Cleanse Virgin

Cleanse Virgin - Under the Monkey Bars blog

I’ve watched many friends go through cleanses. Not once have I been interested in jumping on the bandwagon — until now. I’m happy to report that I’m longer a cleanse virgin!

My body has gone through a lot fighting Lyme over the past 6 months. I’ve taken more medicine and supplements than I ever thought I would at age 38. I started looking for a way to detoxify my body without depriving it.

Cleanses clear out toxins from your body, like pesticides on produce and automobile fumes. They often involve limiting your food intake to different concoctions of pressed juice that can remove these harmful toxins from your body so it can focus on healing. A typical juice only cleanse helps shift your intestines away from digestion and absorption and towards ridding the body of toxins.

This makes sense to me, but I’m a firm believer in feeding your body and soul. In my mind, traditional juice cleanses do just the opposite. I don’t have time to sit around feeling exhausted and hungry all day. These two monkeys need their Mama! So I assumed cleanses just weren’t for me.

But what about a cleanse that’s more than just juice? As soon as I heard about Jubali’s nourishing cleanse, I knew it was just what I needed. Have you heard of Jubali? It’s is a certified organic juice, dairy-free smoothie, and herbal tea company based in Boston. They use only whole food ingredients, mostly sourced locally, with no added sugars or preservatives. All products are gluten free and vegan — my kind of company! I’ve been drinking their yummy smoothies for a while now but never realized I could use them as a cleanse.

Jubali’s whole foods smoothies keep fiber, healthy fats, protein, and sugar together. With this nourishing cleanse, you won’t get the massive sugar spikes and hunger pains of a mainstream juice cleanse. Plus, their super herb infusion teas help balance and heal throughout the cleanse process. 

I was able to really customize my cleanse, and I loved that flexibility. I kept a dairy so you could see what the cleanse was really like, minus what happened in the bathroom of course. I’m not ready to talk about poop on the blog yet, guys!

Cleanse Diary :: Day 1
6:30am :: 14 ounces of water
7:30am :: 10 ounce bowl of raw chocolate buckwheat parfait with berries
9:00am :: 14 ounces of water
11:00am :: Jubali Greena Colada smoothie: great flavor combination. Didn’t waste a drop – licked the cap!
12:30pm :: 16 ounces of Jubali Reishi Revive super-herb infusion tea, cold.
2:20pm :: Jubali LaLa Berry smoothie: loved the raspberry seeds. Didn’t need to chew them but I was happy to chew something!
3:30pm :: 14 ounces of water. Feeling a little cranky. Craving black tea.
5:15pm :: 14 ounces of water. I’m normal hungry for dinner. Not going to fall over surprisingly.
5:45pm :: Homemade potato leek soup with a small bowl of kale salad.
6:15pm :: I actually feel really good! Thought I’d be dragging.
6:30pm :: 14 ounces of water
8:00pm :: 4 ounces Jubali almond milk with 1/4 cup of homemade applesauce (apples + lemon). Feeling less tired than usual with balanced energy.

Cleanse Virgin - Under the Monkey Bars

Cleanse Diary :: Day 2
6:00am :: 14 ounces of water. Woke up feeling great. Not hungry at all.
7:30am :: 8 ounces of hot Jubali Clover Cleanse tea. This tea flavor was tough to get used to.
9:00am :: 16 ounces of homemade dinosaur smoothie
9:15am :: Gentle yoga. Felt so great to move slowly and massage my organs with twists and stretching. Not dizzy.
10:30am :: 14 ounces of water after yoga
11:15am :: 10 ounces of hot Jubali Deep Mineral tea: my favorite!
12:00pm :: Orange Jubali smoothie: made with bee pollen, which is apparently the single richest source of vitamins found in nature. Delicious flavor and great texture. Yum!
1:30pm :: 14 ounces of water
2:00pm :: Small sweet potato with avocado oil and salt
2:30pm :: 8 ounces of hot Jubali Clover Cleanse tea
3:00pm :: Slight headache.
4:00pm :: Jubali Mocha Bliss smoothie: totally cleared my headache.
4:45pm :: 14 ounces of water. Feeling zen. Would be a good time to curl up with a good book! Finished mine yesterday 🙁
5:15pm :: 14 ounces of water
6:00pm :: Homemade carrot soup with a small bowl of roasted cabbage.
7:15pm :: 6 ounces of hot Jubali Deep Mineral tea
8:00pm :: 4 ounces of Jubali almond milk with 1/4 cup of homemade applesauce. More energy than usual again at this time of night.

