Lymph massage has been around for 1000s of years across the globe, fom rasa dhatu cleansing in Ayurveda to the art of gua sha in Chinese Medicine, to Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) developed by Emil Vodder in the 1930s.
What do all of these techniques have in common?
The facilitation of lymph drainage!
Lymph, derived from the Latin word for water, is literally just that - our internal waters that flow through our entire being. You can think of the lymphatic system like a series of rivers & tributaries, clearing waste and facilitating the movement of resources. When that water gets bogged down with waste products and is unable to move, issues inevitably arise. We support the facile movement of lymph through our diet & lifestyle (we really get into this in our Dump the Detox course!), but lymphatic massage techniques can also facilitate the process!
I've created my own little lymphatic massage routine for my face. It takes less than 5 minutes and I can really tell a difference before and after! I've pulled from 3 different healing traditions here by using:
-An Ayurvedic Beauty Balm by Banyan Botanicals as my oil/balm source. As someone who runs on the dry side, the saturated fat base of ghee + coconut oil plus the infusion of enriching roots like Shatavari really improves the quality of my skin. (Use THIS link and code HERBGIRLS15 for 15% off)
-A gua sha rose quartz stone gifted to me by my lovely business partner, Amy Wright. You can also use your hand or the edge of a spoon, but I do love the feel of a cold stone gliding across my face!
-Techniques from the Book of Lymph, by Lisa Levitt Gainsley. I found this book very helpful in better understanding the function and flow of lymph in the body, and have incorporated some of her motions at the start and finish of my routine.
Directions for Simple 5 Minute Facial Gua Sha Routine
Repeat every motion 10x
Booby Lymph Massage Addendum
This routine is for you if you are someone whose boobs get sore the week before your cycle. When our liver is burdened, our lymph will get backed up, too. We often feel this in our boobs because so many lymph nodes live here! If estrogen can't be deconjugated and broken down properly, the build-up can aggravate smooth and seamless lymph flow. I have found that doing this routine daily the week before my period has dramatically reduced my booby tenderness! You can find the full routine in the Book of Lymph - I just pulled out the sections I especially like!
Repeat every motion 10x
1. Don’t press too firmly or too lightly. The pressure is equivalent to removing shaving cream completely from your skin - firm enough that it clears away but not so hard that you are pressing into the muscle (then your routine will turn into a muscular massage rather than draining the lymph which runs just superficial to the muscle)
2. For each movement contouring your face - steps 4,5, & 7 - you always want to move inward to UP and outward, so the final placement of your tool will be a bit higher than the starting point, creating an element of “lift” as you both drain your lymph and train your face to work against heaviness and gravity.
3. At the end of each movement, it’s a nice practice to press and wiggle the tool lightly. This assures you are really helping move the lymph away from your face so it can drain into nodes and be cleared.
4. A cold gua sha stone is my favorite tool for this practice, but the edge of a spoon or blade edge of your hand will also do the job. Place your gua sha stone in the fridge or freezer 10 minutes before your routine to really target puffiness and tiredness in the face.
5. STAY hydrated! Lymph is our body’s internal drainage system and needs ample fluid to flow - especially if we are actively detoxing from something. To keep that river flowing, we need to stay hydrated. Aim for ½ your body weight in fl.oz a day. The quality of your water is also of utmost importance. If we are drinking water straight from the tap, that water is *most likely* already filled with numerous toxins and compounds that our lymph will also have to detox and drain. So make it easy on yourself and invest in a GOOD water filtration system. In our opinion, nothing gets better than LivePristine. It’s worth the investment. Next best option would be a Berkey.
Support your body sayin' ,"Let's Go!"
How many of the questions below are YES for you?
Wake up groggy?
Experience morning stiffness?
Don’t feel awake until your morning coffee or caffeinated tea/beverage?
Experience afternoon crashes and/or yawning?
Drink coffee or a caffeinated bev first thing in the morning?
Have trouble feeling motivated?
Difficulty falling asleep?
Categorize yourself as a night person?
Tend to be keyed up or anxious?
Clench or grind teeth?
Feel dizzy when you stand up quickly?
Rely on alcohol to help you wind down in the evening?
Crave salty foods?
Decreased sense of taste or smell?
If you answered YES to 4 or more, your body is trying to tell you something! Are you ready to listen?
Are you burning the candle at both ends?
When we consistently give more than we put back into our bodies, imbalance inevitably sets in. In the current state of the world, whether you are male or female, old or young, we are up against many challenges that our evolutionary bodies aren’t equipped to deal with. Furthermore, our modern food system is devoid of key minerals and nutrients required for our bodies to optimally function. Too much exertion + too little nourishment is a recipe for depletion.
Despite our topsy turvy world, there are many ways to find balance, restoration, and nourishment within it. For as many negativities that exist, there are even more beneficial modalities to support our bodies, minds, and spirits. The latter is where we like to focus our energies and is one of the reasons why we created Adrenal Genie.
The adrenals use minerals to build hormones that help us respond to challenging situations accordingly. If we are constantly in a challenged state of mind and/or being, the adrenals can become especially overtaxed. Since it takes much energy, vitamins, and nutrients to respond to challenging situations, it’s important we are filling our cup back up regularly to keep our body in balance.
About the Ingredients
Whole food Vitamin C
Adrenal Genie FAQs
Should I consult a healthcare practitioner before taking this product?
How much should I take?
Should I take it with food?
Do I have to have it with 8 oz of water only?
Can I take too much?
These statements nor product have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Do not use if seal is broken. Store in cool, dry place away from children.
Don't be Stressin'! Start Addressin'...
Your body’s biological needs in a demanding world
Stress. What a loaded concept! We throw around this word all the time.
"I’m stressed out. Work/my partner is really stressing me out. I’m stressed that I’ll miss my flight. " etc. etc.
The world is demanding, so of course we feel & talk about this sensation a lot.
It’s important to understand what stress is, how it’s affecting the body, & why we are wired the way we are. If you don’t understand these concepts, it will be near impossible to thrive in an otherwise unbearably stressful modern world.
