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Swimming In The Cold

November 7, 2011

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

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

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

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

Vitamin D is important for several reasons:

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

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

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

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

Invasive Plants 4 – Bindweed

October 17, 2011

Tags: herbs, aloe, Angel’s trumpet, angiogenesis inhibitor, Aztecs, bindweed, blood vessel, bowel, Calistegia, cancer, cathartic - drastic, contact poison, cholagogue, comfrey, Convolvulus arvensis, Convolvulus scammonia, cramps, dahlias, daylilies, fevers, field bindweed, gallbladder, hallucinogenic, infection, Invasive Plants 4 – Bindweed, Ipomoea, invasive plants, laxative, medicinal plant, Mediterranean, Mexico, morning glory, nausea, New World, Old World, poisonous, roots, Round-up, scammony, side-effects, skin sore, subtropics, Syria, taxonomy, tea – herbal, toxicity, tropics, trumpet flower, tumor, vascularization, vegetable patch, vine, Virginia, weed, wound - festering, wound healing

We all love morning glories, those blue-purple trumpets that open in abundance in the morning, then fade during the day, only to display a new crop of blooms the next sunny morning. But we all hate field bindweed. Yet, the two are closely related.

The family relationships of morning glories and bindweeds are exceedingly complicated – kind of like trying to figure out how Uncle Ernest is related to Grandma’s sister. Bindweed is Convolvulus arvensis, and the most common garden morning glory is really an Ipomoea. Some bindweeds are in the Calistegia family, but there are even more genera involved in these twining, flowering trumpets.

Let’s say you and I know what a morning glory is: a dazzling, desirable plant in the garden. And its lowly cousin, the bindweed, is a curse.

It is not that bindweed is ugly: Their trumpets are usually a bit smaller and often just plain white. But some have a blushing rose painted in, and could well compete with the showier morning glories if they were not so – well, invasive.

The pop up everywhere and vine themselves around your dahlias and daylilies and whatnot, and smother them. Just when you have hacked the vegetable patch, only days later their peep up again, and show you that all your work was in vain.

It comes out of the ground so dainty and harmless – but don’t be fooled: Scattering their seeds is only the small part of it. Worse is that the teeniest bit of root left in the ground will sprout a whole new plant in no time. That feature makes them a weed – and a weed that in all likelihood won’t be eradicated for good from your garden (or mine).

If the taxonomy and names of morning glories and bindweeds are confusing, so are their origins. Roughly one can say the showy garden morning glories come from the New World, especially Mexico, and bindweeds are Old World inhabitants. Bindweed was introduced to Virginia in the 1700’s, and rapidly spread from there. There is a Mediterranean variety called scammony (Convolvulus scammonia), used as a medicinal plant in Syria.

Bindweed and is mildly poisonous; “mildly poisonous” means you likely will not die but will be sick as a dog and you wish you were dead. Nevertheless, the Aztecs used it as a hallucinogenic – I don’t recommend trying what the Aztecs tried though. Suffice to know that Angel’s trumpet is a relative, too – all morning glories should be handled with caution. Literally handled: Some species, particularly in the subtropics and tropics, are so poisonous that mere contact can make one sick. Livestock might be poisoned, especially by the white roots, if for instance swine dig for the roots.

With all its nauseating toxicity, bindweed has been used as a medicinal plant: A tea from the flowers is good against infections and fevers, and also works as a laxative. Perhaps, to discourage its use, I should call it properly a drastic cathartic, which what it is. It is a cholagogue, meaning it induces the gallbladder to push out bile into the bowels. Nausea and cramps surely are some of its side-effects.

The herb has been laid on festering wounds and promotes healing. But unless you are in bind – umh! – I would prefer comfrey and aloe to heal wounds because we don’t know well enough how much of the bindweed is taken up through a skin sore.

And lastly, bindweed is being investigated as a possible cancer drug. It seems to be an angiogenesis inhibitor, meaning it does not allow a growing tumor to vascularize itself (growing the necessary blood vessel to feed itself) – thus, the cancer is starved. But it sound more straightforward than it is – again, I wouldn’t try this at home.

Bindweed, invasive and frustrating. But it might have its redeeming sides. Nothing on which we should use Round-up (which we should use on NOTHING!!) – just investigate its usefulness.