Now that I’ve done a cleanse, I can definitely see myself doing something similar seasonally. Besides detoxing, it’s a great way to give your body a kick start and change your habits. I was a little cold the first day. I realized on day 2 of the cleanse that I could warm the tea, which was a total game changer.

After the cleanse, I didn’t have a sip of caffeine for almost 2 weeks. I have more energy. I’m not craving sugar. I’m not as hungry. I truly feel more balanced. Next time I cleanse, I’ll clear my calendar and treat myself to a few days off with gentle yoga classes, a good book, and maybe get a massage. We all need more self care. A cleanse is a great way to start.

Every body is different. It’s really important to listen to your body, which is the number one way you can evaluate whether or not a cleanse would work for you. You can’t do a cleanse and expect to be healthy. Health is a journey. It needs to be a part of your daily life — not just a few days where you starve yourself. For me, this nourishing cleanse helped my body heal. It removed toxins from my body and gave me a fresh start for 2016.

If you’d like to check out Jubali’s products, head over to the Natural Grocer in Newburyport or look for them at Whole Foods Market. Jubali delivers in Boston by bike!

Simple Shortcuts: Skillet Potatoes

Simple Shortcuts: Skillet Potatoes - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Today I’m sharing the second post in a series of simple shortcuts to save time in the kitchen when you’re in a rush. Even when life is busy, we still need to make healthy food choices to keep our bodies and minds nourished.

White potatoes get a bad rap because they’re high in carbohydrates. But because potatoes are real food, they’re a much better choice than processed food any day. Potatoes are a great source of fiber, protein, vitamin B6 + C, and potassium. I love potatoes, and so did my Irish ancestors. There’s something to be said about eating the foods of your heritage. Bottom line, everything in moderation. White potatoes are a healthy choice a few times a week. 

These skillet potatoes work for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even a quick snack. We typically use this simple shortcut side dish on a weekday morning. I bake 4 to 6 potatoes at a time, depending on the size of the potato. Choose organic russet, yukon gold, or red bliss. You’ll need about a half of potato per person for a serving.

Anytime you’re using the oven between 375-425 degrees, throw in some whole potatoes. These guys aren’t fussy about temperature. Check them at about 45 minutes to an hour. Potatoes are done when they give in to a little squeeze. Let the baked potatoes cool; then store them in a glass container the fridge for up to 4 days.

When you’re ready to use this simple shortcut, the skillet potatoes will cook really fast because you’re skipping the step of boiling the potatoes first. You only need to sauté the potatoes enough to brown them since they’re already cooked. In the meantime, scramble up some eggs. Maybe make some veggies in another pan — like onion, spinach, and tomatoes. A nourishing breakfast will be ready in 8 minutes or less, getting you out the door on time with a full, happy belly.

Stay tuned for more Simple Shortcuts. Cómelo todo!

Skillet Potatoes
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Total Time
8 min
Total Time
8 min
  1. 4-6 Baked potatoes
  2. Pad of butter, extra virgin olive oil, or vegan substitute
  3. Sea salt and pepper to taste
  4. Fresh parsley or rosemary, if desired
  1. Warm a skillet over medium heat with butter or extra virgin olive oil (skip the canola!).
  2. Add a shake of salt and pepper directly to the skillet instead of tossing the potatoes in a bowl. Add your favorite herbs or spices if you’re feeling fancy.
  3. Cut the already baked potatoes into cubes or wedges.
  4. Add the chopped potato to the skillet. Shake every few minutes.
  5. Devour your browned skillet potatoes and make them again soon!
  1. Choose organic potatoes and herbs when possible.
  2. Make sure your ketchup doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup. Organic ketchup is the best choice.
Under the Monkey Bars

The Dr. Su Series: Opening Lyme’s Door

Opening Lyme's Door - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

By guest blogger Dr. Mark Su

Christine has courageously shared her journey and struggles with Lyme disease. In response, I was moved to share my reciprocal journey and struggles in becoming a physician who evaluates and treats Lyme disease, which I believe sheds some light on the challenges that patients face in being diagnosed or treated for Lyme.

