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.

The Problem with Hand-dryers

May 6, 2017

Tags: order, air-dry, antibiotic, automated, bacteria, bathroom, cleaning personnel, cloth towel, dangerous, expensive, faucet, Gargantua and Pantagruel, germ, hand-dryers, hidden costs, infection, lungs, microbe, paper towel, Rabelais – François (ca. 1495-1553), resistant bacteria, renewable source, restroom, sanitary, sinus, skin, tree, The Problem with Hand-Dryers, unnecessary

Many good ideas start in the bathroom – at least mine.

I am talking about my present favorite personal dislike, hand-dryers – those bacteria slingers. Cutting down trees for paper towels is, of course, horrible. But every time, I hear one of those germ circulators start up, I jump and try to leave AFAP. Those machines are mushrooming in public bathrooms – is nobody aware that we are living in times of increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics?

Hand-dryers are efficient microbe-distributors, with good potential to infect everybody who happens to be near: The user, the bystander, the cleaning folks. We have studies to prove it; paper towels are more sanitary by a mile: After being whirled into the air effectively, bacteria then settle on surfaces, where you don’t want them - the restroom doorknob, the faucet handle, your skin, lungs or sinuses. Questions is: Why have the hand-dryers multiplied anyway – like, just in spite? Of course, it is because they are out to get me. But apart of that: Why really?? Turns out they are cheaper than paper towels. Paper towels make a mess in restrooms. Or, better: Patrons are making a mess in restrooms with paper towels.

Seems we have not a lot of good alternatives. Paper towels have the advantage of being a renewable source, easily degradable. In Germany, I see a lot of cloth roles that automatically roll up after use, preventing the same use repeated times – and can’t be thrown about in the corners. They probably are Old-World-expensive, needing cheap maintenance crews and laundry services. To carry your own cloth towel comes to mind as a possibility. Admittedly, most of the time rather impractical. Rabelais, in his Gargantua and Pantagruel suggest a fluffy baby rabbit, unforgettably, for use as what he calls an arse-wipe. That would work for hand-wipe, too. A bit unrealistic, again, because where are the rabbits if you need them?? But Rabelais’ prose convinced me that a rabbit is the most ingratiating solution. Better than hand-dryers that are, to me, just another thing they sell us that is automated, expensive in hidden costs, unnecessary and dangerous.

My personal way out of the conundrum: Just don’t wipe your hands dry; let them air-dry.

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!

Can This Be Healed With Herbs Alone?

September 29, 2013

Tags: herbs, food, water, alcohol, allergy, aloe vera, Andrographis paniculata, ankle, antibacterial, antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, anti-germ, bacteria, bathing, berberine, black seed oil, brain, calf, cannabinoid receptors, Can This Be Healed With Herbs Alone, capsule, cheek, cinnamon, clay, cleanliness, coconut oil, cow, craziness, culture - bacterial, day care, diet, donkey, dosage, endangered species, Europe, experimenting, forehead, fragrance, frankincense, Germany, gold, goldenseal, goldenthread, head, healing agent, honey, honey-colored crust, impetigo, infection, Infectious Disease, injury, Iran, itch, lanolin, life-threatening, limb, Maine, Manuka honey, mosquito bite, mud, myrrh, nape, neck, neem, Nigella, ocean, olive leaf extract, Oman, oregano, primary care provider, proof of principle, propolis, rash - infectious, Russia, salt water, salve, Sankt Petersburg, scientist, sheep fat, shlep-sh***, skin infection, stable, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, tea tree oil, thigh, Three Magi, tincture, traveling, trunk, turmeric

Early July, in Sankt Petersburg/Russia, I was bitten by a mosquito. Not paying attention, I must have scratched the bite, and when I looked next – about a week later – my right ankle showed the telltale sign of a honey-colored crust: Impetigo!

Impetigo is an infectious rash, usually caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria. Since we were traveling, nobody did a culture, we never will know who the culprit is. For first aid, still in Russia, I dabbed tea tree oil on it – too late, as it turned out; I should have treated the mosquito bite thus!

