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High Blood Pressure – Low Blood Pressure

September 14, 2015

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, agricultural, artificial sweetener, attention, basil, beach, bladder, blood pressure, brain overstimulation, butter - cultured, cardamom, cat’s claw, celery seeds, chemical compound, cinnamon, circadian rhythm, coconut oil, cold shower, cold wash, cooking, darkness, dehydration, dizziness, drinking water, drug – anti-hypertensive, endocrine, energy - lack of, erectile dysfunction, farmer, fat, fighting, French lavender, garlic, grandmother, habit, hawthorn, heart attack, heartbreak, herbalist, high blood pressure, High Blood Pressure – Low Blood Pressure, hiking, hypertension, impotence, Internet, kidney, lifestyle, linden, low blood pressure, meat, medicine pearl, meditation, modern life, music, musical instrument, nettle - stinging, olive leaf, olive oil, organic, pebbles, processed food, quiet time, relationship, relaxation, salt, screen time, sleep, sleep before midnight, sleep deprivation, sleeping with open window, spice, starch, statistics, step counter, stress, stroke, sugar, telephone, TV, Twitter, urine color, vegetable, walking, walking barefoot, walking on uneven surfaces, weight - ideal, woodworking, yarrow

A new study to answer the question: Which is the optimal blood pressure goal? has been terminated prematurely because it became statistically overwhelmingly clear that lower blood pressure targets will save lives.

That is a great outcome of a study: The clear-cut benefit of lower blood pressure. Not that it is all news: In medical school I already learned this medicine pearl: People with low pressure live for a long time, but they will feel lousy often – from dizziness and lack of energy. People with high blood pressure feel on top of the world – until they drop dead of stroke or heart attack.

It is good to know that our recent blood pressure goals have been set too high. If you have high blood pressure, or borderline high blood pressure, get ready for your doctor to put you on medication, or increase your anti-hypertension pills.

But the question is: Why do I read one report after the other about this blood pressure study, and all the commentators remark on how important it is to increase medications – and not a single commentator mentions that there are ways to lower your blood pressure without pills - naturally?

There are! You don’t have to take pills for the rest of your life; they can have serious side effect – one of the least seems to be impotence (erectile dysfunction), which is obviously a minor problem for the prescribing physician, but may make your life thoroughly miserable.

Here, if you want to go the natural way:

• End your hot showers always with a short (20 to 30 seconds) cold shower. Don’t do it yet if your blood pressure is uncontrolled high. But if you are on a pill, reasonably controlled, to can make this a daily habit. If a cold shower feels too harsh, wash yourself down with a cold facecloth twice a day in front of the sink.
• Get yourself a cheap step counter and walk more. The step counter is not really necessary, but is a great motivator. Walk more stairs, too.
• Also, walk on uneven surfaces whenever you have an occasion. Walking the beach, hiking, and walking barefoot have all been shown to lower blood pressure. One study showed that walking barefoot on pebbles is especially effective. Why is that so? The more uneven the terrain is, the more muscles you use, and the greater is the relaxation effect.
• Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to more stress, and stress increases blood pressure. Aim for being in bed around ten pm. Read for a few minutes, then sleep in darkness, with open window, whenever possible. Grandmother’s advice that sleep before midnight counts double sort of bears out in modern circadian rhythm studies.
• Meditate if your stress level is high. Or do woodworking, or play a musical instrument – any hobby that absorbs your attention wholly and makes you happy has a good de-stressing effect. Even just listening to soothing music lowers your blood pressure.
• Drink enough water. Salt does not seem the main culprit (but it does not hurt to ditch all processed foods – which are notoriously high in salt), but not drinking enough is. Aim for very light yellow urine. Dark urine shows that you are dehydrated (unless there is a kidney/bladder problem).
• Keep your relationships in order. I am all for a good fight if it is necessary. But an unhappy relationship will break your heart – with or without high blood pressure.
• Reduce screen time – TV, Twitter, telephone and Internet. All overexcite your brain. Be yourself – find quiet time often.
• Eat a diet high in vegetables and herbs. Plants contain thousands of chemical compound which all conspire to keep your blood pressure low. Eat meat but only organic (or from a farmer whose agricultural practices you trust). Have plenty of good fats like organic olive oil, coconut oil, cultured butter – fat is not the enemy.
• Slowly move toward your ideal weight by eating less sugars and starches. Avoid artificial sweeteners, too.
• And if you insist on a pill, let it be herbs (it may be advisable to work with a good herbalist – or a doctor who know herbs):

o Stinging nettle
o Linden
o Olive leaf
o Yarrow
o French Lavender
o Cinnamon
o Cat’s claw
o Hawthorn
o Celery seeds
o Garlic
o Cardamom
o Basil

And so many more! Some may go into your food as spices when you cook. Actually, cooking every evening from scratch might be the best course you could take: It will relax you after work and absorb your attention – and it will heal you body that gets high blood pressure from the pressures and habits of modern life. In 95 percent, hypertension is a lifestyle issue; only in five percent, a serious medical diagnosis (kidneys, endocrine) can be made.

If high blood pressure stems from wrong lifestyles, I suggest we replace it with better, healthier, more joyful lifestyles.

Bone Broth for Strengthening your Bones

September 9, 2013

Tags: food, water, antibiotics, bike accident, Bone Broth for Strengthening your Bones, bone soup, broth, bowel health, calories, carrot, celery, celeriac, cheap food, carrot, chicken soup, clavicle, collar bone, elbow, Europe, fat, fracture, frozen shoulder, garlic, Germany, hair, heal-all, husbandry, immune system, ligament, lovage, meat, mending bones, nails - fingernails, non-fattening, onion, organic, osteopenia, osteoporosis, oxtail, parsley, peppercorns, processed food, ribs, salt – herbal, scapula, shank, shoulder, shoulder blade, sick animal, simmering, skeletal appendages, snack, strengthening bones, tendon, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian, war, warming food, winter

Somebody in my family was in a bike accident and broke a shoulder – the collarbone as well as the shoulder blade. Ouch!

From my childhood in Germany, I remembered the heal-all properties of bone broth. Bone broth has all the ingredients a bone needs for knitting together again because bone broth is simmered for hours and hours – days, actually – until everything good in the bone now is swimming in the broth. Proof: If you try to eat the bones, they are soft and can be eaten like just another piece of meat. I find them just as tasty – but opinions differ here …

This is how you make a bone soup: Take beef bones like shank, oxtail and/or ribs. If you add chicken, it is better to have an old bird than a young one – the bones are stronger in an older bird.

