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Signs and Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning

October 4, 2016

Tags: water, herbs, movement, food, order, abdominal discomfort, abdominal pain, aches and pains, acrocyanosis, acute respiratory failure, acute tubular necrosis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, agitation, Aldrich-Mees's lines, alopecia, altered mental status, anemia, anemia – aplastic, anhidrosis, anorexia, anxiety, aplastic anemia, arrhythmia, arsenic, ascites, ataxia, atherosclerotic disease, autonomic neuropathy, basal cell carcinoma, basophilic stippling, birth defects, blackfoot disease – black, mummified dry gangrene, bladder cancer, blood in urine, bone marrow suppression, Bowen disease, brittle nails, bronchitis, bronchospasms (inhaled arsenic), burning in mouth/esophagus/stomach/bowel, cancer – lung/liver/kidney/bladder/skin/colon/larynx/lymphoid system, capillary dilation with fluid leakage and third spacing, cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac arrest, cardiomyopathy, carotid atherosclerosis, cerebral infarction, cerebrovascular disease, chills, cholangitis, cholecystitis, chronic lower respiratory diseases, cilantro, cirrhosis, clear skin lesions suddenly from such as acne, CNS depression, colitis, colon cancer, coma, concentration – poor, confabulation, confusion, congestive heart failure, conjunctivitis, convulsions, coordination difficulties, corneal necrosis, corneal ulcerations, cough with/without expectoration, cramps, cramping muscles, cyanosis of the fingers, death, dehydration, delirium, depression, dermatitis, dermatitis - allergic-type, dermatitis – exfoliative, desquamation of skin, diabetes, diarrhea - often severe and/or bloody, disordered thinking, disorientation, disseminated intravascular coagulation, drinking water, drowsiness, dyspnea (when inhaled), dysphagia, eczema, edema – non-pitting of hand and feet, EKG changes: ST changes/QT prolonged/torsades de pointes/T wave inversion, encephalopathy – acute, enzyme inhibition, esophagitis, eyes blood-shot, eyes burning, facial edema, fatigue, fatty liver, fever – low grade, fibrillation – ventricular, fingernail pigmentation, fingernails with white marks, fluid loss, flushing, folate, folic acid deficiency, gallbladder inflammation, gangrene of limbs, garlic, garlic-smelling breath or body fluids, gastritis, gastro-intestinal bleeding, generalized muscle aches and body pains, gingivitis, global trade, goiter, Guillain-Barré syndrome – resembling, hair loss, hallucinations, headaches, hearing loss, heart disease, heavy metals, hematuria, hemoglobinuria, hemolysis, hepatomegaly, herpes, hormone imbalance, hyperesthesia, hyperpigmentation of nails and skin, hyperpyrexia, hyperkeratosis - thickening of the skin of the palms and soles, hypersalivation, hypertension, hypertension-related cardiovascular disease, hypopigmentation – “raindrop” areas of lost skin color, hypotension, hypovolemia, imbalance, immune functioning impaired, immune suppression, impaired healing, inhibition of sulfhydryl enzymes – garlicky odor to breath/stool, insomnia, irritability, ischemic heart disease, jaundice, karyorrhexis, keratosis, kidney cancer, kidney damage, kidney failure, Korsakoff’s psychosis, lack of appetite, Landry-Guillain-Barré syndrome – resembling, larynx cancer, laryngitis, leg cramps, lens opacity, lethargy, leukemia???, leukocyturia, leukonychia striata, leukopenia, lightheadedness, listlessness, liver cancer, liver - central necrosis, liver congestion, liver dysfunction and elevated liver enzymes, liver - fatty degeneration, low grade fever, lung cancer, lung - chronic restrictive/obstructive disease, lungs - inflammation of respiratory mucosa, lung irritation, lymphoma???, major depression – mimicking, malabsorption, malaise, medicinal herbs, Mees's lines, melanosis of the eyelids/areolae of nipples/neck, memory loss, memory – poor, mental retardation, mental status altered, metallic taste in mouth, methionine, microcirculation abnormalities, mitochondrial dysfunction, movement disturbances, muscle aches, muscle fasciculations, muscle tenderness, muscle twitching, muscle wasting, muscle weakness, muttering, myocardial depression, myocarditis, nasal mucosa irritation (when inhaled), nasal septum perforation, nausea, neuralgia, neuritis, night blindness, nightmares, numbness, oliguria, oral burns (acute, when taken by mouth), pancreatitis, paralysis, paranoia, paresthesia – symmetrical, stocking-glove, pedal edema, pericarditis, peripheral neuritis, peripheral neuropathy, peripheral vascular insufficiency, personality change, pigmentation changes – hypo and hyper, pins and needles in hands and feet, pneumonia, bronchial pneumonia, polyneuritis, portal fibrosis, proteinuria, psychosis, pulmonary edema, pulmonary insufficiency (emphysematous lesions), pulse – irregular, QT prolonged, quadriplegia, Raynaud’s syndrome, renal cortical necrosis, respiratory failure – acute, respiratory muscle insufficiency, respiratory tract infection, rhabdomyolysis, rhino-pharyngo-laryngitis, rice, rouleaux formation of red blood cells, salivation excessive, sauna, seizures, selenium, sensorimotor peripheral axonal neuropathy, sensory changes, shock, Signs and Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning, singing, skin bronzed, skin cancer, skin lesions and rashes including vesiculation, skin pallor, sleep, sore throat, spasms, splenomegaly, squamous cell carcinoma, ST changes, stomach pain, stomatitis, stroke, stupor, suicidal ideation, swallowing difficulty, sweating, sweating – excessive, sweet metallic taste, tachycardia, tea, throat constriction, thirst, thrombocytopenia, tingling, torsades de pointes, tracheobronchitis, tremor, tubular necrosis – acute, T wave inversion, unsteady gait, uremia, vasodilation, vasospasm, vegetables, vertigo, visual hallucinations, vitamin A deficiency, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitiligo, vomiting, vomiting blood, weakness of distal muscles – hands and feet, weight loss, well, wobbliness, zinc

