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

September 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Exercises from Heaven

October 3, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information about each exercise:

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

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

2. Bench pressing

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


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

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

4. Rubber band exercises

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

5. Yoga ball

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

6. Kettlebell

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

7. Dumbbells.

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

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

Today is National Celiac Day!

September 13, 2014

Tags: food, order, agriculture, antinutrient, arthritis, autoimmune disease, bread, bulking up, cancer, celiac, Davis - William (born ???), depression, diabetes, diet, disease, Earth, fall, Fifties, foraging, fruit, gluten, gluten intolerance, grain, grass, greens, grub, gut, harvest, heart disease, humans, intestine, Jew, kamut, kernel, leaky gut, lectin, mammoth, medieval times, misery, Niemöller - Martin (1892-1984), nut, obesity, Our Daily Bread, overpopulation, poem, progress, rabbit, root, seasonal, seed, selection, Sixties, socialist, sowing, spelt, straw, Today is National Celiac Day!, trade unionist, wheat, Wheat Belly

For some reason – and, please, bear with me – the first thought to my mind is the famous poem by Martin Niemöller (1892-1984):

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


So, what is the connection?

First, there were the celiacs – people who could not tolerate wheat because of the gluten it contains. They were the fringe of the movement, so to speak, and not many people who were not afflicted took the sufferings of the gluten-intolerant very serious.

But now, about twenty years later, it has become clear that most people do better without wheat in their diet – not least, because the book “Wheat Belly” by William Davis has opened the eyes to the damages grains can wreak in the body.

Wheat contains gluten, and for some people – the celiacs - this gluten acts like a poison, destroying first the gut, and then nearly every other organ: arthritis, depression, cancer, and so on are related to gluten intolerance.

But wheat – like every other grain or seed or nut – also contains lectins. The other name for lectins are “antinutrients” – which gives you the idea that they might not be healthy for you. They are not. Lectins inflame the intestines, similar like gluten does in celiacs – only less so. But in the long run, the wreak havoc anyway. Sometimes lectins are described as ripping little holes in the lining of the bowels, which is a bit of a simple explanation and not quite right, but good enough if you want to understand why lectins are not good for you.

Having a “leaky gut” as a consequence of gluten and lectins sets you up for many diseases – the most spectacular is obesity – hence the “wheat belly”.

Why are there lectins in grains and seeds and nuts? Because plants don’t want their next generation to perish – they want their seeds to grow into new plants. Like animals, plants don't want to be eaten. Lectins defend the seeds by making them harder to digest. “Our Daily Bread” has made it possible to populate the Earth (overpopulate!), but it has come with a price: Disease and misery.

Our original foods were greens and roots and fruit (in season only) and some nuts in the fall, and a rabbit or a mammoth, but at daily foraging grubs were more likely. Human ingeniousness discovered that one could sow and harvest the seeds of grasses. Selection made the tiny grass seeds bigger, and made agriculture and “progress” possible. In the last fifty years, we even drastically improved on the wheat plant: shortening the stalks (straw is unnecessary) and bulking up the kernel (mostly by increasing the gluten fraction) – our wheat is nothing what it was in medieval times or earlier. Not even like anything in the Fifties or Sixties! Spelt and kamut had much less gluten than our modern “improved” varieties. Spelt and kamut also caused less disease.

First, a few unlucky people suffered from gluten intolerance. Now it has become widespread. Surprised? No. But it reminded me of the Niemöller poem.

Just Thinking … About Cancer

July 10, 2014

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, water, alcohol, awe, birthday party, boredom, cancer, cell, cold shower, cooking, commitment, death, decay, emotion – fake, energy, flower, friendship, function, gadget, genetic, genome, gossip, hands-on doing, heart, helping hand, hiking, hugging, indoors, joy of life, judgment, Just Thinking … About Cancer, kissing, laughter, love, moral, music, nakedness, Nature, office party, OMG!, open door, outdoors, pollution, religion, revenge, scientist, self-inflicted, sex, song, stargazing, stuff, survival, talking, tolerance, tribe, TV, vegetables, vitality

Just thinking … some half-baked thoughts.

Just thinking: What is cancer? Of course, cancer is genetic. But what are those cancer genes doing in our genome?? Scientists now seem to come to conclusion that cancer is less some terrible thing gone wrong deep down in our bodies, but more some last-ditch effort to let at least SOME cells survive. They happen to be cancer cells, and nobody likes them. But they are strong, surviving cells when the rest of the body decays. It’s not the best of all strategies because in the end, the body dies, but the cancer cells die with it. But that is what we need to concede: The cancer cells are stronger – in many cases. They are more primitive, and they have only one goal: to survive. The other cells in a body might be more likable – they laugh, they cook, they make music, they hug and kiss. We all like the other cells better. But, in the end, cancer cells so often win.

Just thinking: Why do we get cancer? The theory is that the cells are losing something – their vitality, their drive to survive, their energy, their joy of life. Causes? Too much bad food (think birthday parties at the office). Too much boredom. Too much drink. Too few herbs. Too little commitment. Too little movement. Too little friendship. Too little hands-on doing, too much talk and gossip. Too much TV. Too much fake emotions – OMG!. Too little heart. Too little outdoors, too much indoors. Too much pollution. Too few vegetables. Too few hikes into Nature. Too much stuff. Too much religion, too little awe. Too many functions, too few open doors. Too much judgment, too few helping hands. Too many “friends”, not enough tribe. Too few cold showers. Too many gadgets. Too few flowers. Too much morals, too little tolerance. Too much revenge. Too little stargazing. Too few songs. Too little nakedness. Too much sex – too little sex – who knows, but definitely not enough love.

Just thinking: What can we do so that cancer can’t grow? Of course, there always will be some terrible genes, and some terribly undeserved cancer. But scientists think that 50 to 70 percent of cancer are self-inflicted – at least. What we can do? It is not so much fighting cancer, it is more giving cancer no ground on which it can grow. The list is long what we can do – reverse all of the above. Personally I think eating a lot of freshly cooked vegetables every single day will go a long way. Because if you are eating vegetables, you automatically are not longer the person who brings sugary cupcakes to the office birthday party. And from there it all starts ...

Today Is International No-Bra Day!

July 9, 2014

Tags: order, food, movement, water, alcohol, antenna, bedroom, bra, brassiere, breast, breast cancer, breast health, breast size, cancer, circulation, cold wash, comfort, convention, cups, dairy, darkness, diet, gym, hormones, jogging, July heat, lifestyle, lunch hour, nightshift, sleep, sports bra, starch - white, sugar, support, Today Is International No-Bra Day!, trans fats, underwire bra, vegetables

Sweltering July is probably the best reason to throw out your bra – even if for only a day.

Because it is hot in there – in the cups. A few studies suggest that a link consists with wearing a bra and getting cancer. Unfortunately, those studies are not the best by scientific standards. We certainly should demand better studies!

Personally, I believe that a bra that cuts off circulation and traps heat close to one part of the body might be doing harm – the more hours a day one is wearing it, the more likely. Some people think it is the metal wire in the underwire bra that might work like an antenna, attracting bad “waves”.

One certainly should never wear a bra to bed – give your breast some freedom at least over night! But going all without is not an option for well-endowed women, because heavy breast can hurt with every movement. Sports bras certainly have their place. I wince whenever I see a woman jogging and her breasts are bouncing up and down – ouch!

Many years ago, in my twenties, I threw my bras out and never looked back – an easy decision because I have not much to hold. For me, a bra was a senseless convention. I had a beloved aunt who was as small-chested as I. She would gleefully pronounce: “What I don’t have today, can’t sag tomorrow!” Her attitude made my small size a no-problem.

For other women a bra might be a life saver – no rule applies to everybody. Today is a good day to examine if you are wearing a brassiere for comfort – or for convention. Throw out the convention … if you dare.

We know (by good studies) that bigger breasts are more likely to develop cancer. But that might have different reasons: Women who are overweight have usually a less healthy lifestyle. And more female hormones lead to bigger breasts, as well, potentially, to breast cancer.

What makes healthy breasts:

• A good diet with fresh vegetables (and avoidance of sugar, white starches, dairy and trans fats). Don’t be fat-phobic: Olive oil, coconut oil and butterfat are healthy.
• Regular movements – just move through your day, as opposed to spending time in the gym.
• A daily walk during– for moving and for daylight and vitamin D. Vitamin D prevents cancer.
• Moderate alcohol consumption. Enough sleep and real darkness in your bedroom: Light at night seems to increase the likelihood of cancer (especially if you are working nightshifts – which I certainly have, extensively, in my life).
• And here is my favorite – and of course, there are no studies to be had: Wash your breasts with cold water every day – take a face cloth and 21 splashes to each breast.

Diseases of the Gut Show at Your Skin

September 5, 2013

Tags: food, abscess, African-American, ageing, armpit, axilla, bloating, boil, cancer, cheese, chronic diseases, dairy, diabetes, diagnosis, digestive system, Diseases of the Gut Show at Your Skin, disfiguring, female, fish oil, fistula, genetics, gluten intolerance, gut, hidradenitis suppurativa, hormones, inflammation, inflammatory, lumps, Mediterranean, non-foods, obesity, overweight, painful, pilonidal cyst, pizza, probiotics, prognosis, pus, rash, relapse, resolution, skin disease, sugar, sweating, sweat glands, sweets, swelling, vegetables, weight loss

Less than a month ago, a young woman in her mid-twenties called me for “lumps in my armpit”. Now, that can be a thousand different things, not all easy to diagnose, some with dire prognosis. So, I told her I needed to see her.

She came, and the diagnosis needed one look only: Hidradenitis suppurativa. This poorly understood skin disease can’t be confused with any other: The patient has multiple red swellings and scars in the axilla, sometimes at other areas, too. You could describe it as boils in the armpit. They are painful and disfiguring. Conventional medicine describes them as inflamed sweat glands (which is what “hidradenitis” means, and suppurativa means “leaking pus”). They are similar to boils, pilonidal cysts, chronic abscesses, fistulas and different kinds of cysts. They might be exacerbated by hormones, excessive sweating, and overweight. Genetic factors clearly play a role – hidradenitis suppurativa is more common in females, and in people of Mediterranean and African-American descend.

Medicine might not understand the cause of it, but any layperson can see that hidradenitis suppurativa is a highly inflammatory disease. This young, pretty woman was slightly chubby – not badly, indeed. But I advised her to eat more vegetables with olive oil, and leave out all sugars and dairy products, as the most inflammatory foods. She also was bloated and had a family history of gluten problems, so I asked her to leave out gluten, too; at least for a few months. I also recommended anti-inflammatory fish oil and probiotics to help her poor, inflamed bowels to heal.

What happened to the young woman? - Within two weeks, she was dramatically better and had lost some pounds, and all the bloating. I never counsel to lose weight; I recommend a better diet, and the weight loss will follow automatically. She was happy about the result.

