Quick Links

Find Authors

Books

Non-fiction
Diabetes type 2? Weight problems? Find your answers!
Fiction
Nonfiction
Water is the stuff of life - warm inside, cold outside. Did you know?
Nonfiction
Best and cheapest little book about how to live a healthy and long life!

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

When Things Are Falling Down

November 19, 2015

Tags: order, herbs, movement, water, abdomen, aging, amalaki, antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, anus, ayurvedic, bacteria, balance, bastard myrobalan, bathroom, bibhitaki, bladder infection, bladder wall, birthing, bloating, bowel movement, child birth, comfort, complications, constipation, corn silk, cramps, cranberry, curse, diarrhea, death, diabetes, discomfort, Emblica officinalis, essential oil, eye, fatigue, female affliction, fluids, gastro-intestinal tract, germ, haritaki, India, Indian gooseberry infection, intercourse, internal organs, invasive procedure, Kegel exercises, kidney infection, medical advance, mesh, microbiome, olive oil outcome, pelvic muscles, perineum, pessary, plumbing, preventing falls, private parts, probiotic, prolapse, prophylaxis, rosemary, sepsis, sexual muscles, standing on one leg, surgery, susceptibility to infections, Terminalia bellirica, Terminalia chebula, thyme, toilet, triphala, urinary tract infection - recurrent, usnea, UTI, uva ursi, vulva, water - running, sanitation, side-effects, vagina, vaginal probiotics, washing hands, weight gain, When Things Are Falling Down, wiping, World Toilet Day, worst case scenario, yellow myrobalan

Today is World Toilet Day, and most writers today will talk about the importance of hygiene – which is indeed more valuable than all the other medical advances combined, in my opinion. Every person in the world deserves running water and good plumbing, and so many don’t have it: 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to decent sanitation!

But the things I am want to talk about are internal organs, and when they fall, or droop, physicians call it prolapse. It is, of course, a female affliction (curse?). Often it results from child births (and I wonder if modern medicine that wants to speed up the birthing process, has given us more prolapses – we never will be seeing a study about this, I fear). Prolapse can be uncomfortable when you walk, and even hurt outright. But the worst part is that they might cause recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs). There’s the connection to toilets, when you are running to the bathroom twenty times a day, and the whole middle of your being hurts like hell.

Recurrent UTIs are dangerous because a simple bladder infection can rise into the kidneys and eventually even leading to sepsis (an infection of the whole body), and at its worst, death. And death doesn’t seem to be the worst outcome: The many courses of antibiotics – often the doctor tells the patient that they have to be on antibiotics for the rest of their lives to prevent the worst case scenario – damage the precious bacteria in the intestines, and lead to all sorts of complications: weight gain, susceptibility to other infections, fatigue, bloating, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, and so on. The last few years has brought us so many studies about the microbiome (the beneficial bacteria in our bowels) that it is hard to exaggerate its importance to your health. And every course of antibiotics will damage that healthy balance in your belly. - Hear that I am not altogether against antibiotics; they have saved lives (mine, for instance). But they can have grave side-effects, notably now antibiotic resistance.

Conventional medicine recommends, besides Kegel exercises, surgery. Particularly, the insertion a special mesh down there to keep organs up, has not been very successful; women are suing the manufacturer in droves, and the mesh has been abandoned. But since every surgery carries a risk of infection and death with it – and repairing prolapse might make symptoms worse – surgery should be your last resort. You could also insert a pessary into your vagina to provide structural support. It works for some women.

Here are the natural alternatives to invasive procedures; combined – can make a huge difference in the discomfort or comfort you feel in your most private area:

1. Standing on one leg whenever you think of it – while brushing your teeth, waiting for the bus, chopping an onion. This will strengthen your pelvic (and sexual) muscles – and is not as boring as Kegel exercises. It is also good exercise for your legs and good for balance – very important to prevent falls when you get older.
2. Inserting vaginal probiotics every evening into your vagina.
3. Oral probiotics. They heal your bowels after a course of antibiotics, and have shown to decrease the number of recurrent urinary tract infections prophylactically.
4. Washing your hands after each bowel movement religiously and then pampering your private parts (wipe from the front to the back - vulva to perineum to anus; never the other direction!) with a mixture of olive oil and a few drops of an essential oil like rosemary or thyme; they are antibacterial. Make sure you always wash your hands and use essential oil before you, for instance, insert the nightly vaginal probiotic capsule. It is tiny, and no, it won’t interfere with intercourse.
5. Taking triphala, the ayurvedic herb, which will prevent constipation. Naturally, if your problem is diarrhea, don’t take triphala on top of it. Triphala is an ancient combination of three Indian herbs: Amalaki or Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis), Bibhitaki or bastard myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica), and Haritaki or yellow myrobalan (Terminalia chebula). Triphala is actually a balm for the gastro-intestinal tract, and is also good for your eyes. Besides it works against diabetes.
6. Take a zinc supplement to boost your immune system.
7. Prophylaxis with cranberry, uva ursi, usnea, corn silk, and so on, if needed every day. Especially after sex. Cranberry prevents bacteria to latch onto your bladder wall, so they are flushed out easier.

