Tag: anti-cancer

Paleo Mushroom Gravy: Vegan, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Recipe

Paleo Mushroom Gravy: Vegan, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Recipe

It’s Gravy Baby Turkey or not, no Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without gravy. Traditional gravies are obviously made with the turkey pan drippings, cutter, cream, and regular all-purpose white flour. None of which are suitable for a vegan and or paleo-friendly recipe. So here ya […]

Creamy Ginger Turmeric Squash Soup

Creamy Ginger Turmeric Squash Soup

Best Soup Ever Pumpkins and squash are everywhere, and squash soup has been high on the to-do list. I’ve made several versions in the past, but this time I wanted to spice things up a bit and thought I’d add some ginger and turmeric. No […]

Gut Health: The link between gut bacteria and cancer risk and response

Gut Health: The link between gut bacteria and cancer risk and response

Gut bacteria: The key to health

All disease begins in the gut. ~ Hippocrates

We have 70 trillion cells in our body. And we have 100 trillion cells in our gut. Meaning the gut bacteria we house far outnumber our own cells. There’s a reason we evolved to house these commensal organisms: they are there to keep us healthy and prevent disease. This includes cancer.

Researchers are finding that our gut flora impacts not just the obvious food and digestion-related issues such as weight gain and cravings, but conditions as diverse as our sleep and our mental health. Why is that? An estimated 70-80% of our immunity resides in the gut.

Gut Health and Immunity

Our digestive system is the main route of contact with the external environment. Every day it is overloaded with external substances, sometimes dangerous. Pathogens (bacteria, protozoa, fungi, viruses) and toxic substances enter our systems along with food or commensal flora. When you think of it this way, it makes perfect sense that the integrity of our digestive system (our gut) is essential to our health.

Basically, we want to make sure our gut health is in optimal condition to fight off invaders like the flu and other unsavory microbes that may enter our system. But it’s not just the foreign substances the immune system must handle: it responds to anything that causes inflammation in the gut and keeps our gut flora in proper balance.

If anything disrupts this fine balance, causes inflammation, or goes unrecognized or unchecked by the immune system, then we’re in trouble. We get sick, or worse, chronic disease can get a foothold.

Gut Health: The Science

Researchers are now focusing on the role of gut health in cancer risk, and more specifically how our unique composition of gut flora predicts risk. Furthermore, they are looking at how manipulation of gut flora composition may control cancer progression and predict response to treatment.

Birth, feeding and our gut flora

As it turns out, our earliest moments on earth have a significant and direct impact on our gut flora, and therefore on our immunity. Compared with babies born ‘naturally,’ babies born via caesarean section have been reported to have lower numbers of good bacteria and higher numbers of bad bacteria in their gut flora composition.

Research to further understand this relationship is ongoing, but current understanding holds that infants who were born via caesarean section do indeed have different gut bacteria and are more likely to develop allergies and immune-related diseases like asthma.

Similar patterns have been found in formula-fed infants versus those who were breastfed. The findings suggest that early diet and exposure to a variety of environments and bacteria through diet shapes our gut microbiota from are earliest days, therefore impacting our immunity.

Antibiotics and the gut

Antibiotic use has also been on the rise over the past several decades, and they are highly effective against those bad bacteria that can cause illness.

Unfortunately for us and for our overall health, these nonspecific drugs wipe out the good bacteria as well as the bad guys, leaving the gut susceptible to hostile takeover by foreign invaders – aka the bad bacteria.

So how does this all relate to cancer risk?

Gut flora control our immune system, and our immune system controls gut flora. Researchers are finding that this interaction is key in determining cancer risk. A study on mice found that those lacking anti-inflammatory cytokines, molecules that slow the immune response, have more bad bacteria in their gut. What does this mean? A strong immune response safeguards our guts from an overpopulation of bad bacteria.

Furthermore, they found an increased risk of colorectal cancer in these mice. They have even conferred risk to other mice by taking the feces of the donor mouse lacking the cytokines and feeding it to a recipient with balanced gut flora. The bad bacteria flourished and took over the microbiota of the recipient. In turn, the recipient’s risk of colorectal cancer increases.

