health

5 Easy Ways To Overcome Lymphatic Congestion

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As I’m progressing through different stages of my Lyme treatment, I’m noticing symptoms and changes in my body that haven’t been there before. Based on my experience in natural medicine, I know that the symptoms I’m experiencing are due to an overworked and clogged lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is one of the most overlooked yet significant systems in the body. This expansive system travels throughout the body to remove waste from every cell while helping to regulate the immune system. It includes a complex network of vessels, ducts, lymph nodes, the spleen, the thymus, the adenoids, and the tonsils.

Lymph fluid is propelled by breathing and other muscle movement as it is transported through many filtration points known as lymph nodes. The lymph nodes contain collections of white blood cells (lymphocytes) that identify and help destroy harmful pathogens or toxins. The lymph must flow freely to ensure that waste products and fluids do not build up in the tissues.

The lymphatic vessels act like a giant drainage system for the body that needs to stay clear for it to work properly. Just like in your home if the drains are clogged in your toilet or sink, you can’t get rid of waste effectively—the same is true for your body. Stagnant lymph flow leads to waste and toxin buildup, weakening immunity and leading to a wide variety of health issues.

How do you know if you’re suffering from lymphatic congestion?

Almost every part of the body can be affected by poor waste removal in the lymphatic system. When your lymph drains become congested you may notice:

  • Stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy and dry skin
  • Bloating
  • Breast swelling with each cycle
  • Holding on to water
  • Brain fog
  • Swollen glands
  • Stubborn weight gain
  • Chronic sinusitis, sore throats, colds, or ear issues
  • Cellulite
  • Cold hands and feet

If you are experiencing symptoms of lymphatic congestion, it may be time to decongest your lymph system. Opening up your lymphatic channels is crucial for my recovery since I can’t heal if the toxins aren’t being removed from my body.

So what can you do to move your lymphatic system? It’s actually pretty easy. Just try these 5 things:

1. Detox your environment.

The lymph must deal with the body’s “waste products” that are produced internally like dead cells as well as toxins that are introduced from the external environment. Systemic inflammation creates congestion and swelling in the tissues, which impairs lymphatic flow. Oxidative stress damages the lymph vessels and breaks down their ability to effectively transport lymph fluid and wastes.

Therefore, it is important to reduce your exposure to chemicals in food, air, personal care products, and water while increasing your intake of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients to prevent damage. Opt for an organic, anti-inflammatory diet filled with green leafy vegetables, cruciferous veggies, omega-3 fatty acids, and herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, and garlic. Avoid processed additives, chemicals, and artificial ingredients.

2. Stay hydrated.

Lymph fluid is about 95 percent water and becomes thicker and less fluid when you are dehydrated. In fact, one of the most common causes of lymph congestion is dehydration. Stay well-hydrated by sipping warm purified water throughout the day to help keep your lymph flowing well. Avoid sugar-laden soft drinks, processed juices, sports drinks, and alcohol, which add an additional metabolic burden on the body as well as too much caffeine, which dehydrates the body.

3. Incorporate raw foods.

A sluggish digestive tract also congests the lymphatic system. Ayurvedic medicine teaches that naturally red foods like berries, pomegranates, cherries, cranberries, and beets keep the lymph moving freely. Beets are particularly valuable as they help thin the bile for healthy fat digestion, scrub the intestinal villi where the lymphatic vessels originate, and help keep the lymph flowing. Incorporating raw foods into your diet is another way to keep the lymphatic system healthy. The naturally occurring enzymes and bioflavonoids in raw fruits and vegetables help to break down toxic buildup and free radicals while fiber promotes regular elimination and cleansing of the intestinal villi to keep the intestinal lymphatic system healthy.

4. Move your lymph naturally.

The lymphatic system does not have a built-in pump like the heart, which propels blood through the circulatory system, where it gets oxygenated, filtered, and circulated. Therefore, the lymphatic system relies on the contraction and relaxation of the muscles and joints to move the lymph. The rhythmic tensing and relaxing of the muscles during physical movement wring out the tissues and propel fluid through the lymphatic channels.

