Emotions and your body
This blog is following up on years of working with people in their yoga practices with repeated bouts of pain, pain that seems to pop up for no apparent reason, or areas of their body that seem prone to injury easier more so than other areas, or just chronic achiness that won’t seem to go away. I began to reference Louise Hay’s work and her book “You can heal your life”, along with Lise Bourbeau’s book “Your body’s telling you: Love yourself!” as a way to start to identify why the pain is sticking and not leaving.
I also intertwined some ayurveda with it, through which organs are connected to which doshas, and western herbalism and beliefs, along with aromatherapy’s effects on the systems of our body and how they can influence the shift away from inflammation and toward healing.
And of course my own personal journey of svadyaya — or self study through watching my thoughts, what I am feeling, and what I am creating in my life.
Choose your thoughts wisely as your thoughts set your emotions. Our body is a mirror of our inner thoughts and beliefs, every cell in your body is effected by your thoughts which drive what chemistry you are creating in your body, and have influence in the functionality of all your organs, systems, and cells.
Remember it’s not our experiences in life that determine if something was detrimental to us, it’s how we think those experiences have effected us.
Each body part and organ is associated with emotions and beliefs. For example arms represent our ability and capacity to embrace experiences in our life; the upper arms deal with our capacity— how much can we hold —and our forearms deal with our abilities. We store old emotions in our joints, pain in the elbow represents our ability to change directions in life. Having elbow pain? Is there something in your life you are resisting? A move, a new job, a break up?
If it’s related to your capacity, is there something someone wants you to take on when your schedule is already full? Or if it’s related to your abilities, do you need to do something you don’t feel particularly confident at? Have faith you are good enough and give it a try. It may be your body trying to get you to step outside your comfort zone.
Remember the work of Dr. Candace Pert, who proved the science behind “The Issues are in your Tissues”. ALL THOUGHTS CREATE A NEUROPEPTIDE CHEMICAL that is released into our body. These neuropeptides are a form of neurotransmitters that act on more receptors than just a neurotransmitter. They also attach to receptors in our hormonal glands such as the thyroid, hypothalamus, pituitary gland and others sites on our body as well, relaying or blocking information our brain sends to and from the cells.
These neuropeptides are the molecules of emotion that can become stuck in the body and accumulate leading to pain, discomfort, or even disease.
Our back represents our support system. Problems with back pain usually mean we are not feeling supported in life. We forget that if we feel lack of support from a spouse, or job, we still have the support of the universe.
- The upper back is more associated with emotional support from a spouse, partner, close friend, or even a boss. Many years ago a friend of mine was going through a divorce she did not want, she ended up with an inflamed brachial plexus which is the nerve that goes behind the shoulder blade as it enters the arm. Literally she had inflammation all around her shoulder blade and it winged out from her back like a bird with a broken wing. I used to hold it in place for her while she did her sun salutes.
- Our middle back has to do with guilt — all the stuff we try to hide from the world in the back of us. This is also believed to be where we store hate. Feeling stabbed in your back? Is it by someone you “hate”? If you are unable to look at what you are storing back there, you might have a pain in your mid back. Part of our work is to be aware of our dark side, and accepting of it while consciously directing it toward more light.
- Our lower back has to do with financial support. If you suffer from lower back pain do you also worry about money? Or maybe you are just burnt out from your job and see no way to change your job and still meet your financial needs? Many times it’s not that you don’t have money, it’s the fear of not having enough money. Know what’s more important than money? Your breath.
This one is personal to me, I did go through bouts of back pain, and it’s no wonder! I was a single self-employed mother who’s sole income was from teaching yoga! I had a mortgage and a big studio overhead — of course my back was susceptible to pain due my financial sensitivity.
It used to be thought our head knew and our body just grinned away at doing it’s thing, turns out the body notices imbalances first and sends the info to the brain which has to interpret it. If our brain doesn’t figure it out, the body speaks louder with symptoms trying to get it’s point across — symptoms are your body talking to you!
I’m planning this topic to be more on organs or systems of the body rather than body parts like an arm or your back, but if you have some ache somewhere, especially if it’s chronic and long lasting you can request me to include that particular body part, just let me know. On to our organs.
Our lungs represent our capacity to take in and give out breath, life itself. Lung problems are related to feeling fear about life and specifically grief and depression.
Grief & Depression and the Lungs
Grief in ayurveda is associated with kapha emotions, it is a wet and heavy feeling in your lungs. While the grieving process is important, Carolyn Myss likes to point out as humans our body will not tolerate grief for long periods of time. What brings us grief or makes one feel depressed may not always be in our control, but what is in our control is self care. During grieving or depression self care is utterly important. Ways to self care during periods of grief:
- Moving your body, especially walking outside or in the forest. Movement helps to clear congestion from the lungs.
- Yoga, specifically kurmasana or strong breathing while in a forward bend, working the resistance and sound of our yoga breath a little stronger while in an asana like kurmasana will help to move stagnation out of the lungs.
- Eucalyptus essential oil, any pine or fir essential oil, and the lesser known Inula are some of my favorite essential oils to relieve heaviness or congestion in the lungs. You can diffuse them, whiff from the bottle or put 12-15 drops in 1 ounce of carrier oil and rub on your chest and upper back. This has the added benefit of putting anti virals in your blood stream. Making your home smell like a forest is mood uplifting because you are bringing in a piece of the outdoors.
- Spicy foods, if you tolerate them also help to clear the lungs and the sinuses while boosting metabolism and being highly anti-microbial.
- Add black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, oregano, or fenugreek to your foods. Ginger tea or ginger and cinnamon tea are a delicious way to help thin fluids. Teas and warm water will help move lymph
- Sour foods can also help to liquify heavy phlegm, adding vinegar or citrus to your salads and veggies can be helpful.
- Leafy greens and onions help to expel stagnancy from the body.
- Fermented foods can help with moods by supporting microbial changes in the gut.
- Essential oils can also help to dispel depressive moods, some of the best mood lifting essential oils are citruses and flowers.
- Pranayama breathing exercises are excellent tools to enhance your breath. Bhastrika is particularly helpful at clearing your lungs, it’s also stimulating and motivating.
Lung issues are a reminder your body is telling you to take a deep breath of life, fill your lungs and fulfill your life. Having meaning and purpose in life is the antidote to grief and depression. In fact, studies have linked meaning and purpose in life to an extended life span regardless of quality of diet, movement, air quality and even other unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. Truly this shows how important it is to have something in your life worth living for.
To stoke a fire we need oxygen, take a deep breath, stoke the fire of life in you and let that heat help to clear your lungs of heavy feelings giving you motivation to find happiness in your life — or in the words of Joseph Campbell “follow your bliss”.
Neck — Stubbornness and lack of flexibility
The neck is the link between the head and the body physically. Metaphysically it is a joining of our material and spiritual worlds.
The cervical spine itself represents flexibility, and emotionally, the ability to look around and see what’s back there.
Pain and general stiffness in the neck are related to inflexible thinking, or stubbornness, refusing to look at all the sides of an issue.
Is something a pain in your neck? Do you feel something is going on behind your back, but you don’t want to deal with it even though you are worrying over it? The antidote to release the pain in this case would be to turn and face it and directly ask anyone involved about what you are feeling, to see if it is your imagination or rooted in your intuition.
You can test test out your pain a couple different ways, emotionally and physically; is the pain more prominent when you physically nod your head yes or shake it no? If nodding yes brings more pain your body is telling you your decision should be yes and that your lack of flexibility or stubbornness is getting in the way, or vice versa if moving your head side to side to say no brings pain.
Emotionally is it more difficult to say yes to something? If you have pain or stiffness in your neck and you are faced with making a decision that you feel you have to say “yes” to even though you really don’t want to, then saying yes may not be what is best for you at this time, going with your intuition and saying no may help to alleviate some pain.
If you have a diagnosed neck condition and you know exactly which disc is out of place, each specific disc has a probable emotional cause associated with it according to Louis Hay. She as a little supplemental book called “Heal your Body”. Each emotional connection has to do with the nerve that exits that vertebrae and where it innervates in the body:
- C1 is connected to fear and confusion, having an endless inner chatter in your head. This nerve in the body regulates blood flow to the head.
- C2 is about rejecting wisdom, not wanting to understand. C2 is connected to your eyes, ears, sinuses, tongue (and more), representing rejecting what you see and hear.
- C3 pain is about grinding yourself down, biting off more than you can chew. C3 nerve connects to your cheeks, face, and teeth.
- C4 represents guilt, repressed anger, bottled up feelings. C4 is connected to your mouth and lips (and your nose and eustachian tubes), if your pain is at C4, do you need to speak your feelings?
- C5 is related to fear of expression and is connected to your vocal cords.
- C6 Overloaded? Burdened? Got the weight of the world on your shoulders? Inflexible or resistant? C6 connects to your shoulders and neck muscles.
- C7 Confusion, helpless, can’t reach out. C7 connects to the thyroid, thyroid imbalances are one of the causes of brain fog, it also connects to the bursae in your shoulder and your elbows symbolizing immobility if you have pain there.
We can work this both ways, improving your neck flexibility may help reduce stubbornness or inflexible thinking. Similarly recognizing where you may be a little stubborn and trying to give a little may release the stiffness in your neck. Maybe a little of each is just what the “body dr.” is prescribing!
Massaging and giving some attention to any area that is achy is your first go to. Massage a little oil with some stress relieving, muscle relaxing, or warming, healing essential oils in it around the sore area and give that area some attention and love. That alone with improve blood flow and healing.
Neck stretches can loosen up and release the neuropeptides that may have lodged there due to inflexibility emotionally and physically. My Relax & Heal liniment is warming and releasing massaging it in could also help to release some of the molecules of emotion that have lodged there.
Fear & Worry and the stomach, and ulcers and hiatal hernias
We feel a lot in our stomach! In the pit of our stomach to be exact. We can feel excitement in the form of butterflies in our stomach or a thud of bad news that lands in the pit of our stomach.
Our stomach also digests new ideas and experiences we have. Having digestive issues? What has happened in your life you don’t want to digest and assimilate? In Louise Hay’s book she reminds everyone how when flying was new, the throw up bags placed at each seat were used almost every flight by many people. The idea of flying high up in the sky in a metal tube was hard to digest — and it was scary. Now many years later the bags are still at every seat but rarely used. We have gotten used to the idea of flying.
Most people know or know of someone they just cannot stomach, for example a political person who can make decisions that can leave one feeling powerless or intimidated.
The lining of our stomach is our defense from our own digestive juices, if we are feeling defenseless over a person or situation it can perpetuate a weakening of the natural defense forces of the stomach and lead to ulcers. Ulcers are described as festering lesions that corrupt the lining of the stomach.
If you are having issues with ulcers, with the stomach being close to the heart finding love and acceptance, or at the least understanding of others and their differences will have a calming effect on the stomach. I think one of the greatest challenges with love is to find love for the political person you most dislike! And as I was speaking this to one of my zoom classes, someone responded privately to me in the chat “I’ll just deal with pain instead”! He’d rather deal with stomach pain than to love a political figure that he does not agree with. In my own personal experience I can usually eek out a loving kindness meditation to the person, however sometimes instead of sending it directly to that person, I will use “we” instead, may we be filled with loving kindness …
Our agni or digestive fire refers to not only our ability to digest foods; but all aspects of life including digesting experiences and memories. Agni/digestive strength is responsible for absorbing the nutrients we need while burning off the waste products we don’t need. This applies to our emotions as well; when we have emotions they are released into our bloodstream as a chemical, these chemicals need to be digested and detoxed for our emotions just like our body does with food.
If our agni is strong we are able to digest and assimilate our food — if our emotional agni is strong we are able to digest and assimilate our daily experiences. If we do not digest our daily experiences those molecules of emotion remain in our body where they latch onto receptors blocking the flow of information in and out of the cell.
If our body does not digest food well then toxins lodge in our cells; similarly the inability to metabolize emotions will produce toxic emotional residues adding to one’s “baggage”.
When we are fearful or worrying about something it puts a tension in our abdomen that literally sucks the stomach up to the bottom of the diaphragm, it can get stuck there, this is the beginning of a hiatal hernia.
Your esophagus becomes your stomach as it passes through your diaphragm, there is a little hole in your diaphragm for your esophagus to pass through, as your esophagus becomes the sac of your stomach it hangs below the diaphragm where it can function best. If we hold tension in our stomach or worry day after day the stomach starts to suck up to the diaphragm, then a portion the stomach squeezes up through the hole meant for the esophagus where it forms a hiatal hernia causing heart burn and all kinds of digestive issues. You can take all the antacids you want, but they won’t fix the hiatal hernia, in the long run they will just prevent you from absorbing beneficial nutrients.
Breathing deep and relaxing while stretching the front of your body can help to relax the stomach and create space to let it hang below the diaphragm where it’s meant to be. Also Ayurvedic and TCM doctors are taught how to do stomach pulling, where they palpitate your stomach and can actually grab a hold of it and give it a little tug helping it to move back into place.
Fear and worry are common digestive disturbances, many times the worry is all in our head and over things that will never happen. A short meditation practice can help you to see your chattering mind, and the work with meditation is to learn to not hop on and ride out those thoughts, don’t believe everything you think!
Fear is a cold feeling in the body and thus will be associated with a vata disorder. Warming up your body — especially your belly will help to soothe feelings of fear and worry, and release them. Here are some ways to warm your stomach:
- Make some comforting soups or stews.
- Root vegetables are heavier and warming, especially in the winter months. Roasted root vegetables are a nice way to pacify your stomach.
- Add warming herbs like ginger, cardamom, curry blends or quality salt to your foods. Ginger tea is also healing for the stomach.
- Make a nice digestive essential oil blend of ginger, cardamom, and even peppermint, and fennel, though they can sometimes feel cooling to some people they are warming to our digestion. Add a couple drops to a nickel sized amount of carrier oil and rub around your abdomen. You can also add some of the the lesser known oils of coriander, tarragon, or caraway.
- Take a bath. Make it even more therapeutic by adding Epsom salts and a half ounce of carrier oil with 5 drops total of black pepper and/or cardamom essential oil which are warming and calming.
- Prior to eating thinly slice some ginger and sprinkle it with lemon and/or salt. Chew on the slices before you eat.
- Salt and pepper both aid in digestions, and pepper helps your body absorb nutrients, if you enjoy them add them to your foods.
- Warm lemon water with a sprinkle of salt and pepper works great as a pre-digestive aid. This is what I do many times when I have to eat out, I’ll order a pot of warm water and some lemon, then I’ll sprinkle a little salt and pepper in the water and add a squeeze of lemon. It’s actually quite good, and soothes a sore throat as well.
- Just like our mouth gets dry when we are worried or fearful, so does our stomach lining. Electrolyte rich vegetables like seaweed, celery, and cabbage help to keep the lining of the stomach well hydrated so it can protect itself better. About 15-20 minutes before each meal hydrate your stomach with a 4-8 ounces of water, preferably warm, this will improve digestion.
- Think twice about your use of aspirin and other NSAIDS, they poke holes in the lining of your stomach. There are other pain alternatives available, I talk about some of them in my blog Pain Alternatives and an Antiinflammatory diet.
When the feeling of “something’s not right” at my studio hit me, you know, feeling a shift in the energy but not really sure what it was. I often felt worry and fear in the pit of stomach but could just not put my finger on why. Closing my studio was something I just could not stomach — nor did I want to digest that. Often through 2016 I would have no appetite, which is usual for me. Warming soups, especially miso soup and therapeutic baths got me through the time, and eventually I was able to stomach the idea that it was time to accept some changes.
Reflect a moment on your digestion, if you feel your digestive power could use a little more power take a moment now and focus on that. Make your breathing a little stronger and in your minds eye fan your fires of digestion making them grow bright and strong. See your digestive fire in your stomach breaking down foods and passing them on their way to the small intestine where you can further digest and absorb the nutrients. Then see these nutrients being distributed to where your body needs them.
You can also help you body digest you emotional experiences; each evening sit and take 3-5 minutes reviewing your day. Is there something you said to someone you wanted to say differently? Say it to them now in your mind, sending the vibe. Did someone say or do something to you that upset you, didn’t feel right, or caught you off guard? Take a moment and look at it, is there a tidbit of truth in it? Whether there is or not, looking at it and deciding what to do with it emotionally will help you to digest it.
The spleen is close to the stomach and sometimes also connected to worry, resentment or feelings of defenseless since the spleen defends our blood from bacterial invaders. We will address some of these emotions when we get to the spleen
Anxiety and your small intestine
Anxiety represents not trusting the flow or process of life, feeling ungrounded in life, always watching or waiting for some unknown, unseen danger.
When we are anxious we are not present. We are anxious because we are remembering something that happened in the past and trajecting our accumulating experiences on what is happening today, or in the future. Our imagination can get a bit overwhelming, it tends to over ruminate or make mountains out of mole hills, feeling like you constantly have to be on the lookout.
The moment you feel anxiety, become present in your situation and look around. Remember your anxiety is not a predictor of what is to come, it is a memory of what happened in another time.
Anxiety can come from many different reasons, even changing hormones especially for women going through perimenopause.
Anxiety can be due to a lack of self-confidence, or from an exciting upcoming event or job that you are happy about, but nervous about your performance or how it will be judged. One way through this is deciding you have nothing to prove and you are who you are with all your strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. My way through this is to visualize the situation I’m anxious about, and see it playing out just how I want it to.
Know your intuition will guide you in unknown territories; when you are in unknown territories staying present is more helpful than worrying because you are not as aware of your surroundings if you are worrying.
Anxiety shows up physically in your small intestines, your gut.
The small intestines is where we finishing digesting our food and absorb the nutrients into our bloodstream. Those little nutrients have to pop through little junctions in our small intestine to get into the blood stream.
- One of the internal benefits of navasana, boat pose, in primary series is to help those nutrients pop through the gut into our bloodstream, the pressure of strong abdominals on the gut can help with this part of digestion.
Disorders of the small intestine, are linked with an inability to absorb or retain nutrients —and information, life experiences — and even habits that are good for us.
Similarly to how the stomach is about digesting both food and life experiences, in our small intestine we don’t just digest like the stomach, but we digest and absorb the nutrients from the foods we eat. So we may be challenged in our absorption of life experiences, memory, or retaining.
If you are finding you are having a tough time remembering things or experiences, it might be the anxiety interfering with your small intestines ability to absorb.
Also if you seem to be low on nutrients but you eat a healthy vegetable and herb rich diet, you may want to look to your thought patterns to see if anxiety is indeed effecting the ability of your small intestines to absorb these nutrients. Slowing down when you eat, chewing your food more, and remaining present while you eat and digest may help your body absorb more nutrients from the food you eat.
Anxiety is closely related to fear, which is a dry vata imbalance also which targets the small intestine, and anxiety symptoms can show up as a dry mouth. Anxiety does often effect appetite and digestion, and can effect how well you digest and absorb nutrients from the foods you eat.
In addition to some of the suggestions already made for vata digestion, add
- Bone broth is particularly nourishing to your small intestines and their endothelium. Adding a dash of salt helps your body hold on to hydration. Bone broth is the go-to food for your small intestines, bone broth helps to protect the inner skin of your intestines – that’s your endothelium, while we need some junctions to allow nutrients through, in some people those junctions get too big and allow not only nutrients but toxins into your blood stream. This is leaky gut. Bone broth helps to protect the endothelium and keep your junctions tight.
- Electrolyte rich vegetables like seaweed, celery, and cabbages can help with hydration.
And we have our yoga and ayurvedic practices which are also proven to help ease anxiety:
- A warm oil self massage or abhyanga can calm your nervous system. Put your body oil in a sink full of hot water for a 10 minutes or so, this is very calming to body and mind.
