Going on an Elimination Diet? Give Yourself a Month

woman holding ice cream

Dietary adjustments are hard. When I recommend dietary changes to patients, I ask them if they can commit to one month of effort. The annoying truth is that elimination diets, such as gluten- and dairy-free diets, can take time to show results. Often patients abandon an elimination diet too early to effectively evaluate its impact. Other elimination diets, like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, show almost immediate results, leaving little room for doubt. I have never heard anyone say they felt better, physically, eating more candy and doughnuts.

The “costs” of an elimination diet can be surprisingly high. Not only can it be more expensive to buy items that substitute for foods you are accustomed to having, there is a time cost to learning to cook new foods or find restaurants that meet your needs. Maybe you are the only person in your house launching this diet, which is a challenge in itself. There can be mental costs to starting a diet as well, such as saying no to your mom’s chocolate cake. It’s important to factor these costs into your plan.

Giving a diet less than four weeks to prove itself is usually a formula for failure, setting you up to ping pong between deprivation and bingeing. Drastic changes are hard on your body, your mind, and in some cases, your wallet, so don’t shortchange your ability to honestly evaluate your results by giving up too early.

Once you see real results—increased energy, better digestion, fewer headaches—you will be inspired to keep going. The costs no longer feel so high, and the payoffs more than make up for your efforts. This takes time, though. Pick a four-week period, plan in advance, and get help if you need it.

Acupuncture offers wonderful support during elimination diets. It curbs cravings, optimizes your digestion, and helps your body flush out residual toxins and metabolic wastes. Together, we can come up with a plan that will enable you to get the most out of your diet so that you see lasting results.

Is Your Diet Ruining Your Digestive Fire?

watermelon in car

Summer in Colorado is HOT, and with the onset of scorching, dry weather, we tend to gravitate toward eating cold, raw foods, such as ice cream, ice water, fruit, and salad. While it’s true that these treats initially cool our stomachs, and offer some relief from overheating, cold and raw foods can be hard on the digestive system, regardless of the temperature outside.

The digestive tract requires internal heat to process and distribute nourishment from our food and to eliminate waste products. By nature, heat is moving. (Think of a stove coil warming a pot of water; as the liquid increases in temperature, it begins to quiver until it reaches a rolling boil.) Your digestive system is similar in that it must maintain its “fire” to extract the most nutrition it can from food and liquid. An optimized metabolism is warm, not cold.

This summer, instead of working to cool your digestive tract, think of hydrating your digestive tract with room temperature foods and liquids. Often, when we reach for ice-cold beverages, we are already dehydrated and consume way more than is necessary to bring relief from a spike in temperature. This causes our digestive tracts to constrict, making it harder to process food and eliminate waste.

A few easy tips for keeping your digestive tract warm in the summer include:

  • Drinking room temperature water
  • Limiting raw vegetables to once a day, or less if you have loose stools
  • Watching your fruit intake
  • Avoiding ice cream and other frozen treats

Too much cool, raw food can wreck havoc on your stomach and intestines, leading to abdominal discomfort and even weight gain. How do you know if your digestive fire is low? Pay attention to your elimination. Loose stools are a sure sign, as are stomach pains, or lack of appetite. To prevent heat exhaustion, drink plenty of water and make sure cooked vegetables, with their high mineral and water contents, are included in your diet.

And, if you do find yourself parched, dry, and irritable, pick up nature’s electrolyte-filled cooler: watermelon. Flourishing in the summer months, the watermelon is an excellent source of cooling hydration. Its sweet taste brings moisture to the stomach and intestines, and let’s face it, what better way is there to spend an afternoon than spitting watermelon seeds off the deck?

Happy summer!

Jumping into a Spring Liver Detox? Read this First.

woman smelling spring flowers

Spring is a time of internal and external renewal. After months of hibernation, we are ready to burst into action, just like a spring flower.

Many people look to harness the energy of spring by adopting a liver detox.

This could be as simple as juicing for breakfast or as radical as drinking lemon water with cayenne pepper all day. The problem is that, for many modern Americans, radical cleanses are too shocking to their systems.

A cleanse—though it may sound like a good idea to the mind—is no picnic for the body, especially when it is undertaken in the midst of a hectic lifestyle. Why? Because the liver and digestive organs are already taxed.

In a radical cleanse, toxins and metabolic wastes are shed from tissues very deep in the body. Your system becomes flooded with junk, which is why you may feel achy, crabby and weakened. It is the liver’s job to cleanse the blood of these toxins. Every time you submit your body to a radical cleanse, the liver has to work double-time. As much as it might sound great to get rid of all that waste, your body may not be strong enough to work with this cascade of toxins.

Moderate, deliberate changes in diet and lifestyle over the course of a few weeks will support the liver without adding to its stress of daily filtration and detoxification.

Slow, consistent, cumulative changes are easier for the body to integrate and maintain. After all, it wasn’t your body that said, “Give me all those cookies!” Be patient with your liver as it detoxes from goodies like alcohol, caffeine, sugar and processed foods.

Introduce seasonal gems like spring greens and fresh herbs. Be conscious of your fat and meat intake, but never go hungry. Hunger damages the stomach qi and can lead to long-term changes in your digestive health.

Above all, remember, your liver is your friend.

If you feel sure a liver cleanse is in order, seek the help of a health professional who can support you physically and emotionally as you detox. Allow yourself the time and space to transform on a deep level. Don’t force yourself to move from winter into spring too quickly.

Because we are so ready to change, spring tempts us to overdo even a healthy lifestyle. After all, we want of feel better right now! Just be gentle. Your body, like the earth, will be happier with a gradual transition.