As high performers, we know the drill. Work hard, play hard, sleep when we are dead. Exhaustion and burnout are markers that we are doing the right thing. Except we know we can’t sustain that lifestyle, even if we convince ourselves otherwise. For starters, we know intimately what happens when our phones run on reserve battery— they get sluggish. What more our bodies?
I spoke to my friend Parm Manhas, who is a holistic chef and integrative nutrition coach, on the subject. As someone in luxury fashion used to a jet-setting lifestyle, Parm was the Director and Buyer for YSL, and also ran two Chanel boutiques in Toronto, as part of her impressive portfolio. Except that, Parm awoke one day during a sabbatical and saw her health and appearance deteriorate. I’ve seen pictures of Parm during those days, and the Parm I know is poised and looks incredibly youthful, having healed her inflammation. We chatted about joining the dots about how her health was declining silently, and wrote this piece for you.
As a Psychologist and Executive for High Performers, a lot of my clients come to me because they are paralysed by anxiety and perfectionism. A telltale sign is that they don’t feel rested no matter how many hours they sleep. Repeat that on loop, and you get anxious about how much energy you have when you awake everyday. It is depleting.
Parm explains that the liver detoxes overnight, but because her liver was overburdened, she found herself consistently waking at 2am, when she was supposed to be in the deep sleep phase. When the liver is fatty and stagnant due to foods that feed the underlying cause of inflammation such as saturated fats, dairy and gluten, it becomes sluggish. On top of that, if your stomach does not have enough hydrochloric acid, it cannot digest your food properly, so your body doesn’t receive the nutrients they need. And, if you’re drinking alcohol, your liver is further pushed to work harder.
In her late 20s, Parm noticed her thighs gaining alot of water, even though she worked out daily. Parm recalls she’d experience water retention suddenly during the day, asking “How did I grow that much in water?”. She recounts the story of a jumpsuit that fit her in the morning, and by the evening, having to wear two Spanx in order not to burst.
She explains that this is a sign your lymphatic system is clogged. By that, she means, the system that cleans up debris, toxins and gunk alongside the liver. But when the liver is sluggish, this system steps in to help. Since this waste is thicker than the lymphatic system can handle, it clogs the lymph ducts and vessels so lymph fluid can’t flow normally. This in turn causes water retention and weight gain. Furthermore, an inflammed body creates an acidic environment, and naturally our bodies will work to reverse that condition, hence the body will hold onto water to try and create alkalinity. This can be triggered by eating the wrong foods through the day. If your blood is toxic with bacteria, then your lymphatic system is further exhausted.
Parm started wondering if she was pre-menopausal in her early 30s. She was experiencing multiple hot flashes during the day — to the point where she would have to go home from the office to change her clothes. After her research, she discovered that the antibiotics in animal products were contributing to her hot flashes, night sweats and much more. Today, despite being 52, Parm has no hot flashes and experiences the occasional night sweat.
You think that sitting at a computer all day long means that aches in your limbs are inevitable, right? According to Parm, this is a sign that Epstein-Barr virus may be in your joints. She discovered she had the virus when she was born, and that this virus can stay dormant all your life. Stress, chemical exposures, life transitions and even childbirth can cause the virus to become active. When that happens, a multitude of symptoms can appear. Hair loss, adult acne, weight gain. The liver becomes sluggish due to the wrong foods you’ve been consuming that the virus feeds on. The digestive system becomes compromised affecting hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This can lead to food sensitivities and gut issues. These can also evolve into thyroid issues, chronic fatigue and brain fog to name a few.
If these sound familiar, and you are keen to reclaim control of your health and perform, Parm has a simple suggestion. Juice two bunches of organic celery, and drink it on an empty stomach. This will replenish the hydrochloric acid in your stomach. Parm explains that your entire digestion system is broken down if you don’t have enough acid; by fixing your foundation, you fix everything else.