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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!

Cleaning house

January 20, 2014

Tags: order, movement, absurdity, advice, attic, bacteria, balance, bartering, bathroom, book, broom, business plan, castile soap, cleaning aversion, cleaning lady, cleaning service, cloth, culture, doctor, duster, environment, exercise, friend, garage, German, germs, gym workout, habits, hall, hiring, house-cleaning, Internet, math, microfiber cloths, mindless exercises, mop, New Year, physical exertion, resolutions, responsibility, resource, room, Simple Green, sink, smut, soap, spraying, swiffers, toxic chemical, tutoring

These times, I am finding myself often thinking about why people change their habits. Because I am offering ideas for better health – but if people will adopt my ideas, is really up to them. Nothing I can do about it – beyond making a convincing argument.

It is not a good idea to make resolutions when you kick-off the New Year. Resolutions, when they work, are more like pimples coming to a head: They solidify because something convinces you that it is true, or overdue.

If you make a resolution because the New Year starts: What has the New Year got to do with it?? If you can’t stand anymore how you feel, or how somebody makes you feel, or how the days of your life fly by unused – that resolution has a chance to stick.

A resolution I recently decided on was to clean my house myself. After finishing my last book. I was out of shape, exercise-wise, and yearning for moving more, desperate to get out of my chair and move my limbs: Writing health books wasn’t healthy for ME! In the end, my need for more physical exertion more was stronger than my cleaning aversion.

Which is an enormous change for me: Even as a student, without a penny, I hired a cleaning lady, bartering for her services by tutoring her son in math. Everything for not cleaning!!

Start with a business plan, I told myself. I divided the bathrooms and the rooms and the hall and the garage and the attic evenly on the days of the week. Online, one can find marvelous advice about how to clean this and that and everything – if not always true to reality: “Wiping the sink: 30 seconds”. Now – this advisor must never have seen a German addressing a sink with soap and cloth, not to mention a German doctor well-versed in the hazards of bacteria and other germs (my next book is exactly about those little critters)! So, yes, it takes me longer. But afterwards, as we say, one can EAT from it!

Besides the Internet, my friends are great resources for advice. Swiffers, mops, microfiber cloths – a whole new world is out there. I use only castile soap and Simple Green. Spraying them on (in a diluted form) and letting them soak for a while will get rid of the hardiest smut, without harsh, environmentally toxic chemicals. And without scrubbing.

An absurd culture: We hire out cleaning responsibilities, but then go to a gym workout to do some mechanical, mindless exercises. For so many years, I had so bought into the idea of a cleaning crew that I never realized the absurdity. It was a knee-jerk habit – one just hires somebody. I have friends who told me that cleaning is beneath me, and that I should rather write more books. Don’t worry: I will. But for writing well, I need the balance of moving my body: And I will do it with broom, mop and duster.

The Diabetes Book Is Finished …

May 7, 2013

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, balance, acne, advertisement, Alzheimer’s, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, apple, bacteria, beauty, book, calorie count, carrots, cauliflower, concentrated, cucumber, dementia, detail, devil, diabetes, digitalis, fatigue, Five Health Essentials, formula, foxglove, fungi, germs, great-grandmother, happiness, infection, insomnia, kale, label, manufactured, medicine - single-agent patented, natural, Nature, nutritional bar, organic, packaged, plant, smart, sugar cane, sugar - table sugar, superfoods, TV, virus

… and, of course, I already started to write a new one. About herbs and infections.

And this is what I am finding … again: So many herbs have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal action – it is mind-boggling. Nature wants us to be healthy – if we would just listen to her! When I wrote about diabetes, I found that we have not just a few diabetes-fighting “superfoods” – we have literally hundreds of them, or even more. Now I am finding a trove of herbs that want to help us win over germs (or live in happy co-existence with them). As usual, herbs alone don’t keep us healthy – herbs are only one of the Five Health Essentials: Water – movement – food – herbs - balance.

Again, it comes down to: What is natural, is healthy.

Interestingly, just because a manufacturer declares something “natural”, it doesn’t make it so. Point to proof: sugar. Yep, originally sugar derived from sugar cane. But after that cane has been mixed and cooked and clarified and decolorized and filtered and processed and concentrated and skimmed and refined, the end product table sugar does not deserve the epithet “natural” any more. Same as the single-agent patented medicine derived from a plant – think digitalis, manufactured from foxglove – doesn’t deserve it.

“Natural” on your nutritional bar doesn’t mean anything – it is not a protected word like “organic” is (and even for “organic” there are sinister endeavors at work to make it less so). Don’t fall for "natural". A cauliflower is natural, an apple is, and so are carrots and kale and cucumber … you know the list is nearly endless. But anything in a package, anything with a label, anything they advertise for on TV, anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce, anything with a calorie count on it, anything your great-grandmother didn’t eat is not natural, and not healthy.

Indeed, I could write so many books about how to live healthier (and if nobody hinders me, I just might) – how to be more energetic, smarter, happier, more beautiful, have purer skin, sleep better – and they would all come down to the five essentials: Water – movement – food – herbs - balance.

If you recognize these five essentials as formulaic, you are right –I want you to recognize the formula (and learn it by heart). We are from Nature, and need to live by Nature, as much as possible. Otherwise, we get sick. Needless to say, the devil hides in the details. My new diabetes book – out with Rodale’s probably in August - is chock-full with details, and so will be, I hope, the book I am writing now, on germs. That one will come out in due time – which I project about two years into the future. If we can project at all.

Golden Beach

July 1, 2012

Tags: water, movement, abalone, antibacterial, antifungal, asphalt, balance, barefoot walking, beach, beauty follows function, Black Beach, body, bone strength, California, coconut oil, danger, drowning, feet, force of water, fun, glitter, gold, Golden Beach, leather, Massachusetts, massage, mica, mineral, mood enhancer, petrolatum, petroleum-derived, Plum Island, rock, sand, sandals, shoe, shoe shine, silicate, skin, skin scrape, sparkle, submerging, sun, sun hat, Sunday walk, swimming, Vaseline, vitamin D, wading, walking, wave, wave breaker, workout

Today we went to Plum Island/Massachusetts for a long Sunday walk on the beach – and I nearly drowned. I can’t blame anybody but myself. I thought I had found an easy wading spot through the big rocks of a wave breaker – as my husband did the reasonable thing and walked around it. While I balanced on one foot, trying to find a landing spot for the other, a wave pulled the sand out under me, tossing me back and forth between the rocks like a toy – I have scrapes up and down my side to prove that I underestimated the force of water squeezing through a tight space. At least, I should have dropped my towel to be able to hold onto a rock with both hands. But I didn’t because one doesn’t throw out a still pretty good towel …

Although I had wanted to swim, I had not planned it in such a fashion. The nice couple that fished me out of my predicament before my husband even suspected that I was in danger, told me they knew there was a problem when my legs stuck out from the water higher than my head. In spite of total submerging, I did not even lose my sun hat! But I was pounded on the rocks like an abalone waiting to be served, and for a moment I feared I would drown in this ridiculous situation: feet up, head under water, trying to save an old towel.

