How To Have Beautiful Clear Skin…Indirectly

Each year, people spend millions on products designed to improve the appearance of their skin. This is understandable, as the condition of our skin strongly influences our physical attractiveness and self confidence. However, those who focus only on how their skin looks are fighting a losing battle; it’s what is on the inside that matters, and in more than one way. To be more concerned with our physical appearance than our conduct towards others is to invite more stress into our lives, and stress contributes to acne, eczema, and other skin disorders. And to apply products to our skin to clean it up is to ignore the nutritional deficiencies and other health issues within us that are contributing to those disorders in the first place. Just as focusing on losing weight, rather than on health, will either result in failure to lose weight, or in success at the expense of health (e.g. anorexia), focusing on skin care, rather than overall health, will only result in a temporary abatement of poor skin, and a lifelong dependence on care products, rather than lifetime freedom from skin disorders.

The skin is one of our organs of elimination. When there is any excess of toxins in the body, some of them will be carried out of the body by means of sweat, acne, or skin rashes such as eczema. If you eat a diet high in processed foods and low in nutrients, and are not very physically active, your body will come to contain an excess of toxins, some of which it will attempt to remove through the skin, resulting in continual skin eruptions. Excessive hormone production (which occurs during adolescence, menstruation, and during periods of stress) also contributes to skin disorders, as the hormones produced result in clogged pores that slow the elimination of toxins. Clogged pores can harbor bacteria and become infected, further worsening the condition of the skin.

If you would like to have beautiful skin naturally, the approach is simple. Take whatever you might have been spending on skin care products, and devote it to your food budget instead. By adopting a balanced diet of whole, natural foods, you will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to detoxify quickly and easily, while reducing the number of toxins that are going into your system. Reducing stress and increasing physical activity will also speed the process.

At Live Free Nutrition we believe in subtraction by addition, so here are some tips for what you can add into your life to help improve the health (and consequently the appearance) of your skin:

–Eat more foods that are full of nutrients and aid in the process of detoxification: leafy green vegetables (especially cabbage, and the broth made from boiling cabbage), cucumbers, carrots, squash, pumpkin, celery, onions, garlic, sea vegetables, whole grains (especially brown rice and millet), sprouts, and any and all fruit.

–Eat more good quality fat, particularly organic butter, chicken skin from healthy chickens, raw milk and cream, avocados, olives and their oil, eggs with deep yellow yolks, and coconut oil. Skin is mostly made from fat, and fat is necessary for you to digest fat–soluble vitamins A,E, and K, which are essential for skin that is not just blemish–free, but also vibrant and glowing. Eating more good quality fat will help you avoid poor quality rancid fat from processed foods, which contains free radicals that contribute to wrinkles and the general breakdown of skin cells.

–After introducing healthier foods, you will experience a brief increase in skin disorders as your body takes advantage of the added nutrients to thoroughly detoxify. To get this stage over with quickly, apply tea tree oil (a natural antiseptic) to inflamed, infected areas of the skin, and powdered French green clay (mixed with water and daubed on the affected area) to acne in general, as it will draw toxins out more quickly. After the initial detoxification, if you maintain a healthy lifestyle, you will rarely need these products. Some other recommendations:

–Brushing your body in the shower with a stiff skin brush can help the elimination–action of the skin.

–Generally trading in all conventional skin care products, soaps, and shampoos for organic ones or ones without any artificial or chemical ingredients will cut down on toxins, and will probably also eliminate rashes and many other skin problems.

–Ocean bathing, if you can get it, is very soothing to the skin.

–If you can’t find tea tree oil, lemon juice is also a natural antiseptic, and less expensive.

