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

September 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Itch – Eczema

November 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diseases of the Gut Show at Your Skin

September 5, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time To Take Your Hat And Leave, Mister Fahrenheit!

August 19, 2012

Tags: order, water, allergy, Alone in Berlin, American, Andrographis paniculata, Bach - Johann Sebastian (1685 to 1750), basement flooding, bath, Belize, book, cabin, cat allergy, Celsius – Anders (1701 to 1744), children, clams, clay, cut, dairy, discussing, down-east, Earth, eating, echinacea, Europe, eye infection, Fahrenheit scale, Fahrenheit - Daniel Gabriel (1686 to 1736), Fallada - Hans (1893 to 1947), farming, forest, fungal infection, Gdansk, Germany, global warming, goldenseal, GSE (grapefruit seed extract), hordeolum, ice, inch, inflammation, kilogram, lobster, Maine, mathematics, math teacher, medical emergency, mercury intoxication, metric system, mucus production, mushroom poisoning, musings, mussels, mystery, Native American, naturalist, Nazi time, ocean, old growth, rain, rash, reading, redemption, rejuvenating, reverence, rock, saltwater, sauna, scallops, sheep farming, sleep, stimulating, sty, summering, summertime, Sweden, teabag, tea tree oil, temperature, thermometer, Time To Take Your Hat And Leave, Mister Fahrenheit!, trees, underarm rash, U.S.A., writing, wound

Last night in the sauna, our European friends asked again for an explanation of the Fahrenheit scale. It boggles their mind that we here in the United States still using the clumsy Fahrenheit thermometer readings, instead the easy Celsius version.

Celsius determined the freezing point of water as zero degree, and the boiling point of water as 100 degree. Fahrenheit, on the other hand, placed his zero point at the lowest temperature he personally ever measured (in an artificial cold mixture of ice and salts). He then determined the moment when ice forms on non-moving water as 32 degree. And a third fixed point was when he put the thermometer under his arm – which he called 96 degree. Things could not be more messy and arbitrary than that, methinks.

Not to take away from Mister Fahrenheit’s merits: He invented the thermometer. But his temperature scale outlived its usefulness. It is only used now in the U.S. and in Belize (does that tell us something about the political situation of Belize??). The Fahrenheit scale should go where also inches and feet and the American pound should go: On the garbage heap of history. It is time that we introduce the metric system. Mainly so that our children in school don’t spend an inordinate amount of time learning to work with one sixteenth of an inch, and something like that. To handle inches and feet make you fit for construction work, but not much more. The metric system is easier, makes more sense – and can take students to science and computer language and into the difficult future … if they didn’t have to learn inches and feet and Fahrenheit and miles and uneven pounds. As a former math teacher, mathematical prowess is important to me – and I don’t like at all that we are taking only place # 27 globally in math skills.

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686 to 1736) died already at age fifty. I wonder if he died of mercury intoxication, because he also invented the mercury thermometer. He actually started his career as a naturalist, after his parents died of a mushroom poisoning when he was in his teens. He was born in Gdansk, not far away from where I was born, and is a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach. – And, no, Anders Celsius from Sweden did not die of mercury intoxication; he died so young of tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, and interrupting my writing, I took a bath in the ocean. The water is rejuvenating, stimulating and cooling. In former years I had to leave after five minutes because I was cold to the bones. For the last few years, we leave because it gets boring. Anybody here still refuting global warming? Here, in down-east coastal Maine, we feel the consequences. Also by increased rains: We had water in the basement - the cement is broken, water comes in from all sides. Which had a good side-effect: We finally had to clean up the basement; it was overdue for about twenty years ...

Of course, it is still gorgeous summertime in Maine. We sleep and eat, we read and discuss, we do sauna (and a dip in the ocean afterward), and go for hikes. The other day, we had a lobster bake, directly at the ocean with churning white water, on wooden benches. Life could not be better. That is what the Natives must have thought hundred of years ago: This was their summering area, and their spirit of reverence for this place is still in the air. They would come from afar and meet here, to indulge in clams and mussels, lobsters and scallops. Then for two hundred years this paradisal spot of the Earth, was used cutting down the old growth, then farming it, which turned out not too successful – this is mostly barren clay and rocks around here. Afterwards, sheep farming, and then, nearly a century of neglect again so that trees could cover the land. Not like old growths 0 no, that we will never get back again. But still beautiful. Now, a few summer cabins are tucked into the woods, barely visible during day time because Maine has an ordnance in place that constructions need to be away 100 feet (30,48m) the upper shore line. But at night you see lights shimmer and sparkle through the forests – more than one would guess during the day.