Last winter, we had hiked Black Beach in California. This beach today was golden. Firstly, the sand is white with many sprinkles of yellow. And then, in the sun, I observed a beautiful spectacle: The incoming waves glittered and sparkled like gold. Silt was tumbling in with each breaking wave, and it must contain – all that glitters is not gold – mica. Mica is sheet silicate, a mineral. And then I saw the mica on the wet sand flash and shine, too. A really golden beach – or, at least, I call it Golden Beach now.

After my mishap, we continued walking the beach and the waves for several miles (me with that huge pink sun hat, and a good sunscreen applied to my legs). Walking barefoot on sand is about the best thing you can do for your feet – they get a much better massage and workout than walking in shoes and walking on asphalt. In the body, beauty follows function – and a well-used foot is a beautiful foot.

Walking at a seaside has other health benefits: fun and sun. Light induces the manufacturing of vitamin D under your skin, which helps you to stronger bones – to which the walking itself already attributes. Sun and water are easy mood enhancers.

- Only marginally related, but it still has to do with feet: For a time now I have observed the marvelous effects of coconut oil on the skin, its antifungal and antibacterial actions. I also noticed that my sandals now always look freshly shined – in spite that I never have the time or energy to shine shoes. It seemed as if the coconut oil from my feet would end up in my shoes and then – miraculously – wander to the outside leather, and make the dirt fall off. My shoes suddenly look so cared for.

Yesterday, I did an experiment: I slipped into some rather dirty old sandals after I had slathered coconut oil on my feet in the morning; the sandals were still very dusty from our last walk around the pond, on sand and gravel. And sure enough, I can already see, after a single application, that the trick worked here again: The shoes clean themselves from the inside out.

Remarkable as it is, I am more interested what it tells me about coconut on my skin: It will penetrate everywhere, and does it good healing work. Other than, say, Vaseline (or petrolatum), the petroleum-derived product. It covers an area of skin, but adds much less to the healing process.

Bike Month

May 19, 2012

Tags: movement, accidents, back rack, balance, basket, bicycling, bike bell, Bike Month, biking, biking rules, bowel movement, car, cardiovascular health, cello, constipation, coordination, cycling, Earth, endurance, handlebar, heart health, helmet, Google Maps, immune system, Italy, Kegel exercises, longevity, May, muscle strength, muscle tone, National Biking Month, neck strain, obesity, overweight, pelvic area, racing, recuperating, reflector, rental bike, Romans, Rome, stamina, traffic, Via Appia antica, health benefits of bicycling, outdoors, mood booster, light, sunshine, vitamin D, weight problem

May is “National Biking Month”. I celebrated today to pick up my cello from the string shop (it had needed re-hairing) by bike – something I had not done before.

I had not used my bike on that route before because most of the 2.8-mile drive there is on a very busy – to me meaning: dangerous – road, with horrendous traffic. I set out anyway, and found out that there is a path along the highway, mostly hidden in the bushes, much safer than riding on the highway itself. Although it was narrow and overgrown – I had twigs whipping my face and lots of distracting dirt and debris underfoot, oh, underwheel.

But it was doable. Google Maps thought I should be able to paddle the 2.8 miles in 16 minutes. It took me about 25. But the weather was as gorgeous as one expects of May, and it gave me a wonderful work-out.

Here are my rules I stick to:

• I never go without helmet.
• I don’t bike two days in a row because I want to give my muscles a day for recuperating in between.
• I don’t bike when I am in a hurry – because that’s when accidents happen.

My bike needed a few adjustments before I could use it for errands like shopping. I had a rack installed in the back, with a basket. And I needed an old-fashioned handlebar. The original one seemed to be made for a racer – which I am not. The new one is comfortable and does not strain my neck. The other day, when we were in Rome, we took bikes along the Via Appia antica – the old road build by the Romans more than two thousand years ago. My Italian bike had one of those comfortable handlebars. And, by the way, those bikes were rented – free of charge. Wish we would have that system here! The Via Appia ride will be unforgettable!

And for the very occasional use during dusk (I don’t anticipate driving at night), I plastered the bike with a set of reflectors. And I bought a fun bike bell – just like I had as a child!

These are some of the health benefits of bicycling:
1. Gets you outdoors.
2. Improves your mood.
3. Gives you light and sunshine for vitamin D repletion.
4. Fights overweight.
5. Moves your bowels better.
6. Strengthens your heart.
7. Builds up your muscles – strength as well as muscle tone.
8. Tones your pelvic area (and is more fun than Kegel exercises!).
9. Improves coordination and balance.
10. Promotes longevity.
11. Increases endurance and stamina.
12. Boosts your immune system.

Riding a bike is one of the healthiest choices you can make for yourself and for our Earth – as long as you avoid being run over by a car!

Minimal Exercise Program

December 5, 2011

Tags: movement, anti-aging, arm exercise, back exercise, balance, ball – weighted, barefoot walking, bedridden, Black Beach, body pampering, bone mass, boredom, Boston, bowels - massaging, brushing teeth, cello, California, Chinese, constipation, daily exercise program, death, double chin, elderly, exercise program, exercises en-passant, falls in the elderly, family, fire, Five Tibetans, friends, garden, gentle exercise, German, gluten intolerance, gym machine, hip fracture, hypothermia, imbalance, immune-stimulating, immune system, injury, jogging, Kegel exercises, knee bends, leg strengthening, lower back pain, marathon, marriage, mindfulness, mindless exercise, minimal, Minimal Exercise Program, muscles, neck strengthening, osteopenia, osteoporosis, overexertion, painting, pelvic muscles, pinyin, pneumonia, pool, posture, reading, ruptured muscles, San Diego, sex, shadow boxing, soul pampering, spine, sports medicine, squeezing of shoulder blades, standing on one leg, swimming on dry, tai chi, tai ji, talking, tongue exercise, toning, traveling, triathlon, TV, upper back muscles, walking, warmth, writing, yoga

Reasons why I keep my exercise program as minimal as possible:

1. Exercise is boring.
2. Too much exercise may easily lead to injuries: We now have a medical specialty called “sports medicine”. If we didn’t overdo exercises, we would not need sports medicine. Using those modern gym machines while watching TV is a mindless enterprise. And as things go around, they come around – you could end up hurting yourself.
3. Definitely, there are more interesting things to do – playing cello, writing a book, reading tons of books, dabble with colors and brushes, being with family and friends, learning Chinese – to name a few.

On the other hand, I do have bad posture – inborn (many years of unrecognized gluten intolerance that weakened my muscles), and from years of being bedridden as a young person. Movement creates fire and warmth inside, without which we would not be alive. We need to move yes, but nowhere is it written that we need to jog or overexert ourselves in bad ways.

