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7 Steps to Spring Cleanse 

A change of seasons is a natural time of transition. Spring in particular, is a time many feel compelled to hit reset on their lifestyle choices. Embracing the fresh crisp air and keeping an open mind, I invite you to try these cleansing tips as you move away from the colder, darker months into the sunshine and vitality of Spring! 

Begin your day with the juice of ½ lemon in 250 ml warm water – lemons are not just a good source of vitamin C, lemons also support the hard-working liver, our main detoxifying organ. They strengthen liver enzymes and promote the secretion of bile, which in turn aids digestion. A detoxification agent, blood purifier and digestive aid, they are in actual fact alkalising once within the body (despite their acidic taste!).

Sip on herbal tea throughout the day – if a hot drink isn’t your cup of tea, try it iced! Dandelion tea in particular is a renown tonic with vast medicinal properties. It is fantastic for getting rid of bloating as it too stimulates bile, necessary for the proper breakdown of food and ensuring we absorb our nutrients efficiently, as well as having a diuretic function = say goodbye to water retention! Another good option is green tea which is loaded with catechins, potent antioxidants that also supports the liver… sensing a theme here?! This cleanse tea combines a few healing, digestive-assisting herbs and is a great spring-time brew.

Include vegetables at every single meal – especially cruciferous vegetables which contain sulphur, folate, calcium, iron vitamins C, E and K to support our overworked livers! Vegetables are also alkalising and full of fibre to ensure we are “eliminating” properly. If breakfast is usually a sweet meal such as porridge, chia puddings or bircher, try consuming 1-2 tsp of a quality greens powder just after your meal- I like this one.

Try 1-2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar in water 15 mins prior to meals – it might seem as though this magical elixir is included in every “health” oriented post, but the truth is, it seriously is that good for us, and has so many roles to play. Ensure you get one that has the “mother” in it, like this one. The bitter taste stimulates digestive enzymes which helps us break down and reap the benefits of our food. As it is fermented it is incredibly beneficial to the growth of our good gut flora. It is also fantastic for preventing/reducing bloating and reflux, and detoxes us by altering our blood pH to becoming more alkaline.

Ensure your bowels are moving daily – if not twice daily! Magnesium, a mineral that can be found in foods or supplemented, helps ease constipation by relaxing the muscles in the intestinal walls. Try this internal magnesium powder, which relaxes the body and can help move “things” along, or for some more external relaxation (which can also help!) try these bath salts. You can consume magnesium in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, but for chronic constipation, this may not be enough and supplementation may be appropriate.

Declutter – fresh space, fresh mind, fresh outlook. Clean out the wardrobe, the pantry, the fridge and the cupboards! Maybe change out the screensaver on your computer, the arrangement of small furniture items in your living space, buy a new indoor plant, and consider diffusing essential oils in your home or using them instead of perfume. Lemon, orange, grapefruit and peppermint are all great detoxifying and purifying oils to try!

Commit to purchasing from your farmers market – to avoid pesticides and waxes on our beautiful fresh produce! It is a great way to get in an active catch up with a friend; a stroll through the markets as opposed to opting for coffees, wines or heavy meals. It is also the best way to shop in season, pesticide-free/organic, affordably. With the Spring weather, there is no better reason to get outside and support local farmers!

 

Detox support – if you really feel like you have a lot to get rid of and need the extra support, take your cleansing up a notch by employing these foot detox patches. According to ancient Eastern medicine, toxins build up in our bodies throughout the day, travelling to the lower extremities such as the feet at night. These detox foot patches have been designed to absorb such toxins as the blood circulates throughout our bodies during our sleep.

“I’m Vegan and Always Hungry. Help!” Appetite Control and My Top Tips To Reduce Insatiable Hunger

Amongst its many jobs, the hypothalamus (in the brain) is responsible for appetite regulation by stimulating metabolic and behavioural responses to maintain energy balance. Many factors come into play here, including the roles and reactions of biological hormones and peptides as well as psychological cues.

A lot of people fear or find that when they cut out meat and dairy, essentially everything they have been conditioned to associate with protein, they won’t be satiated. Well, protein is indeed satiating, and lucky for us, it is in everything. So if it is protein you are worried about, simply ensuring you get enough calories daily should suffice to meet protein requirements (.8g/kg of body weight), read more here. While the effect of protein on appetite control is well-documented, increasing protein consumption beyond what is necessary does not appear to be helpful, and clearly shows a 75% increase in overall mortality, and a four-fold increase in cancer death risk! Interestingly, some experiments show that high animal-based protein diets might help with quick weight-loss and appetite control short-term, but these effects tend to dissipate after one year. Further, these diets deplete the bodies glycogen stores and the water that goes with them, so it stands to reason that participants lose (water) weight.

