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

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!

Season’s Bliss

December 10, 2011

Tags: order, alms, Amnesty International, animal shelter, charity, caroling, Christmas, cook a healthy meal, cookies - gluten-free low-sugar, donation, gift ideas, gifts - named, gluten-free, Hanukkah, homeless, homeless shelter, holidays, knitting socks, Kwanza, neighbor, nursing home, people who have everything, poverty, Salvation Army, spare coins, sugar- low, toys - wooden, doll, board games

• Give your spare coins freely to homeless people
• Buy hat and mittens for a poor child
• Give to Amnesty International or another worthy charity; the one that gives most money to its clients and least to its CEOs is the Salvation Army)
• Visit a homeless shelter
• Knit socks for a soldier
• Take a child to a museum or a zoo – don’t buy anything to eat since the event is what you are showing the child
• Visit a nursing home, caroling
• Collect money and donate it to an, preferably not to the rich city organizations, but to a rural needy one
• Find inexpensive unusual gifts, preferably from Third-World places
• Wrap your presents in newspaper – or don’t wrap at all
• Cook a healthy meal for a neighbor who is house-bound
• Read a Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza story for the children in
• For people who have everything already: Make named gifts to charities
• Bring toys to a collection place that serves underprivileged children; stick to old-fashioned wooden toys, dolls and board games
• Bake some gluten-free low-sugar cookies and serve them to every visitor this time of the year, including the mailman
• Come up with at least three more ideas than I did – and tell us!

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!

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.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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