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Posts from the ‘Toxicity’ Category

How to Detoxify Your Life + tickets now on sale for our “Detox Your Pantry” event in February!

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It’s that time of year – many of us are slowly coming back to ‘reality’ post festive breaks, having hurled ourselves to the close of 2013 and popped out the ‘other side’ full of the best intentions for the year that will surpass all others. For many I realise, this can be a daunting place. With notebooks full of resolutions and steadfast, (albeit often wavering) determination our intentions can soon become an overwhelming prospect.

It is for that reason I want to share with you an article I wrote for the wonderful Aritsan online magazine last year, to help remove any overwhelm you may feel around resolutions associated with ‘detoxifying your life’. I am also very excited to announce the release of tickets to the first in our series of Detox Your Life’ events. ‘Detox Your Pantry’, launches Thursday 13th February in Melbourne. The below article provides an overview of our coming events. Thank you for the overwhelming interest so far – you can pop on over to learn all about our coming event and purchase a ticket right here.

Detox Your Life.

For many of us it takes a rude reality check to get our health and our lives in order. There we are, screaming through life at an increasingly hectic pace, desperately chasing the bottom of our ‘to do’ lists, trying to keep up with a technology fuelled world that has both improved efficiencies and removed simplicity from our lives. We’re consuming foods conveniently processed and packaged to suit our ‘grab and go’ lifestyles, foods marketed by huge brands as health promoting, disease fighting and energy enhancing. We’re juggling everything. At breakfast we’re watching TV, checking social media feeds, glancing at newspapers. Squeezing in time to exercise we’re deafening the experience by ‘plugging in’- to iPhones, iPods and iTouches. The modern world, with all of its advances, is making many of us very sick. For many, it can only be considered a blessing when that reality check strikes.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an illness so debilitating that I was forced to close a business and move interstate to live with my parents. There were off the Richter scale toxicity readings – lead, petrochemicals, mercury and pesticides. Battling with unimaginable fatigue and brain fog, life, as I knew it, came to a halt. I needed to make some serious changes.

I moved to an almost entirely unprocessed and organic whole foods diet, a diet as close to nature as possible, free of refined sugar, gluten and hidden additives. As far as possible, I removed all toxicity from my environment and I embraced activities such as meditation and yoga, activities that would serve to restore my energy and bring stillness and balance into my life.

So what exactly are whole foods?
These are foods that are unrefined and unprocessed, as close to nature as possible. Most significantly whole foods serve to decrease our reliance on supplements. They include fresh fruit and vegetables, unpolished grains, legumes, nuts and seeds – foods full to the brim with fibre, nutrients and disease fighting phytochemicals (often referred to as antioxidants) protecting us from chronic disease. Now I’m not about to sit down and eat a whole cow so an eye fillet is not, strictly speaking a ‘whole food’ but you get the drift (significantly, it is not processed meat, such as sausage). Whole foods also include health promoting good fats such as butter, coconut oil and olive oil. Not included are low fat alternatives (devoid of most of their nutrient content), refined sugar (a substance considered poison by our bodies) and packaged store bought foods such as biscuits, cakes, most breads and fizzy drinks – most of which are laden with preservatives and additives, none of which are doing us any good.

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It is for this reason it’s best to spend less time in supermarkets and more time at markets, buying farm fresh, locally sourced, unadulterated produce. Whole food meals consist predominantly of a protein source (such as chicken, lamb, beef, eggs or fish) and cooked or raw vegetables. For the vegans or vegetarians amongst us, there are quality protein options such as quinoa, legumes or tempeh. Healthy treats can be made from scratch with combinations of nuts, seeds, spices, and natural sweeteners. An exception to my whole foods ‘way’ is 100% whey protein powder, a pure protein source allowing more variety at snack time, such as in my ‘Pretty in Pink’ Beetroot Smoothie.

Detoxifying your life. 
Once you begin to understand the hidden dangers lurking in your bathroom and kitchen cupboards (and on your food) it’s a joy to remove them. Too many of us are ingesting poisonous substances through the food we eat and the washing up liquid we use; we’re lathering them on our skin and in our hair; we’re painting our nails and cleaning our teeth with them. Why choose to clean your kitchen benches and bathrooms with products labelled as poisonous? To commence a toxicity cleanse in your home, simply start in one room and work your way around. Read the back of the products; where there is a harmful warning sign, replace that product with a naturally derived product. If your body cream lists a multitude of ingredients you’ve never heard of it, throw it. The same goes with the food you purchase. Where possible buy fresh, organic, locally sourced food that has not been sprayed to the hilt with pesticides.

