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Signs and Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning

October 4, 2016

Tags: water, herbs, movement, food, order, abdominal discomfort, abdominal pain, aches and pains, acrocyanosis, acute respiratory failure, acute tubular necrosis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, agitation, Aldrich-Mees's lines, alopecia, altered mental status, anemia, anemia – aplastic, anhidrosis, anorexia, anxiety, aplastic anemia, arrhythmia, arsenic, ascites, ataxia, atherosclerotic disease, autonomic neuropathy, basal cell carcinoma, basophilic stippling, birth defects, blackfoot disease – black, mummified dry gangrene, bladder cancer, blood in urine, bone marrow suppression, Bowen disease, brittle nails, bronchitis, bronchospasms (inhaled arsenic), burning in mouth/esophagus/stomach/bowel, cancer – lung/liver/kidney/bladder/skin/colon/larynx/lymphoid system, capillary dilation with fluid leakage and third spacing, cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac arrest, cardiomyopathy, carotid atherosclerosis, cerebral infarction, cerebrovascular disease, chills, cholangitis, cholecystitis, chronic lower respiratory diseases, cilantro, cirrhosis, clear skin lesions suddenly from such as acne, CNS depression, colitis, colon cancer, coma, concentration – poor, confabulation, confusion, congestive heart failure, conjunctivitis, convulsions, coordination difficulties, corneal necrosis, corneal ulcerations, cough with/without expectoration, cramps, cramping muscles, cyanosis of the fingers, death, dehydration, delirium, depression, dermatitis, dermatitis - allergic-type, dermatitis – exfoliative, desquamation of skin, diabetes, diarrhea - often severe and/or bloody, disordered thinking, disorientation, disseminated intravascular coagulation, drinking water, drowsiness, dyspnea (when inhaled), dysphagia, eczema, edema – non-pitting of hand and feet, EKG changes: ST changes/QT prolonged/torsades de pointes/T wave inversion, encephalopathy – acute, enzyme inhibition, esophagitis, eyes blood-shot, eyes burning, facial edema, fatigue, fatty liver, fever – low grade, fibrillation – ventricular, fingernail pigmentation, fingernails with white marks, fluid loss, flushing, folate, folic acid deficiency, gallbladder inflammation, gangrene of limbs, garlic, garlic-smelling breath or body fluids, gastritis, gastro-intestinal bleeding, generalized muscle aches and body pains, gingivitis, global trade, goiter, Guillain-Barré syndrome – resembling, hair loss, hallucinations, headaches, hearing loss, heart disease, heavy metals, hematuria, hemoglobinuria, hemolysis, hepatomegaly, herpes, hormone imbalance, hyperesthesia, hyperpigmentation of nails and skin, hyperpyrexia, hyperkeratosis - thickening of the skin of the palms and soles, hypersalivation, hypertension, hypertension-related cardiovascular disease, hypopigmentation – “raindrop” areas of lost skin color, hypotension, hypovolemia, imbalance, immune functioning impaired, immune suppression, impaired healing, inhibition of sulfhydryl enzymes – garlicky odor to breath/stool, insomnia, irritability, ischemic heart disease, jaundice, karyorrhexis, keratosis, kidney cancer, kidney damage, kidney failure, Korsakoff’s psychosis, lack of appetite, Landry-Guillain-Barré syndrome – resembling, larynx cancer, laryngitis, leg cramps, lens opacity, lethargy, leukemia???, leukocyturia, leukonychia striata, leukopenia, lightheadedness, listlessness, liver cancer, liver - central necrosis, liver congestion, liver dysfunction and elevated liver enzymes, liver - fatty degeneration, low grade fever, lung cancer, lung - chronic restrictive/obstructive disease, lungs - inflammation of respiratory mucosa, lung irritation, lymphoma???, major depression – mimicking, malabsorption, malaise, medicinal herbs, Mees's lines, melanosis of the eyelids/areolae of nipples/neck, memory loss, memory – poor, mental retardation, mental status altered, metallic taste in mouth, methionine, microcirculation abnormalities, mitochondrial dysfunction, movement disturbances, muscle aches, muscle fasciculations, muscle tenderness, muscle twitching, muscle wasting, muscle weakness, muttering, myocardial depression, myocarditis, nasal mucosa irritation (when inhaled), nasal septum perforation, nausea, neuralgia, neuritis, night blindness, nightmares, numbness, oliguria, oral burns (acute, when taken by mouth), pancreatitis, paralysis, paranoia, paresthesia – symmetrical, stocking-glove, pedal edema, pericarditis, peripheral neuritis, peripheral neuropathy, peripheral vascular insufficiency, personality change, pigmentation changes – hypo and hyper, pins and needles in hands and feet, pneumonia, bronchial pneumonia, polyneuritis, portal fibrosis, proteinuria, psychosis, pulmonary edema, pulmonary insufficiency (emphysematous lesions), pulse – irregular, QT prolonged, quadriplegia, Raynaud’s syndrome, renal cortical necrosis, respiratory failure – acute, respiratory muscle insufficiency, respiratory tract infection, rhabdomyolysis, rhino-pharyngo-laryngitis, rice, rouleaux formation of red blood cells, salivation excessive, sauna, seizures, selenium, sensorimotor peripheral axonal neuropathy, sensory changes, shock, Signs and Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning, singing, skin bronzed, skin cancer, skin lesions and rashes including vesiculation, skin pallor, sleep, sore throat, spasms, splenomegaly, squamous cell carcinoma, ST changes, stomach pain, stomatitis, stroke, stupor, suicidal ideation, swallowing difficulty, sweating, sweating – excessive, sweet metallic taste, tachycardia, tea, throat constriction, thirst, thrombocytopenia, tingling, torsades de pointes, tracheobronchitis, tremor, tubular necrosis – acute, T wave inversion, unsteady gait, uremia, vasodilation, vasospasm, vegetables, vertigo, visual hallucinations, vitamin A deficiency, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitiligo, vomiting, vomiting blood, weakness of distal muscles – hands and feet, weight loss, well, wobbliness, zinc

Most arsenic poisoning is chronic: Through global trade, we are ingesting more and more arsenic-contaminated products – mainly rice, tea, medicinal herbs. Acute arsenic poisoning usually is accidental or occupational (mainly workers in pest control, electronics manufacturing industry and pressure-treated carpentry). Few are homi- or suicidal. Earlier this year I have been diagnosed with arsenic-induced ataxia. Ataxia means imbalance, wobbliness.

For me, I am glad that I have “just” ataxia, and not more. The list below contains Latin as well a common names to make it easier to find things.

Here is the short of what I have been doing to reduce my arsenic levels:
1. Stop using tainted products; look for safer sources.
2. Sauna as often as possible to sweat out heavy metals. Sweating through exercise and summer heat also helps.
3. Eating fresh garlic and cilantro bind and expel heavy metals
4. Vitamin C, selenium, vitamin B12, zinc, folate and methionine add to the elimination of arsenic.
5. And, of course, all the other lifestyle goodies: A healthy diet heavy on vegetables. Movement. Enough sleep. Plenty of water (some areas of the US have arsenic-contaminated drinking water from wells – careful!).


Signs and Symptoms

The myriad manifestations of arsenic intoxication do a roller coaster through all medical specialties, it seems. Since there are so many overlapping features with many diseases, it will take an open mind and special alertness to make a diagnosis. Just to show the enormous scope of signs and symptoms, I have thrown together acute and chronic arsenic intoxication. The list is not thought for diagnosing yourself - consult your physician. Here is the list:

Abdominal discomfort
Abdominal pain
aches and pains
Acrocyanosis
Acute respiratory failure
Acute tubular necrosis
Adult respiratory distress syndrome
Agitation
Alopecia
Altered mental status
Anemia
Anemia, aplastic
Anhidrosis
Anorexia
Anxiety
Aplastic anemia
Arrhythmias
Ascites
Ataxia
Atherosclerotic disease
Autonomic neuropathy: unstable blood pressure, anhidrosis, sweating, flushing
Basal cell carcinomas
Basophilic stippling
Birth defects,
Blackfoot disease – black, mummified dry gangrene
Bladder cancer
Blood in the urine
Bone marrow suppression
Bowen disease
Brittle Nails
Bronchitis
Bronchospams (inhaled arsenic)
Burning in mouth/esophagus/stomach/bowel
Cancer – lung, liver, kidney, bladder, skin, colon, larynx, lymphoid system
Capillary dilation with fluid leakage and third spacing
Cardiac arrhythmias
Cardiac arrest
Cardiomyopathy
Carotid atherosclerosis
Cerebral infarction
Cerebrovascular diseases
Chills
Cholangitis
Cholecystitis
Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Cirrhosis
Clear skin lesions such as acne
CNS depression
Colitis
Colon cancer
Coma
Concentration - poor
Confabulation
Confusion
Congestive heart failure
Conjunctivitis
Convulsions
Coordination difficulties
Corneal necrosis
Corneal ulcerations
Cough with/without expectoration
Cramps, cramping muscles
Cyanosis of the fingers
Death
Dehydration
Delirium
Depression
Dermatitis
Dermatitis allergic-type
Dermatitis, exfoliative
Desquamation of skin
Diabetes
Diarrhea, often severe and/or bloody
Disordered thinking
Disorientation
Disseminated intravascular coagulation
Drowsiness
Dyspnea (when inhaled)
Dysphagia
Eczema
Edema – non-pitting of hand and feet
EKG changes: ST changes, QT prolonged, Torsades de pointes, T wave inversion
Encephalopathy, acute
Enzyme inhibition
Esophagitis
Eyes blood-shot
Eyes burning
Facial edema
Fatigue
Fatty liver
Fever - lowgrade
Fibrillation, ventricular
Fingernail pigmentation
Fingernails with white marks
Fluid loss
Flushing
Folic acid deficiency
Gallbladder inflammation
Gangrene of limbs
Garlic-smelling breath or body fluids
Gastritis
Gastro-intestinal bleeding
Generalized muscle aches and body pains
Gingivitis
Goiter
Guillain-Barre syndrome - resembling
Hair loss
Hallucinations
Headaches
Hearing loss
Heart disease
Hematuria
Hemoglobinuria
Hemolysis
Hepatomegaly
Herpes
Hormone imbalance
Hyperesthesia
Hyperpigmentation of the nails and skin
Hyperpyrexia
Hyperkeratosis thickening of the skin of the palms and soles
Hypersalivation
Hypertension
Hypertension-related cardiovascular disease
Hypopigmentation – “raindrop” areas of lost skin color
Hypotension
Hypovolemia
Immune functioning impaired
Immune suppression
Impaired healing
Inhibition of sulfhydryl enzymes – garlicky odor to breath/stool
Insomnia
Irritability
Ischemic heart disease
Jaundice
Karyorrhexis
Keratosis
Kidney cancer
Kidney damage
Kidney failure
Korsakoff’s psychosis
Lack of appetite
Landry-Guillain-Barré syndrome - resembling
Larynx cancer
Laryngitis
Leg cramps
Lens opacity
Lethargy
Leukemia???
Leukocyturia
Leukonychia striata
Leukopenia
Lightheadedness
Listlessness
Liver cancer
Liver: central necrosis
Liver congestion
Liver dysfunction and elevated liver enzymes
Liver: fatty degeneration
Low grade fever
Lung cancer
Lung: Chronic restrictive/obstructive diseases
Lungs: Inflammation of respiratory mucosa
Lung irritation
Lymphoma???
Major depression – mimicking
Malabsorption
Malaise
Mees's lines, or Aldrich-Mees's
Melanosis of the eyelids, areolae of nipples, and neck
Memory loss
Memory – poor
Mental retardation
Mental status altered
Metallic taste in mouth
Microcirculation abnormalities
Mitochondrial dysfunction
Movement disturbances
Muscle aches, spasms, weakness
Muscle fasciculations
Muscle tenderness
Muscle twitching
Muscle wasting
Muttering
Myocardial depression
Myocarditis
Nasal mucosa irritation (when inhaled)
Nasal septum perforation
Nausea
Neuralgia
Neuritis
Night blindness
Nightmares
Numbness
Oliguria
Oral burns (acute, when taken by mouth)
Pancreatitis
Paralysis
Paranoia
Paresthesia – symmetrical, stocking-glove
Pedal edema
Pericarditis
Peripheral neuritis
Peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral vascular insufficiency
Personality change
Pigmentation changes – hypo and hyper
Pins and needles in hands and feet
Pneumonia, bronchial
Polyneuritis
Portal fibrosis
Proteinuria
Psychosis
Pulmonary edema
Pulmonary insufficiency (emphysematous lesions)
Pulse – irregular
Quadriplegia
Raynaud’s Syndrome
Renal cortical necrosis
Respiratory failure, acute
Respiratory muscle insufficiency
Respiratory tract infection
Rhabdomyolysis
Rhino-pharyngo-laryngitis
Rouleaux formation of red blood cells
Salivation excessive
Seizures
Sensorimotor peripheral axonal neuropathy
Sensory changes
Shock
Singing
Skin bronzed
Skin cancer
Skin lesions and rashes, including vesiculation
Skin pallor
Sore throat
Splenomegaly
Squamous cell carcinoma
Stomach pain
Stomatitis
Stroke
Stupor
Suicidal
Swallowing difficulty
Sweating, excessive
Sweet metallic taste
Tachycardia
Throat constriction
Thirst
Thrombocytopenia
Tingling
Tracheobronchitis
Tremor
Tubular necrosis, acute
Unsteady gait
Uremia
Vasodilation
Vasospasm
Vertigo
Visual hallucinations
Vitamin A deficiency
Vitiligo
Vomiting
Vomiting blood
Weakness of distal muscles – hands and feet
Weight loss

When Things Are Falling Down

November 19, 2015

Tags: order, herbs, movement, water, abdomen, aging, amalaki, antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, anus, ayurvedic, bacteria, balance, bastard myrobalan, bathroom, bibhitaki, bladder infection, bladder wall, birthing, bloating, bowel movement, child birth, comfort, complications, constipation, corn silk, cramps, cranberry, curse, diarrhea, death, diabetes, discomfort, Emblica officinalis, essential oil, eye, fatigue, female affliction, fluids, gastro-intestinal tract, germ, haritaki, India, Indian gooseberry infection, intercourse, internal organs, invasive procedure, Kegel exercises, kidney infection, medical advance, mesh, microbiome, olive oil outcome, pelvic muscles, perineum, pessary, plumbing, preventing falls, private parts, probiotic, prolapse, prophylaxis, rosemary, sepsis, sexual muscles, standing on one leg, surgery, susceptibility to infections, Terminalia bellirica, Terminalia chebula, thyme, toilet, triphala, urinary tract infection - recurrent, usnea, UTI, uva ursi, vulva, water - running, sanitation, side-effects, vagina, vaginal probiotics, washing hands, weight gain, When Things Are Falling Down, wiping, World Toilet Day, worst case scenario, yellow myrobalan

Today is World Toilet Day, and most writers today will talk about the importance of hygiene – which is indeed more valuable than all the other medical advances combined, in my opinion. Every person in the world deserves running water and good plumbing, and so many don’t have it: 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to decent sanitation!

But the things I am want to talk about are internal organs, and when they fall, or droop, physicians call it prolapse. It is, of course, a female affliction (curse?). Often it results from child births (and I wonder if modern medicine that wants to speed up the birthing process, has given us more prolapses – we never will be seeing a study about this, I fear). Prolapse can be uncomfortable when you walk, and even hurt outright. But the worst part is that they might cause recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs). There’s the connection to toilets, when you are running to the bathroom twenty times a day, and the whole middle of your being hurts like hell.

Recurrent UTIs are dangerous because a simple bladder infection can rise into the kidneys and eventually even leading to sepsis (an infection of the whole body), and at its worst, death. And death doesn’t seem to be the worst outcome: The many courses of antibiotics – often the doctor tells the patient that they have to be on antibiotics for the rest of their lives to prevent the worst case scenario – damage the precious bacteria in the intestines, and lead to all sorts of complications: weight gain, susceptibility to other infections, fatigue, bloating, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, and so on. The last few years has brought us so many studies about the microbiome (the beneficial bacteria in our bowels) that it is hard to exaggerate its importance to your health. And every course of antibiotics will damage that healthy balance in your belly. - Hear that I am not altogether against antibiotics; they have saved lives (mine, for instance). But they can have grave side-effects, notably now antibiotic resistance.

Conventional medicine recommends, besides Kegel exercises, surgery. Particularly, the insertion a special mesh down there to keep organs up, has not been very successful; women are suing the manufacturer in droves, and the mesh has been abandoned. But since every surgery carries a risk of infection and death with it – and repairing prolapse might make symptoms worse – surgery should be your last resort. You could also insert a pessary into your vagina to provide structural support. It works for some women.

Here are the natural alternatives to invasive procedures; combined – can make a huge difference in the discomfort or comfort you feel in your most private area:

1. Standing on one leg whenever you think of it – while brushing your teeth, waiting for the bus, chopping an onion. This will strengthen your pelvic (and sexual) muscles – and is not as boring as Kegel exercises. It is also good exercise for your legs and good for balance – very important to prevent falls when you get older.
2. Inserting vaginal probiotics every evening into your vagina.
3. Oral probiotics. They heal your bowels after a course of antibiotics, and have shown to decrease the number of recurrent urinary tract infections prophylactically.
4. Washing your hands after each bowel movement religiously and then pampering your private parts (wipe from the front to the back - vulva to perineum to anus; never the other direction!) with a mixture of olive oil and a few drops of an essential oil like rosemary or thyme; they are antibacterial. Make sure you always wash your hands and use essential oil before you, for instance, insert the nightly vaginal probiotic capsule. It is tiny, and no, it won’t interfere with intercourse.
5. Taking triphala, the ayurvedic herb, which will prevent constipation. Naturally, if your problem is diarrhea, don’t take triphala on top of it. Triphala is an ancient combination of three Indian herbs: Amalaki or Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis), Bibhitaki or bastard myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica), and Haritaki or yellow myrobalan (Terminalia chebula). Triphala is actually a balm for the gastro-intestinal tract, and is also good for your eyes. Besides it works against diabetes.
6. Take a zinc supplement to boost your immune system.
7. Prophylaxis with cranberry, uva ursi, usnea, corn silk, and so on, if needed every day. Especially after sex. Cranberry prevents bacteria to latch onto your bladder wall, so they are flushed out easier.

Women and their doctors often think that prolapse is an inevitable part of aging. It shouldn’t be! - Happy Toilet Day!

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!

High Blood Pressure – Low Blood Pressure

September 14, 2015

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, agricultural, artificial sweetener, attention, basil, beach, bladder, blood pressure, brain overstimulation, butter - cultured, cardamom, cat’s claw, celery seeds, chemical compound, cinnamon, circadian rhythm, coconut oil, cold shower, cold wash, cooking, darkness, dehydration, dizziness, drinking water, drug – anti-hypertensive, endocrine, energy - lack of, erectile dysfunction, farmer, fat, fighting, French lavender, garlic, grandmother, habit, hawthorn, heart attack, heartbreak, herbalist, high blood pressure, High Blood Pressure – Low Blood Pressure, hiking, hypertension, impotence, Internet, kidney, lifestyle, linden, low blood pressure, meat, medicine pearl, meditation, modern life, music, musical instrument, nettle - stinging, olive leaf, olive oil, organic, pebbles, processed food, quiet time, relationship, relaxation, salt, screen time, sleep, sleep before midnight, sleep deprivation, sleeping with open window, spice, starch, statistics, step counter, stress, stroke, sugar, telephone, TV, Twitter, urine color, vegetable, walking, walking barefoot, walking on uneven surfaces, weight - ideal, woodworking, yarrow

A new study to answer the question: Which is the optimal blood pressure goal? has been terminated prematurely because it became statistically overwhelmingly clear that lower blood pressure targets will save lives.

That is a great outcome of a study: The clear-cut benefit of lower blood pressure. Not that it is all news: In medical school I already learned this medicine pearl: People with low pressure live for a long time, but they will feel lousy often – from dizziness and lack of energy. People with high blood pressure feel on top of the world – until they drop dead of stroke or heart attack.

It is good to know that our recent blood pressure goals have been set too high. If you have high blood pressure, or borderline high blood pressure, get ready for your doctor to put you on medication, or increase your anti-hypertension pills.

But the question is: Why do I read one report after the other about this blood pressure study, and all the commentators remark on how important it is to increase medications – and not a single commentator mentions that there are ways to lower your blood pressure without pills - naturally?

There are! You don’t have to take pills for the rest of your life; they can have serious side effect – one of the least seems to be impotence (erectile dysfunction), which is obviously a minor problem for the prescribing physician, but may make your life thoroughly miserable.

Here, if you want to go the natural way:

• End your hot showers always with a short (20 to 30 seconds) cold shower. Don’t do it yet if your blood pressure is uncontrolled high. But if you are on a pill, reasonably controlled, to can make this a daily habit. If a cold shower feels too harsh, wash yourself down with a cold facecloth twice a day in front of the sink.
• Get yourself a cheap step counter and walk more. The step counter is not really necessary, but is a great motivator. Walk more stairs, too.
• Also, walk on uneven surfaces whenever you have an occasion. Walking the beach, hiking, and walking barefoot have all been shown to lower blood pressure. One study showed that walking barefoot on pebbles is especially effective. Why is that so? The more uneven the terrain is, the more muscles you use, and the greater is the relaxation effect.
• Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to more stress, and stress increases blood pressure. Aim for being in bed around ten pm. Read for a few minutes, then sleep in darkness, with open window, whenever possible. Grandmother’s advice that sleep before midnight counts double sort of bears out in modern circadian rhythm studies.
• Meditate if your stress level is high. Or do woodworking, or play a musical instrument – any hobby that absorbs your attention wholly and makes you happy has a good de-stressing effect. Even just listening to soothing music lowers your blood pressure.
• Drink enough water. Salt does not seem the main culprit (but it does not hurt to ditch all processed foods – which are notoriously high in salt), but not drinking enough is. Aim for very light yellow urine. Dark urine shows that you are dehydrated (unless there is a kidney/bladder problem).
• Keep your relationships in order. I am all for a good fight if it is necessary. But an unhappy relationship will break your heart – with or without high blood pressure.
• Reduce screen time – TV, Twitter, telephone and Internet. All overexcite your brain. Be yourself – find quiet time often.
• Eat a diet high in vegetables and herbs. Plants contain thousands of chemical compound which all conspire to keep your blood pressure low. Eat meat but only organic (or from a farmer whose agricultural practices you trust). Have plenty of good fats like organic olive oil, coconut oil, cultured butter – fat is not the enemy.
• Slowly move toward your ideal weight by eating less sugars and starches. Avoid artificial sweeteners, too.
• And if you insist on a pill, let it be herbs (it may be advisable to work with a good herbalist – or a doctor who know herbs):

o Stinging nettle
o Linden
o Olive leaf
o Yarrow
o French Lavender
o Cinnamon
o Cat’s claw
o Hawthorn
o Celery seeds
o Garlic
o Cardamom
o Basil

And so many more! Some may go into your food as spices when you cook. Actually, cooking every evening from scratch might be the best course you could take: It will relax you after work and absorb your attention – and it will heal you body that gets high blood pressure from the pressures and habits of modern life. In 95 percent, hypertension is a lifestyle issue; only in five percent, a serious medical diagnosis (kidneys, endocrine) can be made.

If high blood pressure stems from wrong lifestyles, I suggest we replace it with better, healthier, more joyful lifestyles.

The Aspen Eye is Looking at You

January 7, 2015

Tags: movement, order, aspen eye, aspen tree, Bergman – Ingrid (1915-1982), Bogart – Humphrey (1899-1957), Casablanca – movie, connected, Egyptian eye of Horus, “Here’s looking at you, kid”, love, Nature, Nepalese eyes, old, organism, Rocky Mountains, self-pruning, skiing, ski lift, sternness, The Aspen Eye is Looking at You, Utah, wise

From a ski lift, many years ago, my ski instructor pointed out that aspen trees have eyes. Aspens self-prune by throwing off lower branches – which makes for straight, sturdy stems. Where the branches fall off, they leave trunk marks like the Egyptian eye of Horus, or like the famous Nepalese eyes: They look at you – and don’t let go. For me, the aspen eyes have become a symbol for our yearly ski trips to the Rocky Mountains, and for the truth and beauty we find in Nature.

There is a stand of aspen in Utah that is estimated to be 80,000 years old. When you think this is remarkable, consider that all the trees of an aspen grove are joined underground: That forest is a single organism, if you will. We surely can learn from something that old, wise and connected.

Even if you never watched the classic movie Casablanca, you have heard about the famous scene: “Here’s looking at you, kid,” Humphrey Bogart says to Ingrid Bergman, with love and sternness, because the lovers have to part; Ingrid has to learn to live her own life, and get over the pain of losing the greatest love of her life.

The aspen eyes look at me with the same Casablanca sternness. Those eyes are more than just beautiful. Through those eyes Nature looks back at me, I feel. Deep and hard. Same way how we should look at our fears.

Lumosity, and Similar Brain-Enhancing Games

January 4, 2015

Tags: order, food, movement, arguing, book, brain-enhancing, computer wiz, cooking, daylight, family, friends, games, gardening, hobby, intelligence, IQ, knitting, learning, letter, life, Lumosity, Lumosity and Similar Brain-Enhancing Games, memory, playing the cello, railcar, reading, self, senility, talking, walking, work, writing

Somebody nudged me into trying Lumosity - I must have shown signs of senility, for those games are supposed to increase memory and, perhaps, IQ.

Those two games I played stirred up the following questions:

• Aren’t work and/or hobbies to be so interesting that they keep me on my toes, and learning?
• How come a game that a young computer wiz developed is going to teach me more than my life has taught me?
• Why would I want the kind of intelligence that can reroute a bunch of rail cars faster and faster, than the kind of slow and painful and difficult and limited intelligence that brought me to where I am now in my life?
• Do I want to think and function like anybody else? Or do I want to be myself?
• Can Lumosity do more for my brain than reading, gardening, knitting, cooking, playing the cello, writing letters and books, talking and arguing with my friends & family?
• Will those games increase my memory better than feeding myself right, and going for a long walk in daylight?

Diabetes Update

December 20, 2014

Tags: food, movement, order, bedridden, book, cane, data, decline, diabetes type 2, Diabetes Update, dog, falls, friend, insulin, music, nurse, prescription, reading, reversal, syringe, The Diabetes Cure, walker, walking

In my diabetes book I didn’t tell the whole story. I couldn’t because I had no data, and no proof.

But now the stories come in – here is one (I have changed names, etc., so not expose people):

A good friend of ours has been a diabetic type 2 for many years. I nearly had taken him as the example in my book how diabetes goes if you don’t do anything: The slow decline of all faculties. Last when I saw him – about two years ago – he was more or less bedridden. Daily, a nurse came in. He was on insulin – always a dire sign that things are not going well. In the past he had had several falls, and he labored with the consequences. He had been a highly successful man, but now seemed to be a burden onto himself.

