Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A journey is exactly that

I've taken a hiatus from this blog for the past few months, but not from my journey. I enrolled in eCornell's Certificate in Plant-Based nutrition course in June and finished the course in July.  Here's the description: 

Plant-Based Nutrition represents a forward-looking view of nutrition that Dr. T. Colin Campbell has developed during his more than 40 years experience in experimental research and 20 years in public policy. This certificate program presents a different paradigm, considering the topic of nutrition both as a science and as a component of the practice of medicine. It is an expansion of NS 200, a successful Cornell course approved by the Department of Nutritional Science and offered for 7 years. This new online series offers the best of Dr. Campbell’s work, incorporating material from his best selling book, The China Study, as well as the latest information from leading experts in the field. This three-course certificate program was designed to introduce the general public and medical professionals to the vastly underestimated ability of properly executed nutrition to maintain health and prevent disease.

The first course in the series, Nutrition Fundamentals, identifies the true causes of degenerative disease - poor dietary practices - and offers scientifically based solutions to reduce disease risk. The second course, Diseases of Affluence, presents solutions to the crisis facing America’s health care system and a dietary solution for your own optimal health. The final course, Principles in Practice, demonstrates practical applications of plant-based nutrition in a variety of contexts illustrating the powerful effects of a whole food, plant-based diet on our society and the positive impact its acceptance could have on our future. Together, these courses present a powerful science-based approach to nutrition that can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity and improve your quality of life.
AAAAAND, here's my certificate! 

I first found out about Dr. Campbell from watching the documentary Forks Over Knives, like I described in a previous post, and I found his work so inspiring and logical that I wanted to know more. I'm happy to share what I learned moving forward, since a lot of my current knowledge either confirms what I was discovering previously or moves in new directions which I hadn't considered. There is so much conflicting information online that I'm happy to have my current knowledge backed up by extensive research! 
For the experiment-lovers out there, not to worry: I'm still doing plenty of experimenting and will update about that too.:) 
First update to come: my adventures with water kefir! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Whatever you're doing, it's working...

“Have respect for yourself, and patience and compassion. With these, you can handle anything.” ~Jack Kornfield

I've been consistently hearing two comments recently:

"Whatever you're doing, it's working..." AND "You're getting so skinny! Stop losing weight." 

Being that walking to / from work and some light yoga are my only forms of exercise right now, the weight I've lost is more directly tied to the food I'm eating. I am sensitive to the weight loss - not because I think I look unhealthy or because people have commented, but because it's been a big transition which requires an eating balance moving forward. I remind myself occasionally that I didn't lose 20 lbs by eating lettuce for every meal or fasting until I was starving. Instead, it was a combination of increasing my intake of  fruits / vegetables / seeds / nuts and decreasing my intake of dairy / meat / refined sugars / processed foods. I don't feel hungry all day and I don't feel weak or exhausted. In fact, I feel great and think that my body has settled into it's natural weight range. Now: to maintain that weight!

I've been reading up more on healthy fats - not low-fat or diet food options, not the saturated / trans fats lurking in processed foods, but the monounsaturated / polyunsaturated fats which are a part of any diet (they help your body absorb nutrients). I've been seeing that while moderation is still important regardless of your fat intake, it also matters what type of fat you're consuming. Options for plant-based healthy fats may include:

  • Olives / Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
I was late to jump on the nuts / seeds bandwagon. Growing up I ate a processed version of peanut butter, but more likely than not avoided other nuts (processed or whole). I never considered eating seeds! Now, I eat a combination of Chia, Sunflower, and Pumpkin seeds, as well as Almonds and Walnuts (and almond butter!). I've been seeing tons of recipes for cashew spreads, which also seem intriguing. Like this one! 

How do you make sure you're getting enough fats in your diet? 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Always something new

Every time I have an appointment at the holistic doctor, I come away with new things to try.

This week: another tweaked diet and the knowledge that I have a strong reaction to pollen (not surprising, but I'm happy to have it confirmed). After all of my excitement about lessened allergy symptoms, I noticed over the past 1.5 weeks that my eyes were getting redder and more itchy and there didn't seem to be any end in sight. Sigh. This is around the time last year when my allergies became unbearable, so all in all these more mild symptoms are an improvement. Still, I want them gone.
Image via Leo Michels

The doctor suggested I take Stinging Nettle to help offset the allergies naturally. Some research suggests that the nettle has the ability to reduce the amount of histamine the body produces in response to an allergen - we'll see! What's interesting about the holistic approach, is that he tested my body's reactions to a few variations of Stinging Nettle supplements and one responded much better than the others (many were combinations of different extracts). In this way, saying that I should take Stinging Nettle is not enough and had I done my own research and picked a brand, who knows if it would have made a difference. His muscle testing technique allowed him to see what particular variation would work best with my system, so I'll see how it goes.

As for the tweaked diet, we're still figuring out what my trigger foods are and what can help my skin stay clear for good. All the progress I've made is still in place, though: food allergies have not returned; the candida has not returned; my liver has cleansed itself. As such, I'm now trying a more Ayurveda-influenced diet for doshic imbalance. I'm following the Pitta diet, which mainly avoids foods which are too salty, spicy, or sour, including hard cheeses, red meat, and fried food. Here's an interesting blog I found which goes into more detail about the Pitta dosha. I'm willing to keep tweaking my diet, especially since I can still eat some of my favorites like quinoa, sweet potatoes, and apples. Some favorites I'll have to give up for the next few weeks: tomatoes, onions, garlic, spinach. I've stepped away from Chia seeds and Almonds for the next few weeks and am trying Sunflower seeds and Pumpkin seeds instead - delicious.

Every time my diet changes a bit, I need to try new foods and new food combinations and I've been pleasantly surprised at how satisfying (and full of protein!) seeds and nuts can be. I had a simple, completely raw lunch today of mixed lettuce, cut up pear, and sunflower / pumpkin seeds. I feel full, which would not have been the case a number of months ago. Half the battle, I'm learning, is just a matter of shifting focus. :)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hectic Living

