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Hungry? Really hungry? Or is it just hypoglycemia?

November 17, 2016

Tags: food, Alzheimer’s, amputation, ancient body, blindness, brain, dementia, diabetes, digestion, energy, fasting – one-day, heart disease, Hungry? Really hungry? Or is it just hypoglycemia?, hypoglycemia, impotence, insulin, jittery, meals, metabolism, music, polyneuropathy, prediabetes, scrapbook, Standard American Diet (SAD), starches – white, stroke, sugar, sugar high, sugar molecules, USA, weight gain, yard cleaning

Sometimes, working, I forget to eat. My friends don’t believe that you can forget to eat. They think if you don’t eat you get jittery and weak and blank in your brain – how can one work through that?

Then I remember that I used to be like that, too. To this day my family makes fun about the time I wanted to fast for a day, and broke the fast after three hours because I couldn’t go on – it felt as if I was falling apart.

The difference between being hungry and being in the grip of hypoglycemia lies in how healthy your metabolism is. When you are diabetic or prediabetic (and most Americans fall in either category), you are always looking for food. You cannot go without for any prolonged time. Most Americans, for that reason, do not only eat, but they snack in between. And, listen – I don’t blame them. Because if your metabolism is lousy (because of the Standard American Diet – or SAD) you NEED to eat frequent meals. Otherwise you fall apart. You feel you are hungry. In reality you are voracious because your cells are on a sugar rollercoaster.

This is how your metabolism – the sum of all the chemical and biochemical events in your body at any given time – functions if you eat SAD: You eat a load of sugar (white starches are chains of sugar molecules that are being digested within seconds of entering your mouth, filling you up with sugars, and more sugars). Your brain gets a nice sugar high. Insulin kicks in because high sugars are dangerous for your body (leading to blindness, impotence, heart disease, stroke, dementia, amputations, polyneuropathy, and so on). Since high sugars are so dangerous, your body shoots out much to much insulin. Next thing you know, your blood sugar is really low, and you feel lousy: weak, confused, shaky. What do you do? Well, you reach for another meal or a snack that starts the high-sugar/low-sugar cycle again. On the way, you gain weight because weight gain is the number one side-effect of insulin. And you go see-sawing through high and low blood sugars, never feeling top-fit and at your best potential.

What is the difference when your metabolism is healthy? You eat your three meals, and then you forget about it. You have energy to pursue what you love to do in life. And yes, sometimes you forget to eat because making music, or cleaning the yard, or making a scrapbook is so much fun.

What to eat to reach your perfect metabolism I have described in my diabetes book. But the main points are: Stop sugars and white starches (and don’t replace them with artificial sweeteners). Eat proteins and good fats in every single meal. Within a day or two, your body will experience the difference between hunger and hypoglycemia. When somebody around you says: “I am hungry,” I bet that in ninety percent they are talking the low-sugar jitters. Real hunger is different. Our ancient bodies are made to survive the normal periods of hunger and plenty of food. Our ancient bodies are not made to survive the overfeeding with sugars.

By the way, I didn’t say that you can just suppress that feeling of being “hungry” and ignore it. That is exactly the point: Hypoglycemia is a real condition, and really dangerous. Don’t try to starve when you come off a sugar high. Eat reasonably first. Then you can even put in a fasting day – as I can do now without difficulty. Or you can, once in a while, forget to eat altogether because you are so happily ensconced in a project that warms your heart.

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

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

September 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

National Celiac Day 2015

September 13, 2015

Tags: food, order, anti-nutrients, barley, celiac disease, genetic, gluten-free, gluten intolerance, government, grains, joke, lectins, moor, National Celiac Day 2015, nuts, oats, own your health!, our daily bread, overweight, restaurant, rye, seeds, wheat, wheat allergy, Yorkshire

Gluten intolerance as a diagnosis is now so widely used that it serves as the butt of jokes. But is it?

About 1 in 100 people have celiac disease – the genetic form. Many more have wheat allergies, and some suffer from the lectins (“anti-nutrients”) in wheat and other grains, seeds, and nuts. I won’t even mention the more than fifty percent of Americans who a seriously overweight, due to “our daily bread”.

Your health is important. When my daughter and I wandered the wild, lonely moors of Yorkshire this summer, every remote little inn and restaurant would carry gluten-free items. But we here still think it is a joke?

Yet – so many people have taken matters in their own hands, without waiting for the government to steps in and admit that not good fats are the culprits; wheat - and rye and barley and, sometimes, oats – are the offenders to our health.

Go on, people – own your health!

Not Only Diabetes …

January 5, 2015

Tags: order, food, movement water, sleep, asthma, cheese, comfort, common sense, dairy, evidence - historic, health fad, junk food, Not Only Diabetes …, photo, pounds, research, scientific proof, testimonial, The Diabetes Cure, weight - ideal, weight loss

In the last week, several people came up to me to tell me how my book “The Diabetes Cure” has helped them. One was a woman who had lost a few pesky pounds (six, in her case, but I have seen fifty in others). She is bragging she’s back to her ideal weight, and feels great.

This is the kind of testimonial I expected, and am used to by now. But another woman reported that the horrible asthma, that has plagued her all her life, is mostly in remission. She blames my dietary advice for the change. It was really difficult for her to stop all the good cheeses, but she finally did – and she has never felt better. Or looked better!

Now, a testimonial is not a scientific proof. But in my book I cite hundreds of studies that support my views. My advice is not a fad, taken out of thin air. It has solid research behind it. Not to mention historic evidence (just look at photos from the thirties when most of modern junk and comfort food was not yet around!). And plain old common sense!

Lumosity, and Similar Brain-Enhancing Games

January 4, 2015

Tags: order, food, movement, arguing, book, brain-enhancing, computer wiz, cooking, daylight, family, friends, games, gardening, hobby, intelligence, IQ, knitting, learning, letter, life, Lumosity, Lumosity and Similar Brain-Enhancing Games, memory, playing the cello, railcar, reading, self, senility, talking, walking, work, writing

Somebody nudged me into trying Lumosity - I must have shown signs of senility, for those games are supposed to increase memory and, perhaps, IQ.

Those two games I played stirred up the following questions:

• Aren’t work and/or hobbies to be so interesting that they keep me on my toes, and learning?
• How come a game that a young computer wiz developed is going to teach me more than my life has taught me?
• Why would I want the kind of intelligence that can reroute a bunch of rail cars faster and faster, than the kind of slow and painful and difficult and limited intelligence that brought me to where I am now in my life?
• Do I want to think and function like anybody else? Or do I want to be myself?
• Can Lumosity do more for my brain than reading, gardening, knitting, cooking, playing the cello, writing letters and books, talking and arguing with my friends & family?
• Will those games increase my memory better than feeding myself right, and going for a long walk in daylight?

Diabetes Update

December 20, 2014

Tags: food, movement, order, bedridden, book, cane, data, decline, diabetes type 2, Diabetes Update, dog, falls, friend, insulin, music, nurse, prescription, reading, reversal, syringe, The Diabetes Cure, walker, walking

In my diabetes book I didn’t tell the whole story. I couldn’t because I had no data, and no proof.

But now the stories come in – here is one (I have changed names, etc., so not expose people):

A good friend of ours has been a diabetic type 2 for many years. I nearly had taken him as the example in my book how diabetes goes if you don’t do anything: The slow decline of all faculties. Last when I saw him – about two years ago – he was more or less bedridden. Daily, a nurse came in. He was on insulin – always a dire sign that things are not going well. In the past he had had several falls, and he labored with the consequences. He had been a highly successful man, but now seemed to be a burden onto himself.

This month, I visited him and his wife. Both had lost a great amount of weight, he was up and around. He uses a cane in the house, and a walker on the street because of his history of falls. But he does not lean heavily on the walker – it is more like a security blanket. We talked about the books he had read recently (always one of my favorite subject). He is going out every day; they have a dog, a gentle creature that seems to want to protect him.

When I asked how this marvelous change in them had come about, they pointed to a book on the kitchen table. It was my diabetes book “The Diabetes Cure”. The copy was well-read, obviously, beginning to fall apart at the spine. I had given them the book when it had come out, thinking that he was a good candidate to try my prescriptions. But not really believing they would do it.

In the book I write that most diabetes could be reversed, but I also warned readers that it was near impossible, once they already were taking insulin shots. I had seen some great changes in my patients, but I had never seen anyone throwing out their insulin syringe. So I didn’t claim that it was possible. My friend proved me wrong: He changed his eating, and he moved more (with the help of a physical therapist). And now he is off insulin! He is out of bed, and he is living again, pursuing the things that delight him in life: reading, enjoying his wife, music, going out for a walk, playing with the dog.

If he could do it, you can do it.

Today is National Celiac Day!

September 13, 2014

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

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

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


So, what is the connection?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No More Diabetes

August 8, 2014

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, advice, beans, blindness, blood sugar, blood vessel, conventional medicine, coronary artery disease, craving, Diabetes Cure, diabetes type 1, diabetes type 2, diabetes book – mine, diabetic end-organ damage, dialysis, diet, egg, erythrocyte, exercise, eye, fats - good, fish, garbanzos, genitals, grains, gluten, gut bacteria, heart, hemoglobin A1c, impotence, insulin, kidney failure, life isn’t fair!!, lifestyle, meat, natural medicine, No More Diabetes, motivation, normal lab value, November, obesity, over-eating, paperback, publisher, red blood cell, Rodale’s, sleep, stroke, sugar, taste, The Diabetes Cure, un-athletic, vegetable, weight loss, weight maintenance

My hemoglobin A1c went from 6.1 to 5.1, in about two years.

Hemoglobin A1c is the most reliable way of measuring your blood sugar: Every time you put a sugar molecule in your mouth (not to mention a few spoons full!), this makes a permanent change on the outer surface of your red blood cells. Permanent means, it won’t go away until the red blood cell – also called erythrocyte – has reached its lifespan, about three months, and will die. Those surface changes can be measured in the lab.

A “normal” A1c used to be anything below 6.0 – which put me, some years ago, into diabetic territory. Then doctors reconvened and decided on a new “normal”: Now diabetes is diagnosed only when your A1c reaches 6.4 – which does not really make 6.0 to 6.3 “healthy”. Studies show that many people who have been just freshly diagnosed with diabetes, have already obvious damage of end-organs: Eyes (blindness), kidneys (kidney failure leading to dialysis), heart (coronary artery disease), genitals (impotence), vessels (stroke), and so on.

Natural medicine physicians consider normal between 4.0 and 5.0 – which puts me very close now to the ideal range, and makes me happy. – Why did conventional medicine upped the levels of “normal” sugars? I can only guess that the obesity and diabetes epidemic needed some curbing – if not in reality, then at least on paper …

How did I achieve this better sugar reading? By following my own advice, which I published last year in my diabetes book. In November, the publisher Rodale’s plans on bringing out a paperback version.

How much weight did I lose? None. Although most people lose weight “involuntarily” with my recommendations, I didn’t, because I didn’t need, having maintained the same weight since age twelve. In that way, I belong to the 10 to 15 percent of people of normal weight who have type 2 diabetes anyway (life isn’t fair!!). Those 10 to 15 percent nearly all have a gluten problem and shouldn’t eat much grains at all. Some few have type 1 diabetes, which is not related that much to diet and lifestyle.

Since the book came out readers have written me that they lost 50 plus pounds on my regimen, and that they even could stop – under medical supervision – their insulin. The Diabetes Cure works.

What does my Diabetes Cure entail? Lots of vegetables and good fats, some healthy meats, fish, eggs. Beans and garbanzos, and as many herbs as I can get my hands on. Plenty of sleep and very moderate movement – I have been un-athletic all my life, and will not change much at this age.

How can I maintain my motivation? Number one: Healthy foods are really tasty, so I usually don’t feel deprived. But I also looked into the reasons why we over-eat – and guess what: I found fifty reasons (and discuss them in my book)! It helps to know how the wrong gut bacteria fool you into craving bad foods.

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 ...

Today Is International No-Bra Day!

July 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes healthy breasts:

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

Peasant Food

April 1, 2014

Tags: food, order, herbs, movement, agribusiness, antibiotics, athlete, baking, baseball, basketball, California, canning food, career, chef, cookbook, cooking from scratch, crabs, diet, different, dinner, drying food, Earth, easy farmer, field, filling, fish, five-star, football, fossil fuel, fresh, friend, garden, gourmet, grill, growth rates, hand-me-down, happy, harvest, healthy, healthy families, healthy nation, healthy people, home-cooking, joy of movement, livestock, local, make do, monster harvest, neighbor, New York, New York Times Magazine, open fire, Paleo Diet, peasant, Peasant Food, poultry, raw food, restaurant, roast, seasonal, school children, shipping, slow-cooking, soup, stew, stir-fry, South Beach Diet, squirrel, superfood, superstar, tasty, vegan, vegetarian, weight loss, wild food, Zone Diet, zucchini

For a talk in New York this week I have been thinking about giving the kind of nutrition I am favoring a name – preferably a catchy name. We all have heard of the Paleo Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Zone Diet, and so on. What would I call my brand of eating right?

For starters, I would not call it a diet. Because it is not something you eat for a month, shed fifty pounds, and then go back to your normal dismal ways.

It occurred to me that I have invented nothing new. In fact, farmers all over the world eat like it. So let’s call it Peasant Food. I could also call it Gardener’s Food, or Farmers’ Market Food – because they all are served fresh and whole. But Peasant food it shall be.

This weekend, the New York Times Magazine ran an article about a very young man (he is all of fifteen!) who aspires to become a famous gourmet chef. I commend the young man for applying himself, instead of dawdling his time away. But as a physician I know that healthy people, healthy families and a healthy nation depend on daily fresh dinners cooked at home – not five-star restaurant fare (as delicious as that might be).

The young man is groomed as a future superstar in the kitchen. Same as we groom young athletes for a big career in football, baseball, basketball – instead of teaching all our school children the joy of movement that could offer them a life of health and physical gratification.

But back to the Peasant Food! What do farmers all over the world have in common that should make them our models for healthy cooking and eating?

Peasant Food is
• Fresh: Farmers eat what they find in their gardens, their fields, and growing wild nearby. They cook from scratch every single day. They are not too busy to bring a fresh meal on the table every day, and share it with family and friends. In fact, these shared meals are the highlight of every day.
• Local: Farmers don’t ship in food from California, or even other continents. They don’t use up much fossil fuels for shipping food across the country. They eat what they find. That is why the people in Mew Mexico eat different from the New-Englanders, and the Italians eat different from the Russians.
• Seasonal: Farmers eat what is growing and ripening right now. Should there be a monster harvest of zucchini, they deal with it by creating a variety of zucchini dishes, canning or drying some zucchini, and distributing the rest to friends and neighbors.
• No “superfoods” – just foods that are grown nearby, and made into so many dishes. Farmers make do with whatever is at hand – they have no preconceived notions of what the “best” food is.
• Not only raw: Farmers can’t subsist on salads alone – it would not give them the strength and nutrients they need in the fields. They might bake a piece of meat in the oven slowly all day, they throw a stew together, or a stir-fry, they cook soups with everything in sight. They cook.
• Not vegan/vegetarian: For a rare feast, they might grill a rabbit or a lamb over open fire. They eat meat, poultry, fish, crabs – and in some regions they are glad if they can find a squirrel to skin and roast. But farmers would not feed their livestock antibiotics for better growth rates – if agro-business wouldn’t push them.
• Easy to cook: Farmers don’t have time to concoct gourmet meals, and read one cookbook after the other. They follow old recipes. Their fare has to be easy – sometimes using slow-cooking that does not need further attention once the pot is filled and on the fire.
• Filling: Farmers wouldn’t dream of leaving out fats for slimming down – they need the energy fats provides. But they get in good fats: olive oil, coconut oil, butterfat.
• Tasty: Like everybody else, farmers want to eat something that tickles their palates. Fresh vegetables and healthy meats automatically taste good. Fresh herbs spruce up the taste. And adds nutrients like polyphenols. .

This is what I will call what I have been cooking every evening for so many years, making my family healthy and happy: Peasant food.

The Big Itch – Eczema

November 16, 2013

Tags: order, food, water, allergy, aloe vera, apples, artificial colorings, attention, balm of Peru, bell & hot pepper, carbs - white, coconut oil - virgin, comfort food, conditioner, cortisone, dermatologist, disease - chronic, dairy, disfiguring, eczema, eggplant, fat - bad, food elimination, gluten, gut, heart, inflammation, itch, label, make-up, nightshades, nuts, ocean, ointment, pruritus, personalities, potato, preservatives, probiotic, psychological theories, rash, remedy, shampoo, skin, soothing, spices, stress, sugar, sunburn, sunlight, swimming, tomato, vitamin D, wisdom

Today, in a New York Times blog, I published a version of this:

One remedy does not work for all - that is the wisdom coming out of these letters. Seeing a good dermatologist and soothing your skin with some cortisone and/or other substance stands at the beginning.

Leave out gluten, dairy, nuts, nightshades (tomato, bell & hot pepper, eggplant, potato) - they are, in my experience, the worst offenders. But I have seen people react to spices, artificial colorings, preservatives, even to apples. Use nothing on your skin than virgin coconut oil, aloe vera gel (best directly from the plant), and your prescription ointment. Try to avoid make-up and read the labels of your shampoo and conditioner: Balm of Peru is only one ingredient that lets rashes bloom! Take a probiotic and vitamin D, and go out into the sun as often as possible - but never to the point of reddening or burning.

Then listen to your body - to the itch? What food makes you itch? What activity? Because every body is different, and my itch is not your itch. As soon as your itch gets better, avoid the cortisone cream, and go all coconut oil.

If your body itches consistently after a certain food, eliminate it - it is hurting you. Eczema is an inflammation of your skin (often on the basis of your gut being inflamed, too). And every bit of inflammation lowers the threshold for the itch, and a new allergy.

A lot of psychological theories are floating around – that certain personalities get it, that one gets it during stress, and so on. I think it is probably the inferior food we fall for in times of stress – comfort food that is loaded with sugars, white carbs and bad fats,. And when you have a chronic disease and an extremely itchy, disfiguring rash – yes, you might seem odd to so some people …

When you have healed, try to introduce some of the eliminated foods again - very, very cautiously. Some you might have to leave out forever, or may have them only very occasionally.

Go swimming in the ocean, whenever you can! - And my heart goes out to you poor thing!

Can This Be Healed With Herbs Alone?

September 29, 2013

Tags: herbs, food, water, alcohol, allergy, aloe vera, Andrographis paniculata, ankle, antibacterial, antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, anti-germ, bacteria, bathing, berberine, black seed oil, brain, calf, cannabinoid receptors, Can This Be Healed With Herbs Alone, capsule, cheek, cinnamon, clay, cleanliness, coconut oil, cow, craziness, culture - bacterial, day care, diet, donkey, dosage, endangered species, Europe, experimenting, forehead, fragrance, frankincense, Germany, gold, goldenseal, goldenthread, head, healing agent, honey, honey-colored crust, impetigo, infection, Infectious Disease, injury, Iran, itch, lanolin, life-threatening, limb, Maine, Manuka honey, mosquito bite, mud, myrrh, nape, neck, neem, Nigella, ocean, olive leaf extract, Oman, oregano, primary care provider, proof of principle, propolis, rash - infectious, Russia, salt water, salve, Sankt Petersburg, scientist, sheep fat, shlep-sh***, skin infection, stable, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, tea tree oil, thigh, Three Magi, tincture, traveling, trunk, turmeric

Early July, in Sankt Petersburg/Russia, I was bitten by a mosquito. Not paying attention, I must have scratched the bite, and when I looked next – about a week later – my right ankle showed the telltale sign of a honey-colored crust: Impetigo!

Impetigo is an infectious rash, usually caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria. Since we were traveling, nobody did a culture, we never will know who the culprit is. For first aid, still in Russia, I dabbed tea tree oil on it – too late, as it turned out; I should have treated the mosquito bite thus!

At home, two weeks after the bite, for healing I added some herbs, taken by mouth: Olive leaf extract, oregano, Andrographis paniculata and neem. The rash got paler, but by then it had spread up my right calf, to both of my thighs, and to my forehead and right cheek. Tea tree oil immediately removed the itchy spots from my face, but the rest stalled – not getting better or worse. – It is interesting to note that impetigo usually spares the trunk; it prefers head and limbs. I conclude those bacteria don’t like it hot …

With all infections, it is a good idea to clean up one's diet - no sugars, dairy, and as few white starches as possible. Mine was already pretty good; not much I could do here.

We traveled to Maine. Bathing in the salt water every day was soothing, and accelerated the healing (careful if you try this at home: Some warmer oceans easily might carry offending bacteria!). But then it slowed down again. In my desperation, I applied mud from the edge of the ocean once a day – because in Europe muds and clays are thought of as healing agents. It sure didn’t look pretty – my legs were blackish, peeling and scattering dried mud wherever I walked and sat and lay – especially in my bed. But mud greatly helped: Every day the rash looked a bit paler, and felt less itchy.

In case you think I am a crazy doctor going off the cliff: All along I was in contact with my primary care provider, who happens to be specialized in Infectious Disease. Because I have many, many allergies to antibiotics, and because of the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, he thought it was worth to try alternatives. So, mud it was. I even took a jar full of mud home when we left Maine after the summer. But the jar soon was empty – and the rash blossomed again. I added propolis, black seed oil (Nigella) and to berberine (the yellow dye makes goldenseal and goldenthread antibacterial; but goldenseal is an endangered species, so I don’t use it) the mix of herbal capsules that I was taking by mouth; not all at once, but every three hours one of the herbs, while awake (dosage is found on the bottle).

An Iranian friend of mine wrote me that her grandmother would use a salve of turmeric and sheep fat (lanolin) on skin infections. So I made a salve with turmeric, adding cinnamon for fragrance, and Manuka honey for good measure (Manuka honey got excellent results in trials in killing bacteria). However, I used coconut oil instead of lanolin, because I had coconut oil in the house, it smells better than sheep fat, and it is known for having antibacterial properties itself.

Things healed nicely – until I noticed new lesions at the nape of my neck, where I must have scratched there – despite fussy cleanliness throughout. Presently, I am steeping myrrh in alcohol for a tincture; another friend recently had brought me myrrh and frankincense from Oman. Tonight, I will use this tincture for the first time. Mainly I am looking for replacing the turmeric with something less colorful – I am doubtful if I will ever be able to wash the yellow color out of my bed sheets … - And, yes, the Three Magi valued myrrh and frankincense as highly as gold! Why? Because of their anti-germ abilities, which was needed in ancient times when you lived with cow and donkey in a stable. Not to mention that frankincense binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

Against the intense itch, I am also using the jelly inside of a huge old aloe vera plant I grow on the windowsill. It soothes the itch, and seems to help to reduce the angry red.

Why going to this length (approaching three month) to treat an itchy – but luckily not painful – rash? Part is, of course, my many allergies. Another part is that the rash is not life-threatening – I have some room for experimenting. Also, I am not a kid in a day care situation who might spread the infection to other kids. And mainly I want to find out if curing this rash by herbs alone is even doable; finding proof of principle, as scientists say.

It’s not nice having an ugly rash. Adding ridicule to injury: In Germany, I was told, the slang word for this very unpleasant and persistent impetigo is “shlep-sh***!” - One could not have come up with a more suitable term!

Oh, and stay posted to find out if the herbs finally will work!

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.

Diseases of the Gut Show at Your Skin

September 5, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Degrees of Freshness – Or what I learned from an Alpine Meadow

July 28, 2013

Tags: food, water, air, alpine, animals, aroma, Austria, basil, bell flower, biodiversity, bulbs, burdock, bush, buttercup, cilantro, coltsfoot, cranesbill, crocus, dandelion, diversity, Earth, Europe, eyebright, farm, fresh, heal-all, garden, Germany, Good King Henry, grazing, Great Britain, Grimming Mountain, growth, Hamburg, harvest, healing power, health, hedge, herbal, humans, kitchen, limestone, lovage, meadow, meadowsweet, mowing, nutrients, ocean, oregano, parsley, plant, plantain - broad-leafed, plantain - narrow-leafed, poisonous, pollution, polyphenol, primal, processed, red clover, rosemary, Russia, scilla, silverweed, skiing, soil, species, stinging nettle, storage, Styria, sub-alpine, sun, supermarket, sweet Annie, tea, thyme, travel, tree, underground, vital, yarrow, hiking, vacation

People vacation in Austria – skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer. I never considered summer vacations in a land-locked country like Austria, because, originally from Hamburg/Germany, I am a child of the ocean – of all the oceans. But I am just back from one of the high meadows in Styria, smack in the middle of Austria. And what I found: a primal meadow.

The alpine meadows high up there, facing the Grimming Mountain, have been mowed twice a year, for hundreds of years, probably thousands of years. The plant diversity is unimaginable. In an article I read some years ago that in Great Britain the age of a hedge can be estimated by how many different tree and bush species grow there; roughly one species is added per decade. I imagine it must be similar with these ancient meadows, mowed over year after year, different plants moving in all the time, enhancing biodiversity over time. The converse is also true: If we abandon regular mowing and/or grazing – as often now is the case on the steep and hard-to-reach meadows, and in light of shortage of labor when the young people move into the cities for a “better” life – we will lose this biodiversity. And might regret it too late.

Because I was exhausted from my Europe travels through Russia, Germany, Austria, I brewed myself an herbal tea from the plants of the meadow right after arrival. The underground is limestone that let so many plants thrive: yarrow, meadowsweet, narrow-leafed plantain, stinging nettle, heal-all, broad-leafed plantain, red clover, eyebright, silverweed, Good King Henry, dandelion, sweet Annie. To which I added herbs from the kitchen garden: parsley, cilantro, rosemary, lovage, basil, oregano, thyme. Of course, other plants grew there that where not useful for my tea as they are poisonous, like cranesbill, coltsfoot, bell flower, buttercup, and a variety of spring-flowering bulbs like crocus and scilla that were now out of bloom. The tea had a gorgeous aroma, and I felt better and stronger immediately. Wish I could take such a meadow home!

My garden at home, lovely as it is, does not come close. Its plant variety is not as great, the individual plants are not as sturdy, their green is not as deep, their aroma is not as overpowering. From this exceptional plant health we can assume that their polyphenol content is higher, and that their healing power is greater. Mostly, it is the strong sun out there that enables such a lush growth. But also the absence of pollution of air, soil and water so prevalent where we live. Earth just isn’t that primal anymore as it is high in the alpine and sub-alpine meadows. I am coming home with a new yearning, namely to preserve what we have, and perhaps even return our planet to more health. Because, the life of plants, and animals, and humans are closely interwoven here on Earth, none can survive alone.

In my books, and here on the blog, I am touting fresh foods over processed foods. Fresh does not only mean harvested recently and stored for not too long, but also containing a high amount of vital nutrients. Up there, in the mountain meadow, I learned that degrees of freshness exist: Fresh from the supermarket: good. Fresh from your garden or directly from the farm: better. Fresh from an alpine meadow: best.

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.

The Diabetes Book Is Finished …

May 7, 2013

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, balance, acne, advertisement, Alzheimer’s, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, apple, bacteria, beauty, book, calorie count, carrots, cauliflower, concentrated, cucumber, dementia, detail, devil, diabetes, digitalis, fatigue, Five Health Essentials, formula, foxglove, fungi, germs, great-grandmother, happiness, infection, insomnia, kale, label, manufactured, medicine - single-agent patented, natural, Nature, nutritional bar, organic, packaged, plant, smart, sugar cane, sugar - table sugar, superfoods, TV, virus

… and, of course, I already started to write a new one. About herbs and infections.

And this is what I am finding … again: So many herbs have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal action – it is mind-boggling. Nature wants us to be healthy – if we would just listen to her! When I wrote about diabetes, I found that we have not just a few diabetes-fighting “superfoods” – we have literally hundreds of them, or even more. Now I am finding a trove of herbs that want to help us win over germs (or live in happy co-existence with them). As usual, herbs alone don’t keep us healthy – herbs are only one of the Five Health Essentials: Water – movement – food – herbs - balance.

Again, it comes down to: What is natural, is healthy.

Interestingly, just because a manufacturer declares something “natural”, it doesn’t make it so. Point to proof: sugar. Yep, originally sugar derived from sugar cane. But after that cane has been mixed and cooked and clarified and decolorized and filtered and processed and concentrated and skimmed and refined, the end product table sugar does not deserve the epithet “natural” any more. Same as the single-agent patented medicine derived from a plant – think digitalis, manufactured from foxglove – doesn’t deserve it.

“Natural” on your nutritional bar doesn’t mean anything – it is not a protected word like “organic” is (and even for “organic” there are sinister endeavors at work to make it less so). Don’t fall for "natural". A cauliflower is natural, an apple is, and so are carrots and kale and cucumber … you know the list is nearly endless. But anything in a package, anything with a label, anything they advertise for on TV, anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce, anything with a calorie count on it, anything your great-grandmother didn’t eat is not natural, and not healthy.

Indeed, I could write so many books about how to live healthier (and if nobody hinders me, I just might) – how to be more energetic, smarter, happier, more beautiful, have purer skin, sleep better – and they would all come down to the five essentials: Water – movement – food – herbs - balance.

If you recognize these five essentials as formulaic, you are right –I want you to recognize the formula (and learn it by heart). We are from Nature, and need to live by Nature, as much as possible. Otherwise, we get sick. Needless to say, the devil hides in the details. My new diabetes book – out with Rodale’s probably in August - is chock-full with details, and so will be, I hope, the book I am writing now, on germs. That one will come out in due time – which I project about two years into the future. If we can project at all.

The Chinese Scroll

March 5, 2013

Tags: order, food, age, aging, antibiotic, antitoxin, baby, birth, Brussels, childbirth, Chinese, dinner, diphtheria, divorce, doctors, Europe, foolish & dangerous things, hitchhiking, love of life, luck measles, mother, nurse, Paris, parties, pediatric ward, perils, pneumonia, scroll, sick baby, The Chinese Scroll, tuberculosis, underage drinking, understanding, women, World War II, youth

At a fancy dinner, across the table, another guest talked about “women of a certain age.” I looked him straight into the eye and said: “I am not a woman of a certain age. I am 68.” There were a few gasps at the table.

Age seems to be a problem. But not if you have been a very sick baby that should not have survived 6 months when she came down with the double whammy of measles and diphtheria (they put her into a corner to die, and told the mother not to bother) – at the end of World War II in Europe when there were no antitoxins, no antibiotics, and no food. Or should have died of pneumonia every winter of her childhood. Or should have died of tuberculosis at age fifteen (or thereabouts). Or should have died in childbirth because the doctors deemed her too week to give birth of a baby of her own. Or should have died in her forties when the doctors thought she was too old for another baby. Not to mention two heartbreaking divorces, and all the foolish and dangerous things she went through in her youth: Hitchhiking alone from Brussels to Paris, drinking underage at parties – and more foolish & dangerous things I better don’t relate here.

Not sure what kept me alive during all those perils. Love of life, probably. And sheer luck.

But so it comes that I am not afraid of getting older – only curious, and proud.

I see my life as a Chinese scroll: Every day the scroll unrolls a bit more, and – surprise! surprise! – showing more and more of my improbable, disorderly, wonderful life: A gorgeous picture! Still a bit unfolding at the edges every single day. And how lucky I am to still be here, and see it unfolding, understanding more of myself, understanding better the forces that worked on me and nudged me and pushed me forward!

Oh, and that baby there, left to die in a corner of the pediatric ward? I imagine a kindhearted nurse who must have touched me and fed me and cuddled me secretly to keep me alive. And then, two weeks later, they called up my mother: Would she, please, finally pick up that healthy baby that was eating the food of all the other babies on the ward?

Another Unproven Pearl

January 19, 2013

Tags: order, herb, food, Another Unproven Pearl, anti-inflammatory, breast lump, breast tenderness, dairy, diabetes type II, fibrocystic breast disease, grains, turmeric, women

As I am still writing like crazy my diabetes book, here another “unproven pearl” from my long experience:

Turmeric works against breast tenderness. Those lumpy areas in the breast – also called fibrocystic breast disease – can be alleviated with a generous dose of the herb turmeric sprinkled onto your food. Not daily – but whenever you feel you need it. Of course, turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory action - this is only one of its many uses and benefits.

Also: Observe yourself: When do you get breast tenderness? For many women, it comes after ingestion of dairy or certain grains. Have you found an offending food in yourself? That food item should surely be cut from your nutrition: Your body tells you that it hurts you.

The Long Goodbye

December 16, 2012

Tags: food, bathroom, book, Chandler - Raymond (1888-1959), cooking, cosmetics, deodorant, diabetes, feminism, kitchen, laxative, Marlowe, meal, mystery, private eye, sleeping pill, The Long Goodbye, zeitgeist

Trying to finish my diabetes book, I still want to share a citation I came across.

In "The Long Goodbye" Raymond Chandler wrote:

We have the whitest kitchens and the most shining bathrooms in the world. But the average American housewife can’t produce a meal fit to eat, and the lovely shining bathroom is mostly a receptacle for deodorants, laxatives, sleeping pills, and the products of this confidence racket called the cosmetic industry, Mr. Marlowe. The stuff inside is mostly junk.

Chandler wrote this in 1953. Philip Marlowe is still one of the best private eyes - if you can get over that Chandler was not yet enlightened by modern feminism. Chandler's Los Angeles story is more than a mystery - it is a bitter zeitgeist critique.

Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!

September 13, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Against Dandruff, For Healthy Hair

August 10, 2012

Tags: order, food, water, herbs, Against Dandruff - For Healthy Hair, alcohol, beans, birch sap, brown rice, carrot, dairy, dandruff, essential oil, fish oil, garbanzo, Germany, hair, hair – healthy, hair oil, hair water, lamb, lentils, neem, nuts, olive oil, oregano, poultry, protein, rosemary, seafood, starch, sweets, sugar, tea tree oil, vegetable, zinc. United States, Seborin, Weleda

Because someone asked:

Against dandruff, I would use a birch sap "hair water" - a specific brand I get from Germany (and is very expensive here in the United States) is "Seborin". Another brand might be by Weleda. - This is used after washing your hair, and is left in to dry.

You could also make yourself a hair oil with olive oil and some essential oil, like rosemary, oregano, tea tree or neem. Rub it in before washing your hair. Leave it on over night, then wash it out.

Also, dandruff might have to do with what you eat: Avoid dairy, sweets, alcohol and white starches (which are nothing more than sugars in a long chain). And alcohols are a form of sugar, too.

Food for healthy hair: nuts, beans, lentils, garbanzo, carrot, vegetable, brown rice, good proteins from poultry, lamb, and seafood; fish oil, zinc.

News from My Summer Reading Pile

August 2, 2012

Tags: order, food, herbs, water, Alone in Berlin, Atkinson - Kate (born 1951), Aufklärung aus dem Geist der Experimentalphysik: Lichtenbergsche Konjunktive, Bayer – John (born 1947), Bode - Thilo (born 1947), books, Boston, Chinese, classics, cook book, cult book, democracy, Die Essensfälscher: Was uns die Lebensmittelkonzerne auf die Teller lügen, Die Nacht des Schierlings, Dutch, Einstein – Albert (1879-1955), Einstein: A Biography, enlightenment, Enzensberger - Hans Magnus (born 1929), Europe, Every Man Dies Alone, experimental physics, Fallada – Hans (1893 - 1947), Fatelessness, food forgers, food industry, Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer's Market, French, garden bounty, German, Greene - Graham, Jin - Ha (born 1956), Hamburg/Germany, Heimat ist das, was gesprochen wird, hemlock, historical mystery, Hogg - James (1777 - 1835), Hungarian, I.M. Ischa Meyer In Margine In Memoriam, Japanese Invasion of China, Jen - Gish (born 1955), Je länger ein Blinder lebt - desto mehr sieht er, Yiddish Sayings, Lanzmann – Claude (born 1925), Leroux - Eddy, Lichtenberg - Georg Christoph (1742-1799), linguistics, Kertész – Imre (born 1929), Maine, Markson - David (1927 - 2010), medicine, memoirs, Mendelssohn - Moses (1729 - 1786), Müller – Herta (born 1953), murderer, Nanjing Requiem, Nazi Germany, Neffe - Jürgen (born 1956), Netherlands, New England history, News from My Summer Reading Pile, Nobel Prize, novel, Oelker - Petra (born 1847), Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, Palmen - Connie (born 1955), philosophy, physicist, presents, reading pile, Relativity, Schöne - Albrecht (born 1925), shaman, Shields - Carol (1935 - 2003), Somé - Patrice Malidoma (born 1956), Started Early - Took My Dog, The Heart of the Matter, The Lazarus Project, The Patagonian Hare, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, The Silences of Hammerstein, The Stones Diaries, The Wordy Shipmates, United States, Vowell - Sarah (born 1969), Wallace - David Foster (1962 - 2008), Waste Books, Wittgenstein’s Mistress, Wong - Tama Matsuoka, World and Town

Four days of Maine made me a different person, even more alive than usual, quieter. Already I have finished two of the books on my reading pile – the Einstein I had already started in Boston.

1. Jürgen Neffe, Einstein: A Biography, 2009 (English) – a wonderful book – makes one think one really understand Relativity now …

2. Carol Shields, The Stones Diaries, 1995 (I know, I know – EVERYBODY has read it already! Somehow I was behind)

3. Claude Lanzmann, The Patagonian Hare: Memoirs (I am reading a German translation; if you can, read the French original, from 2009). A difficult book. An important book – how Man is murderer to Man.