Similarly, a study on humans found an increased risk of colorectal cancer in relation to long-term antibiotic use. As I alluded to above, antibiotics disrupt the balance of gut flora.

Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, and Gut Flora

Another study has found that cancer treatment therapies are less effective in germ-free mice, which have been bred in completely sterile conditions. They have no bacteria – good or bad. Certain immunotherapy and chemotherapy drugs are activated by the immune system itself. What this study found is that the gut flora itself modulated this activation: the lack of microbiota resulted in reduced efficacy of the treatment drugs.

A different study was conducted on mice with tumors that were treated with cyclophosphamide – a common chemotherapy drug used in many cancers (it was part of my own chemo cocktail). The study found that healthy gut flora promoted an adaptive anti-tumor immune response.

Again, the germ-free mice and those who had received antibiotics to kill these specific bacteria were resistant to the drug and tumor shrinkage was diminished. When they transferred more of these healthy cells to these mice, the anti-tumor efficacy of the chemo was partially restored.

Once again, we have evidence that the interaction of gut flora and the immune system is a crucial factor in treatment response.

Enzyme activation and microbiota modulators

Treatment efficacy also relates to liver enzymes. Many chemotherapy drugs are activated by these enzymes as well as by the gut bacteria. Different levels of liver enzymes impacts how effective the chemo will be. Germ-free mice have more enzymes that detoxify the chemotherapy, which may sound like a good thing. But if the chemo leaves the system too quickly, it has less time to do its tumor-fighting job.

Gut bacteria modulate this response. Once researchers transferred the bacteria to the germ-free mice, treatment response improved dramatically. Yet, high levels of bad bacteria can over-activate the chemotherapy drugs, which can cause worsened side effects as the drugs kill both the good cells as well as the bad.

One of the more unpleasant and more dangerous side effects of chemotherapy is diarrhea. It starves patients of vital nutrients, dehydrates the system, and can change the microbiota of the gut. Evidence from human studies suggest that bacteria levels do in fact predict whether a patient will suffer from this side effect.

The Upshot: Let food be thy medicine.

So what does this all mean for cancer patients and people aiming to prevent cancer? We need healthy guts! Diet is key, and high-quality probiotics are essential. Check out this video with cute animated bacteria for a primer on gut bacteria.

Dietary fiber is the optimal fuel for the good gut bacteria, so a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds is optimal for promoting gut health. The more fiber-rich foods you ingest, the more good bacteria colonize the gut, restoring the balance. Raw, slightly steamed and lightly cooked produce retain the most benefits.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut actually contain these helpful bacteria, so consuming both fresh and fermented is key.

What else helps improve diversity of gut flora? Coffee, tea, red wine, and, yes, dark chocolate! These foods, along with fruits and vegetables, are rich in polyphenols, which are anti-oxidants.

Here are the top foods rich in probiotics, in ranked from excellent to good:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Pickles
  • Kefir*
  • Yogurt*
  • Buttermilk*
  • Raw Cheese*
  • Tempeh**
  • Natto**
  • Kombucha

As for your best bets – sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and kombucha – look for unpasteurized versions with little to no added sugar (kombucha varies – opt for lower sugar).

**Please note: tempeh and natto are soy products, and while these unprocessed fermented forms are better than other soy products, too much soy in any form can have a negative impact on health, as they are usually GMO and contain estrogen, so should absolutely be avoided for breast cancer patients.

*Please note: Kefir, yogurt, buttermilk, and raw cheese are dairy products, and dairy can cause inflammation is not recommended for cancer patients. Yogurt often contains a lot of sugar, and sometimes lacks live cultures.

Got questions? Get in touch!