How to Control Your Cravings

Did I get your attention with the title of this article? Who doesn’t have at least a few food cravings they wish they could control? I’m afraid, though, that my title is nothing more than an attention–getter, because I’m not actually a believer in controlling cravings. Food cravings do not arise spontaneously, and they are not just a product of your genes. They arise from your body’s deep–seated desire for nourishment. Whether your particular craving is for a specific flavor of ice cream, Coke or Pepsi, potato chips, M&Ms, white–flour pasta, coffee, or any of the other usual suspects, that craving is actually a sign of your body crying out for some type of nutrition. That’s why controlling your cravings doesn’t work. Even though we know on an intellectual level that junk foods are not good for us, those foods have been designed to appeal to the body’s desire for nutrition and balance. Our bodies crave salty foods like French fries because the body thinks saltiness is an indicator of high levels of essential minerals. We like sodas with high amounts of caffeine because they make us feel detoxified and re–energized. In other words, you have these strong cravings for junk food precisely because your body wants so badly to be healthy. While your mind may be saying “I know that’s not good for me,” your body is responding “Are you nuts? Eat that or else! We need it to survive!”

While it may be technically possible to control your cravings for a limited time through sheer will power, the only effective, long–term solution is to meet your body’s needs with foods that are truly nourishing, rather than foods that simply appear nourishing. The former bring you into a ongoing state of balance and satisfaction; the latter are satisfying for a very brief time but then leave you in a state of even greater neediness. Sometimes it’s not just nutrition that is lacking—for example, a craving for caffeine is usually a result of not getting enough sleep. A craving for sugary foods could be from a series of stressful events in your life. Just yesterday, I found myself starting to devour a bar of chocolate after a long and stressful day. However, I realized that the real problem was not the bar of chocolate, or my craving for it, but that at that moment I was unwilling to focus my attention on resolving the source of stress in my life. Once I did that, my cravings vanished. And in fact, that did take a little willpower—but the key is that it was willpower applied in a productive direction.

My recommendation for you is not to control your cravings, but to analyze them. Ask yourself where this craving is coming from, and what kind of need your junk food is meeting (however temporary a solution it may be). That method will put you on the right path to the heart of the problem, instead of leaving you stuck focusing on the symptoms. Maybe your body is craving junk food because it really needs whole grains and green vegetables, but isn’t familiar enough with those foods to crave them (and believe me, once your body gets used to well–prepared brown rice, you’re likely to crave it daily). Maybe you’re just looking for a physical sensation to block out the pain from some frustrating events in your life, and it’s really those events that need to be attended to. Once you have taken some steps towards understanding your situation, rather than simply feeling guilty, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to “control” those cravings than you would ever have believed.

Migraines and Caffeine

Headaches are among the most common symptoms of detoxification. The most severe kinds of headaches, migraines, affect about twelve percent of the population (28 million people). The mainstream medical community identifies migraine as a neurological disorder in itself. However, I think that migraines, like normal headaches, are actually a consequence of the body’s attempt to heal itself. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a genetic component to it. The way your body deals with toxins has a lot to do with your genetics. But it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doomed to have migraines; it just means you need to detoxify. The only way to get rid of the symptoms for good is to figure out what’s causing them and to eliminate it.

Many different foods and activities have been recorded as “triggers” for migraine headaches. But in a healthy person, natural, whole foods should not trigger any headaches. Nor should mild stress. Only if your body is very sensitive will it respond to such normal phenomena with such a debilitating reaction. The real cause of the migraine is probably not the “trigger,” but rather an overly toxic condition that leaves us vulnerable to being triggered by foods and situations that we’d be able to handle if we were healthy.

Toxicity occurs from a diet high in processed and artificial foods and low in whole, high–nutrition foods. A stressful lifestyle with little sleep and no true rest increases the toxins and free radicals in our bodies and cuts down on our opportunities for rejuvenation. How does this lead to headaches or, worse, migraines?

If you have been consuming too much sugar, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, white flour, rancid fat, hormones (such as from birth control pills), and other processed foods and chemicals, you’re giving your liver a lot of work to do. The liver works at night while you’re sleeping, so if you’re not getting enough sleep, it has even less time to get its job done. If the liver is overloaded, the endocrine system takes over, helping the detoxification process. The endocrine glands, some of which are located in the head, swell with blood as a result, and a headache will occur.

The best thing to do at this point would be to get rest and sleep, drink water, and stop putting processed foods into your body. But what most people do at this stage is rely on headache medicines that contain high amounts of caffeine. In fact, caffeine is regularly prescribed for chronic migraine sufferers. Why does caffeine help? On a molecular level, caffeine interferes with the normal operation of a neurotransmitter called adenosine. Adenosine is what lets us know we need to stop what we’re doing and rest. One of its functions is to lower blood pressure by causing the blood vessels in the head to dilate. This results in increased blood flow to the head, which causes pain.