Plus, as Herbalists it’s beautiful to see how many herbs provide the vitamins & minerals necessary to support a body under stress
What Is Stress (scientifically speaking) ?
Stress wasn’t even a word in our vocabulary until it was coined by Hans Selye, also known as the “father of stress research”, in 1936. Selye defined stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. At that time, his approach to understanding human illness was revolutionary: rather than hyper-focusing on specific signs and symptoms, he broadened his gaze to understand underlying universal responses that would lead one to develop an illness. In truth, Selye was asking questions like an Herbalist would do (ie: treating the person’s physiology, not the disease)!
We experience stress in the form of stressors, or any agent that threatens the body’s normal homeostasis. Take a look below at all the categories of stressors below and see if you have any present in your life:
Biological - bacterial, viral, mycotoxin, endogenous byproducts
Chemical - pesticides, heavy metals, smoke, microplastics, pollution
Environmental - extreme heat or cold, loud noise, EMFs
Nutritional - deficiencies or excess
Physical - surgery, trauma, starvation or obesity
Physiological - depression, anger, fear
Spiritual - apathy (no sense of a higher purpose)
Odds are, you have quite a few! Stressors are far more diverse than just relationship or work stress. They are ubiquitous! And they quickly accumulate in the modern world. It’s seldom one massive stressor that swings our body out of balance but a combination of many small stressors compounded together that tips us over the edge. Our body can only handle so much before systems start breaking down and dis-ease sets in (this is typically when Western doctors provide a diagnosis). Harkening back to Seyle’s search for universal truths: our symptoms might manifest differently, but they are all caused by an excess of demand (ie: stress).
80% of patients report uncommon emotional stress before disease onset
How Does It Effect The Body?
The stress response is a beautiful adaptation that’s allowed our species to survive some crazy times. Here’s how it goes:
When we sense danger or fear, a symphony of stress hormones are released to put our body into action. Our heart rate quickens; blood is redirected from core organs to the extremities to run or fight; our breath shallows and quickens to provide more oxygen rapidly; pupils dilate for better vision; and energy is shuttled away from maintenance and repair to the emergency at hand.
In this response state, the organs that take the biggest hit are the adrenals. The adrenals sit atop the kidneys and are responsible for manufacturing stress hormones. The major stress hormones are called mineral-corticoids because they demand a high input of minerals in order to do their job. Minerals act like electrolytes, and when we are fighting a lion, we need some electricity pulsing through our veins! When the adrenals start getting squelched of reserves, they lean on the thyroid to help them out. This is a major reason why some many people -especially women who are wired to experience stress more intensely- have low thyroid issues; it’s simply trying to do the job of 2 organs when the adrenals get depleted. From there, it’s a ripple effect of issues throughout the body. Chronically elevated blood pressure, reproductive issues, muscle spasms and twitches, anxiety, digestive issues - they can all be traced to a malnourished stress response system.
Why We Wired This Way?
To save us!
Our body’s physiology has been evolving for a very long time, and for much of this period, the world inhabited by humans was a different place. We didn’t have deadlines or traffic, we didn’t have pollution or EMFs - we were wired for surviving through acute stressful events (keyword = acute). Think getting attacked by a neighboring tribe, fleeing natural disaster, hunting, and escaping from dangerous animals. That’s why our intricate stress response system is designed to address acute stress. It’s a very taxing process, so if we were constantly stuck in this state of being, some major wear and tear will set in…
And that’s exactly the state of the average modern human. We are chronically stuck in this low-level stress response, just squelching energy and resources to fight a proverbial lion when really, we are simply dealing with a suite of accumulated mini-stressors. On top of that, many of our hacks to stay healthy - skipping sleep to make an early workout, running on pavement, intense cross fit workouts, fasting - they can all end up hurting us in the long run if we don’t first understand and address our physiological needs:
-Is my body stuck in the sympathetic, or Fight or Flight, state?
-Am I lacking certain nutrients needed to support my body?
-Am I causing my body more stress with my diet, relationships and lifestyle?
There is an important concept known as hormesis, or beneficial stress to strengthen the host. A perfect example of hormesis is a healthy exercise practice. Lifting heavy weights and sprinting push your body to be stronger & faster. Followed by a recovery period and proper nutrition, this type of exercise is totally a positive hormetic process. However, extreme heavy weights and running 50+ miles a week without any recovery or replenishment enters into the disadvantageous stress response state (or doing moderate exercise but eating too little). This is when injury sets in and if you are a women- your period goes away. We can’t repair muscles or think of having a child if we are in a chronically stressed state with no break.
Are you beginning to see how our bodies are beyond intelligently designed? And if we just slow down to understand our stress response system & how to properly nourish it, we can avoid many injuries and illnesses.
How To Replenish
Focus on minerals and electrolytes if you feel your adrenals are taxed (and odds are, they are!)
Remember that the adrenals are the first responders in a stressful environment, which means they are also the first to get depleted in chronically stressful times (ie - now). Chronic stress means the excessive secretion of cortisol by the adrenals. This rapidly depletes Magnesium and Potassium levels in the blood. When the adrenals are overworked, our Sodium & hydration levels also drop as we excrete more via pee. This not only dehydrates us (an incredibly stressful event at the cellular level) but also depletes our electrolytes. Taxed adrenals means less aldosterone is produced, further tipping the sodium balance out of homeostasis and into chaos.
To remedy this vicious feedback loop, we must be replenish our mineral stores, especially Sodium, Potassium, and Magnesium. Whole food sources of Vitamin C (synthetic C as ascorbic or citrate acid is not the same and even causes more damage to our delicate mineral balance!) also support the absorption and utilization of these key electrolytes. It’s important to realize that all forms of Magnesium are not created equally (& again, some can even mess with your minerals!). See below:
Via water: Mg bicarbonate (this is the most basic form of Mg & is most easily absorbed)
Transdermal form: Mg chloride (very high concentrations found naturally in the ocean; the most porous part of our body is the bottom of the foot so apply here for best absorption!)