This month, I visited him and his wife. Both had lost a great amount of weight, he was up and around. He uses a cane in the house, and a walker on the street because of his history of falls. But he does not lean heavily on the walker – it is more like a security blanket. We talked about the books he had read recently (always one of my favorite subject). He is going out every day; they have a dog, a gentle creature that seems to want to protect him.

When I asked how this marvelous change in them had come about, they pointed to a book on the kitchen table. It was my diabetes book “The Diabetes Cure”. The copy was well-read, obviously, beginning to fall apart at the spine. I had given them the book when it had come out, thinking that he was a good candidate to try my prescriptions. But not really believing they would do it.

In the book I write that most diabetes could be reversed, but I also warned readers that it was near impossible, once they already were taking insulin shots. I had seen some great changes in my patients, but I had never seen anyone throwing out their insulin syringe. So I didn’t claim that it was possible. My friend proved me wrong: He changed his eating, and he moved more (with the help of a physical therapist). And now he is off insulin! He is out of bed, and he is living again, pursuing the things that delight him in life: reading, enjoying his wife, music, going out for a walk, playing with the dog.

If he could do it, you can do it.

Seven Exercises from Heaven

October 3, 2014

Tags: movement, order, aging, arm flab, arthritis, ashtanga, athletics, back, back - upper, barbell, bedridden, bench, bench pressing, bending backward, cancer, childhood, dairy, death, decline, diabetes, diet, dumbbell, Exercises from Heaven, expander, flexibility, foam roller, gluten, gym, half-cylinder, head, heart disease, immobility, inward looking, Iyengar - B.K.S. (1918-2014), kettlebell, knee, laptop computer, leg, lotus position, muscle, muscle-building muscle weakness, musculature, neck, Nelson – Carol, pelvis, philosophy, posture, pressing, push-up, relaxing, rotator cuff, rubber band exercise, sleeplessness, spine spirituality, sports, sports medicine, sports team, strength, strength training, The Diabetes Cure, Theraband, traveling, walking, wall, wall pressing, weights workout, yoga, yoga ball, yoga teacher, youth, zazen cushion

As I have mentioned too often, I never have been athletic – in school, I was the proverbial girl that nobody wanted on their sports team. But as I cleaned up my diet (starting with gluten and dairy), my muscle weakness and arthritis improved.

Movement is important. And the older you get, the more urgent it becomes. People generally think that heart disease and cancer are about the worst conditions leading to final demise. Immobility is worse. Not moving – either by choice, or because of illness – is the clear beginning of the end.

Every evening after dinner my husband and I go out for a walk, down the hill, and up the hill. Often I run uphill – slowly, but without pause. That alone is not enough, I fear, to keep old age at bay. Obviously, you can’t stave off death forever – decline is inevitable. But you can give it your best effort.

When B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-20140, the revered teacher of my yoga teacher Carol Nelson, recently died, a picture of him in old age went around the world. It showed him in lotus position but with barely any muscles that I could discern. Now, he was really old when the photo was taken, but looking at him it dawned on my that in yoga we need three accomplishments:

• Spirituality - I’d translate that as inward looking
• Flexibility - yoga certainly accomplishes that)
• Strength – more muscles.

The last one, strength, can be trained in some of the more vigorous forms of yoga like ashtanga, but I prefer the deep, gentle yoga Carol Nelson teaches. That leaves me with strength training for homework. Since I am still not fond of gyms and strenuous workouts, I do a routine of seven small muscle-building exercises at home. They take less than ten minutes – actually, less than seven minutes! You can do them all together in one setting, or interspersed during the day.

1. Bending backward over a zazen cushion or a half-cylinder
2. Bench pressing
3. Wall pressing (a modification of push-ups)
4. Rubber band exercises
5. Yoga ball
6. Kettlebell
7. Dumbbells.

As you might have read in my book The Diabetes Cure, my philosophy is that exercise should never be overdone – we have sports medicine because we have sports, is my constant saying. Every exercise will be repeated twenty-one times, never more. If initially you can’t do an exercise twenty-one times, do as many as you can do without undue force, and slowly build up to twenty-one.

More information about each exercise:

1. Bending backward over a zazen cushion or a half-cylinder

This is not a strength training. But I start with opening my back because my worst problem is upper back posture (in childhood and youth, I spent much time bedridden). – Slowly count to 21, while you wiggle your back in place and bend it backward over the cushion. – When I travel, I replace this with bending downward from the hotel bed.

2. Bench pressing

Since I don’t own a bench, this is not exactly bench-pressing. But it is similar. I use a bar with two five-pound weights – including the bar, it’s 14 pounds. The point is not to use heavy weights, but to use light weights slowly, and regular – every day. Position the barbell over your lap, and bring your body in position: Stand knees up, and pull your arms backward, and make a hollow with your thoracic spine: If you lie too straight and heavy on your shoulder blades, there is potential of hurting your rotator cuffs. Do 21 slow repetitions. Push directly upward with your arms – and never over your face. There are several deaths each year of people who have dropped the barbells on their faces …


3. Wall pressing (a modification of push-ups)

Stand a bit away from a wall or a kitchen counter or anything stable, and push up with your hands 21 times. Be careful not to slip when you stand away from the wall. - If you can do real push-ups on the floor: Good for you! But, like lotus position, I am unlikely to get proficient at push-ups in this life.

4. Rubber band exercises

Use an expander-like rubber band over a bar (or from a hook). Use it twice 21 times to pull your arms down and back. This is the exercise that makes arm flab a thing of the past. Occasionally, sleepless in bed, I add this exercise: Lying on your back with elbows at my sides, I push into the bed, arching my upper back, holding the position for 21 counts. The relaxing of the muscles afterward is a good sleeping aid. - When I travel, I take Therabands.

5. Yoga ball

Lie belly-down over a yoga ball. Secure your feet at a floorboard or under a sofa. Lift your back from the hips 21 times without overarching your neck – it is better to let your head hang down a bit, and instead lift your arms. Gives wonderful strength in the lower back area, and will eventually strengthen your whole spinal musculature. – When traveling, one can do this exercise across a chair.

6. Kettlebell

Swing a small (5 pounds) kettlebell back between your legs and up to horizontal with your eyes 21 counts. Have a give in your knees. This exercise strengthens legs, pelvic musculature and arms. This is the one that always makes me pant. – I fear there is no good substitute for this when I travel as lugging around a kettlebell in my suitcase is not an option. I try to walk as many stairs in the hotels as possible – which has led to hilarious situations as we have from time to time ended up in the kitchen quarters or other off-limits work spaces.

7. Dumbbells.

Have a pair of small (5 pounds) dumbbells (or bottles filled with water or books). Push them up 21 times, high up over your head, and slightly backward – without creating pressure in your lower back area. This one took me the longest before I could do all 21 repetitions. – When traveling, I use my laptop as weight, and try not to drop it.

Lately, at yoga class, I notice how much easier the yoga postures are now that I own some muscles. The three goals – looking inward, flexibility and muscles – inform one on the other: They spread out through our bodies to keep us alive, healthy and, well, younger.

No More Diabetes

August 8, 2014

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, advice, beans, blindness, blood sugar, blood vessel, conventional medicine, coronary artery disease, craving, Diabetes Cure, diabetes type 1, diabetes type 2, diabetes book – mine, diabetic end-organ damage, dialysis, diet, egg, erythrocyte, exercise, eye, fats - good, fish, garbanzos, genitals, grains, gluten, gut bacteria, heart, hemoglobin A1c, impotence, insulin, kidney failure, life isn’t fair!!, lifestyle, meat, natural medicine, No More Diabetes, motivation, normal lab value, November, obesity, over-eating, paperback, publisher, red blood cell, Rodale’s, sleep, stroke, sugar, taste, The Diabetes Cure, un-athletic, vegetable, weight loss, weight maintenance

My hemoglobin A1c went from 6.1 to 5.1, in about two years.

Hemoglobin A1c is the most reliable way of measuring your blood sugar: Every time you put a sugar molecule in your mouth (not to mention a few spoons full!), this makes a permanent change on the outer surface of your red blood cells. Permanent means, it won’t go away until the red blood cell – also called erythrocyte – has reached its lifespan, about three months, and will die. Those surface changes can be measured in the lab.

A “normal” A1c used to be anything below 6.0 – which put me, some years ago, into diabetic territory. Then doctors reconvened and decided on a new “normal”: Now diabetes is diagnosed only when your A1c reaches 6.4 – which does not really make 6.0 to 6.3 “healthy”. Studies show that many people who have been just freshly diagnosed with diabetes, have already obvious damage of end-organs: Eyes (blindness), kidneys (kidney failure leading to dialysis), heart (coronary artery disease), genitals (impotence), vessels (stroke), and so on.

Natural medicine physicians consider normal between 4.0 and 5.0 – which puts me very close now to the ideal range, and makes me happy. – Why did conventional medicine upped the levels of “normal” sugars? I can only guess that the obesity and diabetes epidemic needed some curbing – if not in reality, then at least on paper …

How did I achieve this better sugar reading? By following my own advice, which I published last year in my diabetes book. In November, the publisher Rodale’s plans on bringing out a paperback version.

How much weight did I lose? None. Although most people lose weight “involuntarily” with my recommendations, I didn’t, because I didn’t need, having maintained the same weight since age twelve. In that way, I belong to the 10 to 15 percent of people of normal weight who have type 2 diabetes anyway (life isn’t fair!!). Those 10 to 15 percent nearly all have a gluten problem and shouldn’t eat much grains at all. Some few have type 1 diabetes, which is not related that much to diet and lifestyle.

Since the book came out readers have written me that they lost 50 plus pounds on my regimen, and that they even could stop – under medical supervision – their insulin. The Diabetes Cure works.

What does my Diabetes Cure entail? Lots of vegetables and good fats, some healthy meats, fish, eggs. Beans and garbanzos, and as many herbs as I can get my hands on. Plenty of sleep and very moderate movement – I have been un-athletic all my life, and will not change much at this age.

How can I maintain my motivation? Number one: Healthy foods are really tasty, so I usually don’t feel deprived. But I also looked into the reasons why we over-eat – and guess what: I found fifty reasons (and discuss them in my book)! It helps to know how the wrong gut bacteria fool you into craving bad foods.

What Have We Done?

July 21, 2014

Tags: order, movement, food, advertisement, beverage, breakfast cereal, death, diet, elderly, Europe, exercise, frustration, health information, hospital, hyperactivity, medication, nurse, nurses’ education, overweight, paper work, patients, prescription drug, retirement, snack, stress, surgery - minor, terrible two’s, toddler, TV, USA, What Have We Done? or phrases to categorize this post for the tags section

A relative went to minor surgery today; I accompanied him. Of retirement age, he is in pretty good health. He exercises regularly, and is not on any prescription drug – in now ay your typical elderly patient.

The nurses at the hospital are a different story. Nearly every one is overweight. And of all people in the country, nurses have about the best health information. Why then are they overweight? Stress and frustration, I’d guess.

In a new European Study, the level of nurses expertise and the number of patients they have to tend to, determine the outcome: More deaths occurred if nurses had more patients, less deaths with better education. None of which is a surprise.

Here, nurses are busy with tons of paper work. In nearly every room at the hospital a TV is blaring. Am I am the only one on whose nerves the TV is grating?? The frequent advertisements are showing snacks, breakfast cereals, snacks, diet beverages, snacks.

Which is the best snack? None – a person who eats good foods does not need snacks.

Where is the country going? People are eating wrong, and all they do is worry. We gives toddlers medications against hyperactivity when their terrible two’s are “unmanageable” (and never even think the food or the TV might be the culprit).

Nurses are overworked, doctors are overworked, parents are overworked. Who cares?

We have run the people and the country into the ground. And the doctors and the nurses. Who will be around to do the work, in the long run?

Just Thinking … About Cancer

July 10, 2014

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, water, alcohol, awe, birthday party, boredom, cancer, cell, cold shower, cooking, commitment, death, decay, emotion – fake, energy, flower, friendship, function, gadget, genetic, genome, gossip, hands-on doing, heart, helping hand, hiking, hugging, indoors, joy of life, judgment, Just Thinking … About Cancer, kissing, laughter, love, moral, music, nakedness, Nature, office party, OMG!, open door, outdoors, pollution, religion, revenge, scientist, self-inflicted, sex, song, stargazing, stuff, survival, talking, tolerance, tribe, TV, vegetables, vitality

Just thinking … some half-baked thoughts.

Just thinking: What is cancer? Of course, cancer is genetic. But what are those cancer genes doing in our genome?? Scientists now seem to come to conclusion that cancer is less some terrible thing gone wrong deep down in our bodies, but more some last-ditch effort to let at least SOME cells survive. They happen to be cancer cells, and nobody likes them. But they are strong, surviving cells when the rest of the body decays. It’s not the best of all strategies because in the end, the body dies, but the cancer cells die with it. But that is what we need to concede: The cancer cells are stronger – in many cases. They are more primitive, and they have only one goal: to survive. The other cells in a body might be more likable – they laugh, they cook, they make music, they hug and kiss. We all like the other cells better. But, in the end, cancer cells so often win.

Just thinking: Why do we get cancer? The theory is that the cells are losing something – their vitality, their drive to survive, their energy, their joy of life. Causes? Too much bad food (think birthday parties at the office). Too much boredom. Too much drink. Too few herbs. Too little commitment. Too little movement. Too little friendship. Too little hands-on doing, too much talk and gossip. Too much TV. Too much fake emotions – OMG!. Too little heart. Too little outdoors, too much indoors. Too much pollution. Too few vegetables. Too few hikes into Nature. Too much stuff. Too much religion, too little awe. Too many functions, too few open doors. Too much judgment, too few helping hands. Too many “friends”, not enough tribe. Too few cold showers. Too many gadgets. Too few flowers. Too much morals, too little tolerance. Too much revenge. Too little stargazing. Too few songs. Too little nakedness. Too much sex – too little sex – who knows, but definitely not enough love.

Just thinking: What can we do so that cancer can’t grow? Of course, there always will be some terrible genes, and some terribly undeserved cancer. But scientists think that 50 to 70 percent of cancer are self-inflicted – at least. What we can do? It is not so much fighting cancer, it is more giving cancer no ground on which it can grow. The list is long what we can do – reverse all of the above. Personally I think eating a lot of freshly cooked vegetables every single day will go a long way. Because if you are eating vegetables, you automatically are not longer the person who brings sugary cupcakes to the office birthday party. And from there it all starts ...

Today Is International No-Bra Day!

July 9, 2014

Tags: order, food, movement, water, alcohol, antenna, bedroom, bra, brassiere, breast, breast cancer, breast health, breast size, cancer, circulation, cold wash, comfort, convention, cups, dairy, darkness, diet, gym, hormones, jogging, July heat, lifestyle, lunch hour, nightshift, sleep, sports bra, starch - white, sugar, support, Today Is International No-Bra Day!, trans fats, underwire bra, vegetables

Sweltering July is probably the best reason to throw out your bra – even if for only a day.

Because it is hot in there – in the cups. A few studies suggest that a link consists with wearing a bra and getting cancer. Unfortunately, those studies are not the best by scientific standards. We certainly should demand better studies!

Personally, I believe that a bra that cuts off circulation and traps heat close to one part of the body might be doing harm – the more hours a day one is wearing it, the more likely. Some people think it is the metal wire in the underwire bra that might work like an antenna, attracting bad “waves”.

One certainly should never wear a bra to bed – give your breast some freedom at least over night! But going all without is not an option for well-endowed women, because heavy breast can hurt with every movement. Sports bras certainly have their place. I wince whenever I see a woman jogging and her breasts are bouncing up and down – ouch!

Many years ago, in my twenties, I threw my bras out and never looked back – an easy decision because I have not much to hold. For me, a bra was a senseless convention. I had a beloved aunt who was as small-chested as I. She would gleefully pronounce: “What I don’t have today, can’t sag tomorrow!” Her attitude made my small size a no-problem.

For other women a bra might be a life saver – no rule applies to everybody. Today is a good day to examine if you are wearing a brassiere for comfort – or for convention. Throw out the convention … if you dare.

We know (by good studies) that bigger breasts are more likely to develop cancer. But that might have different reasons: Women who are overweight have usually a less healthy lifestyle. And more female hormones lead to bigger breasts, as well, potentially, to breast cancer.

What makes healthy breasts:

• A good diet with fresh vegetables (and avoidance of sugar, white starches, dairy and trans fats). Don’t be fat-phobic: Olive oil, coconut oil and butterfat are healthy.
• Regular movements – just move through your day, as opposed to spending time in the gym.
• A daily walk during– for moving and for daylight and vitamin D. Vitamin D prevents cancer.
• Moderate alcohol consumption. Enough sleep and real darkness in your bedroom: Light at night seems to increase the likelihood of cancer (especially if you are working nightshifts – which I certainly have, extensively, in my life).
• And here is my favorite – and of course, there are no studies to be had: Wash your breasts with cold water every day – take a face cloth and 21 splashes to each breast.

Peasant Food

April 1, 2014

Tags: food, order, herbs, movement, agribusiness, antibiotics, athlete, baking, baseball, basketball, California, canning food, career, chef, cookbook, cooking from scratch, crabs, diet, different, dinner, drying food, Earth, easy farmer, field, filling, fish, five-star, football, fossil fuel, fresh, friend, garden, gourmet, grill, growth rates, hand-me-down, happy, harvest, healthy, healthy families, healthy nation, healthy people, home-cooking, joy of movement, livestock, local, make do, monster harvest, neighbor, New York, New York Times Magazine, open fire, Paleo Diet, peasant, Peasant Food, poultry, raw food, restaurant, roast, seasonal, school children, shipping, slow-cooking, soup, stew, stir-fry, South Beach Diet, squirrel, superfood, superstar, tasty, vegan, vegetarian, weight loss, wild food, Zone Diet, zucchini

For a talk in New York this week I have been thinking about giving the kind of nutrition I am favoring a name – preferably a catchy name. We all have heard of the Paleo Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Zone Diet, and so on. What would I call my brand of eating right?

For starters, I would not call it a diet. Because it is not something you eat for a month, shed fifty pounds, and then go back to your normal dismal ways.

It occurred to me that I have invented nothing new. In fact, farmers all over the world eat like it. So let’s call it Peasant Food. I could also call it Gardener’s Food, or Farmers’ Market Food – because they all are served fresh and whole. But Peasant food it shall be.

This weekend, the New York Times Magazine ran an article about a very young man (he is all of fifteen!) who aspires to become a famous gourmet chef. I commend the young man for applying himself, instead of dawdling his time away. But as a physician I know that healthy people, healthy families and a healthy nation depend on daily fresh dinners cooked at home – not five-star restaurant fare (as delicious as that might be).

The young man is groomed as a future superstar in the kitchen. Same as we groom young athletes for a big career in football, baseball, basketball – instead of teaching all our school children the joy of movement that could offer them a life of health and physical gratification.

But back to the Peasant Food! What do farmers all over the world have in common that should make them our models for healthy cooking and eating?

Peasant Food is
• Fresh: Farmers eat what they find in their gardens, their fields, and growing wild nearby. They cook from scratch every single day. They are not too busy to bring a fresh meal on the table every day, and share it with family and friends. In fact, these shared meals are the highlight of every day.
• Local: Farmers don’t ship in food from California, or even other continents. They don’t use up much fossil fuels for shipping food across the country. They eat what they find. That is why the people in Mew Mexico eat different from the New-Englanders, and the Italians eat different from the Russians.
• Seasonal: Farmers eat what is growing and ripening right now. Should there be a monster harvest of zucchini, they deal with it by creating a variety of zucchini dishes, canning or drying some zucchini, and distributing the rest to friends and neighbors.
• No “superfoods” – just foods that are grown nearby, and made into so many dishes. Farmers make do with whatever is at hand – they have no preconceived notions of what the “best” food is.
• Not only raw: Farmers can’t subsist on salads alone – it would not give them the strength and nutrients they need in the fields. They might bake a piece of meat in the oven slowly all day, they throw a stew together, or a stir-fry, they cook soups with everything in sight. They cook.
• Not vegan/vegetarian: For a rare feast, they might grill a rabbit or a lamb over open fire. They eat meat, poultry, fish, crabs – and in some regions they are glad if they can find a squirrel to skin and roast. But farmers would not feed their livestock antibiotics for better growth rates – if agro-business wouldn’t push them.
• Easy to cook: Farmers don’t have time to concoct gourmet meals, and read one cookbook after the other. They follow old recipes. Their fare has to be easy – sometimes using slow-cooking that does not need further attention once the pot is filled and on the fire.
• Filling: Farmers wouldn’t dream of leaving out fats for slimming down – they need the energy fats provides. But they get in good fats: olive oil, coconut oil, butterfat.
• Tasty: Like everybody else, farmers want to eat something that tickles their palates. Fresh vegetables and healthy meats automatically taste good. Fresh herbs spruce up the taste. And adds nutrients like polyphenols. .

This is what I will call what I have been cooking every evening for so many years, making my family healthy and happy: Peasant food.

Cleaning house

January 20, 2014

Tags: order, movement, absurdity, advice, attic, bacteria, balance, bartering, bathroom, book, broom, business plan, castile soap, cleaning aversion, cleaning lady, cleaning service, cloth, culture, doctor, duster, environment, exercise, friend, garage, German, germs, gym workout, habits, hall, hiring, house-cleaning, Internet, math, microfiber cloths, mindless exercises, mop, New Year, physical exertion, resolutions, responsibility, resource, room, Simple Green, sink, smut, soap, spraying, swiffers, toxic chemical, tutoring

These times, I am finding myself often thinking about why people change their habits. Because I am offering ideas for better health – but if people will adopt my ideas, is really up to them. Nothing I can do about it – beyond making a convincing argument.

It is not a good idea to make resolutions when you kick-off the New Year. Resolutions, when they work, are more like pimples coming to a head: They solidify because something convinces you that it is true, or overdue.

If you make a resolution because the New Year starts: What has the New Year got to do with it?? If you can’t stand anymore how you feel, or how somebody makes you feel, or how the days of your life fly by unused – that resolution has a chance to stick.

A resolution I recently decided on was to clean my house myself. After finishing my last book. I was out of shape, exercise-wise, and yearning for moving more, desperate to get out of my chair and move my limbs: Writing health books wasn’t healthy for ME! In the end, my need for more physical exertion more was stronger than my cleaning aversion.

Which is an enormous change for me: Even as a student, without a penny, I hired a cleaning lady, bartering for her services by tutoring her son in math. Everything for not cleaning!!

Start with a business plan, I told myself. I divided the bathrooms and the rooms and the hall and the garage and the attic evenly on the days of the week. Online, one can find marvelous advice about how to clean this and that and everything – if not always true to reality: “Wiping the sink: 30 seconds”. Now – this advisor must never have seen a German addressing a sink with soap and cloth, not to mention a German doctor well-versed in the hazards of bacteria and other germs (my next book is exactly about those little critters)! So, yes, it takes me longer. But afterwards, as we say, one can EAT from it!

Besides the Internet, my friends are great resources for advice. Swiffers, mops, microfiber cloths – a whole new world is out there. I use only castile soap and Simple Green. Spraying them on (in a diluted form) and letting them soak for a while will get rid of the hardiest smut, without harsh, environmentally toxic chemicals. And without scrubbing.

An absurd culture: We hire out cleaning responsibilities, but then go to a gym workout to do some mechanical, mindless exercises. For so many years, I had so bought into the idea of a cleaning crew that I never realized the absurdity. It was a knee-jerk habit – one just hires somebody. I have friends who told me that cleaning is beneath me, and that I should rather write more books. Don’t worry: I will. But for writing well, I need the balance of moving my body: And I will do it with broom, mop and duster.

Another Unproven Pearl: Fat - The Happiness Food

July 18, 2013

Tags: food, movement, Another Unproven Pearl- Fat - The Happiness Food, anti-depressant, brain, butter, butter fat, carbohydrates – simple, cholesterol, coconut oil, coffee, cream - whipped, depression, endomorphins, exercise, Europe, fat, fat-phobic, ghee, happiness, happiness molecules, ice cream, obesity, oil, olive oil, pudding, sugar, suicide, Vienna, weight, World War II

Studies have shown that higher fat deposits in the body are found in people who have major depression. But is eating fat the reason of depression? Or is it moving and exercising less? (We know that movement manufactures endomorphins – happiness molecules) Or is it that anti-depressants increase weight? (A well-known and lamentable fact).

Eating good fats – even in higher amounts – does not necessarily make you fat. Fat increases satiety, and fat seems to make people happier. At least, some people – and I am definitely among them. As a child, I would arm myself with a spoon and raid the pantry, eating butter as if it was a pudding or ice cream. As it was after World War II in Europe, and food was scarce, my family was not happy! Today, sitting in a Vienna park, I was drinking a coffee with whipped cream, I was happy. Of course, sitting in a park on a sunny day might be reason alone to feel good, but the non-sweetened whipped cream clearly added to my happiness.

Our brains are mostly fat. No wonder that my brain likes whipped cream. Unfortunately, I have not found any studies supporting my theory. Except that it is know that too low cholesterol might lead to depression and suicide. But in our fat-phobic society, many people deny themselves healthy fats: butter fat (ghee), olive oil, coconut oil - on the whole, we prefer the sugar high to the deep satisfaction of fat happiness. If you ask me, we should deny ourselves sugar and simple carbohydrates (meaning: ice cream!). But we should bathe our foods in oils and good fats, and should indulge occasionally in whipped cream. Fat doesn’t make fat. Sugar makes fat. Not moving makes fat.

Anybody who wants to study this??,

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.

Golden Beach

July 1, 2012

Tags: water, movement, abalone, antibacterial, antifungal, asphalt, balance, barefoot walking, beach, beauty follows function, Black Beach, body, bone strength, California, coconut oil, danger, drowning, feet, force of water, fun, glitter, gold, Golden Beach, leather, Massachusetts, massage, mica, mineral, mood enhancer, petrolatum, petroleum-derived, Plum Island, rock, sand, sandals, shoe, shoe shine, silicate, skin, skin scrape, sparkle, submerging, sun, sun hat, Sunday walk, swimming, Vaseline, vitamin D, wading, walking, wave, wave breaker, workout

Today we went to Plum Island/Massachusetts for a long Sunday walk on the beach – and I nearly drowned. I can’t blame anybody but myself. I thought I had found an easy wading spot through the big rocks of a wave breaker – as my husband did the reasonable thing and walked around it. While I balanced on one foot, trying to find a landing spot for the other, a wave pulled the sand out under me, tossing me back and forth between the rocks like a toy – I have scrapes up and down my side to prove that I underestimated the force of water squeezing through a tight space. At least, I should have dropped my towel to be able to hold onto a rock with both hands. But I didn’t because one doesn’t throw out a still pretty good towel …

Although I had wanted to swim, I had not planned it in such a fashion. The nice couple that fished me out of my predicament before my husband even suspected that I was in danger, told me they knew there was a problem when my legs stuck out from the water higher than my head. In spite of total submerging, I did not even lose my sun hat! But I was pounded on the rocks like an abalone waiting to be served, and for a moment I feared I would drown in this ridiculous situation: feet up, head under water, trying to save an old towel.