To say that my life is busy right now is an extreme understatement. Eric and I are moving soon and life at work is focused around getting a grant out the door. Weddings, birthdays, graduations, other celebrations - not only am I strapped for time physically, but my mental time for research, cooking experiments, and keeping up with a steady, healthy routine is diminished. It's easy to see how healthy habits can slip out the door as soon as you get busy. So, how do we combat this? First and foremost, it's important to identify and stick to a set of priorities: what main goals must you stick with no matter what? 
Here is my list of top 5 priorities when my life gets insane: 
  1. Have vegetable juice for breakfast: Juicing makes me feel great in the morning and gives my body the nutrients it needs to face the day. Easy on the digestive system, full of important vitamins, energy-producing - sometimes I really want something else, like pancakes and bacon, but I just remember how good I feel and power through. I only skip juicing when it becomes impossible due to travel. 
  2. Eat a raw lunch when possible: It's quick enough to throw together salad ingredients for lunch, and it's frankly exactly what our bodies want anyway. Today for lunch I had kale, walnuts, chia seeds, strawberries, and grape tomatoes. Why raw? Because high heat cooking can destroy or diminish important enzymes and nutrients - while I'm not pursuing a fully raw diet, I often aim to eat raw foods up until dinner time as a means of maximizing my food choices. 
  3. Stretch for 10 minutes per day: When you're busy and tired, exercising is often what gets left behind. I'm definitely guilty sometimes of skipping yoga so I have time to cook or do errands. I do walk roughly 2 miles a day on my commute, but the longer you go without stretching, the harder it can be to start up the habit again. Can you do 10 minutes? I've been experimenting with 10 minutes of stretching directly after I get home, as it doesn't seem to happen if I wait any longer. 
  4. Sleep: Our bodies need sleep to heal and regenerate. My mind needs sleep to calm down. Yet, I never seem to go to bed until after 11pm, with a daily wake up at 5:45am. In our new apartment, my goal is to have no technology in the bedroom (no TVs, no computers) as a means of creating a more calming environment and removing the distractions. . 
  5. Don't indulge: This past weekend I was at a party and decided to indulge in some of my old favorites: a glass of wine, a meatball sandwich, and salad with dressing / cheese. I can't prove that this combination generated a note-worthy reaction, but I spent much of Sunday feeling tired, feverish, and congested. Point taken. Whenever I'm feeling emotionally or physically depleted, one if my ingrained instincts is to reach for the comfort of certain foods and sweets. This is not to say that I'll never have another glass of wine or a piece of chocolate, but it is to say that cravings lurk below the surface no matter how long you've been eating well. Pay attention and indulge in small, more strategic quantities. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Baby steps add up!

I'm feeling excited tonight after my latest appointment at Live Well Holistic Health Center. I've been trying SO hard with the Candida diet over the past 1.5 months since I started seeing this doctor, and thankfully my efforts are actually getting me somewhere. 

The doctor was really happy with my progress - he said I'm now testing negative for the yeast, as well as for the food sensitivities. He also said my leaky gut syndrome has healed and that my skin looks SO much better than it did 2 weeks ago. What's left: continuing to cleanse my liver and monitoring the absence of yeast for a little while to make sure it doesn't return. I didn't really know what leaky gut syndrome was, but it's another one of those sneaky conditions which are often misdiagnosed. According to an article by Dr. Leo Galland found via the Foundation of Integrated Medicine, leaky gut syndromes "are clinical disorders associated with increased intestinal permeability. They include inflammatory and infectious bowel diseases, chronic inflammatory arthritides, cryptogenic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and dermatitis herpetiformis, many diseases triggered by food allergy or specific food intolerance, including eczema, urticaria, and irritable bowel syndrome, AIDS, chronic fatigue syndromes, chronic hepatitis, chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and pancreatic carcinoma."  

Ah, the intestines. They are so vital, and can affect your body in so many ways if unbalanced. If one organ is in distress, that distress generates symptoms in the other organs (and to think people still say that skin conditions have nothing to do with diet!). Of course, these syndromes are also triggered by pills, malnutrition, and toxins, increasing my interest in never returning to western medicines unless in an emergency. The doctor also said I can start to transition away from the candida diet and slowly reintroduce certain foods / vinegar, etc. He said I have to be very careful about sugar, though I'm allowed to eat a bit more fruit.  Yay for fruit! Since I haven't been able to eat as much, I've been truly appreciating the taste. Strawberries are divine after dinner. A ripe pear is a completely satisfying morning snack. Don't get me started on green apples.

Baby steps
While 1.5 months may seem like forever when you're making daily food choices, it's really not that long when you consider how many years we each endure chronic illness and other conditions. To think that I've been able to reverse severe distress in my organs, kill off yeast overgrowth, and begin to cure my skin conditions in under 2 months is amazing to me. Food is your ally and your power source. Juicing is an amazing gift. Because I'm feeling so good, here's a recipe for absolutely delicious roasted broccoli.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A documentary worth watching

I've been meaning to watch Forks Over Knives for a while now, but finally sat down yesterday to watch (free on Netflix!). The tagline reads: The feature film Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.

A still from the movie. Milk was once thought to be nature's perfect food

This is a profound claim indeed, and one I had not considered at all prior to my journey into healthy eating. Frankly I didn't even know to consider it, as my understanding of health was intimately wrapped up with conventional medicine. What do you mean traditional doctors don't always have the answers? What if I never had to take antibiotics again? I can feel my body healing - who am I to stop this healing process and once again increase my risk factors?

These questions have spiraled me further down this path towards plant-based eating, though my brain (deeply connected still to family / friend eating traditions which span my entire life) has thrown up road block after road block. Changing your traditions is hard and it's scary: avoiding birthday cake is one thing, but it's quite another to never have another BBQ as I've known it or to partake in lasagna and chicken parmesean. Avoiding processed foods and animal products means no hoagies, increased difficulty going out to dinner, and no more bacon / eggs. It also means huge lifestyle changes, learning to cook using different methods, and riding out wave after wave of (dwindling) food cravings. So, why am I here?

This documentary speaks to me as the findings just make so much sense. Following the stories of two pioneer researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic, the documentary outlines how the doctors are following similar paths in their research before they meet, leading them to a similar conclusion: degenerative diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even several forms of cancer, could almost always be prevented – and in many cases reversed – by adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet. And what did their research show to consistently worsen these conditions? Processed foods and animal products.

These findings were put to the test by following a set of 'reality' patients as they embarked on nutrition treatment programs, hoping to stop taking multiple medications and lower risk factors for a variety of conditions. Did the nutrition treatment work? Of course - all patients not only lost tons of weight, but their numbers dramatically improved in a period of mere weeks. While I haven't tested my own numbers in the past few months to see what juicing veggies and eating better has done for my own risk factors, I can attest to how I feel and look: I've lost 20 lbs, my skin is improving, my circulation is better, I sleep better, and my energy has never been better. Plus, I've experienced minimal allergy symptoms this spring, I feel more clear headed, and I'm actually enjoying the taste of my food in a different way. While I state above that avoiding long-loved foods is scary, I should also mention that my cooking experiments have yielded some pretty delicious, healthy foods. For my birthday this year, I even want to experiment with making a raw, vegan dessert in lieu of cake.

All this is to say that you should watch Forks Over Knives and come to your own conclusion, but I can offer my own experience as another test case. I grew up loving dairy, but was lactose intolerant as a child and that was a warning that I ignored over time. I grew up loving meat, but am finding that I don't miss it as much as I thought I would when there are so many delicious vegetables and homemade sauces and grains and soups out there to discover. I also want to pull together lists of protein-rich plant foods and calcium-rich foods for all of you who hold on to the belief that meat / dairy are the answers to those needs. Believe me, that's what I thought too until I started researching and realized just how much sway the dairy / meat industries have in setting national regulations.

Watch, watch, watch! I was also excited to make the connection that Dr. Campbell, and his research "The China Study," lead the ecourse I'll be taking through Cornell later in the spring.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Unexpected directions

Image via the U.S. Department of Agriculture

As some of you know, last week I discovered a Certificate program in Plant-Based Nutrition through eCornell, a subsidiary of Cornell University which provides online professional development opportunities. The moment I discovered the course, I felt a tiny surge of energy - that pinprick of excitement which floods your body instinctually before you process anything else. We've all been trained to recognize those moments - where you feel instantly alive - but not what to do with the uncertainty that follows.

Can I spend the money on a class right now when I'm supposed to be saving? Where is this path leading me? Will I know enough to do well? Is this indulgent? 

