To Detox or Not Detox?

I’m on a mission.

I have one little lingering issue from surviving estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.  I didn’t take a drug my oncologist prescribed seven years ago. The drug basically blocks estrogen production in the body.  Every year I see the doctor, she still asks if I’ll take the drug, which is now supposed to be effective for 10 years. Nope, I say. At the 10 year mark, I’d be on my own, anyway.  I decided to reinforce and tweak my eating habits instead.

I’m on a mission to take my health to another level.

So, why tweak eating habits that have already made me lean? Because I still craved sweets; I had become more agitated and stressed; and sometimes didn’t sleep well. I’ve read a ton of information to figure out which way to go because I’m not a candidate for certain prescription drugs.

I learned there are different types of estrogen and not all are bad. In my oncologist’s view, estrogen is my enemy. Period. But, I think it depends on how it’s metabolized in the body. I decided to go a natural route and balance my hormones through diet and by removing man-made substances in my environment that could disrupt that balance. It sure couldn’t hurt to try.

At the beginning of the year, I signed up for a three-week hormone-balancing detox and seminar offered on this website. The seminar was right on time and what I had been looking for. I liked the instructor’s credentials, her focus on functional medicine, and her own wake-up call that started with her husband’s health crisis. (I also think she favors the Paleo diet.)

The seminar included a few hour-long lectures, a community board for Q&A with the experts, and support during the detox, and recipes. She explained the endocrine system in layman’s terms. There’s a lot of information out there about certain foods and chemicals that can disrupt this system. The endocrine system plays a vital role in whether you develop diabetes or another hormone-related disorder.

Some people debunk the whole notion of detox. They say:

  • There’s no such thing as a food “toxin” because “toxins” are a classification of defined substances, like botulin.
  • Sugar is not a toxin.
  • The liver doesn’t need to be “rested.”
  • Detox supplements are gimmicks; and peddlers of detox services are quacks.

Those arguments don’t get to the reason behind why people may need a detox. They don’t address  the collective adverse effects to our bodies of  highly processed foods, refined sugars, and the abundance of chemicals in our environment.  I agree that the wellness industry has its share of quacks and bad products. But, let’s face it — they’ve successfully played in the wellness market because if we only needed a “magic pill” to make us healthier, we would take it.

It seems to me that we are either absorbing or ingesting substances that are working at cross-purposes with our health. Diabetes is rampant in the U.S., as well as some other parts of the world. Our bodies are letting us know something’s not right. We need to pay attention.

I learned some things that were brand new to me. During the three-week detox, we were asked to eliminate some foods that are Paleo-acceptable, like eggs and fatty meats (like beef and lamb). Dietary suggestions seemed to follow the Paleo diet protocol, but were also very vegan-friendly. Recipes and menus came with the seminar — some of which I liked, and others not so much.  I also did my own thing in the kitchen within the provided guidelines.

Blueberry scones (gluten-free); sweetened with coconut nectar

Blueberry scones made with almond flour (gluten-free); sweetened with coconut nectar

Here’s what I got out of  the three-week detox program:

  • Better ideas for snacks
  • Good information about plastic and food: replacing plastic storage containers for glass, and plastic spatulas and spoons for bamboo or wood
  • High cost of a Paleo-centered pantry
  • Switching to a variety of coconut products and sweeteners; not buying so-called healthy snack foods
  • Smarter grocery-shopping with a list; and less food waste
  • Understanding which foods can spike blood sugar, like dairy (and oatmeal); substituting dairy with unflavored almond milk
  • Passion flower herbal supplement for calming the nervous system
  • Flaxseed meal and tempeh —  estrogenic, but not necessarily bad
  • Magnesium and vitamin B supplements — additional support to the body
  • Wine (sigh) is not necessarily my friend. (I drink it on fewer occasions now.)
  • Sleep — very important
  • Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, arugula, bok choy, and kale
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Red kale

I participated in this online seminar along with 200+ other folk, each of whom had their own concerns about the effect of hormone imbalance on their health. All in all, I’m glad I did this hormone-balancing detox. It was my first step this year on my very personal mission to resolve that last lingering little well-being issue.

What do you think of a diet-based detox?

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Balancing Travel – Part 3 – Albir

Hola, Costa Blanca!

Alicante is about 400 miles south of Madrid on the Costa Blanca. I had no idea that this area was semi-arid and so mountainous. I caught a 7 a.m. flight so I could maximize my first day at the yoga retreat. The sea and mountains were a dramatic change of scenery from Spain’s big city!

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A shuttle van took me to the yoga retreat, La Crisalida, in nearby Albir. When I checked in, the desk manager told me “the hike” would start in 10 minutes, if I was interested. I dropped my bags in the casita I would share with someone; grabbed my camera and water bottle; and was ready to go. The only hikers were John (who owns the yoga retreat with his wife, Lisa) and me.  So, we got to know each other a little bit.

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I didn’t know to where, or how far, we would hike.  We walked through the neighborhood and then followed a path up and around a mountain. The sea views were stunning. About halfway up, John pointed to some little speck in the distance and said we were headed there, to the lighthouse, a gradual three miles up the mountain.  Before he’d even told me that, I had silently noted I was sleep-deprived — having gone to bed very late and gotten up very early to catch the airport bus; hadn’t eaten and was hiking on an empty stomach; and…possibly, wearing the wrong shoes. John was moving at a fast clip, and I wasn’t going to be outdone. I just hoped I wouldn’t get dizzy and fall out on my first day there.

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As it happened, I survived. I took photos of the mountain, the sea, and the lighthouse. The blue of the sea was all I had imagined. I was also impressed with my sneakers!

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When we returned to La Crisalida, I had to wait for lunch time to eat. (Thank goodness for my emergency stash of dark chocolate!) The retreat’s owners and guests all happened to speak English. (I loved being the only American!) Meals were family-style. We had two delicious fresh juices and three amazing vegan meals each day. (La Crisalida’s chef accommodated my gluten-free request. I had notified the retreat in advance.) In turn, I got with the retreat’s  “de-tox” program during my stay and, after that initial moment of desperation, left my stash of dark chocolate alone.

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There were scheduled activities: guests could do anything, or nothing at all. I did everything. Every day, I took two yoga classes; a hike; the rebounding class; meditative watercoloring; and participated in the special evening programs. If it hadn’t been a little cool out, I would have been in the pool, too.

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My stay at the yoga retreat was the perfect antidote to Madrid’s pace, jetlag, and solo travel in a country where I didn’t speak the language. I got along well with my roommate, Alexa (from London), who stayed the whole week. The staff was amazing and so helpful, especially when I struggled with my on-line train reservation to Valencia — not easy to do at all!

I’d return to La Crisalida anytime. I was inspired by the stories other guests shared with me. And, after three days there, I felt refreshed when I left for Valencia.

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Next Stop:  Balancing Travel (Part 4) – Valencia