Creamy Celery Soup: Vegan Paleo Keto-Friendly Recipe

Creamy Celery Soup: Vegan Paleo Keto-Friendly Recipe

More Soup for You It’s October and while the days have still been warm, the mornings and evenings are cool and the air has that distinct autumn crisp. I’ve totally been feeling all the fall feels. Pumpkin, squash, soup, and yes, more soup. So today […]

One-Year In the Clear Remission Re-Birthday: Thank You Letter to My Universe

One-Year In the Clear Remission Re-Birthday: Thank You Letter to My Universe

Dear Universe Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for this day, thank you for this life. Thank you for everything – all of it.  Today is September 27, my one year ‘cancerversary’ of my remission scan – my re-birthday. Which means […]

The Benefits of Meditation: Boost your Health and Happiness

The Benefits of Meditation: Boost your Health and Happiness

Meditation and My #HappyMe Challenge

September is my favorite month. I am admittedly slightly biased because it just so happens to be my birth month, but I’d still probably prefer it even if I wasn’t lucky enough to have the sapphire as my birthstone.

Crisp fall air rolls in. The days are still warm. After summer’s lightness of being and the adventures it brings, September invites you to get grounded and re-center, even as the summer energy lingers. It brings a new season with new beginnings. And of course, crucially, because it brings chai latte and sweater weather.

New months and new seasons are a good time to re-focus on your goals and start new projects. On the first, I was seeing challenges all over Instagram, so I decided to do my own little personal happiness challenge: 4 weeks through the end of the month, starting today, focusing on something in my life that makes me happy.

Meditation Rocky mountains https://www.sunnybrookphoto.com/
Photo: Rebecca Elliot @ SunnybrookPhoto.com

Happiness Challenge Day 1: Meditation

Why did I start with meditation? Well, partially because I had a cool picture I already wanted to post of me meditating in the Rockies. But in all seriousness, now that I’ve made meditation a daily practice for nearly a year and a half, I have seen how it impacts my wellbeing, and, yes, my happiness. And in a month that reminds me to get grounded, meditation is the best way to do that.

Meditation is an ancient practice, and now is slowly seeping its way into mainstream culture. Why? Because modern science is finally catching up and proving what the yogis and Buddhists have proclaimed for thousands of years: regular practice has a profound positive impact on success and wellbeing.

Top athletes, CEOs, and leaders are taking on this practice and achieving more and achieving better. It boosts clarity, improves productivity, and increases happiness. Happier people are more successful. Win, win.

Not only does it help us calm down and focus and improve our odds of success, but it can help us tap into our innate capacity to heal. So when I first found out something was drastically wrong in my body, I immediately signed up for a meditation boot camp and added it to my self-prescribed healing regimen.

yoga ashram India
The yoga ashram in India

My Meditation Journey: The Beginning

My initial forays into meditation occurred way back in 2009, beginning with my first yoga teacher training – a month long immersion at an ashram in India. The carefree whims of youth lead me there, curious about what this whole yoga thing was really about.

I was traveling to India with no set plan or any pressing reason to return home, and at $650 all in – a fraction of rent alone in New York or Tokyo – I’d be situated for a whole month, have a new, challenging experience, and walk away with a potential new skill and certification. So I figured why not sign up and get a little something out of my travels?

I wasn’t fully prepared for the 4:45am wakeup calls, the early morning meditations complete with chanting, and the silent mealtimes, but over the weeks of intense study and practice, I was definitely beginning to see positive shifts in my physical and mental wellbeing. There did seem to be something to this whole yoga thing after all. But the meditation wasn’t quite sitting well with me. Rather, I couldn’t sit with it.

Taj Mahal India Travel
Blurry shot of me at the Taj Mahal

Meditation: Take 2

Another participant had just done a meditation course in Dharamsala in Northern India – the land of the Dalai Lama. Given my flexibility, she suggested I look into in the ten day Introduction to Buddhism course, which was beautifully situated in the hills bordering Tibet, and also happened to be super cheap.

Ok sure, I thought. Buddhist philosophy intrigued me especially after having lived in Japan for over a year – why not dive in a littler further while I’m already here. And while I’m expanding my mind, see another part of the vast country, where the weather was a welcome break from the sticky monsoon summer. And maybe catch a glimpse of the Dalai Lama while I’m at it (sadly, I did not – I found out when I arrived that he was not in town).

And as it turned out, meditation isn’t just one thing – there are many styles, each with their own approach. They all share similar benefits, but one approach might suit one person better than the next. The best meditation is simply the one that you actually do, every day. So I might as well try this one on for size.

