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

Summer Heat

July 18, 2012

Tags: order, water, air conditioner, air pollution - indoors - outdoors, bass, birthright, cello, cherries, children, cold exposure, cold shower, cold water, creativity, dinner - light, fall, fish, garden, heat, heating - central, houseplants, immune system, indoor air, mint, music, nap, pruning, reading, salad, season, shade, sleeping with window open, string camp, summer, Summer Heat, summer reading list, sweating, thunderstorm, September, tea, viola, violin, weeding, writing, work

A tremendous lightning-and-thunder storm brought a huge downpour and a bit of cooling to our region. Not much so. It is nearly ten o’clock at night, and I am still sweating.
You hear me often talk of the benefits of a cold shower (after the hot one). The cold water mimics the exposure to cold we need for a functioning immune system. Since we live in rooms with central heating and are not working outside so much, we don’t get enough of our birthright: cold exposure.
We likewise don’t get enough of the summer heat because most of us live in air-conditioned rooms. Not we though. In twenty years, we have used our central air conditioner a single time. We didn’t like it. We prefer to sleep with window open to get cleaner air. Contrary what you might think, the indoor air pollution usually is much worse than the outdoors air pollution. Hint: Houseplants help cleaning up indoor air.
We sleep with window open even in winter, in severe minus grades. I lie under about five duvets then and stay snugly warm.
Now, in summer, I am sweating – I can’t remember a hot and humid summer like this one. But sweating: That is what summer is for. Summer is a season that gives you a sauna for free: You can sweat out toxins which otherwise are hard to eliminate. Now I am getting rid of waste and damaging agents about twenty hours a day. Of course, I make sure that I take in enough water and salt, to make up for the losses. And be reasonable about it: If you have a medical condition, switch on the air conditioner. Keeping a cold facecloth at hand or taking a short cold shower can keep you cool.
I feel uncomfortable now, sweating. But I know I good I will feel come September: Cool and ready to work hard again. In this heat, I admit, working and writing comes nearly to a standstill; the garden slowly turns into a jungle again as if the months of weeding and pruning never happened. This is the time for cold black tea with mints from the garden, reading in the shade, enjoying delicious music and light dinners – cold fish with a salad and some cherries afterwards. On the weekends, I am planning long afternoon naps, This is not my most effective time – but it is getting me ready for work and creativity in the fall.
Soon I will give you my summer reading list. But for now I am in the middle of the summer string camp with two hundred kids playing violin, viola, cello and bass – and I am one of them. The one who plays cello badly. But having fun.
In an air-conditioned room, actually.

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!

Dough-Less Apple Pie

September 26, 2010

Tags: food, almond, apple, apple-pie - dough-less, berries, blueberries – dried, butter, cherries, cherries – dried, cranberries, Dough-Less Apple Pie, Germany, Marshall Plan, nuts, pear, raisins, school lunch, sunflower seeds, walnut

I's apple time! One can buy a whole bag full for a dollar or two – or one just picks them up where they lie and rot otherwise. It is always amazing to me how little people care for food available for no money at all.

When I grew up in post-war Germany, we children were always hungry. The grown-ups probably too. But they didn’t let on. The best food we children could dream of was the hot chocolate pudding sauce served in school (thanks to the Marshall Plan, I think!). Most children had a military mess tin that at lunch break got filled with some indefinable soup. For many it was the only warm meal of the day.

My father did not allow his children to take part in school lunch. Number one, we were relatively well off – patients often paid in naturalia: a kilogram of butter here, a feathery chicken there. But my father also thought – far-sighted physician that he was – that the public lunch was not healthy.

We harvested berries and cherries and pears and apples from the garden. My grandfather made the most wonderful apple jelly each fall which we would eat all winter.

Here’s my favorite apple recipe. It’s very easy to do – and absolutely delicious:

Remove the apple cores - but not the skins. Cut the apples in slices and put them in an oven pan in two layers. Sprinkle nuts and raisins over each layer. Add a few dabs of ghee (butter fat) or a few drops of olive oil.

