Quick Links

Find Authors

Books

Non-fiction
Diabetes type 2? Weight problems? Find your answers!
Fiction
Nonfiction
Water is the stuff of life - warm inside, cold outside. Did you know?
Nonfiction
Best and cheapest little book about how to live a healthy and long life!

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

龙年快乐Happy Dragon Year 2012!

January 23, 2012

Tags: order, food, movement, herbs, abundance, alternative medicine, anti-depressants, art, arthritis, bacon, body and soul, books, brain, brownies, California, car, career, children - playtime, Chinese, Chinese New Year, church group, coconut oil, colleague, community, computer, consumption, cookies, cravings, cream puff, dancing, dairy, depression, deviled eggs, diabetes, diabesity, diet, dragon year, Earth, eating alone, eating at a table, eggs, epigenetics, family, fat, fat phobia, feelings - hurt, fish oil, foie gras, fresh foods, food - subsidized, friends, game boy, garlic, genetics, grandchildren, grandmother, greens - cooked, happiness, health care costs, health care - evidence-based, health - real, heart disease, hen, house - heavily mortgaged, hugging, Hyman – Mark (1958 to), ice cream, icing, laughter, lifestyle, 龙年快乐, 龙年快乐Happy Dragon Year 2012!, looking good, lunch hour, meat, mother, music, national health care system, new year, obesity, olive oil, organic, outside playing, over-population, overweight, “Own Your Health”, pancake, parents, pepper and salt, potluck, problem – solution, public office, relationship, San Diego, science, Scripps Conference, Seneca (4 BC to 65 AD), Shaw - George Bernard (1856 to 1950), sleep, solution - problem, starches - white, stroke, sugar, supplements - natural, tax dollars, tears, tribe, TV, TV key, village, walking, water - clean, Weisman –Roanne (1952 to)

The Chinese New Year begins today – time for miscellaneous thoughts and new resolutions!

龙年快乐 read character by character, means “dragon year happy happy” – pronounced long nian kuai le. What I find fascinating is that both “happy” terms are spoken with a down tone. In my ear that double happy-happy sounds less than a Western easygoing, lucky-feeling happy but grimly determined: You better be happy – or else! I might be over-stating it, but to me the Chinese kuai! le! shows perfectly the difference in the Chinese approach to ours: We expect happiness, well, to “happen”, for instance in a relationship. The Chinese know it is hard work …

Just finished the Scripps Conference on Natural Supplements here in San Diego – taking advantage to me being right here in California (for only another week now!). Here are some thoughts I am carrying home from that wonderful conference:

• Listening to the results of modern science (the conference was for physicians and health practitioners and the talks were evidence-based – using modern science; no touchy-feely mumbo-jumbo). It seems, my thoughts on health have well held up during those many years I am thinking about what our bodies and souls need. The only point where I am more radical is in fat consumption: Most health practitioners are still fat-phobic. I am not talking bacon dripping fat, ice cream and cream puffs here – I am talking olive oil, coconut oil, fish oil, and never say no! if somebody puts foie gras on your plate – it doesn’t happen that often! - George Bernard Shaw (1856 to 1950) had this to say: “No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office“.

• Let’s correct that touchy-feely part: Turns out, we alternative practitioners know that body and soul belong together, and at the conference there was a healthy amount of hugging, laughter and tears going on. Because if one thing has become clear – through our old failings and brand-new science: One can’t go it alone. As a physician, I need like-minded colleagues; as a fat person, you need friends, family, community around you to make a dent in your weight – or whatever health problem you are tackling in the moment.

• Obesity is a good guess of mine because, firstly, now more than a quarter of Americans are grossly overweight – half are only overweight - and all conditions that physicians usually label as single diseases are coming together: heart disease, diabetes, depression, arthritis, obesity (Mark Hyman called it aptly “diabesity”), cancer – they are ALL ONE, namely a wrong lifestyle. Wrong food, heavily subsidized and advertised by your own government, with your own tax dollars. Time to take matters into your hands and “own your health”! “Own Your Health”, of course, is the title of Roanne Weisman’s book about alternative medicine. She wrote it after overcoming a stroke with the help of many different alternatives, after mainstream medicine had told her she would stay disabled and had to adjust to it. Boy, were they wrong!