My exercise program changes all the time – I am always on the lookout for something faster and better. You might remember how much I liked the Five Tibetans – until I developed lower back pain. Recently I had to abandon my laps in the unheated Californian pool; the temperature got too low. I still jump in from time to time, just to get the immune-stimulating jolt of the cold water. But I can’t get my exercise that way anymore - danger of hypothermia and ruptured muscles.

Of course, back in Boston, I work in the garden and go to yoga classes, and have a house to tend to. Here, in this tiny apartment, I had nothing comparable – so far. Until last week , when I joined tai chi classes – or as it is called in proper pinyin Chinese: tai ji. In German, tai chi is called “shadow boxing” – and that describes well those flowing, artful movements I now try to learn. Emphasis on “try”: This is not my first time; in the past, I always had trouble remembering the sequence of movements. This time around, I will not even try to learn the sequence; I will just mimic my teacher and lose myself in the flow of gestures. Because, in the two more months we will stay in San Diego, how much can I really learn? Not much.

But in the first lesson, I already learned an important movement, which I now practice every time I pass by a mirror and notice how bent I have gotten up from my studies. Which makes two little exercises which I do in en-passant, not putting in extra time:

1. This squeezing of my shoulder blades that immediately makes me more upright. Firstly, it is a simple reminder; secondly, the squeezing loosens the muscles of the upper back and prevents that my head slowly vanishes between my shoulders like the head of a turtle in its shell.
2. Standing on one leg – especially while brushing my teeth, or waiting and whiling time away. This is good for balance, and for strengthening leg and pelvic muscles. Imbalance is what kills the elderly: Imbalance – fall – hip fracture – pneumonia – death; we physicians see it all the time. This exercise also increases bone mass in legs and spine, thus counteracting osteopenia and osteoporosis, thus preventing those nasty hip fractures. Standing on one leg is far more interesting and effective than Kegel exercises! Keeps your sex alive!

Not everything can be done on the go. So, I have this daily program – and don’t hold your breath! - each of these exercises takes less than a minute, and presently, I am doing six of them, each of them repeated 21 times. Twenty-one: That is the number of repetitions I have kept from the Five Tibetans. You can’t overdo much in twenty-one times, and twenty-one brings me just to the border of utter boredom.

1. Knee bends: Done wrongly, knee bends can hurt your knees. Therefore make sure that you are doing them right: Keep feet and knees together, keep knee caps over your toes, and don’t go deeper than you can easily do, but challenge yourself to go deeper with time. 21 times. Or, in the beginning, you might want to do this by holding on to something stable.
2. Arm exercise: Done with a small heavy ball. I have one of those weighted exercise balls – six pounds. When traveling, I am using my whale of a laptop – has nearly six pounds, too. Fill a plastic bottle with water (this is lighter), or find a heavy book. Slowly lift the ball (or whatever) with both hands and arms out-stretched, and bring it up above your head. Then bend your arms backward and down. Bring up your arms again, over your head and then down in front. Repeat this 21 times. It is good against arm flab, and strengthens the muscles of your upper back.
3. Back exercise: Stand tall. Take the ball in both hands behind you back and lift it upward 21 times. That will squeeze your shoulder blades and improves posture.
4. Swimming on dry: I started this after I had to leave the pool, because I missed the exercise that built up my upper back muscles. Come down on the floor on your belly, lift arms and legs slightly from the ground, and make swimming movements 21 times. A boon is that you are massaging your bowels in this position, which is good against constipation. Getting down on the floor daily acts also anti-aging.
5. Neck strengthening: This I do mornings and evenings in bed: Dig your heels and the lower part of your back head into the mattress. It feels like you arch your back in this position. Breathe in and out. It strengthens all back muscles, especially the upper back. It also works like a charm against a double chin.
6. Tongue exercise: This also helps to eliminate a double chin. Stretch out your tongue, 21 times.

One would think that a program this trifling would do nothing for the health of your body. On the contrary – I was never as toned and nimble as I am now, on this program. If however you are already doing triathlons or marathons: Stick with it, don’t listen to me … at least not until you come home injured. Then turn to my gentler method.

A big part of why this works is the mindfulness you practice all day: You stand on one leg while waiting for the bus. You get up from the computer and squeeze your shoulder blades. You are in the bathroom and stick out your tongue a few extra times. This program keeps you aware that you have a body, and your body needs attention and pampering, too. Moving your body gently pampers it. Lying down and doing nothing pampers your soul. There needs to be a balance between the two!

The other activity we do as often as we can, is walking. Here in San Diego, we have the beautiful Black Beach. If one removes shoes and socks and walks at the water line, in and out of the waves, it is great fun, and another great provocation to the immune system! And by walking and talking we keep our marriage afresh and alive.

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.

Winter Health – Thoughts From the Workshop

January 31, 2011

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, Andrographis paniculata, anis, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant stimulus, appetite, arm shaping, arterial disease, artificial molecules, ashwaganda, aspirin, astragalus, back health, bacteria, balance, ball - small heavy, bayberry, bicycling, blueberry, boneset, botulism, breast-feeding, breathing difficulties, broth, butter – pros and cons, cabbages, calendula, Cetraria islandica, chamomile, chicken soup, children – herbs for, cloves, coconut oil, cod liver oil, cold applications, cold dunk for babies older than four months, cold shower, cold sitzbath, cold stimulus, cold wash, cold wraps, colorings, compounds in a plant, computer, cough, covering sneeze, cytokine storm, dairy, decongestants, drinking warm or hot fluids, echinacea, eleuthero - formerly named Siberian ginseng, elderberry, elderberry flower, enhancers, eucalyptus, Eupatorium perfoliatum, evolution, extracts – herbal, fats – vegetal, fennel, fever, fever over 104 F in children, fish, fish oil, flavorings, flu epidemic, flu outbreak, flu season, fresh food, food – cooked vs raw, fruit – fresh or as compotes, fungi, GAIA Quick Defense, games – outdoor, Gan Mao Dan, gargling, garlic, germs, getting to the ground once a day, ginger, Ginkgo biloba, goldenseal, Great Britain, GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract), hanging out, greens, headache - enormous, herbal tea, herbs, herbs - fresh or dried, hiking, high blood pressure, home cooking, honey, honeysuckle, Honeysuckle-Forsythia Detoxifier, horehound, horseradish, hot liquids, hot water, hypertension, Iceland moss, immune system, immune system – exuberant, juice, juniper berry, knee bends, lamb, legumes, lemonade, lemon balm, licorice, linden flower, lingering cold, Manuka honey, marshmallow root, mask over nose and mouth, meat, microbes, microwaving, mucosa, mullein, mushroom preparation, mustard, myrrh, neem, obesity, olive leaf, olive oil, omnivore, oregano extract, Oreganol (an oily extract of oregano), Oregon grape, organic, osha, patented medicine, pathogen, pau d’arco, Pelargonium sidoides, pelvic health, peppermint, phyto-caps, physiology – our ancient, pneumonia, point mutation, pregnancy, Prepare – Protect – Pull Through, preservatives, PrimalDefense, probiotic, qi, Raynaud’s, repair of damaged cells, repair time between 11 pm and 1 am, resistance, respiratory infection, resting, ribwort plantain, rinsing nose with saltwater, roots, rose hips, rotation of foods, rotation of herbs, sage, sauna, sinusitis, sleep, sleeping with windows open, slippery elm, snow shoveling, sore throat, spices, standing on one leg, starches - white, steam inhalation, stiff neck, stinging nettle, stomach flu, strength, stress - good and bad, stuffed nose, sugars, sun light, sweetener, Swine flu, synergy, tea - green or black, tea tree oil, teenager, tepid water, thyme, tincture, tonic herbs, TV, Tylenol, umckaloaba, urinary tract infection, UTI, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian, Vick’s, violets, virus, virus exposure, vitamin C, vitamin D, walking, warm rooms, wash hands often, weekend, winter, Winter Health – Thoughts From the Workshop, twisting movement, warm rooms, Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian, yoga, yoga ball, young adult, zinc lozenges, Zyflamend

