Category Archives: Body

The Scam that is Detox!

It occurred to us the other day that there is a word being bandied about, that doesn’t make sense. How can a shampoo “detox” hair, especially since hair is dead matter anyway? How can a detox kit make anyone loose that last frustrating inch of fat that just will not go away? Something is very very wrong – indeed it’s true, the word “detox” has been hijacked!

In the world of medicine, detox has only one meaning – it refers to weaning addicts off drugs, alcohol or eliminating poisons that have been ingested/injected. In alternative medicine the word detox has been come to include pills, powders, supplements, kits, diets, magic drinks, colonic irrigation, and yes, even shampoos and body brushes. What is troubling is that, no two companies selling “detox” products use the same definition (as say – crazy thought here – outlined by the Oxford English Dictionary). Conventional detox can be life saving; in alternative medicine, detox is a scam.

Detox products refer to the large number of toxins anything from cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes and pesticides to caffeine, alcohol and medicinal drugs. They talk of how these accumulate in the body, and of the extra burden this places on our natural detoxification mechanisms. And they point the finger at this toxic overload as being behind a host of ills including constipation, bloating, flatulence, poor digestion, heartburn, diarrhoea, lack of energy and fatigue.

Claims on detox products include “improve the functioning of your digestive system”, “flush away potentially harmful toxins from your system” and generally give your body a “spring clean” and “improve your general health and wellbeing and leave you feeling revitalised”. But in 2005, report from the Voice of Young Science Network (VoYS), reviewed 15 products from bottled detox-water to face scrubs and concluded that:

“…at worst, some detox diets could have dangerous consequences and, at best, they were a waste of money”.

This report was the topic of a discussion between Dr Ben Goldacre and the managing director of Detox-in-a-Box on the Today programme on Radio BBC 4. When asked if we ever need to detoxify, Dr Goldacre responded with an emphatic “No”. He went on to explain:

“..it is a purification ritual, it’s symbolic. The idea that you can fix things in just a month of healthy eating…is…dangerous because it means that people will imagine they are doing something quite useful for their lives when actually they’re not.”

There’s a grain of wisdom in detox diets, according to Jackson-Blatner. It’s true that the average person doesn’t drink enough water or consume enough fruits and vegetables.

“The problem is most detox diets are so restrictive that they’re ineffective for long-term use. And any weight loss that occurs during the diet is likely to be temporary. When people think about losing weight, they think about losing fat,” she says. “But this is water lost and water gained.”

Detox dieters may report a variety of benefits, but none can be traced to the idea of detoxification. Fewer headaches can be traced to other lifestyle changes such as reduction in alcohol and caffeine intake. Clearer skin can result from improved hydration, and less bloating could be a result of eating less food. Some detox dieters report a boost in energy and even a sense of euphoria. But doctors say that the feeling — also commonly reported by people who are fasting — is actually a reaction to starvation. It likely evolved as a way to help a person evade threats and locate food. There’s something to be gained from avoiding large quantities of alcohol, smoke, junk food, or anything to excess, Moderation is best, but these regimens are anything but moderate.

The use of laxatives in detox diets also raises red flags among dietitians, as laxative abuse is commonly associated with eating disorders. The belief that laxatives are useful for weight control is a myth, the National Eating Disorders Association notes. In fact, laxative abuse can cause severe dehydration and heart or colon damage, the association says.

“Colonic irrigation, another fixture of some detox diets, carries the risk of bowel perforation or infection, both of which can cause death.”

Detox diets promise a quick fix, but are in fact just another scam. “You can change your life in 10 days — but not through the Master Cleanse. Instead, use those 10 days to make the transition to a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables — and then stick to that diet for good.” Says Peter Pressman, MD an internal medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He adds that the science behind the detox theory is deeply flawed. The body already has multiple systems in place — including the liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract — that do a perfectly good job of eliminating toxins from the body within hours of consumption.

In other words: If you are in eating foods which are bad, a branded pill or juice cannot save your liver from alcohol, your lungs from smoke or your face from make-up, pollutants in the air or over exposure to the sun.. If you eat naturally the body will take care of itself and if you do fill it with toxins there is no miracle cure to remove them that’s left to your over worked specialist detox organs.

All you can do is avoid those things known to be toxic such as alcohol, tea and coffee (in ecxess) and anything with caffeine in it. Real “evils” are the big bad tripple score “whites” white flour, sugar and yes … salt. Too much dairy, all processed and junk foods, all processed carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta are also on that list.

Instead of “detoxing” just try doing some of these: Eating raw vegetables, unsweetened fruit juices, brown rice, lean chicken and turkey, fish and drink plenty of water and you will be getting healthy foods that put a minimum of strain on your organs. Milk thistle to help liver function, soy BIO-K to boost probiotics in the gut.

In conclusion: Your body can detoxify itself but you can help with healthy living, thus aiding your organs to do what they were designed to do without the help of a pill. When it comes to detox products, in the words of Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst from their book Trick or Treatment; the only substance that is being removed from a patient is usually money”.