4. Tama Matsuoka Wong, Eddy Leroux, Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer's Market, 2012. I usually find cooking books boring. But this was given to me because it mirrors my philosophy: Thy garden bounty be your food and medicine!

5. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s Waste Books, 2000 (first printed in 18th century) (I read it in German). Lichtenberg is the perfect companion to my other philosopher friend, Moses Mendelssohn

6. Connie Palmen, I.M. Ischa Meyer In Margine In Memoriam, 2001 (German). Another present (originally Dutch). I am always eager to hear from new shores – and I know next to nothing about the Netherlands – the little stout democratic European country

7. Malidoma Somé, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, 1995. Another present – I was not aware how many books just trundle into my house because somebody thinks it is perfect for me. Of course, I devour everything about water. Don’t know about shamans, though. I like the herbal aspect. But am highly suspicious of the shaman side – that playing with power. As people do everywhere in politics and religion – only here more primitive, I fear.

8. Imre Kertész, Fatelessness, Novel, 2004. (From Hungarian). Kertész won a Nobel in 2002.

9. Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin (also translated from German under the title: Every Man Dies Alone), Novel, 2010 (originally published in 1947). The reviews are raving about this old-new novel about the life of Everyman in Nazi Germany.

10. Herta Müller, Heimat ist das was gesprochen wird (translated by me: Home Is Where They Speak My Language, a very slim volume, but I am not sure this has been translated officially). Another Nobel recipient, in 2009.

11. James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, 1824. Allegedly a wonderful classic – I have to find out for myself

12. John Bayer, The Lazarus Project, Novel, 1999. Not sure I can stomach the philosophy – but someone recommended it to me, and I will try

13. Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter, Novel, 1948. Gathering dust on my shelves for many years – now I want to tackle this classic, to find out for myself what made Greene so great

14. Jiddish Sayings (Je länger ein Blinder lebt, desto mehr sieht er – the longer a blind man lives, the more he sees), in German, 1965

15. Sarah Vowell, The Wordy Shipmates, 2008. New England history from a new perspective – funny and scathing, it seems

16. Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog, 2010. This mystery caught my eye – it sounded like a good summer read.

17. David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress, 1988. A weird novel, and something like a cult book – I wanted to read it when I heard that David Foster Wallace wrote the afterword

18. Gish Jen, World and Town, novel, 2010. Another present. People know that I am interested in everything Chinese – so, this book came leaping into my house

19. Albrecht Schöne, Aufklärung aus dem Geist der Experimentalphysik: Lichtenbergsche Konjunktive, 1982 (a book about the afore-mentioned Lichtenberg, who in real life was not a philosopher, but a physicist. Translated, this title would be something like: Enlightenment Grown Out Of Experimental Physics. It is very much a linguistic musing about how Lichtenberg used different forms of conjunctives in German to convey his sly critique of his time

20. Thilo Bode, Die Essensfälscher, Was uns die Lebensmittelkonzerne auf die Teller lügen, 2010. Translated, the title would be something like: The Food Forgers – How the Food Industry Heaps Our Plates With Lies. Of course, this is along the lines of what I am thinking and writing most of the time

21. Ha Jin, Nanjing Requiem, novel, 2011. A novel about the horrible Japanese invasion of China in 1937

22. Petra Oelker, Die Nacht des Schierlings, 2010. (The Hemlock Night) A historical mystery from my hometown Hamburg/Germany. This is a whole series, and my – still living in Hamburg - supplies me with them, knowing I will devour each new arrival. Don’t hold your breath for this ever being translated into English – there are not enough nostalgic ex-Hamburgers here in the States to make it worthwhile …

23. Hans Magnus Enzensberger, The Silences of Hammerstein, 2009. German history at its best, I have heard – people who lived through the Nazi times, and stayed decent


Compiling this list, I realize that I never can read all these books before we turn home to Boston! But it is a good feeling that I brought them all – I can find something for every mood, it seems.

However: Don’t send any more books! These will keep me busy until the winter holidays …

Ethical Dilemma

June 17, 2012

Tags: order, food, addiction, bread, cheese, community, cow - unhappy, dairy, deli, dilemma, disease, Ethical Dilemma, Europe, free, fridge, Germany, gluten intolerance, Greek, hay fever, health care, hidden cost, inflammatory, milk, milk product, neighbor, obesity, pain, processed food, unhappy, upbringing, vacation, wasting of food, World War II, yogurt

My neighbors left for Europe vacation. They brought me their fridge’s contents; Several cheeses, Greek yogurt, two kinds of deli, a bread, milk. Which is kind of them. But we don’t eat food like that.

What is a woman to do? Should I throw it out – as is my initial impulse? The daughter delivered the bag of food with words that encouraged me to depose of the things if I didn’t want it – somehow, they knew these are not items I usually put on the table … Or should I hand it to my cleaning ladies who certainly would be happy to get nice things for free?

Only that those things are not “nice”. - Dairy is inflammatory, makes one fat and sets a person up for hay fever, and so much more. The deli is from unhappy cows, and highly processed. The bread we can’t eat because of gluten intolerance.

They are not “free” either. Down the line, because of the addictive nature of milk products, they cause health care costs. Someone will have to pay: The eater with pain and disease; the community for doctor.

Knowing myself, I anticipate that I will give the food to my cleaning ladies – I grew up after World War II in Germany – and wasting food is against my upbringing.

What would you do?

Sebastian Kneipp’s Birthday

May 17, 2012

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, Bavaria, birthday, cheer, flowers, fruit, friendship, green tea, Germany, Kneipp – Sebastian (1821 to 1897), My Water Cure, Sebastian Kneipp’s Birthday, writing

Sebastian Kneipp’s was born on May 17th 1821, in a tiny village in Bavaria/Germany. Why does it matter?

Her brought the world the Five Health Essentials: Water, movement, food, herbs, order. Not they didn’t exist before – but he opened, in his very gruff way, the world’s eyes to natural health, which is always there, up for the grabs.

For me Sebastian Kneipp has a special importance: When I opened his book “My Water Cure” in the original, many years ago and just out of curiosity, I suddenly burned bringing his insights to my patients here, to this country – and that is how Sebastian Kneipp made me write my first book. And, yes, you pronounce the “K” in his name. No, not “Ka-nipe”; it makes just one syllable with an audible “K”: “Knipe”.

Long after I had started writing about Sebastian Kneipp I realized that he shared his birthday with my father. Here’s to them!

I will celebrate Sebastian Kneipp’s birthday by riding my bike to a sick friend’s house, delivering some flowers, fruit and cheer. In this last sentence, I packed movement, food and order – already three of Kneipp’s principles. If I throw in a package of green tea to what I will bring my friend, that adds water and herbs.

All what we need: water, movement, food, herbs, order – to stay healthy.

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.

Desperate Skin – Psoriasis

May 2, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cancer – From Another Perspective

April 29, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Greens

March 30, 2012

Tags: order, herbs, food, bicycle, budding, chives, dandelion, delicatessen, excitement, flowers, garden, garden tea, garlic, life, liver health, skin health, smiling, spring fatigue, observing, olive oil, poisonous plants, salad, spring greens, Spring Greens, sprouting, stinging nettle, tea – herbal, vigor, winter blah, year - seasons, spring, sun, renewal, blooming, life, passion, winter - eternal

This is the time of the year to eat chives, dandelion leaves and flowers, and stinging nettle leaves from the garden. They replenish you with new vigor against the winter blah and spring fatigue. They flush your liver and bring a glow to your skin. And a smile to your face.

Stinging nettles, of course, should be stripped from the stalks (wear gloves!) and be cooked – a delicatessen with olive oil and fresh garlic! Chives you can munch right from the garden, and dandelions are good as salad, as cooked greens or as a tea. Have you ever made a glass teapot with the rich green of garden plants, sunny from the buttery-yellow flowers of dandelions? Yes, it’s time again for a garden tea! Anything that isn’t poisonous can go in.

All this is not new, of course. Just a reminder. But the essence of spring is exactly this yearly renewal! Nothing new under the sun, they say – but let’s not forget that this yearly renewal is the most wonderful thing that can happen: the blooming again of life, of passion, of being alive! Think it would NOT happen, and instead, we’d got eternal winter. That would be the end of life. So, go out every day now – perhaps on your bike, like I did today - and observe how little things sprout out of the soil or how buds burst open. Yes, it happens every year, nothing special about it – but boy-oh-boy – how it does get me excited!

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.

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.

To Mammogram, Or Not To Mammogram

January 31, 2012

Tags: order, movement, food, herbs, water, animal flesh consumption, breast cancer, breast cancer - surgery, breast cancer treatment, cancer - aggressiveness, cancerous cell, cancer prevention, cardio-vascular health, cold shower, daylight, diet, dying of cancer, environmental pollution, exercise, family history of breast cancer, fluoroscopy, heart disease, immune system, lifestyle, lumpectomy, mammogram, mastectomy, medicine, prostate cancer, radiation, science, sitzbath - cold, sleep before midnight, smoothie - green, thyroid cancer, To Mammogram, Or Not To Mammogram, tuberculosis, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian, vitamin D, walking

About this subject I do write with trepidation – as the right answers are still not known – medicine and science have not advanced far enough to let us make rational decisions. In actuality, regarding mammograms, we are living in something like medieval times.

Do mammograms help prevent cancer? No, they don’t. They do find some cancers. But they also “find” an unacceptably high number of “cancers” that aren’t cancers - false positives. For which women then undergo unnecessary treatment.

Do mammograms prevent deaths from cancer? The answer is amazingly unclear: For the longest time – basically for the entire twentieth century - namely since the advent of radical mastectomy, breast cancer death numbers didn’t budge. In the last few years, we seem to make a little dent. But it is not clear to me if it comes from therapies, or from better lifestyles that women have adopted - similar to the improvement of cardio-vascular health that happened mostly in the kitchen and the gym, not in the doctor’s office.

For thirteen years now I have not done a mammogram. Not because I try to be reckless, but because I have my doubts. In a way, I am sticking my head in the sand (breast cancer runs in my family). On the other hand, I have a history of heavy radiation as a child, and mammogram certainly is adding to my risk to develop breast cancer. You could say that I made a decision rather to die of breast cancer than from breast cancer treatment. You don’t have to follow me here – or rather, I don’t want you to follow me here because I shudder of the responsibility I would take on if I talked you out of mammograms. In reality, I always encourage my patients to have their yearly mammograms – regardless of the personal doubts I am harboring.

Because of my childhood radiation history – I had bad tuberculosis as a child with tons of fluoroscopy - my decision not to add any more radiation (I also have myself padded down at airports rather than going through the screening machines) is not applicable to everyone. In addition, I had mammograms since age eighteen every year because of lumps (and twice had lumps removed that turned out to be benign. So, I had an unusual number of mammograms - enough for a lifetime, I think. My doctors, because of my history, are basically waiting for me to develop breast or thyroid cancer. But over the years I came to realize that the real causes for breast cancer - diet, exercise and environmental pollution, including radiation - are not addressed by physicians and authorities. But I want to encourage every woman to come to her own decision. Every case has different variables.

Lately I am also changing my thinking about cancer generally - not that one person has it, and the other person doesn't have it. Truth is, at a certain age, we probably are all always having cancerous cells in us, and keeping them at bay as best as we can we good lifestyle habits seems to be much more important. - I also have a body that would react badly to any kind of treatment - so I rather am putting my energy into a good lifestyle. And cancers in later years are often less aggressive than cancer in children and young adults.

And a last thought: Medicine is yet is unable to differ between "bad" cancer and "good" cancer - we don't know which one will explode and kill a patient. So we are working with big guns on all cancers. It seems to me that surviving cancer has more to do with which type your cancer is and how good your immune system works than with any treatment. This argument is also very applicable to prostate cancer in men.

If I would find a lump, I certainly would have it removed surgically. If I get "exploding" cancer, I hope I will die gracefully. Not knowing if I already have such a time bomb inside me, I make sure I walk every day during daylight to get my daily dose of vitamin D and exercise, I eat my veggies and drink my green smoothie, I keep my animal flesh consumption low (but I don’t advocate vegetarian or vegan lifestyles), I take a daily cold shower or cold sitzbath to strengthen my immune system, and I make sure I sleep long before midnight so that my body can catch bad cells and repair what is broken – before it explodes.

The rest is not in my hands.

Bone Health

January 26, 2012

Tags: order, food, movement, herbs, bone, Bone Health, calcium, celiac disease, cleaning out the garage, declutter, fruit, gastro-intestinal problems, gluten sensitivity, grains - whole, greens, light, legumes, minerals, nuts, osteoporosis, osteoporosis - unexplained, parathyroid gland, plants, PTH, repair of the body, skin, sleep before midnight, sun, TCM, thyroid health, Traditional Chinese Medicine, vegetables, vitamin D, walking, working in the garden

We have talked about bone health before. But is comes up all the time. Here my thoughts:

• Light: A daily walk, sun or clouds for making vitamin under the skin. How high is your vitamin D level (blood test)? Should be over 40.
• Greens and other vegetables build bones. All plant material gives calcium plus all the other minerals needed for bone health. Fruit, nuts, herbs, legumes and whole grains are good, too – in moderate amounts.
• Avoid dairy and too much meat because their acidity leaches calcium out of the bones.
• Daily movement is important. Walking is probably the best. But anything helps – like cleaning out the garage or the attic, working in the garden.
• Sufficient sleep before midnight. Repair time in the body, according to Chinese Medicine, is between 11 pm and 1 am. If you are not asleep, repair can’t take place.
• Is your thyroid working normally? Over-activity leads to bone loss.
• Similar with the parathyroid glands: Make sure your PTH is in range. Is relatively rare – but an often overlooked problem.
• Unrecognized gluten problems can lead to osteoporosis. It turns out that half of all celiac patients have NO gastro0intestinal symptoms. So, it can unrecognized forever. Unrecognized gluten sensitivity is the most common cause of unexplained osteoporosis. Unfortunately, the tests are not 100% reliable – but a test is a beginning.

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!

New Year’s Resolutions

January 2, 2012

Tags: order, food, beauty, bigotry, caring, cheer all year round, community, compost heap, depression, dreaming of a better world, ending war, endorphins, exercise, fad diet, family, fresh foods, friendliness, friends, ignorance, joints, lean and mean, lending a helping hand, livable, loneliness, loved ones, muscles, New Year’s Resolutions, obesity, overweight, poverty, sadness, shedding the pounds, six-pack abs, smile, state of the world, weight gain, weight loss

Most of us have probably resolved to move more, eat better and – perhaps – lose a few pounds in the new year. All very commendable. But as I am worrying about the nation’s expanding waists, I worry more about the state of the world generally. People are not only fat, but they are sad, too, and lonely. There might be a relation between being overweight and being depressed (eating fresher foods and exercising more will increase endorphins in the body and make people happier).

But a person is not an island, and I think building a better world needs the effort of many people combined. Emphasis on “combined” – as we do not amount to much alone. But together with friends, loved ones, family, community we can tackle everything.

Fad diets won’t work in the long run – but smiles and friendliness and lending a helping hand here and there will go a long way. Six-pack abs are a fantasy - a body that is healthy must not necessarily look like an advertisement - it just has to function well. And too much exercise can will ruin joints and muscles. And in the end, all beauty will end up on the compost heap anyway.

A beautiful smile and a helping gesture, however, might never be forgotten. Let’s dream of better things than weight loss – things like ending war, poverty, ignorance, bigotry, loneliness. And by distributing cheer and much-needed help all year long we might, accidentally, run around a bit and shed the pounds … unthinkingly. I want the world not lean and mean, I want it friendly and livable and caring.

A Happy New Year to you!

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.

Heavenly Dessert

November 10, 2011

Tags: food, almonds, appetite, cake, carbohydrates - simple, chocolate nibs, cacao beans, coconut milk, compote, cookie, dairy, dessert, eating healthily, fattening, fridge, fruit, food - processed, Heavenly Dessert, muffin, nuts, papaya, quince, raisins, real food, recipe, seeds, stress, sugar, Thai, traveling, whipped cream

Because I am in traveling stress again, today only an easy dessert recipe:

Only because we are eating healthily, we do not have to eat drab, boring, impalatable things. On the contrary!

Here is my recipe for a quick dessert. I tried it with quince compote and fresh papaya; my gut feeling is you can use it with any fresh or cooked fruit. If you make it with papaya, it takes no time at all:

Ingredients:
Half a papaya per person
Coconut milk, shaken, cooled in the fridge
Chocolate nibs

Half the papaya, scrape out the seeds. Pour over a bit of coconut milk that you have shaken before in a lidded plastic container. It comes out as creamy as whipped cream – but it is healthier. Different brands come out differently well; I like the red Thai can – don’t use the “light” version as it is more adulterated. Sprinkle a tablespoon full of chocolate nibs over everything. The “nibs” are cut cacao beans, not processed at all – no sugar, no dairy. Delighted our guests.

With quince: You cook the quince in whole, after washing, with raisins and slivered almonds (or any nuts/seeds) until soft. Cut the flesh of the core, pour raisins and nuts over it. Cool in the fridge. For serving, add coconut milk and chocolate nibs.

The coconut milk lasts at least a week in the fridge – if it lasts that long … And this dessert is not fattening; it satisfies your appetite for real food. Empty (=simple)carbohydrates (cookies, cakes, muffins, etc.) are fattening!

The Thermometer Arrived – Finally!

November 9, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, air temperature, arm exercise, back exercise, blog, boring, bragging, California, cello, Chinese, cold shower, cooking, eating right, editing, exercising, faucet water, fresh produce, friend, functioning body, history, house work, husband, James – Henry (1843–1916), knee bend, La Jolla, language skills, life, music, novel, ocean temperature, perfect health, piano, pool lap, pool temperature, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), shopping, swimming, temperature, thermometer, The Thermometer Arrived – Finally!, “The Wings of the Dove”, traveling

My mail order thermometer arrived today. Now I can put numbers on my Californian shivering: The outside temperature today was 21C (70F), and the water temperature 16 (61F). When I take a cold shower, the water comes out of the faucet at 20C (68F) - much warmer than the pool. My guess had been that the pool temperature was at 60F – not too far off. Reportedly, the ocean temperature in La Jolla is just like my pool’s: 61F. I wish I had the ocean in front of my door …

It is getting harder and harder to go into the cold pool. Not so much because of the cold water but because the house is unheated, and taking a cold shower, toweling off, rubbing myself with coconut oil and then getting dressed takes up nearly half an hour - and all the time I am standing in the cold, shivering. Today I lit a candle in the small bathroom - not sure it raised the temperature, but it gave me the IMPRESSION of being a tad warmer.

Unfortunately, I will leave for nearly two weeks – traveling again. I wonder if I will be able to resume my good habit. Might be very hard – unless I buy a portable heater.

By the way! You hear me talking here mainly about healthy things like swimming, eating right, and so on, and I sound like a real bore, I know. But I do spend my days with far more interesting things than pursuing perfect health. In fact, I try to do AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE because, I too, find exercising boring – and stupid. But, there is no life unless you have a functioning body.

Today I made music with a friend all morning, she at the piano, I at the cello – that was heaven. I am re-editing my Sebastian Kneipp novel. I talked with my husband, family and friends. I read up on history. Also, I am reading Henry James’ “The Wings of the Dove”. And I am still making my way through the Chinese novel word by word (it will take a long time to finish that!), to improve my language skills. I cooked, shopped for fresh produce and did the usual house work.

I did my twenty-one laps in the pool, and twenty-one knee bends, twenty-one back exercises and twenty-one arm exercises. And then I sat down to brag about those little things on my blog. But those little things are not my life – they only make my life possible!

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?

More About Brown Fat

November 2, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, air-conditioning, baby, bear, belly ballast, brown fat, California, cinnamon, cleansing, cloves, cold exposure, cold stress, cold water, core temperature, coriander, depression, diabetes type II, disease, drug, experiment, fasting, Florida, food - warming, garlic, ginger, happiness, heating, hibernation, hunger stress, hypothermia, ice water, immersion, infection, insulin-resistance, La Jolla, longevity, metabolism, More About Brown Fat, Nature, obesity, onion, pharmaceutical firm, physician, pool, pounds, pre-diabetes, refrigerator - walk-in food, residential swimming pools, rutabaga, shivering, stress, stress mechanism - beneficial, stress – moderate, summer, sweating, swimming, temperature, toxin, U.S.A., water resources, weight loss, winter, winter kitchen, winter swimmer

My experiment is going on. Of course, I have no idea if it is really new brown fat that turns me into an oven every time after my daily cold laps in the pool. For all I know, I could have a not-yet-recognized infection or any other disease that makes me burn up. Only thing I know is that I feel terrific – for the moment.

But for the sake of an interesting exploration, let’s stick with my brown fat hypothesis. This is what I have learned about about brown fat so far:

1. It used to be thought that only babies (protecting them from hypothermia) or bears (keeping a reasonable core temperature during hibernation) have brown fat. It turns out that traces of brown fat are still around in adult people. – A little aside: Other ways to increase body temperature are increasing surrounding temperature, moving about, shivering, and eating certain “warming” foods like cinnamon, ginger, onions, garlic, rutabaga, coriander, cloves – interestingly foods often used in the winter kitchen. But there is no hint that those foods increase brown fat. Or a shred of a proof that a so-called "Brown Fat Diet" will increase that precious tissue in your body.
2. Brown fat can help weight loss by increasing metabolism speed.
3. Brown fat also can decrease elevated insulin-resistance (also called pre-diabetes) and a diabetic situation.
4. Brown fat can be induced to increase by cold exposure – be it by swimming in cold water, immersing in a tub filled with ice water, or dancing in a walk-in food refrigerator (don’t you wish you had one of those at home??).
5. Needless to say, there are already pharmaceutical firms are already working on drugs that might trigger growth of brown fat, without going through the ado of cold exposure. The easy way out, I call it. And definitely not an interesting way, if you ask me.

I like to think about cold-induced brown fat as one of the benefits of moderate stress. We all know that stress is bad for you, don’t we? Not necessarily though. Moderate stress might be what makes the body function in the way Nature intended it. With heated dwellings with forgo the winter cold stress – and get sick for it, lacking brown fat. With air-conditioning in the summer, we miss out on the sweating which give our body a good cleanse of all the toxins – and get sick for it. Occasional hunger stress (fasting!) is another beneficial stress mechanism. Not only do we get healthier on occasional fasting, and live longer with less belly ballast, it also seems we get to be happier with fewer pounds – and less depressed.

One estimate is that there are about three million residential swimming pools in California (I am not even mentioning the pools in Florida and all across southern U.S.A.). If these pools are anything like our pool here in La Jolla, all those turquoise eyes should be gazing at the sky, basically unused. All, of course, using up precious water resources. How about using them? If you are in decent health (ask your physician), you start by doing a single lap across your pool. Tomorrow two, and every day one more until you reach twenty-one laps. The brown fat will appear very fast – and will help you lose weight.

Putting on brown fat, however, might mean walking a fine line: You want to increase your metabolism by cold exposure. But you don’t want to get where most winter swimmers end up: with more fat on their bodies. Fat (of any kind) protects against cold, and makes you better able to withstand long swims in icy water. Don’t go there!

Invasive Plants 5 - Crab Grass

November 1, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, Africa, America, Bermuda grass, bone health, bread, calcium, cataracts, colic, cow, crab grass, cultivation, deer, digestion, Digitaria, eye health, fall, feebleness, finger grass, folate, fonio, gardener, garden tea, germination, grass, grass - warm-weather, grazing, harvest, hay, horse, infusion, Invasive Plants 5 – Crab Grass, lawn, lime, magnesium, milling, nutritional value, perennial grass, phosphorus, poisonous, porridge, protein, retinol, ripening, season, settlers, starch, Sub-Saharan Africa, sugar, summer, tea – herbal, ungulate, vitamin A, weed, winter

Writing about the possible benefits of invasive plants, I had the fear that for most broad-leafed weeds it would be easy to find medicinal and other value, but that for grasses, I might have to pass. Interestingly, grasses have some good sides, too – even a such-maligned, horrible weed as crab grass.

Crab grass (also called “finger grass” because of its spiky inflorescences, or “fonio”, for African plants) are actually several Digitaria species – “Digitaria” again meaning “finger-like”.

Why is crab grass the proverbial weed? It turns out that “crabs” can’t take hold in a well-watered, well-fertilized lawn. But let that lawn be neglected, and develop some bald spots – that’s where the annual crab grass will move in, taking advantage.

A lawn usually consists of perennial grasses that stay green long into fall and often into winter. Crab grass would be fine to be intermingled, if it would not die by the end of summer and will leave a bald spot – especially if you pull it and do not immediately reseed with normal lawn seed. In that bald spot, its many, many seeds can take hold again. Crab grass’ trick is its long germination period: It might die early, but it can germinate basically all year, as long as there is no snow on the ground. Usually, a bald crab grass spot extends thus from season to season, always looking awful in the fall, showing your neighbors that you are a less-than-perfect gardener.

Remedy? Keep your grass healthy, well-fed, well-watered, well-limed, and reseed in fall and spring, so that crab grass seedlings have no chance.

So, what for is this invasive grass good? For cows and other ungulates like deer crab grass is as nutritious as any other grass; even more so, because of its high protein contents. Sub-Saharan Africa people eat the milled crab grass seeds in porridge and bread. The problem with crab grass is that it germinates and ripens its seed willfully throughout the year. Therefore it must be hand-harvested, defying large-scale cultivation. However, early settlers in America purposefully would till a spot in the spring so that crab grass could grow there, for the grazing of the animals later in the year.

Crab grass (like Bermuda grass) is a warm-weather grass. As such, it accumulates less sugar than a perennial grass - it does not intend to stay around for the winter, needing staying power through the winter. That makes crab grass better digestible especially to horses who might be quite sensitive to a high sugar and starch content – which bloats them, causing colic. So, as hay, crab grass is quite desirable.

Crab grass contains non-trivial amounts of magnesium, phosphorus and calcium – important for bone health, and some vitamin A, folate, and retinol; they might account for its use in eye health: Medicinally, crabgrass infusion is said to be helping against cataracts and feebleness. I probably won’t use it exactly for that purpose. But just knowing that crab grass is not poisonous will land it in my garden teas from now on.

My Hospital Manifesto

October 30, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, acupuncture, antibiotics, art, blood test, caring, chemicals, cleaning, cleanliness, complementary medicine, conventional medicine, dairy, dialogue, die with dignity, disease, DNR, doctors, Do Not Resuscitate orders, Europe, family, financial resources, foodstuff, friendliness, Germany, herbal medicine, Hippocrates, hospital, hospital cafeteria, hospital double doors, hospital infection, hospital organization, hospital routine, housekeeping, hydrotherapy, journaling, last days of life, massage, medical school, medicine, moneymaking, movement, music, My Hospital Manifesto, national health insurance, nerd, nuns, nurses, nursing - scientific, nutrition, out-sourcing, paperwork, patient advocate, patient recovery, patients, pediatric, primary care physician, quiet, rounds, saving of money, students - brilliant, sugars, trans-fats, TV, under-served populations, very old, very sick, washing

If I would decide how hospitals are governed (and I don’t), these would be important points for me:

1. Food: Thy food be thy medicine – and vice versa – Hippocrates said. What is served as “food” in hospitals these times, is mostly abysmal and just goes to show that conventional medicine is not interested in really finding out the root cause of disease. In many cases, it is nutrition, stupid!
2. Cafeteria: Same for the place where all the visitors come and eat. It could be an educational experience, instead just another gorging with inferior foodstuff, filled with chemicals, trans-fats, sugars and dairy.
3. Quiet: When I was a child in Germany, and my father was a doctor, he used to take me on his rounds. Hospitals then were very quiet places. The nurses (often nuns) would walk on their rubber soles like on cushions, and they spoke with low voices. The doors to patient rooms were double doors – the patient had privacy and quiet.
4. What hasn’t changed much: That the hospital routine is not geared toward patient recovery but to a ward schedule convenient for doctors and nurses: Then as now patients are pulled out of sleep to measure their temperature or draw blood tests at four am. I would like to see more concern for the patient’s wellbeing than for the organization’s.
5. No TV in patient rooms: My guess is that at least seventy percent of all illness is self-inflicted. It used to be that being in the hospital was a time for contemplation about what brought one there. Not any longer – as TV is squeaking and squealing day and night.
6. Conventional and complementary medicines are BOTH used. There should be no bias toward the one or the other – what has been proven to work should be applied: Hydrotherapy, movement therapy, food, herbal medicine and art, music, journaling, acupuncture, massage, and so on – they all should be used to make patients better. As they are in most European hospital. And paid for by national health insurance. And, no, they are NOT going to be broke …
7. More cleanliness in the facilities. More cleanliness of the patients. Used to be that hospital were spic-and-span places where you could eat from the floor; not any longer. Instead of on cleanliness we trust in antibiotics – to our detriment. Same with patients’ cleanliness: Used to be that nurses washed the patients daily; not any longer. Nurses have gone scientific (necessarily so – but who is now responsible for caring?); the paperwork has become overwhelming. Housekeeping has been out-sourced. And simple ideas like a washing and cleaning have become obsolete. But hospital infections are skyrocketing.
8. More friendliness and caring toward the patient. The patient has become a moneymaking device.
9. Less care and resources to be spent on very old, very sick people in their last days of life – more on pediatric and under-served populations. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate orders discussed with every patient and/or every family). It will lead to savings of money and will allow people to die with dignity.
10. In medical schools, only half of the students should be A+ nerds; the other half should be people who really want to become doctors and patient advocates from all walks of life. We need very brilliant students because they push medicine’s frontiers ahead. But we also need caring primary care physicians. And putting them together in medical school will hopefully lead to a dialogue between them.

As I am thinking more about this, I might come up with more ideas. What would you wish to implement in the hospitals of the future?

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!

Dinners

October 23, 2011

Tags: food, Boston, coffins, dinner, San Diego, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), Washington, wisdom

Because presently we are traveling - San Diego - Washington - Boston, and my brain is scattered, I just give you some words of wisdom by Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897):

"Big dinners fill coffins."

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!

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!

Invasive Plants 2: List

October 11, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, bamboo, bittersweet, Agropyron repens, Arctium lappa, Artemisia absynthium, barberry, Berberis thunbergii, Bermuda grass, bindweed, bittersweet, blackberries, Buddleja spp., burdock, butterfly bush, Calystegia, Canada thistle, Capriola dactylon, Celastrus orbiculatus, chickweed, Cirsium arvense, Convolvulus, couch grass, crab grass, Cynodon dactylon, dandelion, Digitaria, dispersion, Elymus repens, Elytrigia repens, euonymus, Europe, gardening, Glechoma hederacea, grass, ground ivy, invasive plants, Invasive Plants 2, Johnson grass, kudzu, Ligustrum vulgare, loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, Massachusetts, miscanthus grass, Miscanthus sinensis, Morus alba, mulberry, Nepeta glechoma, Nepeta hederacea, nightshade - bittersweet, nightshade vine, Panicum dactylon, pachysandra, Pachysandra terminalis, pennisetum grass, Pennisetum spp., Phytolacca americana, Poaceae, pokeweed, Portulaca oleracea, privet, Pueraria lobata, purple loosestrife, purslane, quackgrass, raspberries, Rosa multiflora, rose, Rubus, Solanum dulcamara, Sorghum halepense, Stellaria, Taraxum officinale, Triticum repens, vine - wild, Vitis labrusca, wisteria, Wisteria floribunda, Wisteria sinensis, wormwood

My home state publishes a list on invasive species for Massachusetts, and also defines which criteria a plant has to meet to be labeled “invasive”:

1. It is not native to Massachusetts
2. Must have the “biologic potential for rapid and widespread dispersion and establishment”
3. Must have the “biologic potential for dispersing over spatial gaps away from the site of introduction”
4. Must have the “biologic potential for existing in high numbers” away from gardens
5. Must have been introduced to Massachusetts already

The real text is a bit more cumbersome and bureaucratic – but we get the idea. There are tons of species on the lists, but here are a few from the list I would add to my list (this is arbitrary and based on my very personal experiences as a gardener at a single spot in Massachusetts – you might have a different opinion; it is worthwhile finding the list of invasive plants for your state!):

1. Japanese barberry – it stayed a single beautiful bush in my garden. But of course I can’t know to which places birds dispersed its seeds
2. Bittersweet. There are two bittersweets, with orange berries. One Celastrus scandens, the "American bittersweet" is non-invasive. The Asian or Oriental bittersweet is Celastrus orbiculatus, highly invasive. And it is the plant I called euonymus which I was familiar with from Europe. It seems, celastrus and euonymus are related species, and it is really the Celastrus orbiculatus that is so overly invasive. This vine’s berries are spread by birds, and the plant can strangle even trees. One of the worst I know – I would not plant it, and I am hacking it down wherever I meet it.
3. Purple loosestrife: Years ago, I bought a “butterfly bush” by mail order. It turned out to be purple loosestrife. As much as I try to eradicate it, it comes always up somewhere.
4. Wild rose (Rosa multiflora) is pretty while in bloom. But it flowers only once, and after flowering I always cut it of so it doesn’t set seeds. The rootstock, however – I’ll never get it out of my garden again.
5. Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) – it was in my garden when I moved in. It also might be another species as they are notoriously hard to identify. As often as I cut it back, it always pops up again.
6. Pennisetum, a vertically striped grass. Beautiful white and green. It is not invasive according to the Massachusetts definition, but like wisteria, it wants to take over my garden. There is a horizontally striped grass (Miscanthus sinensis) that might also become invasive – luckily, I never planted it.
7. White mulberry (Morus alba). Twice I planted a mulberry tree in my garden – mail orders. Twice they were not what they were advertised at: black mulberries. I wanted one in my garden desperately so that for once we can harvest our cherries before the birds do. Twice I had to hack down the tree because it grew as fast as Jack’s beanstalk – and did not deliver.

Now, our alphabetical list looks like this:

1. Bamboo (more than 70 genera in the Poaceae family)
2. Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon, also: Panicum dactylon, Capriola dactylon)
3. Bindweed (many species from the Convolvulus or Calystegia families)
4. Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)
5. Blackberries (Rubus spp.)
6. Burdock (Arctium lappa, and other species of Arctium)
7. Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)
8. Chickweed (Stellaria spp.)
9. Crab grass (Digitaria spp. )
10. Dandelion (Taraxum officinale)
11. Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea, also: Nepeta glechoma, Nepeta hederacea)
12. Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
13. Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense)
14. Kudzu (Pueraria lobata)
15. Miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis)
16. Nightshade vine, bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)
17. Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
18. Pennisetum (Pennisetum spp.)
19. Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)
20. Privet (Ligustrum vulgare).
21. Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
22. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
23. Quackgrass, also: couch grass (Elytrigia repens, also: Triticum repens, Agropyron repens, Elymus repens)
24. Raspberries (Rubus spp. – like the blackberries)
25. White mulberry (Morus alba)
26. Wild rose (Rosa multiflora)
27. Wild wine (Vitis labrusca)
28. Wisteria (Japanese: Wisteria floribunda; Chinese: Wisteria sinensis)
29. Wormwood (Artemisia absynthium)

Sorry, compiling all this, takes longer than thought. In the next installment, we will hopefully discover the medicinal value of some of these invasive plants – the idea being, if we harvest and eat them, they will be less invasive.

The 10 Worst Garden Weeds – Really?

October 10, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, bamboo, Bermuda grass, bindweed, blackberries, burdock, Canada thistle, chickweed, crab grass, dandelion, Earth, euonymus, gardening, ground ivy, invasive plants, Invasive Plants 1, Invasive Plants In Your Garden, Johnson grass, Kneipp - Sebastian, kudzu, Mother Earth News, nightshade - deadly, pachysandra, plant policing, pokeweed, purslane, quackgrass, raspberries, stewardship of the Earth, “The original guide to living wisely”, vegetable gardener, weeds, wild wine, wisteria, wormwood

According to a survey of the “Mother Earth News” (“The original guide to living wisely”) the following are the ten weeds that make life for the nation’s vegetable gardeners miserable:

1. Crab grass
2. Dandelion
3. Bermuda grass
4. Bindweed
5. Chickweed
6. Ground ivy
7. Canada thistle
8. Burdock
9. Quackgrass
10. Johnson grass

Add to these another ten plants that I wish I had never planted in my own Massachusetts garden – or that arrived on their own out of nowhere:

1. Wisteria
2. Wild wine
3. Raspberries
4. Blackberries
5. Wormwood
6. Pachysandra
7. Euonymus
8. Deadly nightshade
9. Purslane
10. Pokeweed

I wonder why kudzu isn’t mentioned – we hear that is stealthily covers all of the South, a mile a minute. Why is kudzu not mentioned?? And bamboo??

Let’s sort them alphabetically:

1. Bamboo
2. Bermuda grass
3. Bindweed
4. Blackberries
5. Burdock
6. Canada thistle
7. Chickweed
8. Crab grass
9. Dandelion
10. Deadly nightshade
11. Euonymus
12. Ground ivy
13. Johnson grass
14. Kudzu
15. Pachysandra
16. Pokeweed
17. Purslane
18. Quackgrass
19. Raspberries
20. Wild wine
21. Wisteria
22. Wormwood

But – stop right here! Putting up lists of invasive plants and policing them – that’s not good gardening and not good stewardship of the Earth. Let’s assume for a moment that these plants all serve a purpose – or as Sebastian Kneipp put it: “God lets an herb grow for every ailment we complain about.”

Tomorrow, I will go through the list and try to divine the purpose behind each plant.