Last winter, we had hiked Black Beach in California. This beach today was golden. Firstly, the sand is white with many sprinkles of yellow. And then, in the sun, I observed a beautiful spectacle: The incoming waves glittered and sparkled like gold. Silt was tumbling in with each breaking wave, and it must contain – all that glitters is not gold – mica. Mica is sheet silicate, a mineral. And then I saw the mica on the wet sand flash and shine, too. A really golden beach – or, at least, I call it Golden Beach now.

After my mishap, we continued walking the beach and the waves for several miles (me with that huge pink sun hat, and a good sunscreen applied to my legs). Walking barefoot on sand is about the best thing you can do for your feet – they get a much better massage and workout than walking in shoes and walking on asphalt. In the body, beauty follows function – and a well-used foot is a beautiful foot.

Walking at a seaside has other health benefits: fun and sun. Light induces the manufacturing of vitamin D under your skin, which helps you to stronger bones – to which the walking itself already attributes. Sun and water are easy mood enhancers.

- Only marginally related, but it still has to do with feet: For a time now I have observed the marvelous effects of coconut oil on the skin, its antifungal and antibacterial actions. I also noticed that my sandals now always look freshly shined – in spite that I never have the time or energy to shine shoes. It seemed as if the coconut oil from my feet would end up in my shoes and then – miraculously – wander to the outside leather, and make the dirt fall off. My shoes suddenly look so cared for.

Yesterday, I did an experiment: I slipped into some rather dirty old sandals after I had slathered coconut oil on my feet in the morning; the sandals were still very dusty from our last walk around the pond, on sand and gravel. And sure enough, I can already see, after a single application, that the trick worked here again: The shoes clean themselves from the inside out.

Remarkable as it is, I am more interested what it tells me about coconut on my skin: It will penetrate everywhere, and does it good healing work. Other than, say, Vaseline (or petrolatum), the petroleum-derived product. It covers an area of skin, but adds much less to the healing process.

Bike Month

May 19, 2012

Tags: movement, accidents, back rack, balance, basket, bicycling, bike bell, Bike Month, biking, biking rules, bowel movement, car, cardiovascular health, cello, constipation, coordination, cycling, Earth, endurance, handlebar, heart health, helmet, Google Maps, immune system, Italy, Kegel exercises, longevity, May, muscle strength, muscle tone, National Biking Month, neck strain, obesity, overweight, pelvic area, racing, recuperating, reflector, rental bike, Romans, Rome, stamina, traffic, Via Appia antica, health benefits of bicycling, outdoors, mood booster, light, sunshine, vitamin D, weight problem

May is “National Biking Month”. I celebrated today to pick up my cello from the string shop (it had needed re-hairing) by bike – something I had not done before.

I had not used my bike on that route before because most of the 2.8-mile drive there is on a very busy – to me meaning: dangerous – road, with horrendous traffic. I set out anyway, and found out that there is a path along the highway, mostly hidden in the bushes, much safer than riding on the highway itself. Although it was narrow and overgrown – I had twigs whipping my face and lots of distracting dirt and debris underfoot, oh, underwheel.

But it was doable. Google Maps thought I should be able to paddle the 2.8 miles in 16 minutes. It took me about 25. But the weather was as gorgeous as one expects of May, and it gave me a wonderful work-out.

Here are my rules I stick to:

• I never go without helmet.
• I don’t bike two days in a row because I want to give my muscles a day for recuperating in between.
• I don’t bike when I am in a hurry – because that’s when accidents happen.

My bike needed a few adjustments before I could use it for errands like shopping. I had a rack installed in the back, with a basket. And I needed an old-fashioned handlebar. The original one seemed to be made for a racer – which I am not. The new one is comfortable and does not strain my neck. The other day, when we were in Rome, we took bikes along the Via Appia antica – the old road build by the Romans more than two thousand years ago. My Italian bike had one of those comfortable handlebars. And, by the way, those bikes were rented – free of charge. Wish we would have that system here! The Via Appia ride will be unforgettable!

And for the very occasional use during dusk (I don’t anticipate driving at night), I plastered the bike with a set of reflectors. And I bought a fun bike bell – just like I had as a child!

These are some of the health benefits of bicycling:
1. Gets you outdoors.
2. Improves your mood.
3. Gives you light and sunshine for vitamin D repletion.
4. Fights overweight.
5. Moves your bowels better.
6. Strengthens your heart.
7. Builds up your muscles – strength as well as muscle tone.
8. Tones your pelvic area (and is more fun than Kegel exercises!).
9. Improves coordination and balance.
10. Promotes longevity.
11. Increases endurance and stamina.
12. Boosts your immune system.

Riding a bike is one of the healthiest choices you can make for yourself and for our Earth – as long as you avoid being run over by a car!

Sebastian Kneipp’s Birthday

May 17, 2012

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, Bavaria, birthday, cheer, flowers, fruit, friendship, green tea, Germany, Kneipp – Sebastian (1821 to 1897), My Water Cure, Sebastian Kneipp’s Birthday, writing

Sebastian Kneipp’s was born on May 17th 1821, in a tiny village in Bavaria/Germany. Why does it matter?

Her brought the world the Five Health Essentials: Water, movement, food, herbs, order. Not they didn’t exist before – but he opened, in his very gruff way, the world’s eyes to natural health, which is always there, up for the grabs.

For me Sebastian Kneipp has a special importance: When I opened his book “My Water Cure” in the original, many years ago and just out of curiosity, I suddenly burned bringing his insights to my patients here, to this country – and that is how Sebastian Kneipp made me write my first book. And, yes, you pronounce the “K” in his name. No, not “Ka-nipe”; it makes just one syllable with an audible “K”: “Knipe”.

Long after I had started writing about Sebastian Kneipp I realized that he shared his birthday with my father. Here’s to them!

I will celebrate Sebastian Kneipp’s birthday by riding my bike to a sick friend’s house, delivering some flowers, fruit and cheer. In this last sentence, I packed movement, food and order – already three of Kneipp’s principles. If I throw in a package of green tea to what I will bring my friend, that adds water and herbs.

All what we need: water, movement, food, herbs, order – to stay healthy.

The Five Health Essentials – Again

May 14, 2012

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, art, breathing, building block, boredom, cold shower, death, digestion, elements – exposure to, energy, freedom-loving country, hatred, life, mood, moving, muscle, music, natural order, nourishment, plants, protein, rejoice, relationships, relaxation, repair, rest, rest, repair and rejoice - order, sleep, sloth, The Five Health Essentials – Again, vegetal, waste, wellbeing

Water, movement, food, herbs and order are the five important areas you have to pay attention to if you want to be healthy.

Why does Natural Medicine promote exactly these five? It becomes clearer if we regroup them into a set of three:

1. Water and movement are needed to remind your body that it is still required to be alive. If you don’t move, and if you are not exposed to the elements (mostly cold), your body could as well not exist. A cold shower after a warm one reminds your body that it is still alive – that is why you come out of the cold shower brimming with energy, life and good mood. The same applies for movement. Life basically is movement – we diagnose death mostly by someone not moving, not breathing.
2. Food and herbs provide the building blocks so that this moving, breathing body is nourished and kept alive. What you eat is going into forming your body of tomorrow, it is essential to offer clean, fresh, mostly vegetal foods (plants) to your body – with enough proteins so that your body does not start to digest its own muscles.
3. Order – which always sounds strange in our freedom-loving country – is really about natural order: Rest, repair and rejoice are the three functions that go into the order category: Sleep, relaxation, relationships, art, music – whatever makes your life good adds to your wellbeing. In the long run, you can’t be well if you run your life against the natural grain with waste, hatred, boredom, sloth.

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.

Cancer – From Another Perspective

April 29, 2012

Tags: order, movement, food, Cancer – From Another Perspective, cancer, cancer cell, cancerous growth, cell, computer, death, degenerative disease, disease, drug use, exercise, extinction, genetic disposition, genome, habits - bad, health, jumping, love, Natural Medicine, nutrition, organism, relationships, science, sleep deficit, statistics, stress, survival, TV, work habits

Science now thinks that cancer cells use a very ancient mechanism when they invade a body: It seems cancer cells are descendants of single cells that integrated themselves into our genome. Whenever the whole organism is threatened by extinction, at least the cancer cells may have a shot at survival.

If one reverses the point of view: As long as your body is healthy, those ancient single cells have no business to stir and take over as cancerous growth. Let your body go to the dogs, however, and you give the cancer cells an edge.

This is what Natural Medicine has taught for a long time: That cancer is a degenerative disease, and that it develops in a pre-diseased body.

Not to get into the intricacies of genetic disposition to certain cancers (which can’t be disputed), it is nevertheless a fresh perspective on our old bodies in health and disease: Keep this temple of your well-being in good shape, and you have a chance at a long, good life. Run down your body with poor nutrition, hours in front of TV or computer, no exercise, too little sleep, lots of stress from relationships, work habits, drug use, and so on – and you might reap what you sow.

Of course, this is statistics speaking. For the individual a bad disease sometimes just means bad luck. Sometimes. More often disease stems from bad habits.

Get up right now and jump up and down twenty-one times – give no chance to those nasty single cells that are still asleep! Another way to put it: Love your body – it is the only one you have.

Bike Friday

March 24, 2012

Tags: movement, backpack, back rack, biking, bike shop people, bicycle, Bike Friday, Boston, car, exercise, folding bike, front basket, global warming, groceries, heat wave, helmet - biking, hilly terrain, knee pain, March, materials chemist, outdoors, pannier bag, plastic foam, Subaru, UV light

My car broke down – for good. A week before we wanted to give it away to a charity anyway. A still had the last car, my trusted sixteen-year old Subaru in the garage, but a had to go and register it. So, I reactivated my bike.

That’s not quite precise. I had never really used it because ten years ago, when it was brand-new, I worried it would be stolen. It is bright red, and folds to a rather neat parcel if needed. Because I am small and tend to topple with bigger bikes, this has small wheels; it fits me perfectly well. Now that it isn’t brand-new any longer, I dare leave it outside a store, locked of course, with an extra heavy lock.

Of course, this all happened when we had an eighty-five degree heat wave (in Boston, in mid-March! And there are still people who deny the reality of global warming …), and we live on a rather steep hill. Come to think about it: The hill was probably the other reason why I never quite took to biking regularly.

But now I am back into the swing. It is wonderful! I am getting exercise while I am outdoors. Within a day, I could feel the difference in toning my legs, and feeling more alive (not to mention PROUD!). I don’t take the fastest routes, but plan my way along beautiful streets. And not too steep hills, if possible. On a bike, you are closer to the street life than in a car: You see more, smell more, hear more, experience more! Other bikers smile at you because the recognize you as one of theirs: One of the people who want to make the world a better place.

The bike is called Bike Friday – that’s the brand name. Why I mention it? No, they don’t pay me. But there is also a movement called “Bike Friday(s)!” – meaning: On Fridays, instead of taking the car to work, bike to work – if possible. A brilliant idea – to give riding your bike a chance just once. After that, you might be hooked and will to want to ride your bike every Friday. Or every day. Think of the possibilities!

Same as with with running, I don’t do biking every day. Because of the really tough hill, I think I should not overtax my knees and give them a break. So, I bike only every other day. But if you live in flatter terrain, there is no reason to not bike daily. Unless it’s snowy.

Sure, I got a new helmet. I was not aware that the plastic foam of which helmets are made deteriorates rather soon in UV light, and that they should therefore be renewed every three years. Sounds rather excessive and expensive to me, but I am not a materials chemist, so I have to take the bike shop people (who, by the way, were extremely nice and patient) by their word. After a really bad bang you have to get a new helmet, too – the material is made for absorbing a good hit – but not several. Sounds

The only problem that I haven’t solved: Since this is a folding bike, there is no place to put a back rack or a front basket or pannier bags on it. For the time being, I am carrying my groceries in a backpack. Which doesn’t make it any easier to negotiate the hill. Anybody has an idea?

To Mammogram, Or Not To Mammogram

January 31, 2012

Tags: order, movement, food, herbs, water, animal flesh consumption, breast cancer, breast cancer - surgery, breast cancer treatment, cancer - aggressiveness, cancerous cell, cancer prevention, cardio-vascular health, cold shower, daylight, diet, dying of cancer, environmental pollution, exercise, family history of breast cancer, fluoroscopy, heart disease, immune system, lifestyle, lumpectomy, mammogram, mastectomy, medicine, prostate cancer, radiation, science, sitzbath - cold, sleep before midnight, smoothie - green, thyroid cancer, To Mammogram, Or Not To Mammogram, tuberculosis, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian, vitamin D, walking

About this subject I do write with trepidation – as the right answers are still not known – medicine and science have not advanced far enough to let us make rational decisions. In actuality, regarding mammograms, we are living in something like medieval times.

Do mammograms help prevent cancer? No, they don’t. They do find some cancers. But they also “find” an unacceptably high number of “cancers” that aren’t cancers - false positives. For which women then undergo unnecessary treatment.

Do mammograms prevent deaths from cancer? The answer is amazingly unclear: For the longest time – basically for the entire twentieth century - namely since the advent of radical mastectomy, breast cancer death numbers didn’t budge. In the last few years, we seem to make a little dent. But it is not clear to me if it comes from therapies, or from better lifestyles that women have adopted - similar to the improvement of cardio-vascular health that happened mostly in the kitchen and the gym, not in the doctor’s office.

For thirteen years now I have not done a mammogram. Not because I try to be reckless, but because I have my doubts. In a way, I am sticking my head in the sand (breast cancer runs in my family). On the other hand, I have a history of heavy radiation as a child, and mammogram certainly is adding to my risk to develop breast cancer. You could say that I made a decision rather to die of breast cancer than from breast cancer treatment. You don’t have to follow me here – or rather, I don’t want you to follow me here because I shudder of the responsibility I would take on if I talked you out of mammograms. In reality, I always encourage my patients to have their yearly mammograms – regardless of the personal doubts I am harboring.

Because of my childhood radiation history – I had bad tuberculosis as a child with tons of fluoroscopy - my decision not to add any more radiation (I also have myself padded down at airports rather than going through the screening machines) is not applicable to everyone. In addition, I had mammograms since age eighteen every year because of lumps (and twice had lumps removed that turned out to be benign. So, I had an unusual number of mammograms - enough for a lifetime, I think. My doctors, because of my history, are basically waiting for me to develop breast or thyroid cancer. But over the years I came to realize that the real causes for breast cancer - diet, exercise and environmental pollution, including radiation - are not addressed by physicians and authorities. But I want to encourage every woman to come to her own decision. Every case has different variables.

Lately I am also changing my thinking about cancer generally - not that one person has it, and the other person doesn't have it. Truth is, at a certain age, we probably are all always having cancerous cells in us, and keeping them at bay as best as we can we good lifestyle habits seems to be much more important. - I also have a body that would react badly to any kind of treatment - so I rather am putting my energy into a good lifestyle. And cancers in later years are often less aggressive than cancer in children and young adults.

And a last thought: Medicine is yet is unable to differ between "bad" cancer and "good" cancer - we don't know which one will explode and kill a patient. So we are working with big guns on all cancers. It seems to me that surviving cancer has more to do with which type your cancer is and how good your immune system works than with any treatment. This argument is also very applicable to prostate cancer in men.

If I would find a lump, I certainly would have it removed surgically. If I get "exploding" cancer, I hope I will die gracefully. Not knowing if I already have such a time bomb inside me, I make sure I walk every day during daylight to get my daily dose of vitamin D and exercise, I eat my veggies and drink my green smoothie, I keep my animal flesh consumption low (but I don’t advocate vegetarian or vegan lifestyles), I take a daily cold shower or cold sitzbath to strengthen my immune system, and I make sure I sleep long before midnight so that my body can catch bad cells and repair what is broken – before it explodes.

The rest is not in my hands.

Bone Health

January 26, 2012

Tags: order, food, movement, herbs, bone, Bone Health, calcium, celiac disease, cleaning out the garage, declutter, fruit, gastro-intestinal problems, gluten sensitivity, grains - whole, greens, light, legumes, minerals, nuts, osteoporosis, osteoporosis - unexplained, parathyroid gland, plants, PTH, repair of the body, skin, sleep before midnight, sun, TCM, thyroid health, Traditional Chinese Medicine, vegetables, vitamin D, walking, working in the garden

We have talked about bone health before. But is comes up all the time. Here my thoughts:

• Light: A daily walk, sun or clouds for making vitamin under the skin. How high is your vitamin D level (blood test)? Should be over 40.
• Greens and other vegetables build bones. All plant material gives calcium plus all the other minerals needed for bone health. Fruit, nuts, herbs, legumes and whole grains are good, too – in moderate amounts.
• Avoid dairy and too much meat because their acidity leaches calcium out of the bones.
• Daily movement is important. Walking is probably the best. But anything helps – like cleaning out the garage or the attic, working in the garden.
• Sufficient sleep before midnight. Repair time in the body, according to Chinese Medicine, is between 11 pm and 1 am. If you are not asleep, repair can’t take place.
• Is your thyroid working normally? Over-activity leads to bone loss.
• Similar with the parathyroid glands: Make sure your PTH is in range. Is relatively rare – but an often overlooked problem.
• Unrecognized gluten problems can lead to osteoporosis. It turns out that half of all celiac patients have NO gastro0intestinal symptoms. So, it can unrecognized forever. Unrecognized gluten sensitivity is the most common cause of unexplained osteoporosis. Unfortunately, the tests are not 100% reliable – but a test is a beginning.

龙年快乐Happy Dragon Year 2012!

January 23, 2012

Tags: order, food, movement, herbs, abundance, alternative medicine, anti-depressants, art, arthritis, bacon, body and soul, books, brain, brownies, California, car, career, children - playtime, Chinese, Chinese New Year, church group, coconut oil, colleague, community, computer, consumption, cookies, cravings, cream puff, dancing, dairy, depression, deviled eggs, diabetes, diabesity, diet, dragon year, Earth, eating alone, eating at a table, eggs, epigenetics, family, fat, fat phobia, feelings - hurt, fish oil, foie gras, fresh foods, food - subsidized, friends, game boy, garlic, genetics, grandchildren, grandmother, greens - cooked, happiness, health care costs, health care - evidence-based, health - real, heart disease, hen, house - heavily mortgaged, hugging, Hyman – Mark (1958 to), ice cream, icing, laughter, lifestyle, 龙年快乐, 龙年快乐Happy Dragon Year 2012!, looking good, lunch hour, meat, mother, music, national health care system, new year, obesity, olive oil, organic, outside playing, over-population, overweight, “Own Your Health”, pancake, parents, pepper and salt, potluck, problem – solution, public office, relationship, San Diego, science, Scripps Conference, Seneca (4 BC to 65 AD), Shaw - George Bernard (1856 to 1950), sleep, solution - problem, starches - white, stroke, sugar, supplements - natural, tax dollars, tears, tribe, TV, TV key, village, walking, water - clean, Weisman –Roanne (1952 to)

The Chinese New Year begins today – time for miscellaneous thoughts and new resolutions!

龙年快乐 read character by character, means “dragon year happy happy” – pronounced long nian kuai le. What I find fascinating is that both “happy” terms are spoken with a down tone. In my ear that double happy-happy sounds less than a Western easygoing, lucky-feeling happy but grimly determined: You better be happy – or else! I might be over-stating it, but to me the Chinese kuai! le! shows perfectly the difference in the Chinese approach to ours: We expect happiness, well, to “happen”, for instance in a relationship. The Chinese know it is hard work …

Just finished the Scripps Conference on Natural Supplements here in San Diego – taking advantage to me being right here in California (for only another week now!). Here are some thoughts I am carrying home from that wonderful conference:

• Listening to the results of modern science (the conference was for physicians and health practitioners and the talks were evidence-based – using modern science; no touchy-feely mumbo-jumbo). It seems, my thoughts on health have well held up during those many years I am thinking about what our bodies and souls need. The only point where I am more radical is in fat consumption: Most health practitioners are still fat-phobic. I am not talking bacon dripping fat, ice cream and cream puffs here – I am talking olive oil, coconut oil, fish oil, and never say no! if somebody puts foie gras on your plate – it doesn’t happen that often! - George Bernard Shaw (1856 to 1950) had this to say: “No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office“.

• Let’s correct that touchy-feely part: Turns out, we alternative practitioners know that body and soul belong together, and at the conference there was a healthy amount of hugging, laughter and tears going on. Because if one thing has become clear – through our old failings and brand-new science: One can’t go it alone. As a physician, I need like-minded colleagues; as a fat person, you need friends, family, community around you to make a dent in your weight – or whatever health problem you are tackling in the moment.

• Obesity is a good guess of mine because, firstly, now more than a quarter of Americans are grossly overweight – half are only overweight - and all conditions that physicians usually label as single diseases are coming together: heart disease, diabetes, depression, arthritis, obesity (Mark Hyman called it aptly “diabesity”), cancer – they are ALL ONE, namely a wrong lifestyle. Wrong food, heavily subsidized and advertised by your own government, with your own tax dollars. Time to take matters into your hands and “own your health”! “Own Your Health”, of course, is the title of Roanne Weisman’s book about alternative medicine. She wrote it after overcoming a stroke with the help of many different alternatives, after mainstream medicine had told her she would stay disabled and had to adjust to it. Boy, were they wrong!

• The old excuse that it is “all in the genes” cannot be used anymore. Yes, a lot of your weight might be determined by your genes – but only if you allow it to be so. The new science of epigenetics teaches us that genes can be switched on and be switched on – and guess, who does the switching? Your food does it, and you moving your butt around, that does it. Isn’t it marvelous?

• It takes a village to raise a child – you have heard it. It also takes a village, or a tribe, or your church group to change your health habits. Line up with a friend to start walking during lunch hour – five minutes in one direction, five minutes back. And be part of the solution, not the problem: Whenever you bring cookies or brownies or a potluck – don’t go to the old recipes! Explore new options without sugar, dairy, white starches. I always see that deviled eggs are the favorite of everybody – and they is nothing wrong with eggs, especially if the are organic, from free-walking hens. Bring cooked greens with olive oil and garlic, pepper and salt – they are delicious cold or hot! Educate your friends – don’t give in to their sugar-icing cravings! They will thank you.

• If we would not eat alone and always at a table (not in the car, not in front of TV, not in bed), we likely would be slimmer. In olden times, if you grabbed the biggest piece of meat, your mom would slap you and say: “Don’t be greedy!” If you asked for your fifth pancake, your grandma would say sharply: “Now is enough, dear!” And since nobody catered to their little hurt feelings, children found home less congenial than the outside and their friends. We always asked if we could go “outside” – whatever it was, it was not inside with the parents (your parents made you uncomfortable because they always wanted to prepared you for life), and it was not in front of TV, computer or game boy. When I was a child, our first TV came with a key – whatever happened to THAT technology?? - and we children could not even turn it on when the grown-ups were out working. Of course, we children soon figured out that the key was kept in the bar, behind the bottles. But it was a high-risk gamble – and TV was never half as exciting as our friends outside. We had one fat girl in class, in all of my thirteen years of school. And that poor girl, we all pitied her – but we wouldn’t play with her.

• “This body is not a home but an inn, and that only briefly.” Seneca (4 BC to 65 AD) said that. I think we have to start talking about what is needed: That people take their own health in their hands. Your doctors can only assist you – not do the work for you. So let’s start by calling fat “fat” – no more pussyfooting around it; physicians have long enough colluded with patients and avoided the “F” word: “I won’t call you fat, if you stay my patient”. The health care system is falling apart under the burden of health care costs brought about by overweight people (don’t forget – I still am for a national health care system!), the Earth is brought down under the burden of too many people who consume too much, and all our wealth so far has brought us very little real happiness it seems – if we judge by how many people are on anti-depressants.

• Bad news: Before you die of being overweight, the Earth might have died of pollution. Definitely, future generations – they are your kids, my kids, our kids and grandkids! – are in danger. Newborn babies have been found to have more than 200 industrial chemicals in their umbilical cord blood, right when they are born. The womb has not protected them. We are finding out the hard way that you can’t dump dirt there, and assume you are safe here. We all have only this one Earth – and do you want to be responsible for babies born with birth defects? Global warming is real – so is overpopulation and increasing environmental diseases.

• And what do they mean by “natural supplements”? I am glad to report that they do not mean artificially manufactured vitamins or new-fangled molecules, but they promote (mostly – no industry is perfect!) clean, whole, fresh herbs preserved in a bottle of tincture or capsule as well as possible. And if you are waiting for that miracle pill that might do the work for you – dream on! Real health is work. And didn’t you know it: Being sick sucks much worse.


Real health takes very little: A bit clean water, a few simple, fresh foods, a good night’s sleep – every night, a few herbs to treat little things early, abundance and walking and dancing and laughter with friends. Music, art, books. Ask more of this life just than a heavily mortgaged house, a car and a career!

A happy, hard-working New Year to you!

Offerings And Gluttony

December 7, 2011

Tags: food, water, movement, air, baby-sitting, back rub, books, breathing, cabbage, cake, candy, carrot, charities, coconut oil, cookies, cooking from scratch, diet, dog-walking, Earth, family, fat, flowers, food shopping, fried, friends, garden work, gift cards, gifting stress, gifts, gluttony, gratefulness, green beans, health, holidays, holiday meal, hot water, hydrogenated, ice cream, kale, kidneys, lettuce, lungs, meat, money, music, offerings, Offerings And Gluttony, olive oil, overeating, people in need, peppers, plenty, presents, processed, protein, season survival, second helpings, self-made jam, sharing, starches - simple, Star of Bethlehem, starvation, surviving the holidays, tea, time, tomato, Universe, variety, vegetable, voucher, walking

Bad news: The holidays are terrible for your health. Good news: The original thought behind the present shopping frenzy was divine: Be grateful for the offerings life hands you out all the time.

This season always overwhelms me, and to survive it seems to get harder each year. This is what helps me – it can be done anytime, anywhere:

Sit or stand with your palms turned up. Breathe in, breathe out. Notice how the Universe is there for you with all its plenty. Take the air into your lungs as a present. Take the water from your faucet as a present. Take your family and your friends as a present (as exasperating they might feel at times). If there are no family, no friends in your life, open your eyes: There are bound to be some – at least one – among the ten billion people on Earth who is destined for you (but you might have to go searching for them – the magi didn’t wait for the Star of Bethlehem to come to them). There are always people who are needier than you, as dire as you might see your situation now.

Be grateful for the tiniest thing: That is the message of the holiday season. Take the offerings, and share them.

AND the other problem linked to the season: gluttony. For this one high feats in the year, allow yourself gluttony. Enjoy it! It was invented for that: so that the rest you the year you can endure the drab and being reasonable. In olden times, naturally, starvation set, with scarce resources, and set the balance right. Nowadays, we have to use our brains because starvation is not likely to come to our help.

