The Myth of the Immaculate Gut

I’m so tired of cockamamie health advice that seems to start with the premise that we are nothing but a long, hollow tube beginning at the mouth and ending where the sun don’t shine.  Some presume, it seems, that keeping the tube squeaky clean at all times is the cure for every woe.  Juice fasts, enemas, and liver cleanses galore are prescribed for everything from acne to asthma.  Some of these treatments may have merit in certain situations, but I believe that total health depends upon more than an immaculate gut.

Something many people overlook in their quest for health is the fact that we are complex, finely tuned organisms, exquisitely sensitive to changes in our emotional and physical environment.  We have certain needs which are irreducible.  Physically, we need clean air, clean water, and adequate nutrition.  To be healthy mentally and emotionally, we need love, connection, and a feeling of safety.  These things are not negotiable, and any health advice that ignores these facts is likely to be harmful.

For example, the current juice fasting fad seems to be taking the world by storm.  Ask any confirmed health nut, including me unfortunately, if they’ve tried a juice fast and you’re likely to get a yes.  “If you’re clean inside, you’re green inside”, right? But the juice fast, or indeed any type of fast, ignores one basic truth: we need food.  I can already hear all the yes-buts. “Yes but, we are capable of going without food for a time, and fasting can be helpful, it’s even saved lives!”  I’m not an expert on fasting. Maybe there really are people who have turned their health around because of a fast.  What I have to go on is my own limited knowledge and experience, which tells me that fasting hurts.

Three years ago, I decided to try a juice fast.  Many of my friends were doing it.  I’d seen Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  I thought it might be the answer to some of my nagging health problems.  My goal was to sustain the fast for at least five days, knowing that, with my blood sugar issues, I probably wouldn’t be able to go much longer than that.  By day three I was miserable.  I felt scary-bad.  My blood sugar was a mess and my adrenals were shot.  I gave up and decided to eat, hoping that I would be able to regain some equilibrium within a few days, but that was not how it went down.  The fast was the beginning of a long downward slide.  It set off severe chemical and food sensitivities which I now believe were a result of the adrenal fatigue.

Because proteins DRIVE the detoxification process, cleanses based on juices, fruits or vegetables do not make a lot of sense.  – 17 Signs of Impaired Liver Detox

The “liver flush”  or “liver cleanse” is another very popular treatment intended to purge the body of toxins.  Again, I’m sure many people have benefitted from these treatments, but it should be recognized that a treatment this powerful can also be potentially harmful.  The liver cleanse requires at least a partial fast.  No protein or fat is to be taken for more than 24 hours.  After 2:00 PM the day of the cleanse, no food is to be eaten.  This type of fast is not extreme and seems reasonably safe for most people.  But for those with blood sugar issues or adrenal fatigue, it can be quite difficult, even harmful.  Some treatment protocols, including Hulda Clark’s, specify that an overdose of magnesium in the form of Epsom salts must be taken.  This, apparently has resulted in cases of hypermagnesemia.  The end result of the treatment is diarrhea, and for some, vomiting, which stresses the system and creates electrolyte imbalance.

My experience with the liver flush was extremely unpleasant, even traumatic.  I think I would have been fine with the diarrhea and vomiting, that passed pretty quickly.  But I did experience hypermagnesemia, which was really scary.  As there are very good alternatives to the liver flush, I would not ever do this to myself again.

I’ve noticed that, in addition to seeming rather extreme, many popular natural treatments seem to completely overlook the mind/body connection.  There is mounting evidence that our thoughts have a direct bearing on our physical and emotional health.  That may mean, among other things, that it’s not just the carotenoids in the carrot that affect our health, but also our thoughts and feelings about carrots.  Sound far-fetched?  Take a look at this .

But the mind/body connection goes far beyond digestion. If your thoughts can affect your gut, you can bet that they affect every other part of you as well.  Epigenetics Shatters the “Central Dogma”

So maybe it’s time to rethink this puritanical urge of ours to purge our bodies of impurities.  Maybe it’s not what we can squeeze out of our bodies that matters as much as what we put into them.  Maybe if we nourish ourselves, body and soul, the trash will take itself out.

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Simplicity of Wellness: Love for Others

hands

“The heart of the matter is that it is the heart that matters.”
Dr. Cynthia Thaik, cardiologist

Jesus said that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” There is a lot to that seemingly simple statement.

Just like self-love, love for others heals.  How we feel about and treat ourselves will radiate out to those around us. Conversely, how we treat others will influence the way we feel about ourselves.

Paul Simon wrote a song about self-imposed isolation called “I Am a Rock.” “A rock feels no pain” say the lyrics, “and an island never cries.” Not true. Don’t ask me how I know. No one is a rock or an island, and when we try to be, we wither. We need love like we need air.

Blogger Lisa Collier Cool says that “love actually can make us healthier, so much so that if you could bottle it, you would have an incredible wonder drug, a Nobel Prize, the thanks of a grateful population, and more money than Bill Gates.” Why? because, as she explains, a growing body of research seems to indicate that “love can lengthen your life, ward off stress, boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, protect you from colds and flu, blunt your response to pain, hasten wound healing, and lower your risk of dementia in old age.”

Do we really need science to tell us that? Don’t most of us understand on some level that love is life? Nearly every wonderful thing we do, we do for love. And some of the not-so-wonderful things we do are done because of a misguided attempt at getting the love we need. And so we come full circle to the words of Jesus that I quoted at the beginning: “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” Give love freely with no thought as to what you might receive. Do this, and as Jesus said, “people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing.” (Luke 6:38)

Photo by Aaron Gilson

Simplicity of Wellness

(Simplicity of Wellness will be a series of short posts that will eventually become one long article with its own page. This is my first installment. I hope you enjoy.)

dew on grass

“A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it.”

– Henry David Thoreau

I have learned the key to health the hard way.  I’ve tried repeatedly, and mostly unsuccessfully to “get healthy” by all manner of contrivance. I gobbled the vitamins, herbs,and “nutriceuticals”.  I bopped along to the exercise tapes.  I bought the air purifiers, tested my water, tossed the Teflon and plastic, and bought organic. I even felt self-righteous about my efforts because I was, as I thought, doing it naturally.  But I was trying to build a house without a foundation, and for that reason I was bound to fail.

What is health?  Websters dictionary defines it as “the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit”.  The opposite of health, then, is the condition of being unsound in body, mind or spirit.  As a society we intuitively understand this, as is evidenced by our metaphors for poor health.  We “fly to pieces”, “come apart at the seams”, and “come unglued” when we are not well.  Poor health is a state of disconnection, disintegration.

What is the antidote?  In a word, love.  We cannot be healthy in the absence of love.  It will not matter how many pills we swallow, how many organic carrots we munch, or what kind of water filtration system we buy if we have not learned love.  God is love, which means that love created the universe.  It is the true foundation of everything, including us.

What does this mean in practical terms?  It means that a loving connection with the creator, with ourselves, and with other creatures is where all healing journeys begin and end.  We must begin at the beginning.

Photo by Michael Jastremski