When you're trying to save money, investing in yourself always feels indulgent. I rarely go on vacations or pamper myself as it is, beyond the new lifestyle changes I've been making lately. What convinced me to try the course, beyond the advice of my boyfriend / family, was that tiny pinprick I'd felt in my gut. It was as if my body was saying, "okay Elizabeth - I don't know where this is going any more than your brain does. Maybe nowhere. But will you just try for all our sakes?"

Point taken. Anything that makes your body wake up and pay attention is worth pursuing.

So, there are 3 courses as part of this program (each one is a few weeks long). The classes are designed to help you learn about the following:
  • A solution to the crisis in America's healthcare system
  • The largest study ever done on diet and disease
  • The scientific basis for plant-based nutrition
  • The depth and breadth of scientific evidence implicating diet in the development of a wide variety of diseases (from subtle to fatal)
  • The diet and lifestyle solutions that could improve public health
  • Why using this information to improve your health is complicated by biological conditioning
  • How the same plant-based diet benefits kids, the environment, athletes, medical care, businesses, individual health, and public policy
  • Some key social institutional, and practical obstacles to wide-spread acceptance of plant-based nutrition and lifestyle medicine
  • Common diet and health care misconceptions
  • Practical skills, such as understanding labels and food production  
Reviews from past participants have been uniformly positive, which is encouraging. The first class begins at the beginning of June, so I have a little bit of time to continue experimenting in the meantime.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Patience, patience

"Patience takes courage. It's not an ideal state of calm. In fact, when we practice patience we will see our agitation far more clearly." -Pema Chodron
sugar, sugar, sugar!
I've always had willpower, but I've been testing myself at another level this month during the Candida cleanse. I don't think people give sugar enough credit - it's powerful, addictive, and incredibly hard to avoid. My cravings for sugar (in any form: cake, bread, wine, pasta, etc) were constant in the beginning and while they've lessened a bit, I still have hours where it's impossible to move my mind anywhere else. I've never had to quit anything addictive before, such as cigarettes, but I feel empathy in a new way for people struggling to quit. This is really hard! The more the yeast struggles to win, the more I recognize the importance of what I'm attempting here. Sugar is amazingly addictive, yet we don't fully respect what it does to both the mind and body (in the same way that we do certain drugs). Well, sugar: you win this round. I have a new respect for your power, though I'm a little tired of being the girl at the party with the restricted diet. So, where does this leave me? Well, I'm left to re-frame my attitude, haul my brain back to the positives, and remain outrageously patient.  
I went back to the doctor today and I'm not out of the woods: the yeast is not gone yet, though my allergies to wheat, corn, dairy, and eggs are indeed gone (could they come back? perhaps yes, if I'm not moderate. Must be careful). The doctor felt like there was something else at work here, and tested for weakness around my other organs. When he reached my liver, he paused and lit up like a light: ah yes, the liver. Sorry I wasn't good to you in college, friend. While I don't drink much anymore, the liver is another main detoxification pathway and can become clogged with toxins. He felt cleansing my liver specifically would greatly help in allowing the yeast to free my system, so that's the next step (no diet changes, just a supplement this time). I go back again in two weeks, where we'll see more improvement (let's hope!) I know the full solution is almost within my grasp, and I just need to keep working at this. Positive changes have already occurred and I need to have faith in my body's ability to heal. I can do this, whether it takes weeks or months. 
If anyone has a story which speaks to the things I'm experiencing currently, please share! One of the best ways I've found to strengthen my willpower is to communicate openly with other people. Have you had to be patient / strong-willed lately? I'd love to hear about it :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cravings and allergies

Now that Easter has come and gone, sugar is in the house (candy, cake, pie): I'm confronted with it every time I go into the kitchen and there's chocolate sitting in my room waiting for the day when I decide to eat it again. I had been doing pretty well with the sugar cravings, but this weekend of holidays has thrown me right back into craving territory. So, is it a coincidence that I'm craving the exact foods which I need to avoid? Of course not. Yeast feeds on sugar, after all.

And why is it so important that the bacteria in your body remains balanced? According to the information provided to me from my doctor:

"Sugary diets and the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, birth control pills, steroidal drugs and even the chlorine in tap water, disturbs the good bacteria and encourages the bad organisms, especially yeast (fungus) to overgrow. This occurs commonly in our intestines and is referred to as 'candidiasis.' As the yeast multiply they send rootlets into the intestinal wall, release toxins, and create 'leaky gut syndrome.' This condition permits organisms and toxins to enter the blood stream and deeper tissues where widespread damage can occur. Because dysbiosis usually goes undiagnosed for a long time and so many organs and tissues can be affected, a wide array of conditions and symptoms can result. The list of symptoms are as diverse as nervous and mental disorders or food and chemical sensitivities." 

No allergies means I can enjoy places like this!
Included in the list of possible symptoms are allergies, food cravings, and food and chemical sensitivities. Being that my food sensitivities are going away with this new diet, I'm paying attention to why allergies exist and what I'm currently doing which might be making them worse. Therefore, I've been carefully monitoring how I feel as spring continues to the point where I usually have watery eyes and lots of head congestion. So far: no allergies! My doctor had said pretty confidently that we could get rid of my allergies (which last spring consisted of severe and constant eye problems for about 2 months - I've never felt that physically miserable!) So, what could be different?

I've been looking through a book called "Allergies: Disease in Disguise. How to heal your allergic condition permanently and naturally" by Carolee Bateson-Koch, DC ND. The book is from the 90s, but since I learned while in conversation with a retired chemist that allergies accumulate over time, I was interested nonetheless to see her description of detox and allergy symptoms:

"Frequency and extent of exposure plays a large role in allergy. Increasing exposure to a substance causes toxic load to build faster in the body because it overburdens the body's detoxification pathways. Thousands of new chemicals are released into the environment every year, increasing exposure to a variety of industrial pollutants, pesticides, and food additives. More than 6,000 new chemicals are tested in the United States each week. Over 7,000,000 distinct chemical compounds have appeared in scientific literature since 1965. All of these tend to work their way back into the human body. Today, the air, food, and water have all been altered, leading to varying degrees of toxic load."

Anyway, I bring all of this up as it was eye opening for me to realize that my allergy symptoms might be more complex than simply a response to an increase in pollen. Detoxing gives your body a well needed break. Obviously anyone else would need to see a holistic doctor to get advice specific to their bodies, but I'm feeling hopeful that I won't repeat last year's allergy hell. Yay! In the meantime then, I have to ride out these sugar cravings one at a time. I've almost given in a few times (just one piece of candy can't hurt, right?), but am staying strong at least until my next doctor's appointment next week. One day at a time. :) People keep saying cravings lessen over time, so let's hope that's true!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Altering your perspective one day at a time

I've been in a funk over the past few days, and with that funk comes the inevitable deluge of negative behaviors: circular and unproductive thinking, laziness / inability to act, general crankiness. I'm not immune to these feelings and have been battling the moments when I concentrate on everything which is wrong instead of everything which is right.

Do you ever have those days? Or weeks? The attitude isn't productive, clearly, yet it's so hard to break out of a funk once you're there. Sometimes it takes a while to even realize the funk is there - sound familiar? I believe whole-heartedly in our abilities to shift perspective and find the good, but the mind absolutely needs to be in a receptive state first.

