Tag Archives: detoxification

Dr. Kaycie’s Top Ten Detoxifying Foods

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Strawberries are high in bioflavonoids that protect the cells of the liver. The whole plant can also be made into a medicine that is good for restoring digestive health.

Spring has finally arrived!  I don’t usually find myself waiting until the end of May to say this, but I think the snows are finally behind us, and the garden is planted.  Now that the weather has warmed somewhat, our bodies are also starting to warm and be ready for the exercise and outdoor activities of summer.  In addition to getting our bodies into ideal shape for the summer through exercise, we can also help to boost vitality through cleansing.  For more information on what spring cleaning and detoxification is, you can look at my article “What is Detoxification?” from last spring. There are many detoxification protocols out there, and finding the right one will depend on your constitution, health status, and commitment to the program.  However, an easy first step is to start incorporating detoxifying foods into each meal using the basic theory of detoxification: improve elimination of waste through optimizing the function of the digestive tract, urinary tract, skin and liver.  Here is a list of my top ten favorites:

 

10. Garlic

Garlic can help to reduce blood triglycerides and improve circulation and sweating to remove wastes via the skin. It also helps stimulate digestion.

9.  Apples

Apples are a great source of insoluble and soluble fibers.  The insoluble fiber helps to move waste through the digestive tract. When cooked, the pectins found in apples help to absorb excess cholesterol, delay absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, and bulk the stool.

8.  Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens, which are commercially available in many areas, act as a diuretic to help remove wastes through the urine.  The beauty of dandelion greens is that they also replace any minerals lost through the process of diuresis.

7.  Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are thought of as one of the least allergenic foods available.  Unless you have an intolerance to all carbohydrate, sweet potatoes are a good source of lower glycemic carbohyrates that help to soothe the digestive tract and decrease inflammation.

6.  Cilantro

Cilantro and its seed coriander are calming to the digestion and help to dispel gas.  Cilantro also helps to convert blood cholesterols into bile which can aid in reducing blood cholesterol levels.  Cilantro extracts have also been shown to remove mercury from a water solution, so there is speculation about whether cilantro could aid in mercury detoxification when consumed.

5.  Seaweed

Hijiki, Wakame, and Kombu (all types of seaweed) have all been shown to increase breakdown of fats in the body.  Seaweeds are also a good source of iodine, which is necessary for proper thyroid function.  These two actions together help to boost metabolism and removal of excess fats from the system.  Traditional Chinese Medicine also regards seaweed as a detoxifier which mobilizes heavy metals and turns them into inorganic salts that can easily be excreted through the urine.

4.  Lemon

Lemon and lemon juice are wonderfully bitter and sour.  Taken especially before meals, they help to start the digestive process early, which makes the digestive absorb nutrients and eliminate wastes more effectively.

3.  Kale

Kale and other members of the cabbage family contain indoles, which help the body metabolize and remove excess steroid hormones such as estrogen. Members of this family have also been found to repair damage to the liver.  Kale is also high in fiber and chlorophyll to increase energy and optimize digestion.

2.  Flax

Flaxseed is high in omega 3 fatty acids, which help to balance cholesterol and reduce inflammation.  Even more important for detoxification though is the high concentration of soluble fibers that help to trap excess fats and cholesterol, bulk the stool, and ensure effective elimination of waste via the digestive tract.

1.  Beets

There is extensive research supporting the protective and regenerative effect of beets on the cells of the liver.  This effect has even been seen with molasses derived from sugar beets.  The pigments in beets have also been shown to have a protective effect against the formation of cancer cells. Beets are also great for assisting with effective waste elimination through the bowels.

The dairy-free delight of Homemade Almond Milk

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After the holidays, there is often a lot of talk about detoxing, losing weight, reclaiming your health and more. While I don’t really choose to detox or make dramatic changes this time of year, I often find I am looking to lighten up on the amount of sugar, refined flours and dairy that seemed abundant in December.

Eliminating dairy is never an easy task in our home as we love cheese and a splash of creaminess in our morning beverages, on steamy oats or granola. There are certainly a lot of new ‘milks’ on the market including creamy more flavorful options for coconut, almond and soy milks.