Caffeine, by blocking adenosine, keeps blood pressure high. This reduces the headache, but prevents the natural detoxification process. Your body, in an effort to be healthy, will restart the process as soon as the caffeine is metabolized, and you’ll get another headache. Thus the pain becomes “chronic.” The only way to make the headaches go away is to stop essentially procrastinating and to gradually let the healing process occur.

Using caffeine as a medication for headaches is not so different from the way the average person uses it—as a medication for fatigue. When we experience the normal and helpful signal of tiredness and exhaustion, we’re supposed to rest and go to sleep. Then the liver can go to work. But instead, we try coffee, coca–cola, chocolate, green or black tea, mountain dew, or other sources of caffeine. The reason why caffeine helps in this case again has to do with the way it competes with adenosine. Adenosine inhibits another neurotransmitter, dopamine, which is what causes our positive mood, as well as improving our cognition, motor skills, alertness, etc. Caffeine, by preventing adenosine from shutting down dopamine at the appropriate time, makes it possible for us to experience false feelings of energy, happiness, etc., which do not accurately reflect our health.

Meanwhile the body is still constantly trying to send us the message to rest. It creates more adenosine receptors so that adenosine can get through and do its job. We experience this as our “increased tolerance” for caffeine; the same amount of caffeine isn’t working any more, so we need to increase the amount we drink. The added caffeine moves in to the new adenosine receptors. Now, what would happen if we stopped the caffeine? Suddenly there would be all these unused adenosine receptors—all very sensitive to adenosine. We’d have a huge drop in dopamine, resulting in exhaustion, depression, etc., and our blood vessels would dilate, causing high blood flow to the head—and a massive headache.

Now, if you don’t want this to happen, you can always try more caffeine. But this means that the detoxification process gets sidelined yet again. And if the body didn’t send a strong enough signal with the migraines, it may have to react even more strongly next time. On the other hand, if you want to get rid of the symptoms for good, you may have to endure the detoxification process. The good news is that once you’re finished, not only do you feel great from your abundant supply of natural energy, your symptoms of toxicity are gone!

The medical costs of migraines, and the costs to the US economy in missed work and lost productivity, probably measures in the billions. Employers and employees feel pressured to work more than ever, so we use drugs like caffeine to create artificial energy for ourselves, borrowing against our own health. Eventually we have to pay that debt back, and are ultimately less productive, have worse quality of life, and may not live as long. If we can balance work and play, on the other hand, we have such good energy that we can get our work done in far less time than it would have taken if we were running on empty.

If you choose to start detoxifying this spring, take it slowly. Removing all the processed foods and caffeine from your diet can resulting in an overwhelming array of symptoms as your body starts the cleansing process. Cut down gradually on these substances while simultaneously introducing more whole natural foods, and you will experience a more mild and sustainable transition to health. If you would like guidance through this process, again, feel free to contact me for an initial consultation. Good luck with detoxifying this spring!

Sickness and Detoxification

Is getting sick good or bad? Maybe that seems like a silly question to you. After all, being sick certainly doesn’t feel good. Congestion, fever, diarrhea, cough, sore throat, nausea, inflammation, headache and other common symptoms of sickness are all decidedly unpleasant. We always sympathize with someone when we hear that they’re sick, or have been sick (while keeping our distance, in case it’s contagious). There are tons of medicines at the pharmacy that we can take to reduce our symptoms (even though the medicines themselves sometimes have side effects) so that we can feel good again and go on with our normal lives. Headaches and fevers and so on are seen as these blights that can sort of come out of nowhere and have to be defeated or cured. Nevertheless, it’s notoriously difficult to make them just go away. They usually come back. We’re still trying to find a cure for the common cold.