Last night I mentally sat myself down for a talk. Half the battle means releasing stress and calming the mind, the other half requires discovering the root problem or emotion. Here are the methods I'm using and a little on why they're so important for me:  
  • Breathe: There's a reason why the first thing we're told to do when upset is stop and breathe. Deep breathing helps to calm anxiety, quiets the mind, massages the organs, and helps to eliminate toxins from the body. No wonder I feel better after yoga class! 
  • Clear away the clutter and make a list: Remaining organized allows me to truly relax, as I'm not in danger of forgetting appointments or breaking my promises. Something as simple as a list of weekly tasks and goals provides direction and clarity, plus you can look forward to crossing items off! If you're not in the habit of making lists, give it a try. Next: don't beat yourself up if you don't get to everything on the list - be flexible.
  • Communicate: Recent conversations with co-workers and family have put my thoughts into words and simply the act of voicing them released a weight I'd been carrying. Is there something you're holding on to? Even tiny admissions require bravery and vulnerability - the more you talk, the easier it gets.
  • Get outside: I don't get outside enough during the workweek and my body suffers. We're meant to soak in sun, to move our muscles, and to breathe in fresh air. My closed-up office and space heater don't cut it! Once you're in the office, inertia sets in and makes it hard to get up and move around - ignore this and walk around the block. I always feel refreshed after even 5 minutes outside.
  • Find the root of the problem: What exactly is bothering you? I often find that if I give myself some time before reacting, that the real issue is very different than the surface would suggest. I've saved myself countless fights (and time!) this way.
  • Nourish your body: Whenever I get stressed or upset, one of my impulses is to eat something sugary or end the night with a glass of wine. These choices feel like a treat in the moment, but do nothing to boost my overall feeling of wellbeing for the day. Lately with this new diet, I've been turning to herbal tea, green apples and almond butter, or simply: nothing! If you close your eyes and count slowly to ten, the food craving will pass.  
  • Do yoga: Focus, strength, flexibility. There are days when the last thing I feel like doing is exercising, but remembering my end goals help me get my butt on the mat and I'm always glad I did. Feeling strong in your own body is one of the most liberating, amazing feelings.
  • Get some sleep: Our bodies truly detoxify and repair when at rest. I'm certainly not alone in the fact that I don't get enough sleep. However, the fact that I've been sleeping through the night recently is a true testament to this new diet - changing your diet really does affect everything!  
  • Pat yourself on the back: It's much easier to focus on your flaws than to recognize and appreciate what you've done well. Give yourself a much needed pep talk to remember all of those amazing qualities. Also: think about how far you've come! When I remember what my life was like in November compared to what it's like now, I'm amazed at how much has changed and I give myself a break.
  • Let go: One of yoga's yamas (Aparigraha) states in summary: "Let go of negative emotions, actions, grudges, fears, beliefs." Our physical bodies take a beating when we're holding on to negative emotions. Breathe, breathe, breathe and the rest will follow. :)

Monday, April 2, 2012


One day at a time! 

I had my mid-cleanse doctor's visit today and am pleased to report that things are looking up.  The dysbiosis levels are barely detectable now and my sensitivities to corn, dairy, and eggs are now below detectable levels. My wheat sensitivity is still hanging on, but the doctor was quite pleased with the progress over just two weeks. He switched up my supplements a little bit and I have to go back in another two weeks.  He also gave me a list of foods to eat and avoid moving forward, which I'll share. This list is not the specific candida cleanse of the past few weeks, but rather a diet to follow from now on, essentially.

This diet is slightly less strict, but still challenges me to avoid the sugar, the meat, the dairy, the processed food. I've had some intense sugar cravings, but they have faded a little bit over the past week. Stay the course, stay the course! I've avoided more cake, more alcohol, more delicious looking cheesy food. Sigh.  I also had an encouraging conversation with the doctor's wife (who also runs the front desk): she told me how her own journey had taken months, how she had to do a candida cleanse as well, how she wanted to give up many times when her skin wasn't clearing quickly but persisted until her body completely cleansed itself. It's always nice for me to hear that when I get frustrated.

Here it goes: 

Eat Daily:
Green leafy vegetables (collards, romaine, etc)
Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc) in moderate amounts
Beans (kidney, pinto, lentils, etc)
Seeds, nuts (raw sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, etc)
Vegetables (all kinds, but especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts; colorful vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes; and avocados, garlic, zucchini, etc)
Fruit (a few servings a day: berries, apples, grapefruit, etc)
Water (filtered or spring (not tap))

Limit (occasionally, in very small quantities, or not at all): 
Chicken (preferably free range organic)
Low fat yogurt, cottage cheese
White rice
Whole grain bread
Food bars, chocolate, dried fruit

Best to Avoid: 
Refined sugar
White food (pasta, potatoes, bread, etc)
Hydrogenated oils
Artificial sweeteners
Artificial coloring or flavoring
Corn syrup
Soda, gatorade, juice drinks 

The proper meal ratio: 1/2 plate of veggies, 1/4 plate of carbs, 1/4 plate of protein

Monday, March 26, 2012

Candida cleanse, week 1

The candida cleanse has officially begun! I changed my diet again a week ago, and have not eaten wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, any kind of sugar (exceptions include green apples and lemons), fermented foods, bread products, and miscellaneous products such as mushrooms, most processed foods, and sauces. This new cleanse mirrors the Kris Carr cleanse in some ways, but cutting sugar (including natural sugars in fruit) as well has provided a new and interesting challenge. I'm allowed a moderate amount of starchy veggies and grains (brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc), and this cleanse allows for meat. So, how's it going so far?

because it's pretty :)
During week 1, I experienced many of the "die-off" symptoms described in my packet, such as fatigue, slight fever, cold symptoms, and irritability. It didn't help that it was a stressful week at work, but it's kind of hard to ignore a mild fever which crops up out of nowhere. Luckily the cold symptoms lasted no more than two days, and I've been feeling much better. As my menu is somewhat limited, I've been eating a LOT of different vegetables, some grains such as quinoa and brown rice, chicken, almonds / almond butter, rice cakes, celery and hummus, etc. Spinach salad with olive oil, a splash of lemon, and chia seeds has become a lunch staple. If you don't know about chia seeds yet, learn about them here. I LOVE them - they are an easy addition to a meal and they really fill me up.

Is my skin fully clear yet? No, but I've noticed other things which are changing. My fingers and toes which used to be chronically cold are warm to the touch. I slept deeply for a few nights in a row. My eyes continue to get brighter. I'm nowhere near out of the woods yet at only 1 week in, and am anticipating that I'll likely end up on this cleanse much longer than I originally thought. In the meantime though, between the previous cleanse and this one, I'm fitting into clothes I haven't worn in years. Since January, I've lost over 12 pounds! I can also feel some of these lifestyle changes beginning to stick. The juicing is old hat at this point; I can eat roasted broccoli, salad, and baked sweet potato for dinner and not feel like I'm missing out too much. These are good things to recognize, as I enter a season of birthday / holiday celebrations. I sat out the first round of cake / wine this past weekend, and will enter round 2 this coming weekend. I'll even have to bring my own dinner on Easter. Eyes on the goal, Elizabeth! I keep reminding myself. :) Sugar is such a hard addiction to kick.