Women and their doctors often think that prolapse is an inevitable part of aging. It shouldn’t be! - Happy Toilet Day!

How You Can Tell That Your Body Is Inflamed? The Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis (FFD):

September 23, 2015

Tags: order, food, water, movement, aging, air, allergy, Alzheimer’s, American, antibiotic, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disease, bronchitis - chronic, cancer, chronic disease, chronic pain, COPD, dairy, dehydration, dementia, depression, diabetes, do-it-yourself, drug – medical, drug - recreational, earlobe diagnosis, eczema, environment, Europe, finger diagnosis, finger nail, fingertips, Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis - FFD, gastritis, genetics, gluten, halo, hand, heartburn, heart disease, high blood pressure, How Can You Tell That Your Body Is Inflamed? The Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis (FFD), hypertension, inflammation, job - unfulfilling, Kneipp – Sebastian (1821-1897), lifestyle, longevity, microbiome, model, nail bed, nuts, obesity, observation, osteoporosis, overweight, pantry, pathology, pollution, pre-diabetes, relationship, skin disease, soil, stress, stroke, sugar, swelling, tongue diagnosis, toxin, Traditional Chinese Medicine, un-health, vitamin D deficiency, walking

Inflammation lies at the bottom of chronic disease - diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, some forms of depression and anxiety, heart disease, stroke, COPD (chronic bronchitis), osteoporosis, certain cancers, chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, allergies, asthma, eczema and other skin diseases, heartburn, gastritis – and so many more. Yes, often you would not get these diseases if you didn’t have the right (or wrong) genes. But let’s face it: Most of us carry the genes for those diseases. All we need is a bad lifestyle to trigger chronic ailments. All of which make your life miserable.

Of course, the main reason for the development of chronic diseases is that we are reaching older age than we used to – we have more time to hatch illness. But it is not that old age automatically renders you invalid and decrepit. One can have a healthy old age! But it takes some luck, and some effort.

So what are the habits that trigger chronic inflammation and chronic diseases? The usual – and well-known - culprits: Inappropriate diet, too little movement (or too much!), environmental pollution of water, air and soil, psychological stress, unhappy relationships, unfulfilling jobs, drugs (medical and recreational), deficient water intake, unnecessary drugs, overweight and obesity, vitamin D deficiency, unnecessary antibiotics that kill the natural microbiome in our guts and on our skin. Another list that could go on and on.

How do you tell that inflammation is damaging your body? Well, if you already have a chronic disease - that is the proof of the pudding. But If you are at the stage before a doctor runs some tests and finally makes the diagnosis – if you are in the pre-stages of disease – you might inspect your fingers for the telltale signs of inflammation: a red halo around the root of the nail, at the area of the nail bed.

That halo can be thin and faint, and it can be thick and swollen. In some patients, the redness goes up half their digits, or higher. It is an early sign of inflammation, and one doctors usually don’t know about. In fact, I didn’t learn this in medical school – I observed it in my patients.

The beauty of it? If you clean up your act, the halos get smaller and paler – you see within a few days that you are on the way to improvement. Especially if you leave out some offending allergenic food – the most common guilty parties here are dairy, gluten, nuts, sugar.

Why is it that your fingertips can tell me the state of your health, the degree of inflammation? Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the tongue to tell about illness and well-being. My favorite European teacher Sebastian Kneipp used to base his diagnoses and prognoses on the shape and color of the earlobes; he must have come to it by simple observation, just as I did. The tongue, the earlobes, the fingertips – why those? Mainly because they are easily visible. For sure, if your body is riddled with inflammation, you will have signs of it in nearly all your inner organs. But the inner organs are hidden from direct inspection. For evaluating the tongue, I’d have to ask the patient to open her mouth. Earlobes and fingers are there for the looking. – Your fingers and nails can tell the doctor much more about your health (or un-health). But the FFD is easy for lay people.

Let me tell you right away that I don’t yet know if only food allergies can trigger the redness of the fingers, or if other toxins or pathology processes do it too. I would think so. But there has been no study yet, just quiet observation on my patients.

What I like about the Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis (FFD): It is a do-it-yourself tool. You don’t need me to tell you something is wrong. You just need to look down on your fingertips. And if you see a reddish halo: Get up from your chair, and do something for your health: Go for a walk, and clean out your pantry!