Here a few survival rules:

1. Don’t start a new diet big time around this time of the year! Instead celebrate with all your heart, and with all your friends and the whole bunch of your family. You don’t want to stand around munching on a lettuce leaf while everyone else is having a ball.
2. Don’t do second helpings – just DON’T. NEVER. Sample every variety, but don’t go back.
3. If you overeat, overeat on meat and fat – not on simple starches. Cut down on cookies, candy, cake, ice cream, and so on. Listen: I said: Cut down! Not: Avoid them altogether. After all, this is a wonderful season.
4. If you overeat meat: Drink lots of hot water or tea because the protein might otherwise hurt your kidneys.
5. If you eat fatty things, make sure that the fat is healthy: Nothing fried, nothing processed, nothing hydrogenated. Olive oil and coconut oil are actually good for you. Best, of course, is you cook your holiday meals from scratch – then you know what went in.
6. If you want to be extra goodie-good: Overeat on vegetables: Green beans, red cabbage, colored peppers, purple kale, red tomatoes, orange carrots. They will help you to get through the holidays. By the way: There are no restrictions on vegetables – you can have as many helpings as you want!
7. And after each heavy meal, take friends and family for a walk.
8. And against the gifting stress: It is always good to keep it simple: self-made jam, if you still have some. The old stand-byes: Books, music, flowers. The new stand-byes: charities and gift cards.And if you have no money, offer your time: a voucher for a back rub, baby-sitting, dog-walking, garden work is always appreciated.

Minimal Exercise Program

December 5, 2011

Tags: movement, anti-aging, arm exercise, back exercise, balance, ball – weighted, barefoot walking, bedridden, Black Beach, body pampering, bone mass, boredom, Boston, bowels - massaging, brushing teeth, cello, California, Chinese, constipation, daily exercise program, death, double chin, elderly, exercise program, exercises en-passant, falls in the elderly, family, fire, Five Tibetans, friends, garden, gentle exercise, German, gluten intolerance, gym machine, hip fracture, hypothermia, imbalance, immune-stimulating, immune system, injury, jogging, Kegel exercises, knee bends, leg strengthening, lower back pain, marathon, marriage, mindfulness, mindless exercise, minimal, Minimal Exercise Program, muscles, neck strengthening, osteopenia, osteoporosis, overexertion, painting, pelvic muscles, pinyin, pneumonia, pool, posture, reading, ruptured muscles, San Diego, sex, shadow boxing, soul pampering, spine, sports medicine, squeezing of shoulder blades, standing on one leg, swimming on dry, tai chi, tai ji, talking, tongue exercise, toning, traveling, triathlon, TV, upper back muscles, walking, warmth, writing, yoga

Reasons why I keep my exercise program as minimal as possible:

1. Exercise is boring.
2. Too much exercise may easily lead to injuries: We now have a medical specialty called “sports medicine”. If we didn’t overdo exercises, we would not need sports medicine. Using those modern gym machines while watching TV is a mindless enterprise. And as things go around, they come around – you could end up hurting yourself.
3. Definitely, there are more interesting things to do – playing cello, writing a book, reading tons of books, dabble with colors and brushes, being with family and friends, learning Chinese – to name a few.

On the other hand, I do have bad posture – inborn (many years of unrecognized gluten intolerance that weakened my muscles), and from years of being bedridden as a young person. Movement creates fire and warmth inside, without which we would not be alive. We need to move yes, but nowhere is it written that we need to jog or overexert ourselves in bad ways.

My exercise program changes all the time – I am always on the lookout for something faster and better. You might remember how much I liked the Five Tibetans – until I developed lower back pain. Recently I had to abandon my laps in the unheated Californian pool; the temperature got too low. I still jump in from time to time, just to get the immune-stimulating jolt of the cold water. But I can’t get my exercise that way anymore - danger of hypothermia and ruptured muscles.

Of course, back in Boston, I work in the garden and go to yoga classes, and have a house to tend to. Here, in this tiny apartment, I had nothing comparable – so far. Until last week , when I joined tai chi classes – or as it is called in proper pinyin Chinese: tai ji. In German, tai chi is called “shadow boxing” – and that describes well those flowing, artful movements I now try to learn. Emphasis on “try”: This is not my first time; in the past, I always had trouble remembering the sequence of movements. This time around, I will not even try to learn the sequence; I will just mimic my teacher and lose myself in the flow of gestures. Because, in the two more months we will stay in San Diego, how much can I really learn? Not much.

But in the first lesson, I already learned an important movement, which I now practice every time I pass by a mirror and notice how bent I have gotten up from my studies. Which makes two little exercises which I do in en-passant, not putting in extra time:

1. This squeezing of my shoulder blades that immediately makes me more upright. Firstly, it is a simple reminder; secondly, the squeezing loosens the muscles of the upper back and prevents that my head slowly vanishes between my shoulders like the head of a turtle in its shell.
2. Standing on one leg – especially while brushing my teeth, or waiting and whiling time away. This is good for balance, and for strengthening leg and pelvic muscles. Imbalance is what kills the elderly: Imbalance – fall – hip fracture – pneumonia – death; we physicians see it all the time. This exercise also increases bone mass in legs and spine, thus counteracting osteopenia and osteoporosis, thus preventing those nasty hip fractures. Standing on one leg is far more interesting and effective than Kegel exercises! Keeps your sex alive!

Not everything can be done on the go. So, I have this daily program – and don’t hold your breath! - each of these exercises takes less than a minute, and presently, I am doing six of them, each of them repeated 21 times. Twenty-one: That is the number of repetitions I have kept from the Five Tibetans. You can’t overdo much in twenty-one times, and twenty-one brings me just to the border of utter boredom.

1. Knee bends: Done wrongly, knee bends can hurt your knees. Therefore make sure that you are doing them right: Keep feet and knees together, keep knee caps over your toes, and don’t go deeper than you can easily do, but challenge yourself to go deeper with time. 21 times. Or, in the beginning, you might want to do this by holding on to something stable.
2. Arm exercise: Done with a small heavy ball. I have one of those weighted exercise balls – six pounds. When traveling, I am using my whale of a laptop – has nearly six pounds, too. Fill a plastic bottle with water (this is lighter), or find a heavy book. Slowly lift the ball (or whatever) with both hands and arms out-stretched, and bring it up above your head. Then bend your arms backward and down. Bring up your arms again, over your head and then down in front. Repeat this 21 times. It is good against arm flab, and strengthens the muscles of your upper back.
3. Back exercise: Stand tall. Take the ball in both hands behind you back and lift it upward 21 times. That will squeeze your shoulder blades and improves posture.
4. Swimming on dry: I started this after I had to leave the pool, because I missed the exercise that built up my upper back muscles. Come down on the floor on your belly, lift arms and legs slightly from the ground, and make swimming movements 21 times. A boon is that you are massaging your bowels in this position, which is good against constipation. Getting down on the floor daily acts also anti-aging.
5. Neck strengthening: This I do mornings and evenings in bed: Dig your heels and the lower part of your back head into the mattress. It feels like you arch your back in this position. Breathe in and out. It strengthens all back muscles, especially the upper back. It also works like a charm against a double chin.
6. Tongue exercise: This also helps to eliminate a double chin. Stretch out your tongue, 21 times.

One would think that a program this trifling would do nothing for the health of your body. On the contrary – I was never as toned and nimble as I am now, on this program. If however you are already doing triathlons or marathons: Stick with it, don’t listen to me … at least not until you come home injured. Then turn to my gentler method.

A big part of why this works is the mindfulness you practice all day: You stand on one leg while waiting for the bus. You get up from the computer and squeeze your shoulder blades. You are in the bathroom and stick out your tongue a few extra times. This program keeps you aware that you have a body, and your body needs attention and pampering, too. Moving your body gently pampers it. Lying down and doing nothing pampers your soul. There needs to be a balance between the two!

The other activity we do as often as we can, is walking. Here in San Diego, we have the beautiful Black Beach. If one removes shoes and socks and walks at the water line, in and out of the waves, it is great fun, and another great provocation to the immune system! And by walking and talking we keep our marriage afresh and alive.

The Thermometer Arrived – Finally!

November 9, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, air temperature, arm exercise, back exercise, blog, boring, bragging, California, cello, Chinese, cold shower, cooking, eating right, editing, exercising, faucet water, fresh produce, friend, functioning body, history, house work, husband, James – Henry (1843–1916), knee bend, La Jolla, language skills, life, music, novel, ocean temperature, perfect health, piano, pool lap, pool temperature, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), shopping, swimming, temperature, thermometer, The Thermometer Arrived – Finally!, “The Wings of the Dove”, traveling

My mail order thermometer arrived today. Now I can put numbers on my Californian shivering: The outside temperature today was 21C (70F), and the water temperature 16 (61F). When I take a cold shower, the water comes out of the faucet at 20C (68F) - much warmer than the pool. My guess had been that the pool temperature was at 60F – not too far off. Reportedly, the ocean temperature in La Jolla is just like my pool’s: 61F. I wish I had the ocean in front of my door …

It is getting harder and harder to go into the cold pool. Not so much because of the cold water but because the house is unheated, and taking a cold shower, toweling off, rubbing myself with coconut oil and then getting dressed takes up nearly half an hour - and all the time I am standing in the cold, shivering. Today I lit a candle in the small bathroom - not sure it raised the temperature, but it gave me the IMPRESSION of being a tad warmer.

Unfortunately, I will leave for nearly two weeks – traveling again. I wonder if I will be able to resume my good habit. Might be very hard – unless I buy a portable heater.

By the way! You hear me talking here mainly about healthy things like swimming, eating right, and so on, and I sound like a real bore, I know. But I do spend my days with far more interesting things than pursuing perfect health. In fact, I try to do AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE because, I too, find exercising boring – and stupid. But, there is no life unless you have a functioning body.

Today I made music with a friend all morning, she at the piano, I at the cello – that was heaven. I am re-editing my Sebastian Kneipp novel. I talked with my husband, family and friends. I read up on history. Also, I am reading Henry James’ “The Wings of the Dove”. And I am still making my way through the Chinese novel word by word (it will take a long time to finish that!), to improve my language skills. I cooked, shopped for fresh produce and did the usual house work.

I did my twenty-one laps in the pool, and twenty-one knee bends, twenty-one back exercises and twenty-one arm exercises. And then I sat down to brag about those little things on my blog. But those little things are not my life – they only make my life possible!

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?

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!

Brown Fat And My Californian Pool

October 31, 2011

Tags: water, movement, addiction, arms, baby, back, belly fat, blanket, blood vessel, brown fat, Brown Fat And My Californian Pool, California, calories, chlorine, coconut oil, cold exposure, cold - minor, cold shower, energy factories, exercise, fat - brown, fat – yellow, hand, husband, hypothermia, itching, knee bend, medical curiosity, metabolism, mitochondria, muscles, newborn, obesity, oxygenation, pool, posture, rash, skin, stubbornness, swimming, tea - hot with fresh ginger, warmth, water book, weight loss, yellow fat, iron, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), Kaltwasserkur, Cold Water Cure, winter, Danube River, tuberculosis, frailty

The experiment is still on: How long into the winter will I succeed to keep up my daily twenty-one laps in the pool?

So far, so good. The water is much colder now, but the days have been sunny and friendly – the fog lifted while we were at the East Coast.

Truthfully, lately it has been harder to face the pool: I am still battling a minor cold, and every day I have to decide if it is prudent to swim with the cold, or if I should just snuggle up in a warm blanket. But the exhilarating feeling after my daily swim – I seem to be addicted to it. I look full of vigor. My posture definitely is straighter. I am building up muscles where I never had any – on my back and my arms. Plus, the tiny belly I had is getting smoother (not smaller).

On the negative side is my skin. No outright rash or itching yet, but I have the suspicion that my skin looks a bit older, notwithstanding the coconut oil I slab all over me after each bath.

For a few days, I had been getting extremely cold after each swim, and couldn’t get warm at all. If you ever read my water book, you know that staying cold after water exposure is not a good idea. But with my inborn stubbornness (which might just get worse with age …) and medical curiosity, I kept doing what I should not have done: go swimming. And got colder and colder. In spite of the knee bends, blankets and hot tea with fresh ginger. Two nights in a row, I didn’t get warm all night – certainly not a healthy state!

Until yesterday. Shortly after I went swimming, had taken my short cold shower to get rid of the chlorine, had done my exercise, had rolled up in my blanket and imbibed the tea, I got really warm. Even my hands felt tingling with warmth. This lasted all night, and is still going on. I suddenly had the feeling that, for the first time in my life, that I was getting on the warm side in life. Like, where my husband always is.

Looking around for an explanation, I stumbled onto brown fat. Brown fat gets activated by cold. Brown fat is supposed to be healthier than yellow fat that just stores superfluous calories. Babies have more brown fat because it protects them from hypothermia – a constant threat for newborns.

Brown fat is not so much fat but is related to muscles. Brown fat is brown from the mitochondria and their iron contents; mitochondria are tiny energy factories. Brown fat has also more blood vessels for better oxygenation and is metabolically more active than yellow fat – it actually burns calories instead just storing them.

So, by swimming in the cool pool, I must have tapped into my brown fat – I can’t come up with any other explanation. And did you know? Brown fat is implemented in weight loss. Yes! Brown fat can make you lose weight – IF you have enough brown fat.

Sebastian Kneipp, the father of the Kaltwasserkur (Cold Water Cure) is famous for jumping into the wintry Danube River to cure his tuberculosis. Later, he modified his approach because he observed that some weakened patients were not able to withstand the bitter cold he himself had applied to his body. One could say he watered down his original approach … I had always repeated what I had been taught: that too much cold might be hazardous to your health. Which still might be true for frail people.

But I might be onto something here … I will let you know how this will work out.

P.S. After today's laps, I have very warm hands.

My Hospital Manifesto

October 30, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, acupuncture, antibiotics, art, blood test, caring, chemicals, cleaning, cleanliness, complementary medicine, conventional medicine, dairy, dialogue, die with dignity, disease, DNR, doctors, Do Not Resuscitate orders, Europe, family, financial resources, foodstuff, friendliness, Germany, herbal medicine, Hippocrates, hospital, hospital cafeteria, hospital double doors, hospital infection, hospital organization, hospital routine, housekeeping, hydrotherapy, journaling, last days of life, massage, medical school, medicine, moneymaking, movement, music, My Hospital Manifesto, national health insurance, nerd, nuns, nurses, nursing - scientific, nutrition, out-sourcing, paperwork, patient advocate, patient recovery, patients, pediatric, primary care physician, quiet, rounds, saving of money, students - brilliant, sugars, trans-fats, TV, under-served populations, very old, very sick, washing

If I would decide how hospitals are governed (and I don’t), these would be important points for me:

1. Food: Thy food be thy medicine – and vice versa – Hippocrates said. What is served as “food” in hospitals these times, is mostly abysmal and just goes to show that conventional medicine is not interested in really finding out the root cause of disease. In many cases, it is nutrition, stupid!
2. Cafeteria: Same for the place where all the visitors come and eat. It could be an educational experience, instead just another gorging with inferior foodstuff, filled with chemicals, trans-fats, sugars and dairy.
3. Quiet: When I was a child in Germany, and my father was a doctor, he used to take me on his rounds. Hospitals then were very quiet places. The nurses (often nuns) would walk on their rubber soles like on cushions, and they spoke with low voices. The doors to patient rooms were double doors – the patient had privacy and quiet.
4. What hasn’t changed much: That the hospital routine is not geared toward patient recovery but to a ward schedule convenient for doctors and nurses: Then as now patients are pulled out of sleep to measure their temperature or draw blood tests at four am. I would like to see more concern for the patient’s wellbeing than for the organization’s.
5. No TV in patient rooms: My guess is that at least seventy percent of all illness is self-inflicted. It used to be that being in the hospital was a time for contemplation about what brought one there. Not any longer – as TV is squeaking and squealing day and night.
6. Conventional and complementary medicines are BOTH used. There should be no bias toward the one or the other – what has been proven to work should be applied: Hydrotherapy, movement therapy, food, herbal medicine and art, music, journaling, acupuncture, massage, and so on – they all should be used to make patients better. As they are in most European hospital. And paid for by national health insurance. And, no, they are NOT going to be broke …
7. More cleanliness in the facilities. More cleanliness of the patients. Used to be that hospital were spic-and-span places where you could eat from the floor; not any longer. Instead of on cleanliness we trust in antibiotics – to our detriment. Same with patients’ cleanliness: Used to be that nurses washed the patients daily; not any longer. Nurses have gone scientific (necessarily so – but who is now responsible for caring?); the paperwork has become overwhelming. Housekeeping has been out-sourced. And simple ideas like a washing and cleaning have become obsolete. But hospital infections are skyrocketing.
8. More friendliness and caring toward the patient. The patient has become a moneymaking device.
9. Less care and resources to be spent on very old, very sick people in their last days of life – more on pediatric and under-served populations. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate orders discussed with every patient and/or every family). It will lead to savings of money and will allow people to die with dignity.
10. In medical schools, only half of the students should be A+ nerds; the other half should be people who really want to become doctors and patient advocates from all walks of life. We need very brilliant students because they push medicine’s frontiers ahead. But we also need caring primary care physicians. And putting them together in medical school will hopefully lead to a dialogue between them.

As I am thinking more about this, I might come up with more ideas. What would you wish to implement in the hospitals of the future?

Listen To Your Body

October 29, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, acupuncturist, addiction, advertisement, alcoholic, all-you-can-eat, arthritis, aspartame, asthma, beans, body, brain, breakfast, Brussels sprouts, buffet, caffeine, cereal, chocolate, cleansing, coconut oil, cold shower, craving, deli, dairy, deficiency, diet, diet coke, dinner, doctor, drinking booze, East Coast, exercise - moderate, fast meal, fat, fate, friend, GAIA, gut feeling, gym, hankering, health hype, health news, herbalist, herbs - women's, herbs - fresh or dried, homeopathy, hunch, hunch skills, husband, information maze, joint ache, junk food, left-overs, Listen To Your Body, lobster, M&Ms, marshmallow, meal - freshly cooked, meat, medical wisdom, medicine - conventional, mood, müsli, museum, natural, newspaper, nutmeg, official line, olive oil, onions, osteoarthritis, Own Your Health, passion, patients, pepper, phytogen, placebo effect, pool, pregnant, raisins, salt, scale, scientific breakthrough, sixth sense, sleep, soul, super-food, supplement, sweets, triathlon, thyroid, thyroidectomy, turkey, unscientific, vegan, veteran - homeless, vitamins, weight, Western diet, Weisman - Roanne, wine

A stalk of Brussels sprouts survived in my fridge while we were traveling to the East Coast. Last night, I suddenly had the vision that I would like to eat those green little roses – and of all things with raisins!

No clue where it came from. The sixth sense? But I knew I had to get up a bit earlier this morning to actually cook this strange breakfast for myself. Since the nearly twenty years I don’t indulge anymore in the ubiquitous müsli or cereal breakfast, I usually eat dinner left-overs or open a can of beans, throw in a handful of fresh or dried herbs, pepper and salt, and some olive oil – it is a fast meal, but no junk food.

At this point in my life, I take my gut feelings seriously. So I browned two large onions in coconut oil before I added the Brussels sprouts rosettes and a cup full of raisins. I let it simmer with some pepper and salt, until the rosettes were soft and the raisins plump. It was delicious – why had I never thought of adding raisins to this dish? The taste mingled the sharp black pepper and the sweet raisins to a new experience. Usually I serve Brussels sprouts with a good sprinkling of nutmeg.

Why do I take my hunches seriously? Because I figure my body wants to tell me about a slight deficiency. Of course I don’t follow hunches for marshmallows and M&Ms, because they are not natural – although I might turn to dark chocolate if I had a craving for something sweet.

Nearly thirty years ago I followed a hunch to visit a certain museum – five hundred miles away. And through that museum, I met my future (and now) husband … but that is a different story!

Why do I bring up something as unscientific as hunches?

Because daily we are bombarded by health news and scientific breakthroughs and advertisements for new super-foods – it is hard to find our way through this maze of information. I early on decided that I need to see – and feel – the difference in my body, my mood, my soul before I believe any new health hype.

For instance, I always craved more fat in my diet than medical wisdom allowed me to eat. It always seemed that my brain did not function well without enough fat – and I am talking good fats here, mostly olive oil. At that time, I was still timid and told my patients to stick to the official line in conventional medicine, namely to cut out fat. But secretly, I bathed my vegetables in all the fat I desired.

And interestingly, it was me who kept her weight since age twelve, not the people who had been advised differently. I was the one who weighed herself every day on a scale – contrary to what medicine was teaching at that time.

So, now, when you take a new supplement: Do you take it because your doctor/your herbalist/your acupuncturist/your friend/your newspaper told you so? Or because you feel suddenly so much better than before?

Over the years I found out that rarely do I feel better with ANY supplements. Exception are the phytogens (female herbs) by GAIA which I gave been taking for many years now. But I do feel better when I take my daily cold shower (or my daily laps across the pool), when I eat less at dinner and nothing thereafter, when I do moderate exercise throughout the day but feel miserable in the gym. I feel good about myself when I drop a small coin into the hand of a homeless veteran, but feel shabby when I argue to myself that he probably is an alcoholic who deserves his fate (nobody deserves that fate!!).

Over the years I found out that vitamins and homeopathy don’t do anything for me, but freshly cooked meals do. That leaving out dairy cured my asthma, and improved my osteoarthritis vastly. That I need about double as much sleep as my husband, and that I definitely need my small thyroid pill after half of my thyroid was taken out years ago. Without that tiny pill I turn into a nagging bitch (as my husband found out!).

Mind you, I don’t give in to silly cravings like drinking a ton of booze. But the occasional glass of wine seems to be fine. And when I was pregnant, I took very seriously my sudden hankering after lobster, and made my husband drive to a seafood restaurant late at night!

When one turns vegan, most people feel wonderful, initially. Because it is a cleansing diet, after the overload on meats, delis and dairy products of the Western diet. But do you still feel wonderful after a few years on this diet? Or do you believe the vegan ideology more than what your body tells you? Do you feel great after an all-you-can-eat buffet, or do you feel like a stuffed turkey? Do you feel great after a diet coke, or do you have the lingering suspicion you might be addicted to the aspartame and caffeine? Do you feel good after a triathlon, or do all your joints scream?

The big problem of course is that our brain can make us believe what we want to believe, deceivingly. It takes years of practicing your hunch skills before you can trust those wild notions coming out of nowhere. After all, there is something like the placebo effect, which may make you feel good erroneously – at least for a time.

But nobody else can answer the question “How are you?” – except you. Because every body is different, and only you can feel how you are. As my friend Roanne Weisman puts it: Own Your Health!

And, hey, I feel perfect today after Brussels sprouts with raisins!

Ibuprofen And Aplastic Anemia

October 16, 2011

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, water, ache, alcohol, anecdotal evidence, aplastic anemia, aspirin, bleeding risk, blood cell, bone marrow, bone marrow transplant, brain, cramps, culture, death, double-blind, drug, exercise, Europe, fresh foods, fibroids - uterine, Germany, GYN, headache, husband, ibuprofen, Ibuprofen And Aplastic Anemia, internal bleeding, kidneys, liver, menstrual cramps, natural method, painkiller, period, pills, placebo-controlled, platelet count, randomized, pain - root cause, salt, scientific study, skullcap, sleep, soft beverages, stomach lining, stroke - hemorrhagic, sugar, sun, TV

This is the story of a friend’s friend – no statistics behind it, no big scientific study double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled - nothing but anecdotal evidence (and you won't see a study done on this soon!). But a poignant story anyway, and a reminder:

A woman in her forties was in quite good health, as it seemed, until one day, she got weak and ill, and was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

Aplastic anemia is a very serious diagnosis. It means the bone marrow is not churning out the required number of blood cells necessary for survival, and her physicians recommend a bone marrow transplant to her.

One of the doctors told her that her platelet count was so low that she might start bleeding anytime (most worrisome is bleeding into the brain), and said that, as a minimum, she should stop all aspirin or ibuprofen (or any drug in that family of painkillers) as those might increase the bleeding risk.

Now this woman had taken high doses of ibuprofen on the advice of her GYN doctor for uterine fibroids and terrible cramps. She heeded the advice, stopped all pills, and slowly but surely, her blood cell count crept higher and higher, until it became clear that she did not need new bone marrow at all.

When I came to this country many years ago, I found that in a drugstore one could buy bottles of a thousand aspirin or ibuprofen pills. In Germany, one bought them in little tubes with ten or twenty each. That’s not only a difference in size: It is a difference in cultures: When you have a headache in Europe, you ask why you have the ache (nagging husband, too much sun, too much TV, too much booze, too little sleep, no exercise – the list is endless). You try to change the root cause of the pain. Here, you take a pill.

This woman had a good reason to take ibuprofen – her fibroid cramps – and took them under the supervision of a physician – and still, it nearly killed her. Ibuprofen can have bad effects on the kidneys, the liver, the stomach lining – and thousands people die each year of internal bleeding. Aplastic anemia is exceedingly rare. But this story illustrates that no drug is without side-effects and we need to have a healthy respect of any drug we put in our bodies.

Most painkillers are taken against headaches and menstrual cramps. Why not try natural methods first? More sleep, more movement, healthy fresh foods, water instead of soft beverages, less sugar and salt before periods, skullcap tincture against cramps – one has so many healthier options!

Everybody Gains Weight When They Marry

September 23, 2011

Tags: food, movement, water, biking, birthday cake, black tea, breakfast, butter, cheese, cooking course, cream, dairy, dinner, diving, Everybody Gains Weight When They Marry, flour, green tea, herbal tea, hiking, hugging, immune system, juice, kissing, marriage, milk, nourishing, nutrition, nuts, obesity, outdoors activity, picnic, rowing machine, sex, snacks, soft beverages, spouse, stationary bike, touching, TV, Viennese walnut cake, walking, wedding, weight gain, yogurt

You probably heard it: On average, people gain fifteen pounds in the first few years after their wedding.

It is only natural that we want to pamper our spouses and want to feed them – the birds and the animals do it. The point is to put the right and healthful morsels in your spouse’s mouth. Because food can hurt. And food can heal.

Also: Get moving – together! Because marriage can be more than watching the same TV programs for fifty years from the same sofa.

Here a few ideas:
- Attend a cooking course together
- Alternate who prepares breakfast and cooking dinner - and then discuss after which meals you feel better
- Stop all snacks, preferably before you have children who will follow your example
- Plan an outdoors activity every weekend: a hike, a bike tour, a walk, a (healthy) picnic, a dive - whatever moves you
- Have sex often – it’s good for the marriage and good for the immune systems
- Take turns on a simple rowing machine/stationary bike in front of TV
- Eliminate all dairy (butter, cream, yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.) most of the time – and experience the difference
- Find recipes for a sinful birthday cake made without flour (hint: Viennese walnut cake - made of nuts and cream)
- Don't spend your money on juices and soft beverages; stick to water, herbal teas, green tea, black tea.