Laying It On For The Hard Times To Come

October 7, 2011

Tags: food, order, anise star cookies, autumn, berries, bikini season, candy stick, cranberry sauce, December, dieting, fall, fruitcake, gefillte fish, gingerbread, glazed onions, ham, holidays, Laying It On For The Hard Times To Come, leaves turning, machine – the body is not a, marshmallow, meat – braised, natural rhythm, obesity, organic, plum pudding, pumpkin pie, raisins, red cabbage, rhythm - yearly, rugelach, seasons’ flow, starvation, stuffed goose, walking, weight gain, weight loss, winter, winter solstice

Studies show that people put on a few pounds more in the fall – and they lose some come bikini season.

You don’t want to increase your weight even more? Basically, that is a good concept. But laying on the pounds in the fall used to be a mechanism to help people cope with the starvation that inevitably came at the end of the winter.

Now, of course, starvation never comes (we hope!). What is a person to do?

Don’t fight it, is my advice. Count on that you will (and should) gain a few pounds now. Don’t start a diet right now. Eat the autumn goodies like braised meats (in moderation!), the pumpkin pies (better of course is the pumpkin without the pie!) and the berries now. After the holidays in December is the time to naturally slim down.

This is not a free pass to putting on pounds like a whale. My educated guess is that should be one, two, three pounds – never more than five!! But to fight the natural rhythm will only bring you defeat: We are hard-wired for weight gain during this season.

During the holidays, nibble a bit of everything: gingerbread men, plum pudding, stuffed goose, glazed onions, rugelach, gefillte fish, fruitcake, red cabbage with raisins, honey-soaked ham (organic!), cranberry sauce, anise star cookies. Let be all real, fresh foods – no candy sticks, no marshmallows – but don’t pig out on all these because with the winter solstice comes the turn in the year and the turn in your body: Then starvation – or dieting – should set in.

Your body is not a machine, and you shouldn’t will it to go against its yearly rhythm. You will only lose … but not pounds. Go with the seasons’ flow – to a degree. And go for a fall walk and watch the turned leaves.

Always Make Sure Your Tank Is Full, And Your Bladder Is Empty

October 5, 2011

Tags: Order, food, water, Always Make Sure Your Tank Is Full - And Your Bladder Is Empty, billboard, bladder, California, chlorine, congee, contamination, energy wasting, fire hazard, frozen food, gluten intolerance, joy of cooking, lentils, Massachusetts, microwaving, miles, mixed, natural health food store, Pasadena, plastic wrap, pool, pre-boiled, precooked, prepared, prepared dinner, rain, ready-to-eat-meal, red lentils, rice, rice - basmati, rice - brown, rice cooking, rice - forbidden, rice - jasmine, rice - long, rice - short, rice - wild, San Diego, skin, supermarkets, tank, water reservoir, work less

That was a billboard advice in Pasadena yesterday. Certainly excellent advice. But I doubt I would ever had found that kind of slogan on a billboard in Massachusetts. With endless, confusing highways – freeways they call them here – and huge distances one has to do with every mundane task, full tank/empty bladder are imperative.

California is different, I am finding out. It never rains in southern California – and I am finding that is not true, either.

For one thing: The supermarkets: At home, we have a huge natural health food store where I live. Here it’s the size of a railway station. One of the differences in the products is that frozen foods, ready-to-eat-meals and prepared dinners are much more common. Three aisles full of frozen foods alone!

I tried to find rice and lentils. As in rice. and. lentils. Not precooked. Not in a fabulous sauce or in an exotic recipe. Just red lentils and rice. At home, I can choose between about half a dozen kinds of rice: long, short, basmati, jasmine, brown, forbidden, wild (which is not really rice and should not be eaten by people with gluten problems) – you get the idea. Here they have a thousand pre-boiled, prepared, mixed varieties. And a single uncooked variety: long. Happens that I want short, for my congee in the morning.

To cook rice is one of the easiest tasks in the kitchen: You measure a cup of rice, add two cups of water and a pinch of salt, bring it to a boil, cover it with a lid, and let it simmer on low flame until all water has been used up. While the rice cooks, you prepare other dishes. I doubt it is much easier to scrape precooked rice from its plastic wrapping, put it into a bowl and microwave (yuck!!) it. Not to mention that your rice is made in a way you have no influence on: You don’t know the kind of water they use. They might have done the “cooking” via microwaving. And agents from the plastic wrap might have seeped and contaminated your rice. All that for a doubtful gain in “less work.” - Joy of cooking – where did it go?

The one thing I really enjoy so far: the pool. Today it’s cold for San Diego – in the low sixties – and it was drizzling a bit when I did my daily laps. Nobody else dared this kind of weather and took a swim with me. The chlorine smell is but light – I hope my skin will not scream after a while. Rain here is needed of course. It fills the reservoirs and reduces fire hazard.

Red lentils I haven’t found yet. Although I am sure I will find a store that carries red lentils. It’s only a question of more miles, more energy wasting on the freeways. And of course a question of an empty bladder.

To The Other Coast

October 2, 2011

Tags: order, airport, barefoot, California, cat, cello, character, East Coast, food, obesity, ocean, Otto - the cat, sabbatical, San Diego, sun, tomcat - castrated, To The Other Coast, traveling, vet, West Coast, Black Beach

We relocated to the other coast, yesterday – for a few months. We will be in San Diego for a sabbatical. Swapping places makes it possible.

Otto, the cat, turned out the best travel cat ever. He also turned out to be too heavy (which the vet had just told me, while I had bristled – after all, Otto had been even fatter when I got him. Besides, what does a castrated tomcat have to live for but food??). I schlepped him through three airports.

My friends all envy me – going to California, into eternal sun, to the fun state. Me, on the other hand, I am not really a California girl – can’t take much sun, and what I like for fun – I will have to see ... This morning, I took a cold sitzbath – but the water was not really cold. One makes up for sitting longer – no fun, really.

But because it is Sunday and the real work will begin only tomorrow, we walked along Black Beach barefoot. Lots and lots of people. The wonderfully cold ocean made me at last arrive here with my heart, too.

Now I will pick up a cello that a friend of a friend will lend me for the time here. What is not to love in California?

Everybody Gains Weight When They Marry

September 23, 2011

Tags: food, movement, water, biking, birthday cake, black tea, breakfast, butter, cheese, cooking course, cream, dairy, dinner, diving, Everybody Gains Weight When They Marry, flour, green tea, herbal tea, hiking, hugging, immune system, juice, kissing, marriage, milk, nourishing, nutrition, nuts, obesity, outdoors activity, picnic, rowing machine, sex, snacks, soft beverages, spouse, stationary bike, touching, TV, Viennese walnut cake, walking, wedding, weight gain, yogurt

You probably heard it: On average, people gain fifteen pounds in the first few years after their wedding.

It is only natural that we want to pamper our spouses and want to feed them – the birds and the animals do it. The point is to put the right and healthful morsels in your spouse’s mouth. Because food can hurt. And food can heal.

Also: Get moving – together! Because marriage can be more than watching the same TV programs for fifty years from the same sofa.

Here a few ideas:
- Attend a cooking course together
- Alternate who prepares breakfast and cooking dinner - and then discuss after which meals you feel better
- Stop all snacks, preferably before you have children who will follow your example
- Plan an outdoors activity every weekend: a hike, a bike tour, a walk, a (healthy) picnic, a dive - whatever moves you
- Have sex often – it’s good for the marriage and good for the immune systems
- Take turns on a simple rowing machine/stationary bike in front of TV
- Eliminate all dairy (butter, cream, yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.) most of the time – and experience the difference
- Find recipes for a sinful birthday cake made without flour (hint: Viennese walnut cake - made of nuts and cream)
- Don't spend your money on juices and soft beverages; stick to water, herbal teas, green tea, black tea.

Hug and kiss and touch often – and have a happy marriage!

Back To School

September 6, 2011

Tags: order, food, acoustic bass, addiction, adult education catalog, alcohol, archeology, art, Back To School, birds, blueberries, calendar year, cello, Chinese, cleaning out the attic, cooking from scratch, Daoism, drawing from the nude, flowers, French, German, glass blowing, Gone With The Wind, herbalist, herbs, history, homeless shelter, Kneipp - Sebastian (1821-1897), knitting, learning something new, Maine, math teacher, mushrooms, music, New Year, novel, physician, posture, quilting, reading, resolution, rock climbing, school year, September, square dance, stars, tai chi, tax law, Trager bodywork, translating, trees, voice lessons, volunteering, writer

Even after so many years, September is my favorite time of the year – going back to school, that is. The magic of sitting there with a sharpened pencil, eager to learn new stuff, has never abated. In my life, I have done this and that – from math teacher to physician to writer – and I have come to appreciate that my best feature is my joy in learning something new. My father planted it in his children. A physician, too, he knew all the trees and the flowers and the birds and the stars, he loved history and art and music and archeology, and above all reading.

Sadly, alcohol destroyed his brilliant brain. These days, I am mulling how much I myself am prone to addiction: We just came home from Maine, and I wanted to get my daily fix of blueberries – and my grocer has run out of blueberries. Run out of blueberries! I am appalled. And I am mulling if this is my form of addiction – blueberries?

Well, it could be worse. My resolution for this fall and winter – yes: resolution, because the New Year really begins with the new school year, not with the new calendar year, if you ask me – is learning more Chinese, more cello and more translating my Sebastian Kneipp novel into German. And to find a grocer who still carries some blueberries …

What's your September resolution? Cleaning out the attic? Taking lessons on acoustic bass? Doing a course in tax law? Learning to cook from scratch? Joining a quilting bee? Tackling drawing from the nude? Find an herbalist to introduce you to local herbs and mushrooms? Trying rock climbing? Investing in voice lessons? Brushing up on your French? Exploring daoism? Volunteer at a homeless shelter? Retraining your square dance steps? Rereading "Gone With The Wind"? Working on your posture with Trager bodywork and tai chi? Blowing glass? Knitting a sweater?

Tell us! Only you can know what you are dreaming of doing. Go for it! The adult education catalogs are out.

Taking Care Of Oneself

September 5, 2011

Tags: order, food, advertisement, aging, appetite, Asian cultures, care of oneself, economy – bad, elderly, food industry, French, health care costs, high blood pressure, jail, natural laws, nursing home, obesity, overweight, parents - indulgent, responsibility, starvation, Taking Care Of Oneself, weight

At a dinner, I came to sit beside a beautiful French lady of a certain age, elegant and sophisticated. Always looking for good stories and good advice, I asked her what she did to keep her weight. She gave me that long look, shrugged her shoulder and said: “One takes care of oneself.”

I have often thought of the French lady’s remark. It sounds so easy – “One takes care of oneself.” But it involves a lot. It obviously is easy in these times and age to gain a lot of pounds as we are getting older. Some folks even seem to think that aging itself puts pounds on the scale, so “normal” is it to gain weight with every additional birthday. Similar to what we physicians thought about blood pressure: It was “normal” to have higher blood pressure with higher age. So normal actually that physicians had a formula for it: 100+age, the systolic blood pressure was to be. It turned out it was only “normal” in a statistical sense: Most older people had indeed higher blood pressure. But not “normal” in a healthy sense: Healthy people should stay around 120 over 80 – no gain with age. High blood pressure hurts the heart and the arteries, the brain and the kidneys – nothing “normal” in it.

The same goes with weight. In some Asian cultures, the grandparents helped with raising the children, but they tried not to be a burden on the families. They voluntarily ate less. Because the thinking was older people need less food. I am not sure they need less food if they are still active. But in those Asian cultures it was “normal” that older folks got skinny.

Presently, we hear much about self-reliance and self-care. It doesn’t come out of the blue. It comes from bad economic times and the realization that overweight, obese people not only eat more than they need, they also gobble up a bigger share of health care costs.

Taking care of oneself should not take the form of starving oneself – which is never healthy. But to make oneself knowledgeable about which foods pack on the pounds and leave us with a ravenous appetite right after we have eaten might be a way to go. It is easy to blame advertisements, the food industry, indulgent parents, or what not. But in the end it comes down to ourselves who make the decisions.

One doesn’t wake up one morning, and all of a sudden, with no forewarning, one has gained fifty or more pounds. It is a daily process, and we should look at our face in the bathroom mirror and should take a long look at what the bathroom scale shows. We harvest what we sow. The natural laws apply to all of us – no one is exempt. That’s what the French lady wanted to say, I guess.

Society has ways of dealing with people who can’t care for themselves: We are caring for the very young and for the very old, and usually that caring is fairly benign. We also put people in mental institutions and, in extreme cases, in jail if they can’t care for themselves. When States want to make laws restricting sugary drinks or forbidding smoking in public places, there usually is an outcry that rights are taken away. To me, who always was deathly afraid that somebody might take over my life and make decisions for me, it only seems consequent that laws have to take over personal responsibility in certain situations.

One doesn’t let oneself go. One shouldn’t be the problem but the solution to the problem. One takes care of oneself.

The Bounty Of Now

September 1, 2011

Tags: food, herbs, baking sheet, broccoli, coconut oil, cucumber, friendship, garlic, greens, harvest bounty, Italian herbs, olive oil, onion, poteato, soup, stew, sweet potato, The Bounty Of Now, vegetable, yam, zucchini

This is the time of harvest bounty: Vegetables are cheap in the produce aisle, and can happen any moment that your friends dump a load of zucchini on your door step or hand you a plastic bag filled with mixed greens and things they pulled out of their own soil.

Do you groan and say: "Oh, not again!" or are you gratefully receiving that bounty?

Here are three very easy veggie recipes:

1. Good for potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes zucchini, and so on: Wash the zucchini or potato, cut in slices, lay them on a baking sheet that has some olive oil, and drip more olive oil on the slices. Put the baking sheet in the oven and heat to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Check from time to time (takes twenty minutes, give or take) with a fork. Turn them when they start looking dry.

2. Good for leafy greens and broccoli: Wash shortly, cut off bad spots. Put in a lidded pot with little water, olive oil, pepper and salt, and plenty of garlic (dried or fresh). Bring to a boil, then turn low and let simmer until leaves look a bit wilted and broccoli still has its bright green color.

3. Good for mixed stuff: Brown one or two onions in coconut oil, add the washed and cubed vegetables plus pepper and salt, garlic and either a handful of fresh herbs or dried (Italian mixture taste good). Simmer with little or no water (cucumbers have enough water, they don't need added) until done.

Since the kind of vegetables will change, these three recipes will get you through the end of the summer and the fall - or, for that matter, through your life. Recipe Number Three with water makes a great soup, with less water and some meat a wonderful stew.

Never let the bounty of now go to waste - this is the best life offers you: garden-fresh vegetables and the generosity of your friends.

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 ...

Berry Time

August 19, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Eyes Were Resting On Green

August 11, 2011

Tags: order, food, water, apple - Braeburn, attention, barn, barren, beef - ground, black, blue, body and soul, bog, brown, cat food, chicken liver, Chinese brush painting, coconut oil, color game, commitment, concept, cooking, cornstalk, dandelion, dealership, effort, fir, fireweed, flag - American, flower, food - wholesome, forest, garden, Gobi Desert, green, green landscape, growing, hills, house - burnt-down, human, hungry, idea, lily pad, log cabin, loosestrife - purple, mailbox, Maine - down-east, maple geraniums - hardy, meadow, My Eyes Were Resting On Green, Namib Desert, Nature, New England, New Hampshire, oats - rolled, onion, orange, Otto – cat, pepper and salt, picket fence, pickup truck, pine, pink, pond, purple, recipe, red, rose, rosy, Route 2, spruce, steeple, sumac, sunflower, tired, town, tractor, tree – touching a tree, Turk’s cap lilies, United States, valley, Vermont, white, yellow

Yesterday I drove from Vermont to down-east Maine on Route 2. During the first part, my friend Bob guided me through tiny back roads from Vermont into New Hampshire to Route 2; if you ever have to follow another car like that, it helps if it is a fire-truck red pickup truck that you can’t lose out of sight easily. That bright red truck was the beginning of the color game for me when I later sailed across gentle hills east, east, east for seven hours. Since I took up Chinese brush painting in January, my eyes are drawn by lines and colors.

After the bleak, beautiful scenes of the two barren, forbidding deserts we visited this year – Namib and Gobi – I reveled in the green landscape that sustains me - body and soul. Green were the meadows, the lily pads on the ponds and the forests of maple, pines, firs, spruce and sumac. Saturated, satisfying green.

A few colors were sprinkled into the green canvas: rows of orange Turk’s cap lilies, a patch of tall yellow sunflowers, a surprising line of bright red tractors at a dealership, pink roses and big swathes of rosy fireweeds, an occasional blue mailbox and clouds of dainty pale blue flowers that might have been hardy geraniums, the subdued red of barns, brown male flowers uppermost on green cornstalks, the purple loosestrife that invades the boggier areas, the black ruins of a burnt-down house, and of course the white houses, steeples and picket fences we all expect from New England. Natural colors and man-made colors – but all insignificant against the green on the hills and in the valleys.

Many of the small towns along Route 2 were decorated with American flags red, white, blue, making a contrast to nature that seemed to say that the “United States” is a concept, and idea that deserves effort and commitment rather than growing organically out of the soil. Something that easily could be swallowed by fertile green if we don’t pay attention.

Gentle rain and creative fog formations wrapped the land, nourishing and renewing. We know, of course, that Nature can come upon us with force and destructive. Not here, not yesterday, though.

Green, of course, is our most wholesome food. When I arrived at the log cabin, tired and hungry, I began cooking a pot of fresh cat food for Otto from ground beef, chicken livers, some rolled oats and dripping wet dandelion greens from the garden. Then I thought the better of it and saved a few pieces of chicken liver for the humans: I browned two big onions in coconut oil, added a sliced Braeburn apple and a handful of green dandelion leaves, and pepper and salt. Last I added the few slivers of chicken liver. A meal for the gods!

During dinner conversation, my friend Matt said the sentence: “I make sure that most of the time I am not too far away to touch a tree.”

The Wolf That Ravages - Lupus

July 31, 2011

Tags: order, food, water, herbs, movement, alfalfa sprouts, Antrodia camphorata, apple, Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia vulgaris, artificial molecules, Astragalus propinquus, Astragalus membranaceus, autoimmune disease, basil, beans, blood, blood thinner, brain, Brussels sprouts, Bupleurum chinense, butter, caloric restriction, celery, chamomile, cheese, cheese - “milk-free”, dairy cilantro, clover, cod liver, cold shower, cooking, Cordyceps sinensis, cream, creams, curcumin, curry, DHEA, dried milk ingredients, exercise, fish, fish oil, flaxseed, food allergy, food intolerance, French Maritime Pine bark extract, garbanzo, gene-manipulated seeds, Gentiana macrophylla, GMOs, green tea, heart, hepatitis B, herbalist, herbs - culinary, herbs – medicinal, honey bee secretion, immune system, inflammation - chronic, joints, junk food, kidney, kidney failure, Latin, legumes, lentils, lipstick, lotions, lotus flower, lungs, lupus, Matricaria chamomilla, milk, mineral oils, miso, mono-crops, mugwort, mushroom - medicinal, Nelumbo nucifera, nutritional bar, nuts, obsessive-compulsive disorder, olive oil, oregano, overweight, parsley, peas, pycnogenol, photosensitivity, plant food, Rheum emodi, royal jelly, sauna, seeds, skin, SLE, sleep, Sophora flavenscens, soy, soy - fermented, soy-sauce, spices, spinach, sugar, sunlight, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, tarragon, tempeh, The Wolf That Ravages Your Life – Lupus, Tripterygium wilfordii, turmeric, vaccination, vegetables, vitamin D, vitamin E, weight loss, wormwood, yogurt

Lupus is Latin for “wolf” - an apt name for a disease that may maul your skin and inner organs relentlessly. Lupus is a group of autoimmune diseases that can affect skin, joints, blood, brain lungs, heart, and in its most feared form the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. One interesting picture produced by SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) of the brain can be an obsessive-compulsive-like disorder.

Autoimmune diseases – with all our scientific advances – are still not thoroughly understood. From experience and the literature I would consider the following steps if I were afflicted with lupus – which I am not.

1. Eliminate all dairy because casein seems to be hurting badly in lupus. Do not eat butter, cream, milk, yogurt, cheese, or any food with dried milk ingredients. For instance, “milk-free” cheese still usually contains casein. Since lupus is basically a disease of chronic inflammation in the body, it is wise to throw out all foods that contribute to inflammation – and dairy is the worse in that respect. Sugar and artificial molecules come in second. And food items you already know don’t agree with you (allergies and intolerances). Of all those, dairy has been consistently been linked with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

2. Fish oil. Take good-quality fish oil capsules daily, about three times three. Make sure you don’t have a bleeding problem because fish oil slightly thins the blood. Also eat small ocean fish.

3. Flaxseed. If you don’t have a nut-and-seed problem, flaxseeds have a healing quality in lupus. Use olive oil for cooking.

4. Vitamin D or sunlight is beneficial in lupus, but photosensitivity (skin reactions to sun) is a prominent feature of lupus. What is a person to do? If you can’t tolerate light, take a vitamin D preparation or eat cod liver once a month.

5. Eliminate soy unless fermented. The reports about soy are not clear – sometimes soy hurts, sometimes it helps. This might have to do with two facts, namely that unfermented soy is not better than any other bean, and might even be worse as soy is one of the new mono-crops of gene-manipulated seeds. GMO are linked to lupus by some authors. On the other hand, fermented soy has done well in all studies. Miso, a good soy-sauce and tempeh are fermented soy products; tofu and the “nutritional” bars are not.

6. Caloric restriction has been shown to delay the onset of lupus. That does not mean you should starve yourself. But if you are overweight – even if ever so slightly – you should seriously focus on losing the extra pounds – which might actually happen all by itself if you eliminate dairy, sugar and other junk foods.

7. Herbs. There is a long list of herbs and plants helpful in lupus. I would not recommend any one over any others. And obviously, there might be other herbs and pants beneficial. For me it means that plant material – the way we should nourish ourselves naturally – is the way to go. So, eat a variety of vegetables. And from the list below chose food items, herbs and spices freely in your cooking. For medicinal herbs, chose one at a time and take it according to directions, until the bottle is empty, then choose another one:
Alfalfa sprouts
Antrodia camphorata (a medicinal mushroom)
Apples
Astragalus
Basil
Brussels sprouts
Bupleurum chinense (and other Buleurum species)
Celery
Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)
Cilantro
Clover
Cordyceps sinensis (a medicinal mushroom)
Curcumin (in turmeric and curries)
Gentiana macrophylla
Green tea
Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, garbanzo)
Lotus flower (Nelumbo nucifera)
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Oregano
Parsley
Pycnogenol (French Maritime Pine bark extract)
Rheum emodi
Royal jelly (a honey bee secretion)
Sophora flavenscens
Spinach
Tarragon
Tripterygium wilfordii
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, notoriously bad for the brain – absinth! So consult an herbalist for this)

8. Vitamin E and DHEA have been beneficial in lupus, but I would not take them without consulting a physician because both may have side-effects.

9. Avoid mineral oils (lipstick, lotions, creams, etc.) as mineral oils have been implicated in the development of lupus.
10. Certain vaccinations, especially hepatitis B, have been brought in connection with lupus. The jury is still out on that – but think twice before you get an unnecessary vaccination.

11. Exercise moderately.

12. Do sauna regularly for detoxification. Take a cold shower after a hot one to regulate your immune system.

13. Get enough sleep. Your body needs to repair during sleep.

Lupus might be what I like to call the canary diseases: Certain foods and lifestyles hurt all of us. But in some – the canaries – the damage shows earlier.

Varicose Veins - Phlebitis - Thrombosis

July 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

China Ramblings

July 18, 2011

Tags: food, water, order, movement, altitude, Beijing, Brisbane/Australia, candle, candy sugar, China, China Ramblings, Chinese date, civilizations, cleanliness, cold shower, conservation, construction, defecation, duck tongue, Earth, entertainment, exercise, family, fireworks, flowers - wild, friends, Gansu Province, grass, Grasslands, green tea, horse, Internet, Lanzhou, laughter, lazy Susan, logan, Mongolia, physiology, rancid, sea cucumber, Silk Road, slaughtering, stress, sunset, temperatures, Tibet, Tibetan minority, Tibetan monasteries, toilet, transportation, tourism, work, yak, yak butter, yak meat

We are sitting somewhere between Tibet and Mongolia in a remote place – Lanzhou - and waiting for our air plane that is delayed for hours ... Of course, we are having fun anyway. Our Chinese friends put together a new trip, with only three days notice - and it turns out wonderful - perhaps even better than the originally planned Tibet trip. We are visiting places along the Silk Road. Anyway, there are so many Tibetan temples here - it feels more or less like Tibet.

Remote place – don’t think “quaint”. China is so modern now, Internet is everywhere, and even the ancient Tibetan monasteries and old-fashioned stores are equipped with every new gadget – the monk this morning had a portable speaker phone to be able to address the crowd of tourists.

One thing about China: The Chinese work very hard, most of them – and driving through the country, one can see it: Tons of construction everywhere. They transport sand and stones – they don’t build one house – they build a whole village or a part of town. Hundreds of little stores along the main roads of a town, and many are producing, not just selling.

There are so many Chinese – and the need to feed the family is pressing. But they seem less stressed than we are, and always ready to smile and laugh - or is this only a superficial impression by a visitor who cannot see behind the faces? Because they are only allowed one child, they cherish that one child. To the point of spoiling - as some observers claim. As a rule, Chinese have not yet much time for entertainment. Their lives are work and family, it seems. Except for a little fireworks on Sundays …

On our first night in Beijing, I ate duck tongue. It is not a delicatessen. It arrives on the table because Chinese people eat everything and they let go nothing to waste. The duck is slaughtered not for the tongue, rest assured. And how does it taste? Like some tiny bit of dried meat on a stick – surprise, surprise: a duck tongue has a bone – or at least something that feels and looks like a bone. I won’t eat it again.

I also ate sea cucumber soup – and that was delicious! I had first eaten it years ago in Brisbane/Australia, and I still like it.

Last night, in the area occupied by the Tibetan minority in Gansu Province, we had dinner in a large gazebo, open to the grasslands and the sunset. First a tea was served with green tea leaves, Chinese dates (which are not really dates) , a sort of dried logan, and bits of candy sugar – an auspicious beginning for a long meal that lasted for hours. A Chinese meal is shared. Everybody sits around a round table with a lazy Susan. The dishes turn round and round, and so are stories and laughter. We are traveling with friends and their family – what could be better?

The temperatures in the Grasslands are extreme: At these altitude, it is very hot during the day, rather chilly in the evening, cold at night. This morning I took a cold shower – briskly cold.

Oh, and Chinese toilets. The toilets are supposed to bring you own. Chinese toilets are holes in the grounds. They have three important advantages:

• They can be kept cleaner than a Western style toilet because one doesn’t touch anything.
• They are more physiological: The squatting position furthers defecation.
• And one gets extra exercise by being forced to squat – it keeps Chinese people nimble in their hips and strong in their legs.

One more story about food: In the grassland I walked up to a parked truck filled to capacity with yaks. They were either a smaller kind, or not yet grown, about a dozen of them, with long rugged hair. I talked to one yak – he was frightened and sniveled and it broke my heart – these beautiful animals on their way to be slaughtered.

Like many of us, I am of a divided mind: I feel with the animals – but I also want to eat. As a physician, I know that many people become depleted in vitamin B12 if they avoid meat, fish and eggs. Personally, I could never be a vegetarian because I get weak after a short time and need some meat – about once a week. At our home, we have frequently vegetarian meals – just not always. – And for the record and the truth – yes, I ate yak meat that very evening because that was what we got served, and I was hungry after a day of sightseeing.

This is the human predicament: We want to do better, but we cannot totally avoid to kill other beings for our own benefit. At least, we should face the suffering we are inflicting, keeping it to a minimum by reducing meat consumption – and say a prayer for every non-vegetarian meal we are having.

We also had the famous nomad tea with yak milk. Whenever I had read about it, the milk was described as rancid. Ours was not – it was a pure, satisfying drink. – On the other hand, we had plenty of rancid yak butter fragrance in our noses today because that is what they make candles out in the monasteries. People bring that rancid butter as a tribute, it seems, plus money.

Last thing for today: The high meadows in the Grasslands are of exquisite beauty. Their wild flowers are full of aroma, and the grass is indescribably fresh. The nomads use it for their horses and yaks – they look so proud on their sinewy horses! I am aware that we come in just as tourists, but the nomads live off the land in a gentle and conserving way – and when most civilizations will have fallen down because we have exploited our good old Earth, these and other nomad people have a chance to repopulate the Earth in a new and better way – hopefully.

Weeds - Green Is Life-Giving

July 12, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food And Vitamins

July 8, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More About Vitamins

July 7, 2011

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

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

We can agree on several things, namely

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vitamins

July 6, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Haven’t You Heard Kangen Water Mentioned Here?

June 26, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, alkalinizing, customers – gullible, dream – pipe-dream, Earth, health device, health myth, improving your life, Kangen Water, magic machine, miracle pill, money - saving, multi-level marketing scheme, positive thinking, reader, reality, resources – Earth’s, scientific study, seller, vegetable, water purity, Why Haven’t You Heard Kangen Water Mentioned Here?, writing

Water is our Earth’s precious resource; I spend my time writing about the importance of keeping water pure and how to use it for health. But Kangen water?

From time to time I get sucked into a discussion on the Internet – so this time again; over Kangen water.

What I tell them is that not a single scientific study validates Kangen water, that it is nothing but a multi-level marketing scheme, and that if you want to alkalinize your body you better eat vegetables. But do I have an impact? No, because there are mostly two kinds of readers: People who sell this product and are vested in its success. And gullible customers.

And those poor gullible customers should save their money instead of running after the age-old dream that a simple device can make you healthy. Exactly to dispel that myth I am here. Because, in reality, it is a gradual process of improving your life in so many ways – water, movement, food, herbs, order might be a concept you are familiar with by now. No miracle pill. No magic machine. No positive thinking.

Just doing a little bit better every day.

My Neighbor Is Sick

June 22, 2011

Tags: food, order, abdominal pain, addictive, aging - premature, appreciating, artificial molecules, book, bowel, cancer, car, cell phone, chewing, cholecystitis, colors, computer, constipation, conversation, dairy, diet, dinner table, dispute, distraction, eggs, fiber, fish, flavors, food - inflammatory, fork, fruit drink, gallbladder inflammation, game, grace, HFCS, high blood pressure, high fructose corn syrup, high-protein diet, hunger, inflammation, iPod, iron-fortified, kidneys - compromised, kidney stones, meal, meat, mindful eating, mouth, My Neighbor Is Sick, Nature, neighbor, newspaper, osteoporosis, pounds, preservatives, protein, public transportation, radio, religion, roughage, savoring, sitting down at the table, soft drink, spoon, starch - white, stress, sugar, supermarket, table – set the, taste enhancers, Tibetans Alternative, TV, vegetable, vitamin-enhanced, water – drinking enough, weight gain, weight loss

My neighbor suddenly has abdominal pain – on the right, under his rib cage. Now there are many reasons to have that kind of pain, and he of course needs a check-up with his doctor – very soon. Today.

The doctor will hopefully soon find out what ails the neighbor - but here are some ideas. Because the other piece of information is that he has been on a diet for a while - a high-protein diet.

After having made sure he sought an immediate appointment with his doctor, I gave him a piece of my mind: No diet is a short-cut for good, healthy, everyday eating habits. “But I already lost eight pounds!” he said.

Eight pounds lost weight does not prove that one is healthy! It always puzzles me: People who would never feed their car the wrong octane fuel, seemingly give little thought to what is healthy fuel for their own bodies and thus constantly violate the laws of Nature.

These are the most frequent bad consequences of the ill-advised high-protein diet (and I have seem them all!):

• Constipation. The bowel needs roughage to function according to plan. Protein is digested more thoroughly than fiber, leaving little substance in the intestines lumen to push matters forward, which will lead to impaction can lead to a plugging-up of the whole plumbing system.
• Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis). High protein diets are often also high in fat, which may drive the gallbladder into overdrive. This can cause inflammation and/or move stones.
• Kidney stones. High protein can lead to kidney stones, especially in already somewhat compromised kidneys – which come naturally with aging. At any rate, drinking enough water is always advisable.

A high-protein in the long one has been shown to promote premature aging, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and cancer – neither of which plays a likely role in my neighbor’s present affliction.

Whatever he has, he needs to reassess what he is doing to his health. And I am sure after this scare, he will. We have talked about diet and healthy eating here often, so I can make this short:

• Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables!
• No artificial molecules (sweeteners, flavors, colors, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, taste enhancers, vitamin-enhanced, iron-fortified, soft or fruit drinks, etc.).
• No dairy – because it is the most ubiquitous inflammatory and unnecessary food there is.
• No sugar and white starch; they are addictive and put the pounds on you.
• Have a modest intake of meat, fish and eggs.

In order to turn around your eating habits, it is useful to practice mindful eating – the way of slowly savoring and appreciating everything that goes into your mouth.

• Sit down at a table when you eat – set the table in a nice way, even if you are alone. Especially if you are alone.
• Say grace for your food - even if you are not a religious person. Because millions of people go hungry every day.
• Have no distractions – no TV, computer, cell phone, game, radio, newspaper, or book.
• Have no stress – avoid disputes at the dinner table. But have a lively conversation about important things in your life.
• Never ever eat in the car or on public transportation; teach your children that NOTHING can be eaten in the supermarket because it has not been paid for (and one should sit down for eating).
• Chew thoroughly; put fork or spoon down between bites.

The How you eat might be more important than the What you eat – at least for a while.

If you live alone, go back to the Tibetans Alternative: Where one eats one food at each meal, and rotates, instead of filling the plate with everything at the same time.

Whatever the neighbor has, let’s wish him a speedy recovery!

Alternative Goes Mainstream - Or Does it?

June 11, 2011

Tags: order, movement, food, herbs, water, acupuncture, alternative-complementary medicine program, Alternative Goes Mainstream, Arzt für Naturheilkunde, Ayurvedic Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, BIDMC, biophysical medicine, board-certified, Boston, Cheng - Jill and Hung, Chinese food, chiropractic, conferences – medical, Continuing Education, diseases, Family Practice, Germany, healing foods, healing modalities, hydrotherapy, Internal Medicine, massage, medications, medicine – alternative, medicine – conventional, Natural Medicine, overweight, Primary Care, quackery, relaxation, research, subspecialty, subspecialty degree in Complementary Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, under-exercised, yoga

Have you ever not told your doctor you are using an herb or a massage for your problems? Have you ever had a physician yelling at you because you dared mention such modalities at all? I am looking for gentle healing forms for twenty five years now – and I am astonished that I am still hearing about such fossil physicians and incidents.

This week I attended a gathering to celebrate a generous gift Jill and Hung Cheng have given to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston toward an alternative-complementary medicine program.

We celebrated with speeches (of course!) and healthy Chinese fare, and had a ball, generally – celebrating that a farsighted couple tries to overcome the big divide between alternative and conventional medicine.

BUT: Why are we still talking about alternative?

There is nothing alternative in using healing foods and movement to help patients. Not astonishing, a new study showed that overweight, under-exercised physicians are utilizing less food and physical modalities to help their patients. Which means: Overweight, under-exercised physicians prescribe more medications. Scary?

In Germany, many modalities like herbal therapy, Natural Medicine, massage, acupuncture, yoga, relaxation, hydrotherapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, chiropractic, biophysical medicine, and so on are mainstream. Which means that a physician can pass an examination in a subspecialty, in front of a board of peers to show his/her knowledge. I have done it (Arzt für Naturheilkunde).

Are there quacks in alternative medicine? Sure, there are. But so are in conventional medicine. Not talking to each other only perpetuates the shortcomings on both sides of the aisle.

This is what is needed:

• A subspecialty degree in Complementary Medicine that can be acquired by any physician who has passed the Internal Medicine, Family Practice or Primary Care Boards.
• Conferences and Continuing Education that automatically comprise ALL healing modalities that have been proven useful in certain diseases and conditions.
• More research in complementary modalities – of course!!

A Hodgepodge Letter From Jerusalem

May 31, 2011

Tags: food, order, America, appetite, archaeology, architecture, Armenian Christian, Berlin, books, Catholic - Italian and French, cauliflower, chopped liver, Christian faith, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, community, Copts, David – King, detoxifying organ, Dinner Plate, Eastern Church, family, Florence, Food Pyramid, Greek Orthodox, history, Holy Land, hope, individualism, Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish life, Letter From Jerusalem, liver, Muslims, New York, peace, Peace for the World, portion size, religion, Russian Orthodox, salad - fresh, Sidney, stones, synagogue, Western Church

If you think that America is a melting pot – Israel is the most colorfully mixed country, the loudest and the most silent, the most hilarious and the saddest.

Jerusalem is the most beautiful city in the world. I know you might fight me over this – and I have indeed seen beauty all over the world. The bustling daring of New York, the lovely harbor of Sidney, the classical stones of Florence, the young energy of the new Berlin – you get it.

Jerusalem has something else: An ordinance in place for many thousand years – precisely since King David, I was told – that every house in the city has to be built of the local stone, at least the façade. The house might be an old synagogue or a modern high-rise - they all are clad in the same white-golden sandstone; even most pavements use this stone. When one approaches the city from afar, it looks like a dream dwelling: a white city shimmering on the hills.