I vaguely remember a couple of patients during my residency years at Tufts University in Boston where Lyme disease was a topic of consideration for their symptoms. It simply wasn’t something we either encountered or considered, for a variety of possible reasons. We were taught the textbook information on Lyme disease, but that was the extent of it.

When I started working in Boston’s North Shore in 2003, my awareness of this illness first took root. Sure, I saw folks with the classic presentation of fever, headache, neck stiffness, muscle aches, and a large red rash or sometimes a “bullseye” not uncommonly following a known tick bite. At the time, I treated them accordingly as I was taught with 2-3 weeks of doxycycline. But I also met patients who reported persistent symptoms that would come and go to various degrees over time, even great lengths of time. These patients commonly had a strong overlap in symptoms with others who carried a diagnosis of fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Often times, we wondered together whether they were being recurrently infected by repeated tick bites? At other times, we would pursue testing for other diagnoses, almost universally to no avail.

Over time, I met more and more patients who would report receiving symptom benefit for their chronic symptoms whenever they were on antibiotics for other reasons; or that they historically had received antibiotics periodically for these “flares” from another physician (or even physician friends, off the record), though an explanation for why the medications seemed to work eluded the prescriber. Listening closely to their stories and recognizing them to be legitimate symptoms, I concluded that they deserved to be treated with antibiotics, even if I couldn’t fully make sense of it. It wasn’t what I was trained to do. It wasn’t the standard of care. But it was the humane thing to do. And to me, the right thing to do.

I continued to see patients who generally fit this type of profile over the years. Symptoms would somewhat vary, but the number of these similar experiences mounted, and they were generally similar stories. In some cases, I was able to create some model of rationale for myself and a given patient, but for the large part, I still couldn’t fully explain this phenomena. I wanted to learn more about persistent Lyme disease and the reported varying presentations of even more acute Lyme disease, but I simply didn’t have the time. Nor did I feel I had the energy or mental space to tackle something that I suspected could cause a rather significant deviation in my professional practice patterns and routines. I was very open minded, but I was also scared of what might be behind that door. And the ramifications of what I’d discover – because I knew that if I uncovered something worth pursuing, for the sake of helping patients, I would feel obligated to do the right thing, the humane thing, and search for the truth, as challenging as it might be.

In the latter years at my previously employed position, we as a practice diagnosed and treated folks with Lyme disease more aggressively than most traditional practices. It wasn’t until I started my own practice here in Newburyport in mid 2014, with primary intentions unrelated to Lyme disease (little did I know), that, upon establishing the regular pattern of using the premier specialty lab for Lyme testing, my eyes were truly opened wide more than I could have expected.

I uncovered enough patients with previously undiagnosed Lyme disease that I owed it to myself to seek more education, so I finally went to a specialized conference with ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. It was there that I was confronted, in a massive way, with the evidence-based literature that not only substantiated bits and pieces of information I had gleaned from various colleagues over the years in one fell swoop of structured presentation. It was also there that a light went on inside of me – my passion was lit. I realized I had a whole new knowledge base and set of tools to help patients who commonly are left to fend for themselves. These patients typically lack diagnosis or treatment options, finding themselves referred to a multitude of other practitioners in hopes of a diagnosis, trying anything to feel better, and to validate their health experiences often with little to no benefit. Since then, after continually diagnosing and treating patients with this frustrating and sometimes debilitating condition, I have continued to ask myself, with what I believe to be a healthy self-analysis or perhaps even self-doubt, “Is this really real? Do this many people really have persistent Lyme disease?” Yes Mark, they do.

Patients often voice frustration to me about the confusion they experience as a result of the conflicting voices within the medical community about this condition. I really do feel for them. As much joy and fulfillment as I may have to validate a patient’s experiences, that they aren’t “crazy” or “just stressed” or “just getting old,” but that indeed they have Lyme disease and that indeed there is hope for treatment and a better quality of life. I do not take any pleasure in contradicting any previous conclusions they experienced from others in the medical community. Because I was there once before. And I know the struggles I faced to remove those blinders, even as an open-minded practicing physician who had my suspicions. When facing potential scrutiny and criticism from opposing voices, and even more so, a disruption in professional routines and comfort zones in the context of an already stressful and undesirable work-life balance, it’s simply easier to maintain the status quo and to just keep moving on. But wow, am I so overjoyed that I opened that door. It’s been more than worth it to help these patients, and there’s a whole new chapter to be written in this journey.