Cover the bones with filtered cold water in a lidded pot, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to simmering. For taste, I add herbal salt and black peppercorns in a tea ball. If you don’t like the taste of bone broth very much, add whole onions, garlic and carrots. Since the broth is reheated and simmered every day for a few hours until eaten up, it is not appetizing to have other vegetables in there – they would cook into a mush. But vegetables won’t hurt because all of them carry the minerals bones need to grow strong. – Before you serve the broth for the first time, cool it down and remove all visible fat from the top. Not that the fat is not healthy; most people just don’t like it swimming on their soup. – The meat can be eaten, or be discarded. All its goodness (or most of it) is now in the broth.

Make sure you buy organic meat and bones only. The detrimental effects of meat are not so much caused by meat – as vegans and vegetarians think. Unhealthy effects of meat seem to be related to the sick animals we eat. Sick animal come from bad husbandry. Bad husbandry requires medications like antibiotics to make the animals look healthy – but they aren’t. How can we expect health from a sick cow or a poorly chicken? Lead stores in bones - so make sure you get animals that were raised and fed in a natural way.

Bone broth is not a good source of all amino acids, but provides three essential amino acids, namely arginine, glycine and proline. Also it is rich in gelatin – once your broth cooled down, it separates in fat on top and the jelly below. Besides strengthening your bones – not only in a case of fracture, but against osteoporosis and osteopenia too – bone broth is said to be good for general bowel health and the immune system because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Not surprisingly, it is also good for skeletal appendages like tendons, ligaments, nails and hair, and it “greases” the joints. It calms the mind and promotes sleepiness. Unfortunately, none of these benefits have been proven by science because there are no studies published on this subject – at least not that I am aware of (and I looked!!). In past times, however, broth was always given to sickly people and patients recuperating from major illness. It fell out of fashion with easily available and processed foods – that doesn’t mean bone broth won’t work. But don’t assume that so-called chicken soup from the store would have the same benefits. It won’t.

Making a bone broth is no work at all – and once it is in the pot, you have a snack always available. A non-fattening quick, warming snack, that is, and highly satisfying. With few calories. And cheap – in Europe bone broth was always used widely during and after wars, when food was scarce. The simmering broth on our stove will likely be served much longer than the bones need to be mended; I can make a new batch every few days – no sweat! It is good, warming winter food, too.

P.S. 9/17/2013: We did some experimenting in the kitchen, and indeed one can add vegetables to the bone broth without getting it mushy. Indeed, the vegetables make it even more tasty. Celeriac root and celery greens can be cooked for days without getting mushy. Same with carrots. And some tough herbs like parsley and lovage. As the ingredients will not be eaten - only the broth - you don't have to cut anything.

The results are also superb: The healing goes well, and since the young man is moving his arm constantly with micro-movements (without the slightest weight bearing, of course - he does not even have a frozen shoulder or elbow.

Another Unproven Pearl: Fat - The Happiness Food

July 18, 2013

Tags: food, movement, Another Unproven Pearl- Fat - The Happiness Food, anti-depressant, brain, butter, butter fat, carbohydrates – simple, cholesterol, coconut oil, coffee, cream - whipped, depression, endomorphins, exercise, Europe, fat, fat-phobic, ghee, happiness, happiness molecules, ice cream, obesity, oil, olive oil, pudding, sugar, suicide, Vienna, weight, World War II

Studies have shown that higher fat deposits in the body are found in people who have major depression. But is eating fat the reason of depression? Or is it moving and exercising less? (We know that movement manufactures endomorphins – happiness molecules) Or is it that anti-depressants increase weight? (A well-known and lamentable fact).

Eating good fats – even in higher amounts – does not necessarily make you fat. Fat increases satiety, and fat seems to make people happier. At least, some people – and I am definitely among them. As a child, I would arm myself with a spoon and raid the pantry, eating butter as if it was a pudding or ice cream. As it was after World War II in Europe, and food was scarce, my family was not happy! Today, sitting in a Vienna park, I was drinking a coffee with whipped cream, I was happy. Of course, sitting in a park on a sunny day might be reason alone to feel good, but the non-sweetened whipped cream clearly added to my happiness.

Our brains are mostly fat. No wonder that my brain likes whipped cream. Unfortunately, I have not found any studies supporting my theory. Except that it is know that too low cholesterol might lead to depression and suicide. But in our fat-phobic society, many people deny themselves healthy fats: butter fat (ghee), olive oil, coconut oil - on the whole, we prefer the sugar high to the deep satisfaction of fat happiness. If you ask me, we should deny ourselves sugar and simple carbohydrates (meaning: ice cream!). But we should bathe our foods in oils and good fats, and should indulge occasionally in whipped cream. Fat doesn’t make fat. Sugar makes fat. Not moving makes fat.

Anybody who wants to study this??,

From Mouth to Anus

May 15, 2013

Tags: order, food, water, addiction to food, additive, aging, air, almond milk, antibiotic resistance, antibiotics, anus, baby, bacteria, bowels, brushing, buttermilk, cancer-breeding, caplets, capsules, carrageenan, caries, cosmetics, dairy - dangers of, dairy-free, dental hygiene, dentist, disease, fat, feed lots, fermented foods, flossing, fluoride, fluoride toothpaste, From Mouth to Anus, fruit, fruit substitute, full fat content, gastrointestinal tract, gene-technologically inserted, gum disease, gut-healthy, H2-receptor blockers, heartburn, hormones, household cleaners, inflammatory, ingredients, inhumane animal husbandry, improved, Internet, intestinal health, kefir, kimchi, labels, live cultures, meat, medication, medicine, microbiome, milk, milk products, milk proteins, miso, Mother Earth, mouth, mouth mucosa, natural, neem-based, no man is an island, nursing home, odor, oral cavity: acidity, oral health, organic, pasteurizing, patient, physician, plaque, poisonous, pollutants, Prevacid, Prilosec, probiotic powder, probiotics, processed, proton-pump inhibitors, quest, sauerkraut, skin, soap, soil, skimmed, societies – "primitive”, sour cream, stomach ache, sugar, sugar-free, sweetener, swish & swallow, swishing, Tagamet, tapioca, teeth, teeth brushing, tooth powder, tempeh, yogurt, Zantac

Medicine, for me, is a quest for my healthier self, and healthier patients. I am learning something new every day. In a way, I feel sorry for my patients of so many years ago – now, I think, I could help them so much better.

This also implies that you – the patient – could possibly be a step ahead of your physician, if you are trying to figure out what makes your body feel better and stronger and more awake, and happier. With the Internet, we all have more information at our fingertips, flawed and good information, for sure – but more of the latter. If you ask me.

Take for instance the stomach problems that plagued me when I was younger. Setting out with conventional drugs like H2-receptor blockers (Tagamet, Zantac) and proton-pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Prevacid) years ago, I at least got the problem under control. Then, twenty years the, I found that at the root of my heartburn and stomach aches were allergies: I left out the offending foods – and I dropped all meds, and never looked back.