Food sources: dark leafy greens and seaweeds, beets, coffee, cacao
Chelated forms/supplements: Mg glycinate & Mg malate - have the highest absorption rate of chelates (80%)
Herbal adaptogens offer another fantastic, concentrated & bioavailable source of nutrients and minerals to support our stress response. Check out our other blogs on these incredible plants! Basically, adaptogens improve the dynamic HPA (Hypothalamus- Pituitary- Adrenal) axis that moderates your stress response. If you get better at handling stress, you don't wear out your body-mind-spirit so much, making you a more resilient and vibrant being. You can think of them like personal trainers for nervous-endocrine-immune systems. Every healing tradition across the globe utilizes adaptogens in some way, so we are wise to take heed! The key to taking adaptogens is to treat them like a fine food- consume them regularly in small amounts for optimal benefits. It's important to discontinue them when you are ill. Our favorites are Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum/sanctum), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Eleuthero (Eleuthero senticoccus), Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and Shilajit (Asphaltum punjabinum).
when you are stressed!
Case study: A young woman, very driven and ambitious, has been steadily gaining weight ever since she turned ~25 despite being more conscious of her diet than ever. She doesn’t snack and stays away from carbs. She’ll have an occasional drink on the weekend but it’s always a clear liquor mixed with soda. She skips breakfast when she feels like she over-ate the night before. She exercises daily and even does restorative work like yoga, meditation, and prayer. She’s grown increasingly self-conscious of her body and wonders what she could possibly be doing wrong.
We all know this person - it may be you! Unwarranted weight gain is often a driver for someone coming to see a wholistic practitioner, but it’s seldom the real issue.
We live in a conundrum - our bodies are designed to survive periods of starvation, but in the modern, developed world this is (fortunately) not a primary concern. In fact, most women would be more than happy to lose some weight.
80% of U.S. women don’t like how they look.
Apart from high standards being set in our primary media sources, there is something else going on here. Weight control is not simply a matter of calories in versus energy expended. Why are so many women unhappy with their weight and/or unable to lose weight? In our personal experience, work, and research, 3 things stick out as important here:
*Guess what? They are all interconnected!
The body’s adaptive stress response is a beautiful thing. When it switches on, it helps us act instantly and intuitively. Whether it be escaping danger or performing our best, our mechanisms for responding to stress make us hyper-focused and energized. Think of a kayaker before going down a 30 ft waterfall or the driver who barely misses a head-on collision because their body reacted before the mind even had a chance. Our body’s innate intelligence brings us out of harm's way thanks to this brilliant stress response. When activated, hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline are released and our body snaps into action.
Here’s the issue: we aren’t designed to stay in this stressed state long-term. We are built for acute, not chronic, stress. This means that when we are constantly in a stressed-out state, those hormones, endocrine organs, and mechanisms get depleted rapidly. Chronic stress bleeds our life force and shifts us into a state of survival mode. And what does survival mean for our evolutionary bodies? STORE FAT. For hundreds of thousands of years, the primary chronic stressor we faced was starvation. Flash forward to chronically stressed out people today and the mechanism is the same. You tell the body you’re stressed, and the body protects you by packing on the fat. When you are stressed, your whole body responds.
Which brings us to hormones. Hormones are the intelligent messengers that carry out the stress response. The primary hormones involved in stress are cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline (also known as epinephrine and norepinephrine). These have relationships with our reproductive hormones like testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen. This is why women often lose their period when stressed: the body pulls resources from making reproductive hormones and directs them towards making more stress hormones.
*When I was in a perpetually stressed state and dangerously below weight, I lost my period for 8 years!*
The HPAT (Hypothalamus - Pituitary - Adrenal - Thyroid) axis is the orchestrator of our stress response. You can think of this highly intelligent interconnected web as the way our brain speaks to our body by way of messenger hormones. When the hypothalamus (the control center of the brain) receives input, it triggers the release of hormones via the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands. The HPAT not only oversees the stress response but also energy metabolism because the two go hand in hand.
Cortisol is the main hormone talked about when it comes to chronic stress and weight gain. “Cortisol belly” is even a term for folks who tend to gain weight around their midsection. This hormone is produced by the cortex (outer layer) of the adrenal glands and is triggered for release after receiving messages from the pituitary and hypothalamus. Since cortisol is a stress hormone designed to protect us from starvation and death, it is only doing its job when it causes the accumulation of abdominal fat: this is the region where our most important organs reside, and fat protects them! Fitness and biohacking expert Ben Greenfield mentions several case studies in his book, Beyond Training, in which women training for marathons and triathlons would accumulate fat around their belly despite exercising strenuously and eating clean. An excess of stress-induced cortisol release is likely the explanation.
Thyroid hormones can also fall out of balance as a result of chronic stress. The thyroid and its messengers regulate metabolism, body temperature, growth, and development. That’s why low thyroid hormones can cause sluggish metabolism, pesky weight gain, constipation, and bloating. Low thyroid can also impede the detoxification of toxic metabolites and cause the delayed drainage of hormones like estrogen, insulin, and leptin which are all associated with weight gain (Yance). Furthermore, inability to detox leads one to feel even more inflamed, bloaty, and downright yucky.
Estrogen imbalance is often associated with weight gain and can be a source of endogenous stress to the body if it’s not detoxified efficiently. It’s very common for both men and women to struggle with estrogen breakdown because our modern world is filled with things that mimic estrogen. Plastics (especially BPA) leached into food and water supplies, widespread pharmaceutical and birth control use (even if you aren’t taking these drugs, they don’t effectively breakdown so recirculate in the water supply), and our love of soy all contribute to excessive estrogens and xeno-estrogens in the environment. You can see how a vicious cycle of toxicity can kick in when we are perpetually in a stressed state, right?
“The balancing of hormones by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and thyroid is a continual dance that is influenced by the emotions, the environments, and seasonal changes.” (Yance, 2013)
**For me, a clear sign of inability to detox estrogen were my cyclically sore boobs following ovulation. When I started taking herbs and nutraceuticals like Calcium-D-Glucarate to help with my detoxification pathways and liver health, the soreness went away.**
The make-up of our microbiome says a lot - if not everything - about us. Each one of us has an individualized and highly dynamic ecosystem in our gut that is constantly influenced by genetic and environmental factors. While each individual’s microbiome is unique, similarities exist in the microbial composition and function of healthy peoples’, suggesting a common foundation required for host (i.e. YOU!) health (Turnbaugh et al, 2007). A balanced microbiome means good immunity (after all 80% of our immune system lives here), healthy brain function (70% of our serotonin is made here, too), and a sound digestion.