Laughter and deep breathing involve movement of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles that help push lymph through the vessels. Dry brushing and lymphatic massage also help to support healthy lymphatic flow in the skin-associated lymphatic tissue. The coarse bristles of a dry brush encourage movement of the lymph and blood in the underlying tissues, which helps move out built-up toxins. Brush or massage your body gently, working toward the heart and paying special attention to the head, neck, feet, breasts, and abdomen, where lymphatics are concentrated.

5. Cope with stress through mindfulness.

Oxidation and lymph congestion increase when you are physically and/or emotionally stressed, so having an effective routine for coping with daily stress is key. There are many mindfulness practices to help you cope with the inevitable stress of life and minimize its effects on your lymphatic system, digestion, and overall health including meditation and spending time in nature. Having the ability to slow down, pause, and remain calm in the present moment can allow you to decrease stress. Practices like tai chi and yoga that coordinate the breath with movement can be especially effective at reducing the state of constant hyperarousal, which is detrimental to digestion and lymphatic health. When you learn to understand your emotions and responses to stress and adopt healthy ways to manage stress, your lymph and life will flow more smoothly.

When your lymph is flowing well, it will support natural revitalization and cleansing of your body. Follow these daily habits and exercises to naturally decongest your lymphatic system for vibrant skin, digestion, and health!

health · recipes

Simple Diet Changes That Can Heal Adrenal Fatigue

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Photo: Natasa Mandic

One of the most important parts of supporting our adrenal health is to eat real food. Why? Because eating whole and natural foods will help your body combat inflammation, better manage glucose levels, and sustain energy. All three are incredibly important factors in supporting your adrenal health. Ditch the processed and sugary foods and stick to the real options such as the foods on this list. Here are a couple of tips to help you get started:

  • Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking to help stabilize your blood sugar.
  • Eat a high-protein snack in between meals. Ideally, you will want to eat every two to three hours to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  • Cut out white sugar and white flour from your diet. This will help to eliminate foods that cause sudden blood sugar spikes.
  • Eliminate caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol is high in sugar, which we want less of to help balance blood sugar. Caffeine can put your body into fight-or-flight mode, which is the last thing you want when dealing with adrenal fatigue. Caffeine sends signals telling the adrenals to pump out more adrenaline as well as cortisol, which will cause even further chaos for your adrenal glands.
  • Don’t limit your healthy fat intake. Healthy fats are important for energy, which you need more of when your adrenals are burned out, and they can help stabilize blood sugar by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates.
  • Don’t limit your salt intake; just focus on sea salt. Remember that sea salt is rich in minerals to support adrenal health whereas table salt is stripped of its nutritional value.
  • Eliminate foods you may be sensitive to. Cutting these foods out of your diet will help to reduce inflammation. We want as little inflammation as possible to help reduce symptoms and heal from the inside out.
health

10 “Health” Foods That Aren’t So Healthy

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Photo: Ani Dmi

It’s so easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which foods are not. When you go to the store, they have a way of making you think that even very unhealthy foods contain health-promoting properties when in reality they do not.

These 10 foods are some of the biggest “healthy” culprits that secretly cause inflammation. As with all advice, take this with a grain of salt—it’s all about how something interacts with your individual body.

1. Peanuts.

Despite their name, peanuts are not actually nuts at all—they’re part of the legume family. For many, this may come as a surprise, but this popular post-workout snack may not actually be healthy and may be causing more inflammation than good.

I recommend that most people don’t eat peanuts, for several reasons. For one, peanuts are one of the most common food allergens. But even if you don’t think you have a peanut allergy, peanuts contain naturally occurring molds that can trigger an immune response, which would then result in inflammation. The common fungi found on peanuts are called aflatoxins. The National Cancer Institute has stated that exposure to aflatoxins can cause an increased risk of liver cancer. This is just one more reason to keep this commonly known “health food” out of your diet.