Forward a bit, and I discovered probiotics – bacteria that are helpful for the intestines. They improved my bowels, and I took them faithfully for many years. I still recommend them to nearly every patient I encounter. Many studies link probiotics to good clinical outcomes, even if we have not yet quite figured out all the intricacies of how they work. One thing is sure: What you eat helps or destroys the microbiome that coexists in your body. A microbiome is the whole entity of bacteria, good or bad, that thrives with you, in you, on you.

Don’t worry – the good guys are winning right now. Otherwise you would be dead. But that the good guys are winning is not guaranteed – it could change any moment. You could crowd out the good guys with sugar, or commercial dairy, or destroy them with a course of antibiotics) or meat from one of those inhumane, antibiotic-resistance breeding feed lots – the list is long how you can hurt your microbiome inside and outside; cosmetics and household cleaners are high on the list. But even if we did everything right in our personal lives, outside forces can destroy your good bacteria – pollutants in water, air and soil.

Not to be an alarmist, but no man is an island, and if we don’t preserve our Mother Earth, we surely can forget about the intricacies of feeding our coworkers - our good bacteria - the right amount of this and that.

Health comes down to the health of our gastrointestinal tract. Lately, I have found that probiotics can be applied not just as capsules or caplets, but as probiotic foods. A big group which I just mention in passing are fermented foods – sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh, and so on. “Fermented” can be taken as another word for “loaded with gut-healthy bacteria”.

I have argued widely against the dangers of dairy – and still do. Ninety-nine-point nine percent of dairy is bad for you because of the highly inflammatory proteins and cancer-breeding hormones (be it naturally occurring, or gene-technologically inserted). But there is a tiny fraction of organic dairy that contains live cultures. Examples are yogurt, kefir, buttermilk and sour cream. But only, if they truly are organic, contain live cultures and have absolutely no additives that turn a good food into a nightmare: sugars, sweeteners, fruit, fruit substitutes, tapioca, carrageenan, and so on. In my mind, to qualify as natural they also have to have their full fat content – nothing skimmed or improved or processed any way other than pasteurizing – and the good bacteria have to be added afterward. Fat is not the culprit in milk and milk products – milk proteins are. Not only are they inflammatory, but also addictive. Now you can even get dairy-free organic yogurts, made for instance from almond milk. Or probiotic powders, ready to be dissolved in warm water. But always read the labels for ingredients!

Good dairy bacteria do not take away dairy’s inflammatory proteins and cancer-causing hormones. Therefore these probiotics should be taken in small amounts – very small amounts, indeed: a sip or a teaspoon full is the serving size here. And you don’t eat or drink them. You swish them around in your mouth as long as you can stand it, or unless you forget about them, and finally swallow them.

Probiotics thus taken increase not only your gut health, but especially your oral health. Studies show that probiotics swished around in the mouth after brushing your teeth reduce caries and gum disease in most cases – and I bet the result would be even better if people would add a healthy, sugar-free diet on top of this.

Using this to fight caries sure beats taking poisonous fluoride. Fluoride made me always uneasy: Studies link fluoride to cancer and neurotoxicity. But other studies clearly showed that it reduced caries – and I had not yet come by a natural method to preserve my teeth. Granted, “primitive” societies usually boast perfect teeth, but I had not quite found out why. Not sure, why, but sugar-free nutrition was probably the main cause. Then again, who of us modern Americans can boast a totally absolutely sugar-free diet – since infancy? Not that I know anyone.

Still, I am a believer in brushing and flossing (and also with good results, I have to say) – and don’t want to get rid of that. But neither fluoride toothpaste appealed to me, nor the brutal cleaning of my teeth at the dentist’s office twice a year. There is nothing natural in putting sharp metal scraping objects in your mouth. Now I am using an organic, neem-based tooth powder most of the time.

With oral swishing probiotics we gently provide a mildly acidic environment in our mouths for a few minutes. That cleans your teeth of plaque and implants healthy bacteria into the lining of your mouth, which then can grow during the next hours, or overnight, and fight bad bacteria. The result is amazing. And natural.

We take for granted that with advancing age we will lose our teeth, and that diseases will creep up on us. Ever been to a nursing home? A certain old-age odor emanates from those old bodies. We think the odor is normal. It is not. If one eats well, nourishes one’s oral cavity and intestines, in their entire length, and not destroys the precious skin bacteria with harsh soaps and cosmetics, we would smell like babies until our final days (and those will come even if we take good care of ourselves, but I bet those final days with be sweeter and easier if you have lived your life well).

Working on the microbiome in my mouth – that has been the newest station on my medical quest. In a way, this quest has been a journey from mouth to anus - and still is.

Vegan And Vegetarian – Again

February 13, 2012

Tags: food, animal, animal husbandry, biking, BMI, body, brain, coconut oil, compassion, cow, detoxification, duck fat, eating grubs, ethnic background, evolution, evolutionary make-up, fasting, fat, fish, flesh, free-roaming, genetics, geographical background, grains, grass, grass-fed, gratitude, green smoothie, insects, junk food, lion, living web, local, marathon, meat, nature, nutrition, obesity, olive oil, omnivores, organic, overweight, prayer, pregnancy, spirit, starving, stomach contents, vegan, Vegan And Vegetarian – Again, vegetable-broth fasting, vegetables, vegetarian, weight

We are, by evolution, omnivores, my friend. Way back we ate grubs - be pleased that I don't do that anymore. But I would, in a starving situation.

If I don't eat meat once in a while, I get weak - I tried it. I am small and slim (BMI around 21). Meat is on the table about once a week. Fish three times, vegetarian three times.

Occasionally, I do vegetable-broth fasting for detox. I cook and eat several fresh vegetables every day. I make green smoothies every day. But my body tells me that it needs meat and fats (good fats, like coconut, olive, duck). If I don't eat fat, I get voracious and crabby.

Besides, I have the same weight since age twelve ... I must be doing something right.

Having kept my weight (except for pregnancies - I gained twenty pounds with my daughter, and forty with my son, bouncing right back to my normal weight immediately - umh, with some attention and work) all my life, of course, disqualifies me to dispense advice - because overweight people think it is sheer luck that I am slim. I have a chubby sister and a heavy brother (I love them dearly – and worry about them); I have one slim brother - no, it's not genes! - he is the one who commutes by bike and ran a marathon.

My basic idea about nutrition is that we all are coming from different ethnic, geographical backgrounds and therefore really need slightly different foods. What works for me, might not necessarily work for you. What we don't need, however, is industrial junk labeled as "food".