Having read all the above evidence for sickness as a bad thing, you’ve probably guessed what I’m going to assert: yes, that getting sick is actually good for you. I have to be careful how I express myself here, however. I don’t mean that getting a virus or pneumonia or a real disease is good for you. Those things can kill us. It’s the symptoms of getting sick that are good for you. Unpleasant though it may be, your diarrhea is a sign of your body fighting back against the virus, bad bacteria, or other toxic enemy. Same with coughs, fevers and so on. It’s inaccurate to say that you’ve got a cough, if you’re implying that the cough is the sickness. The cough is your body trying to get rid of something that doesn’t belong there. What we think of as getting sick is actually getting healthy.

Unfortunately, the medicines we usually take when we’re sick work against our body rather than the toxins it’s trying to get rid of. Cough suppressants, fever reducers, anti–inflammatories, etc., all tell the immune system to take a break. The positive side is that we feel better. The negative side is that whatever was causing the immune response is still there. So we’re probably going to “get sick” again sooner or later. But next time the immune system will be weaker and the body more toxic. And some people will have to move on to stronger and stronger “medicines” as time goes on, because they have worse and worse symptoms.

Sometimes we do need help from pharmaceuticals, because the immune system can become too zealous in fighting the bad guys. You don’t want your fever to get too high or your headache too painful. In those cases, some pharmaceutical medicine is okay—but just enough to help you get to sleep. Then, when you’re sleeping, it will wear off and your immune system will go back to work. It’s when you’re sleeping that organs like the liver and kidneys do most of their detoxifying work.

In fact, the best thing you can do when you get sick is to get to sleep early, drink plenty of water, and avoid any strenuous activity. The more you interrupt the healing process, the longer it will take to get fully healthy, and the less productive you’ll be in the end. I say this because there is a lot of pressure on people to take medicines which shut down the immune system so they can still feel good enough to show up for work every day. But if you have sick days, then use them; consider them “health days” rather than sick days, and remember that we all need health days, exclusively for detoxifying, from time to time.

There are many natural foods out there that aid and support the immune system’s proper function. If you’d like to learn more about how to naturally help your body detoxify by applying a healing diet, you can contact me for an initial health consultation.

Spring Cleaning, Part 2: Spring Diet and Detox Diets

Spring Cleaning, Part 2: Spring Diet and Detox Diets

As I mentioned in the Introduction, during the month of spring the body naturally kick starts its own cleansing and detoxing process. The food that we eat, and the lifestyle that we live, can either aid or hamper this process. More cleansing and nutritious foods will make it easier for you to detoxify, while on the other hand eating cold, damp and heavy, fatty foods will make detoxifying more difficult and will induce colds and sinus trouble. Some people like to undergo a fast during spring as a way of making the cleansing process more total. This can be great idea, but is not a substitute for eating healthy during the rest of the year. In other words, if you decide to fast, don’t “retoxify” when you’re finished; eat a balanced diet instead. If you take care of yourself for most of the year, you don’t end up in a position where you need to seriously detoxify in the spring.

Whether you’re fasting or not, the best spring diet is going to be more low–fat than diets corresponding to the other seasons. That means cutting down on fatty foods like dairy products, nuts (peanut butter), processed foods with hydrogenated oils or vegetable oils in general, and meat that has a high fat content. This is not to say there is something intrinsically wrong with fat, but at this time of year a lot of fat interferes with the natural cleansing going on in your body, which doesn’t expect a lot of fat to still be around after a cold winter. So this is the one time of year when a low–fat diet makes sense. Note: this does not mean low–fat versions of normally high–fat foods. Just eat smaller amounts of high–fat foods at their normal fat content. Fat cravings are not as common in the spring, although if you feel like you need some fat, then go ahead and eat it. Now, what about the foods that are good for the spring? A discussion of the spring diet follows below, and at the end of this article is a section on fasting.

The Spring Diet . The best foods for spring are dried foods left over from the winter and the fresh young greens and sprouts that are just beginning to grow. These greens have a high amount of chlorophyll, which is healing and cleansing for the blood. The greens usually have a bitter or pungent flavor, which is just what you need to break up accumulations of fat in the body. The dried foods, on the other hand, help balance the spring body’s high water content. Below is a list of nutritious spring foods, divided by food group, partially adapted from John Douillard’s The Three–Season Diet.