Most arsenic poisoning is chronic: Through global trade, we are ingesting more and more arsenic-contaminated products – mainly rice, tea, medicinal herbs. Acute arsenic poisoning usually is accidental or occupational (mainly workers in pest control, electronics manufacturing industry and pressure-treated carpentry). Few are homi- or suicidal. Earlier this year I have been diagnosed with arsenic-induced ataxia. Ataxia means imbalance, wobbliness.

For me, I am glad that I have “just” ataxia, and not more. The list below contains Latin as well a common names to make it easier to find things.

Here is the short of what I have been doing to reduce my arsenic levels:
1. Stop using tainted products; look for safer sources.
2. Sauna as often as possible to sweat out heavy metals. Sweating through exercise and summer heat also helps.
3. Eating fresh garlic and cilantro bind and expel heavy metals
4. Vitamin C, selenium, vitamin B12, zinc, folate and methionine add to the elimination of arsenic.
5. And, of course, all the other lifestyle goodies: A healthy diet heavy on vegetables. Movement. Enough sleep. Plenty of water (some areas of the US have arsenic-contaminated drinking water from wells – careful!).


Signs and Symptoms

The myriad manifestations of arsenic intoxication do a roller coaster through all medical specialties, it seems. Since there are so many overlapping features with many diseases, it will take an open mind and special alertness to make a diagnosis. Just to show the enormous scope of signs and symptoms, I have thrown together acute and chronic arsenic intoxication. The list is not thought for diagnosing yourself - consult your physician. Here is the list:

Abdominal discomfort
Abdominal pain
aches and pains
Acrocyanosis
Acute respiratory failure
Acute tubular necrosis
Adult respiratory distress syndrome
Agitation
Alopecia
Altered mental status
Anemia
Anemia, aplastic
Anhidrosis
Anorexia
Anxiety
Aplastic anemia
Arrhythmias
Ascites
Ataxia
Atherosclerotic disease
Autonomic neuropathy: unstable blood pressure, anhidrosis, sweating, flushing
Basal cell carcinomas
Basophilic stippling
Birth defects,
Blackfoot disease – black, mummified dry gangrene
Bladder cancer
Blood in the urine
Bone marrow suppression
Bowen disease
Brittle Nails
Bronchitis
Bronchospams (inhaled arsenic)
Burning in mouth/esophagus/stomach/bowel
Cancer – lung, liver, kidney, bladder, skin, colon, larynx, lymphoid system
Capillary dilation with fluid leakage and third spacing
Cardiac arrhythmias
Cardiac arrest
Cardiomyopathy
Carotid atherosclerosis
Cerebral infarction
Cerebrovascular diseases
Chills
Cholangitis
Cholecystitis
Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Cirrhosis
Clear skin lesions such as acne
CNS depression
Colitis
Colon cancer
Coma
Concentration - poor
Confabulation
Confusion
Congestive heart failure
Conjunctivitis
Convulsions
Coordination difficulties
Corneal necrosis
Corneal ulcerations
Cough with/without expectoration
Cramps, cramping muscles
Cyanosis of the fingers
Death
Dehydration
Delirium
Depression
Dermatitis
Dermatitis allergic-type
Dermatitis, exfoliative
Desquamation of skin
Diabetes
Diarrhea, often severe and/or bloody
Disordered thinking
Disorientation
Disseminated intravascular coagulation
Drowsiness
Dyspnea (when inhaled)
Dysphagia
Eczema
Edema – non-pitting of hand and feet
EKG changes: ST changes, QT prolonged, Torsades de pointes, T wave inversion
Encephalopathy, acute
Enzyme inhibition
Esophagitis
Eyes blood-shot
Eyes burning
Facial edema
Fatigue
Fatty liver
Fever - lowgrade
Fibrillation, ventricular
Fingernail pigmentation
Fingernails with white marks
Fluid loss
Flushing
Folic acid deficiency
Gallbladder inflammation
Gangrene of limbs
Garlic-smelling breath or body fluids
Gastritis
Gastro-intestinal bleeding
Generalized muscle aches and body pains
Gingivitis
Goiter
Guillain-Barre syndrome - resembling
Hair loss
Hallucinations
Headaches
Hearing loss
Heart disease
Hematuria
Hemoglobinuria
Hemolysis
Hepatomegaly
Herpes
Hormone imbalance
Hyperesthesia
Hyperpigmentation of the nails and skin
Hyperpyrexia
Hyperkeratosis thickening of the skin of the palms and soles
Hypersalivation
Hypertension
Hypertension-related cardiovascular disease
Hypopigmentation – “raindrop” areas of lost skin color
Hypotension
Hypovolemia
Immune functioning impaired
Immune suppression
Impaired healing
Inhibition of sulfhydryl enzymes – garlicky odor to breath/stool
Insomnia
Irritability
Ischemic heart disease
Jaundice
Karyorrhexis
Keratosis
Kidney cancer
Kidney damage
Kidney failure
Korsakoff’s psychosis
Lack of appetite
Landry-Guillain-Barré syndrome - resembling
Larynx cancer
Laryngitis
Leg cramps
Lens opacity
Lethargy
Leukemia???
Leukocyturia
Leukonychia striata
Leukopenia
Lightheadedness
Listlessness
Liver cancer
Liver: central necrosis
Liver congestion
Liver dysfunction and elevated liver enzymes
Liver: fatty degeneration
Low grade fever
Lung cancer
Lung: Chronic restrictive/obstructive diseases
Lungs: Inflammation of respiratory mucosa
Lung irritation
Lymphoma???
Major depression – mimicking
Malabsorption
Malaise
Mees's lines, or Aldrich-Mees's
Melanosis of the eyelids, areolae of nipples, and neck
Memory loss
Memory – poor
Mental retardation
Mental status altered
Metallic taste in mouth
Microcirculation abnormalities
Mitochondrial dysfunction
Movement disturbances
Muscle aches, spasms, weakness
Muscle fasciculations
Muscle tenderness
Muscle twitching
Muscle wasting
Muttering
Myocardial depression
Myocarditis
Nasal mucosa irritation (when inhaled)
Nasal septum perforation
Nausea
Neuralgia
Neuritis
Night blindness
Nightmares
Numbness
Oliguria
Oral burns (acute, when taken by mouth)
Pancreatitis
Paralysis
Paranoia
Paresthesia – symmetrical, stocking-glove
Pedal edema
Pericarditis
Peripheral neuritis
Peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral vascular insufficiency
Personality change
Pigmentation changes – hypo and hyper
Pins and needles in hands and feet
Pneumonia, bronchial
Polyneuritis
Portal fibrosis
Proteinuria
Psychosis
Pulmonary edema
Pulmonary insufficiency (emphysematous lesions)
Pulse – irregular
Quadriplegia
Raynaud’s Syndrome
Renal cortical necrosis
Respiratory failure, acute
Respiratory muscle insufficiency
Respiratory tract infection
Rhabdomyolysis
Rhino-pharyngo-laryngitis
Rouleaux formation of red blood cells
Salivation excessive
Seizures
Sensorimotor peripheral axonal neuropathy
Sensory changes
Shock
Singing
Skin bronzed
Skin cancer
Skin lesions and rashes, including vesiculation
Skin pallor
Sore throat
Splenomegaly
Squamous cell carcinoma
Stomach pain
Stomatitis
Stroke
Stupor
Suicidal
Swallowing difficulty
Sweating, excessive
Sweet metallic taste
Tachycardia
Throat constriction
Thirst
Thrombocytopenia
Tingling
Tracheobronchitis
Tremor
Tubular necrosis, acute
Unsteady gait
Uremia
Vasodilation
Vasospasm
Vertigo
Visual hallucinations
Vitamin A deficiency
Vitiligo
Vomiting
Vomiting blood
Weakness of distal muscles – hands and feet
Weight loss

When Things Are Falling Down

November 19, 2015

Tags: order, herbs, movement, water, abdomen, aging, amalaki, antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, anus, ayurvedic, bacteria, balance, bastard myrobalan, bathroom, bibhitaki, bladder infection, bladder wall, birthing, bloating, bowel movement, child birth, comfort, complications, constipation, corn silk, cramps, cranberry, curse, diarrhea, death, diabetes, discomfort, Emblica officinalis, essential oil, eye, fatigue, female affliction, fluids, gastro-intestinal tract, germ, haritaki, India, Indian gooseberry infection, intercourse, internal organs, invasive procedure, Kegel exercises, kidney infection, medical advance, mesh, microbiome, olive oil outcome, pelvic muscles, perineum, pessary, plumbing, preventing falls, private parts, probiotic, prolapse, prophylaxis, rosemary, sepsis, sexual muscles, standing on one leg, surgery, susceptibility to infections, Terminalia bellirica, Terminalia chebula, thyme, toilet, triphala, urinary tract infection - recurrent, usnea, UTI, uva ursi, vulva, water - running, sanitation, side-effects, vagina, vaginal probiotics, washing hands, weight gain, When Things Are Falling Down, wiping, World Toilet Day, worst case scenario, yellow myrobalan

Today is World Toilet Day, and most writers today will talk about the importance of hygiene – which is indeed more valuable than all the other medical advances combined, in my opinion. Every person in the world deserves running water and good plumbing, and so many don’t have it: 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to decent sanitation!