So I signed up and I went, stopping in Mumbai, Udaipur, Jaipur, New Delhi to see the Taj Mahal, and Amritsar to see the Golden Temple along the way – win!

Golden Temple, India, Travel
The Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

Buddhist Meditation

When I got to the meditation center in Dharamsala, we immediately had to hand in all of our electronics. I had a hard time giving up my camera, but otherwise I didn’t mind releasing my phone for a few days. But on top of that, we couldn’t speak for the entirety of the program, except for one hour each afternoon to discuss the Dharma lesson of the day.

Being the bookwormy introvert that I am and having done the silent mealtimes at my yoga course, I adapted pretty well to the silence. My roommate on the other hand couldn’t handle it and left on Day 3. Sweet for me, cause I got a private room!

I’d also like to note that the oatmeal they served each morning for breakfast was delicious. During our group debrief on the last day, some of the 45 participants confessed they made it through the ten days just because of the oatmeal. Each day they told themselves: I’ll leave after breakfast tomorrow. Each day, they stayed for one more bowl of oatmeal, until they arrived at day 10. Hey, whatever keeps ya motivated!

After the course ended, I planned to travel down to South India where I’d signed up to volunteer as an English instructor for two months. I kept up the yoga as much as possible, but really didn’t follow through with meditation. After the two months were up, I went to a Zen center in the mountains of Tamil Nadu for a three-day introduction to Zen meditation, a slightly more formal practice than I’d done up north to learn more and get a refresher.

Dharamsala, India
The hills of Dharamsala, India

Meditation Fail

But even after all this intense instruction, the meditation practice did not stick. I stopped in Egypt for a few weeks on my way home, and again kept up the yoga but couldn’t bring myself to sit in silent stillness for even five minutes.

Fast forward to 2016, two more yoga trainings and over six years later, I still had failed to establish a meditation practice of any kind. But with the pain in my chest and scans telling me I had a growth the size of a grapefruit in my chest, my yoga practice was officially on the back burner. Meditation was now in.

After a brief search, Google serendipitously directed me to a deep-dive meditation course beginning that very week in New York City – two hours a day for four days.

This was a new style of meditation for me, marketed as meditation for lazy people: a Vedic, mantra-based meditation where you could sit with your back propped up. Great, because sitting up perfectly straight in a cross-legged position for twenty minutes twice a day was not gonna happen for me. Perfect. Done.

airplane photo earth
Above it all. 

My Meditation Miracle

Ok no, I’ve never had an out-of-body, floating-up-to-space kind of experience, but this course did get me in the practice of meditating for a full twenty minutes, twice a day. That, for me, was a miracle in itself. Given that I received my initial Lymphoma diagnosis on day two of the course, I certainly had the motivation to persist. But the course finally gave me an approach I could actually stick with.

Every morning throughout the course of treatment, I woke up and did my morning meditation. Nearly every afternoon throughout the course of treatment, I took 20 minutes to myself to meditate again. And I honestly did feel an improvement. This form of meditation is meant to rid the body of stress, and my little body was riddled with it.

And it turns out, Meditation Works…

But slowly, surely, I was feeling better and better, closer and closer to my normal self in spite of the crazy chemo drugs being pumped into my system. I wasn’t experiencing side effects aside from some fatigue, but sleeping in the hospital is next to impossible anyway. Eventually, my sleep began to improve. A few weeks after treatment, I took myself off the anti-anxiety medication they’d kept me on to ensure I got at least some sleep.

I began to notice a difference on days I missed my afternoon meditation, and I definitely noticed a difference on days I missed the first. I must confess I’ve fallen off the afternoon wagon as of late, and I notice the difference. My mind is less focused, I’m more fatigued, less productive.

But I have made a point to stick with the morning meditation as much as possible – nearly every day for a nearly year and a half now. And I plan to continue and up my afternoon game.

Here’s why.

Dharamsala India
The hills of Dharamsala, India

Benefits of Meditation

Increased Happiness.

This is my happiness project, after all. Meditation boosts the factors that contribute to an overall sense of well-being, like an increased sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance. By practicing non-attachment, non-judgement, and acceptance, you’re detaching from and letting go of the critical, unhelpful thought patterns that can cause us to spiral into unhappiness and separation.