Introduction:
[These are my notes – they are a refresher for the workshop attendants. But might also be useful to look something up when one needs it]

What happens through the winter: A depletion of reserves leads to increased susceptibility to infections. Decreased movement. Holiday foods – not healthy.

It takes two to get sick: A virus and a run-down immune system.

“Huge outbreak” of Swine flu in Great Britain: 24 deaths as of 1/29/11 – compared to the more than 35,000 deaths annually from “normal” flu in the US (which is nothing).

Cold and flu:
• Prepare: Get your immune system into perfect shape
• Protect: Shield yourself during an actual outbreak
People are less prone to respiratory infections if they have more contact with people, and hug more. Exception: Little kids – they schlep everything home. But in the long run, it might be beneficial. But in a flu outbreak: Stay away from people as much as you can. Wash hands often. Don’t be sneezed at. Avoid public transportation. Don’t hug and kiss. Avoid touching public doorknobs, telephones and similar surfaces with unprotected hands.

• Pull through: Survive even if you come down with it.

• Water
• Cold stimulus – compare to anti-oxidant stimulus – good stress and bad stress
• Warm rooms: More obesity, more colds
• Cold Shower/cold wash/cold dunk for babies older than four months
• Cold sitzbath
• Sauna
• Sleeping with windows open
• Drink enough warm or hot fluids – hot herbal teas are perfect. Juices are not.
• Don’t do cold applications with an acute cold/flu, uncontrolled hypertension, arterial disease (Raynaud’s)

• Movement
The only thing for increasing qi and against cold is movement. But excess is as detrimental as laziness.
• Yoga, of course
• Daily outside walk – importance to get sun light and vitamin D
• Hiking, bicycling, games on weekends
• Snow shoveling:
Break down the task
Take small loads
No abrupt movements
Cherish twisting movements – but they also can be the source of strained muscles.
• Yoga ball (back)
• Small heavy ball (arms)
• Getting to the ground once a day (strength)
• Knee bends (strength)
• Hanging out (back)
• Standing on one leg (pelvic health)

• Food
• Fresh foods – home cooking: Vegetables, legumes, small portions of fish and meat (lamb!), fresh (or dried) herbs. No microwaving.
• Vegetarian/vegan against omnivore
• No dairy, sugars, white starches, sweeteners, artificial molecules: colorings, flavorings, enhancers, preservatives, etc
• Predominantly cooked – more so in the winter
• Fats: More is better – but they have to be vegetal: Olive oil, coconut oil, ??butter
• Organic: Good but fresh is more important
• If you have a cold/flu: You should always force hot liquids on a sick person but never food: Respect if there is no appetite, and respect if there is. Just nothing sugary. Fruit – fresh or as compotes – is probably the best. Or hot elderberry/blueberry soup (also good for acute stomach flu and urinary tract infections). Blueberries are much cheaper.

• Herbs
Herbs have been with us throughout evolution. Their mechanism fit into our ancient physiology like a key into a lock. We always ate herbs from the wild, and now that we have for the most part stopped, a little bitter green, cabbages or strong root might just be what your body needs to find back to balance.

Bacteria and viruses do not easily develop resistance against herbs. That is because a single herb contains hundreds or more of compounds, and many of these compounds work on killing off the germs - not only one. Since point mutations in bacteria can only develop one by one, it is less likely that an herb becomes ineffective against a pathogen because there will be other compounds to destroy the microbes first.

Synergy is the reason why I recommend whole herbs (tinctures or so-called phyto-caps with extracts of the whole plant) instead of “taking the best” from several pants, and making a patented medicine. Patent medicines exist because natural plants can’t be patented, and so firms try to make money by taking single compounds from a plant, combining it with other single compound, thus producing a “new” medicine that allegedly is better. The truth is, mostly it is not better because you cannot improve on nature

• Prepare: During cold and flu season, take tonic herbs like stinging nettle, astragalus, ashwaganda, or eleuthero (formerly named Siberian ginseng) to strengthen your immune system. Rotate them every three weeks.
• Spice up your food with herbs and spices because they kill microbes (the plants developed the strong-tasting compounds to protect themselves against the invasion of bacteria, viruses and fungi). Pregnant and breast-feeding women as well as little children should go easy on herbs and spices.
• When you go out, use an Echinacea spray every hour or two to protect your throat, the entry port of viruses. Again, GAIA makes a good one
• Mushrooms boost your the immune system – eat them often, or take a mushroom preparation; Whole Body Defense by Gaia is one.

• Protect: (if you had exposure, or suspect you had): If there is a bad flu epidemic: Chew a raw garlic clove, several times a day
• Take a lick of unheated honey (Manuka is the best) every hour or so – kills germs (not for children under three years – danger of botulism!)
• Rinse your nose prophylacticly with saltwater to kill germs (carefully rinse mouth afterward with clear water if you have blood pressure issues)
• Prophylactic and curing: Hot elderberry tea, hot blueberry soup
• Importance to wash hands and cover sneezes and coughs, preferably with a sleeve cough – not your hands
• Take as supplements: A probiotic (I like PrimalDefense), fish oil and cod liver oil