I have read the German mystery, and found it satisfyingly light fare. Now I am reading Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin – and that is not light fare. But a marvelous book. That there was one German who could write about what happened to the population during Nazi time – I feel it is kind of a redemption.

My musings from Maine can’t end without describing a few of the tiny medical emergencies we had so far – and hopefully, we will not experience worse: Cat allergy: Andrographis paniculata; leave out all dairy to reduce inflammation and mucus production. A cut foot from a stone: Saltwater; tea tree oil. A sty (hordeolum): lukewarm teabag on eye; Echinacea, goldenseal and GSE (grapefruit seed extract) from the inside. An underarm rash (likely fungal): tea tree oil. – Everybody is doing remarkably fine.

Desperate Skin – Psoriasis

May 2, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those Delicious Yogurts

January 5, 2012

Tags: food, herbs, arthritis, baby, bacteria – starter for yogurt, bones - strong, bovine growth hormone, bowel bacteria, Bulgaria, calcium, calf, California, calories - counting, cancer cell, chicory root, coconut, cow, craving, crockpot, dairy, depression, diabetes, East Coast, fat, fillers, flavors, fruit, goat, Greece, growth hormone, growth spurt, heart disease, honey, inflammation, Israel, Jordan, labels – reading, infant, kid, lactobacilli, lactose, lamb, legumes, low fat, milk, milk protein, mineral, mother’s milk, milk sugar, nuts, organic, plant kingdom, probiotics, skim milk, sheep, sugar, Syria, tapioca, temperature, thermometer, Those Delicious Yogurts, Turkey, vegetable, yogurt

A whole fifteen minutes I must have stood in front of the yogurt section in the refrigerated part of the natural food store, reading labels and deciding what to buy. My natural inclination is the one with cream on top – they are so unspeakably yummy!

Which means that all the “skim milk” and “low fat” varieties are out for me. I also don’t like anything added – no fillers, no flavors, no fruit, not even simple honey. I want the real thing. Already, I have few items to look at.

What I found out from the labels:
• Greek yogurt does not come from Greece
• Bulgarian yogurt does not come from Bulgaria
• Middle-eastern yogurt does not come from Syria, Israel or Jordan
• Goat yogurt always seems to have tapioca in it
• Sheep yogurt has the highest fat contents (good for my brain that craves fat all the time!) – but I could not find one any without fruit or honey. I will look around for a plain one.

Of course, I’d always choose organic since I don’t want added bovine growth hormones in my yogurt – it’s bad enough that milk (cow, sheep, goat, mother’s – whatever) already comes with a wallop of natural growth hormones. Why? Because milk was invented to let tiny babies (calves, lamb, kids, human infants) grow very fast in the first few months of their lives. I don’t need to grow anymore – in neither direction – and I rather don’t have sleepy cancer cells in my body wake up and indulge in a growth spurt. This thought actually made the whole yogurt idea rather unappetizing. Especially, if one considers that they also provide tons of inflammatory milk proteins, which give us arthritis, depression, diabetes, heart disease, cravings, and so on.

You already know that I don’t buy into the myth that dairy gives us needed calcium. Those, and all the other minerals to build strong bones come from the plant kingdom: vegetables, legumes, herbs, nuts, fruit.

It doesn’t mean that I am not still dreaming of creamy yogurt. Not to mention that they contain probiotics – healthy bowel bacteria.

Finally, I came across coconut yogurt, which I had never seen before. Again, that one contained fruit and chicory root extract. But it gave me an idea: I can make my own!

Years ago, traveling in Turkey, a chef (God bless him!) showed me how to make yogurt: Bring a pot of milk to nearly a boil (to kill bacteria) – 90 C, or around 190 F – and keep it there for about twenty minutes, let it cool down so that you can touch it, add a spoonful of yogurt that provides starter bacteria, wrap the pot into a towel and cover it in your bed. Hours later, the pot of milk has turned into wonderful yogurt.

Starter bacteria can also be gotten from those probiotic capsules: I have some with those Bulgarian lactobacilli; they can be whipped into the milk.

Two secrets for making yogurt:
• Keep every item you use very clean (preferably by heat treatment in boiling water) to keep out “bad” bacteria
• The desirable temperature in your bed (or in a “cooler”, or in a rice cooker) is between 37 C (ca 100F) and 55 C (ca 135). Higher, and the “good” bacteria will die; lower, and they will not multiply.

Coconut milk contains no milk sugar – lactose. So, in the production one has to add a spoonful of table sugar for the processing, as the bacteria need food to thrive and divide. Make a small batch – full-fat yogurt contains a heap of calories (even that I never count calories!).