Seven Exercises from Heaven

October 3, 2014

Tags: movement, order, aging, arm flab, arthritis, ashtanga, athletics, back, back - upper, barbell, bedridden, bench, bench pressing, bending backward, cancer, childhood, dairy, death, decline, diabetes, diet, dumbbell, Exercises from Heaven, expander, flexibility, foam roller, gluten, gym, half-cylinder, head, heart disease, immobility, inward looking, Iyengar - B.K.S. (1918-2014), kettlebell, knee, laptop computer, leg, lotus position, muscle, muscle-building muscle weakness, musculature, neck, Nelson – Carol, pelvis, philosophy, posture, pressing, push-up, relaxing, rotator cuff, rubber band exercise, sleeplessness, spine spirituality, sports, sports medicine, sports team, strength, strength training, The Diabetes Cure, Theraband, traveling, walking, wall, wall pressing, weights workout, yoga, yoga ball, yoga teacher, youth, zazen cushion

As I have mentioned too often, I never have been athletic – in school, I was the proverbial girl that nobody wanted on their sports team. But as I cleaned up my diet (starting with gluten and dairy), my muscle weakness and arthritis improved.

Movement is important. And the older you get, the more urgent it becomes. People generally think that heart disease and cancer are about the worst conditions leading to final demise. Immobility is worse. Not moving – either by choice, or because of illness – is the clear beginning of the end.

Every evening after dinner my husband and I go out for a walk, down the hill, and up the hill. Often I run uphill – slowly, but without pause. That alone is not enough, I fear, to keep old age at bay. Obviously, you can’t stave off death forever – decline is inevitable. But you can give it your best effort.

When B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-20140, the revered teacher of my yoga teacher Carol Nelson, recently died, a picture of him in old age went around the world. It showed him in lotus position but with barely any muscles that I could discern. Now, he was really old when the photo was taken, but looking at him it dawned on my that in yoga we need three accomplishments:

• Spirituality - I’d translate that as inward looking
• Flexibility - yoga certainly accomplishes that)
• Strength – more muscles.

The last one, strength, can be trained in some of the more vigorous forms of yoga like ashtanga, but I prefer the deep, gentle yoga Carol Nelson teaches. That leaves me with strength training for homework. Since I am still not fond of gyms and strenuous workouts, I do a routine of seven small muscle-building exercises at home. They take less than ten minutes – actually, less than seven minutes! You can do them all together in one setting, or interspersed during the day.

1. Bending backward over a zazen cushion or a half-cylinder
2. Bench pressing
3. Wall pressing (a modification of push-ups)
4. Rubber band exercises
5. Yoga ball
6. Kettlebell
7. Dumbbells.

As you might have read in my book The Diabetes Cure, my philosophy is that exercise should never be overdone – we have sports medicine because we have sports, is my constant saying. Every exercise will be repeated twenty-one times, never more. If initially you can’t do an exercise twenty-one times, do as many as you can do without undue force, and slowly build up to twenty-one.

More information about each exercise:

1. Bending backward over a zazen cushion or a half-cylinder

This is not a strength training. But I start with opening my back because my worst problem is upper back posture (in childhood and youth, I spent much time bedridden). – Slowly count to 21, while you wiggle your back in place and bend it backward over the cushion. – When I travel, I replace this with bending downward from the hotel bed.

2. Bench pressing

Since I don’t own a bench, this is not exactly bench-pressing. But it is similar. I use a bar with two five-pound weights – including the bar, it’s 14 pounds. The point is not to use heavy weights, but to use light weights slowly, and regular – every day. Position the barbell over your lap, and bring your body in position: Stand knees up, and pull your arms backward, and make a hollow with your thoracic spine: If you lie too straight and heavy on your shoulder blades, there is potential of hurting your rotator cuffs. Do 21 slow repetitions. Push directly upward with your arms – and never over your face. There are several deaths each year of people who have dropped the barbells on their faces …


3. Wall pressing (a modification of push-ups)

Stand a bit away from a wall or a kitchen counter or anything stable, and push up with your hands 21 times. Be careful not to slip when you stand away from the wall. - If you can do real push-ups on the floor: Good for you! But, like lotus position, I am unlikely to get proficient at push-ups in this life.

4. Rubber band exercises

Use an expander-like rubber band over a bar (or from a hook). Use it twice 21 times to pull your arms down and back. This is the exercise that makes arm flab a thing of the past. Occasionally, sleepless in bed, I add this exercise: Lying on your back with elbows at my sides, I push into the bed, arching my upper back, holding the position for 21 counts. The relaxing of the muscles afterward is a good sleeping aid. - When I travel, I take Therabands.

5. Yoga ball

Lie belly-down over a yoga ball. Secure your feet at a floorboard or under a sofa. Lift your back from the hips 21 times without overarching your neck – it is better to let your head hang down a bit, and instead lift your arms. Gives wonderful strength in the lower back area, and will eventually strengthen your whole spinal musculature. – When traveling, one can do this exercise across a chair.

6. Kettlebell

Swing a small (5 pounds) kettlebell back between your legs and up to horizontal with your eyes 21 counts. Have a give in your knees. This exercise strengthens legs, pelvic musculature and arms. This is the one that always makes me pant. – I fear there is no good substitute for this when I travel as lugging around a kettlebell in my suitcase is not an option. I try to walk as many stairs in the hotels as possible – which has led to hilarious situations as we have from time to time ended up in the kitchen quarters or other off-limits work spaces.