That this thousands-of-years-old ordinance is still in place shows a will to community: The individual burgher might have preferred a modern glass building or a brick castle; nevertheless, he abides by the rules. Compare an American town with billboards and every-which style of architecture: There the individual will wins out, under all circumstances. I can’t make up my mind, which one I find the more useful guide pole – individualism or communal thinking - but I know that Jerusalem is singular, and beautiful.

Another thing I like about Jewish life: They cherish family, books, history. We all should live thus (I am saying this knowing full well that family life can be stifling, even in the best of cases).

Certainly, you want to hear about the food here: A meal starts with several fresh salads. The other night, with little appetite, I ordered only two appetizers: cauliflower and chopped liver. The cauliflower was delicious but so gigantic that I shared it with the whole table, ate until I was bursting – and then there was some left over. The chopped liver was a mountain into which I could only bore a little hole – and nobody wanted to share; I have a thing going for liver since childhood, but mostly avoid it now as liver is the main detoxifying organ in the body – even of a cow. Nobody at the table seemed to share my liver thing …

Our Government plans to abandon the Food Pyramid (about time!!), and replace it with the Dinner Plate. So, my Israel proportion shock comes just in time: For healthy nutrition you need to know really only two basics:

1. Freshness – everything you eat should have grown somewhere.
2. Portion size – your meal should fit on a small dinner plate. If you have to lose weight, make it a breakfast plate; they are smaller. No snacks – that goes without saying.

And a last observation from Jerusalem: The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is owned communally by several branches of the Christian faith: Western Church (Italian and French Catholic) and Eastern Church (Copts, Armenians, Greek and Russian Orthodox). And if I believe the tour guide, it is a mess: Those Churches are in constant fight over every inch of the church – so much so that the key is kept in the hands of a neutral third, the Muslims. It says something about religions if the message of Peace for the World is not heeded in the very church building it once started (or presumably started – history and archaeology are messy in the Holy Land).

In the Knesset, I heard the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, give a speech in Hebrew. I did only understand two words: Tikwa and Shalom – hope and peace. Good enough for me.

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!

Bringing Home The Truth?

May 14, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, water, advertisement, antibiotics, automobile, Bringing Home The Truth?, canned food, coffins, cold shower, cooking, education, environmental clean-up, Five Tibetans, gardening, governmental responsibility, HFCS, health improvements of the twentieth century, homeopathy, housewives, hygiene, junk food, justice, kitchen, lilac, love - making, microwaves, music - making, Nature, painting, poverty, ready-made dinners, repairing a bike, scientific research, sewage, societal forces, stinging nettle, supplements, take-out food, truth, TV, vaccinations, water preservation, water supply, walking

You who have followed this blog notice that I do change my mind. For instance, I was a great supporter of the Five Tibetans – and to a degree, I still am. But then my lower back spoke up against the practice, and now I do modified exercises. I let you know.

Was my first opinion untrue? Not really. Different people have different needs, and plenty of people come back to me and tell me that I once recommended the Five Tibetans to them – and they are still doing them daily, and happily.

Spending time on the Internet and blogging about health sometimes feels to me as if I hit a wall: We health nuts are discussing minor improvements in our diets, when the majority of people are eating junk food, don’t know how to even cook rice (forget BROWN rice!), and spending every free minute in front of TV that carries them into fake worlds while stealing innumerable hours of their lives and their powers away.

That might apply to my blogs, too: Somebody reading this, is not walking right now, not playing an instrument, not gardening, not repairing a bike, not cooking stinging nettle greens, not making love, not painting the lilac in bloom now, not taking a cold shower.

And my blog (or all the other health blogs) doesn’t reach that majority. I have started worrying about this.

The other worry is that we bloggers seem to disperse truths – but we don’t seem to change minds. Or do we? I have been in too many online discussion where opinions about, say, homeopathy, clash, and the divides are never bridged.

We can say that most health improvements came at the beginning of the twentieth century with advancement of hygiene (better water supply, better sewage systems). Much less with antibiotics and vaccinations - as much as doctors want to exploit those tales. Then came our downfall in the fifties - the widespread automobile use let people walk less. And also in the fifties, housewives succumbed to advertisement that "helped" them spend less time in the kitchen: canned food, microwaves, ready-made dinners, take-out food, supplements, and what not. And in the seventies, HFCS, sealing our fates (or coffins).

So, this is my question of today? How do we make up our minds about what is healthy? Do we believe every published research study - some good, some shotty - or the myriad of business interests that pipe up on all occasions?

For me, after all the years of studying, health has become simple: Follow what Nature intended, and you will be all right. For all the little details: Hard to get at the truth. Besides, the truth might be manifold.

And, as before, health changes on a grander scale might come from societal forces rather than from our little opinions here: From environmental clean-up, water preservation, governmental responsibility, better education, greater justice, less poverty.

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.

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

May 4, 2011

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

Fast Will Not Last – A Ste

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

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

Truth is: Fast will not last.

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

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

Here are my rules:

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

And here are the weight loss steps:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Today is Beltane!

April 30, 2011

Tags: Water, food, herbs, movement, order, annihilation, annuals, bacterial life, Beltane, blooming, broomstick, celebration, chemicals, cherry blossoms, children’s children, chives, daffodil, desert, Earth, fall, Gaia, gardening, gardening methods - unorthodox, global warming, green, leaves, May Dance, May First, mutations, Nature, nature religion, neo-paganism, non-turning of the soil, nourishing, novel, nuclear devastation, ozone hole, paganism, perennials, political, radiation, renewal – yearly, rite, ritual, science, Sebastian Kneipp - Water Doctor, soil, spring, spring rites, stepping stones, summer, Today Is Beltane!, tulip, walking, water tables, Wiccan, witches

Beltane is the ancient rite of greeting and revering spring, celebrated on the night that leads into the First of May. I don’t believe in witches riding on broomsticks – or, to rephrase this, modern science interprets the broomstick a bit different. But in my novel “Sebastian Kneipp, Water Doctor” the broomstick and Beltane play a major role. For that reason alone, Beltane is special for me.

The most amazing features of Nature are that she brought us forth and nourishes us, and that she renews herself yearly.

This force of renewal is enormous – but it is not inexhaustible. We can come to a point of no return if we are not careful with old Gaia, and that point of no return could come in several scenarios, all not pretty: Nuclear devastation – and in the past we have come close to several political annihilation situations. Lowering the water tables so that wide parts of the Earth would turn into deserts until nothing green grows anymore. Biological mutations in our genome, started by chemicals we deem safe now but might find out too late they are not. Overheating of the Earth – global warming; there are still people who deny that this is happening, in the face of science. Overexposure to radiation by increasing the ozone hole (we are working mightily on that one).

In my garden I practice what I call non-turning of the soil – it’s a leisurely and useful form of gardening. I leave the leaves on the beds in the fall (the neighbors got used to my untidy garden and seem to have forgiven me because they Oh! And Ah! in spring, summer and fall at the blooming results of my unorthodox gardening methods. - If one doesn’t step on the soil, one doesn’t compact the soil, so one doesn’t have to turn the soil. Between perennials, annuals and bushes my garden the stepping stones. I never, ever step on the soil because I know it is teeming with beneficial bacterial life that will be trampled and choked if I do.

So, I don’t care if you celebrate Beltane with a Wiccan ritual (be aware that most of this nature religion is less ancient than we usually think – most comes from nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ revival of old paganism) or with a Dance into May or with a walk under cherries blossoms or along daffodils and tulips or with a salad sprinkled with the first chives from the garden. But l do care that we not trample and choke our good old Earth and preserve her for our children and children’s children.

The thought haunts me that one day nobody might be able ever to celebrate spring anymore – either because Spring has ceased to return, or nobody is left to celebrate …

Fasting After Easter

April 27, 2011

Tags: food, almonds, arthritis, brunch, butter, caviar - red, celebration, chives, dandelions, Easter, eel - smoked, eggs - naturally dyed, farmers’ cheese, fasting, Fasting After Easter, fatigue, feast, garden tea, gluten, herring - pickled, herring - red herring salad, Italian, kulitch, Lent, nettles - stinging, orange peel, pannetone, pashka, pork sausage, raisin, Russian, Russian Easter, sauna, sheika, sturgeon - smoked, vodka

Lent, the long fasting period, usually comes before Easter. But this year, it comes after the holiday for me.

You see, we organized a Russian Easter for our Russian friends – with all kinds of strange foods: Naturally dyed eggs, of course, pickled herrings, smoked sturgeon and smoked eel, red caviar, red herring salad, sheika (a pork sausage), pashka (an impossibly sweet farmers’ cheese with butter, raisin, orange peel and almonds), kulitch (a cake similar to the Italian pannetone). You get the idea: Delicious but deadly.

And I haven't even mentioned the vodka ... which I left out, it being brunch time. I also didn't cheat on gluten - it just makes me deathly sick. But the rest was enough to do me in: Fatigue and arthritis are hampering me now.

So, this week after the feast I am indulging in three cleansing modalities:

1. Sauna
2. Garden tea
3. Fasting.

Garden tea, so far, has been mostly been made with stinging nettles, chives and dandelions – not much else being available. And fasting works best with a vegetable broth, made from whatever was in the fridge (with the exception of nightshades).

In Germany, we have a saying that you have to celebrate as feasts come along – and I couldn’t agree more. But then, you have to pay the price, roll up the sleeves and clean up the mess. Especially the mess inside your body.

Treat Simple Urinary Tract Infection Without Antibiotics!

April 20, 2011

Tags: herbs, order, food, water, movement, Agathosma betulina, allergies, Althea officinalis, antibiotics, antibiotic resistance, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, bacteria, Barosma betulina, berberine, bilberry, black currant, bladder mucosa, bladder wall, blood in urine, bowel bacteria, blueberries, buchu, burning, Coleus forskohlii, corn silk, cranberries, D-Mannose, drinking hot fluid, E. coli, emptying bladder, Equisetum arvense, ER, estrogen deficiency, fever, flank pain, foreskin, fruit, genital folds, goldenseal, grape seed, grape skin, herbal tea, herbs - women’s, horsetail, Hydrastis canadensis, Indian Coleus plant, infection, intra-vaginally, Kegel exercises, kidney pain, kidney stones, Lactobacillus crispatus, lubricant, Mannose, marshmallow root, menopause, pelvic muscle, penis, private parts, proanthocyanidins, probiotics, pus from penis, pus from vagina, red wine, sex, soap, South Africa, standing on one leg, sugar, tea (black and green), Treat Simple Urinary Tract Infection Without Antibiotics!, urethra, urinary infection, urination, urine - cloudy, usnea, UTI, UTI in children, UTI prevention, uva ursi, vagina, vaginal flora, vaginal mucosa, vegetables, voiding, white starches, Zea mays

Most UTIs can be dealt with simply, with herbs, probiotics, and so on. Antibiotics should be reserved for the really dangerous infections. Not only should we curb antibiotic use because of possible resistances; it also has been shown that bacteria bury into the bladder wall during a course with antibiotics – only to pop up again a bit later!

But for starters, this warning: IMMEDIATELY see your physician or the Emergency Room, if you have any of these signs/symptoms:

• Blood in the urine
• Pus from your vagina /penis
• Fever (ANY fever means that the infection has gone beyond the confines of the bladder)
• Flank/kidney pains: If you have pain that far away from your bladder, it means that the UTI ascended to your kidneys. Or that you have kidney stones.
• ALL UTIs in children should be seen by a doctor.
• If you never had a UTI before.

The usual cause of UTIs, especially in women, is sexual intercourse. Women have a very short urethra, so bacteria can walk up easily and invade the bladder. UTIs are most common in young women (frequent sex) and in women after menopause (lacking estrogen leads to shrinking tissues which means less protection against invading bacteria).

This is what you can do to prevent UTIs:

• Make sure that man and woman are clean at their private parts. Insist especially that your man washes behind his foreskin daily, and you yourself wash between the folds. Don’t use soap – daily water washings suffice!
• Use a lubricant to make sex smoother.
• Right after sex, the woman should get up and urinate to flush out potential bacteria.
• Avoid all sugars and white starches.
• If you tend to get UTIs often, take cranberry capsules for at least a day after sex. Cranberries prevent bacteria to lodge onto the bladder mucosa.
• Drink enough hot fluid.
• Take a daily probiotic – this helps get rid of bad bacteria in the bowel (which are most often the culprit in urinary infections).
• A new and promising treatment is another probiotic, Lactobacillus crispatus that normalizes the vagina flora (taken intra-vaginally), thus preventing “bad” bacteria to invade the bladder.
• Doing Kegel exercises or standing on one leg (see a former blog) to strengthen pelvic muscle. If your muscles down there are weak, you might not be able to empty your bladder fully each time – and that is a set-up for recurrent UTIs.
• Regularly take women’s herbs after menopause to strengthen vaginal mucosa.

Prevention of course is better than treatment. But when you get the familiar sensation of burning during voiding that heralds a UTTI, you should act IMMEDIATELY, because any infection is easier to treat, the earlier you catch it. Other symptoms of a UTI are: a cloudy urine, an offensive odor, discomfort in your bladder area and the urge to go frequently.

Apart from the measures above that you should continue, use these tried-and-true herbs in a tea, three times a day:

• Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
• Usnea spp. – a group of lichens growing on trees

Other herbs helpful in UTI:
• Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) – or any other source of berberine would do as goldenseal is an endangered species.
• Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) – soothing, but not necessarily healing
• Buchu (Agathosma betulina – formerly Barosma betulina), a plant from South Africa.
• Corn silk (Zea mays) – and old stand-by
• Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) – should not be taken too long as it is harsh on the kidneys.
• Indian Coleus plant (Coleus forskohlii) reportedly has effectivity against UTIs too, but the data are still scant. This would be a plant to investigate if you have allergies to all the aforementioned herbs.
• Also worth trying is D-Mannose – not strictly an herb, but a sugar - which only works against E. coli that happens to be the most commonly found bacterium in UTIs.
• Similar proanthocyanidins that work in cranberries are also found in blueberries and strongly colored fruit and vegetables, tea (black and green), black currant, bilberry, grape seed, grape skin and red wine,

The Basis of Willpower

April 8, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, Anna Karenina, assignment, bedtime, bouncing, brain, breakfast - perfect, candy, cooking from scratch, craving, cycle – benign, cycle - vicious, dawdling, diet, diet coke, doughnut, drowsiness, emails, energy, exercise, fats - hydrogenated, flavors - artificial, focus, grumpiness, habit - good, health bar, highly effective person, joy, listlessness, lunch, midnight, multivitamin, online news - unimportant, positive thinking, produce isle, purpose, self-help books, sleep, sleep-deprived, sleeplessness, soy - unfermented, spunk, sugars, sun shine, supermarket, The Basis of Focus, tiredness, Tolstoy - Leo, TV, veggies, walking, well-fed, well-moved, well-rested, willpower, work

Have you ever worked so hard that you got to a point where nothing worked anymore?

You worked so very hard – with lots of joy and energy initially. Until the task that broke the camel’s neck – say, an assignment lasting late into the evening. Proudly, you finish that, too, way beyond your usual bedtime. But because you are so very tired, you watch bit of TV – because a person needs a reward for working so hard, doesn’t she? After midnight, you collapse into bed.

Now you can’t sleep because your mind is still racing and thinking and planning. And when you wake next morning, you feel like a truck has run you over – you are tired, unfocused, grumpy. You get up anyway, because that’s what a person does. But sitting down for work, you find yourself unable to focus on what you wanted to do. You read any unimportant news online. You get off from your chair to snip off a wilted leaf from a potted plant. You file your nails. You dawdle. You peek into emails from strangers you usually throw away unopened. You do everything you can to avoid working on the task at hand.

It is as if what excited you yesterday so much, can’t excite you anymore. You have lost all spunk and steam.

What happened? Have you suddenly turned from a highly effective person to a bum? Have you lost all your goals?

No. All what has happened is that you are sleep-deprived.

And this is the message for today: At least ninety percent of your willpower comes not from your brain and positive thinking (as much as self-help books want you make believe). It comes from a well-rested, well-fed, well-moved body.

For some weeks now, you had been on a great diet and avoided all the foods that made you listless and drowsy - and sure enough, that’s exactly the food you crave now that you are sleep-deprived. But what’s the purpose anyway, the day already is not worth any better effort, it seems. So, you take a candy when your neighbor offers one, and for lunch you have two donuts. And then, to “make up,” you pop a multivitamin and munch a health bar – even if you know quite well that it is listed with sugars, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors and unfermented soy – things you normally avoid.

You skip you noonday walk around the block and spend the afternoon in a daze, until you drink two diet cokes in a row.

After work (or what you passed off as work) in the evening, you are not up to anything and switch on the TV as soon as you walk through the door.

Let’s interrupt the vicious cycle right here!

Because it is a vicious cycle: Sleep deprivation leads to bad food choices and overeating, bad food choices lead to poor motivation to exercise. Lack of movements leads to further lassitude, more cravings, and so on.

But the other way round, it also is a cycle – although a benign one where one good habit feeds on the next: After a good night’s sleep – long before midnight! - you wake up refreshed and full of energy. You eat your perfect breakfast (which might be a bit different for different people because not all our bodies are the same), and you are off to a great start, doing what you want to do, doing what needs to be done – and all with a happy heart. You do your little exercises, you give your neighbor a hug (but politely refuse her candy), you resume your short walks and let the sun shine on your face, and your afternoon is as productive as your morning. You bounce off after work to get some good stuff from the produce isle in the supermarket, and cook a tasty little meal in the evening – all from scratch. You do a few chores, and sit down to answer some emails. You go to bed with your favorite book – perhaps “Anna Karenina” by Tolstoy – and switch off the light long before midnight.

You think a bit of sleep and a walk and a few veggies can’t make such a dramatic difference in your life? – Give it a try!

What I Brought Back From Africa

April 6, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, Africa, art, bed time, Berner - Dörte, Berner - Volker, beauty, carpet designer, colors, daily rhythm, desert, elephants, energy, Eningu Clay Lodge, exercise, friendship, gem stone, Kristall Gallerie, lions, mental clearness, Namibia, nap, Ovambo tribe, parent, pietersite, purpose, restraint, savannah, sculptor, sculptures, stone, Swakopmund, Tiger’s eye, t-shirts, weight loss, Welwitschia mirabilis, What I Brought Back From Africa, work, writer

No not what you think!

Recently at a trip to Namibia, my husband attended a conference in Swakopmund, a seaside resort. At a place called Kristall Gallerie – a heaven for gem stone fans like me – I bought a simple necklace from pietersite, a stone that they claim is (nearly) only found in Namibia (there is actually another site in China). Pietersite is a stone marbled in blue, red and gold, and is related to Tiger’s eye. Mine is less dramatic (and less expensive, although pietersite is rather inexpensive overall) - just different blues.

But that is not what I wanted to tell.

After a few days of Swakopmund and wonderful forays into the desert, where we saw ancient Welwitschia plants (I wrote about it earlier), my husband went on a safari with a colleague, and I visited friends in the country.

Dörte and Volker Berner emigrated to Namibia in the sixties. She is a sculptor, he a carpet designer. They spent their lives doing what they like best. They never had much money, but managed to raise three children in the middle of an African savannah. Two years ago, Volker gave over his carpet factory to the people of the Ovambo tribe, and retired to reading and listening to music. Dörte still chisels away at her stones.

Both Dörte and Volker have created beautiful art in a beautiful (if barren) place. Look at their websites (find them at Quick Links, on the left), and see for yourself!

When we were young, Dörte was this quiet and serious girl – I admired her for it. At that time, you wouldn’t have given a penny for me; I was totally into boys, and had no idea who I was, and who I could become. But Dörte already knew about herself. And quietly, seriously, she has created a huge body of work. Her powerful stone sculptures are earthy, solid, beautiful. Volker’s carpets have up to one hundred and fifty different colors – unmatched in their subtlety and color intensity.

We all could be proud if we had built a life full of beauty, restraint and purpose like Dörte and Volker have. If you want to visit them, the Eningu Clay Lodge is close to them – and it probably doesn’t surprise you that the Berner’s have built that lodge too.

So, I brought back the story of their lives and a renewed friendship. But, again, that was not what I wanted to write about today. I brought back the nap.

The what??? The nap! During the five days with the Berner’s, I followed their daily rhythm, and had a nap every day. Lunch at one, a nap afterward. Mostly, I was lying under my mosquito net (which in that area is more decorative than useful), and wondered about this waste of time. But when I came home, I immediately restructured my day around the nap.

As a writer, I of course have the privilege to nap. If you have a nine-to-five job, you still have to wait. But if you are working from home, if you are a home-bound parent, you can implement a nap – it is YOUR day, after all!

This is what a week of regular napping has done to me:

• More energy from early morning to night I am getting up at six, going to bed at ten
• Incredible mental clearness
• Weight loss – which was not even intended; it just seems that I am thinking less of food but more of interesting things
• More work done (of course!)
• More exercise because I am dragging my feet less.

P.S. I also brought back t-shirts with lions and elephants for the neighbors’ kids.

Oryx Goulash and Kalahari Truffles - Namibian Dishes

March 30, 2011

Tags: food, antelope, Bantu tribes, beans – green, carrots, coleslaw, family secrets, French truffles, goulash, Hungarian goulash, Kalahari Desert, Kalahari truffles, Oryx Goulash and Kalahari Truffles - Namibian Dishes, mushrooms, Namibia, Namibian Dishes, olive grove, olive oil, Oryx Goulash, Ovambos, pork belly - smoked, rainy season, rice, savannah, sweet potatoes – caramelized, truffles, vegetables, vinegar, yogurt

Namibians have, because of their relative lack of vegetable farming, more meat (and no fish) in their diet – similar to Patagonia. Here are two dishes I especially liked:

Kalahari truffles
During rainy season – of which we surely got the brunt – Kalahari truffles pop up everywhere in the savannah. They are extremely tasty and sought after. But don’t think they will be showing easily: They make themselves noticeable by a tiny crack in the ground, and that crack is extremely hard to find, especially this year, with the very high grasses after the heavy rains.

Our friends live at the skirts of the Kalahari Desert but don’t find the truffles themselves. Ovambos collect the mushrooms that look more or less like sandy potato. The Ovambos are a loose connection of Bantu tribes, and make up the majority of people in Namibia; white people hover around six percent. So, politically, the political power is securely in Ovambo hands.

I’m not sure if the Ovambos follow their noses; the Kalahari truffle has that exquisite earthy aroma I know so well from European mushrooms, predominantly the so-called steinpilz (stone mushroom). One Ovambo woman seemed to be the expert; she offered several loads of truffles, all of which we gladly bought. She might have known the places where the truffles thrive - family secrets handed down in families from generation to generation.

We had a feast with Kalahari truffles, which need to be scrubbed extensively – but in truth, one never gets rids of the sand completely – and peeled. Inside they are light-colored, not black like French truffles. When cooked, they have firm flesh. We sautéed the mushrooms in olive oil with onions and ground oryx (antelope) meat. Side dishes: green beans and caramelized sweet potatoes. - Leftover mushroom are peeled, blanched and frozen, to be used later.

Oryx Goulash
Oryx are the most abundant meat deliverers in the area where I stayed with my friends. Without them, neither the white people nor the Ovambos could survive in Namibia. The goulash was made again with lots of onions and plenty of olive oil. Wild animals have no visible fat, so oryx dishes require much olive oil. My friends had harvested the oil themselves, under much hardship – hoeing the large olive grove by hand. The onions and the meat simmered for about two hours with pepper, salt and thyme until the goulash was just right – tomatoes might have made the goulash more Hungarian, I guess. We served the goulash with rice and two different kinds of coleslaw: one with carrots and yogurt, one with smoked pork belly and vinegar.

World Water Day 2011 – Seen From the Namib Desert

March 22, 2011

Tags: water, food, Angola, agriculture - plant, Benguela upwelling, deforestation, desert, ecosystem, fauna, flora, fog, fruit, gazelle, goats, Gondwana, grazing, Harald Süpfle (photo), Independence Day - Namibia, jerky, Namib Desert, Namibia, overgrazing, rain, rain clouds, sheep, South Africa, sweet water reservoir, thunderstorm, ur-continent, vegetable, well drilling, Welwitschia mirabilis, West Gondwana, World Water Day 2011, World Water Day 2011 – Seen From the Namib Desert

Every 22nd of April, World Water Day is celebrated. This year I observe it from an unlikely place: The Namib Desert.

The Namib is the oldest desert of the world. We know that some deserts have been man-made, by human deforestation and overgrazing of goats and sheep. This desert, luckily, is not man-made. When West Gondwana split from the original one-lump ur-continent Gondwana about 140 million years ago, conditions arose for the arid coastal strip that we call the Namib Desert. Then and now, warm moist winds from the north are cooled down by a cold ocean stream, the Benguela upwelling. The mixture results in cold air that can’t rise up high enough to make rain clouds, just fog. So it rarely if ever rains here, which creates this desert, many hundred of miles long, from Namibia to Angola. Those cool ocean fogs maintain the nearly invisible desert fauna and spare flora.

History aside, the most prominent feature of the Namib Desert are the wandering dunes, spectacular formations in constant movement, propelled by the winds. I marvel at the sharp edges, undulating forms, surprising patterns one finds and the colors of yellow and red sand, sometimes dusted with crimson or black – the beauty of this desert is indescribable. The desert reaches right to the edge of the ocean. One would think there should be a thin stripe of green between them, but there is only the stark contrast of endless yellow sand and endless turquoise ocean.

Plants and animals eke out a living in the Namib Desert. Welwitschia mirabilis is such a plant, ancient and immutable, nurtured by the ocean fogs that roll in most days. Hundreds of years old at times, perhaps even thousands, Welwitschia has two long leaves (usually ripped into several strands by the constant desert winds) and a middle trunk that grows incredibly slow. We saw a colony of plants of male and female plants spreading on the desert floor – it takes hundreds of years before you’d call the middle a real trunk that visibly reaches some height from the ground.

How can a country like Namibia exist? Due to a sweet water reservoir beneath this scorched coastal stripe. Namibians are very aware how fragile this ecosystem is, and fierce regulations who is allowed to drill a well and where are in place. Namibian agriculture consists mostly grazing cows and sheep. A famous meat product is a jerky made from springbok, a wild antelope. Due to lack of water, Namibia has nearly no plant agriculture – most fruit and vegetables are imported from South Africa by which Namibia was annexed until 1990, when it freed itself during a bloody rebellion. By chance, their Independence Day happened to be yesterday – March 21st.

And by another chance we arrived last week during some of the worst rains and thunderstorms the Namibian remember. We ended the first leg of our trip at a washed out bridge and had to make a huge detour. And for all that unusual rain, the Namib Desert, in places, showed us a fine, fuzzy green – a beautiful welcome.

Congee and Beans

February 28, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then, as they say: Enjoy!

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

Stress – Good and Bad

February 24, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, abdominal fat, adrenalin, affair, aging, alarm mode, allergy - food, animals - grain fed, balance, beans, biochemical processes – life-sustaining, blood pressure, cancer brush painting, cardamom, cat, cell - dried, cellular health, companionship, competition, cortisol, cross-stitching, dairy, depression, development - of children, diabetes type II, dog, ENM, European Natural Medicine, exercise, family, fats – fried, fats - hardened, food - fresh, free radicals, friends, fruit, ginger, grains - whole, growth hormones, happiness, heartbreak, heart disease, hobby, hug, joy, kiss, inflammation, inflammation response, interleukin-6, knitting, loneliness, longevity, music, nuts, overdrive, pet, puttering in the garden, relaxation, sexuality, sleep, slouching, spices, stress, Stress – Good and Bad, sugar, tea, tea - herbal, touch, vegetables - cooked or raw, walking - daily, white flour, white starches

A recent study shows that stress increases interleukin-6, a powerful agent of inflammation in the body. Interleukin-6 is, of course, not the only chemical in the body that is affected by stress: Stress creates free radicals that make you age faster. Stress puts the body in high alarm mode via adrenalin and cortisol. Stress decreases growth hormones and stunts the development of children. Stress increases abdominal fat, which leads to diabetes and other diseases.

Stress makes us sick; with this new study, we know a bit better how that happens: Years and years of inflammation in your body can lead to diabetes, heart disease, depression and cancer.

But did you know that there is bad stress and good stress? Bad stress is what life and other people do to you; good stress comes from setting yourself goals and working hard for it. Balance is the keyword here.

Balance fights stress, as European Natural Medicine knows:

• Movement: Moving around most of the day breaks down stress hormones in your muscles, and makes you feel relaxed. Again, too much exercise and competition can wreak havoc in your body. But daily walking is the minimum. Find a healthy balance between slouching and overdrive.

• Eating fresh food: Vegetables (cooked or raw), fruit, beans, nuts have powerful compounds that reduce inflammation in the body. Foods that increase inflammation are: sugar, white starches, dairy, grain fed animals, bad fats (especially fried and hardened). Grains (even whole grains) are sort of in the middle between good and bad: better than white flour, for some people they still trigger the body’s inflammation response. Observe yourself to find out where you stand. - Anything you are allergic to works in your body like a flame-thrower, increasing inflammation.

• Herbs and spices are packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins, and so on. They gobble up the free radicals and they add taste, zest and decreased inflammation to your life. Today I will just mention two: ginger and cardamom. Put some ginger and/or cardamom in your tea or herbal tea – they both are perfect winter spices.

• Touch: The more you touch and hug and kiss, the better you feel. I am not talking about sexuality though – even if the sex cravings of some people might be explained thus. I am talking about loving your family, your friends. Getting into complicated affairs might only increase your life stresses.

• Keep a pet: Companionship and again, touching, lowers blood pressure, and makes people happier and live longer. Loneliness kills by breaking your heart. A cat shows you the wisdom of taking it easy; a dog is always happy to see you.

• Music, painting, knitting, cross-stitching, puttering in the garden – whatever hobby makes you happy also makes you healthier.

• Water: A dried cell is a stressed cell. Make sure every cell of your body is watered well (but not water-logged) to decrease stress on the cellular level, so that the healthy biochemical reactions can take place and sustain your life.

• Sleep is the most important and most definitely underused stress reducer. If you stay up late for TV, a computer game or just plain old partying, you create the set-up for a stressful next day. Be in bed before ten at least once a week – just to be reminded how good it feels not to have to rush through sleep.

• Joy – put as much of this stress reliever into your life. One of the easiest – and most needed – ways to arrive at joy is working for the joy of other people.

The Means And The Goals

February 23, 2011

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, beauty, care, create, diet, ENM - European Natural Medicine, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, explore, fad diets, justice, happiness, laugh, learn, love, narcissistic bore, natural order, nurture, over-exercised zealots, push-ups, rest, share, sleep, superfoods, Swiss cheese, The Means And The Goals, tofu, vitamins, wake, water – bottled, weep, work, world – a better

For me, the Five Health Essentials have one advantage over all the fad diets and exercise programs: The fifth Health Essential.

Remember, in European Natural Medicine, there are five Health Essentials:

1. Water (note that I didn’t say: bottled)
2. Movement (note that I didn’t say: exercise)
3. Food (note that I didn’t say: superfoods)
4. Herbs (note that I didn’t say: vitamins)
5. Order.

Number five – order - is the one I want to talk about today. Number one to four are only the means; number five tells you that there are goals in life beyond living for the perfect diet or the perfectly sculpted body. We live to enjoy life to the fullest: to love, to learn, to share, to explore, to nurture, to care, to create.

Number five tells you that you are part of the natural order: You are born, and you will die. In between are your days and nights, which you can fill with garbage, or can fill with purpose and meaning.

Nothing in nature comes in round numbers (think 80-10-10! – one of the current fad diets) and nothing in nature comes in a square (think tofu!). Natural order makes you laugh and weep, sleep and wake, work and rest.

You know those over-exercised zealots – those narcissistic bores. Or those food faddists whose brains seem build from tofu with Swiss cheese holes. It is not about how you look or how many push-ups you can do (actually, being able to do one would be swell) – it is about leaving the world a better, happier, more just and more beautiful place for all its inhabitants.

Order – think what it could do for you.

My Food Pyramid Is Topped By Freshness

February 20, 2011

Tags: food, arteries – hardening of, beet - red, blueberries – frozen, bok choy, butternut squash, cabbage – white, caraway, cell repair, chard – red, cauliflower, chana dal, cilantro, cod, development – stunted, diabetes, dill, eating well, fats – hardened, food - enhanced, food - enriched, food - improved, food - manipulated, food - processed, food - ready-made, food ersatz, food pyramid, food substitute, freshness, garlic, Government, green sauce, hake, high blood pressure, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, My Food Pyramid Is Topped By Freshness, obesity, olive oil, parsnips, pineapple mousse, quinoa – red, ribs - grass-fed, salt, shelf-life, split peas, sugar, vegetables

If the Government would ask me for my opinion of redesigning the food pyramid – which they won't because they go the food industry – this single principle would guide my food choices: Freshness.

There actually is no other food than fresh food; everything processed, enriched, manipulated, enhanced, improved, ready-made is not food but inferior food substitute. “Food ersatz” cannot build and repair cells as fresh food can – the outcome is stunted development and disease in the long run.

If you think you are doing yourself a favor by eating, for instance an apple-flavored nutritional bar – think again. That bar has too much sugar and salt, to start with, promoting obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure – cornerstones of the metabolic syndrome. Its ingredients are made to have a long shelf-life. Why would you want to eat something even mold doesn’t want to touch? Its oils a hardened to make them not go rancid quickly – and in turn those hardened fats will harden your arteries. Its apple flavor is artificial and does not what a daily apple does so well: Keeping the doctor away.

Good health is very easy: Move a bit every day, eat well and get enough rest. Then, love a bit – and you are all set.

The devil of course is in the fine print. What does “eat well” mean? Your mind starts spinning if you listen to all the advice in books, online and on TV. But all you have to know is: freshness. Go to a supermarket aisle and buy four different vegetables. Preferably organic (But organic is second on the list; freshness is first). Prepare a meal today with two of the veggies; another meal tomorrow with the other two.

Here is what we had for dinner yesterday: red beet salad (made from scratch, of course), Chinese baby bok choy, cod with cilantro and dill, split peas; frozen blueberries for desert. Today we will have red chard with garlic and olive oil, butternut squash puree, hake fillet with green sauce, red quinoa; pineapple mousse for desert. Tomorrow I will slow braise grass-fed ribs and white cabbage and parsnips with caraway, and serve it with cauliflower and chana dal; for desert the rest of the pineapple.

None of this takes long cooking (the green sauce I have frozen from last time). But we will have a great dinner every single evening. Ordering a pizza would not give my family the same health benefits.

I Hate The Gym – You Too?

February 6, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, adhesives, aeration of rooms, anger, asbestos, birds’ songs, bliss, brooks, building materials, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, cleaning supplies, confusion, copiers, correction fluid, cosmetics, craft materials, degreasing products, depression, detergent, drywalls, endorphins, energy - increased, engagement, exercise, ficus, floor coverings, flowers, garden, glues, grass, green, gym, high blood pressure, houseplants, I Hate The Gym – You Too?, indoor, indoor pollution, lacquers, meta-analysis, molds, muscles, music, NordicTrack machine, outdoor, outdoor pollution, paints, Parkinson's, permanent markers, philodendron – heartleaf, printers, radon, revitalization, skiing - cross-country, smell, snowstorm, soil, sounds, spider plant, tension, terrain - uneven, upholstery, varnish, wall-to-wall carpeting, waves, wax, wind, window open, wood preservatives, workout

My intense dislike of the gym just got a scientific underpinning: A meta-analysis reveals that exercise done outdoors has more benefits that the one indoors. A meta-analysis is not a study from scratch but reviews already existing studies. In this case, researchers tried to figure out if there are benefits to exercise in a natural outdoors environment vs a confined gym.

The disadvantage of a meta-analysis is that the original studies might be flawed – in spite that the researchers tried to weed out those studies – and that their flaws get compounded. In this case, the original studies were furthermore hampered by not using objective measurements of wellbeing but “self-reported” statements: People just talked about how much better they felt outdoors than indoors.

And so the 833 individuals sound less scientific but gushing when reporting how they are feeling after their exercise in nature: “Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.”

I believe them even without a proper study because going to a gym would make me depressed – and I am not a depressed person to start with. On the other hand, when I putter around in the garden, I am suffused by bliss. Working out on my ages-old NordicTrack machine in the basement strengthens my muscles; going cross-country skiing lifts my spirit.

Clearly, working out in a gym increases endorphins and makes one feel better. But outside, we have the added benefit of light in our eyes and on our skin – which has been shown to decrease depression and boost vitamin D production. For once, Boston did not have another snow storm today so that I could not fill my outdoor needs by snow shoveling but I hacked away on ice for a good hour – to prepare for the next snowfall which is forecast for this week.

Outside, there's also less pollution. Contrary to common assumptions, indoor pollution generally is much higher than outdoor pollution (unless you live directly at a busy highway or near a spewing factory) – thanks to detergents and other cleaning supplies, cosmetics, wood preservatives, paints, varnish and lacquers, drywalls, molds, radon, asbestos, carbon monoxide, copiers, printers, correction fluid, glues and craft materials, wax, permanent markers, adhesives, degreasing products, building materials, upholstery, wall-to-wall carpeting and other floor coverings – to name some.

Therefore it is recommended that we aerate each room at least twice a day by pushing the windows open for fifteen minutes. And that we sleep with windows open all night. Asking around, I find that not many people do either.

Outside has usually uneven terrain – different from the even floor of a standard gym. The unevenness leads to better muscle workout – without that we notice the extra effort. This lowers blood pressure and might stave off Parkinson's.

