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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Everybody Gains Weight When They Marry

September 23, 2011

Tags: food, movement, water, biking, birthday cake, black tea, breakfast, butter, cheese, cooking course, cream, dairy, dinner, diving, Everybody Gains Weight When They Marry, flour, green tea, herbal tea, hiking, hugging, immune system, juice, kissing, marriage, milk, nourishing, nutrition, nuts, obesity, outdoors activity, picnic, rowing machine, sex, snacks, soft beverages, spouse, stationary bike, touching, TV, Viennese walnut cake, walking, wedding, weight gain, yogurt

You probably heard it: On average, people gain fifteen pounds in the first few years after their wedding.

It is only natural that we want to pamper our spouses and want to feed them – the birds and the animals do it. The point is to put the right and healthful morsels in your spouse’s mouth. Because food can hurt. And food can heal.

Also: Get moving – together! Because marriage can be more than watching the same TV programs for fifty years from the same sofa.

Here a few ideas:
- Attend a cooking course together
- Alternate who prepares breakfast and cooking dinner - and then discuss after which meals you feel better
- Stop all snacks, preferably before you have children who will follow your example
- Plan an outdoors activity every weekend: a hike, a bike tour, a walk, a (healthy) picnic, a dive - whatever moves you
- Have sex often – it’s good for the marriage and good for the immune systems
- Take turns on a simple rowing machine/stationary bike in front of TV
- Eliminate all dairy (butter, cream, yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.) most of the time – and experience the difference
- Find recipes for a sinful birthday cake made without flour (hint: Viennese walnut cake - made of nuts and cream)
- Don't spend your money on juices and soft beverages; stick to water, herbal teas, green tea, black tea.

Hug and kiss and touch often – and have a happy marriage!

Micro-Movements, Revisited

September 21, 2011

Tags: movement, ache, attention, back pain, massage, micro-movements, Micro-Movements - Revisited, muscular tension, muscles, pain, resistance, Trager bodywork

When your back screams that you need a massage, but there is no way you can get one, what is a good alternative?

Micro-movements are – I have discussed them previously. Recently, during our Europe trip, I was in dire need of a massage after the flight and hours of sight-seeing. At night, in the hotel bed, my back was in little knots all over. Lying there, feeling sore everywhere and feeling sorry for myself, I started moving into those tiny knots.

That is, I focused on a spot of pain, and very slowly and very minimally, tightened the muscles in the area. The trick was to tighten just the muscles that might be involved in the knot – not the whole back. It is a method I have been taught by Trager bodywork – to push or pull against the tiniest of resistance. Here, in bed, there was nobody to give me resistance – but the knotty muscles themselves were a point of resistance. By playing around with wee-wee movements - very slowly tightening, gently releasing – the pain gradually left.

How it works? It is, apart from the small, releasing movements, the attention one gives the hurting body. Try it – it is a treat you can give your aches and pains: attention.

Flying Tiger - Umh! - Flying Cat

September 19, 2011

Tags: order, airline, altitude, Boston, cabin, cargo, carrier - air-line-approved, cat, Flying Tiger - Umh! - Flying Cat, harness, health certificate, Houston, leash, pressure, San Diego, sedating, stress, suffocation, traveling with pets, vaccination, vet

We will fly to San Diego in about ten days, for a four-months sabbatical. Although somebody will be at home, we decided to take Otto, the cat, with us - he might miss us otherwise. Or we him.

Traveling with a pet is a bit of a nightmare. And Boston - San Diego means a lay-over in Houston; there are no direct flights. My first inclination was to put Otto in the cargo hold so that I didn't have to see his suffering. A bit cowardly, I know. But Otto is the type of cat who nicely curls up beside you for hours and hours of traveling; we do it to Maine all the time. And then gets to be a growling, ripping fierce defender of his freedom if you confine him into a box.

Of course, the airlines don't allow the cat out of the carrier on your lap. What to do?? - Reading up on the Internet, cargo looked less and less like a good idea; animals seem to die there, being exposed to extremes of temperatures and pressures. Then I thought of taking him into the cabin, sedated. According to the Internet, sedation is another bad idea; the animal might suffocate when it is too drowsy to move after it toppled. The numbers seem small - but I love my cat.