7. Dumbbells.

Have a pair of small (5 pounds) dumbbells (or bottles filled with water or books). Push them up 21 times, high up over your head, and slightly backward – without creating pressure in your lower back area. This one took me the longest before I could do all 21 repetitions. – When traveling, I use my laptop as weight, and try not to drop it.

Lately, at yoga class, I notice how much easier the yoga postures are now that I own some muscles. The three goals – looking inward, flexibility and muscles – inform one on the other: They spread out through our bodies to keep us alive, healthy and, well, younger.

From Mouth to Anus

May 15, 2013

Tags: order, food, water, addiction to food, additive, aging, air, almond milk, antibiotic resistance, antibiotics, anus, baby, bacteria, bowels, brushing, buttermilk, cancer-breeding, caplets, capsules, carrageenan, caries, cosmetics, dairy - dangers of, dairy-free, dental hygiene, dentist, disease, fat, feed lots, fermented foods, flossing, fluoride, fluoride toothpaste, From Mouth to Anus, fruit, fruit substitute, full fat content, gastrointestinal tract, gene-technologically inserted, gum disease, gut-healthy, H2-receptor blockers, heartburn, hormones, household cleaners, inflammatory, ingredients, inhumane animal husbandry, improved, Internet, intestinal health, kefir, kimchi, labels, live cultures, meat, medication, medicine, microbiome, milk, milk products, milk proteins, miso, Mother Earth, mouth, mouth mucosa, natural, neem-based, no man is an island, nursing home, odor, oral cavity: acidity, oral health, organic, pasteurizing, patient, physician, plaque, poisonous, pollutants, Prevacid, Prilosec, probiotic powder, probiotics, processed, proton-pump inhibitors, quest, sauerkraut, skin, soap, soil, skimmed, societies – "primitive”, sour cream, stomach ache, sugar, sugar-free, sweetener, swish & swallow, swishing, Tagamet, tapioca, teeth, teeth brushing, tooth powder, tempeh, yogurt, Zantac

Medicine, for me, is a quest for my healthier self, and healthier patients. I am learning something new every day. In a way, I feel sorry for my patients of so many years ago – now, I think, I could help them so much better.

This also implies that you – the patient – could possibly be a step ahead of your physician, if you are trying to figure out what makes your body feel better and stronger and more awake, and happier. With the Internet, we all have more information at our fingertips, flawed and good information, for sure – but more of the latter. If you ask me.

Take for instance the stomach problems that plagued me when I was younger. Setting out with conventional drugs like H2-receptor blockers (Tagamet, Zantac) and proton-pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Prevacid) years ago, I at least got the problem under control. Then, twenty years the, I found that at the root of my heartburn and stomach aches were allergies: I left out the offending foods – and I dropped all meds, and never looked back.

Forward a bit, and I discovered probiotics – bacteria that are helpful for the intestines. They improved my bowels, and I took them faithfully for many years. I still recommend them to nearly every patient I encounter. Many studies link probiotics to good clinical outcomes, even if we have not yet quite figured out all the intricacies of how they work. One thing is sure: What you eat helps or destroys the microbiome that coexists in your body. A microbiome is the whole entity of bacteria, good or bad, that thrives with you, in you, on you.

Don’t worry – the good guys are winning right now. Otherwise you would be dead. But that the good guys are winning is not guaranteed – it could change any moment. You could crowd out the good guys with sugar, or commercial dairy, or destroy them with a course of antibiotics) or meat from one of those inhumane, antibiotic-resistance breeding feed lots – the list is long how you can hurt your microbiome inside and outside; cosmetics and household cleaners are high on the list. But even if we did everything right in our personal lives, outside forces can destroy your good bacteria – pollutants in water, air and soil.

Not to be an alarmist, but no man is an island, and if we don’t preserve our Mother Earth, we surely can forget about the intricacies of feeding our coworkers - our good bacteria - the right amount of this and that.

Health comes down to the health of our gastrointestinal tract. Lately, I have found that probiotics can be applied not just as capsules or caplets, but as probiotic foods. A big group which I just mention in passing are fermented foods – sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh, and so on. “Fermented” can be taken as another word for “loaded with gut-healthy bacteria”.

I have argued widely against the dangers of dairy – and still do. Ninety-nine-point nine percent of dairy is bad for you because of the highly inflammatory proteins and cancer-breeding hormones (be it naturally occurring, or gene-technologically inserted). But there is a tiny fraction of organic dairy that contains live cultures. Examples are yogurt, kefir, buttermilk and sour cream. But only, if they truly are organic, contain live cultures and have absolutely no additives that turn a good food into a nightmare: sugars, sweeteners, fruit, fruit substitutes, tapioca, carrageenan, and so on. In my mind, to qualify as natural they also have to have their full fat content – nothing skimmed or improved or processed any way other than pasteurizing – and the good bacteria have to be added afterward. Fat is not the culprit in milk and milk products – milk proteins are. Not only are they inflammatory, but also addictive. Now you can even get dairy-free organic yogurts, made for instance from almond milk. Or probiotic powders, ready to be dissolved in warm water. But always read the labels for ingredients!