In one study, a vegetable-based meal (beans/peas) influenced appetite and energy intake favourably compared to an animal-based meal (pork/veal) with similar energy and protein content. Further, a vegetable-based meal with low protein content was as satiating and palatable as an animal-based meal with high protein content! So we can see, protein isn’t the only thing that is important to consider when it comes to appetite control!

Aside from protein, nutrient density and fibre are extremely important when it comes to satiety. Nutrient density is important because if you are eating nutrient-poor but calorie-rich foods (fast, processed, refined foods), your body may send you hunger signals, hoping that you choose to feed it the nutrients it so needs. There is ample evidence that increasing consumption of high-fibre foods may decrease feelings of hunger. High-fibre foods are shown to take a while to digest, controlling blood sugar, keeping you feeling fuller for longer, and having the added bonus of “cleansing” the system and feeding beneficial gut bacteria.

Without knowing an individuals diet, it is tricky for me to answer why they are feeling constantly hungry. A common mistake people make is forgetting to replace the meat in their meal with something else nutrient-dense e.g. a chicken salad, minus the chicken, will not fill you up. You must add staples like chickpeas, beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, nuts or seeds in place, to amp up the energy and nutrient-density, and thus the satiety.

Lastly, we are supposed to get hungry! “If I eat a vegan meal, I find I am hungry a few hours later”… Well, that is often a positive when transitioning to a vegan diet, we become more in tune with our appetite. We must stop looking at hunger as a bad thing. You need food to fuel your body to function, it is simply about choosing the right fuel. Waking up hungry, feeling hungry every 3-5 hours is a very natural, normal and healthy indicator of your body working efficiently. Food is not the enemy!

Hunger-fighting Tips:

– Replace the meat in your meal with something nutrient-dense, fibre-rich and substantial;

– Ensure you reach adequate protein daily through a variety of plant-sources: fruits and vegetables (everything adds up), beans, legumes and grains, tempeh and tofu, nuts and seeds. If you wish to incorporate a protein powder, you may, but that isn’t always necessary. Remember, sufficient calories = sufficient protein, read more on this here. Include beans and legumes in your diet, evidence suggests that such plant-proteins provide a longer feeling of satiety than animal proteins;

– Fill up on non-starchy vegetables – 3+ cups per meal is not too much! Go hard! Snack on these freely;

– Nutritious mini meals, such as the three S’s – salads, soups and smoothies – can also be snacks and are often healthier and satisfying than packaged and processed snack options;

– Think nutrient density – perhaps your body is craving nutrition rather than calories;

– Don’t deprive yourself of carbohydrates – carbohydrates are a mainstay in a plant-based diet. Gluten-free grains, legumes, beans, fruit… these foods are not to be feared. They are the bodies primary source of fuel, crucial for healthy brain, thyroid and digestive function and keeping you full, happy and healthy.

– Not too long, not too short, just right – Don’t wait too long between meals to the point where you are famished, make poor choices and guzzle your food, but don’t eat too soon, as we need time between meals to cleanse the digestive system! Aim to wait at least 2-3 hours;

– Plate your food – if snack items are out of reach, studies suggest you eat less. Ensure you are seated when eating, not on-the-go (or standing over the sink!);

– Do not inhale food – eat slowly and mindfully, away from distractions. Chew each bite 10-20 times. Set an alarm in your phone to go off after 20 minutes, this is a good guide for how long you should eat. Place utensils down between bites, and swallow each mouthful before going for another!

– Sleep – a lack of sleep actually leads to heightened appetite and less feelings of satisfaction after a meal due to its relationship with the hormones Ghrelin and Leptin. Essentially, it reduces the amount of leptin in your body, the “stop-eating” hormone;

– Ensure you are hydrated – Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger, particularly with fruit cravings. Have a glass or two of water, wait a few minutes, then decide if you are truly hungry. Note: it is best to drink away from meals, so as not to dilute digestive enzymes needed to break down food;

– Apple cider vinegar – fights candida and may help with sugar cravings, bloating and stimulation of stomach acid;

Cinnamon – trials ustilising cinnamon as a means for blood sugar stabilisation, particularly in diabetics, have yielded mixed results. However, given the little downside, why not try it in meals. Be sure to choose Ceylon as opposed to Cassia (more common/cheap), due to potential coumarin toxicity;

– Phenylalanine – Is an amino acid thought to help suppress appetite, due to its relationship with the satiety hormone cholecystokinin. Bee pollen and chlorella (can be taken as tablets) are nutritious superfoods, rich in phenylalanine;

– Peppermint tea – may help suppress appetite, and is a lovely way to end a meal. Note: avoid if you are prone to reflux.

 

A love note to Soy…

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is regarding the health of soy foods. I either hear that someone would love to go vegan but wants to avoid soy (which is fine, but also not necessary), or that they wish they “could” consume it, but are worried about relying on it as a source of plant-based protein because of all the negative implications they have heard from someone, somewhere. Regardless, my answer is the same! The right types of soy are unequivocally, a healthful choice. I talk more about the right types below.

