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The Problem with Hand-dryers

May 6, 2017

Tags: order, air-dry, antibiotic, automated, bacteria, bathroom, cleaning personnel, cloth towel, dangerous, expensive, faucet, Gargantua and Pantagruel, germ, hand-dryers, hidden costs, infection, lungs, microbe, paper towel, Rabelais – François (ca. 1495-1553), resistant bacteria, renewable source, restroom, sanitary, sinus, skin, tree, The Problem with Hand-Dryers, unnecessary

Many good ideas start in the bathroom – at least mine.

I am talking about my present favorite personal dislike, hand-dryers – those bacteria slingers. Cutting down trees for paper towels is, of course, horrible. But every time, I hear one of those germ circulators start up, I jump and try to leave AFAP. Those machines are mushrooming in public bathrooms – is nobody aware that we are living in times of increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics?

Hand-dryers are efficient microbe-distributors, with good potential to infect everybody who happens to be near: The user, the bystander, the cleaning folks. We have studies to prove it; paper towels are more sanitary by a mile: After being whirled into the air effectively, bacteria then settle on surfaces, where you don’t want them - the restroom doorknob, the faucet handle, your skin, lungs or sinuses. Questions is: Why have the hand-dryers multiplied anyway – like, just in spite? Of course, it is because they are out to get me. But apart of that: Why really?? Turns out they are cheaper than paper towels. Paper towels make a mess in restrooms. Or, better: Patrons are making a mess in restrooms with paper towels.

Seems we have not a lot of good alternatives. Paper towels have the advantage of being a renewable source, easily degradable. In Germany, I see a lot of cloth roles that automatically roll up after use, preventing the same use repeated times – and can’t be thrown about in the corners. They probably are Old-World-expensive, needing cheap maintenance crews and laundry services. To carry your own cloth towel comes to mind as a possibility. Admittedly, most of the time rather impractical. Rabelais, in his Gargantua and Pantagruel suggest a fluffy baby rabbit, unforgettably, for use as what he calls an arse-wipe. That would work for hand-wipe, too. A bit unrealistic, again, because where are the rabbits if you need them?? But Rabelais’ prose convinced me that a rabbit is the most ingratiating solution. Better than hand-dryers that are, to me, just another thing they sell us that is automated, expensive in hidden costs, unnecessary and dangerous.

My personal way out of the conundrum: Just don’t wipe your hands dry; let them air-dry.

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!

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.

Care Of Unsightly Fingernails

December 19, 2011

Tags: order, age, antibiotics, arthritis, autoimmune inflammation, Care Of Unsightly Fingernails, circulatory disease, coconut oil, diagnose disease, ear diagnosis, emery board, essential oil, finger diagnosis, fingernail, folate deficiency, fungus, gout, heart disease, heavy metal poisoning, hocus-pocus, infection, internal disease, iron deficiency, Kawasaki disease, kidney function - impaired, lavender, liver disease, lung disease, malnutrition, melanoma, myrrh, nail - artificial, nail disease, nail injuries, nail polish, nails, nail – ugly, nutrition, olive oil, oregano, Pope Leo XIII, protein deficiency, psoriasis, rosemary, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), skin disease, soap - olive oil, stress, subungual, TCM, tea tree oil, thyroid disease, tongue diagnosis, Traditional Chinese Medicine, vitamin B12 deficiency, vitamin C deficiency

A physician can tell much when she looks at your nails – if she was trained well. The nails can show fungus and other specific nail diseases. But many internal diseases show also at your fingers and nails – and other than the tongue, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine is used to diagnose diseases, the fingers are usually not hidden, and I don’t have to ask a patient to show me his tongue.

By the way, Sebastian Kneipp used to gauge the health of a person by ear diagnosis – also freely to be inspected. One anecdote goes that he gave Pope Leo XIII another nine years, when the Pope already was at the ripe age of eighty-eight. Sure enough, the Pope died at ninety-seven – and had a chance to implement some of his social-minded reforms. Leo XIII was one of the most progressive of popes.

Of course, fingers, tongue, ears – there’s no hocus-pocus involved: Any part of your body is affected by the same age, the same experiences, the same nutrition and, usually, by the same disease. No wonder then that an experienced observer can tell much from them.

Some of the diseases I recognize by nails: Liver disease, iron deficiency, chronic autoimmune inflammation, arthritis, psoriasis, gout, a bad infection or severe stress that happened months ago, circulatory diseases, Kawasaki disease, a sluggish or overactive thyroid, certain heavy metal poisonings, skin diseases (even sometimes a melanoma under the nail – so-called subungual melanoma), vitamin B12 and C deficiencies, lung and heart disease, impaired kidney function, folate deficiency, malnutrition (protein deficiency), nail injuries, use of certain antibiotics, and so on.