My Neighbor Is Sick

June 22, 2011

Tags: food, order, abdominal pain, addictive, aging - premature, appreciating, artificial molecules, book, bowel, cancer, car, cell phone, chewing, cholecystitis, colors, computer, constipation, conversation, dairy, diet, dinner table, dispute, distraction, eggs, fiber, fish, flavors, food - inflammatory, fork, fruit drink, gallbladder inflammation, game, grace, HFCS, high blood pressure, high fructose corn syrup, high-protein diet, hunger, inflammation, iPod, iron-fortified, kidneys - compromised, kidney stones, meal, meat, mindful eating, mouth, My Neighbor Is Sick, Nature, neighbor, newspaper, osteoporosis, pounds, preservatives, protein, public transportation, radio, religion, roughage, savoring, sitting down at the table, soft drink, spoon, starch - white, stress, sugar, supermarket, table – set the, taste enhancers, Tibetans Alternative, TV, vegetable, vitamin-enhanced, water – drinking enough, weight gain, weight loss

My neighbor suddenly has abdominal pain – on the right, under his rib cage. Now there are many reasons to have that kind of pain, and he of course needs a check-up with his doctor – very soon. Today.

The doctor will hopefully soon find out what ails the neighbor - but here are some ideas. Because the other piece of information is that he has been on a diet for a while - a high-protein diet.

After having made sure he sought an immediate appointment with his doctor, I gave him a piece of my mind: No diet is a short-cut for good, healthy, everyday eating habits. “But I already lost eight pounds!” he said.

Eight pounds lost weight does not prove that one is healthy! It always puzzles me: People who would never feed their car the wrong octane fuel, seemingly give little thought to what is healthy fuel for their own bodies and thus constantly violate the laws of Nature.

These are the most frequent bad consequences of the ill-advised high-protein diet (and I have seem them all!):

• Constipation. The bowel needs roughage to function according to plan. Protein is digested more thoroughly than fiber, leaving little substance in the intestines lumen to push matters forward, which will lead to impaction can lead to a plugging-up of the whole plumbing system.
• Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis). High protein diets are often also high in fat, which may drive the gallbladder into overdrive. This can cause inflammation and/or move stones.
• Kidney stones. High protein can lead to kidney stones, especially in already somewhat compromised kidneys – which come naturally with aging. At any rate, drinking enough water is always advisable.

A high-protein in the long one has been shown to promote premature aging, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and cancer – neither of which plays a likely role in my neighbor’s present affliction.

Whatever he has, he needs to reassess what he is doing to his health. And I am sure after this scare, he will. We have talked about diet and healthy eating here often, so I can make this short:

• Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables!
• No artificial molecules (sweeteners, flavors, colors, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, taste enhancers, vitamin-enhanced, iron-fortified, soft or fruit drinks, etc.).
• No dairy – because it is the most ubiquitous inflammatory and unnecessary food there is.
• No sugar and white starch; they are addictive and put the pounds on you.
• Have a modest intake of meat, fish and eggs.

In order to turn around your eating habits, it is useful to practice mindful eating – the way of slowly savoring and appreciating everything that goes into your mouth.

• Sit down at a table when you eat – set the table in a nice way, even if you are alone. Especially if you are alone.
• Say grace for your food - even if you are not a religious person. Because millions of people go hungry every day.
• Have no distractions – no TV, computer, cell phone, game, radio, newspaper, or book.
• Have no stress – avoid disputes at the dinner table. But have a lively conversation about important things in your life.
• Never ever eat in the car or on public transportation; teach your children that NOTHING can be eaten in the supermarket because it has not been paid for (and one should sit down for eating).
• Chew thoroughly; put fork or spoon down between bites.

The How you eat might be more important than the What you eat – at least for a while.

If you live alone, go back to the Tibetans Alternative: Where one eats one food at each meal, and rotates, instead of filling the plate with everything at the same time.

Whatever the neighbor has, let’s wish him a speedy recovery!

Nobody Wants To Talk About Poop

October 23, 2010

Tags: food, cat, bloating, bowel, constipation, corn, cramps, defecation, diarrhea, diet, digestion, dry food, feces, heartburn, intestines, laxative, litter box, nutrition, pet food, pets, poop, Nobody Wants To Talk About Poop, probiotic, SAD (Standard American Diet), sores – mouth, stomach pain, stool – smell, stool - consistency, toilet, waste products, wheat

When we come back from traveling, our cat’s litter box usually is a mess.

Sorry, I bring up this stinky subject – but it has relevance not only for cats and pets, but also for humans.

Of course, bodily waste products don’t smell like roses. But they also should not smell THAT disgustingly. If they do – in pets and people – chances are something is wrong with the digestive tract.