Type Food Healing Property
Fruit Dried Fruit Drying (of course)
Lemons Sour (liver cleansers)
Sour apples
Strawberries High in antioxidants
Vegetables Asparagus Stereotypical spring food
Brussels Sprouts Very alkaline, nutrient rich
Swiss Chard
Carrots Balances bitter vegetables
Chili Peppers Hot, breaks up mucus
Cilantro Spicy/bitter, very cleansing
Mustard Greens
Collards Bitter, detoxifying
Dandelion Greens Very bitter, detoxifying
Corn Slightly sweet, goes well with greens
Endive High in fiber, also cleansing
Garlic Pungent, burns up fat
Turnips Slightly pungent
Grains Cooked Amaranth, Barley, Corn, Millet, Quinoa and Brown Rice are all good, but reduce wheat. Granola is a good dry cereal.
Beans All dried beans and bean sprouts are good, especially kidneys, lentils, split peas and mung beans.
Nuts/Seeds Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are best, lowest in fat.
Dairy Dairy is usually too cold and thick, but some butter and yogurt is okay.
Meat/Fish Low–fat protein like chicken and fish is best; dried meats like naturally preserved beef jerky are okay too.
Oils Olive oil is best, but reduce consumption of oil to below winter levels.
Sweeteners Raw, local honey is perfect! If you have cravings for sugar and fat in the spring, combine honey with yogurt and berries.
Beverages Water, Green Tea or Black Tea are good. So are pungent teas such as peppermint, dandelion and ginger.
Spices Use lots of pungent spices when making rice and beans—especially black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger and garlic.

In general, as you can see from above, what’s recommended is a mostly vegan diet, with a lot of whole grains, cooked beans and bean sprouts, fresh vegetables, dried fruit, and bitter, pungent and sour flavors. This is the diet that will help you feel the best in the spring and enhance the cleansing process. In regard to fruits and vegetables, some of the above don’t become available until later in the spring. Look for what is freshest and was grown locally. The foods that naturally grow at this time of year have the most healing properties for spring. Also, remember that low–fat doesn’t mean low–protein. Don’t just eat salads, but have plenty of rice and beans and enough chicken and fish to keep from getting too cold. It’s not summer yet!

The Detox Diet. Eating only the foods listed above is already going to be highly detoxifying. However, some people like to take a few days, a week or even two weeks in the spring to seriously cleanse their bodies. Fasting is a very old tradition, and is an important part of many different religions. Sometimes fasting can be an emotionally or spiritually cleansing experience on top of being a physically cleansing one. I think it’s worth trying out just to see what the experience is like. If ever you don’t feel well, you can always just go back to your normal pattern of eating.

There are obviously different levels of intensity in fasting. Just eating cooked whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits—the foods listed in the table above—would be the most relaxed fast. Presented below are some different options for fasting:

1. Whole Grain fast. You could also call this the “Bread and Water” diet. Essentially, it involves eating cooked whole grains such as millet and brown rice, chewed very thoroughly, with water as your sole beverage. The whole grains can also be combined with mung beans that have been cooked with kombu. This diet purges toxins from the body while still providing a lot of energy in the form of carbohydrates. Better for people on the thin side who can’t afford to lose a lot of weight.

2. Steamed Vegetable fast. This diet is good for people who would like to lose weight but can experience symptoms of coldness from time to time. Eat two or three different cooked vegetables combined at a time for your meals, and no other foods. Drink water or herbal tea if thirsty.

3. Raw fruit and vegetable/fruit and vegetable juice fast. This diet is good for those with symptoms of heat who want to lose weight and detoxify. Combining fruits and vegetables at the same meal is not always best, so alternate eating fruits and vegetables. As always, chew your food very thoroughly—even chew the vegetable and fruit juices to mix them with alkaline saliva. Beware of fruit and vegetable juices that have added sugar, which will cancel out the cleansing effects.

4. The Master Cleanser. This diet consists solely of water and a drink called the “Master Cleanser”—no food. One glass of the Master Cleanser consists of 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a cup of water. Mix together and drink 8-12 glasses a day. Always drink a glass of water with the master cleanser to rinse out your mouth afterwards. Drink as much water as you like. Lemon juice helps detoxify the liver, while the hot pepper breaks up fat and mucus in the body. This diet can be followed for a day, a few days, or a week—continue for as long as you would like, but listen to your body and eat if you feel like you have to.