• Pull through: In cold and flu: Immediately when you come down with the flu: REST!
• Fever over 104 F in children, and a cold lingering more than a week should be seen by a physician. Also if you have unusual symptoms like stiff neck, enormous headaches, breathing difficulties, and so on.
• Against cold: Easiest, most expensive: GAIA Quick Defense. It contains Anagraphis paniculata – best cold medication I know (hard to find as a single extract)
• Against cold and flu: Echinacea, olive leaf, osha, pau d’arco, licorice – all as extracts in a bottle. Mix together in hot water like a tea.
• Other herbs that have been found beneficial in colds and flu: bayberry, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), calendula, goldenseal, Oregon grape, juniper berry (chew a dried berry every few hours, not more than five a day, and not for longer than a week), umckaloaba (Pelargonium sidoides)
• A ready-made anti-viral concoction is the Chinese Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian, also called Honeysuckle-Forsythia Detoxifier. It might be a good idea to have some of those pills at hand when you get sick (get them from a reputable source).
• Lingering (more than a week) colds and bacterial infections: GSE extract (but consult your physician to make sure it is not pneumonia)
• Sore throat: Swish a few drops of oregano extract (nips whatever is coming in the bud, if you take it early enough) in your mouth and swallow, or zinc lozenges (science is a bit wobbly on zinc)
• Sore throat: Gargle with saltwater or warm water with one drop of sage, myrrh, oreganol, neem or tea tree oil. Not for children under six.
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Rinsing nose with saltwater – frequently, if necessary
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Eat mustard, horseradish.
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Steam inhalation helps with a running or stuffed nose. You can add chamomile, thyme, eucalyptus or a pea-sized piece of Vick’s. You can also use Vick’s on older children (check the label).
• Cough: Gan Mao Dan Chinese pills (20 per day in divided doses), or make a tea of peppermint, honeysuckle, ginger, cloves and/or horehound, slippery elm, violets, fennel, anis, marshmallow root (the real one!), Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica), ribwort plantain
• Fever is mostly good – it kills the germs. Therefore, no aspirin or Tylenol. In children, do cold wraps or dunk babies in tepid water
• If you get the flu, start Ginkgo biloba will start repair damaged cells
• Also: No decongestants as they tend to dry out mucosa and increase stuffiness in the long run
• Increase hot fluids: hot water, hot broth (chicken soup has been researched – and it really works!), hot herbal teas (linden flowers, elderberry flowers, honeysuckle, fennel or thyme, sage, green or black tea, thyme, ginger, rose hips, mullein, lemon balm, peppermint - in all combinations) are good – but so are many other. Hot lemonade is also beneficial if made with fresh lemons and preferably with unheated honey
• If you use vitamin C, use a low-dose kind – and only in the first few days of a cold
• Don’t use all the herbs at once – get familiar with a few, one after the other.
• There is no such thing as” That herb does not work in me!” There is only “That herb does not work against this or that germ”

• Order
• Cherish the season – don’t fight it
• Preventing: GET ENOUGH SLEEP! In a flu outbreak, be in bed by nine pm every night – no TV, no computer. The body repairs itself during about two hours the time around midnight — if you are asleep then, that is.
• During a bad flu season, consider wearing a mask over nose and mouth

The causes of death in influenza are of two different origins: Older people die of the virus and its consequences like pneumonia; their weakened immune system cannot fight the virus anymore. Young people succumb to an overreaction of their still exuberant immune system – they produce what we call a cytokine storm, and usually die within the first two days. Consequently, both groups should be treated differently. In young people (older teenagers and young adults) I therefore would add an herbal anti-inflammatory, namely Zyflamend as soon as the young person gets sick.

The End of the Year in Maine

December 28, 2010

Tags: movement, food, order, artichokes, baking, balance, Beethoven - Ludwig van (1770-1827), Brendel - Adrian (born 1976), Brendel - Alfred (born 1931), cello, Christmas, cookies, cooking, cross-country skiing, Cutting For Stone, exercise, healing food, Maine, pesto, piano, red cabbage, sauerbraten, shoveling snow, skiing, The End of the Year in Maine, Verghese - Abraham (born 1955), writing

We are in the cabin, away from everything during the time we call between the years in German. Nowhere in the world do I sleep as deeply as here, nothing makes me so content than being here with my loved ones.

Not to sound too pollyannaish: The adjustment to being in such confined room is usually a loud affair for our family – we have to rearrange ourselves and our egos. But the result is good, and I think, lasting.

In the snowstorm, we got ten inches of snow (I just stuck a ruler into the snow on the porch). During the snow last night, we went for a walk along the beach, fighting the wind and swirling snowflakes on our way out, and having them nicely at our backs on returning.

In spite that I brought my equipment (the ancient three prongs- shoes), I haven’t been cross-country skiing yet because I get so much more satisfaction out of shoveling snow – a movement with purpose. Always change hands; for balance, one has to work both sides of the body, even if it feels a bit clumsier on one side.

Shopping is not celebrating the season - snow-shoveling is. And sitting in front of the wood stove, listening to Beethoven (my favorite at the moment: The complete Beethoven piano/cello music as played by the father/son team Alfred/Adrian Brendel), reading a book.

You think snow-shoveling is a chore, and you would rather go without? Imagine you couldn't do it because you were sick. You had to hire someone to do it, pay for it, and miss out on the exercise. How much you'd long for snow-shoveling then! What a desirable activity it would become!

During the holidays, the family didn’t mind eating my sauerbraten and red cabbage for three days in a row. They were actually looking forward to it – savoring it so much! I am a good cook but a lousy baker – don’t follow instructions well. But this year, my self-baked cookies came out right – the Florentines being the favorites of all times. Luckily, all cookies are nearly gone.

In the sauna, after three days of feasting (we celebrate on Christmas Eve), I noticed that I looked like a pink pig – and felt like one, too. But after one day with a light dinner (artichokes with pesto) and lots of outdoors activity, I am back to being my old self again. Artichokes are healing food for the liver - we all can use them after the holidays, I'd say.

All that is only the setting to tell you from where I am writing. What I really want is to share my present reading: Abraham Verghese’s Cutting For Stone. It is a medical novel, and surely I am biased as a physician, but I would award him the Nobel Prize for Literature – the book is that good! It spans three continents, giving us a flavor where we Americans come from – namely, the whole world. His observations of people and how they function (or not function) are deep and true. I wish I could write like that.

For a writer it is always upsetting to meet a book that is better than her own but I don’t care; I just care about that Abraham Verghese has written it - and that I am lucky enough to have found it. And I am not yet done: There will be a few days more of this exquisite pleasure!

Don’t Know About the Biochemistry of Birds

December 11, 2010

Tags: order, movement, water, balance, biochemistry, birds, Canada geese, cod liver, cod liver oil, cold shower, cold – stress stimulus, cormorant, Don’t Know About the Biochemistry of Birds, fire, gardening, ice, light, marriage, multivitamin, Nature, playing ball, pollution, pond, running, seasons, skin – dark and light, spirituality, sun, talking, vitamin A, vitamin D, walking, waterfowl, winter, wood stove

Today the pond was frozen over for the first time this year. The Canada geese have flown away to a place with still open waters, and the lone cormorant that, for weeks, had greeted us every time from the same spot is gone, too. We still can make out where he always had been sitting – a white sheet of guano at the edge of the reservoir (presumably soon being washed into the reservoir, enhancing our drinking water…).