Now the hardest part is to compare your bowel movements with everybody else’s because we usually are discrete about our defecation results. We don’t know how other people smell or look … in the toilet bowl.

Feces definitely should not reek that it turns one’s stomach. The smell should make you want to flush the toilet – not to run away. And stool should not float, nor should it be excessively sticky, large, or gray-colored.

So, what had happens with our tomcat Otto when we travel? A kind neighbor comes over to feed him. To make it not too complicated for her, we switch to commercial – mostly dry – food. Commercial food contains all kinds of substances unhealthy for a cat, especially wheat and corn products. Predictably, every time our Otto gets extremely stinky on that kind of nutrition.

It takes only a few days and my self-cooked meals that his litter box s ias unobtrusive again as it usually is: His intestines heal, obviously.

What constitutes a healthy bowel? Once a day, at least, one should have a bowel movement. If you don’t have one every day, don’t reach for the laxative. Look instead into what you are eating. Do you eat enough vegetables? Leave out sugar, trans-fats and dairy. And don’t eat what your body tells you hurts it: Stomach pain, heartburn, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, sores in your mouth – they are not cause for embarrassment but they all are signs that something is wrong with your digestion.

SAD – the Standard American Diet – is not healthy for people’s bowels. And commercial pet food – even the so-called “natural” and “scientific” - are not healthy for your pets’.

P.S. Taking a probiotic does not make up for a lousy diet, but helps reestablishing bowel health.

Sweating It

July 31, 2010

Tags: water, order, movement, food, herbs, air conditioning, amphetamines, anti-epilectic drugs, Boston, bowel, cold exposure, colds, colon cleansing, copper, Deep South, dehydration, detoxification, drinks - warm or cold, elimination, fruit, high blood pressure, kidneys, lead, lungs, medication, mercury, metals - heavy, methadone, New Orleans, nickel, peppermint tea, relaxation, salads, salt, sauna, skin, sleep - improved, studies - medical, summer, sweating, Sweating It, toxins, winter, yoga, zinc

Awful, this summer heat, isn’t it? One sits, barely wants to move, and sweat runs out of every pore.

Actually, no! Sweating takes out toxins from our bodies; the skin is one of four elimination organs (the other three are kidneys, bowels, lungs). Sweating is beneficial. Enjoy your wet armpits – without them, you would age faster and might get cancer earlier. Sorry that I am so graphic. But the advantages of sweating are widely underrated.

People sit in air-conditioned houses, and at the same time they are shelling out big dollars for “colon cleansing.” Colon cleansing is a health scam. Eating better and drinking water or herbal teas will do the trick; colon cleansing will not make you purer - just poorer.

In the winter, a sauna does the trick. Not by accident was sauna in vented in Finland and Russia - cold, northern states that do not allow for sweat naturally. - Exercise can make you sweat. But don’t try too hard: Individual people start sweating at different points, and one should not exercise for the sake of sweating. Move for fun and purpose!

In the summer, let nature work for you: Sweat it out!

Heavy metals like nickel, copper, zinc, lead have been found in sweat in higher numbers than in the blood – but I wish, we had better studies available! For instance, I am only aware of a single study that saw mercury levels falling during a sauna protocol. Most medical studies are funded by pharmaceutical firms (and I don’t see any wrong in there, as long as they adhere to scientific ethics). But this situation leaves out studies on water, sauna, yoga, healthy food, to name a few – because not much money can be made of them. The only way to improve the situation is to demand such studies.

Medications may be released into the sweat, notably anti-epileptic drugs, amphetamines, methadone (but don’t get your hopes too high that sauna will get you through a drug test easily - it won’t!).

Sauna also prevents frequent colds and promotes better sleep. In Europe, people use saunas widely. Mostly, of course, for relaxation and fun.

Except for the very elderly and frail who are in danger of severe dehydration in the summer, an air conditioner is unnecessary. In our house, we have a built-in central air-conditioning system. We never – never! – use it (but we also live in Boston, not in the Deep South - perhaps I would feel different in New Orleans...). If it gets really sweltering at night, we run a simple fan in the bedroom. Summer is for sweating – and winter is for cold exposure; both have their health merits.

If you sweat, you lose salt and water. So drink enough! And put a pinch more salt than usually in your food to replenish – unless you tend to high blood pressure. - And before I forget it: Warm drinks are healthy; cold drinks - especially ice-cold - hurt you.

Instead of suffering through the summer months, take them as what they are: A free-for-all detox program – every year! Eat fruit and salads and enjoy the heat with a peppermint tea ... lukewarm. In the shade.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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