Rather than ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, you stay present in the now and realize how amazing that really is. You accept your circumstances, whatever they may be, and appreciate the gift of each moment.

Studies of the brain on meditation have actually shown that brain signaling increases in the left prefrontal cortex, which manages positive emotions. It decreases in the right, which is responsible for negative emotions. Meditation physically boosts serotonin production, which improves mood and emotional stability. It also boosts optimism. More positive emotions equals a happier mind.

Stress Reduction.

Let’s face it, most of us deal with stress on a regular basis these days. It’s become a part of modern living. Not all stress is bad, but we’re talking chronic stress, which wreaks havoc on our health. Meditation can help us take charge of our bodies, brains, and emotions, thereby enabling us to tap into our natural capacity to manage and reduce the stress response. Talk about self-empowerment. Regardless of which approach you take, meditation reduces stress. And of course, less stress generally means a happier you.

Better Concentration.

Focus. Perhaps one of the most challenging states to reach these days, with the constant distractions of technology. Meditation can help you shut out distraction and concentrate on the given task. This is partially related to the energy boost meditation provides: more energy means more capacity to focus and get the job done.

Slowed Aging.

This one’s huge. Harvard neuroscientists have actually found that meditation increases the amount of gray matter in the pre-frontal cortex, the brain regions responsible for working memory and executive decision making. Literally, more brain cells. Their research found that 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of brain matter as 25-year-olds.

Meditators also have longer telomeres – regions at the end of chromosomes that protect them from degradation. Length relates to biological aging – longer telomeres correlates to younger biology. Bottom line: meditation protects the brain from aging. While it’s unclear whether this actually translates to a longer life, protecting DNA from degradation clearly boosts physical wellbeing as we age chronologically. I’ll take that.

Brain Booster.

Literally. Meditation physically ‘boosts’ the brain: the neuroscientists found increases in brain volume in specific regions of meditators’ brains responsible for a wide variety of cognitive tasks, which translates to improved overall cognitive functioning:

  • The researchers found the primary difference in the posterior cingulate, which is involved in mind wandering, and self relevance.
  • They also noted a measurable difference in the left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation.
  • Meditators had thickening in the temporo-parietal junction, or TPJ, which is associated with perspective taking, empathy and compassion.
  • Thickening was also measured in the Pons, an area of the brain stem called the which produces a lot of regulatory neurotransmitters.

In addition, they measured a reduction in the amygdala, the brain region that controls the fight or flight part response and which plays an integral role in the experience of anxiety, fear and stress in general. Interestingly, this change in the amygdala was correlated to a reduction in stress levels.

Improved Physical Health.

The relaxation induced by meditation has a positive impact on cardiovascular health: the increase in nitric oxide from the relaxation response causes the blood vessels to open up and blood pressure to drop. It reduces anxiety, insomnia, and tension-related pain, including headaches, ulcers and muscle and joint pain.

Meditation also improves immunity. I used to get a cold every month like clockwork – the kind that had me stuck in bed for a day or two at a time. Then it got to the point that I was constantly feeling under the weather – turned out that was lymphoma taking hold. But, since I started meditating at the start of treatment, I’ve gotten a cold a grand total of once, even with an immune system severely compromised by 600 hours of chemo. That’s gotta count for something.

Taj Mahal India
Meditation: The royal fix

How to Reap the Benefits of Meditation

So basically, meditation is super awesome for your health and happiness. But how to begin? Well, you don’t necessarily have to meditate for a full 40 minutes every day to see a positive impact. Evidence indicates that meditating even 10 minutes a day can have a significant positive impact.

But sitting for 10 minutes can still be a challenge for a new meditator, so it’s best to experiment with various guided meditations and try out different approaches. Many find it helps to seek out a teacher to help you get started. As my own journey indicates, it can take a little trial and error! But these days, there are many apps like Insight Timer and Headspace and online resources to get you started.