Another advantage of the great outdoors is the color green: We are hard-wired to love a green landscape because green signals plants that produce oxygen and food for us, and hold precious water in place. Green is soothing to our eyes, and to our minds. There is not much life in eternal ice or the dry desert – green is our life. You can reduce indoor air pollution by having houseplants – heartleaf philodendron, spider plant and ficus are not hard to keep alive.

For the benefits of outdoors, let’s not forget the smell of flowers, mowed lawns, freshly turned soil. And the sounds: birds’ songs, rustling wind, lapping waves, babbling brooks – music to our ears.

Of course, researchers now call for better studies to measure all that. But you and I have known it all along: Outdoors is better!

Have You Coddled Your Hippocampus Lately?

February 2, 2011

Tags: movement, water, herbs, food, Alzheimer's, blood fats, bone loss, brain, brain function, cold – common, cold shower, cold stimulus, daylight, diabetes type II, flu, freezing temperatures, Have You Coddled Your Hippocampus Lately?, high blood pressure, hippocampus, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, ice, immune function inflexibility – mental, junk food, longevity, lunch hour, memory, menopause, metabolic syndrome, mood, mood booster, muscles, New England, obesity, osteoporosis, pebbles, plasticity – mental, Parkinson’s, PMS, snow, vitamin D, walking, weight

A recent study shows that brisk walks boost memory in older adults. And makes your hippocampus swell visibly on MRI. I bet this also applies to younger people.

The hippocampus is a worm-like structure deeply buried in your brain that is involved in memory formation. In Alzheimer, it is the part of your brain that will show the first signs of degeneration. A youthful hippocampus gives you mental plasticity, the opposite of which would be the obnoxious inflexibility that some older people show. About six to nine miles a week in this study was linked to better brain function. Walking even more did not seem to have more effect on the brain.

It comes down to walking ten minutes in one direction, turning around and walking back ten minutes, which can be done during lunch hour.

Another study showed that people who walk faster live longer. That bodes badly for me – I am a slow poke. But we can safely deduct that people who don’t walk will not make it long at all.

Walking also boost mood. If I would be a moody person (which I am not), I would do three things: go for a daily walk during daylight, end every hot shower with a cold one, and take herbal preparations – in women particularly, herbs against PMS or helping with post-menopause. Not to mention that I would turn to fresh, nourishing food and away from junk.

Walking per se is good for you. Two other studies have shown, that the effect is even better if you walk on uneven surface – like on pebbles, at a beach or in hilly terrain. Walking on pebbles decreases high blood pressure, and makes you less likely to get Parkinson’s. Using more muscles and consequently more brain can explain these results.

The most dramatic effect, I think, that daily walking can have – besides on memory, longevity, hypertension, Parkinson’s and mood – is that light boost vitamin D production under your skin – even if it is just the pale little area of your face reaping the rays. Vitamin D has become an important research focus as it wards off bone loss, cancer, multiple sclerosis and infections.

Walking will also lead to less weight and fight the dreaded metabolic syndrome (diabetes, high blood fats and hypertension) better sleep – all exercise does. And better sleep has been shown to increase overall performance, mood and resistance to infections.

In New England presently, walking the icy streets among huge snow banks is not that enticing. But I bet snow shoveling has all the above benefits, too – if you avoid hurting your back and don’t slip on the ice. At least I hope. Because I spend the morning digging out our walkway and garage driveway. At least this I know: The cold stimulus is a trigger for better immune function: Snow-shoveling in freezing temperatures improves my ability to better fend off flu and the common cold.

Winter Health – Thoughts From the Workshop

January 31, 2011

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, Andrographis paniculata, anis, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant stimulus, appetite, arm shaping, arterial disease, artificial molecules, ashwaganda, aspirin, astragalus, back health, bacteria, balance, ball - small heavy, bayberry, bicycling, blueberry, boneset, botulism, breast-feeding, breathing difficulties, broth, butter – pros and cons, cabbages, calendula, Cetraria islandica, chamomile, chicken soup, children – herbs for, cloves, coconut oil, cod liver oil, cold applications, cold dunk for babies older than four months, cold shower, cold sitzbath, cold stimulus, cold wash, cold wraps, colorings, compounds in a plant, computer, cough, covering sneeze, cytokine storm, dairy, decongestants, drinking warm or hot fluids, echinacea, eleuthero - formerly named Siberian ginseng, elderberry, elderberry flower, enhancers, eucalyptus, Eupatorium perfoliatum, evolution, extracts – herbal, fats – vegetal, fennel, fever, fever over 104 F in children, fish, fish oil, flavorings, flu epidemic, flu outbreak, flu season, fresh food, food – cooked vs raw, fruit – fresh or as compotes, fungi, GAIA Quick Defense, games – outdoor, Gan Mao Dan, gargling, garlic, germs, getting to the ground once a day, ginger, Ginkgo biloba, goldenseal, Great Britain, GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract), hanging out, greens, headache - enormous, herbal tea, herbs, herbs - fresh or dried, hiking, high blood pressure, home cooking, honey, honeysuckle, Honeysuckle-Forsythia Detoxifier, horehound, horseradish, hot liquids, hot water, hypertension, Iceland moss, immune system, immune system – exuberant, juice, juniper berry, knee bends, lamb, legumes, lemonade, lemon balm, licorice, linden flower, lingering cold, Manuka honey, marshmallow root, mask over nose and mouth, meat, microbes, microwaving, mucosa, mullein, mushroom preparation, mustard, myrrh, neem, obesity, olive leaf, olive oil, omnivore, oregano extract, Oreganol (an oily extract of oregano), Oregon grape, organic, osha, patented medicine, pathogen, pau d’arco, Pelargonium sidoides, pelvic health, peppermint, phyto-caps, physiology – our ancient, pneumonia, point mutation, pregnancy, Prepare – Protect – Pull Through, preservatives, PrimalDefense, probiotic, qi, Raynaud’s, repair of damaged cells, repair time between 11 pm and 1 am, resistance, respiratory infection, resting, ribwort plantain, rinsing nose with saltwater, roots, rose hips, rotation of foods, rotation of herbs, sage, sauna, sinusitis, sleep, sleeping with windows open, slippery elm, snow shoveling, sore throat, spices, standing on one leg, starches - white, steam inhalation, stiff neck, stinging nettle, stomach flu, strength, stress - good and bad, stuffed nose, sugars, sun light, sweetener, Swine flu, synergy, tea - green or black, tea tree oil, teenager, tepid water, thyme, tincture, tonic herbs, TV, Tylenol, umckaloaba, urinary tract infection, UTI, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian, Vick’s, violets, virus, virus exposure, vitamin C, vitamin D, walking, warm rooms, wash hands often, weekend, winter, Winter Health – Thoughts From the Workshop, twisting movement, warm rooms, Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian, yoga, yoga ball, young adult, zinc lozenges, Zyflamend

Introduction:
[These are my notes – they are a refresher for the workshop attendants. But might also be useful to look something up when one needs it]

What happens through the winter: A depletion of reserves leads to increased susceptibility to infections. Decreased movement. Holiday foods – not healthy.

It takes two to get sick: A virus and a run-down immune system.

“Huge outbreak” of Swine flu in Great Britain: 24 deaths as of 1/29/11 – compared to the more than 35,000 deaths annually from “normal” flu in the US (which is nothing).

Cold and flu:
• Prepare: Get your immune system into perfect shape
• Protect: Shield yourself during an actual outbreak
People are less prone to respiratory infections if they have more contact with people, and hug more. Exception: Little kids – they schlep everything home. But in the long run, it might be beneficial. But in a flu outbreak: Stay away from people as much as you can. Wash hands often. Don’t be sneezed at. Avoid public transportation. Don’t hug and kiss. Avoid touching public doorknobs, telephones and similar surfaces with unprotected hands.

• Pull through: Survive even if you come down with it.

• Water
• Cold stimulus – compare to anti-oxidant stimulus – good stress and bad stress
• Warm rooms: More obesity, more colds
• Cold Shower/cold wash/cold dunk for babies older than four months
• Cold sitzbath
• Sauna
• Sleeping with windows open
• Drink enough warm or hot fluids – hot herbal teas are perfect. Juices are not.
• Don’t do cold applications with an acute cold/flu, uncontrolled hypertension, arterial disease (Raynaud’s)

• Movement
The only thing for increasing qi and against cold is movement. But excess is as detrimental as laziness.
• Yoga, of course
• Daily outside walk – importance to get sun light and vitamin D
• Hiking, bicycling, games on weekends
• Snow shoveling:
Break down the task
Take small loads
No abrupt movements
Cherish twisting movements – but they also can be the source of strained muscles.
• Yoga ball (back)
• Small heavy ball (arms)
• Getting to the ground once a day (strength)
• Knee bends (strength)
• Hanging out (back)
• Standing on one leg (pelvic health)

• Food
• Fresh foods – home cooking: Vegetables, legumes, small portions of fish and meat (lamb!), fresh (or dried) herbs. No microwaving.
• Vegetarian/vegan against omnivore
• No dairy, sugars, white starches, sweeteners, artificial molecules: colorings, flavorings, enhancers, preservatives, etc
• Predominantly cooked – more so in the winter
• Fats: More is better – but they have to be vegetal: Olive oil, coconut oil, ??butter
• Organic: Good but fresh is more important
• If you have a cold/flu: You should always force hot liquids on a sick person but never food: Respect if there is no appetite, and respect if there is. Just nothing sugary. Fruit – fresh or as compotes – is probably the best. Or hot elderberry/blueberry soup (also good for acute stomach flu and urinary tract infections). Blueberries are much cheaper.

• Herbs
Herbs have been with us throughout evolution. Their mechanism fit into our ancient physiology like a key into a lock. We always ate herbs from the wild, and now that we have for the most part stopped, a little bitter green, cabbages or strong root might just be what your body needs to find back to balance.

Bacteria and viruses do not easily develop resistance against herbs. That is because a single herb contains hundreds or more of compounds, and many of these compounds work on killing off the germs - not only one. Since point mutations in bacteria can only develop one by one, it is less likely that an herb becomes ineffective against a pathogen because there will be other compounds to destroy the microbes first.

Synergy is the reason why I recommend whole herbs (tinctures or so-called phyto-caps with extracts of the whole plant) instead of “taking the best” from several pants, and making a patented medicine. Patent medicines exist because natural plants can’t be patented, and so firms try to make money by taking single compounds from a plant, combining it with other single compound, thus producing a “new” medicine that allegedly is better. The truth is, mostly it is not better because you cannot improve on nature

• Prepare: During cold and flu season, take tonic herbs like stinging nettle, astragalus, ashwaganda, or eleuthero (formerly named Siberian ginseng) to strengthen your immune system. Rotate them every three weeks.
• Spice up your food with herbs and spices because they kill microbes (the plants developed the strong-tasting compounds to protect themselves against the invasion of bacteria, viruses and fungi). Pregnant and breast-feeding women as well as little children should go easy on herbs and spices.
• When you go out, use an Echinacea spray every hour or two to protect your throat, the entry port of viruses. Again, GAIA makes a good one
• Mushrooms boost your the immune system – eat them often, or take a mushroom preparation; Whole Body Defense by Gaia is one.

• Protect: (if you had exposure, or suspect you had): If there is a bad flu epidemic: Chew a raw garlic clove, several times a day
• Take a lick of unheated honey (Manuka is the best) every hour or so – kills germs (not for children under three years – danger of botulism!)
• Rinse your nose prophylacticly with saltwater to kill germs (carefully rinse mouth afterward with clear water if you have blood pressure issues)
• Prophylactic and curing: Hot elderberry tea, hot blueberry soup
• Importance to wash hands and cover sneezes and coughs, preferably with a sleeve cough – not your hands
• Take as supplements: A probiotic (I like PrimalDefense), fish oil and cod liver oil

• Pull through: In cold and flu: Immediately when you come down with the flu: REST!
• Fever over 104 F in children, and a cold lingering more than a week should be seen by a physician. Also if you have unusual symptoms like stiff neck, enormous headaches, breathing difficulties, and so on.
• Against cold: Easiest, most expensive: GAIA Quick Defense. It contains Anagraphis paniculata – best cold medication I know (hard to find as a single extract)
• Against cold and flu: Echinacea, olive leaf, osha, pau d’arco, licorice – all as extracts in a bottle. Mix together in hot water like a tea.
• Other herbs that have been found beneficial in colds and flu: bayberry, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), calendula, goldenseal, Oregon grape, juniper berry (chew a dried berry every few hours, not more than five a day, and not for longer than a week), umckaloaba (Pelargonium sidoides)
• A ready-made anti-viral concoction is the Chinese Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian, also called Honeysuckle-Forsythia Detoxifier. It might be a good idea to have some of those pills at hand when you get sick (get them from a reputable source).
• Lingering (more than a week) colds and bacterial infections: GSE extract (but consult your physician to make sure it is not pneumonia)
• Sore throat: Swish a few drops of oregano extract (nips whatever is coming in the bud, if you take it early enough) in your mouth and swallow, or zinc lozenges (science is a bit wobbly on zinc)
• Sore throat: Gargle with saltwater or warm water with one drop of sage, myrrh, oreganol, neem or tea tree oil. Not for children under six.
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Rinsing nose with saltwater – frequently, if necessary
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Eat mustard, horseradish.
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Steam inhalation helps with a running or stuffed nose. You can add chamomile, thyme, eucalyptus or a pea-sized piece of Vick’s. You can also use Vick’s on older children (check the label).
• Cough: Gan Mao Dan Chinese pills (20 per day in divided doses), or make a tea of peppermint, honeysuckle, ginger, cloves and/or horehound, slippery elm, violets, fennel, anis, marshmallow root (the real one!), Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica), ribwort plantain
• Fever is mostly good – it kills the germs. Therefore, no aspirin or Tylenol. In children, do cold wraps or dunk babies in tepid water
• If you get the flu, start Ginkgo biloba will start repair damaged cells
• Also: No decongestants as they tend to dry out mucosa and increase stuffiness in the long run
• Increase hot fluids: hot water, hot broth (chicken soup has been researched – and it really works!), hot herbal teas (linden flowers, elderberry flowers, honeysuckle, fennel or thyme, sage, green or black tea, thyme, ginger, rose hips, mullein, lemon balm, peppermint - in all combinations) are good – but so are many other. Hot lemonade is also beneficial if made with fresh lemons and preferably with unheated honey
• If you use vitamin C, use a low-dose kind – and only in the first few days of a cold
• Don’t use all the herbs at once – get familiar with a few, one after the other.
• There is no such thing as” That herb does not work in me!” There is only “That herb does not work against this or that germ”

• Order
• Cherish the season – don’t fight it
• Preventing: GET ENOUGH SLEEP! In a flu outbreak, be in bed by nine pm every night – no TV, no computer. The body repairs itself during about two hours the time around midnight — if you are asleep then, that is.
• During a bad flu season, consider wearing a mask over nose and mouth

The causes of death in influenza are of two different origins: Older people die of the virus and its consequences like pneumonia; their weakened immune system cannot fight the virus anymore. Young people succumb to an overreaction of their still exuberant immune system – they produce what we call a cytokine storm, and usually die within the first two days. Consequently, both groups should be treated differently. In young people (older teenagers and young adults) I therefore would add an herbal anti-inflammatory, namely Zyflamend as soon as the young person gets sick.

What’s In A Diagnosis?

January 23, 2011

Tags: order, water, food, movement, antibiotic, ballroom dancing, change jobs, chronic fatigue, diagnosis, divorce, fever - high, headaches - worst of his life, high blood pressure, hypertension, lifestyle, marital counseling, modern-day, pill, sleep, stiff neck, stress, tennis, therapy, tick-borne disease, tularemia, What’s In A Diagnosis?

Sometimes a patient is desperate for a diagnosis: If she has been going from doctor to doctor, and has been told uncountable times that nothing is wrong, it's all in her head - she might be relieved if she finally gets told she has "chronic fatigue." At least, now she can deal with it.

Sometimes a diagnosis can save a life: If your belly hurts, and the diagnosis is “appendicitis”, a surgeon will operate on you, and your life is saved in all likelihood. When my son, a few years ago, had high fever, stiff neck and the worst headaches of his life, only the diagnosis of a physician turned the course of the disease around. The physician thought it likely was a tick-borne disease and probably tularemia: With the right antibiotic, my son recovered quickly.

Sometimes a diagnosis is just and word: Say, your doctor tells you that you have hypertension - high blood pressure. That doesn’t help you much. It helps the doctor to know what pill to prescribe you – for the rest of your days. Now you are a patient.

High blood pressure is a typical modern-day stress disease. Only about five percent of people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure, have an underlying medical condition. The rest – ninety-five percent! – have a wrong lifestyle. But interestingly, the diagnosis doesn’t tell you that there might be a difference – or that something else than a pill might help you.

If you have an especially astute doctor, he will tell you that you have “essential hypertension”, “essential” here meaning no real reason he knows of. With other words, the diagnosis is a medical throwing up his arms in the air, declaring nothing can be done. Except for a few pills, of course.

You have stress because your boss is unreasonable, or your spouse is the nagging kind, or your gambling debts are threatening to destroy your family life – again, you might not be able to do much. On the other hand, you might be starting thinking about what can be done. Getting more sleep every night? Eating more vegetables? Going into therapy? Returning to school, training for another line of work? Divorcing your spouse, or going to marriage counseling together? Enrolling in a course of ballroom dancing together? Changing jobs? Taking up tennis to get a handle on your stress and work some of the anger off physically?

No – you have a diagnosis, and now you get a pill. That’s all. Your doctor didn’t even tell you to drink more water, I bet.

You were probably told to go easy on salt. That is nice advice – if you were also told that most processed and restaurant foods contain too much salt, even your breakfast cereals and the “nutritional” bar. And that the salt problem is really big in black people but less of an issue in Caucasian people.

Chances are that your doctor also gives you a diagnosis of too high cholesterol – hypercholesterolemia. That’s another pill, right away.

Your doctor didn’t tell you that high blood pressure and high cholesterol aren’t two different diseases. They are one bad lifestyle. More often than not they go together.

And, oh, now you got diabetes! Your sugars are too high and this new diabetes really needs good management. Your doctor might even give you a new name for the three diseases above: Syndrome X. He will wiggle his head in concern, because having all three makes it really dangerous. One has to be treated extra-extra carefully – with many pills.

Some (or all) of those pills have side effects. Liver failure, depression, impotence, muscle inflammation, fatigue, upset stomach, and so on – which will require more pills and more monitoring.

None of the pills will buy you real health – glowing, sweaty, happy health as you might experience when you play a round of pick-up Frisbee or swim in the ocean.

I am not saying here you should throw away all the pills your doctor gave you. I am just saying you should strive for health, not for diagnoses and an assortment of pills, so that, one by one – and with the supervision of your physician – you might be able to drop the pills.

What is the difference between this diagnosis and that diagnosis? My son’s illness had nothing to do with lifestyle, and all to do with a nasty bug. Most diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood fats, and many cases of depression, arthritis and cancer have a whole lot to do with lifestyle. If you break a bone, only a good cast will help mending it – and good food will speed up the healing process.

Once you have a cancer, of course, a bit of lifestyle change is not enough to save your life – you need surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. Once the cancer is diagnosed, eating more fresh vegetables and going for a daily walk in sunlight might help you recover – but better would have been you would have started on a healthy path many years ago.

The uncomfortable truth is: Health does not come out of a pill bottle. And a diagnosis is just a name. What you do with your life counts for your health.

Boston Area Workshop – Yoga & European Natural Medicine

January 19, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, Boston Area Workshop – Yoga & European Natural Medicine, Carol Nelson, common sense, European Natural Medicine (ENM), health, immune function, Nelson – Carol, relaxation, winter, wisdom, workshop, yoga

Do you want a healthier, more meaningful life? Come, learn to put to work time-proven wisdom. What here I am only talking about, you will see in action, hands-on.

Carol Nelson and I will combine for an afternoon workshop at the end of the month in Cambridge/Massachusetts to bring some light into gloomy, cold January. Natural methods help you to bolster immune function for a healthier winter. Bring your health questions to this afternoon, and fulfill your yearning for a more real life.

Our session will be framed Carol Nelson’s introductory yoga session and a closing yoga relaxation.

In between I will talk about the Five Health Essentials: Water – Movement – Food – Herbs – Natural Order to give you natural methods to get through the winter healthily. Nothing complicated – just plain old common sense.

You will find times, address and fee on the event page. Pre-registration required.

Is It January – Or Is It Me?

January 15, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, herbs, arterial disease, ball - heavy small, cayenne, Celsius, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, cold, cold shower, cold wash, coldness, cookies, coriander leaves, coriander seeds, curry, electric heating pad, exercise, Fahrenheit, February, feet – cold, Florida, ginger, glands, gluten-free, green tea - hot, hands – cold, herbal tea, high blood pressure - uncontrolled, holidays, hot water bottle, Is It January – Or Is It Me?, January, jumping rope, lungs, March, mood, paprika, pull-ups, qi – life force, sitzbath – cold, snowstorm, skin, soup - warm, spices – “hot” and “cold”, sugar – brown and white, tea, vanilla, virus, vitamin D, walking, warning signs, winter swimming, yoga ball

We had a whopper of a snowstorm, and since then we haven’t gotten out of the freezing numbers. Tonight they predict single-digit numbers (Fahrenheit, that is; to those who believe in Celsius, as I do, it is supposed more than ten degrees below zero).

Still, in the morning I am doing my cold sitzbath. Now the water is so cold that when I count to twenty-one for my leg moving to swish the water over my thighs, I feel pins and needles, and not much more. When I get out of the tub, my lower half feels like non-existent, it is so cold.

But within a minute of toweling off and walking on tiptoes, I get nice, tingling warmth’s flooding all over, my toes are all pink, and I am ready for the day.

Do I push the cold too much – to an extent that it becomes unhealthy?

I don’t think so. Around holiday time, I had a period where I felt cold all the time. Even if the heat was higher than normal, I felt that deep chill inside. Not sure if I was breeding a virus that never came out because I usually nip a stuffy nose and a bit of a sore throat in the bud with herbs. Or if it was the not-so-healthy food we all succumb to around the holidays – even me. My cookies are gluten-free – but they are still cookies, loaded with sugar and butter (I know because I baked them).

When I felt so cold for a few days, I decided it was not wise to continue my cold sitzbaths; I just wasn’t sure what I was hatching. Instead I did quick cold washs in the bathtub.

Why I tell the story? Because in Natural Medicine we believe that not every body is the same, not even every body is the same every day, and one should heed the body’s warning signs. Not getting warm anymore certainly is such a sign - and pushing through it would be foolish.

Some people can do cold exposure like sitzbath or cold shower only in the early afternoon – because that’s the body’s “hottest” time. The very elderly and the frail should not tough it out at all with cold showers. And never, ever try winter swimming! But everybody probably benefits from a very fast cold wash-down.

A few years ago, for my patients, I put together a pamphlet about how to get warm; constant cold hands and feet was a complaint I heard quite often. What do you do to get warmer?

Bundling up is the first that comes to mind – and important to get warm NOW. But in the long run, it is counterproductive: The warmer you dress, the more you heat your rooms, the less your body generates heat – it loses the ability.

A cold wash or even a very short cold shower (not more than a few seconds) will acclimatize the body to colder temperatures. In the long run, it will also reduce colds. Besides it is good against high blood pressure, and good for skin, lungs, glands and mood (don’t take a cold shower with uncontrolled high blood pressure though, or with Raynaud’s or other arterial diseases!). – But if you haven’t started your cold shower yet, it might be wiser to wait until the three coldest months (January, February, March) are over. Try cold washs until then: With a face cloth wash yourself down quickly with cold water (change face cloths daily!) – unless you live in Florida or so.

Other methods to get warm: A hot green tea or a hot herbal tea. Or try a warm soup.

Certain herbs produce heat in the body: Interestingly, the spices we often use in Christmas cookies produce warmth - like cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, coriander seeds, cloves – they warm up the cold season (as does brown sugar, by the way. Go light on the sweets because you’ll feel warmer, but also heavier). Spices we call “hot” like paprika, curry, cayenne, coriander leaves (also called cilantro) have a cooling effect – as does white sugar.

If you are cold, you can put a hot water bottle in your bed in the evening – we sleep with window open even at these temperatures – and our bedroom is an ice cellar at this time of the year. You can also use an electric pad – but never when you are in bed. Heat it up about half an hour before retiring. Some people like the warmth at their feet. I like it at the small of my back – because that’s where my center is – and the qi-producing adrenal glands.

Ah, here we are at the Chinese qi – and the bad news. Having cold hands and feet (or worse, a cold core like I had around the holidays) is a sign of too little life energy. The Chinese content that the foods we have can help a bit with qi. But what really generates qi is: movement.

When I was cold all the time, I realized that I had slacked off in my exercises – no wonder during holiday stress. I revamped. Since I am still no friend of a gym I do more of the little things I can do at home, between spurts of writing: Pulling myself up the bar (we have one installed in the doorway to the basement – mostly for the guys in the family), rolling around on my yoga ball, doing little exercises with a small, heavy ball, jumping rope, and making sure I will go for a walk at least once a day. Better twice: One for filling up my vitamin D needs during the day, and once in the dark after dinner with my husband, filling up my need for connection with my spouse.

Cold hands and feet all the time? I learned it the hard way: Only movement really helps. Without movement, we are creeping faster toward the final coldness.

The Teeth in Your Mouth

January 12, 2011

Tags: herbs, order, food, movement, water, allergies, aloe, amalgam, arthritis, bacteria, bone, brushing teeth, caries, chewing, chronic fatigue, debris, dental hook, dental treatment, dentistry – natural, diet - sugar-free, dyes in toothpaste, electric toothbrush, filling – dental, flossing, floss - tape, floss - thin, fluoride in water, fungi, gum disease, gum line, headaches, hygiene - dental, infections – recurrent, laser treatment in dentistry, migraines, molar, myrrh, dentistry - natural, neem, neem stick, neuralgias, oregano, parodontosis, people - “primitive”, periodontitis, plaque, plaque-fighting herbs, plaque removal, rheumatic pains - soft-tissue, sinusitis, soft tissue pains, susceptibility to infections, tea tree oil, teeth, The Teeth in Your Mouth, Tom’s of Maine, toothache, toothpaste - color-free, tooth health, vagina, virus, x-rays - dental

When I was sixteen, I got a toothache – one of the molars on the lower left hurt. The dentist was very nice and said he couldn’t see anything (that was before the time of dental x-rays) but would bore a hole to see how the tooth looked inside.

He couldn’t find anything bad on top. So he drilled another hole on one side, then on the other – all for the sake of exploration. “Sorry,” he said, “I can’t find anything “. He sent me home after filling the tooth with amalgam, on three sides.

Next day I had a whopping sinusitis, and it became clear that the aching tooth had been an early warning sign.

These many years later I still have that tooth, repaired on three sides – after no caries at all! I still have it because that encounter left me an avid tooth-brusher – and very skeptical of dental treatment.

Clearly I am not a dentist and not an expert in tooth health – but I must have been doing something right all these years because I still have all my teeth. Science also has established that good teeth signal good overall health.

Diseases of teeth are mainly two: caries (tooth decay) and parodontosis (gum disease). When gum disease gets worse, it loosens the teeth (then it is called periodontitis); one can lose a perfectly healthy tooth only because it lost its grip on the bone (or the other way round).

Here my dentistry ideas – and don’t forget I am a lay person in this field (and welcome the discussion with dentists!):

1. Brushing: Brushing your teeth after each meal or snack is important (and it might even cut down on your snacks!). An electric brush is the best. But even by hand can be effective if you do it right: Brush into the gum line – not just across it. Use a color-free toothpaste, like Tom’s of Maine (they don’t pay me to say this – but this is what I use) because allergies to dye can cause gum disease. Don’t use a too hard brush.

2. Flossing: The first time I ever heard of flossing was when I came to America. I thought Americans were crazy, and I hated the feeling of floss between my teeth. But after a bout with gum disease, I started flossing – and it made all the difference. Using tape instead of regular thin floss has made it bearable for me. Floss once a day – be always gentle on your gums.

3. Herbs: For a while I went to regular hygienic sessions. But the brutality with which they used sharp instruments to remove plaque appalled me; there is nothing natural about that process – “primitive” people have healthy teeth because of their sugar-free diet. I got myself a dental hook and did the work myself – gentler. Since then, I have started brushing my teeth with a drop (or a few, depending) of herbs – and all the plaque has melted away. No hooks and medieval treatment anymore!

• Tea tree oil: This is a great plaque-fighting herb. Use one drop, once a day, together with your regular toothpaste. When you feel your plaque is in control, use it less often – about once a week because one of the concerns with tea tree oil is that it is allergenic, to a degree.

• Oregano, myrrh, neem, aloe (the inside gel of the leaf only): These (and other) herbs one can use to brush teeth and gums. Use the one or other herb extract with each brushing of your teeth – rotate them so that the likelihood of developing an allergy is reduced. It will keep the dentist away. – One can also buy neem sticks for cleaning teeth – that is how it has been done in India for thousands of years.

The discussion about fluoride is not yet finished. I have read tons of scientific papers about it – and still cannot make up my mind. It is a toxic substance and I am against using it indiscriminately in drinking water. But I like it in toothpaste as many studies have shown that fluoride greatly reduces caries. When we use the herbs above against gum disease, we also are fighting bacteria with toxic compounds (namely herbs) – only we assume (and have studies to back it up) that herbs are gentler on our bodies than the mining by-product fluoride. Also, I know that herbs help against gum disease. But herbs are less established against caries.

Eating fresh food, chewing well, not snacking between meals, avoiding sugary beverages (including all juices!) will go a long way protecting your teeth. Still, you should see a dentist regularly to make sure that a little problem didn’t creep up. A small hole is easily mended – a big hole might mean the tooth has to come out.

Don’t whiten your teeth! The process of whitening damages the precious tooth enamel. Also, we are supposed to have off-white teeth (actually, rather yellowish-looking) – that color connotes health. Only people on TV strive to that whiteness which is unnatural and unnecessary – and damaging. (But then again, you know me – I am also against under-arm shaving…).

If you ask: I would never have a root canal. In Natural Medicine, we think of a root canal as breeding “focus” of bacteria, viruses, fungi and debris that can’t be good for your body in the long time. Sealing bacteria into a body cavity spells future disaster. Arthritis, soft-tissue rheumatic pains, neuralgias, chronic fatigue, headaches and migraines, susceptibility to infections and allergies are thought to be caused by such a “focus” in the body. Modern treatments with laser, etc. certainly give better outcomes. But dentists acknowledge that there is not such thing as a sterile root canal.

And don’t forget: Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth to exercise balance and pelvic musculature! What good are all the teeth in your mouth, if your vagina falls out?

Can’t Cook?

January 5, 2011

Tags: food, herbs, breakfast, brown rice, Can’t Cook?, cheese, coconut oil, cooking, cooking course, dairy, dill, fats - hardened, fish, frying pan, garlic – dry and minced, garlic - fresh, grains, hake, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), kale, lamb chop, legumes, lentils, lentils – French, lentils – red, meat, mini-cooking course, New Year resolution, olive oil, oregano, pepper, pork cutlet, rice – brown, salt, shelf-life, side dish, sirloin stripes, skillet, Standard American Diet (SAD), starch - white, sugars, vegetable dish

In a country where the kitchens all look like out of the movies, and people read cookbooks like mysteries, few actually cook a warm meal every day, and some have not even the most basic of cooking skills. If you can’t cook but have resolved for the New Year to eat healthier - here is your mini-cooking course, easy as 1-2-3:

1. Vegetable: Go to the supermarket and look which vegetable is affordable, looks very fresh, and is organic (in that order!): Buy it.

What you need also for a vegetable dish: a mid-sized skillet with lid, olive oil, pepper and salt, dry minced or fresh garlic (if you have never cooked, take dry garlic – it is no fuss at all). Don’t opt for garlic already minced/peeled in a jar – it spoils fast.

Say you bought kale. Cut in broad stripes, wash it fast, put in skillet. Add about a finger or two deep water, olive oil, pepper, salt, garlic. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low, until the kale starts looking like wilting – takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

Eat and enjoy! If you really can’t cook, making a beginning with a single vegetable dish and experiencing the different flavors, will get you hooked. Nearly all vegetables are good with garlic and olive oil. In the future, I will post some more very easy recipes.

After you have tried several different vegetables, you graduate to fish and/or meat.

2. Fish or meat: Buy a filet of fish (about half a pound per person) that looks fresh or a small piece of meat for pan-frying, for instance: a lamb chop, a thin pork cutlet, some sirloin stripes.

What you need for fish/meat: A small frying pan with lid, some fresh or dried herbs (like dill for fish, oregano for meat), coconut oil, pepper and salt.

Say you bought a piece of hake: Melt a teaspoon of coconut oil in the frying pan. Wash the fish, dry it with a paper towel, put it into the pan. Cover it with dill that you have finely chopped, or with dry dill (don’t be a miser!). Heat until you hear it sizzling, then turn to low heat, and let simmer for about ten to twenty minutes, depending on the size of the piece of fish. It should easily break apart when you probe with a fork.

In fish and meat, salt should always be added AFTER cooking. Pepper can go in whenever you want it.

Frying meat is a bit more tricky – do you like your meat more raw or more done? Usually, when blood seeps up to the surface, it is time to turn the meat and fry from the other side.

Don’t be afraid of frying! Coconut oil can stand heating better than olive oil. And what kills us in the Standard American Diet (SAD) is not this little bit of meat but sugars (especially High Fructose Corn Syrup ((HFCS)), white starches, dairy (especially cheese) and hardened fats (which are used in processed foods to increase shelf-life).

3. Ready for a side dish? They are easiest! Rice and lentil leftovers also make a wonderful breakfast the next day. For breakfast, warm the grains/legumes amd add some olive oil – that way you get hungrier later. A handful fresh (or dried) herbs makes it a rounded breakfast.

Grains/legumes: You need a small skillet with lid. You also need brown rice or dry lentils, and salt.

Say you bought small green lentils (also called French lentils, Champagne lentils). Take one cup of dry lentils and add two cups of water. Plus a pinch of salt. Here I publicly admit to that I never wash lentils and rice. It might be better – but then the ratio of water is not that simple 1 to 2. So I don’t wash - I seem to be less worried by germs and crud than other people; a certain amount might even strengthen our immune system. Bring to a boil, then put the lid on and simmer on low, until all water is gone. For French lentils it takes roughly 45 minutes.

Red lentils (same recipe, same grain/water ratio) cook must faster – they are done in about twenty minutes. I always add cumin to red lentils, for a great taste.

“Normal” lentils, the plain old variety, cook the same. Only they taste a bit boring. To vamp them up, add a small onion and/or a carrot, or both, finely chopped. The cooking time for normal lentils is somewhere between green and red lentils. You don’t have to worry about cooking times: Grains and legumes are always done when the water is gone.

Now you can make a whole meal! Everything else will be just variations on the themes.

P.S. If you live in the Boston area, and like to hear me speak, see the calendar on "events" for a January 30th event.

Peace on Earth - Common Sense

December 31, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, alternative energy, banks, buying, car, charity, China, Club of Rome, common sense, consumption, cosmetics – harmful, disparity – income, education, food – processed, economic growth, economy, energy – alternative, energy – solar, energy – wind, energy – alternative fuels, Great Depression, Great Recession, health care, insanity, make-do, ministering to the needy, New Year’s resolution, nutritional bar, paradigm shift, peace, Peace on Earth, Peace on Earth - Common Sense, recycle, repair, shop less, sickness, West

This blog is written out of a desire to bring common sense to the health care debate. To have a system that can fix difficult diseases – brilliant! But to live a life that doesn’t make you sick in the first place – common sense.

We can agree on that. But can we also agree in some other areas? (I am not an expert on things beyond medicine - so be forewarned - this might be an intolerably bad blog entry). We can’t live sanely, if the world is out of whack. And it is.

The disparity between rich and poor is getting wider, the climate is changing (not for the better), the world’s banks are near-collapse, peace between nations appears to be elusive, terrorism is replacing meaningful discourse.

In this situation I would like a word from our leaders that it is time for a shift in paradigms: Individual consumption can’t save the world. We who are better off (and if you are sitting at a computer, you belong to the better-off group – as sorry as you might feel for your tight budget, debts, or unsure financial future) need to make do with what we have and have to find ways to be happier on less. Studies show that all that stuff we bought and consumed didn’t make us happier in the first place. Exactly the same thing is now happening in China – we, in the West, have not been a good role model, it seems.

Instead, we are hearing the same as before from our political leaders: Buy more, consume more – because that way you help the economy. The Club of Rome, a loose coming-together of prominent economists, predicted in 1972 that economic growth could not go on forever. Meanwhile we have been going through a near second Great Depression (called now the Great Recession) – and still it is business as usual.

I don’t want to help the economy by buying a bigger car, harmful cosmetics or processed food. This is my resolution for the New Year (much as I am against New Year’s resolution since I think every day is the beginning of a new year in our life, and every day should be lived to its best and most worthwhile): I want to become even more mindful in what I throw my money at.