At home, two weeks after the bite, for healing I added some herbs, taken by mouth: Olive leaf extract, oregano, Andrographis paniculata and neem. The rash got paler, but by then it had spread up my right calf, to both of my thighs, and to my forehead and right cheek. Tea tree oil immediately removed the itchy spots from my face, but the rest stalled – not getting better or worse. – It is interesting to note that impetigo usually spares the trunk; it prefers head and limbs. I conclude those bacteria don’t like it hot …

With all infections, it is a good idea to clean up one's diet - no sugars, dairy, and as few white starches as possible. Mine was already pretty good; not much I could do here.

We traveled to Maine. Bathing in the salt water every day was soothing, and accelerated the healing (careful if you try this at home: Some warmer oceans easily might carry offending bacteria!). But then it slowed down again. In my desperation, I applied mud from the edge of the ocean once a day – because in Europe muds and clays are thought of as healing agents. It sure didn’t look pretty – my legs were blackish, peeling and scattering dried mud wherever I walked and sat and lay – especially in my bed. But mud greatly helped: Every day the rash looked a bit paler, and felt less itchy.

In case you think I am a crazy doctor going off the cliff: All along I was in contact with my primary care provider, who happens to be specialized in Infectious Disease. Because I have many, many allergies to antibiotics, and because of the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, he thought it was worth to try alternatives. So, mud it was. I even took a jar full of mud home when we left Maine after the summer. But the jar soon was empty – and the rash blossomed again. I added propolis, black seed oil (Nigella) and to berberine (the yellow dye makes goldenseal and goldenthread antibacterial; but goldenseal is an endangered species, so I don’t use it) the mix of herbal capsules that I was taking by mouth; not all at once, but every three hours one of the herbs, while awake (dosage is found on the bottle).

An Iranian friend of mine wrote me that her grandmother would use a salve of turmeric and sheep fat (lanolin) on skin infections. So I made a salve with turmeric, adding cinnamon for fragrance, and Manuka honey for good measure (Manuka honey got excellent results in trials in killing bacteria). However, I used coconut oil instead of lanolin, because I had coconut oil in the house, it smells better than sheep fat, and it is known for having antibacterial properties itself.

Things healed nicely – until I noticed new lesions at the nape of my neck, where I must have scratched there – despite fussy cleanliness throughout. Presently, I am steeping myrrh in alcohol for a tincture; another friend recently had brought me myrrh and frankincense from Oman. Tonight, I will use this tincture for the first time. Mainly I am looking for replacing the turmeric with something less colorful – I am doubtful if I will ever be able to wash the yellow color out of my bed sheets … - And, yes, the Three Magi valued myrrh and frankincense as highly as gold! Why? Because of their anti-germ abilities, which was needed in ancient times when you lived with cow and donkey in a stable. Not to mention that frankincense binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

Against the intense itch, I am also using the jelly inside of a huge old aloe vera plant I grow on the windowsill. It soothes the itch, and seems to help to reduce the angry red.

Why going to this length (approaching three month) to treat an itchy – but luckily not painful – rash? Part is, of course, my many allergies. Another part is that the rash is not life-threatening – I have some room for experimenting. Also, I am not a kid in a day care situation who might spread the infection to other kids. And mainly I want to find out if curing this rash by herbs alone is even doable; finding proof of principle, as scientists say.

It’s not nice having an ugly rash. Adding ridicule to injury: In Germany, I was told, the slang word for this very unpleasant and persistent impetigo is “shlep-sh***!” - One could not have come up with a more suitable term!

Oh, and stay posted to find out if the herbs finally will work!

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?

What’s In A Diagnosis?

January 23, 2011

Tags: order, water, food, movement, antibiotic, ballroom dancing, change jobs, chronic fatigue, diagnosis, divorce, fever - high, headaches - worst of his life, high blood pressure, hypertension, lifestyle, marital counseling, modern-day, pill, sleep, stiff neck, stress, tennis, therapy, tick-borne disease, tularemia, What’s In A Diagnosis?