- Do some breathing exercises, or try a short meditation to calm your worrying mind.
- Breathing through your left nostril will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system; you could do some nadi shodhana focusing on left nostril only breathing. Make it even more powerful by whiffing lavender essential oil in your left nostril only.
- GABA (gamma amino-butyric acid) is a messenger — a neurotransmitter, known to protect brain health by reducing anxiety, providing an overall sense of calm, and helping one to sleep well. It is best known for stabilizing moods. Anxiety, tension, insomnia and epilepsy are related to low levels of GABA.
- The best way to increase GABA is through foods. Once a food with GABA is ingested, it is absorbed easily and binds to GABA receptors in the peripheral nervous system leading to activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Foods to increase GABA are fermented foods, tea (especially oolong and green teas), noni (cactus fruit), the herb valerian, and chlorella, an algae.
- Avoiding processed foods — especially processed foods containing MSG, MSG is mono sodium glutamate. Glutamate is the opposite of GABA — it is neuro-excitatory activating the stress response. Glutamate uses the same receptors in our body as GABA so if you eat glutamate your body will uptake glutamate to your receptors reducing your ability to uptake GABA.
- Lavender and your GABA receptors; they have proven the scent of lavender calms your nervous system by helping GABA attach to your nervous system receptors, which also means less glutamate will be able to attach.
- The best way to increase GABA is through foods. Once a food with GABA is ingested, it is absorbed easily and binds to GABA receptors in the peripheral nervous system leading to activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
And speaking of essential oils, ahhhh. They are very effective at treating anxiety, and there is a lot of data to support this. The plant chemicals linalool and linalyl acetate both help to calm the nervous system releasing anxiety, while boosting your immune system, relieve pain and reduce swelling.
- Essential oils that have both this plant component in them are lavender, neroli, bergamot, oregano, and bergamot mint (in the mint family, has a citrusy smell) to name just a few. Also coriander seed, more often used as an herb than an essential oil is very high in both those components — you can cook and make tea with coriander seeds. Plants that contain both linalool and linalyl acetate work together to help ease the momentum of pain-anxiety-more pain cycle, these two similar plant components together complement each other’s effects.
- d-Limonene is another plant compound with very similar benefits to linallol and linalyl acetate. d-Limonene is in all the citruses (plus a few other plants). Bergamot happens to have all 3 plant of those plant compounds in it. It is a nice essential oil to help calm anxiety and lift depressive feelings. Combining citrus with lavender is an especially nice blend.
- Speaking of lavender, (Lavandula angustifolia), was found to perform as well as a popular anxiety drug (lorazepam) in a double-blind, randomized study.
- Lemon essential oil can induce, at times significant, changes in neuronal circuits involved in anxiety and pain. Use the fruit and the essential oil.
When I’m feeling anxiety, I like to do the breathing exercises of nadi shodhana and kapalabhati. Then I like to sit for a moment and visualize what I am anxious about, and in my minds eye see it all going perfectly.
Sweetness in life and your pancreas
The pancreas represents the sweetness of life. Diabetes may be a result of not having sweetness in your life — all work and no play. Diabetes represents longing for what might have been, or needing to have a great deal of control to get what you want to make life more comfortable. Pancreatitis is related to having that need to over-control to make life easier or more comfortable.
Juvenile diabetes may manifest in children who’s parents are too busy to spend adequate time interacting with them, they feel they are not acknowledged for some reason, or maybe they just have not found their place in the family — they feel like the forgotten child..
The pancreas is the gland linked with the solar plexus chakra (3rd chakra) which deals with our emotions of self efficacy, personal desires, and intellectual activities. Diabetes or pancreatitis are signs that your personal desires are making you worry or try to control too much — losing the sweetness of life. Instead focus on what you enjoy in your life that is sweet. And do more of those things.
The Janu Sirsasana series is about the pancreas. We use the Janu Sirsasana series foot positions to press on various nerves that stimulate certain reactions from the pancreas. The pancreas does not want to be poked, it is deep in our abdomen well protected from the front and the back. Instead of poking around our pancreas to stimulate or detox it, we press on nerves that regulate the function of the pancreas. Poking around your pancreas can be dangerous, the digestive enzymes it creates are so powerful if they touch tissues without being buffered they can burn tissues in the body.
- Janu Sirsasana A is about relaxing, it’s an easy forward bend, in its best form if you can not rest your head on your knee, then bend your knee and do so. Rest your head on knee and relax and breathe deep. This is an important pose for the pancreas because it can reset our nervous system to rest and digest. The pancreas is very involved with secreting the digestive enzymes we need to complete the digestive process in our small intestines, however if we are under the influence of stress hormones, the pancreas will not release digestive enzymes. It will do the opposite and instead mobilize blood sugar to be released into your bloodstream so you can run and fight. And this is a big cause of type II diabetes, constant stress constantly signaling your body to keep blood sugar high because you may need to run and fight at any moment.
- Janu Sirsasana B follows this protocol and ups the ante a bit, when we sit on our heel and put pressure on our external anal sphincter we are speaking a little louder to our nervous system by stimulating the pelvic splanchnic nerve which attaches to the external anal sphincter, it is a nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system and it further stimulates the body to get parasympathetic dominant.
- Once we are calm and relaxed then Janu Sirsasana C heel position stimulates the peristaltic effect allowing food to move through our digestive system be properly digested and nutrients absorbed.
The pancreas is a gland organ in the digestive and endocrine system. It is both an endocrine and exocrine gland –
- Endocrine means “in pouring” — pouring hormones into our blood, including insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin which have opposing jobs.
- Exocrine means out-pouring — pouring through a gland to something outside of the blood, for instance secreting pancreatic juices containing digestive enzymes to the small intestines. These powerful enzymes help breakdown carbohydrates, protein, and fat, improving digestion.
- The pancreas also creates a bicarbonate solution to buffer the food from the stomach to the duodenum on its way to the small intestine. The pancreas is capable of handling distinctly different processes. The pancreas likes oppositional tasks!
Learning about your body definition quiz this week 😉
The Pancreas has more nerves connected to it than any organ! Nerves connected to the pancreas tie both to the parasympathetic (calming) and sympathetic (stimulating) nervous system.
- The pancreas is in direct contact with the stomach, duodenum, spleen, vagus nerve, splanchnic nerve, and other major vessels of the abdomen affecting digestion, while suffering the effects of your nervous system if you are under any type of stress.
If you have do have blood sugar issues, emotionally many times it points to the tendency to get hung up on details, missing the point of the situation and relying on sweets to comfort you. Insulin is about our cells receiving sweetness, if your insulin is high your cells are not receiving sweetness, are you blocking sweetness from your life?
- Remember to have a little vitamin P in your life, EVERYDAY. Vitamin P is Pleasure! We need to enjoy something in our life everyday.
- Relax, enjoy life — you don’t have to work so hard, one thing I’ve been telling myself lately is you just don’t have to work that hard!
The big topic around the Pancreas? Diabetes … or more like Diabesity.
Let’s look at diabetes from a lifestyle perspective. Diabetes is a lifestyle disease. And while allopathy can help to control it with meds, there is no pharmaceutical cure for diabetes — but there is a lifestyle cure. Taking insulin or metformin isn’t going to heal your diabetes, it will help to bandaid and you will be on them for life unless you figure out the lifestyle change.
First of all do not wait until you are diagnosed as diabetic before you take a look at what impacts your blood sugar. In a typical doctors office, if your blood sugar or HbA1c is even just only one point below the diagnosis, you pretty much don’t get a lot lifestyle advice, instead it’s more of a wait until you do get to the number to be diagnosed, and then it is addressed with a pill or a daily injection. And if you do get advice it’s usually the outdated notion of calories in vs. calories out – and movement. There is way more to the equation than calories in and calories out. Quality of food plays a role, stress, when you eat, how you eat, sleep, hydration, macronutrient percentages — proteins, carbs, fats — and many other factors.
More importantly you want to know your Insulin sensitivity and your HbA1c. Insulin will be a better predictor of the direction you are headed — it is the first number to elevate, not blood sugar. After insulin has been elevated for a prolonged period of time, then your blood sugar will rise. An HbA1c test is a better snapshot of your overall blood sugar levels as it takes into consideration your blood sugar over a 6 week period, whereas a blood sugar test is only looking at your blood sugar at the moment. Think preventatively and have your insulin sensitivity checked.
Let’s talk lifestyle and prevention.
#1 Break the sugar taste. First of all get off the blood sugar roller coaster. Learn to feel which foods make your blood sugar drop and eat less of them Healthy foods like oatmeal, dried fruit, fruit juice, and acai bowls are blood sugar wreckers. There is a new device available, a Continuous Glucose Monitors which can help you figure out what foods affect your blood sugar. More on those below.
- Think Savory not sweet. Switch your taste to savory. I make savory oatmeal instead of sweet. And the same with smoothies, I don’t do fruit and honey smoothies, I do savory smoothies with avocado, onion, celery, a pinch of cayenne, and maybe a squeeze of lemon or lime.
It does not take long to break the sweet tooth, but it’s not easy. It’s not actually you craving the sweets, it is your gut bugs. When you eat sugar you increase your gut microbiome to the sugar types which are not the best bacteria for your gut. When you start to cut sugar these sugar gut bugs will die and be replaced with savory gut bugs (or whatever you are feeding), and they don’t wanna die … seems everything has that will to live. Some of the latest research shows those sugar gut bugs directly communicate to your brain via your biophotons sending you running out to go find a sweet lickity-split.
- Don’t substitute “clean” sweet foods for bad sweet foods or example stevia or agave, or overuse of honey or maple syrup — while honey and maple syrup do have benefit, they can still keep the sweet taste going. There are not really any good sweetness anyway except for honey:
- Agave is akin to HFCS, avoid it.
- I am not a fan of stevia either, while it does appear to be a safer sweet, it is extremely sweet and keeps the sweet cycle going. Also some of the latest information on stevia has shown that it negatively changes your gut microbiome by interrupting how they communicate. If you do use stevia buy the whole leaf herb (you can grow it in your garden too). The white overly processed stevia that looks like sugar is very different nutritionally then the dried stevia herbal leaves.
- Monk fruit is so sweet it has to be adulterated with erythritol to make it usable. There are some companies selling pure monk fruit but it’s expensive and hard to work with.
- Allulose is the new sweetener substitute on the block, it is a fruit sugar that is found in jack fruit, raisins, figs, kiwis, and maple syrup. It seems to be an ok substitute but most of it is made from GMO corn, and in large amounts it may cause digestive discomfort. My other issue is it is not a whole food, it is extracted from a whole food which is always a concern for me.
- Honey contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, essential minerals such as zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and trace elements like manganese, chromium, and selenium. Honey also contains powerful polyphenols like quercetin, luteolin, and kaempferol, which help protect against heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression, and other chronic diseases.
Its medicinal value is attributed to its anti-inflammatory, insulin-sensitizing, blood-glucose-lowering, and positive gut-microbiome modulating properties. Honey also has antimicrobial properties that help fight infection and allergies — especially if eating local honey to where you live. Just make sure you have a good source for honey, a grocery store is NOT a good source. Sadly most grocery store honey is made from liquid corn syrups and does not contain real honey or any of it’s benefits. Also don’t bake with honey! Baking with honey destroys its good properties and according to Ayurveda cooked honey becomes sticky and keeps toxins stuck inside you. Honey should never be warmer than body heat or a drinkable tea temperature. Coconut sugar is a better option for baking.
- Coconut sugar seems to be the best sugar to use, say if you want to make a pumpkin pie. It has a lower glycemic index and it contains the prebiotic fiber inulin which slows sugar absorption.
- Maple syrup is a better option too and it has some negligible nutrients. But like honey, you can’t buy it from a grocery store, it’s made with high fructose corn syrup with maple flavoring … Best to find a small producer in Vermont and buy direct.
- Molasses does have some nutritional power but it spikes blood sugar similar to sugar—and it is sugar, it is the end product of the process of making sugar.
So your best occasional sweet substances to use are honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup. Once you break the sweet taste it will be easy to avoid the sweet as you quickly realizes when you get that yucky sticky substance in your mouth again.
- Fruit can satisfy a sweet tooth, however fruit is best eaten alone or with a little fat and protein. Fruit also needs to be eaten in moderation, I only eat fruit in the morning. It is NOT a good snack food as it can cause a blood sugar spike. Citruses and berries have less blood sugar impact than some of the sweet tropical fruits, so citrus and berries are your best fruit options.
- Side note — Don’t eat grains or sugar with fruit. Your body will burn the grain or sugar for fuel right away and immediately tuck the fructose away into fat storage. If want to gain wait eat foods like banana cake, apple cake, and fruit bread. In the old days when we didn’t have abundant food all winter long, people made fruit bread – which makes you store fat, which then was necessary to make it through the winter. This is no longer the case.
- Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) these are the newest fad in the functional medicine circles. There is a company called Levels, which makes a wearable 24/7 glucose monitor. You wear a band on your arm that transmits data to your phone. These can be very useful to see what foods spike your blood sugar, sometimes it is very individual to what foods spike who’s blood sugar levels. What many people did learn by wearing these monitors:
- Most milk substitutes spike your blood sugar, oat and rice milks are the worse but the almonds milks do too – and keep in mind there is very little almond in grocery store almond milk. There is a new good almond milk out called Malk, it has 3 ingredients and they are all organic, almonds, water, salt. And in the vanilla flavor they only use real vanilla made from real vanilla beans! You can find it at Thrive market. I recommend Thrive market, it was started by a group of functional medicine doctors, it’s healthier and organic versions of foods you find in typical health food stores at a fraction of the cost. It has a yearly fee but the prices and discounts on foods are more than worth it.
- Even “healthy” snacks like acai bowls have been found to be blood sugar bombs and so are most fruit smoothies.
#2 Metabolic Flexibility – work toward eating 1-2 meals per day with no snacks. Become a fat burner, not a sugar burner. This is a big step to regulating your blood sugar. Six meals or snacking throughout your day keeps sugar constantly in your blood stream, so your body constantly has the burden of trying to remove it — and your body will not burn your fat stores as it will choose to use up the sugar in your blood stream first and continue to store fat. Over time your body will lose its ability or desire to burn fat as fuel. This is what starts the cycle of insulin sensitivity.
- Also when you eat six meals per day you are hopping on the blood sugar roller coaster. You eat you get energy, an hour or so later you crash — and get hangry, grumpy, shaky, irritable …. until you eat again. If you catch yourself on this cycle, you want to break it.
- Slowly extend time between meals / snacks. And make sure to have more protein and fat and less carbs. Start slowly by extending time between your meals or snacks by only 15 minutes to reduce your “suffering” until you get your metabolic flexibility back.
Get in the habit of eating 1-2 large meals per day, or as I like to do 1 big meal and two small supplemental meals. Think of breakfast as something to just tide you over to your mid-day main meal. For me breakfast looks like a little in season, organic, local fruit, a small handful of nuts (maybe 10 nuts total), 2-4 squares of really good organic 75% dark chocolate, and green tea (and turmeric tea).
Then try to eat a big meal that will fuel your day — if you can do that mid-day even better. And try to get the bulk of your protein in your mid-day meal. This will better fuel you for your day. And it will be better digested which is a big concern as we age, as we get older we need more protein and we have a harder time digesting it. Making the shift to eating your main meal mid day will improve weight and energy levels.
In the evening, supper, which means supplemental meal — not main meal, should be light, soupy — like soup or cooked vegetables and easy to digest foods. This is when I prefer to eat my carbs in the form of some grains or starch.
#3 Eat no food at least 3-4 hours before bed! This is important so your body can detox overnight and not digest. The same organs both digest and detox, and we have a major detox every night when we sleep, if you are digesting when you go to bed you interfere with this important overnight “cleanse”.
#4 Intermittent fasting. Have a 12-16 hour period from night until morning that you fast about 5-6 days each week, so most days. This is one of the best ways to increase your metabolic flexibility because you are not taking in any food your body has to burn fat for your fuel, and and your body can get in a little more detox time during your fasted state. That is why breakfast is called break-the-fast.
- But don’t make the other mistake, that is to fast all day long and eat a big meal at night. This is very hard on your digestion and energy levels.
#5 Limit carbs and grains and make them organic (otherwise they are desiccated with roundup). Slowly reduce your carbs and grains at each meal and quickly increase your vegetable consumption. Vegetables are your carbs!
- Eat only organic wheat, beans, oats, and other grassy grains such as bulgar, etc. All these foods are dessicated with roundup and then sent right to the mill. You are literally eating cancer causing roundup that also pokes holes in your gut if you eat non organic grains.
- Fat and Protein do stabilize your blood sugars nicely, however you still need to eat lots of vegetables. Too many people on Keto and Paleo diets are not getting enough fiber and eating way too much fat and protein.
Pranayama to the rescue
Pranayama – holding your breath lowers blood sugar! Studies have shown breath holding exercises done both without exercise and with exercise improve glucose tolerance in the four hours following after practice. This means pranayama lowers blood sugar, and increases insulin sensitivity by helping your muscles take up and use glucose; by increasing mitochondrial enzymatic active and glycolysis (breakdown of sugar). Mild breath holding improves glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. This is a very big benefit due to the blood sugar issues rampant in society today.
- Breath holding causes the body to break down sugar to form O2 to compensate for the interruption from O2 from the outside.
Get in the habit of having a short pranayama practice.
Your Liver, Detoxification, and Anger
A word on Detoxification
Our liver is our primary organ of detoxification, the liver has the essential job of protecting the deeper tissues from impurities and toxins in the blood that might otherwise lead to disease.
Detoxification requires heat from the body to burn the toxins — heat in the form of acidic digestive enzymes, bile which the liver makes and is what our body uses to eliminate fat and other toxins, and increased heat from the digestive processes. This does create heat in the body, and can be excessive in some individuals who do not dissipate heat well. Heat in the body is connected with anger and inflammation, and the liver itself is said to be the seat of anger in the body. And I bet our liver is more angry than ever at the detox burden it has these days. I wonder if improving your detoxification can help one manage anger better? I feel it quite certainly can.
We need to detox everyday, a big part of primary series and forward bending postures is to support the liver and kidneys (along with the lymphatics, respiratory system, and the colon) in helping our body rid itself of the daily toxins we are exposed to, and even just the act of making energy in our body makes toxins or free radicals that need to be eliminated. When I was talking about the pancreas I mentioned the importance of being a fat burner instead of a sugar burner. Burning sugar for your fuel creates way more free radicals than burning fat as fuel. Fat burns cleaner in your body than sugar, while you want to be able to burn sugar sometimes, you want to primarily be a fat burner to reduce the “exhaust” or toxins released from making energy in your body just like a car has exhaust from the gas fueling the car.
When we use a hormone in our body it does not just go away, there are left over metabolites that need to be detoxed, we need to detox even from our own hormones.
When we release stress hormones into our bloodstream these need detoxed too. The more stress you have, the more stress toxins you have to detox.
And the greater toxic burden you have from foods and environment, the more overtaxed your detoxification pathways become, the harder it is to detox the left over hormones which contribute to cancers and other issues.
Toxin Exposures are higher than ever!
Before I dive into some depressing facts about the corruption of our government and systems that favor large corporations profits over human health and the environment — instead of getting depressed, get angry. And then release the anger by using it to motivate you by starting small steps toward reducing your own burden which will carry over to the earth around you. Toxins are so widespread today it’s not easy to avoid all toxins, and the working person with a family is going to be challenged to find the adequate time to address many of these issues. Don’t try to tackle them all at once, start slowly and figure out 1 or 2 ways to start to reduce your toxic burden, and try to find easy to accommodate ways. If it’s too hard or time consuming you won’t stick with it.