• The old excuse that it is “all in the genes” cannot be used anymore. Yes, a lot of your weight might be determined by your genes – but only if you allow it to be so. The new science of epigenetics teaches us that genes can be switched on and be switched on – and guess, who does the switching? Your food does it, and you moving your butt around, that does it. Isn’t it marvelous?

• It takes a village to raise a child – you have heard it. It also takes a village, or a tribe, or your church group to change your health habits. Line up with a friend to start walking during lunch hour – five minutes in one direction, five minutes back. And be part of the solution, not the problem: Whenever you bring cookies or brownies or a potluck – don’t go to the old recipes! Explore new options without sugar, dairy, white starches. I always see that deviled eggs are the favorite of everybody – and they is nothing wrong with eggs, especially if the are organic, from free-walking hens. Bring cooked greens with olive oil and garlic, pepper and salt – they are delicious cold or hot! Educate your friends – don’t give in to their sugar-icing cravings! They will thank you.

• If we would not eat alone and always at a table (not in the car, not in front of TV, not in bed), we likely would be slimmer. In olden times, if you grabbed the biggest piece of meat, your mom would slap you and say: “Don’t be greedy!” If you asked for your fifth pancake, your grandma would say sharply: “Now is enough, dear!” And since nobody catered to their little hurt feelings, children found home less congenial than the outside and their friends. We always asked if we could go “outside” – whatever it was, it was not inside with the parents (your parents made you uncomfortable because they always wanted to prepared you for life), and it was not in front of TV, computer or game boy. When I was a child, our first TV came with a key – whatever happened to THAT technology?? - and we children could not even turn it on when the grown-ups were out working. Of course, we children soon figured out that the key was kept in the bar, behind the bottles. But it was a high-risk gamble – and TV was never half as exciting as our friends outside. We had one fat girl in class, in all of my thirteen years of school. And that poor girl, we all pitied her – but we wouldn’t play with her.

• “This body is not a home but an inn, and that only briefly.” Seneca (4 BC to 65 AD) said that. I think we have to start talking about what is needed: That people take their own health in their hands. Your doctors can only assist you – not do the work for you. So let’s start by calling fat “fat” – no more pussyfooting around it; physicians have long enough colluded with patients and avoided the “F” word: “I won’t call you fat, if you stay my patient”. The health care system is falling apart under the burden of health care costs brought about by overweight people (don’t forget – I still am for a national health care system!), the Earth is brought down under the burden of too many people who consume too much, and all our wealth so far has brought us very little real happiness it seems – if we judge by how many people are on anti-depressants.

• Bad news: Before you die of being overweight, the Earth might have died of pollution. Definitely, future generations – they are your kids, my kids, our kids and grandkids! – are in danger. Newborn babies have been found to have more than 200 industrial chemicals in their umbilical cord blood, right when they are born. The womb has not protected them. We are finding out the hard way that you can’t dump dirt there, and assume you are safe here. We all have only this one Earth – and do you want to be responsible for babies born with birth defects? Global warming is real – so is overpopulation and increasing environmental diseases.

• And what do they mean by “natural supplements”? I am glad to report that they do not mean artificially manufactured vitamins or new-fangled molecules, but they promote (mostly – no industry is perfect!) clean, whole, fresh herbs preserved in a bottle of tincture or capsule as well as possible. And if you are waiting for that miracle pill that might do the work for you – dream on! Real health is work. And didn’t you know it: Being sick sucks much worse.


Real health takes very little: A bit clean water, a few simple, fresh foods, a good night’s sleep – every night, a few herbs to treat little things early, abundance and walking and dancing and laughter with friends. Music, art, books. Ask more of this life just than a heavily mortgaged house, a car and a career!

A happy, hard-working New Year to you!