We marveled at the bird every time we walked by. Why was he always sitting on that very spot so steadfast? Hatching time was long over. He was not deterred by the many passers-by. We had gotten fond of him, and his whimsical determination.

My husband and I take our walks to catch up on each other's lives; we are talking to each other (helps a marriage to survive). And to catch a ray of sunshine – so precious at this time of year when the sun gets lower daily. We want to build up some vitamin D under our skin to get through the winter without colds or cancer. I don’t know about the biochemistry of birds, but the cormorant must have thought along the same lines: Get in as much of the goodness of the sun. as long as it lasts!

Of course, a walk in the dark exercises your body, too. But walking (or running or playing ball or finishing up fall cleaning in the garden) in light has the extra benefit of helping your body to produce vitamin D under the skin. Lighter skin produces it more easily; dark skin needs longer exposure. Besides helping fight infections and cancer, vitamin D is essential for bone strength – and doing something outdoors, moving around, gives an extra boost to your health.

If we live right, we are able to do away with artificial vitamins. Isn’t it marvelous that the body finds the required vitamins in its food and produces some under the skin? Of course, the food has to be fresh, not processed – because artificial things (let’s not even call them food!) are devoid of what really nourishes your body. It has to be this way – that you find all your requirements in fresh foods – because, otherwise, how would have mankind ever survived without the multivitamin from the drugstore?

We do eat cod liver about once a month – giving us a hefty dose of vitamin D (along with vitamin A). It is delicious. But probably polluted – so we don’t have it often. If you don’t like the idea of eating cod liver, get a good cod liver oil preparation and take it during the winter months.

Our walks keep us healthy. Winter is not a time to stay indoors; it is the time to bundle up warmly, march out and come back an hour or so later with red cheeks, ready to sit in front of the warm wood stove again. That walk in the cold gives your body a stimulus to balance itself according to the season – similar as a cold shower does: Cold is a healing stress – if not overdone.

Out there, with the cormorant or the Canada geese or just the still surface of the frozen pond, we bond again with Nature and rediscover that we are part of it, and rediscover our spiritual home.

Puttering Around The House

November 22, 2010

Tags: movement, anemones, asters, balance, carpentry, daylilies, declutter, exercise, fall, gardening, gym, iris, leaves, oak, painting, peonies, phlox, puttering, Puttering Around The House, quadriplegia, raking leaves, roses, safety on ladders, sanding, scraping, spackling, spring bulbs, tannin, wallpapering

Last week, I painted the kitchen ceiling. That gives me bragging rights – but that is not why I want to talk about it.

Probably because gyms bore me to tears – I have never entered one except in hotels where there’s nothing else to do – I try to incorporate my daily exercise by puttering around the house.

The last leaf has come down in the yard and I neatly piled it on the beds. I am for recycling, even in the garden, and would never dream of having the precious gold hauled away. Next spring it will feed my flowers and bushes (mostly; oak leaves, with their high tannin contents, need about two seasons to decompose). This method asks for sturdy plants – they need to be able to pierce through the piled leaves in the spring. So, you won’t find dainty little things in my garden. Roses, peonies, iris, daylilies, phlox, garden asters, anemones, spring bulbs – and many more – find their way up to the sunlight. And of course, my garden never looks as tidy as that of the neighbors.

But I didn’t want to talk about gardening – although gardening is one of the things that keep me in form. The focus is on turning inward now, appropriate for the dark season, and aiming at the cluttered corners of our place. One by one I am tackling them. In my youth, when I had no money, I learned to paint and wallpaper and lay down carpets. I even built a closet. Now I return to my old skills because I crave the exercise. All we who spend the day at the computer, need that exercise.

So, it was the kitchen ceiling last week. Scraping off the flaky paint, spackling (“spackle” – a totally new word for me; in the hardware store, I had asked for “putty” – wrong word for what I needed!), sanding, painting. And all that work done on a ladder with arms above the head. I alternated arms because I want to grow an even body. Still, it was hard work. Also dangerous. My dear friend Jackie, years ago, fell off a stool hanging curtains, resulting in quadriplegia. So I was mindful all the time to not lose my balance. Hers is another story – but with alternative therapies (acupuncture, massage, etc) – Jackie regained the use of her arms, and even some of her legs. We will spend Thanksgiving with her and her family – a wonderful tradition for many years.

Too many stories interfering! Two points I want to make: Find chores in house, garden, attic, basement to do that keep you moving. And try to use also your non-dominant hand. That challenges your brain, makes you more nimble, and balances your body.

Standing On One Leg

October 24, 2010

Tags: movement, balance, brushing teeth, exercise, exercise – harmful, high blood pressure, hypertension, Kegel exercises, leg, pelvic muscles, standing on one leg, walking, walking on uneven surface, yoga stance

Because I get bored stiff with doing exercise, I am always on the lookout for some easy way out.

The Five Tibetans were my favorites for a while, then the yoga ball. But both showed their propensities for inducing harm: The Five Tibetans gave me some lower back pain. The yoga ball made a kink in my neck. Both cases are probably brought on myself, by overdoing it.

But I found an exercise that is not harmful (at least not as of now) AND does not even take up any extra time. Unbelievable? Because you do it while you brush your teeth.

Easy: Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth. Change legs in the middle.

In the beginning, I was very wobbly. But I found focusing on the crease between leg and buttock, improves stability. Over about a quarter of a year, I have been getting quite good: I can lift my leg to a horizontal stance without toppling over.

This exercises, of course, your leg muscles. It also tones your pelvic musculature – without being as boring as Kegel exercises. By extrapolation, I would think that it will help lowering high blood pressure – as walking on pebbles or uneven surfaces has been proven to do exactly this. It think it has to do with using muscles, period.

And the most important effect: It works on the balance center in your brain. Elderly people are dying often from falls. So we need to maintain as much balance as we can.

Especially, if it is just a simple habit added to the twice-daily chore of brushing your teeth!. It turns out that standing on one leg has the same exercise effect as walking for forty-five minutes. Amazing, huh?

Simple Health Is Attainable

May 10, 2010

Tags: order, water, movement, food, health, herbs, balance, diabetes type II, heart-lung transplant, repair, simple health, Simple Health Is Attainable, smoking

Do you have diabetes?

Yes? Do you really HAVE diabetes? Or is it just a label you are carrying?

Not to dispute the reality of the symptoms you feel or the havoc the diabetic condition can wreak in your body - but they are, after all, just names doctors made up. A diagnosis helps to find a pill against the diagnosis.

That has its good sides, and its bad. Especially with a diagnosis of diabetes: Do you really believe that a single little pill can reverse years of not exercising and eating the wrong foods? I don’t.

But I do believe in simple sheer good health. Instead of fear-mongering with labels, let's focus on what we can do to stay/become healthy. Your body actually wants to get healthy and has a vast ability to repair itself - if you just give it some room and help. If you eat your green veggies, move briskly through life (instead of lingering on the couch or a chair in front of TV and computer), if you drink fresh water, do not smoke, relate warmly to other people, get enough sleep - you might never have to see a doctor all your life.

