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.
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!
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.
Oral health is an untapped field in the holistic health and wellness world, but your mouth really is a litmus test for the health of your total body. Chronically inflamed gums? You might wanna look at your cardiovascular health. Horrible halitosis (bad breath)? You 100% have a dysbiosis in your gut. Scalloped tongue? Your body is yearning for alteratives and a diet change-up. We've got a whole workshop going through oral health from an herbalist's perspective, but for now, read on about why we are selling our herby tooth powder.
Here's the Tooth Truth
Although it might leave your mouth feeling minty fresh, conventional toothpaste is not the path towards a healthy & balanced oral microbiome*.
While there are a few toothpastes we do love (read on to learn more!), we designed our herby Tooth Seekers Tooth Powder to stand alone or to be used in combination with your favorite toothpaste.
Our tooth powder is formulated to:1. Support healthy microbial communities of the mouth
-with antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral & sialogogue herbs
2. Fight inflammation and sensitivity
-with anti-inflammatory, analgesic, astringent, & immune supportive herbs
3. Correct the pH of the mouth to prevent demineralization & protect toothy integrity
-with mineral-rich & alkalizing ingredients
4. Freshen the breath
-with carminative, aromatic, & antimicrobial herbs
How to Use:
-Wet your toothbrush (we recommend soft bristle brushes)
-Dip it in the tooth powder so that all the bristles are coated in a solid layer.
-Brush gently using thorough, circular motions. Be sure to get every surface of every tooth. Aim for 2 minutes of brush-time, minimum.
-Alternatively, you can apply a nanohydroxyapatite toothpaste** to your brush and then dip it into the tooth powder for an added dose of herby mineralization (this is the method we recommend!).
*To Fluoride or Not to Flouride - that is the question
*To Fluoride or Not to Fluoride - That Is the Question
Fluoride use in toothpaste is a contentious topic. While fluoride applied topically has the ability to remineralize teeth, we feel there are far better, safer alternatives for daily use.
-There’s a reason conventional toothpaste has a poison control warning: fluoride is toxic. Due to its pervasiveness in our water supply and oral products, we are likely swallowing far more than we should.
-Where does it come from? Fluoride is an unregulated by-product of our fertilizer industry and the U.S.A has the most fluoridated water in the world.
-Numerous studies affirm that fluoride disturbs neurological development - especially in kids (Valdez-Jiménez et al 2011).
-The actual amount of fluoride you need to remineralize your teeth would require a prescription strength toothpaste or a visit to the dentist
**What is Nanohydroxyapatite?
For these reasons and more, we choose to avoid fluoride all together (thanks to our Berkey Filter’s fluoride remover) and replace it with a 100% non-toxic alternative that outperforms fluoride altogether. It’s called nanohydroxyapatite and these nano-sized particles are what naturally make your teeth and bones strong. Our teeth will readily absorb these particles and start rebuilding enamel giving your teeth a smoother, whiter, more reflective, and stronger surface
More About the Ingredients in Tooth Seekers
Orris root, Iris germanica
Taste/Energetics: bitter, acrid, pungent; hot, dry, aromatic
Actions: antispasmodic, aperient, aromatic, carminative, expectorant, pectoral, purgative, sedative
Orris root comes from the lovely Flag Iris native to the Mediterranean but naturalized in many parts of the US. Like other members of the Iris family, such as Calamus, Orris root has a dispersive, cleansing and purifying nature. Externally, it is cherished as an antiseptic and additive to perfumes and cosmetics for its pleasant violet aroma. Internally, its acrid and aromatic qualities are excellent at breaking up congestion while its antimicrobial action resolves the issue at the root. Historically, the fresh root was given to babies to chew on for healthy mouths and strong teeth. Today, Orris root is commonly found in tooth powders and pastes for its delightful aroma, clearing & opening qualities, and antiseptic (topical) and antimicrobial (internal) actions.
Arrowroot, Maranta arundinaceae
Taste/Energetics: sweet, bland cooling, neutral
Actions: demulcent, mucilaginous, nutritive
The rhizomes of this tropical plant have been used as a nutritive & thickening agent in foods and medicines for 1000s of years. The common name “arrowroot” refers to its historic use as an antidotal poultice for poisonous arrow wounds. It was also used as a topical remedy for spider and snake bites. It provides a nice, neutral base for tooth powders
Myrrh, Commiphora myrrha
Taste/Energetics: spicy, neutral
Actions: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, expectorant immune stimulant
This precious resin of the gum tree has been treasured for centuries for its ability to calm mucus membrane irritations from pharyngitis to UTIs. It’s particularly adept at resolving infections of the lungs and mouth. It’s antimicrobial and astringent action makes it an excellent gargle for sore throats or a topical application for wounds.