Good dairy bacteria do not take away dairy’s inflammatory proteins and cancer-causing hormones. Therefore these probiotics should be taken in small amounts – very small amounts, indeed: a sip or a teaspoon full is the serving size here. And you don’t eat or drink them. You swish them around in your mouth as long as you can stand it, or unless you forget about them, and finally swallow them.

Probiotics thus taken increase not only your gut health, but especially your oral health. Studies show that probiotics swished around in the mouth after brushing your teeth reduce caries and gum disease in most cases – and I bet the result would be even better if people would add a healthy, sugar-free diet on top of this.

Using this to fight caries sure beats taking poisonous fluoride. Fluoride made me always uneasy: Studies link fluoride to cancer and neurotoxicity. But other studies clearly showed that it reduced caries – and I had not yet come by a natural method to preserve my teeth. Granted, “primitive” societies usually boast perfect teeth, but I had not quite found out why. Not sure, why, but sugar-free nutrition was probably the main cause. Then again, who of us modern Americans can boast a totally absolutely sugar-free diet – since infancy? Not that I know anyone.

Still, I am a believer in brushing and flossing (and also with good results, I have to say) – and don’t want to get rid of that. But neither fluoride toothpaste appealed to me, nor the brutal cleaning of my teeth at the dentist’s office twice a year. There is nothing natural in putting sharp metal scraping objects in your mouth. Now I am using an organic, neem-based tooth powder most of the time.

With oral swishing probiotics we gently provide a mildly acidic environment in our mouths for a few minutes. That cleans your teeth of plaque and implants healthy bacteria into the lining of your mouth, which then can grow during the next hours, or overnight, and fight bad bacteria. The result is amazing. And natural.

We take for granted that with advancing age we will lose our teeth, and that diseases will creep up on us. Ever been to a nursing home? A certain old-age odor emanates from those old bodies. We think the odor is normal. It is not. If one eats well, nourishes one’s oral cavity and intestines, in their entire length, and not destroys the precious skin bacteria with harsh soaps and cosmetics, we would smell like babies until our final days (and those will come even if we take good care of ourselves, but I bet those final days with be sweeter and easier if you have lived your life well).

Working on the microbiome in my mouth – that has been the newest station on my medical quest. In a way, this quest has been a journey from mouth to anus - and still is.

The Chinese Scroll

March 5, 2013

Tags: order, food, age, aging, antibiotic, antitoxin, baby, birth, Brussels, childbirth, Chinese, dinner, diphtheria, divorce, doctors, Europe, foolish & dangerous things, hitchhiking, love of life, luck measles, mother, nurse, Paris, parties, pediatric ward, perils, pneumonia, scroll, sick baby, The Chinese Scroll, tuberculosis, underage drinking, understanding, women, World War II, youth

At a fancy dinner, across the table, another guest talked about “women of a certain age.” I looked him straight into the eye and said: “I am not a woman of a certain age. I am 68.” There were a few gasps at the table.

Age seems to be a problem. But not if you have been a very sick baby that should not have survived 6 months when she came down with the double whammy of measles and diphtheria (they put her into a corner to die, and told the mother not to bother) – at the end of World War II in Europe when there were no antitoxins, no antibiotics, and no food. Or should have died of pneumonia every winter of her childhood. Or should have died of tuberculosis at age fifteen (or thereabouts). Or should have died in childbirth because the doctors deemed her too week to give birth of a baby of her own. Or should have died in her forties when the doctors thought she was too old for another baby. Not to mention two heartbreaking divorces, and all the foolish and dangerous things she went through in her youth: Hitchhiking alone from Brussels to Paris, drinking underage at parties – and more foolish & dangerous things I better don’t relate here.

Not sure what kept me alive during all those perils. Love of life, probably. And sheer luck.

But so it comes that I am not afraid of getting older – only curious, and proud.

I see my life as a Chinese scroll: Every day the scroll unrolls a bit more, and – surprise! surprise! – showing more and more of my improbable, disorderly, wonderful life: A gorgeous picture! Still a bit unfolding at the edges every single day. And how lucky I am to still be here, and see it unfolding, understanding more of myself, understanding better the forces that worked on me and nudged me and pushed me forward!

Oh, and that baby there, left to die in a corner of the pediatric ward? I imagine a kindhearted nurse who must have touched me and fed me and cuddled me secretly to keep me alive. And then, two weeks later, they called up my mother: Would she, please, finally pick up that healthy baby that was eating the food of all the other babies on the ward?