Congee and Beans

February 28, 2011

Tags: food, water, herbs, amino acids, Asia, bean salad, botulism, breakfast, butter beans, cabbage – sour, chelating, China, congee – recipe, cilantro, Congee and Beans, cravings, detoxification, dill, easy meal, economical meal, fermented foods, garbanzos, garlic, gluten-free, grape leaves, Greece, Herbes de Provence, herbs – dried, herbs – fresh, herbs – Italian beans, Hippocrates, Japan, Kellogg - John Harvey (1852-1943), Kellogg - Will Keith (1860-1951), legumes, lunch, maple syrup, marjoram, microwave, olive oil, parsley, pressure cooker, refrigeration, resveratrol, rice – brown, rice – short, rice cooker, Russia, tarragon, vegetables, pickles, salt and pepper, sauerkraut, savory, sweet tooth, umeboshi plum paste, Your food be your medicine

Surely, I've been stressing my mantra "Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables" on this blog; without vegetables, no health.

Think of congee and beens as "fast" vegetables. They don't substitute for greens and roots and cabbages. But congee for breakfast and beans for lunch keep me going all day until I arrive at my vegetable-laden dinner table. The amino acids in congee and beans complement each other to a full, nourishing set, and congee and beans have this in common: They are easy to make and very economical – I bet you can’t come up with a healthier meal that’s less expensive.

• Congee: This Asian dish is basically rice cooked with lots and lots of water into a very satisfying thick soup. If you think you know rice, and don’t like it, try congee. To me it always tastes like it was made in heaven by some motherly, nourishing angel. Here is how you make it yourself:

If you have a rice cooker with a congee setting (which I don’t), you have it easy. I use a pressure cooker. One cup of brown rice – preferably the short, sticky variety – to two cups of water. Cook for about ten minutes. After cooling, add three to four cups more water. Cook for another ten minutes or so (I know my recipes are awfully vague; that’s how I cook – you figure out your own way). The pressure cooker method works better if you do it in two steps rather than pouring in all the water in the beginning. If, on the other hand, you have only a simple, big pot, you let the rice simmer on very low heat for several hours. If needed, add more water.

One cup of dry rice, transformed into congee, fills about four big breakfast bowls. You serve it with any kind of fermented pickles – sauerkraut being very good and cheap. (Look up my old blog on fermented foods if you are not familiar with their health benefits). Chinese traditionally have some nice pickles – but it has to be the fermented kind, not the modern processed stuff, and the fermented pickles are not longer found easily. I have used sour cabbage from the Russian store, or Greek marinated grape leaves (high in resveratrol!). Japanese have great fermented things like umeboshi plum paste. You only need a little bit for a whole bowl. Whatever you like. But don’t do sweet stuff like maple syrup – the congee needs fermented foods. Anything sweet will only feed your sweet tooth. And it is not written in stone that a breakfast needs to be sweet – that is the Kellogg brothers' invention, I suspect.

I always add a liberal amount of olive oil because otherwise it won’t last me until lunch. By the way, you may add a pinch of salt to your bowl – but fermented foods usually provide all the saltiness you may want.

This breakfast has one great advantage: Filling without stuffing, it squashes all cravings – and makes you go until lunch without ever thinking of food.

• Beans: I apologize to the purists among you, but I use canned beans. Of course, one can also soak beans overnight and cook them – but I have more interesting things to do. When you buy canned beans, make sure they have no additives – they should be beans and water, nothing else.

You open a can of beans and heat the contents (including the fluid) in a small pot to a boil. Add olive oil (I can’t even think of life without olive oil!), and pinch of salt and pepper. Toss in a handful of fresh or a table spoon full of dried herbs: Dill and parsley turn a boring can of beans a festive and health meal. Tarragon goes beautifully with garbanzos (which, technically are no beans, but belong to the legume family), marjoram or savory are great with butter beans, Italian herbs or Herbes de Provence plus garlic make dark beans a spectacular meal. Cilantro goes with everything – again add some garlic, and you already have a detoxifying, chelating medicine – “Your food be your medicine” as Hippocrates already said. We can now buy so many different kinds of canned beans. Find out what you like – and then rotate, because it is not good to eat the same fare every day.