Related sites worth the read here and here.

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The Romance of Snowshoes

Liking it or not (as we return from a scuba diving trip in the Cayman islands it’s more “not” at this time) winter has arrived. In our usual desire to find something inexpensive, fun and easy to do together … something that builds intimacy (i.e. not a group sport) and can lead to wonderful romantic moments… we tried snowshoeing.

The first time we tried snowshoeing as a couple, there were big fat snowflakes the size of moth balls falling from the sky. We grinned from ear to ear as we swished, swashed and sloshed through the new fluffy powder. Sticking tongues out like a small kids to taste the snow. We quickly learned to never walk briskly with snowshoes while trying to catch falling snowflakes in your mouth. Why you ask? One moment you’ll be gazing at a perfect winter sky, the next you’ll be a face-plant casualty.

The experience was wonderful and reminiscent of cheesy “Kodak” moments. We enjoyed everything from nature “showing off” as squirrels, deer, snow owls and other northern climate survivors displayed the true meaning of winter beauty. We stopped in awe at an icicle formation between two trees that rivalled the tallest chimney and gleamed like a diamond in the winter sun. The crisp blue sky and large clouds made the entire moment feel like a fairy tale as we sat in the snow and tried to point out shapes and images from the white fluff above our heads. We kissed under a snow laden pine, tossed snowballs in mock war and sipped hot chocolate from a thermos making every kiss and hug a delectable one.

If you are thinking of those big wooden snowshoes, think again. Snowshoeing has come a long way baby! Modern snowshoes are made of lightweight aluminum (or plastic alloys) and some recent models even have spring-loaded systems that snaps the snowshoes back to your feet after each step. It’s great if a little unnerving at first. While modern versions are skinnier than classic models and are less awkward to use, it is important to remember that the larger the base the more flotation you’ll have in the snow.

Most modern brands also come with prongs beneath the balls of the feet and heels, or along the edges making it easier to descend hills, while teeth along the edges are essential for moving sideways up an incline.

One great aspect of snowshoeing is that it’s easy to learn. In fact everyone can do it and it’s relatively cheap. There’s no travel cost – you can do it at the park near your home! You don’t need to take lessons either although – turning around and getting up after a fall are basic skills you’ll need. The easiest way to get up is to roll on your front and push yourself into a kneeling position. From your knees you can then use your arms to push yourself back up to your feet. Ski or hiking poles can be useful in this situation but we don’t use them preferring to have a “hands free” approach for winter photography, snowball tossing, pointing, helping the other up if needed and of course … holding hands.

To turn around, lift one foot and place it at a 90-degree angle in front of the other (forming a T with your feet). Then shift your weight and bring the other snowshoe alongside. Do it again to make the full turn. On moderate hills keep your feet pointing straight ahead, and as you step up, transfer your weight on the front of your uphill snowshoe to create traction. When descending, weight the heel of your foot as you step down. On steeper inclines you may need to kick more aggressively into the slope and then stamp your feet a few times to create a solid platform before finishing the step. Or … slide down the hill on your ass – our personal favourite.

For those still obsessing about exercise and weight lose, here is a great tidbit of information. A recently conducted study (we can’t recall by whom or where) found that breaking trail over flat and varied terrain at about 5 km per hour burns about 600 calories an hour if you put your ass into it. You see, exercising in the cold is a great way to lose weight because our bodies burn more calories just trying to stay warm. The same study showed that participants burn twice as many calories while snowshoeing as they do walking at a similar speed and it’s a lot easier on the knees.

If you have a love for hot chocolates this may well be your way to earn one guilt free!

Do us both a favour however, and be smart. Don’t go into mountainous terrain where avalanche hazards are a problem. If you’re planning to go there you’ll need to attend an avalanche course, carry the proper rescue equipment, and know how to use it. Get a guide for something like that. Honestly, it’s worth it! And try and remember that daytime temperatures can plummet at startling speeds, so snowshoe with a buddy, and give yourself time to get back to “base” (your home or car) before dark.

Try it once and you might just get hooked. Now …. On to dog sledding!

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Bouillabaise

yumminthetumTHE DISH  know as bouillabaisse was created by Marseille fishermen. Rather than using the more expensive fish that would bring in a larger profit, they cooked any fish and shellfish that they pulled up with their catch that were too bony to serve in restaurants, cooking them in a cauldron of sea water on a wood fire and seasoning them with garlic and fennel. Tomatoes were added to the recipe in the 17th century, after their introduction from the America.

In the 19th century, as Marseille became more prosperous, restaurants and hotels began to serve bouillabaisse to upper-class patrons. The recipe of bouillabaisse became more refined, with the substitution of fish stock and the addition of saffron. Bouillabaisse spread from Marseille to Paris, and then gradually around the world, adapted to local ingredients and tastes.

