I resurrected this piece after reading today's Tip from Maia Toll's free 21-Day Detox. She's giving easy-to-integrate daily tips on making small changes that will detox our life, not just our body.
A year or two ago, I was discussing pH balance with a friend who was on a high protein diet. She was having a hard time with low energy and general fatigue, and wanted to know more about how the diet was affecting her. I hit upon a ceviche metaphor, that she was 'cooking' herself, and here we are!
A Primer on Acids, Bases and Enzymes
Or, Why Digestion Is Hard!
Or, Another Reason to Eat Your Veggies
First, look at enzymes. Enzymes are substances that make chemical reactions happen. Normally, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but enzymes make the jump from point A to point B happen with MUCH less energy (aka Heat).
So, to cook a piece of fish, bake it in the oven, sauté it in a pan, poach it in liquid… any way to cook it, it’s HOT!
BUT, soak a piece of fish in lime juice, and the enzymes in the lime (all living plant materials have enzymes) will also ‘cook’ the fish, with MUCH less heat. Ceviche on a cold day takes a lot longer (or maybe won’t work even at all) than on a warm one (the reason it’s a Mediterranean dish)
Quickly, let’s look at what the enzymes in the citrus (an acid) and the heat did. In this case, they cooked the fish. It went from translucent and floppy to opaque and solid and flakey and tasty.
NOW. Your body makes LOADS of enzymes to help along PILES of chemical reactions that happen for MANY reasons in your body every second. Most chemical reactions need heat, which your body doesn’t have (or you’d cook yourself) so it uses enzymes to ‘catalyze’ the reactions.
Turning food into the energy it takes to breathe and think and blink is one example of a process that uses SCADS of reactions. So your body uses enzymes to break down proteins and carbohydrates along the digestion path (your saliva has enzymes to begin digesting starch even as you chew!).
The very process of digesting protein creates acids, which is counter-productive to digesting. We’ve just seen that acids cook proteins (the kind you’re eating AND the kind you’re made of!) So, having an acidic body will ‘cook’ the foods you’re eating, instead of digesting them. Having an acidic body will also CHANGE the enzymes that are supposed to digest your food, so they can’t work anyway. Too much acid creates an internal environment that is slowly cooking itself.
Therefore, your body functions best in a slightly Basic (Alkaline) environment. What Alkalinizes your body? Vegetables! DARK green ones, LIGHTLY cooked (because cooking changes enzymes! And you want those veggie enzymes!) And WATER! It neutralizes everything! It washes you clean, from the inside out.
Your urine, especially the first thing in the morning, should be slightly acidic. This is because your body removes the acid created from digesting protein and put it in the trash bin (your kidneys are a super waste treatment plant). High acid readings indicate an extremely acidic self. What’s actually acidic? Your blood stream, and because it carries everything everywhere, all of your cells too- both because your blood is carrying acidic fluid to them, and because the acid-saturated blood can’t effectively remove acidic wastes from them, either.
ALL THIS MEANS that you need to counterbalance the protein in your diet (which, by the way, encourages muscle growth) with alkalizing vegetables and water, Lots of Water!
My First Plant: Creative writing prompt #1!
I grew up on the side of a hill, the bottom of what Pennsylvania calls a mountain. We had a pole light (you have to be from the country to know what that is!) and where it had been installed, there was a sort of terraced corner. Just a stone and cement corner to hold back the slope. At some point in my mom's youth that corner marked the edge of a garden rectangle, but all I saw of that were two Blueberry bushes at the opposite end, and two big English Walnuts marking the back. The wind in those walnut trees used to wake me sometimes, in the summer when I slept with the windows open.
That corner became my first herb garden. I don't remember how or why or when, exactly. I don't remember NOT having Lemon Balm and Lavender and Oregano and Thyme, and Sweet Woodruff growing in a sunken bucket because I read it would spread all over.
I do remember when mom bought me an Edelweiss plant. We were at a flea market, it was a grey day, and there was an Amish vendor with all sorts of seedlings. There wasn't much room left in the square that was my garden, and I didn't really need or want anything else. And then we saw Edelweiss. From Captain Von Trapp's lips, to my garden. It was lovely and delicate. And it brought a friend, what I have since learned is the Blue Asiatic Dayflower- a vining plant with a VIVID blue flower.