Some people can get too obsessed with fasting and fast against their body’s wishes. Remember that it is not an alternative to a healthy everyday diet, but it can be very helpful if you feel you need to cleanse yourself of toxins accumulated over a long period of time. Finally, if you choose to fast, remember that your body may not be able to sustain a high level of activity. Don’t work out too hard, and get plenty of sleep.

Spring Cleaning

It’s been almost a year since I started writing this newsletter, and this is my first chance to talk about spring. In this issue, I’ll writing about the lifestyle changes that go hand–in–hand with the coming of spring, and next month I’ll write about spring diets: detoxes and fasts. An important part of spring is the time–honored tradition of “spring cleaning.” The change in the weather enables changes in many other ways: we can change our wardrobe, change our activities, and generally reorganize ourselves for the period to come. One thing I’ve noticed when working with clients is how they find it much easier to accomplish their goals when their surroundings encourage it. Having a healthy and supportive home environment is very important for spurring you to take on new challenges, or even just to keep doing what you’re doing in a peaceful setting. A good general rule to follow when spring cleaning is Thoreau’s message from Walden: “Simplify.” In other words, I recommend that you pack a bag and depart for a small cabin in the woods with a pond nearby. But if, by chance, that’s not feasible for you at the moment, I have some less rigorous recommendations.

Clean out your kitchen. It is so much easier to eat healthy if you have counter space and healthy food in your refrigerator. Put away almost every kitchen tool and box of food that you don’t use every day until you have a good amount of clear counter space where you can prepare food. Even if you don’t prepare food, having clear space is important because it gives you more possibilities and peace of mind. Unless you are a Zen Buddhist, leave a few often–used tools out. Too much clear space can also signify an under–used kitchen. I also recommend looking through your refrigerator and cupboards for processed foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or any ingredients that you have trouble pronouncing, and tossing those in the wastebasket. These foods can cause health problems like weight gain and arterial blockage, and many others. The same with any food you know you’re not going to eat. Throw it away! Don’t eat it to use it up, if you know it’s not good for you. That’s treating your body like a wastebasket.

Include more fresh air and green things. We are all healthier with more oxygen. As the air starts to warm up, open the windows more often and let some fresh air in. You may feel surprisingly more clear–headed and positive than usual. Plants also provide oxygen through photosynthesis, and they look nice.

Cancel some projects. Spring is a good time to grow and thrive, not to become overburdened with responsibilities. As a way of simplifying, let go of some things that you don’t enjoy any more or that you feel like are just obligations. You want to focus your energy on a few things that are really important to you, and enjoy them to the fullest.

Plan out what you want to do. Some people find it helpful to have a written record of what their goals are, especially those of us who tend to think too much. As I said before, spring is a time for growth and cleansing. Plants are always trying to grow towards the sunlight (which accounts for the odd shapes of some trees). Figure out what direction you want to grow in; whether you want to improve your career situation, increase your family, improve your health and eating habits, start exercising, learn something new, or grow spiritually. Once you’ve figured it out, do a few things towards this goal every day and enjoy yourself the rest of the time.

Follow the principle of fasting. Spring is a time when many people follow detoxifying diets, or fasts, of just vegetables, fruit and vegetable juice, or just water. As I said, I’ll write about these diets next time—right now, in my part of the country, it’s too soon to start doing a fast. However, you can fast in more ways than just “food fasting.” If you can, take some time, at least a few days, to abstain or withdraw from all the demands of life, and clear your head. Detoxify yourself of thoughts and emotions that may be leading you in an unproductive direction. Just as important as releasing stored toxins from unhealthy foods is to release stored stress and emotional tension.

One final note about spring cleaning: make sure you wait until spring is really here to follow a detoxifying diet. Sometimes we can be too eager and eat a very light diet while it is still winter time. Keep eating filling and satisfying meals up until you’re really sure it’s spring; that way, when you do fast, your fast will probably be much healthier and last longer.