It was nice to sit in the doctor's waiting room today while I was waiting for more chiropractic help - some of the other women in the office talked to me about their own experiences with candida cleansing. To think I'd never heard of this a few months ago, and now my symptoms make sense and have pulled me into a different type of healthy-living community. I love journeys - don't you? Who knew I'd end up here. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My holistic doctor experience

My mantra over the past several months has been: "What is the root cause?" I'm not interested in quick fixes. I don't want to delude myself and continue on with bad habits. Really, I just want to understand my body inside out and I want to pave the way for a fantastic, healthy life. Recently I was asked why it seems like more health issues have come up for me lately. I answered that none of these complaints are new, I just never considered the fact that I could fix the root causes of allergies or eczema, for example. Now that I'm aware that I CAN fix these issues, and that I can do so through nutrition, they've popped up into my consciousness and I'm ready to tackle them one by one.

Finding the right doctor!

Enter doctor #1. When you visit multiple doctors and ask them similar questions, the divide between approaches becomes quite clear. In retrospect, my visit to the nutritionist from the Rittenhouse Women's Wellness Center is laughable. I had a ton of specific questions which she could not answer, and I found out later that she was even younger than I thought (right out of college!). As she is quite early on in her career, she couldn't offer me a breadth of experience, and I've realized how important that really is. I've also realized how amazing it is to see a doctor who can analyze your situation from a variety of viewpoints, instead of sticking to the book. The one benefit of that first visit was that I realized I likely needed to be tested for food allergies.

Enter doctor #2. I decided to approach my primary care physician to be tested for food allergies, and to ask her the same set of questions I had regarding nutrition and symptoms. While I think she's a very competent doctor in the traditional arena, she was of ZERO help to me and she knew very little about nutrition via PH balances in the body, which is something I've grown to see as very important. Do traditional doctors not study nutrition or acidity in the body? The most I got from that visit was a $30 copay and a referral to go see an allergist, which would likely be another $50 for seeing a specialist.

Enter doctor #3. At this point, I knew that the paths I've normally taken during my life were no longer working for me. I think that our bodies are SO connected and that how we treat them, what we choose to consume, and the medicines we take have a huge impact. I discovered the Live Well Holistic Health Center in Ardmore, and liked their mission: "Our mission is to relieve suffering and restore health and to help our community become less dependent on medications and more reliant on our body's innate ability to heal through regular chiropractic care, good nutrition, exercise, and a positive mental attitude."

That sounds perfect for me, right?! I was excited. Frankly, I'm still excited. The downside to holistic healthcare is that it's not covered by insurance (I overheard them telling another patient that her visit could be reimbursed through flex spending, but I don't have that). This is more pricey than a regular copay, friends. However, I've realized that I could continue to pay copays and have zero luck with my regular doctor, or I could try alternative methods which better align with my perspective.

The visit

The office was small, peaceful, and immediately calmed me much like a yoga studio does. They sell supplements and chiropractic tools right in the office, which is quite convenient, and it's a husband and wife team: the wife at the front desk, husband as doctor. They are both very friendly and I felt completely comfortable, which is also important to me. My visit with Dr. Martin Orimenko was 1hr long, and in that time he listened to my story, answered questions, tested me for food allergies, diagnosed what he saw as my root problem, designed a treatment plan, provided some chiropractic help for my hip / knee problem, evaluated my current supplements, and talked nutrition with me. As he's so comprehensive in his approach and his training background, I was able to talk everything from nutrition to scoliosis in one visit and left feeling that I'm FINALLY getting the approach I need. Talk about exciting! Also, the price starts to look smaller once you realize how many individual doctors you'd have to see to equal the kind of care he provides.

Granted, you have to be open and ready for this kind of care, as it's very different. You also have to be ready to do the work, as there are no antibiotics or other quick fixes. When it came time to test my food allergies, he rested small vials of each solution on my stomach one by one and did a series of small tests using pressure on my stomach and resistance from my arm (which was up in the air). How this provided him with answers I don't know, but he's been in practice for over 20 years and at this stage seems highly intuitive. I was willing to go along with it, and he diagnosed me with sensitivities to corn, wheat, eggs, and dairy (but not gluten!), all stemming from a larger problem: Dysbiosis, or, Intestinal Organism Imbalance (also known as an imbalance of the good / bad bacteria in your intestines which is generally caused over time by using birth control pills, antibiotics, or following the standard american diet, among other reasons).

He then showed me other symptoms which relate to Dysbiosis and said once I solve it, my skin should clear up quickly and the food sensitivities may likely also go away. There we go: the root cause. He also said that no matter how clean my eating habits had become, my other symptoms such as the bad skin would not go away on their own and needed treatment via targeted supplements, as well as a restricted Candida diet for 1 month to starve out the bad bacteria. I have to go back in 2 weeks so he can assess how the diet is going. ALSO, as I'm typing this his wife called to make sure I understood the diet and to ask me if I had questions. As I had one, she got the answer right away and told me to call back anytime as she'd love to discuss eating tips with me. How nice is that?! I feel cared for, which is honestly something I can't say about any of my previous doctors.

So friends, for the next month I can't eat yeast, eggs, dairy, wheat, corn, sugar, fermented products, and a variety of misc things such as sauces and most processed foods. As for what I CAN eat, some examples include vegetables, some meats, beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, healthy oils, raw nuts, etc. I'm happy that I did the cleanse this winter, as it's going to make this transition much, much easier! The doctor was happy with my diet for the most part, thrilled with the juicing, and very excited that I've been taking Spirulina. My visit ended as he gave me the supplements and smiled and said "life is about to change for you - you're about to solve this." Here's hoping that's true.. :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meditation challenge

Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care. – Buddha
I've spent the past few days thinking about what it means to be balanced. Do you ever have those days when you just feel off? Perhaps everything makes you cranky, you have no patience with people, and the smallest things reduce you to tears? Let's say these moments have nothing to do with PMS. You feel unmotivated and in a brain-fog. So what's the problem?

Balance. As I'm convinced that the body is intensely connected with the mind, when one element goes haywire, the rest of you struggles to keep up. When you indulge in one area of your life, another area may become depleted. It's up to us to recognize the distress signals and help ourselves out before burn out, drama, or illness. So, here I am.

I recently read this article: Do we really need to detox? . The most interesting section (for me) reads: The entire body can regenerate in two years. Ninety-eight percent of the body will regenerate in less than a year. Red blood cells rebuild in four months, the liver in six weeks, the stomach in one month and the intestinal lining in five days.

I think the body's ability to regenerate is absolutely amazing. For all of you considering juicing: think about what an amazing gift you're offering your body - a new start for so many healthy, happy cells! Now that I'm well into juicing though (2 month anniversary is this week!), it's time for me to focus on other areas which need detox as well. Cleansing is a gift which we can offer ourselves at any time, and mental cleansing is just as important as the physical. Our minds play a huge role in what we can accomplish physically, and how we choose to approach relationships with others.

This week I've felt irritable and burnt out. I've had trouble engaging with people and have found myself feeling defensive and sleepy. Granted, I have indulged a few times with food, and I do truly believe that eating well plays a part in emotional wellness. Either way, it's clearly time for a little emotional detoxing.