But the things I am want to talk about are internal organs, and when they fall, or droop, physicians call it prolapse. It is, of course, a female affliction (curse?). Often it results from child births (and I wonder if modern medicine that wants to speed up the birthing process, has given us more prolapses – we never will be seeing a study about this, I fear). Prolapse can be uncomfortable when you walk, and even hurt outright. But the worst part is that they might cause recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs). There’s the connection to toilets, when you are running to the bathroom twenty times a day, and the whole middle of your being hurts like hell.

Recurrent UTIs are dangerous because a simple bladder infection can rise into the kidneys and eventually even leading to sepsis (an infection of the whole body), and at its worst, death. And death doesn’t seem to be the worst outcome: The many courses of antibiotics – often the doctor tells the patient that they have to be on antibiotics for the rest of their lives to prevent the worst case scenario – damage the precious bacteria in the intestines, and lead to all sorts of complications: weight gain, susceptibility to other infections, fatigue, bloating, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, and so on. The last few years has brought us so many studies about the microbiome (the beneficial bacteria in our bowels) that it is hard to exaggerate its importance to your health. And every course of antibiotics will damage that healthy balance in your belly. - Hear that I am not altogether against antibiotics; they have saved lives (mine, for instance). But they can have grave side-effects, notably now antibiotic resistance.

Conventional medicine recommends, besides Kegel exercises, surgery. Particularly, the insertion a special mesh down there to keep organs up, has not been very successful; women are suing the manufacturer in droves, and the mesh has been abandoned. But since every surgery carries a risk of infection and death with it – and repairing prolapse might make symptoms worse – surgery should be your last resort. You could also insert a pessary into your vagina to provide structural support. It works for some women.

Here are the natural alternatives to invasive procedures; combined – can make a huge difference in the discomfort or comfort you feel in your most private area:

1. Standing on one leg whenever you think of it – while brushing your teeth, waiting for the bus, chopping an onion. This will strengthen your pelvic (and sexual) muscles – and is not as boring as Kegel exercises. It is also good exercise for your legs and good for balance – very important to prevent falls when you get older.
2. Inserting vaginal probiotics every evening into your vagina.
3. Oral probiotics. They heal your bowels after a course of antibiotics, and have shown to decrease the number of recurrent urinary tract infections prophylactically.
4. Washing your hands after each bowel movement religiously and then pampering your private parts (wipe from the front to the back - vulva to perineum to anus; never the other direction!) with a mixture of olive oil and a few drops of an essential oil like rosemary or thyme; they are antibacterial. Make sure you always wash your hands and use essential oil before you, for instance, insert the nightly vaginal probiotic capsule. It is tiny, and no, it won’t interfere with intercourse.
5. Taking triphala, the ayurvedic herb, which will prevent constipation. Naturally, if your problem is diarrhea, don’t take triphala on top of it. Triphala is an ancient combination of three Indian herbs: Amalaki or Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis), Bibhitaki or bastard myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica), and Haritaki or yellow myrobalan (Terminalia chebula). Triphala is actually a balm for the gastro-intestinal tract, and is also good for your eyes. Besides it works against diabetes.
6. Take a zinc supplement to boost your immune system.
7. Prophylaxis with cranberry, uva ursi, usnea, corn silk, and so on, if needed every day. Especially after sex. Cranberry prevents bacteria to latch onto your bladder wall, so they are flushed out easier.

Women and their doctors often think that prolapse is an inevitable part of aging. It shouldn’t be! - Happy Toilet Day!

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.

What Have We Done?

July 21, 2014

Tags: order, movement, food, advertisement, beverage, breakfast cereal, death, diet, elderly, Europe, exercise, frustration, health information, hospital, hyperactivity, medication, nurse, nurses’ education, overweight, paper work, patients, prescription drug, retirement, snack, stress, surgery - minor, terrible two’s, toddler, TV, USA, What Have We Done? or phrases to categorize this post for the tags section

A relative went to minor surgery today; I accompanied him. Of retirement age, he is in pretty good health. He exercises regularly, and is not on any prescription drug – in now ay your typical elderly patient.

The nurses at the hospital are a different story. Nearly every one is overweight. And of all people in the country, nurses have about the best health information. Why then are they overweight? Stress and frustration, I’d guess.

In a new European Study, the level of nurses expertise and the number of patients they have to tend to, determine the outcome: More deaths occurred if nurses had more patients, less deaths with better education. None of which is a surprise.

Here, nurses are busy with tons of paper work. In nearly every room at the hospital a TV is blaring. Am I am the only one on whose nerves the TV is grating?? The frequent advertisements are showing snacks, breakfast cereals, snacks, diet beverages, snacks.

Which is the best snack? None – a person who eats good foods does not need snacks.

Where is the country going? People are eating wrong, and all they do is worry. We gives toddlers medications against hyperactivity when their terrible two’s are “unmanageable” (and never even think the food or the TV might be the culprit).

Nurses are overworked, doctors are overworked, parents are overworked. Who cares?

We have run the people and the country into the ground. And the doctors and the nurses. Who will be around to do the work, in the long run?

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 ...