If you can’t warm up your beans at midday at work on a stove (don’t use a microwave!), you can also make a bean salad (same ingredients, just drain the fluid of, and perhaps cut a small onion into the mix). But keep your beans refrigerated at all times, as they are prone to botulism germs when left at room temperature longer than two hours. And, hopefully you know better than use a bulging can of beans – discard it!

And then, as they say: Enjoy!

P.S. Did you notice that congee and beans are perfectly gluten-free? No-sweat gluten-free!

Cravings

October 15, 2010

Tags: food, allergies - food, cravings, food cravings

Some thoughts about cravings:

1. The more you eat, and the more weight you gain, and the hungrier you get. When we lived in caves, this was a survival tool (“Eat the whole mammoth before it spoils!!”). People with thinner bodies suffer fewer hunger pangs. Life is not fair.

2. Food allergies induce cravings, too. And food allergies are on the rise (Why? that is for another article.)

It comes down to this: If you crave something, it could mean either that you NEED the craved food, or you should AVOID it like the plague, because you are allergic to it. It takes a lot of wisdom (or a very good doctor) to tell the difference!

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.

Nuts and Seeds 1

June 14, 2010

Tags: food, binging, calories, carbohydrates, chewing, cravings, doughnuts, enzymes, fat, minerals, nuts, Nuts and Seeds 1, phyto-nutrients, proteins, vitamins, weight

Nuts would be the ideal food if it were not for their fats and calories.

True?

The problem with nuts and seeds is not their fat contents; it is that we don't regard them as food; we eat them as snacks. Which is to say, we eat already too much at lunch and dinner, and in between we delight in the taste of nuts.
Uh-oh. Thus their calories will end up on our hips.

But if your lunch would be a handful of almonds and a fresh fruit, you would get your all your nutrition requirements in an ideal vehicle:

• Nuts don't need refrigeration (at least not in the short run) or re-warming
• Nuts contain all three major building blocks - proteins, carbohydrates and fats - mostly 'good' fats
• Nuts are full of minerals and vitamins
• Nuts are full of enzymes - and enzyme inhibitors.

They contain natural and essential phyto-nutrients, and we are just beginning to understand their importance for health.

How do the enzymes work in the nut? Nuts and seeds are carrying within them the ability with sprouting new life - all what they need is water. For creating new life, hundreds of actions to build future plant tissue are required. And for those actions to happen, the seed is packed with enzymes. But the actions should not happen prematurely, while the conditions are not right yet. To hinder too early action, nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors.

The moment one adds water, one destroy the enzyme inhibitors - basically, the germinating starts. Soaking nuts and seeds in water over night also makes nuts more easily digestible.

Nuts might help weight loss.

Weight loss on nuts? Am I nuts?

Indeed, nuts and seeds can help lose weight - despite their infamous fats.

• Nuts need thorough chewing. And one reason of binge eating is that a gallon of ice cream, soda pops and donuts do not satisfy your jaws' desire to chew. There's nothing more satisfying than crunching your way through a handful of nuts.
• The high fat content of nuts and their enzyme inhibitors delay stomach emptying, making nuts last longer. In comparison, sugar and starches (which are nothing more than one sugar molecule after the other in a long chain) will be digested in seconds - and will you make crave more soon.
• Nuts quench cravings by offering many nutrients.

Quench cravings? How does it work?

If one eats a doughnut, one basically eats a ball of starch and sugar, baked in bad fats, coated and sprinkled with sugar. Its white flour is devoid of any of the bran, good oils, minerals and vitamins the wheat grain originally possessed - everything has been milled out. After one doughnut, your brain feels a wonderful rush of incoming brain fuel - sugar - and wants more of the same. So you eat another one. Your brain feels high, but your body screams for the rest of the stuff that used to come with sugar and fat: the minerals, the vitamins, the enzymes. Not knowing better what your body really wants, you grab a third doughnut.

