june/july 2014

June/July Health Tips

Q I’ve never been a great sleeper, but lately I’ve been particularly restless. I’m not a fan of those prescription sleeping aids, but are there quality natural remedies that could help me catch some shut eye?
Diego via instinctmagazine.com

A Before we discuss remedies, have you identified the cause of your sleep issues? If not, start by evaluating how you deal with a common cause of insomnia—stress. Do you practice relaxation exercises or meditation regularly? How do you take care of your body? Regular exercise can improve your quality of sleep (but working out too close to your bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep). Consider your eating habits. I would recommend that you don’t eat too close to bedtime and skip rich, heavy food at dinner, like fried foods, red meat, cheese, cream or butter and shellfish. Avoid foods that have stimulating effects—coffee, tea and other beverages containing caffeine, as well as energizing ingredients like cinnamon, rosemary, mint, hot pepper, ginger, mustard and nutmeg. After dinner, it’s preferable to wait at least an hour and a half before going to bed. And try to go to sleep at a regular time each night.

There are a few herbal remedies that could help, depending on your level of anxiety and insomnia, and you can take them in pills, tinctures or teas (my preference). For light sleeping disorders and nervousness, lavender flowers (Lavandula officinalis) and orange blossom and leaves (Citrus aurantium) would be useful. California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a great calming herb to combat stress and anxiety. Black horehound (Ballota nigra) provides a better sleep and calms heart palpitations and anxiety, as does hops (Humulus lupulus). For more severe insomniacs, passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) can provide a good, restorative sleep, as can valerian (Valeriana officinalis), which is also useful against depression.

Q: I’d like to build a fast into my cleansing routine, but I’m a bit nervous about it. There are so many conflicting ideas and instructions out there as to how long to fast, when to do it and even what to allow in terms of drinking. Any advice on a good way to ease into fasting?
Thomas via instinctmagazine.com

A: It’s great to hear you’re interested in fasting, Thomas, and I understand why you’re nervous. There is a lot of misinformation out there, but here are some helpful tips and info. Fasting involves consuming nothing more than water. I recommend drinking unsweetened water with a low mineral content so that you don’t overwork your kidneys. Kidneys are highly involved, since during a fast, the body’s vital energy is mostly used for renal elimination of toxins and metabolic wastes. The digestive tract will be in a more restful state while emunctory organs—especially the liver and kidneys—will be more stimulated.

A short-term fast can take one or two days, while a long fast can be a week or more. You could choose to fast a day per week or few days a month, but I would recommend that you first discuss the best frequency for you with your health practitioner, based on your current state of health, lifestyle and your needs—especially if it’s your first time. Short-term fasting allows the digestive tract to rest and results in better availability of energy for those other body functions (elimination, immune function, etc.). During a longer-term fast (more than three days), sick tissues are broken down, promoting the renewal of healthy ones. Toxins and residual body materials are eliminated via the renal route.

In all cases, you will need to drink around half a gallon of water each day of fasting. If you would like to emphasize detoxification, you can substitute your water with a tea—dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) or burdock (Arctium majus), as both are great herbal cleansers. I advise against vigorous physical exercise during a fast. Instead, find a quiet and peaceful place where you can rest and lie down if you feel like it (especially for a longer-term fast).

Fasting is useful in all cases of intoxication and can help address health issues related to smoking, light drug poisoning, being overweight, cancer (always monitored by a regular medical provider), high cholesterol, common digestive tract issues and common skin infections (such as eczema). People who have the following conditions should not fast: diabetes, severe cardiovascular diseases, predisposition to intestinal obstruction, anemia, serious renal impairment. Should you experience the following once your fast has started, immediately discontinue it: dizziness, memory loss, extreme weakening, intestinal pain, feeling hot when your body is cold or feeling scared to continue your fast. Ideally, ending your fast must be progressive; you should slowly ease your body into eating food. The first post-fast days, eat vegetable and potato soup. In the following days, eat purees and cooked fruits, then, if you’re not vegan, reintroduce finely chopped meat or fish and finally raw vegetable and fruit juices.

For more info and advice from Gilles Compain, check out gillescompain.com

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