Clean Up Your Act
By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness
It’s the New Year – and a time for new beginnings. Many of us use this special time of year to turn over a new leaf. So, in the next five bulletins, I’m going to talk about five ways you can improve your health in 2009. Up first – simple ways to clean up your diet so that it supports optimal health…
Living La Vida Liquid
Substituting healthy foods for overly processed fare can make a big difference in your health. But before you introduce “the good stuff,” you need to rid your body of the toxins that have built up over a lifetime. Detoxing is a popular way to purge your liver and colon so that they work more efficiently. Some detox regimens, like herbal supplements, spa treatments and special diets, promise to rid the body of pollutants, chemicals, dietary waste and even unwanted pounds. And some of these programs can actually do you some good. But you have to be careful – especially if you have health issues.
Detoxing by fasting – the basic premise behind the Master Cleanse and the Fruit Flush – can get rid of water weight and pack a wallop of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. But it’s unclear whether they really rid your body of toxins. And for those with health problems, a detox fast that lasts more than a day or two could be unsafe, since extended detoxing (more than three days) can actually rob your body of vitamins and nutrients. But a one-day juice fast is a great way to kickstart a gradual cleansing program.
Give Toxins the Boot
Every day your liver, with the help of your kidneys, filters toxins to be excreted through your urine and bowels. So it makes sense to keep this hard-working organ in tip-top shape – especially if you drink alcohol or take acetaminophen (Tylenol) on a regular basis, which can both damage your liver.
One of the most effective herbs to support liver function is milk thistle. Silymarin, the key compound in milk thistle, is a potent antioxidant and intermediate in cell metabolism, which specifically targets the liver. Silymarin also prevents the depletion of glutathione – a powerful protein that attaches itself to toxins and transforms them into a form that can be excreted in the urine or bile. Look for a milk thistle supplement that is standardized to at least 70 percent silymarin, and take 200 to 400 mg. daily.
Burdock root is another liver-loving herb. Rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C, burdock stimulates bile flow and protects, tonifies and detoxifies the liver. A study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine found that burdock has liver-protective effects against the toxins carbon tetrachloride caused by industrial contamination and acetaminophen. More recently, Taiwanese researchers found that burdock root also helped protect the liver from chronic alcohol consumption.
Treat Your Colon Kindly
Colonics are the mother of all detox regimens. A tube inserted into the rectum flushes out the contents of the colon with warm or cool water. The stories of what emerges during a colonic (10 pounds of poop! Years of constipation!) are always dramatic, but not necessarily truthful.
What we do know is that colonics can lead to infection if nonsterile equipment is used, your colon or anal area is injured, or the billions of “good” bacteria that keep your immune system strong are washed away. And it’s definitely not a good idea if you have diverticulosis or if your colon is harboring precancerous polyps.
The best – and safest – way to take care of your colon is with fiber. Fiber (the parts of fruit, vegetables, grains, etc. that can’t be digested) assist the colon in two ways. First, insoluble fiber has great water retention properties, making it a natural laxative. Because the colon can absorb large amounts of water, this type of fiber aids in the formation of waste and in the speed in which it is processed through the body. The second type of fiber, called soluble, forms a “gel” as it is broken down in the colon by bacteria.
While many whole grains, fruits and vegetables contain some fiber, one of the best to eliminate toxins is by taking a psyllium supplement. Psyllium is rich in both fiber and mucilage. Psyllium’s mucilage expands tenfold upon contact with water to form a gel. This gel serves to keep the feces soft and bulky, making them easier to pass. Psyllium’s laxative effect is mild enough to be used on an ongoing basis, generally leading to a bowel movement within 12 to 24 hours. Conversely, because psyllium adds bulk to the stool, it also helps resolve diarrhea symptoms.
Researchers at Perdue University have found that psyllium also helps detoxify the body by increasing bile and trapping toxins. This fiber-rich herb also prevents disabled estrogens from being reactivated and absorbed. Although psyllium is generally considered safe, people with an obstruction of the bowel or diabetics who have difficulty regulating their blood sugar shouldn’t use this herb.
Bring in the New
Once you’ve detoxed, you can keep your liver and colon running smoothly by including certain foods in your diet. Specifically, load up on beets, daikon radishes, artichokes, seaweed, green foods such as chlorella and spirulina, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage.
What else should you eat? Adopting a diet based on clean eating – food that is in its most natural state – can enhance your health and boost your energy levels. Try to avoid eating refined foods that are high in sugar or sodium. Go for whole grains, as well as a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables. And opt for organic whenever possible to minimize your exposure to pesticide residue.
It’s also important to keep saturated fat intake low. Instead, beef up on high-quality, lean protein like fish, organic poultry and soy. As a bonus, lean protein can also boost your metabolism by 30 percent – which helps keep the weight off!
Finally, choose healthy fats – omega-3s from cold-water fish and flaxseed, and monounsaturated fats found in olives and avocados. And don’t forget to drink plenty of purified water. Water helps to flush toxins through the body and keeps your cells well-hydrated. It also helps the body absorb nutrients so that you get all the benefits your clean food has to offer.
One Last Thing …
Filling up on real food can provide a wealth of nutrients that contribute to good health. But, sometimes that isn’t enough. To insure that your immune system is at its best, it’s smart to take supplements.
It’s no secret that echinacea can help shorten the time you’ll suffer from a common cold. But clinical trails have found that this immune booster also stimulates the function of a variety of immune cells, particularly natural killer cells.
Green tea has also stimulated the production of immune cells and has anti-bacterial properties. High in antioxidants, investigators at the University of Florida discovered that green tea enhances T-cell function. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that attacks virus-infected cells, foreign cells and cancer cells. Studies show that taking a green tea extract standardized to provide 240 to 320 mg. of polyphenols or drinking three to four cups of green tea daily significantly improves immune function.
Research Brief …
Got diverticulosis? According to a new study, the old advice of avoiding nuts and popcorn might not be valid. In fact, the findings even suggest that nuts and popcorn may offer some protection against flare-ups.
For those who don’t know, diverticulosis is a condition characterized by small outpouchings from the colon, called diverticula. Experts estimate that one-third of Americans have diverticulosis by age 60, two-thirds by age 85. It’s only when stool or bacteria lodges in the pouches and they become inflamed that trouble starts.This inflammation is called diverticulitis, and severe cases may require surgery.
Researchers with the Health Professionals Follow-up Study investigated whether consumption of the suspected offending foods were indeed linked with diverticulitis and bleeding. In analyzing the records of more than 47,000 men who were followed for more than 18 years, the researchers found no link between their intake of corn, nuts and popcorn and the development of uncomplicated diverticulosis or of diverticular bleeding.
Most surprising, however, was the revelation that eating nuts and popcorn actually was linked with less risk of diverticulitis. Men who ate the most nuts were 20 percent less likely – and those who ate the most popcorn were 28 percent less likely – to develop diverticulitis than those who ate the least.
So go ahead – enjoy! Just make sure to chew these salty snacks well.
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Rowe CA, Nantz MP, Bukowskin JF, et al. “Specific formulation of Camellia sinensis prevents cold and flu symptoms and enhances gamma, delta T cell function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2007;26:445-452.
Strate LL, Liu YL, Syngal S, et al. “Nut, corn, and popcorn consumption and the incidence of diverticular disease.” Journal of the American Medical Association. 2008;300:907-914.
Yu LL, Lutterodt H, Cheng Z. “Beneficial health properties of psyllium and approaches to improve its functionalities.” Advances in Food and Nutritional Research. 2009;55:193-220.