Having said this it is obvious that we doctors don’t encourage artificial nails and nail polish – it takes an important diagnostic tool away from us! This list also alarms you that changes in your nails should be examined by your doctor. But sometimes one has only “ugly” nails, with now apparent reason – perhaps brought simply on by the aging process or dirty work. Here is a nice simple method to make your nail beautiful again:

• Keep fingernails short by filing with an emery board, never by cutting (toenails should be cut straight).
• Wash and brush hands and nails with a soft brush and a non-harsh soap. I prefer olive oil soap.
• Apply tea tree oil to the nails thinly; rub it in.
• Apply olive oil with rosemary essential oil (other essential oils like oregano, lavender, myrrh work the same way) to hands and nails.
• If your hands are rough, apply coconut oil (the same organic grade that you use for cooking) regularly.

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 4 – Bindweed

October 17, 2011

Tags: herbs, aloe, Angel’s trumpet, angiogenesis inhibitor, Aztecs, bindweed, blood vessel, bowel, Calistegia, cancer, cathartic - drastic, contact poison, cholagogue, comfrey, Convolvulus arvensis, Convolvulus scammonia, cramps, dahlias, daylilies, fevers, field bindweed, gallbladder, hallucinogenic, infection, Invasive Plants 4 – Bindweed, Ipomoea, invasive plants, laxative, medicinal plant, Mediterranean, Mexico, morning glory, nausea, New World, Old World, poisonous, roots, Round-up, scammony, side-effects, skin sore, subtropics, Syria, taxonomy, tea – herbal, toxicity, tropics, trumpet flower, tumor, vascularization, vegetable patch, vine, Virginia, weed, wound - festering, wound healing

We all love morning glories, those blue-purple trumpets that open in abundance in the morning, then fade during the day, only to display a new crop of blooms the next sunny morning. But we all hate field bindweed. Yet, the two are closely related.

The family relationships of morning glories and bindweeds are exceedingly complicated – kind of like trying to figure out how Uncle Ernest is related to Grandma’s sister. Bindweed is Convolvulus arvensis, and the most common garden morning glory is really an Ipomoea. Some bindweeds are in the Calistegia family, but there are even more genera involved in these twining, flowering trumpets.

Let’s say you and I know what a morning glory is: a dazzling, desirable plant in the garden. And its lowly cousin, the bindweed, is a curse.

It is not that bindweed is ugly: Their trumpets are usually a bit smaller and often just plain white. But some have a blushing rose painted in, and could well compete with the showier morning glories if they were not so – well, invasive.

The pop up everywhere and vine themselves around your dahlias and daylilies and whatnot, and smother them. Just when you have hacked the vegetable patch, only days later their peep up again, and show you that all your work was in vain.

It comes out of the ground so dainty and harmless – but don’t be fooled: Scattering their seeds is only the small part of it. Worse is that the teeniest bit of root left in the ground will sprout a whole new plant in no time. That feature makes them a weed – and a weed that in all likelihood won’t be eradicated for good from your garden (or mine).

If the taxonomy and names of morning glories and bindweeds are confusing, so are their origins. Roughly one can say the showy garden morning glories come from the New World, especially Mexico, and bindweeds are Old World inhabitants. Bindweed was introduced to Virginia in the 1700’s, and rapidly spread from there. There is a Mediterranean variety called scammony (Convolvulus scammonia), used as a medicinal plant in Syria.

Bindweed and is mildly poisonous; “mildly poisonous” means you likely will not die but will be sick as a dog and you wish you were dead. Nevertheless, the Aztecs used it as a hallucinogenic – I don’t recommend trying what the Aztecs tried though. Suffice to know that Angel’s trumpet is a relative, too – all morning glories should be handled with caution. Literally handled: Some species, particularly in the subtropics and tropics, are so poisonous that mere contact can make one sick. Livestock might be poisoned, especially by the white roots, if for instance swine dig for the roots.

With all its nauseating toxicity, bindweed has been used as a medicinal plant: A tea from the flowers is good against infections and fevers, and also works as a laxative. Perhaps, to discourage its use, I should call it properly a drastic cathartic, which what it is. It is a cholagogue, meaning it induces the gallbladder to push out bile into the bowels. Nausea and cramps surely are some of its side-effects.

The herb has been laid on festering wounds and promotes healing. But unless you are in bind – umh! – I would prefer comfrey and aloe to heal wounds because we don’t know well enough how much of the bindweed is taken up through a skin sore.

And lastly, bindweed is being investigated as a possible cancer drug. It seems to be an angiogenesis inhibitor, meaning it does not allow a growing tumor to vascularize itself (growing the necessary blood vessel to feed itself) – thus, the cancer is starved. But it sound more straightforward than it is – again, I wouldn’t try this at home.

Bindweed, invasive and frustrating. But it might have its redeeming sides. Nothing on which we should use Round-up (which we should use on NOTHING!!) – just investigate its usefulness.

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!!).

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,

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.

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.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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