Sometimes a patient is desperate for a diagnosis: If she has been going from doctor to doctor, and has been told uncountable times that nothing is wrong, it's all in her head - she might be relieved if she finally gets told she has "chronic fatigue." At least, now she can deal with it.

Sometimes a diagnosis can save a life: If your belly hurts, and the diagnosis is “appendicitis”, a surgeon will operate on you, and your life is saved in all likelihood. When my son, a few years ago, had high fever, stiff neck and the worst headaches of his life, only the diagnosis of a physician turned the course of the disease around. The physician thought it likely was a tick-borne disease and probably tularemia: With the right antibiotic, my son recovered quickly.

Sometimes a diagnosis is just and word: Say, your doctor tells you that you have hypertension - high blood pressure. That doesn’t help you much. It helps the doctor to know what pill to prescribe you – for the rest of your days. Now you are a patient.

High blood pressure is a typical modern-day stress disease. Only about five percent of people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure, have an underlying medical condition. The rest – ninety-five percent! – have a wrong lifestyle. But interestingly, the diagnosis doesn’t tell you that there might be a difference – or that something else than a pill might help you.

If you have an especially astute doctor, he will tell you that you have “essential hypertension”, “essential” here meaning no real reason he knows of. With other words, the diagnosis is a medical throwing up his arms in the air, declaring nothing can be done. Except for a few pills, of course.

You have stress because your boss is unreasonable, or your spouse is the nagging kind, or your gambling debts are threatening to destroy your family life – again, you might not be able to do much. On the other hand, you might be starting thinking about what can be done. Getting more sleep every night? Eating more vegetables? Going into therapy? Returning to school, training for another line of work? Divorcing your spouse, or going to marriage counseling together? Enrolling in a course of ballroom dancing together? Changing jobs? Taking up tennis to get a handle on your stress and work some of the anger off physically?

No – you have a diagnosis, and now you get a pill. That’s all. Your doctor didn’t even tell you to drink more water, I bet.

You were probably told to go easy on salt. That is nice advice – if you were also told that most processed and restaurant foods contain too much salt, even your breakfast cereals and the “nutritional” bar. And that the salt problem is really big in black people but less of an issue in Caucasian people.

Chances are that your doctor also gives you a diagnosis of too high cholesterol – hypercholesterolemia. That’s another pill, right away.

Your doctor didn’t tell you that high blood pressure and high cholesterol aren’t two different diseases. They are one bad lifestyle. More often than not they go together.

And, oh, now you got diabetes! Your sugars are too high and this new diabetes really needs good management. Your doctor might even give you a new name for the three diseases above: Syndrome X. He will wiggle his head in concern, because having all three makes it really dangerous. One has to be treated extra-extra carefully – with many pills.

Some (or all) of those pills have side effects. Liver failure, depression, impotence, muscle inflammation, fatigue, upset stomach, and so on – which will require more pills and more monitoring.

None of the pills will buy you real health – glowing, sweaty, happy health as you might experience when you play a round of pick-up Frisbee or swim in the ocean.

I am not saying here you should throw away all the pills your doctor gave you. I am just saying you should strive for health, not for diagnoses and an assortment of pills, so that, one by one – and with the supervision of your physician – you might be able to drop the pills.

What is the difference between this diagnosis and that diagnosis? My son’s illness had nothing to do with lifestyle, and all to do with a nasty bug. Most diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood fats, and many cases of depression, arthritis and cancer have a whole lot to do with lifestyle. If you break a bone, only a good cast will help mending it – and good food will speed up the healing process.

Once you have a cancer, of course, a bit of lifestyle change is not enough to save your life – you need surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. Once the cancer is diagnosed, eating more fresh vegetables and going for a daily walk in sunlight might help you recover – but better would have been you would have started on a healthy path many years ago.

The uncomfortable truth is: Health does not come out of a pill bottle. And a diagnosis is just a name. What you do with your life counts for your health.
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!