Here is what emerged as my plan:

- Booking in advance (which I did today) as only one animal is allowed in the cabin at a time.

- Using a soft, air-line-approved carrier (we own one). Pad it with a familiar towel, etc. and have a dark cloth at hand to cover the carrier. Animals seem to endure the stress of being confined and pushed around better in the dark.

- Taking a leash and harness because the carrier needs to go through the x-ray machine.

- Get a certificate from your vet that the cat is free of communicable diseases and that vaccinations are current. Not all airlines ask for it, but it is better to have it handy.

- I still have not decided if I should get a sedative, at least, just in case. I will discuss it with the vet.

Do you have experience with bringing pets across the continent and want to share them?

The Roots Of Philosophy

September 9, 2011

Tags: order, Adorno – Theodor W. (1903-1969), air conditioner, animal, animal rights defender, Arizona, biography, botany, California, Chinese history, collapse, common good, Critical Theory, deep gaze, Earth, famine, genius, Germany, hatred, heat, herbs, history, Holocaust, humans, manager, medicine, music, Nature, Nevada, New Mexico, novels, non-fiction, official, orphans, philosophy, plants, pollution, power outage, power station, public - general, responsibility, San Diego, summer reading extravaganza, system, The Root Of Philosophy, war, warning sign, World Wars

After the summer reading extravaganza of novels, I am back at my usual non-fiction fare – medicine, Chinese history, general history, philosophy, herbs and botany, music – whatever catches my interest.

Last night, in a biography about the German philosopher Theodor Adorno I came across a sentence of his that took my breath away. Took my breath away because the “Critical Theory” is more known for its political stance than for soft-hearted fuzziness. Took my breath away also because it expressed a sentiment that I thought belonged more to my private musings than in a philosophy context.

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.” (p. 255, Detlev Claussen, Theodor W. Adorno – One Last Genius).

The book is uneven: It suffers from the contradiction that Adorno (and Claussen) think that biography is impossible after two World Wars and the Holocaust – and then Claussen wrote a biography after all. Topped by calling it “One Last Genius.” Adorno must be a-squirming in his grave; he definitely did not believe in the concept of “genius.”

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.”

This says we are not different, not apart from Nature – and that one day we will be asked what our responsibility was in the destruction of the Earth with all her plants, animals and humans. - Last night my nephew called from San Diego to tell about the huge power outage of southern California and parts of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. It had been sweltering hot there for days, and the “system” collapsed.

As a citizen, I ask myself if there were not warning signs and if this collapse could have been prevented by astute officials running the Californian power grid - and I would fire the higher ranks at the power stations. As a person I think that not everybody who had the air conditioner running on “high” really needed it for medical reasons. Neither the power station managers nor the general public had the common good in mind, it seems.

Animals have already what we have lost: The deep gaze on what is important, and what is not. I am not a died-in-the-wool animal rights defender because I still maintain that people are more important. But one can push that argument only so far before we land at the fact that we, too, are animals, and not so highly developed ones in many cases. We produce wars, famines, orphans, pollution, hatred – to name a few human accomplishments.

We need to be taught by philosophy what matters; animals know it. And in their eyes you can read it – if you want to see it.

Back To School

September 6, 2011

Tags: order, food, acoustic bass, addiction, adult education catalog, alcohol, archeology, art, Back To School, birds, blueberries, calendar year, cello, Chinese, cleaning out the attic, cooking from scratch, Daoism, drawing from the nude, flowers, French, German, glass blowing, Gone With The Wind, herbalist, herbs, history, homeless shelter, Kneipp - Sebastian (1821-1897), knitting, learning something new, Maine, math teacher, mushrooms, music, New Year, novel, physician, posture, quilting, reading, resolution, rock climbing, school year, September, square dance, stars, tai chi, tax law, Trager bodywork, translating, trees, voice lessons, volunteering, writer

Even after so many years, September is my favorite time of the year – going back to school, that is. The magic of sitting there with a sharpened pencil, eager to learn new stuff, has never abated. In my life, I have done this and that – from math teacher to physician to writer – and I have come to appreciate that my best feature is my joy in learning something new. My father planted it in his children. A physician, too, he knew all the trees and the flowers and the birds and the stars, he loved history and art and music and archeology, and above all reading.

