I started messing around with clay in my kitchen a little over a year ago after I started healing my body with detox baths and a plant-based diet. I’ve written before about how bentonite clay baths helped me in my battle against chronic illness and how that inspired me to want to bring these healing substances to the rest of the world via soaps and soaks made from volcanic ash – bentonite, zeolite and pumice – from Oregon volcanoes. So that’s what I was doing in my kitchen back in the spring of 2014: making messes with clay as I created soaps and powdery detox baths to share with friends and family, never dreaming it would become something larger.
Along with their healing properties, these lava-based products have a lesser-known benefit that I have experienced first hand: By detoxifying our fat cells they actually can help us to lose weight. And weight is a struggle that is familiar to most Americans. Some 75 percent of us are overweight and more than a third of us are obese. And I believe clay used in conjunction with a health-promoting plant-laden diet can actually help us overcome this struggle.
So how does clay help us lose weight? Clays carry a negative charge that attracts negatively charged toxins like heavy metals. Therefore, clay is able to help us detoxify our cells while nourishing them with the minerals that aid in healing. When our fat cells are no longer loaded down with toxins thanks to the a clay bath’s powerful detoxifying action then it’s easier to painlessly release those fat cells without a physical backlash – headaches, fatigue, low moods – that lead many people to give up on weight loss and reach for the wrong foods in order to find comfort from those unpleasant sensations.
I once heard someone say “Don’t try to compete with yourself and how you looked at age 24.” I thought to myself “I would never want to look the way I did at 24 – ever again.”
At that age I had lived for decades on a pretty standard American diet of fast food, pizza, chicken wings, sub sandwiches and “healthy” salads dunked in blue cheese dressing. Diet Coke, regular Coke, milk shakes, candy and cookies. Later on, sushi, pasta and veggie sandwiches were my favorite “health” foods. But they didn’t seem to get me any healthier.
The result: No matter how much exercise or dieting I did – I always look puffy, especially in the tummy and the face. Losing weight was hard and required a concentrated effort. I was simply putting the wrong fuel into my body.
It wasn’t until I found the healing plant-based diet in my mid-‘40s after watching Forks Over Knives and visiting True North Health in Santa Rosa that I started to see that the face and body I’d had all my life were not necessarily my “real” face and body. On a plant-based diet loaded with raw living fruits and vegetables I saw inflammation throughout my body start to diminish and my weight began to balance. The changes were particularly noticeable in my face, which just looked tighter and more defined the more fruits and vegetables I added into my diet and the fewer animal products and starchy, oily carbs I consumed. On fruit and vegetables the real me began to emerge. When I would go back to eating inflammatory foods (around the holidays, for instance) the old puffy Beth would come back.
And there was one serious problem that I could not solve. If I stayed on a high raw plant-based diet for too long I would start to detoxify too quickly and experience very unpleasant detox symptoms. My clients didn’t seem to have this problem. But I did. We are all different in terms of how efficiently we detoxify things like heavy metals and pesticides – and I am particularly bad at detoxification due to some complex genetic variations that I carry in my family and for which I tested positive. (If you are a glutton for punishment and want to know more about how our genes guide detox in the body then research the MTHFR genetic variation and the P-450 chromosome issues on Google).
Overwhelmed with the detox symptoms as I tried to eat healthy foods, I would fall off the wagon and start eating less desirable foods (even “healthy” ones like chips and salsa, etc., and that good old sushi) that would cause that inflammation to come back throughout my body.
So when a friend turned me on to clay during a juice fast it was like discovering a missing key. I learned that clay added to a warm bath could help people detoxify their bodies rather painlessly, pulling toxins out through the pores of the skin, into the water and down the drain. (I also used a brand of drinking clay internally, though that is not something I recommend unless you are working with a practitioner). As my overall toxic load came down as I bathed in clay I was able to comfortably transition to a healing plant-based diet and then eventually transition to an all raw diet shortly after the holidays in the early part of this year. That was the last time I indulged in some old favorite Christmas cookies and other junk and then made a solid commitment to give a raw vegan diet a try for a full year. (No I did not do it “perfectly” at first but now I am finally launched on raw foods and absolutely loving it).
Transitioning to raw was not easy but I believe it was much easier than it would have been had I not spent a year focusing on clay detox as I slowly prepared my body for the transition. I was so enthusiastic about my results, in fact, that I became obsessed with clay and created our first nine Lava Love products in my kitchen in Portland. You can find them at Whole Foods and on Amazon/Kickstarter and about 70 other boutiques, grocery stores, spas and salons. I particularly love the Volcano Soap, which was my first creation and the one I still use every day.
Relief from Mother Earth
Toxins are stored in our fat cells. And without the help of a gentle binder like clay – or certain green foods that also mop up toxins – they can wind up in your GI tract as you lose weight. From there they can be re-absorbed into your blood stream and central nervous system, leading to those unpleasant detox symptoms I mentioned earlier. More and more experts believe it’s one of the hidden reasons many people have a hard time losing weight and the topic is thoroughly covered in naturopathic physician Walter Crinnion’s book “Clean, Green & Lean.” (At the time he wrote the book Crinnion was the leading environmental medicine naturopath in the United States).
Before clay, the headaches and that fatigue would knock me off my plan and cause me to eat things that hindered my health. This time around, with a long period of clay detox behind me, I have found it easier to stay “on” plan with fewer relapses. So my weight fell from about 140 at Christmas to about 110 after a few months of fruit. Now I’m concentrating on putting on healthy weight through building muscle rather than creation more toxic fat.
Trust me, it’s a luxury problem for any woman my age – 49 – to be trying to figure out how to gain weight on a raw food diet rather than worrying about how to lose it. Another bonus is that I have zapped a lot of belly fat thanks to the clay and raw foods program. This is me after Christmas on the left and after 73 days of almost all raw on the right. It’s the first time in my life I have had a flat belly!
So if you are someone who has trouble losing weight because you simply don’t feel good when you do, you might try bathing in clay once a week. Clay baths, in essence, helped me to pre-detoxify my body before I started to really amp up my naturally detoxifying plant-based diet of raw living foods.
Elisabeth Dunham, creator and co-founder of Lava Love
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