Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Is your detox doing more harm than good?

Right now, it seems like every second person I run into is on some sort of "detox" program. On the one hand, this is great as it is an indication that people are actually investing some time and care into improving their health and wellness. On the other hand, the programs out there can vary from downright dodgy (I'm looking at you Lemon Detox) to potentially beneficial but often not as effective as they could be. Now don't get me wrong, this is not a post to discourage you from detoxing. This is simply to show you how to get the most out your detox so you become one of those annoyingly bubbly and energetic people who bounce through their day singing to the birds. Or like Peter Griffin from Family Guy after he has had a RedBull: 

I think in the world we live in today, some sort of regular deep "cleanse" is necessary. Not only are we consuming crappy foods and drinks, but we are surrounded by harmful toxins which can build up in our body and wreak havoc on our overall health and wellness. The problem with most detox programs is that they only focus on the food and drink aspect:

- no sugar
- no caffeine (currently doing this one at the moment and STRUGGLING! Thank god for nana naps and liquorice tea)
- no alcohol
- no meat
- no dairy
- lots of juices

There are a lot of "no's" in there! What about the "yes's"? While these approaches (with a few exceptions) may be helpful in lessening the future burden on our system, they do not fully address the toxic load that is already present, nor do they take into account the myriad of other ways our body is being flooded with harmful chemicals. Are you lost? Should I back up a few metres? 

OK, let's start with the liver…

Why would we start with the liver? Well it is our primary detox organ! It is the role of the liver to filter our blood before it enters the systemic circulation and gets carried to the rest of our organs and muscles etc. Not only does it process all of the food and drinks we consume, but it also deals with hormones, medications, alcohol, drugs and metabolic by-products, to name a few. If the liver is not functioning optimally, if it has too much work to do (I'll expand on this later) or if we are not providing it with adequate support during a detox then we may either not be reaping the full benefits of our cleanse or, we could be causing more damage than good!

WHAT? More damage with a detox? How??

Okey dokey, I apologise if this gets a bit nerdy but hey, that's who I am. I also want to point out that this is a very brief overview of how the liver detoxification system works. If you want to geek out further, feel free to get in touch! Also, feel free to skip this part and go straight to the tips on how you can make your detox more effective. 

Alright, are you ready? There are 3 phases of detox (however the third takes place in the kidneys). For effective detox, we need all phases working properly. In the liver, if one of the two phases is not working adequately, highly reactive by-products (i.e. toxins) can build up and cause cellular damage which may lead to further health issues throughout the body. Phase I reactions are essentially responsible for removing the garbage from your blood and processing chemicals to undergo phase II reactions. Let's stop here for a moment. The cleanse that you may be doing right now - all that juicing and healthy eating - that's in the realm of phase I detox. Good job - you are off to a great start! Most detoxes stop at this point. Why is this a problem? Because as I mentioned above, the metabolites from this phase, if not removed, can be incredibly harmful to the liver. SO….we need to look after phase II….

Phase II is very complex and involves a number of pathways that we do not need to go into here. In essence, phase II is responsible for "wrapping up" the harmful by-products from phase I into water-soluble "packages" so they can be excreted in the urine via the kidneys (or in bile via bowel movements). 

Let's cut to the chase - how do we get this "phase II" detox hip and happening? There are a number of things you should take into account when trying to get this baby working optimally:

1. Is your toxin load still too heavy for your liver to handle? I know what you're thinking - "No I'm juicing all organic vegetables, I'm not smoking, I'm not drinking, I've given up coffee. WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT FROM ME!!??". Firstly, calm down - stress will only make matters worse. I want you to think about if you are still exposed to any of the following:

- The birth control pill - this nasty little monster will not only prevent your detox from being effective but may be doing long-term damage to your liver and entire hormonal system. I stopped taking the pill 2 years ago and things still have not returned to normal. GET OFF IT NOW! Ladies, if you really want to be healthy, get to know your cycle - take matters into your own hands. For more on this, read "The Garden of Fertility" by Katie Singer.
- Other medications - these all need to be processed by the liver and hence, add an additional burden. Please, ALWAYS consult your medical practitioner before stopping any medication. Not so fun fact - if you are taking a statin drug (for cholesterol) and you are dosing up on your grapefruit as part of your detox, STOP NOW!! Grapefruit juice inhibits the enzymes needed for the breakdown and clearance of statins and can lead to a toxic build-up in your body. 
- Skin care products, perfumes and cleaning products. Most are filled with incredibly harmful chemicals which not only increase the burden on your liver, but are potential "endocrine disruptors" which muck up your hormonal system leading to other complications. Go natural! I use olive oil of almond oil as a moisturiser now and my skin has never been softer (and that says a lot, considering I used to work for the #1 skincare brand in Australia). For more on this, check out The Environmental Working Group.
- are you eating or juicing too much fruit? While a little fresh fruit is absolutely beneficial, too much can be detrimental as fructose (the sugar found in fruit) has to be processed by the liver and is therefore adding yet another thing for the poor little over-worked organ to do. Fruit juice is much worse as it does not contain the fibre that whole fruit has and is therefore a greater hit to the liver. Try to stick with whole foods. If you must juice, stick with veggies and ALWAYS use filtered water. 