Sadly, alcohol destroyed his brilliant brain. These days, I am mulling how much I myself am prone to addiction: We just came home from Maine, and I wanted to get my daily fix of blueberries – and my grocer has run out of blueberries. Run out of blueberries! I am appalled. And I am mulling if this is my form of addiction – blueberries?

Well, it could be worse. My resolution for this fall and winter – yes: resolution, because the New Year really begins with the new school year, not with the new calendar year, if you ask me – is learning more Chinese, more cello and more translating my Sebastian Kneipp novel into German. And to find a grocer who still carries some blueberries …

What's your September resolution? Cleaning out the attic? Taking lessons on acoustic bass? Doing a course in tax law? Learning to cook from scratch? Joining a quilting bee? Tackling drawing from the nude? Find an herbalist to introduce you to local herbs and mushrooms? Trying rock climbing? Investing in voice lessons? Brushing up on your French? Exploring daoism? Volunteer at a homeless shelter? Retraining your square dance steps? Rereading "Gone With The Wind"? Working on your posture with Trager bodywork and tai chi? Blowing glass? Knitting a sweater?

Tell us! Only you can know what you are dreaming of doing. Go for it! The adult education catalogs are out.

Taking Care Of Oneself

September 5, 2011

Tags: order, food, advertisement, aging, appetite, Asian cultures, care of oneself, economy – bad, elderly, food industry, French, health care costs, high blood pressure, jail, natural laws, nursing home, obesity, overweight, parents - indulgent, responsibility, starvation, Taking Care Of Oneself, weight

At a dinner, I came to sit beside a beautiful French lady of a certain age, elegant and sophisticated. Always looking for good stories and good advice, I asked her what she did to keep her weight. She gave me that long look, shrugged her shoulder and said: “One takes care of oneself.”

I have often thought of the French lady’s remark. It sounds so easy – “One takes care of oneself.” But it involves a lot. It obviously is easy in these times and age to gain a lot of pounds as we are getting older. Some folks even seem to think that aging itself puts pounds on the scale, so “normal” is it to gain weight with every additional birthday. Similar to what we physicians thought about blood pressure: It was “normal” to have higher blood pressure with higher age. So normal actually that physicians had a formula for it: 100+age, the systolic blood pressure was to be. It turned out it was only “normal” in a statistical sense: Most older people had indeed higher blood pressure. But not “normal” in a healthy sense: Healthy people should stay around 120 over 80 – no gain with age. High blood pressure hurts the heart and the arteries, the brain and the kidneys – nothing “normal” in it.

The same goes with weight. In some Asian cultures, the grandparents helped with raising the children, but they tried not to be a burden on the families. They voluntarily ate less. Because the thinking was older people need less food. I am not sure they need less food if they are still active. But in those Asian cultures it was “normal” that older folks got skinny.

Presently, we hear much about self-reliance and self-care. It doesn’t come out of the blue. It comes from bad economic times and the realization that overweight, obese people not only eat more than they need, they also gobble up a bigger share of health care costs.

Taking care of oneself should not take the form of starving oneself – which is never healthy. But to make oneself knowledgeable about which foods pack on the pounds and leave us with a ravenous appetite right after we have eaten might be a way to go. It is easy to blame advertisements, the food industry, indulgent parents, or what not. But in the end it comes down to ourselves who make the decisions.

One doesn’t wake up one morning, and all of a sudden, with no forewarning, one has gained fifty or more pounds. It is a daily process, and we should look at our face in the bathroom mirror and should take a long look at what the bathroom scale shows. We harvest what we sow. The natural laws apply to all of us – no one is exempt. That’s what the French lady wanted to say, I guess.

Society has ways of dealing with people who can’t care for themselves: We are caring for the very young and for the very old, and usually that caring is fairly benign. We also put people in mental institutions and, in extreme cases, in jail if they can’t care for themselves. When States want to make laws restricting sugary drinks or forbidding smoking in public places, there usually is an outcry that rights are taken away. To me, who always was deathly afraid that somebody might take over my life and make decisions for me, it only seems consequent that laws have to take over personal responsibility in certain situations.