But: In nature, there is no "vegetarian" or "vegan" animal, really. A cow in the meadow gobbles up tons of insects with the grass it is eating. A lion, when devouring its prey, goes for the stomach contents first - which contain grasses and grains.

We all belong to the same living web. Our brains don't make us superior, or different. Thinking you should be "vegetarian" or "vegan" does not make you so; it does not alter your evolutionary make-up and the ancient requirements of body … and spirit.

Lastly, having said that, I am compassionate for the animals who will die for me. The rare times I eat meat, it is organic, grass-fed, free-roaming, preferably local. The animals should be kept humanely, and killed swiftly. I say a prayer over each fish or flesh that goes through my kitchen - not a religious prayer - a prayer of gratitude.

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!

Those Delicious Yogurts

January 5, 2012

Tags: food, herbs, arthritis, baby, bacteria – starter for yogurt, bones - strong, bovine growth hormone, bowel bacteria, Bulgaria, calcium, calf, California, calories - counting, cancer cell, chicory root, coconut, cow, craving, crockpot, dairy, depression, diabetes, East Coast, fat, fillers, flavors, fruit, goat, Greece, growth hormone, growth spurt, heart disease, honey, inflammation, Israel, Jordan, labels – reading, infant, kid, lactobacilli, lactose, lamb, legumes, low fat, milk, milk protein, mineral, mother’s milk, milk sugar, nuts, organic, plant kingdom, probiotics, skim milk, sheep, sugar, Syria, tapioca, temperature, thermometer, Those Delicious Yogurts, Turkey, vegetable, yogurt

A whole fifteen minutes I must have stood in front of the yogurt section in the refrigerated part of the natural food store, reading labels and deciding what to buy. My natural inclination is the one with cream on top – they are so unspeakably yummy!

Which means that all the “skim milk” and “low fat” varieties are out for me. I also don’t like anything added – no fillers, no flavors, no fruit, not even simple honey. I want the real thing. Already, I have few items to look at.

What I found out from the labels:
• Greek yogurt does not come from Greece
• Bulgarian yogurt does not come from Bulgaria
• Middle-eastern yogurt does not come from Syria, Israel or Jordan
• Goat yogurt always seems to have tapioca in it
• Sheep yogurt has the highest fat contents (good for my brain that craves fat all the time!) – but I could not find one any without fruit or honey. I will look around for a plain one.

Of course, I’d always choose organic since I don’t want added bovine growth hormones in my yogurt – it’s bad enough that milk (cow, sheep, goat, mother’s – whatever) already comes with a wallop of natural growth hormones. Why? Because milk was invented to let tiny babies (calves, lamb, kids, human infants) grow very fast in the first few months of their lives. I don’t need to grow anymore – in neither direction – and I rather don’t have sleepy cancer cells in my body wake up and indulge in a growth spurt. This thought actually made the whole yogurt idea rather unappetizing. Especially, if one considers that they also provide tons of inflammatory milk proteins, which give us arthritis, depression, diabetes, heart disease, cravings, and so on.

You already know that I don’t buy into the myth that dairy gives us needed calcium. Those, and all the other minerals to build strong bones come from the plant kingdom: vegetables, legumes, herbs, nuts, fruit.

It doesn’t mean that I am not still dreaming of creamy yogurt. Not to mention that they contain probiotics – healthy bowel bacteria.

Finally, I came across coconut yogurt, which I had never seen before. Again, that one contained fruit and chicory root extract. But it gave me an idea: I can make my own!

Years ago, traveling in Turkey, a chef (God bless him!) showed me how to make yogurt: Bring a pot of milk to nearly a boil (to kill bacteria) – 90 C, or around 190 F – and keep it there for about twenty minutes, let it cool down so that you can touch it, add a spoonful of yogurt that provides starter bacteria, wrap the pot into a towel and cover it in your bed. Hours later, the pot of milk has turned into wonderful yogurt.

Starter bacteria can also be gotten from those probiotic capsules: I have some with those Bulgarian lactobacilli; they can be whipped into the milk.

Two secrets for making yogurt:
• Keep every item you use very clean (preferably by heat treatment in boiling water) to keep out “bad” bacteria
• The desirable temperature in your bed (or in a “cooler”, or in a rice cooker) is between 37 C (ca 100F) and 55 C (ca 135). Higher, and the “good” bacteria will die; lower, and they will not multiply.

Coconut milk contains no milk sugar – lactose. So, in the production one has to add a spoonful of table sugar for the processing, as the bacteria need food to thrive and divide. Make a small batch – full-fat yogurt contains a heap of calories (even that I never count calories!).

Unfortunately, I have to wait a month, until we will be back at the East Coast. There I have a crockpot, which I will try. And I will use the thermometer I bought here to measure the temperatures in my Californian pool … I will report!

Offerings And Gluttony

December 7, 2011

Tags: food, water, movement, air, baby-sitting, back rub, books, breathing, cabbage, cake, candy, carrot, charities, coconut oil, cookies, cooking from scratch, diet, dog-walking, Earth, family, fat, flowers, food shopping, fried, friends, garden work, gift cards, gifting stress, gifts, gluttony, gratefulness, green beans, health, holidays, holiday meal, hot water, hydrogenated, ice cream, kale, kidneys, lettuce, lungs, meat, money, music, offerings, Offerings And Gluttony, olive oil, overeating, people in need, peppers, plenty, presents, processed, protein, season survival, second helpings, self-made jam, sharing, starches - simple, Star of Bethlehem, starvation, surviving the holidays, tea, time, tomato, Universe, variety, vegetable, voucher, walking

Bad news: The holidays are terrible for your health. Good news: The original thought behind the present shopping frenzy was divine: Be grateful for the offerings life hands you out all the time.

This season always overwhelms me, and to survive it seems to get harder each year. This is what helps me – it can be done anytime, anywhere:

Sit or stand with your palms turned up. Breathe in, breathe out. Notice how the Universe is there for you with all its plenty. Take the air into your lungs as a present. Take the water from your faucet as a present. Take your family and your friends as a present (as exasperating they might feel at times). If there are no family, no friends in your life, open your eyes: There are bound to be some – at least one – among the ten billion people on Earth who is destined for you (but you might have to go searching for them – the magi didn’t wait for the Star of Bethlehem to come to them). There are always people who are needier than you, as dire as you might see your situation now.

Be grateful for the tiniest thing: That is the message of the holiday season. Take the offerings, and share them.

AND the other problem linked to the season: gluttony. For this one high feats in the year, allow yourself gluttony. Enjoy it! It was invented for that: so that the rest you the year you can endure the drab and being reasonable. In olden times, naturally, starvation set, with scarce resources, and set the balance right. Nowadays, we have to use our brains because starvation is not likely to come to our help.