Bake on low for a long time – at least an hour.

For nuts, all of them work. Yesterday I used sunflower seeds on the first layer, walnuts on the second. Sliced almonds are good, too. Instead of raisins, you can use dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried cherries.

What do they say? Enjoy! Enjoy it often during the season!

Totally Unproven Pet Theories of Mine

September 9, 2010

Tags: food, order, antioxidants, aromatherapy, berries, brain, cherries, depression, flowers, hypothesis – medical, immune system, limbic system, nose, olfactory brain, rose, smell, Totally Unproven Pet Theories of Mine, winter

Yesterday I refuted some of medicine’s pet tenets. Today I tell you some of my private unproven theories (hypotheses):

1. If you eat a lot of berries and cherries during the summer, it gears up your immune system and you make it through the winter healthier. - We know that berries are healthy because of their antioxidants – but as far as I know there has been no study done if the effect lasts for the whole next winter.
2. Similarly, if you smell a lot of roses (or other flowers) you get through the winter less depressed. No study here, either. But the nose and the olfactory part of the brain are closely linked to the “feelings” part of the brain (limbic system). – Besides, what other reasons would there be that we like so much to smell good things than to ward off depression? Aromatherapy uses that connection, too – but I am not sure there solid studies exist.

More to come!

Summer Fare

July 19, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, order, almonds, apple, asparagus, bread - multigrain, cabbage - red, cherries, chicken, corn on the cob, crab meat, dill, food - seasonal, freshness, fruit, lamb - braised, lentils, lobster, mandarins, mayonnaise, moderation, mushrooms, mussels, nuts, olive oil, onion, pear, pineapple, salt and pepper, shrimp salad, seasons, sesame seeds, strawberries, summer, Summer Fare, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, walnuts, watermelon

In the summer, we don’t like to eat heavy foods. We have a natural tendency, an innate knowledge, to eat lighter in hot weather. Braised lamb red, cabbage and sweet potatoes is a combination I would not serve now; in the fall, with temperatures down, it will be delicious.

Here is a recipe for a light shrimp salad, easy to make:

• About five to ten cooked shrimps per person. Remove tails and slice the shrimp lengthwise. (Instead of shrimp, cooked lobster, chicken, mussels, crab meat, mushrooms would work).
• Add an onion, finely chopped.
• A can of mandarins or pineapples, or fresh apple or pear (or whatever fruit, you fancy).
• Walnuts or almonds or whatever nuts.
• A bit salt and pepper.
• Fresh or dried dill (or any herb).
• And mayonnaise – as little as possible. I prefer a mayonnaise made with olive oil. You can stretch the mayonnaise with juice from the mandarin can, or with a few drops of olive oil; or both.
• Serve the shrimp salad with corn on the cob, broiled (with sunflower or sesame seeds and olive oil) asparagus, and lentils or a multi-grain bread.
• End the meal with fresh fruit – a watermelon or cherries or strawberries from the field.

This is a good example how I cook: I use what I have at hand and what is fresh and in season and therefore cheap. It never tastes the same twice. And never ever ask me: How much? I am a “feeling” cook, not a measuring one.

This is a Sunday dish. Eating mayonnaise every day is not such a good idea for the waist line – even if it is finger-licking good. By the way, if you have a mixer, you can make your own mayonnaise: Separate eggs into yolks and egg white (use the whites for making meringues later). Beat the yolks until they stiffen a bit. Drop by drop add olive oil – never stop beating, slowly first, then faster. The secret is in never to add too much oil at a time so that the mayonnaise does not curdle. Takes five minutes to make.

Summer fare is about freshness and moderation. Thinking about it: It's the same in the winter. Except that in the summer, the heat helps you with the moderation part - it curbs our appetites.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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