*Do not ingest myrrh if pregnant due to its emmenagogue effect
Echinacea, Echinacea angustifolia
Taste/Energetics: cooling, pungent, stimulating
Actions: alterative, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, immune stimulant, sialagogue, vulnerary
Echinacea root is one of our favorite remedies for dry mouth, bad breath, or inflamed gums. It’s powerful sialagogue action encourages salivary flow which moistens the mouth and bathes it in infection-fighting moisture. It’s a vulnerary, healing wounds in the mouth, and a gentle immune stimulant and alterative, improve the overall function of the immune and lymph systems.
Cinnamon, Cassia cinnamomum
Taste/Energetics: warming, drying, pungent, sweet
Actions: analgesic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, carminative, circulatory stimulant, styptic
With it’s spicy sweet anti-inflammatory and astringent action, Cinnamon was made for the mouth. We love it for its ability to: tone and tighten inflamed gums; get that nourishing blood flowing; promote breath freshness, and resolve microbial imbalances in the mouth
Clove, Syzygium aromaticum
Taste/Energetics: pungent, spicy, hot, dry
Actions: anesthetic (topically), analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial anti-oxidant, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, expectorant
People have been chewing on Clove buds to ease toothaches for centuries - Clove’s pleasantly aromatic, spicy taste and pain-relieving nature lends itself beautifully to any oral routine.
Did you know that every time you eat, you are de-mineralizing your teeth? Your body necessarily tells your mouth to create an acidic environment in order to aid the digestive process (this is why sticking to 3 square meals and not snacking is a very good habit for your teeth!). Baking soda is highly alkaline and therefore encourages a healthy pH, supports beneficial bacteria, and protects your enamel from decay. Plus it’s known to whiten teeth! On its own it can be a bit abrasive, so we’ve balanced it with other herbs to make it a-okay for moderate daily use.
This sugar alcohol is known for its abilities to reduce cavity-causing bacteria and freshen the breath. We add just enough to get the benefits without going overboard on the sweetness
Guest Blogger: Kai Leathers
Who Are We?
Many Buddhist traditions claim that there is no "self". That is an esoteric topic for another time, but I believe they are right in more ways than one. Modern science is (re)discovering that we are not just a single biological entity; instead, we must think of ourselves as a superorganism. This may sound like the beginning of a horror movie, but it is actually as mundane as a teaspoon of soil in your backyard (which averages between 100 million and 1 billion bacteria). It is quickly becoming common knowledge that humans cannot survive without a thriving diversity of microorganisms.
Even if you have not spent any significant amount of time in the world of holistic health or nutrition, you have probably heard the term "microbiome". Tons of research is revealing that we are not just Homo sapiens ("wise man"), but instead we are host to a huge collection of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, yeast and other fungi that scientists call the microbiome. Indeed, we are never alone. They live on and inside of us, and their lives are essential to the proper functioning of our body systems. In order to optimize health, we must not feed our singular selves, but we must instead feed our collective "superorganism" community - these microscopic colonies in our intestines, or gut. Globally, we are undergoing a sixth major extinction period, and some who study the human microbiome believe our gut bacteria are experiencing a similar extinction. They hypothesize that we may never be able to replace certain bacterial strains that we have lost.
Exercise and Gut Health
You may have cornered a stranger at a dinner party to explain the TED talk you recently watched, discussing ways to increase the diversity of your gut bacteria by changing your diet, but have you heard about how exercise also affects your gut microbiome? Researchers from Rutgers University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are showing that exercise also has an impact on the amount and type of bacteria in our gut. Experiments have been carried out on mice and humans. One human study looked at previously sedentary lean and obese individuals, and after 6 weeks of supervised cardiovascular exercise lasting a half our to an hour in duration, the composition of their gut microbiomes changed. Certain kinds of bacteria that produce a short chain fatty acid called butyrate, which is associated with positive gut health, increased in number. There was a difference between the concentrations of butyrate-producing bacteria in lean participants in comparison to the obese participants, so there is still more research to be done. These levels of bacteria also decreased after the participants returned to a sedentary lifestyle 6 weeks later, further establishing the link between exercise and the growth of positive species of bacteria.
There are many mechanisms that may contribute to the increase in butyrate-producing bacteria, but scientists are still not sure why the change takes place. This is one area where more research is being done. Possible mechanisms include altered gene expression of immune cells in gut tissue, changing the mucus composition of the gut, raising the core body temperature, which results in less blood flow to the intestines, or increasing the activity of bile acids and lactate levels.