However, when this core microbial community deviates from the norm, dysbiosis occurs. Dysbiosis (from dys-, or “bad”, & -biosis, Greek for “mode of life”) is not only uncomfortable, but it is also associated with an increased risk of disease ranging from metabolic (obesity and type 2 diabetes) to autoimmune and neurodegenerative (Woting & Blaunt, 2016; Pistollato et al, 2016; Budhram et al, 2017). Research now suggests that dysbiosis plays a role in your ability to feel satiation or hunger, energized or bloated, and how easily you gain or lose weight. Novel studies are beginning to illuminate how certain gut bacteria may alter appetite control via the gut-brain axis. In fact, the etiology and progression of eating disorders can even be linked to identified microbial communities (Lam et al, 2017)! Animal data now reveals how particular gut bacteria impact the production and activity of appetite-regulating hormones and affect the HPA axis via neural and cytokine-mediated pathways. For example, Bifidobacterium spp. produce calming neurotransmitters like GABA and Enterococcus spp. which play a huge role in serotonin production (Banks et al, 2015; Cryan & Dinan, 2012; Lam et al, 2017).
Dr. Joel Greene has shed light on incredible research showing how certain microbial communities are more abundant in lean people than overweight people: Akkermansia and Bifidobacteria. Akkermansia is very prolific in the guts of very fit people. It helps maintain the layer of mucus on the gut’s surface and plays a role in calories burned. Bifidobacteria can turn on the genes that keep one trim and are also involved in cellular energy production.
Lastly, having a dysbiotic gut can simply make you feel fat. Excessive bacteria - good or bad - can have a farty party after you consume a carb-rich meal (even healthy carbs like cassava and sweet potatoes!), leaving you feeling uncomfortably full and bloated. There was a period of time where I was chronically underweight but always felt “fat” because I consumed a vegetarian diet rich with raw cruciferous veggies and hummus. I thought I was being healthy while in actuality, I was skewing my microbial communities out of balance with my strict and imbalanced eating habits.
So there you have it - in our opinion, stress, hormone imbalance, and dysbiosis are the 3 interconnected reasons why losing weight can be so hard despite doing everything “right”. If you are someone who falls into this category, ask yourself the following questions before cutting calories and exercising profusely:
Herb & Nutrient Immersion
Here are 10 herbal and nutrient tips that helped me on my path towards restoring a healthy weight.
1. Protein - proteins are made of amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of our hormones, neurotransmitters, muscle, and connective tissue - this means if you want good hormone function and muscle definition, eat your protein! You should be getting the equivalent of your ideal body weight in grams per day. So if your goal is 130 lbs, see if you can consume 130 g of protein daily. Learning this was a bit of a shock to me because I was eating way below this regularly. When I even marginally increased my protein intake (and supported it with digestive enzymes*), I noticed better tone and muscle growth despite keeping my exercise the same.
High protein-foods also stimulate thermogenesis, which is the body’s process of generating heat by burning fat cells. Plus, higher protein diets means more satiety (because it boosts leptin sensitivity) and less bloat.
*Increasing protein intake suddenly might leave you feeling heavy as a rock if you haven’t addressed your stomach acid and digestive enzyme levels.
2. Matcha - Camellia sinensis in all her forms (green tea, white tea, matcha) also stimulates thermogenesis due to its high concentration of caffeine and catechins. This means you burn fat more efficiently. Green tea also helps regulate blood sugar, and high blood sugar is very stressful to the body. I love Matcha with coconut cream in the afternoon. It gives me clean energy, cuts cravings for a coffee and cookie (which almost always leaves me feeling shaky and headache-y), and I’ve found it helps me have a 2nd bowel movement - something I was never able to do.
3. Ginger - Zingiber officinale is another thermogenesis-stimulating herb with an affinity for improving digestive function. This means that Ginger’s benefits are two-fold: better, more efficient digestion means less bloat and more satiation; thermogenesis means more efficient burning of fat for energy! I love a cup of hot ginger tea with meals to improve my digestion and metabolism.
4. Spicy peppers - hot spicy foods like chili, cayenne, jalapeno, and paprika all warm the digestive system, improving digestion and stimulating - you guessed it! - thermogenesis. For digestion to be thorough and efficient, it must be warm. Many of us in the Western world have a Cold and Damp diet according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. This means that foods aren’t always completely broken down, leading to stagnation, congestion, and down-right clogged and inflamed sensations. Incorporating spicy foods brings circulation and warmth to the gut.
5. Apples and apple cider vinegar - there’s a reason using hot vinegar to clean a crusty casserole dish is so effective; vinegar has the same effect in the body! A shot of ACV (2 tbsp, 4 oz water, lemon and/or honey to taste) is like giving your insides a good scrub-down. As a result of living in a toxic world, we tend to accumulate toxins. Oftentimes, it’s this ambiguous and compounded crud clogging up our drainage and detox pathways that make us feel fat and inflamed. I’ve found that having a shot of ACV first thing in the morning and again in the afternoon can really have an astounding effect on my mood, alertness, and sense of clarity. Apples are similarly incredible. Joel Greene points out that apple skins are the ultimate food source for Akkermansia, that beneficial bacteria that makes metabolism super efficient. Apples also contain lots of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Just be sure you are eating fruit before a meal, and always go for organic and low-sugar varieties like Granny Smith - new varieties of conventional apples are sometimes just delivery mechanisms for pesticides and un-naturally boosted sugars.
6. Artichokes and artichoke leaf tea - this may be the most under-appreciated vegetable. The immature bud of the Cynara scolymus plant is a food while the leaves are a powerful remedy for high blood sugar and cranky livers. Both the food and herb are known to help normalize lipids. The very bitter leaf is an incredible cholagogue, improving bile flow for more efficient digestion and assimilation of fats. I’ve found the touch of artichoke leaf in our Healing Harvest tea to be an excellent companion to a meal.