A Last Look At The Body

June 7, 2012

Tags: order, autopsy, A Last Look At The Body, Allgemeines Krankenhaus der Stadt Wien, alma mater, Austria, body, Braunschweig, Brunswick, cadaver, case load, clinician, cost-effective, death, disease, Europe, Hamburg, hospital, imaging procedures, Kiel, mathematics, medical knowledge, medical mistake, medical skill, medicine, Morbidity/Mortality Conference, nineteenth century, Nuremberg, Nürnberg, pathologist, philosophy, physician, Rokitansky - Carl von (1804 to 1878), school, social sciences, teaching hospital, USA, Vienna

Vienna, in the nineteenth century: At his teaching hospital – the Allgemeines Krankenhaus der Stadt Wien – a pathologist named Karl von Rokitansky institutes an autopsy on every single patient who dies there. After the autopsy, clinicians and pathologists sit down together to compare notes: The Morbidity/Mortality Conference is born.

New diseases were found, old diseases became better known, medicine improved greatly, and Vienna became a magnet for physicians who wanted to learn there - it still is Europe's biggest hospital. My father spend some semesters studying medicine in Vienna. In Europe, one is not as wedded to one's alma mater as one is in the USA; in Europe, it behooves everybody to seek out good schools and good teachers to learn as much as possible. For instance, I studied in Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Brunswick (Braunschweig), Kiel and Hamburg, and finished degrees in mathematics, philosophy, social sciences and medicine. Here, if you change schools, you are frowned upon. – Both methods seem useful in their own way – I am not sure which one I prefer.

Back to pathologist Rokitansky. For about a century after he made them mandatory, autopsies were the norm, especially at teaching hospitals. Now they are the exception: Barely one in a hundred dead bodies get a second look, to find out what the cause of their demise was. Autopsies are not “cost-effective”, and different imaging procedures, done when the patient is still alive give the patient a better chance to stay alive.

But medical knowledge and skills are in decline – and patients complain. It seems as if physicians don’t want to be confronted anymore with their mistakes. Before, a physician learned from every case. Now the physician just tries to handle the case load.

This time it seems it is up the patient to demand an autopsy …

The Five Health Essentials – Again

May 14, 2012

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, art, breathing, building block, boredom, cold shower, death, digestion, elements – exposure to, energy, freedom-loving country, hatred, life, mood, moving, muscle, music, natural order, nourishment, plants, protein, rejoice, relationships, relaxation, repair, rest, rest, repair and rejoice - order, sleep, sloth, The Five Health Essentials – Again, vegetal, waste, wellbeing

Water, movement, food, herbs and order are the five important areas you have to pay attention to if you want to be healthy.

Why does Natural Medicine promote exactly these five? It becomes clearer if we regroup them into a set of three:

1. Water and movement are needed to remind your body that it is still required to be alive. If you don’t move, and if you are not exposed to the elements (mostly cold), your body could as well not exist. A cold shower after a warm one reminds your body that it is still alive – that is why you come out of the cold shower brimming with energy, life and good mood. The same applies for movement. Life basically is movement – we diagnose death mostly by someone not moving, not breathing.
2. Food and herbs provide the building blocks so that this moving, breathing body is nourished and kept alive. What you eat is going into forming your body of tomorrow, it is essential to offer clean, fresh, mostly vegetal foods (plants) to your body – with enough proteins so that your body does not start to digest its own muscles.
3. Order – which always sounds strange in our freedom-loving country – is really about natural order: Rest, repair and rejoice are the three functions that go into the order category: Sleep, relaxation, relationships, art, music – whatever makes your life good adds to your wellbeing. In the long run, you can’t be well if you run your life against the natural grain with waste, hatred, boredom, sloth.

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.

Comfort, Closure, Redemption

March 27, 2012

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, airing the room, chamomile, closure, coconut oil, cook, comfort, Comfort - Closure - Redemption, contraindication, crying, death, declutter, dying alone, faith – articles of, finances, forgiving, fruit, herbal tea, history, hogging, holding hands, holy basil, home, hospice, hospital, listening, nosiness, past hurt, peppermint, photo, possessiveness, praying, reading aloud, redemption, relationship, resilience, singing, sitting still, skin, snooping, stinging nettle, stress, talking, touch, time constraints, washing feet, working out problems

Nobody should die alone. The most important part is that you are with the dying person – the dying person should not be left alone, if possible. Not always is it possible to accompany a loved one on the last way – both my parents died far away from me. My father suddenly, when I was eighteen and away in boarding school – his heart gave out. My mother in Germany, of lung cancer, when I went through the rigors of medical internship in Boston. I remember sitting at night at the bed of a dying patient, and thinking that I should be sitting with my mother.

Many people feel uncomfortable in the face of sickness and dying. Not everybody finds wonderful last words and gestures. Here is what you still can do – naturally – for a dying loved one.

