I tend to think in terms of "I wonder what next year will bring?" rather than "This is how I will be different next year!" But last year I made a resolution, based on how I saw myself acting and reacting, to Say What I Mean, and Do What I Say. I wrote that inside a little notebook- an awesome one that has a little zip pocket on the front for little pieces of paper that I end up with all the time- and I began making my To Do lists for myself, my pilates studio and my herb ideas. I saw that quote often in the beginning of the year, and am proud to say that it doesn't really apply anymore- I learned to be more authentic, at least towards myself.
As I look over that first page, labeled 1/1/12, I see the same things written there that I would write now. How can that be? Did I do anything this year? Well, yes and no. This year will be remembered as the Recuperative Year, and I'm hoping next year brings Restorative and Rebuilding energy. I have a lot of work ahead, and I feel ready and able to do it.
The name of the game for 2013 is Balance. I know it's a cliche: work, rest, friends, hobbies, chores, exercise, books to read, movies to watch, places to go, everything we do we need to balance so none of it gets left out, and everybody struggles with this. I think I'm really really poor at this, however. I know I put off the time-consuming pleasures like calling a friend or going for a walk because I don't deserve it yet, I need to get more accomplished first, I'm still too behind on all those responsibilities and obligations.
I'm not sure how to reset that thinking- yelling at myself doesn't work, making lists or schedules doesn't either. I know better, yet it's a pattern that's all to easy to follow. I've begun the barest steps already. After dark I tend to hole up in my warm bedroom, so I've begun getting up earlier (I am still on holiday break after all, and finally getting enough sleep!) and making sure I get chores done in the other parts of my house, where I can see the windows and the outside. It's too cold out for me to just go for a walk, but today I plan to trot the garbage up the hill to the dumpster on foot! I tend to easily lose my connection to the outside world, both with nature and with people. I call myself an Outgoing Introvert, and these days at home reinforce that. Maybe if I had all the time in the world to rest and relax I would start getting out more, but for now since I don't have to, I revel in being home alone! My days will be happily people filled very soon, and this time to myself is healing to my soul.
2013 is starting off with a bang- I have major work to do to strengthen my pilates business, I will be celebrating the 5 year anniversary of my studio in a couple weeks, and next week marks a personal anniversary with the special man in my life. After tomorrow, the studio re-opens and all the planning and expectations I have for myself come due. I can't wait to check in on this Check In after a month and see what's what.
We Americans love our aggressive approach to health. Work out till you throw up! Do the Atkins diet until you're in ketoacidosis! Detox until you feel like death warmed over!
My friends, be gentle! You're an ecosystem, not a machine. A very common understanding of a detox is going in there with a crowbar and a pressure washer, and cleaning out your insides down to the studs. The difficulty is that the warehouses you're cleaning out, primarily your liver, also function as the gutters and sewage treatment plant for the waste products they once stored. When the floodgates open and the storage facility suddenly has to process what it so carefully packed away out of sight, the overflow of toxins and other wastes pour into your bloodstream and make your head foggy, your breath bad, your skin erupt, your kidneys stressed, and your digestion sluggish.
How does it feel to air out your house, or your car? The windows open, the sun shining in, the dust blowing out. It's fresh, clean and very satisfying.
When you think of detoxing, think of strengthening the avenues of elimination your body has for dealing with the waste products. Think also of eliminating them in manageable amounts. If your body is too busy de-storing, it can't properly get rid of everything and it may just get stored somewhere else.
Another, more critical issue, is that the liver stores away things the body can't deal with, like chemicals and heavy metals. Aggressively emptying the liver exposes the rest of your organs and brain to these more serious wastes.
How do you safely and easily detox, then? Think of it this way: Easy In, Easy Out.
The act of digesting food makes the intestines, liver, kidneys, and other organs work. That's their job. Often, though, digestion is not their only job. For example, the liver produces bile to digest fats, it breaks down various chemicals in the blood like stress hormones into waste products, and it stores away both wastes it can't or doesn't have time to eliminate, and a reserve of glucose for energy between meals. Going easy on food gives these organs a break without shorting your brain on its fuel needs. Juice fasts are nice because fresh juices can contain antioxidants, helpful enzymes, some easy-access sugar and other great resources. Monodiets of foods like Indian kichari are very easy on the digestive system, use warming and supportive spices, and help rebuild depleted energy reserves. Fruit, teas, water, and well cooked vegetables are also easy on your system. Meat, dairy, fats, caffeine, sweets, sometimes even raw vegetables are harder to digest properly.
Water is a HUGE part of the detox plan. Your blood is mostly water, which bathes every tiny bit of your body and picks up all sorts of waste products that your kidneys then filter out and mix with more water to create urine. Drinking plenty of water ensures that the filter process is quick and easy, and that the blood is always ready to clean the next place that needs it. Think of rinsing out the rag when wiping the counters- a dirty one won't pick up much more dirt.
Water on the outside is very important as well. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and is an elimination pathway. Bathing gets rid of dead skin cells that can block pores, especially through exfoliation with a stiff brush or loofah or even a good scrub with a wash cloth, and soaking can draw wastes out through the skin. Warm water also increases circulation, which increases the kidney action.