Unfortunately, then she went to a party where she indulged in all the wrong foods, including pizza, cheese, and sweets. The boils immediately recurred. I was not worried about the relapse: It only confirmed what she had learned: That what she eats has a beneficial or not so beneficial effect on her digestive system, and her health. – Her choice, really.

I know that at this age, all the young woman wants is to look good and be able to were a sleeveless top, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I will make a prognosis – even if I might not be around to see the result: If this twenty-five year old will be able to stick to her resolutions (at least most of the time), she one day will be vibrant fifty-year old. If not, she will go the way most people go in our society that adores foods that I’d call “non-foods” – and she will experience obesity, diabetes, cancer and the myriad of chronic diseases that seem to pop out of nowhere as we age. – Let’s see which way she chooses …

Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!

September 13, 2012

Tags: food, order, Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!, book, wheat, diabetes type II, diabetes type I, gluten intolerance, blindness, kidney failure, amputations, neurological damage, brittle diabetes, hospital, diabetes, end-organ failure, gym, garden, cello, a walking after dinner, exercises, writing a book, fresh food, fish, meat, dairy, sugar, sweetener, trans-fats, processed food, gluten, daily bread, evolution, genes, monotheism, hunter and gatherer, eating nibbling, Nature, holy, cattle, sheep, husbandry, religion, rules, timetables, schedules, Kellogg – Will Keith (1860-1951), breakfast, cornflakes, industrialization, prosperity, scarcity of food, adaptation, calories, burger, obesity, celiac disease, diarrhea, skin rash, bloating, neurologic, psychiatric, symptoms – gluten-related, gluten intolerance, under-diagnosed, lectins, Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, seeds, digestion, arthritis, depression, heart disease, cancer, celiac, wisdom of the body, toxicity of wheat, morphine-like substances, brain, longing, cocaine, heroin, agriculture, extinction, monotheism, guilt, over-hunting, ice-age, bison, elephant, deer, cow, gruel, ploughing, farming, corn, sugar, addiction, starvation, bread, pizza, cake, cookie, muffins, vegetables, addictive food, wheat kernel, harvest, milling, minerals, flour - white, diseases, vitamins, iron, flour - “fortified”, root vegetable, celiac, rye, barley, oats, dinkel, kamut, grains, hulls, waste, starch, bread - sprouted, gluten, sprouting, degenerative diseases, wheat, dairy, sugar, trans-fats, redemption, plant food, vegetables, herbs, fruit, beans, nuts, fish, rabbit

Not that I should luxuriate in writing blogs while I am finishing my diabetes book, but to call attention to the problems with wheat – on this occasion I just have to do it.

Since this is my big theme presently, let me roll up the whole gluten conundrum from the diabetic side: Ninety percent of people with diabetes type II are overweight; ten percent are not. Now – what gives the ten percent their diabetes?

Genes, of course. But genes account only for part of the puzzle. Most slim diabetics have either type I diabetes (which I will not discuss here), or they have gluten intolerance. Disclosure: I am one of those ten percent, and while I don’t yet have full-blown diabetes with all the dismal consequences down the road like blindness, kidney failure, amputations, neurological damage, my number always hover at the upper border of normal or the low border of diabetes. For somebody who has brittle diabetes and ends in the hospital frequently, this seems a good place to be, and sure it is. BUT: By the time people are diagnosed with diabetes, a good third already shows sign of end-organ failure. Which means: They really already have advanced disease. I don’t want to wait doing nothing and closing my eyes.

So, what do I do? I move, for starters. I don’t go to the gym, but I work in the garden, play my cello, go for a walk after dinner with my husband, and do tiny exercises every time I get up from my chair during my long writing sessions (aaah – writing a book about health is not such a healthy thing, after all).

And I eat healthily. Fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, some fish, much less meat (but meat I do eat – and recommend), no dairy, no sugar, no sweeteners either, no trans-fats, and basically, nothing processed.

But back to gluten. We pray for our daily bread – and are not aware how recent the “daily bread” was invented – not longer than five to ten thousand years. Which is nothing in terms of evolution and our genes. Actually, our “daily bread” is around not much longer than monotheism – the belief in a single, singular god. I find that interesting: When we were hunter and gatherers, eating and nibbling and plucking from Nature wherever we went, we had multiple gods – the ones that were hidden in the groves, in the deep lakes, in the skies – and everything was whispering to us: Holy, holy, holy.

Then agriculture was invented with cattle and sheep husbandry, and we learned to sow and to reap, and suddenly there was that one stern god over us, telling to adhere to his rules – one obviously needs rules and timetables and schedules and order to be a farmer.

Forward a few thousand years to Mr. Kellogg, who gave us our breakfast cornflakes, and modern scientists who gave as bigger kernels of wheat, and then all the abundance that came with industrialization and prosperity – and here comes the modern American wave of obesity and diabetes. Where for millions of years always was scarcity – and that is what our bodies were adapted to for millions of years – now we can get the whopping calories of a burger for one dollar. Without to move out into the woods and hunt and gather.

If gluten is at the root of those ten percent of slim diabetics – so what! you exclaim, because you are fighting the pounds for most of your life. Gluten makes a few of us very sick – with celiac disease. Gluten makes a lot of us fat, with sickness down the road from the excess pounds.

Celiacs have no immune tolerance for gluten; they might get diarrhea, skin rashes, bloating, and all kinds of weird symptoms – including neurologic and psychiatric. Half of the symptoms are not showing in the belly, which is one reason gluten intolerance is still one of the widely under-diagnosed disease – even that the last ten years has turned the tide a bit.

The funny thing is: Wheat does not want to be eaten. Like basically all nuts and seeds, the wheat grain contains a family of compounds called lectins that are there to protect the grain from being eaten. The wheat plant has no interest, so to speak, to be gobbled up and extinguished. On the other hand, from the wheat’s point of view, of course, it is extremely advantageous that farmers everywhere now growing this seed that originally had a very narrow distribution, namely the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia. Somehow we managed to spread it more or less worldwide – or did the plant entice us to do its business?

Not sure. But nuts and seeds contain lectins that hinder digestion and make people sick with arthritis, depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so on – the celiac who runs to the bathroom ten times a day is only the tip of the iceberg. And it shows the wisdom of our bodies: To get rid as fast as possible of a toxic substance.

Wheat is addictive – it contains morphine-like substances that play with your brain and your longings just as cocaine and heroin do. I always picture how the first farmers, sitting placidly and satisfied in their hovels, invited the last hunters who came in from another fruitless hunt for something to eat (the rise of agriculture happened parallel to the extinction from overhunting the very large ice-age mammals – they had bison the size of elephants, and deer like cows at that time. The rise of monotheism happened at the same time … did we feel guilty for the overhunting??). The hunters got their bowl of gruels or their flat breads; it must have seemed heaven to them. As they never got enough of it, they came back for more and more, until they one day decided to plough a piece of land, and settle down as farmers themselves.

So, if you want to get healthy and/or slim, you first have to break the wheat (and corn! And sugar! But those are other topics …) addiction. You don’t die of starvation, if you leave out bread and pizza and cakes and cookies and muffins. You just get healthier. The food to eat: Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. And some brown rice, as rice does not seem so addictive as wheat. It just doesn’t taste so yummy, yummy that you want more and more of it.

In all of this, I haven’t even talked about what they do nowadays once the too-big, overinflated-by-starch wheat kernel is harvested: They mill it and grind it and take the good stuff out, namely the coarse outer layers that contains vitamins and ls . The make white flour from naturally brown flour, and because it is known that white flour contains nothing healthy and leads to deficiency diseases down the road, the “fortify” the flour with vitamins and iron.

Believe me, nothing is as well “fortified” as the original grain. I mean the really “original” grain which we cannot retrieve anymore because the first grains were so puny – not much more then a few hard nibs in your mouth while you were searching for the really belly-filling rabbit or root. If you want to do wheat at all (and if you are a celiac, you can’t have it ever again! Also not rye and barley; perhaps not even oats), at least stick to dinkel and kamut, some of the older grains. Not as old to go back to the dawn of times, but going back a few thousand years, to the first cultured strains. They contain more hulls and “waste”, less gluten and starch. You also can try sprouted breads where most of the gluten has been used up in the process of sprouting.

Our modern degenerative diseases have to do with mostly four culprits: Wheat, dairy, sugar, trans-fats. Our redemption lies in the plant world: vegetables, herbs, fruit. A few beans, a few nuts. Some fish. And occasionally … a rabbit.

Desperate Skin – Psoriasis

May 2, 2012

Tags: order, movement, water, food, herbs, acute disease, alcohol – excessive, allergies, alternative vs. conventional medicine, appendix - perforating, arthritis, balm of Peru, bay leaf, benzoic acid, biking, biopsy - skin, bone - broken, bowl, brain, breath, cancer, cardiac death, cardiologist, cat, chronic disease, cinnamon, citrus peel, cloves, cold shower, cooking, cortisone cream, cosmetics, curry, dairy, dead-end job, dentist, depression, dermatitis, dermatologist, Desperate Skin – Psoriasis, detoxification, diabetes, diet - “scientific”, dog, eliminating organ, exercise, expertise, feces, food allergies, fragrance, fresh food, friend, green herb, gums, gut, heart attack, hypnosis, India, inflammation, internal organs, intestine, junk food, kidney, lifestyle choices, lung, movement, Natural Medicine, nourishing, nutrition, obesity, pill, patient vs. person, pet, preservative, psoriasis, pregnancy, profit, psychological explanation for disease, rash, relationship, residency, Schuppenflechte, scientist, shampoo, shelf life, skin disease, skin allergy testing, sleep - more, spices, stroke, sweat, talking, teeth, toxic matter, turmeric, urine, vanilla, vegetable, veterinarian

Twenty-five years ago, my husband suddenly broke out in a rash: His fingertips were raw and started bleeding whenever he touched something - like buttoning his shirt. When he went on a trip to India, he could not carry a suitcase, but traveled with a backpack. When he came back, the rash had intensified, and I worried about him becoming despondent.

He consulted a dermatologist who told him he had “dermatitis” and prescribed a cortisone cream. “Dermatitis” means “inflammation of the skin” – duh! He was told these skin rashes would come and go, there was no known cause; he just had to live with it.

It is hard to live with leaving a trace of blood on anything you touch! The cortisone helped some. But the rash always came back when he stopped the cream. In his desperation, he went to half a dozen different skin doctors. The pinnacle was when a well-meaning friend gave him, as a present - a visit to a hypnotist. We should have known hypnosis wouldn’t work in a hard-core scientist …

Our friends thought it all was psychological: We were pregnant at that time, with our son, and the easiest explanation was that becoming a father was stressing my husband out. We could not really see the stress, as we were giddy with joy and anticipation. But it was true that the rash had appeared during our pregnancy.