And then there are what is becoming much bigger issues, our dwindling populations of bees and insects and wild life animals are all showing you what is happening slowly inside your own body. We are killing everything with roundup and other herbicides and pesticides, with fracking chemicals, with household chemicals, yard chemicals, plastic chemicals, and fragrance chemicals are the worst and they are in everything — really the list now goes on and on with over 85,000 chemicals approved for use in the USA and many of them have only been minimally tested for short periods of time. AND GET THIS they were never tested mixed with other chemicals! Which creates very different reactions and happens all the time in real life use. Scary. Those chemicals are mixed together everyday in us, think of a salad with vegetables from all over the world all sprayed with different chemicals — guess what, no one knows if those chemicals are safe when mixed together, yet they are FDA approved — but more correctly stated “they” do know this fact, but it is a pandora’s box and “they” don’t know how to solve this issue without a complete overhaul of chemical and industrial industries. So they ignore it and choose not to test keeping a blind eye toward the problem. Insanity. Detoxification is more important than it has ever been.
Chemicals companies do NOT have to prove that chemical is harmful before it gets released, we are the ones who have to mount the complaints after years of suffering or many deaths occur from the chemicals. What typically happens is smart chemists will develop a new product, see that it has useful properties, test it minimally, put it into consumer goods, and then the chemical gets disseminated into the marketplace where it gets used. Typically (according to history) 10, 15, or 20 years later we realize the chemical is quite harmful and has caused much suffering of our population. This was course eliminating DDT had to take (which has been shown to be the cause of the polio outbreak).
We are the detox-ers for the chemical industry as well as their test subjects. These chemicals need detoxed from the environment; as they pass from our foods and environmental exposures to our body, we stress our liver and kidneys, among other body systems while detoxing them; we are also like the trees and the plants having to deal with toxic burden and clean it up through our body just as the plants clean the air through their “body”. I guess its only fair.
The poor animals and insects are more exposed than we are — at least we can filter our drinking water and avoid rolling in sprayed grasses, they cannot. Since 1970 the World Wildlife Federation has noted at 57% decrease in all wildlife — both land and sea!
Yes that’s less than half of the fireflies, fish, butterflies and bees, birds — our pollinators, they are dwindling. More than half of every animal has died off. What do you think is killing off the animals? If pesticides are slowly reducing the population of insects, then wild animals, guess who is next? Our beloved pets, then us.
If environmental toxins are killing the small insects and animals it is only a matter of time before those same toxins collect in larger species to a fatal level. And we are already seeing signs of this, pets are seeing higher cancer rates and a plethora of issues with skin and respiratory problems, and rising auto-immunity and cancer rates in humans are due to the toxins in our environment and foods.
Fat Americans and chemicals
Don’t blame all the growing waistlines in the world to overeating. Do you know your body will store fat to tuck these harmful chemicals away where they do less damage? Some of the chemicals are so harmful our body does not even want to be exposed to it so our body will store it in our bones and fat. Your body will make extra fat to store toxins tucked away, isolating them from the rest of your body.
- When you start to lose fat these toxins get into your blood stream where you have to detox them and you don’t feel good, which many times interferes with the process of trying to lose weight.
Maybe a sign of American’s growing waist lines is not only due to our SAD (Standard American Diet) food problems but also the isolated storage of chemicals in fat tissue. Maybe the chemical companies should be paying us rent, and paying us to detox the chemicals.
What are our organs of detox?
#1 our LIVER
#3 Our Respiratory system
#4 Lymphatic system
Here are some tips to help you avoid exposures and then support your body’s organs of detox.
The number 1 best strategy? Speak with your pocketbook, the best way to get the attention of most companies is to avoid buying from them if they pollute our air, water ways, or our body. Sadly their bottom line will make them take action quicker than the health of our planet or you.
- Avoid exposures – Most common areas of chemical exposures to try to avoid:
- Personal care products. Sadly many people actually get mercury and lead from cosmetics. Specifically eye make ups and lip sticks, but other cosmetics like foundation may have heavy metals in it as well. Yes you read that right, very toxic known substances that manufacturers put in make up that gets absorbed in your skin. Try making a few of your own toiletries, just start with deodorant or toothpaste and grow from there.
- There are now more clean cosmetics available. I’d make suggestions but I don’t wear make up any more, I gave that up about 15 years ago once I learned how toxic they were.
Making your own toiletries is a good and easy start — and probably cheaper than purchasing the toxic toiletries.
- There are now more clean cosmetics available. I’d make suggestions but I don’t wear make up any more, I gave that up about 15 years ago once I learned how toxic they were.
- On that same theme, cleaning products are some of the worst indoor air pollutants. People who clean for a living have a risk of lung cancer similar to smokers due to the cleaning products they use all day everyday. Making your own house cleaning products is simple, effective, and cheaper than purchasing them — and they add benefit to your air and home instead of detriment. Check out my Truly Green Cleaning section with free recipes on how to clean your entire house with homemade toxic free cleaners.
- Plastics, this is a big one and probably one of the worst offenders for all living beings. Plastic molecules mimic estrogen and can block estrogen receptors creating a more cancerous estrogenic environment. It is really hard to avoid all plastics, the best you can do is reduce your use of them as much as you can. Start by ditching all plastic food storage containers. How do you jar a head of lettuce? Purchase some organic unbleached cotton towels and use these to wrap your veggies in and store in the drawers in your fridge. Try to avoid plastic containers in the foods you purchase. When you eat out, take glass food containers with your for left overs or orders out.
- Processed foods can also be a source of plastics. Some macaroni and cheeses tested very high for plastics, yet they could not figure out why? Turns out it was the plastic tubing used in the manufacturing of the cheese. Even organic macaroni and cheese can still use plastic tubing in the processing of their cheese. Organic won’t solve this problem.
- Plastics with the recycling labels #2 and #4 on the bottom are safer choices and do not contain BPA. #1 plastics avoid, and never re-use. The 1 stands for single use because of their leach of chemicals. Sadly they are meant to be used 1x yet they do not degrade and hang out in the trash fills for a very long time. Avoid and completely stop using all styrofoam #6, polystyrene, highly the most toxic for people and planet.
- Food preparation byproducts from the beginning to the end – from herbicides and pesticides all the way through the manufacturing process of foods. Again speak with your dollar, buy organic and clean foods. And avoid all processed foods, these are very hard on your health.
- Heavy Metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic. Fish is one of the worst offenders here, choose low mercury fish like salmon, smaller fish, and shellfish. And dentist offices are also a big area of exposure if your dentist is not mercury free, find one. Heavy metals can also be in food and cosmetics. Try to avoid canned foods and foods prepared in aluminum or tin foil. And if you live in a coal mining area or close to a big city, heavy metals can also be in the air. An air filter for your bedroom is a nice place to keep the air clean.
- And then there’s pharmaceuticals, do you know pharmaceutical means poison not medicine? Pharmaceuticals are very hard on your liver. Many pharmaceutical drugs are detoxed by your liver before they are even absorbed because they are poison in the body. Tylenol is especially hard on the liver, as bad as aspirin and NSAIDS are for your stomach, acetaminophen is just as hard on your liver.
- Electro-Magnetic fields also contribute to air pollution. Turning off your wi-fi at night is another simple free strategy that can help.
What you can do to help your body detox:
- Eat lots of clean vegetables, especially cabbage family foods, leafy greens, algae, fermented foods, and vitamin C rich foods.
- Drink Water! Half you body weight in ounces each day. This will help your kidneys detox chemicals. Or a quick no math option: fill 2 one quart mason jars with water and drink them each day. Drink half of one when you wake up, one full quart during your work day, and the final half quart in the evening.
- Exercise, sweat, and get sun exposure or find a sauna in the winter months. These are all ways your body detoxes.
- Optimize your elimination. We have to take out the trash, so to speak, everyday. If you don’t go to the bathroom at least one time per day (preferably 2-3x is even better), then you need to pay attention to this and figure out what you need to do. A good first step is to try increasing water and fiber intake.
We don’t have to live in a chemical environment in our homes. One of our biggest chemical exposures is in toiletries and cleaning products, and they are easy to avoid with a few home made recipes. It is easy to make your own toiletries; and learning and using Essential oils make it fun and pleasant. Here is a link to my website with both do it yourself recipes and clean products I make and sell.
Some people retain more toxins than others or are more sensitive to them or have a harder time detoxifying them. Your total toxic burden is : Total toxic load minus ability to bio-transform and excrete toxins.
Each persons risk factor is individual
- How much of the toxin are/were you exposed to?
- Is it over a period of time?
- Does your lifestyle make you more susceptible — meaning do you eat lots of processed foods, have high stress levels, lack physical exercise?
- Do you detox well?
Food for Thought, this is a link to some food topics to think about and some solutions. It includes a video made by Paul McCartney, called Glass Walls, which is an eye opening introduction to what happens to our food animals.
Yoga and Detoxification
Yoga, specifically primary series addresses detoxification. The liver and spleen get quite a lot of attention in the Ashtanga practice, especially the liver since it serves many major functions in the body.
The lotus positions while forward bending are the best organ detoxifiers and cleansers, so you do not want to dismiss them if your body is tight. We use the heel as a tool; directing it toward a specific organ to help “wring” out the organ. In addition, the heel is therapeutic as it carries heat aiding in the removal of the toxins.
If your external body is not allowing your heel to get close to your liver due to tightness or pain — keep practicing. And use your mind power. As you are in the posture breathing, direct your thoughts toward the liver, this will not only help your body to relax and “get there” but it will also provide much of the same benefit as if your heel were “there”. You can also place your fist in your abdomen as you forward bend, I teach this often when the half lotus position is not available to someone.
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimattanasana is our liver cleansing asana, but all forward bends, especially those with your left leg in half lotus are liver detoxers.
In the liver cleansing postures, as you put your left foot in lotus and forward bend, aim your heel above your navel, off to the right side of your body, and see if you can tuck your heel or foot up under your right ribs. I find in the standing version, ardha baddha padmottanasana, I can feel my heel tuck up under my ribs pressing even deeper into my liver than many of the other seated postures.
Second series also gets a log of attention for cleansing the liver. There is a belief in the ashtanga community that once you start second series the back bending postures stretch the liver and help it detox releasing anger into your body. Many people have told me they felt a lot of anger when starting second series, and some even stopped because of it. I don’t feel this is a good reason to stop, maybe the detox is necessary. However it is very helpful to be aware of why you might be feeling anger, feel it but don’t act on it. Take a walk and do some deep breathing to help your body detox the anger. It’s especially helpful if your spouse, or those close to you practice too and they understand what is going on.
We end all our practices with the strong uth pluthi breathing, this is a detoxifying breath. The practice of yoga helps to move toxins out of our tissues to our bloodstream where our liver and kidneys detox them, when you end with the pick up and strong breathing as we do in the ashtanga practice you are eliminating some of the burden on the liver and kidneys.
Pranayama also has some detoxing breathing exercises, such as bhastrika and simhasana. These two breathing exercises detox the body and the emotions respectively. Bhastrika is a powerful bellows like pumping breath that strongly engages your abdominals creating heat in your body that helps the detoxification process along with the pressure of your abs pressing up against your liver.
Simhasana means lion pose, in simhasana you roar like a lion as you open your mouth, stick your tongue way far out (as far as you can), roll your eyes up and back, and make a roaring sound on your exhale out your mouth, while you spread your fingers wide like cat’s claws. This is detoxing for emotional angst.
Even just lengthening your exhales can have a detoxifying effect, breathing with your exhales slightly longer than your inhales stimulates the calming side of your nervous system, and helps you detox a little more through your exhales. Starting your breathing exercises or pranayama practice with 3 minutes of breathing in a 5:7 ratio (inhale 5 seconds:exhale 7 seconds) is a nice way to prepare your body and mind for your practice, will help you recall and remember to breathe with longer exhales throughout your day to day living.
A Little Liver Physiology
The liver is amazing! It is the only organ that can regenerate itself. You can lose up to 75% of your liver and it will still grow back to full function and size.
Interesting to note; Remember Prometheus?
“Greek myth of Prometheus — Prometheus is a Titan and trickster figure who is credited with theft of fire for human use, an act that enabled progress and civilization. He is known for his intelligence, and as a champion of humanity. (Prometheus means “Fore Thinker”).
The punishment of Prometheus as a consequence of the theft: Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced the Titan to eternal torment for his transgression. The immortal Prometheus was bound to a rock, where each day an eagle, the emblem of Zeus, was sent to feed on his liver, which would then grow back to be eaten again the next day. In some stories, Prometheus is freed at last by the hero Hercules.” Ref. Wikipedia
The liver is the largest and one of the most complex organs in the body, our culture is becoming more aware of. While all functions of the body are important the liver is one of the most important.
The liver performs over 500 vital functions! Some of the most important include:
- The liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body, detoxifying chemicals, pesticides, metabolizing drugs — meaning the liver has to detoxify everything we put into our mouths. Now thats a big job!
The portal vein carries blood from the entire digestive tract to the liver. If the liver gets bogged down with detoxification, then metabolism and digestion both slow down. Once the liver is done with its work, the rest of our body will receive the nutrition from the food we eat through our circulatory system.
- Controls digestion and metabolism, helping our body metabolize and utilize sugars, fats, and proteins.
- The liver is our primary organ of digestion for protein, the liver metabolizes protein, synthesizes it, and then later degrades it for detoxification. While most of our body is made up of protein, it is particularly nourishing for muscle tissue. Physical weakness in the body is a sign of low or weak liver energy.
- It also makes and controls the management of bile and its diversion to the intestines which helps carry away waste products and toxins from the body. Of interest here, bile translates as pitta, which is a Sanskrit word for the hot fiery dosha in ayurveda. Pitta is the two elements fire and water.
- The liver also controls hormone creation, metabolism, and detoxification.
- Helps regulate body pH.
- Aids in blood coagulation.
- In utero the liver is the primary maker of red blood cells, until that job shifts to the bone marrow.
It is one of the major filtering and detoxifying organs in the body.
It is also interesting to note, the liver has a specific connection with the eyes, diseases of the liver show up as yellowing in the eyes, visual disturbances, and hypersensitivity to light.
The liver also has a direct connecting to the skin, many skin conditions are traced back to disorders in the liver. A healthy functioning liver gives us lustrous skin. Dry, thin, flaky, and pale skin are signs your liver might need some help detoxing.
I say often, don’t put anything on your skin unless you can eat it . . . What you put on your skin can end up in your body just the same as putting something in your mouth.
Our skin is excellent at providing a protective envelope to protect us from the environment, however, what can get through your pores gets directly into our bloodstream. What enters your mouth gets filtered by the liver, what enters your skin does not.
Our liver is bombarded more than it has ever been — not only with pesticide ladenfoods, heavy metals, pollution, fake foods, and all the other chemical threats I’ve already brought to your attention.
We need to learn to take care of our liver! Most of us don’t even think about it until you have an issue such as gall stones or fatty liver disease. We need to take care of our liver everyday just like we take care of our skin.
The liver is a very large 2-lobed organ that sits on the right side of your belly, beneath the diaphragm above your stomach, sitting mostly under your rib cage. Most all yoga poses effect the liver in some way which helps to cleanse the liver. Specifically when we forward bend with our left leg in lotus position it puts a little more pressure on the liver helping it to cleanse deeper.
Foods and your Liver
Another important factor concerning your liver: DIET.
Since the liver is the organ responsible for removing toxins from the food we eat; the cleaner you eat, the healthier your liver.
Most of us are aware now of the dangers of soda and processed foods — these are actually much harder on your liver than alcohol, yet the food industry sure likes to use alcohol as the scape goat. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has to go to the liver to be metabolized before it can be used by the body, whereas glucose or table sugar can get directly into a cell without being metabolized by the liver.
Fatty liver and liver diseases are even in adolescents now, this is because of all the High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in juices and foods which is cheap to use — cheap foods are so detrimental to our body. HFCS has also been linked as the top food that raises uric acid increasing your risk for gout.
Liver and the fat you eat.
Your Liver has to metabolize fat, that is not an easy job, be careful with the super high fat keto type diets. High fat and high protein diets make the liver work harder, for some this not a problem and others it is.
To support the function of your liver start with a more balanced approach in your protein, fat, and carb ratio — if you think you would do well on a higher protein diet like paleo or a higher fat diet like keto then experiment with these to see how you feel before you adopt one of these diets longer term. If you feel nausea or tired after a meal, it’s a sign you ate more fat than your body can digest.
The best way to care for your liver is feed it what it needs to do its job. Some of the best foods for your liver include:
- Dandelion tea is a liver lover. So is milk thistle — eat your weeds!
- Eat Cabbage foods. Cabbage foods provide us with glutathione, a major detoxer. When you eat cabbage food you detox through your urine much better reducing your chemical load and disease risk
- Lemon Water – a liver stimulant which encourages the liver to digest toxins.
- Bitter foods help the liver cleanse and are very supportive to the liver.
- Pitta Pacifying diet – which is a cooling diet, not a lot of heating foods. Coriander, cilantro, fennel, cumin, turmeric, mint, aloe, and lime (lemon is ok too) are all good herbs and foods to balance pitta.
- Fermented foods — those little bugs help us detox plastics and herbicides and pharmaceuticals. Though be careful, some people are sensitive to histamines and don’t do well on fermented foods.
- Aloe vera gel, internally and externally. Aloe is profoundly cooling and rejuvenating. A tablespoon or so before a meal can aid digestion, and support your skin. Combining aloe with herbs that support the liver can boost their effectiveness.
- Herbal Teas
- Turmeric, ginger, and black pepper tea
- Nettle tea
- Milk Thistle
- Dandelion tea or Dandy Tea – Called Dandy Blend. It’s a delicious herbal concoction your pour in warm water, it tastes like coffee, and even though there is no caffeine in it, it is very energizing.
Foods that can help us strengthen and support the liver:
- Bitter greens like kale, spring mixes, collard greens, beet greens, dandelion greens
- Green vegetables and herbs high in chlorophyll, like cilantro and spirulina
- Beets and other red foods.
- Organic sesame oil, olive oil, and avocado oil can help to rejuvenate the liver — if your liver functions well and can digest fat well.
Most detoxes or cleanses are for the liver. Good news, the liver knows how to heal itself if we offer it the support it needs. Cleanses and detoxes have become popular and with popularity they also become abused. Cleanses do not need to be long; 3-6 days is adequate. Cleanses should not be too intense, if you are starving you are creating stress in your body. If your fast or cleanse creates stress you won’t detox. You need to be parasympathetic dominant for the body to cleanse itself.
A cleanse can be done anytime of year if necessary, however the best time to do a cleanse in the spring. While many like to start the new year with a cleanse, fasting too long in the winter months is stressful to the body.
Liver flushes are intense for the liver, they incorporate malic acid from apples or apple cider vinegar to soften liver stones and gall stones so they can be eliminated. While this can be useful, gentler approaches to this can be accomplished with purgative herbs over a longer period of time. Common purgatives are castor oil, cascara sagrada, neem, poke root, passion flower, and some forms of rhubarb.
The most effective way to give your liver the rest it needs, reduce or eliminate sugars, and don’t eat excessive amounts of fat, these primary foods the liver has to deal with. Ghee is the healthiest fat for the liver, it is easiest fat for your liver to digest.
IN THE EMOTIONAL BODY
In Ayurveda the liver is hot and red — it is part of the agni (fire) of digestion. Bile, which the liver creates is extremely heating and acidic as it is what metabolizes fat and toxins, and escorts them to our colon for removal. The liver plays a critical role in digestion of food and nutrition.
Symbolically, the liver represents our struggles with anger and frustration. Just as the other digestive organs also help us digest emotions, the liver plays an important role in the digestion of hot fiery emotions. The liver is considered the seat of anger, hate, and resentment. It is also tied to the challenging emotions that are expressions of an imbalanced pitta — feelings of envy, irritability, frustration, impatience, and excessive ambition such as type A personalities.