Hug and kiss and touch often – and have a happy marriage!

Micro-Movements, Revisited

September 21, 2011

Tags: movement, ache, attention, back pain, massage, micro-movements, Micro-Movements - Revisited, muscular tension, muscles, pain, resistance, Trager bodywork

When your back screams that you need a massage, but there is no way you can get one, what is a good alternative?

Micro-movements are – I have discussed them previously. Recently, during our Europe trip, I was in dire need of a massage after the flight and hours of sight-seeing. At night, in the hotel bed, my back was in little knots all over. Lying there, feeling sore everywhere and feeling sorry for myself, I started moving into those tiny knots.

That is, I focused on a spot of pain, and very slowly and very minimally, tightened the muscles in the area. The trick was to tighten just the muscles that might be involved in the knot – not the whole back. It is a method I have been taught by Trager bodywork – to push or pull against the tiniest of resistance. Here, in bed, there was nobody to give me resistance – but the knotty muscles themselves were a point of resistance. By playing around with wee-wee movements - very slowly tightening, gently releasing – the pain gradually left.

How it works? It is, apart from the small, releasing movements, the attention one gives the hurting body. Try it – it is a treat you can give your aches and pains: attention.

Your Doctor Knows

August 29, 2011

Tags: order, acupuncture, alternative medicine, cold water, conventional medicine, doctor, exercise, healthcare, herbs, meditation, movement, nurse, nutrition, physician, pills, relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene, yoga, Your Doctor Knows

An new study shows that physician and nurses (and other healthcare personal) use more alternative methods than the general population.

Uh? Seems your doctor knows more than she lets on to you.

Why are physicians not generally using more alternative methods for their patients if they have found out that they work for themselves and their families?

Time! It takes much more time to discuss better nutrition, movement, herbs, acupuncture, cold water, relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, sleep hygiene and many more than just handing out a prescription.

You might improve your own healthcare if you initiate a talk with your doctor, asking for alternatives before taking a pill mindlessly (but mind that sometimes the pill might be the right answer for your problem - let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater; we needs both sides of medicine!).

Just ask a simple question like this: "What would you do, if it were you, Doc?"

The Wolf That Ravages - Lupus

July 31, 2011

Tags: order, food, water, herbs, movement, alfalfa sprouts, Antrodia camphorata, apple, Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia vulgaris, artificial molecules, Astragalus propinquus, Astragalus membranaceus, autoimmune disease, basil, beans, blood, blood thinner, brain, Brussels sprouts, Bupleurum chinense, butter, caloric restriction, celery, chamomile, cheese, cheese - “milk-free”, dairy cilantro, clover, cod liver, cold shower, cooking, Cordyceps sinensis, cream, creams, curcumin, curry, DHEA, dried milk ingredients, exercise, fish, fish oil, flaxseed, food allergy, food intolerance, French Maritime Pine bark extract, garbanzo, gene-manipulated seeds, Gentiana macrophylla, GMOs, green tea, heart, hepatitis B, herbalist, herbs - culinary, herbs – medicinal, honey bee secretion, immune system, inflammation - chronic, joints, junk food, kidney, kidney failure, Latin, legumes, lentils, lipstick, lotions, lotus flower, lungs, lupus, Matricaria chamomilla, milk, mineral oils, miso, mono-crops, mugwort, mushroom - medicinal, Nelumbo nucifera, nutritional bar, nuts, obsessive-compulsive disorder, olive oil, oregano, overweight, parsley, peas, pycnogenol, photosensitivity, plant food, Rheum emodi, royal jelly, sauna, seeds, skin, SLE, sleep, Sophora flavenscens, soy, soy - fermented, soy-sauce, spices, spinach, sugar, sunlight, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, tarragon, tempeh, The Wolf That Ravages Your Life – Lupus, Tripterygium wilfordii, turmeric, vaccination, vegetables, vitamin D, vitamin E, weight loss, wormwood, yogurt

Lupus is Latin for “wolf” - an apt name for a disease that may maul your skin and inner organs relentlessly. Lupus is a group of autoimmune diseases that can affect skin, joints, blood, brain lungs, heart, and in its most feared form the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. One interesting picture produced by SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) of the brain can be an obsessive-compulsive-like disorder.

Autoimmune diseases – with all our scientific advances – are still not thoroughly understood. From experience and the literature I would consider the following steps if I were afflicted with lupus – which I am not.

1. Eliminate all dairy because casein seems to be hurting badly in lupus. Do not eat butter, cream, milk, yogurt, cheese, or any food with dried milk ingredients. For instance, “milk-free” cheese still usually contains casein. Since lupus is basically a disease of chronic inflammation in the body, it is wise to throw out all foods that contribute to inflammation – and dairy is the worse in that respect. Sugar and artificial molecules come in second. And food items you already know don’t agree with you (allergies and intolerances). Of all those, dairy has been consistently been linked with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

2. Fish oil. Take good-quality fish oil capsules daily, about three times three. Make sure you don’t have a bleeding problem because fish oil slightly thins the blood. Also eat small ocean fish.

3. Flaxseed. If you don’t have a nut-and-seed problem, flaxseeds have a healing quality in lupus. Use olive oil for cooking.

4. Vitamin D or sunlight is beneficial in lupus, but photosensitivity (skin reactions to sun) is a prominent feature of lupus. What is a person to do? If you can’t tolerate light, take a vitamin D preparation or eat cod liver once a month.

5. Eliminate soy unless fermented. The reports about soy are not clear – sometimes soy hurts, sometimes it helps. This might have to do with two facts, namely that unfermented soy is not better than any other bean, and might even be worse as soy is one of the new mono-crops of gene-manipulated seeds. GMO are linked to lupus by some authors. On the other hand, fermented soy has done well in all studies. Miso, a good soy-sauce and tempeh are fermented soy products; tofu and the “nutritional” bars are not.

6. Caloric restriction has been shown to delay the onset of lupus. That does not mean you should starve yourself. But if you are overweight – even if ever so slightly – you should seriously focus on losing the extra pounds – which might actually happen all by itself if you eliminate dairy, sugar and other junk foods.

7. Herbs. There is a long list of herbs and plants helpful in lupus. I would not recommend any one over any others. And obviously, there might be other herbs and pants beneficial. For me it means that plant material – the way we should nourish ourselves naturally – is the way to go. So, eat a variety of vegetables. And from the list below chose food items, herbs and spices freely in your cooking. For medicinal herbs, chose one at a time and take it according to directions, until the bottle is empty, then choose another one:
Alfalfa sprouts
Antrodia camphorata (a medicinal mushroom)
Apples
Astragalus
Basil
Brussels sprouts
Bupleurum chinense (and other Buleurum species)
Celery
Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)
Cilantro
Clover
Cordyceps sinensis (a medicinal mushroom)
Curcumin (in turmeric and curries)
Gentiana macrophylla
Green tea
Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, garbanzo)
Lotus flower (Nelumbo nucifera)
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Oregano
Parsley
Pycnogenol (French Maritime Pine bark extract)
Rheum emodi
Royal jelly (a honey bee secretion)
Sophora flavenscens
Spinach
Tarragon
Tripterygium wilfordii
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, notoriously bad for the brain – absinth! So consult an herbalist for this)

8. Vitamin E and DHEA have been beneficial in lupus, but I would not take them without consulting a physician because both may have side-effects.

9. Avoid mineral oils (lipstick, lotions, creams, etc.) as mineral oils have been implicated in the development of lupus.
10. Certain vaccinations, especially hepatitis B, have been brought in connection with lupus. The jury is still out on that – but think twice before you get an unnecessary vaccination.

11. Exercise moderately.

12. Do sauna regularly for detoxification. Take a cold shower after a hot one to regulate your immune system.

13. Get enough sleep. Your body needs to repair during sleep.

Lupus might be what I like to call the canary diseases: Certain foods and lifestyles hurt all of us. But in some – the canaries – the damage shows earlier.

China Ramblings

July 18, 2011

Tags: food, water, order, movement, altitude, Beijing, Brisbane/Australia, candle, candy sugar, China, China Ramblings, Chinese date, civilizations, cleanliness, cold shower, conservation, construction, defecation, duck tongue, Earth, entertainment, exercise, family, fireworks, flowers - wild, friends, Gansu Province, grass, Grasslands, green tea, horse, Internet, Lanzhou, laughter, lazy Susan, logan, Mongolia, physiology, rancid, sea cucumber, Silk Road, slaughtering, stress, sunset, temperatures, Tibet, Tibetan minority, Tibetan monasteries, toilet, transportation, tourism, work, yak, yak butter, yak meat

We are sitting somewhere between Tibet and Mongolia in a remote place – Lanzhou - and waiting for our air plane that is delayed for hours ... Of course, we are having fun anyway. Our Chinese friends put together a new trip, with only three days notice - and it turns out wonderful - perhaps even better than the originally planned Tibet trip. We are visiting places along the Silk Road. Anyway, there are so many Tibetan temples here - it feels more or less like Tibet.

Remote place – don’t think “quaint”. China is so modern now, Internet is everywhere, and even the ancient Tibetan monasteries and old-fashioned stores are equipped with every new gadget – the monk this morning had a portable speaker phone to be able to address the crowd of tourists.

One thing about China: The Chinese work very hard, most of them – and driving through the country, one can see it: Tons of construction everywhere. They transport sand and stones – they don’t build one house – they build a whole village or a part of town. Hundreds of little stores along the main roads of a town, and many are producing, not just selling.

There are so many Chinese – and the need to feed the family is pressing. But they seem less stressed than we are, and always ready to smile and laugh - or is this only a superficial impression by a visitor who cannot see behind the faces? Because they are only allowed one child, they cherish that one child. To the point of spoiling - as some observers claim. As a rule, Chinese have not yet much time for entertainment. Their lives are work and family, it seems. Except for a little fireworks on Sundays …

On our first night in Beijing, I ate duck tongue. It is not a delicatessen. It arrives on the table because Chinese people eat everything and they let go nothing to waste. The duck is slaughtered not for the tongue, rest assured. And how does it taste? Like some tiny bit of dried meat on a stick – surprise, surprise: a duck tongue has a bone – or at least something that feels and looks like a bone. I won’t eat it again.

I also ate sea cucumber soup – and that was delicious! I had first eaten it years ago in Brisbane/Australia, and I still like it.

Last night, in the area occupied by the Tibetan minority in Gansu Province, we had dinner in a large gazebo, open to the grasslands and the sunset. First a tea was served with green tea leaves, Chinese dates (which are not really dates) , a sort of dried logan, and bits of candy sugar – an auspicious beginning for a long meal that lasted for hours. A Chinese meal is shared. Everybody sits around a round table with a lazy Susan. The dishes turn round and round, and so are stories and laughter. We are traveling with friends and their family – what could be better?

The temperatures in the Grasslands are extreme: At these altitude, it is very hot during the day, rather chilly in the evening, cold at night. This morning I took a cold shower – briskly cold.

Oh, and Chinese toilets. The toilets are supposed to bring you own. Chinese toilets are holes in the grounds. They have three important advantages:

• They can be kept cleaner than a Western style toilet because one doesn’t touch anything.
• They are more physiological: The squatting position furthers defecation.
• And one gets extra exercise by being forced to squat – it keeps Chinese people nimble in their hips and strong in their legs.

One more story about food: In the grassland I walked up to a parked truck filled to capacity with yaks. They were either a smaller kind, or not yet grown, about a dozen of them, with long rugged hair. I talked to one yak – he was frightened and sniveled and it broke my heart – these beautiful animals on their way to be slaughtered.

Like many of us, I am of a divided mind: I feel with the animals – but I also want to eat. As a physician, I know that many people become depleted in vitamin B12 if they avoid meat, fish and eggs. Personally, I could never be a vegetarian because I get weak after a short time and need some meat – about once a week. At our home, we have frequently vegetarian meals – just not always. – And for the record and the truth – yes, I ate yak meat that very evening because that was what we got served, and I was hungry after a day of sightseeing.

This is the human predicament: We want to do better, but we cannot totally avoid to kill other beings for our own benefit. At least, we should face the suffering we are inflicting, keeping it to a minimum by reducing meat consumption – and say a prayer for every non-vegetarian meal we are having.

We also had the famous nomad tea with yak milk. Whenever I had read about it, the milk was described as rancid. Ours was not – it was a pure, satisfying drink. – On the other hand, we had plenty of rancid yak butter fragrance in our noses today because that is what they make candles out in the monasteries. People bring that rancid butter as a tribute, it seems, plus money.

Last thing for today: The high meadows in the Grasslands are of exquisite beauty. Their wild flowers are full of aroma, and the grass is indescribably fresh. The nomads use it for their horses and yaks – they look so proud on their sinewy horses! I am aware that we come in just as tourists, but the nomads live off the land in a gentle and conserving way – and when most civilizations will have fallen down because we have exploited our good old Earth, these and other nomad people have a chance to repopulate the Earth in a new and better way – hopefully.

Why Haven’t You Heard Kangen Water Mentioned Here?

June 26, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, alkalinizing, customers – gullible, dream – pipe-dream, Earth, health device, health myth, improving your life, Kangen Water, magic machine, miracle pill, money - saving, multi-level marketing scheme, positive thinking, reader, reality, resources – Earth’s, scientific study, seller, vegetable, water purity, Why Haven’t You Heard Kangen Water Mentioned Here?, writing

Water is our Earth’s precious resource; I spend my time writing about the importance of keeping water pure and how to use it for health. But Kangen water?

From time to time I get sucked into a discussion on the Internet – so this time again; over Kangen water.

What I tell them is that not a single scientific study validates Kangen water, that it is nothing but a multi-level marketing scheme, and that if you want to alkalinize your body you better eat vegetables. But do I have an impact? No, because there are mostly two kinds of readers: People who sell this product and are vested in its success. And gullible customers.

And those poor gullible customers should save their money instead of running after the age-old dream that a simple device can make you healthy. Exactly to dispel that myth I am here. Because, in reality, it is a gradual process of improving your life in so many ways – water, movement, food, herbs, order might be a concept you are familiar with by now. No miracle pill. No magic machine. No positive thinking.

Just doing a little bit better every day.

Alternative Goes Mainstream - Or Does it?

June 11, 2011

Tags: order, movement, food, herbs, water, acupuncture, alternative-complementary medicine program, Alternative Goes Mainstream, Arzt für Naturheilkunde, Ayurvedic Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, BIDMC, biophysical medicine, board-certified, Boston, Cheng - Jill and Hung, Chinese food, chiropractic, conferences – medical, Continuing Education, diseases, Family Practice, Germany, healing foods, healing modalities, hydrotherapy, Internal Medicine, massage, medications, medicine – alternative, medicine – conventional, Natural Medicine, overweight, Primary Care, quackery, relaxation, research, subspecialty, subspecialty degree in Complementary Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, under-exercised, yoga

Have you ever not told your doctor you are using an herb or a massage for your problems? Have you ever had a physician yelling at you because you dared mention such modalities at all? I am looking for gentle healing forms for twenty five years now – and I am astonished that I am still hearing about such fossil physicians and incidents.

This week I attended a gathering to celebrate a generous gift Jill and Hung Cheng have given to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston toward an alternative-complementary medicine program.

We celebrated with speeches (of course!) and healthy Chinese fare, and had a ball, generally – celebrating that a farsighted couple tries to overcome the big divide between alternative and conventional medicine.

BUT: Why are we still talking about alternative?

There is nothing alternative in using healing foods and movement to help patients. Not astonishing, a new study showed that overweight, under-exercised physicians are utilizing less food and physical modalities to help their patients. Which means: Overweight, under-exercised physicians prescribe more medications. Scary?

In Germany, many modalities like herbal therapy, Natural Medicine, massage, acupuncture, yoga, relaxation, hydrotherapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, chiropractic, biophysical medicine, and so on are mainstream. Which means that a physician can pass an examination in a subspecialty, in front of a board of peers to show his/her knowledge. I have done it (Arzt für Naturheilkunde).

Are there quacks in alternative medicine? Sure, there are. But so are in conventional medicine. Not talking to each other only perpetuates the shortcomings on both sides of the aisle.

This is what is needed:

• A subspecialty degree in Complementary Medicine that can be acquired by any physician who has passed the Internal Medicine, Family Practice or Primary Care Boards.
• Conferences and Continuing Education that automatically comprise ALL healing modalities that have been proven useful in certain diseases and conditions.
• More research in complementary modalities – of course!!

Bringing Home The Truth?

May 14, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, water, advertisement, antibiotics, automobile, Bringing Home The Truth?, canned food, coffins, cold shower, cooking, education, environmental clean-up, Five Tibetans, gardening, governmental responsibility, HFCS, health improvements of the twentieth century, homeopathy, housewives, hygiene, junk food, justice, kitchen, lilac, love - making, microwaves, music - making, Nature, painting, poverty, ready-made dinners, repairing a bike, scientific research, sewage, societal forces, stinging nettle, supplements, take-out food, truth, TV, vaccinations, water preservation, water supply, walking

You who have followed this blog notice that I do change my mind. For instance, I was a great supporter of the Five Tibetans – and to a degree, I still am. But then my lower back spoke up against the practice, and now I do modified exercises. I let you know.

Was my first opinion untrue? Not really. Different people have different needs, and plenty of people come back to me and tell me that I once recommended the Five Tibetans to them – and they are still doing them daily, and happily.

Spending time on the Internet and blogging about health sometimes feels to me as if I hit a wall: We health nuts are discussing minor improvements in our diets, when the majority of people are eating junk food, don’t know how to even cook rice (forget BROWN rice!), and spending every free minute in front of TV that carries them into fake worlds while stealing innumerable hours of their lives and their powers away.

That might apply to my blogs, too: Somebody reading this, is not walking right now, not playing an instrument, not gardening, not repairing a bike, not cooking stinging nettle greens, not making love, not painting the lilac in bloom now, not taking a cold shower.

And my blog (or all the other health blogs) doesn’t reach that majority. I have started worrying about this.

The other worry is that we bloggers seem to disperse truths – but we don’t seem to change minds. Or do we? I have been in too many online discussion where opinions about, say, homeopathy, clash, and the divides are never bridged.

We can say that most health improvements came at the beginning of the twentieth century with advancement of hygiene (better water supply, better sewage systems). Much less with antibiotics and vaccinations - as much as doctors want to exploit those tales. Then came our downfall in the fifties - the widespread automobile use let people walk less. And also in the fifties, housewives succumbed to advertisement that "helped" them spend less time in the kitchen: canned food, microwaves, ready-made dinners, take-out food, supplements, and what not. And in the seventies, HFCS, sealing our fates (or coffins).

So, this is my question of today? How do we make up our minds about what is healthy? Do we believe every published research study - some good, some shotty - or the myriad of business interests that pipe up on all occasions?

For me, after all the years of studying, health has become simple: Follow what Nature intended, and you will be all right. For all the little details: Hard to get at the truth. Besides, the truth might be manifold.

And, as before, health changes on a grander scale might come from societal forces rather than from our little opinions here: From environmental clean-up, water preservation, governmental responsibility, better education, greater justice, less poverty.

Arching Your Back

May 12, 2011

Tags: movement, Arching Your Back, breathing, exercise, gym, head, heel, kyphosis, neck, posture, relaxation, shoulder, sleep, spine –upper, widow's hump

One of my biggest health challenges is posture. My upper spine gives me trouble, which likely is going back to my childhood when I was bedridden for a long time, and never having been athletic and muscular anyway. Sometimes, that bent there is called widow's hump, or kyphosis.

Also, I don’t like the gym. So I do my five Alexa’s Alternatives, daily (or nearly daily). But I am sitting at the computer for long hours – like you, too, I guess.

Here is the newest exercise that I figured is useful for my posture – which makes half a dozen now. I am always on the look-out for things that can be done while doing something else. This one also helps to go to sleep, or to wake up - whatever is required. It is best done in bed, because I always worry about the potential for hurting, even with such an easy, straight forward exercise. So a padded surface is ideal.

You lie in bed, on your back. Now put some weight on your heels and on your head/neck/upper spine area. On breathing out, very gently push your back up into an arch (it feels like an arch - it looks more like a board, actually). Let go on breathing in. Repeat twenty-one times.

Make sure you don’t strain the neck. Stay as soft and mindful of the neck area as you can be. No force. You can’t will your body into better posture – just nudge it!

Do this in the morning and in the evening. It helps an upright position, straightens the neck area, and relaxes across the shoulders.

What it does: It strengthens the muscles in the back of the body - especially the neck - while most things that we are doing all day long are strengthening the front muscles (if we do anything for our muscles at all). This exercise balances front and back and will pull you upright. Within short time, you will experience the new freedom in your neck!

Fast Will Not Last – A Step-By-Step Weight Loss Program

May 4, 2011

Tags: food, water, movement, herbs, order, allergies, anti-cancer, arthritis, asthma, bedtime, belly, beverage – diet, beverage soft, bisphenol A (BPA), BMI, breakfast, butter, cancer, carbon filter, celeriac, chard, cheese, chemicals in water, church, clean out the attic, cooked food, dairy, deli, diet beverage, depression, diabetes type II, dinner, dinosaur kale, environment, Fast Will Not Last – A Step-By-Step Weight Loss Program, fat - good, fish, fluoride, friend, gardening, garlic, grains, green leafy vegetable, gym, heart disease, herbal tea, inflammatory substance, kale, Kant - Immanuel (1724-1804, kohlrabi greens, legumes, light, lunch, lunch hour, margarine, meat, milk, obesity, olive oil, Own Your Health, play with the kids, political campaign, politics, protein, putter in the garden, reading project, red beet, reverse osmosis filter, ride a bicycle, root vegetable, rutabaga, sausages saving the world, shelter, sitting, sleep and weight loss, soft beverage, soup kitchen, spinach, spreads, starches, stevia, sugars, sweeteners, tap water, turnip, vegetable, vitamin A, volunteering, walk a dog, walk - daily, water - bottled, water – filtered, weight loss – fast, weight loss – realistic, Weight Loss Program - Step-By-Step, Weisman - Roanne, whole grains, winter, wrist bone, yoghurt, yo-yo dieting

Fast Will Not Last – A Ste

After politics, I better return to my own turf. My forte is one-to-one talking with on people, not saving the world.

Ali - on Roanne Weisman’s blog Own your Health - has asked me this question: How can I lose weight fast?

Truth is: Fast will not last.

Most common request seems to be: “Now it is May – can you help me lose fifty pounds till September, because I will marry in September.” My answer is always: “No!”

Weight loss should be really slow so that the body does not go into survival mode and defies weight loss. As disappointing as this may be, it is the only way to success. Yo-yo dieting has been shown to be especially detrimental to the heart, so don’t even start that process!

Here are my rules:

• Do not lose more than two pounds per month!
• Weigh yourself every morning.
• If you inadvertently lose more than two pounds per month, don’t gloat about, and don’t be disappointed if you regain some of that weight.
• Once you have lost those two pounds, put your focus on keeping off those two pounds. The real challenge is to not regain any pounds during the month.
• Weight loss does not happen by diet alone, and not by sweating hours in the gym. Weight loss comes from a healthy lifestyle.
• One of the most important parts of that healthy lifestyle is getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to high stress hormone levels in the body, which leads to cravings and overeating.
• The next day is won the evening before: Prepare breakfast and lunch, and plan dinner for the next day, then go to bed early. Don’t hang around in front of TV or computer beyond your “tired point” – because then you get a second wind and can’t fall asleep. Best bedtime is between 8.30 and 10.00 pm. If you think you can’t do that every night, give it a try one evening per week – and observe the difference in how you feel.
• Below is the step-by step program. Take a new step either every week or every month, or when you feel you need to do more for your health, or when the weight loss progress stalls.
• The most important question: Is your weight loss goal realistic? If you are of Dutch ancestry, you might never get to be a dainty as many Asians are (only a rule of thumb – there are small Dutch people, and large Asians!). For that look up your BMI - for instance here: http://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info-05-2010/bmi_calculator.html?CMP=KNC-360I-GOOGLE-HEA-FIT&HBX_PK=bmi&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=bmi&utm_campaign=G_Health&360cid=SI_148921798_7430108821_1.
• Your BMI will give you a weight range. If you are small-boned, you should be at the lower part of that range, if you are big-boned, at the higher end. How do you know about your bones? Compare your wrist bones with those of other people to get an idea where you stand.
• If you still have a protruding belly, you are not at your ideal weight.
• In every meal have some protein and some good fat. Legumes provide protein.
• Most important is your intake of vegetables, which should be mostly cooked, especially in the winter.
• Cut down on meat to once a week, and do not eat deli and sausages at all. Have some fish – preferably small fish.

And here are the weight loss steps:

Step # 1: Buy a green leafy vegetable (chard, spinach, kale, dinosaur kale, kohlrabi greens, etc), cook it with olive oil and garlic - and eat it.

Step #2: Leave out all soft beverages - including "diet" beverages.

Step #3: Drink herbal teas when you are thirsty. Or plain (or filtered) tap water. Don’t drink bottled water.

Step #4: Leave out all dairy (cheese, milk, yoghurt, etc). Milk is a highly inflammatory substance, totally alien for people beyond infancy, that leads to all kinds of diseases besides obesity: diabetes, arthritis, depression, cancer, allergies and asthma, heart disease, and so on.

Step #5: Buy a root vegetable (red beets, celeriac, turnip, etc), cook in salt water until just soft enough to pierce with a skewer. Serve with olive oil, pepper and salt as a warm salad. Rutabaga, because it is usually waxed, needs to be peeled before cooking. Cut in cubes, boil with a bit of water and pepper and salt.

Step #6: Go for a daily walk. Best is during lunch hour, for the anti-cancer effect of light. Ten minutes in the beginning is fine. Go with a friend – so that you may stay with this habit.

Step #7: Leave out all sugars. And don’t use any sweeteners. They fool the body into thinking you get sweets – and then your body wants more food. Besides, most sweeteners except stevia carry their own health concerns.

Step #8: Find a new vegetable every week in your supermarket – try out what you don’t know (most vegetables are delicious with garlic and olive oil). Some fat is required with all vegetables because otherwise you cannot absorb the vitamin A in them.

Step #9: Leave out all grains and starches until you have your ideal weight. Then you might re-introduce some whole grains – but only if you are not regaining.

Step #10: Observe how much you are actually sitting during the day. Sitting is detrimental to your health – and of course, we are a sitting culture. Think about ways to move more: Putter in the garden, clean out the attic, walk a dog, play with the kids, ride a bicycle. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant recognized this principle and kept his handkerchief at the other end of the room, so that he had to get up from his desk to blow his nose. Try to come up with your own – and better - movements!

Step #11: Stop all margarine, spreads and butter. If you still eat bread, dunk it in olive oil.

Step #12: Volunteer somewhere – in a shelter, a soup kitchen, a church, a political campaign, a gardening project, a reading help for youngsters –to get out of the house and do good!