Restoring energy and balance.
Finding stillness was one of the biggest blessings for me of all. Slowing down enough to meditate and to feel the benefits in my body and energy levels. Commencing a yoga practise that would gently build my strength and bring my awareness back to my breath. ‘Mindfulness’, ‘living in the now’ or ‘being present’ are words and phrases we hear bantered around more and more and for many these seem unattainable, even baffling. This is simply about doing one thing at a time (like eating, washing the dishes, talking to a friend). When we multi task we invite clutter in and this clutter serves to wear us out. By slowing down, finding stillness and therefore bringing more rest into your life, you will conserve and restore your energy.

Cleaning up your life and your diet is not a project that should happen over night. Start simply by gradually ‘crowding out’ the lesser quality food choices, visiting health food stores and markets over supermarkets, noticing the warning signs on labels. Try hopping out of bed just 15 minutes earlier to sit in stillness and commence a meditation practise. Turn off the TV during dinner and enjoy conversation with your loved ones, whilst you chew your food and appreciate its flavours and textures. Change just one small thing and every single thing changes.

 

Free radical fighting choc-mint and berry smoothie. A ‘tough as’ smoothie.

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This smoothie was the result of a post holiday empty fridge and a strong sense that I needed a hefty dose of free radical fighting antioxidants post a slightly over-indulgent festive season (slightly? Hardly!). Enter my antioxidant powerhouse – a minty choc-berry ‘need a spoon consistency’ smoothie, blended until smooth and creamy and ready for teaspoon dippage (my favourite way to eat a smoothie is not to be able to ‘drink’ it).

“So what are the benefits of antioxidants?” And “why is fighting free-radicals so important to our health” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you.

What are Free Radicals?

Free radicals are produced as part of everyday life.  Even breathing in oxygen is enough to cause the production of free radicals! Under healthy conditions the body has the ability to neutralise these free radicals on its own, but external factors such as pollution, UV radiation, alcohol, chemicals and smoking can cause an overload of free radicals that the body is unable to cope with, leading to damage. It is this damage that is the primary cause of visible and internal aging and can also contribute to inducing illness. Examples of damage caused by free radicals include:

  • joint inflammation
  • eye (and sight) deterioration
  • accelerated aging
  • increased risk of heart disease and certain cancers
  • damaged nerve cells in the brain

The Benefits of Antioxidants.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that neutralise the negative effect of free radicals in our bodies. Oxidation in the body produces these free radicals which in turn cause oxidative stress/damage within the body.  Antioxidants, as their name suggests, are capable of stabilising the free radicals before they cause damage.

As an example of the protective effects of antioxidants, the lycopene in tomatoes may help protect men against prostate cancer, the lutein in spinach and corn may reduce the degeneration of the eye lens, and flavenoids may help to lower the risk of heart disease.

Some of the best overall sources of antioxidants are berries, walnuts, raw cacao, sunflower seeds, pomegranates, and ginger. Just think of these as the super foods of the antioxidant world!

Free Radical Fighting Choc Mint & Berry Smoothie

Handful fresh blueberries
Handful fresh mint
2 frozen strawberries
130g coconut water
1 raw egg (optional, or choice of protein powder)
1 dessert spoon chia seeds
1 heaped teaspoon maca
1 heaped teaspoon ground flaxseed
1 heaped teaspoon raw cacao
1 heaped teaspoon goji berries
1 tablespoon organic natural yoghurt

Simply combine all the ingredients in your blender and whizz it up. Pour into your serving glass and allow to sit for twenty minutes to allow the chia seeds to soften. Voila!

What’s your favourite free radical fighting recipe?

Feeling the festive excess? Here’s 7 naturally liver cleansing foods.

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Okay troops – let’s play an honesty game:

  • Who overindulged over the festive period? (Amy: just a little. Oh ok Mum, you’re right, a bit more than a little).
  • Who’s feeling sluggish? (Amy: me and I need to clean up my act).
  • Who’s jeans shrunk? (Amy: mine. Damn that washing machine ;-))
  • Who’s going to miss their afternoon siestas? (Amy: me, I fell asleep every afternoon with a book. Non-liver related but worth a mention. Damn I’m going to miss that siesta today!).