Let’s look at the evidence in regard to some major concerns:

Soy contains oestrogen: No it actually doesn’t. It does however contain phytoestrogens (beneficial constituents of plants, also found in flaxseeds). This type of oestrogen “imitator” is not bad, but indeed, beneficial, with its naturally occurring oestrogenic activity. They adapt to what the specific individual needs, raising or lowering oestrogen levels accordingly. Regarding female fertility, a large-scale study at a fertility centre demonstrated improved birth rates in females consuming soy and undergoing fertility treatment. A note on menopause, women dealing with hot flashes found relief from soy products according to this study.

Soy makes men grow breasts: Nooo! Men’s sex hormones, including testosterone remain unaffected by consuming soy products. This study concluded that soy does not “exert feminizing effects on men at intake levels equal to and even considerably higher than are typical for Asian males.” Soy does not adversely effect semen quality, and a study at Harvard University found soy intake had no effect overall on male fertility.

Just so we are clear on this topic, I’d like to point out the ludicrously of these claims by illustrating that the milk from a cow comes from a female animal that has just given birth. Not only is this a much bigger animal than us, with a different hormonal profile, but just as humans, when cows give birth, their oestrogen levels elevate. Therefore, it stands to reason that the concerning source of oestrogen in the diet is cows milk! And so far, I’ve just mentioned the natural oestrogen (due to their recent pregnancy)… think about the hefty doses of synthetic hormones dairy livestock are injected with to increase their milk production! This only adds to the oestrogen load of most cows milk. Yuk!

Cancer growth and recurrence: research appears to indicate soy consumption has a positive effect on preventing or slowing down the growth of cancer. Phytoestrogens (present in soy) act as antioxidants and have anti-proliferative properties to inhibit tumour growth. Among women with breast cancer, soy food consumption has been significantly associated with decreased risk of death and recurrence. This study suggests that greater consumption of isoflavone-containing foods is associated with a reduced risk of endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women. Other analyses have found that soy foods are protective against prostate cancer in men.

Bone health: I hear you, don’t we need dairy to protect against osteoporosis? No, we don’t, and evidence suggests that populations consuming higher amounts of cows milk actually have higher incidence of osteoporosis versus populations who don’t. There are a number of reasons for this, namely, the acidity of the milk causing greater calcium excretion from the body. However, I thought it apt to point out that whilst soy generally does contain less calcium, it contains triple the amount of magnesium, a vital mineral for bone maintenance. Indeed, the latest research suggests soy milk is actually much better for bone health. Interestingly, the beneficial isoflavones (types of phytoestrogens) in soy are thought to inhibit the breakdown of bones. For example the isoflavone Daidzein, is actually used to create the drug ipriflavone, which is used to treat osteoporosis.

Hypothyroidism and soy: Soy products do not cause hypothyroidism and hypothyroid adults need not avoid soy foods. However, the isoflavones  in soy may potentially reduce iodine availability, required for healthy thyroid hormone production. It is therefore suggested that people who consume soy might need slightly more iodine in their diets (which we can get from sea veggies like dulse and nori).

***There is always conflicting evidence and debate around the statistical significance of the findings in such studies. However whether there is no benefit, little benefit, or substantial benefit, I am yet to find a negative finding regarding soy, and that should be the message we hear loud and clear.

At the end of the day, the fear around soy seems to stem from a few sources:

  • The grouping of all soy together – the bad: i.e. concentrated soy proteins and soy-derivatives used to thicken or emulsify products (often non-vegan products too), GMO, non-organic, non-traditional varieties such as highly-processed faux soy meats + the good: i.e. traditional sources of soy, non-GMO and organic such as tempeh, tamari, miso, natto and even a little good quality tofu from time to time is ok. So too is edamame. Combining the good and the bad like this is akin to saying that the questionable ground meat in a fast food chain burger is the same quality as the meat from your local organic butcher (whilst I don’t think either meat is healthy, this is a helpful comparison!);
  • Rare cases of harm due to consumption of ridiculously large amounts of soy on a daily basis;
  • Similar to point 1 above, because soy is grown in ginormous quantities and added to absolutely everything, including often unhealthy packaged foods, it is viewed negatively, similarly to corn. Again, non-GMO and organic varieties in their wholefood form are fine!; and
  • Poorly-conducted research based and/or articles by groups with vested interests e.g. the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF).

 

Soy sources to include:

organic and non-GMO edamame and fermented sources such as tempeh, natto, miso, tamari (easiest to digest and assimilate). Whilst soy milk and tofu are more processed, organic varieties from time-to-time if you really enjoy them are not going to negatively impact your health and should not be feared.

I am not claiming soy to be a miraculous cure-all, I am simply pointing out that there is a lot of good evidence indicating its benefits, and that you should feel confident in including it as part of a plant-rich varied diet (if you so choose). 

 

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