For three years we tried to figure out what was going on, talking about it at nearly every dinner. Then one day I noticed that new plaques had appeared on my husband’s elbows. It seemed clear now that he had psoriasis. – At the same time he thought he observed that the rash on his hands always got worse when he used shampoo.

I made him ask his dermatologist for a skin testing, to look for allergies, and a biopsy, to confirm the suspicion of psoriasis. The doctor said there was no reason to do either. But because I was a colleague, the tests were done.

The biopsy confirmed psoriasis. The skin testing showed a whole angry area of patches – all related to spices: vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, curry, citrus peel and benzoic acid (a preservative). And balm of Peru – the fragrance that is in many cosmetics, including shampoos.

As a physician, I was all excited: Here was a case of psoriasis triggered by food allergies! Never in medical school had I heard of a connection between skin disease and nutrition! I talked with several dermatologists – none of them got excited. They flatly denied there could be a connection – even in the face of the biopsy and skin test results! Slowly it dawned on me that no dermatologist has any incentive to really cure his patients – as they then would be lost as patients.

We, however, implemented a new diet, leaving out the offending agents, and in no time my husband was healed. We even figured why the rash had first appeared during pregnancy: I was in the middle of residency when I got pregnant – which is usually not considered a good time for expanding your family. Because I was more tired, I cooked less and we went out eating more often. Just across the street was a tiny Indian restaurant; we became nearly daily guests there. And curry (probably the turmeric in curry, actually) was one of the problems.

In the long run, being forced to always cook from scratch I have helped the health of our family tremendously. Our son grew up knowing about the importance of fresh foods, and even turned out to be a dedicated cook!

Natural Medicine has long maintained that many diseases stem from the gut. We have basically four eliminating organs that might get rid of toxic matter: the kidneys (urine), the bowl (feces), the lungs (exhaled breath), the skin (sweat). Often the skin mirrors the health of the intestines: My husband’s body tried to get rid of the spices he was allergic too, and expelled them via the skin – which showed as a rash. Using cortisone cream only suppresses this natural way of detoxification, and pushes the problem underground – until even the internal organs are getting diseased. Never think that a skin disease is just a skin disease: The inflammation in your body might become visible in the skin, but the inflammation happens everywhere. A study showed that psoriasis sufferers have more strokes, heart attacks and cancers! It does not surprise me. But it might surprise the seven and a half million people who suffer from psoriasis in this country. For most of them it would already be curing if the eliminated all dairy products and excessive alcohol. And nobody tells them …

Of course, what is true for dermatologists is true for other specialties: Cardiac death is going down – not because of procedures cardiologists are doing but because people are paying more attention to what they eat, and they exercise more. – In obesity, the answer will not come from a little pill your doctor gives you, but from you moving around more and letting go of junk food. – Is your dentist interested in you having healthy teeth and gums – or is he interested in keeping you as a patient? – Veterinarians sell now “scientific” diet for your pets. But can that manufactured food compete with the food you cook yourself at home; I doubt it. Because that food is made for long shelf life and profits, not with the health of your cat or dog in view. – Your depression – does it warrant a pill and you being a patient instead of a vibrant, alive person? Would you do better talking with a friend about your problems, getting out of a sour relationship or dead-end job, nourishing your brain with fresh vegetables and getting up from your sofa and ride your bike?

In the last years, we have seen some physicians incorporating alternative methods into their mainstream medicine practice. Acute problems like a broken bone, an appendix threatening to perforate or a cancer definitely need a skilled conventional practitioner. Chronic problems, on the other hand, that have developed over years from had lifestyle choices – arthritis, diabetes, obesity rank high among them - do remarkably well with changes in lifestyle. No surprise there …

I am not saying that every problem goes away with better nutrition, exercise, cold showers, green herbs and more sleep. But you will be astonished how many problems will vanish into thin air. Give it a try! And don’t you worry that I am throwing out all conventional medicine! Today I am seeing my conventional dermatologist for a checkup. But I know what she can give me: expertise. Not my health. On my health, I have to work myself.

Cancer – From Another Perspective

April 29, 2012

Tags: order, movement, food, Cancer – From Another Perspective, cancer, cancer cell, cancerous growth, cell, computer, death, degenerative disease, disease, drug use, exercise, extinction, genetic disposition, genome, habits - bad, health, jumping, love, Natural Medicine, nutrition, organism, relationships, science, sleep deficit, statistics, stress, survival, TV, work habits

Science now thinks that cancer cells use a very ancient mechanism when they invade a body: It seems cancer cells are descendants of single cells that integrated themselves into our genome. Whenever the whole organism is threatened by extinction, at least the cancer cells may have a shot at survival.

If one reverses the point of view: As long as your body is healthy, those ancient single cells have no business to stir and take over as cancerous growth. Let your body go to the dogs, however, and you give the cancer cells an edge.

This is what Natural Medicine has taught for a long time: That cancer is a degenerative disease, and that it develops in a pre-diseased body.

Not to get into the intricacies of genetic disposition to certain cancers (which can’t be disputed), it is nevertheless a fresh perspective on our old bodies in health and disease: Keep this temple of your well-being in good shape, and you have a chance at a long, good life. Run down your body with poor nutrition, hours in front of TV or computer, no exercise, too little sleep, lots of stress from relationships, work habits, drug use, and so on – and you might reap what you sow.

Of course, this is statistics speaking. For the individual a bad disease sometimes just means bad luck. Sometimes. More often disease stems from bad habits.

Get up right now and jump up and down twenty-one times – give no chance to those nasty single cells that are still asleep! Another way to put it: Love your body – it is the only one you have.

Absolutely Unnecessary Products

April 26, 2012

Tags: order, water food, Absolutely Unnecessary Products, advertisement, air, aldehyde, anti-bacterial, artery-clogging, artificial sweetener, asthma, baking soda, benzene, brain-fogging, California, cancer, chemical, chores, chronic disease, clothing, coconut oil, cold water, dairy, detergent, douche – vaginal, dryer, dryer sheet, drying, facelift, food color, fragrance, Earth, energy – naturally, financially difficult times, fresh air, freshness, garlic, Gulf War Syndrome, household, inflammatory, liposuction, make-up, moisturizer, money saving, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, nutrition, olive oil, pollution, power drink, product, quality of life, recreational drug, resources – finite, rush hour, scent, sexy, shower, sleep, smell, soap, soil, stevia, suburban, sugar, sweetener, theater, toxic drink, toxic food, toxic fumes, toxic products, toy, towel, vaginal douche, veganburger, vegetable, vinegar, VOC, volatile organic compounds - VOC, walking, washing machine, Wonderbread

When I lived in California for a few months last winter, all the dryers stood on the same spot on all the porches – it was one of those modern, boring, suburban communities. All the households used the same detergents and dryer sheets. The same cloying scent was standing in the air - always. After rush hour, the smell peaked: All the dudes and gals coming home from work and did they daily home chores.

Dryer sheets are unnecessary (and toxic) products. Many volatile organic compounds are released in the air with every drying course, plus aldehydes, benzene, and other substances that are proven or under suspicion to promote cancer, asthma, and other chronic diseases. “Multiple Chemical Sensitivities” is such a syndrome, closely related to the “Gulf War Syndrome”. Researcher suspect that sitting around all day in barracks, exposed to toxic foods, toxic drinks, toxic fumes, toxic recreational drugs might be the root cause.

Even worse: Because the fragrances in dryer sheets are manufactured to last and last and last, it is near-impossible to get them out of your machine and out of your clothing (try vinegar and baking soda!).

You think your laundry smells FRESH?? That’s the power of advertisement. Does a guy who walks by me (or stands in the elevator with me) smell FRESH? Or SEXY? To me he smells chemical, and uninformed. - When I put my face in my hard towels, they smell lovely - because they are dried on the line, outside. Dryer sheets and vaginal douches would top my list of absolutely unnecessary products. But the list is close to endless, I fear.

Let’s start such a list! Because Earth is getting too small for all the people living on it, we can make an effort to omit – and perhaps ban! – all products that do not enhance the quality of life but only use up precious resources and pollute air, soil and water. Not to mention use up our money in financially difficult times.

Here is the list – not ordered by urgency just by what came to my mind:

1. Dryer sheets
2. Vaginal douches
3. Wonderbread (or any other nutrient-poor replacement of the real things made from scratch)
4. Anti-bacterial soap (except in medical settings – and even there I’d challenge the wisdom of using them)
5. Toys that are used a day, and then never again
6. Liposuction – go for a walk instead. Daily.
7. Moisturizer (use coconut oil after your shower – if you need it. On your whole body)
8. Artificial sweetener (if you really want to stick with the over-sweet taste you have been raised on, try stevia! At least, it is natural)
9. Dairy (most inflammatory, artery-clogging, brain-fogging food there is – right there with sugars)
10. Toner (splash you face with cold water whenever there is a possibility
11. Make-up (in most cases, except in professional situations like theater)
12. Veganburgers (or any fake “health” food. Cook a vegetable with olive oil and garlic. Or two. Or three. – That’s it!)
13. Food colors – Who needs neon-red and neon green and neon-purple in their mouth??
14. Facelifts
15. Power drinks (go to bed early enough so that your body gets energy naturally)

Help me! Let’s make this a looooong list!

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.

Walking Pneumonia

September 2, 2011

Tags: order, herbs, acne, Alzheimer's, antibiotics, blindness, blister, bronchitis, cancer, cold herbs, diagnosis, GAIA herbs, GSE - Grapefruit Seed Extract, head cold, inflammation, lung, oregano, pneumonia - walking, rheumatoid arthritis, rinsing nose with saltwater, Walking Pneumonia

You are familiar with the term of "walking pneumonia", I guess. "Walking pneumonia" is unknown to other medical cultures. I always stumble over the expression. After all these years in this country, it still has the capitalistic notion to it: "Sick - but not too sick to work."

A friend adamantly denies "walking pneumonia" has to do with mean bosses who force their employees to work, whatever deplorable state they might be in. She maintains the term has been around forever, and simply discerns between one who is sick and still can walk, and one who is sick and can't get out of bed.

I can follow my friend there. BUT: Any pneumonia has inflammation in the lung tissues, and warrants treatment with antibiotics. And: We don't do this with other diseases - combining a diagnosis like "pneumonia" with a description of the state of the patient like "walking".

We make no difference between "walking cancer" and "non-walking cancer", or "walking rheumatoid arthritis" or "non-walking rheumatoid arthritis".

For me, "walking pneumonia" sounds decidedly odd. Thinking about it - and playing with it as the doctor-writer I am - also decidedly funny. Begging your pardon for poking fun of serious conditions, but they popped up:

"Limping foot blisters"
"Still mumbling Alzheimer's"
"Groping legal blindness"
"Absolutely, totally mortified acne".

If you ask me, pneumonia is pneumonia. Walking or not.