2. Are you supporting both phases of liver detox through nutritional or supplemental avenues? 

- A good phase I supplement is milk thistle extract. 
- In phase II, we really want to encourage the production of glutathione, our body's main anti-oxidant. How? Don't take a glutathione supplement - these are useless as they do not survive the digestive process. Instead, if you want a supplement, consider something with N-acetyl cysteine, which is the precursor to glutathione. Alpha-lipoic acid has also been shown to help. Speak to your healthcare practitioner about these. 

Foods to aid detox

- beetroot, carrots, capsicum, eggplant - "eat the rainbow" - brightly coloured veggies contain flavanoids and beta-carotene which are excellent anti-oxidants. Beetroot also helps with liver drainage.
- garlic - assists in removal of heavy metals from the liver
- brazil nuts - provide selenium which acts as an anti-oxidant and co-factor for glutathione action. Two brazil nuts per day are enough to provide you with your requirements
- eggs, broccoli and spinach - provide B-complex vitamins which are necessary in phase I to improve liver function and promote decongestion
- liver - eating liver helps your liver. SImple as that. Actually, it's more complex, but I have waffled enough today.
- cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage help the liver produce the enzymes necessary for detoxification. Note: minimise these if you have any thyroid issues
- dandelion greens (or tea), mustard greens, chicory - bitter vegetables increase the production and flow of bile and therefore aid excretion of waste products
- vitamin C-rich foods such as fresh orange (whole), berries, spinach, kiwi fruit. 
- radishes and watercress - rich in sulfur, necessary for glutathione production
- plenty of filtered water (not tap)

Some other ways to get the tox out of your body

- dry body brushing - this helps stimulate lymphatic drainage, thereby aiding the elimination of toxins from the body. I like to do this before my shower each morning with a dry bristle brush, using long strokes towards the heart with a fair bit of pressure
- sleep - vital for recovery and optimal wellness. If you are not getting good quality sleep in a dark room each night, then you are hindering your progress towards health and vitality. I really should have put this at the start. Put this as a priority, people!
- stress management - I know I always blab on about this but that's because I have experienced first-hand what stress can do, even when you have all of your other ducks in a row, and I don't want you to have to go through the same thing. Meditate if you can, just for 5 minutes a day. Or even just 5-10 mins of deep belly breathing will help to reduce stress and cleanse our system
- self-love - don't beat yourself up! Love yourself and be grateful for what you have. Each night, write down at least one thing you are grateful for. It doesn't have to be big, it could simply be "I'm grateful that the cat didn't pee on the carpet today". Easy as that. Be kind to yourself - treat yourself as you would treat your best friend. 

Are you overwhelmed? Don't be discouraged! A lot of these things can (and should) easily be incorporated into your daily menu. If you're having any troubles, or if you are confused, please feel free to get in touch with me - I would be more than happy to help you out - kate.theholisticnutritionist@gmail.com

Please also do not underestimate the benefits of simply cleaning up your food and drinks - every little bit counts! 

Friday, 8 February 2013

Bone broth - best and cheapest super-food on the planet?

Hey friends! Just a quick post to tell you how to make nourishing, mineral-rich bone broth and why you should be incorporating it into your daily diet. Seriously folks, bone broth is the cheapest super-food on the planet! Not only is it an excellent source of calcium, which most people I know are concerned about, and other minerals, it is rich in gelatin, which helps to heal the gut and treat intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 

Other benefits of bone broth include:
  • Improving joint health – reducing inflammation and symptoms of arthritis
  • Minimise cellulite – the collagen in the broth helps to reinforce the collagen layers in our body, thus preventing the occurrence of Mr Orange Peel. 
  • Like fermented foods, broth can improve immunity and help to prevent or shorten colds and flus. 
  • Glycine, an amino acid in broth, helps to aid in muscle recovery, and improve digestion by increasing stomach acid secretion, which is required for the proper breakdown and hence absorption of foods (side story - Az (husband) came home incredibly sore from rugby last night so I told him to dose up on some broth. He did and woke up with no pain! Unfortunately he played rugby again today, broke his ribs and tore his AC joint. I'm now making double quantities of broth to help speed the recovery along. Bloody rugby!)
  • Gelatin can also improve skin and nails, aid sleep, and help reduce sugar cravings
  • It is so so very cheap, even when using the best quality bones. I think each batch I make costs me around $5, and that makes about 4L. What?!!?
This kind of sums up how I feel about bone broth….just substitute “bird” for “broth”…( know it doesn’t rhyme, but whatever – just enjoy it already!)

Oh how I love Family Guy.

Anywho - we have bone broth daily and absolutely love it! I have it first thing in the morning or in the afternoon if I am feeling a little peckish before dinner. If you don’t want to drink it straight-up, use it to add to soups and stews instead of crappy store-bought stocks which have lots of added nasties and are devoid of all benefits. 