7. All things Coconut - every part of the coconut can be part of a robust, balanced diet. The oil and butter are rich in medium-chained triglycerides which offer an immediate source of fuel (unlike other fats) but don’t cause a blood sugar spike (unlike many carbs). Adding coconut cream or milk, or blending oil into my morning coffee allows me to decrease my feeding window while not causing me to crash or fall out of ketosis. Coconut water is rich in electrolytes for very efficient hydration, and the flour is rich in fiber and a great gluten-free substitute. I’ll commonly make cookies with a blend of coconut and pumpkin seed flour for a low-carb, high energy snack. Check out our Cocoa-kies recipe.
8. Grapefruit - there’s just something about eating half a grapefruit that leaves me feeling clean and rejuvenated. Grapefruits have a fascinating chemistry that works on the phases of liver detox while also helping to reduce insulin and increase metabolism. I love to add a splash to my morning ACV shot, or to snack on a half after dinner.
9. Dandelion greens- Taraxacum officinale translates to “the official remedy for disorders”, implying that this is a plant you want on your team. All parts of Dandelion from the roots to the flower have been used for centuries as both medicine in food. Each part of the plant as a unique gift to offer, but the greens are especially great for cleaning up a sluggish, congested digestive system. Dandelion greens are incredibly bitter, indicating their use as a cholagogue for dredging bile from the liver and gallbladder. They also have a potent redox-antioxidant capacity which means they protect the liver from toxins. Their potassium-sparing diuretic action means they help remove retained water and inflammation, giving your drainage pipes a little reboot every time you eat them.
10. Adaptogens - I saved the best for last. For the modern human with multiple stressors ranging from environmental to dietary and emotional, leaning on the helping hand of adaptogens is a wise decision. Adaptogens are like personal trainers for your stress response - while you might not be able to change the stress all around you, you can change the way you respond to them. This is where adaptogens play a fascinating role. They are unique and renowned in their ability to re-regulate our regulatory systems like metabolism, detoxification, and hormone balance by acting on the HPA axis (remember that complex communication network that connects the brain to the body?). While all adaptogens have this unique trait in common, each is different and in my opinion, always works better when combined with other supportive herbs. We use adaptogens in formula in many of our products. My go-to is Rally - it’s got calming, warming Ashwagandha, nourishing Shatavari, and grounding Reishi to start my day off in the right state of mind.
Banks, W. A., Gray, A. M., Erickson, M. A., Salameh, T. S., Damodarasamy, M., Sheibani, N., ... & Reed, M. J. (2015). Lipopolysaccharide-induced blood-brain barrier disruption: roles of cyclooxygenase, oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and elements of the neurovascular unit. Journal of neuroinflammation, 12(1), 1-15.
Budhram, A., Parvathy, S., Kremenchutzky, M., & Silverman, M. (2017). Breaking down the gut microbiome composition in multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis Journal, 23(5), 628-636.
Cryan, J. F., & Dinan, T. G. (2012). Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour. Nature reviews neuroscience, 13(10), 701-712.
Lam, Y. Y., Maguire, S., Palacios, T., & Caterson, I. D. (2017). Are the gut bacteria telling us to eat or not to eat? Reviewing the role of gut microbiota in the etiology, disease progression and treatment of eating disorders. Nutrients, 9(6), 602.
McLaren, L., & Kuh, D. (2004). Body dissatisfaction in midlife women. Journal of Women & Aging, 16(1-2), 35-54.
Gallivan, H.R. (2014). Teens, Social Media And Body Image. Park Nicollet Melrose Center. Url:https://www.macmh.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/18_Gallivan_Teens-social-media-body-image-presentation-H-Gallivan-Spring-2014.pdf
Greenfield, B (2020). Joel Greene Podcast Part 1: How To Reboot The Gut, Eat Cheesecake Without Gaining Weight, Amplify Any Fasting Protocol & Maximize Fat Loss. In The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/biohacking-podcasts/joel-greene/
Pistollato, F., Sumalla Cano, S., Elio, I., Masias Vergara, M., Giampieri, F., & Battino, M. (2016). Role of gut microbiota and nutrients in amyloid formation and pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease. Nutrition reviews, 74(10), 624-634.
Turnbaugh, P. J., Ley, R. E., Hamady, M., Fraser-Liggett, C. M., Knight, R., & Gordon, J. I. (2007). The human microbiome project. Nature, 449(7164), 804-810.
Woting, A., & Blaut, M. (2016). The intestinal microbiota in metabolic disease. Nutrients, 8(4), 202.
Yance, D. R. (2013). Adaptogens in medical herbalism: elite herbs and natural compounds for mastering stress, aging, and chronic disease. Simon and Schuster.
Saturated fats are fatty acids with carbon chains that are fully loaded (or saturated) with hydrogen bonds. These chains stack perfectly on top of one another, making them solid at room temperature. Think butter, lard, and coconut oil.
Unsaturated fats have unfilled hydrogen bonds, creating kinks in their carbon chains which keeps them from stacking on top of one another uniformly. These kinks make them liquid at room temperature. Poly-unsaturated (poly- means many) fats have multiple kinks in their fatty acid chains and mono-unsaturated fats (mono- means one) have one kink.
Sesame and avocado oil are naturally produced unsaturated fats; olive oil is a naturally occurring mono-unsaturated fat.
While humans love categories, all naturally occurring fats are actually a combination of poly-, un-, and mono-unsaturated fats. Butter, for example, is 25% mono-unsaturated.
Why Clear Veggie Oils Are Problematic
"These now rancid fats trigger a cascade of inflammatory processes in the body. This is an issue because clear veggie oils are everywhere from healthy snack foods to fried food at both fancy and fast-food restaurants.
We can get all the polyunsaturated fats we need by consuming Whole Food sources of nuts, seeds, & cold water fish. The abundance of clear veggie oils, however, has tipped our fat ratios out of balance.
