NEW YEAR, NEW YOU – Step 3: LUNGS

woman-570883_1920The lungs are where gas exchange takes place in our body. We breathe air in and exhale waste products and toxins in the form of gases and water vapour.

There’s that stuff again – WATER! It’s incredible how important water is to our body functions! It’s REALLY important for our lungs as they are 90% water. A litre of water is required inside our lungs in order for gas exchange to take place properly. And – when we’re dehydrated, histamine levels go up … a lot of asthma and allergies could be solved by simply being properly hydrated. Imagine that! It’s an almost-free health cure all!

Breathing is under the control of our autonomic nervous system – it’s a vital function and luckily therefore not something we have to do consciously. However, the autonomic nervous system also controls our stress response so breathing changes when we’re stressed (it becomes shallow and rapid). In Chinese medicine’s Law of Five Elements, the lungs are Metal which is melted by Fire (ie, buzzing, stressing, always on the go).

anatomy-117148_1280In this picture, the diaphragm is labelled. The diaphragm is a large flat wall of muscle between our lungs and our digestive organs. It literally cross-sections our body from front to back and side to side. It keeps our digestive organs in place, has a role in pushing food down into our stomachs and along the intestines. Our food tube goes through it. It’s also the best muscle for breathing – and yet lots of us hardly use it. It becomes weak through lack of use and then it doesn’t hold down the stomach and this can cause a hiatus hernia. If you have acid reflux or heartburn, you could well help them without drugs by exercising and strengthening your diaphragm.

So, one of the best ways to quickly de-stress and to improve digestion, is to breathe with your diaphragm (instead of your chest muscles or shoulders). It induces an instant sense of peace and relaxation … and massages your digestive organs as well as keeping them in place. Here’s how to belly breathe:

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the bed or floor
  • Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest
  • Take a deep breath and observe how your hands rise and fall
  • Take another breath – this time focus on only allowing the hand on your belly to rise and fall
  • Keep practising – it takes practice to get this right. You’ll be re-programming your brain and diaphragm to breathe more efficiently.
  • As you breathe in, allow your belly to inflate and push up, while keeping your chest absolutely still. You’re now using your diaphragm to breathe.
  • Once you’ve mastered this, you can use it anywhere, anytime you feel stressed.

Practising belly breathing for at least ten breaths every day will improve gas exchange (oxygen in, toxins out), your digestion AND relaxation.

Your homework for Step 3:

  1. Keep watering that pot plant! See Step 1. By now, you could have increased your water intake by two glasses per day and be well on the way to better hydration and therefore better health.
  2. Practise belly breathing for a minute or two – at least once per day.

 

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU!

new-years-eve-1905144_1920Happy New Year! Wishing you a happy and very healthy 2017!

If you’ve woken up this morning with a groan … and you’re thinking you must do a ‘detox’ this month, here are my thoughts and tips. This is the first article of five I will write. You could take them as a step-by-step approach to a cleaner, brighter, fresher and healthier new year.

What I mean by ‘detox’ in this article, is giving your body’s systems and organs a rest – a break from rich food & drink – so that your cells can regenerate fresher and fitter than ever. This puts a sparkle in your eyes and a spring in your step – you’ll have more energy, better immunity … and looks.

The digestive system
The digestive system

The liver is our powerhouse of detoxification – it filters our blood at the rate of about 3 pints per minute – removing dead and faulty cells, bugs, inorganic chemicals, fat globules, etc. It then detoxifies these by using enzymes to convert them from fat soluble to water soluble – so they can be eliminated from our bodies via urine, sweat and faeces.

So, the first step in giving your liver a helping hand is to help clear the elimination pathways. There are four main exit routes from our bodies:

  1. large intestine (bowel, colon) – faeces
  2. kidneys & bladder – urine
  3. skin – sweat
  4. lungs – respiration (breathing)

urine-colour-chartAll four of these eliminatory organs/systems have one fundamental requirement in order to function – WATER. The lungs require a litre of water at all times in order to exchange gases in and out of the blood (the purpose of respiration). When exercising or in warm weather, our skin can sweat out a litre per hour. Urine is the most obvious watery route and is a good indicator of dehydration – it should be pale, light yellow – almost clear. If it’s yellow, orange or dark and cloudy – you urgently need to drink more water! Few of us meet our body’s requirements of 6-8 glasses (1.5-2 litres) per day of pure water. It’s such a simple yet powerful step towards better health. Read why in my article here.