So, in light of my honest responses, know there is no judgement here! But read on… your liver will love us again I promise.

The primary way in which your body expels toxins is via the liver, which detoxifies and cleanses your body by continuously filtering the blood of poisons that enter it through the digestive tract, the skin, and the respiratory system. But when your liver becomes overworked as a result of stress or excessive exposure to toxins (insert festive excess here), your entire system can be thrown off balance, and in turn your health affected for the worse.

Without a well-functioning liver, your body will be unable to cleanse itself and absorb nutrients, which is a recipe for a health disaster. Dr Karl Maret MD writes about the importance of effective liver function:

“The thousands of enzyme systems that are responsible for virtually every body activity are constructed in the liver, the proper functioning of the eyes, the heart, the brain, the gonads, the joints, and the kidneys, are all dependent on good liver activity. If the liver is impaired from constructing even one of the thousands of enzyme systems the body requires, there is an impairment in overall body function and a resultant greater metabolic stress on the individual.”

So, given a hefty portion of us need to show our livers a little more love right now, we list below seven important foods (and our recipes to inspire you) that you may want to consider incorporating into your diet to get you back on your way to a healthy liver.

7 Naturally Liver Cleansing Foods

1. Garlic.
Garlic contains sulfur-containing compounds that activate the liver enzymes responsible for flushing out toxins from the body. Garlic also contains allicin and selenium, two powerful nutrients proven to help protect the liver from toxic damage, and aid it in the detoxification process.

2. Grapefruit
Grapefruit is rich in natural vitamin C and antioxidants, two powerful liver cleansers. Like garlic, grapefruit contains compounds that boost the production of liver detoxification enzymes. It also contains a flavonoid compound known as naringenin that causes the liver to burn fat rather than store it.

3. Green Tea
Green tea is loaded with catechins, a type of plant antioxidant that has been shown in studies to eliminate liver fat accumulation and promote proper liver function. This powerful herbal beverage also protects the liver against toxins that would otherwise accumulate and cause serious damage.

4. Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables such as arugula, dandelion greens, spinach, mustard greens, and chicory also contain numerous cleansing compounds that neutralize heavy metals, which can bear heavily on the liver. Leafy greens also eliminate pesticides and herbicides from the body, and spur the creation and flow of cleansing bile. Add some extra greens to your diet by juicing them into the ‘softer’ green juice, but be sure to allow the juice to come to room temperature (or at least don’t drink straight from the fridge) to allow for optimum digestion and nutrient absorption.

5. Avocado
Rich in glutathione-producing compounds, avocados actively promote liver health by protecting it against toxic overload, and boosting its cleansing power. Here’s our Overnight Avocado, Coconut & Lemon Cheesecake

6. Walnuts
Walnuts, which contain high levels of l-arginine, an amino acid, glutathione, and omega-3 fatty acids, also help detoxify the liver of disease-causing ammonia. Walnuts also help oxygenate the blood, and extracts from their hulls are often used in liver-cleansing formulas. Why not make yourself a Walnut Brownie Breakfast Mousse for breakfast, a great way to prep yourself for an alert and energised day.

7. Turmeric
Turmeric, one of the most powerful foods for maintaining a healthy liver, has been shown to actively protect the liver against toxic damage, and even regenerate damaged liver cells. Turmeric also boosts the natural production of bile, shrinks engorged hepatic ducts, and improves overall function of the gallbladder, another body-purifying organ. Why not add turmeric to your morning omelette, a THI fave!

A personal word on alcohol and organic wine (and where to buy it).

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I wonder how many of you are wondering why on earth I’d write a post about wine, or alcohol for that matter. I mean isn’t this a wellness site? And where exactly does wine fit into wellness? There is method to my madness, I promise.

Many months ago I wrote a post about coffee and my one a day coffee habit and it was well received. Yes, I gave up coffee during my recovery from CFS because it was not good for my health at all (more specifically, my otherwise exhausted adrenal glands and my overworked/inefficient immune system). I also gave up sugar, all gluten and alcohol. Cold turkey (it was hard). Now recovered I have since softened the alcohol ‘restrictions’ somewhat, whilst remaining sensitive to the effects any of these substances have on my body, and managing that accordingly. These days my quest is for moderation, with a distinct leaning towards restrictive.