Here a few survival rules:

1. Don’t start a new diet big time around this time of the year! Instead celebrate with all your heart, and with all your friends and the whole bunch of your family. You don’t want to stand around munching on a lettuce leaf while everyone else is having a ball.
2. Don’t do second helpings – just DON’T. NEVER. Sample every variety, but don’t go back.
3. If you overeat, overeat on meat and fat – not on simple starches. Cut down on cookies, candy, cake, ice cream, and so on. Listen: I said: Cut down! Not: Avoid them altogether. After all, this is a wonderful season.
4. If you overeat meat: Drink lots of hot water or tea because the protein might otherwise hurt your kidneys.
5. If you eat fatty things, make sure that the fat is healthy: Nothing fried, nothing processed, nothing hydrogenated. Olive oil and coconut oil are actually good for you. Best, of course, is you cook your holiday meals from scratch – then you know what went in.
6. If you want to be extra goodie-good: Overeat on vegetables: Green beans, red cabbage, colored peppers, purple kale, red tomatoes, orange carrots. They will help you to get through the holidays. By the way: There are no restrictions on vegetables – you can have as many helpings as you want!
7. And after each heavy meal, take friends and family for a walk.
8. And against the gifting stress: It is always good to keep it simple: self-made jam, if you still have some. The old stand-byes: Books, music, flowers. The new stand-byes: charities and gift cards.And if you have no money, offer your time: a voucher for a back rub, baby-sitting, dog-walking, garden work is always appreciated.

Listen To Your Body

October 29, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, acupuncturist, addiction, advertisement, alcoholic, all-you-can-eat, arthritis, aspartame, asthma, beans, body, brain, breakfast, Brussels sprouts, buffet, caffeine, cereal, chocolate, cleansing, coconut oil, cold shower, craving, deli, dairy, deficiency, diet, diet coke, dinner, doctor, drinking booze, East Coast, exercise - moderate, fast meal, fat, fate, friend, GAIA, gut feeling, gym, hankering, health hype, health news, herbalist, herbs - women's, herbs - fresh or dried, homeopathy, hunch, hunch skills, husband, information maze, joint ache, junk food, left-overs, Listen To Your Body, lobster, M&Ms, marshmallow, meal - freshly cooked, meat, medical wisdom, medicine - conventional, mood, müsli, museum, natural, newspaper, nutmeg, official line, olive oil, onions, osteoarthritis, Own Your Health, passion, patients, pepper, phytogen, placebo effect, pool, pregnant, raisins, salt, scale, scientific breakthrough, sixth sense, sleep, soul, super-food, supplement, sweets, triathlon, thyroid, thyroidectomy, turkey, unscientific, vegan, veteran - homeless, vitamins, weight, Western diet, Weisman - Roanne, wine

A stalk of Brussels sprouts survived in my fridge while we were traveling to the East Coast. Last night, I suddenly had the vision that I would like to eat those green little roses – and of all things with raisins!

No clue where it came from. The sixth sense? But I knew I had to get up a bit earlier this morning to actually cook this strange breakfast for myself. Since the nearly twenty years I don’t indulge anymore in the ubiquitous müsli or cereal breakfast, I usually eat dinner left-overs or open a can of beans, throw in a handful of fresh or dried herbs, pepper and salt, and some olive oil – it is a fast meal, but no junk food.

At this point in my life, I take my gut feelings seriously. So I browned two large onions in coconut oil before I added the Brussels sprouts rosettes and a cup full of raisins. I let it simmer with some pepper and salt, until the rosettes were soft and the raisins plump. It was delicious – why had I never thought of adding raisins to this dish? The taste mingled the sharp black pepper and the sweet raisins to a new experience. Usually I serve Brussels sprouts with a good sprinkling of nutmeg.

Why do I take my hunches seriously? Because I figure my body wants to tell me about a slight deficiency. Of course I don’t follow hunches for marshmallows and M&Ms, because they are not natural – although I might turn to dark chocolate if I had a craving for something sweet.

Nearly thirty years ago I followed a hunch to visit a certain museum – five hundred miles away. And through that museum, I met my future (and now) husband … but that is a different story!

Why do I bring up something as unscientific as hunches?

Because daily we are bombarded by health news and scientific breakthroughs and advertisements for new super-foods – it is hard to find our way through this maze of information. I early on decided that I need to see – and feel – the difference in my body, my mood, my soul before I believe any new health hype.

For instance, I always craved more fat in my diet than medical wisdom allowed me to eat. It always seemed that my brain did not function well without enough fat – and I am talking good fats here, mostly olive oil. At that time, I was still timid and told my patients to stick to the official line in conventional medicine, namely to cut out fat. But secretly, I bathed my vegetables in all the fat I desired.

And interestingly, it was me who kept her weight since age twelve, not the people who had been advised differently. I was the one who weighed herself every day on a scale – contrary to what medicine was teaching at that time.

So, now, when you take a new supplement: Do you take it because your doctor/your herbalist/your acupuncturist/your friend/your newspaper told you so? Or because you feel suddenly so much better than before?

Over the years I found out that rarely do I feel better with ANY supplements. Exception are the phytogens (female herbs) by GAIA which I gave been taking for many years now. But I do feel better when I take my daily cold shower (or my daily laps across the pool), when I eat less at dinner and nothing thereafter, when I do moderate exercise throughout the day but feel miserable in the gym. I feel good about myself when I drop a small coin into the hand of a homeless veteran, but feel shabby when I argue to myself that he probably is an alcoholic who deserves his fate (nobody deserves that fate!!).

Over the years I found out that vitamins and homeopathy don’t do anything for me, but freshly cooked meals do. That leaving out dairy cured my asthma, and improved my osteoarthritis vastly. That I need about double as much sleep as my husband, and that I definitely need my small thyroid pill after half of my thyroid was taken out years ago. Without that tiny pill I turn into a nagging bitch (as my husband found out!).

Mind you, I don’t give in to silly cravings like drinking a ton of booze. But the occasional glass of wine seems to be fine. And when I was pregnant, I took very seriously my sudden hankering after lobster, and made my husband drive to a seafood restaurant late at night!

When one turns vegan, most people feel wonderful, initially. Because it is a cleansing diet, after the overload on meats, delis and dairy products of the Western diet. But do you still feel wonderful after a few years on this diet? Or do you believe the vegan ideology more than what your body tells you? Do you feel great after an all-you-can-eat buffet, or do you feel like a stuffed turkey? Do you feel great after a diet coke, or do you have the lingering suspicion you might be addicted to the aspartame and caffeine? Do you feel good after a triathlon, or do all your joints scream?

The big problem of course is that our brain can make us believe what we want to believe, deceivingly. It takes years of practicing your hunch skills before you can trust those wild notions coming out of nowhere. After all, there is something like the placebo effect, which may make you feel good erroneously – at least for a time.

