December 2007 Ageless herbal newsletter
The festive season is upon us and as usual there is an array of delicious and yummy goodies available, which usually leads to the inevitable weight gain, which then leads to frantic dieting and New Year resolutions about increased exercise and correct living, as we all try to fit comfortably into our clothes again.
Many of us know this “gorge/diet/exercise” cycle very well - a sort of extended undiagnosed bulimia (without the vomiting), as we seem to follow this pattern year after year.
Human nature is such that we are always looking for a quick fix to our problems and weight gain has been a big problem for centuries - which has led many so called “experts” to try and make a quick buck out of our fat.
These days there are a confusing number of quick fix diets available, most of which tout an amazing result within a couple of weeks - a totally “new you”, revitalized and full of energy, “detoxified” and ready to go.
Most of us have either experienced or been told of people losing an amazing amount of weight through following a restrictive diet with special ‘shakes, pills or other “magical” potions, but have seen that the weight does not stay “lost”, as most people usually return to their normal eating pattern after following the diet and the fat starts to pack on again.
Many people believe that this yo-yo cycle of weight gain and loss leads to an increased collection of toxins in the body (probably from the junk in all the fabulous diet formulas), resulting in the increased formation of cellulite. It is also known that suddenly starving yourself leads to the body obtaining energy from lean muscle tissue, which causes the deterioration of muscle mass, which does lead to weight loss, but leaves the body weak, looking un-toned and flabby – not really achieving the desired effect at all!
However, it has been reported that a very restrictive diet would be prescribed by a doctor or dietician in extreme cases, such as when a person is overweight and in need of an operation and where their obese state of health does not allow them to be placed under general anesthetic.
Almost all registered dieticians warn against this style of eating and advocate a daily balanced eating plan, which includes correct portions from all of the food groups, while limiting excess consumption of animal fats and plant and animal oils.
Another type of eating plan also gains popularity every now and again – the Detox Diet.
Proponents of the Detox diet are split into different groups:
There are those that believe that normal living in our hostile environment leads to a collection of toxins in our bodies, through eating artificial food additives and flavorings, drinking alcohol, soft drinks, smoking etc.
Proponents of this belief follow a very restrictive diet every few months or once or twice a year. It is believed that this diet will help to flush toxins from the system and therefore lead to an increase in energy, good health and vigor.
This diet usually prohibits the use of alcohol, normal tea, coffee, milk, all soft drinks and the eating of any animal products, sugar, starches or carbohydrates.
The diet regimen usually follows a water fast for a day, followed the next three days by eating one selected fruit, such as watermelon, pawpaw, melon etc. (Water-rich fruits are normally the best to us)
On the other hand, commercial drinks are often advertised as being a quick-fix detox-diet, but if you want to do it properly – then it is best to stick to the one-day water-fast and three day fruit diet for the best results. The three-day period of just fruit is long enough to rid the body of toxins, while causing no problems due to the very restricted nature of the diet, since it is only followed for three days.
Most people find that they feel absolutely dreadful in the beginning stages of this detoxification process. Aches, pains, cramps, furry tongue, bad breath, headache, irritability, lassitude and fatigue are common symptoms.
Susan Moores, R.D., a nutrition consultant and spokesperson for The American Dietetic Association states: “While believers claim they feel lighter and more energetic, studies on starvation show the longer you fast, the more lethargic and less focused you become. Because most of these diets contain very little protein, it can be difficult for the body to rebuild lost muscle tissue.”
Dr. Nasir Moloo, a gastroenterologist with Capitol Gastroenterology Consultant Medical Group in Sacramento, California states: ” “There’s no evidence that these types of diets are necessary or helpful. While there are medical conditions that interfere with organ function and prevent the body from clearing toxins, healthy people already have a built-in detoxification system — the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin.”
Professor Alan Boobis OBE, Toxicologist, Division of Medicine, Imperial College London states that "The body’s own detoxification systems are remarkably sophisticated and versatile. They have to be, as the natural environment that we evolved in is hostile. It is remarkable that people are prepared to risk seriously disrupting these systems with unproven ‘detox’ diets, which could well do more harm than good."