But first I’m going to let you in on a secret or two. I am not a purist, I do not aim for perfection in any areas of my life these days. That desperate need for control in my ‘previous’ life saw me crumble – because that very quest for ultra tight discipline is exhausting. So often it’s completely unattainable (and the berating that follows – toxic). I do not aspire to be 100% ‘good’ and quite frankly, why would I, unless I absolutely had to be? I worry for many in this online space – too often in my therapy practice I hear stories of overwhelm from clients doing their very best to be ‘100%’, to be just like many seemingly perfect bloggers or wellness ‘types’ who share a perception of perfection with their followers. Typically they fail, and what then so often follows? Negative self talk, eating disorders, that feeling of failure, of not being good enough.

Which leads me on to the subject of alcohol. My relationship with alcohol used to be far too ‘lax’, I’ll be honest. I went to a university college where learning to scull beer held higher prestige than securing a place on the uni hockey team. Alcohol became a crux, it softened that ‘stuff’ I carried around in my head – self doubt, a feeling of not being good enough/funny enough/smart enough. I was pretty awesome (in my mind) when I was drinking. Sure enough, the day came that my body couldn’t tolerate it any more and I was forced to make serious adjustments to my lifestyle and then, inevitably, my mindset and mental health. The most wonderful result of these adjustments? I simply don’t ‘need’ alcohol anymore…and that is a pretty good place to be.

In case you’re wondering, these days I choose to drink a ‘little’ alcohol. I have long given up mixers so these days I stick to white, red or sparkling wine. I drink one to two glasses in a sitting only. I choose to drink because I really do enjoy it – I love tasting wine, combining it with food, sharing it with friends and family. Having said that I am very careful with it – if my immune system feels compromised I avoid it at all costs. Equally, where possible, I make purchasing decisions that are better for my health. Hence my discovery and continued learning around organic wines.

There are a lot of assumptions around organic wine and I’ve decided to share some learnings with you today, in order to help you make more educated buying decisions. Special thanks to Nicolle from Cellar Organics, whose words we reference and whose organic wine distribution business was built on her desire to better support her ongoing health by drinking wine without repercussions.

Corkscrew, cork and wine stains on wooden background

A word or two on organic wine.

Do you find yourself wondering about organic wine, whether it’s preservative free for example? Perhaps in the lead up to the festive season you might be thinking about making better choices for your health, with no idea where to start. Well the short answer is that unless it’s stated to be ‘no added preservatives’ or ‘preservative free’ wine then no, it’s not.  And what being an organic wine means, with regard to preservatives, is that the wine needs to meet lower allowable limits of Sulphur Dioxide (preservative 220) than for wines produced using conventional practices.

Why organic wine?

Conventional winemaking practice relies on the use of chemicals to protect the health of the fruit in the vineyard.  These chemicals are harmful to the surrounding ecosystem and risk the health of native species, surrounding crops and livestock, local residents and surrounding waterways. There is also a concern that trace amounts of these chemicals may remain on the grapes at harvest, ending up in the final product – being the bottle of wine.  So although they may not necessarily be preservative free, organic wine guarantees that these same chemicals are not present, the sulphite content will be lower, and the environment far less harshly impacted.

Organic wine making practices.

In terms of the happenings on an organic wine vineyard (viticulture), the focus is very much on the health of the soil and the structure of the vines to minimise the use of agricultural input. The physical state of the vines are managed to minimise disease (by promoting air flow through the vine canopies), and pest damage (by using nets and encouraging natural predators). Soils are kept healthy through the use of compost and organic nutrients for fertilisation. Adherence to organic practices means grapes must be grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Most fungicides are also prohibited. To put it simply, anything used in the vineyard must be a naturally occurring, non-poisonous and non-GMO based product.

Now on to the winemaking. During this process the wine is handled in a very similar way to conventional winemaking, with a few key differences. Certified organic wines may not be stabilised using ion exchange methods such as electrodialysis (uncommon in Australia), and additions of inorganic Nitrogen and Copper Sulphate – both of which are in broad use in conventional winemaking. Use of additives derived from genetically modified sources and genetically modified yeast strains are also not allowed. Many winemakers take this to the next step by preferring to use wild yeasts for fermentation, a practice that is employed in both organic and conventional winemaking, but is more prevalent in organic wines.