Oh, and by the way: If you have a bad head cold or a bad bronchitis, make sure they don't develop into pneumonia. Rinsing your nose with saltwater, taking extra deep breaths, quitting smoking, taking GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) 16 drops three times a day with lots of water, or Oregano capsules (GAIA has a reliable formula) or some herbs against colds might prevent ... pneumonia.

Berry Time

August 19, 2011

Tags: food, anti-oxidants, arthritis, Berry Time, berries, bilberry, blackberry, blueberry, breakfast, cancer, coconut milk, desert, diabetes type II, dinner, fiber, infection, Maine - down-east, manganese, raspberry, rum, vitamin A, vitamins

The importance of berries for health cannot be overstated. If you can pick berries where you live, do so!

Here in down-east Maine, raspberries are gone, but blackberries are just starting to ripe in the sun after several days of rain. Every late afternoon, we are going for a walk along the road and pick and eat, pick and eat. Nothing better on Earth!

And most important: Blueberries are upon us! My husband likes the big, cultivated ones; I favor the little ones from the wild. Does not matter - all are good. In Europe, we had another kind of blueberry, namely bilberry. It differs from the varieties here that they are blue through and through - meaning that all the valuable anti-oxidants are even higher. Besides anti-oxidants, they are loaded with vitamins, cholesterol-lowering fiber, bone-building manganese, and so much more. Their anti-inflammatory potential are legendary - they fight cancer and diabetes, arthritis and infections. Eat them now while they are plenty and cheap.

Here my favorite recipe - as usual with me, not much of a recipe, but just throwing the goodness in a bowl in abundance. Add a small teaspoon full of coconut milk. The fat helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamin A) which would otherwise just pass by, unused. We have this for a breakfast.

And then again for desert after dinner. Late in the day, a splash of rum over the blueberries and the coconut milk makes it even better (not if you are an alcoholic!!).

Varicose Veins - Phlebitis - Thrombosis

July 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Weeds - Green Is Life-Giving

July 12, 2011

Tags: food, water, amaranth, arthritis, arugula, balcony, beet greens, burdock, cabbage, cancer, chard, chickweed, chlorophyll, collard greens, coumadin, dandelion, diabetes type II, dinosaur kale, dog poop, Earth, edible weeds, endive, escarole, eye health, garden, garlic, green leafy things, harvest, heart health, immune system, lamb's quarters, kale, knowledge, kohlrabi greens, lettuce, local herb walk, mâche, mizuna, mustard greens, olive oil, pesticides, plantain, pots, purslane, radicchio, rapunzel, shepherd's purse, spinach, stinging nettle, sunlight, supermarket, water cress, weed, Weeds - Green Is Life-Giving, yarrow, harvesting from the wild

With the “invention” of chlorophyll, life on Earth began to explode. Chlorophyll makes it possible to harvest the sunlight and turn it into food for animals and humans.

All greens keep you healthy – in so many ways; They fight and prevent cancer, they help the heart, the eyes, the immune system, and work against diabetes type II and arthritis – to name a few. All taste delicious simmered in little water with olive oil and garlic (fresh or dried), pepper and salt. Here are green leafy things you might find in your supermarket:

• Chard
• Spinach
• Cabbage
• Mustard greens
• Dandelion
• Collard greens
• Kale
• Escarole
• Arugula
• Beet greens
• Bok choy
• Rapunzel (mâche)
• Dinosaur greens
• Endive
• Water cress
• Kohlrabi greens
• Lettuce
• Mizuna
• Amaranth
• Radicchio

If you have a garden, or some pots on the balcony, or a stretch of land where dogs don’t poop (hard to find!), you have access to many more greens than just in your supermarket aisle – and for free!!

• Stinging nettle
• Dandelion
• Purslane
• Chickweed
• Plantain
• Burdock
• Lamb's quarters
• Shepherd's purse
• Yarrow

For harvesting from the wild, follow a few rules: If you take from your neighbor’s garden, ask for permission. Not only is dog poop a problem but pesticides and generally dirty roads. Don’t over-harvest – you wants some plants to set seeds, so that you can forage next year again. If you are taking coumadin, be aware that all greens can counteract it – take roughly an equal amount every day.

There is nothing wrong with edible weeds – they are delicious – it just takes an adventurous spirit. And KNOWLEDGE of the plant! Take a local herb walk with a guide. Don’t harvest and eat if you are not 100% sure – 99% is not good enough.

Food And Vitamins

July 8, 2011

Tags: food, anti-oxidants, cancer, chemical substances, chemical compounds, chemist, degenerative diseases, Earth, evolution, Food And Vitamins, fresh meal, Japan, Okinawa, polyphenols, population studies, vita, vitamins, web of life

Last time we discuss vitamins for a while – I promise!

Yesterday, in my tiredness, I forgot the most important reason why the vitamin bottle is not the answer, but good food is.

We are hardwired to live with and thrive on the plants and animals of this Earth. For millions of years, through all of Evolution, have we been eating the stuff this Earth provides to us. Only during the last one hundred years we are trying to outsmart Nature and to improve on what the Earth gives us.

The detection that there are chemical substances without which a person would die was a great breakthrough. They called those substances “vitamins” – from Latin “vita”, life.

What chemists did not understand then – and many not even now – is that those are only the most conspicuous chemical compounds we cannot survive without. Many other compounds take longer to get depleted – but depleted they become. Perhaps only after years, but then diseases set in. We hear now a lot about anti-oxidants and polyphenols, but there are certainly others. How do I know? Here is the answer: Whenever population studies are done on people who still live close to the Earth – like the people on the Japanese island of Okinawa – they find that they live longer and have much fewer degenerative diseases, including cancer. One can conclude that they have something in their food which we don’t – and which our bodies miss out.

Replacing with vitamins from a bottle is an extremely crude method to make up for healthy food. As we have discussed, too much of something good in too short time wreaks havoc on a body. And vitamins are only the tip of the iceberg – other compounds are lacking, too. Replacing vitamins makes those deficiencies only more dramatic and increases the imbalance in the body.

Health is not a single substance - health come from the whole. A vitamin bottle has nothing to do with the web of life.

If you think you can’t put a fresh meal every evening on the table because you are working so hard in your job: While I was in medical training and had a new baby (I know – looks like bad planning; l but I loved both and wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on either!), I still put good food on the table (I froze some ion my less busy days, but otherwise my food was self-prepared from fresh ingredients).

Without good food, we die – more or less slowly. I wouldn’t want that for my family.

More About Vitamins

July 7, 2011

Tags: food, beta-carotene, cancer, carrot, Colbin – Annemarie, food – organic, fructose, heart disease, honey, megadoses vitamins, More About Vitamins, Nurses’ Study, nutrition, obesity, Pauling – Linus, soil depletion, sugar, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin delivery system, vitamins

Glad that we are getting an interesting discussion going here … if only I didn’t have a day job – or several ...

We can agree on several things, namely

1. that food is not as good anymore than it was. We certainly have depleted soils in some agricultural areas. BUT the main problem with food today is not that we can’t get good food (we can, if we grow our own, and if we buy mostly organic); the problem is that, as a nation, we usually choose the wrong food. Hence the obesity epidemic, and heart disease, cancer, and so on. One could actually make a point that we can get much better food today than fifty years ago, or even twenty years ago.

Well, I wanted to agree with my ardent critic – but then thought the better of it. Let’s see the next point:

2. that vitamins are no substitute for food: totally agreed.
3. that we can get “better brands” of vitamins, and that they will be the real thing. Here I disagree. I wrote yesterday that the sudden overload in vitamins is detrimental for the body. And there have been several studies in the last few years that seem to corroborate this. In those studies (The Nurses’ Study is a famous example), they first look what people eat. They find that those who have the highest intake say, of vitamin A, judged by food diaries, have the least cancer. So far so good. In a follow-up study they give vitamin A (or no vitamin A) to people. And then the outcome is: More cancer in the vitamin arm than in the arm where people eat normal food. Now, such studies have been done for vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin E. It seems to prove that vitamins are not the same in food as in the bottle. Notwithstanding that they are chemically the same. The difference lies in the delivery system: To digest a vitamin, to use it in your metabolism, you need many more chemicals that are not present in the vitamin bottle, but come in whole foods. As my friend Annemarie Colbin once said: If you pop a vitamin A pill in the morning, your body is searching for the rest of the carrot the whole day ….

Honey? I have never recommended honey much – you are right that it is mostly sugar, and fructose at that. Therefore one should use it only sparingly. Apart from that most of our honeys have been heated and made worthless.

And Linus Pauling? Great scientist. But I can’t follow him into his vitamin fixation. Some people are convinced that vitamins will save their lives. Some are not – it probably is not useful to discuss it forever. Why some arguments seem true to us, and others not, is highly individual. For me, one man who made it to 93 is no proof that he did everything right regarding nutrition. Without his mega-doses of vitamin C, perhaps he would have made it to 107??

Nothing will get me away from good, whole, fresh foods!

Vitamins

July 6, 2011

Tags: food, arthritis, ascorbate, cancer, chewing, degenerative diseases, depression, diabetes type II, digesting, elderly, heart disease, kidney, liver, meat, natural substances, nutrition - lousy, plant, sugar - refined, vitamin E, vitamin deficiency, vitamins, Vitamins, vitamins - overdosed

A reader has started a discussion, and I want to continue it here, bit by bit so that everyone can follow it.

The argument was this: “Vitamins are natural substances, right? All animals produce ascorbate acid in the liver/kidney and there is no difference between this and synthetic one. Not the case for all vitamins (i.e. E) but today nothing is pure.”

Answer: Vitamins are natural substances - as long as they are in the plant or in the meat. What you buy in a bottle, is mostly low-quality stuff.

I do think about vitamins as about sugar: Sugar in plants was a nourishing thing - until mankind was able to refine it and eat it in large quantities. Then it became a poison (responsible for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, arthritis, and many more "degenerative" diseases.
you swallow a vitamin pill (aside from that it might not be healthy stuff in the first place), you flush your system with too much good stuff in too short time - and your body has no clue what to do with it. We are supposed to chew and digest food slowly, so the body can deal with what comes. With vitamin pills, we overwhelm and poison out bodies.

Now, I say this with a grain of salt. In deficiencies, and for a limited time, the replacement of vitamins can be a good thing - under supervision of a physician.

But I have seen too many overdosed people - especially the elderly - who take vitamins to make up for lousy nutrition ... and if one pill helps, two or three might help even better ...

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!