• Charity is always a good think – but do your homework: Choose a charity where the money is really landing at the intended poor – not at the charity's CEOs.
• Fresh food. No “nutritional” bars but a chicken from an organic farmer. No “slimming down miracle” but fresh vegetables. No “enhanced” this or “fortified” that but real food. Not food substitutes.
• Alternative energies: Solar and wind are probably the best bet at this time. Fuel from corn or fuel from cow dung – those projects have not yet grown up.
• Education of the poor – here and abroad. The more education people have, the less likely they are to have too many children they can’t feed. The less people there are in the world, the better the chance for a good life for each of them – without religions that promise them a better life in the beyond and make them throw bombs here.
• Health care for all. For this I would be ready to pay higher taxes.
• Ministering to the needy: the disabled, the mentally ill, the homeless – without stifling the entrepreneurial spirit of this country.
• Shop less – shopping should not be a pastime. Reading is. Gardening is. Cross-stitching is. Find something worthwhile to do.
• Make it a hobby to do with less, to recycle, to repair.

Spending indiscriminately will not avert the financial crisis. Spending while improving the world might save our good old Earth.

Peace to all! Peace everywhere!

Yeah, and before I forget: Let's move more!

The End of the Year in Maine

December 28, 2010

Tags: movement, food, order, artichokes, baking, balance, Beethoven - Ludwig van (1770-1827), Brendel - Adrian (born 1976), Brendel - Alfred (born 1931), cello, Christmas, cookies, cooking, cross-country skiing, Cutting For Stone, exercise, healing food, Maine, pesto, piano, red cabbage, sauerbraten, shoveling snow, skiing, The End of the Year in Maine, Verghese - Abraham (born 1955), writing

We are in the cabin, away from everything during the time we call between the years in German. Nowhere in the world do I sleep as deeply as here, nothing makes me so content than being here with my loved ones.

Not to sound too pollyannaish: The adjustment to being in such confined room is usually a loud affair for our family – we have to rearrange ourselves and our egos. But the result is good, and I think, lasting.

In the snowstorm, we got ten inches of snow (I just stuck a ruler into the snow on the porch). During the snow last night, we went for a walk along the beach, fighting the wind and swirling snowflakes on our way out, and having them nicely at our backs on returning.

In spite that I brought my equipment (the ancient three prongs- shoes), I haven’t been cross-country skiing yet because I get so much more satisfaction out of shoveling snow – a movement with purpose. Always change hands; for balance, one has to work both sides of the body, even if it feels a bit clumsier on one side.

Shopping is not celebrating the season - snow-shoveling is. And sitting in front of the wood stove, listening to Beethoven (my favorite at the moment: The complete Beethoven piano/cello music as played by the father/son team Alfred/Adrian Brendel), reading a book.

You think snow-shoveling is a chore, and you would rather go without? Imagine you couldn't do it because you were sick. You had to hire someone to do it, pay for it, and miss out on the exercise. How much you'd long for snow-shoveling then! What a desirable activity it would become!

During the holidays, the family didn’t mind eating my sauerbraten and red cabbage for three days in a row. They were actually looking forward to it – savoring it so much! I am a good cook but a lousy baker – don’t follow instructions well. But this year, my self-baked cookies came out right – the Florentines being the favorites of all times. Luckily, all cookies are nearly gone.

In the sauna, after three days of feasting (we celebrate on Christmas Eve), I noticed that I looked like a pink pig – and felt like one, too. But after one day with a light dinner (artichokes with pesto) and lots of outdoors activity, I am back to being my old self again. Artichokes are healing food for the liver - we all can use them after the holidays, I'd say.

All that is only the setting to tell you from where I am writing. What I really want is to share my present reading: Abraham Verghese’s Cutting For Stone. It is a medical novel, and surely I am biased as a physician, but I would award him the Nobel Prize for Literature – the book is that good! It spans three continents, giving us a flavor where we Americans come from – namely, the whole world. His observations of people and how they function (or not function) are deep and true. I wish I could write like that.

For a writer it is always upsetting to meet a book that is better than her own but I don’t care; I just care about that Abraham Verghese has written it - and that I am lucky enough to have found it. And I am not yet done: There will be a few days more of this exquisite pleasure!

Odors - Is Your Body Betraying You?

December 16, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, after-shave lotion, allergies, animal, animalic, anus - gas, arm-pits, asthma, autonomic nerve system, Beano, body odor, bubble bath, chlorophyll pills, cold shower, cologne, convenient store, cooking, cosmetics, dairy, deodorant, dish washing liquid, feet - smelly, food allergy, foot spray, fragrance, fragrance-free detergent laundry, gas, gender-neutral, germs, gluten, gluten intolerance, halitosis, household products, incense, laundry detergent – fragrant-free, laundry softener, lily-of-the-valley, milk, mold, mouth – bad smell, mouth washes, natural, odorous, odors, Odors - Is Your Body Betraying You?, organic, perfume, prayer, preservative, roses, shampoo, shelf life, shower gel, skin – acidic layer, smell - bodily, soaps - scented, stabilizer, stench, stink, sugar, tea tree oil, underarm, vagina - odor, vaginal douche, vegetarianism, wrinkle cream, violets

A rose is a rose is a rose – but never will a rose grow out of one of your body orifices. Yet all the time we make believe: Bodily odors are among the most embarrassing facts of life. Those odors jump into your face unbidden, exposing the thin veneer that shields our modern identify – clean, well-shaven, sweet-smelling - from acknowledging our ancient, animalic bodies.

These are the most bothersome malodorous areas and orifices of our bodies: mouth, vagina, anus, feet, and modern science and salesmanship have figured ways to sell us products for smelling better – preferably like roses, lilies-of-the-valley, violets – soaps, deodorants,

They all have two things in common: They don’t address the root causes of stench, and they add to the pollution burden on your body.

Now is probably too late to tell you because all the scented soaps, incense, perfumes, colognes, after-shave lotions, shower gels, wrinkle creams, bubble baths and whatnot have already been bought – either for you, or by you.

Truth is there is no cosmetic product available that is good for us – not even the natural or organic varieties. They all require stabilizers and preservatives for their long shelf life – and none of those further your health. If mold doesn’t touch it, your cells don’t like it either. Oh, well – you remember this next year.

Let’s go to the root cause of odor:
• Underarm: If you need a deodorant, buy a fragrance free product. I like the tea tree oil kind. Check if you really need to use it every day. As you eliminate root causes (see: feet), your smell might get better naturally - don’t be obsessive about it.
• Vagina: We had this subject already: NO DOUCHES!!
• Halitosis: If you have an odor from your mouth (you can test it by cupping your hands over your mouth and exhale into them), it can stem form your teeth, gums, esophagus (feeding tube), lungs and/or stomach. Most often the culprit is the stomach. Eating a diet without sugar and dairy is a good beginning. Many people have a gluten people. And tomatoes are at the root often, too. Try to figure it out.
• Gas (coming out of that unmentionable hole): Excessive gas is linked to an inflamed intestinal tract. Dairy, sugar, gluten are most often the root cause (on this blog, I have written extensively about food allergies, milk’s inflammatory properties, gluten intolerance and so on).
• Feet: If you have excessive sweating of your feet (sometimes also of your hands), it can be your autonomic nerve system – doctors like this diagnosis. But more often, poor nutrition is at the root of smelly feet. Especially bad fats and animal proteins.

Here I want to lay to rest once and for all the discussion about vegetarianism: If you smell excessively at your feet and under your arms, you are having too much animal and/or bad foods for your body type, period. Science makes clear that we are omnivores, we eat all and everything – mostly because during history we didn’t have the luxury to be choosy; starvation was always near. But the amount you eat should not be unduly high, and should cover your needs – every body has different requirements. The animals you eat should be of good quality (organic, grass-fed). And don’t forget to say a prayer for every animal that has died for you.

We all have met those male types who have smelly feet and holes in their socks – so needy for a caring wife that likely they’ll never find one. Because, genetically, we are hard-wired to choose a healthy mate, and somebody who eats day-in, day-out from the convenient store around the corner and doesn’t care for his body, shows all the alarm flags of a poor mate. (Of course, this is gender-neutral – it applies to women, too).

Yep, bad food choices come out in your armpits and in your shoes. Hint: learn cooking from scratch! Women will love you!

A few more hints:
• If you take a daily shower and don’t have a blue-collar job, don’t use soap – how dirty can you get at the computer in a single day? Every wash takes away from the healthy acidic layer on your skin that protects your body from invading germs. – Always end with a cold shower to close the pores (unless you have a contraindication).
• Don’t use soap at all. When you wash you hair, use an inexpensive shampoo and RINSE EXTREMELY WELL.
• Never wash your hair twice in a row – that’s a ruse by the industry to sell more shampoo.
• Use a fragrance-free detergent for your laundry.
• NEVER use a softener – liquid or one of those scented towelettes. They pollute the environment and your body and have no value at all. Who says that a towel has to be soft? Try toweling yourself with a hard towel – and discover how the scrubbing makes your body come alive.
• Question any household product (dish washing liquid, etc.) that comes with an added fragrance. One of the reason we see so many allergies and asthma, is that our bodies desperately are busy getting rid of all those unwarranted scents.

Get used to the idea that we are odorous animals. If we eat right, we will not be stinky. But never will we smell like violets.

Even so, our healthy smell is full of pheromones that will drive the other sex wild.

Vagina: Keep Her Young!

December 8, 2010

Tags: order, water, movement, herbs, food, black cohosh, brain, cabbage, Chinese balls, drooping of internal organs, GAIA, home cooking, joy, Kegel exercises, masturbation, menopause, moral values, odor - vaginal, phyto-estrogens, PMS, probiotics, red clover, responsibility, sexuality, sitzbath – cold, sexually transmitted diseases, sleep, smell - vaginal, soap, soy – GMO, soy – mono-crop, standing on one leg, trichomonas, vagina, vaginal prolapse, Vagina: Keep Her Young!, vitex, wild yam, yeast infection - vaginal

Warning: If this offends your sensibilities, don’t read it!

When you have reached a certain age, people often comment on your looks: “You look ab-so-lute-ly faaa-bulous!”

Yeah. But how do you feel? How does your vagina feel – the part of your body that’s invisible, most of the time?

I happen to think that your vagina comes right after your brain in ranking organs for importance. And I think there are ways to keep her happy – and keep you happy. Responsibly, of course – that goes without saying.

Sexuality, I think, has been given to us for a bit of joy in our earthly travels. As a physician, I have observed that different vaginas can exude different levels of exuberance. As a woman, I have decided that I want to keep my precious parts healthy and vigorous. It’s for you to decide if you want to have a sad, smelly pouch down there – or alive tissue that vibrates with vigor and health and lust.

These are a few ideas, starting with movement:

• Kegel exercises, of course, are designed to preb=vent/improve the drooping of internal organs called prolapse. Nobody does Kegel exercises however because they are so boring. But if we would do them, we would benefit: Our internal organs would sag less, and get more blood supply – always a good thing.
• Alternatively, Chinese women have two small balls that are inserted into the vagina. While you walk you try to not let them fall out. This exercises has the same effect as Kegel’s – only they are more fun. The balls usually are made from shiny metal, come always in a box of two, and one has a tiny chime inside. Sounds a bit un-puritanical, though.
• My own method: Standing on one leg while brushing my teeth. It strengthens the whole pelvic musculature – with no extra time and effort.
• Using it, of course. Use it, or lose her. If you don’t have a partner, be diligent yourself. Don’t attach moral values to a bodily function that makes you happy and relaxed and keeps you young.

Now comes water:
• Drink enough fresh water and herbal teas to keep a good turgor down there.
• Cold sitzbath: This is not for the faint-hearted, especially not during the frigid times of year. But the benefits are great. Fill the bathtub with about one to two inches of water (use the time when the water is running to wash your breasts with cold water until they tingle with cold and life). Sit down. Move your legs to let the water swash over your thighs. Count to twenty-one. Get out. Towel well. If your feet are cold afterward, walk on your toes, jump on the spot, go for a walk – do anything to get warm fast again. – A cold sitzbath should not be done if you have a cold, an acute urinary infection, fever. Your body needs to be warm before you start. And never let the cold water swap over your kidney (waist) area; the cold water would use up your chi, as the Chinese say, weakening your whole system. Kept down at your vagina and legs, the cold water invigorates tired old tissues – a rejuvenating treatment.
• Don't use soap down there. This is - right after your eyes, I'd say - the most delicate area of your body, and you wouldn't rub soap into your eyes. The daily cold sitzbath will clean you well enough - provided you wash yourself with a fresh cloth after each defecation - don't wipe forward; always backward! When you take a shower and use shampoo, get a bit of the shampoo on the outside area - not inside or between the folds.
• Don't douche yourself - I said: DON'T DOUCHE YOURSELF! There is a light animal smell down there (if everything is healthy) which is a sign of health - you don't want to smell there like lilies of the valley!!

Herbs:
• Because every woman’s body is different, it sometimes takes a few trials to find the right herbal formula. I am partial to GAIA herbs and use their formula (they don’t pay me to say this!). But others work well, too. I often recommend single extracts, and put them together like black cohosh, red clover, wild yam and ginkgo biloba. Some women blossom if you add vitex to the formula. Female PMS and menopausal herbs do not only keep you healthy down there, but influence your whole body. Especially, they address the mood swings and depression that often come with declining hormones. And since they are not hormones, phyto-estrogens don’t have the same bad side-effects as hormones – don’t let your doctor talk you out of them. All studies about cultures where the diet is high in natural phyto-estrogens have shown very low breast cancer risk.

Food:
• As always, fresh food feeds the inside of every little cell in your body. Don’t think there is a shortcut for good food or cooking at home. No “nutritional” bar or restaurant can match the simple goodness of a cabbage dish made at home (cabbages, remember, are full of cancer-fighting agents).
• Food also plays a role if you want to avoid the smelly part: Everything that gives you gastro-intestinal troubles gives you overgrowth with wrong bacteria and yeast - and they might wander into your vagina (and will, given any chance!). If you have a "smelly" problem, consult your physician because it could be a case of trichomonas or any other sexually transmitted disease. And if nothing else helps, try a better diet: Leave out gluten, dairy, sugars, sweeteners and white starches.
• And don’t fall for that soy scam: The only soy products that are good for you are fermented ones (miso, real soy sauce, tempeh). Stay away from the GMO-tempered soy mono-crop that is destroying the rain forests in South America and does nothing for your health – or for your vagina.
• Use a probiotic if you have an odor - that helps your gut health. And use plain cultured yogurt in your vagina twice a day until the problem is gone.

Sleep:
• Get enough sleep because nothing in your body works when you are tired – and you certainly can’t make a tired vagina wake up by sitting all night on her in front of the computer.

How the World Plays Your Brain

December 1, 2010

Tags: order, food, bacteria – gut, brain, computer, cortisol, electronics, fatigue, gut, How the World Plays Your Brain, insomnia, junk food, obesity, overweight, rest, sleep, sleep-wake-cycle, TV, weight gain

In the past, I have written about junk food that feeds the bad bacteria in your gut – and how this makes you think even more of unhealthy treats: You eat a hamburger, then suddenly you crave a donut (or a bag of donuts), and then you needs some twinkies and a soda to flush them down.

I have likened this process to a computer virus: The bad gut bacteria send messages to your brain, sidetracking your best intentions for healthy eating.

There are a few other players who fiddle with your brain, make you fatter and fatigued, and thus prevent you from reaching your goals in life.

Too little sleep is one of those players. If you haven’t gotten the amount of sleep your body needs – and the individual requirements differ, usually between seven and nine hours. If you get away with five to six hours a night, chances are you are using up your bank account of health.

Too little sleep produces stress hormones the next day, and stress hormones like cortisol make you eat more – ergo, weight gain.

A day is made or broken the night before: Can you find into bed early enough – or are you staying up too late, get unrestful rest, and have a sleep-deprived hangover the next day?

And here are two more players that wreak havoc with your brain: computers and TV. Both keep you busy and interested much longer than they should. Captivated as you are, you don’t heed your body’s little signals that it is time to go to bed. You go on working, watching, playing – and so the next day is spoiled because you have to run on less energy. Once you creep into bed, you have a hard time falling asleep. Or you wake up too early. Because staying up late disrupted your sleep-wake-cycle.

Being tired produces more stress hormones. And those makes you eat more.

The holiday season is a time of high stress and tons of running around because you want to bring joy to your loved ones. This year, try this sneaky little trick: No machines (TV, computer, electronic games) after dinner. Take a book, read, listen to music, ease into slumber time – between eight and ten o’clock. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t toss and turn. Take this gifted time for thinking what you want to do with your life, what is important to you. And snuggle back into the pillows.

Next day, observe how you glow and function at your personal best! You regained your brain!

These Times Are Hard On Your Liver

November 30, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, water, herbs, alcohol, apples, artichoke, artificial coloring, artificial flavors, beer, breathing, cabbages, cakes, carrots, celeriac, celery, cirrhosis, cookies, cucumber, dandelion, detoxification, elderberry, fatty liver, feast, fermented foods, festivities, food – rotten, food – spoiled, gentian root, gizzards, gut, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herbal tea, holidays, kitchen herbs, liquor, liver, marjoram, massaging, meats, medications – over-the-counter, milk thistle, miso, oxygen, probiotic, radish, raisins, red beets, sage, sauerkraut, soy sauce, spices, stuffing - bread, stuffing - traditional, These Times Are Hard On Your Liver, walking, walnuts, wine

The liver is the heaviest organ in the body, and during the holidays, it is also the hardest working organ. Because the liver is your detoxification organ.

Too much heavy (sweet, fatty, alcoholic) foods hurt your liver – and too much even of good stuff can be hard on this most precious organ. But this is probably not the time to preach moderation. So what can you do to survive these taxing times? (I hope you hear the irony in my voice – when half of mankind is still starving).

Everything unhealthy has to be eliminated via the liver: spoiled and rotten food, modern preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings. If the liver is overloaded with rich foods and toxins, you end up with a fatty liver – a diseased liver that cannot fulfill its tasks properly. And if it gets really bad, you end up with cirrhosis, the shrinking of this valuable organ. Fatty liver is reversible with a better lifestyle; cirrhosis is not.

These are the essentials for a healthy liver:

• Drink enough water – not ice-cold. Herbal teas are helpful, especially in the winter season. Some of the herbs below come also as teas – make use of them. Enough fluid will flush out your liver.
• Elderberry juice helps regenerate the liver.
• Keep alcohol (wine, beer, liquor) at a minimum.
• After a big meal, go for a walk. A walk uses up some of the calories you have been ingesting, and it gives your whole digestive system a little boost – things in your stomach can settle, and the peristalsis gets a jumpstart. In Europe, Sundays and holidays will bring people out of their houses in droves – everybody goes for a walk after a feast.
• These herbs help to improve liver function: Most beneficial is milk thistle – you should have it at hand these days. Also helpful are bitter plants like dandelion, artichoke, sage, and gentian root. Most are available in capsules, often in combination.
• Kitchen herbs and spices also help digestion: For instance, the traditional stuffing for a goose is: grind the gizzards, add cut apples, raisins, walnuts and two hands full of fresh (or less of dried) marjoram. No bread!! Don’t know who invented the bread filling…
• A working gut relieves an overworking liver – and a probiotic helps with useful bacteria.
• Fermented foods like sauerkraut, soy sauce and miso help digestion. Traditional kitchens have very specific fermented foods – explore a Japanese or Korean store. Make sure you buy the real thing – not a modern product that still has the taste but no actual fermentation any more in the production process. Look up “fermented foods” in one of my earlier blogs.
• Make sure you eat not only meats and cakes and cookies – but also cabbages, red beets, celery and celeriac, carrots, cucumbers, radishes are famous for relieving a moaning liver.
• Take some very deep massaging breaths: Always start with exhaling. Deep breathing moves the abdominal organs, and oxygen is required in myriad detoxing chemistry processes of the liver. If you feel stuffed, do the deep breathing by lying on your back.
• Stop all unnecessary medications, especially over-the-counter drugs. They only burden your liver more.

And since we are discussing liver health: Hepatitis A can be acquired through food (especially uncooked oysters, and such), hepatitis B and C through sex, drugs and blood. There are vaccines available against A and B. Unfortunately not against C. It might be wise to get vaccinated. Talk to your doctor.

And enjoy the festivities!

Spa - Sanitas Per Aquam

November 24, 2010

Tags: water, order, food, alarm, Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD), bath, California, cold bath, cold shower, Earth, exhale, Greeks, hot tub, inhale, Latin, liver abcess, Musa, pores, relax, Romans, Rome, Spa - Sanitas Per Aquam, sitzbath, spa, Teutonics, thermes, vassals, vital, victuals, vigor, vittles, weather – cold

Did you know that the word “spa” is an artificial word and derives from the Latin expression “sanitas per aquam” (health through water)? I didn’t – in spite of six years of school Latin. I learned it only recently.

Should have known – the Romans were big with baths. Not only with hot bath, the Roman “thermes”. Which of course had come down from the Greeks. The first spa, so to speak, was the little town of “Thermes”on Greek soil that had naturally occurring hot springs. But after Emperor Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) was healed from liver abcess by his personal physician Antonius Musa, cold baths became all the rage in ancient Rome – and among their vassals in the then-known world. The Teutonics belonged there too, after they were conquered.

Health through water – that applies to individual health, as to the health of our Planet Earth. Without enough clean, fresh water mankind would not survive. Some bacteria and other low life probably would – and would restart the whole process of evolution again.

Water is vital (another Latin word, derived from “vita” – life) for us - preferably cold from the outside, warm from the inside. This morning I did a cold sitzbath, and now feel invigorated and ready for the day. “Invigorate” comes from “vigor” - strength.
To stay with the Latin words: Victuals (pronounced “vittles”) are sustenance we need – from “victualia” meaning “provisions” – healthy, fresh foods.

Enough of words – show me the deeds! Back to cold water!

Now that the weather turned colder, it is harder to stick with your cold shower or cold sitzbath – did you notice? (Ha!)

Here is one tip: Exhale!

Years ago, I found that exhaling when stepping into the cold flow helped me to stay there. I never knew why. Meanwhile, I figured it out.

Exhaling is the relaxing mode, inhaling is the alarm mode. Try it! When we startle, we suck in our breath. We say “Don’t hold your breath!” when you can relax again. So, deliberately and slowly exhaling tells your body that everything is all right and nothing is to fear from the cold water.

And coming back to the California hot tub from the other day: That bothered me the most – that there wasn’t a cold tub to jump in afterward. Because, as we say in German, you have to “close your pores.”

Dead Sea Story

November 23, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, alcohol, auto-immune diseases, barley, bowel health, cake, citrus fruit, coconut oil, coffee, cookies, Dead Sea, Dead Sea Story, dairy, eczema, fish oil, gut health, Israel, nuts, oats, probiotic, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, rye, saltwater, soy, Standard American Diet (SAD), sun, wheat, yogurt

Years ago, I found myself in a hotel at the Dead Sea in Israel. The hotel also catered to patients, because it has been shown that sunlight and saltwater improves such conditions as eczema and psoriasis.

The hotel had an excellent buffet with all kinds of healthy vegetables and gorgeous fruit. For me most striking observation was that the patient group flocked around cheese, cakes, cookies, pizza, lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, and bacon, whereas the other travelers delved into the abundance of fresh foods. In addition, the patient group was visibly more overweight than the others. I had a hard time not pointing out to every patient the damage they were doing to their bodies just as they were seeking the healing waters of the Dead Sea.

You go online for eczema remedies, and you find a thousand products screaming “Here! Buy me!”

This is my simple advice:

1. Get rid of anything you might be allergic to. – Some researchers deny that allergies play a role – I don’t agree with them; but let’s not call it allergies then, but food intolerances. Because in many cases, food intolerance plays a role in psoriasis and eczema – and the Standard American Diet (SAD) is especially at fault. The offending foods? The list I gathered from my patients is long, and dairy for sure tops it. Citrus fruit, wheat (and, by association, barley, rye, oats), soy, nuts have been most often the culprits in my patients. Coffee (including caffeinated) seems to trigger eczema too.

2. Use coconut oil on the affected, itchy, thickened skin. Coconut oil is anti-bacterial, soothes the itch and helps the poor skin to heal.

3. If you can afford, vacation at the ocean. Moderate sunlight and saltwater do miracles for posriasis and eczema.

4. If you want to go the extra mile, get a good probiotic (bacteria that are helpful for bowel health – but not frpm yogurt, take capsules) to heal your gut, and take fish oil capsules against inflammation.

Often this works also for rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune diseases, too. An additional biggie in psoriasis is alcohol – avoid it.

Some other ideas why people now get eczema are that babies are brought up in a too clean environment, and that emotional issues play a role. The first we can’t do anything about once you are grown-up. The emotional issue – well, we all still struggle to grow up, don’t we? Can’t hurt to work on that.

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.

News About Cancer

November 6, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Tea Doesn’t Prevent Breast Cancer--?

October 29, 2010

Tags: food, bancha, beverages – sugared, breast cancer, Breast Cancer Research – journal, British Medical Journal, green tea, Green Tea Doesn’t Prevent Breast Cancer--?, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, sencha, tea – green, tea –herbal

Japanese researchers just published a study that green tea doesn’t prevent breast cancer in the Journal Breast Cancer Research.

Whenever a study does not fit our expectations, we have to consider if we are dealing with a biased or otherwise flawed study.

Do these researcher want that we throw out green and herbal teas "because they don't prevent breast cancer"? We would assume that Japanese people would want to increase the sales of their Japanese tea, wouldn’t we? But that is as flawed as thinking that all American would want to boost the sales of American lettuce.

Medical science is confusing to lay people - and to doctors as well. Clearly, this study goes in the face of everything I am standing for ) or pretty much everything), and you could call me biased. I am. And that study did not convince me that green tea is not good for you – or me. (But clearly, I have a hard time arguing my case here!).

Looking into the research, two facts are interesting: The Breast Cancer Research journal is reputable – but certainly not The Lancet, The British Medical Journal or the New England Journal of Medicine. It clearly is a second tier journal. Why was this article not accepted by any of the biggies?

The other find is that the numbers are all over the place, even more varying with the bancha than with the sencha tea drinkers. Bancha is the cheap version of sencha. Could it be that people who can’t afford sencha can also not afford a healthier diet? We know that junk food has made inroads into the Japanese society. Sencha comes out sort of even – the claim that green tea doesn’t do anything against breast cancer comes mostly from the bancha drinkers.

Since we don’t know anything else about the lifestyle of the cohort, we do not know how healthy people lived otherwise.

Meanwhile, I suggest sticking with common sense and green tea for your health because sugared beverages are clearly not the answer.

The Old Boring Calcium Question

October 25, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody Wants To Talk About Poop

October 23, 2010

Tags: food, cat, bloating, bowel, constipation, corn, cramps, defecation, diarrhea, diet, digestion, dry food, feces, heartburn, intestines, laxative, litter box, nutrition, pet food, pets, poop, Nobody Wants To Talk About Poop, probiotic, SAD (Standard American Diet), sores – mouth, stomach pain, stool – smell, stool - consistency, toilet, waste products, wheat

When we come back from traveling, our cat’s litter box usually is a mess.

Sorry, I bring up this stinky subject – but it has relevance not only for cats and pets, but also for humans.

Of course, bodily waste products don’t smell like roses. But they also should not smell THAT disgustingly. If they do – in pets and people – chances are something is wrong with the digestive tract.

Now the hardest part is to compare your bowel movements with everybody else’s because we usually are discrete about our defecation results. We don’t know how other people smell or look … in the toilet bowl.

Feces definitely should not reek that it turns one’s stomach. The smell should make you want to flush the toilet – not to run away. And stool should not float, nor should it be excessively sticky, large, or gray-colored.

So, what had happens with our tomcat Otto when we travel? A kind neighbor comes over to feed him. To make it not too complicated for her, we switch to commercial – mostly dry – food. Commercial food contains all kinds of substances unhealthy for a cat, especially wheat and corn products. Predictably, every time our Otto gets extremely stinky on that kind of nutrition.

It takes only a few days and my self-cooked meals that his litter box s ias unobtrusive again as it usually is: His intestines heal, obviously.

What constitutes a healthy bowel? Once a day, at least, one should have a bowel movement. If you don’t have one every day, don’t reach for the laxative. Look instead into what you are eating. Do you eat enough vegetables? Leave out sugar, trans-fats and dairy. And don’t eat what your body tells you hurts it: Stomach pain, heartburn, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, sores in your mouth – they are not cause for embarrassment but they all are signs that something is wrong with your digestion.

SAD – the Standard American Diet – is not healthy for people’s bowels. And commercial pet food – even the so-called “natural” and “scientific” - are not healthy for your pets’.

P.S. Taking a probiotic does not make up for a lousy diet, but helps reestablishing bowel health.

Breast Health – and Breast Beauty

October 22, 2010

Tags: order, water, food, movement, alcohol, arm swings, bra, breast, Breast Health – and Breast Beauty, celiac, cold wash, cold shower, dairy, exercise, gluten intolerance, growth hormones, Iran, jasmine, lymph flow, milk, Persepolis, smoking, vegetables

Remember the movie “Persepolis?”

My favorite scene was when the granddaughter asks her Iranian grandmother why she still has so beautiful breasts, at her age. The grandmother divulges her two secrets:

1. Wash your breasts with cold water every day. That can be part of a cold shower at the end of your warm one. Or you stand in front of the sink and wash your breasts with a cloth and cold water – about a dozen times.

2. Put jasmine flowers in your bra and carry the scent around you all day – it makes you feel beautiful.

I love that advice! From my experience, I have a few more bits to add for better breast health and more beauty:

3. Eat a diet high in fresh vegetables, with low meats, no dairy and little sugar.

4. Avoid all milk and dairy – they are causing breast pain and breast cancer. They contain growth hormones. Growth hormones are unnecessary and harmful beyond the infant stage.

5. Do not wear a bra at night. Your skin needs to breathe and your lymph needs to circulate. – Don’t wear a bra if you don’t need one.

6. For the same reason, do exercise: Let your arms swing. Brest cancer seems to occur more often in the left breast. Since 85 percent of people are right-handed, it stands to reason that we are not moving enough lymph around in the left breast and get less toxicity removed than on the right side (that is just a theory of mine – don’t listen if it doesn’t convince you).

7. Don't smoke or drink.

8. Find out if you are gluten-intolerant. Nearly all cancers are higher in celiacs than in non-celiacs.

9. Drink enough water – room temperature or warmer. Never ice-cold.

The Biological Clock

October 17, 2010

Tags: food, biological clock, chronobiology, circadian rhythm, compost pile, day and night, diabetes type II, drosophila, ebb and flow, fats – h & h, fruit fly, margarine, Nature Magazine, pancreas, sleep-wake cycle, The Biological Clock, trans-fats

Our biological clock is ticking – but not the one you are thinking about. “Nature,” the eminent science journal, published an article that a team of scientists found a “clock” in pancreas cells. The pancreas is the organ responsible - when failing - for diabetes.

We used to think that diabetes was a “sugar” disease. Too much sugar (and starches, which are nothing else than one sugar after the other in a row like beads on a necklace) definitely play a role in the worst (and most preventable) disease of our times. Bad fats are the other culprits – mainly trans-fats, fats that are heated (frying!) or hardened (margarine!) – let’s call them h & h fats.

The “Nature” article gives us evidence that WHEN we eat plays a major role, too. Granted, the studies so far have only been done in mice. But I am convinced that it is only a matter of time that the same biological clock will be found ticking in the human pancreas also.

And not only in the pancreas. It is already known that fruit flies (drosophila) have such a clock in every single cell. I can’t believe that our bodies are less sophisticated than fruit flies’; our bodies are just harder to study. Chronobiology is the branch of science called that concerns itself with biological rhythms. From beginning of times, the Earth has indulged her majestic rhythms: ebb and flow, day and night, coming and going, death and renewal - think of compost pile!

What does the biological clock mean for you and me? Nothing new, actually. Natural Medicine has long stressed the importance of enough sleep, regularity and good habits. A little more of one hundred years of electricity has changed the world profoundly. But it hasn’t made a dent in our ancient bodies and primordial souls: They still have the same physiological and emotional needs as they always had.

Yes, you can raid the fridge in the middle of the night, go shopping in the wee hours, or sit at your computer all night long – but in the long run, going against your natural sleep-wake cycle will take a toll on your body – might even trigger diabetes, as we are learning.

Cravings

October 15, 2010

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

Some thoughts about cravings:

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

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

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

Gluten Intolerance On the Rise

September 28, 2010

Tags: food, additives, antibiotics, chewing, digestion, drugs – prescription, drugs - recreational, eating habits, food – adulterated, food coloring, food – “new and improved”, gluten, gluten intolerance, Gluten Intolerance On the Rise. preservatives, probiotics, snacks

Not only is gluten intolerance widely under-diagnosed, it is also getting more common, especially in the elderly.

The reason are still puzzling the researcher. I would venture four explanations (there are very likely more!):

1. Increased use of antibiotics. Antibiotics disturb the fragile balance of bacteria in the gut – there fore it is always good to question your doctor’s wisdom to prescribe and antibiotic. And if you really have to take one, also take plenty of probiotics – but not at the same time: Space it so that you take the probiotic in between antibiotic doses.
2. Increased use of adulterated “foods” – stuff your body doesn’t even recognize as food: additives, preservatives, colorings, prescription and recreational drugs (it is totally beyond me why those drugs are called “recreational’!), “new and improved” food items like Olestra, and so on, and so on.
3. Increase use of milk and dairy products that are highly changed through pasteurization, homogenization and addition of modern “food technology.” Mind, I don’t condone unpasteurized milk for reasons of infection. But I just think milk is for cow babies – and should stay with them.
4. Our eating habits: Not chewing well enough, eating late at night, eating snacks all the time. That way, the body is always busy with digesting – never has time for repair.

On the other hand, it is never too late to clean up your eating act: Eat fresh, unadulterated foods, cook for yourself and your family – there is no pursuit more worthwhile in life!

Dough-Less Apple Pie

September 26, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Opiates

September 20, 2010

Tags: order, movement, food, burn-out, dairy, drug problem, drugs – prescription, drugs – street, exercise – lack of, lifestyle, Massachusetts Board of Registration for Medicine, nutrition, opiates, Opiates, physicians, religions, responsibility, values

The Massachusetts Board of Registration for Medicine sends me an invitation to a day conference to learn how to prescribe opiates.

We know by now that people have switched from street drugs to prescription drugs – and that physicians who over-prescribe opiates are often the biggest users themselves.

Looks like Americans – doctors and patients alike – are in a lot of pain.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to go to the roots of the drug problem: Poverty, poor education, no outlook that your life will ever change to the better, religions that tell you are a sinner – and on the other hand overworked, burnt-out physicians who struggle to pay the bills and get their children through college?

And for both: Lack of exercise and exceedingly lousy nutrition setting up both groups to aches and pains. Even just removing dairy from their diet might set the body on the way of healing. Or going for a walk. Or turning the handle on "cold" after the hot shower. Or going to bed early enough to get a good night's sleep.

We don’t have a drug problem. We have a value problem (not more religion, please – less!) and a crazy lifestyle. And we – both groups – shun personal responsibility.

Hildegard von Bingen

September 17, 2010

Tags: herbs, food, canonization, crystals, Gordon - Noah, green force of the flesh, Healers of the World, Hildegard of Bingen, Hildegard von Bingen, Iran, Kneipp - Sebastian, Li Shizhen, music, mystic, Noah Gordon, plant kingdom, Rhineland, Schubert – Franz, sanctification, Saint Hildegard, sexuality, stones, Tehran, The Physician

Still from Tehran. -

On this day in 1179, Hildegard of Bingen died. Her exact birthday is not known, but it was also in September - 1098.

This medieval nun lived in the Rhineland. She was given to a nunnery when she was only eight and, against all odds, succeeded in medicine, music and politics. By the time she passed, she had written many books, had composed music and was in contact with many important political and intellectual leaders – a woman on top of her times.

Hildegard usually is usually labeled as a mystic. But in my opinion, she is anything but. When you read her works, you get the impression of a sharp intellect and endless curiosity. Among other things, she described two hundred kinds of fish found in the Rhine. That’s not mystic, that’s scientific! And when she writes about sexuality, she is so matter-of-fact – you wonder where she learned all that.

She composed celestial music – mostly only for women’s voices – just out-of-the-world! If you ever have a chance, listen to her! In her music, she is mystic, if you wish – but so is Schubert…

For me she is important as a healer. She used and described herbs extensively. Her crystal healing is controversial but interesting – after all, we are from the Earth, like stones. She talks about the “green force of the flesh” – meaning: We will be much healthier when our food comes mostly from the plant kingdom. This insight has lost nothing of its actuality.

Very shortly after her death, the process for her canonization by the Catholic Church had been instituted. But in nearly a thousand years, her status stayed at “beatification.” Also, the Church made sure that women would not follow Hildegard’s uppity. The misogynistic delay of sanctification has not hindered the common people to call her “Saint Hildegard” ever since.

She definitely is interesting – and I hope to write about her in my series of “Healers of the World.” I began with Sebastian Kneipp (my Kneipp novel will come out shortly); now I am writing about Li Shizhen, the sixteenth century Chinese physician and herbalist. And, hopefully, Hildegard will be the third.

One healer I will not write about is Ibn Sina, or Avicenna, the great Persian physician and scientist, who lived a century before Hildegard. Not that he was not important – our travels here in Iran remind me again how much he was. But somebody has already written a wonderful novel about him: Noah Gordon, The Physician.

The Persian Bridge

September 15, 2010

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, abbaya, Afghanistan, Anglican Church, Arabia, Armenian, bread baking, Bridge - The Thirty Three Arches Bridge, burka, chador, dairy, doogh, Dubai, family, flowers, Hafez, head scarf, history, homogenization, Iran, Isfahan, Islam, Jews, moderation, Morocco, mosque, parenting, pasteurization, Persepolis, poetry, purity, Saudi Arabia, Shiite, Shiraz, Sunni, Tehran, terrorists, The Persian Bridge, Turkey, U.S.A, veil, yogurt

Greetings from Tehran! We have been traveling in this wonderful country, full of roses and laughter, and one of the cradles of civilization. Iran, as every country that I ever have visited, is teaching me something.