From the organic wineries’ point of view, the main benefit of organic practices is derived from the viticulture practices used as shown in the previous paragraph; resulting in better quality grapes which becomes better quality wine in the bottle for you.

Where to buy organic wine.

If like me, you enjoy the odd tipple but would rather not bare the brunt of a mouthful of potentially toxic substances, Cellar Organics is a great place to start. Not only is it delivered to your door but you’ll get transparency in service – you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. Cellar Organics chose to stock 3 types of Organic Wines: Organic practices, Organic in Conversion and Certified Organic wine. The majority of their wines fall into the Certified Organic wine category. Wines that are listed as ‘Organic in Conversion’ indicate that the winery is currently adhering to the certification standards, however they have to wait out the period of time (no less than 3 years) prior to receiving full certification.

Why jump in your car when you can order from your couch? Here’s their contact details. Now go and have a safe, healthy, hangover free festive season. Bottoms up people!

My (minimal) tasting notes! 

Recently I received my first selection of wines from Cellar Organics. Needless to say, it’s taking me a while to taste them but so far so good. I asked for a selection so that I could then select multiples of my favourite moving forward. My first bottle was a 2012 Verdelho by Tamburlaine in the Hunter Valley who are Australian Certified Organic. It was delish – I appreciate a white with a good bit of depth and body and this was perfect, pairing beautifully with my lighter dinners. The second was an organic 2009 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre by Maverick in the Barossa – oh hello! It’s a deep ruby red and the palate was rich, fruity and elegant.  It combined perfectly with my barbecue creations. I’ll be sure to stock the cellar with both of these wines moving forward.

Small print
* these views are my personal opinion only, please seek advice from your health practitioner if you are unsure about alcoholic intake for your own health.
* this is a sponsored post. I have chosen to share this information because I believe it is of benefit to many THI followers.

The benefits of Kimchi, and a Kimchi recipe.

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The Benefits of Kimchi

Kimchi is a spicy and tangy fermented food originating from Korea, where it is typically eaten with every meal, thus making it is a day-long family affair. Kimchi works well in fried rice, in spicy kimchi soup, or simply as a side dish. It is a great digestive aid to get the juices flowing before dinner. And, if you have never ventured into the world of fermented foods, Kimchi is a great place to start.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, fermented foods are a very important part of our diet and have been used in many cultures to preserve foods, aid digestion and promote the balance of health bacteria within the gut. Read more about the benefits of Fermented Foods here.

It is important to note that fermented foods (eg kimchi, sauerkraut) differ from cultured foods in that they ferment by way of bacteria naturally present in the food. Cultured foods (eg yoghurt, tempeh, kombucha) add bacteria and require a starter. Both fermented and cultured foods add ‘good’ bacteria to your digestive system, they just do so through differing processes.

With all this talk of bacteria, you’re probably wondering, “…am I going to get ill from this bacteria laden kimchi?” Let me assure you, it is only good bacteria we are talking about, and this recipe is completely safe. Keep it in the fridge once prepared though, ok?!

So, as promised, here is a delicious recipe for kimchi. Adapted from a book by Sandor Ellix Katz “Wild Fermentation”, this recipe was given to me by a delightful Gwinganna Naturopath, Sarah McKenzie, during my recent visit to the extraordinary lifestyle retreat. This is a great project to consider for the weekend as the recipe takes two days to complete.

Pop some on the table as a tasty little side. This kimchi is from Peace Love & Vegetables.
Pop some on the table as a tasty little side. This kimchi is from Peace Love & Vegetables.

Spicy Kimchi Recipe

Sea Salt (or Celtic/Himalayan)
Half a large drum cabbage
12 radishes
2 carrots
1 onion
1 large chilli
1/2 bulb of garlic
3 tablespoons fresh ginger

Mix a brine of about 1 litre of filtered water and salt to taste (approximately 1 tablespoon). Taste as you go and add the salt gradually so as not to over salt. Stir to dissolve. The brine should be salty, yet palatable.

Coarsely chop the cabbage, slice the radishes and carrot (I like to use purple carrots). Let these vegetables soak in the brine overnight, covered with a plate to submerge. At this stage you may ad other vegetable if you so wish (seaweeds, green beans, beetroot etc).

The following day, prepare the herbs and spices. Grate the ginger, chop the garlic and onion, remove the seeds from the chilli and chop finely (or throw them in whole). Kimchi can absorb a lot of spice so go for it! Don’t worry to much about perfecting quantities.

