SEASIDE - When 38-year-old entrepreneur and former U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer Corey Albert felt his youthful vigor slipping and his waistline bulging, he knew he had to do something.

"I felt sluggish and I didn't have a lot of energy. My body felt sick," said Albert. "I didn't like the direction I was going in."

Albert wasn't about to give in and chalk it up to growing older. He ventured out in search of answers and the healthy body he once depended on in life-or-death emergencies.

He scoured the Internet in search of clues to his deteriorating predicament. What he found was a lot of conflicting advice and some complicated strategies to diet and sweat his way back to health. For Albert, it was all a bit overwhelming.

"I didn't know if I was lacking supplements or if it was my diet," said Albert. "Somebody recommended a cleanse, but I wanted to do it right, and not hurt myself."

Help on the way

Albert's sage came in the form of naturopath Kathleen Flewelling, a family physician practicing near Albert's home in Seaside.

Flewelling gave him a plan of attack, tailored to his body type and level of health. She recommended a dietary cleanse to address erratic eating habits and identified digestive issues that could be treated with a multi-pronged approach.

First, Albert had to eliminate irritating foods that tax the body's natural ability to detoxify. That meant no coffee, wheat flour, sugar or dairy products.

Flewelling's five-week cleanse is a step-by-step course in healthy eating, supported by a range of supplements to enhance digestion and bolster the internal healing process.

After common food allergens are eliminated in the first week, vitamins tailored to the needs of the individual are introduced in the second. In the third week, a juice or soup broth fast takes the place of regular meals.

"That's the hardest week to get through but probably the most cleansing," explained Flewelling. "Once you get through that week, you feel like you could do anything."

The fourth week of the cleanse mirrors the second, and in the final week foods like wheat and dairy are reintroduced. If there is a negative reaction, a food allergy can be pinpointed as the likely culprit.

Many people, said Flewelling, are so used to everyday aches and pains they don't realize they are really dealing with a food sensitivity issue. Her own husband didn't believe he could be allergic to wheat. But after six weeks off, one bite of toast brought on heartburn immediately.

Though the process relies heavily on self-control and practiced self-restraint, Flewelling doesn't recommend going it alone.

"If you have some health concern during that time, you have someone to call," she explains, adding that, "What's right for one body, isn't necessarily right for another."

Individual results of the cleanse vary, but Flewelling has witnessed everything from improved energy and weight loss to a reduction in allergic reactions and often increased peace of mind.

Flewelling also said a major health concern among women age 30 to 50 is managing hormonal balance. A cleanse she said , will go a long way toward providing that stability.

All in all, Flewelling said the cleanse is about creating more healthy habits for the long run, and shouldn't be used as a quick fix.

The lesson worked

For Albert, many of the strategies he learned in a two-week cleanse, a junior version of the five-week journey, have stuck with him. It has been two years since he first walked into Flewelling's office feeling groggy and unwell.

Now he wakes up bright-eyed every morning at 6 a.m., juices two halves of a lemon in a glass of water, and downs the tart solution in a few gulps, before bouncing out the door for a jog the length of the promenade.

Albert still takes many of the supplements recommended by Flewelling, and is now much more conscious of his eating habits, a strategy that seems to be working. He is back down to a trim 165 pounds, sports a healthy glow and easy smile, and has the energy and mental clarity that his grueling schedule demands.

Albert is opening a restaurant and wine bar in Seaside and admits to loving the holidays and all the rich foods that go along with the winter months. Which is why, he said, "this time of year is a great time to cleanse."

"Getting into summer we want to look better and feel lighter," said Albert. "I always look forward to the springtime because you can flush everything out and start anew."

All about yoga

Exercise lists high on Albert's priorities and is recommended by Flewelling before, during, and after a cleanse. Yoga, she said, is the perfect workout for almost anyone at any level of fitness or health.

Dr. Michael Sears, a chiropractic doctor practicing in northwest Portland, has been teaching a gentle form of yoga called Svaroopa, which he spoke of recently on Coast Community Radio.

The practice, he said, can go along way toward alleviating many of the tensions of everyday life, and it can lay the foundation for a host of positive physical and psychological transformations.

"Yoga is really a mental exercise," said Sears. "It is the practice of keeping your mind focused in the body and the breath."

He said becoming conscious of how we breath is just as important as the flexibility and caloric burn the exercise provides.

But the key, Sears said, is not to breathe more but to breath better, and Sears recommends to first, close the mouth and breathe primarily through the nose.

"As you breathe slower the lung tissues open up and allow more oxygen to pass through the lungs and into the blood," he said. "This way, we open up our body to its maximum healing potential, and we feel better in the moment."

Sears said that when the breathing process is slowed, blood pressure drops, the heart rate lowers, and the blood becomes more oxygen-rich.

"That blood is working to repair every organ and muscle in the body," he said.

For Sears, yoga and thoughtful breathing act as a restorative measure that can teach the body to process stress rather than hold onto it. The benefits he said, are limitless, as well as immediate.

"As you breathe more intelligently the increased oxygenation in the cells also goes into the brain, so you're actually smarter," he said. "This is more than just positive thinking, it's physiological as well."

Many benefits

Ute Swerdloff teaches yoga locally at Yoga Namaste in downtown Astoria. In 20 years of instruction, she has watched her students reduce pain, lose weight, and create more positive outlooks on life.

"People are more relaxed, they can deal with their life outside the yoga class much better," she said.

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