The primary PUFAs to look out for are*: canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, & sunflower oil
Get this: the ideal ratio of polyunsaturated Omega 6 (Linoleic Acid, LA) to Omega 3 (Alpha-linolenic Acid, ALA) is 1:1... But the average America has a ratio of ~20:1! This stark imbalance means major inflammation in the body (It’s also the underlying reason why so many health professionals recommend fish oils, or Omega 3s).
It makes sense that most people - even health-conscious ones - have an overabundance of rancid PUFAs in their life. Of course anything fried is going to present your body with inflammatory omegas, but ready-made snacks like cookies, chips, crackers, dressings, and sauces are some of the biggest offenders. Since clear veggie oils are often subsidized and very cheap, they are used for baking, frying, and sautéeing at even the fanciest restaurants.
It's impossible to avoid every single PUFA as a modern human, but bringing awareness and avoiding them as much as you can will work wonders!
*You CAN find good quality veggie oils that are cold-pressed such as walnut, flax, and sunflower even; however, these are very few and far between, quite expensive, and must be stored in dark bottles away from light and heat.
Nightshades are a fascinating family of over 2,000 species of plants including:
Ashwagandha, Bell peppers (aka sweet peppers), Bush tomatoes, Eggplant, Goji berries, Ground cherries , Hot peppers (such as chili peppers, Jalapenos, habaneros, chili-based spices, red pepper, and cayenne pepper), Paprika, Pepino (aka pepino melon), Pimentos, Potatoes (but not sweet potatoes), Tomatillos, & Tomatoes
While many nightshades are tasty, many are quite deadly, like the notorious Locoweed (Datura stramonium) or Belladonna (Atropa belladonna).
Nightshade sensitivity is an underlying cause in many inflammatory conditions today, particularly those including: muscle and joint pain, morning stiffness, arthritis, insomnia, heartburn, GERD, and autoimmunity.
Along with soy, many common nightshades are relatively new to the Western and European diets, not arriving to North America until the 18th century. In fact, the tomato was initially used only as an ornamental plant because it was believed to be poisonous like some of its relatives. Despite their relative new-ness to the Western diet, nightshades are everywhere today: french fries, mashed potatoes, tomatoes, pizza, hot sauce, and let’s not forget tobacco. Here’s why you might want to reduce or avoid these powerful plants all together for a period of time:
1. They are “calcinogenic”. This means they can cause soft tissues to calcify (calcinosis) due to their positive effect on blood calcium levels. The body does not like high blood calcium, so the quickest way to remedy this situation is to deposit the extra calcium into the soft tissues. Each hypercalcemic episode lasts only a few moments but also leaves a small deposit behind. Over time, these deposits lead to the condition known as calcinosis, contributing to hardening of the vasculature.
2. They contain acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Solanine and similar glycoalkaloids found in nightshades inhibit the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This causes extended muscle contractions and a major reason why those sensitive to nightshades experience morning stiffness. Solanine also disturbs digestive function (common in IBS-sufferers), gene expression of intestinal cells, and inhibits proteolytic enzyme activity.
3. They contain nicotine, a substance that is both addictive and inhibits proper inflammation in the body when out of balance.
And let's not forget saponins...
5. Saponins can poke holes in your gut - All plants contain saponins, but Nightshades are quite high in an especially corrosive class of them. Saponins are detergent-like compounds that protect plants from predation by dissolving cellular membranes. This is great for protecting the plant’s seeds from predation, but not so great when those saponins damage the cells that line our gut (enterocytes). Saponins can literally poke holes through our cells’ protective walls, creating a case of leaky gut. Essentially, the holes allow things to pass through that shouldn’t be in our bloodstream. While some saponins are beneficial and allow for the absorption of certain minerals without harming the cells, others can be more corrosive and damaging to our intestinal wall. Glycoalkaloids, abundant in Nightshades, are one such class of saponins that aren’t so gentle. Glycoalkaloids (alpha-solanine and alpha-chaconine in potato, alpha-solanine in eggplant, and alpha-tomatine in tomato) are very well studied and have revealed issues with absorption and inflammation in many animal studies. For people dealing with systemic inflammation, autoimmune conditions, and issues with digestion, taking a break from Nightshades is a wise choice. The low-level toxic exposure from glycoalkaloids can aggravate the issues we are trying to resolve.
In, F. T. A., Out, F. T. A., & Reintroductions, P. ALL ABOUT NIGHTSHADES.
McFarland, E. (2013). The Link between nightshades, chronic pain and inflammation. GreenMedInfo LLC.
Robertson, P., & Roberts, P. (2003). The Solanaceae and their paradoxical effects on arthritis and other degenerative disease states
The unfortunate truth:
We live in a bit of a toxic soup these days. From the water to the air, our soil to our food supply, and all the products we use to clean our house, skin, and hair - we are inundated in foreign information that can overwhelm the body. And let’s not forget emotions and endogenous toxins that our bodies must also process! Toxins interact and compound, presenting a major burden to the body if our drainage and detox pathways and cellular metabolism aren’t functioning in tip-top shape.
Our bodies are designed to drain and detox toxins....
but there's a problem: the modern diet and lifestyle aren't conducive to supporting daily detox. So, we feel the need to do extreme fasts or cleanses to purge us of all the accumulated crud. But that attitude just presents another issue: the body doesn’t like extremes; it prefers gentle transitions and steady, slow progress. So lots of these crash diets and detoxes just leave us feeling exhausted and deprived. Sure, we might have lost a few pounds, but they will likely come right back, along with the other issues we were trying to remedy with a quick fix. The ideal scenario would be to open and support our drainage & detox organs while also eliminating toxic exposure and build-up...
...which is where an elimination diet comes in.
You might be thinking to yourself:
"But I believe in intuitive eating and fear that restriction might lead to unhealthy or obsessive thoughts about food."
You aren't wrong. Restricting food can mess with individuals who have an eating disordered past, and not everyone is ready for an elimination diet. However, until we take a break from something, we will never know what effect it is having on our body, mind, or spirit. Furthermore, many foods we daily consume could be aggravating or even causing injury to our bodies.