But nobody else can answer the question “How are you?” – except you. Because every body is different, and only you can feel how you are. As my friend Roanne Weisman puts it: Own Your Health!

And, hey, I feel perfect today after Brussels sprouts with raisins!

Invasive Plants 3: Bamboo

October 14, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, order, anti-oxidants, Asia, bamboo, bamboo - as medicine, bamboo - nutritional value, bamboo shoots, bamboo wood, Bambusa, beauty, bone growth, building material, calcium, carcinogenic, Chinese brush painting, Chinese culture, Chinese food, cholesterol, coconut milk, copper, Crouching Tiger - Hidden Dragon, crystal healing, culm, curry, cyanide, dance, Dendrocalamus, fat, flavonoids, fiber - dietary, Four Gentlemen, furniture, gem stone, grace, harmony, healing stones, Hong Kong, infection - bacterial, ink - black, immune system, Invasive Plants 3: Bamboo, iron, Japanese culture, kitchen utensils, lungs, Made in China, manganese, migraine, mineral, mushroom, mushroom - button, mushroom - raw, Nature, osteoporosis, Phyllostachys, Poacea, poisonous, potassium, power, protein quartz, sauce, scaffolding, silica, snow, socks - 100 percent bamboo, TCM, tools, toxin, Traditional Chinese Medicine, true grass family, variegated, vitamins B, vitamin C, winter, zinc

One time, traveling in Hong Kong, we saw a bamboo outside our hotel room window grow about a foot per day. Amazing. The record for bamboos seem to be somewhere at a yard per day – which makes them the fastest growing plants on record.

Those were tall bamboos. At home, we grow smaller varieties – and always in a huge tub lowered into the soil. These things throw out side-shoots or culms, as they are called botanically, so fast – they would run over the yard in a few seasons if not properly grown in a pot. One stand in front of the entrance and greets the visitors.

Easier, of course, would be to not grow bamboo. But that is impossible. Because, for me, bamboo stands for beauty. They don’t flower (or only about every one hundred years or so); they don’t lure you with colorful berries. But their pointed leaves have a charm that I wouldn’t want to miss it from my garden. If you watched the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” you know what I mean – the scene in the tops of swaying bamboos is unforgettable! When I drew my first bamboo leaf with black ink, I was hooked forever on Chinese brush painting – and the living plant, which we all – from humble student to great master – try to capture, is so much more beautiful. It is as if grace and dance have been captured in a plant.

Bamboo is not one single species – there are many, from little to very tall, mostly green, sometimes variegated – but all in the Poacea family – also called the “true” grass family. Their long stems barely taper which makes them perfect for building materials. In China one can see huge skyscrapers being built or renovated, and the scaffolding is all bamboo – many, many stories high – quite an astounding sight for western eyes! The light but tough wood makes furniture, tools and kitchen utensils. And last time I bought a pair of socks, I found they were made of 100 percent bamboo, made in China.

In Asia, bamboo is used for food and medicine; you certainly have eaten crispy bamboo shoots in a Chinese dish. In Chinese Traditional Medicine, bamboo is used against bacterial infections, especially in the lungs. But be cautious: There are so many different “bamboos”, and some are poisonous. But the genera Bambusa, Dendrocalamus and Phyllostachys are generally edible – but check before you put them in your mouth: As with mushroom, 99 percent is not good enough; you have to be sure 100 percent!

It is better to stick to the ones you can buy in the supermarket: They are those fast-growing shoots I described initially. Make sure they are fresh and white once peeled, not already brownish. Even the edible bamboos contain toxins (cyanides) that have to be destroyed by cooking – never eat them raw (as you also know never to eat any mushroom raw – not even those innocuous-looking button mushrooms; they are carcinogenic).

The nutritional value of bamboo? They are high in protein and dietary fiber, and contain zinc, iron, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin C and many B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 - plus flavonoids – anti-oxidants. Because of their very low fat contents (and no cholesterol to speak of), they are delicious in coconut milk, as sauce or curry.

Those bamboo shoots have a high silica content; they make good food and allegedly are good for all connective tissue, including skin, hair and nails, and feathers – in case you grow them ...

Silica is one of the many minerals you need for strong bone growth – there’s a reason why those bamboo trunk grow into the sky so rapidly (and you know already that calcium alone doesn’t do a thing for your bone). Silica is the main mineral in quartz, which is also used as a healing crystal. I have not quite made up my mind about healing stones, but I like the beauty of gems, and a clear quartz supposedly is for harmony and power – it might be only in the eye of the beholder, but that counts heavily for healing. I look at them a treasures Nature gives to us.

In TCM, bamboo is thought to help the immune system. I have never used it myself or on patients though. Bamboo also seems to prevent migraines.

Japanese and Chinese culture revere bamboo. In Chinese painting, Bamboo is the first of the Four Gentlemen, and stands for an upright, hardy character – not difficult to see why, if you find the green leaves still on the stem in the middle of winter and snow.

Invasive? Yes! But useful and beautiful!

The Lowly Bunchberries

August 28, 2011

Tags: food, berries, blackberry, blueberry, bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, famine, fat, August, meat, Native Americans, pemmican, protein, The Lowly Bunchberries, traveling

Bunchberries are the impossibly red fruit of a low-growing dogwood variety, Cornus canadensis (for all practical purposes, these name should suffice - although there exist slightly different species with different names). They are of such a screaming red that the non-initiated certainly take them for poisonous. They are not!

In August, bunchberries ripen in the woods of Maine, and their beauty can't be overlooked; I always think they are sent from Heaven. They mix well and taste good with any other berry. Yesterday, we were berrying along a path deliciously flanked by branches laden with heavily with blackberries, and we had blackberries plus bunchberries "full" - so full that we decided to skip dinner altogether.

The blackberries'tart sweetness is well-known, they are very fruity, whereas bunchberries seem disappointing on first try. That is, if you try them alone. They are mealy and unassuming. But mix them in with blackberries or blueberries - and you don't consider them bland anymore: they shine. Their red color dazzles among the blue-black, and their taste and crunchiness are unsurpassed and satisfying.

The Native Americans used bunchberries to stretch their berry harvests and used them in pemmican, a mixture of berries, fat and dried meats (for protein) - a food that kept well, and was used for traveling and famine.

But bunchberry is more than a second-rate "ersatz" berry. It is considered an ant-cancer food (as are most plants that aren't poisonous, it seems). Once you have had the mix, you don't want to eat your blackberries without the bright red bunchberries ...

