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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!

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.

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!!



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.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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