Unfortunately, I have to wait a month, until we will be back at the East Coast. There I have a crockpot, which I will try. And I will use the thermometer I bought here to measure the temperatures in my Californian pool … I will report!

Swimming In The Cold

November 7, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, order, aging, alcoholism, asthma, autism, bone health, bowel, calcium, cancer, cheese, children, cloudy day, cold pool, cold stimulus, common cold, daylight, death, dementia, depression, disease - preventable, doing your job, elderly, exercise, fat-free diet, flu, inflammation, immune function, influenza, inner city, intelligence - diminished, laps - twenty-one pool laps, learning a new skill, light, long pants, long sleeves, milk - “fortified”, mineral, MS, multiple sclerosis, noon, northern latitude, outside, phosphorus, physician, plant diet, RA, radiation damage, rain, raising a family, rheumatoid arthritis, SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), skin, skin cancer, skin color, smog, sun, sun exposure, sun hat, sunlight, sunscreen, Swimming In The Cold, vegetable, virus, vitamin D, vitamin D precursor, vitamin D preparation, vitamin - fat-soluble, winter, yogurt, walking, winter blues

One aspect of my cold pool experience is that, every day, with my twenty-one laps, I am sucking up vitamin D - so to speak. The vitamin is manufactured under the skin with sunlight – or even just daylight, on a cloudy day.

There is not one vitamin D but several. The precursors are taken up with food – all vitamins D are fat-soluble, so a fat-free diet doesn’t do a thing for you. And then these precursors are metabolized under your skin with sun exposure. As we age, or with darker skin, we require more light to do the job.

And don’t think that “fortified” milk, yogurt or cheese will provide you with the right amount of vitamin D. They will only make any disease in your body worse because they are inflammatory. Also, there are several forms of vitamin D, your physician should supply you with a vitamin D preparation, particularly in the winter and particularly if you are living in the inner city where light might be filtered away by high buildings and smog.

Vitamin D is important for several reasons:

1. It protects you from all kind of cancers. And, please, don’t be afraid that you catch skin cancer from that short of an exposure – not more than twenty minute. On the contrary! The other mostly unknown fact about skin cancer is that vegetables protect you from skin cancer much better than a sunscreen. Disclosure: I don’t use any sunscreen, ever. I usually dress with long sleeves, long pants and a sun hat. But I don’t fool myself with sunscreen: They are not doing the job they advertise they are doing.
2. Sun and day light protect you from the so-called winter blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The more northern you live, the more at danger you are for depression, and the higher the incidence of alcoholism is. So, go out daily, at around noon, sun or rain, and fill up on light! You also get the exercise and the joy of walking in a park, or even just on a bustling street.
3. Vitamin D is essential for your bone health. Vitamin D is important for uptake of calcium and phosphorus, among others, from your bowels – without vitamin D the food or pill just passes you by. You also, of course, need a diet high in plant material so that you have access to all the minerals your body needs – because calcium alone doesn’t do a thing for your bones.
4. Vitamin D is essential for immune function - it protects your health in so many ways, not only against cancer. It also plays a role in warding off the common cold and the more dangerous flu. A virus alone can’t kill you – you also have to have a weakened body and a low immune function to make you susceptible to death and disease.
5. Insufficient vitamin D seem to lead to diminished intelligence and autism in children, and to dementia in older people.
6. The lack of vitamin D seems to be involved in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS). Being outside - especially in your youth - protects you.
7. Low vitamin D in your blood makes you more vulnerable to stroke – it is easy to see if you don’t eat fresh food and never get out of the house, that you immediately are at higher danger of vascular events.
8. Vitamin D seems to prevent or improve several other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and asthma – and it protects against radiation damage.

All this I get from my twenty minutes in the pool each day. And that is apart from the cold stimulus and apart from the exercise I get.

Should we not start a movement making people use their unheated, underused pools more? – If I only knew how! I am such an apolitical person.

And I admit publicly: It is hard every day to walk into that cold pool. – But isn’t everything worthwhile hard? Like raising a family, doing your job day-in, day-out, learning a new skill – and being afflicted by a bad, possibly preventable disease?

Walking Pneumonia

September 2, 2011

Tags: order, herbs, acne, Alzheimer's, antibiotics, blindness, blister, bronchitis, cancer, cold herbs, diagnosis, GAIA herbs, GSE - Grapefruit Seed Extract, head cold, inflammation, lung, oregano, pneumonia - walking, rheumatoid arthritis, rinsing nose with saltwater, Walking Pneumonia

You are familiar with the term of "walking pneumonia", I guess. "Walking pneumonia" is unknown to other medical cultures. I always stumble over the expression. After all these years in this country, it still has the capitalistic notion to it: "Sick - but not too sick to work."