During a detox a few years ago, my husband and I started making almond milk. In a pinch during that period, I grabbed a pre-made almond milk container and was shocked at how dramatically better in flavor my homemade option was. There wasn’t a subtle chemical taste in our almost sweet homemade version. The crazy part was it is annoyingly simple to make almond milk. Certainly easier than going out and buying a carton anyways. And even though I have yet to do the math I would say it is cheaper. But, my favorite part is if you buy your nuts in bulk with a reusable bag this is a completely waste free option compared to tossing out all of those milk containers. After my discovery, I was grateful for the new sense of freedom in making my own from scratch. Join me!

Almond Milk (about 4-6 cups)

1/2 cup raw almonds

1-2 dates, optional to add a bit of sweetness

1 splash vanilla or almond extract, optional (if you want to give it an extra spike of flavor, but try it without first)

cheesecloth

Soak the raw almonds overnight or at least 8 hours.

Drain the soaking liquid, rinse the nuts and place the almonds in the blender with about 3 cups of water. Blend away for a couple of minutes until the mixture is smooth. Strain the almond blend through the cheesecloth (or a nut milk bag, pantyhose, tight sieve, or a thin dishcloth). Dump the almonds back in the blender for more milk, if desired, and blend again with another cup or two of water. Strain the nuts again through the cheesecloth and this time squeeze and push out any access liquid. Nut milk is most delicious immediately but will last up to 3-4 days in the fridge. Just shake well before using.

Now… it actually gets better, because you have this lovely mash of almond meat leftover. Some folks spread it on a sheet in a dehydrator to make their own almond meal. That is a great option, but when we were making it regularly for our detox I made it the replacement for my oatmeal. I just tossed the almonds into a saucepan with a splash of the almond milk and warmed it until it was just steaming. Fresh fruit, a bit of dried fruit, extra almond milk, a crumble of different nuts & toasted seeds, all contributed to the toppings on this bowl of goodness. My favorite part is that the almonds’ protein levels kept me cruising a few hours longer than my higher-glycemic oatmeal breakfast.

Do not limit yourself to almonds, either! Hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, pistachios and even a combination of nuts are all good. Seed milks work too and the recipe is the same with pumpkin, hemp, sunflower and sesame seeds all being great choices.

Heidi Swanson just posted about making her nut milks through a juicer… check it out!

Rhubarb: Saturday Breakfast, Sunday’s Medicine

Here in the foothills of Colorado, we can tend to be a bit behind other parts of the country when it comes to food production; while friends in Arizona, California, and even Washington are currently enjoying peas, strawberries, and artichokes, we are just barely starting to see fresh leafy greens here.  So it is extra exciting to see my friend the rhubarb pushing its way up into the garden early in april.  We are on our second round of rhubarb here, hoping to hold out long enough for our first strawberries to ripen for our first seasonal cobbler out of the backyard.

Rhubarb is an interesting plant because it is one part food, one part medicine, and one part poison.  The leaves are best avoided in any situation, they are simply too toxic for use.  The stems are  wonderful eaten raw, stewed, or baked.  In Chinese medicine, rhubarb stems are said to be detoxifying and cooling to the liver, which makes it perfect for spring.  Rhubarb is in the same family as spinach and beets and similar to these has high levels of oxalates.  For this reason I would probably avoid rhubarb for babies under 10 months or adults with a history of kidney stones.

Rhubarb rhizomes have been used as medicine for over 4,000 years in China.  Chinese rhubarb root is most commonly known for its ability to relieve constipation.  It contains a class of compounds called anthroquinone glycosides.  These are the same type of chemicals in other classic constipation remedies such as senna or cascara sagrada.  English rhubarb rhizome, the type we commonly see in our own backyards (and sold at the grocery store) has similar action but is not as strong as its Chinese counterpart.

In our family, rhubarb stalks are actually best enjoyed by my kids sliced into sticks and dipped in a bit of sugar.  That said, we also love rhubarb compote (With or without strawberries) atop pancakes on Saturday mornings. Because this is such a favorite and so simple, here’s a quick recipe for both:

Saturday Morning Rice Quinoa Pancakes with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Pancakes:
1 cup brown rice flour
⅓ cup quinoa flour
3 Tbsp sweet rice flour
2 Tbsp sucanat
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups milk of your choice (we like coconut)

Strawberry-Rhubarb compote
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup rhubarb, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 Tbsp maple syrup

For pancakes: Whisk flours, soda, sucanat and salt together.  Mix butter, eggs, vanilla and milk in a separate bowl.  Add wet ingredients to dry, then mix together until just combined.  Cook as for normal pancakes.  For compote: Mix ingredients together in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the fruit is broken down and it looks like sauce.  Adjust sweetener if necessary. Spoon over pancakes and enjoy!