Mark Su, MD is a graduate of Cornell University and Indiana University School of Medicine. He was later the Academic Chief Resident at Tufts University in Boston and received the national Mead-Johnson Award for outstanding scholastic performance in a Family Medicine residency. He has practiced medicine in the north shore of Massachusetts since 2003, opening Personal Care Physicians in 2014. Mark is passionate about basketball, loves his wife, is religious about fitness, is a dutiful father, and is enamored with photography. With four children and his wife in healthcare research, he often feels like he’s barely able to hang on to his own Monkey Bars! Mark defines himself as a patient advocate, a truth seeker standing for justice, and God-honoring.

Lyme Update

Lyme Update - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

I was diagnosed with Lyme disease back in July. Had I known that there were symptoms for Lyme beyond joint pain, I might have caught it sooner. Dr. Su, my primary care doctor and guest blogger here at Under the Monkey Bars, estimates that I’ve been infected with this terrible chronic disease for about 3 years.

I never found a tick. I didn’t see a bullseye. Without gluten or dairy in my diet, I only had joint pain a few times over those years but always thought it was from exercise.

What I did have were symptoms that cycled through my body sometimes monthly or even every couple of weeks. They would last for two or three days and then disappear. When they came back, I’d usually forget that I had them before. Typical Mom with a full plate, right? Don started calling these symptoms the “ailment of the day.” It was a funny joke for a while…until we realized it was a disease.

Currently, my symptoms include pain at the base of my neck, congestion, ear pain, nausea, headaches, soreness in my feet, burning sensations in my back, hip pain, dizziness, night sweats, facial twitching, blurry vision, mixing up words, difficulty thinking or foggy brain, severe fatigue, lower abdominal pain, and dental pain. Not once did I mention these symptoms to Dr. Su over the past few years.

Instead, I went to my podiatrist for the foot pain. My chiropractor helped ease my back pain. The eye doctor couldn’t figure out what was going on with my eyes. Maybe I needed glasses? But with 20/20 vision? I told my gynocologist about the lower abdominal pain and night sweats. My blood work was normal but I had appendix surgery to alleviate the lower abdominal pain. My appendix was perfectly normal and I still have the abdominal pain. It was Lyme disease the whole time.

In the four months since my diagnosis, I’ve helped several friends through the testing and diagnosis process. It’s amazing how many people are walking around infected with Lyme. Many people get false negative test results because reliable diagnostic tests are not widely available. The FDA approved Lyme test from the early 1990’s only measures 3 markers of the disease and frequently yields negative results for people who are suffering from Lyme disease. Not all providers are able to order the iGeneX test, which takes 3 weeks for results but is worth the wait. iGeneX tests for 15 markers of the disease, making this private test much more accurate. 

I’m on a 6-month regimen of Ceftin, Azithromycin, and herbal supplements (parsley oil and glutathione) to treat the Lyme disease. Most people don’t realize that when you start the antibiotics, you feel worse before you feel better — for about 4 months. I have more frequent symptoms now than I did before I got diagnosed. It’s called herxing or a herx reaction, which occurs when dead bacteria release toxins into the blood and tissues faster than the body can handle it. Regular Lyme symptoms are amplified while your body tries to get rid of the new toxins.

I’ve figured out a few tricks to help my body work through the symptoms. I’m resting more than ever. I take gentle yoga classes twice a week to help with the joint pain. I see my chiropractor religiously every other week to manage the neck and back pain. I keep a weekly appointment for nerve stimulation treatments from a Myokinesthetics specialist. I take multi-strain probiotics every day at lunch time between antibiotic pills. I drink a cup each of black and green tea daily, as well as tons of water with lemon to help my liver flush out the toxins. Eating clean definitely makes my body heal faster. I follow a gluten and dairy free diet that’s heavy on leafy greens. I still have Lyme symptoms but I feel a lot better when I can take the time to help my body release the toxins.