Swimming In The Cold

November 7, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, order, aging, alcoholism, asthma, autism, bone health, bowel, calcium, cancer, cheese, children, cloudy day, cold pool, cold stimulus, common cold, daylight, death, dementia, depression, disease - preventable, doing your job, elderly, exercise, fat-free diet, flu, inflammation, immune function, influenza, inner city, intelligence - diminished, laps - twenty-one pool laps, learning a new skill, light, long pants, long sleeves, milk - “fortified”, mineral, MS, multiple sclerosis, noon, northern latitude, outside, phosphorus, physician, plant diet, RA, radiation damage, rain, raising a family, rheumatoid arthritis, SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), skin, skin cancer, skin color, smog, sun, sun exposure, sun hat, sunlight, sunscreen, Swimming In The Cold, vegetable, virus, vitamin D, vitamin D precursor, vitamin D preparation, vitamin - fat-soluble, winter, yogurt, walking, winter blues

One aspect of my cold pool experience is that, every day, with my twenty-one laps, I am sucking up vitamin D - so to speak. The vitamin is manufactured under the skin with sunlight – or even just daylight, on a cloudy day.

There is not one vitamin D but several. The precursors are taken up with food – all vitamins D are fat-soluble, so a fat-free diet doesn’t do a thing for you. And then these precursors are metabolized under your skin with sun exposure. As we age, or with darker skin, we require more light to do the job.

And don’t think that “fortified” milk, yogurt or cheese will provide you with the right amount of vitamin D. They will only make any disease in your body worse because they are inflammatory. Also, there are several forms of vitamin D, your physician should supply you with a vitamin D preparation, particularly in the winter and particularly if you are living in the inner city where light might be filtered away by high buildings and smog.

Vitamin D is important for several reasons:

1. It protects you from all kind of cancers. And, please, don’t be afraid that you catch skin cancer from that short of an exposure – not more than twenty minute. On the contrary! The other mostly unknown fact about skin cancer is that vegetables protect you from skin cancer much better than a sunscreen. Disclosure: I don’t use any sunscreen, ever. I usually dress with long sleeves, long pants and a sun hat. But I don’t fool myself with sunscreen: They are not doing the job they advertise they are doing.
2. Sun and day light protect you from the so-called winter blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The more northern you live, the more at danger you are for depression, and the higher the incidence of alcoholism is. So, go out daily, at around noon, sun or rain, and fill up on light! You also get the exercise and the joy of walking in a park, or even just on a bustling street.
3. Vitamin D is essential for your bone health. Vitamin D is important for uptake of calcium and phosphorus, among others, from your bowels – without vitamin D the food or pill just passes you by. You also, of course, need a diet high in plant material so that you have access to all the minerals your body needs – because calcium alone doesn’t do a thing for your bones.
4. Vitamin D is essential for immune function - it protects your health in so many ways, not only against cancer. It also plays a role in warding off the common cold and the more dangerous flu. A virus alone can’t kill you – you also have to have a weakened body and a low immune function to make you susceptible to death and disease.
5. Insufficient vitamin D seem to lead to diminished intelligence and autism in children, and to dementia in older people.
6. The lack of vitamin D seems to be involved in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS). Being outside - especially in your youth - protects you.
7. Low vitamin D in your blood makes you more vulnerable to stroke – it is easy to see if you don’t eat fresh food and never get out of the house, that you immediately are at higher danger of vascular events.
8. Vitamin D seems to prevent or improve several other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and asthma – and it protects against radiation damage.

All this I get from my twenty minutes in the pool each day. And that is apart from the cold stimulus and apart from the exercise I get.

Should we not start a movement making people use their unheated, underused pools more? – If I only knew how! I am such an apolitical person.

And I admit publicly: It is hard every day to walk into that cold pool. – But isn’t everything worthwhile hard? Like raising a family, doing your job day-in, day-out, learning a new skill – and being afflicted by a bad, possibly preventable disease?

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.

Varicose Veins - Phlebitis - Thrombosis

July 29, 2011

Tags: food, water, order, aging, anti-coagulant, avocado, banana, barefoot, beauty, bed-ridden, beef, blood thinning, cancer, cattle, cherries, clot, clotting, cold gushes, Coumadin, cold washings, cows, cramping veins, dairy, Doppler scan, food sensitivities, food diary, food sensitivities, genetic disposition for clotting, heparin, hormone therapy, immobility, inflammation, inflammatory food, junk food, leg pain, leg swelling, lung embolus, nutrition, nuts, ocean, pregnancy, sitzbath - cold, standing prolonged, starches - white, stroke, sugar, surgery, swelling, trans-fats, thrombosis, trans-Atlantic flight, Varicose Veins - Phlebitis - Thrombosis, varicose veins, varicosities, vein, gluten intolerance, walking, warmth

Varicose veins are thought to be ugly, and in a way, they are. But as a doctor, I am less concerned with beauty, more with health problems – and varicose veins are not always as harmless as they seem.

Thrombosis is a clot that blocks a vein, usually in one leg. Thrombosis may lead to pulmonary embolus and, in rare cases, to a stroke; both can be fatal. The symptoms are swelling and pain and warmth of the affected limb. Physicians order a Doppler scan, to make sure the patient does not have the feared clotting situation. If it is a clot, the patient will be admitted to a hospital and a severe thinning of the blood will be administered with heparin, Coumadin and other anti-coagulants, until the clot is gone or at least stabilized.