Elimination diets don't have to be about deprivation - they should be about nourishing yourself and reconnecting with your body's needs. Unfortunately, food isn't simple anymore and our modern food supply is not clean. Even if you only shop at health food stores, you are still going to be bombarded with rancid oils, denatured proteins, and added sugars. You will find foods that have come from the other half of the globe and foods that have been exposed to chemicals (yes, even organic ones) that confuse and clog your body. When we don't give our body a break, it is going to start malfunctioning sooner or later. A temporary elimination diet, focusing on whole foods can offer that break.
Take me for example. I was your classic skinny, cardio-obsessed vegetarian. Whole grains, fruits and nuts were LIFE. At this same time, my gut was in terrible disarray. I had stomach aches and bloating daily and I rarely pooped. An elimination diet would have been perfect for me - not one that restricted calories, but one that gave me a break from the foods that I’d grown sensitive to. My digestive juices had grown weak and lazy (meat requires lots of stomach acid, so if we don’t ever consume it, our body won’t feel the need to make as much), and all those complex carbs I was consuming were not breaking down like they should have. Instead, they were passing into my colon undigested, serving as a food source for bad bacteria, causing all that dysbiotic bloating and cramping. And every morning I ate my grape nuts, oat milk, and raisins, I was just repeating the vicious cycle all over again.
If you gave 21-year old Eileen some bacon and eggs, a warm bowl of pumpkin soup, chicken piccata and roast carrots, I would have watched my digestive fire return and my bloating and dsybiosis dissipate as I starved the bad bacteria that had colonized my gut. That meal plan doesn’t sound like restriction does it? I guess that’s the whole point of this article:
What about food sensitivity tests?
There are gobs of tests out there that will quickly tell you your sensitivities without having to actually eliminate anything. However, even with all that technology, a good ole’ fashioned elimination diet + slow reintroduction still remains the gold standard of uncovering food sensitivities. Cross-reactivity is a thing, and even if it seems like a quick-fix, oftentimes those tests will come back showing that you are sensitive to everything (true story!). So save yourself the money and confusion, and consider doing an elimination if you know something is going on with your gut health but don’t know where to start.
"Shortcuts make long delays." - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
In our newly launched 5-week program Dump the Detox, we've included a 3 week elimination diet (called "The Spring Clean") plus a 1 or 2 week Reintroduction period. This course not only allows you to take a break from certain foods that may be harming you, but also walks your through the drainage and detox funnel. This way, you learn how to open and nourish those pathways systematically so your body can handle toxins better & you can live life more freely! In the blogs to come, we will be explaining the why behind eliminating the food groups we do in our Spring Clean. See you there!
'This is more of a folk style recipe, requiring more eyeballing than measuring, so tap into your inner kitchen witch and get cookin'!
Add 1 quart of freshly harvested elderberries and 1/3 c of filtered water to a pot. Bring to a gentle boil then quickly reduce to a simmer (uncovered) for about 15 minutes, until the berries are very soft and your house is fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool a bit before adding to a food processor or blender (this is an extra step that I think really kicks the flavor and medicine up a notch). Blend well and then strain out the seeds and stems using a sieve or colander over a bowl. Compost the solids and add the purple liquid back to the pot along with ~2 tbsp fresh or ground ginger and 10 green cardamom pods. Bring back to a simmer and reduce by half, about 15-20 min. Remove from heat and strain out the ginger and cardamom directly into a measuring glass,
At this point, you want to measure the reduced juice so you can add equal parts of honey*. Mix well and let cool completely before bottling. Store in the fridge for up to 3 months. Take 1-2 tbsp throughout the day at the first sign of a cold.
*it's important that honey isn't exposed to temperatures over 104 F lest some important enzymes be destroyed.
Enemas aren’t anything new. We are talking about a practice that’s been happening since 1,500 B.C! From China to Africa and South America to North, inventive humans across the globe have fashioned animal bladders, bamboo pipes, and all sorts of contraptions to flush the bowels and jump-start detoxification.
Using coffee for enemas became a thing in WWI. Wounded soldiers were routinely prepped for surgery using water enemas. In a pinch with no water around, a nurse used coffee and the results were amazing! When soldiers started noting how much better they felt post-coffee enema, they became standard protocol.
Enemas: Much More Than Just Helping You Poop
We think of enemas as only clearing out poop, but their benefits are far more reaching than that. In fact, coffee enemas in particular support the liver as much as they clear crud from the colon.
Just inside our rectum (last part of our colon before the anus, or our butthole) resides our hemorrhoidal veins. These veins connect to the major venous system of the liver, the hepatic portal. The coffee’s vasodilatory effect opens these vessels up so that all of its antioxidant-rich compounds are delivered much more directly and quickly than simply drinking coffee. Plus, coffee ingested this way hasn’t been broken down by our stomach acid.
With all this stimulating coffee entering the dilated hepatic portal vessels, the liver is triggered to secrete bile. Bile is a critical component of detoxification but many of us, due to a surplus of toxins in our environment and food supply, have lackluster bile creation and flow. Basically, blood is sent to the liver to have all the waste filtered out, and at any given moment, the liver is holding ~10% of our blood! The bile is responsible for removing that captured waste. If we have a sluggish bile, the toxins filtered out of the blood will build up and create a sludgy mess. Sometimes this blocks the bile duct, other times it causes inflammation which stresses the immune system and leads to a vicious cycle of chronic disease. By stimulating bile flow, coffee enemas have the power to de-gunk and unblock, allowing relief and a revitalized detoxification system of the liver and colon. Coffee also stimulates contraction of the gallbladder, the organ that holds the bile for us during digestion. A happily contracting gallbladder means better fat digestion and toxin clearing and less risk of gallstones.