Everyone’s body is different. Lyme disease is like a chameleon, constantly changing so that you can’t catch it. Sometimes people call Lyme disease an invisible illness. Most people who have the disease look fine, because the majority of the symptoms are internal. I’ve learned that I can turn it off and on sometimes, much like an actress. If I ignore my symptoms and have a fun night out, I’m recovering at home for two days after. When you have Lyme disease, you wake up most days feeling like you have a horrible cold plus a hangover and sore from a work out that you didn’t have energy to do.

The road ahead is still long for me, but I know that if I take care of myself, by body will heal. Lyme disease can happen to anyone. Chances are at least one of your friends is infected with Lyme and doesn’t even know it. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms so that you can help others get a faster diagnosis — and be able to diagnose yourself.

Know someone with Lyme? Don’t ask them how they are feeling. Try asking, “How are your symptoms today?” Be flexible when they cancel plans, because some days we just can’t pretend we’re okay. Some days I’m not okay at all. But life goes on, and I’m super thankful for the incredible friends and family who have helped me through this difficult time.

Be informed and be healthy, and always remember to check for ticks!

The Pits

The Pits: What's in your deodorant? - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

You read that right. We’re talking about your armpits today, a.k.a. the pits! October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s only fitting that we talk about the pits and what you’re putting on them. Everything you put on your skin gets absorbed into your blood stream, including deodorant.

There is a debate as to whether chemicals in antiperspirants and deodorants can cause breast cancer. Scientists have suggested that aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may be a risk factor for the development of breast cancer. But no one has officially said that these chemicals cause breast cancer. Why take the risk? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Approximately 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer; that’s 12% of us. Definitely schedule your mammogram for screening…but what if you could do something every day preventatively? You could consider switching to a natural deodorant. Hear me out…

What do you use: antiperspirant or deodorant? There’s actually a difference.
– Antiperspirants prevent you from sweating, which is completely unnatural and not good for you. Can you imagine the amount of chemicals needed to pull this off? Yeah, you can. Buckets of chemicals.
– Deodorant lets you sweat but blocks odor by killing bacteria.

From a purely natural standpoint, it makes more sense for us to use deodorant, as it makes the process more natural. But even some deodorants contain really bad stuff like triclosan, propylene glycol (endocrine disruptors) and aluminum (which could be linked to breast cancer, alzheimer’s disease, bone disorders, and kidney problems). So why are we putting it directly on the lymph nodes of our pits?

It’s because we sweat and no one wants to stink. Am I right?

I tried and tossed many brands of natural deodorant before finding one that works for me. For the past seven years, I’ve used Lavanila’s Healthy Deodorant. Am I stinky? Sometimes. There are days when I reapply. But overall I smell pretty good. I’ve had no issue with the Lavanila deodorant staining my clothing, probably because it’s made of good stuff including essential oils.

The chillier months of Fall and Winter are the best time to switch to a natural deodorant because you sweat less. Put yourself on a 2 year plan. Buy some new deodorant this week. Use it every day all winter long —except for those days you might need a little extra protection (big meeting, massive workout, etc). When late spring comes around, pull out your old deodorant and see how it feels. It might hurt, or it might feel fine. I actually used my old chemical-laden deodorant that first summer in fear of being too stinky. Then I went back to Lavanila’s Healthy Deodorant in the Fall. The next summer was a different story. My pits completely rejected the old deodorant. I got a rash and it really hurt. I also found I wasn’t as stinky that summer using just the Lavanila deodorant. This may sound weird, but you almost need to detox your armpits!

There are lots more aluminum-free deodorant brands on the market now than when I made the switch. Ask some friends and do some research, or just cheat and order Lavanila’s Healthy Deoderant. I’ve tried almost all of their scents but find that the Vanilla Coconut works best with my body chemistry. Lavanila now offers a Fragrance Free deodorant as well as Sport, which recently won Allure’s 2015 Best of Beauty Award. When your monkeys get stinky pits, try this kids deodorant. The roll-on is more exciting than I anticipated, and it comes in trendy packaging.

So what do you think? A little healthy attention for the pits this Fall?