Here’s the course I took that finally got meditation to stick. They offer live courses monthly in NYC, a few annually in LA, and an online program for people who can’t attend in person. I have no affiliation, just happy to share the benefits – get in touch if you want to learn more about the program!

Why Cleanse: The benefits of cleansing and signs your body needs one

Why Cleanse: The benefits of cleansing and signs your body needs one

Cleanse your system the fun way The words cleanse and detox often cause strong, guarded reactions. The idea of deprivation or consuming bizarre foods you can’t even pronounce is simply not appealing to most. But before you turn and run… truth bomb: you don’t have to […]

Why You Should Eat More Watermelon + Vegan Watermelon Feta Salad Recipe

Why You Should Eat More Watermelon + Vegan Watermelon Feta Salad Recipe

Watermelon is good, and good for you Seriously, what’s more refreshing than watermelon on a hot summer day? In life, I rarely think, I want some watermelon. But then summer rolls around and I take my first bite and I’m like oh yeah, this stuff is […]

The Truth Behind Detoxing – Miracle cure or mythical crock?

The Truth Behind Detoxing – Miracle cure or mythical crock?

 Detox Me, Maybe?

Juice cleanses. Detox programs. Cleanse supplements and detox teas. These days, these products are ubiquitous in the world of wellness and nutrition. But what’s all the hype about? Why is detoxing beneficial and really – is it?
As with all things health and nutrition, there are two camps squarely opposing one another: those that say detoxing is the answer to all ailments and the key to optimal wellbeing, and those that say it’s all a complete crock made up by opportunistic marketers.
Juice cleanse / detox

Detoxing: It’s a crock

Ask a traditional doctor or medical professional and it’s extremely possible if not likely they’ll laugh off the notion of ‘detoxing.’ The truth is, our bodies are designed to naturally detox on a daily basis: it’s literally the job of our skin, liver, kidneys, and even the lungs and digestive system to ‘detoxify’ and remove waste. So as they say, nothing you eat or drink will magically make them work better. Fact, through and through.
As the title of this article so bluntly states: you can’t detox your body. Case. Closed. The article elaborates that ‘toxins’ don’t even really exist in the world of medical science: “Much of the [detox] sales patter revolves around “toxins”: poisonous substances that you ingest or inhale. But it’s not clear exactly what these toxins are.”
Toxins, they argue, are impossible to measure, so therefore, they must not really exist or worth worrying about.  The article further claims that detoxing is a ‘scandal… a criminal exploitation of the gullible man on the street.’
Ok, so according to them detoxing is a crock made up by charlatans. They do bring up a fair point – the markets abound with detox products and programs of all kinds that tout themselves as being a miracle cure. And yes, many will set you back a pretty penny. So, are all these supplements and programs complete bogus?
 
Are we just suckers wanting to drink a magic potion and make it all better? 

Detoxing smoothie

Detoxing: It’s the ultimate cure

Then we have the camp that claims detoxing can cure everything, from constipation to cancer. Let’s take a little closer look at the claims of the miracle doctors.
The truth is you can google ‘detox to cure…’ and virtually every ailment will show up depending on what letter you type next. To be clear, any good cleanse protocol should help with constipation. A good detox/ cleanse diet should eliminate difficult to digest foods, increase plant-based fiber consumption, and increase hydration. If done right, this basic approach should clean out the system.
Will detoxing cure constipation? Well, that entirely depends on what an individual does after the detox. Any good protocol should encourage you to continue eating a balanced, plant-heavy diet post-cleanse.

Clean green detoxing salad

But let’s focus on arguably the most extreme case: cancer. (Also, I’m biased.)