Fast Will Not Last – A Step-By-Step Weight Loss Program

May 4, 2011

Tags: food, water, movement, herbs, order, allergies, anti-cancer, arthritis, asthma, bedtime, belly, beverage – diet, beverage soft, bisphenol A (BPA), BMI, breakfast, butter, cancer, carbon filter, celeriac, chard, cheese, chemicals in water, church, clean out the attic, cooked food, dairy, deli, diet beverage, depression, diabetes type II, dinner, dinosaur kale, environment, Fast Will Not Last – A Step-By-Step Weight Loss Program, fat - good, fish, fluoride, friend, gardening, garlic, grains, green leafy vegetable, gym, heart disease, herbal tea, inflammatory substance, kale, Kant - Immanuel (1724-1804, kohlrabi greens, legumes, light, lunch, lunch hour, margarine, meat, milk, obesity, olive oil, Own Your Health, play with the kids, political campaign, politics, protein, putter in the garden, reading project, red beet, reverse osmosis filter, ride a bicycle, root vegetable, rutabaga, sausages saving the world, shelter, sitting, sleep and weight loss, soft beverage, soup kitchen, spinach, spreads, starches, stevia, sugars, sweeteners, tap water, turnip, vegetable, vitamin A, volunteering, walk a dog, walk - daily, water - bottled, water – filtered, weight loss – fast, weight loss – realistic, Weight Loss Program - Step-By-Step, Weisman - Roanne, whole grains, winter, wrist bone, yoghurt, yo-yo dieting

Fast Will Not Last – A Ste

After politics, I better return to my own turf. My forte is one-to-one talking with on people, not saving the world.

Ali - on Roanne Weisman’s blog Own your Health - has asked me this question: How can I lose weight fast?

Truth is: Fast will not last.

Most common request seems to be: “Now it is May – can you help me lose fifty pounds till September, because I will marry in September.” My answer is always: “No!”

Weight loss should be really slow so that the body does not go into survival mode and defies weight loss. As disappointing as this may be, it is the only way to success. Yo-yo dieting has been shown to be especially detrimental to the heart, so don’t even start that process!

Here are my rules:

• Do not lose more than two pounds per month!
• Weigh yourself every morning.
• If you inadvertently lose more than two pounds per month, don’t gloat about, and don’t be disappointed if you regain some of that weight.
• Once you have lost those two pounds, put your focus on keeping off those two pounds. The real challenge is to not regain any pounds during the month.
• Weight loss does not happen by diet alone, and not by sweating hours in the gym. Weight loss comes from a healthy lifestyle.
• One of the most important parts of that healthy lifestyle is getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to high stress hormone levels in the body, which leads to cravings and overeating.
• The next day is won the evening before: Prepare breakfast and lunch, and plan dinner for the next day, then go to bed early. Don’t hang around in front of TV or computer beyond your “tired point” – because then you get a second wind and can’t fall asleep. Best bedtime is between 8.30 and 10.00 pm. If you think you can’t do that every night, give it a try one evening per week – and observe the difference in how you feel.
• Below is the step-by step program. Take a new step either every week or every month, or when you feel you need to do more for your health, or when the weight loss progress stalls.
• The most important question: Is your weight loss goal realistic? If you are of Dutch ancestry, you might never get to be a dainty as many Asians are (only a rule of thumb – there are small Dutch people, and large Asians!). For that look up your BMI - for instance here: http://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info-05-2010/bmi_calculator.html?CMP=KNC-360I-GOOGLE-HEA-FIT&HBX_PK=bmi&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=bmi&utm_campaign=G_Health&360cid=SI_148921798_7430108821_1.
• Your BMI will give you a weight range. If you are small-boned, you should be at the lower part of that range, if you are big-boned, at the higher end. How do you know about your bones? Compare your wrist bones with those of other people to get an idea where you stand.
• If you still have a protruding belly, you are not at your ideal weight.
• In every meal have some protein and some good fat. Legumes provide protein.
• Most important is your intake of vegetables, which should be mostly cooked, especially in the winter.
• Cut down on meat to once a week, and do not eat deli and sausages at all. Have some fish – preferably small fish.

And here are the weight loss steps:

Step # 1: Buy a green leafy vegetable (chard, spinach, kale, dinosaur kale, kohlrabi greens, etc), cook it with olive oil and garlic - and eat it.

Step #2: Leave out all soft beverages - including "diet" beverages.

Step #3: Drink herbal teas when you are thirsty. Or plain (or filtered) tap water. Don’t drink bottled water.

Step #4: Leave out all dairy (cheese, milk, yoghurt, etc). Milk is a highly inflammatory substance, totally alien for people beyond infancy, that leads to all kinds of diseases besides obesity: diabetes, arthritis, depression, cancer, allergies and asthma, heart disease, and so on.

Step #5: Buy a root vegetable (red beets, celeriac, turnip, etc), cook in salt water until just soft enough to pierce with a skewer. Serve with olive oil, pepper and salt as a warm salad. Rutabaga, because it is usually waxed, needs to be peeled before cooking. Cut in cubes, boil with a bit of water and pepper and salt.

Step #6: Go for a daily walk. Best is during lunch hour, for the anti-cancer effect of light. Ten minutes in the beginning is fine. Go with a friend – so that you may stay with this habit.

Step #7: Leave out all sugars. And don’t use any sweeteners. They fool the body into thinking you get sweets – and then your body wants more food. Besides, most sweeteners except stevia carry their own health concerns.

Step #8: Find a new vegetable every week in your supermarket – try out what you don’t know (most vegetables are delicious with garlic and olive oil). Some fat is required with all vegetables because otherwise you cannot absorb the vitamin A in them.

Step #9: Leave out all grains and starches until you have your ideal weight. Then you might re-introduce some whole grains – but only if you are not regaining.

Step #10: Observe how much you are actually sitting during the day. Sitting is detrimental to your health – and of course, we are a sitting culture. Think about ways to move more: Putter in the garden, clean out the attic, walk a dog, play with the kids, ride a bicycle. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant recognized this principle and kept his handkerchief at the other end of the room, so that he had to get up from his desk to blow his nose. Try to come up with your own – and better - movements!

Step #11: Stop all margarine, spreads and butter. If you still eat bread, dunk it in olive oil.

Step #12: Volunteer somewhere – in a shelter, a soup kitchen, a church, a political campaign, a gardening project, a reading help for youngsters –to get out of the house and do good!

P.S. This is a long entry. But it boilds down to two points:

1. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables - eat more, and more varied!

2. Put more movement into your day - little movements here and there.


P.P.S. Recheck this blog - I might add new points as they come up!

Otto’s Nipples

April 24, 2011

Tags: order, alcohol, breast, breast cancer, cancer, cat, cirrhosis, Creationism, Darwin, embryo, estrogen, Evolution, female, fetus, hormones, liver failure, male, nipples, testosterone, tomcat, Otto’s Nipples

You must have heard about my adorable tomcat Otto. He is all black, with two small white spots, on his breast and on his belly.

Every time he sees me, he throws himself on his back, begging for a belly rub. When I first got him from the shelter, his fear to be touched by a stranger was greater than his desire to get a belly rub. But over time, he became bolder, and now I can touch his belly most of the time, and indeed, he even demands it.

So, when I do my chore and rub his belly, invariably I am astonished to find that he has nipples, two nice rows of it. What a waste to put nipples on a male! In a female, the nipples would serve to feed the young. But in a male?

In the Creation story, God takes a rib from the sleeping Adam and shapes Eve out of it. So why did Adam have nipples? He shouldn’t!

I don’t want to offend religious feelings, but nipples prove that Evolution is real, and that Darwin was right. For me, nipples are the neatest evidence for the Earth and all her inhabitants having come a long way.

In fetal development, the first fourteen weeks are exactly the same in male and female. After that, under influence of the male hormone testosterone, a boy and his special parts develops. If testosterone is not supplied (as in a genetic girl), the fetus stays what it was, basically, and becomes a girl. And since having or not having nipples is of minor consequence, evolution never selected against nipples; they just stayed where they were left at week fourteen of embryonic development.

Medically, the male breast occasionally can develop cancer – just like the female breast does. But the number is only one in a hundred male cases to female cases. Anyway, an unusual swelling in a man’s breast should be evaluated by a physician.

However, swelling of both male breasts usually stems from the influence of hormones (or hormone-like substances). It is called gynecomastia, meaning: breasts like females. They can be a sign that testosterone levels are too low in a man, or that estrogens are too high. In any case, they should also be seen by a physician. This condition often happens in puberty, when the balance of hormones is not yet perfect, and most often it vanishes on its own.

In older men, development of breasts may have to do with obesity and/or alcohol consumption: When the liver is too busy with alcohol, it cannot break down estrogens very well – those estrogens are also produce normally in men, although in low numbers. But when the liver is failing, the estrogen level rises relative to testosterone levels, and gynecomastia develops. Time to drink less alcohol (or none)! The liver has a great capacity for regeneration – and half a year alcohol-free does wonders (if there wasn’t already cirrhosis, the end-stage of liver disease).

All these musings just from stroking Otto’s belly – amazing. But even more amazing is Evolution, I guess.

News About Cancer

November 6, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, bok choy, Brassica, broccoli, Cancer, News About Cancer, sprouts, cabbage, cabbage family, cancer, cancer cells, cancer prevention, cod liver, cod liver oil, cruciferous vegetables, DNA – damaged, exercise, horseradish, immune system, light, oncologist, raking leaves, sauerkraut, Savoy cabbage, skin health, sun, vegetables, vitamin D, walking

A recent study found that cancer grows astonishingly slowly – at least some cancers. It can take twenty years to full-blown cancer disease.

What does that mean for us? It means that instead of staring at the future and spending your life dreading the bad diagnosis, you can do something today to suppress developing cancer cells. It means that instead your oncologist becoming the heroic cancer fighter – be your own hero! Today, and every day!

Cancer cells are generated in our body all the time, by error and by damaged DNA. A healthy immune system will pick them out and gobble them up, effectively destroying them before they get out of hands.

What have you done today to ward off those tiny enemies? Exercise protects from cancer. So, go in the yard, rake some leaves (I have done that yesterday – looks good so far – before the rest of the leaves will come down). Or go for a walk. Remember that some light also protects from cancer, via vitamin D that is created under your skin when you are expose to light.

It might help to eat some cod liver once a month, also for a good dose of vitamin D. But not more often: I would be worried about pollution of fish – and pollutants might be especially high in fish liver. Alternative: Get a good old-fashioned cod liver oil.

And then: veggies. Eat cabbages and greens and roots and salads – everything you can put your hands on. A few days ago, we had our first killing frost. The day before I harvested everything from my garden in pots (did I mention earlier that this year I grew vegetables in pots on the terrace – because the flowers in my garden have not left a speck of soil for vegetables.

Was a mixed result: The vegetables are smaller than I hoped for. But when I harvested the last red cabbages, kohlrabi, mustard greens, chards and dinosaur kale, I got two big plastic bags full of greens - and we had eaten some all summer.

Right now I am slow-cooking oxtail with cabbage in the oven. The smell is delicious.

Oxtail might not sound like health food, but everything from the Brassica (cabbage family) is. And what is the best health food worth if you don’t eat it? The secret is to eat a small portion of meat, and a good helping of brassica.