Admittedly, bad things happen to good people, and environmental hazards are as yet under-reported and not well understood in their impact on our bodies. But aside from that (and genetics), you are responsible for a good portion of your health. Estimates are not scientific – but an educated guess is that you hold about seventy-five percent of your health outcome in your hands.

Our bodies are really old, old things – not meant for driving in a car, eating TV dinner and marshmallows, staring at a screen for most of the day, exist holed up in our individual cubicles (at home and at work), exposed to noise, electronics, polluted air and other ills of modern times.

We don’t want to move back into the cave; we like the amenities of modern life – for instance the ease of connecting with loved ones via telephone of computers. The more it behooves us to counteract the bad modern influences and have as many of the natural elements in our lives as our good old bodies need: Water, movement, fresh food, herbs, and balance.

Back to diabetes (or any other diagnosis): If modern lifestyle is at the root of diabetes (and it is!), then go to the roots, make some meaningful changes, and don’t expect betterment from a little pill, please - not like the patient whom I once counseled against smoking: “The heck, when I get lung problems, they’ll give me a nice, new heart-lung transplant.”

High Blood Pressure - the Disease of Lost Balance

May 9, 2010

Tags: order, water, acupressure, acupuncture, aromatherapy, art therapy, Ayurvedic Medicine, balance, biofeedback machines, breathing exercises, cold shower, cupping, electrolytes, exercise, high blood pressure, High Blood Pressure - the Disease of Lost Balance, HTN, hypertension, journal writing, massage, minerals, music therapy, overweight, Raynaud's, salt, shower - cold, sleep, stress, Traditional Chinese Medicine, visualization, weight lifting

If you have high blood pressure, ask yourself if you have balance in your life. If you feel you are off-kilter - here is what you can do:

1.Balance physical and mental exertion: Walk 10 minutes every day. No excuses: rain or shine, snow or ice. Bundle up for the weather and just go. Best times are after work, to release stress, and at noon to catch some rays of sun. — Shut off TV and computer - move more. Take up activities you like. Avoid weight lifting and isometrics, rough contact sports, races and competitions — your blood pressure is already high enough.

2.Balance inhaling and exhaling: Quit smoking and learn breathing exercises. Here is a simple one: Take three deep breaths every hour on the hour while awake. Always start with a deep exhalation.

3.Balance your electrolytes: Cut down on salt and salty foods like deli and canned goods. Food in restaurants and ready-made foods are loaded with hidden salt. Drink tons of water to flush out excess salt.

4.Balance warm and cold: End every hot shower with a cold shower: Turn the handle on very cold, start at your feet, then your hands and face. Finally the whole body. The whole thing takes just a few seconds. - Contraindications: uncontrolled high blood pressure, severe hardening of the arteries, Raynaud’s.

5.Balance your weight toward ideal. Even one pound less means that you have stopped the steady weight gain that people think comes normally with age. It does not. Five pounds totally changes your metabolism toward healthy.

6.Balance sleep and activity: Go to bed early, between nine and ten o’clock. Read yourself sleepy. Get up before seven o’clock. Follow your natural rhythm of sleep and wake. It is possible to go shopping at three AM, but it does a number on your system ... a HIGH number.!

7.Balance the seasons: Follow Nature's yearly circle. Eat in season: lighter in the summer, heartier in the winter. Open your window at night, avoid overheated or overly air-conditioned rooms. Engage in seasonal activities.

8.Balance the colors in your meals: The more colorful, the better. Try a new vegetable each month. Use olive oil for cold dishes, coconut oil for hot ones. Garlic and onions are good for your heart. Fish oil counterbalances the myriad of inflammatory agents in our diet.

9.Balance work and relaxation: Take time for your family and friends, music, arts, and hobbies. Learn something like yoga, meditation, tai chi or another relaxation technique.

10.Balance with herbs: Herbs are not first-line drugs for high blood pressure, but hawthorn flowers and berries might help reduce it. Always discuss herbs with your physician. Avoid unnecessary medication — especially over-the-counter (for instance, pain meds can increase blood pressure).

11.Balance your mood with natural herbs or pleasant activities instead of alcohol or drugs. After weight, alcohol is the most common cause for high blood pressure.

12.Balance your attitude: Avoid negative emotions like hate, envy, regret, jealousy, greed, contempt. Nourish your heart chacra: Anxiety and stress elevate your blood pressure; happiness lowers it. Look at your relationship with your significant other, with God and Mother Earth. Or with your pet. Bring meaning into your life by connecting with people — family, friends and people less fortunate than you.

13.Balance your week: Plan an outing/ excursion/ event each weekend. Do not stay at home to catch up on work.

14.Balance your minerals and other small molecules: Eat nuts - unless you have an allergy - because they provide all the important minerals for keeping your vessels elastic.

15.Balance stress with alternatives: acupuncture and acupressure, Ayurvedic Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, massage, cupping, aromatherapy, visualization, music therapy, art therapy, journal writing, biofeedback machines — anything that makes you feel good.

Measure your blood pressure at home and write it down for yourself and your doctor.

One-Day Fast

April 26, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, health, herbs, balance, broth, cabbages, cleansing, dandelion, detoxifying, eggplant, fasting, garden, garlic, grains, herbal tea, juice fasting, legumes, mushrooms, nettle - stinging, One-Day Fast, onions, peppers - bell and hot, phyto-nutrients, potato, sweet potato, tomato, vegetables, weight

No, it’s not what you think - one-day fast is not for losing weight. It is for cleansing and giving your gastro-intestinal tract a day of vacation. Spring cleaning for your body, so to speak. One day - and you will feel terrific about yourself as you feel the lightness in your body.

A one-day fast is best done on a weekend. You prepare for the fast on Friday evening, fast all Saturday, and slowly resume (healthier) eating on Sunday. Team up with a friend because if you share your experience, you are more likely to stick with it.

For Friday dinner, you keep it light: no meat or fish, nothing fried, no dairy. Prepare a big pot of vegetable broth: Anything vegetal can go into it, except for plants from the nightshade family (tomato, potato, eggplant, bell and hot peppers) or starchy ones (grains, legumes, sweet potato, etc.). Onions, garlic and cabbages are the back bone of this broth. I put in handfuls of herbs from my herb garden, and right now I definitely would splurge on stinging nettle and dandelions. Use rests of lettuce and whatever vegetables are wilting in your fridge. Mushrooms are perfect.

You boil the vegetables with plenty of water. No salt or pepper, though.

Next day, you are only allowed the broth (don’t actually eat the vegetables!) whenever you feel hungry. Vegetable-broth fasting is much better tolerated than fruit juice fasting because the broth is alkaline, not acidic – much gentler on your stomach and your whole system. For years I was the laughing stock of my family because I once had tried a juice fast – and lasted all of three hours before I caved in to my overwhelming hunger! This never happens on the vegetable broth fast.