Drain the vegetables that were soaking, and reserve the brine, If the vegetables taste too salty you can give them a quick rinse with cold water. If not salty enough, add more salt and give a good stir.

Mix the vegetables with the ginger/garlic/chilli/onion paste, then pack into clean glass jars (500ml or 1 litre). Pack tightly and press down on the vegetables until the brine rises. If necessary, add a little of the reserved brine to submerge the vegetables. If you chose to screw on the lid at this stage you may want to open it every few days in order to let out some pressure. Or you may chose to cover the top of the jar with a muslin cloth and affix with a rubber band.

Ferment in your kitchen or other warm place. Taste the kimchi every day. After about a week of fermentation, and when the mix tastes ‘ripe’, affix the lid and store in the fridge. Done! This recipe will keep for a couple of months, but let’s face it, it’s quite unlikely to last that long.

Go with your gut. The health benefits of fermented foods.

Yogurt

Transport yourself back to cave-girl times. Life certainly wasn’t a sterile existence. There were no handbag sized sanitising wipes, no pasteurised grass fed milk, no lacto-fermented kimchi, and certainly no sub zero temperatures for safely preserving the meat of your latest kill. In fact, for a significant part of human history, we existed blissfully unaware that bacteria could cause disease.

Fast forward a few hundred thousand years and it has become paramount that all bacteria, germs and microorganisms are eradicated for the sake of optimum health. But perhaps we have gone too far? In the last century, the amount of probiotics and enzymes available in the average diet of the developed world has declined dramatically, and the nutrient rich foods of our ancestors are no longer. All I’m saying is, maybe a little bacteria ain’t so bad?

What are fermented foods?

The term “fermentation” refers to the chemical conversion of sugars into ethanol. For a food to become fermented it will undertake the process of lacto-fermentation, whereby naturally occurring bacteria feed on the starches and sugars in the food creating lactic acid. It is a process that creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics, and at the same time preserves the food and the nutrients within.

Pickled cabbage

The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

Besides the fact that they are deliciously full of flavour, these are some great reasons to consider including fermented foods in your diet:

Aids nutrient absorption
The consumption of fermented food and drink introduces beneficial bacteria into your digestive system. A gut with a healthy balance of bacteria and digestive enzymes will be equipped to absorb more nutrients from food. Pair this with a whole food focused diet, and you will find supplements and vitamins will not be necessary!

Boosts immunity
When bad bacteria overwhelms friendly bacteria within the gut, maldigested food particles and fungus begin to spread around the body, an occurrence often referred to as ‘leaky gut syndrome’. This in turn creates internal inflammation, which can lead to autoimmune disorders – including Addison’s disease, Celiac, Multiple sclerosis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Type I diabetes, Lupus, etc.

Detoxification
Fermented foods are potent detoxifiers, capable of drawing out a wide range of heavy metals. Beneficial gut bacteria work by attracting mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenate, and other toxicities and anti-nutrients, and carry them until they are eliminated (out the other end!).

Glowing skin
Through the process of detoxification your skin improves too. When you decrease the toxic and bad bacteria load, it alleviates pressure on the body, allowing detox efforts to focus elsewhere. Now, connective tissue is able to repair and heal. Acne, psoriasis, eczema, and other chronic skin conditions can clear, and the beautiful subtle coloring in your face will radiate from inner health.

Weight loss

Fermented foods find a place in weight loss as they are stabilizing for blood sugar. This serves to balance appetite, leaving you feeling satisfied after a meal for longer. Fermented foods also promote a more even and steady release of insulin meaning the body doesn’t store fat.

pH Balance
Acidic pH levels in the body lead to weight gain and disease. The optimal pH level of your body should be between 7 and 7.25, however eating an excess of processed sugar, meat, dairy, saturated fats, alcohol and caffeine will lower that level (increase acidity). Fermented foods bring the pH levels back into balance. In an overly processed acidic world, this is very important.

Mental clarity
The digestive system and the brain are intrinsically linked. Any brain dysfunction is usually connected to the health of the digestive system, and it is common for mental ailments to be addressed first in the gut. You may be familiar with the phrases, “what’s your gut feeling?”, “trust your gut instincts”… our gut is our second brain, trust your gut.