Broccoli is in the cruciferous family (another name for the cabbage family). Most of them are edible and contain cancer-fighting compounds. Horseradish belongs here, and Brussels sprouts, Savoy cabbage, bok choy – and so many more. It does not have to be boring. And in sauerkraut you get the goodies of the cabbage family with the health benefits of fermentation – it can’t get healthier. And sauerkraut is cheap food, as are many of the cabbages.

If you have already cancer: Eat as many vegetables as you can. You might prolong your life that way. Veggies also gives you better skin.

If you can’t cook: Throw a veggie in a pot with a little water and a lot of olive oil. Add plenty of garlic (preferably fresh), and pepper and salt. Simmer on low heat under a lid until done. I still have to find a vegetable that manages to taste bad with this recipe …

The Old Boring Calcium Question

October 25, 2010

Tags: movement, food, bone health, boron, British Medical Journal, calcium, cancer, chromium, dairy, diabetes, fruit, grains - whole, heart attack risk, heart disease, hugging and kissing, legumes, light, manganese, magnesium, milk, nuts, obesity, osteoporosis, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, skin – dark-skinned people, sleep – sufficient, sulfur, sun, supplements, The Old Boring Calcium Question, vegetables, vitamin D

Chances are you are taking a calcium supplement because are health-conscious?

But do you really need it – or are you even harming yourself with your calcium pill?

It is true that bones need calcium for growth. What is not true is that calcium alone gives us stronger bones. Bones need far more than just calcium: Other minerals like potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, chromium, sulfur, selenium, boron – and others – are necessary for bone health. Without these other minerals, calcium alone is pretty useless.

Besides, calcium pills – those fat bummers that are hard to swallow because of their size – are also hard to digest. As a physician, I have seen my share of undigested calcium pills popping up on x-rays, somewhere lying in the bowels, useless.

That milk is an unsuitable source of calcium, you have heard here before. Besides being an unhealthy food, the calcium from milk is also not as readily available as the calcium from vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and nuts. The plant world is so abundant in calcium that adding vitamin D to milk as a selling argument comes close to a joke: Dairy is a cause for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and so on.

For good bones you need a host of minerals – all conveniently available in plant foods – plus sun and exercise. Not so much sun, actually, as light. Even on an overcast day, a midday outdoors walk will trigger the necessary amount of vitamin D production beneath your skin. Inner-city people with dark skin are mostly at risk of osteoporosis because they need more sun exposure.

And if you don’t move, you will lose your bone strength fast. A little known fact: We are losing some bone every night, from being inactive during sleep. An active person will rebuild that loss (and more) the next day. An inactive person won’t.

A study in the British Medical Journal recently found that calcium supplement could increase the risk of a heart attack by thirty percent. Clearly, we have to rethink health: Health does not come from pills. It comes from a lifestyle that uses our body for which it is intended: joyful activity, fresh foods, sufficient sleep. And hugging and kissing, if you ask me.

National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th

September 21, 2010

Tags: food, agriculture, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, barley, bread, celiac disease (see: gluten), cake, cancer, celiac sprue (see: gluten), civilization, cookies, culture, dairy, depression, diabetes type II, Earth, exploitation, fat, gluten, gluten intolerance, God, gods, inflammation, Iran, junk food, milk, monotheism, National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th, nature, neurological problems, oats, pasta, Persepolis, polytheism, rye, skin diseases, sprue (see: gluten), vitamin B12 deficiency, wheat

National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th

Because we were traveling that day in Persepolis/Iran, I missed the date that reminded us of the most under-diagnosed disease there is: Gluten intolerance.

Sprue, celiac sprue, celiac disease, gluten intolerance – they are all different names for the same disease – the one that turns your daily bread into poison.

Inventing agriculture some five to ten thousand years ago was a huge step forward for mankind: Less people - especially children - starved, more survived – and more people had the leisure to turn to cultural endeavors (observing the stars, building cities, learning poetry). Agriculture is at the heart of our civilization.

Of course, there was a price to pay: Some children could not tolerate the new foodstuffs on the table – milk and bread – and died. But most did very well. The population grew.

Nature whispers to hunters and gatherers in the voice of the wind, the rustling of leaves, the babbling of brooks – everywhere spirits and gods seems to reside in holy nature places.

Once farming has been invented, there’s really need only for a single God – the one who lets the wheat grow and fattens the cows so that they give milk: Give us our daily bread was the prayer ever since then. Leaving Nature behind and turning to monotheism also meant to exploit Earth and go for effectivity in all our endeavors: It made us great – and destroyed our old mother-ship Earth.

Except that the gluten (the sticky protein in wheat that makes dough so doughy) can cause myriad diseases: diabetes, arthritis, cancer, depression, autoimmune disease, skin diseases, neurological problems, vitamin B12 deficiency, and so on, and so on. (I am working on a comprehensive list of gluten-related diseases – will come soon).

And gluten is not only found in wheat – it also is in rye, barley and – as a slightly different but related protein – in oats.

You know the story from the Bible about the Golden Calf? Well, in Persepolis I got an idea why the Golden Calf was such a threat Abraham’s God: It was a fall-back into the era of many gods, polytheism. Worse: it went directly to where the money was: to the cow. The One God had to be angry if they could circumvent him. Look at the picture of one of those double-cow capitals of Persepolis – on the “medical questions?” page here).

But back to gluten: About one in a hundred (or a little less – depending on your ethnic background) cannot digest gluten well. If you are reddish or blond, blue-eyed and fair-skinned, you have higher likelihood to be intolerant to gluten – but I have certainly seen the disease in dark-haired people; even in Africans and Asians.

There is not cure for celiac disease – the only recourse is to leave out all gluten in your diet. Some people have a hard time to let go of bread, cookies, cake and pasta. But once you realize that you can eat rice, beans, lentils, garbanzos as much as you want, you suddenly are not only disease-free but you certainly live healthier because all our junk food is based on wheat (and fat).

You might have guessed it: If you are already depriving yourself of all fun in life, you can as well drop milk and dairy products – as they are the other big culprit at the root of many inflammatory processes in your body.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

September 6, 2010

Tags: food, order, water, allergy - blood-mediated, allergy - cell-mediated, apple, allergies – fast and slow, autoimmune disease, back pain, blood test for allergies, cancer, chocolate, citrus, constipation, corn, craving, dairy, depression, diabetes type II, diarrhea, drugs – medical, eggplant, eggs, flavor enhancers food allergy, food colorings, food intolerance, fruit, gluten, heartburn, HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), infection, irritable bowel syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome?, joint pain, lectins, mental fog, MSG, nightshades, nuts, obesity, pain, peanut, peppers - bell and hot, pills, potato, preservatives, prescription medication rash, recreational drugs, runner’s diarrhea, seafood, skin problem, skin test for allergies, soy, stomach ache, stool – floating, thirst – excessive, tomato, yeast

In my thirty years in medicine, I have never diagnosed anybody with “irritable bowel syndrome.”

Not that I didn't want to make the diagnosis. But it always seemed to be the last resort - if there wasn't a better explanation for the patient's symptoms. And there always was.

If my patients came with the label, I quietly looked for a more appropriate diagnosis, mostly some kind of food intolerance and/or infections. And if they came with any of the myriad of gastrointestinal complaints, they deserved a thorough workup.

Food allergies: Physicians differ between food allergies and food intolerance. For the patient the difference is minimal: The only action that will help is leaving out the offending food.

Allergies are mediated either through blood – then they show up in blood tests. Or they are cell-mediated, which means they can’t be detected by blood tests; skin prick test is the way to go then.

If you usually feel good (or even just better) in the morning before you eat, food problems are likely. – Floating stools point to a food culprit, too.

There are rare and dangerous diseases, therefore a doctor should eliminate serious diagnoses. But this is what you can do yourself:

• Write a food journal. Everything that goes into your mouth should go in here – including beverages, pills and chewing gum. A pattern might become clear once you regularly record everything.
• In my experience, these are the most common food offenders: dairy, soy, nuts, gluten, corn – especially HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant, bell and hot peppers), citrus, seafood, lectins, food colorings, preservatives, flavor enhancers (like MSG), eggs, apples and other fruit, chocolate (though probably less common than people think – it usually are the non-cacao ingredients that cause trouble), yeast. And don’t forget: prescription medication! Recreational drugs.
• Read labels! Of course, foods without labels – like kale and carrots – are healthier anyway because only processed food is required to be labeled.
• Has anybody in your family a bowel disease? You might have the same.
• Jot down pains, headache, heartburn, stomach ache, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, blurred vision, slow urination, skin rashes, blocked nose or ears,
• Don’t eat after dinner – and don’t have dinner late. The sheer bulk in your stomach may create the discomfort; besides it prevents the cell repair that should be taking place nightly – but can’t happen when your body is busy digesting.
• Are you very thirsty – especially during and after a meal? That might be a sign of a food allergy. Don’t suppress your thirst – this is how your body gets rid of the offending food: by diluting it.
• If you suspect food allergies, leave out the whole list above plus whatever you suspect for a week. Then one by one, every few days reintroduce another food from the list. – Sometimes only repeated exposure shows the problem – that happens mostly with cell-mediated allergies.
• Blood-mediated allergies are the quick ones – that can bring you to the emergency room - like peanuts. Never try to force your body into accepting any food that it doesn’t want!
• Slow allergies make you sick over time – by the chronic inflammation in your body. That causes for instance cancer in the long run.
• Take a probiotics regularly. I personally like Primal Defense (this is not an endorsement – only an idea to start with. Begin with a small dose, slowly take more. If a probiotic does not agree with you, change the brand.
• Most people benefit from fish oil – to counteract the constant inflammation that comes with food allergies.
• Chew well.
• Eat vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. Not only are they good for you – they also seem to cause fewer allergies.
• Serious runners suffer from a curious disease called “runner’s diarrhea” (about fifty percent of them.
• Obesity might be a sign for food allergies: We tend to crave exactly the foods that are worst for us.
• And most importantly: Don’t eat it if it hurts you!

Unfortunately, you can even have a bowel disease without any gastrointestinal complaints: About fifty percent of gluten intolerance (celiac sprue) patients never notice anything wrong with their belly. But they might have joint or back pain, diabetes, autoimmune disease, mental fog, depression – and a host of other problems.

Dairy IV: The Best of the Bad

August 8, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, addiction, breast discomfort, butter, butter - European cultured, butter - purified, butterfat, calories, cancer, cheese, chocolate milk, cows - grass-fed, cream cheese, crème fraîche, custard, dairy, Dairy IV: The Best of the Bad, fat - saturated, ghee, grains - whole, growth hormomes, hormones, ice cream, infections - milk-borne, inflammatory, kefir, legumes, milk, milk - raw, milk - skim, milk solids, nuts, organic, sugar, sun exposure, vegetables, vitamin D, yogurt, yogurt ice cream

As often as I tell my patients that dairy is unhealthy, they have a hard time abstaining.

So, let’s discuss which form of dairy is the least detrimental.