Three of the best-known restaurants in Marseille for traditional bouillabaisse are Le Miramar, on the Vieux Port; Chez Fonfon, at 140, Vallon des Auffes, and the Grand Bar des Goudes, Rue Desire-Péléprat.

The name bouillabaisse comes from the method of the preparation – the ingredients are not added all at once. The broth is first boiled (bouillir) then the different kinds of fish are added one by one, and each time the broth comes to a boil, the heat is lowered (abaisser).

But we have found an amazing way to make this wonderful dish in the slow cooker!

Here are the ingredients (serves 8):

1/2 cup of olive oil

1 carrot, chopped

2 onions, chopped

2 leeks cut small

1 clove of garlic, crushed

3 filets of fish cut in 3 inch pieces (flounder, red mullet, whiting, sole, haddock, perch or whitefish)

2 large tomatoes cut in pieces or 1 cup canned tomatoes

1 bay leaf

2 cups fish stock, clam juice or water

½ cup shrimp, crab or lobster meat cooked or canned

1 small bag of frozen sea food (muscles, squid, octopus …)

1 package frozen mussels in the shell (optional)

Few grains of saffron

Juice of 1 lemon

And MOST important!! 1 cup of dry white wine!

1 tablespoon chopped parsley and/or fennel

Season to taste (salt, pepper and if you wish ½ cup pimientos cut small)

Toss the whole kit and caboodle into the slow cooker (except for the frozen muscles in the shell and parsley/fennel).

Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.  You can eat it as is – but if you want to make it really “authentic” before its done – add the frozen muscles.  The instructions on the bag will let you know how long they need to “open”.  Some are a little pre cooked others not.  Toss into the finished bouillabaisse in the slow cooker; put the lid back on until the shells open.

And Voila! Place in bowls and sprinkle the parsley/fennel on top and serve. 

This is a dish our guests fight over for the last drop.  We make the entire batch and eat it fresh out of the slow cooker for dinner (eating all the muscles in the shell – they don’t keep or store well) and the rest gets put in Tupperware (with screw lids) and frozen.  This is easily warmed up on the stove or microwave and tastes just as good. 

If you love seafood we know you’ll love this!  Enjoy!

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The Art of Stretching!

No that's not us ...THAI MASSAGE is sometimes called the lazy man’s yoga because of the yoga-like poses which the massage therapist quite literally guides your body into. It’s a form of body work based on the principles of yoga and Ayurvedic medicine and is sometimes called Thai yoga massage in the West.

The stretching performed during a Thai yoga session is “dance-like”, yet requires you to expend no energy of your own. You simply lie on the mat while the practitioner gently pulls, folds, and presses your body using his or her own body weight, legs, and arms to enhance the stretch. Because of this close proximity to your massage therapist, you may at first feel a little uncomfortable by the intimacy of it. But you’ll soon find how wonderful it is as you relax into a stretch in a more effective manner.  Since you aren’t engaging your muscles the way you might during yoga all you need to do is close your eyes and breathe.

There should be no pain as the practitioner feels when your body can’t go further. We find it’s almost trance inducing if you have a good practitioner, or as we refer to it a good “dance partner”.

So why bother? What are the benefits? To name a few and starting with the most obvious how about increased range of motion and flexibility? The Chinese often say “To be stiff is to be dead”. Thai massage also reduces stress, pain and swelling. I’m not an expert but I’ve seen it work for a few friends that were chronically suffering from one or all of those. Increased blood and lymphatic circulation are also benefits. All that to say: You’ll feel fantastic.

Thai yoga massage is performed one-on-one and can last anywhere from 60 minutes to two and a half hours. The practitioner will apply acupressure by using their thumb or palm on ten major energy lines (sen lines) on the body, and will then place or position you in a variety of stretches. You’ll end up sitting, on your side, or ass up in the air (ever so elegantly) more than once. You’ll be tempted to hold in your fart – and we promise you’ll likely need to – just let it out or it will ruin the entire experience for you. A little moment of embarrassment is well worth the pay off.

Unlike traditional massage, Thai yoga massage requires you to be fully clothed, wearing loose and comfortable clothing, while lying on a thin mat on the floor. Yoga clothing is ideal.

Now the hard part – Finding a Thai master!

Currently, no formal certification is needed to become a Thai yoga massage therapist, so it is buyer beware.

It’s “new” to the Western hemisphere and not main stream. Only a few schools can be found outside of Thailand where most practitioners of Thai yoga massage still need to go to learn from the masters – some spend years perfecting the craft.

Word of mouth is still the way to go unfortunately, but once you have found one, ask the therapist what sort of training they have had and how long they have been practicing. Ideally, the practitioner should have completed at least an 80-hour program and have 15 to 20 massages under their belt. If you’re into alternative medicine your acupuncturist or naturopath may be able to assist in your search.

This therapeutic method offers the best stretch we have ever experienced. Try it once and you’ll be hooked and that’s a promise. We love it so much we are very seriously tempted to go to Thailand and learn the art of Thai Massage from a master so that we can “dance” together.

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