These emotions are viewed as unacceptable, and many people suppress these emotions when they feel them, this leads to emotional stagnation and the accumulation of anger, and heat in the form of inflammation in the body. This leads some to an outburst, and others the opposite, repression of anger. Repression of emotions results in depression. People who repress anger seem to seldom get offended or outwardly show anger because they keep everything inside valuing self control over expression. Rather than expose themself, they stuff their emotions right into their liver. Internalized anger leads to self-righteous indignation, you don’t want to see things from others perspectives, you become judgmental and try to push your beliefs on others, then feel hurt or sensitive when they don’t adopt your opinion.
These toxic residues from unresolved anger impact the liver. If you are someone who hangs on to anger or harbors resentment for years on end, it can lead to an impairment in processing and releasing these harmful emotions, creating a vicious cycle.
You can learn a lot about the health of your liver by the flavor of your emotions. How well are you able to respond to, and move through the challenges of anger or resentment? Do you have difficulty expressing your anger without “losing it”? Do challenging situations quickly and completely overpower you? Do you try to release resentments? Some people really like to hold on to their resentments.
If this sounds like you, I would encourage you to try to seek a way of expressing how the situation is angering you without a big emotional outburst that goes along with it. When you feel anger or frustration, stop a moment and figure out why this is upsetting to you. Strong emotions are more about us than the person are mad at, strong emotions may require more inner work. Pinpointing why, and then having a gentle and meaningful conversation with yourself or the other person can be helpful.
Tips to quickly cool anger:
- Take a step back from the situation and go outside — even better if you can take a meditative walk.
- Become an observer of yourself in an angering situation, sometimes this gives you a clearer way through, you can witness the emotions arising, and pinpoint why you are feeling the way you are. Being an observer is helpful inner work.
- Food to the rescue, calm down your internal system with cooling herbs like cilantro, mint, and dill.
- Don’t let your blood sugar get too low, this tends to makes make one “hangry”.
- If you tend toward anger easily, drink water from blue bottles. Certain wavelengths of light and color have an effect on organs and systems of the body. Water from blue bottles gets infused with a cooling blue light that cools and calms the liver. This can also calm anger. For best results, fill a blue bottle with clean water and let it sit in the sun for a couple hours. Drink 1-3 cups per day. Want to make it even better? Add some positive words to the blue bottle.
- Years ago there was some interesting research on water done by Dr. Masaru Emoto. He wrote words on bottles of water, some words were positive emotions like love or gratitude and other bottles had negative words on it like disgust, fool, or evil. They froze the water, then magnified the crystals from the various bottles under a microscope, the waters with positive emotions had beautiful intricate diamond/snowflake like structures while the water from the bottles with negative words had collapsed, ugly structures with yellow edges. Dr. Emoto demonstrated that words have a vibrational impact that can alter the structure of water. This includes the water in our bodies as well. There are quite a few companies now that sell apparel and blue water bottles with positive words written on them. Here is a short blip on this research.
- Dressing or painting cooling colors around you can also be helpful. Cooling colors include blues, greens, purples, and whites.
Anger is a hot emotion, there’s a reason we respond to anger by saying “chill out” or “stay cool.” That’s exactly what needs to happen to find balance in the face of anger.
Tightness and restriction of movement around the liver can lead to stagnation of these emotions as well due to lack of circulation around the liver. If you are tight in side bending postures you may have tightness around your liver interfering with circulation. Feeling tightness in backbends on the front of your body could also be signs of tightness around the liver.
Thank goodness for the practices of yoga, meditation, and pranayama, these practices calm and cool the mind-body, remove tightness and restrictions around the liver, and help to support the liver by helping us detox emotions and toxins.
- Nadi-shodhana is particularly cool, grounding, and balancing for our nervous system.
- Sitali can help to quickly cool the body supporting the liver.
- Moon Salutes or Chandra Namaskara, while not practiced in asthanga, are more calming and cooling than traditional Sun Salutes. There are many different versions of moon salutes, the image to the right is the Bihar School of Yoga Moon salute as taught in their book “Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha”.
- Side bends and poses like parighasana (second series side stretching pose) can help to restore movement and circulation around the liver.
- A gentler, slower practice focusing on forward bends and twists are calming and cooling for mind and liver.
Other supportive practices for releasing anger and supporting our liver include
- Abhyanga the ayurvedic self massage, you can make this cooler by using cooling oils such as coconut oil and cooling flower essential oils like lavender, chamomile, jasmine, and rose. Oiling your skin feels like a protective barrier, helping you feel supported and protected.
- Gotu kola is a weed like herb that grows wild in tropical places, and it can grow in non-tropical places in the spring and summer (albeit rabbits and groundhogs usually eat it up), it is cooling and detoxing for our mind and brain. I use a few green leaves in my salads and evening teas, however tinctures and other herbal extracts are widely available.
- Moon Bathing, the moon is cooling. If you are experiencing anger that you are
having a hard time releasing make it a point to get outside at night and expose yourself to the moon. This can be especially helpful on a full moon night.
- Staying cool, avoid the hot mid-day sun from 10am-2pm if you struggle with anger outbursts or heat in your body.
- Try to practice or exercise in the morning or evening. Avoid exercise in the middle of the days when the sun is hotter.
- A sense of routine, having a fairly regular routine can help you to feel grounded and supported, and reduce the risks of feeling rushed or unprepared.
Organs also have a positive dimension, the liver also embodies our innate drive toward ‘path and purpose’ – the search for meaning to life. Liver = Live, reason for living. Though some say the liver got its name because we won’t live without it.
Liver issues might also indicate the need to reflect on one’s sense of destiny, of connection with deeper purpose. Sometimes society or commercials, social media, or family impresses upon us what they think is best for us; so we may do what “they say” even though it goes against the grain of what we feel we should be doing. In this case we might experience pain or tightness around the liver. Feeling liver tightness in backbends? Might be time to check in with how fulfilled you are with your life and work.
The liver is associated with the healthier expressions of pitta as well: will power, courage, confidence, enthusiasm, and acceptance, when balanced the liver can encourage these feelings.
Many of our yoga postures cleanse the liver, as you wring out your liver you may feel bouts of anger — do not repress it, feel it without reacting to it. You do not need to act on in, openly feel it and let those emotions flow through and out of your body. Your liver may be telling you its time to digest what’s going on around you and open yourself up to a new path and purpose, see how fun and fulfilling it is to go with the flow of the Universe, whether it agrees with those around you or not.
“Don’t know, go forward” is an old saying from my first yoga teacher Beryl Bender Birch. Sometimes a big life change requires a leap of faith.
How about a Liver Meditation?? Try this out
Got Gall? Feeling Melancholy? Learning about our Gall Bladder.
The Gallbladder is a small holding sac that sits under/in the liver. In the picture, the gallbladder is full as you can see it below the liver. When it is mostly empty it is flat and lies up under the liver.
The gallbladder stores the bile the liver makes. Bile is used for digesting hard to digest foods such as fats. Bile also helps escort toxins to our colon for removal, and while in the colon bile also cleanses the villi (little hairs or fingerlike projections in the colon) supporting our body’s detoxification in general.
The bile gets concentrated as it leaves the liver and is transferred for storage to the gallbladder. This allows an extra potent dose of digestive bile to be available to help clear the fats through our digestive system.
When a meal has small amounts of fats the liver is able to keep up with the demand of bile, however when we eat a high fat or high protein meal we need a larger more concentrated dose of bile from the gallbladder.
While most allopathic doctors are quick to say we can live fine without our gall bladder, I tend to differ in opinion. Digestion is a cornerstone in our health, anything that interferes with digestion will interfere with our health. Without adequate bile, eating an avocado could make you throw up.
They used to say the appendix was “useless” too, now we know it has a purpose. Science is still trying to catch up to the intelligence of the body.
Why is gallbladder disease and removal the most common operation today? This is a fairly new epidemic. Here are the primary factors from least to most:
- Excessive Stress; stress shuts down our parasympathetic nervous system which shuts down our digestive processes.
- A history of sluggish bowel function.
- Pesticides and environmental toxins that destroy our gut microbiome.
- The #1 issue is diet and processed foods. All those bleached, refined, boiled, deodorized and highly processed oils like canola oil, corn oil, safflower, and other vegetable and seed oils clog up the bile ducts with what has been termed bile sludge. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2210650
- These oils lead to chronic inflammation of the liver and intestines which is the root cause of many inflammation issues from IBS to arthritis.
The main issue for gallbladder health in today’s society is all the processed oils and processed foods in general. While you may think you don’t eat many of these foods, more people eat more of them than they realize. Do you eat at restaurants? The number one cooking oil still in use in most all restaurants, even those claiming to be healthy is canola oil.
Do you eat corn chips? Crackers? Potato chips? Fried foods? All loaded with processed inflammatory oils, very hard on the gallbladder.
Diabesity (diabetes and obesity) and depression are common symptoms of an inability to properly digest and use fats in your body. If you can not digest the fats your body will store them as body fat instead of burning them for energy.
Both our gut and brain need good digested fats from our diet to keep our neurotransmitters happy that are required for mood stability and blood sugar stability. Fat is a nutrient, and without it both our mood and blood sugar fluctuates.
Melancholy means “black bile”. In the archaic times black bile was indicative of a “black mood” or pensive, sad, thoughtfulness mood. This is an example of another gut to brain connection that took a couple hundred years for science to catch up with. What is happening in the gut affects the brain.
Bile color can be an indication of the health of your bile. Healthy bile can vary from green to brown — however if you have black or tarry stools, or fats and/or mucus in your stool this is a sign you might want to pay attention to the quality of your bile via the quality and amount of fat you are eating.
Bile in the brain?
We reuse bile. When we are digesting fats, bile is released into our bloodstream to break down the fats for the body to use. For the bile to mix with the blood it must leave the liver, do it’s digesting job; about 10% of the bile goes to the colon and the remaining 90% returns to the liver for reuse.
“After bile enters and passes down the small intestine, about 90% of bile salts are reabsorbed into the bloodstream through the wall of the lower small intestine. The liver extracts these bile salts from the blood and re-secretes them back into the bile. Bile salts go through this cycle about 10 to 12 times a day. Each time, small amounts of bile salts escape absorption and reach the large intestine, where they are broken down by bacteria. Some bile salts are reabsorbed in the large intestine. The rest are excreted in the stool.”
However, sometimes bile escapes and is neither returned to the liver to be reused nor excreted via the colon. This type of bile is called bad bile and it gets attracted to the brain where it can cause neurological issues. Bile is attracted to fat and the brain is made of fat and cholesterol.
“When bile acids are secreted into the intestine, >90% are reabsorbed into the portal system via the enterohepatic circulation and are recycled into hepatocytes (1). However, in disease states where there is a disruption of this reuptake, there is a spillover of bile acids into the circulation that can produce a variety of pathological effects. Recent research has indicated that bile acids and bile acid signaling can influence a variety of neuropathological conditions. Therefore, this review focuses on bile acid metabolism and signaling during physiological and pathophysiological states with a specific focus on their roles in neurological function and disease.”
The cause of “bad” bile or escaped bile is due to liver or gall bladder disease. In the studies they used “good bile” salts, the salts that help our body rid the bile, to help with the neurological conditions caused by bad bile.
In Yoga Mala it’s stated if you do a yoga practice prior to emptying your bowels in the morning bile could still be in your bloodstream because it has not yet returned to the liver. if you hop into inversions too early in your practice the bile in your bloodstream pervades the body and make its way to the brain where it “spoils” your brain. However this can be prevented by first warming up.
If you practice Surya Namaskar and the other asanas prior to inversions then ones blood will become hot; the heat and practice will detoxify the escaped bile, and it will be cleared from your bloodstream if properly warmed up before going into inversions. One of the reasons inversions are best done at the end of yoga practices.
Congested Gallbladders — the start of gallbladder issues
Processed foods and oils clog up the ducts the bile has to flow in; when the ducts become congested, bile backs up into the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.
The pancreas shares the bile duct with the liver for delivering digestive enzymes into the small intestine. If the bile ducts become congested, the pancreas also will have a hard time getting it’s digestive enzymes and buffers into the small intestine where they are needed for digestion. When you have the pancreas, liver and gallbladder all backed up due to bile sludge you will have major digestive issues.
Just removing the gallbladder as is done in most medical facilities today, will not solve this problem. It may reduce pain or your risk of your gallbladder rupturing, both of which are medical concerns but you need to address diet and digestive issues before the gallbladder gets so inflamed.
Heartburn is one of the side effects. Bile sludge related low stomach acid heartburn is a common effect of bile sludge. Sluggish bile leads to heart burn. Bile also helps to buffer food and stomach acids from the stomach to the small intestines. If there is not enough buffer, your stomach will simply not release the food, and eventually your body will dial down its production of stomach acids leaving your food sloshing in your stomach for way too long allowing it to splash up into the esophagus, which is the leading cause of heartburn, not too much acid.
If you suspect your heartburn or other digestive issues could be bile sludge, now is the time to get the diet right before this progresses to a diagnosis. Diet and lifestyle can fix bile sludge. Modern medicine is only recently acknowledging bile sludge while alternative therapies have been talking about this for years.
A friend of mine who had her gallbladder removed stated this “that darn little organ causes more issues NOT having it than having it!”.
What bile does overview:
- Important for digestion of fats and even harder to digest foods such as seeds, nuts, and beans which have the plant protective anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and lectins.
- We don’t want to completely avoid these healthy foods for this issue as many people do, instead you want to improve your digestion. In addition to learning the ancient ways of preparing foods which reduced phytic acids and lectins such as soaking, boiling, removing skins, and in some foods such as tomatoes removing the tomato seeds reduces it’s lectins.
- Bile helps you go to the bathroom, bile combines with fiber to give your stools bulk and slide action.
- Neutralizes stomach acids so the stomach can empty food into the small intestines.
- Bile + fiber together takes used cholesterol to the colon for removal, if you don’t have enough fiber your body can’t rid the toxic cholesterol, and it ends up going back to the liver where it congests the bile ducts and gallbladder.
- Also with fiber the bile cleans our digestive tract, and the little villi that line it, keeping mucus and congestion out of your digestive tract.
Notice the importance of fiber in your diet in the colon.
A low functioning gallbladder (known as Biliary Dyskinesia) could be related to thyroid issues as well. A low functioning gallbladder can be helped by coffee and turmeric as these help to increase the contraction strength of the gallbladder, and apples and apple cider vinegar help to thin bile.
Gallstones are also related to diet and bad fats. They are made from calcium salts and other organic matter, their size can range from as small of a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball.
Emotionally gall stones are connected to feeling bitter, feeling as if something is being taken from you, lacking trust. Accumulation of any stones is the body can be from noxious and bitter thoughts rooted in jealousy or envy. Because these emotions are not emotions we want to express, many carry them around for many years without resolution. A person who stuffs their emotions or does not allow themself to feel negative emotions carries a higher risk for stones in the body; gall stones and kidney stones.
Gallstones are more prevalent in women while kidney stones tend to be more prevalent in men. Stones in general in the body are referred to as calculus, and are tied to the calculations we make in our life and how we act on them. For example, if you want to change jobs, but your calculations keep you in a job that goes against your intuition for financial or society purposes then your inner voice is telling you one thing but your calculations are blocking it. This leads to dissatisfaction and an accumulation of these feelings results in bitter, hard stones.
Liver & Gallbladder Health Proactively
Common in TCM and Ayruveda are liver and gallbladder flushes. These can be helpful for bile related issues, such as symptoms like foggy thinking, pain, bloating, and digestive issues.
These is not an easy cleanse and they are quite intense, it requires about 5-7 days prior of eating certain foods that help thin your bile, and you have to make sure you are going to the bathroom regularly before you attempt the cleanse. These cleanses are different than the gentle at home cleanse/detox done Ayurvedic style, and need to be done under the guidance of an ayurvedic or TCM doctor.
Who are your bile’s friends?
- Apples! and Apple Cider Vinegar (acv). The malic acid in apples and acv thins bile and dilates the bile ducts allowing for better passage of the bile into the small intestine.
- Coffee, drinking 1-2 cups of coffee daily and coffee enemas, coffee can increase the contraction strength of the gallbladder.
- Turmeric also increases the strength of the gallbladder contractions.
- Digestive bitters help to stimulate bile and the production of stomach acids and pancreatic enzymes all used for digestion.
- Dandelion leaf or root tea
- Bitter herbs — bitter herbs help with digestion and detoxifying. Examples of bitter herbs that help to detox and digest are yarrow, goldenseal, milk thistle, wild yam, and turmeric.
- Chamomile tea made strong, and other digestive teas.
A word on TEA! Teabags are not good tea. Firstly they are made with the lowest grade of herbs, secondly they are often too weak to offer much medicinal support. You want to get organic whole dried herbs for use as teas, or grow and dry your own.
- Digestive teas are safer than bitters and you can brew them quite strong if you need an herbal “medicine” tea. For example chamomile, a small amount, about one teaspoon when steeped lightly is sweet, cooling, and anti-inflammatory. Steep 1/2 cup of chamomile flowers in two cups of hot boiled water for 10-15 minutes and you have a potent bitter digestive tea that is great for supporting your bile.
- Another strong digestive tea: 1 tablespoon each of chamomile flowers, peppermint leaves, fennel seeds, cardamom seeds and chopped fresh ginger. Put it in a French press, or a tea pot and pour 2 cups hot water over it. Let it steep for 15 minutes, press it out or strain it, take 1⁄2 cup 2–4x/day.
- Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel, affectionately known as CCF tea, pour boiling water over 1-2 tsp of these seeds and steep 10-15 minutes for a nice digestive tea. I offer this to guests frequently. You could also make a carminative belly oil with these same oils (see below).
- You could also diffuse cumin, coriander, and fennel. I like 3 drops cumin, 7 drops coriander, and 5 drops fennel in my diffuser.
- A single tea of ginger, tulsi, peppermint, lemon balm, or chamomile, or any combination of these herbs makes a nice post meal digestive tea.
- Digestive Belly Blend – A few essential oils in a carrier oils and massaged around the abdomen can also support digestion.
- You could also make an essential oil blend with cumin, coriander, and fennel in a carrier oil. A strong 4% dilution would look like: 12 drops coriander, 8 drops fennel, 4 drops cumin in 1 ounce of sesame oil. Massage around abdomen going up your right side, across under the chest, and down the left side and across the pelvis. This is the direction food moves through your colon.
- I also have available for purchase two different digestive blends. One blend is more for stress and has a mixture of digestive spices and cooling herbs help to relax the stress response so digestion can occur. The second blend is a warming blend that is more stimulating of digestive enzymes. Contact me if you are interested in ordering either of these.
- You could also make an essential oil blend with cumin, coriander, and fennel in a carrier oil. A strong 4% dilution would look like: 12 drops coriander, 8 drops fennel, 4 drops cumin in 1 ounce of sesame oil. Massage around abdomen going up your right side, across under the chest, and down the left side and across the pelvis. This is the direction food moves through your colon.
Note on Peppermint and heartburn: While peppermint is famous in herbal medicine for reducing heartburn and improving digestion, some people get heartburn from peppermint. This is due to the effect peppermint has on relaxing the esophageal sphincter. More often than not, it was improper use of ingestion of peppermint essential oil that caused the problem, not so much the tea.
Gallbladder Health – Foods to Avoid
- Cooked and refined vegetable oils
- Excess saturated fats
- Fried foods
- High-fat meats like pork (Limit animal protein to 10% of diet)
- Hydrogenated oils
- Refined sugars
Foods to Increase:
- Black radish
- Leafy greens
- Mustard Greens
- Olive oil
- Turnip greens
Recipes for Gallbladder Health
Beet Tonic Recipe
1 Fresh beet, grated
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
2 Tbsp. flax oil
Combine all ingredients. Eat 1 beet’s worth of this salad daily for 2-4 weeks.