• Make sure you buy only organic. Commercial milk has extra growth hormones – and dairy is a hormonal food to start with.
• Ice cream: Probably the most unhealthy form of dairy. Not least because it is laced with sugar. Even yogurt ice cream is discouraged, for that reason. Highly addictive. And not needed in your diet because it has no nutritional value. Get your calcium from vegetables and herbs, whole grains, legumes and nuts, and your vitamin D from moderate sun exposure.
• Same with chocolate milk or any sweetened dairy product, like custards, including all yogurts other than plain ones.
• Cream cheese is made by adding more milk solids to milk. So, it is enriched with milk proteins. A bad idea.
• Cheeses: Never eat anything that is not cultured cheese but “processed.” If it comes in a perfectly square form, don’t eat it. Because nothing in nature comes square. Cheese is best to avoid – it is responsible for much of our present obesity epidemic.
• Raw milk is less adulterated than commercial milk, but you run the risk of unpleasant infections. If you know the farm and the farmer, you might want to take the risk. Still, raw milk naturally contains hormones that might make invisible or already diagnosed cancers grow.
• Whole milk is better than skim milk because it is less processed. It also contains less protein (because, by definition, skim milk contains less fat; consequently it contains more protein). And I am not worried about the milk fat as much as about the milk proteins because they are allergenic and they are inflammatory.
• Which means that butter and heavy cream are better than whole milk because they contain even less protein. The best, obviously, is ghee – or purified butter, also called butterfat. There the proteins have been skimmed off. Ghee does the least damage as far as inflammation from dairy goes – but you still have to worry about calories. We are less concerned nowadays with saturated fats. In moderation, they seem to be good.
• The best butter would be European cultured butter. No extra growth hormones, preferably from grass-fed cows.
• Yogurt, kefir, crème fraîche are cultured foods with wholesome bacteria (provided no fruit, sweetener, etc. are added). Make no mistake – they are still dairy products with inflammatory capacities, and contain hormones that might trigger cancer. Even worse, they are delicious and highly addictive. Once in a while, celebrating something grand, I allow crème fraîche on the table…

If you consume dairy products, observe how you feel: Do you experience bloating, reflux, joint pains, headaches, breast discomfort, cravings? Or what else? Become aware what dairy does to your body – and try to avoid it.

Truth in Wine

July 13, 2010

Tags: water, food, order, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, bacteria, cancer, diabetes type II, dolmades, food, French Paradox, fungi, grapes, grape juice, heart disease, meals - shared, phyto-nutrients, resveratrol, sleep, supplement, Truth in Wine, vine, vitamins, wine

Resveratrol - a phyto-nutrient in red wine - is the wonder “drug” that is credited with the so-called French Paradox, namely that the French smoke more and eat more fat, and still have less heart disease, is explained by this. Even doctors now recommend a daily glass of wine.

I dunno. Perhaps their better health might have to do with that the French mostly eat fresh food, take two or three hours for their biggest meal of the day to share with family and friends, and have it more often at midday than in the evening. And they sleep more.

Not to take away from the wonderful goods resveratrol delivers in the body. Resveratrol is an anti-oxidant produced by the vine that gives us wine to fight off attacks by fungi and bacteria. In mice and rats, resveratrol has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Allegedly, it also prolongs life (no real proof yet!).

It sounds like this is the stuff we should eat.

But should we eat it as a supplement? Probably not.

Every time we find a super drug,” a few years later it turns out that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Besides, resveratrol supplements are not made from the real thing – they are synthesized in a factory.

So, have a little red wine now and then – definitely not daily. Drink water for thirst. And eat dolmades - those Greek/Turkish vine leaves filled with rice and/or meat. What the wine advertisers don’t tell you: There is quite a bit more of resveratrol in vine leaves than in wine – and without the intoxicating effects. Unfortunately, there is even less in grapes and grape juice.

Interestingly, even if one takes high doses of resveratrol, only very little of cab be detected in the blood – your liver hurries to turn this “super drug” ineffective very quickly by changing its chemistry. To me this says: Don’t overdose on this drug! The body does not like it in high doses. As many phyto-nutrients, they should be taken often but in small doses, and that is best accomplished by eating a varied diet - like our ancestors the cave men did.

P.S. Occasionally, I get asked if "once in a while" it is okay to take a supplement. Because we don't always get around to eat healthili.

To which I answer: We should. - But apart from that: If one takes a supplement, it should probably be a low-dosed vitamin or anti-oxidant. Because taking high-dosed supplements adds to the toxic burden.

If I Had an Incurable Disease...

June 28, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, arterial disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, carrots, cat food, chronic fatigue syndrome, cod liver oil, cold shower, dairy, declutter, diet, disease - incurable, Etruscan history, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, eye infection, fibromyalgia, fish, fish oil, Five Health Essentials, foods - inflammatory, gardening, growth hormone, herpes, high blood pressure, hormones, If I Had an Incurable Disease..., immune disease, inflammatory foods, journaling, legumes, mandolin, meat, multiple sclerosis, mushrooms, oats, olive oil, phyto-nutrients, probiotics, quilting, repair, relationship - abusive, sarcoid, shower - cold, spirituality, vegetables, walk - daily, welding, whole grains, woodworking

At one point, my cat Kachi had a herpes eye infection that didn’t go away; whatever the vet tried – hundreds of dollars of medications (that was when I decided that I never again would put that much money into pet health care) - nothing helped.

When it threatened her good eye, I thought” What would I do in a patient who has an incurable disease?” Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was cleaning up my cat's diet.

Until then, she had been fed with dry food and cans – like so many pets. I stopped the dry food and cooked, pureed and froze her meals: meat, carrots, a handful of oats, fish.

Within a week, her eye started to heal. After three weeks she was fine. Interestingly, the condition returned, as soon as we returned to processed foods.

So this is what I would do if I had an incurable disease:

• Clean up my eating act. No dairy, as starters. Dairy provides double jeopardy in disease: It is highly inflammatory. Some poorly understood diseases – like sarcoid, autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and so on – will benefit from less inflammation. And dairy is a potent concoction of hormones that lets cells grow - which cancer patients should avoid it like the devil.

As always, don’t just avoid bad foods; cram your plate with good ones – and that means: vegetables, vegetables, vegetable. And herbs and fruit, of course. Plant material has all the phyto-nutrients that your body needs for repair. Plus, good oils like olive oil, fish, occasionally meat (but no deli and cured meats), whole grains, legumes.

But there is more:

• Moderate exercise. Don’t go crazy with mindless machines in a gym – just go for a daily walk, putter around in the garden, clean out attic and garage, and generally find things to do that involve movement.
• End every hot shower or bath with a short (seconds only) cold shower (unless you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or an arterial disease). A cold shower improved immune function, and if you have an ill-understood disease – like my cat’s herpes) – you want your immune system in best working order.
• Add medicinal mushrooms, probiotics, fish oil and cod liver oil to your regimen.
• Get a life: Don’t use sickness as an excuse not to pursue your dreams – go for them right now! Enroll in a course you always wanted to do: woodworking, Etruscan history, welding, playing the mandolin, quilting – whatever captures your fancy. Against physicians’ predictions, I have seen patients survive for many years on bad diseases. Because survival has much to do with the purpose in your life.
• Get a spiritual life: Write it down in your journal just like this: I believe in … And see what will come out. It might mot be religious - but it will be powerful because it stands for your deepest convictions. And then follow your path! Make connections with like-minded people. Needless to say: Let go of stifling, abusive, dead-end relationships (but don’t conclude too fast that it is all your spouse’s fault – it might well be yours; work on yourself first!).

Of course, here we have again the Five Health Essentials of European Natural Medicine: Water, movement, food, herbs, order. If I had an incurable disease, I would embrace these Health Essentials, and make the best of my life that it can be.

P.S. In the summer, I would make a daily garden tea.

Weighing In

June 21, 2010

Tags: order, anorexia, bulemia, cancer, common sense, cravings, faintness, French Paradox, heart attack, lobster, medical school, morning sickness, overweight, nerds, pregnancy, scale, stuffiness, Weighing in, weight

How often should you jump on the scale?

For many years, I never recommended to patients to weigh themselves daily (first thing in the morning). The prevailing medical opinion was that weighing oneself triggered anxieties that might end in eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

Contrary to what I said to my patients, however, I have weighed myself my whole life (nearly) every morning – and have kept the same weight since age twelve. Except for pregnancies, gaining twenty pounds with my daughter, forty with my son. The difference? In both cases, relentless morning sickness. With my daughter, eating or even thinking of food made me throw up; with my son, eating calmed the sickness. During pregnancy, I did not care what I weighed and how I looked; all I cared was the baby I was expecting. So I followed my body’s whims and cravings. Including the incredible craving for a lobster at a very inconvenient time…

My body feels well only within a very tight margin: Two pounds less, and faintness grips me. Two pounds more, and stuffiness prevents me bending forward.

My personal weight story made me absolutely unacceptable for several overweight patients who stated that I had never been in their shoes and could therefore not advise them. I respect that view. But it would also mean that one can’t be a good doctor for a cancer patient if one didn’t have experience with the dreaded disease. Or could couldn’t treat a heart attack because … you are getting the idea. (On the other hand, the notion that better doctors come from personal experience with serious illness, is worth spinning out. The A+ nerds who populate our medical schools – half of them should be replaced with compassionate, common-sensical young men and women).

A study showed that people who weigh themselves more often also lost more weight. That takes this discussion beyond my personal story – and here it becomes interesting.

French women supposedly don't gain weight as they age. Which means if the scale tells them they have gained a pound or two, they take action. And responsibility. That might be part of the French Paradox - that the French live longer but eat more fat. Might be they eat fat - and then put in a salad day.

A scale is a reality check. If you want to avoid looking the facts in the face – your decision. I like to confront bad situations – weight gain, disease, divorce, death (why do nearly all adverse events start with a "d"?). That led me one time to lie down in a casket and pull the lid shut, just to see how it was. It was surprisingly peaceful. What I found out in the coffin: It was nothing to fear.

Dairy III: Raw Milk

June 7, 2010

Tags: food, adulteration, allergen, antibiotics, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disease, bacteria, butter, cancer, casein, cream, dairy, Dairy III: Raw Milk, depression, diabetes type II, E. coli, food processing, gluten, hay fever, heart disease, homogenization, hormones, infants, inflammation, listeriosis, milk, milk - raw, sinusitis, milk - organic, milk - skim, milk - whole, milk - raw, mucus-producing, obesity, pasteurization, pesticides, pus, toddlers, tuberculosis, yogurt

Raw, organic milk might be the last chance the dairy industry still has. Milk is an unnatural, adulterated and inflammatory agent that should not be eaten. Consuming raw milk, without adulteration, might redeem milk and milk products at least a little – it’s last stand, so to speak.