P.S. This is a long entry. But it boilds down to two points:

1. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables - eat more, and more varied!

2. Put more movement into your day - little movements here and there.


P.P.S. Recheck this blog - I might add new points as they come up!

Today is Beltane!

April 30, 2011

Tags: Water, food, herbs, movement, order, annihilation, annuals, bacterial life, Beltane, blooming, broomstick, celebration, chemicals, cherry blossoms, children’s children, chives, daffodil, desert, Earth, fall, Gaia, gardening, gardening methods - unorthodox, global warming, green, leaves, May Dance, May First, mutations, Nature, nature religion, neo-paganism, non-turning of the soil, nourishing, novel, nuclear devastation, ozone hole, paganism, perennials, political, radiation, renewal – yearly, rite, ritual, science, Sebastian Kneipp - Water Doctor, soil, spring, spring rites, stepping stones, summer, Today Is Beltane!, tulip, walking, water tables, Wiccan, witches

Beltane is the ancient rite of greeting and revering spring, celebrated on the night that leads into the First of May. I don’t believe in witches riding on broomsticks – or, to rephrase this, modern science interprets the broomstick a bit different. But in my novel “Sebastian Kneipp, Water Doctor” the broomstick and Beltane play a major role. For that reason alone, Beltane is special for me.

The most amazing features of Nature are that she brought us forth and nourishes us, and that she renews herself yearly.

This force of renewal is enormous – but it is not inexhaustible. We can come to a point of no return if we are not careful with old Gaia, and that point of no return could come in several scenarios, all not pretty: Nuclear devastation – and in the past we have come close to several political annihilation situations. Lowering the water tables so that wide parts of the Earth would turn into deserts until nothing green grows anymore. Biological mutations in our genome, started by chemicals we deem safe now but might find out too late they are not. Overheating of the Earth – global warming; there are still people who deny that this is happening, in the face of science. Overexposure to radiation by increasing the ozone hole (we are working mightily on that one).

In my garden I practice what I call non-turning of the soil – it’s a leisurely and useful form of gardening. I leave the leaves on the beds in the fall (the neighbors got used to my untidy garden and seem to have forgiven me because they Oh! And Ah! in spring, summer and fall at the blooming results of my unorthodox gardening methods. - If one doesn’t step on the soil, one doesn’t compact the soil, so one doesn’t have to turn the soil. Between perennials, annuals and bushes my garden the stepping stones. I never, ever step on the soil because I know it is teeming with beneficial bacterial life that will be trampled and choked if I do.

So, I don’t care if you celebrate Beltane with a Wiccan ritual (be aware that most of this nature religion is less ancient than we usually think – most comes from nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ revival of old paganism) or with a Dance into May or with a walk under cherries blossoms or along daffodils and tulips or with a salad sprinkled with the first chives from the garden. But l do care that we not trample and choke our good old Earth and preserve her for our children and children’s children.

The thought haunts me that one day nobody might be able ever to celebrate spring anymore – either because Spring has ceased to return, or nobody is left to celebrate …

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,

Summer Sandals – Summer Feet

April 19, 2011

Tags: movement, athlete’s foot, barefoot, beach, boot, coconut oil, comfortable, European shoes, garlic, feet, forefoot, foot, fungus, Gesundheits shoe, gluten intolerance, heels, instep, Jesus, Kneipp - Sebastian (1821-1897), leather, Mary Jane, olive oil, orthopedic boots, pebbles, sandals, shoes, skin - smooth, spine – alignment, stiletto pumps, strap, summer, Summer Sandals – Summer Feet, tea tree oil, treading, walking

Today, I bought a pair of sandals for the summer, and I hope it is not tot late to give you a few hints what to get – so that your feet are happy.

As a child, I learned to walk late (at age three), and nobody could figure out what the problem was (years later, I found out that I had gluten intolerance). Then I had to wear orthopedic boots until I was eight. So, for me it is true: If my feet are happy, I am happy.

Yes, I did wear stiletto pumps when I was young – and succumbed to a few other youthful follies. But now I am wearing COMFORTABLE shoes. There is a new kind that has very low heels – deeper actually than the forefoot. They supposedly are good for the alignment of your spine.

The truth is, however, not every foot needs the same boot. And not the same sandal. Choose one that fits well and is comfortable. Choose a breathing, flexible material. Of course, I am partial to European brands. They actually invented the “Gesundheits” shoe, aside from Jesus who wore comfortable sandals, too, as we know.

Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897) walked barefoot until he was twenty-one, and had a hard time to adjust to shoes, period. That why he invented a very wide show from soft leather, with a strap across the instep – a kind of Mary Jane.

What else to do for happy feet:

• Walk often
• Walk barefoot often, walking at the beach, walking on pebbles.
• Use tea tree oil or garlic against foot fungus (athlete’s foot).
• Treat feet with olive oil and/or coconut oil daily for smooth skin.

Tread lightly on our beautiful Earth!

Mud Season in Maine

April 12, 2011

Tags: order, movement, anemone, Anna Karenina, Boston, cabin, cello, cemetery, Chinese brush painting, crocus, daffodil, death, exercise, funeral, liatris, Maine, mud season, Mud Season in Maine, ocean, reading, spring – early, Taunton Bay, Tolstoy – Leo, wood stove, writing

Wish I were a poet – to describe the beauty of Maine in early spring. They call this time “mud season” – with the implication that one better flee to warmer shores and leave Maine behind.

Usually, we don’t visit our cabin at this time of the year – nobody ever encouraged us. This year, I had to go up because a friend had died, and I wanted to go to her funeral.

The occasion was a sad one – yet how lovely it was! Yes, there was drizzle and fog, and the ruts of our dirt road seemed to say: Stay away! Stay away! But I didn’t stay away, and the ruts and potholes became a challenge of sorts – and at the end of the dirt road, there is the cabin and the ocean.

It was very, very early spring. Just a few crocuses were up. I looked at them and remembered that I planted them about twenty years ago. Contrary to what garden books say, they didn’t naturalize – they were just as spare as single bulbs stuck in the soil. Life is hard that far north. But those few crocuses – blue and white and yellow – cheered up the day. Daffodils were sending up green blades; no flowers yet.

I should know better but I planted again: a late pink anemone, and some liatris – planted them in the drizzle. They might come up in summer, or they might not. Important is the hope I planted (and the exercise!).

Outside, bare spring beckoned; inside, in the evenings, I had some logs blazing, making it cozy and warm. I played cello. It was a bit much to carry the cello with me for just three days, but I was glad I did. I did some Chinese brush painting. I wanted to write, but I am still reading Anna Karenina – it will keep me biting my nails for a while. Why would I even bite my nails? We all know it will end badly …

Of course, I attended the funeral, and it was heart-wrenching. But it also was good – to see the family and friends gathered to honor one good woman. She is now lying in a tiny cemetery, overlooking Tauton Bay.

This morning, when I got up to clean the house and leave for Boston, the sun was out and the sky showed Mediterranean blue. A strong wind had swept away rain and fog, and the world was as clear and beautiful as it can only be in Maine.

Your Yoga Foot Print

April 9, 2011

Tags: movement, order, body-earth connection, earth, Earth, existence, feet, foot, gravity, ground, groundedness, heaviness, India, joyfulness, mind-body connection, mind – open, position, posture, toes, weight, Your Yoga Foot Print, yoga

More than half of my years I have spent learning yoga – and I still feel a beginner. No way that I ever become a master in that ancient Indian tradition. The main thing I learned from yoga is learning itself: To have an open mind.

The moment you enroll in a yoga class, you have already conceded that your body can influence your mind – and any great learning can happen from there. When I see somebody (yes, usually, it is a woman – but there are exceptions) who is lithe and nimble and radiates an inner joyfulness, she invariably admits to a longstanding yoga practice.

But today I don’t want to talk about the mind-body connection. I want to talk about the body-earth connection.

Indeed, one could describe yoga also as a series of sitting, standing, lying positions that try to come to grips with gravity. Because you don’t want to struggle against your weight pulling you to the ground. Instead you want to work with your weight, with the ground, and come to a happy compromise.

One thing you notice over the years you are doing yoga: Your feet become bigger and wider. They also become more beautiful. These big feet really STAND on the ground, planted for good. Your toes are wider apart, standing out and wiggling as individual toes as opposed of a crowded forefoot-thingy with five toenails. Each toe counts when you solidly stand on your yoga feet – you don’t wobble. There is no hesitation – there is only the bliss of being grounded – and feeling light, very light as a result.

That is the yoga paradox: As you stand firmer on our Earth, you become lighter.

Somewhere in your lumbar spine, there is a pivotal point: When you plant your feet, the lower part of your body goes down into the ground, following gravity’s call. But from that same pivot in your spine, the rest of your body floats up toward heaven, relieved of the dire heaviness of existence.

The Basis of Willpower

April 8, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, Anna Karenina, assignment, bedtime, bouncing, brain, breakfast - perfect, candy, cooking from scratch, craving, cycle – benign, cycle - vicious, dawdling, diet, diet coke, doughnut, drowsiness, emails, energy, exercise, fats - hydrogenated, flavors - artificial, focus, grumpiness, habit - good, health bar, highly effective person, joy, listlessness, lunch, midnight, multivitamin, online news - unimportant, positive thinking, produce isle, purpose, self-help books, sleep, sleep-deprived, sleeplessness, soy - unfermented, spunk, sugars, sun shine, supermarket, The Basis of Focus, tiredness, Tolstoy - Leo, TV, veggies, walking, well-fed, well-moved, well-rested, willpower, work

Have you ever worked so hard that you got to a point where nothing worked anymore?

You worked so very hard – with lots of joy and energy initially. Until the task that broke the camel’s neck – say, an assignment lasting late into the evening. Proudly, you finish that, too, way beyond your usual bedtime. But because you are so very tired, you watch bit of TV – because a person needs a reward for working so hard, doesn’t she? After midnight, you collapse into bed.

Now you can’t sleep because your mind is still racing and thinking and planning. And when you wake next morning, you feel like a truck has run you over – you are tired, unfocused, grumpy. You get up anyway, because that’s what a person does. But sitting down for work, you find yourself unable to focus on what you wanted to do. You read any unimportant news online. You get off from your chair to snip off a wilted leaf from a potted plant. You file your nails. You dawdle. You peek into emails from strangers you usually throw away unopened. You do everything you can to avoid working on the task at hand.

It is as if what excited you yesterday so much, can’t excite you anymore. You have lost all spunk and steam.

What happened? Have you suddenly turned from a highly effective person to a bum? Have you lost all your goals?

No. All what has happened is that you are sleep-deprived.

And this is the message for today: At least ninety percent of your willpower comes not from your brain and positive thinking (as much as self-help books want you make believe). It comes from a well-rested, well-fed, well-moved body.

For some weeks now, you had been on a great diet and avoided all the foods that made you listless and drowsy - and sure enough, that’s exactly the food you crave now that you are sleep-deprived. But what’s the purpose anyway, the day already is not worth any better effort, it seems. So, you take a candy when your neighbor offers one, and for lunch you have two donuts. And then, to “make up,” you pop a multivitamin and munch a health bar – even if you know quite well that it is listed with sugars, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors and unfermented soy – things you normally avoid.

You skip you noonday walk around the block and spend the afternoon in a daze, until you drink two diet cokes in a row.

After work (or what you passed off as work) in the evening, you are not up to anything and switch on the TV as soon as you walk through the door.

Let’s interrupt the vicious cycle right here!

Because it is a vicious cycle: Sleep deprivation leads to bad food choices and overeating, bad food choices lead to poor motivation to exercise. Lack of movements leads to further lassitude, more cravings, and so on.

But the other way round, it also is a cycle – although a benign one where one good habit feeds on the next: After a good night’s sleep – long before midnight! - you wake up refreshed and full of energy. You eat your perfect breakfast (which might be a bit different for different people because not all our bodies are the same), and you are off to a great start, doing what you want to do, doing what needs to be done – and all with a happy heart. You do your little exercises, you give your neighbor a hug (but politely refuse her candy), you resume your short walks and let the sun shine on your face, and your afternoon is as productive as your morning. You bounce off after work to get some good stuff from the produce isle in the supermarket, and cook a tasty little meal in the evening – all from scratch. You do a few chores, and sit down to answer some emails. You go to bed with your favorite book – perhaps “Anna Karenina” by Tolstoy – and switch off the light long before midnight.

You think a bit of sleep and a walk and a few veggies can’t make such a dramatic difference in your life? – Give it a try!

What I Brought Back From Africa

April 6, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, Africa, art, bed time, Berner - Dörte, Berner - Volker, beauty, carpet designer, colors, daily rhythm, desert, elephants, energy, Eningu Clay Lodge, exercise, friendship, gem stone, Kristall Gallerie, lions, mental clearness, Namibia, nap, Ovambo tribe, parent, pietersite, purpose, restraint, savannah, sculptor, sculptures, stone, Swakopmund, Tiger’s eye, t-shirts, weight loss, Welwitschia mirabilis, What I Brought Back From Africa, work, writer

No not what you think!

Recently at a trip to Namibia, my husband attended a conference in Swakopmund, a seaside resort. At a place called Kristall Gallerie – a heaven for gem stone fans like me – I bought a simple necklace from pietersite, a stone that they claim is (nearly) only found in Namibia (there is actually another site in China). Pietersite is a stone marbled in blue, red and gold, and is related to Tiger’s eye. Mine is less dramatic (and less expensive, although pietersite is rather inexpensive overall) - just different blues.

But that is not what I wanted to tell.

After a few days of Swakopmund and wonderful forays into the desert, where we saw ancient Welwitschia plants (I wrote about it earlier), my husband went on a safari with a colleague, and I visited friends in the country.

Dörte and Volker Berner emigrated to Namibia in the sixties. She is a sculptor, he a carpet designer. They spent their lives doing what they like best. They never had much money, but managed to raise three children in the middle of an African savannah. Two years ago, Volker gave over his carpet factory to the people of the Ovambo tribe, and retired to reading and listening to music. Dörte still chisels away at her stones.

Both Dörte and Volker have created beautiful art in a beautiful (if barren) place. Look at their websites (find them at Quick Links, on the left), and see for yourself!

When we were young, Dörte was this quiet and serious girl – I admired her for it. At that time, you wouldn’t have given a penny for me; I was totally into boys, and had no idea who I was, and who I could become. But Dörte already knew about herself. And quietly, seriously, she has created a huge body of work. Her powerful stone sculptures are earthy, solid, beautiful. Volker’s carpets have up to one hundred and fifty different colors – unmatched in their subtlety and color intensity.

We all could be proud if we had built a life full of beauty, restraint and purpose like Dörte and Volker have. If you want to visit them, the Eningu Clay Lodge is close to them – and it probably doesn’t surprise you that the Berner’s have built that lodge too.

So, I brought back the story of their lives and a renewed friendship. But, again, that was not what I wanted to write about today. I brought back the nap.

The what??? The nap! During the five days with the Berner’s, I followed their daily rhythm, and had a nap every day. Lunch at one, a nap afterward. Mostly, I was lying under my mosquito net (which in that area is more decorative than useful), and wondered about this waste of time. But when I came home, I immediately restructured my day around the nap.

As a writer, I of course have the privilege to nap. If you have a nine-to-five job, you still have to wait. But if you are working from home, if you are a home-bound parent, you can implement a nap – it is YOUR day, after all!

This is what a week of regular napping has done to me:

• More energy from early morning to night I am getting up at six, going to bed at ten
• Incredible mental clearness
• Weight loss – which was not even intended; it just seems that I am thinking less of food but more of interesting things
• More work done (of course!)
• More exercise because I am dragging my feet less.

P.S. I also brought back t-shirts with lions and elephants for the neighbors’ kids.

Beyond The Five Tibetans: Alexa’s Alternative

March 23, 2011

Tags: movement, Alexa’s Alternative, back - upper, back pain - lower, backward roll, ball - heavy, bar, ball - six-pound, bending, Beyond The Five Tibetans: Alexa’s Alternative, dance, exhilaration, exercise, Five Tibetans, forward bend, hanging out, grounding, knee bends, lifting arms, Namibia, posture, reaching, re-alignment of spine, spine, strain, strength, stress, stretching, swinging, twisting, water bottle, waist – slim, yoga ball

A while ago, I stopped doing the Five Tibetans. I really liked the short routine that got me fit. But it also got me lower back pain. I tried some adjustments, but the pain wouldn’t leave. So, I started a new routine.

My new routine doesn’t have a fancy name, nor can it serve you a wonderful story of its presumed discovery – old Tibetan wisdom unearthed by a stiff British officer desperate to regain his youth – but it works for me.

And it needs about ten minutes of your daily time; nobody can claim they don’t have those ten minutes! If the Five Tibetans work for you – by all means, stay with them! Because I believe in wisdom handed down by generations.

If the Five Tibetans don’t work for you, here is Alexa’s Alternative:

• Bending: This exercise works on your upper back and your posture without putting undue strain on your lower back. You roll your upper back backward over a big yoga ball twenty-one times, each time lifting your arms over your head, then lowering them. Lacking a yoga ball (which I don’t have here in my Namibia hotel room), you can do this exercise also by hanging backward over the edge of a bed. Make sure that your lower back stays securely on the bed, and that you don’t slip from the bed and hit your head.

• Grounding: These are really knee bends but I call this exercise grounding because it strengthens your legs, and really grounds you. Do twenty-one knee bends. If initially that seems too hard, do less. Try five. Or try one. If that is impossible, try a half one. Daily try will soon make you stronger, and able to do more.

• Hanging: Hanging your spine out, that is. This exercise can be done from a bar. Pull yourself up twenty-one times. I really can’t pull myself up, and I can only count to ten, but even this small effort lengthens my spine, re-aligns it and strengthen my arms. When I travel, I bend forward and touch a table with my hands, pulling slightly down and back (without bending my knees). You feel that this also lengthens your spine, taking the kinks out; unfortunately it doesn’t do much for your arms strength.

• Reaching: This is the exercise that I find most fun. Take a heavy ball (I use a six-pound ball at home, and a book or a filled water bottle on the road), and stem it up twenty-one times as high as you can reach . You’ll feel your whole side lengthening. This slims your waist, strengthens your arms and let the arm flab vanish. Then do the other arm twenty-one times. Don’t do this exercise with two balls, lifting them simultaneously – you wouldn’t get the effect on your sides (but would still exercise your arms). But stretching your sides gives the exhilarating effect.

• Swinging: Take the heavy ball and move it from one hand to the other in a smooth swing twenty-one times. Don’t twist sharply in your waist, machine-like – let it be a graceful dance.

You notice, I kept the number twenty-one from the Five Tibetans. Twenty-five repetitions seem to give enough of a workout without putting undue stress on the muscles and joints.

Don’t do more than twenty-one in a single session. You are allowed one repetition during the day, not more. You will see that even with one cycle per day your legs plant you stronger on this Earth, your back is straighter, your bingo wings melt away.

For better memorizing, I put the exercises alphabetically: bending, grounding, hanging, reaching, swinging.

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.

The Means And The Goals

February 23, 2011

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, beauty, care, create, diet, ENM - European Natural Medicine, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, explore, fad diets, justice, happiness, laugh, learn, love, narcissistic bore, natural order, nurture, over-exercised zealots, push-ups, rest, share, sleep, superfoods, Swiss cheese, The Means And The Goals, tofu, vitamins, wake, water – bottled, weep, work, world – a better

For me, the Five Health Essentials have one advantage over all the fad diets and exercise programs: The fifth Health Essential.

Remember, in European Natural Medicine, there are five Health Essentials:

1. Water (note that I didn’t say: bottled)
2. Movement (note that I didn’t say: exercise)
3. Food (note that I didn’t say: superfoods)
4. Herbs (note that I didn’t say: vitamins)
5. Order.

Number five – order - is the one I want to talk about today. Number one to four are only the means; number five tells you that there are goals in life beyond living for the perfect diet or the perfectly sculpted body. We live to enjoy life to the fullest: to love, to learn, to share, to explore, to nurture, to care, to create.

Number five tells you that you are part of the natural order: You are born, and you will die. In between are your days and nights, which you can fill with garbage, or can fill with purpose and meaning.

Nothing in nature comes in round numbers (think 80-10-10! – one of the current fad diets) and nothing in nature comes in a square (think tofu!). Natural order makes you laugh and weep, sleep and wake, work and rest.

You know those over-exercised zealots – those narcissistic bores. Or those food faddists whose brains seem build from tofu with Swiss cheese holes. It is not about how you look or how many push-ups you can do (actually, being able to do one would be swell) – it is about leaving the world a better, happier, more just and more beautiful place for all its inhabitants.

Order – think what it could do for you.

I Hate The Gym – You Too?

February 6, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, adhesives, aeration of rooms, anger, asbestos, birds’ songs, bliss, brooks, building materials, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, cleaning supplies, confusion, copiers, correction fluid, cosmetics, craft materials, degreasing products, depression, detergent, drywalls, endorphins, energy - increased, engagement, exercise, ficus, floor coverings, flowers, garden, glues, grass, green, gym, high blood pressure, houseplants, I Hate The Gym – You Too?, indoor, indoor pollution, lacquers, meta-analysis, molds, muscles, music, NordicTrack machine, outdoor, outdoor pollution, paints, Parkinson's, permanent markers, philodendron – heartleaf, printers, radon, revitalization, skiing - cross-country, smell, snowstorm, soil, sounds, spider plant, tension, terrain - uneven, upholstery, varnish, wall-to-wall carpeting, waves, wax, wind, window open, wood preservatives, workout

My intense dislike of the gym just got a scientific underpinning: A meta-analysis reveals that exercise done outdoors has more benefits that the one indoors. A meta-analysis is not a study from scratch but reviews already existing studies. In this case, researchers tried to figure out if there are benefits to exercise in a natural outdoors environment vs a confined gym.

The disadvantage of a meta-analysis is that the original studies might be flawed – in spite that the researchers tried to weed out those studies – and that their flaws get compounded. In this case, the original studies were furthermore hampered by not using objective measurements of wellbeing but “self-reported” statements: People just talked about how much better they felt outdoors than indoors.

And so the 833 individuals sound less scientific but gushing when reporting how they are feeling after their exercise in nature: “Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.”

I believe them even without a proper study because going to a gym would make me depressed – and I am not a depressed person to start with. On the other hand, when I putter around in the garden, I am suffused by bliss. Working out on my ages-old NordicTrack machine in the basement strengthens my muscles; going cross-country skiing lifts my spirit.

Clearly, working out in a gym increases endorphins and makes one feel better. But outside, we have the added benefit of light in our eyes and on our skin – which has been shown to decrease depression and boost vitamin D production. For once, Boston did not have another snow storm today so that I could not fill my outdoor needs by snow shoveling but I hacked away on ice for a good hour – to prepare for the next snowfall which is forecast for this week.

Outside, there's also less pollution. Contrary to common assumptions, indoor pollution generally is much higher than outdoor pollution (unless you live directly at a busy highway or near a spewing factory) – thanks to detergents and other cleaning supplies, cosmetics, wood preservatives, paints, varnish and lacquers, drywalls, molds, radon, asbestos, carbon monoxide, copiers, printers, correction fluid, glues and craft materials, wax, permanent markers, adhesives, degreasing products, building materials, upholstery, wall-to-wall carpeting and other floor coverings – to name some.

Therefore it is recommended that we aerate each room at least twice a day by pushing the windows open for fifteen minutes. And that we sleep with windows open all night. Asking around, I find that not many people do either.

Outside has usually uneven terrain – different from the even floor of a standard gym. The unevenness leads to better muscle workout – without that we notice the extra effort. This lowers blood pressure and might stave off Parkinson's.

Another advantage of the great outdoors is the color green: We are hard-wired to love a green landscape because green signals plants that produce oxygen and food for us, and hold precious water in place. Green is soothing to our eyes, and to our minds. There is not much life in eternal ice or the dry desert – green is our life. You can reduce indoor air pollution by having houseplants – heartleaf philodendron, spider plant and ficus are not hard to keep alive.

For the benefits of outdoors, let’s not forget the smell of flowers, mowed lawns, freshly turned soil. And the sounds: birds’ songs, rustling wind, lapping waves, babbling brooks – music to our ears.

Of course, researchers now call for better studies to measure all that. But you and I have known it all along: Outdoors is better!

Have You Coddled Your Hippocampus Lately?

February 2, 2011

Tags: movement, water, herbs, food, Alzheimer's, blood fats, bone loss, brain, brain function, cold – common, cold shower, cold stimulus, daylight, diabetes type II, flu, freezing temperatures, Have You Coddled Your Hippocampus Lately?, high blood pressure, hippocampus, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, ice, immune function inflexibility – mental, junk food, longevity, lunch hour, memory, menopause, metabolic syndrome, mood, mood booster, muscles, New England, obesity, osteoporosis, pebbles, plasticity – mental, Parkinson’s, PMS, snow, vitamin D, walking, weight

A recent study shows that brisk walks boost memory in older adults. And makes your hippocampus swell visibly on MRI. I bet this also applies to younger people.

The hippocampus is a worm-like structure deeply buried in your brain that is involved in memory formation. In Alzheimer, it is the part of your brain that will show the first signs of degeneration. A youthful hippocampus gives you mental plasticity, the opposite of which would be the obnoxious inflexibility that some older people show. About six to nine miles a week in this study was linked to better brain function. Walking even more did not seem to have more effect on the brain.

It comes down to walking ten minutes in one direction, turning around and walking back ten minutes, which can be done during lunch hour.

Another study showed that people who walk faster live longer. That bodes badly for me – I am a slow poke. But we can safely deduct that people who don’t walk will not make it long at all.

Walking also boost mood. If I would be a moody person (which I am not), I would do three things: go for a daily walk during daylight, end every hot shower with a cold one, and take herbal preparations – in women particularly, herbs against PMS or helping with post-menopause. Not to mention that I would turn to fresh, nourishing food and away from junk.

Walking per se is good for you. Two other studies have shown, that the effect is even better if you walk on uneven surface – like on pebbles, at a beach or in hilly terrain. Walking on pebbles decreases high blood pressure, and makes you less likely to get Parkinson’s. Using more muscles and consequently more brain can explain these results.

The most dramatic effect, I think, that daily walking can have – besides on memory, longevity, hypertension, Parkinson’s and mood – is that light boost vitamin D production under your skin – even if it is just the pale little area of your face reaping the rays. Vitamin D has become an important research focus as it wards off bone loss, cancer, multiple sclerosis and infections.

Walking will also lead to less weight and fight the dreaded metabolic syndrome (diabetes, high blood fats and hypertension) better sleep – all exercise does. And better sleep has been shown to increase overall performance, mood and resistance to infections.

In New England presently, walking the icy streets among huge snow banks is not that enticing. But I bet snow shoveling has all the above benefits, too – if you avoid hurting your back and don’t slip on the ice. At least I hope. Because I spend the morning digging out our walkway and garage driveway. At least this I know: The cold stimulus is a trigger for better immune function: Snow-shoveling in freezing temperatures improves my ability to better fend off flu and the common cold.

