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

Fats Are Bad – And a Few Other Medical Myths I Am Not Sure I Still Believe In

September 7, 2010

Tags: movement, food, order, water, Aspirin, butter, calories, celery, Centenarian Study, coconut oil, cold, computer, cracker, dairy, drinking, fat, Fats Are Bad – And a Few Other Medical Myths I Am Not Sure I Still Believe In, fever, germs, hangover, milk, moderation, olive oil, pain medication, painkiller, posture, snacking before bedtime, sleep, snacks, sun, tea – herbal, Tylenol, yoga ball

1. Fats are bad for us. - Even at that time when I felt I was giving best medical advice to my patient (“Cut down on fat”), I myself never was really able to cut out fats much. I get so incredibly hungry without! But I am still at the weight I had at age twelve … and have slowly come to the conclusion that I probably gave bad advice to my patients. (Sorry!). What I advise now: Olive oil for salads, coconut oil for frying, occasionally a bit of European-style cultured butter (very occasionally!).

2. Exercise hard. – The Centenarian Study has shown that people who live to a ripe old age usually are not strong on exercise. They have friends, putter around house and garden and live for a worthwhile cause. Plus they have good genes. – I am not saying don’t exercise – but like everything else: Do it in moderation! – A minute here and there on your yoga ball, daily, will give you better health than the gym once a week (my guess – no studies done).

3. Eat a snack before you go to bed. – Diabetics are taught this, and usually crackers and milk are recommended, both of which I think are really bad ideas. That dairy is unhealthy I have said before; crackers are nothing else than cardboard “food” – devoid of any nutritional value.

4. Snacks, in general. – Bad idea. Few people fare well on the “more meals but smaller meals” advice. Most people do “more meals and more and more calories.” I never snack – and I never try my own food when I am cooking – I just smell out if more salt is needed. And healthy snacks like celery sticks without the dip? They really make me hungry. - Forget snacks! Think of something more important!

5. Oh, and carrying water with you wherever you go. – Don’t! We got two hands to do really interesting stuff with them like fixing a car or playing the cello – NOT for lugging a water bottle or a coffee pot around. You don’t have to drink in the middle of your exercise or yoga class – before and after is plenty. Except if you are crossing a desert, don’t be seen with a bottle/cup in your hand. And drinks with calories in them? Also a no-no: Water and teas are all what is needed. Because drinks with calories are not drinks – they are meals.

6. Take a Tylenol or an Aspirin for fever. – Now, the body makes a fever to kill the germs that invaded you. It’s usually not a good idea to interfere with your body’s action. Go to bed early, drink hot herbal teas and sleep it out is usually the better response to a beginning cold.

7. Take a painkiller against pain. - If a simple Tylenol, etc. will do the trick, the pain is probably not so bad that you cannot tough it out (which is easier on your body – all the pain medications have unwanted side effects). Also: Better think why you got the pain in the first place: Hangover? Too much sun? Too much computer? Too little movement? Bad posture? Too little sleep?

To be continued, I guess.

Synergy in Herbs

May 27, 2010

Tags: herbs, Aspirin, compounds - herbal, harvesting herbs, patenting drugs, patenting herbs, St. John's wort, synergy, Synergy in Herbs, toxicity

Synergy is the innate beauty in plant medicines: The whole works better than the individual parts would let one predict.

In real life, however, synergy is what drug makers are up against. One cannot patent a whole plant – because Nature made them for all of us, and not one single manufacturer is allowed to reap the profits. So, pharmaceutical firms try to take out either one constituent of a plant (the one they deem the “effective” part) or change one constituent chemically, so they can patent either as a new drug. That way, many good drugs have been developed – and still are.

On the other hand, we are losing something when we neglect the whole plant. Synergy is one of the main reasons why often herbs are so profoundly effective; the other is that plants are the keys into our ancient physiology – plants and people developed together. Plant molecules are not new, alien molecules our bodies can’t recognize; they are old molecules our bodies are familiar with – so that they can happily incorporate them into our old-fashioned metabolism.

If a plant is toxic to us, it is so because the plant developed for that purpose: to fend off predators, herbivores, that otherwise would munch on the plant. But whole plants are often less toxic than would be expected, because the plant provides counteracting “smoothing” ingredients that helps us assimilate the herb better.

If you harvest an herb, you get plants with different strengths – depending when and where the plant was grown and cut. That is an obstacle for modern medicine that needs things predictable and reproducible. For that purpose, herbs are sometimes “standardized”: Different strength extractions are combined with certain key compounds so that the result is uniform. For the longest time, St. John’s wort had been standardized to one of its “main” ingredients – until it became clear that it was not the “effective” one. It is hard to figure out a plant that might have three hundred to a thousand different compounds.

But, it is also hard to figure out single compounds. Research is still discovering new effects of Aspirin, on the market since 1899! If one single ubiquitous chemical is so hard to understand – just think how hard it will be to understand a single whole plant. Herbs are harder to use than cold water or fresh food; you might need an herbalist or a doctor trained in natural medicine to help.

That is what makes conventional medicine so nervous about herbs. For me, that makes them so remarkable and miraculous: They have worked for millenniums, they should work now, too – in our ancient bodies. People in all cultures have observed and described the effects since stone age times or longer: We can learn something from them. And then, we can do some modern research with them, to slowly expand our knowledge.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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