First, however, what you should not do:

• Discuss the ways the person hurt you in the past: It is too late now. Try to grow up before the person dies – work out your own problems
• Go through their things and snoop around. Even if you were the lone heir: Wait until afterward
• Keep friends and relatives away from the dying person to hog her/him for yourself
• Don’t press your personal afterlife believing and articles of faith onto the dying person

What you can do – naturally:

• Sit still at the bedside
• Hold hands: Touch can still be taken in when all the other senses are long gone
• Give a cold sponge bath – lying unwashed in bed is a horrible burden for many sick people
• Sing. I sang for my first, beloved mother-in-law when she was already unconscious. I think she heard me
• Keep the room warm, aired and uncluttered – at home, in the hospital, at the hospice
• Bring pictures from the past that the person might still enjoy – but only a few selected ones – don’t lug into the sickroom whole photo albums
• Forgive if the person was not what you expected from her/him in the past. He/she had her own history – and you might not know all the essential parts – for instance, how this person was hurt when he/she was young
• Remember the past - as long as the person can still talk. This might be your last chance. But don’t push it – take the cue from the dying person, not from your own urgency
• Zip up a light, delicious meal – or just serve fruit. This is not the time to restrict a person to a diet – this is now pure enjoyment
• Read aloud – if he or she can hear it or not: Share what you like to share
• Tell the person what he/she means to you. Sum up your relationship with the dying person – but not financial problems and time constraints the dying puts on you. Your own stresses (and they might be great and overwhelming) you have to work up alone or with other people in your life. Your own life is on hold while this person moves toward death
• Wash the dying person’s feet. Then rub coconut oil into the skin
• Talk about positive things from the past
• Listen to whatever the dying person has to say – if you like it or not
• Pray if the person wants to pray. Shut up if the person does not want to pray
• Declutter the nightstand without getting nosy or possessive
• Brew an herbal tea: Chamomile, holy basil, peppermint, stinging nettle. – or whatever you have at hand Ask the doctor if there are contraindications
• Endure the impending loss – you can – and will - cry later But you will take satisfaction if you stayed strong when you were needed to be strong.

Minimal Exercise Program

December 5, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Ibuprofen And Aplastic Anemia

October 16, 2011

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, water, ache, alcohol, anecdotal evidence, aplastic anemia, aspirin, bleeding risk, blood cell, bone marrow, bone marrow transplant, brain, cramps, culture, death, double-blind, drug, exercise, Europe, fresh foods, fibroids - uterine, Germany, GYN, headache, husband, ibuprofen, Ibuprofen And Aplastic Anemia, internal bleeding, kidneys, liver, menstrual cramps, natural method, painkiller, period, pills, placebo-controlled, platelet count, randomized, pain - root cause, salt, scientific study, skullcap, sleep, soft beverages, stomach lining, stroke - hemorrhagic, sugar, sun, TV

This is the story of a friend’s friend – no statistics behind it, no big scientific study double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled - nothing but anecdotal evidence (and you won't see a study done on this soon!). But a poignant story anyway, and a reminder:

A woman in her forties was in quite good health, as it seemed, until one day, she got weak and ill, and was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

Aplastic anemia is a very serious diagnosis. It means the bone marrow is not churning out the required number of blood cells necessary for survival, and her physicians recommend a bone marrow transplant to her.

One of the doctors told her that her platelet count was so low that she might start bleeding anytime (most worrisome is bleeding into the brain), and said that, as a minimum, she should stop all aspirin or ibuprofen (or any drug in that family of painkillers) as those might increase the bleeding risk.

Now this woman had taken high doses of ibuprofen on the advice of her GYN doctor for uterine fibroids and terrible cramps. She heeded the advice, stopped all pills, and slowly but surely, her blood cell count crept higher and higher, until it became clear that she did not need new bone marrow at all.

When I came to this country many years ago, I found that in a drugstore one could buy bottles of a thousand aspirin or ibuprofen pills. In Germany, one bought them in little tubes with ten or twenty each. That’s not only a difference in size: It is a difference in cultures: When you have a headache in Europe, you ask why you have the ache (nagging husband, too much sun, too much TV, too much booze, too little sleep, no exercise – the list is endless). You try to change the root cause of the pain. Here, you take a pill.

This woman had a good reason to take ibuprofen – her fibroid cramps – and took them under the supervision of a physician – and still, it nearly killed her. Ibuprofen can have bad effects on the kidneys, the liver, the stomach lining – and thousands people die each year of internal bleeding. Aplastic anemia is exceedingly rare. But this story illustrates that no drug is without side-effects and we need to have a healthy respect of any drug we put in our bodies.

Most painkillers are taken against headaches and menstrual cramps. Why not try natural methods first? More sleep, more movement, healthy fresh foods, water instead of soft beverages, less sugar and salt before periods, skullcap tincture against cramps – one has so many healthier options!

What Stays

August 8, 2011

Tags: order, abuse, cruelty, death, difficulties, doubts, family, fears, finances, funeral, love, marriage, money, spouse, stroke, vice, What Stays

Coming from another funeral - this time in Europe - the question lingers: What stays if we have to die anyway?

In this case, love stayed. Love stayed long after the body of the loved one was felled by a series of strokes. For a dozen years the spouse cared for the loved one, with a thousand fears and doubts and difficulties, but never faltering. After all those many years, the loved one died at home, with the family by the bedside. - We all wish for such a death.

And such a love. Not asking what is in there for me. But asking what is the needed thing to do now. - We hear too much about who should be allowed to marry and who not. We should hear more what marriage involves. Not figuring out what he/she does wrong, but what he/she needs now. Whenever I feel sorry that I am not getting what I want, I feel a distances from the people I am with. When I ask: What can I give? What does he/she need now?, I feel close - and rewarded.

