing- are one of the best preventative medicines against contagious illness.
If it's a possibility for you, make your rest a priority and don't sacrifice it unless necessary.
Summertime in our Northern hemisphere is accompanied by pleasant weather. We spend more time outdoors; we let more fresh air in our households.
As autumn cools, our windows remain closed. As the rain and cold settle in, we avoid being outdoors more than usual. This is comfortable, but it's not a healthy trend.
We get SO MUCH MORE oxygen when we breathe outdoor air than when we breathe indoor air. It's really very simple.
In addition to less oxygen, our indoor air is also generally quite polluted with dust mites, skin cells, fabric fragments, and chemicals from plastics, cleaning products, perfumes, dyes, etc etc etc. And airborne pathogens.
We need oxygen to live. It's not such a great leap to conclude that optimal bodily function requires optimal oxygenation of our tissues. And if we're spending more of our time indoors (or nearly all of our time indoors), we're getting significantly less oxygen than we should.
Remedy this as well as you can:
1) Open your windows, even a little, whenever you can. Jason and I sleep with our bedroom windows just barely cracked open. And as I lay in bed, I can distinctly smell the fresh air seeping in through that crack. Overnight, there is a significant cumulative effect on the body from getting that much more oxygen and less pollution through our air.
2) Open windows and doors when you clean your house. Even in the winter. A weekly housecleaning session with air exchange re-oxygenates your home's air, reduces the air pollution, and helps to prevent any cleaning chemicals from polluting the air (if you use nasty chemicals to clean, that is). Put on a coat, bundle up the kids, turn off the heat, and just know that you will re-heat the house when you finish. Our ancestors lived in animal furs huddled around fires; I think we can handle a couple of hours of cold.
3) Get outside when you can! Oh, it's rainy...it's cold...but it's fresh! Take a lunch break walk or commit to a walk every weekend even if it's dreary out. Shed the fear of being uncomfortable and embrace the invigoration of a cold weather stroll. You need not be out for long to get the blood flowing and the clean air in your lungs, and it goes a long way to combat the effects of months indoors.
If there is one broad, underlying principle I adhere to as a foundation for health, it's being in closer proximity to and in better harmony with nature. In an urban environment, this is admittedly more difficult than it is here in Southern Oregon. But even in a city, the outdoor air is often more fresh than indoors.
Open a window, or get outside, and breathe the air you were meant to breathe.
Staying healthy has been a challenge over recent months. Starting a business is a full-time affair. Like some kind of inanimate baby, it demands all of our time, our finances, and our loving care.
Jason and I are constantly evolving our commitment to health, each day coming closer to practicing everything we preach. We're still human and slip backward from time to time, but being fully immersed in our passion for health and happy living has led us to learning what habits have made the greatest overall impact on our health.
On to the 8 habits (in no particular order):
I am halfway through teaching a two-week course on facilitating physiological detoxification. I am humbly teaching a small group of incredible health professionals who will be acting in the future as Health and Wellness Consultants, who may then instruct many people in the benefits of assisting our body's ability to detoxify.
Detoxification is not something I have a history of caring much about. In the past, I've seen it mainly as a gimmick to sell outrageously harsh "alternative treatments," herbal products, and supplements of questionable quality.
But over time, I have had a chance to see the physiology I have spent endless classroom hours studying as it functions in the real world. And now I understand the impacts of a toxic burden.
The smell of drying laundry...Chai-Vanilla infusion in the air...lemon pine polished surfaces.
So fresh and so clean!! I love fresh scents as much as the next person with a working nose. But I have never been able to take it for granted that something that makes a nice smell is perhaps still SOMETHING. And if it is something, where does it go?