2. Seasoning mixes.

Who would have thought that something as simple as seasoning your food could lead to inflammation? While we may want to think that all seasoning is made with fresh herbs and spices, this is unfortunately not always the case.

We can run into issues with seasoning mixes when we use mixes containing added sugars and artificial ingredients and colors. Artificial colors are a major issue, and they are found in so many processed and packaged foods today. Since the use of these colors has increased, so has the presence of allergic and other immune reactive conditions. The artificial colors contain very small molecules, and thus the body’s immune system finds it challenging to defend the body from them. Artificial colors can bind with body proteins and can cause significant inflammation due to an immunological response and can even lead to things like leaky gut and autoimmune disorders.

You can easily purchase dried spices and herbs from the bulk section at health food stores and make your own seasoning mix.

3. Seitan.

Seitan is a wheat-based product that many vegans and vegetarians include in their diet as a way to boost their protein intake. This particular “fake meat” is texturized wheat protein, and it’s highly processed. It is so important that we keep processed foods out of our diet to keep inflammation at bay. The thing about processed foods is that they are man-made, so we aren’t born with the ability to break these foods down appropriately. Since seitan is wheat protein, it’s also not a good option for anyone who suffers from a gluten or wheat sensitivity.

Steer clear of this processed wheat product even if you don’t have a gluten sensitivity and choose whole foods such as nuts and seeds to boost your plant-based protein intake.

4. Barley.

Grains—especially high-gluten ones, like barley—are another food that I often recommend my patients remove from their diet. Grains and gluten have been linked to intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and even autoimmune conditions by triggering an inflammatory immune response.

5. Yogurt.

Yogurt has been represented as being healthy for as long as I can remember, but there are a couple of red flags when it comes to yogurt. First and foremost, we need to talk about dairy when it comes to yogurt consumption. Many people are intolerant to dairy, so adding yogurt to the diet can cause inflammation if there is a dairy allergy or sensitivity present.

If you are consuming a nonorganic yogurt, there’s a good chance the milk found in the yogurt is filled with hormones, and many farmers use rBGH, which is a genetically engineered growth hormone that causes the cow to increase milk production. This is terrible for the cow as it can lead to infection, which would then be treated with antibiotics. Guess where these antibiotics wind up? You guessed it: in our milk supply.

Between the hormone and antibiotic exposure, that’s enough to keep us away from yogurt, but the sugar content is something else we need to touch upon.

If you are consuming a flavored yogurt, chances are you are getting an average of at least 10 grams of sugar in that one cup of yogurt, and some yogurts can pack in over 20 grams of sugar! The worst part is that the ones that are marketed as being the “healthiest” option because they are fat-free or “weight loss friendly: are often loaded with more sugar than some of the others to make up for the lost flavor when the fat is stripped from the product.

Don’t fall for the yogurt trick. If yogurt is a regular staple in your diet and you just couldn’t imagine living without it, make sure your yogurt is low in sugar or contains none at all, and make sure it comes from antibiotic-free cows (or coconut).

6. Agave.

Although commonly referred to as a healthy sugar alternative, agave may not be healthy after all. Despite the fact that this sweetener may appear to be a more “natural” option, it’s still packed with sugar. In fact, agave is nearly 90 percent fructose. The issue with fructose is that we are consuming so much more of this “fruit sugar” than we did years ago. Unfortunately, the fructose we are getting in our diets is coming from refined foods, which can be detrimental to our liver.

The liver uses fructose to create fat. When the liver is inundated with fructose from foods rich in this sugar, the fat can then accumulate in the liver. When there is too much buildup, it can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is something we are seeing more and more today.