A detox fast is a conscious action. When you go about your normal life, your body responds to that life. It digests what you give it, it provides energy to muscles and organs with the highest demand, it cleans up what it can in between. Fasting reduces the resources available for all these functions. This means you can't have the same expectations for your body during a fast that you would normally.
Traditionally, fasts are often seen in religious practices that require simultaneous times of rest. Resting or taking it easy during a fast reduces the demands on your body so that it can rebuild. Imagine the items you could check off the to-do list if your office shut down for a few days, or a week. You could patch the roof, paint the porch, plant a garden or fix that broken thing in the garage, and doing these things wouldn't drain you like doing them during your normal work schedule would- which is why you haven't done them yet!
Similarly, allowing your body to rest gives it a chance to repair damage, replenish reserves, and restore balance. Your body does need to work, though, to keep you alive. There is a fine line between providing time for recuperation and fasting for so long that you end up using all the reserves you built in the first place.
So how long to fast, then? Start with a day. Say, the first of the month. Or maybe the first Saturday, if that's a day off for you. Plan it out, decide what you'll eat and drink and when, what activities you'll do and what you'll avoid. Then pay attention. Are you more hungry than you thought, or snacky maybe because you're bored? More sluggish, or downright sleepy? Energized or alert?
Next time, maybe next month, go for two or three days. You'll probably feel dramatic swings in yourself over that time. You can go from being on top of the world to having flu-like symptoms in a matter of hours. Remember, let your body tell you what you need. A great hot shower or long soak in the tub might be all it takes to get whatever made you feel crappy out of your system. Hot tea or cooling water and lemon might help too.
Your mood might also swing widely as your energy levels dip during a fast. Be aware of this, and let others around you know what you're doing! I personally have found that Calcium-Magnesium supplements help balance my moods, so you may want to try that.
A week is probably the longest you should fast at a time, if you can comfortably build up to it. If your body doesn't respond well or healthily, stop there. Maybe it's only going to work for four days this time, or maybe only one.
You can fast yearly, seasonally, quarterly, monthly, or on whatever schedule resonates with you. Monthly is probably the most frequent interval that is safe and productive if you are fasting for more than a day at a time. I am remembering, though, a story in a Little House book about boys who went sledding on a Sunday, and the trouble they got in. Theirs was a community who took the weekly day of rest very seriously, and hardly even spoke for the whole day!
There are two main points I want to repeat, because missing them is at the core of why many people I speak with are stressed, depleted and unhealthy:
1.) You are an ecosystem, not a machine
2.) Easy In, Easy Out
My teacher Maia Toll says she always goes for the gut, that digestion is at the top of list for her clients. For me, the liver seems to occupy that top spot. When I get asked about most any malady, I almost always think and respond in terms of the liver. I don't know why, but I seem to have an understanding that considering the health of the liver is a fundamental part of considering any pattern of dis-ease.
This post popped up recently on a great Facebook page, Anatomy in Motion. I highly recommend becoming a Fan of the page, especially if you are an anatomy nerd like me. I will include a link to the original post at the bottom, and here is the text in full because it is well worth the read. (I will add my own thoughts in later posts):
The liver has well over 500 functions and is known as the laboratory of the human body. The liver is tied to all bodily processes because it is responsible for filtration of all incoming foods and fluids. The body relies upon the liver to remove toxins so that nutrients supplied to the body are pure and capable of providing nourishment. Many scientist believe the liver is connected to, or at least aware, of every disease or dysfunction that is happening inside the body.
• Metabolizes proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, thus providing energy and nutrients
• Stores vitamins, minerals, and sugars
• Filters the blood and helps remove harmful chemicals and bacteria
• Creates bile which breaks down fats
• Helps to assimilate and store fat soluble vitamins (A, E, D, K)
• Stores extra blood that can be quickly released when needed
• Creates serum proteins that maintain fluid balance and act as carriers
• Helps maintain electrolyte and water balance
• Creates immune substances such as gamma globulin
• Breaks down and eliminates excess hormones
• Vascular (blood management)
• Provides blood clotting factors
• Breaks down ammonia (and other toxins) created in the colon by bacteria; thus preventing death
• Helps to maintain blood pressure
• Constructs cholesterol and estrogen, reconstructs hormones
• Humanizes nutrients, metabolizes protein, carbohydrates, fat for energy
• Synthesizes urea, constructs blood protein, interconverts amino acids
• Constructs 50,000 systems of enzymes to govern metabolic activity throughout the body
• Removes damaged red blood cells
• Converts the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) into it more active form triiodothyronine (T3). Inadequate conversion may lead to hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue, weight gain, poor memory and other debilitating conditions.
• Creates GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor) from chromium, niacin and possibly glutathione. GTF is needed for the hormone insulin to properly regulate blood-sugar levels. Manufactures bile salts which emulsify fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K for proper absorption. The liver also removes some fat-soluble toxins from the body.