- Mix 1 Tbsp. whole organic flaxseeds into 2 1⁄2 cups water.
- Bring to a low boil, and simmer for one hour.
- Use a strainer to separate the seeds from the liquid goop, it will become quite viscous .
Drink 1 cup each day on an empty stomach.
Apple a Day
Consume at least one apple per day to help increase bile flow. I do this every fall during the apple harvest until after the holidays to help my cleanse from the summer heat. In the winter cooked apples are better for digestion than raw, so in the winter months a make a no sugar apple crisp. Apples have high amounts of malic acid which help to open up and dilate the bile ducts.
On the Emotional Level
Feeling melancholy? This might be a sign you need to clean up your bile to help clean up your mood. What is happening in your gut is reflected in your mood.
Are you harboring any bitterness? Or having hard thoughts about someone? These are emotions that accumulate in the gallbladder. Identifying our emotions and the roots of them, then learning to release the person or event that is upsetting us is a big step toward releasing tension that could constrict gallbladder function
The Spleen and Resentment
Learning about our organs and how our body operates gives you power to take control of your own health and healing. Self care is the new health care and is the start of learning how to care for your body inside and out. In addition this will allow you to speak knowledgeably with a doctor and not put yourself in the hands of the corporate medical world.
The spleen is another amazing organ.
- It is another purifier of our blood, it is connected with our lymph system and is a key organ in removing toxins and filtering bad bacteria from our blood, preventing infections.
- Think of it as a big lymph node, except it filters our blood instead of lymph.
- It also collects old red blood cells and iron and recycles them, as well as recycling iron. The spleen plays a major role in making our blood.
- The spleen stores a large amount of blood.
- The spleen also plays an important role in trauma. When our body is under duress, such as hemorrhaging or not breathing, our spleen contracts and expels large quantities of red blood cells and therefore O2 into our bloodstream to help oxygenate the cells during the emergency.
- This also happens during pranayama when you hold your breath, the first breath hold (kumbhaka) is sometimes the hardest, after the first breath hold the spleen contracts and expels red blood cells and O2 into our bloodstream thus making the remaining holds much easier.
- Sometimes in intense exercise the spleen will also contract, giving the muscles more oxygen to handle the demand.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has some interesting views on the spleen.
Traditionally Chinese medicine coupled the stomach and spleen together putting them both in the digestive process, while Western medicine puts the spleen in the immune system. My Chinese doctor tells me this was an error or either a typo made in the old TCM manuals and that he considers the spleen part of the immune system. In my opinion, I feel since the spleen is close to the stomach and the other digestive organs, and it helps with circulation it could the digestive processes since digestion requires circulation, after all the whole body is connected.
The spleen in TCM controls the blood. It says the spleen is responsible for manufacturing blood. The spleen also helps in circulation of blood and nutrients since the spleen can contract strongly. Therefore if the spleen is weak we do not get well nourished according to TCM, which is another nod to the spleen affecting the digestive system.
If your spleen is having issues, some people will develop an enlarged spleen. There are not many symptoms other than tenderness around your stomach or feeling full when you have not eaten much. An enlarged spleen is usually the cause of your spleen having to work extra hard to rid your body of infections or infectious agents. If you feel tenderness in the left upper quadrant of your torso I would encourage you to check with a health professional to make sure you are not harboring any underlying bacterial infections.
Symptoms to look for if you suspect your spleen is out of balance:
- Do you feel full even when you have not eaten?
- Do you have tenderness around the left upper quadrant of your torso?
- Do you bruise easily?
- Do you bleed easily or profusely?
- Do you frequently get sick, or have frequent infections?
I like how Ayurveda and TCM look to diagnose non-invasively with observations instead of tests. TCM says the lips manifest what is happening in your spleen; red, moist vibrant lips indicate a healthy spleen while pale, dry lips could indicate you need to improve the health of your spleen.
There are foods below that benefit the spleen, assist it in resetting itself and find proper functioning.
Tips, Eat to clean your spleen:
In general all a healthy foods support the spleen such as :
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Avoiding processed foods and cold foods also benefit the spleen.
Other specific foods to boost the health of your spleen:
- Mushrooms are rich in beta-glucan which increases the amount of immune cells in our blood (white blood cells which kill bacteria).
- Fish or good sources of omega3s which help the spleen cleanse itself of toxins.
- Green tea
- Stay hydrated, the spleen needs water to make blood and function effectively. A large percentage of our blood is water.
In the Emotional Body
Since the spleen’s job is to battle invaders, specifically bacterial invaders, spleen issues may signify feeling invaded. It can range from a more global bacterial invading, for example, man’s pollution of the earth, to an individual level of feeling betrayed by a friend which leads to resentment. Obsessing over a situation can also impact your spleen and take your attention to areas that are not serving you.
Ever heard the idiom “venting spleen’? It means to air your grievances, and when done in a open, loving way could reduce resentment and obsessing about a situation. Resentment is unresolved anger, anger is a liver emotion and the spleen is closely related to the liver; it is dependent on the liver since the liver also cleans and filters our blood.
At the positive end of the spectrum, the spleen represents our oneness, our unity. Resentment separates us, by resolving resentment we are creating more unity. Be mindful of critical thoughts and the desire to over-analyze or obsess.
Illnesses involving the spleen, like frequent infections, prompt us to check the monkeys in our mind; are you feeling betrayed or resentful? Is there another way to look at that scenario that could bring unity on either or both the individual level and a global level? While we may not be able to control what is happening at a global level with concerns like air pollution or polluting our water ways we can make choices with our own purchases that support companies who choose not to pollute our earth. Corporations, even ones that don’t care about our planet, listen when money speaks.
The spleen in yoga practice :
When we are forward bending with one or both legs in the lotus position we are using our heels to help tone and cleanse various organs in our torso.
When our right leg is in lotus as in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimattanasana, our right heel aims for the spleen, which is tucked behind the stomach, between the 9th and 10th rib (the last two “attached” ribs). It can be difficult to reach since it sits behind the stomach, you will have to put a little pressure on the stomach (another good reason to do practice on an empty stomach).
As you forward bend with your right heel in your gut, dorsiflex your foot and tuck your heel in under your ribs.
When we place our right heel in half lotus and forward bend, the pressure of our foot pressing into the stomach and spleen encourage the spleen to pump and help with circulation of blood around the abdomen.
The many different lotus positions to start the internal cleansing of the Liver and Spleen.
- Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana
- Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimattanasana
- Garbha Pindasana
- Baddha Padmasana
- (Marichyasana B & D also include the half lotus positions, however in these postures we are working more with the colon and less with the liver and spleen.)
While we are on the immune system, next we will learn a bit about our lymphatic system and our waterways as well as the Earth’s waterways
Lymph and our waterways
The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is the body’s water ways. Lymph is the plasma in blood, once it leaks out of the blood, it is interstitial fluid, once inside the lymph vessels it is lymphatic fluid that circulates through the lymphatic system. It is formed from fluid that leaks out of capillaries, capillaries are known as “little leakers.
Because the arteries have pressure from the pumping of the heart, some of the fluid leaks from the capillaries into the spaces between the tissues in the body. The Lymph vessels “suck” up this interstitial fluid through overlaying flaps in the vessels. This fluid contains pieces of cells, proteins, salts, waste, urea, glucose, and various substances that change composition depending on what you put in your bloodstream. This fluid is then moved along the lymphatic vessels toward the thorax. If the lymphatic system did not pick up this fluid everyone would look like walking water balloons.
Lymph nodes are filters of the body, they lie along the lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes have white blood cells in them, as the lymphatic fluid passes through the lymph nodes the fluid is filtered and any bacteria is destroyed by the white blood cells within the lymph nodes. There are a conglomerate of lymph nodes in the gut, some in the underarms and some around the neck.
The cleaned fluid is then transported via the lymph vessels to the thoracic duct, a large duct behind the sternum, that is the largest lymph vessel in the body, being about 16 in (41 cm) long and 0.25 inch (0.6 cm) wide. From there the interstitial fluid goes up to the left subclavian vein where it is dumped back into our blood through the atrium in the heart for use, while the head, neck, chest and arm lymph fluid is delivered directly to the right subclavian vein. The best way the body can get the fluid from the thoracic duct upward to the subclavian vein is through breath, due to pressure changes. Deep thoracic breathing is especially beneficial in moving cleaned lymph fluid.
The lymph system also transports long-chain fats (unsaturated fats) from the small intestine to the veins via the thoracic duct for blood transport. Small and medium chain triglycerides or fats (saturated fats like in coconut oil), are able to be absorbed through the intestinal walls with other nutrients. Thus fats such as coconut oil put less of a burden on the lymphatic system and are much easier to digest. We do need some long chain fatty acids (unsaturated fats) because some of them are the essential fatty acids (EFA) Omega3 and omega6, but much less compared to short and medium chain fatty acids. Too many long chain, unsaturated fats burden the lymphatic system.
Lymph has a very important job in our body, but it does not have the heart to pump it, it is moved by breathing, walking, intestinal activity and muscle action. Lymph fluid moves much slower than blood, and it relies on body movements; as muscles tighten, lymph vessels are squeezed and lymph is pushed along its path. Bandhas help too, the slight internal pressure the bandhas puts on the lower abdomen is just enough to support lymphatic flow, 80% of our lymph system is in our gut. Yoga postures themselves also move lymph.
Glymphatics! The “newcomer” in lymphatics.
Our Brains have an Immune System, and it’s quite “malleable”!
The link between toxins, immune response, and the brain is not completely clear, but it is receiving some attention lately. In a report titled “Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels”, by Louvea et al made an announcement about basic anatomy should have been known by now. The brain has a lymphatic system, given the term glymphatic system. This glymphatic system connects to the lymphatic system of our bodies.
The lymphatics are in a mohawk pattern on the head. When you are washing or styling your hair, take time to massage this area, this will help your brain detoxify. Ayurvedic doctors do this when they do body work on clients, sometimes it is quite a vigorous massage of the brain!
It used to be thought the brain was “privileged” and somehow toxins were not able to get past the blood brain barrier. Now it is known toxins in the environment do access the brain at a much greater rate than previously realized, the lymphatic system clears them, if it can.
What this means? The brains lymphatics system, aka the glymphatic system, drains into the body’s lymphatic system at the neck. If the lymphatic system is sluggish, which is common, it will affect the brains ability to detoxify into the lymph system of the body causing toxins to remain in the brain.
The glymphatics do most of their brain detoxing at night during sleep. Ayurvedic doctors recommend side sleeping to best drain the brain glymphatics, usually left side is recommended, though other experts suggest back sleeping (with a pillow under your knees) is better for deeper sleep and alignment of the body during sleep, and TCM recommends right side sleeping. Sleep is so important to health I would say whichever way you sleep tightest is the best way for you to sleep!
While we are on the topic of the brain; there has been a lot of new research on the brain. There is more evidence that your brain is malleable and changes continually in response to lifestyle. This concept is called neuroplasticity (neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and adapt in response to experiences).
It used to be thought that brains were static except during young critical developmental stages. This is not true. The brain has the remarkable ability to re-organize pathways, create new connections and new neurons throughout a lifetime. Functional plasticity is the brain’s ability to move functions from one damaged area of the brain to another undamaged area — structural plasticity is the ability of the brain to change shape or rewire pathways as it learns something new.
For example, if you have a history of anxiety, your brain becomes wired for anxiety. If you develop tools to feel calm like yoga, breathing, and meditation and put them to use, those anxiety pathways are pruned away leaving you less likely to get anxious. Use it or lose it has a good connotation here!
It was thought the human brain could not generate new neural cells, cells would die and no new cells could generate leaving one dumber and dumber. Also not true. It has been proven that certain areas of your brain can regenerate new cells, called neurogenesis, and create new neural pathways.
Environment plays an essential role in these processes. The brain is influenced by lifestyle, diet, exercise, attitude and emotions, sleep patterns, and stress proving we have a lot more control over brain health than previously realized.
I-BE-YOUNGER (Abhyanga) Ayurveda and Lymph
The lymphatic system is a big part of the immune system. In western medicine lymphatic massage is not taught until someone is diagnosed with cancer. In Ayurveda, abhyanga oil massage for the lymph system is taught to everyone to prevent cancer. Congestion of the lymphatic system is at the root of most diseases.
Furthermore, Ayurveda refers to lymph as the “elixir of youth” that everyone seeks. The study of lymph in ayurveda is called rasayana. Rasayana is also the study of longevity and rejuvenation. The word rasa means lymph, juice, flavor, taste, emotion, nutrient fluid, melody, plasma, breastmilk, satisfaction, ayana means study. Rasayana also means the study of longevity juice.
Emotionally in ayurvedic belief lymph is a nutrient fluid that takes on the charge of the environment; if we are upset, the lymph fluid carries this throughout the body and shares it with the gut bacteria, then gut bacteria do their job with that “mood” attached — the job of helping with digestion, immunity, mood, energy, and hormones to name a few, carrying that mood deep into the tissues. These are also some the molecules of emotion.
The lymph vessels lie just below the skin, you do not need hard pressure to move the lymph. After showering use herbed oils or essential oils in vegetable or seed oils (sesame or coconut depending on the season are commonly used in Ayurveda), rub oil into your skin using long strokes on your bones toward the heart and circular motions around the organs and joints.
Here are a couple tell tale signs if lymph is stagnant:
- Do you have bags or puffiness under your eyes? Stagnant lymph affects appearance.
- Do you have sensitive breasts? Breast message is the antidote to tender breasts. If breast tenderness is felt premenstrual, massaging breasts with oil helps to move lymph and reduce bloating or swelling.
- Puffiness, redness, swelling anywhere on the body are also signs of stagnant lymph. Hands and fingers are especially vulnerable areas to puffiness, indicative of stagnant lymph.
If you do have these symptoms, try this:
- Yoga postures and deep breathing (remember deep breathing is how the cleaned lymph fluid gets from the thoracic duct to the subclavical vein).
- Exercise in general is a great way to keep the lymph system healthy.
- Daily abhyanga (massage) as stated above, or skin brushing with a brush, or silk gloves.
- Sip warm water throughout the day
- Citrus fruits contain a flavanoid called diosmin that moves and decongests lymph, add a squeeze of lemon or lime into your water. In the winter when lymph is more likely to be stagnant is when citrus is in season, this is best time to eat citrus, though its good to have year round.
- An herb called manjista that is a blood purifier and lymph mover can be helpful.
- Eat lots of vegetables to help alkalinize lymphatic fluid
Of interesting note here; Lymph comes from the name Lymphae. Lymphae is the ancient Roman deity of fresh water. The farmers prayed to Lymphae for fresh rain. Yoga intends for us to recognize our oneness; as waterways and rainwater get polluted it is only natural that there are more cancers and diseases in human bodies from polluted lymph water. Yoga philosophy teaches the universe as the macrocosm is mirrored in us as the microcosm. As humans get smarter and stop polluting Earth’s waterways we will find our body’s waterways to become healthier too, and vice versa, as we clean up our waterways the Earth’s may be come cleaner too. In Greek, lymph means pure, clear stream.
Emotionally swollen lymph glands signify an accumulation of toxins in the emotional body and physical body. Emotions around regret are most commonly linked to lymph issues from swollen fingers to lymphedema. Regret is a sign you wanted things to flow smoothly concerning a specific situation, but maybe it didn’t flow as smoothly as hoped. If it was a struggle to communicate how the situation should have flowed or why, it blocks the relationship — as well as lymph.
Swollen lymph nodes in the left armpit are indicative of parental challenges, and in the right armpit they signify a lack of self-worth with other relationships from spouses to co-workers. In the groin swollen lymph nodes are associated with challenges in sexual relationships.
The way to get back to better flow in your lymph is to accept you can not control the situation. Your body is telling you to respect your own limitations, let it go and see how the flow changes. It might flow just fine without your control.
Yoga does have a pose for the lymph system. It’s garbha pindasana — the threading of the arms through the calf and thigh exerts pressure like a massage on the lymph.
Garbha Pindasana and your Lymphatic flow
In addition to having a conglomerate of lymph nodes in the gut, there are a conglomerate in the armpit. The pressure of threading the arms through the legs is just enough pressure on the lymph vessels of the upper extremities to aid in the movement and cleansing of lymph through the lymph nodes. This is why it is best to try to squeeze your arms through in Garbha Pindasana after getting in lotus. I have seen people who find this difficult and get in to the posture differently by putting their right leg in lotus then putting their arms into their legs before tucking the left leg into lotus therefore putting the arms into lotus legs without the threading procedure. Every movement in ashtanga has a purpose! Just attempt to thread the arms once in lotus — don’t push. Even if you get the arms through part way in, and then pull them out to rock and roll you have exerted some pressure on lymph system. Just try, don’t push is all you need to do to get this benefit.
Parsvakonasana also lengthens and stretches lymph vessels keeping them pliable, actually parsvakonasaana does this for all the vessels in the body. It’s a stretch for the inside. Spinal twisting postures will also help to move lymph through the arms as you slide your arm across your leg.
Lymph and our water
Since the lymphatic system is the waterways in our body, the water we put in to our body greatly effects our lymph among all organs.
The lymphatic system cleans the water in the body. Since humans have poisoned their own water supply the lymph system has to work much harder. Finding clean water to drink will help reduce the work load of the lymph system. I have struggled with what is the best source for clean water:
- Municipality water is sick water. It is waste water from cities, toilets, showers, and the likes that is filtered and cleaned and re-used. I know our lymph does this with our water, cleans the waste out to re-use, however I don’t think municipality methods of cleaning waste out of water are as good as our body’s ways. Nature always prevails. Municipalities are struggling to remove medications from the water supply, the water pouring out of your tap can be filled with anything from anti-biotics, to anti-depressants, to statins, all products that I would not put in my body voluntarily. Making matters worse most municipality water companies are now using chloramine to kill bacteria in the water. Chloramine is ammonia and bleach mixed together, know what happens when you mix ammonia and bleach? YOU DIE. Supposedly the amount is not enough to kill us, but I wouldn’t be so sure as it is killing off the microbiome. And it can not be used it in fish tanks as the fist will die, if the fish die from it, we will not be far behind. Clearly this is not good water. A whole house filter that filters the water where it comes into the house is helpful.
- Some say reverse osmosis (RO) water is your best option, but I have some concerns with RO water as well —it uses a lot of water in its process and strips all nutrients and minerals from the water. Water attracts minerals, if the water you are putting in your body is stripped of minerals it will pull the minerals from your body and excrete them with your minerals.
- As for the natural springs that companies bottle up the water from, they have to irradiate the water to legally sell it which kills the bad and the good bacteria in it, and who knows how much radiation ends up in the water. Also many companies are un-ethical and basically get tap water from the same city the spring is in. Shame on them. Furthermore it is then transported in plastic bottles, many companies trucks are not temperature controlled, transported water in plastic bottles can be toxic water because the plastic leaches.
- Drilled wells pull the water out of the ground while it is still immature, and it has not been naturally purified by rising through the earth and rocks which filter the water.
- The most beneficial water for bodies is water that naturally rises to the surface through the earth and rocks. The best sources are an artesian well or a spring that has been tested for its purity. Here is a link to help you find one. www.findaspring.com
Fresh spring waters are now being called structured water and seems to operate better within our cells. We can also get this “structured” water from food, it naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables.
Fat, Digestion, and your lymphatic system. Learning about fats and how they affect lymph has stirred a lot of interest about fats in general. I’d like to pause here and talk about fats.