7. Granola bars.

Granola bars wind up on this list for a couple of reasons. For one, granola bars tend to be very high in sugar, whether this is cane sugar or even natural sweeteners such as agave or raw honey. No matter what type of sweetener is used, remember that too much of even a good thing is not healthy for us.

Secondly, granola bars also typically contain some type of grain, which we now know can be problematic for some people. Instead of snacking on granola bars, try making a homemade trail mix with some almonds, walnuts, raw cocoa nibs, and pumpkin seeds. You’ll avoid the added sugar and unnecessary ingredients and fuel your body with healthy fat and plant-based protein at the same time.

8. Cereal.

You know that bowl of cereal you have been starting your day with? As it turns out, it could be causing inflammation. Similar to granola bars, cereal can be packed with sugar and grains, both of which can cause inflammation.

Did you know that EWG.org found that 92 percent of cold cereals in the United States come with added sugars? That means that each time you purchase a box of cereal (even if it’s a so-called healthy kind), it’s almost guaranteed that you are going to start your day with excess sugar. Excess sugar consumption has been linked to inflammation, and studies have shown that there is a clear relationship between sugar consumption and having an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

9. Granola.

Granola is another major source of sugar, which you now know is a major trigger of both inflammation and even a potential cause of disease. Granola products marketed for children appear to be the worst, and they have been found to add more than 2½ teaspoons of sugar per serving! Keep in mind that most people will consume more than one serving in one sitting, so that’s adding in multiple teaspoons, maybe even tablespoons of sugar before your day even gets started.

This is a major problem because sugar is found in just about everything, and what appears to be small amounts adds up quickly, as does the inflammatory effects it has on the body. Try my version of a healthy granola here!

10. Bottled juices.

You know those bottled green or fruits juices and smoothies you find at stores that have beautiful labels and look “natural” and “healthy”? Unfortunately, we need to do a little detective work to truly decide if these drinks really are a health food or not, and more times than not if it’s found in a bottle at the grocery store there are going to be some added ingredients and some amount of added sugar in that bottle.

Freshly pressed juice that you make at home is going to be better than something you can buy in the bottle. Making it at home allows you to dictate what goes into the juice as well as how much fruit versus vegetables you add to it. Keep in mind that you want to add more veggies than you do fruit to keep the sugar content down.

Now onto those store-bought bottles. The problem with many of these products is that in order for them to last for a period of time on the shelves, they have to go through a pasteurization process. This process is done at a very high heat to kill off microorganisms, but this process also destroys all of the enzymes present in the juice or smoothie, meaning it kills the good with the bad. The antioxidants will be significantly reduced, and fiber is lost—leaving you with a bottle of sugar.

With some products, you also run the risk of ingesting some fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides, and you may be consuming GMO ingredients. The bottom line here is to stick to homemade juices and smoothies to steer clear of adding anything artificial to your diet that could potentially cause inflammation and to keep your sugar intake low.

The take-home message here when it comes to these foods is that what may appear healthy at first isn’t always the best option. To keep inflammation at bay, I always encourage people to stick to a whole-foods diet with little to no packaged food items to avoid any added ingredients and to keep their sugar intake to a minimum.

 

health

Heal Your Digestion With These Simple Steps

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When your digestive system is off, your health can suffer in all sorts of ways. In addition to digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, or gas, you may also experience food allergies, weight gain, eczema, exhaustion, asthma, and more. If unaddressed, these symptoms can manifest into chronic health conditions.

Here are 10 things that you can easily do to heal your digestive system.

1. Chew your food.

Good digestion starts in the mouth. When you chew your food well, it eases the work required from your digestive system, so your body can focus on other tasks instead.

2. Eat real foods.

Focus on whole, fresh foods. Avoid the “fake” stuff, including processed foods and fast-foods, which are typically high in refined salt, sugar, and processed oils. Also, they’re difficult for your body to digest, and they don’t provide any nutritional value.

