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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, 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.

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!

Spring Fatigue - Undiagnosed

April 19, 2010

Tags: herbs, food, chives, dandelion, fatigue, fruit, greens, health, nettle - stinging, spring fatigue, Spring Fatigue - Undiagnosed, spring onions, tonic, Urtica dioica, vegetables

A disease exists in Europe that is never diagnosed here: Spring fatigue. Around February, March, April everybody complains about it - and suffers.

Spring fatigue happens when the body is depleted of essential nutrients at the end of the winter, after not enough fresh fruit and vegetables in the cold months.

Do American people not have it? I think they do have spring fatigue - they are just not told about it. Because there is no pill against it. And the rather like to think they have spring fever...

Yet the remedy is easy: Eat about as many fresh greens you can put your hands on: chives (around this time I put handfuls of chives on and in about everything), dandelions, spring onions, stinging nettles, kale, chard, spinach. Many might be weeds in your garden.

Stinging nettles? Yes! It is a weed, but I planted it in my garden on purpose (in a raised bed). Yesterday, I made my first nettle soup of the season. The recipe is easy: Boil one or two cut potatoes (including skin) with a little bit of water and salt. When half soft, add stinging nettle leaves (the stems are tough; you need gloves to handle nettle because they sting), olive oil and pepper. Boil until soft - only a few more minutes. You can puree it - I did. But one can also just eat it like a green vegetable. Never forget the olive oil - without fat, your body cannot assimilate vitamin A from the greens.

Europeans think the stinging nettle is the most valuable herb, period. They use it for a tonic, strengthening the body overall. It is also good against hay fever, but you better buy it as phyto-caps for that purpose. The nettle root is used against prostatitis.

Make sure you know your herbs and harvest your herbs from a clean place - not where dogs pee on them. Go for a local herb walk to learn about herbs.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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