Keep It Simple
Now that we have another reason to get moving, how do we incorporate this into our practice? A few times a week, you should try to really push your heart rate. Most people might turn to running or cycling, but you can turn any exercise into a "cardio" exercise.
One of the most underrated ways to increase your aerobic activity is getting up and down from the ground. In the video below, I demonstrate a MovNat-inspired exercise that is amazing in many ways. This exercise is particularly useful for establishing proprioception, balance, core strength, shoulder stability, and hip mobility. It is the essence of "functional" movement in my eyes because it can increase your athletic skill, or it can simply help you be more efficient at getting up from the ground.
Start on your back, then sit up and place one hand right next to your hip and pull the opposite heel in close to your butt. Lift your butt of the ground and pull the free knee under you as you come into a tripod position with your two feet and one hand. Push yourself to standing, then reverse the order to return to the ground. Once you master the movement try adding in a kick through or jumps into the transition, as seen in the video below. You will be surprised at how quickly your heart rate can spike after just a few reps of this exercise.
Try throwing in 5 minutes of this exercise in the middle or your normal cardio routine. For example, if you run, run for 10 minutes, then try a get-up for 5 minutes before going back into your run. You can also put this on the beginning of your run for a 5 minute warm-up or throw it on the end of your run for a 5 minute finisher to spike your heart rate before a cool-down and stretch.
Is Stomach Acid!!!!
I’m going to keep this brief (kinda) because I want everyone to read it. We live in a world of information overload. You can Google anything and get 500 different answers. Everyone has an opinion, and this is great; however, it is also dizzying. Here’s my opinion: trust your gut. But how can you trust your gut if it’s a hot mess?
No one should live with acid reflux. It is PREDOMINATELY preventable. If you are reading this, you likely have the luxuries of sleeping indoors and access to ample resources. At this point in our evolution as civilized beings, we have access to all the tools we need to thrive, and yet many people are living with consistent stomach pain. This should not be the case.
A healthy gut operates by means of: a well-nourished mucosal lining, strong stomach acids (pH=1-3), and digestive enzymes. All these components are connected. Unlike the rest of the body, the stomach needs to be very acidic so it can pulverize the things we eat. What’s more, enzymes can only be activated in an acidic state. Stomach acid and unlocked enzymes cause digestion. Insufficient stomach acid and dormant enzymes cause indigestion. Over time, undigested food can irritate and inflame the mucosal lining, perhaps wearing it down and eventually escaping into other parts of the body (i.e. leaky gut).
It’s amazing that our bodies create hydrochloric acid (HCl), a main ingredient of stomach juice. It can eat through metal! Stomach acid not only unlocks enzymes, but it also keeps bad bacteria out. As we age, we loose the ability to create powerful stomach acids. When we eat an excess of certain foods, we loose the ability to create powerful stomach acids. When we rush our meals and don’t take time to chew properly, we aren’t allowing our body to kick into digestive mode to secrete stomach acids. When we don’t eat bitter foods before meals, an evolutionary cue to promote gut secretions, the body is less primed to digest fully. When we don’t have sufficient stomach acids, the LES (lower esophageal sphincter the separates esophagus from stomach) is never cued to close. Acid doesn’t belong in the esophagus, and hence heartburn is felt. Gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn- there are many causes of digestive pains, but the key ingredient to solving all these issues is acid!
Conventional protocols for acid reflux can be over-the-counter acid neutralizers (antacids), or prescribed acid blockers (histamine H2-receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors). Acid neutralizers “work” by balancing an acid with an alkali (calcium, sodium, aluminum, or magnesium). They don’t interfere with the process of your stomach secreting acid; rather, the alkali salt combines with your HCl to neutralize it. Antacids are transient, working only until all the antacid molecules are used. For occasional use, they can be helpful. If taken consistently, they can seriously mess with the functionality of your gut. First off, your food can’t be digested in such a neutral state, so you are robbed of vital nutrients and minerals. They can cause elevated blood pH, excess calcium in the blood, and kidney failure; this is called milk-alkali syndrome. Some women are led to believe that antacids in the form of calcium-carbonate can do double duty as a calcium supplement for osteoporosis prevention. This is a terrible misconception; in fact, calcium can only be absorbed and properly deposited in an acidic environment.
Histamine H2-receptor blockers “work” by chemically inhibiting the process of stomach acid secretion. The hormone gastrin stimulates histamine-producing cells that stimulate stomach acid secretion (the body is complex!). With the histamine signal blocked, stomach acid is not secreted. No stomach acid secretions means no enzymes unlocked, no vital nutrients and minerals absorbed. Additionally, messing with hormone signaling causes adverse side effects with our sex hormones (not something to be tampered with).