Often the Doppler test comes back negative – no clot, good news! The patient has “only” phlebitis, an inflammation of the wall of a vein. The symptoms are exactly the same: pain, swelling, warmth. In German phlebitis is generally called “cramping veins” because cramps are also a feature of phlebitis/thrombosis. What can you do against inflamed veins?

Phlebitis and thrombosis can have several causes, sometimes combined: A genetic disposition plays a role. Longtime immobility - like sitting on a long trans-Atlantic flight without getting up, or being bed-ridden, especially after surgery – is known to cause clots. Hormone therapy can lead to clotting. Less well known reasons are cancer and food sensitivities, or even just plain food that is not healthy.
Nutrition that is less than optimal is known to promote inflammation. That inflammation can show up as different diseases in the body; one is phlebitis/thrombosis. Junk foods with high sugar content, white starches, trans-fats and particularly dairy are highly inflammatory for everybody. Food sensitivities, on the other hand, specific for individuals, can also inflame, but the causative foods are sometimes hard to pinpoint. I have seen reactions to banana, avocado, nuts, beef (it might be more what the cattle ate than the cows themselves) and cherries – but there are endless possibilities; a food diary might help in recurrent cases.

Varicose veins frequently occur in people with unrecognized gluten intolerance. Slowly, over the years, the varicosities grow, which is often thought as being just another sign of aging. However, varicosities can be viewed as a sign of chronic inflammation of the body. Pregnancies and much standing can aggravate the condition.
What to do in phlebitis:


1. Eliminate all offending foods.
2. Move moderately every day. Don’t sit for prolonged times. Go for a walk every day.
3. Don’t sit with legs crossed – that clamps down of the veinous blood flow.
4. Elevate legs as often as possible.
5. High-dosed fish oil, three capsules three times a day. Fish oil is a mild blood thinner (and could be contra-advised in some conditions) and a strong anti-inflammatory agent.
6. Cold washings and gushes of the legs, cold sitzbaths and barefoot walking in the ocean all are beneficial.
7. In the acute situation, an icepack (not longer than 16 minutes at a time) might bring relief.
8. Wear support panty hose. It prevents the veins to bulge out bigger and bigger. On very hot days cut out the crotch of the panty hose. Wear the support hose also after you are better.
9. Don’t rush into surgery. Phlebitis is often not just a mechanical problem – think about the food connection first.
10. If symptoms get worse with fish oil therapy, you better return to your physician – soon!

Stress – Good and Bad

February 24, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, abdominal fat, adrenalin, affair, aging, alarm mode, allergy - food, animals - grain fed, balance, beans, biochemical processes – life-sustaining, blood pressure, cancer brush painting, cardamom, cat, cell - dried, cellular health, companionship, competition, cortisol, cross-stitching, dairy, depression, development - of children, diabetes type II, dog, ENM, European Natural Medicine, exercise, family, fats – fried, fats - hardened, food - fresh, free radicals, friends, fruit, ginger, grains - whole, growth hormones, happiness, heartbreak, heart disease, hobby, hug, joy, kiss, inflammation, inflammation response, interleukin-6, knitting, loneliness, longevity, music, nuts, overdrive, pet, puttering in the garden, relaxation, sexuality, sleep, slouching, spices, stress, Stress – Good and Bad, sugar, tea, tea - herbal, touch, vegetables - cooked or raw, walking - daily, white flour, white starches

A recent study shows that stress increases interleukin-6, a powerful agent of inflammation in the body. Interleukin-6 is, of course, not the only chemical in the body that is affected by stress: Stress creates free radicals that make you age faster. Stress puts the body in high alarm mode via adrenalin and cortisol. Stress decreases growth hormones and stunts the development of children. Stress increases abdominal fat, which leads to diabetes and other diseases.

Stress makes us sick; with this new study, we know a bit better how that happens: Years and years of inflammation in your body can lead to diabetes, heart disease, depression and cancer.

But did you know that there is bad stress and good stress? Bad stress is what life and other people do to you; good stress comes from setting yourself goals and working hard for it. Balance is the keyword here.

Balance fights stress, as European Natural Medicine knows:

• Movement: Moving around most of the day breaks down stress hormones in your muscles, and makes you feel relaxed. Again, too much exercise and competition can wreak havoc in your body. But daily walking is the minimum. Find a healthy balance between slouching and overdrive.

• Eating fresh food: Vegetables (cooked or raw), fruit, beans, nuts have powerful compounds that reduce inflammation in the body. Foods that increase inflammation are: sugar, white starches, dairy, grain fed animals, bad fats (especially fried and hardened). Grains (even whole grains) are sort of in the middle between good and bad: better than white flour, for some people they still trigger the body’s inflammation response. Observe yourself to find out where you stand. - Anything you are allergic to works in your body like a flame-thrower, increasing inflammation.