Let me say it again: Dairy is a highly inflammatory, hormonal, mucus-producing, allergenic food that adds to the burden of asthma, hay fever, chronic sinusitis - not to mention obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, arthritis, autoimmune disease. I certainly would not give raw milk to infants and toddlers.

We are neither cows nor calves, and cow milk is an unnatural food for children and grown-ups. But the industry does not want us to talk about it. Dairy adds nothing to bone health - on the contrary. The simple truth is that calcium occurs abundantly in vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains - PLUS, plants contain the other minerals that are needed for strong bones like magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, phosphorus, boron, copper, etc. and which are lacking in dairy.

"Organic" milk is ultra-high pasteurized for longer shelf-life. That is lamentable. But at least organic does not contain bovine growth hormone, antibiotics and pesticides. Pasteurization and homogenization, on the other hand, change the milk molecules and make them less recognizable for the body – hence have higher inflammatory potential.

So what is it about raw, organic milk that makes it - slightly - better? It is less processed. Which means it contains less antibiotics, pesticides and no added hormones. Therefore it is less inflammatory, less allergenic and probably causes less cancer. Since the cows are healthier, the milk contains less pus and fewer bacteria. On the other hand, without pasteurization, diseases can be transmitted through and extreme cleanliness and chilling are required for the whole process. With E. coli found repeatedly in lettuce and burgers, we know that we are susceptible to widespread epidemics from contaminated foods. Listeriosis is a real threat for pregnant women and their unborn children; the different strains of tuberculosis transmitted by cattle cannot be talked way. Still, I think that raw milk is probably not as dangerous as some people are telling us.

I discourage the consumption of milk (see my earlier blogs). But if you insist - at least, have raw milk.

So, if you have milk – which are the healthiest products? Top, in my opinion, are yogurts because they provide healthy bacteria for bowels – but the yogurt has to be plain, without sugar, fruit or any other additives – you might serve it with freshly cut fruit, of course. By definition, skim milk contains, relatively, more proteins and less fat, and since the proteins (eighty percent of which is the glue-like casein that is, chemically, related to gluten) are the inflammatory agent in milk, I would think that whole milk is better. Along that line of argument – and that might come as a surprise – cream and butter are the healthiest. In moderation, of course.

Moderation is one of the problems: Casein breaks down in opioid-like substances, making all dairy addictive.

Dairy I: Basics

May 24, 2010

Tags: food, acne, addiction, allergies, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disease, cancer, cheese, childhood, dairy, Dairy I: Basics, fortification - with vitamins, growth hormone, homogenization, infections, dairy, dementia, depression, heart disease, infants, inflammation, milk, obesity, pasteurization, vegetarianism

Milk is unnatural, slow-poison food for grown-ups.

Mother's milk is a food designed to put fast weight on newborns, making breastfeeding essential. But we are no babes anymore; we are no calves, either. Therefore, we don’t need milk.

Worse: Milk makes us sick. Milk is linked to pimples, obesity, heart disease, dementia, allergies, asthma, cancer, depression, arthritis, autoimmune and a host of other diseases. On top of it, it tastes terrific and is addictive.

Why is dairy linked to so many diseases? It is highly inflammatory, wreaking havoc in your body, in virtually every organ.

I used to admire my vegetarian patients – until I found out that pizza, donuts and ice-cream are considered vegetarian. Nothing healthy in that fare!

When people settled and became farmers, leaving behind the hunter-gatherer days, milk was a life saver - at that time, starvation was the killer number one (childhood infections came later, when communities had grown big enough to have a virus going around for a long time; in the small hordes of hunters/gatherers, viruses had not chance of surviving long). But we long left behind starvation times; now the opposite is the problem: an abundance of calories, the whole day long.

As if the onslaught of calories from dairy were not bad enough, modern milk is even worse because it is greatly adulterated by pasteurizing (perhaps unavoidable), homogenization, adding of vitamins (notably D and A) and, since 1993, growth hormones. Growth hormones help you “grow” (which you might want to avoid) and helps grow cancer cells (which you certainly will want to avoid).

The Dreaded Cellulite

May 19, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, movement, water, arthritis, beans, brown rice, brushing - dry, cancer, cellulite, cold shower, cold water, dairy, dementia, depression, diabetes type II, fat, garbanzos, gynoid lipodystrophy, heart disease, legumes, jumping, lentils, lipodystrophy, metabolic health, milk, olive oil, overweight, shower - cold, sitzbath, starches, stroke, sugar, The Dreaded Cellulite, white starches

Cellulite – in medical terminology: gynoid lipodystrophy – is what many women dread: those dimpled masses of fat around the thighs.

One study showed that people who were severely overweight, improved their cellulite when they lost weight. But people who were less overweight, experienced worse cellulite after weight loss. What is a woman to do??

The Natural Medicine take on cellulite is that it is poorly exercised, inflamed fat, and here is what you can do:

• Eliminate all dairy and milk products (cheese, butter, yogurt, milk solids) from your diet. Dairy seems to be the one single aggravating factor in the diet. The Mediterranean diet (lots of vegetables, herbs and olive oil plus small amounts of meats) seems healing. Dairy is a highly inflammatory food; olive oil is anti-inflammatory.
• Also leave out white starches and sugars. Replace with brown rice and legumes (beans, lentils garbanzos).
• Start with a very moderate program to exercise (because big programs don't work; they overwhelm you). For instance, Jump up and down one minute – and find out how awfully long a minute is… If you have that minute in your daily routine every single day, go for two minutes. Next step: Go for a short walk at lunch hour. Take the steps.
• Brush your skin with a dry brush – always in the direction of your heart. It is not as effective as exercise, and very boring, but it mobilizes those sluggish fat cells – at least a little bit.
• Always end your hot shower/bath with a short cold one (unless you have uncontrolled high blood pressure and/or arterial disease).
• Cold sitzbaths are recommended if you also have varicose veins. Fill at least an inch or two of cold water in the tub. Sit with legs outstretched for one to two minutes.

Cellulite is not a beauty problem. It is a quick measure of your metabolic health. While a little bit of dimpling might just come with age, those factors that now annoy you with cellulite will, in the long run, present you with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia, arthritis, depression, cancer, and so on.

Diabetes - The Voracious Disease

May 8, 2010

Tags: order, food, alcohol, amputations, arthritis, blindness, cancer, cravings, dementia, depression, diabetes type II, Diabetes - The Low-Energy Disease, Diabetes - The Voracious Disease, energy, exercise, exhausted, fatigued, heart disease, hunger, impotence, kidney failure, moderation, obesity, over-eaters, overweight, pre-diabetes, stroke, vegetables, voracious

Diabetes is the disease that makes you eat and eat and eat.

Before, I termed diabetes the “low-energy disease” because it saps you of all strength (see my article on Roanne Weisman’s health blog). Today let's talk about diabetes’ voracious aspect.

With diabetes (or pre-diabetes) you are hungry all the time. Food is on your mind constantly. Why is that so? Several reasons, two which I find most compelling in understanding the disease diabetes:

The more you eat, the fatter you are – the more famished you feel. In olden times, when food was scarce, this was a survival trait: If, by chance, suddenly a whole mammoth had to be devoured, people had to fress beyond feeling full so that the bounty would not spoil and they put on fat for leaner times. Those leaner times always came. The problem, of course, is that nowadays they never come.

A second mechanism by which overeating occurs is that, on one level, it is really not you who is craving food – the bacteria in your gut are. And they signal “hunger!” to your brain – liken it to a computer virus. Studies found that overweight people have different bacteria in their guts than lean people. So, if you are eating the wrong foods – and too much of them – you are feeding the bad bacteria, and they get more greedy. If you would change to a healthier diet, better bacteria would grow, and you would be less hungry.

Most over-eaters eventually develop diabetes type II. Which, for me, is one of the worst diseases because it is absolutely, totally avoidable (ahem … at least in ninety percent). Diabetes leads to blindness, kidney failure, impotence, amputations – not to mention that it is linked to heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, dementia and depression.

There's no magic bullet to cure our cravings besides being aware of it, avoiding the foods that foster cravings (sugar - alcohol is a sugar, too! -, sugar substitutes, bad fats, white starches), and loading up on vegetables – the bitterer, the better. The more, the better. The greener, the better. Moving around more certainly helps. Personally, in the clutches of one of those hunger pangs, I convince myself that I am not falling down dead from starvation if I now don’t grab anything edible right now.

P.S. Those unfortunate ten percent of people who get diabetes and are not overweight, often have gluten intolerance or similar metabolic problems - they can be helped, too!

Do We Need Vitamins?

April 21, 2010

Tags: food, astronaut food, breast cancer, cancer, depression, diabetes type II, Do We Need Vitamins?, elimination, food sensitivities, glucose, gluten, gluten intolerance, health, heart disease, multivitamin, nutrition, syndrome X, toxins, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamins, waste

A recent Swedish study showed that breast cancer in women taking multivitamins was nineteen percent higher than in women who did not. Other studies earlier linked single vitamin preparations (vitamin E and A) also to higher cancer rates.

This feeds into my hunch that artificial high-dosed vitamin pills are not the same as vitamins naturally occurring in food. And why should they be?

Imagine: Glucose is a fuel molecule needed in every single cell of your body. But the moment we were able to refine sugar and put it on everybody's table, the downhill course in our health began: Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, syndrome X, depression, and so on.

Think about man-made vitamins in the same way: Too much of a good thing in too short time - your body just does not know what to do with it and is overwhelmed. As Annemarie Colbin once put it: If you pop a vitamin A in the morning, your body might be searching for the rest of the carrot the whole day…

Your vitamins should come from fresh food. There is no substitute for freshness – we are learning it now the hard way. As I see American cuisine in the last half century or so: In the fifties, families started to eat "modern" canned food and “enriched” cereals as an easy way to get meals on the table. Then frozen and take-out foods arrived. And to assuage our guilty feelings (somehow we know this can’t be right), we shove in vitamins.

Medically speaking, vitamin deficiencies do exists. If your physician diagnoses such a state, by all means take the prescribed pill. But not forever and ever. Your doctor should find out why you are deficient in the first place. Often, there is a poor diet, or an inflamed gut is unable to take up vitamins. Common causes for inflamed bowels are gluten intolerance and food sensitivities. Heal your gut with better food, and your vitamin deficiencies might improve.

In the seventies, a new fad took over: astronaut food. These were un-food-like substances (in the form of cubes in beautiful pastel colors) which could be digested without the need of elimination. See, going to the bathroom in space was considered a major obstacle. – What happened? Turns out, defecating is a marvelous thing because it eliminates wastes and toxins from the body. Astronauts got sick from their beautiful cubes, and astronaut food vanished from the market.

But wait – don’t throw out your vitamins yet. Keep them in a drawer, don’t take them every day. But if one day suddenly you feel like taking one of those vitamins; do take it. Because your body might be telling you that you need one. But only one.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

Tags - see also the non-captalized entries below!