(It goes without saying that I don't condone cruelty, abuse, and the myriad of vices that make a marriage unbearable.)

We all know too many examples of the contrasting outcome: The spouse divorces the ailing partner, and runs away with the money, to a better life.

A better life? I cannot think of life and time better applied than caring thus.

Herb Of The Year 2011: Horseradish

May 7, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, antibacterial, apples, Armoracia rusticana, asparagus - white, Belgian endive, boiled beef, bones - strong, breakfast, bronchitis, calcium, Chinese rice soup, chives, comfort, condiment, congee, dandelion, death, decoration, diarrhea, digestive, dinner, disorientation, enzyme, fever, frosts, garden, garden pest, gastro-intestinal irritation, Germany, ginger, grape leaves, green tea, harvest, healing purposes, Herb Day, herbal tea, Herb Of The Year 2011 - Horseradish, herbs - cleansing spring, hors d’oeuvres, horseradish, horseradish root, horseradish as poison, horseradish peroxidase, hot bath, International Herb Association, International Herb Day 2011, invigorating, Japanese tea - ground, lunch, macha, magnesium, mint, Natural Medicine, nausea, neighborhood, neurobiology, olives - chopped, olive paste, overdosing on fresh horseradish, phosphorus, potassium, potatoes - mashed, potluck party, pungent, resveratrol, rice crackers, rice vinegar, robustness, sauerkraut, sesame - black, sinusitis, spring, stinging nettle, sweating, taste, taste buds, toxic compounds, urinary tract infection, volatile oils, vomiting, weakness, weed, wild garlic

This should be the International Herb Day 2011 – but it seems several organizations compete with their dates.

So, I am making it my own Herb Day. I started the day with an herbal tea from stinging nettle, dandelions, ginger, chives, mints, and a dash of green ground Japanese tea called macha - to open my eyes.

My breakfast consisted of – you know my routine by now - congee (Chinese rice soup from brown rice) with sauerkraut and pickled grape leaves. They are my own harvest from last year, just cooked in rice vinegar and frozen, high in resveratrol, and a real pest in the garden! What is more delightful to find a way to turn an annoying weed into a delicious food!

For lunch I had olive paste on black sesame rice crackers.

For dinner I am invited to a neighborhood potluck party, and I will bring hors d’oeuvres: Olive paste (can be substituted with chopped olives, on Belgian endive and/or apples slices, topped with leftover pieces of white asparagus and chives from the garden.

The uses for herbs are unlimited: as condiment, as decoration, for healing purposes, for taste in food and comfort in a hot bath. This year, the International Herb Association made horseradish the herb of 2011 – don’t try it in your bath, though!

Horseradish root, grated has the familiar pungent taste which goes well with bland fish or bland meats – in Germany we use it with boiled beef, which is a boring a dish as one can imagine. With horseradish, it suddenly is exciting for the taste buds. Serve it fresh mashed potatoes, made from scratch.

What makes Armoracia rusticana, as it is known in Latin, so pungent are its volatile oils. They also give it its healing properties: antibacterial, digestive. It certainly gives your sinuses a good blow-out. It is also used in urinary tract infections and bronchitis, and promotes sweating in a fever, which can be beneficial. And in Natural Medicine we view it – together with stinging nettle, dandelion, chives, wild garlic, and others – as one of the essential cleansing spring herbs.

Horseradish also contains potassium, and an interesting enzyme – horseradish peroxidase, now used widely in neurobiology. Magnesium, calcium, phosphorus are building strong bones. That does not mean you should gorge on it – a little goes a long way; too much would be a poison. Overdosing on fresh horseradish (cooking destroys the toxic compounds) shows in gastro-intestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, sweating, and disorientation, and possible death.

Before I knew that it would become famous this year, namely in the winter, I planted a horseradish root in a pot. For months, it did nothing, as eagerly as I observed the phallic thing for signs of life. Then, after I had put it outside when there were still frosts expected, I noticed it had developed side-shoots. And as soon as the rain stops today I will plant it in a bigger container. It would be unwise to plant it in the garden as it is a tough customer and prone to spreading robustly. – Perhaps that was one of the reasons our forefathers recognized it as one of those invigorating plants with which we might fight dwindling health.

Mud Season in Maine

April 12, 2011

Tags: order, movement, anemone, Anna Karenina, Boston, cabin, cello, cemetery, Chinese brush painting, crocus, daffodil, death, exercise, funeral, liatris, Maine, mud season, Mud Season in Maine, ocean, reading, spring – early, Taunton Bay, Tolstoy – Leo, wood stove, writing

Wish I were a poet – to describe the beauty of Maine in early spring. They call this time “mud season” – with the implication that one better flee to warmer shores and leave Maine behind.

Usually, we don’t visit our cabin at this time of the year – nobody ever encouraged us. This year, I had to go up because a friend had died, and I wanted to go to her funeral.

The occasion was a sad one – yet how lovely it was! Yes, there was drizzle and fog, and the ruts of our dirt road seemed to say: Stay away! Stay away! But I didn’t stay away, and the ruts and potholes became a challenge of sorts – and at the end of the dirt road, there is the cabin and the ocean.