Sources:
Healing with Whole Foods: Paul Pitchford
Plant Medicine in Practice: William Mitchell
Potter’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Drugs and Preparations

What is Detoxification? Is It for Me?

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This is one of the most common questions I hear in my practice.  When the warm breezes start to blow, green leaves start popping and flowers start to spring from the branches of crabapple trees, we all become eager to clean up and get ready for summer.  We rake up old leaves, open the windows, and pull out the shorts and t-shirts. We want to shed our layers and move more quickly out in the warm air.  When that urge starts, I start getting many questions from patients about what it means to do some detoxification and whether it would be useful for them.

The answer to this of course is individual; each person will have different specific needs for how their bodies will thrive best from detoxification.  However, as I mentioned in my article Nourishing Ourselves in Springtime, our organs of elimination need the most support during this season and everyone can benefit from this to some extent.  Generally for children under 18, unless there is some specific medical reason for detoxification, adding in some seasonal foods that support elimination will be more than sufficient..  For adults, depending on your situation you may benefit from a protocol that is more comprehensive, so let’s talk here about the basics.

To start, the term detoxification in my mind is somewhat inaccurate.  To dispel some myths, in general our bodies are not filled with toxic waste that keeps us unhealthy.  Our intestines are not coated in black grime built up from decades of poor eating; I have seen many colonoscopies and none of them have featured tar-coated intestinal walls.  However, over time we can accumulate wastes and develop chronic inflammation that can keep the body from functioning optimally.  I liken it to cleaning out the refrigerator:  if there’s a bunch of old salad dressing, ¾ used ketchup, and half moldy vegetables, it makes it harder to find the food that’s good to eat and there’s no room for bring in fresh, happy food.  Detoxification is like a spring cleaning for the body.  We encourage elimination of things we don’t need and make room for nutritious, health supporting nutrients.

So in our spring cleaning we have four primary routes of elimination from the body that we like to support:  liver, large intestine, kidneys and skin.  Often, we focus on the liver first because it is our primary processing organ; this means it evaluates everything that comes into our bloodstream, decides whether we need it or if it is waste, packages it appropriately, then sends it on its way.  For wastes, it utilizes potent antioxidant enzymes to convert harmful chemicals into water and peroxide or makes toxins water soluble so they can easily be excreted in the urine.  Beets, carrots, leafy greens, dandelion greens, and organic liver are all excellent liver support foods.

The large intestines excrete any wastes that haven’t been absorbed through the intestinal wall as well as extra cholesterol or any fat-soluble toxins that are eliminated through the bile.  Probiotic foods such as kefir, natural sauerkraut, and miso can be helpful to maintain balanced flora.  Excretion can be maximized through high fiber foods such as flax, beets, and greens.  One very key component of detoxification is minimizing inflammation.  If the intestinal wall is irritated or swollen, absorption will be impaired, so it is critical during this time to avoid any known allergens or foods that you know bother you.  This is also a good time to experiment with taking out common allergens such as dairy, gluten, or soy.

The kidneys filter the blood to excrete anything we don’t need.  The most important ways to support the kidneys are to keep the electrolyte balance good through eating foods high in minerals (such as beans and greens), avoiding mineral depleting foods such as sodas and coffee, and drinking plenty of water.  Excretion via the skin can be optimized by opening the pores through exercise, sauna, massage, and dry skin brushing before a shower.

Good luck on your spring cleaning–may your efforts now pay off in extra vitality and feeling great in the warm months to come!

Newsletter Spring 2010

This spring we have renamed our organization “The Vibrant Health Alliance”, and we are a group of health professionals dedicated to serving the Golden community. In honor of our new identity and the spring season, this issue of All Good Medicine is dedicated to new beginnings and revealing our best new selves through “spring cleaning” and detoxification.
2010 Spring Newsletter