Food preservation
Fermentation allows foods to stay edible for longer. And out of all the food preser­va­tion tech­niques, fermentation is the only type that does not destroy nutrients and at the same time enhances others. Omega 3 fatty acids, detox­i­fy­ing agents and many B vit­a­mins includ­ing folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thi­amin, and biotin are all preserved through fermentation. Nutrients and food preservation in one, we love that!

As for recommendations on fermented foods, Sauerkraut is a great option, if you can tolerate dairy then try a full fat Greek style yoghurt (or even make your own), Kefir is also another possibility, as is Kombucha.

And of course, don’t think you’re escaping without a recipe! Stay tuned, tomorrow we feature a delicious and simple recipe for Kimchi.

*A little note from Amy: this highly informative article was written by Sarah Elizabeth John, my very clever and indeed particularly helpful PA).

The Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat (that has me hooked) + a beautiful GIVEAWAY!

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So there I was, a few days into my 5 night stay at the Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, mindfully enjoying my delicious organic salad, when a guest to my left pipes up and says “Amy, when you get home, perhaps you’d better edit an old post you wrote about never spending big bucks on health retreats.” My reaction? “Noooo…I wouldn’t have said that!”. Out came someone’s phone, up came the blog post I wrote earlier in the year, and low and behold…I swallowed both my words AND my lunch!

My words exactly:“….my life is usually one big detoxification process these days. I own a Far Infra-Red Sauna (you can read about that here), I eat organic foods, I drink detoxifying green juices every day, as far as humanly possible I avoid toxic chemicals on my skin, in my hair, in my home. It’s not likely you’ll see me paying big bucks to go to a health retreat.”

Seriously, words swallowed (and all apologies to Gwinganna). I am a new woman and I’ll tell you why in a sec.

Firstly, let me introduce you to this incredible destination. Gwinganna is Australia’s only Eco Tourism health retreat, located in the Hinterland of the Gold Coast. Perched on top of a plateau, it is surrounded by stunning ocean and valley views that leave you feeling like you’re a million miles away from anywhere. Amongst a multitude of other things, you are blessed with beautiful mountain air, a distinct lack of (any) traffic and a feeling of utter serenity and stillness (unless of course you’re engaged in a ‘yang’ physical activity that has your sides hurting from laughter and your lungs screaming from exertion). Gwinganna offers a variety of programs to suit the needs of the ‘freshers’ like me and the multitudes of returning guests who know a good thing when they find it.

Having recently completed a 30 day cleanse, I chose not to attend a detox program (that’d be just cruel), but instead to join their 5 night Optimum Wellbeing program: “This retreat will help you to cleanse your body and to empower yourself by first assessing and then discovering solutions to improve your quality of life. Using integrative health techniques, this journey provides the opportunity to balance essential areas of your lifestyle.” 

So you may ask why I decided to go to a health retreat, when let’s be honest, from the outside looking in, my lifestyle does look pretty healthy (as per my now word-swallowing quote above). Well the fact is, it hasn’t been as healthy as it may actually appear. Up until last week (because as I said, I am now a changed woman), there was a distinct lack of balance in my life. The food I get pretty right, same goes for clean living. The bit I battle with is balance, more specifically rest, play and stillness. My wonderful new career has me racing around battling ever expanding ‘to do’ lists; social media demands that could have me up all night; an inbox that flows to abundance 24/7..and an addiction to technology that has me wired and engaged all day every day. So you can imagine my delight when I read that laptops and mobiles were considered ‘contraband’ – how’s that for cold turkey!

I’ve decided to share with you a typical day in the life of a Gwinganna guest, to give you a feel for the level of activity you can choose to be involved in (or not, as the case may be). I must stress, none of this is mandatory. It is entirely up to you how much or how little you would like to participate.

5.30am: the suns up and with a knock on your door there’s a cheery voice prompting you to hop out of bed (it is broad daylight, please do not be scared off by the ungodly (for some) hour!

There we are, on the hill overlooking the most glorious view, practising Qigong.

There we are, on the hill overlooking the most glorious view, practising Qigong. Photo credit, my new friend and fellow guest, Jackie 🙂

6.00am: Overlooking the incredible valley and coastal views we learn and practise the ancient art of Qigong, a moving meditation.

7-8.00am: The guests select a Yin walk (gentle paced) or a Yang walk (heart pumping, lung busting – serious hills!).