Winter Health – Thoughts From the Workshop

January 31, 2011

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, Andrographis paniculata, anis, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant stimulus, appetite, arm shaping, arterial disease, artificial molecules, ashwaganda, aspirin, astragalus, back health, bacteria, balance, ball - small heavy, bayberry, bicycling, blueberry, boneset, botulism, breast-feeding, breathing difficulties, broth, butter – pros and cons, cabbages, calendula, Cetraria islandica, chamomile, chicken soup, children – herbs for, cloves, coconut oil, cod liver oil, cold applications, cold dunk for babies older than four months, cold shower, cold sitzbath, cold stimulus, cold wash, cold wraps, colorings, compounds in a plant, computer, cough, covering sneeze, cytokine storm, dairy, decongestants, drinking warm or hot fluids, echinacea, eleuthero - formerly named Siberian ginseng, elderberry, elderberry flower, enhancers, eucalyptus, Eupatorium perfoliatum, evolution, extracts – herbal, fats – vegetal, fennel, fever, fever over 104 F in children, fish, fish oil, flavorings, flu epidemic, flu outbreak, flu season, fresh food, food – cooked vs raw, fruit – fresh or as compotes, fungi, GAIA Quick Defense, games – outdoor, Gan Mao Dan, gargling, garlic, germs, getting to the ground once a day, ginger, Ginkgo biloba, goldenseal, Great Britain, GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract), hanging out, greens, headache - enormous, herbal tea, herbs, herbs - fresh or dried, hiking, high blood pressure, home cooking, honey, honeysuckle, Honeysuckle-Forsythia Detoxifier, horehound, horseradish, hot liquids, hot water, hypertension, Iceland moss, immune system, immune system – exuberant, juice, juniper berry, knee bends, lamb, legumes, lemonade, lemon balm, licorice, linden flower, lingering cold, Manuka honey, marshmallow root, mask over nose and mouth, meat, microbes, microwaving, mucosa, mullein, mushroom preparation, mustard, myrrh, neem, obesity, olive leaf, olive oil, omnivore, oregano extract, Oreganol (an oily extract of oregano), Oregon grape, organic, osha, patented medicine, pathogen, pau d’arco, Pelargonium sidoides, pelvic health, peppermint, phyto-caps, physiology – our ancient, pneumonia, point mutation, pregnancy, Prepare – Protect – Pull Through, preservatives, PrimalDefense, probiotic, qi, Raynaud’s, repair of damaged cells, repair time between 11 pm and 1 am, resistance, respiratory infection, resting, ribwort plantain, rinsing nose with saltwater, roots, rose hips, rotation of foods, rotation of herbs, sage, sauna, sinusitis, sleep, sleeping with windows open, slippery elm, snow shoveling, sore throat, spices, standing on one leg, starches - white, steam inhalation, stiff neck, stinging nettle, stomach flu, strength, stress - good and bad, stuffed nose, sugars, sun light, sweetener, Swine flu, synergy, tea - green or black, tea tree oil, teenager, tepid water, thyme, tincture, tonic herbs, TV, Tylenol, umckaloaba, urinary tract infection, UTI, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian, Vick’s, violets, virus, virus exposure, vitamin C, vitamin D, walking, warm rooms, wash hands often, weekend, winter, Winter Health – Thoughts From the Workshop, twisting movement, warm rooms, Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian, yoga, yoga ball, young adult, zinc lozenges, Zyflamend

Introduction:
[These are my notes – they are a refresher for the workshop attendants. But might also be useful to look something up when one needs it]

What happens through the winter: A depletion of reserves leads to increased susceptibility to infections. Decreased movement. Holiday foods – not healthy.

It takes two to get sick: A virus and a run-down immune system.

“Huge outbreak” of Swine flu in Great Britain: 24 deaths as of 1/29/11 – compared to the more than 35,000 deaths annually from “normal” flu in the US (which is nothing).

Cold and flu:
• Prepare: Get your immune system into perfect shape
• Protect: Shield yourself during an actual outbreak
People are less prone to respiratory infections if they have more contact with people, and hug more. Exception: Little kids – they schlep everything home. But in the long run, it might be beneficial. But in a flu outbreak: Stay away from people as much as you can. Wash hands often. Don’t be sneezed at. Avoid public transportation. Don’t hug and kiss. Avoid touching public doorknobs, telephones and similar surfaces with unprotected hands.

• Pull through: Survive even if you come down with it.

• Water
• Cold stimulus – compare to anti-oxidant stimulus – good stress and bad stress
• Warm rooms: More obesity, more colds
• Cold Shower/cold wash/cold dunk for babies older than four months
• Cold sitzbath
• Sauna
• Sleeping with windows open
• Drink enough warm or hot fluids – hot herbal teas are perfect. Juices are not.
• Don’t do cold applications with an acute cold/flu, uncontrolled hypertension, arterial disease (Raynaud’s)

• Movement
The only thing for increasing qi and against cold is movement. But excess is as detrimental as laziness.
• Yoga, of course
• Daily outside walk – importance to get sun light and vitamin D
• Hiking, bicycling, games on weekends
• Snow shoveling:
Break down the task
Take small loads
No abrupt movements
Cherish twisting movements – but they also can be the source of strained muscles.
• Yoga ball (back)
• Small heavy ball (arms)
• Getting to the ground once a day (strength)
• Knee bends (strength)
• Hanging out (back)
• Standing on one leg (pelvic health)

• Food
• Fresh foods – home cooking: Vegetables, legumes, small portions of fish and meat (lamb!), fresh (or dried) herbs. No microwaving.
• Vegetarian/vegan against omnivore
• No dairy, sugars, white starches, sweeteners, artificial molecules: colorings, flavorings, enhancers, preservatives, etc
• Predominantly cooked – more so in the winter
• Fats: More is better – but they have to be vegetal: Olive oil, coconut oil, ??butter
• Organic: Good but fresh is more important
• If you have a cold/flu: You should always force hot liquids on a sick person but never food: Respect if there is no appetite, and respect if there is. Just nothing sugary. Fruit – fresh or as compotes – is probably the best. Or hot elderberry/blueberry soup (also good for acute stomach flu and urinary tract infections). Blueberries are much cheaper.

• Herbs
Herbs have been with us throughout evolution. Their mechanism fit into our ancient physiology like a key into a lock. We always ate herbs from the wild, and now that we have for the most part stopped, a little bitter green, cabbages or strong root might just be what your body needs to find back to balance.

Bacteria and viruses do not easily develop resistance against herbs. That is because a single herb contains hundreds or more of compounds, and many of these compounds work on killing off the germs - not only one. Since point mutations in bacteria can only develop one by one, it is less likely that an herb becomes ineffective against a pathogen because there will be other compounds to destroy the microbes first.

Synergy is the reason why I recommend whole herbs (tinctures or so-called phyto-caps with extracts of the whole plant) instead of “taking the best” from several pants, and making a patented medicine. Patent medicines exist because natural plants can’t be patented, and so firms try to make money by taking single compounds from a plant, combining it with other single compound, thus producing a “new” medicine that allegedly is better. The truth is, mostly it is not better because you cannot improve on nature

• Prepare: During cold and flu season, take tonic herbs like stinging nettle, astragalus, ashwaganda, or eleuthero (formerly named Siberian ginseng) to strengthen your immune system. Rotate them every three weeks.
• Spice up your food with herbs and spices because they kill microbes (the plants developed the strong-tasting compounds to protect themselves against the invasion of bacteria, viruses and fungi). Pregnant and breast-feeding women as well as little children should go easy on herbs and spices.
• When you go out, use an Echinacea spray every hour or two to protect your throat, the entry port of viruses. Again, GAIA makes a good one
• Mushrooms boost your the immune system – eat them often, or take a mushroom preparation; Whole Body Defense by Gaia is one.

• Protect: (if you had exposure, or suspect you had): If there is a bad flu epidemic: Chew a raw garlic clove, several times a day
• Take a lick of unheated honey (Manuka is the best) every hour or so – kills germs (not for children under three years – danger of botulism!)
• Rinse your nose prophylacticly with saltwater to kill germs (carefully rinse mouth afterward with clear water if you have blood pressure issues)
• Prophylactic and curing: Hot elderberry tea, hot blueberry soup
• Importance to wash hands and cover sneezes and coughs, preferably with a sleeve cough – not your hands
• Take as supplements: A probiotic (I like PrimalDefense), fish oil and cod liver oil

• Pull through: In cold and flu: Immediately when you come down with the flu: REST!
• Fever over 104 F in children, and a cold lingering more than a week should be seen by a physician. Also if you have unusual symptoms like stiff neck, enormous headaches, breathing difficulties, and so on.
• Against cold: Easiest, most expensive: GAIA Quick Defense. It contains Anagraphis paniculata – best cold medication I know (hard to find as a single extract)
• Against cold and flu: Echinacea, olive leaf, osha, pau d’arco, licorice – all as extracts in a bottle. Mix together in hot water like a tea.
• Other herbs that have been found beneficial in colds and flu: bayberry, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), calendula, goldenseal, Oregon grape, juniper berry (chew a dried berry every few hours, not more than five a day, and not for longer than a week), umckaloaba (Pelargonium sidoides)
• A ready-made anti-viral concoction is the Chinese Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian, also called Honeysuckle-Forsythia Detoxifier. It might be a good idea to have some of those pills at hand when you get sick (get them from a reputable source).
• Lingering (more than a week) colds and bacterial infections: GSE extract (but consult your physician to make sure it is not pneumonia)
• Sore throat: Swish a few drops of oregano extract (nips whatever is coming in the bud, if you take it early enough) in your mouth and swallow, or zinc lozenges (science is a bit wobbly on zinc)
• Sore throat: Gargle with saltwater or warm water with one drop of sage, myrrh, oreganol, neem or tea tree oil. Not for children under six.
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Rinsing nose with saltwater – frequently, if necessary
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Eat mustard, horseradish.
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Steam inhalation helps with a running or stuffed nose. You can add chamomile, thyme, eucalyptus or a pea-sized piece of Vick’s. You can also use Vick’s on older children (check the label).
• Cough: Gan Mao Dan Chinese pills (20 per day in divided doses), or make a tea of peppermint, honeysuckle, ginger, cloves and/or horehound, slippery elm, violets, fennel, anis, marshmallow root (the real one!), Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica), ribwort plantain
• Fever is mostly good – it kills the germs. Therefore, no aspirin or Tylenol. In children, do cold wraps or dunk babies in tepid water
• If you get the flu, start Ginkgo biloba will start repair damaged cells
• Also: No decongestants as they tend to dry out mucosa and increase stuffiness in the long run
• Increase hot fluids: hot water, hot broth (chicken soup has been researched – and it really works!), hot herbal teas (linden flowers, elderberry flowers, honeysuckle, fennel or thyme, sage, green or black tea, thyme, ginger, rose hips, mullein, lemon balm, peppermint - in all combinations) are good – but so are many other. Hot lemonade is also beneficial if made with fresh lemons and preferably with unheated honey
• If you use vitamin C, use a low-dose kind – and only in the first few days of a cold
• Don’t use all the herbs at once – get familiar with a few, one after the other.
• There is no such thing as” That herb does not work in me!” There is only “That herb does not work against this or that germ”

• Order
• Cherish the season – don’t fight it
• Preventing: GET ENOUGH SLEEP! In a flu outbreak, be in bed by nine pm every night – no TV, no computer. The body repairs itself during about two hours the time around midnight — if you are asleep then, that is.
• During a bad flu season, consider wearing a mask over nose and mouth

The causes of death in influenza are of two different origins: Older people die of the virus and its consequences like pneumonia; their weakened immune system cannot fight the virus anymore. Young people succumb to an overreaction of their still exuberant immune system – they produce what we call a cytokine storm, and usually die within the first two days. Consequently, both groups should be treated differently. In young people (older teenagers and young adults) I therefore would add an herbal anti-inflammatory, namely Zyflamend as soon as the young person gets sick.

What’s In A Diagnosis?

January 23, 2011

Tags: order, water, food, movement, antibiotic, ballroom dancing, change jobs, chronic fatigue, diagnosis, divorce, fever - high, headaches - worst of his life, high blood pressure, hypertension, lifestyle, marital counseling, modern-day, pill, sleep, stiff neck, stress, tennis, therapy, tick-borne disease, tularemia, What’s In A Diagnosis?

Sometimes a patient is desperate for a diagnosis: If she has been going from doctor to doctor, and has been told uncountable times that nothing is wrong, it's all in her head - she might be relieved if she finally gets told she has "chronic fatigue." At least, now she can deal with it.

Sometimes a diagnosis can save a life: If your belly hurts, and the diagnosis is “appendicitis”, a surgeon will operate on you, and your life is saved in all likelihood. When my son, a few years ago, had high fever, stiff neck and the worst headaches of his life, only the diagnosis of a physician turned the course of the disease around. The physician thought it likely was a tick-borne disease and probably tularemia: With the right antibiotic, my son recovered quickly.

Sometimes a diagnosis is just and word: Say, your doctor tells you that you have hypertension - high blood pressure. That doesn’t help you much. It helps the doctor to know what pill to prescribe you – for the rest of your days. Now you are a patient.

High blood pressure is a typical modern-day stress disease. Only about five percent of people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure, have an underlying medical condition. The rest – ninety-five percent! – have a wrong lifestyle. But interestingly, the diagnosis doesn’t tell you that there might be a difference – or that something else than a pill might help you.

If you have an especially astute doctor, he will tell you that you have “essential hypertension”, “essential” here meaning no real reason he knows of. With other words, the diagnosis is a medical throwing up his arms in the air, declaring nothing can be done. Except for a few pills, of course.

You have stress because your boss is unreasonable, or your spouse is the nagging kind, or your gambling debts are threatening to destroy your family life – again, you might not be able to do much. On the other hand, you might be starting thinking about what can be done. Getting more sleep every night? Eating more vegetables? Going into therapy? Returning to school, training for another line of work? Divorcing your spouse, or going to marriage counseling together? Enrolling in a course of ballroom dancing together? Changing jobs? Taking up tennis to get a handle on your stress and work some of the anger off physically?

No – you have a diagnosis, and now you get a pill. That’s all. Your doctor didn’t even tell you to drink more water, I bet.

You were probably told to go easy on salt. That is nice advice – if you were also told that most processed and restaurant foods contain too much salt, even your breakfast cereals and the “nutritional” bar. And that the salt problem is really big in black people but less of an issue in Caucasian people.

Chances are that your doctor also gives you a diagnosis of too high cholesterol – hypercholesterolemia. That’s another pill, right away.

Your doctor didn’t tell you that high blood pressure and high cholesterol aren’t two different diseases. They are one bad lifestyle. More often than not they go together.

And, oh, now you got diabetes! Your sugars are too high and this new diabetes really needs good management. Your doctor might even give you a new name for the three diseases above: Syndrome X. He will wiggle his head in concern, because having all three makes it really dangerous. One has to be treated extra-extra carefully – with many pills.

Some (or all) of those pills have side effects. Liver failure, depression, impotence, muscle inflammation, fatigue, upset stomach, and so on – which will require more pills and more monitoring.

None of the pills will buy you real health – glowing, sweaty, happy health as you might experience when you play a round of pick-up Frisbee or swim in the ocean.

I am not saying here you should throw away all the pills your doctor gave you. I am just saying you should strive for health, not for diagnoses and an assortment of pills, so that, one by one – and with the supervision of your physician – you might be able to drop the pills.

What is the difference between this diagnosis and that diagnosis? My son’s illness had nothing to do with lifestyle, and all to do with a nasty bug. Most diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood fats, and many cases of depression, arthritis and cancer have a whole lot to do with lifestyle. If you break a bone, only a good cast will help mending it – and good food will speed up the healing process.

Once you have a cancer, of course, a bit of lifestyle change is not enough to save your life – you need surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. Once the cancer is diagnosed, eating more fresh vegetables and going for a daily walk in sunlight might help you recover – but better would have been you would have started on a healthy path many years ago.

The uncomfortable truth is: Health does not come out of a pill bottle. And a diagnosis is just a name. What you do with your life counts for your health.

Boston Area Workshop – Yoga & European Natural Medicine

January 19, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, Boston Area Workshop – Yoga & European Natural Medicine, Carol Nelson, common sense, European Natural Medicine (ENM), health, immune function, Nelson – Carol, relaxation, winter, wisdom, workshop, yoga

Do you want a healthier, more meaningful life? Come, learn to put to work time-proven wisdom. What here I am only talking about, you will see in action, hands-on.

Carol Nelson and I will combine for an afternoon workshop at the end of the month in Cambridge/Massachusetts to bring some light into gloomy, cold January. Natural methods help you to bolster immune function for a healthier winter. Bring your health questions to this afternoon, and fulfill your yearning for a more real life.

Our session will be framed Carol Nelson’s introductory yoga session and a closing yoga relaxation.

In between I will talk about the Five Health Essentials: Water – Movement – Food – Herbs – Natural Order to give you natural methods to get through the winter healthily. Nothing complicated – just plain old common sense.

You will find times, address and fee on the event page. Pre-registration required.

Is It January – Or Is It Me?

January 15, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, herbs, arterial disease, ball - heavy small, cayenne, Celsius, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, cold, cold shower, cold wash, coldness, cookies, coriander leaves, coriander seeds, curry, electric heating pad, exercise, Fahrenheit, February, feet – cold, Florida, ginger, glands, gluten-free, green tea - hot, hands – cold, herbal tea, high blood pressure - uncontrolled, holidays, hot water bottle, Is It January – Or Is It Me?, January, jumping rope, lungs, March, mood, paprika, pull-ups, qi – life force, sitzbath – cold, snowstorm, skin, soup - warm, spices – “hot” and “cold”, sugar – brown and white, tea, vanilla, virus, vitamin D, walking, warning signs, winter swimming, yoga ball

We had a whopper of a snowstorm, and since then we haven’t gotten out of the freezing numbers. Tonight they predict single-digit numbers (Fahrenheit, that is; to those who believe in Celsius, as I do, it is supposed more than ten degrees below zero).

Still, in the morning I am doing my cold sitzbath. Now the water is so cold that when I count to twenty-one for my leg moving to swish the water over my thighs, I feel pins and needles, and not much more. When I get out of the tub, my lower half feels like non-existent, it is so cold.

But within a minute of toweling off and walking on tiptoes, I get nice, tingling warmth’s flooding all over, my toes are all pink, and I am ready for the day.

Do I push the cold too much – to an extent that it becomes unhealthy?

I don’t think so. Around holiday time, I had a period where I felt cold all the time. Even if the heat was higher than normal, I felt that deep chill inside. Not sure if I was breeding a virus that never came out because I usually nip a stuffy nose and a bit of a sore throat in the bud with herbs. Or if it was the not-so-healthy food we all succumb to around the holidays – even me. My cookies are gluten-free – but they are still cookies, loaded with sugar and butter (I know because I baked them).

When I felt so cold for a few days, I decided it was not wise to continue my cold sitzbaths; I just wasn’t sure what I was hatching. Instead I did quick cold washs in the bathtub.

Why I tell the story? Because in Natural Medicine we believe that not every body is the same, not even every body is the same every day, and one should heed the body’s warning signs. Not getting warm anymore certainly is such a sign - and pushing through it would be foolish.

Some people can do cold exposure like sitzbath or cold shower only in the early afternoon – because that’s the body’s “hottest” time. The very elderly and the frail should not tough it out at all with cold showers. And never, ever try winter swimming! But everybody probably benefits from a very fast cold wash-down.

A few years ago, for my patients, I put together a pamphlet about how to get warm; constant cold hands and feet was a complaint I heard quite often. What do you do to get warmer?

Bundling up is the first that comes to mind – and important to get warm NOW. But in the long run, it is counterproductive: The warmer you dress, the more you heat your rooms, the less your body generates heat – it loses the ability.

A cold wash or even a very short cold shower (not more than a few seconds) will acclimatize the body to colder temperatures. In the long run, it will also reduce colds. Besides it is good against high blood pressure, and good for skin, lungs, glands and mood (don’t take a cold shower with uncontrolled high blood pressure though, or with Raynaud’s or other arterial diseases!). – But if you haven’t started your cold shower yet, it might be wiser to wait until the three coldest months (January, February, March) are over. Try cold washs until then: With a face cloth wash yourself down quickly with cold water (change face cloths daily!) – unless you live in Florida or so.

Other methods to get warm: A hot green tea or a hot herbal tea. Or try a warm soup.

Certain herbs produce heat in the body: Interestingly, the spices we often use in Christmas cookies produce warmth - like cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, coriander seeds, cloves – they warm up the cold season (as does brown sugar, by the way. Go light on the sweets because you’ll feel warmer, but also heavier). Spices we call “hot” like paprika, curry, cayenne, coriander leaves (also called cilantro) have a cooling effect – as does white sugar.

If you are cold, you can put a hot water bottle in your bed in the evening – we sleep with window open even at these temperatures – and our bedroom is an ice cellar at this time of the year. You can also use an electric pad – but never when you are in bed. Heat it up about half an hour before retiring. Some people like the warmth at their feet. I like it at the small of my back – because that’s where my center is – and the qi-producing adrenal glands.

Ah, here we are at the Chinese qi – and the bad news. Having cold hands and feet (or worse, a cold core like I had around the holidays) is a sign of too little life energy. The Chinese content that the foods we have can help a bit with qi. But what really generates qi is: movement.

When I was cold all the time, I realized that I had slacked off in my exercises – no wonder during holiday stress. I revamped. Since I am still no friend of a gym I do more of the little things I can do at home, between spurts of writing: Pulling myself up the bar (we have one installed in the doorway to the basement – mostly for the guys in the family), rolling around on my yoga ball, doing little exercises with a small, heavy ball, jumping rope, and making sure I will go for a walk at least once a day. Better twice: One for filling up my vitamin D needs during the day, and once in the dark after dinner with my husband, filling up my need for connection with my spouse.

Cold hands and feet all the time? I learned it the hard way: Only movement really helps. Without movement, we are creeping faster toward the final coldness.

The Teeth in Your Mouth

January 12, 2011

Tags: herbs, order, food, movement, water, allergies, aloe, amalgam, arthritis, bacteria, bone, brushing teeth, caries, chewing, chronic fatigue, debris, dental hook, dental treatment, dentistry – natural, diet - sugar-free, dyes in toothpaste, electric toothbrush, filling – dental, flossing, floss - tape, floss - thin, fluoride in water, fungi, gum disease, gum line, headaches, hygiene - dental, infections – recurrent, laser treatment in dentistry, migraines, molar, myrrh, dentistry - natural, neem, neem stick, neuralgias, oregano, parodontosis, people - “primitive”, periodontitis, plaque, plaque-fighting herbs, plaque removal, rheumatic pains - soft-tissue, sinusitis, soft tissue pains, susceptibility to infections, tea tree oil, teeth, The Teeth in Your Mouth, Tom’s of Maine, toothache, toothpaste - color-free, tooth health, vagina, virus, x-rays - dental

When I was sixteen, I got a toothache – one of the molars on the lower left hurt. The dentist was very nice and said he couldn’t see anything (that was before the time of dental x-rays) but would bore a hole to see how the tooth looked inside.

He couldn’t find anything bad on top. So he drilled another hole on one side, then on the other – all for the sake of exploration. “Sorry,” he said, “I can’t find anything “. He sent me home after filling the tooth with amalgam, on three sides.

Next day I had a whopping sinusitis, and it became clear that the aching tooth had been an early warning sign.

These many years later I still have that tooth, repaired on three sides – after no caries at all! I still have it because that encounter left me an avid tooth-brusher – and very skeptical of dental treatment.

Clearly I am not a dentist and not an expert in tooth health – but I must have been doing something right all these years because I still have all my teeth. Science also has established that good teeth signal good overall health.

Diseases of teeth are mainly two: caries (tooth decay) and parodontosis (gum disease). When gum disease gets worse, it loosens the teeth (then it is called periodontitis); one can lose a perfectly healthy tooth only because it lost its grip on the bone (or the other way round).

Here my dentistry ideas – and don’t forget I am a lay person in this field (and welcome the discussion with dentists!):

1. Brushing: Brushing your teeth after each meal or snack is important (and it might even cut down on your snacks!). An electric brush is the best. But even by hand can be effective if you do it right: Brush into the gum line – not just across it. Use a color-free toothpaste, like Tom’s of Maine (they don’t pay me to say this – but this is what I use) because allergies to dye can cause gum disease. Don’t use a too hard brush.

2. Flossing: The first time I ever heard of flossing was when I came to America. I thought Americans were crazy, and I hated the feeling of floss between my teeth. But after a bout with gum disease, I started flossing – and it made all the difference. Using tape instead of regular thin floss has made it bearable for me. Floss once a day – be always gentle on your gums.

3. Herbs: For a while I went to regular hygienic sessions. But the brutality with which they used sharp instruments to remove plaque appalled me; there is nothing natural about that process – “primitive” people have healthy teeth because of their sugar-free diet. I got myself a dental hook and did the work myself – gentler. Since then, I have started brushing my teeth with a drop (or a few, depending) of herbs – and all the plaque has melted away. No hooks and medieval treatment anymore!

• Tea tree oil: This is a great plaque-fighting herb. Use one drop, once a day, together with your regular toothpaste. When you feel your plaque is in control, use it less often – about once a week because one of the concerns with tea tree oil is that it is allergenic, to a degree.

• Oregano, myrrh, neem, aloe (the inside gel of the leaf only): These (and other) herbs one can use to brush teeth and gums. Use the one or other herb extract with each brushing of your teeth – rotate them so that the likelihood of developing an allergy is reduced. It will keep the dentist away. – One can also buy neem sticks for cleaning teeth – that is how it has been done in India for thousands of years.

The discussion about fluoride is not yet finished. I have read tons of scientific papers about it – and still cannot make up my mind. It is a toxic substance and I am against using it indiscriminately in drinking water. But I like it in toothpaste as many studies have shown that fluoride greatly reduces caries. When we use the herbs above against gum disease, we also are fighting bacteria with toxic compounds (namely herbs) – only we assume (and have studies to back it up) that herbs are gentler on our bodies than the mining by-product fluoride. Also, I know that herbs help against gum disease. But herbs are less established against caries.

Eating fresh food, chewing well, not snacking between meals, avoiding sugary beverages (including all juices!) will go a long way protecting your teeth. Still, you should see a dentist regularly to make sure that a little problem didn’t creep up. A small hole is easily mended – a big hole might mean the tooth has to come out.

Don’t whiten your teeth! The process of whitening damages the precious tooth enamel. Also, we are supposed to have off-white teeth (actually, rather yellowish-looking) – that color connotes health. Only people on TV strive to that whiteness which is unnatural and unnecessary – and damaging. (But then again, you know me – I am also against under-arm shaving…).