I tried meditation during the 21 day cleanse, but for a variety of reasons, the practice didn't stick afterwards. I'm choosing to use the next week to try again with a self-imposed Meditation Challenge! I want to be realistic with it - 20 minutes to begin, spread throughout the day: 5 minutes when I get to work, 5 minutes at lunch, 5 minutes when I get home from work, and 5 minutes before bed. I believe meditation helps us to calm down and figure out the root of any given problem so that we can deal with it calmly and rationally. We'll see how I feel at the end of the week.

Until then, peace to you my friends!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Trial and error

Now that I've been researching and chronicling lifestyle changes for a few months now, I've definitively realized that what works for one person is not guaranteed to work for another. We all have a unique body chemistry and finding the products which work for you can take a lot of trial and error. For example, I still love drinking the Braggs apple cider vinegar, but it really didn't do enough for my skin and many of the things I tried just totally broke me out after a while - I'm currently trying organic lemon juice and jojoba oil. I love jojoba oil - it's actually not technically an oil, but rather a "wax ester" - this is important because this wax ester compares to human skin oil (sebum). The ongoing theory is that jojoba can "trick" the skin into thinking it's produced enough oil, which can help you balance oil production. I've used it in the past with success - so we'll see what happens now.

Anyway, I get frustrated sometimes at how much patience it takes to heal things the natural way through plants and diet and water - part of me desperately wants to get some benzoyl peroxide and provide a quick fix for my skin so I can stop feeling SO self-conscious about it, but the other (larger) part of me wants to figure out the root of the problem and avoid the unnecessary synthetic chemicals regardless of how long it takes. I've been following the philosophy "you are what you eat": I know that many detoxes and skin conditions are caused by diet and lifestyle choices, and so I've been making sure I get at least 20oz of green juice per day (with extra lemon juice), drinking at least 2 liters of water / limiting alcohol, avoiding dairy when possible, eating enough greens, exercising, and trying to get enough sleep. It's a tall order, but detox symptoms show up differently for different people.. some people cleanse more through other organs beyond the skin, but that doesn't seem to be the case for me. :)

The conclusion of my hair experiment

Along these lines of trial and error, I've decided to take a break from the baking soda / vinegar hair routine, at least while I live in a house with SUCH HARD WATER. Oh my goodness. There is relatively little consistency which I can rely on when washing my hair: some days it will be so full of static I can't leave it down, other days it will feel incredibly limp, and on those rare but exciting days, it will feel amazing. I love the price and the ease, but the fact that my house has hard water makes the process incredibly difficult, even when boiling the water first. As such, I've switched to this shampoo, Green Beaver Fresh Mint. I feel good about the company (I also use their toothpaste) and they sell this shampoo down at the local health food store I've been frequenting near work. I use roughly a dime-sized amount each time, and thanks to the baking soda/vinegar routine, only need to use the shampoo every 3 days. It's a compromise I can live with, especially if it gives me some reassurance that my hair will look alright when I need it to. :)

Labeling and learning

It's crazy just how much we need to know in order to go to the store and pick up food which honestly describes the ingredients, benefits, and presence of GMOs. Eating well, to me, does not just include cutting out sugar and buying more vegetables. I also want to make a habit of buying locally, as well as avoiding GMO ingredients, synthetic hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, industrial farm practices, and all of the claims made daily by large manufacturers. Unfortunately, this takes a lot of investigative work, so I'm just happy to start small and work my way up. I've been feeling conflicted about Whole Foods in particular, because while their produce selection is amazing (and this is largely where I stay in the store), the prices for most other things in the store are daunting and I've also been discovering some less than savory stories about them lately. For example, this video looks into 365 brand organic frozen foods and points out that even bags which say "California Blend" on them are actually made in China. Another story I saw discusses the presence of non-labeled GMOs in many Whole Foods products. The largest problem I have with stories like these is that people go to Whole Foods so that they don't have to worry about the bad stuff - the hormones and the synthetic ingredients which are known to be harmful. When products are made in China and shipped here, standards for organic food shift and become harder to regulate - who knows if the food in the bag is to the standards you'd wish for when buying organic food?

Another example is Agave sweetener, which I had heard about and decided to try as a replacement for sugar in my tea. Agave is marketed as a natural sweetener with a low glycemic index: the bottle I tried said ORGANIC on the label, as well as WHOLESOME. Upon doing some research, I came across articles like this, which describe how Agave is nothing more than a lab-produced cousin to high fructose corn syrup, and is actually worse for you based on the concentration of fructose. The word "natural" means very little on a label, since no one regulates its use. "Organic" also can't be trusted, unless you trust the source. So, what's a girl to do?

Trial and error, trial and error

Keep trying! Never trust the marketing, and do your own research. In addition, have your eyes wide open about the presence of GMOs in processed foods, as well as the truths about industrial farming. Have you read the Omnivore's Dilemma yet? Do it! :) In the meantime, I'll end on a positive note. I tried this super easy recipe last week and it was delicious! LOVE sweet potato in soups. I substituted veggie broth for the chicken broth and kept out the celery (as I had none), and the leftovers lasted me throughout the week. Yum, yum, yum.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nutritionist advice from my first visit

My nutritionist visit!
I decided to seek out a nutritionist mainly because I wanted to make sure I was on the right track with my new diet and supplement plan. The exciting thing to learn was that Keystone Health Plan East covers up to 6 visits per calendar year - if you have coverage, take advantage of it! I went to Rittenhouse Women's Wellness Center this morning for my visit, and I have mixed feelings about how it went, maybe in part because I had no idea what to expect. The nutritionist I met with was very nice. I got the sense that she was a professional and she gave me some suggestions which I value and will share, but I also wondered if someone with additional years of experience could have provided me with more insight when I had specific questions (she was young). This might also be the difference between going to a holistic doctor and going to a more traditional doctor: if I wanted someone to talk with in detail about Spirulina or the intracacies of juicing, for example, I may just need to go to a naturopath. We'll see.

What an innocent looking egg
Regardless, I had filled out a nutritional history form and a 3-day food diary for her to look over, and she surprised me by asking how I knew so much about nutrition, as my current diet is quite good. She hadn't heard of Kris Carr, but I found it gratifying that all of the work I've done thus far to change my eating habits has been confirmed as good by another source. She said yes: a whole foods, plant-based diet is the right choice, and also confirmed what many won't like to hear: dairy is not great for you, friends. She gave me a summary copy of a report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which outlines the issues which can be linked to dairy consumption: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, lactose intolerance, vitamin D toxicity, contaminants (such as synthetic hormones), specific concerns for infants and children, and last but not least: clinical research which shows that milk does not prevent osteoporosis as commonly thought. What can reduce osteoporosis risk, according to this research? A reduction in sodium and animal protein, an increased intake of fruits and veggies, increased calcium from leafy green veggies and beans, and exercise. Good thing I love vanilla almond milk so much!

The more I learn about nutrition, the more I realize that subsidized industries which can promote their products heavily (such as dairy and meat) are part of the reason we all think that dairy and meat are the key answers to staying healthy. All of the mounting evidence against dairy has me thinking hard about what I want to do moving forward. I love cheese just as much as anyone else, and there are plenty of recipes which call for eggs or butter. I think my decision is to stop trying to have all of the answers right this minute: I'll keep taking this day by day.