The writer personally finds that this type of diet does help to focus his will-power and helps to get him back on the road to a healthy and correct eating plan, especially after he has strayed during his Christmas season, so regardless of what the fundi’s say, it may be a good thing to follow a detox diet – if only to focus the will power and prove resolve!
People with medical problems, as well as children and the elderly must first consult with their doctors before going on such a diet – just to be on the safe side.
The other group of proponents of the Detox diet believe that eating an almost vegan diet is the way to go. No animal products are consumed in this lifestyle diet, no fast foods, no fizzy drinks. Protein is obtained from nuts, avocado pears etc.
Good health, vitality, longevity and an active mind are thought to be promoted by this diet, which is based on the belief that if you don’t eat or drink anything that may contain obvious toxins, your body has a much better chance of getting rid of any toxins that you may come into contact with.
Critics of this lifestyle point out that many fruits and vegetables may contain more toxic chemicals then are found in animal products, but it must be pointed out that the whole idea of this type of lifestyle is to avoid over-burdening the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin with toxins and that it has not been proven that a person is unable to obtain all the correct nutrients for healthy living from this type of lifestyle.
While on the subject of detoxification – certain herbs and vegetables have been studied and are known to eliminate toxins from the body regardless of whether a Detox diet is followed:
Fennel is delicious when added to a salad and is also considered a very tasty complement to fish dishes.
While being tasty, it is reported in many publications to be a “fat-fighting” herb, which relieves flatulence and colic, stimulating the digestion and in so doing pepping up the metabolism. Fennel is included in many over-the-counter preparations to relieve colic, indigestion and as a supplement to support a calorie restricted diet. Fennel has been reported to be a toxin fighting herb for centuries.
This common herb with its heady aroma is widely used in cooking and provides wonderful flavor to tomato based dishes.
Basil has been used for ages to treat diseases of the heart, brain, lungs and bladder and many herbalists report it to increase vitality when infused as a tea.
Basil is also reported to help detoxify the body and improve poor digestion, relieving stomach complaints, while perking up your spirits.
Celery is commonly used in Detox diets to help detoxify the body and is also considered to soothe stiffness, rheumatism and fatigue. It makes an excellent stimulant, cleansing the blood, helping the bladder and kidneys to excrete waste effectively.
Many books specializing on the study of herbs report celery to be helpful as a diuretic, lowering blood pressure as a result and also to have anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it beneficial for people suffering from arthritis.
This highly decorative herb gives many dishes a subtle and delicious flavor. Herbalists use parsley to regulate acidity, lower blood pressure, prevent renal gravel (stones), prostate problems, fight tumor-cell growth and as a natural anti-biotic.
Parsley is high in iron (which is an essential trace element – used in the creation of red blood cells) and is a potent detoxifier as it stimulates and soothes the kidneys, bladder and digestive tract, while being an excellent and gentle natural laxative.
Olive oil is very well known as an oil used in cooking and as a base for salad dressings. The delicious fruit of the olive tree is also used in cooking and salads but the leaf is mostly used in herbal medicine.
The olive leaf is known to contain secoiridoids (oleuropein is one), triterpenoids, sterols, flavonoids and various other phenolic acids, but the main constituent in the leaf, which is usually discussed in research, is oleuropein.
Oleuropein, which is broken down in the body to form elenolic acid, is reported in clinical studies to be a powerful anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-fungal agent.
Elenolic acid (Oleuropein) is shown to interfere with the production of essential amino acids contained in viruses and bacteria, as it destroys the outer wall of these germs and therefore stops them from multiplying and kills them off.
Although some do not believe that following a detoxifying diet is beneficial, the inclusion of certain herbs, such as olive leaf extract, parsley, fennel, basil and celery in the diet seems to be advisable, as they all help to stimulate the digestion, prevent heartburn and help the body kill germs and remove toxins.