One doesn’t let oneself go. One shouldn’t be the problem but the solution to the problem. One takes care of oneself.

Walking Pneumonia

September 2, 2011

Tags: order, herbs, acne, Alzheimer's, antibiotics, blindness, blister, bronchitis, cancer, cold herbs, diagnosis, GAIA herbs, GSE - Grapefruit Seed Extract, head cold, inflammation, lung, oregano, pneumonia - walking, rheumatoid arthritis, rinsing nose with saltwater, Walking Pneumonia

You are familiar with the term of "walking pneumonia", I guess. "Walking pneumonia" is unknown to other medical cultures. I always stumble over the expression. After all these years in this country, it still has the capitalistic notion to it: "Sick - but not too sick to work."

A friend adamantly denies "walking pneumonia" has to do with mean bosses who force their employees to work, whatever deplorable state they might be in. She maintains the term has been around forever, and simply discerns between one who is sick and still can walk, and one who is sick and can't get out of bed.

I can follow my friend there. BUT: Any pneumonia has inflammation in the lung tissues, and warrants treatment with antibiotics. And: We don't do this with other diseases - combining a diagnosis like "pneumonia" with a description of the state of the patient like "walking".

We make no difference between "walking cancer" and "non-walking cancer", or "walking rheumatoid arthritis" or "non-walking rheumatoid arthritis".

For me, "walking pneumonia" sounds decidedly odd. Thinking about it - and playing with it as the doctor-writer I am - also decidedly funny. Begging your pardon for poking fun of serious conditions, but they popped up:

"Limping foot blisters"
"Still mumbling Alzheimer's"
"Groping legal blindness"
"Absolutely, totally mortified acne".

If you ask me, pneumonia is pneumonia. Walking or not.

Oh, and by the way: If you have a bad head cold or a bad bronchitis, make sure they don't develop into pneumonia. Rinsing your nose with saltwater, taking extra deep breaths, quitting smoking, taking GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) 16 drops three times a day with lots of water, or Oregano capsules (GAIA has a reliable formula) or some herbs against colds might prevent ... pneumonia.

The Bounty Of Now

September 1, 2011

Tags: food, herbs, baking sheet, broccoli, coconut oil, cucumber, friendship, garlic, greens, harvest bounty, Italian herbs, olive oil, onion, poteato, soup, stew, sweet potato, The Bounty Of Now, vegetable, yam, zucchini

This is the time of harvest bounty: Vegetables are cheap in the produce aisle, and can happen any moment that your friends dump a load of zucchini on your door step or hand you a plastic bag filled with mixed greens and things they pulled out of their own soil.

Do you groan and say: "Oh, not again!" or are you gratefully receiving that bounty?

Here are three very easy veggie recipes:

1. Good for potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes zucchini, and so on: Wash the zucchini or potato, cut in slices, lay them on a baking sheet that has some olive oil, and drip more olive oil on the slices. Put the baking sheet in the oven and heat to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Check from time to time (takes twenty minutes, give or take) with a fork. Turn them when they start looking dry.

2. Good for leafy greens and broccoli: Wash shortly, cut off bad spots. Put in a lidded pot with little water, olive oil, pepper and salt, and plenty of garlic (dried or fresh). Bring to a boil, then turn low and let simmer until leaves look a bit wilted and broccoli still has its bright green color.

3. Good for mixed stuff: Brown one or two onions in coconut oil, add the washed and cubed vegetables plus pepper and salt, garlic and either a handful of fresh herbs or dried (Italian mixture taste good). Simmer with little or no water (cucumbers have enough water, they don't need added) until done.

Since the kind of vegetables will change, these three recipes will get you through the end of the summer and the fall - or, for that matter, through your life. Recipe Number Three with water makes a great soup, with less water and some meat a wonderful stew.

Never let the bounty of now go to waste - this is the best life offers you: garden-fresh vegetables and the generosity of your friends.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

Tags - see also the non-captalized entries below!