3. Eat fermented and cultured foods.

Fermented foods are high in “good bacteria” and eating them will help you to regenerate your gut flora naturally. The greater the variety of fermented and cultured foods you can include in your diet, the better. Try eating sauerkraut, kefir, fermented vegetables, kimchi, or Kombucha. If you have a severe gut disorder, start slowly. Allow time for your internal environment to change and for your digestive system to become healthier and stronger.

4. Be good to your liver.

You can heal your digestive system by supporting your liver to work efficiently and effectively. If your digestion can handle it, try to boost your intake of liver-loving foods by consuming carrots, beetroot and leafy greens in soups and freshly squeezed juices. I like to supplement with bitter herbs such as dandelion and/or milk thistle.

5. Get hydrated.

Many people with digestive disorders are extremely dehydrated. If that might be an issue for you, try increasing your water intake today! Try to drink at least one glass of water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice.

Herbal teas are another great way to hydrate and heal your body. Peppermint, ginger, fennel and fenugreek are known for their digestive supporting properties. If you’re looking for a coffee substitute, try dandelion tea with dairy free milk.

6. Manage your stress.

Stress doesn’t just wreak havoc on your mind; it can mess with your digestion! There are many ways to reduce stress and I recommend you discover what kinds of relaxing activities work best for you. I found that gentle activities such as deep breathing has really helped me to reduce my stress levels. For you it may be walking, yoga or meditation that helps. Do what works best for you!

7. Reset with a regular detox.

A gentle detox on a regular basis can be a great way to reset your entire digestive system. Consider including aloe vera juice in your detox, as some research suggests that it may help with digestive issues.

8. Support your body with Glutamine.

Glutamine is one of the most important nutrients that you can give your body as it supports the repair and regeneration of the intestinal lining in your body and also soothes inflammation. You can find glutamine in supplement form and it’s also found in foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, beets, beans, spinach, parsley and fresh vegetable juices. This is something I take everyday in powder form and is great for healing leaky gut.

9. Get probiotics.

Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that have been shown to improve gut health. They are easily available as dietary supplements. Start slow and build up your tolerance so you can avoid side effects like gas or upset stomach.

10. Listen to your body.

Let go of dieting dogma and food trends, and instead, build knowledge of your own body so that you can eat and live in a way that serves you. Understanding your body will put you in the driver’s seat of your own health, so you can make choices based on what works best for your body.

If you’re experiencing health disorders, consider that your body is trying to communicate with you. Listen to your body and use these 10 healing ideas to re-balance and heal your digestive system.

health

Roasting Vegetables: Aluminum or Parchment Paper? Which Is Healthier?

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Photo: Shutterstock

Should you line the pan with aluminum foil, or would it be healthier to switch to parchment paper?

Yes, when roasting vegetables, parchment paper is better than foil. Recent research in the International Journal of Electrochemical Science suggests that when we use aluminum foil during cooking, some aluminum leaches into food. Leaching increases with higher heat (roasting and broiling) and acidity (tomatoes, vinegar, vitamin C–rich produce).

Is aluminum leaching into food bad? Maybe. The average person consumes between 7 and 9 milligrams of aluminum each day through diet. The Food and Drug Administration considers such levels generally safe, and the Alzheimer’s Association concludes that this normal exposure to aluminum is not a significant risk factor in Alzheimer’s disease.

However, the Center for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry suggests that consuming higher levels of aluminum than average may be linked to nervous system, brain, and bone diseases. People who cook often with aluminum foil (and aluminum pots and pans) risk more exposure than normal to the metal. So, although some aluminum in the diet is inevitable, keep exposure minimal with simple changes such as switching to parchment paper over foil when roasting.

Parchment paper can tolerate temperatures up to 420°F. But don’t confuse parchment paper with waxed paper, which can’t withstand high temperatures and will smoke in the oven.

Tip: When roasting, choose oils with higher smoke points (such as grapeseed and coconut oil) to avoid an “off” flavor.