A friend adamantly denies "walking pneumonia" has to do with mean bosses who force their employees to work, whatever deplorable state they might be in. She maintains the term has been around forever, and simply discerns between one who is sick and still can walk, and one who is sick and can't get out of bed.

I can follow my friend there. BUT: Any pneumonia has inflammation in the lung tissues, and warrants treatment with antibiotics. And: We don't do this with other diseases - combining a diagnosis like "pneumonia" with a description of the state of the patient like "walking".

We make no difference between "walking cancer" and "non-walking cancer", or "walking rheumatoid arthritis" or "non-walking rheumatoid arthritis".

For me, "walking pneumonia" sounds decidedly odd. Thinking about it - and playing with it as the doctor-writer I am - also decidedly funny. Begging your pardon for poking fun of serious conditions, but they popped up:

"Limping foot blisters"
"Still mumbling Alzheimer's"
"Groping legal blindness"
"Absolutely, totally mortified acne".

If you ask me, pneumonia is pneumonia. Walking or not.

Oh, and by the way: If you have a bad head cold or a bad bronchitis, make sure they don't develop into pneumonia. Rinsing your nose with saltwater, taking extra deep breaths, quitting smoking, taking GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) 16 drops three times a day with lots of water, or Oregano capsules (GAIA has a reliable formula) or some herbs against colds might prevent ... pneumonia.

Varicose Veins - Phlebitis - Thrombosis

July 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

My Neighbor Is Sick

June 22, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stress – Good and Bad

February 24, 2011

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

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

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

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

Balance fights stress, as European Natural Medicine knows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th

September 21, 2010

Tags: food, agriculture, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, barley, bread, celiac disease (see: gluten), cake, cancer, celiac sprue (see: gluten), civilization, cookies, culture, dairy, depression, diabetes type II, Earth, exploitation, fat, gluten, gluten intolerance, God, gods, inflammation, Iran, junk food, milk, monotheism, National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th, nature, neurological problems, oats, pasta, Persepolis, polytheism, rye, skin diseases, sprue (see: gluten), vitamin B12 deficiency, wheat

National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th

Because we were traveling that day in Persepolis/Iran, I missed the date that reminded us of the most under-diagnosed disease there is: Gluten intolerance.

Sprue, celiac sprue, celiac disease, gluten intolerance – they are all different names for the same disease – the one that turns your daily bread into poison.

Inventing agriculture some five to ten thousand years ago was a huge step forward for mankind: Less people - especially children - starved, more survived – and more people had the leisure to turn to cultural endeavors (observing the stars, building cities, learning poetry). Agriculture is at the heart of our civilization.

Of course, there was a price to pay: Some children could not tolerate the new foodstuffs on the table – milk and bread – and died. But most did very well. The population grew.

Nature whispers to hunters and gatherers in the voice of the wind, the rustling of leaves, the babbling of brooks – everywhere spirits and gods seems to reside in holy nature places.

Once farming has been invented, there’s really need only for a single God – the one who lets the wheat grow and fattens the cows so that they give milk: Give us our daily bread was the prayer ever since then. Leaving Nature behind and turning to monotheism also meant to exploit Earth and go for effectivity in all our endeavors: It made us great – and destroyed our old mother-ship Earth.

Except that the gluten (the sticky protein in wheat that makes dough so doughy) can cause myriad diseases: diabetes, arthritis, cancer, depression, autoimmune disease, skin diseases, neurological problems, vitamin B12 deficiency, and so on, and so on. (I am working on a comprehensive list of gluten-related diseases – will come soon).

And gluten is not only found in wheat – it also is in rye, barley and – as a slightly different but related protein – in oats.

You know the story from the Bible about the Golden Calf? Well, in Persepolis I got an idea why the Golden Calf was such a threat Abraham’s God: It was a fall-back into the era of many gods, polytheism. Worse: it went directly to where the money was: to the cow. The One God had to be angry if they could circumvent him. Look at the picture of one of those double-cow capitals of Persepolis – on the “medical questions?” page here).

But back to gluten: About one in a hundred (or a little less – depending on your ethnic background) cannot digest gluten well. If you are reddish or blond, blue-eyed and fair-skinned, you have higher likelihood to be intolerant to gluten – but I have certainly seen the disease in dark-haired people; even in Africans and Asians.

There is not cure for celiac disease – the only recourse is to leave out all gluten in your diet. Some people have a hard time to let go of bread, cookies, cake and pasta. But once you realize that you can eat rice, beans, lentils, garbanzos as much as you want, you suddenly are not only disease-free but you certainly live healthier because all our junk food is based on wheat (and fat).