Fat on our body is not straight from the fat in our diet. At one time it was thought this might be the case, and not all fats are the same in the body. Furthermore fat plays some very important roles. With the new research and data it’s time to update what is known about fats:
Butter, Ghee, lard, and coconut oil are some of the medium and short chain fatty acids (upper left fatty acids in the figure), they are saturated, they turn solid at room temperature. Their molecular layout is short and straight, their carbons are fully loaded with hydrogens giving them stability (why they are called saturated, they are saturated with hydrogens) and why butter or beef fat is solid at room temperature, the stability from these fats gives the cellular walls stability. Saturated fats are important for strong cellular walls.
Long chain fatty acids are unsaturated (they have lost one or more pairs of hydrogen molecules, not all their carbon molecules are saturated with hydrogen and therefore they behave differently in the body). There are two types of unsaturated oils; polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated (the bottom 3 longer and more bent fatty acids in the figure) oils stay liquid. Monounsaturated oils (the two fatty acids in the right upper corner) are liquid at room temperature and start to slightly solidify when refrigerated.
Polyunsaturated fats are corn, soy, safflower, canola, cottonseed, and sunflower.
- Canola is not a real oil, it is made from the rapeseed, however the rapeseed is genetically modified to try to make it more like olive oil. They had to lower the erucic acid content of the rapeseed because it is toxic. A Canadian figured out how to do this; hence the CAN of canola, the O stands for Oil (from the rapeseed) and the LA stands for Low Acid. Canola is NOT a natural oil therefore not fit for human consumption.
Much of this research has been known since the 70s by scientists but not everyone else — again it has been a game of convincing authorities such as the FDA, AHA, Congress, and media about the mis-understanding of fats. Finally it is coming out.
Much of my information comes from the book: Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Chemistry of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol by Mary G Enig, PhD.
Another good reference: The oiling of America by Mary Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon from the Weston A. Price Foundation Saturday January 1, 2000 last updated April 7, 2009. Link to full article.
Longer chain fatty acids from foods such as corn, soy, cottonseed, and safflower are hard to digest and to break down into energy, the body prefers to store them as fat instead. These are the fats that the lymphatic system has to pick up and carry placing a burden on our lymph and its ability to detox. They are too big to slip through the small intestines with other nutrients. While some of these are good for us, we need very little of them, after all how much corn would you have to eat to get a half cup of oil? More than you could. Furthermore these oils bought from grocery stores are overly processed to keep them from going rancid, and they are highly inflammatory.
Long chain fatty acids in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids are very unstable, they go rancid quickly and have a very short shelf life. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are susceptible to breaking down and forming “free radicals” which can be very toxic to cells, and worse, when the polyunsaturated fats are reused again and again (as they are in restaurants that fry foods in the same oil numerous times), makes them even more dangerous. The more they break down, the more oxidative damage there is at a cellular level, forming more free radicals. The free radicals make their way through the body pillaging at every turn. Their damage takes a toll on everything from cell membranes, to DNA/RNA strands, to blood vessels. The harm adds up over time in the organs and systems of the body and can cause significant impact, including premature aging, skin disease, liver damage, immune dysfunction, and even cancer.
- These fats use up a lot of anti-oxidants in our body to combat the free radicals they create.
- These fats are the bad fats — the culprits of heart disease. Vegetable oils are more toxic when heated. One study reported that polyunsaturates turn to varnish in the intestines. A study by a plastic surgeon found that women who consumed mostly vegetable oils had far more wrinkles than those who used traditional animal fats. A 1994 study appearing in the Lancet showed that almost three quarters of the fat in artery clogs is unsaturated. The “artery clogging” fats are not animal fats but vegetable oils. (Ref: C V Felton, et al, “Dietary Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Composition of Human Aortic Plaques,” Lancet, 1994, 344:1195)
The word is finally out about trans fats, but still the vegetable and seed oils that are not hydrogenated are causing problems, more needs to change than just stopping hydrogenation of vegetable oils.
Saturated fats are stable, they do not become rancid easily, do not call upon the body’s reserves of antioxidants, do not initiate cancer, do not irritate the artery walls.
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Medium and short chain fatty acids like butter, ghee, and coconut oil digest easy and increase metabolism. Scientific literature delineates a number of vital roles for dietary saturated fats:
- They digest easily and can squeeze through the intestinal walls with other nutrients reducing the burden on the lymph system.
- They enhance the immune system, are necessary for healthy bones, provide energy and structural integrity to the cells, they protect the liver, and enhance the body’s use of essential fatty acids (omegas-3 & 6).
- Stearic acid, found in beef tallow and butter has cholesterol lowering properties.
Olive Oil and Nuts are long chain MONO-UNsaturated fats. Because your tissues are made up mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats, your body requires more of these than polyunsaturated fats.
- Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fat found in olive oil. These long chain fatty acids are digested through the process of lipolysis, where your body uses bile to breakdown fats and oils into fatty acids in the intestine so that they can be absorbed through the lining the intestinal wall with other nutrients. After being absorbed they are reformed into triglycerides and eventually travel through the bloodstream until they are used or stored away in fat cells.
- Olive oil is touted for helping to remove waste from the body (in other words, help you go to the bathroom) as it calls on the gall bladder to secrete more bile into the small intestines to break it down. This is good exercise for the gall bladder, it has to strongly contract to expel the bile, if the gall bladder does not get this exercise occasionally it is one of the issues that leads to gall bladder attacks because the concentrated bile congeals from not being used.
The main dietary PolyUnsaturated Fats that we need are omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Although your body does need these, it needs them in relatively small quantities compared to short and medium chain fatty acids.
- Healthy omega fats are long chain fatty acids and necessary for brain and nerve function. Due to the fact they turn rancid easily, it is best to get your long chain fats from whole foods in their natural state: nuts, seeds, hemp, avocado, cold water fish.
- GRASS fed meat and dairy is imperative. Grain fed cows are not near as healthy as grass fed cows; cows digestion is not meant to digest grains so it causes great digestive upset to the cows which makes them produce less favorable meat and dairy. Grain fed cows lack CLA (conjugated linoleic adic). Grass fed cows meat and dairy is more nutritious as it contains more:
- CLA an essential fatty acid (made from omega-6s) that help the body increase metabolic rates, boost the immune system and keep cholesterol levels in check.
- Beta Carotene, Vitamin E, some B vitamins and minerals that are absent in grain fed beef
- More omega-3s and a better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3
- Chicken too — you want your chicken from a farmer who cares about his chicks. Conventional chicken farms feed their chicks grains which increase the chicken meats’ omega 6 while decreasing the omega 3s leading to an imbalance in the chicken meat that causes inflammation. You are what you eat eats too.
Here are some specific answers to specific oils I have been asked about:
The best Cooking oils: Extra Virgin Olive Oil aka EVOO (make sure it is pure from a good source, often olive oils are adulterated with canola), Coconut oil, ghee, and butter. Avocado and macadamia nut oils also tested good for high temp cooking and frying. If you eat lard and beef tallow, they are also good for cooking.
Olive Oil – You want olive oil in your life, olive oil is high in anti-oxidants and health promoting polyphenols. I enjoy bread, but I eat it in moderation, I use bread as a vehicle to get EVOO in my body. Olive oil is excellent as a drizzle on salads and vegetables. High quality olive oil will withstand the heat of cooking, but not the lower quality grades.
Peanut Oil – peanut oil is a good Monounsaturaed fat HOWEVER it is highly prone to rancidity and mold and therefore NOT recommended for use. Many times the peanuts mold before they are even pressed.
Almond Oil – In India, almond oil can be bought freshly cold pressed from vendors which is called ‘sweet almond oil’ as the taste is much sweeter than conventional almond oil. It’s used as a health food and is swallowed directly or stirred in hot milk and given to children before exams. It’s meant to make them more intelligent. It’s also considered a remedy for weak eyesight. Almond oil is also excellent for your skin, hair, and lymph — it helps to reduce bags under eyes.
Being a Monounsaturated oil, like olive oil (and sesame) it is ok as a salad dressing, light sautéing, and cooking.
Sunflower oil – hard to process and requires heat which kills most the good in it. It is a polyunsaturated fat which can be unstable and has many omega-6s but not omega-3s. In the processing for food it is bleached and deodorized leaving it tasteless, odorless, and boring. It is possible to find organic cold pressed unrefined sunflower oil — this sunflower oil is nice for your skin — but I would not use it internally.
Sesame Oil – is Poly and Mono Unsaturated oils, it is also best used for light sautéing, salad dressings, or added at the end of the cooking cycle for flavor. It has many nutrients and is good for you. It is especially good for your skin, teeth, gums, and nostrils (as nasya oil). It is exceptionally good at pulling toxins from our body.
Avocado Oil – is ok for cooking and has a high smoke point, however it has a short shelf life and goes rancid quickly. I use it for making mayonnaise as it does not have much flavor. It is also great applied topically for your skin, I use it for mature skin formulations
Macadamia Nut Oil – is turning out to be a powerhouse oil! It has a high monounsaturated fat content, mostly oleic acid, and is testing at a relatively high smoke point of 4000 F, is resistant to oxidation, makes good mayonnaise, and is also a powerhouse for skin due to is Omega7 (palmitoleic acid) and squalene (a naturally occurring anti-oxidant present in skin). It is extremely low in Omega6s and very high in anti-oxidants. A definite oil to add to your collection for internal and external use.
Grapeseed oil – I have read controversies over grapeseed oil. Some who promote it say it tests good for cooking, even at high temps — others say not. When I see two studies with opposing results I look at the quality of the oil used. My guess is the bad studies used rancid or adulterated grapeseed oil. It does not have a long shelf life, so use it up quickly. I have found it to be enjoyable as a drizzle over salads and veggies.
THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT
Eat the most monounsaturated oils (olive oils, mac nut oil, almond) fats; cook with saturated fats mostly (coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard, beef tallow) and use monounsaturated fats for salad dressings, sautéing, or adding flavor to a dish at the end of cooking (sesame, grapeseed). Eat polyunsaturated fats only in their natural food forms they come in (fish, nuts, and seeds). All the oils are good for skin topically.
Skin Deep is Deeper than you think
Skin is the largest vital organ, if you laid it out it would cover about eighteen square feet and weigh in at about seven pounds. There is a lot going on in the skin. In one square inch of skin there are several million cells, around 650 sweat glands, about 20 feet of blood vessels, and thousands of sensory receptors.
The skin is the most voluminous organ in the body, comprising as much as 15% of the total adult body weight. It is the principal barrier between the internal body and the external world.
Emotionally, skin is the face we want to show to the world. Skin reflects self-image, skin disorders can challenge self confidence and self esteem, and can interfere with social connections — serious skin disorders keep others at a distance. Even though many skin condition are not life threatening people with skin conditions many times experience significant psychological distress.
On an emotional level it is theorized the reason disease shows up on the skin is because it is a cry for help or attention, when one is unable to communicate it otherwise the body speaks it for them. If you tend toward skin issues, is there something you want to say but don’t know how or even why you want to say it?
Maybe you want to try on a new skin? How about a new skin routine?
Skin is not just affected topically, emotions, stress, food, and hydration all are reflected on our skin. The visible condition of the skin reflects health.
The skin is not just external, a lot happens in the skin from the undersides.
Skin consists of three major layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis.
And the epidermis has 4 or 5 layers within it (palms and soles have a protective 5th layers).
Below the epidermis lies the dermis (derma means skin), a thick layer of dense connective tissue primarily composed collagen.
The dermis gives the skin its strength and flexibility, and it is what contains all those contains blood vessels, nerve endings, sweat and glands. oil (sebaceous) glands, and hair follicles.
The dermis that feeds the epidermis and determines the health of your outer skin, what you eat is what your dermis has to nourish your skin with.
The hypodermis, also known as the subcutaneous tissue, the hypodermis is situated below the dermis and connects the skin to the underlying fascia of the bones and muscles. It is mostly connective and fat tissues.
This layer provides fat storage, insulation, and cushioning for the skin.
The outermost layer of the epidermis is covered with the Acid Mantle which is a thin layer of lipids and sweat with a pH of 4-6.5
We want our skin to be acidic! This acidity is what kills bad bacteria and fungus on our skin, it also helps to protect our skin.
If the acid mantle loses its acidity, the skin becomes more prone to damage and infection as well as irritation and sensitivity. Soap products are highly alkaline, which neutralizes skin’s acidic pH, and increases risk of infection.
This stripping of the skin’s natural protective acid mantle can lead to a range of disorders that can aggravate allergic reactions, or lead to acne, rosacea, and other skin conditions.
To maintain the skin’s acid mantle:
- Avoid soaps made with lye and sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) or any derivative of SLS.
- Hydrosols are low pH and acidic, they help to maintain the Acid balance of the skin when sprayed on the skin just prior to moisturizing. Follow up with a slightly acidic moisturizer — most vegetable oils are slightly acidic. Use pH balanced skin care products.
Feed the Bugs that Feed Your Skin
And also on the layer of our skin is the skin microbiome — the skin has it’s own microbiome that we do not want to destroy with harsh cleansers, alcohol, and scrubbing.
The dermal microbiome is composed of The same bacteria, fungi, and viruses as the gut microbiome. Our skin is the home of millions of beneficial microbes. Remember, Only 10% of us are human cells; the rest of us are microbes
Skin bugs loves to eat Sebum
The outer skin produces an oil called sebum. Sebum softens, lubricates, and protects skin. It prevents skin from drying out and aging prematurely. In addition, it feeds beneficial bacteria that live on the surface of the outer skin. You don’t want to wash this layer away. Jojoba is a good source of sebum topically.
When good microbes feed on sebum, they produce new immune-boosting fatty acids that create the skin’s protective barrier. These fatty acids protect skin from exposure to bad bacteria, weather, sun, and they help skin heal, and heal skin infections as well.
Massaging any good oil on skin nourishes skin microbes, they feed on oils and fatty acids. We want our skin microbes to hang out with us longer, if you have a visitor and you don’t feed them they are going to need to leave to go get food. Here is why you want them to stay:
- Skin Microbes reduce skin infections — this is why dry skin is more prone to infection.
- The good microbes block bad bacteria from getting into our skin protecting us.
- And we have evidence showing that our skin microbes can communicate with our gut microbes improving over all immunity.
To protect the microbial balance of the skin, in addition to not stripping it with harsh soaps and alcohols — feed it! The microbes on our skin love all oils, not just jojoba. I don’t use soap, and I haven’t for over 15 years. I use olive or coconut oil with essential oils. My “oil soaps” — carrier oils without any lye — favorites are:
- Olive oil w/ lemon or lavender or any other eo
- Coconut oil with lavender eo on hot summer days
- Cooler windy days I go for sesame or olive oil with spearmint or may chang or any essential oil you like. Particularly good eos for skin include lavender, geranium, frankincense, myrrh, carrot seed, helichrysum and many more.
Over-Bathing Kills Good Bugs
When bathing and showering with soaps, healthy oils and free fatty acids are often washed off, leaving the skin too dry to support protective good bacteria.
The word is out about SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate), it strips your skin of all the good oils I am going to talk about next.
Lye is not good for your skin either. It strips your skin of the oils it makes. I do not use dr. Bronners on my body or face, only for hand soap (and dishes). Those fancy soaps people make and sell used lye in the process of making the soap, I don’t recommend them.
Saponification and lye, the act of making soap involves lye to make the chemical reaction that forms soap, when properly done no lye remains, but the chemical reaction to make soap still strips the skin. I choose to “saponificate” with oil and water and rub rub rub.
Make your own scrubs for a healthier clean.
Salt scrub basics: can just be as simple as salt and carrier oil with a few essential oils, or you can get fancy and grind up organic rose buds, chamomile flowers or other herbs such as juniper berries and rosemary, clay can be added and lemon zest or dried and ground citrus peels.
Here are some ideas for scrubs. Here’s a nice recipe for a coffee scrubs. If I am using only oil with essential oils on my body as a cleanser I will use a loofah sponge to massage the oil into my skin, which also helps to remove dirt, and stimulate lymphatic circulation. Ditch your soaps!
If you do use soap or shampoo choose soaps and shampoos free of the following chemicals:
- Cocamide DEA (diethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine) and MEA (monoethanolamine)
- Propylene Glycol
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Fluoride
- Benzyl Acetate
- Benzyl Alcohol
- Ethyl Acetate
- Linalool (synthetic)
- Methylene Chloride
The epidermal layers we want to nourish and keep well hydrated. Within this layer we need lipids or fats and water.
Factors effecting the health and hydration of skin and transepidermal water loss and the natural moisturizing factor
Moisture from our skin slowly evaporates from the under layers upward. This flow is known as the transepidermal water loss (TEWL). The stratum corneum (lies just under the acid mantle and is the first layer of the epidermis), it plays a vital role in reducing TEWL if it is well nourished.
Lipids or fats in the skin prevent this water loss,our body makes the lipids skin needs if we feed it the foods it makes the lipids from.
The Function of Lipids in the Skin
The stratum corneum has a “brick and mortar” design. The bricks are compacted skin cells, as the cells rise to the upper layers of the skin they die and get compacted like a brick. The mortar is a mix of fats and cholesterols that holds moisture in between the skin cell “bricks”.
The principal lipids found in the “mortar” of the stratum corneum include:
- Lipids such as ceramides (approx. 40-50%) trap water molecules in their hydrophilic region.
- Cholesterol (20-25%) lubricates the multiple layers of dry, dead cells, making the stratum corneum more flexible
- Fatty acids (10-25%) in the skin provide lubrication, softening, and protection and prevention of moisture loss from the skin.
Some of the fatty acids found in the skin are some of the same fatty acids we eat in foods such as palmitic acid (avocado and macnut, sea buckthorn), myristic acid (coconut), stearic acid (beef tallow), linoleic acid – omega6s (almond, apricot, argan borage, evening primrose, pumpkin seed, rosehip seed, sesame, sunflower, sea buckthorn and others), among other fatty acids.
Omega6s are the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid present in the epidermis, they are required for the formation and maintenance of the cutaneous barrier to prevent water loss. Omega6 is Linoleic acid, and it plays a vital role in maintaining the skin’s water barrier.
Vegetable oils rich in omega6s include sunflower (not my favorite for skin, it’s tacky), hemp seed, walnut, and sesame oil. While we need to consume more omega3s, we need more omega6s topically to support the EFA needs of the skin
Deficiency of these essential fatty acids in the skin disrupts the barrier function of the skin leading to dryness, scaliness, redness, dermatitis, and other signs of inflammation.
EFA deficiency arises from factors such as insufficient supply in the diet, advanced age, and some diseases like diabetes.
Essential Fatty Acids
Omega3 = alpha Linolenic acid –is anti-inflammatory and anti-acne.
Omega6 = Linoleic acid —protects and strengthens lipid barrier, lack of leads to premature aging, reduced collagen, slows wound healing, and increases hair loss.
The topical application of vegetable oils rich in essential fatty acids is of great benefit in restoring the skin barrier and in treating inflammatory disorders such as eczema or psoriasis, in wound healing, and preventing wrinkles.
It is this mortar of lipid matrix that provides the barrier functions of the skin. This protective barrier function is principally the role of the epidermis and what protects our skin from Transepidermal water loss.
Also in the top layer of the skin is a water soluble compound:
You want to attract moisture to your skin, your body has a way of doing this, its called The Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) and is a collection of water-soluble compounds, such as free amino acids, urea, lactic acid, sugars, and peptides which are only found in the stratum corneum. These compounds are responsible for keeping the skin moist and pliable by attracting and holding water. NMF components are hydrophilic and act as humectants attracting and absorbing water.