• Herbs and spices are packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins, and so on. They gobble up the free radicals and they add taste, zest and decreased inflammation to your life. Today I will just mention two: ginger and cardamom. Put some ginger and/or cardamom in your tea or herbal tea – they both are perfect winter spices.

• Touch: The more you touch and hug and kiss, the better you feel. I am not talking about sexuality though – even if the sex cravings of some people might be explained thus. I am talking about loving your family, your friends. Getting into complicated affairs might only increase your life stresses.

• Keep a pet: Companionship and again, touching, lowers blood pressure, and makes people happier and live longer. Loneliness kills by breaking your heart. A cat shows you the wisdom of taking it easy; a dog is always happy to see you.

• Music, painting, knitting, cross-stitching, puttering in the garden – whatever hobby makes you happy also makes you healthier.

• Water: A dried cell is a stressed cell. Make sure every cell of your body is watered well (but not water-logged) to decrease stress on the cellular level, so that the healthy biochemical reactions can take place and sustain your life.

• Sleep is the most important and most definitely underused stress reducer. If you stay up late for TV, a computer game or just plain old partying, you create the set-up for a stressful next day. Be in bed before ten at least once a week – just to be reminded how good it feels not to have to rush through sleep.

• Joy – put as much of this stress reliever into your life. One of the easiest – and most needed – ways to arrive at joy is working for the joy of other people.

In the Midst of Life We Are in Death

June 29, 2010

Tags: order, aging, children, compost, death, In the Midst of Life We Are in Death, Irvin Yalom, religion, Rinpoche - see: Sogyal Rinpoche, Sogyal Rinpoche, Yalom - Irvin

The unimaginable for all of us is that we will die.

Other people, of course, die. But not us. This is how we deceive ourselves.

Let’s undeceive: It is time that we lift the taboo around death. Death should be with us all the time, in our consciousness - because it is with us, in reality. It can happen any time: An accident, a bad diagnosis. Not to mention the daily little dying in tiniest pieces that we call aging. In the midst of life we are in death – as the old Church hymn sings. Death surely is the reason why we invented religion – because it is so damn hard to think the unthinkable.

Most of all, we want to protect our children from death. So we are building a world free of the dark side. Death is never mentioned. When somebody dies, we keep children away.

Of course, children are not stupid – they know about death, usually by age four: the hamster that lied stiff under the radiator one morning. The news and pictures of war on TV. Even the wilting bunch of flowers in a vase. Nothing will last forever. All beauty will end up on the compost pile.

But not talking about death makes it even harder for children: They have to hide their deepest fears from their parents, not to hurt their feelings (that is how childhood works: children protect their parents. All the time).

When I was five, my father took me to a patient who had freshly died overnight. I remember the day like few others. It was a sunny Sunday morning, but the room with the dead man was kept dark. The widow cried, but she had enough compassion for the little girl to hand me an apple. I stared at the form in the bed. The jaws were tied up with a white napkin as if the man had suffered from toothache. I smelled my apple. Was it bad manners to bite into the apple in the presence of a dead man? I decided it was, and just held my apple. The widow said her husband had been suffering for so long; now his suffering was over. My father took out his stethoscope, examined the body and confirmed he had died.

On the way home, I asked many questions – I was that why? Why? Why? kid.

Did it hurt me? I don’t think so.

Denial hurts children – it deprives them of the means to grow up. Nothing is sadder than an elderly person who panics about the subject. To acknowledge that death awaits each one of us at the end, makes us live our lives more mindful, more compassionate.

Proposal: Everybody should read Sogyal Rinpoche's "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying") once a year, as a way to face what is so hard to face. As a way to grow up. Alternatively, for an easier read, try: Irvin Yalom's "Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death. "

Aging Is Inevitable - Or Is It?

May 21, 2010

Tags: order, movement, food, aging, Aging Is Inevitable - Or Is It?, belly crunches, centenarians, overweight, two-minute exercise

Yes, aging is inevitable, but how you age, makes all the difference. You can get a bit stiffer and a bit fatter and a bit more stooped and a bit more depressed every day, or you can embark on an exciting journey starting today that will make you glow with health, sparkle with interest and explode with love.

Will it be difficult? Not more difficult than doing two minutes of exercise every day, eating a bit more reasonably and finding something you love to do. If you start with two minutes exercise a day, you will soon find that your body wants more. What hinders you to get up from your chair right now and do ten belly crunches? Or, if you can't get down on the floor, lifting your knees ten times, then your arms?

Studies done on centenarians – people who made it to 100 – show that it took only surprisingly simple things to keep them alive that long. Good genes help of course, but more important might be staying busy and keeping involved with friends, family, community. Centenarians did not spend long hours at the gym or money for expensive spa vacations or face lifts.

All what is needed are simple, everyday gestures and measures: cleaning out the attic, puttering around in the yard, cooking a meal for a sick friend, knitting a shawl for a grandchild. What centenarians did not do: Sit in front of TV or at the computer. Really, they did nothing spectacular. But the unspectacular made a long, spectacularly fulfilled life.
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!