You might have guessed it: If you are already depriving yourself of all fun in life, you can as well drop milk and dairy products – as they are the other big culprit at the root of many inflammatory processes in your body.

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.

Autoimmune Diseases

July 11, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, food, movement, alfalfa, allergies, aluminum, artemisia, arthritis, astragalus, autism, autoimmune disease, Autoimmune Diseases, barley, bowel problems, Brazil nut, bupleurum, calorie restriction, cannabis, cod liver, cordiceps, cortisone, curcumin, dairy, diabetes type I, diet, deli, fatigue, fat, fibromyalgia, fish, fish oil, gamgungtang, glucosamine, gluten, gluten intolerance, inflammation, kidneys, leaky gut, legumes, light, mercury, multiple sclerosis, muscles, mushrooms, neuropathy, nicotine, oats, olive leaf extract, padma28, parasites - intestinal, photo-sensitivity, pollutants, probiotic, psoriasis, resveratrol, rye, SAD (Standard American Diet), selenium, skin, squalene, statins, sugar, sunburn, sunshine, starches, sweeteners, tea - green, turmeric, thyroid, urticaria, vaccines, vegetables, vitamin D, walking, weight, wheat, Zyflamend

In autoimmune diseases the body’s immune system turns against cells of the own body, slowing destroying them, creating havoc like thyroid problems, allergies, arthritis and muscle weakness, skin afflictions, diabetes type I, neuropathy, autism (at least some forms), fibromyalgia, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, urticaria, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, bowel troubles – and many more.

Autoimmune diseases are on the rise – more people are suffering from them. Doctors are baffled and, on the whole, helpless. Strong medications like cortisone with myriad side-effects are employed, without getting to the root cause of autoimmune diseases.

Some researchers suspect that our modern diet plays a big role; others blame pollutants in the environment or the fact that we have much less intestinal parasites (compared with cave men) which makes the idle immune system turning against the self. Modern medical drugs (to name just one example - statins - that can cause an autoimmune muscle disease) might contribute.

Of course, I don’t have all the answers either – but these are some ideas that helped patients:

• Make sure you don’t have a gluten intolerance. Test are notoriously unreliable; a better idea is to leave out all gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats) and see if you improve. Many people feel so much better already after a week off gluten. Others need up to a year.
• Autoimmune diseases hurt the body at different organs. They all have in common an inflammatory effect. To do away with SAD (Standard American Diet) should therefore be the most important step: No sugar, no sweeteners, no white starches, no dairy (which might be the main culprit here!), no bad fats (nothing fried and processed). Instead: vegetables, vegetables, vegetables – and herbs, legumes, a bit meat and fish (but no deli). If you are not willing to cook for yourself and take yourself out of the mainstream food insanity, my hope for your recovery is slim.
• Moderate exercise: For a minimum, go for a walk everyday. Exercise produces anti-inflammatory molecules in your body.
• Bright light: Get some light outdoors. Not to the point of burning (autoimmune patients often have photo-sensitivity and are prone to easy sunburns). But light is important. If you have dark skin, you need more light. – Vitamin D might be what is protecting. I usually don’t give supplements; going outdoors daily and eating cod liver (delicious!) once a month should do the trick.
• Herbs (don’t take them all at once; try one after the other and give it time to work):

---Resveratrol; a strong anti-oxidant. Remember, there is far more resveratrol in the green vine leaves than in red wine – and nearly none in white wine and grape juice.

---Astragalus has shown some benefit. Just know that allergies are frequent in patients with autoimmune diseases. So, if you show signs of intolerance (upset stomach, aching joints, rash, etc.), stop the herb.

---Turmeric (its main ingredient curcumin) has anti-inflammatory properties is.

---Green tea.

---Korean Gamgungtang.

---Padma28, a Tibetan formula. There are some controversies about this. Talk this through with a knowledgeable physician.

---Zyflamend, a blend of several anti-inflammatory herbs. Make sure you don't have an allergy to any of its components.

---Artemisia (vulgaris and annua) both have shown some anti-inflammatory effects.

---Olive leaf extract.

---Cordiceps, a medicinal mushroom. – Eating mushrooms generally has a good effect on the immune system. Just never eat them raw (they could cause cancer): Always cook mushrooms!

---Alfalfa sprouts.

---Gluscosamine, while not an herb in the strict sense, has shown anti-inflammatory promise.

---Bupleurum, a Chinese medicinal plant.