Theses NMF substances can hold large amounts of water in the skin cells and are also capable of absorbing water from the atmosphere and products applied to the skin. NMF compounds are what attracts moisture to the skin and lipids are what prevents water loss from the skin. If the water content of the stratum corneum falls below 10%, its natural barrier functions are impaired and the skin becomes dry and scaly, and less pliable — abnormal dryness of the skin or mucus membranes is known as xerosis The most common areas for xerosis are on the arms and legs.
Detergents and soaps not only scrub away the protective lipid layer of the skin, they also suck away the natural moisture from your skin rending it less able to hold on to moisture.
To keep skin young and hydrated you need humectants, emollients, and occlusive substances.
Humectants are substances that attract water. Honey, sugar, and glycerin are the most common humectants used in creams, lotions, and in water based preparations.
Note on sugar; bad for the inside of the body, good for the outside. Sugar scrubs help to attract moisture to your skin and they also feed the good bacteria.
The term emollient is derived from Latin meaning ‘to soften’. Emollients soften the skin, prevent TEWL, and support the lipid matrix. They include vegetable oils, creams, lotions, ointments, butters, and balms.
Occlusive substances have a hydrating effect on the skin by forming a barrier which reduces the evaporation of water from the skin. Substances such as beeswax, squalene, lanolin, shea butter, avocado oil, and other vegetable oils provide valuable nutrients to the skin and are also slightly occlusive.
Keeping the epidermal layer protected and moisturized is what prevents aging from the deeper layers of the skin. Aging and many skin issues occur in the dermis — not the epidermis, and are a result of some combination of nutritional, environmental, and cosmetic issues as well as the aging process itself. Oxidative stress is what promotes aging of the skin.
The effects of oxidative stress on skin is not just from sun and UV radiation! While this photoaging from UV rays can age the skin it is important to expose our skin to the sun — just protect it with vegetable oils instead of sunblock. There are many vegetable oils and foods that provide UV protection both from the inside and topically on the body such as tamanu oil, and raspberry and pomegranate seed oils as well as hats and light clothing. This is another whole topic.
Protect skin from sun exposure, as appropriate! We need vitamin D, sunblocks block vitamin D and most sunblocks are harmful to the skin, our body, and the environment. There are a lot of natural oils and essential oils that offer SPF protection without the toxicity.
While UV radiation leads to creating free radicals that age the skin. The other contributors are at the end of your fork! The most problematic foods for skin are:
- Processed oils – oils to avoid topically and internally: canola, corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed oil, rice bran oil — all the oils used in processed foods. These oils age your skin from the undersides upward.
- Sugar, anything that spikes your blood glucose levels increases wrinkles due to glycation. Glucose damages collagen which is why sugar causes wrinkles.
The body is equipped with anti-oxidative systems to counteract the activity of free radicals if we give it the foods it makes anti-oxidants from. We need to get anti-oxidants from our food and topically from what we place on our skin.
The body is equipped with anti-oxidative systems to counteract the activity of ROS.
- Vitamins C and E
- Glutathione (cabbage foods – cruciferous vegetables)
- Beta carotene (orange fruits and vegetables)
- Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
- Coenzyme Q (CoQ10) (fruits and vegetables
- Ferritin (iron)
We need to get anti-oxidants from our food and topically from what we place on our skin.
These details greatly support the need to support the health of the skin through the application of organic whole skincare products, consumption of whole foods, good nutrition, clean air, and a healthy emotional environment.
Health of skin from the inside out
Your inner skin is reflected on your outer skin. Your inner skin is the epithelium and it lines the inside of your digestive tract. If your epithelium is inflamed or dry so will your outer skin be inflamed or dry.
Water yourself, hydrate! Hydration is important for skin health and is a simple to do. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. I fill up 2 mason jars and make sure I finish them each day. I drink half a quart first thing in the morning (with lemon or lime), sip on a quart throughout the day, and finish the last half quart a half hour or so before my evening meal. Then I sip on some herbal tea at night.
Foods can increase our hydration as well. Water from foods is better absorbed by our skin, and it has been found that natural waters in foods are actually a 4th phase of water.
This is from the works of Dr. Gerald Pollack. Water is beyond liquid, ice, and steam, there is a 4th phase, a “gel like” component, this is more viscous and alkaline than H2O, it is crystalline like. When water is being frozen or melted it passes through this 4th phase and then turns back into water or ice. You can find more information in his popular book “The Fourth Phase of Water Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor”.
Phase 4 or EZ water, EZ = exclusive zone, because this phase of water excludes impurities like ice does. It is H3O2 and also called living water, structured water, and crystalline water.
This gel like crystalline water is water that is easily absorbable to our cells, just because we drink water does not mean our cells absorb it — especially RO or heavily filtered water. Filtered water tends to be less absorbable and just end up getting peed right out.
Structured water is in fruits and vegetables, animals, and you and me! It is in all living things — including plants. When we eat plants with a high water content, this is the water we are getting. Super beneficial.
EZ Water content in fruits and vegetables is highly absorbable for our cells. Some of the water we drink can turn into EZ water inside our body when we are exposed to sunlight, infrared light, or when we are grounding with the Earth. We can get more of this water by eating fruits and vegetables that contain lots of water. Spring water, mountain water, and glacial melt water are all higher in EZ water. Though know your source— and highly important is to NOT buy water in plastic bottles, the plastic leaches and the bottles stay in the environment way too long.
Places in the world that tout to have healing waters, it is now known these places have high amounts of EZ water. These types of water are more easily absorbed and utilized by our cells.
EZ water can also hold energy and give energy like a battery! And its an anti-oxidant in the body because it reduces free radicals 🙂 Another good reason to eat lots of plants.
Let’s talk about what to eat for your skin, then we will talk on what NOT to eat for your skin. EAT YOUR VEGETABLES!
Starting with hydrating foods such as cucumbers, celery, watermelon — even though iceberg lettuce, while not your most nutrient rich lettuce, what it does have to offer is essential hydration and a lot of EZ water. Many people have tossed away the idea of eating iceberg lettuce. While it may have less phytonutrients than romaine, it does offer a healthy dose of plant water.
Nutrition is the #1 most important medical decision you make everyday. The more vegetables you eat the healthier your skin will be (and you too!). My goal is to eat 3-9 cups of vegetables each day — all organic and as much local as you can:
- 1-3 cups of leafy greens
- 1-3 cups of cooked cruciferous vegetables
- 1-3 cups of non starchy vegetables
Skin and hyaluronic acid – wrinkles start in the middle layer and rise upward.
One of the nutrients our skin starts to lose as we age is hyaluronic acid, one of the reasons is estrogen promotes our body’s production of hyaluronic acid, as estrogen declines so does hyaluronic acid. Disruption in the dermis (middle layer of skin) results in wrinkles due to the reduction of collagen, elastic fibers, and hyaluronic acid.
Foods can increase your production of hyaluronic acid and collagen — they don’t necessarily contain hyaluronic acid directly, though some do, they promote your body’s production of hyaluronic acid. Some foods helpful for this:
- Bone broth
- Organ meats
- Vitamin C rich foods – citrus, tomatoes, cherries, grapes, mangoes, avos, colorful bell peppers. Grapefruits and oranges are especially good as they also contain naringenin , which inhibits the enzyme hyaluronidase which breaks down hyaluronic acid in the body. Bananas are a good choice, some varieties contain hyaluronic acid, but they also contain magnesium and vitamin C all which help with your body’s own production.
- Magnesium rich foods such as leafy greens, nuts, and dark chocolate
- Dark chocolate is not the highest source of magnesium but its zinc content helps with hyaluronic acid production too, and one of the flavonols in dark chocolate is good for skin.
- Same with beans, they contain both magnesium and zinc
- Soy (organic only!), while controversial it can be helpful in increasing hyaluronic acid due to the isoflavones that increase estrogen levels which also promotes hyaluronic acid production. Fermented options are best such as tempeh and miso.
- Root vegetables may contain some hyaluronic acid, they also boost your own production of it. Sweet potatoes would be a good choice because they are also high in magnesium.
- Aloe vera inner gel (don’t use the gel close the plant skin).
- Honey internally and topically can be helpful because it is very humectant.
- Gotu Kola herb helps your body synthesize collagen
Essential fatty acids
Essential fatty acids, we need to eat them too. And we need to get them in the right balance. Most of us don’t have to try to eat omega 6s they are readily available in grains. While sunflower seed oil is highly processed and inflammatory, sunflower seeds are a good source of omega6 healthy foods. Other healthy Omega 3 & 6 foods include:
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, hemp seeds (I recommend a small handful of nuts and seeds most everyday.)
- Cold water fish (salmon)
Oxidative stress and your skin; Oxidative stress from bad foods is the #1 wrinkle causer to skin, not the sun!
What exactly is oxidative stress? Things that create free radicals in your body. Examples are; high sugar diets, fried foods, natural and artificial radiation, stress, car exhaust, pollution, chemical perfumes, fragrances especially those used in dryer sheets and detergents. Fragrance is one of the most toxic everyday household chemicals.
You can counteract the affects of oxidative stress with vegetables, the more vegetables you eat the less oxidative stress you will accumulate from the environment or foods. It’s 1:1 hand combat with free radicals and anti-oxidants.
Your skin and sweat and yoga
Pattabhi Jois on Sweat:
“The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing. The heat created from yoga cleans the blood and makes it thin, so that it may circulate freely. The heated blood also moves through all the internal organs removing impurities and disease, which are brought out of the body by the sweat that occurs during practice. Sweat is an important by-product of vinyasa, because it is through sweat that disease leaves the body and purification occurs.”
Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:13
Rub the body with the perspiration from the labour (of pranayama). The body derives firmness and steadiness from this.
When the body is unclean, impurities are excreted through the pores of the skin with perspiration. When the body has become purified, only water, salt, and hormones are excreted through the skin. Therefore, the perspiration should be rubbed back into the skin so the hormones and minerals are reabsorbed though the pores.
The temperature of your blood does change when you are heated up, your blood temperature rises too.
Sweat or perspiration is a salty fluid that is released from two types of sweat glands;
- Eccrine sweat glands, which are distributed over your entire body and mostly just excrete salty, watery fluid that is usually triggered by excess heat. When eccrine sweat glands sweat, it is salt and electrolytes, it doesn’t contain any hormones or fats so it is odorless. In eccrine glands, sweat is sent directly to the skin surface through a duct to regulate temperature. Their main purpose is temperature related.
- Apocrine sweat glands are only found on your scalp, armpits, and genitals, and instead of a duct they empty into hair follicles where there are lipids and other substances. They produce a thick yellowish liquid made of proteins, fatty acids, and hormones. When bacteria on your skin mixes with this type of sweat it causes body odor. Even though these sweat glands perspire as your body temperature rises this sweat is not cooling you off, it is a detoxing type of sweat.
In the beginning it’s odorless, but as bacteria break down the many proteins it turns them into odorant molecules, aka body odor.
Stress hormones contribute greatly to body odor with sweat, cortisol is a hormone in the mix of this type of sweat. The less stressed you are the less body odor you will have. My dad told me as a child to not use deodorant, he said if you have body odor don’t use deodorant, instead figure out what is stressing you and change that. How did know??
Sweating is important, it:
- Maintains proper temperature and keeps you from overheating
- Expel toxins – many of them. Sweating helps rid your body of BPA and phthalates toxic plastic chemical that is an endocrine disrupter.
- Kills viruses and bacteria that cannot survive in temperatures above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit
- Sweating fights skin infections via antimicrobial properties. When you sweat your body releases an antimicrobial peptide called Dermcidin with a broad spectrum of activity that lowers the risk of skin infections and can help to heal them.
The number of such glands you have is only part of the equation of how much you sweat. While women generally have more sweat glands than men, men’s glands tend to be more active and produce more sweat.
Interestingly, profuse sweating can actually help decrease body odor. Foul body odor is related to the toxins being expelled. If you’re living a clean lifestyle, meaning a lifestyle in which you’re minimally exposed to dietary and environmental toxins and therefore have a low toxic burden, your sweat will be close to odorless.
If you sweat profusely, you may need to pay attention to detoxing a bit more, or taking in less toxins.
Sweating does not contribute so much to blackheads or pimples, ordinary soap is more the cause. Soap dehydrates the skin, causing oil glands to make more and more oil, overproducing oil in order to compensate for the loss of water and oil on the skin’s surface. Dehydration prevents the excess oil from flowing to the skin’s surface and exiting the pores, causing blocked pores.
Blackheads and whiteheads are called comedones (koe-muh-DOE-neez), they are created when the openings of hair follicles become clogged with oil secretions, dead skin cells and sometimes bacteria. They are not inflammatory like acne.
When comedones are open at the skin surface, they’re called blackheads because of the dark appearance of the plugs in the hair follicles. When comedones are closed, they’re called whiteheads — slightly raised, skin-colored bumps.
Oily skin can contribute to blocked pores. Oily skin is most common during ages 12 to 22, but some people may tend toward oily skin their entire lives. While there is a tendency for clogged pores, blackheads, and blemishes, the good news is that it oily skin usually has a youthful appearance and does not show the signs of aging as quickly as dry or sensitive skin.
Cleaning the pores will help eliminate blackheads and pimples, there are certain herbs, oils, and essential oils that help in reducing blackheads:
- Omgea6 vegetable and seed oils on the skin improves functioning of sebaceous glands in oily or problematic skin types unblocking pores and reducing blackheads.
Ref: Zielińska, A. & Nowak, I. (2014). Fatty acids in vegetable oils and their importance in cosmetic industry. Chemik, 68, 103-110.
- Sea buckthorn oil improves functioning of sebaceous glands in oily or problematic skin types helping to unblock pores and reducing the formation and number blackheads.
- Yarrow due to its salicylic acid is good for complexion, it breaks up acne and blackheads — it is used by the cosmetic industry in acne treatment products. You can make your own skin wash by pouring 2 cups of boiling water over about 1 cup of dried yarrow flowers, cool, and strain. Soak with a cloth and pat on skin.
Treatment for blackheads:
The oils highest in linoleic acid (omega6s) are pumpkin, evening primrose, sea buckthorn, and rosehip.
You can make a nice blackhead treatment using one of those oils, or to make it even better infuse dried yarrow into one of those oils for two weeks, add a little bit of sea buckthorn oil and frankincense and yarrow essential oils, all of which are helpful at reducing blackheads.
Mainstream vs. Holistic skin care and why oil is not bad for your skin.
For years, dermatologists pooh-poohed the idea of vegetable oils on skin, claiming that skin was unable to absorb these oils or worse yet that they clogged your pores. This is just not true, vegetable oils protect your skin, not clog it.
Most commercial skin moisturizers are primarily water and fillers, with only a small amount of beneficial therapeutic oils. The fats in lotions hold the water on the surface of your skin. You don’t want water sitting on your skin, water is an attractor, water left on your skin will pull water from your skin to the surface making the skin even drier and appear more aged. While lotion may make your skin appear plumper and fuller from the moment, it leaves your skin drier which is why people often need to reapply it.
In holistic skin care we don’t hold the water on the surface of the skin, we help it get into the tissues. When you spray your skin with a hydrosol or leave it a little damp after a shower or bath, then massage vegetables oils on top of the water or hydrosol you are making the water in your skin attract into it the hydrosol (or water) along with all the beneficial plants medicines that are good for the skin.
There’s another issue with water as an ingredient in moisturizers: it grows bacteria! Hence, any product that contains water has to have preservatives, preservatives are not preservatives for your skin — they age your skin. You will be hard pressed to find a moisturizer on the market that does not have any preservatives in it.
Oil is the best choice for supporting healthy, glowing skin. This is hard for many people to believe, because dermatologists have maintained that the top layer of the skin cannot absorb oil and many people still believe that oil clogs pores — it doesn’t! In fact what gets into your pores gets access to your blood stream, we are not trying to get oils applied topically into our bloodstream.
Vegetable oils that dermatologists deem too large to penetrate the the skin are actually not meant to penetrate the skin. They are meant to feed and protect the “lipid mortar” around the skin cell “bricks”, that keeps hydration in the skin. They protect the skin by providing a barrier effect.
Vegetable oils on our skin are food for good bacteria living on our skin’s surfaces, they are converted into free fatty acids in the same way sebum and natural oils produced by the skin are transformed by microbes into immune boosting microbes.
Don’t put anything on your skin (or scalp) you wouldn’t eat
Your liver filters everything you put in your mouth, what gets through your pores gets direct access to your bloodstream. What you put in your mouth your liver filters, and removes what is toxic – what you put on your skin that can get through your pores has direct access to your bloodstream without the filtering process of the liver.
Better to eat some of those toxic skin care products than put them on your skin! Foods and oils are all you need for healthy skin.
In the head are veins called emissary veins, there are about 13 of them though it varies from person to person. These veins go from the scalp to the brain, they are valveless because they are bi-directional, meaning the carry waste out of the brain, and they carry things from the scalp to the brain.
The emissary veins primary job is to drain, cool, and relieve pressure from inside the skull, and they transport nutrients or potentially toxins from outside the skull into the brain.
I came across a study looking at delivering medication through the scalp, it was done using rats. In the study they gave one group an oral dose of methadone (an analgesic used to wean addicts), and 3 groups with varying amounts of methadone in sesame oil, massaged into the head. When the blood levels of methadone were measured they were almost identical — meaning just as much was absorbed through the head as by mouth — and surprisingly it was absorbed much faster through the scalp than orally because it didn’t have to go through the digestive system to get absorbed into the bloodstream. Ref: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2865784/
This research shows what you put on your head (and skin too) gets into your body. This particular study was helpful in showing medications can be delivered through the scalp, reducing some side effects of digesting the medication and speeding up delivery of the medication. This also proves what is put on our scalp also gets into the brain and the bloodstream.
What do you put on your scalp? Shampoos, conditioners, hair-dyes, styling agents, most of these are chemical-laden toxic toiletries delivering dangerous toxins to the brain —in less than two hours.
You can make better decisions with what you put on your hair, this is why I make my own shampoo, have never dyed my hair, and I don’t use commercial products.
For my hair I make shampoo with coconut milk, aloe vera gel, and essential oils, it is my coco aloe shampoo— an I only need to wash it about every other week. Occasionally I will use a leave in spray conditioner made from hydrosols, aloe vera, a little jojoba and some essential oils, but mostly I just use hydrosols each morning. Each morning I mist my hair with a hydrosol and fluff it though from roots to ends giving myself a head and brain massage, then I pin it up while I do my morning routines, when I let it down it has nice curl and body. The hydrosols help to clean the scalp and deliver plant medicine goodies right to my brain.
Here are some other natural hair care products you can make yourself.
Mainstream skin care vs. Holistic skin care — why you want to know the difference
Mainstream skin care treats the skin as separate from everything else in your body and does not recognize how food, water, and stress impact your skin.
Holistic skin care takes into consideration how important staying hydrated is for your skin and how food affects your . Acne? Many acne flare ups are a side effect of digesting certain foods. Mainstream skin care will prescribe antibiotics for acne, while initially it may help clear it up, in the long run will worsen your acne by compromising the gut.
A holistic practitioner will help you find which foods are problematic, and help you replace them with nutritious options. Holistic skin care will then help to clear up acne with anti-inflammatory, slightly astringent, anti-bacterial oil blends that help to unclog pores, remove unwanted bacteria, and reduce inflammation.
Holistic skin care practitioners even include aromatics to help with emotions, relieving stress or using floral oils or other uplifting scents. We then follow up with gentle facial washes, toners, and facial oils. Nothing harsh.
Mainstream skin care uses tons of ingredients in their products, most of them you can’t recognize — like hormone disrupting parabens and carcinogenic formaldehyde and even lead in some cosmetics.
Just like we have had to learn to read ingredients of food, we also have to read the ingredients of what we put on our skin — you will be shocked. Don’t put anything on your skin you would not eat.