In the ancient city of Isfahan, we saw an old bridge, called The Thirty Three Arches Bridge. The city still sizzles with brutal heat in September, and people go to the bridge to sit in the shade and enjoy the cool breeze that is generated by a two-storied construction with narrow passages for the wind, and look over the water. It actually looks more a long building over the river than a bridge. We returned in the evening when the lights reflected on the dark waters, and people sat in groups, and walked and talked. A man sang a song about lovers. I could not imagine anything more beautiful or more peaceful.

The river is broad here in Isfahan; in this arid country with very little rain, the waters are melted snow of a nearby mountain range. A few hundred kilometers downriver though, the river vanishes from the surface of the Earth, petering out in the desert sand, and feeding underground aquifers (making oases possible in the desert). Imagine: A river that never reaches the ocean – the people always have thought of it as a gift from Heaven to this special place, and they are careful building irrigation systems and avoid wasting the life-giving liquid.

What took me by surprise: The Thirty Three Arches Bridge has no railings – the stone just ends, and there is the abyss! I kept a respectful distance. But what about those many families and children? Children who run around late in the night! I could barely look at the people that ambled too close to the edge for my taste, or at the little girl that sat a foot away from the void, enjoying a picnic with her family!

Our guide was astonished that I worried. “Oh, they learn!” he said. “Nobody ever falls down.”

Imagine the situation at home: Someone surely would dare leaning over too far – and than sue somebody for missing rails!

It seems that we teach our children that somebody is always caring for them (until it suddenly ends with college or some real-life experience); Iranians teach their children that they better watch out because life is dangerous.

Children and family are very important to Iranians. And so are flowers, poetry and history. They revere their poets like saints. We visited Hafez’ tomb in Shiraz, and our guide declaimed one of Hafez’ poems, in Farsi. Not so much for us, the tourists, but because he loved it with all his heart. At a dinner in a restaurant, the bandleader, in between music, recited a long poem.

The reason for our travel is that my scientist husband is invited for a scientific presentation, and I accompany him, privileged to see the beauty of this country. We walked the ancient ruins of Persepolis. On a frieze there one man holds the hand of another – together they faced the Great King to whom they had to bring their yearly taxes. I saw much caring for one another here: Two young men carrying a sick old man between them - perhaps their father; we would call an ambulance and have professionals do the work. Older children tend their younger siblings in a loving way. Men are holding hands as a sign of friendship. Only once did I hear yelling between two taxi drivers.

Scientists are an international community – and they respect the rules that constitute science: You can come up with any weird idea – but you have to deliver proof and reasonable argument, and submit it to the scrutiny of your peers. Wish that everything in the world would work like that!

Tehran is a city of between fifteen and twenty-five million: loud, polluted, with uncontrollable traffic. It is near impossible to cross a street – cars have priority. But at night, a thousand lights are spreading up the hills – where the air is better.

The pungency of herbs and spices hovers over the bazaars. Iranians use herbs in their yogurt drinks and in bread, and spices in their food. Their fragrant rice dishes with saffron or aromatic green herbs are famous. - At the restaurant, along the wall, there were niches decorated with life-sized clay figures performing old crafts: a miller, a toolmaker, a potter. The last niche was occupied by a merchant in herbal medicines.

Not that you think everything is perfect in Iran. They must have wife-beaters here, same as we have them at home. I suspect the one or other government agent is keeping an eye on us. Very occasionally we have seen hostile looks and heard remarks about the stupidity of infidels. But the vast majority of the people are very kind, and curious. Nobody flinches when we mention that we are from the U.S.A. One woman came up to me and asked: “Do you think we are terrorists?” She was anxious for the answer. Parents nudged their children to practice their English with us, and whole families wanted to be photographed with us (making the government agent seethe with anger).

Iran is a Shiite country and has a long history of – and that might surprise you as much as it surprised me – religious tolerance: Jews live untroubled in Isfahan for nine hundred years, and Armenians and other Christians have churches (among them an Anglican). We were proudly shown the Jewish quarters and the four-hundred-year-old Armenian Church – our guide explained its murals with the same zest and knowledge as the mosaics in the beautiful mosques.

In one of the mosques a man prayed, and our guide excitedly explained that he was a Sunni – he didn’t use the little clay disc Shiites put between them and their foreheads when they bend to the ground. And he held his arms crossed in front, instead of letting them hang by his side. The guide was proud that he spied the Sunni – but there was no hostility, he was allowed to pray in the Shiite mosque without problems. That in spite of difficulties between the two Islamic branches in other countries.

Every hotel room has a prayer rug and the little clay disc, and an arrow on the ceiling pointing to Mecca.

The food is fresh and good – and definitely for us guests – plentiful. But I did not see a single obese person. A bit of a potbelly, yes. But no gross obesity. They eat not much fast food – a boon they derive from being at odds politically with the Americans; everything is freshly cooked. What would happen if we were at total peace with each other, and MacDonald and Burger King would invade the country? (Though I saw Iranians drink Coca-Cola lustily – I could not know if it was the real thing or an Iranian fake – I can’t read their letters). But Iranians clearly have a philosophy of temperance: One eats and drinks in moderation (and no alcohol ever; at least none that I saw). The moderation philosophy - I couldn’t agree more with it.

In one restaurant they allowed me observe how they bake an ancient kind of flat bread in a brick oven on hot little pebbles – an art. - They have a yogurt drink – doogh – which is perfect in this heat. Their yogurt is delicious, and doesn’t give me the troubles it always does at home – an observation I already made in Saudi Arabia. I suspect it is the process of pasteurization and homogenization that renders our products inedible. Or they have very, very special cows …

By now, I have visited several Islamic countries: Turkey, Morocco, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iran. They are all different. Women in Iran wear long-sleeved coats or kaftans that have to cover the behind and should not emphasize the waist, and trousers, often blue jeans. To hide the wrists seems important – the Iranians must know something about erotic wrists that eludes us. And they wear a head scarf. It loosely covers the hair – more a token than a real hiding. Some women wear a chador that covers all hair. Very few wear a veil – which had been the norm in Saudi-Arabia.

We never, ever saw a single beggar or a drunk on the streets. It seems to be the specialty of autocratic states that they can “clean up” because individual rights don’t count much. A teahouse also served opium; a mild kind, judging by the reaction of the customers.

From Saudi Arabia I still own an abbaya - a black cassock-like thing that reaches the floor (in Saudi-Arabia, the desert sand) and a head scarf. The women here appreciate my effort to abide by their laws, and I like the abbaya because: No thinking in the morning about what to wear. Of course, I don’t like the abbaya as a political statement. Alas, I am an un-political person. At least, I have not seen a single burka, the tent-like garment that is frequent in Saudi-Arabia, and the law in Afghanistan. - In one mosque, as I was about to wrap myself into an additional chador because our guide had recommended it, a woman took it out of my hand, pointing at my outfit. She felt I was already perfectly dressed. - My head scarf had always been sliding down. Now I fix it with two barrettes, with fake gaudy glitter – and so far nobody has berated me for it.

In some quarters of affluent Tehran women wear more make-up and Western-style clothing. They wear their scarves, but as a fashion statement, elegantly. Then again, Tehran is also the place where politics clash very hard, as I was told. Surprisingly, many Iranians voice their political views very openly to us, wanting to assure us that they have no Anti-American feelings.

In Iran, women are educated – before the religious revolution that got rid of the Shah, this was a very westernized country. Not to mention that Iran has a history of thousands of years of culture – we have little over four hundred. Universities don’t have the division between genders that Saudi-Arabia has: Men and women learn and work together (but in the airport, as a woman you go through a special security gate). - When I talk to women here, they have little envy for our freedom in the West; they worry that we loose our hearts, our middles.

Of course, many women here have no choices; I don’t want to belittle their struggle. Women always ask if I have children, and how many. They do look down on countries that produce too many children. Because they know the burden is on the women.

If history teaches us something, then it is this: That no one government ever lasts forever. I fear about how they will be able to solve this conflict – these wonderfully hospitable people. Iran is a country of beauty and incredible friendliness. People know what counts: family, poetry, flowers, history. And food.

Of course, I have no saying in the matter, but I wish religions would keep their beautiful thoughts to themselves instead of waging holy wars. Trying to keep “pure” and going to Heaven afterward are two unreachable goals, if you ask me. We should put the same effort and religious zeal into being friendly to our children, bringing fresh food on the table and making Earth a happy place to live for everyone.

When was the last time you read poetry aloud to someone you love?

Totally Unproven Pet Theories of Mine

September 9, 2010

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

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

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

More to come!

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.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

September 6, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugly Reflux

August 21, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, movement, order, water, acidity, alcohol, aloe vera, antibiotics, artichoke extract, Ayurvedic Medicine, Barrett's esophagus, betaine HCl, bone-enhancing drugs, cabbage juice, caffeine, calendula, chamomile, chewing, chocolate, citrus, coloring, corn syrup, dairy, DGL, digestion, eggplants, elm - slippery, enzymes - digestive, eating late, endoscopy, enzymes - digestive, esophageal cancer, flavorings, food allergies, food - cooked, food intolerance, food - processed, food - raw, foods - spicy, germs, gluten, grains - whole, gut, heartburn, HFCS, hiatal hernia, H. pylori, indigestion, infection, inflammation, junk food, licorice, marshmallow, mastic gum, meals - too big, neem, nightshades, nuts, over-eating, peppermint, peppers, plantain banana, potato, PPIs - proton pump inhibitors, preservatives, probiotics, reflux, SAD (Standard American Diet), stabilizers, starches - white, stomach, stomach acidity - high and low, stress, sugars, timing of food intake, tomato, trans-fats, Ugly Reflux, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

Reflux is one of those ailments which keep people going to the doctor and take medication forever – and on the face of it, there’s no cure.

And, in the long run, it can be a dangerous disease. Longstanding erosion of the esophagus can lead to Barrett’s esophagus and even cancer.

Why are so many people with the diagnosis of reflux?

Reflux is, in most parts, another disease with owe to SAD – the Standard American Diet. People have intolerances to certain foods and allergies, and those keep the esophagus (and possibly the stomach and the whole gut) inflamed. Instead of eliminating the offending foods, the doctor prescribes Zantac or Tagamet or even one of the stronger proton inhibitors. And has gained a life-long patient.

In the long run, those stomach medications create new problems: Since they all reduce acidity, they also may hinder digestion, and further infections as the stomach acid is supposed to kill invading germs.

PPIs (proton pump inhibitors, drugs lik, Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium), the strongest anti-heartburn medications can also be addictive, can trigger food allergies, and can weaken your bones.

Heartburn only comes in very rare cases from producing too much acidity for no good reason (that condition is called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, and should be ruled out by your doctor if the burning goes on relentlessly, regardless what you do). Normally, your stomach reacts with acidity when you eat something wrong. Or if you just each too much, period. So, why fighting the acidity, if you can eliminate the underlying cause?

Sometimes physicians diagnose a “hiatal hernia” – a gap in the diaphragm that allows the stomach to come a bit into the chest area. No connection has been found between HH and reflux. It seems that many people have a hiatal hernia, for reasons unknown – or for carrying a paunch that pushes the organs up into the lung cavity; for instance, it is very well known, that heartburn is extremely common in highly pregnant women. Perhaps also lacking exercise makes the diaphragm go limp. Whatever it is, hiatal hernia does not cause reflux.

If you want to break that cycle – here is what you can do:

Find out what your body does not tolerate. It is not difficult. Write a food journal. The most common culprits are, in my experience,
• Gluten
• Dairy products
• Corn syrup (HFCS)
• Tomatoes (and the whole nightshade family actually – peppers, eggplants, potatoes, too).
• Chocolate could be the culprit.
• Or nuts.
• Harsh foods: alcohol, caffeine, citrus, and spicy foods.
• ANYTHING can lead to a reaction. And not only burning in your esophagus; bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, joint pains, migraine headaches, and many more symptoms can stem from food intolerance.
• Certain medical drugs are the culprits – Fosomax, for instance, that is intended to make your bones stronger (I would not touch it because of its side-effects. Better food and more movement certainly gives you stronger bones without side-effects).
• Sometimes it is not the kind of food but how it is prepared: raw versus cooked. Usually, cooked is easier on the stomach.
• It might be the timing: Some people get away with a raw salad or an acidic fruit during the day, but not at night, as the last meal that lingers in their stomach.
• Or a whole food group: Many people do better without sugars and white starches and reduced whole grains.
• Basically, all junk foods and processed foods are under suspicion. They contain trans-fats and preservatives, coloring, stabilizers, flavorings that are alien to you body.
• Drink enough water - but not with meals or right afterward.

Of course, it is better, to not be indiscreet in the first place. But if you are looking for healing alternatives:
• Mastic gum is my favorite; it is an agent that covers the stomach and helps if you have been indiscreet, food-wise. Unfortunately, mastic is not cheap. An alternative, paid by insurance is Carafate, with a similar action.
• DGL licorice helps – it is a deglycyrrhized licorice that does not have the bumping effect on blood pressure. This comes also as a lozenge.
• Other herbs that soothe the stomach are chamomile tea, aloe vera juice (or eat directly from the plant – the jelly-like inside of the leaf; avoid the green outside leaf – it is a harsh laxative), slippery elm, plantain banana, calendula and marshmallow (the real herb – not the sweet candy!), cabbage juice, artichoke extract. But watch it: I, for instance, have a chamomile allergy; that would make the situation worse.
• It is always a good idea to start out with the Ayurvedic herb neem which kills all sorts of infections because, unbeknownst, germs can cause all the indigestion. Ask your doctor.
• In an acute attack, sleep with your upper body a bit elevated (turns the flux downward).
• Always chew your food well! Big chunks might lie in your stomach like stones.
• Help your whole digestive tract with probiotics.
• Eliminate stress – especially when you eat. Sit down for three meals a day – don’t gobble things down on the run!

This is what to avoid – besides hurting foods:

• Too big meals.
• Eating after dinner.
• Peppermint – as it has a relaxing effect on the sphincter that closes of the stomach.

A reminder: Before you embark on a natural healing course, it is a good idea to have endoscopy – because you don’t want to overlook anything serious. And make sure your doctor looked for an H. pylori infection. On the other hand, there is evidence, that a bit of H.pylori might be necessary for normal digestion – and triple antibiotic definitely could do some harm.

And then – just to confuse things: Elderly people often have too low stomach acidity, and if they are taking medications that lower it even more, one can imagine that this will lead to problems. There is a supplement for this condition: betaine HCl. And some patients with can be helped with digestive enzyme – a whole new topic.

The Five Health Essentials

August 18, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, alcohol, beer, biochemistry, circulation, clothing, coffee, cold shower, dehydration, drinking water, energy, ENM, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, Five Health Essentials, fluids, Health Essentials - Five, herbal tea, ice cold, iquids, liquor - hard, milk, over-hydration, saltwater nose rinse, sauna, seven - a sacred number, seven cups of water, sitzbath, soup, stomach, swimming, temperature, The Five Health Essentials, urine, water - drinking, water - filtered, water intake, weight loss, wind conditions, wine

European Natural medicine works with the Five Health Essentials. Here they are:

• Water - our wellspring, inside and out
• Movement – shapes our bodies and our minds
• Food - the building blocks of our body
• Herbs - the essence of Nature
• Order for our lives – balance in the world.

Today let’s talk a bit about water in general; I will tackle the other four Essentials in the next few days.

We are mostly water, and therefore we need water. Drinking water (or herbal teas) helps nearly all biochemical functions; we die pretty fast without drink (usually within three days). Without food we can survive about 30 days. – These are rough numbers – and don’t try this at home.

Every body nowadays knows that we should take enough fluid in. But few people are aware that one can overdo drinking. I usually recommend seven cups of water - from a beautiful cup – not from plastic. And preferably filtered. Seven cups, of course, is an inane recommendation because your size, the temperature, exercise, your clothing, wind conditions, what you have been eating, and so on will influence how much you really have to drink. Seven is a sacred number and should just keep you mindful of your water intake. But it is not written in stone. Better observe your urine: If it is getting dark, you need more water. If it is water-clear, you had too much.

Soup and fruit contain fluids; coffee and alcoholic drinks like beer and wine count less because they dehydrate. But they don’t count for nothing. Hard liquor and milk don’t count at all (and should be avoided altogether).

Whatever you drink, it should never be ice cold! Iced liquids hamper digestion by clamping down on blood circulation in the stomach, and decrease energy in the body. However, it is not enough to lose weight!

Water from the outside is as important as water from the inside. This is the perfect time for starting cold showers because the cold water is much warmer than it will be in a few months (unless you live in the southern hemisphere). August is the time to go swimming – in a lake, in the ocean, or even just dunking in a rubber pool in the backyard. Beyond cold showers you have heard here already about cold sitzbaths, saltwater nose rinses, sauna – all of which are tricks to keep you healthy.

Cat Food

August 15, 2010

Tags: food, order, beef, carrots, cat, cat food, Cat Food, chicken, dander, diabetes in cats, dill, dog, fish, fish oil, kidney failure, liver, liver - fatty, liver disease, meat, oats, obesity, Otto, parsley, predator, Rivka, thyroid disease, turkey, vegetal

This morning I marveled at Otto’s silken black fur and how he has changed in ten short months into a purring bundle from a frightened, grimy cat with dander flying all over the place. I got him from a shelter last October, after our last cat Rivka had been carried away by a Maine eagle – or so we think; she left no trace.

The first thing I did was to add a capsule of fish oil (prick the capsule and dribble the fish oil over the food) a day to his food, for a month, against the dander.

I am not a veterinarian but, like humans, cats are part of nature and thrive on natural foods. Canned and dried foods are unnatural and unhealthy for our pets (all this applies to dogs too, but I don’t know much about dogs. I would think that dogs can handle a slightly higher portion of vegetal matters in their diets). Why do we have so many cats with diabetes, obesity, kidney failure, thyroid disease? It is not only that we over-feed our pets; diseases also stem from unnatural, stale food with ingredients that are alien to cats. In the wild, cats are predators with a predominantly fresh meat diet.

Only when we travel does Otto get canned or dried food. Once in a while, he gets a few dried morsels when he is good. The fresh food I cook for him, I freeze until it is used. This is what Otto eats twice a day:

• Meats. Buy something cheap like chicken, turkey, beef, not too fat. Preferably two different kinds. No bones.
• Liver. If I forget the liver (which I have at times), Otto sulks. Usually I get chicken livers. Make sure they are not yellow. Yellow indicates fatty liver - a liver disease.
• Fish. Any ocean fish will do – I take what’s on sale. No bones.
• Plant matter: Either a handful or two of rolled oats. Or a small bag of carrots. Or a bunch of parsley. Or dill. The emphasis is on “or” - cats are no vegetarians; they need a little bit of plant material, but not too much.

Cook until the meats are very soft. Puree. Serve. Love your cat.

Vegetarian? Vegan? Omnivore?

August 13, 2010

Tags: food, anemia, ants, beef, butterflies, carnivore, cat, caterpillar, cattle, cleansing, dementia, dog, Earth, eggs, fats - animal, fish, game, grain, greens, herbivore, horses, insect, lamb, lion, lobster, mouse, omnivore, photosynthesis, pig, prayer, predator, rabbit, scavenger, sheep, shrimp, slaughterhouse, sun, turkey, vegan, vegetal, vegetarian, Vegetarian? Vegan? Omnivore?, vitamin B12

We had this before: I am not a vegetarian. Not because I don’t like animals or because I don’t care for the Earth. No, because I am a pragmatic person. I eat what my body needs.

If you ask me what my body needs, my standard answer is: vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. But we need more than vegetables. We need some fish, and occasionally even some meat. Some eggs will do, too.

Vegan or vegetarian food is a great way to cleanse the body after too many years of bad nutrition. People who have switched to vegetal food often remember how wonderful they felt that first month after the change - and therefore are reluctant ever to go back to meats. But after a month or two, deficiencies slowly set in.

As a doctor, I am familiar with vitamin B12 deficiency in vegetarians and vegans. It is a big problem. Because without vitamin B12 one gets anemia (low count of red blood cells) and dementia. The brain needs vitamin B12 to function. The sad fact is: If you are vitamin B12 deficient and replenish with that little red pill (or shots from your doctor), your anemia will vanish – but the brain damage is done: The marbles you have lost, you will not recover because dead brain cells don’t come back.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is a pretty good argument for a doctor not to be a rigid vegetarian. But for people who have not seen the effects of a tiny vitamin lacking, it means nothing.

So, here is another argument: We all know that the animal world is divided into two groups: herbivores and carnivores. The first eat greens exclusively, and the others are carnivores – predators that feast on other animals. And, sure enough, there is a third group, the omnivores; they eat everything that comes near their snouts, and pigs and humans are their most notorious members.

Come to think about it: A cow in the pasture munches on grass, solely, right? Wrong! A cow eats tons of insects, caterpillars, ants and butterflies - creeping, crawling creatures that land in their stomachs by accident – and are put to good use. I heard this story (first-hand!): A young, inexperienced farmer kept horses and sheep in one meadow together. After lambs were born in the spring, she found – to her horror – that a horse had smashed a baby lamb’s skull and licked up the brains. This happened not once but twice. She talked with an older farmer, who looked at her with pity and gave this piece of advice: “That’s why you don’t put out horses and sheep together in the pasture.”

Conversely, when a carnivore catches its prey – let’s say a cat a mouse – they eat it whole, including the stomach contents which contain grains. Lions are known for seeking out especially the stomachs of their victims.

This means that the concepts of strict herbivorism or carnivorism are myths: All creatures need both sources of nutrition (albeit in different proportions) – and seek out what they lack.

On our planet Earth, we get our energy from the sun, and from the plants that convert sun energy into sugar and starches – that is how we are nourished, by photosynthesis. Interestingly, carnivores usually don’t hunt other carnivores; they prefer herbivores. Why? Because the meat of herbivores has been grown on an herbal diet. Even carnivores cannot get too far away from the power of the sun in plant materials. And that, by the way, is the reason we usually don’t eat carnivorous cats and dogs but prefer rabbit, cows, game, lambs. And it might be one of the reasons in Jewish traditions for “forbidden” foods: pigs, shrimp, lobsters, and so on – animals that are carnivores or scavengers (eating dead meats). They are too far away from the green source of vitality. And so, by the way, are cattle that are fed corn: No greens strengthening their meat.

One last thought: So, which are the healthiest meats around? Americans seem to think that chicken and turkey are the best – as if chickens and turkey are not animals. From a nutritional standpoint, poultry are only marginally better than beef, for instance; they also contain unsavory animal fats, especially if they are grain-fed and from a commercial source. In a normal supermarket, the healthiest meat actually might be lamb. Lambs are born out in the meadows; they eat grass all their lives, they are not fed grains and are not treated with antibiotics, and so on. Then they are harvested.

Rule of thumb: Eat vegetarian three days a week, fish or eggs three days, meats one day. No deli – ever.

Sorry, if this is a bit graphic. But even if you close your eyes to not see it - the fact is that animals die so that we can eat; meat is not concocted in factories and comes shrink-wrapped and cooled. Let's make sure that the whole operation - from raising animals, keeping them, to slaughterhouses - is run as humanely as possible.

For every animal I prepare in my kitchen – including fish – I say a prayer. To thank this being that died so that my family can be fed.

Soy - The Tainted Miracle Food

August 12, 2010

Tags: food, water, allergies, almond milk, beans, deforestation of the Amazon rainforests, edamame, fermented foods, garbanzo, gene-manipulated, health bar, indigestion, joint problems, legumes, lentils, milk, miso, organic, over-fertilization, pests - susceptibility to, rice milk, skin problems, soil depletion, soy, soymilk, Soy - The Tainted Miracle Food, tempeh

Soy is the new wonder food - sooo healthy! Drinking soymilk is a nice first step to get away with the ubiquitous milk and dairy. But there are problems with soy. But what with all the health claims?

Many people get allergies to soy. I observe it in my patients that, roughly after five years, the soy problems are starting – indigestion, joint and skin problems. But during those five years, people get out of the milk habit – and that is a good thing in my eyes. After soy, there is still rice milk and almond milk. And after those, there is always water.

Soy’s estrogenic effects are well-known. Less well-known is that all legumes (beans, lentils, garbanzos) contain estrogenic-like compounds: phyto-estrogens. Yes, soy is highest – but by now we could have learned that bigger is not always better. Especially not, when it is non-organic and gene-manipulated (the verdict on that is still out - until then, I prefer to be on the safe side). Avoid soy as a powder and filler. Especially, avoid it in so-called health bars which contain soy for a sole purpose: That you might think it is healthy and buy it.

New studies have shown that the marvelous properties of soy do not apply across the board; they only happen with fermented soy products – like miso or tempeh – but not with unfermented soy products. I think of soy as one of the beans. Not as a miracle food.

Soy has become the next super mono crop, with agricultural subsidizing, big time. And with all the ensuing problems: depletion of soils, over-fertilizing, and susceptibility to pests. Not to mention massive destruction of the Amazon rainforest to accommodate this new hyped-up crop. We need don’t more soy; we need a few healthy soy food items: Edamame (the young, tender soybeans still in the pod, often steamed with soy sauce. Miso: Use the fermented paste, not the dried stuff from a package. Tempeh, the Indonesian pressed and fermented soybeans. Delicious in all kinds of stir-fries - way better than tofu if you ask me. Tofu is a highly processed thing, coming in a perfect block. Once in a while, of course, you may indulge min tofu. But stop thinking about tofu as health food. Nothing in nature comes in a block.

Dairy IV: The Best of the Bad

August 8, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Soaking and Sprouting

August 2, 2010

Tags: food, water, agricultural revolution, allergy, amaranth, animals - prehistoric, antinutrients, bean dishes, bloating, Brazil nut, bread - daily, calcium, calories, cavemen, colitis, cooking, dairy, deer, diarrhea, digestibility, digestion, famines, fermented foods, flavonoids, food allergies, fowl, fruit, gastro-intestinal tract, game, genetics, grains, greens, grubs, hunters and gatherers, indigestion, lectins, leftovers, legumes, lentils, mammoth, milk, minerals, mung beans, nuts, pigs, polyphenols, population growth, protease inhibitors, phytates, raw foods, roots, seeds, snacks, soaking, Soaking and Sprouting, sprouting, sprouting jar, sprouts - commercial, starvation, stomach - upset, World hunger

“Give us our daily bread” is a prayer. If somebody is out there to listen to this prayer, He seems to prefer to listen to First-World supplicants; the Third World does not need to apply, apparently.

World hunger is appalling, but perhaps it is beneficial that not all people get to have their daily bread. Because our staple bread, surprisingly, contains ingredients that might hurt you.

All seeds – including grains, legumes and nuts – contain indigestible parts. It is a survival strategy for seeds: They don’t want to be eaten, they want to germinate and build new life.

About five to ten thousand (depending on where people lived) years ago, the agricultural revolution happened. Suddenly we were eating grains (the other part of the agricultural revolution was coaxing cows into give up their milk for human consumption). When people still were hunters and gatherers, grains barely ever showed up in their meals – grains then were trifling kernels, not worth the effort. Cavemen ate greens, roots, nuts, small fruit (big fruit are the result of modern hybridization), game, fowl and grubs – whatever was available. Not much was available, so famines and starvation were frequent – especially after mankind had successfully hunted to extinction the huge animals that populated the world in prehistoric times: huge deer, woolly mammoths, giants pigs, and so on.

Agriculture was a step forward. It provided more calories, and reliably so. More children could survive; populations slowly increased.

But grains come with a price: They contain antinutrients (such as lectins, phytates, protease inhibitors) that have negative health consequences. These ingredients interfere with the successful uptake of important molecules – mostly minerals, like calcium – and they are harsh on the gastro-intestinal tract. As they are indigestible, eating them can lead to upset stomach, bloating, diarrhea, even colitis.

But things are never easy: Polyphenols and flavonoids are also antinutrients, and we surely want those in our daily fare (though not in overdose).

Antinutrients can be destroyed or at least reduced by cooking, sprouting and fermentation. About fermentation and its benefits we have already talked. We also discussed raw foods-only diets, and that cooking makes more nutritional components available.

Soaking and sprouting is a method still not used widely enough. I can't marvel enough that the simple fact of adding water to a seed will make it easier to digest (be aware that for some people it is not enough to eliminate the digestive problems). Store-bought sprouts in the past have occasional had problems with germs, alfalfa and soy bean sprouts, for instance - a good reason to do it at home. Just keep your (simple) equipment clean. There are a few tricks for different sprouts from amaranth to Brazil nuts, from mung beans to lentils which I don’t want to discuss here – information is easily found on the Internet.

This is my stress-free methods: Soak in clean water overnight. There are plastic jars available at health food stores with sieves of different sized hole, for small and bigger seeds. One can also just (and perhaps healthier without plastics leaching out) use glass jars and paper towels and/or cheese cloth for straining.

Pour off the water next morning, rinse in clean water (repeatedly, if the water is cloudy) and let stand for sprouting (or beginning to sprout). Eat your sprouts during this day. For me it works – without being too meticulous about it. I like sunflower, flax, sesame, almonds. Make sure you start with seeds that have not been irradiated, roasted, salted or processed in any way; organic is preferable. Make sure you don’t let them sprout for too long, they might get bitter. Experiment with different soaking/sprouting times. Anything longer than two, utmost three days can lead to mold – discard it. Always clean jars and sieves thoroughly.

Add sprouted seeds and nuts to bean dishes, leftovers and as snacks.

If you seem to have “allergies” to every single nut or seed there is, try removing antinutrients by soaking and sprouting. After all, yours might not be a real allergy, you might just not be able to digest certain indigestible food ingredients. Which is determined by genetics.

Sweating It

July 31, 2010

Tags: water, order, movement, food, herbs, air conditioning, amphetamines, anti-epilectic drugs, Boston, bowel, cold exposure, colds, colon cleansing, copper, Deep South, dehydration, detoxification, drinks - warm or cold, elimination, fruit, high blood pressure, kidneys, lead, lungs, medication, mercury, metals - heavy, methadone, New Orleans, nickel, peppermint tea, relaxation, salads, salt, sauna, skin, sleep - improved, studies - medical, summer, sweating, Sweating It, toxins, winter, yoga, zinc

Awful, this summer heat, isn’t it? One sits, barely wants to move, and sweat runs out of every pore.

Actually, no! Sweating takes out toxins from our bodies; the skin is one of four elimination organs (the other three are kidneys, bowels, lungs). Sweating is beneficial. Enjoy your wet armpits – without them, you would age faster and might get cancer earlier. Sorry that I am so graphic. But the advantages of sweating are widely underrated.

People sit in air-conditioned houses, and at the same time they are shelling out big dollars for “colon cleansing.” Colon cleansing is a health scam. Eating better and drinking water or herbal teas will do the trick; colon cleansing will not make you purer - just poorer.

In the winter, a sauna does the trick. Not by accident was sauna in vented in Finland and Russia - cold, northern states that do not allow for sweat naturally. - Exercise can make you sweat. But don’t try too hard: Individual people start sweating at different points, and one should not exercise for the sake of sweating. Move for fun and purpose!

In the summer, let nature work for you: Sweat it out!

Heavy metals like nickel, copper, zinc, lead have been found in sweat in higher numbers than in the blood – but I wish, we had better studies available! For instance, I am only aware of a single study that saw mercury levels falling during a sauna protocol. Most medical studies are funded by pharmaceutical firms (and I don’t see any wrong in there, as long as they adhere to scientific ethics). But this situation leaves out studies on water, sauna, yoga, healthy food, to name a few – because not much money can be made of them. The only way to improve the situation is to demand such studies.

Medications may be released into the sweat, notably anti-epileptic drugs, amphetamines, methadone (but don’t get your hopes too high that sauna will get you through a drug test easily - it won’t!).

Sauna also prevents frequent colds and promotes better sleep. In Europe, people use saunas widely. Mostly, of course, for relaxation and fun.

Except for the very elderly and frail who are in danger of severe dehydration in the summer, an air conditioner is unnecessary. In our house, we have a built-in central air-conditioning system. We never – never! – use it (but we also live in Boston, not in the Deep South - perhaps I would feel different in New Orleans...). If it gets really sweltering at night, we run a simple fan in the bedroom. Summer is for sweating – and winter is for cold exposure; both have their health merits.

If you sweat, you lose salt and water. So drink enough! And put a pinch more salt than usually in your food to replenish – unless you tend to high blood pressure. - And before I forget it: Warm drinks are healthy; cold drinks - especially ice-cold - hurt you.

Instead of suffering through the summer months, take them as what they are: A free-for-all detox program – every year! Eat fruit and salads and enjoy the heat with a peppermint tea ... lukewarm. In the shade.

Quackery

July 30, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, order, accidents, allopathy, Andy Lewis, appendicitis, drug-dispensing, fever, genes, headache, health, heart attack, homeopathy, language - ambiguous, Lewis - Andy, medicine - alternative, medicine - conventional, Natural Medicine, naturpathy, New Age, procedure-oriented, profit-driven, quackery, Quackery, quackometer, relationships, science, sleep, stiff neck, sugar pills, supplements, tularemia, vitamins

On the British "Quackometer" site, I have been negatively reviewed: http://www.quackometer.net/.

This is what I answered:

Dear Mr. Andy Lewis,

Basically, I like the idea of a quackometer. On the other hand, I am not tickled that I received all those ducks. They are cute, though.

In my books and health blog, I use easy language while being informed about science. I use some new-agey terms so that people understand me – that explains “This web site is using lots of alternative medicine terms.”

At the same time, you accuse me of the opposite: “It is full of scientific jargon that is out of place and probably doesn't know the meaning of any of the terms.” You don’t want to argue with degrees - but here I have to: I was a teacher of mathematics and statistics, and have a master’s degree in philosophy, especially in epistemology (which is the science of what we can know, and where we better shut up – as Wittgenstein put it). That all before I studied medicine and finished with board-certification here in the U.S.A. in internal medicine. And I hold a degree in “Natural Medicine.” So, in all likelihood, I do understand the medical and scientific terms I use.

“It shows little or no critical thought and so should be treated with caution!” You might have overlooked my blog that states that homeopathy has no scientific basis – therefore I don’t use it with patients. But I did two courses of homeopathy to make sure I did not throw out a valuable tool unexamined. Then again, barely anybody dies of sugar pills – and here in the U.S.A. (unfortunately, I don’t have British numbers) about 100,000 people die per year of allopathic drugs. Only on your website today I found the information of this anti-malaria homeopathic concoction; that indeed is murderous, and I strongly oppose it.

However, since many ailments heal with time and better lifestyle, homeopathy (which is often combined with compassionate care and good advice for exercise and healthy eating) might be less of a safety problem than conventional medicine. I have practiced medicine for thirty years and have become skeptical of profit-driven, procedure-oriented, drug-dispensing allopathic medicine. But I would never discard good conventional medicine where it is needed and useful: When my son came home from camp with high fever, stiff neck and the worst headache of his life, I did not think for a second that “alternatives” were the answer. I drove him straight to the Emergency Room of a famous Boston Teaching Hospital (where they promptly misdiagnosed his tularemia – but that is another story…). – Appendicitis needs a good surgeon. And one doesn’t treat a heart attack by holding hands. – Guess we agree here.

Also, I am very critical of indiscriminate use of vitamins and other supplements without proven value and without documented deficiencies. You might also have noticed that I don’t sell anything – only my books which is the way to disperse ideas and knowledge). Not even a mug or a t-shirt.

There are bad genes and unfortunate accidents. But apart from that, health is a simple proposition, in my opinion: Eat well, sleep well, move a bit, drink fresh water, get your relationships and priorities right – and automatically, you will be healthier. Common sense, not more. But it is so much easier to pop a pill (allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic) than do something yourself - that’s probably why my books sell so poorly.

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

P.S. I forgot two arguments:

1. Using language as the sole indicator for quackery might not work because – as you somewhere noticed yourself – language is ambiguous.

2. Writing on a rather “quackery” website should not constitute quackery itself – I often just bring arguments which might be enlightening – and lure readers to my blog. Also, if writing on a “quackery” site makes me guilty of quackery – then writing on the “Quackometer” redeems me??

Last thought: Homeopathy fills a void that conventional medicine leaves: Homeopathic practitioners care and listen. If we want to persuade patients with our scientific arguments, we first have to return to caring and listening.

Update 1/2/2011:
They took me off the list, after all!!



Berries - Gift of Summer

July 26, 2010

Tags: food, order, Amelanchier, anti-aging, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-depressant, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidants, Aronia, berries, Berries - Gift of Summer, bilberry, blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, Celtis, chokeberry, cholesterol-lowering, cloudberry, cranberry, crowberry, currants, depression, dewberry, diabetes type II, elderberry, Empetrum, falberry, Fragaria, gooseberry, greens, growing berries, hackberry, Hippophae rhamnoides, huckleberry, high blood pressure, immune-regulating, lingonberry, liver protection, loganberry, Morus spp., mulberry, olallieberry, olfactory nerves, phyto-nutrients, picking berries, raspberry, Ribes spp., Rubus chamaemorus, Rubus loganobaccus, Rubus parviflorus, Rubus phoenicolasius, Rubus spectabilis, Rubus spp., salmonberry, Sambucus, sea-buckthorn, seasons, serviceberry, skin cancer, smell, smelling the roses, strawberry, sun protection, super-foods, tayberry, thimbleberry, Vaccinium spp, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, vegetables, walking, whortleberry, wineberry

You know by now that I don’t believe in super-foods. We are supposed to eat a variety of foods, always changing with the seasons. Now is berry time!