As much as I loved the Edelweiss, the Dayflower was an enigma. We bought Edelweiss! What was this interloper? I was learning that plants classified as "herbs" or "flowers" or "weeds" were part of a community, and were only separated into individual plastic pots for commercial distinctions. A Dayflower seed, or slip of root, must have found its way into that pot and stayed for the ride only to find itself in my garden. And that was OK.
I don't think either the Dayflower or the Edelweiss lasted very long in my garden, and I would be surprised if any of the garden at all remained today. But I have a warm spot in my memory for that pretty blue flower, and the journey it accidentally took to join that 'bit of earth' with the others. Sometimes I'm the Edelweiss, intentional and directed, and sometimes I'm the Dayflower, the happy accident for someone or something else. Look for the Dayflowers in your life.
I love the snow.
I know, cue the vehemence. Snow is a polarizing topic. My parents moves thousands of miles away to avoid it. People fly to exotic places to find it. The locals here, around Philly, are never iffy about their opinion of the stuff.
Me, I love it.
It grounds me. I watch it, and my eyes follow it down, down to the ground, down to the earth where it coats and blankets and covers and quiets.
Hopefully, tonight or tomorrow I have a chance to add a few end-of-season pics, but for now, here's lookin' out my kitchen window, from a few storms ago:
Isn't it dreamy? That top one says, "Aren't you glad you're standing here making that hot cup of tea?" The bottom one invites me outside with the birds and squirrels, promising that the sun won't reflect too brightly into my eyes. Lovely.
I haven’t done a formal “check in” for a couple classes, but I also haven’t had much to report. I remember that from the foundations class; sometimes you haven’t had much going on.
The three weeks since our last class, the only one we had in February, have been nothing short of momentous, however.
A few seemingly unrelated, or barely related, occurrences have contributed:
1. Just prior to that class, I had my first phone meeting with my mentor (we’ve each been paired up with one of our teachers.) She and I talked about where I am and want to go and being stuck and uncertain, and she assigned me the work of sitting with the question, “What makes my soul happy?” Maia also suggested I notice what makes me smile during the day.
Well, the answer I got was a whole lot of nothing! I have been working from a position of “have to, have to” for so long that happy didn’t matter, so long as everything is moving forward.
2. I’ve also had a strange rash on the base of my tailbone for months. I’ve been trying to figure this out- rashes=heat, it’s near my digestion but that’s definitely not hot, it’s near my spine but I noticed no sensitivities or neurological signs, I haven’t changed detergents, doesn’t seem to flare or calm based on gluten or other potential diet triggers…
3. About a month ago, I started getting massages (WHY haven’t I done this before??)
4. Maia gave us a talking to about follow through, whether it be going all the way with medicine making to design labels and define pricing, or following up with clients, or anything we begin.
And what changed? Me. Suddenly.
I put together a website (free, but a beginning.) I ordered business cards. I blended, packaged, labeled and priced 2 teas, a syrup blend, and a bath soak. I put them out for sale in my studio. I asked my massage friend about putting them in her studio. I purchased, blended, packaged... more items and put them for sale in her waiting room. I spoke to the purchaser at a local farm market where I get my CSA share, and they will carry my products too- plus a local supplier of creams, balms, and some first aid items decided to not wholesale anymore, so there’s a niche there I can fill. I left my business cards at the market, calling myself an herbalist and declaring my doors open.
And that rash? It disappeared.
Instead of a physical ailment expressing itself on the surface, now I think it was the stirrings of energy, my ‘vital force’ we’ve talked about in class beginning to rise, to expand, thanks to my finally tapping into my calling.
I’ve had a little angst around combining the work I already do with this new work. A big step, strange as it may sound, was putting both items on my new herby business cards and acknowledging it publicly in writing- I do both these things!
It also just dawned on me that I’ve been yearning for a garden, and can’t get settled enough to grow one. I decided to put an herb garden in at my studio! Obviously! There is a patch of grass right outside my door that’s bare and unwelcoming, just waiting for some lavender and calendula and something to mask the AC units. (I’ll have to think about that one.)
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
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This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.