Holistic skin care uses aloe vera gel, carrier oils from foods we eat, essential oils and hydrosols from trees and plants, and even ground up herbs, citrus peels, and flowers in body and facial “scrubs”.
No chemical peels! In holistic skin care you do not scrub the skin on your face, it is very delicate. If you need to exfoliate your face, we make gentle exfoliants using ingredients like clay, honey, and finely ground herbs or seeds. These are pleasant to use, they tickle your senses while relaxing you and giving you a feeling of calm and self care.
Mainstream skin care exfoliates with a chemical peel. Not pleasant. And once you’ve peeled away the layer of your protective skin revealing “younger skin”, this baby skin is unprotected — you’ve stripped away your natural protective barrier making your skin more prone to dryness and sun and environmental damage.
Holistic skin care does not use any mineral oil or other petroleum based products. Most standard body care and toiletries are filled with petroleum based oils that do not nourish skin — in fact they leach nutrients from skin, and contain chemicals which disrupt hormone balance increasing risk of auto-immunity and cancers.
Skin and Stress
And lastly stress and emotional health effect your skin. Holistic skin care products reduce stress and improve mood. Flowers and other natural plant scents modify emotions, they penetrate consciousness lifting moods and releasing anxiety. Floral oils and hydrosols are also superior at skin care, giving one the complexion of flowers, and helping to attract what we want in life ~which is inherent in the process of flowering.
Commercial lotions are filled with toxins, pure oils are filled with medicinals.
Pure and real oils nourish and protect skin, the act of massaging oils into your skin reduces wrinkles and signs of aging, calms the nervous system, and improves circulation in the skin, and helps to prevent or aid in healing infections and other skin issues.
The self care act of massaging the skin is very good for us. In Ayurveda they use the word “sneha” to mean lubricant, sneha translates to “affection” — massaging oils into your skin is a form of self love.
- Massaging oils onto your skin reduces stress and calms your nervous system, the skin has over 20 million sensory neurons.
- Massaging your skin releases oxytocin in to the blood stream, this is the LOVE hormone responsible for bonding, loving, caring, and sharing attitudes improving our behaviors and moods.
- Rubbing oils into your skin, known as abhyanga in Ayurveda is good for the lymphatic system helping our body move toxins out while transporting fats and other nutrients.
Marichyasana Series, your colon, and Holding on
The Marichyasana series is about the colon. The colon is the “sewer” of the body, if it is not functioning properly the toxins the body works so hard to eliminate get trapped inside.
The colon is the last part of the digestive system. Unlike the small intestine, the colon does not play a major role in absorption of foods and nutrients.
However, the colon does absorb water, sodium and some fat soluble vitamins; the colon’s main function is removing waste from our body, it’s 2nd important function is how the body hydrates itself through the colon.
The colon consists of four sections: the ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon, and the sigmoid colon. The cecum, colon, rectum, and anal canal form the large intestine.
Some fun colon facts:
- On average the colon is about as long as we are tall
- The diameter of the colon is about equal to that of the wrist.
- For every foot of the colon it can store approx. 5-10 lbs. of fecal matter.
- In extreme cases the colon can back up into the small intestines,in this case it can hold as much as 45 lbs. of fecal matter! When the fecal matter backs up to the small intestine the toxins reabsorb into the body. The colon does NOT absorb many nutrients, it is in the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed so when fecal matter backs up into the small intestine there is a higher likelihood of putting toxins back into the system. Now we know where the saying “full of shit” comes from!
Regardless of how healthy you live, if you have sluggish bowels your body builds up toxins. Fecal matter builds up along the colon walls and in some extreme cases may not leave for months or years, this build up interferes with absorption at a low level and on a major level leads to issues such as diverticulosis and colon cancer.
The feces that remain in one’s system begin to decay, releasing toxins and poisonous gases that seep out into the bloodstream and poison the organs and tissues. The bloodstream itself gets polluted, preventing it from removing the cells’ wastes, so the whole system gets poisoned. This is one of the ways the colon controls the aging process, toxins remaining in the body too long lead to premature aging. Going to the bathroom regularly is important. If you have a build up of matter in your colon you generally feel heavy, bloated, and full of wind. Healthy bowel function is having 1-3 bowel movements every day.
You can help your colon do its job, once you eat a meal it moves through your system as a food bolus, when the last of the bolus makes it to your colon it shifts through the colon a section at a time, you can help the bolus move by:
- Massage (with your heel in a yoga pose, or hand by massage, your own or by a therapist). Start massage on your lower right, just inside your hip bone. Massage up the right, around the corner and under your ribs, spending a little extra time on the “corners” of the square our colon makes, in these corners is where matter is most easily trapped, then across the top, and down the left to the hip bone then center toward your navel and downward.
- Massage will be even more effective with a digestive blend of essential oils. 12-15 drops total in an ounce of sesame oil of any combination of these oils can help with sluggish bowels: Ginger, peppermint, caraway, coriander, fennel, tarragon. Drinking teas with any of those herbs steeped in is also helpful, and warm water in general will help with constipation.
- If your bowels are sluggish due to stress or being uptight I use this blend to help relax so matter can shift and move: Lavender, ginger, fennel, and Roman chamomile.
- Inversions – Gravity helps move matter in our colons.
- Jumping – as on a rebounder, running, athletics, exercise, (or in an ashtanga yoga class) can shift the matter and re-strengthen the bowel. One of the natural prescriptions for constipation is jumping on a rebounder.
- Deep squats help to move matter in the colon downward
- Sipping warm water or tea
Issues around the colon: Diarrhea and Constipation
Food Sensitivities or Allergies – Chronic Diarrhea, IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome), Crohns, Colitis are all wake up calls to check your diet. Chronic diarrhea is a sure sign you are reacting to a food. The best way to know if a food is causing your diarrhea is to eliminate a suspect food for 2-3 weeks and notice if symptoms change.
Another tool to use is the elimination diet which eliminates a lot of problematic foods for 3 weeks, then you re-introduce one food at a time and watch for symptoms. There are tools, menus, and information on the elimination diet in this blog, scroll part way down to “How to test yourself for food sensitivities or allergies”. (Before you do an elimination diet you do need to be going to the bathroom daily!)
The most common problematic foods for the colon tend to be gluten, dairy, and meat.
Parasites – Other challenges could be parasites, parasites are both an overly exaggerated problem and frequently overlooked or un-diagnosed by a doctor.
Before you start taking parasite meds or herbs, TEST FIRST!! via stool and blood. Loose stools need to be induced to get fecal matter from higher up the colon closer to the small intestine, this is where giardia lurks and is often missed on stool samples. Parasite treatments are not pleasant, and many prescription meds are hard on the liver; it is imperative to test first to identify there is a parasite and what type of parasite. You want to avoid treating something you don’t have!
If you have been traveling outside of the country and are having digestive issues, always test for parasites first — especially if you have been in less sanitary countries.
Natural remedies are effective for parasites, sometimes more so than medications, many times medications can drive some parasites like amoebas deeper into hiding. Best to try natural remedies first, and then follow up with medication (through your doctor) only if necessary.
SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth – SIBO is not in the colon, but closely related. SIBO is an imbalance of your gut bacteria in your small intestines, usually caused by a round of antibiotics, chlorinated water, medications, roundup or pesticides in your food, sugar, and processed foods.
Most people do not realize that roundup is an approved anti-biotic by the FDA for human consumption. Want to eat roundup? This anti-biotic is not only sprayed on the food supply but all over the earth, and there is an anti-biotic resistance issue currently, of which this is greatly adding to. BUY ORGANIC or grow your own. You want to eliminate round up from your life.
Gluten sensitivity is not newly a big thing because suddenly the population at large can not digest gluten when it used to be digested just fine, it’s not the gluten that’s problematic its the roundup that is HEAVILY sprayed on wheat (called desiccation) just before the wheat goes to the mill. It does not even have a chance for rain to rinse some of it off. This practice should be outlawed. Each time you eat bread that is not organic you are putting an anti-biotic roundup soaked grain into your gut, your body reacts with inflammation because it’s mad it has to deal with this constant threat.
Functional Medicine has a sound protocol for healing the gut from SIBO, it is called the 5R framework. Handout included — see last page. The 5Rs:
- Remove problematic foods and stressors that effect the gut.
- Replace, add foods and herbs that help with digestion such as ginger, black pepper, turmeric, digestive enzymes, and/or bile acids,
- Reinoculate, using pre and probiotics.
- Repair your gut with nutrients that help to seal and heal the gut lining such as antioxidants, fish oil, zinc, and other nutrients.
- Rebalance, adjust your lifestyle especially in the areas of sleep, stress, exercise, and food.
While diet is a big factor in constipation, so is stress! You will not have good eliminations if you are stressed, if you are chronically constipated, are you chronically stressed? I mention several ways throughout this book on how to transform your stress. Transform it! Here is a blog on how to do that.
Going to the bathroom is an important function of your daily life. You want to take out the trash EVERY DAY. It is imperative to have an elimination at lest once per day, and in healthy folks it can be 2-3x per day. Sluggish bowels sets one up for skin issues, weight gain, brain fog, bloating, and other digestive issues.
Diet is better than having a colonic
Eating to Clean — Fiber
Eat foods high in fiber, which sweeps debris from the colon, good sources are vegetables, fruits, beans, seeds, and nuts which will give a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Soluble fiber, found in many foods like brussel sprouts, blueberries, flaxseeds, and apples attract water which makes their soluble fibers dissolve into a gel like substance. This slows digestion making one feel fuller longer.
- Insoluble fiber found in dark leafy greens, celery, carrots, whole grains and other whole foods, like its name suggests does not dissolve and will help food move through the digestive tract a little quicker for healthy elimination. Many whole foods especially fruits and vegetables contain both fibers and both are necessary for a healthy colon.
EAT YOUR GREENS, not only do greens help to detoxify your body they also clean and heal your digestive tract. Leafy greens are especially important; going beyond spinach and lettuce you will get even more nutrients from greens such as arugula, mustard greens, kale, swiss chard, frissee, endives, and spring mixes.
- Chlorophyll found in green foods like leafy greens, alfalfa, cilantro, algae, spirulina, and chlorella are potent greens, they help the body to obtain more oxygen and draw out toxins enhancing the healing of your colon; for this reason, chlorophyll is called “the internal deodorant.” Cilantro is especially useful for this and it is a good chelator of mercury.
- Water, another important job of the colon is to absorb the fluids out of the matter in the colon. Your colon reabsorbs water and these nutrients 8 to 10 times every 30 minutes. The colon takes the waste and breaks it down, then reabsorbs water through the intestinal tract to provide the proper consistency for the waste to pass from our body.
- Support the delicate balance of electrolytes in the water in your body by adding a touch of unprocessed salt, such as Himalayan salt to the water you drink, and eating wet, white vegetables such as bok choy, cucumbers, and celery.
Probiotics & Prebiotics
Biotic means living organisms. probiotic means pro living organisms meaning in favor of life, or supporting life.
Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and pickled vegetables replenish the friendly bacteria needed for a healthy colon, they also help us go to the bathroom regularly. Billions of bacteria reside in the large intestine. A human body is 90% bacteria and only 10% human. Don’t freak out, theses bowel bugs in return for a warm place to live do a lot of good for the gut; they are known as intestinal flora or microbiota; because like plant life they give fertile soil for the colon and the health of the whole body. There are also harmful bacteria in this mix that can invade the body, colon health is eating to help the good bacteria outnumber the bad bacteria so the bad bacteria.
Probiotics (good microbes) increase the thickness of intestinal mucus, which act like a protective paint to keep pathogenic bacteria (bad “bowel bugs”) from getting through. Probiotics compete with harmful bacteria, for real estate space in your colon. The good microbe stick to the intestinal lining, effectively crowding out the bad microbesand preventing them from getting a foot-hold on the intestinal lining.
- The most important benefit of the good microbes is they enhance your intestinal immune defenses. Probiotics enhance the immune function by increasing antibodies in our blood. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to fight antigens, such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Probiotics help to increase Immunoglobulin A (IgA), an important immune defense molecule which is found in high concentrations in the mucous membranes, particularly those lining the respiratory passages and gastrointestinal tract, as well as in saliva and tears. The body makes different immunoglobulins to combat different antigens. For example, the antibody for chickenpox isn’t the same as the antibody for mononucleosis, so you need lots of them and the more probiotic bacteria you have the more antigens you will have.
Probiotics use fiber as a prebiotic to help produce healthful nutrients by fermenting some of the fiber in food to form short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) which nourish the cells lining the colon, stimulate healing of these cells, and reduce the likelihood of colon cancer. These short-chain fatty acids are also absorbed into the bloodstream and travel to the liver where they lessen the liver’s production of cholesterol. These SCFA’s also inhibit the growth of yeast and harmful bacteria in the gut.
Prebiotics are food for gut bacteria, they love and feed on. We want our good bacteria to hang around, and just like any guest, if you don’t feed them eventually they will have to leave to find food. There are foods prevalent with prebiotiics, butter being one of them, butter is made from butyric acid, this happens to be our gut’s microbes favorite food. Other prebiotic foods include onions and garlic, asparagus, dandelion greens, honey, and others.
The popular expression of the angel in me or the devil in me is referring to microbial balance. Remember the old commercial where an angel would sit on one shoulder telling you to eat the vegetables, and then on the other shoulder the devil would pop out and suggest sweets? Little did we know that actually happens between our “angel” microbes and “devil” microbes.
There is a lot of new and exciting research about gut bacteria and how they effect everything from mood to weight to blood sugar level.
- Increased amounts of beneficial bacteria were found in the digestive tract of thin mice vs. that of overweight mice.
- Probiotics balance the absorption of unhealthy sugars improving blood sugar levels
- People with more beneficial bacteria have lower rates of depression.
- More and more research is confirming the good microbes are environmental and emotional feelers that help us cope, adapt and genetically evolve to our ever-changing world. The bacteria doesn’t just sit there fermenting, they are living organisms that communicate with each other and communicate with our body, their host. Some of the latest research on biophotons shows that our microbes communicate with our brain via biophotons, which means they can send their message to our brain lickety-split. Make sure you have good microbes sending messages to your brain!
- 95% of serotonin, the mood balancing hormone, along with other neurotransmitters is made in the lining of the gut, not the brain. There is correlation between bacterial balancing in the gut and digestion, mood, and cognitive health. These little bugs help us be happier and reduce stress by increasing serotonin.
Many times when you eat something with a lot probiotics in it, you go to the bathroom, this can be helpful!
Foods are better than pills when it comes to probiotics. Good sources of probiotics are fermented foods, grass fed yogurt (plain not flavored — yogurt cups are more sugar than probiotics), grass fed cottage cheese, miso, sauerkraut, raw cheeses, olives from an olive bar, kefir, kimchee, kombucha, kvass, cultured vegetables (other societies and their use of “pickle” at every meal), and many more (see handout attached).
Histamines are created during the fermenting process of these foods. some people are sensitive to histamines, if you are one of them you may need to experiment and find a probiotic supplement, however, outside of this I would avoid supplemental probiotics until we learn more about them. Researchers and scientists are making huge headways in this area, there are some new spore based probiotics that are showing promise, but I still prefer to use food.
We are learning now about all the different types of bacteria that reside in our guts, just like there are many different types of vitamins and minerals, there are many different types of gut bacteria that are responsible for different jobs in the body.
Supplements are large amounts of one strain of probiotic bacteria taken way out of proportion to how many would get eaten through real food; real food has many many different strains all in proportions to each other. Variety is important, just like a variety of vitamins and minerals is necessary, the more varied the gut microbiome the healthier the individual. When just one strain is taken out of proportion it can cause symptoms, for example vaginal and/or anal itching. Until more is known, eat fermented foods instead of supplements.
How Marichyasana effects your colon
The colon is so important you get four postures dedicated just to it in primary series.
Marichyasana A & C are preparatory poses for Marichyasana B & D, respectively, where the deeper inner cleansing is done. In Marichyasana B & D the left leg is placed in half lotus first, this is for a good reason; the left heel puts pressure on the ascending colon, and the right heel puts pressure on the descending colon; if you mix this up you’ll end up talking shit all day 😉
The heel is like a massage for the colon. helping to stimulate the movement of matter through the body. The areas most in need of this stimulation are the “corners” of the colon, this is the area we are aiming our heel for.
As your body allows, the most effective position for your heel will be in line with the inner-lip of your hip bone aiming your heel up under your ribs toward the “corners” of the colon lie. Then as the second leg is bent into position, it further presses the heel in deeper and up toward the corners of the colon.
In my own practice I have noticed to get my heel closer to my colon I need to place the lotus leg further over closer to the side of my body, with the knee towards the midline of my body. It’s a different stretch in the hip when the heel is closer to the colon.
A common misguided cue I hear often regarding the marichyasana series is as your body gets more flexible to keep pulling your heel up higher toward your sternum, your colon lies on the outer edges of the abdomen, taking your foot wider instead of higher would be better. Knowledge of your internal body will help you get more benefit from your yoga postures.
The binding (clasping your hands behind your back) in the Marichyasana Series helps to pull the torso in tighter to the heel increasing the pressure on the colon. It is also therapeutic for the shoulders, but this is only a side benefit of the binding. If you are unable to bind, don’t worry, it’s still doing good. Don’t lose the posture over the bind.
If you can bind easily, as you are able, you can “choke up” on your binds — meaning first you get your fingertips, then as you get more flexible you catch your hand, or sometimes you can catch your wrist. Sometimes a yogi will get too wrapped up in catching the bind, in doing so they will lean away from or out of the posture to catch their hands. Better to not worry about the bind in this case and lean your gut into your heel.
For more information on how to do the Marichyasana series in your practice please click here and scroll down to Marichyasana A, B, C, or D.
IN THE EMOTIONAL BODY
Many challenging emotions are expressed through the colon, stress, anxiety, fear, insecurity, all effect the colon one way or another. Any emotions that causes stress will affect your colon.
The colon itself represents holding on to the past; the fear of letting go.
Disorders with constipation are linked with the inability to let go of old ideas or belief systems that no longer serve, or societal beliefs that are no longer relevant for these times. We need to check in with our gut on these beliefs, does it feel like it’s still right in your gut?
Sometimes it’s a holding on to past traumatic or stressful events, not wanting to forgive or heal and move on from them. Wanting to hash it out again and again or talk about it with friends when you’ve already done that. Do you find yourself joining support groups for long time past events? This can be one of the ways we refuse to grow from past hurts and traumas. If you tend toward constipation and struggle with a past event your body might be telling you its time to grow and learn from it.
Sometimes constipation is from lack of expression of your ideas or feelings, usually due to a fear of displeasing others, being wrong, or being judged. With all the polarity in the world recently it’s even scarier to express yourself for fear someone will overreact to you. Going out on a limb and expressing our true self is needed even more, more often than not you may find people attracted to your openness and willingness to be vulnerable.
In the case of diarrhea, you reject ideas too quickly. You may be easily perturbed and find it impossible to digest certain concepts that others around you have. Since you think it is not good or useful you expel it quickly.
Sometimes with diarrhea maybe one feels rejected. Are you extremely sensitive emotionally? This makes one feel rejected even when they are not, or keeps them from experiencing good or new situations. If this is your case, realize that it is most likely the monkeys in your mind holding you back; the only way to find out for sure is to get outside your comfort zone and see if you get rejected. You might be surprised to find yourself feeling welcomed and comfortable in situations that used to send you running for the bathroom.
If you are experiencing symptoms related to colon issues your body is telling you to re-educate yourself about feeding and nourishment; with food for the physical body and nourishing feelings for emotional, psychological, and spiritual bodies. There is no spiritual nutrition in fear and self-deprecating thoughts.
This topic is not done yet! Coming up; kidneys and pee, esophagus, attachment and the heart, and sleep