Coffee contains 2 unique constituents found nowhere else: kahweol and cafestol palmitate. Both are known to support healthy gene expression by turning on the genes that increase the rate of detoxification in our intestines. They’ve also been shown to increase the level of glutathione, our most powerful antioxidant, in both the colon and the liver. Glutathione and other antioxidants are vital for breaking down harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS), heavy metals, and other carcinogens and toxins. (1) In particular, glutathione plays a role in inhibiting neoplasia, or the uncontrolled & abnormal growth of tissue - basically what happens in cancerous situations (so my coffee shop customer was right after all!). Theophylline, also found in chocolate and tea, has been used to reduce inflammation in the liver and intestines.Caffeine serves to dilate blood vessels, improving circulation, Qi flow, and delivery of the healing compounds dramatically
As herbalists, we know the power of the whole is far greater than a few constituents isolated for science. While these identified compounds are fun to extract and goggle over, it’s the whole bean that offers a matrix of thousands of healing compounds. Together, they create a cooling, diuretic, parasympathetic-stimulating, and anti-inflammatory dose of goodness for our insides.
What You’ll Need
-Coffee - but not just any coffee. It must be organic, mold-free, fully caffeinated & light roasted (less roasting means more helpful compounds). We like Kion or this.
-Distilled or purified (reverse osmosis) is definitely the best option. I love LivePristine water filters for drinking and doing enemas. Berkey filtered water would be the next best thing, but try to use distilled or R.O. if you can! (definitely don't use water straight from the tap!!!)
-Coffee enema steel bucket - we like this one!
-Something to lubricate the end of the tube that goes inside you. We like coconut oil!
-A comfy spot in your bathroom to do the deed.
HOW TO* (I promise it’s not as messy as you think):
-The best time to do it is in the morning after your first poop. Removing all the poop and trapped gas beforehand will make the experience much more pleasant. Remember that coffee is stimulating so doing this later in the day may disturb your sleep.
-Choose a bathroom with a shower to set up your enema. Lay out a yoga mat or some towels on the floor or in the tub- somewhere close to the toilet. You will be laying on this during the cathartic experience.
-Make your coffee:
Take 3 flat tablespoons of your organic, mold-free ground coffee and add it to 1 quart of distilled water in a pot. Bring to a boil then let simmer for 10-20 minutes (depending on strength desired). Strain and cool until the water is slightly warm/body temp. If you are new to coffee enemas, add 1-2 tbsp of this coffee to 1 quart of filtered, room-temp filtered or distilled water & save the rest of this "mother" coffee for later enemas. As you get more advanced, you can work your way up to using the entire quart of the "mother" as your enema liquid.* (boiling/simmering will reduce the amount of water, so just add more until you have 1 quart).
-Pour the water-coffee mixture into your steel enema bucket, making sure the tube is clamped so it doesn’t immediately come pouring out. Hang the bucket from your shower.
-Rub some coconut oil on the tip of the tube or on your bum and gently ease it in while laying on your back or your left side. When you are ready, gradually undo the clamp so the liquid slowly flows out of the bucket and into you. Try to fill your booty up with ½ of the quart. If you feel cramping before this, close the flow and let the cramping pass or remove the tip and relieve yourself on the toilet. The goal is to hold each ½ of the quart for 10-15 minutes. Also, if you can’t hold it more than a minute - don’t fret! You are still getting some benefit and the more you do it, the easier it gets.
-Be sure to thoroughly clean, sterilize, and dry every part of the enema kit following the kit’s instructions.
The whole process should take less than an hour.
Take slow deep breaths when the cramping starts to help you hold it a bit longer. I like to breathe deeply while swaying back and forth on my back to take my mind off the toilet.
Start with 1 tbsp of coffee per quart of water, working your way up to 4 tbsp.
Start with 1 coffee enema/week, doing up to 3x a week (unless otherwise directed by your healthcare professional, multiple times a day is not a good idea - you can only release so many toxins at one time).
NOT TOO HOT, NOT TOO COLD.
Never use hot coffee to do an enema (YOWCH!) Let it cool down to a slightly warm or lukewarm temperature (diluting filtered water will facilitate this as well). At the same time, cold coffee enemas are not pleasant either. I like my coffee enema liquid to be gently warm to the touch; this creates a soothing experience.
You don't want to forget about cleaning out your kit. I do this with warm soapy water immediately after my enema and am sure to let it dry completely before storing. Running hydrogen peroxide through the tube is also a good idea.
*Be sure you speak with your healthcare professional before starting any new healthcare routine. Coffee enemas can be very helpful, but if you aren’t yet ready in your detoxification optimization journey, they could do more harm than good.
We recreated a classic with this recipe by soaking our oatmeal prior to baking. If you haven't yet discovered the benefits of soaking your grains before cooking or eating them, read our previous blog for the full run-down on this essential kitchen tip! To sum it up, soaking &rinsing oatmeal removes plant compounds that can impede the full digestion and absorption. This means less gas, bloating and indigestion but more nutrition for you - it's a win-win!
1 c organic* soats (soaked oats)
1 c blanched almond or pumpkin seed flour
1 c shredded coconut
6 tbsp coconut sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 hefty pinch sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or melted Ghee
2 tsp vanilla
3 tsp flaxseed meal
1/2 or 3/4 c chocolate chips (depending on how much of a choco-holic you are)
1/2 cup crushed walnuts or pumpkin seeds
Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking pan with a Silpat or parchment paper. The night prior to baking, place 1 cup organic oats in a sieve and rinse with water. Next, add the rinsed oats and 2 1/2 cups filtered water to a jar or bowl. Add a hefty pinch of sea salt, cover, and leave on the counter to soak over night. When you are ready to bake, use a cheese-cloth or mesh bag to strain out the soaking liquid. Use your muscles to really squeeze out all the oat juice you possibly can. You can save this to use as oat milk or as a soothing skin wash.
Next, add the "soats" (soaked oats), coconut sugar, olive oil/ghee, egg, vanilla, and flax to a blender or food processor and blend well. Meanwhile in a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients (coconut shreds, nut flour, baking soda, salt, and spices). Mix the blended wet ingredients into the dry and add the chocolate chips and/or nuts. You should be able to roll the dough into 1 inch balls with your hands. I like to lightly wet my hands to make this process even easier. Use your peace fingers to slightly press down on each dough ball so that it's about 1/2" thick (these cookies don't spread much on their own so you have to help them!), Bake for 15 minutes until just beginning to turn golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy! Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
This recipe makes 12-16 balls depending on how big you make them.
Eileen Brantley & Amy Wright
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