Proton pump inhibitors “work” by tinkering with the cells that line the stomach. Their “proton pump” mechanism is responsible for secreting HCl. These pills are effective: they can reduce acid secretions by up to 95%. Once again, with deficient stomach acid, your food simply isn’t digested. Over time, this creates uncountable issues. Our bodies are designed to produce acid to digest food. Let’s cut to the chase and just promote this natural process rather than interfering with it.
What you can do:
Stop diminishing your stomach acid and start building up that nutrient-unleashing digestive power! There are ample natural remedies to restore gut health to its full vitality.
This method is FREE and universal:
These methods are affordable and versatile. Find the combination that works for your unique situation:
1. Take bitters.
The bitter reflex stimulates the digestive process to kick into action. This taste is largely lacking from the modern diet, and partially explains our rampant gut issues. Bitters come easily in the form of tincture, but even just having a bitter green salad before the heft of your meal (this is traditionally why salads proceed your main meal). The bitter stimulus triggers a positive waterfall of chain reactions whose effects reach far beyond healing your gut. Guido Mase’s Urban Moonshine and David Winston’s Herbalist & Alchemist both carry great bitter selections... as do the Herb Girls! I can’t stress the importance of bitters enough! (( Plant insight: Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale), and Artichoke leaf (Cynara scolymus), and Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) are some classic and powerful bitters. Gentian (Gentiana lutea) is another classic bitter but I shy away from recommending it as it is in danger of being overharvested.))
2. Pop a DGL.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) maintains all of licorice’s healing properties without its effect on blood-pressure. Licorice’s demulcent, soothing nature restores the mucosal lining of the stomach, reducing pain and inflammation. It is also strengthening to the immune and endocrine system and trophorestorative to the liver. These tasty, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth tablets can be taken as needed throughout the day. Substitute your antacids with DGL. They will bring the same relief with positive side-effects rather than negative ones. Planetary Herbs has a great DGL product.
(( Plant insight: The legume Glycyrrhiza glabra is a staple in traditional herbal medicine. This starchy root has a profound capacity to nourish the adrenals, often an underlying issue in many chronic stress relating disorders. It also nourishes and heals respiratory function and all sorts of gastrointestinal issues. ))
3. Get on the Manuka honey train.
Manuka honey is made from the blossoms of the Tea tree (Melaleuca alterniflora). Manuka honey is wildly delicious, antibacterial, and soothing to the entire respiratory and GI tract. Like licorice, it restores the mucus membrane and reduces pain and inflammation. ManukaGuard makes a product, Nutralize, that combines Manuka honey with raw apple cider vinegar. Taken before meals, this both heals the gut and stimulates digestive juices.
4. Consider Digestive Enzymes. You simply can’t break down food and absorb nutrients and minerals without sufficient enzymes. Gas, bloating, and mineral and vitamin deficiencies will be your fate without these crucial elements. Arthur Andrew Medical Divegest offers a potent yet gentle blend. It contains peptidase which breaks down gluten and casein, two common food irritants. Over time, if you work up your stomach acids and find the foods that your body was built to digest, you might not have to rely on these.
5. Protect your gut.
I can’t stress enough the importance of an intact and un-inflammed gut lining. This mucus membrane is your first line of protection from corrosive stomach acid and unwanted bacterial visitors. If this becomes eroded, all that good stomach acid can cause pain and bacteria can proliferate. Additionally, bad bacteria proliferate when the acidic pH raises to an alkaline state- herein lies the connection between long-term use of acid-inhibiting pills and stomach ulcers. LifeExtension’s CarnoSoothe both rebuilds the mucus membrane and provides protection from H. pylori bacteria, the cause of many stomach issues. The star plant Picrorhiza kurroa is a Himalayan herb used traditionally for rebuilding and protecting the stomach lining.
(( Plant insight: Herbs categorized as demulcents are critical for folks recovering from gut disorders. Demulcent herbs are soothing and nourishing to the mucus membranes of our entire GI tract, and facilitate smooth elimination. They include Marshmallow, Althea officinalis, Plantain (Plantago major), Licorice, and Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva). However, Slippery Elm is in danger of being overharvested, so vie for the more renewable sources. ))
DISCLAIMER: This is all educational material and from personal experience. In more serious cases of severe reflux and/or esophageal damage, definitely consult with a physician before withdrawing from acid blockers or antacids. Be patient! Positive change wills come- it will just take a bit more effort. You can do it!
Why Stomach Acid is Good for You, Jonathon V. Wright, MD & Lane Lenard, PhD
Eileen Brantley & Amy Wright
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