The French Paradox

May 20, 2011

Tags: food, order, anti-oxidants, beer, Bordeaux, bread, brie - triple, carbohydrates, cardiac death, cardiovascular disease, cheese, chicken, cigarettes, crème brulée, escargots, fat, fat - saturated, fish, foie gras, food – grown, food - plastic, food - processed, food - quality, food - real, French, French Paradox, freshness, fresh things, frying, garlic, Gauloises, HFCS, fat - hydrogenated, junk food, margarine, market - open, midday meal, onion soup, plant molecules, polyphenols, produce - fresh, proteins, resveratrol, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), smoking, snacking, snails, starches – white, sugar, tobacco, trans-fats, wine

We arrived in Paris on Sebastian Kneipp’s birthday – on the 17th of May and celebrated with a glass of wine. And a lunch consisting of three courses: Onion soup (minus the cheese and the bread), escargots (snails) in garlic, crème brulée. Not terribly healthy – but delicious.

Writing from Paris, of course, I want to talk about the French Paradox.

French people eat more fat (think triple brie and foie gras!), drink more wine (think a smooth Bordeaux!) and smoke more than their US counterparts (think Gauloises!), yet they die less of cardiovascular disease. American scientists dubbed this puzzle the French Paradox – and they have come up with some tentative explanations:

• The French surely are underreporting their cardiac deaths
• The French have their main meal at midday and take more time for it
• The French prefer wine over beer; wine contains healthy resveratrol
• The French don’t snack
• The French eat less trans-fats (frying)
• The French eat less hydrogenated fats (margarine, processed food)
• Perhaps saturated fats are not as bad as we thought
• The French eat less sugar, less HFCS, less white starches
• The French cigarette tobacco is not as adulterated American tobacco
• The whole study might be wrong


American scientists looked for the fat contents, the carbohydrates, the proteins to come up with an answer, missing the big, simple picture: fresh foods. Fresh food contains life-giving molecules beside the three biggies (fats, carbs, proteins). Those molecules are miniscule in weight, but hugely important in how they support health. We are from Nature, and throughout Evolution, we ate whole foods. Only modern “food” production has done away with Nature’s wisdom.

The three biggies were important when people were starving – if you don’t get fat and the other two, all the best polyphenols and anti-oxidants and other small plant molecules will not keep you alive. But now that we have plenty of food (which is a first in history – but don’t forget it is not yet true for every single person in the world), we need to turn to quality of food. Which needs we need to return to real food – the food Nature intends us to eat. And not to make it too difficult: It is mostly vegetables we need to bring back on our tables.

The French are eating real food; Americans are eating plastics masquerading as food. Don’t get me wrong – junk food is inching its way also into the French society. But overall, the French still go to the open market to buy fresh produce and freshly slaughtered chickens and fish. Except for the last item on the list, all the factors may play a role. But the main thing is the freshness of the food. The quality lies in fresh things, grown things – not concocted in the lab and manufactured in bulk.

And by the way, their cigarettes might be a tad healthier – but please don’t start your French new life with Gauloises!

Inward-Bound

November 11, 2010

Tags: order, food, autumn, bones, Chinese literature, fall, fat, fire, gift-giving, holidays, immune system, Inward-Bound, Li Shizhen, mind, Oxford Chinese Dictionary, plant compounds, seasons, raking the leaves in the yard, TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine, vegetables, writing

You might have noticed that I am not writing blog as much lately as I did before.

Nothing wrong with me. I am just going inward.

Firstly, I am between two books. After finishing “Sebastian”, I felt in limbo for a while. Now I am back into writing the story of Li Shizhen (1518-1593). I am learning Chinese, in my fourth semester – and I barely can speak a single sentence. But I am starting to recognize characters – and it is totally engrossing! Yesterday, my new Chinese dictionary (Oxford) arrived. I was happy like a clam all day, looking up words that I hadn’t been able to find in my old pocket dictionary. The language is opening a culture to me. I am reading the classical Chinese literature, in English. And I am thinking about little Li, four years old. The people in his life have begun talking in my head, and I am jotting down what they are talking about.

Secondly, we are in the middle of autumn. This is the time of year to go inside, make a warm in the wood stove and think about your life. Also, it is a time for eating heartier food – my braised ox tails with cabbages from the garden was exactly the nourishing food we need right now: A bit more fat, a bit more substance, and tons of vegetables to supply us with the plant compounds feeding our immune system, mind and bones.

This seasonal inward motion is counterbalanced by the pull of the world: Talking with friends, using the Internet, going for my daily walk – all this tries to get me back into the fray. At Thanksgiving we will celebrate with friends again, like every year, and then it will be holiday parties and gift-buying and gift-giving – I will not stay this inward-bound for a long time.

But for the time I am. I cherish it, hoping for growth.

National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th

September 21, 2010

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

National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fats Are Bad – And a Few Other Medical Myths I Am Not Sure I Still Believe In

September 7, 2010

Tags: movement, food, order, water, Aspirin, butter, calories, celery, Centenarian Study, coconut oil, cold, computer, cracker, dairy, drinking, fat, Fats Are Bad – And a Few Other Medical Myths I Am Not Sure I Still Believe In, fever, germs, hangover, milk, moderation, olive oil, pain medication, painkiller, posture, snacking before bedtime, sleep, snacks, sun, tea – herbal, Tylenol, yoga ball

1. Fats are bad for us. - Even at that time when I felt I was giving best medical advice to my patient (“Cut down on fat”), I myself never was really able to cut out fats much. I get so incredibly hungry without! But I am still at the weight I had at age twelve … and have slowly come to the conclusion that I probably gave bad advice to my patients. (Sorry!). What I advise now: Olive oil for salads, coconut oil for frying, occasionally a bit of European-style cultured butter (very occasionally!).

2. Exercise hard. – The Centenarian Study has shown that people who live to a ripe old age usually are not strong on exercise. They have friends, putter around house and garden and live for a worthwhile cause. Plus they have good genes. – I am not saying don’t exercise – but like everything else: Do it in moderation! – A minute here and there on your yoga ball, daily, will give you better health than the gym once a week (my guess – no studies done).

3. Eat a snack before you go to bed. – Diabetics are taught this, and usually crackers and milk are recommended, both of which I think are really bad ideas. That dairy is unhealthy I have said before; crackers are nothing else than cardboard “food” – devoid of any nutritional value.

4. Snacks, in general. – Bad idea. Few people fare well on the “more meals but smaller meals” advice. Most people do “more meals and more and more calories.” I never snack – and I never try my own food when I am cooking – I just smell out if more salt is needed. And healthy snacks like celery sticks without the dip? They really make me hungry. - Forget snacks! Think of something more important!