STEP ONE – your homework today is to drink more plain, pure water – today and every day from now on. Here are a few tips on drinking water:

  1. Like a pot plant that hasn’t been watered for some time, if you drink 8 glasses today it will just go straight through you – you will probably spend most of the day on the toilet. Increase water intake slowly – if you don’t currently drink any water each day, drink one tall glass today, two tomorrow and the next day, then three, etc etc.
  2. Sip water over the course of the day – don’t down whole glasses at a time (think pot plant).
  3. Don’t drink within 20 minutes of a meal – especially before, as this can dilute digestive juices.
  4. Choose bottled mineral or filtered water to avoid added chemicals. I like the taste of the water from these Wellness Carafes which I also sell in my clinic.
  5. Herbal teas count as water. Your liver loves herbs – especially bitter tasting ones such as dandelion, nettle, mint and green tea. Don’t overdo any of them though – vary them throughout the day. You could also drink hot water with a small slice of lemon (if you like the taste – try removing the outer skin if it’s too bitter).

TOMORROW – I’ll be writing about how you can support elimination through your skin. You’ll be amazed by this vital organ – it’s literally the frontline of your body!

 

Don’t blame your gall bladder!

Gall bladder disease is epidemic these days; two of my family members have had theirs removed, our best man is seriously ill with complications following a gall bladder removal, one of our neighbours has had a serious infection caused by the same. It seems as though this little sac is causing a health crisis.

Gall bladder symptoms can include: bloating, burping, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, discomfort on right side of ribs or right shoulder after a meal, low alcohol tolerance, sweating, bad breath, smelly stools, fatigue after eating. If you have any of these symptoms, see my recommendations below or contact me for an appointment to evaluate your diet and nutrition. 

The digestive system
The digestive system

The gall bladder is, in fact, no more than a little storage vessel and pumping station. Its purpose is to store bile produced by your liver and to eject it into your small intestine when food is released from your stomach. Bile is a digestive juice which emulsifies fats – breaks them down so we can absorb them or eliminate them. If we don’t digest fats properly that has consequences all the way through our digestive system. Problems occur in the gall bladder when the bile produced by the liver stagnates, is of poor quality or is inadequate, ie, cannot cope, with the quantity and/or type of food we’re eating.

To sum up: GALL BLADDER HEALTH IS DEPENDENT ON LIVER HEALTH! So, having it removed and not changing your diet or lifestyle is not going to address the underlying cause.

Your liver could be producing poor quality bile because it’s struggling to cope with:

(a) stress – the stress response causes cholesterol to be released by the liver. This makes bile fatty; it stagnates in the gall bladder and then forms deposits (stones).

(b) sugary diet – sugars from carbs (bread, pizza, pasta, biscuits, cakes, sweets, puddings, etc) get stored in the liver = fatty liver = fatty bile.

(c) pharmaceuticals, alcohol, caffeine, food additives, fragrances – all chemicals create work for your liver.

(d) contraceptive hormones or HRT – oestrogen gets the liver to store and produce cholesterol = fatty bile.

(e) constipation – this is a vicious circle. Constipation means toxins and cholesterol are transported back to the liver from the colon for processing or storing; poor bile quality can cause constipation.

My six recommendations to keep your gall bladder (and liver) healthy:

  1. Drink plenty of plain water every day – 6 to 8 glasses or 2L.
  2. Reduce cholesterol production – by cutting out sugar, refined carbs, soft drinks, alcohol, cereals, grains. What should you eat? Vegetables, salads, fish & seafood, poultry, meat and eggs with good fats such as olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.
  3. Eat plenty of good fats but avoid all seed oils, margarine, deep fried food and dairy products. Swap your margarine for butter! Cook only with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. 
  4. Reduce the chemicals in your life. Do you really need those headache pills or are you just dehydrated? Are your skincare products packed with chemicals? Do you need air fresheners in your home? Are your cleaning and laundry products packed with unnecessary fragrances? 
  5. Eat foods/herbs with a cleansing effect – dandelion leaves, chicory, endive, radicchio, fresh mint, globe artichoke, radishes, lemons & limes, rocket, kale, watercress, cabbage, green tea. Take this milk thistle supplement.
  6. Avoid constipation – try this belly massage.

There are lots of other supplements and herbs that can help with gall bladder and liver health. Book in for a kinesiology session with me to find out what your body needs.