• Be careful with vaccinations. A link between shots and autoimmune disease is suspected by some researchers. That does not mean you should avoid all vaccinations; just stick to the essential ones. Discuss this with your physician – who hopefully has an open ear for alternatives. The link between vaccines and autoimmune disease might come from the suppressing of the normal function of the body, namely fighting viruses off; or might be a function of certain additives in vaccines like mercury, aluminum and squalene.
• Selenium might be missing in your diet (Brazil nuts have the highest amount of selenium, but most nuts have some; seafoods are more moderate sources of selenium). As you might have noticed, I am no friend of supplements: minerals (and vitamins) from a bottle are not the same, and have even been proven to be harmful by recent studies. – With nuts always stay aware that you might develop an allergy at any time.
• Add some good anti-inflammatory fish oil capsules (you should not belch up a fishy taste!) daily.
• Help your intestines with probiotics. The bowels might be at the root of autoimmune diseases: A chronically inflamed bowel (“Leaky Gut Syndrome”) leads to inflammation in other parts of your body.
• One study showed that calorie restriction might decrease inflammation. I would not aim for weight loss per se; eating a fresh diet might lead to weight loss anyway. But a one-day vegetable broth fast per week (see an earlier blog entry here) might be a good idea. – Interestingly, one study showed that fasting during infectious fevers reduced the risk of developing consequent autoimmune disease.
• Don’t try this at home … but nicotine seems to protect from autoimmune disease. So does cannabis (which is still illegal!).

If you want to know which of all the above ideas are most important – probably these: NO DAIRY, NO GLUTEN!

Bowel Health I: Probiotics

June 9, 2010

Tags: order, food, acne, addiction, advertisements, antibiotics, arteries - clogging of, arthritis, barley, bitters, boredom, bowel health, Bowel Health I: Probiotics, casein, cholesterol - high, colon cancer, dairy, dementia, depression, diabetes type II, diarrhea, frustration, gluten, gut, heart, heart attack, Helicobacter pyloris, high blood pressure, inflammation, intestines, joints, kidneys, mineral absorption, multivitamin, nutrition, oats, obesity, opioids, pancreatitis, probiotic, psoriasis, rye, Standard American Diet (SAD), stroke, urinary tract infection, vegetables, vitamin absorption, wheat

In Natural Medicine, we work with the four elimination organs: kidneys, bowels, lungs and skin. If one is blocked or diseased, the body as a whole suffers.

With the Standard American Diet (SAD), foremost our bowels are ailing. We live in a state of constant intestinal inflammation – and from there the infliction moves to skin (pimples, psoriasis), brain (depression, stroke, dementia), joints (arthritis), heart (heart attack, clogging of arteries. The two diseases that are “systemic”, namely affecting about every single organ in the body, are diabetes and obesity – and they are linked, as we know.

It is not difficult to conclude that the only remedy that will work, is cleaning up our act of how we eat – but for some people, this seems extremely hard. While there a several reasons to collude in making us overeat like advertisements, genetics, boredom, frustration, depression – the biggest reason is addiction. If one does not understand that food can be addictive, one cannot learn to avoid the offending foods like the pest.

Two of the main food culprits – I have mentioned them before – are gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats) and casein (dairy). Interestingly, they are chemically related. Interestingly, both are broken down into opioids – compounds that make you feel good and make you crave more.

To improve bowel health, we have to eat better – and the better eating mostly consists of vegetables, vegetables, vegetables (see, how I am repeating myself). Bitters help better digestion.

Aside from improved nutrition, a daily probiotic may be your best bet for bowel health. Probiotics are healthy bowel bacteria. Probiotics are live microorganisms – bowel bacteria – that belong in your intestines, but are not there because they have been killed off by antibiotic use (which you might have ingested without knowing with animal products) and/or poor diets.

These are the benefits which you might gain from a healthy gut flora: Reduced inflammation across the board, enhanced resistance to all kinds of infections like diarrhea, urinary tract and Helicobacter pylorus infections, increased mineral and vitamin absorption, protection against colon cancer, lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol – to name a few.

Probiotics are not for very small children (before their first birthday) or for patients with acute pancreatitis. Initially, probiotics might cause mighty rumbling in your bowels – so start low, with one capsule/pill per day, and slowly work your way up. If one brand does give you indigestion, try another one. And the more you can down (and afford), probably the better; think about reforesting: taking one capsule can be likened to planting a single tree.

We know that probiotics work – but we don’t know how. One study seemed to suggest that it does not matter whether the bacteria are alive or dead – they worked anyway. And they don’t seem to have lasting effects – only as long as one takes them.

But if you take a single natural supplement, forget multivitamins – take a probiotic!

