This interview is part of a series. We believe good people doing good things need to stick together (and talk a lot). The African proverb I live and work by is, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.” We work and speak with so many amazingly energetic people, who are making a big difference (let’s call them “our” mosquitos), and we look forward to introducing them, their work and their philosophies to you, hoping to build an even stronger community and support for each other.
We spoke with Emily Shaw, personal health alchemist, and founder and owner of Ama Veda. Emily provides detoxification and rejuvenation programs, and products inspired by smart nutrition, amazonian botanicals + ayurvedic wisdom. We found out how to really know if your detox is working, the power of the placebo, and the best beauty secret with immediate results.
Does your work feel like work?
There is definitely a part of my life that feels like “work.” Things like keeping up on import/export regulations of natural medicine, staying on top of the actual numbers, following up on payments, deliveries etc., or just keeping up with changing technology and new organization tools. I think it’s just part of the entrepreneurial journey: you got to do it all. When I am working one-on-one with people, or formulating products and the ideas are flowing, it doesn’t feel like work. I just feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, in the zone, no idea of what time it is, happy and grateful.
Do you run your business + programs differently in Toronto than you do in other parts of the world?
Right now I’m in the UK getting ready to set up distribution of some of my products here. In Toronto, I mainly work with people one-on-one remotely creating personalised detox programs. In Peru, I am still running the detox programs in groups even though they only meet via Facebook. This is the first year I am running my programs in Peru remotely. I have a team there who is helping me with the deliveries and the raw juices. My assistant goes to the central market to buy the fresh Aloe Vera, which he then washes, and portions and delivers to the homes of all my detox participants (awesome!). WhatsApp has been amazing too, because everyone in Peru uses it. This gives me direct messaging with all my clients and some don’t even realize I’m not there. The time difference is the only challenge so far.
Detox programs are super trendy right now. Why is everyone now doing one?
I think it comes down to these few reasons:
- A proper detox program gets results. When you feel better and look better, you talk about it and everyone notices. This kind of marketing and publicity just can’t be beat.
- I think people turn to detox programs out of desperation to just ‘feel better’ or maybe exasperation with Western medicine. If you go to your doctor and say “I’m just not feeling awesome. I’m pretty tired most afternoons, my skin looks a bit dull, I’m waking up with occasional aches and pains, my moods are all over the place, I don’t sleep very well most nights and my sex drive is low,” they have absolutely nothing to offer you. My program has drawn many people just tired of taking medication and ready to try anything to move on from that cycle.
- And I think the third reason is a general heightened awareness of the relentless amount of toxic exposure we are all living with and a fear of the long-term repercussions.
How do you know if your detox is working?
When toxicity is released from its holding spot within the bodies tissues, some mild discomfort can be experienced. This will vary from person to person, and the amount of discomfort is generally relative to the amount of toxicity being released into the body before it is expelled. The most common physical symptoms are headaches, nausea, a foul taste in the mouth, tongue coating, body odor, lack of energy and/or some minor skin rashes or bumps. The emotional detox symptoms can look like irritation, impatience, grumpiness and anger. Some people have very little symptoms and still have a very profound detox. It is important to remember that any discomfort experienced during an effective detox program is a very small representation of the discomfort you are preventing yourself from experiencing in your lifetime by going though the process now. You must trust the process. And, the degree in which you experience detox symptoms during the process will directly impact how amazing you will feel immediately afterwards. With the right mindset, these symptoms can be a great motivator.
As someone who encourages and promotes healing, what is your relationship with medicine?
I guess that depends on what you mean by “medicine”. I have explored, experimented and educated myself in many areas of medicine for most of my life. So if you’re referring to allopathic or conventional Western medicine (i.e., symptom eradication vs. root cause analysis, or disease management over prevention), well, I think we’ve all pretty much moved beyond this. Not to say that Western medicine has no value: of course in the areas of diagnostics, acute injuries, life-saving surgeries etc… Western medicine is essential in modern day living for many people. It’s just not an area that interests me, obviously.
What does interest me though, is the placebo effect. Really, if you nerd-out on some of the facts behind the placebo effect throughout history and medical trials, you will be truly alarmed at just how powerful our belief system is. I find the correlation between the belief system and disease and medicine, as well as our food choices, something often overlooked as one of the most powerful healing tools (and hello, it’s free). Lately I’ve been diving deeper into Functional Medicine, which seems to be the most logical union of western medicine diagnostics and root cause dysfunction analysis. I also really like the terms ‘functional foods’, even though it might just be semantics, it seems more all-encompassing than ‘superfoods’ etc. Mostly though, what I love about the Ayurvedic approach to medicine is that everyone has a unique composition and therefore must be treated as an individual. I think this is really the way forward with both medicine and diet, regardless of methodology.
Describe your relationship with food.
I think I have a great relationship with food. I’ve been fortunate in that I have never felt the need to obsess over my weight and can eat whatever I want for the most part. However, my “sweet tooth” is something I now see as a sugar addiction and it has not been easy to eradicate. I feel very strongly that when you have a clean body, the messages of what foods you really need to truly thrive come though loud and clear. I can walk through an organic market and zone right in on what my body is craving. It’s the conversation between your higher self and the gut I believe is the relationship we need to develop and nurture. I like to think of this as intuitive nutrition, something I incorporate into my Post-detox diet plan. I also feel strongly about eating with reverence and appreciation which is proven to be good for your health, whereas demonising your food choices, regardless what they are, is not.
What are your favourite ingredients?
All fresh herbs, all ground spices under the sun, ghee, butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, sesame oil, sea salt, mountain salt, raw honey, stevia leaf, apple cider vinegar, umaboshi vinegar, rice wine vinegar, miso, kelp, gomasio and liquid aminos. With these in my kitchen, I can make thousands of yummy healthy dishes.
Are your formulas magic potions?
Not at all, I use tradition-blending methods and tested formulations for my products. Sometimes thought, synergy creates magic!
What is in Peru that keeps you going back?
There is something very special to me about Peru. By nature I am an explorer and become very unnerved by routine, so Peru offers me the option of constant exploration. I am most attracted to the Amazon of course, which to me is an endless source of magic and healing.
And then what brings you back to Toronto?
I grew up in Toronto, so all my old friends and family are there, all of whom I adore and treasure! So Toronto-time is always very restorative to me. I have also participated in several large health shows such as the Total Health Show and The Whole Life Expo with my product line Panacea Peru, so Toronto is also a great business hub for me.
What’s your favourite beauty secret?
I think the secret to beauty is happiness. Personally, I feel most beautiful when I am happy. I find joyous, genuine and confident people are the most attractive. Being able to give and receive large amounts of love shows up on your face. Beauty comes from within and a healthy physical and mental interior makes for a glowing exterior. Then just throw away all toxic toiletries, drink plenty of clean water and get your Vitamin D and restorative rest!