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.