5. Oh, and carrying water with you wherever you go. – Don’t! We got two hands to do really interesting stuff with them like fixing a car or playing the cello – NOT for lugging a water bottle or a coffee pot around. You don’t have to drink in the middle of your exercise or yoga class – before and after is plenty. Except if you are crossing a desert, don’t be seen with a bottle/cup in your hand. And drinks with calories in them? Also a no-no: Water and teas are all what is needed. Because drinks with calories are not drinks – they are meals.

6. Take a Tylenol or an Aspirin for fever. – Now, the body makes a fever to kill the germs that invaded you. It’s usually not a good idea to interfere with your body’s action. Go to bed early, drink hot herbal teas and sleep it out is usually the better response to a beginning cold.

7. Take a painkiller against pain. - If a simple Tylenol, etc. will do the trick, the pain is probably not so bad that you cannot tough it out (which is easier on your body – all the pain medications have unwanted side effects). Also: Better think why you got the pain in the first place: Hangover? Too much sun? Too much computer? Too little movement? Bad posture? Too little sleep?

To be continued, I guess.

Autoimmune Diseases

July 11, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, food, movement, alfalfa, allergies, aluminum, artemisia, arthritis, astragalus, autism, autoimmune disease, Autoimmune Diseases, barley, bowel problems, Brazil nut, bupleurum, calorie restriction, cannabis, cod liver, cordiceps, cortisone, curcumin, dairy, diabetes type I, diet, deli, fatigue, fat, fibromyalgia, fish, fish oil, gamgungtang, glucosamine, gluten, gluten intolerance, inflammation, kidneys, leaky gut, legumes, light, mercury, multiple sclerosis, muscles, mushrooms, neuropathy, nicotine, oats, olive leaf extract, padma28, parasites - intestinal, photo-sensitivity, pollutants, probiotic, psoriasis, resveratrol, rye, SAD (Standard American Diet), selenium, skin, squalene, statins, sugar, sunburn, sunshine, starches, sweeteners, tea - green, turmeric, thyroid, urticaria, vaccines, vegetables, vitamin D, walking, weight, wheat, Zyflamend

In autoimmune diseases the body’s immune system turns against cells of the own body, slowing destroying them, creating havoc like thyroid problems, allergies, arthritis and muscle weakness, skin afflictions, diabetes type I, neuropathy, autism (at least some forms), fibromyalgia, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, urticaria, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, bowel troubles – and many more.

Autoimmune diseases are on the rise – more people are suffering from them. Doctors are baffled and, on the whole, helpless. Strong medications like cortisone with myriad side-effects are employed, without getting to the root cause of autoimmune diseases.

Some researchers suspect that our modern diet plays a big role; others blame pollutants in the environment or the fact that we have much less intestinal parasites (compared with cave men) which makes the idle immune system turning against the self. Modern medical drugs (to name just one example - statins - that can cause an autoimmune muscle disease) might contribute.

Of course, I don’t have all the answers either – but these are some ideas that helped patients:

• Make sure you don’t have a gluten intolerance. Test are notoriously unreliable; a better idea is to leave out all gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats) and see if you improve. Many people feel so much better already after a week off gluten. Others need up to a year.
• Autoimmune diseases hurt the body at different organs. They all have in common an inflammatory effect. To do away with SAD (Standard American Diet) should therefore be the most important step: No sugar, no sweeteners, no white starches, no dairy (which might be the main culprit here!), no bad fats (nothing fried and processed). Instead: vegetables, vegetables, vegetables – and herbs, legumes, a bit meat and fish (but no deli). If you are not willing to cook for yourself and take yourself out of the mainstream food insanity, my hope for your recovery is slim.
• Moderate exercise: For a minimum, go for a walk everyday. Exercise produces anti-inflammatory molecules in your body.
• Bright light: Get some light outdoors. Not to the point of burning (autoimmune patients often have photo-sensitivity and are prone to easy sunburns). But light is important. If you have dark skin, you need more light. – Vitamin D might be what is protecting. I usually don’t give supplements; going outdoors daily and eating cod liver (delicious!) once a month should do the trick.
• Herbs (don’t take them all at once; try one after the other and give it time to work):

---Resveratrol; a strong anti-oxidant. Remember, there is far more resveratrol in the green vine leaves than in red wine – and nearly none in white wine and grape juice.

---Astragalus has shown some benefit. Just know that allergies are frequent in patients with autoimmune diseases. So, if you show signs of intolerance (upset stomach, aching joints, rash, etc.), stop the herb.

---Turmeric (its main ingredient curcumin) has anti-inflammatory properties is.

---Green tea.

---Korean Gamgungtang.

---Padma28, a Tibetan formula. There are some controversies about this. Talk this through with a knowledgeable physician.

---Zyflamend, a blend of several anti-inflammatory herbs. Make sure you don't have an allergy to any of its components.

---Artemisia (vulgaris and annua) both have shown some anti-inflammatory effects.

---Olive leaf extract.

---Cordiceps, a medicinal mushroom. – Eating mushrooms generally has a good effect on the immune system. Just never eat them raw (they could cause cancer): Always cook mushrooms!

---Alfalfa sprouts.

---Gluscosamine, while not an herb in the strict sense, has shown anti-inflammatory promise.

---Bupleurum, a Chinese medicinal plant.

• Be careful with vaccinations. A link between shots and autoimmune disease is suspected by some researchers. That does not mean you should avoid all vaccinations; just stick to the essential ones. Discuss this with your physician – who hopefully has an open ear for alternatives. The link between vaccines and autoimmune disease might come from the suppressing of the normal function of the body, namely fighting viruses off; or might be a function of certain additives in vaccines like mercury, aluminum and squalene.
• Selenium might be missing in your diet (Brazil nuts have the highest amount of selenium, but most nuts have some; seafoods are more moderate sources of selenium). As you might have noticed, I am no friend of supplements: minerals (and vitamins) from a bottle are not the same, and have even been proven to be harmful by recent studies. – With nuts always stay aware that you might develop an allergy at any time.
• Add some good anti-inflammatory fish oil capsules (you should not belch up a fishy taste!) daily.
• Help your intestines with probiotics. The bowels might be at the root of autoimmune diseases: A chronically inflamed bowel (“Leaky Gut Syndrome”) leads to inflammation in other parts of your body.
• One study showed that calorie restriction might decrease inflammation. I would not aim for weight loss per se; eating a fresh diet might lead to weight loss anyway. But a one-day vegetable broth fast per week (see an earlier blog entry here) might be a good idea. – Interestingly, one study showed that fasting during infectious fevers reduced the risk of developing consequent autoimmune disease.
• Don’t try this at home … but nicotine seems to protect from autoimmune disease. So does cannabis (which is still illegal!).

If you want to know which of all the above ideas are most important – probably these: NO DAIRY, NO GLUTEN!

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.

The Dreaded Cellulite

May 19, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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