There are endless claims of people having cured their cancer from cleansing, juicing, and detoxing, and just as many resources explaining the ins and outs of curing cancer through these methods. I’m a huge proponent of healing naturally whenever possible. However, the reality is that many people who have eschewed the traditional ‘cut, poison, burn’ methods of surgery, chemo, and radiation and gone the alternative, natural route have, very unfortunately, also not survived.
It’s true: many people have been entirely cured of cancer utilizing exclusively natural methods. Many patients with terminal prognoses have lived much longer than the doctors ever suggested they would. Many fighters had a vastly improved quality end of life by forgoing aggressive cancer treatments. Many survivors cured stage IV cancer naturally and never had it come back. Many thrivers have successfully achieved Radical Remission.
These cases, however, are, unfortunately, little studied and while it’s lovely to believe that certain alternative healing methods truly do work, and while there actually is much logic (to my mind) supporting these methods, it’s truthfully impossible to determine precisely why and how these individuals healed. For these reasons, I think it’s extremely dangerous to claim that detoxing and juicing can cure cancer. 
Each and every person is unique, and each and every cancer case is extremely individual, and what worked for one may not work for another. Personally, I do think detoxing and cleansing is extremely beneficial when it comes to healing from cancer. When doctor-approved and supervised by a trained health professional, detoxing can help heal cancer and many other diseases.
I believe there’s a time and place for both traditional and complementary methods of treatment, but every individual facing a serious diagnosis must choose the best healing methods for themselves, armed with education and information on each approach.

Raw vegan green detoxing blender soup

Revisiting the counter-arguments

The Guardian article quotes Edzsard Ernset, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter Medicine: “If toxins did build up in a way your body couldn’t excrete, he says, you’d likely be dead or in need of serious medical intervention – “There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”’
Here’s the thing – many of us are not perfectly healthy. Many people are facing a health crisis. Many people do not have a healthy body, and it stands to reason that everything is not working perfectly well in that less-than-healthy body.
And, the reality is, environmental toxins are a thing, and they’re a thing we should all be concerned about, according to the CDC itself. On average, the study found 212 chemicals in people’s blood or urine, 75 of which had never been measured before in the US population at the time of the study. Alarmingly, tests have found that these 200-plus chemicals are also found in newborn umbilical cord blood– babies are now born with hundreds of chemicals in their bodies.
Traditional medical practitioners and articles like the one published by the Guardian will claim that there is no scientific proof that things like spirulina and nettle tea actually work to detoxify the system.
However, there is a reason there is little ‘scientific’ proof: they don’t study these substances because funding for these studies often doesn’t exist. The fact is, there is no money to be made by the medical or pharmaceutical industries from natural products and supplements that heal and cure, so studies on these natural substances with healing potential are limited.

For more analysis of these arguments, this articledoes a nice job rebutting some of the claims made by the Guardian article and explaining the mechanisms of detoxing.

Cruciferous crunch detox bowl

FLC Syndrome – The Reality of our current State of Health

Mark Hyman, MD, asserts that half of us suffer from FLC: the Feel Like Crap syndrome. And the reason we feel like crap is because we eat crap.
Given the contaminated state of our food system and the less-than-natural environment in which the majority of us reside, I must agree. Simply put, if you overload the system with crap and (dare I use the word) toxins, your body will not be happy.
You don’t need a medical degree to comprehend that ingesting unnatural compounds and excessive amounts of sugar and unhealthy fats can trigger our immune systems to attack and cause inflammation. You don’t need a PhD in biology to understand that not eating the right food or getting enough nutrients will not supply the cells in our liver and other organs with the nutrients and proteins it needs to keep those enzymes working properly.
Detox juice

Why does detoxing work?

By stripping the crap from our diets and replacing it with real, whole foods, we give our bodies the chance to reset, and YES, to do just what they were designed to do: detox! The result is natural detox the way it was designed, without interference. Elimination approaches result in detox done right: with the all the nutrients and resources the body needs to get the job done right and to get the job done thoroughly.
Think about it like a messy desk – if you keep piling papers and files on top of the already existing piles of papers and files, you’ll never clear off the desk. But if you stop piling more stuff on top of what’s already there and start sorting through the existing mess, you’ll give yourself the chance to clear what’s there in due course. Same goes with the body: if you stop feeding it crap and just give it clean fuel and resources, your body gets the chance to get rid of the crap that’s still in there without being further burdened by continual crap piled on top of the existing crap.
Basically, if you don’t give your body the chance to properly reset, it’s like sisyphus rolling that rock up a hill: you might have good days, but you’re never going to get over the hump because you’ll keep falling back into the Feel Like Crap state.