Recently I have been preaching a fair bit about the health benefits of bone broth and (excitedly) as a result people have been asking for me to share the recipe. So here it is!

**Recipe – Nourishing-oh-so-good-superfood-your-grandma-was-right-bone broth
First of all, you need yourself a slow-cooker. Seriously, how many times do I need to say this? It will revolutionise your life! OK – got it? Good. Now in your slow cooker (the bigger the better – ours is 6.5L and digital), add the following:
  • ½-1kg bones from organic, grass fed animals (I think beef tastes best, but all are good)
  • 2 organic celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 organic carrots, chopped
  • 6 small cloves organic garlic, smashed (this is important to do BEFORE chopping to release the beneficial phytochemicals (P.S: “Phyto” = “plant”. You’re welcome)
  • 1 organic onion, chopped
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs – rosemary, thyme and sage work well but I’m sure you could add in whatever you like
  • Kelp or other sea vegetable for trace minerals that are hard to otherwise find, such as iodine (very important for thyroid health and foetal development) - optional
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup organic apple cider vinegar (this is essential for drawing the minerals out of the bones)
  • Filtered water – enough to cover everything.
Instructions: throw everything in the pot. Cover. Cook on low for around 20hrs. Allow to cool and then strain off the liquid (including the fat) into glass storage containers. Refrigerate. A really good broth will go like jelly, however I have thus far only managed to do this with beef bones, so if you find the secret to the others, then let me know. PS: you can also use a big stock pot if you prefer. 

Let me know how you go! If you live in Sydney and want to try some broth but not quite ready to make your own big batch, let me know - I'm happy to share a little of mine. The way I see it, bone broth makes people healthy, and healthy people are happy people. Therefore, bone broth makes the world go round. Wouldn't you agree?

Alternatively, my friend Soulla runs fantastic bone broth-making workshops in Sydney (among other great workshops while also creating delicious and nutritious read-to-eat products). Check out her blog - mystaranise.wordpress.com

Geez - will I ever be able to write a short post??

If you want to contact me, shoot me an email at kate.theholisticnutritionist@gmail.com. I'm currently also taking nutrition consultations for 2013, so if you are interested in optimising your health in any way, shape or form, please feel free to give me a shout!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Health & Wellness in South America - Guest post

Hey all! We are back from South America and as you can see, my attempt to keep the blog updated failed miserably. We were too busy....living! Sorry to rub it in, but sometimes you just need to completely disconnect (not that I did - I became quite Instagram happy during our travels. You can follow me at kate_callaghan). So, while I am working on a new blog at the moment, I am also trying to get my new website for my nutrition business up and running, which means I am a little busy. Fortunately for me, my dear husband has offered to do a guest post for me! Woo hoo! Minimal input from me this time - just one little side note which you will see in purple. Enjoy!

Lessons learnt in South America

14 flights , 7 bus trips and 3 days on a boat in the jungle. What did I learn from a health and wellness point of view?

"Caldo de cordero" from La Paz, Bolivia.
Also known as bone broth - cheapest superfood on earth!
  1. There is always a good, better and best food choice. Take responsibility; there is no-one else to blame. (see above for an example of "best food choice")
  2. What I found from an exercise point of few: when conditions were less than perfect (e.g. equipment that you want isn’t available, limited time, energy levels are low), something is better than nothing. Often the biggest hurdle is mindset. Take in the attitude that you’re just going to do 5min -10min. Once you’re moving things usually fall into place.
  3. The power of marketing is huge. The further societies get away from their traditional diets the decrease in health seems exponential.
  4. Even at 40 years old it’s possible to increase flexibility with consistent work.  As a side note, 5mins of stretching before bed made me feel significantly better in the morning.
  5. Always remember the attitude of gratitude. Not having access to hot water, electricity, toilets that flushed and safe drinking water was a great reminder to be thankful for what I have.
  6. Yes it seems at some level calories in vs calories and not just hormone regulation seems to influence body composition. Unfortunately I’m just not sure which is more important when trying to get change. Overall my total calories would have been down but my insulin spiking (through traditional weight gaining food) was up. Yet I lost weight?? (as a side note, he did have diarrhoea for about 3 weeks, which may have contributed just a little to the weight loss. Sorry for sharing, Az!)
  7. Movement and sunlight are key components for me to have a happy mindset. After periods of long travel and lack of movement, my ability to handle stress definitely decreased and levels of irritability increased.
  8. We are victims of our environment.  Age should not be a limiting factor for staying supple and mobile. Being able to deep squat is a fantastic way to maintain ankle, hip and thoracic spine mobility. Unfortunately in the west we have chairs and toilets so we lose the necessity and ability to deep squat and think it is normal….
  9. My body feels horrible when I have vegetable oil
  10. For fat loss, maybe 4-10 mins of bodyweight exercise 3-4 x a week might be enough for great results.
The trip was absolutely amazing. I love my wife very much for being so patient with someone who I’m sure was not always easy to travel with…(he wasn't so bad)

Hope this helps. Aaron