I asked her specifically about the supplements I've been taking, as I'm worried about overdosing on certain vitamins (especially Vitamin A) and creating more toxicity in my body. She told me that I can keep taking Spirulina, but that I should only take a multivitamin on the days when I don't think I'm getting enough nutrition from food. This might have ALWAYS been the case before I started juicing, but essentially I no longer need a multivitamin. How liberating (and cheaper, too)! For the days when I do need them though, she said very few brands have been backed by clinical research. The one she recommends is Juice Plus, so I'll be looking that up in the future.

I've also been taking a D3 supplement which she asked me to cut back on. I will now take it every other day and spend 15-20 minutes outside in the sun 2-3 times a week. She said vitamin D creates toxicity in the system if we have too much, and that the sun is still the best source - she said spending a little bit of time outside a few times a week should be enough. I'm supposed to go back to the doctor and get my D levels re-tested in April, so we'll see if this experiment works! She also suggested that I cut back on probiotics too and see how I feel, as the healthier our diets get, the less we need the supplements.

Protein and fruits / veggies
She said we need less protein as part of our daily diet than the media would suggest. Eating a serving of plant sourced protein 2-3 times a day should be enough (such as: beans, legumes, nuts, etc). She told me that I'm currently getting enough servings of veggies (woo!), but that I need to bump up my fruit intake. Fruit smoothies, anyone? :) I also want to start eating something in the morning in conjunction with my veggie juice, such as almond butter, to help make sure my blood sugar is level.

Books to consider
She suggested I read Do you have the guts to be beautiful? by Mitra Ray. I also ran across another book yesterday which I'm interested in reading, called The blood sugar solution by Mark Harmon.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Healthy drinks!

Right now I'm watching 'Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,' which follows an Australian man Joe Cross on a 60 day juice fast. Tired of being overweight and dealing with a chronic disease, he learns how to juice fruits and vegetables, travels around the US, and interviews people about their eating habits. Most people interviewed admitted that regardless of their health problems or the threat of health problems, they were not currently inspired to change. No willpower, self-proclaimed addiction to processed food, no interest in vegetables or exercising: these were some of the reasons that people gave for why they didn't choose a healthy lifestyle. "I could never do that," people would say.

This documentary is SO inspiring though, and the montages concerning him and another man he'd met along the journey had me in tears, of course. People realize that juicing can be easier than they thought, and they begin to change their lives and rid themselves of disease. Increased energy and mental clarity, weight loss, new hope: the more I read and see, the more convinced I am that we have the power to shape our own health, regardless of family genetics. Seeing success stories like these increase my excitement about my own journey and it reaffirms for me that I'm doing the right things for myself, even when it gets tough. Watch this documentary and get inspired too!

Why juicing is great  
I bought Kris Carr's new ebook Crazy Sexy Juices & Succulent Smoothies, which outlines all of the benefits of juicing and green smoothies, in addition to offering 50+ new recipes. The book says:

Juicing and blending your organic fruits and veggies are the best and quickest ways to reduce inflammation (the root cause of most chronic disease) while hydrating your body, drenching your cells in life-giving nutrients and even repairing your DNA. Yes, you read that correctly. Say hello to boundless energy, glowing skin, clear eyes, improved digestion and exceptional health and happiness. Say goodbye to toxins, excess weight, sugar cravings, addictions, premature aging and a lackluster appearance.

If you're looking for an easy way to learn everything you need to know about juicing and making green smoothies, as well as getting access to tons of sample recipes, I'd suggest getting this ebook! It downloads as a PDF, which makes it easy for me to have a copy wherever I go. I'd LOVE to help any of you get started with juicing, as I'm convinced that it's helped me feel tons healthier in a relatively short amount of time (I've been juicing daily now for just over a month). I haven't made as many smoothies, but friends have had a lot of success with them. Tons of smoothie recipes in this ebook as well!

Another drink worth thinking about
Like I've mentioned previously, Bragg's apple cider vinegar is pretty great, but I've yet to explain a more recent addition to my recipe. If you take a look at the Bragg's website (link above), you'll see they list a bunch of benefits: supports a healthy immune system, helps control weight (by breaking down fats so your body can use them instead of storing them), rich in enzymes and potassium, etc. Check on iherb.com for product reviews, which were helpful to me in thinking through what people use the Bragg's for. It's an inexpensive and easy addition to my diet and I've been pleased so far, as I really do think it's helped control my appetite. Here's my recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon of Bragg's apple cider vinegar in a full glass of water
  • 2 oz of Lily of the Valley aloe vera juice

Aloe vera juice, did I say?

Indeed. If your family had an aloe plant while growing up, or if you're prone to sunburns like I am, you've often come in contact with aloe as a healing agent. I LOVE aloe, but I never considered drinking it. I recently discovered Lily of the Valley aloe vera juice, which helps support normal muscle and joint function and digestive health, as well as other benefits. Both the apple cider vinegar and the aloe can be purchased in large quantities for a better price, which I didn't do this time as I wanted to make sure I liked them first. **I'd like to make the note that while I'm currently trying out aloe vera, just as I've tried many other things, I'm not sure yet whether this will be a permanent part of my diet. Try it, see if you like it!

I researched nutritionists this week and found the Rittenhouse Women's Wellness Center. It turns out that through my insurance (Keystone Health Plan East), I am eligible for 6 visits per calendar year with a nutritionist. SO excited. I have an appointment on the 29th to talk about all of these new diet changes, as well as the supplements I'm taking. I'll be sure to update after the first visit. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Flexibility and discovery

One of the fun parts of the cleanse was the near-constant feeling of discovery. Supplements, tips for cooking brown rice (which I no longer screw up every time.. turns out there is actually truth to just letting it be with the lid on), the fact that certain cravings have continued to dwindle. Now that I'm a week post-cleanse, my weekly routine somewhat mirrors the cleanse weeks, to be honest: largely vegetarian (I had fish once last weekend), juicing and my Braggs vinegar drink in the mornings, an apple on my way home, greens at lunch and dinner, veggies and grains and beans and tempeh. Very little gluten (I splurged on bread when Eric and I went out to dinner for an early V-Day). I've had cheese twice, but for the most part have not wanted much dairy as I'm afraid of reversing all the progress I made. This past week has brought on some fatigue and a slight cold; while it could be coincidence, these feelings are largely in contrast to how I'd felt by the end of the cleanse.. energetic and incredibly light. I don't want to go back to feeling sluggish and congested!

Even so, I've been navigating a mental tug of war over keeping new habits and remaining flexible. For example, I can't lug my juicer around when visiting friends or going to Eric's house. On those days, I'll supplement with wheat grass powder and not get worked up about it. If a friend makes me a meal with chicken, I'll eat the chicken and then likely not eat meat again that week. Instead of viewing certain foods or situations as road blocks, I'm learning to view them as the moments during the week when I exercise moderation. I have a tendency to approach new life developments at full steam: if it's best to juice every day, then I must juice every day! Except, life doesn't work this way and juicing 5-6 days a week is still better than the 0 days I was juicing before. :) So many veggies! So much kale.