If you want, you can drink water and/or herbal teas. Nothing else is allowed - not even chewing gum! - Whenever the fluid level in the pot gets low, just pour more water in. The strength of vegetables is good enough for several “steepings.”

Take your Saturday easy: Go twice a day for a walk, rest a lot. Experienced fasters can work during this kind of gentle fast. But for your first time, concentrate on how you feel. Write a diary, listen to music, meet friends.

On Sunday morning you restart eating with a light breakfast: Again no meats or fish - stay vegetarian all Sunday. On Monday you resume normal eating – hopefully a bit more mindful.

Besides restocking you with valuable phyto-nutrients, the main effect of the one-day fast is a thorough cleansing and detoxifying – without harsh herbs or laxatives. Once you feel the new lightness in your body, you might want to repeat the experience. A healthy person should do this probably once a month. A sick or overweight person once a week. No, you don’t lose weight from the fast – but you might lose weight from re-setting your hunger stat: After the fast, you get more appreciative of food, you chew longer, you eat slower and less, and you go for the healthier choice.

Who Loves It Dark, Warm, Moist and Sweet?

April 23, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, food, athlete's foot, balance, jock itch, microwave, nail fungus, olive oil, onychomycosis, rosemary, Standard American Diet (SAD), tea tree oil, thyme, Trichophyton rubrum, vegetables, Who Loves It Dark, Warm, Moist and Sweet?

Under-cover, in America’s shoes, nail fungus is attacking like body-snatchers. To call it “athlete’s foot” is giving nail fungus a too-nice name. Think about the germs invading a body after death; nail fungus is invading your body already before death!

Conventional wisdom has it that we get the fungus because we catch it from public spaces like pools and hotel rooms. Truth is, the offending fungus spores – most often those of Trichophyton rubrum - are everywhere and hard to avoid. Still, nail fungus was uncommon only a few generations earlier. We pick up the offenders because our body defenses are down. Down from a diet high in sugar. Note that the acronym for American Standard Diet is SAD!

Nail fungus likes it dark, warm, moist and sweet. Therefore, let’s spoil it for the invaders and make it bright, cool, dry and decidedly unsweet! Wear light, airy shoes. Go barefoot often. If you have to wear heavy boots or sneakers, use ample baby powder, and change shoes and socks often. You can microwave your shoes after wearing (one minute on high) – but only if there are no metal buckles on them. And you want to try out with less than a minute because some modern materials melt and blister. Alternatively, dust your shoes with foot powder right after slipping out of them. Walk barefoot at home or wear slip-resistant socks.

There are many natural methods to fight nail fungus, usually involving the one or other essential oil and/or garlic. This is what is highly effective (unless you have an allergy to any of the ingredients):

Rub feet and nails twice a day with tea tree oil. Since tea tree oil tends to dry out the skin, apply olive oil (perhaps with a drop of thyme or rosemary oil) afterward to keep the skin nice and smooth. Repeat religiously twice a day until all signs of fungus is gone; then continue once daily for prevention.

And the unsweet part? Whenever you eat something sugary, your nail fungus thrives. Don’t feed the invader! Build a shield around you – by a diet high in vegetables!

The above applies also to another fungal disease: Jock itch. It is only so much harder to air the area out...

Playing Cello Badly

April 22, 2010

Tags: order, balance, cello, learning an instrument, Playing Cello Badly

A few years ago, I took up the cello. But there is no way around it: I am playing cello badly.

I fell in love with the instrument when my son began lessons at age six. Even in a beginner’s hand, the sound of a cello is always beautiful. Sitting in the background - as a good Suzuki parent - I immediately ached to play too. But it was “his” instrument, so I waited until he was well into teenage-hood and preferred the bass before I began my own cello journey.

What compels a person to do something badly? Sub-par? Imperfectly? Poorly? Inadequately? Never to measure up, grinding on the ears and musical taste of the audience? Making a fool of herself?

Love, I guess. We fall in love with something (I call it my “projects”), and we always start as out as bloody beginners. One summer, I went to a string camp for kids, and every time I made a mistake, a thirteen-year-old turned around and threw me a dirty look. That didn’t discourage me; I laughed: there I was - a grandmother, and accomplished physician, being scoffed at by a thirteen-year old. He was a bright boy and we became friends.

Over a lifetime, I embarked on many projects. Some faded away, like painting and knitting; some accompany me still: gardening, cross-stitching, beading, writing, and playing the cello. Each time I start a new project I risk looking stupid.

Come to think about it, even if you are accomplished in your field, you will stagnate if you don’t risk looking stupid. If a doctor thinks she knows all the answers only because she went to medical school, catastrophes lurk around the corner.

That’s all there is to it: Playing cello badly is the prerequisite of playing it better.

Sleepless - And Unrepaired?

April 20, 2010

Tags: order, balance, cancer prevention, cell repair, cortisol, DNA repair, dreams, insomnia, obesity, stress, repair, sleep before midnight, Sleepless - And Unrepaired?, sleeplessness, weight

Can’t fall asleep? Toss and turn? Wake up at three and never be able to get some more winks?

Research about circadian rhythms has borne out what our grandmother’s told us: Sleep before midnight matters. The major repair work in the body happens from around eleven pm to one am. Repair means: Mending muscles, replacing worn-out cells, rewiring brain connections, restoring broken DNA before cancer can develop.

That repair will not happen if you are not in bed, not asleep.

Try basic sleep hygiene:

• Go to bed latest at ten. It helps to read some books – uplifting books rather than thrillers. But whatever works for you.
• Do not eat after dinner – preferably not after six pm. Because, if your body has to digest your stomach contents, it has less time for repair.
• No stimulants after noon (coffee, tea, coke, chocolate, etc.).
• Sleep with window open (if your neighborhood is not too noisy). Indoor pollution is usually worse than outdoor pollution, and you don’t want to re-breathe you own spent air all night.

Second thought: If we don't get enough sleep, we are stressed out the next day. Fact is that the quality of every day of your life is decided the evening before: Did you get to bed in time? Stress elevates cortisol in our body, and high cortisol makes us ravenously hungry. The stress hormone cortisol links poor sleep and obesity.

Last thought: When we were still living in caves, in the darkness, without electricity, we would be confined to our communal sleeping on and under bear skins for about twelve hours a night. Obviously, nobody can sleep that long. So, we woke up after four hours and had a little sex (took about five minutes). Then we would lie awake a while. Toward morning, we would sleep another four hours.

Question: What did we do during those unused three hours fifty-five minutes? We would think. Think a bout the meaning of the lingering dream that the Gods had sent. What did they want us to learn from this dream?

Nowadays we want to sleep effectively: eight hours per night, without waste of time. But something got lost along the line: The reflecting.

Next time, you can’t sleep, think about what is good in your life, and how you can do better. Remember what you wanted your life to be when you were a kid. Dare to dream!
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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