Detox -friendly breakfast

Detoxing vs Cleansing: It’s all in the name

The key thing to understand when trying to come to grips with the notion of detoxing is that the term ‘detox’ is used very loosely, and it means different things to different people and different programs. One detox diet can consist of consuming solely lemonade with maple syrup and cayenne alternated with tea for ten days (the infamous master cleanse) while others (like mine) call for not a single juice – just real, whole foods. And there are countless products on the market using the term ‘detox’ that it’s difficult to suss out what’s legitimate and what’s putting a popular label on a product just to sell.
Because the term ‘detox’ is so incredibly loaded these days, I prefer to use the term ‘cleanse’ as it sounds a little less harsh and rigid. And that’s precisely the approach I take. My cleanse approach is entirely whole foods based, juice optional. I have personally done a couple 3-day juice cleanses to see what the hype is about, but that’s not how I approach cleansing on the whole.
Truthfully, it’s entirely unnecessary to do a juice cleanse if you’re not into consuming an entirely liquid diet. I use real, whole foods, with soups, smoothies, salads and simple veggie sautées on the menu, snacks allowed, supplemented with plant-based protein powder and even some chicken or fish if you really need it.
When you approach cleansing from this standpoint, the two camps are really not quite as far apart as they sound at first glance. To give the naysayers the credit they’re due, they all of course recommended eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in plants and healthy protein while cutting the refined and processed foods. Really, that’s what it’s all about: cutting the crap and allowing your body to reset.

Detox warm apple pie smoothie

Ahh, but what about that protein factor?

The lack of protein is a concern mentioned in each and every article dissing detoxing. To be sure, protein is absolutely essential for proper bodily functioning. But the truth is, not every protocol calls for a complete avoidance of protein, and people underestimate the amount of protein contained in plants.
A 3-day juice fast – a common product on the market and the most extreme I’ve gone and would ever feel comfortable recommending to a client (assuming medical permission was granted of course) – is short-term and your body will certainly not shut down over such a short period of time.
And frankly, if you do it properly, a juice cleanse provides far more protein than people realize: a primarily green juice plan can provide up to 20-30 grams of protein per day. It’s also possible to supplement the juices with plant-based protein, as I recommend doing with smoothies (and even soups!) on my approach.
And the fact is most of us consume far more protein than is actually necessary. The US Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)/Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 46 grams each day for adult women and 56 grams each day for men. Meanwhile, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that the average female eats about 70 grams of protein while the average American male consumes 102 grams.
To be sure protein requirements vary by size and activity level, yet on the whole we clearly consume far more protein than is actually necessary. Which, in itself, may actually be doing a disservice to our bodies if we are replacing plants with excess protein.

raw vegan creamy celery detox soup

So how do you know if you need a cleanse?

The symptoms of toxic overload are extremely varied and can impact the entire bodily system. Seemingly unrelated conditions may all result from this underlying issue. You might want to consider a gentle cleanse if you:
  • have trouble sleeping
  • get headaches
  • gain weight easily, especially in the belly
  • feel exhausted and depleted
  • feel a lack of focus and energy
  • have trouble losing weight
  • experience bloating or gas
  • have digestive complaints
  • have excessive sinus problems
  • suffer from joint pain
  • have acne, eczema or other skin problems
  • feel stuck, unmotivated, or irritable
  • feel stressed and overwhelmed
  • experience mood swings
  • crave sugar or starchy food
Symptoms often include relatively minor annoyances like some listed above, which are plenty frustrating. But toxic overload can also be a factor in more serious conditions such as autoimmune conditions, asthma, arthritis, acne, irritable bowel syndrome, and more.
Next up, I’ll dive more into the details of Why Cleanse: the signs and symptoms that you need a cleanse and the benefits of cleansing.
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Raw Vegan Creamy Celery Herb Soup Recipe

Raw Vegan Creamy Celery Herb Soup Recipe

Cool for the Summer: Raw Vegan Creamy Celery Herb Soup Ohhhh yes, this raw vegan creamy celery herb soup recipe is a win! More raw soup. Souper delicious. Souper healthy. Creamy. Refreshing. Bursting with layers of flavor. So I went to the local farmer’s market […]