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!

Food “Allergies”, Anyone?

April 29, 2010

Tags: food, allergy, arthritis, asthma, bleeding gums, bloating, cramps, breast soreness, bulemia, bursitis, celiac disease (see: gluten), coffee, corn, cravings, dairy, depression, diarrhea, dizziness, eczema, eggplant, eyes - itchy, fatigue, food allergy, Food “Allergies” - Anyone?, food intolerance, food sensitivities, gluten, gluten enteropathy, headaches, heartburn, interstitial cystitis, itch, joint pains, listlessness, low blood pressure, migraines, mouth sores, muscle weakness, nightshades, nuts, obesity, pain, peppers, phlebitis, potato, sinus problems, skin problems, sprue (see: gluten), tendinitis, thirst - excessive, tickling in throat, tomato, urine flow - slow, wheat

What we often call food “allergies” might be forms of intolerance with different pathways, physiologically speaking. The poisonous effect of wheat gluten in gluten enteropathy worked via a different mechanism than dairy-induced asthma; or the poison ivy dermatitis; or likely immune-complex regulated arthritis. Science has not totally elucidated these mechanisms; food “allergy” might be the incorrect term but has become common.

The diagnosis is difficult to make and to confirm; but if you don’t even think of allergy, the diagnosis can’t be made. Many physicians are not trained in this. However, you might need professional help if self-observation does not solve the problem. Since all of these conditions can also be caused by far more serious diseases, by all means work with your doctor.

Here is a list of signs that should make you wonder if you have an unrecognized food issue:

Food cravings: The more you like a food the more likely it is that you are allergic to that food. The more frequent you eat a certain food or a food group the more likely is that you will develop an allergy to it.

Fatigue: After a meal you are tired. We all are tired after a heavy meal; but if you are extremely tired even after a smaller meal you should search for an allergy.

Abdominal discomfort after a meal - often within minutes but unfortunately it can even take a day or two - you feel bloated and distressed in your stomach. Diarrhea is already a more severe sign and, if chronic or intermittently recurrent, should be evaluated by a physician. Heartburn seldom is recognized as stemming from food allergies – but it often goes away when you stop eating nightshades (tomato, bell and hot peppers, eggplant, potato), nuts or dairy.

Weakness: About fifteen minutes after a meal lift your arms: If they feel heavy or ache more than usual - compared how light you felt in the morning - this might be a case of allergy.

Musculo-skeletal system: joint, tendon and muscle problems, bursitis, etc. Leave out nuts and dairy. Get evaluated for celiac disease (gluten intolerance).

Mouth: Burning in your mouth, tickling in your throat or sores in your buccal mucosa or on your tongue might signal an allergy.

Bladder: Slow flow of urine can be a sign of food allergy, due to a swelling of the urethra. Or burning of the urethra in males. Or recurrent signs of urinary tract infections – with or without bacteria growing out in culture. Irritable bladder (interstitial cystitis) might respond to leaving out coffee and certain foods.

Thirst! If you are thirstier than other people – always running around with a water bottle in your hand – think allergy.

Other diseases and complaints that might be caused - but not necessarily - by food allergies headaches, asthma, swollen glands, bleeding and inflamed gums, abdominal discomfort and bloating, diarrhea, skin problems and itching of perfectly normal looking skin, recurrent infections (sinus, UTI, etc.), itchy eyes, listlessness and mild depression, obesity and bulimia, anal itch and/or rashes, low blood pressure, dizziness, breast pain - a long list that is probably longer, recurrent phlebitis.

Most common food "allergies" I have encountered in patients: dairy, nightshade (tomato, potato, eggplant, all peppers except black pepper, chili, cayenne, paprika), nuts, wheat, corn, beef, food dyes and food preservatives. But basically every food can become a culprit. If you have pinpointed one food item as allergenic for you, compare it with other items in the same botanical family (like nightshade).
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!