8-9.00am: Breakfast, in all of its organic, caffeine free, whole food, as-nature-intended-it glory.

9-11.00am: Thirty minutes of light stretching to be followed by your choice of Yin or Yang activities. These may include yoga, palates or creative dance (Yin) or boxing, spin or fit ball classes (Yang) – there is always a fabulous selection.

11-11.30am: Morning tea. SO yum. Think tahini balls, smoothies or fresh young coconuts.

11.30-1.00pm: A hugely educational seminar with topics covering anything from nutrition, mind mechanics, colonic health…you name it. These totally surpassed my expectations. All the speakers are highly qualified and fantastic speakers to boot.

1-2.00pm: Wohoooo it’s lunch time! Oh so good. Raw salads fresh from the garden, beautiful soups, fish off the barbie..I was kept very happy!

2-6.00pm: The much loved ‘dreamtime’. Time for you to do whatever your body and mind needs most – to rest in your room, to lie by the pool (my choice), to while away hours in their amazing day spa (with a spa menu bigger than your phone book, assuming you don’t live in Sydney), having acupuncture, massages, manicures, body scrubs, hot stone massages, kinesiology, you name it!

Gwinganna Lifestyle Resort - Gwinganna Gym , March 2008.

4.00pm: Afternoon tea. Again, always yum. Think crunchy crudités, raw crackers and yummo dips.

6-7.00pm: Meditation class anyone? Perhaps a functional movement class…whatever the case it’s a gentle hour.

7-8.00pm: Dinner with your fellow guests. There’s always a vegetarian option and for the meat eaters amongst two night with red meat on offer.

The food. OH THE FOOD!

The food. OH THE FOOD!

Did I love it? With every ounce of my being! And this is what I loved:

  • Meeting and befriending other amazing guests, all with a story and something interesting to share. It was the most beautifully positive group of people and I was particularly glad I had attended the retreat on my own.
  • The hugely talented staff, all of which were totally authentic and passionate about their work (it seriously shows)
  • The opportunity to totally disconnect from the world – I switched off as I arrived and back on as I left. I was blissfully unaware of the outside world.
  • The day spa…oh the day spa! It is incredible and don’t get me started on the treatments. Actually you can. If you go…try the Sound and Stone treatment – oh my goodness – a hot stone massage timed and choreographed with music by an amazing therapist, it was out of this world.
  • The food – just amazing. Gluten free, sugar free (bar fruit) and organic. Most of it comes fresh out of the ground in their own beautiful veggie patch, tended lovingly by a hugely talented chef turned gardener, Shelley.
  • The pools (yep, there are two infinity pools). It’s hard to describe the feeling in the water. They feels as fresh and clean as spring water. Glorious.
  • My bed. I was out like a light by 9pm and wide awake at 5am, every day. Slept like a baby and woke up feeling incredible.
  • The quality of the information shared in the seminars. This program looks into all facets of your life style, there is SO much to learn.

There are so many reasons why I loved this experience but the proof in the pudding (don’t get excited, there WAS no pudding) was the way I felt as I hopped back onto the bus on departure. I had this amazing sense of vitality and calm; I felt totally balanced with energy I had not felt for some time; there was a feeling of absolute nourishment reflected in the whites of my eyes, the glow on my skin and a smile on my face that I couldn’t wipe off. I honestly cannot wait to go back (soon).

IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME! 

One very lucky THI follower is going to secure a copy of this absolutely gorgeous recipe book, A Taste of Gwinganna…from garden to gourmet. Here’s a little excerpt from Gwinganna:

“The very first book from the team at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in the Gold Coast hinterland, ‘…from garden to gourmet’, is a celebration of delicious and healthy organic cuisine for every meal of the day. Over 140 pages, it uses organic ingredients to create simple options that can be created at home.The recipes are all directly from the menus at Gwinganna and have been developed in conjunction with Gwinganna’s nutritionists. The book also features information to help you live healthier and nutritional tips for each dish. Beautifully photographed, the book is a valuable guide toward optimal wellness. If you want to eat healthier and have more energy, then this book is for you.”

Valued at $59.95, this is a must have addition to your recipe book collection. To win this book, simply tell us in 20 words or less why you’d love it. The winner will be chosen post 4pm on Monday 28th October.

Conditions: you must be a THI follower and reside in Australia. 

Recipe Ebook Cover