Love this!
I think I've finally settled on my supplement list! Finally. Here we go: multivitamin, D3 supplement, probiotic, supplement for omega 3s, digestive enzymes and wheatgrass as needed (for those days when I need to be flexible!)
As I wanted to stop taking fish oil and I can't seem to remember to eat enough ground flaxseed, getting my omegas from Spirulina seemed like an intriguing choice. A known superfood, Spirulina is "a type of blue-green algae that is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids, antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage. It contains nutrients, including B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and gamma linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid)." Articles are careful to point out that a lot of theories are not proven yet, but I tend to rely on my own experience regardless of what studies say. The next time I visit my doctor, I plan on showing her this list and getting advice... in my effort to take care of myself, I don't want to overdo it.  Regardless, so far so good! Always, always read the reviews! They've helped me in deciding whether to trust the brand or not.

This week's experiment: continuing to test diluted tea tree oil and jojoba oil. I've also discovered a pretty good yoga mat cleaner:


Tea tree oil, water, and vinegar! I'd like to find something for which vinegar has no use! It's so versatile. I tried the spray / bath method described in this blog and it seemed to work - my mat looked quite clean and then I felt guilty that I hadn't researched proper washing techniques much sooner. Oops.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cleanse, Day 21!

Image via Flickr user nutrilover
So, it's been officially 21 days since I started juicing fruits & veggies daily, since I last had meat or dairy, since I've had most varieties of processed food, and since I've had high concentrations of gluten. I splurged twice during the past three weeks and had a drink, but other than that I haven't touched alcohol. I've had no caffeine. My sporadic indulgence has been a piece of dark chocolate.

And what's the result?

I've lost 5+ pounds, but the weight loss was not my initial goal and is ultimately not the most exciting result. More so, I'm just excited that I feel pretty damn awesome: more energy, improved mood, sleep, and skin, less aches, increased focus. Should I go on? :) 3 weeks is not long enough to flush all the toxins out and properly rebuild, but it certainly is a giant step in the right direction. Sometimes you just need to be unabashedly proud of yourself, and today I am - for researching and sticking with a new lifestyle even when it felt super challenging. The next challenge, of course, being what do I do moving forward?

Doing a 3 week cleanse might feel too extreme for you right now and that's totally understandable. Giving up meat, dairy, caffeine, gluten, and alcohol is no joke, especially when you top that with changing your personal care products! I've been nervous about what elements of this diet I'll keep and what I'd like to start eating again, but here are some definite truths which I'd like to remember in the weeks ahead:
  1. I don't want to rely on meat as my dominant source of protein, and would like to continue exploring vegetarian options many nights of the week. It would seem I'm not the only one thinking along these lines, as seen in this recent opinion piece on the NYT site. PS. Tempeh is delish, seriously.
  2. Juicing or blending fruits and vegetables is important, friends. See some of the benefits here, and also join me in eager anticipation of Kris Carr's new recipe book of juices and smoothies, due out soon!
  3. I don't want to revert back to tons of processed food, just because it's there. It's super easy to have a pb&j or french fries or whatever sugary snack food is free at work, etc etc etc. It's not as easy to plan ahead and make sure there's extra quinoa / beans in the fridge, plenty of lettuce on hand for salads, raw almonds and herbal tea at work, or my stockpile of apples for the commute home. These are habits I've begun to cultivate via the cleanse and I don't want them to fade away.
  4. Eat whole, raw fruits and veggies every day! Beyond the cooked food, making room for salads and fruits is key. I have just felt overall better when eating more leafy greens - it's the truth.
  5. Approach dairy and gluten carefully. I'm honestly not sure how my body would react if I tried to eat pizza right now. I'll have to slowly reintroduce things and see what happens.
As a final note for this week, make this recipe! It's the chili which Eric and I made, and it's super delicious. We did make some adjustments: we removed the bulgur (it's a wheat product), added some tempeh cooked in olive oil, and replaced the jalapeƱo pepper with one poblano pepper and an extra red pepper. We then added some cayenne powder to garnish, in addition to salt / pepper. NOTE: pour leftover chili onto quinoa for an awesome next-day meal.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cleanse, Day 15

Images of trees make me happiest
Image via Flikr user Oddsock
We're 15 days into the cleanse! Overall, I feel good. I've lost weight, my skin is clearing (albiet slowly..), and my body feels lighter, somehow. There are random moments when I feel simply on-top-of-the-world euphoric - which I've heard can happen during this cleanse. My mind feels more alert, I get less tired and hungry during the day, and I have more energy. The downsides: I miss wheat, cheese, and eggs. My cravings for meat have been less, as we've experimented with some really delicious vegetarian recipes, but I haven't found a wheat bread substitute which I like very much and veggie burgers just aren't as good without cheese! We did try brown rice tortillas and they were good - I'd eat them again. Eric has been so supportive that he's trying all of these new things with me, even when we're in completely unknown territory (we tried a brand of fake cheese that this guy raved about in the store. The result: it was gross). Other new finds have been a success though: we both really like tempeh, and I can easily see continuing to cook it after the cleanse is over; I have a newfound appreciation for pinto beans; this weekend we made stuffed cabbage wraps with his mom (a mixture of quinoa and sauteed veggies wrapped in cabbage leaves, then baked in a tomato sauce) and they were delicious. So, there's hope for me yet!

Many will tell you it's ideal to eat as many raw, whole foods as possible. Cooking vegetables strips a lot of the nutrients, so large portions of salad are ideal for lunch and dinner (with a smaller portion of cooked foods). Especially during the winter, this is HARD: who wants to pass up a warm meal for a salad? Moderation, moderation, moderation: while I understand that a vegan, gluten-free diet is the ultimate present to your body, I already know that it's not easy to maintain: other people don't know how to cook for you; the ingredients can be harder to find; it takes a lot of work to learn a new lifestyle from scratch. Perhaps it would be easier if I was avoiding just dairy or just gluten - the combination of the two makes for interesting shopping trips! For those friends who maintain this kind of lifestyle happily: bravo to you!

For those reasons, I'm looking at doing a scaled back version of the cleanse once it's over next week. I will absolutely keep juicing in lieu of a more traditional breakfast and will keep eating greens at every meal. I will also try slowly reintroducing gluten / dairy and will monitor what happens - if either makes me feel gross, that's a pretty clear signal. I will cut way back on meat and dairy regardless, will aim for local products when I do have meat/dairy, and will avoid processed foods as much as possible. I'm starting to feel too awesome to go back to my pre-cleanse diet, and it's only been 2 weeks! Of course, I have been using one other secret weapon...

Bragg's organic apple cider vinegar, friends. YES!

Some of you may use this already when you feel a cold or sore throat coming on. I discovered more long-term methods:
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar in warm water (with lemon and honey if you wish) each morning and another serving before dinner
    • Use a straw so as to avoid your teeth as much as possible; don't brush for 1/2 an hour just in case
  • Dilute the vinegar with water 50/50 and use as a toner for your skin
I've been using both of these methods for almost 2 weeks now and am so far pleased - the vinegar has been improving the texture and health of my skin at a far faster rate than anything else I've tried. In addition, drinking the mixture before a meal helps me to eat a more normal-sized portion, as the vinegar acts as an appetite suppresant. I looked up lots of reviews on both methods and people RAVE about ACV as a home remedy. It's available at many supermarkets, as well as GNC (they were having a buy 1, get 1 half off sale). Woo for cheap! Just make sure it's organic, if you try some, and know that it's going to smell.. like vinegar. My skin doesn't smell all day, but I try to put it on about half an hour before leaving the house. :)

That's it for now! On to week 3...