It was very, very early spring. Just a few crocuses were up. I looked at them and remembered that I planted them about twenty years ago. Contrary to what garden books say, they didn’t naturalize – they were just as spare as single bulbs stuck in the soil. Life is hard that far north. But those few crocuses – blue and white and yellow – cheered up the day. Daffodils were sending up green blades; no flowers yet.

I should know better but I planted again: a late pink anemone, and some liatris – planted them in the drizzle. They might come up in summer, or they might not. Important is the hope I planted (and the exercise!).

Outside, bare spring beckoned; inside, in the evenings, I had some logs blazing, making it cozy and warm. I played cello. It was a bit much to carry the cello with me for just three days, but I was glad I did. I did some Chinese brush painting. I wanted to write, but I am still reading Anna Karenina – it will keep me biting my nails for a while. Why would I even bite my nails? We all know it will end badly …

Of course, I attended the funeral, and it was heart-wrenching. But it also was good – to see the family and friends gathered to honor one good woman. She is now lying in a tiny cemetery, overlooking Tauton Bay.

This morning, when I got up to clean the house and leave for Boston, the sun was out and the sky showed Mediterranean blue. A strong wind had swept away rain and fog, and the world was as clear and beautiful as it can only be in Maine.

Berlin – About Friendship

October 5, 2010

Tags: order, Berlin, Berlin – About Friendship, boyfriends, childbirth, children, death, depression, farting, fishing, friendship, Germany, Iran, life, love, menopause, parents - old, politics, reading, work

I don’t know how I would have made it through my life without my girlfriends.

When I was younger, a girlfriend and I had a saying: “Love is more important, but friendship lasts longer.”

After a few false starts, I have found a wonderful man in my life. But my friendships with women still sustain me through rocky times. And give me much laughter.

Without the advice and support of other women, how would I ever have raised my children? Every little domestic disaster was talked through – and the big ones too. When I had my first child, I was all alone without any friends – living in our little nuclear family, talking to nobody outside, burying myself in reading. Nowadays, I think they would diagnose me with depression. But I know I was not depressed – I was without friends.

Presently, I am visiting Berlin that are filled with women friends for me, friends from far, far back, newer friends, and some in the middle. The last few days, I have reconnected with several old friends, having so much fun. During long walks, over tea or a good meal we told each other what happened in our lives since we met last time, we laughed and were touched.

Men seem to discuss work and politics, fishing and farting (not that I really know what their subjects are when they are alone!). Women talk about life and love and death, about childbirth, boyfriends, menopause, children and old parents. About work too because we all have deep interests. Even politics we mention occasionally.

What makes a good friendship? If you haven’t seen each other for a while – or many years – it is a sign of solid friendship if you click again the moment you meet. No repercussions why it took so long – just pure bliss that you are together again.

Recently in Iran, a made new friends who will stay friends for many years to come. Berlin has renewed some old friendships. New and old friends, they make you examine your life. Without them, life is not worth living.

In the Midst of Life We Are in Death

June 29, 2010

Tags: order, aging, children, compost, death, In the Midst of Life We Are in Death, Irvin Yalom, religion, Rinpoche - see: Sogyal Rinpoche, Sogyal Rinpoche, Yalom - Irvin

The unimaginable for all of us is that we will die.

Other people, of course, die. But not us. This is how we deceive ourselves.

Let’s undeceive: It is time that we lift the taboo around death. Death should be with us all the time, in our consciousness - because it is with us, in reality. It can happen any time: An accident, a bad diagnosis. Not to mention the daily little dying in tiniest pieces that we call aging. In the midst of life we are in death – as the old Church hymn sings. Death surely is the reason why we invented religion – because it is so damn hard to think the unthinkable.

Most of all, we want to protect our children from death. So we are building a world free of the dark side. Death is never mentioned. When somebody dies, we keep children away.

Of course, children are not stupid – they know about death, usually by age four: the hamster that lied stiff under the radiator one morning. The news and pictures of war on TV. Even the wilting bunch of flowers in a vase. Nothing will last forever. All beauty will end up on the compost pile.

But not talking about death makes it even harder for children: They have to hide their deepest fears from their parents, not to hurt their feelings (that is how childhood works: children protect their parents. All the time).

When I was five, my father took me to a patient who had freshly died overnight. I remember the day like few others. It was a sunny Sunday morning, but the room with the dead man was kept dark. The widow cried, but she had enough compassion for the little girl to hand me an apple. I stared at the form in the bed. The jaws were tied up with a white napkin as if the man had suffered from toothache. I smelled my apple. Was it bad manners to bite into the apple in the presence of a dead man? I decided it was, and just held my apple. The widow said her husband had been suffering for so long; now his suffering was over. My father took out his stethoscope, examined the body and confirmed he had died.

On the way home, I asked many questions – I was that why? Why? Why? kid.

Did it hurt me? I don’t think so.

Denial hurts children – it deprives them of the means to grow up. Nothing is sadder than an elderly person who panics about the subject. To acknowledge that death awaits each one of us at the end, makes us live our lives more mindful, more compassionate.

Proposal: Everybody should read Sogyal Rinpoche's "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying") once a year, as a way to face what is so hard to face. As a way to grow up. Alternatively, for an easier read, try: Irvin Yalom's "Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death. "
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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