Not everything we call a berry is one in the narrow botanical sense. But I am talking about food here – so let’s take it loosely. This list is not exhaustive – just mouth-watering:

* Bilberry or whortleberry (Vaccinium spp.)
* Blackberry - many kinds: dewberry, boysenberry, olallieberry, and tayberry (Rubus spp.)
* Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.)
* Chokeberry (Aronia)
* Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
* Cranberry (Vaccinium spp.)
* Crowberry (Empetrum spp.)
* Currants: red, black, white (Ribes spp.),
* Elderberry (Sambucus - be careful: some are poisonous)
* Falberry (Vaccinium spp.)
* Gooseberry (Ribes spp.)
* Hackberry (Celtis spp.)
* Huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.)
* Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
* Loganberry (Rubus loganobaccus)
* Mulberry - black and white (Morus spp.)
* Raspberry (Rubus spp.)
* Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)
* Sea-buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
* Serviceberry (Amelanchier)
* Strawberry (Fragaria spp.)
* Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
* Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius)

In summer, we have the duty – and the joy – of eating berries - I am eating fresh blueberries right now. Mentioning that berries are full of anti-oxidants might bore you to tears because you have heard it so often. But it’s the truth, nevertheless.

Health benefits of anti-oxidants:

• Anti-aging
• Protects the skin against sun damage. Yes you heard right: EATING stuff protects you against skin cancer … maybe better than slobbering sunscreen all over you. Best, of course, might be a combination of both. And even more important: sunhat and long sleeves.
• Anti-cancer
• Reduce high blood pressure.
• Anti-inflammatory (and as many diseases are mediated through inflammation, this is a godsend).
• Protects the liver (which is the organ that does all the work detoxifying your body).
• Anti-bacterial
• Immune-regulating
• Anti-diabetic
• Lower cholesterol
• Anti-depressant

And these are only a few of the benefits of eating berries. They are probably as true for eating your greens and other vegetables. But since berries are so much more delicious – just do your duty and eat them!

You can also plant some in your garden or on the balcony (I used to keep blueberries in containers). And go out for a long walk in the countryside, with a friend and a can, and pick berries for free. Because now is the time!

I think (and this now is totally subjective) that berries are sent to us so that we stock up on wholesome phyto-nutrients in order to survive the next winter better.

And since I am at it, I might as well mention that I believe smelling the roses (and other flowers) at this time of the year, will get us through the next winter without too much of the winter blues. Pure speculation, of course … but then again, the nose and the olfactory nerves are in the vicinity of our brain.

How to Measure Diabetes

July 21, 2010

Tags: disease, food, movement, A1c, anemia, belly fat, biking, blood sugar, cheeks - rosy, dancing, diabetes - latent, diabetes management, diabetes mellitus, diabetes type II, end-organ failure, eye problems, fasting blood sugar, fat - bad, genetic disposition, glucose solution, hair - scant body hair, hemoglobin - glycosylated, How to Measure Diabetes, hypoglycemia, kidney failure, Natural Medicine, neuropathy, Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, overweight, starches - white, sugars, swimming, urine, walking

In ancient times, diabetes was diagnosed by licking the urine of the patient. If it tasted sweet, a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus (“honeysweet flow”) was made. As a physician, I am glad we have advanced to better tests...

There are basically four different tests to diagnose diabetes (I am talking here mostly of type II):

• Spot blood sugar. Since sugars rise and fall depending what and when you ate, this is a very unreliable test.
• Fasting blood sugar. Does only take a bit of blood, is cheap and fast – but still can vary with what one ate the day before. However, if your fasting numbers are up consistently, you should pay attention!
• Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: a complicated procedure where one drinks an awfully sweet fluid before blood will be drawn in half-hour intervals to ascertain how fast the sugar load is cleared out. It’s complicated, and very time-consuming for the patient. I object of giving a patient a drink 75 to 100 gm of unpalatably sweet glucose solution – which can’t be healthy if there is a disease caused by sugar. My suspicion is that this test is still be used because doctors can bill the most for this.
• Glycosylated hemoglobin, also called A1c: An easy blood test that gives a rough average of your sugars through the last month. I like this one the best because the usual ups and downs of sugar are not interfering with the test, but going into the overall measuring. With frequent episodes of hypoglycemia (too low blood sugars), the test might come back falsely low or normal. In iron-deficiency, A1c are higher than they really are, suggesting diabetes where there might be none. Every time one eats sugar, it “glycosylates” (adding a sugar to the molecule) a protein on the surface of an erythrocytes (red blood cells), and the chemical process is never reversed as long as the blood cell lives. Red blood cells live about three months; blood we draw is always a mixture of very young cells, newly released into the bloodstream from the bone marrow, and older cells, soon to be discarded. Measuring blood glycosylation therefore represents a fair mirroring of recent sugar intake and over time, those numbers can be compared: A lower A1c means you have done something right lately.

In conventional medicine, A1c is called normal if it is below 6.0. A1c is measured in percent of how much of the blood is “sugared”. Starting at 6.1, you have diabetes. That in it itself is rather absurd: A little step upward from 5.9 to 6.0 does not give you diabetes – you had it coming all along. In Natural Medicine, we think that between 5.0 and 6.0, one has “latent” (developing) diabetes. Why that number of 6.0? Because if one would chose 5.0 as the cut-off point, most Americans would have to be diagnosed with the disease.

The Oral Glucose Tolerance Test is more sensitive to detect cases of diabetes – but only if the cut-off point for diabetes is set at 6.0 A1c.

Arbitrarily putting the number to 6.0 does not make a person healthier. In fact, at the date of diabetes diagnosis, I good proportion of patients have already end-organ failure, namely eye problems, kidney failure, neuropathy – to name a few.

Just looking around tells us that many people are overweight and have some of the telltale signs of diabetes: belly fat, scant hairs on arms and legs, rosy cheeks. One sign alone does not make the diagnosis – but several together gives me an idea. But one can be very overweight and never develop diabetes, because in order to get the disease, you have to have the genes AND an unfortunate lifestyle.

Don’t think that genes are an excuse. Because diabetes type II does not strike, if one lives frugally. For instance, after World War II in Europe, basically nobody had it (but people died in droves of tuberculosis then…). Ten years later, with ballooning economies and waistlines, diabetes was back.

But you don’t have to starve yourself, to heal diabetes. You need a mixture of moderate movement (walking, swimming, biking – or dancing; whatever you like) and a diet without sugars, white starches and bad fats.

In diabetes drug studies, diabetes often is called “controlled” if the blood sugar stays within the limits if 7.0 to 10.0 A1c. We can be sure that at those numbers the damage done by high sugars is continuing in the body. I personally favor an approach that does not “manage” the patient’s diabetes, but gets rid of it. And in many cases it can be done, with exercise, better nutrition – and determination on the patient’s side.

Salt Water Nose Rinse

July 20, 2010

Tags: water, order, food, food allergies, food - spicy, bacteria, beverage - ice-cold, chill, colds - acute, dairy, dander, draft, dust, exhaustion, hay fever, high blood pressure, infection, milk, mites, mucus, nose rinse, ocean, phlegm, pollen, salt, salt water, Salt Water Nose Rinse, sea salt, sinusitis - acute and chronic, sleep - sufficient, sneezing, thermos, virus

This water application sounds a bit gross on first encounter. But a salt water nose rinse works well in acute colds, acute and chronic sinusitis, hay fever and sneezing attacks, regardless of their cause, because the rinse flushes out dust, pollen, mites, dander, viruses, bacteria and all kinds of irritating debris from the nasal passages. Therefore, it shortens acute infections and relieves chronic problems.

Take a quarter teaspoon of table or sea salt in a glass of lukewarm water. Stir, lick: Its saltiness should be somewhere between that of the ocean and your tears. Now put a bit of the saltwater into your palm and sniff it up one nostril. It might feel like you are drowning – but you are not. Spit out the phlegm that comes down in the back of your nose. Do the other side. Finish the other side.

This can be done many times a day, especially with an acute cold. For many chronic conditions, it might be enough to do it twice a day. Contraindications: If you tend to have high blood pressure, rinse out your mouth afterward and swallow none of the salty phlegm that will still come down after a few minutes due to the cleansing action of the nose rinse. If the fluid stings or burns in your nose, you might have too little or too much salt; experiment!

A few other tips for chronic sinusitis:

• Avoid all milk and dairy products as they are mucus-producing.
• Avoid ice-cold beverages because they can trigger sneezing attacks and exacerbate asthma. Drink hot beverages – lemon and honey seems to soothe chronic sinusitis. Herbal teas are healing: linden, elderberry flowers, honeysuckle, fennel, thyme, and so on.
• Interestingly, getting chilled might affect some people with chronic conditions. Avoiding cold, draft and having a hot beverage (thermos!) before getting out of bed, might do the trick of warming up.
• Exhaustion depletes immune function; getting enough rest and sleep is especially important in children and adolescents.
• Avoid spicy foods.
• Look for triggering food allergens.

Summer Fare

July 19, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raw Foods

July 18, 2010

Tags: food, climate, dairy, detoxification, eggs, fish, fire, food - raw, food - seasonal, grains, greens, grubs, intestines, legumes, meat, milk - raw, nutrients, nuts, omnivore, protein, rabbits, raw foods, Raw Foods, roots, starch, teeth, vegan, vegetarian, vitamin B12, vitamins

The raw foods movement is an ideology – just as the vegetarian and vegan foods movements are. Fact is that we are omnivores. The length of our intestines, the shapes of our teeth, the hydrochloric acid produced in our stomachs, digestive enzymes produced in our pancreatic glands and our appetites – they all are witness to that fact.

We are omnivores because during evolutionary times, we did not have much choice in what we ate: we had to eat what was at hand, from roots to rabbits, from grubs to greens.

We need a diet that is mixed from raw foods and cooked foods. Recent research shows that mankind has had fire much longer than we thought; we used to think that fire came only about 100,000 years ago. Now the estimate goes to a million years, perhaps two million years. That time is long enough that our bodies have adjusted to cooked food.

The main advantage of cooked food is that we can get more nutrients out. Yes, a few vitamins get destroyed in the cooking process, but overall we gained.

Do we need a fixed ratio between cooked and raw foods? No. Naturally, we tend to prefer longer cooked foods in fall and winter, and raw foods in the summer. We eat more raw food in warmer climates. We are adaptable.

We also have different needs. A person who is warm, can take more uncooked food. A person who is always cold, can't digest raw foods well.

A raw or vegetarian or vegan diet is perfect to detoxify your body when you have lived too many years on too much meat and fast foods. People like to stay on a diet that made such a dramatic difference in their lives, and are often not aware that they might run into deficiencies after a while. I have seen too many patients on a vegetarian diet that consisted of pizza, donuts and ice cream.

After a month or so on a raw/vegetarian/vegan nutritional regimen, the body needs to go a bit more toward omnivore again – a little bit meat and fish, once to twice a week, if one wants to avoid too much meat for reasons of protecting animals and/or the Earth. To get protein and vitamin B12 from fish and/or eggs, it is sufficient to eat animal fare about once a week; more than twice a week might have negative outcomes. There is enough protein (not as perfect though) in nuts, grains and legumes to feed people most of the time.

The discussion raw vs commercial milk (or: a potentially infectious vs pasteurized, homogenized, fortified – adulterated foodstuff) should not be discussed with other raw food issues. But so much here: Dairy in any disguise is not healthy and not necessary - except in rare cases of non-thriving children. The two food groups you don’t need are dairy and white starch.

Freshness

July 16, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, basil, beet greens, bratwurst, cabbage - baby, carrots, cauliflower, chana dal, chives, cilantro, coconut oil, dill, dressing, fennel, fish, freezing, freshness, Freshness, garbanzo, garlic, grains, gravy - ready-made, green sauce, kitchen machine, legumes, microwave, mustard, olive oil, onions, parsley, rhubarb, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, split peas, sugar, thyme, vegetables, zucchini

We cannot eat perfectly healthy every single time we sit down to dine. But we should at least have an idea what the ideal of a meal can be.

Surrounded by friends and family, and outdoors – if possible. Even the tiniest of balconies will do; or an open window. A tablecloth would look lovely; at least a few matching plate mats, and always my best china. For whom would I keep it? My children will inherit what is not broken.

Ah, what for food? The answer is easy: vegetables. Tonight, at my home, it will be fennel – probably sautéed with onions, garlic and olive oil. And a baby cabbage, which I will steam whole with caraway. We will finish a leftover from yesterday (beet greens, cauliflower, young zucchini and green garlic). So, technically, we will have three veggies on the table – and I haven’t even mentioned meat or fish (I might do bratwurst today, in coconut oil – we still have some frozen from our May garden party, and we had fish or vegetarian for several days in a row. Served with chana dal (an Indian small garbanzo; they look like split peas, only yellow. One takes a cup of chana dal to two cups of water, brings it to a fast boil with a pinch of salt, and then simmers with a lid until all water is gone. The problem with chana dal (as with split green peas and most grains) is that they need skimming off some froth early on so that they don’t boil over.

For desert I will quick-cook rhubarb with a bit of sugar. Rhubarb is one of the few things that absolutely can’t go without sugar.

If freshness is the standard, then this is what we eat tonight: The warmed-up vegetables came from a friend’s garden– they were tender and delicious. The fennel is organic, from the supermarket; so is the cabbage. The cabbage and the rhubarb are local, the fennel came from far away. The bratwurst is organic.

Yesterday, with the fish, we had some green sauce – from the freezer. I usually make a batch for guests, and freeze the rest. I never use a microwave (not even for thawing) or use ready-made gravy or dressings, but I am not above freezing leftovers. Here is the Green Sauce recipe (you need a strong kitchen machine – a blender will not do):

Chop five cloves of garlic, a small onion and a handful of baby carrots. Add all the herbs you can put your hands on, one by one, and chop. Basil is a staple – and so are parsley, dill and cilantro. A few snippets of sage, chives, rosemary and thyme give fragrance. Add olive oil, a dab of salt and pepper. If it tastes boring (sometimes it does…), add a few teaspoons of mustard. Chop until fairly smooth. Chill and serve to fish and/or vegetables. Freeze leftover in portions.

If you live in the countryside (or if you have friends who bring you their produce) count your blessings. Otherwise make do with what you find in your supermarket. Organic is desired – but better a conventional vegetable than no vegetable at all! Local is super – but can’t always be had. I never go to the store with a recipe to follow: Number one, I am bad in following rules; number two, I go for what is fresh and what is cheap. I throw together what I think will work (olive oil and garlic rescue many of my dishes).

Brown rice or legumes (beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos) are dry. But vegetables should not be old or store-bought frozen or canned. Go for fresh, and strew on a few fresh or dried herbs. Here I say “dried” because fresh herbs can be very expansive – better dried herbs than no herbs.

No complicated cooking – just fresh produce. Enjoy!

Allopathy, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Natural Medicine – and Avandia

July 14, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, movement, allopathy, Allopathy, Naturopathy - Homeopathy - Natural Medicine – and Avandia, Avandia, drugs, finances, high blood pressure, homeopathy, hormones, hypertension, marriage - problems, medicine - conventional, medicine - natural, medicine - Western, minerals, naturopathy, pharmaceutics, pheochromocytoma, pills, sleep, stress, vitamins

You hear me mumble a lot about Natural Medicine. How does it differ from other kinds of medicine – allopathy, naturopathy, homeopathy? (Allopathy is another name for conventional medicine – the kind that is commonly practiced in the West)?

It is simple to explain: All those systems - except for Natural Medicine - believe in pills: Allopathy in pharmaceutical drugs; naturopathy in vitamins, minerals, hormones – small molecules that are supposedly lacking in your body; homeopathy believes in little sugar pills that don’t do anything at all, but at least keep the patient away from stronger, more detrimental drugs.

Don’t get me wrong: There is nothing inherently wrong with pills. In certain situations, we need them. Only that they are vastly overrated and over-prescribed and can, at times, do more harm than good. Mainly, however: They never address the root cause of the problem.

Let’s look at a patient who walks in with a blood pressure of 200 over 120. Would I want to deny him a pill? Of course, I would start him immediately on some pressure-lowering medications. I might even observe him in the hospital for a day or two if he looks brittle. But then I would work with the patient on his lifestyle – nutrition, water intake, movement, enough sleep, work stress, martial problems, financial debts: anything that might add to his high blood pressure. Not to make him an eternal patient, but to give him a chance at health. I would also make sure that he is not one of the five percent who have a physical reason for high blood pressure, like kidney disease or pheochromocytoma.

But my main goal would be to make the pills unnecessary.

The problem is: It is so much easier for the doctor to take out her prescription pad – and so much easier for the patient to take some pills for the rest of his life than facing the hard task to turn his life around and make it healthier. We are a culture of pill poppers; we want problems to go away – and fast. We have more important things to do than work on a lifestyle of health and happiness.

And because of that, we are sick.

Granted, there are hereditary diseases, and accidents, and sheer bad luck. But truly: Many health problems are in our own hands. Take diabetes – and the Avandia scandal: Do we really think a little pill can make up for thirty years of bad food choices and no exercise?

I, for one, don’t. Therefore, I opt for Natural Medicine.

Truth in Wine

July 13, 2010

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

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

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

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

It sounds like this is the stuff we should eat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

If I Had an Incurable Disease...

June 28, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is more:

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

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

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

Always Eating Time

June 25, 2010

Tags: food, Always Eating Time, arthritis, beef, breakfast, cell repair, cheese, eggplant, fast - nightly, lasagna, lycopene, Nature's laws, obesity, peppers - bell and hot, pizza, potato, sandwhich, school lunches, spaghetti with meatballs, subs, tomato, wheat

Good chance that I bore you to tears - but: There is an obesity epidemic. Already little children are overweight; many young people are rejected by the military because they are not passing muster. Our future lies in the hands of these children who go into life already burdened with extra weight.

School lunches are atrocious: pizza, spaghetti with meatballs, subs, hamburger, sandwich, lasagna – the usual menu.

Did you notice that these are not really different foods? They are the same foods disguised: always wheat, cheese, tomato, beef. None of the four items is especially healthful (yes – I know, tomatoes contain decent lycopene. But to eat tomatoes as the only vegetable, is not good. To eat them daily, is asking arthritis in your body. Tomato belongs (with potato, eggplant, bell and hot peppers) in the nightshade family, and should be eaten sparingly.

So, children eating wrong foods. But a bigger problem is that food is constantly offered (and bought). We as a culture teach the children that one needs always to eat. Times away from the table seem to ask for a snack, and times at the table are accompanied by TV. It seems there is a constant need to be fed, to be entertained, to be rewarded, to be cajoled, to be kept quiet – always with food.

The message is: It is always eating time.

If one eats constantly, the body is always busy with digesting, and has not time for repair and rebuilding – that is especially true at night. We call our first meal breakfast, don’t we? Meaning: You break the nightly fast. If one raided the fridge in the wee hours, one never fasts.

Nature has laws. One is about ebb and flow. Constant eating is like always having high tide. One might think that moderation is an unfashionable idea, outdated since long. But our bodies are old – ancient even. They live and function by the old laws of Nature.

If the body all the time is busy with digestion, it cannot run well, sleep well, think well … live well.

Harvesting Little Things

June 24, 2010

Tags: food, burdock leaves, chives, butterfat, comfort foods, cumin, dairy - proteins, dandelions, dill, dinosaur kale, gardening - vegetables, garlic, ghee, greens, harvesting, Harvesting Little Things, kale, lacinato kale, lentils - red, mallows, mints, nettle - stinging, olive oil, peas, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, wormwood

Fall is far away – but I did do my first harvesting yesterday: I got my peas off the vine, just in time before they would have been overripe and hard. Did I mention that this year I started vegetable gardening in pots on the terrace? Because I have crammed the garden so much with flowers and berries that not a speck of free soil was anywhere.

The pods yielded about a cup of peas – just enough for the two of us. I sautéed them very shortly with dill and a tad of ghee (butterfat). As you might have noticed, I usually shun dairy. Most dishes improve when you substitute with olive oil but occasionally a recipe calls for butter, and then I use ghee. In butter fat the proteins are skimmed off the melted butter. Since dairy proteins are the main culprits when it comes to inflammation, of all dairy products, ghee is the safest. I am not a purist – at times, I give in to an emotional need for comfort food. So it was yesterday, with the peas.

From the store, we also had dinosaur kale (also called lacinato kale, Tuscan kale) which is a swell way to introduce kids to greens. The kale has this puckered surface which really looks like dinosaur skin - just don’t tell them yet that researchers now discuss if dinosaurs had feathers. A friend had brought me a first bulb of garlic including greens from her garden, and I threw this, cut, into the kale, and added olive oil, some more garlic, pepper, salt.

Served this with red lentils with cumin, and fish with a bit of left-over green sauce from the freezer.

With it, we drank our garden tea, made from stinging nettles, dandelions, mallow, mints, rosemary, sage, chives, a bit of a young burdock leaf, and just a snippet of wormwood (it is toxic in greater amounts).

A simple, everyday meal – but oh, how sumptuous!

Syndrome X Everywhere

June 22, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, water, apple form, central obesity, cold shower, Depression, diabetes type II, disease, HFCS, high blood pressure, high fructose corn syrup, hyper-cholesterolemia, hypertension, lipids, obesity, pear form, race distribution, shower - cold, sleep, syndrome X, Syndrome X Everywhere, vegetables

Nearly half of US adults have diabetes, hypertension, or hyper-cholesterolemia - these three conditions make up Syndrome X. Plus, the definition includes a fourth condition, namely “central obesity”: a big belly.

To make the diagnosis does not take a degree from medical school. One can SEE if people are healthy – or unhealthy. Their "love handles" give them away.

In the study, white people were found to have more often only one of the conditions, whereas black and Hispanics were more likely to have two or all three.

Have you ever seen photos of the Thirties? The people look outright … unreal. Slim. We had the Depression then, granted. Barely anybody was fat. As an aside, look at their faces: They also seem happier. America then was hard at work to get itself out of the bad economical times.

Central obesity is what is also called the “apple form”: Extra weight gathers in the middle, as opposed to dragging down the bottom – which is called the “pear form.” For reasons not yet totally understood, the “apple” is the dangerous one. Probably because the “pear” connotes some genetically programmed weight gain, and the “apple” is all – what shall we call it – cultural fat.

Physicians used to think that slab of belly fat just sits there, unmovable, unchanged, forever. Now they have found out that belly fat is extremely active – like a stealth factory churning out secret molecules that make people eat more and build up more fat. That is why belly fat kills.

Slimmer is not a question of beauty but of health. A disclosure: My father was hefty. I loved it. Still love compact people. But it does not make them healthier. It only means that I will go through the heartbreak to lose them earlier – statistically speaking.

Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to 1891), one of my medical heroes, once said: “Big dinners fill coffins.” He knew what he was talking – he carried a paunch himself. Interestingly, he was a vegetarian. He did himself in with dumplings.

Which brings us to food. I will not give you a long lecture about healthy eating. Avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a minimum, and stick to vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. Occasionally have some fish and (organic) meat.

We have the best health care system in the world?? Medicine makes us healthy??

We have a disease care system; doctors “manage” diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid abnormalities, and so on, but they don’t cure you. Why should they? They’d lose a patient. So they are going on “managing” your diabetes, high blood pressure, high lipids. If you want health, you have to do it yourself. The old-fashioned way: more sleep, fresher food, cold shower, a daily walk – one step at a time.

Before You Die

June 19, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, Before You Die, biking, bungee jumping, cello, cleaning out the attic, cold shower, Dickens - Charles, fasting, forgiving, Great Wall, growing vegetables and herbs, Hugo - Victor, learning a new language, mountain climbing, musical instrument, painting, parachute jumping, Paris, pottery, publishing a book, reading, shower - cold, skydiving, soulmate, tai chi, Tolstoy - Leo, touch an iceberg, weaving, wood working, writing

If you find no new block entry here – does it mean your blogger is sitting idly around at the beach?

No. She is immersed in the novel she tries to finish before she dies. What is it you must finish before you die? Remember Miss Rumphius? Her grandfather had told her the three things one has to accomplish in life: To travel foreign lands; to live at the ocean (You might remember that “Miss Rumphius” is a Maine story); to leave the world a more beautiful place.

Husbands always feel one should clean out the attic before I die, or such – but we, who should do it, lack enthusiasm for the attic. Given one wouldn’t want to leave the mess to one’s children to sort out – but then again, who is going to die die THAT SOON??

There are tons of bucket lists on the Internet what to do before we die. Here is mine:

1. Finish your novel.

What are other people aspiring to do before they die? Skydiving, bungee jumping, parachute jumping. Too much jumping, it seems. Too short-lived and not along my alley. How about these:

2. Learn a musical instrument (or painting or wood working or weaving or pottery).
3. Grow your own vegetables and herbs. And perhaps blueberries.
4. Forgive that incredible jerk/bitch (we all have one in our lives).
5. Climb a mountain. Doesn’t need to be Mount Everest – but should be bigger than the Blue Mountains near Boston. Take part in a long bike ride. Or learn tai chi – anything that gets you moving out of your comfort zone.
6. Do a vegetable broth fast for a whole day. Once a week – until you have your ideal weight; then go to once a month.
7. Learn a new language.
8. Take a cold shower. Every day.
9. Read Les Misérables (or War and Peace, or Our Mutual Friend – or the other thousand-pages-plus tome you always wanted to read).
10. Sleep under the stars and watch a sunrise.

Others I liked: Walk the Great Wall of China, Visit Paris, Publish a book, Touch an Iceberg. Many of those traveling goals sound like fun – but they expand your carbon footprint enormously. Visiting Paris or leaning to play the cello? I have done both; nothing against Paris, but the instrument beats the town by miles.

Find Your Soul Mate would be a worthy goal, wouldn’t it be? But that is not in your hands. Strive for something attainable - you don’t want to build your life on Grace or Fate or Incredible Luck.

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.

Dupuytren - The Telltale Sign

June 11, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, alcohol consumption, bloot fats, contracture, dairy, diabetes type II, Dupuytren, Dupuytren - The Telltale Sign, hyperlipidemia, finger, hand, metabolic disorder, palmar fascia, penis, Preyronie's disease, vegetables

Dupuytren is a hardening of the fascia of the palm that leads to a contracture of the fingers – most often the fourth. One can see and feel the hard string right under the skin. Often, the non-dominant hand is involved – but I have seen it in both hands, too.

The cause of Dupuytren is unknown but it clearly runs in families, and seems linked to diabetes, abnormal blood fats, and increased alcohol consumption. It is seen more often in people of Scandinavian descend, and is ten times more common in men than in women.

A similar affliction of the penis is called Peyronie’s disease. One side of the penis shaft gets hardened, which leads to a permanent bend in the organ.

Often a surgeon tries correction – not always successful. Several not-yet satisfying drugs and procedures have been developed.

For me, Dupuytren is one of those diseases which seem to affect only a small part of your body – that funny area there in your hand. In reality, it is a systemic disease, affecting many more organs. I view Dupuytren as a metabolic disorder. Getting lipids under control is of utmost importance. A diet high in vegetables and herbs, no fried or fatty foods, especially no dairy, less meat and no alcohol can soften the hardened fascia and reverse the process.

Bowel health II: Fermented Foods

June 10, 2010

Tags: order, food, anti-aging, anti-bacterial, anti-fatigue, anti-inflammatory, antinutrients, bowel health, Bowel health II: Fermented Foods, buttermilk, breads - fermented, cheese - fermented, digestion, cleansing, dilled cucumbers, doenjang, fermented foods, fermenting, kefir, hangover, kimchi, minerals, miso, pao cai, pickled vegetables, pickles, probiotic, saliva, sauerkraut, soy sauce, tempeh, umeboshi plum, vitamin C, vitamins, yogurt - fermented, zha cai

Probiotic pills/capsules provide healthy bowel bacteria.

But there exists an ancient method how to provide those lactic-acid bacteria without supplements: fermented foods.

Many traditional societies have used fermented foods:

• Sauerkraut (Europe)
• Pickled vegetables like dilled cucumbers (China, Europe)
• Tempeh (fermented, pressed soy beans)(Indonesia)
• Miso (Japan)
• Kefir (Turkey, Bulgaria, Russia)
• Buttermilk (Scandinavia, India, Bulgaria)
• Soy sauce (China, Japan, Southeast Asia) (beware of unfermented cheap products!)
• Umeboshi plum (Japan)
• Natto (Japanese soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis)
• Pao cai (pickled cabbages) (China)
• Kimchi (pickled cabbages and other vegetables with red pepper) (Korea)
• Zha cai (pickled mustard plant with red pepper) (Southern China: Sichuan)
• Doenjang (dark bean paste) (Korea)

There are many more traditional fermented foods worldwide from fermented fish sauce to fermented breads. A big subgroup are milk products that are fermented like natural cheeses and yogurts. On the other hand, modern products like soy sauce pickled dills might not have undergone the fermentation process; the taste comes from spices and preservatives.

Like probiotics, fermented foods are good for your health. Fermenting reduces so-called antinutrients (like lectins), making foods easier to digest. Fermented foods increase saliva and digestive juices flow, and provide vitamins and minerals which have been “pre-digested” by bacteria and therefore are more easily available for the human body. Sauerkraut was traditional a source of vitamin C during the winter and fresh things were scarce. Fermented foods are thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects and help cleanse a system overloaded with toxins (or a hangover). They work against fatigue and aging.

Bowel Health I: Probiotics

June 9, 2010

Tags: order, food, acne, addiction, advertisements, antibiotics, arteries - clogging of, arthritis, barley, bitters, boredom, bowel health, Bowel Health I: Probiotics, casein, cholesterol - high, colon cancer, dairy, dementia, depression, diabetes type II, diarrhea, frustration, gluten, gut, heart, heart attack, Helicobacter pyloris, high blood pressure, inflammation, intestines, joints, kidneys, mineral absorption, multivitamin, nutrition, oats, obesity, opioids, pancreatitis, probiotic, psoriasis, rye, Standard American Diet (SAD), stroke, urinary tract infection, vegetables, vitamin absorption, wheat

In Natural Medicine, we work with the four elimination organs: kidneys, bowels, lungs and skin. If one is blocked or diseased, the body as a whole suffers.

With the Standard American Diet (SAD), foremost our bowels are ailing. We live in a state of constant intestinal inflammation – and from there the infliction moves to skin (pimples, psoriasis), brain (depression, stroke, dementia), joints (arthritis), heart (heart attack, clogging of arteries. The two diseases that are “systemic”, namely affecting about every single organ in the body, are diabetes and obesity – and they are linked, as we know.

It is not difficult to conclude that the only remedy that will work, is cleaning up our act of how we eat – but for some people, this seems extremely hard. While there a several reasons to collude in making us overeat like advertisements, genetics, boredom, frustration, depression – the biggest reason is addiction. If one does not understand that food can be addictive, one cannot learn to avoid the offending foods like the pest.

Two of the main food culprits – I have mentioned them before – are gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats) and casein (dairy). Interestingly, they are chemically related. Interestingly, both are broken down into opioids – compounds that make you feel good and make you crave more.

To improve bowel health, we have to eat better – and the better eating mostly consists of vegetables, vegetables, vegetables (see, how I am repeating myself). Bitters help better digestion.

Aside from improved nutrition, a daily probiotic may be your best bet for bowel health. Probiotics are healthy bowel bacteria. Probiotics are live microorganisms – bowel bacteria – that belong in your intestines, but are not there because they have been killed off by antibiotic use (which you might have ingested without knowing with animal products) and/or poor diets.

These are the benefits which you might gain from a healthy gut flora: Reduced inflammation across the board, enhanced resistance to all kinds of infections like diarrhea, urinary tract and Helicobacter pylorus infections, increased mineral and vitamin absorption, protection against colon cancer, lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol – to name a few.

Probiotics are not for very small children (before their first birthday) or for patients with acute pancreatitis. Initially, probiotics might cause mighty rumbling in your bowels – so start low, with one capsule/pill per day, and slowly work your way up. If one brand does give you indigestion, try another one. And the more you can down (and afford), probably the better; think about reforesting: taking one capsule can be likened to planting a single tree.

We know that probiotics work – but we don’t know how. One study seemed to suggest that it does not matter whether the bacteria are alive or dead – they worked anyway. And they don’t seem to have lasting effects – only as long as one takes them.

But if you take a single natural supplement, forget multivitamins – take a probiotic!

Dairy III: Raw Milk

June 7, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Driving An Old Car

June 6, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, food, cars, Driving An Old Car, Earth, recycling, repair, reuse

When I carried my son at the ripe age of forty-two, my obstetrician was livid. He thought it was irresponsible and dangerous. “You can drive a twenty-year old Cadillac from the East Coast to the West Coast,” he declared, “BUT you will get into trouble!”

The comparison of my still nicely functioning body with an old car was insulting – to say the least. But history proved me right, and we have a wonderful, healthy son.

That, however, is not what I want to talk about today.

I want to praise old cars (and other old things). As of this day, my car is about fourteen years old and still running fine. When that car was much younger (but already dented and unfashionable), one of my patients declared: “With a car like that, you can’t be a good doctor!” Meaning: a good doctor can afford a newer, better car.

But can she? Apart from that my car is not a measure of my value or of my medical skills - am I not more than just a doctor – but also a steward of our good old Earth, like we all are, or should be? The longer I drive my old car, the fewer resources have to be used up, the more is saved. That is true for many things. So many items we buy nowadays get obsolete fast – and we retained nothing of their value. When I was a student, I made one day a totally irresponsible purchase: I bought a used Yamaha piano. I signed a check for money I didn’t have and then scrambled to borrow from my friends. Somehow, I made it – the check didn’t bounce. And so many years later the piano is still wonderful – and more worth than ever. – When my son now buys electronics (a cell phone, a laptop, an iPod), he uses them for a few short years, and then their value plunges toward zero. So many things we replace because they are not the newest item anymore, but they still pretty good, in working order and all. My Yankee (of course, I am not a Yankee – but feel akin) nature wants to preserve, repair, recycle.

In case you think this has nothing to do with medicine: The herbs I cherish and the plants I eat can only grow if we preserve our old Earth.

I will buy a new car if this one stalls and there is a hybrid station wagon on the market.

Seasonal Indulgences

June 4, 2010

Tags: order, food, herbs, aphrodisiac, asparagus, calcium, chrono-biology, copper, detoxification, fiber, Galium odoratum, iron, magnesium, minerals, parsley, phosphorus, potassium, Seasonal Indulgences, seasons, strawberries, sweet woodruff, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc

White asparagus, new potatoes, chopped parsley in melted butter and prosciutto - have you ever tasted the joy of this? I did last week - traveling in Europe. This is asparagus time, and it is eaten plentifully. Followed by strawberries.

In years gone, I have tried asparagus with sauce Béarnaise or sauce Hollandaise, with Wiener Schnitzel or salted herring. I had it as soup or stew. This year, I learned a new asparagus dish: Jam – made with sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), an herb that should only be harvested in May, with a flavor that is indescribably delicious – pure May indeed.

But my point is not the asparagus or the sweet woodruff; the point is that Europeans eat in season. They fantasize all year about asparagus with “young” potatoes – and when the white spears finally shoot out of the soil, there eat them often. Until mid-June (the exact date varies from north to south), when traditionally the last white asparagus is cut to let the plant develop strength for next year. After mid-June … nothing for a whole year.

Medicinally, asparagus flushes the kidney and moves the bowel (fiber!), taking with it toxins that have accumulated over the long winter. Parsley gives vitamin C, depleted after the cold season. And young potatoes round out the composition that delights the taste buds. In medieval times it was thought to be an aphrodisiac – but anything that was growing freshly after the long winter and had a phallic form might have served for the purpose, I guess.

Asparagus contains vitamins A, C, B1, B2, and E and is thought to help regeneration of cells, especially of nerves, vessels, skin and hair. White asparagus is kept white by growing them in deep soil, and they always need peeling of the tough skin (which might be the reason that green asparagus is preferred here – less work). Asparagus is rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and copper – all minerals sorely needed for bone strength.

Of course, it is possible to get white asparagus year-round. But Europeans still stick to the ancient clock: Over there, they have a time for everything, and May/June is dedicated to asparagus and strawberries.

We here think nothing of eating the good stuff whenever we feel like it. We don’t think about that the good stuff is made expensive by world-wide travel, and leaves a huge carbon print. Not to mention of the health consequences. Eating the same thing over and over again makes one prone to food allergies, for instance. And the old wisdom of the body is that what is in season is right for the body when it is in season. Not by chance but because we developed over millions of years together with the plants.

Here a small sample of what should be eaten when – and it is not only ancient lore but modern chrono-biology confirms the value of eating in season:
• January: red Beat
• February: celery, celeriac
• March: spinach, stinging nettle
• April: radish, rhubarb
• May: lettuce
• June: cucumber
• July: carrots, black currants, gooseberries, raspberries
• August: tomato, first apples, blueberries, raspberries.
• September: broccoli, cauliflower
• October: leeks
• November: cabbage
• December: rapunzel
(I will add to these!)

We delight in Christmas, and sometimes go over the top with Christmas decorations and gifts and events. Perhaps, if one had something to look forward year-round, would Christmas take its place among many seasonal delights?

Bitter Medicines

May 26, 2010