• Activates B vitamins into their biologically active coenzyme forms. Virtually every nutrient must be biotransformed by the liver into its proper biochemical form before the nutrient can be stored, transported or used in cellular metabolism.
• Stores various nutrients, especially A, D, B-12 and iron for release as needed.
• Manufactures carnitine from lysine and other nutrients. Carnitine is the only known bionutrient which can escort fats into the mitochondria where they are used to generate ATP energy. The mitochondria generate 90% of the ATP energy at the cellular level.
• Converts lactic acid from a toxic waste to an important storage fuel. Lactic acid is produced when glucose is metabolized through the energy production cycle. When excessive levels accumulate, you experience sore muscles. A healthy liver will extract lactic acid from the bloodstream and convert it into the reserve endurance fuel, glycogen.
• Serves as the main glucose buffer, preventing high or low extremes of blood sugar. The liver is the key regulator of blood sugar between meals due to its manufacture, storage, and release of glycogen, the starch form of glucose. When blood sugar is low, a healthy liver converts stored glycogen into glucose, releasing it into the bloodstream to raise blood sugar levels. When blood sugar is high, a healthy liver will convert the excess into stored glycogen or fat.
• Chief regulator of protein metabolism. The liver converts different amino acids into each other as needed.
• Produces cholesterol and converts it into the various forms needed for blood transport.
• Converts essential fatty acids such as GLA, EPA, and DHA into the lipoprotein forms necessary to allow transport via the bloodstream to the 50 trillion cells requiring fatty acids.
• Main poison-detoxifying organ in the body. The liver must break down every substance toxic to the body including metabolic wastes, insecticide and pesticide residues, drugs, alcohol, etc. Failure of this function will usually cause death in 12 to 24 hours.
• Removes ammonia, a toxic by-product of animal protein metabolism, from the body.
• Breaks down hormones after they have served their function. i.e., if the liver does not break down insulin fast enough, hypoglycemia results because the circulating insulin continues to lower blood sugar.
• The liver is vital to a host of other metabolic functions, but this brief overview should serve to illustrate the central role the liver plays in maintaining good health and the importance of implementing life-style change if necessary.
This is just the start of an extremely long list of liver functions. It is still uncertain exactly how many functions the liver is responsible for, but currently the list exceeds at least 500 different functions.
Original Post Here
These last two weeks, I learned, again, that it can be done.
The Chopra Center meditations finished and I have been continuing a little sporadically on my own. I am also very consistent with the stream-of-consciousness journaling that we were assigned, and I LOVE that. I read something troubling this morning and felt all confused and conflicted and censored, so I did both silent meditation, after reading the Law of Giving piece I copied from the guided meditations, and the writing meditation and it really, REALLY cleared my head. I started teary-from-frustration and ended focused, a little compartmentalized, and ready to work even with that in the background.
I also put my nose to the grindstone again at my business, thanks in large part to my boyfriend. He never doubts that It Can Be Done, and gets really exasperated with my frequent doubt and worry and fear. But once I join him on that positive page, he's ready to help me move forward. I consciously WorkedWorkedWorked during set times, and RestedRestedRested during set times, and I didn't wear out! He had given me some great ideas to develop, and I made miles of progress on that highway, even getting to the exit lane of most of them. Balance is SO difficult for me but in class yesterday Maia used a great metaphor- the Energy Bank account was negative, it's gotten back up to zero, so don't spend it as fast as you deposit it!
Last night I was again sure it was all coming apart, and although I KNOW it's not, I still have to name those fears and look square at them before I can overcome them. And I look at them again and again, as we get the same lessons in life again and again, until we learn from them. I think I will always fear, so I try to get past them more quickly each time.
Now we have a month until our next class, thanks to the holidays. May they be peaceful and fulfilling.
Our most recent class featured Jill Hoffman, a local ND, and her lesson introduced us to blood chemistry and analysis. It was so interesting!
One small idea was mentioned between the urinalysis discussion and the fact that neutrophil numbers increase with stress: our clients will manage their own diseases, and we will do what we can to help provide wellness.
Jill was not in an earlier class when we discussed expectation and attachment to outcome- essentially, we need to model a "not affected presence" and let people who come to us for care proceed at their own pace. We can't force them, we can't superimpose our own agenda, we can't take their path personally. And yet here she was, driving that very point home.
She came to it by way of the sample CBC we were looking at. A lab report gives individual results, as well as a range of 'normal' results outside of which are disease states. Often, we were referencing a text by Weatherby and Ferguson, NDs, simply called Blood Chemistry and CBC Analysis. These two redefine the 'normals' on these tests to provide narrower ranges for optimum health, not the wider disease states.
Jill said that we are looking for wellness in a small range, and that we can't look for diseases. In this country, we will run into legal trouble with the medical community by suggesting that we do. And yet, people will come to us with a list of things that need fixing.
The idea that we are providing wellness, and NOT alleviating/removing/eradicating disease, is a profound one for me. Wellness is often only recognized by its absence, because our society identifies with and labels by our problems. I imagine that the act of shifting perspectives, of redefining responsibility for care and health, of positioning myself as a teacher or coach will be a never-ending dance.
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.