Dairy III: Raw Milk

June 7, 2010

Tags: food, adulteration, allergen, antibiotics, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disease, bacteria, butter, cancer, casein, cream, dairy, Dairy III: Raw Milk, depression, diabetes type II, E. coli, food processing, gluten, hay fever, heart disease, homogenization, hormones, infants, inflammation, listeriosis, milk, milk - raw, sinusitis, milk - organic, milk - skim, milk - whole, milk - raw, mucus-producing, obesity, pasteurization, pesticides, pus, toddlers, tuberculosis, yogurt

Raw, organic milk might be the last chance the dairy industry still has. Milk is an unnatural, adulterated and inflammatory agent that should not be eaten. Consuming raw milk, without adulteration, might redeem milk and milk products at least a little – it’s last stand, so to speak.

Let me say it again: Dairy is a highly inflammatory, hormonal, mucus-producing, allergenic food that adds to the burden of asthma, hay fever, chronic sinusitis - not to mention obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, arthritis, autoimmune disease. I certainly would not give raw milk to infants and toddlers.

We are neither cows nor calves, and cow milk is an unnatural food for children and grown-ups. But the industry does not want us to talk about it. Dairy adds nothing to bone health - on the contrary. The simple truth is that calcium occurs abundantly in vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains - PLUS, plants contain the other minerals that are needed for strong bones like magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, phosphorus, boron, copper, etc. and which are lacking in dairy.

"Organic" milk is ultra-high pasteurized for longer shelf-life. That is lamentable. But at least organic does not contain bovine growth hormone, antibiotics and pesticides. Pasteurization and homogenization, on the other hand, change the milk molecules and make them less recognizable for the body – hence have higher inflammatory potential.

So what is it about raw, organic milk that makes it - slightly - better? It is less processed. Which means it contains less antibiotics, pesticides and no added hormones. Therefore it is less inflammatory, less allergenic and probably causes less cancer. Since the cows are healthier, the milk contains less pus and fewer bacteria. On the other hand, without pasteurization, diseases can be transmitted through and extreme cleanliness and chilling are required for the whole process. With E. coli found repeatedly in lettuce and burgers, we know that we are susceptible to widespread epidemics from contaminated foods. Listeriosis is a real threat for pregnant women and their unborn children; the different strains of tuberculosis transmitted by cattle cannot be talked way. Still, I think that raw milk is probably not as dangerous as some people are telling us.

I discourage the consumption of milk (see my earlier blogs). But if you insist - at least, have raw milk.

So, if you have milk – which are the healthiest products? Top, in my opinion, are yogurts because they provide healthy bacteria for bowels – but the yogurt has to be plain, without sugar, fruit or any other additives – you might serve it with freshly cut fruit, of course. By definition, skim milk contains, relatively, more proteins and less fat, and since the proteins (eighty percent of which is the glue-like casein that is, chemically, related to gluten) are the inflammatory agent in milk, I would think that whole milk is better. Along that line of argument – and that might come as a surprise – cream and butter are the healthiest. In moderation, of course.

Moderation is one of the problems: Casein breaks down in opioid-like substances, making all dairy addictive.

Dairy I: Basics

May 24, 2010

Tags: food, acne, addiction, allergies, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disease, cancer, cheese, childhood, dairy, Dairy I: Basics, fortification - with vitamins, growth hormone, homogenization, infections, dairy, dementia, depression, heart disease, infants, inflammation, milk, obesity, pasteurization, vegetarianism

Milk is unnatural, slow-poison food for grown-ups.

Mother's milk is a food designed to put fast weight on newborns, making breastfeeding essential. But we are no babes anymore; we are no calves, either. Therefore, we don’t need milk.

Worse: Milk makes us sick. Milk is linked to pimples, obesity, heart disease, dementia, allergies, asthma, cancer, depression, arthritis, autoimmune and a host of other diseases. On top of it, it tastes terrific and is addictive.

Why is dairy linked to so many diseases? It is highly inflammatory, wreaking havoc in your body, in virtually every organ.

I used to admire my vegetarian patients – until I found out that pizza, donuts and ice-cream are considered vegetarian. Nothing healthy in that fare!

When people settled and became farmers, leaving behind the hunter-gatherer days, milk was a life saver - at that time, starvation was the killer number one (childhood infections came later, when communities had grown big enough to have a virus going around for a long time; in the small hordes of hunters/gatherers, viruses had not chance of surviving long). But we long left behind starvation times; now the opposite is the problem: an abundance of calories, the whole day long.

As if the onslaught of calories from dairy were not bad enough, modern milk is even worse because it is greatly adulterated by pasteurizing (perhaps unavoidable), homogenization, adding of vitamins (notably D and A) and, since 1993, growth hormones. Growth hormones help you “grow” (which you might want to avoid) and helps grow cancer cells (which you certainly will want to avoid).

Probiotics To The Rescue!

May 20, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, antibiotics, bacterial infections, Bifidobacterium, chlorellla, cholesterol, Clostridium difficile, colitis, colon cancer, Helicobacter pyloris, high blood pressure, immune function, infections, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, Lactobacillus, mineral absorption, probiotic, Probiotics To The Rescue!, prostatitis, resistance - bacterial, rotavirus, secondary infections, traveler's diarrhea, urinary tract infection

Probiotics have been shown to help in:

• reducing general inflammation
• improving immune function to generally fight infections
• lowering blood pressure (that alone is such a surprising outcome: HOW do they do do it??)
• preventing harmful bacterial growth in stress situations
• lowering cholesterol
• mitigating irritable bowel syndrome and colitis
• improving mineral absorption
• the prevention of colon cancer
• to alleviate rotavirus infections in children
• healing travelers' diarrhea in adults
• preventing secondary infections in antibiotic therapy
• preventing Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach
• preventing urinary tract infections and infectious prostatitis
• lowering the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea due to Clostridium difficile


Translated, probiotic means “for life’ and is obviously the contrary expression to antibiotic, “against life.” Don’t get me wrong, antibiotics can save lives, but there is no doubt that physicians have over-prescribed them since they came on the market during World War II. Now we have to live with the consequences: Resistant bacteria.

Probiotics, on the other hand, are not likely to do any harm to your body. In fact, they are the most helpful supplement money can buy, in my opinion (the second is fish oil). Try different strains because the above effects have been shown not to be general to be related to individual bacterial strains.

Side effects may be cramping and occasional diarrhea. If one strain bothers you, try another brand. I personally like PrimalDefense which also contains chlorella - but as usual, I do not endorse a product, and want to hear from you which brand you prefer. Also, start with a low dose, and slowly go up, as your bowels get used to it.

The thinking is that helpful gut bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium will repopulate the intestines, but one study showed that the benefits even accrue with dead bacteria. However they work - they do work.

Aches and Pains

May 11, 2010

Tags: food, aches, Aches and Pains, allergy, anti-inflammatory, apple, banana, blond hair, blue eyes, bursitis, celiac disease (see: gluten), corn, dairy, eggplant, fasciitis, fish oil, food allergy, food intolerance, food sensitivities, garlic, gluten, gluten enteropathy, inflammation, itis, joint pains, milk products, milk, nightshades, nuts, olive oil, pain, peanut, peppers, phlebitis, phyto-nutrients, potato, probiotic, red hair, rosemary, shrimp, sprue (see: gluten), arthritis, tendinitis, tomato, turmeric, Zyflamend

In my twenties doctors had different explanations about the weird aches and pains I complained of. They were either from aging (in my twenties!!), or they were all in my head, or – poor redheads all over the world! – it was just that redheads had lower pain thresholds.

Research meanwhile has confirmed that redheads have actually higher pain thresholds. Besides, I had a whopping but unrecognized case of gluten intolerance, probably since birth. Took me many years to figure it out.

You, too, might have gluten intolerance. Estimates go that one of one-hundred-five people has, most of them not yet diagnosed. Most of them are blond and blue-eyed – but not all of them (otherwise the diagnosis would be easy!).

Of course, aches and pains can have other causes than celiac disease (another word for gluten intolerance; as is non-tropical sprue). But food is often the culprit - dairy, in my opinion, the worst since it is highly inflammatory (besides fattening). If you have arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, fasciitis – or any “…itis" in your body, leave out milk and milk products for at least a month, and see if you get better.

Other suspicious foods are nuts (which, on the other hand, are very wholesome if you can tolerate them), nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant, bell and hot peppers). Food additives can give bad reactions (and should not be in your food in the first place). Food intolerances can be very individual – for some it is an innocuous apple, for others shrimp or peanut or banana. By keeping a food journal you might find out – or help your doctor to find out.

Finding the cause and avoiding the offender, is the first step. On top of it, there are many herbs that reduce inflammation, like turmeric, garlic, rosemary. In fact, so many plants contain inflammation-dousing phyto-nutrients that eating more vegetables and herbs already might give you relief. If you want an herbal preparation, I usually recommend Zyflamend (be sure you have no allergy to any individual herb in there).

A good fish oil (you should not burp up fish!) has excellent anti-inflammatory action. As does olive-oil (unheated) in your salads. And lastly, a good probiotic, to quench the fire in your belly: Most inflammation originates in an inflamed bowel.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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