If you ask: I would never have a root canal. In Natural Medicine, we think of a root canal as breeding “focus” of bacteria, viruses, fungi and debris that can’t be good for your body in the long time. Sealing bacteria into a body cavity spells future disaster. Arthritis, soft-tissue rheumatic pains, neuralgias, chronic fatigue, headaches and migraines, susceptibility to infections and allergies are thought to be caused by such a “focus” in the body. Modern treatments with laser, etc. certainly give better outcomes. But dentists acknowledge that there is not such thing as a sterile root canal.

And don’t forget: Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth to exercise balance and pelvic musculature! What good are all the teeth in your mouth, if your vagina falls out?

The Soft Martial Art

January 11, 2011

Tags: order, movement, water, herbs, anti-aging, art, bamboo, brush painting, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese brush painting, Chinese orchid, chrysanthemum, concentration, Four Gentlemen, Four Treasures, ink stone, longevity, martial art – soft, multi-tasking, mum, muscle aches, networking - social, painting, plum blossom, social networking, The Soft Martial Art

Because of the Chinese novel I am writing, I am learning Chinese - for two years already. This winter I also enrolled in a class for Chinese brush painting.

Not so much for the painting - I have only a little talent there. But for learning more about the cultural background of calligraphy (writing of Chinese characters) and brush painting in general.

Already the first session made me happy because it fed me so many little tidbits: The whole calligraphy thing is not so much about putting scribbles on paper – no it is about breathing, sitting straight, holding the brush just right, and to concentrate. Calligraphy is also called the “soft martial art” – who would have known?? Chinese people think that calligraphy promotes longevity.

In brush painting, one needs the Four Treasures: brush, paper, ink stick and ink stone. The ink stick is ground on the ink stone with water to produce the ink. Nowadays, one can buy ready-made ink in a bottle, which I use in class. At home, I prefer grinding my ink stick all the while already thinking about what I want to paint. I like the transformation of water into a writing liquid – the archaic process that happens here and now.

Chinese art is very different from Western art. Whereas we emphasize individual freedom, Chinese brush painting teaches traditional forms. You learn the basics before you start experimenting. There is one kind of stroke for the bamboo leaf, one kind of stroke for the bamboo stem, one kind of stroke for the bamboo node. I will learn strokes for plums blossoms, orchid grass, chrysanthemum flowers, and later strokes for pines, rocks, clouds and water. And you use a different brush for each of these strokes.

Bamboo, plum blossom, Chinese orchid and chrysanthemum – they are also called The Four Gentlemen. Because those four plants stand for character traits the Chinese have held in high esteem since olden times: Bamboo leaves are green in the winter. Bamboo bends in the wind but barely breaks, and if it breaks, it sprouts new leaves from the breaking point. So, bamboo stands for adhering to principles; also for flexibility and resourcefulness. Plum blossoms flower in mid-winter – right around now they will start – and represent cheerful survival. Chinese orchids are much less showy than our usual flower shop specimen, they are prized for they modesty, for their working without anybody noticing – yet doing a marvelous job. Chrysanthemums (“mums”) bloom in the fall when not much else does, thus calling to mind a proud, tough gentleman. – A white chrysanthemum is also used as an herb in Chinese medicine.

Perhaps you scoff at the idea that brush painting is a martial art. But let me tell you that I had muscle aches in my right arm after my first two-and-a-half-hours session: You do use your muscles.

And in these times of social networking and multi-tasking, I cherish anything that brings back the rapidly dwindling art of concentration.

Peace on Earth - Common Sense

December 31, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, alternative energy, banks, buying, car, charity, China, Club of Rome, common sense, consumption, cosmetics – harmful, disparity – income, education, food – processed, economic growth, economy, energy – alternative, energy – solar, energy – wind, energy – alternative fuels, Great Depression, Great Recession, health care, insanity, make-do, ministering to the needy, New Year’s resolution, nutritional bar, paradigm shift, peace, Peace on Earth, Peace on Earth - Common Sense, recycle, repair, shop less, sickness, West

This blog is written out of a desire to bring common sense to the health care debate. To have a system that can fix difficult diseases – brilliant! But to live a life that doesn’t make you sick in the first place – common sense.

We can agree on that. But can we also agree in some other areas? (I am not an expert on things beyond medicine - so be forewarned - this might be an intolerably bad blog entry). We can’t live sanely, if the world is out of whack. And it is.

The disparity between rich and poor is getting wider, the climate is changing (not for the better), the world’s banks are near-collapse, peace between nations appears to be elusive, terrorism is replacing meaningful discourse.

In this situation I would like a word from our leaders that it is time for a shift in paradigms: Individual consumption can’t save the world. We who are better off (and if you are sitting at a computer, you belong to the better-off group – as sorry as you might feel for your tight budget, debts, or unsure financial future) need to make do with what we have and have to find ways to be happier on less. Studies show that all that stuff we bought and consumed didn’t make us happier in the first place. Exactly the same thing is now happening in China – we, in the West, have not been a good role model, it seems.

Instead, we are hearing the same as before from our political leaders: Buy more, consume more – because that way you help the economy. The Club of Rome, a loose coming-together of prominent economists, predicted in 1972 that economic growth could not go on forever. Meanwhile we have been going through a near second Great Depression (called now the Great Recession) – and still it is business as usual.

I don’t want to help the economy by buying a bigger car, harmful cosmetics or processed food. This is my resolution for the New Year (much as I am against New Year’s resolution since I think every day is the beginning of a new year in our life, and every day should be lived to its best and most worthwhile): I want to become even more mindful in what I throw my money at.

• Charity is always a good think – but do your homework: Choose a charity where the money is really landing at the intended poor – not at the charity's CEOs.
• Fresh food. No “nutritional” bars but a chicken from an organic farmer. No “slimming down miracle” but fresh vegetables. No “enhanced” this or “fortified” that but real food. Not food substitutes.
• Alternative energies: Solar and wind are probably the best bet at this time. Fuel from corn or fuel from cow dung – those projects have not yet grown up.
• Education of the poor – here and abroad. The more education people have, the less likely they are to have too many children they can’t feed. The less people there are in the world, the better the chance for a good life for each of them – without religions that promise them a better life in the beyond and make them throw bombs here.
• Health care for all. For this I would be ready to pay higher taxes.
• Ministering to the needy: the disabled, the mentally ill, the homeless – without stifling the entrepreneurial spirit of this country.
• Shop less – shopping should not be a pastime. Reading is. Gardening is. Cross-stitching is. Find something worthwhile to do.
• Make it a hobby to do with less, to recycle, to repair.

Spending indiscriminately will not avert the financial crisis. Spending while improving the world might save our good old Earth.

Peace to all! Peace everywhere!

Yeah, and before I forget: Let's move more!

The End of the Year in Maine

December 28, 2010

Tags: movement, food, order, artichokes, baking, balance, Beethoven - Ludwig van (1770-1827), Brendel - Adrian (born 1976), Brendel - Alfred (born 1931), cello, Christmas, cookies, cooking, cross-country skiing, Cutting For Stone, exercise, healing food, Maine, pesto, piano, red cabbage, sauerbraten, shoveling snow, skiing, The End of the Year in Maine, Verghese - Abraham (born 1955), writing

We are in the cabin, away from everything during the time we call between the years in German. Nowhere in the world do I sleep as deeply as here, nothing makes me so content than being here with my loved ones.

Not to sound too pollyannaish: The adjustment to being in such confined room is usually a loud affair for our family – we have to rearrange ourselves and our egos. But the result is good, and I think, lasting.

In the snowstorm, we got ten inches of snow (I just stuck a ruler into the snow on the porch). During the snow last night, we went for a walk along the beach, fighting the wind and swirling snowflakes on our way out, and having them nicely at our backs on returning.

In spite that I brought my equipment (the ancient three prongs- shoes), I haven’t been cross-country skiing yet because I get so much more satisfaction out of shoveling snow – a movement with purpose. Always change hands; for balance, one has to work both sides of the body, even if it feels a bit clumsier on one side.

Shopping is not celebrating the season - snow-shoveling is. And sitting in front of the wood stove, listening to Beethoven (my favorite at the moment: The complete Beethoven piano/cello music as played by the father/son team Alfred/Adrian Brendel), reading a book.

You think snow-shoveling is a chore, and you would rather go without? Imagine you couldn't do it because you were sick. You had to hire someone to do it, pay for it, and miss out on the exercise. How much you'd long for snow-shoveling then! What a desirable activity it would become!

During the holidays, the family didn’t mind eating my sauerbraten and red cabbage for three days in a row. They were actually looking forward to it – savoring it so much! I am a good cook but a lousy baker – don’t follow instructions well. But this year, my self-baked cookies came out right – the Florentines being the favorites of all times. Luckily, all cookies are nearly gone.

In the sauna, after three days of feasting (we celebrate on Christmas Eve), I noticed that I looked like a pink pig – and felt like one, too. But after one day with a light dinner (artichokes with pesto) and lots of outdoors activity, I am back to being my old self again. Artichokes are healing food for the liver - we all can use them after the holidays, I'd say.

All that is only the setting to tell you from where I am writing. What I really want is to share my present reading: Abraham Verghese’s Cutting For Stone. It is a medical novel, and surely I am biased as a physician, but I would award him the Nobel Prize for Literature – the book is that good! It spans three continents, giving us a flavor where we Americans come from – namely, the whole world. His observations of people and how they function (or not function) are deep and true. I wish I could write like that.

For a writer it is always upsetting to meet a book that is better than her own but I don’t care; I just care about that Abraham Verghese has written it - and that I am lucky enough to have found it. And I am not yet done: There will be a few days more of this exquisite pleasure!

Don’t Know About the Biochemistry of Birds

December 11, 2010

Tags: order, movement, water, balance, biochemistry, birds, Canada geese, cod liver, cod liver oil, cold shower, cold – stress stimulus, cormorant, Don’t Know About the Biochemistry of Birds, fire, gardening, ice, light, marriage, multivitamin, Nature, playing ball, pollution, pond, running, seasons, skin – dark and light, spirituality, sun, talking, vitamin A, vitamin D, walking, waterfowl, winter, wood stove

Today the pond was frozen over for the first time this year. The Canada geese have flown away to a place with still open waters, and the lone cormorant that, for weeks, had greeted us every time from the same spot is gone, too. We still can make out where he always had been sitting – a white sheet of guano at the edge of the reservoir (presumably soon being washed into the reservoir, enhancing our drinking water…).

We marveled at the bird every time we walked by. Why was he always sitting on that very spot so steadfast? Hatching time was long over. He was not deterred by the many passers-by. We had gotten fond of him, and his whimsical determination.

My husband and I take our walks to catch up on each other's lives; we are talking to each other (helps a marriage to survive). And to catch a ray of sunshine – so precious at this time of year when the sun gets lower daily. We want to build up some vitamin D under our skin to get through the winter without colds or cancer. I don’t know about the biochemistry of birds, but the cormorant must have thought along the same lines: Get in as much of the goodness of the sun. as long as it lasts!

Of course, a walk in the dark exercises your body, too. But walking (or running or playing ball or finishing up fall cleaning in the garden) in light has the extra benefit of helping your body to produce vitamin D under the skin. Lighter skin produces it more easily; dark skin needs longer exposure. Besides helping fight infections and cancer, vitamin D is essential for bone strength – and doing something outdoors, moving around, gives an extra boost to your health.

If we live right, we are able to do away with artificial vitamins. Isn’t it marvelous that the body finds the required vitamins in its food and produces some under the skin? Of course, the food has to be fresh, not processed – because artificial things (let’s not even call them food!) are devoid of what really nourishes your body. It has to be this way – that you find all your requirements in fresh foods – because, otherwise, how would have mankind ever survived without the multivitamin from the drugstore?

We do eat cod liver about once a month – giving us a hefty dose of vitamin D (along with vitamin A). It is delicious. But probably polluted – so we don’t have it often. If you don’t like the idea of eating cod liver, get a good cod liver oil preparation and take it during the winter months.

Our walks keep us healthy. Winter is not a time to stay indoors; it is the time to bundle up warmly, march out and come back an hour or so later with red cheeks, ready to sit in front of the warm wood stove again. That walk in the cold gives your body a stimulus to balance itself according to the season – similar as a cold shower does: Cold is a healing stress – if not overdone.

Out there, with the cormorant or the Canada geese or just the still surface of the frozen pond, we bond again with Nature and rediscover that we are part of it, and rediscover our spiritual home.

Vagina: Keep Her Young!

December 8, 2010

Tags: order, water, movement, herbs, food, black cohosh, brain, cabbage, Chinese balls, drooping of internal organs, GAIA, home cooking, joy, Kegel exercises, masturbation, menopause, moral values, odor - vaginal, phyto-estrogens, PMS, probiotics, red clover, responsibility, sexuality, sitzbath – cold, sexually transmitted diseases, sleep, smell - vaginal, soap, soy – GMO, soy – mono-crop, standing on one leg, trichomonas, vagina, vaginal prolapse, Vagina: Keep Her Young!, vitex, wild yam, yeast infection - vaginal

Warning: If this offends your sensibilities, don’t read it!

When you have reached a certain age, people often comment on your looks: “You look ab-so-lute-ly faaa-bulous!”

Yeah. But how do you feel? How does your vagina feel – the part of your body that’s invisible, most of the time?

I happen to think that your vagina comes right after your brain in ranking organs for importance. And I think there are ways to keep her happy – and keep you happy. Responsibly, of course – that goes without saying.

Sexuality, I think, has been given to us for a bit of joy in our earthly travels. As a physician, I have observed that different vaginas can exude different levels of exuberance. As a woman, I have decided that I want to keep my precious parts healthy and vigorous. It’s for you to decide if you want to have a sad, smelly pouch down there – or alive tissue that vibrates with vigor and health and lust.

These are a few ideas, starting with movement:

• Kegel exercises, of course, are designed to preb=vent/improve the drooping of internal organs called prolapse. Nobody does Kegel exercises however because they are so boring. But if we would do them, we would benefit: Our internal organs would sag less, and get more blood supply – always a good thing.
• Alternatively, Chinese women have two small balls that are inserted into the vagina. While you walk you try to not let them fall out. This exercises has the same effect as Kegel’s – only they are more fun. The balls usually are made from shiny metal, come always in a box of two, and one has a tiny chime inside. Sounds a bit un-puritanical, though.
• My own method: Standing on one leg while brushing my teeth. It strengthens the whole pelvic musculature – with no extra time and effort.
• Using it, of course. Use it, or lose her. If you don’t have a partner, be diligent yourself. Don’t attach moral values to a bodily function that makes you happy and relaxed and keeps you young.

Now comes water:
• Drink enough fresh water and herbal teas to keep a good turgor down there.
• Cold sitzbath: This is not for the faint-hearted, especially not during the frigid times of year. But the benefits are great. Fill the bathtub with about one to two inches of water (use the time when the water is running to wash your breasts with cold water until they tingle with cold and life). Sit down. Move your legs to let the water swash over your thighs. Count to twenty-one. Get out. Towel well. If your feet are cold afterward, walk on your toes, jump on the spot, go for a walk – do anything to get warm fast again. – A cold sitzbath should not be done if you have a cold, an acute urinary infection, fever. Your body needs to be warm before you start. And never let the cold water swap over your kidney (waist) area; the cold water would use up your chi, as the Chinese say, weakening your whole system. Kept down at your vagina and legs, the cold water invigorates tired old tissues – a rejuvenating treatment.
• Don't use soap down there. This is - right after your eyes, I'd say - the most delicate area of your body, and you wouldn't rub soap into your eyes. The daily cold sitzbath will clean you well enough - provided you wash yourself with a fresh cloth after each defecation - don't wipe forward; always backward! When you take a shower and use shampoo, get a bit of the shampoo on the outside area - not inside or between the folds.
• Don't douche yourself - I said: DON'T DOUCHE YOURSELF! There is a light animal smell down there (if everything is healthy) which is a sign of health - you don't want to smell there like lilies of the valley!!

Herbs:
• Because every woman’s body is different, it sometimes takes a few trials to find the right herbal formula. I am partial to GAIA herbs and use their formula (they don’t pay me to say this!). But others work well, too. I often recommend single extracts, and put them together like black cohosh, red clover, wild yam and ginkgo biloba. Some women blossom if you add vitex to the formula. Female PMS and menopausal herbs do not only keep you healthy down there, but influence your whole body. Especially, they address the mood swings and depression that often come with declining hormones. And since they are not hormones, phyto-estrogens don’t have the same bad side-effects as hormones – don’t let your doctor talk you out of them. All studies about cultures where the diet is high in natural phyto-estrogens have shown very low breast cancer risk.

Food:
• As always, fresh food feeds the inside of every little cell in your body. Don’t think there is a shortcut for good food or cooking at home. No “nutritional” bar or restaurant can match the simple goodness of a cabbage dish made at home (cabbages, remember, are full of cancer-fighting agents).
• Food also plays a role if you want to avoid the smelly part: Everything that gives you gastro-intestinal troubles gives you overgrowth with wrong bacteria and yeast - and they might wander into your vagina (and will, given any chance!). If you have a "smelly" problem, consult your physician because it could be a case of trichomonas or any other sexually transmitted disease. And if nothing else helps, try a better diet: Leave out gluten, dairy, sugars, sweeteners and white starches.
• And don’t fall for that soy scam: The only soy products that are good for you are fermented ones (miso, real soy sauce, tempeh). Stay away from the GMO-tempered soy mono-crop that is destroying the rain forests in South America and does nothing for your health – or for your vagina.
• Use a probiotic if you have an odor - that helps your gut health. And use plain cultured yogurt in your vagina twice a day until the problem is gone.

Sleep:
• Get enough sleep because nothing in your body works when you are tired – and you certainly can’t make a tired vagina wake up by sitting all night on her in front of the computer.

These Times Are Hard On Your Liver

November 30, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, water, herbs, alcohol, apples, artichoke, artificial coloring, artificial flavors, beer, breathing, cabbages, cakes, carrots, celeriac, celery, cirrhosis, cookies, cucumber, dandelion, detoxification, elderberry, fatty liver, feast, fermented foods, festivities, food – rotten, food – spoiled, gentian root, gizzards, gut, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herbal tea, holidays, kitchen herbs, liquor, liver, marjoram, massaging, meats, medications – over-the-counter, milk thistle, miso, oxygen, probiotic, radish, raisins, red beets, sage, sauerkraut, soy sauce, spices, stuffing - bread, stuffing - traditional, These Times Are Hard On Your Liver, walking, walnuts, wine

The liver is the heaviest organ in the body, and during the holidays, it is also the hardest working organ. Because the liver is your detoxification organ.

Too much heavy (sweet, fatty, alcoholic) foods hurt your liver – and too much even of good stuff can be hard on this most precious organ. But this is probably not the time to preach moderation. So what can you do to survive these taxing times? (I hope you hear the irony in my voice – when half of mankind is still starving).

Everything unhealthy has to be eliminated via the liver: spoiled and rotten food, modern preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings. If the liver is overloaded with rich foods and toxins, you end up with a fatty liver – a diseased liver that cannot fulfill its tasks properly. And if it gets really bad, you end up with cirrhosis, the shrinking of this valuable organ. Fatty liver is reversible with a better lifestyle; cirrhosis is not.

These are the essentials for a healthy liver:

• Drink enough water – not ice-cold. Herbal teas are helpful, especially in the winter season. Some of the herbs below come also as teas – make use of them. Enough fluid will flush out your liver.
• Elderberry juice helps regenerate the liver.
• Keep alcohol (wine, beer, liquor) at a minimum.
• After a big meal, go for a walk. A walk uses up some of the calories you have been ingesting, and it gives your whole digestive system a little boost – things in your stomach can settle, and the peristalsis gets a jumpstart. In Europe, Sundays and holidays will bring people out of their houses in droves – everybody goes for a walk after a feast.
• These herbs help to improve liver function: Most beneficial is milk thistle – you should have it at hand these days. Also helpful are bitter plants like dandelion, artichoke, sage, and gentian root. Most are available in capsules, often in combination.
• Kitchen herbs and spices also help digestion: For instance, the traditional stuffing for a goose is: grind the gizzards, add cut apples, raisins, walnuts and two hands full of fresh (or less of dried) marjoram. No bread!! Don’t know who invented the bread filling…
• A working gut relieves an overworking liver – and a probiotic helps with useful bacteria.
• Fermented foods like sauerkraut, soy sauce and miso help digestion. Traditional kitchens have very specific fermented foods – explore a Japanese or Korean store. Make sure you buy the real thing – not a modern product that still has the taste but no actual fermentation any more in the production process. Look up “fermented foods” in one of my earlier blogs.
• Make sure you eat not only meats and cakes and cookies – but also cabbages, red beets, celery and celeriac, carrots, cucumbers, radishes are famous for relieving a moaning liver.
• Take some very deep massaging breaths: Always start with exhaling. Deep breathing moves the abdominal organs, and oxygen is required in myriad detoxing chemistry processes of the liver. If you feel stuffed, do the deep breathing by lying on your back.
• Stop all unnecessary medications, especially over-the-counter drugs. They only burden your liver more.

And since we are discussing liver health: Hepatitis A can be acquired through food (especially uncooked oysters, and such), hepatitis B and C through sex, drugs and blood. There are vaccines available against A and B. Unfortunately not against C. It might be wise to get vaccinated. Talk to your doctor.

And enjoy the festivities!

Puttering Around The House

November 22, 2010

Tags: movement, anemones, asters, balance, carpentry, daylilies, declutter, exercise, fall, gardening, gym, iris, leaves, oak, painting, peonies, phlox, puttering, Puttering Around The House, quadriplegia, raking leaves, roses, safety on ladders, sanding, scraping, spackling, spring bulbs, tannin, wallpapering

Last week, I painted the kitchen ceiling. That gives me bragging rights – but that is not why I want to talk about it.

Probably because gyms bore me to tears – I have never entered one except in hotels where there’s nothing else to do – I try to incorporate my daily exercise by puttering around the house.

The last leaf has come down in the yard and I neatly piled it on the beds. I am for recycling, even in the garden, and would never dream of having the precious gold hauled away. Next spring it will feed my flowers and bushes (mostly; oak leaves, with their high tannin contents, need about two seasons to decompose). This method asks for sturdy plants – they need to be able to pierce through the piled leaves in the spring. So, you won’t find dainty little things in my garden. Roses, peonies, iris, daylilies, phlox, garden asters, anemones, spring bulbs – and many more – find their way up to the sunlight. And of course, my garden never looks as tidy as that of the neighbors.

But I didn’t want to talk about gardening – although gardening is one of the things that keep me in form. The focus is on turning inward now, appropriate for the dark season, and aiming at the cluttered corners of our place. One by one I am tackling them. In my youth, when I had no money, I learned to paint and wallpaper and lay down carpets. I even built a closet. Now I return to my old skills because I crave the exercise. All we who spend the day at the computer, need that exercise.

So, it was the kitchen ceiling last week. Scraping off the flaky paint, spackling (“spackle” – a totally new word for me; in the hardware store, I had asked for “putty” – wrong word for what I needed!), sanding, painting. And all that work done on a ladder with arms above the head. I alternated arms because I want to grow an even body. Still, it was hard work. Also dangerous. My dear friend Jackie, years ago, fell off a stool hanging curtains, resulting in quadriplegia. So I was mindful all the time to not lose my balance. Hers is another story – but with alternative therapies (acupuncture, massage, etc) – Jackie regained the use of her arms, and even some of her legs. We will spend Thanksgiving with her and her family – a wonderful tradition for many years.

Too many stories interfering! Two points I want to make: Find chores in house, garden, attic, basement to do that keep you moving. And try to use also your non-dominant hand. That challenges your brain, makes you more nimble, and balances your body.

News About Cancer

November 6, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, bok choy, Brassica, broccoli, Cancer, News About Cancer, sprouts, cabbage, cabbage family, cancer, cancer cells, cancer prevention, cod liver, cod liver oil, cruciferous vegetables, DNA – damaged, exercise, horseradish, immune system, light, oncologist, raking leaves, sauerkraut, Savoy cabbage, skin health, sun, vegetables, vitamin D, walking

A recent study found that cancer grows astonishingly slowly – at least some cancers. It can take twenty years to full-blown cancer disease.

What does that mean for us? It means that instead of staring at the future and spending your life dreading the bad diagnosis, you can do something today to suppress developing cancer cells. It means that instead your oncologist becoming the heroic cancer fighter – be your own hero! Today, and every day!

Cancer cells are generated in our body all the time, by error and by damaged DNA. A healthy immune system will pick them out and gobble them up, effectively destroying them before they get out of hands.

What have you done today to ward off those tiny enemies? Exercise protects from cancer. So, go in the yard, rake some leaves (I have done that yesterday – looks good so far – before the rest of the leaves will come down). Or go for a walk. Remember that some light also protects from cancer, via vitamin D that is created under your skin when you are expose to light.

It might help to eat some cod liver once a month, also for a good dose of vitamin D. But not more often: I would be worried about pollution of fish – and pollutants might be especially high in fish liver. Alternative: Get a good old-fashioned cod liver oil.

And then: veggies. Eat cabbages and greens and roots and salads – everything you can put your hands on. A few days ago, we had our first killing frost. The day before I harvested everything from my garden in pots (did I mention earlier that this year I grew vegetables in pots on the terrace – because the flowers in my garden have not left a speck of soil for vegetables.

Was a mixed result: The vegetables are smaller than I hoped for. But when I harvested the last red cabbages, kohlrabi, mustard greens, chards and dinosaur kale, I got two big plastic bags full of greens - and we had eaten some all summer.

Right now I am slow-cooking oxtail with cabbage in the oven. The smell is delicious.

Oxtail might not sound like health food, but everything from the Brassica (cabbage family) is. And what is the best health food worth if you don’t eat it? The secret is to eat a small portion of meat, and a good helping of brassica.

Broccoli is in the cruciferous family (another name for the cabbage family). Most of them are edible and contain cancer-fighting compounds. Horseradish belongs here, and Brussels sprouts, Savoy cabbage, bok choy – and so many more. It does not have to be boring. And in sauerkraut you get the goodies of the cabbage family with the health benefits of fermentation – it can’t get healthier. And sauerkraut is cheap food, as are many of the cabbages.

If you have already cancer: Eat as many vegetables as you can. You might prolong your life that way. Veggies also gives you better skin.

If you can’t cook: Throw a veggie in a pot with a little water and a lot of olive oil. Add plenty of garlic (preferably fresh), and pepper and salt. Simmer on low heat under a lid until done. I still have to find a vegetable that manages to taste bad with this recipe …

Getting Down on the Ground

October 28, 2010

Tags: movement, Getting Down on the Ground, earth, Earth, exercise, falls, fish – yoga, gravity, sphinx – yoga, floor, ground, yoga

If you don’t do a single exercise at all – no walking, biking, swimming, yoga, playing ball – this is the ONE THING you have to do every single day: Getting down on the ground.

Why? Use it, or lose it. Many people who remember fondly crouching under the big family table as a child or romping around in the living room with the dog as if it was just yesterday, can’t get down on the ground anymore, to their big surprise.

Or, let’s rephrase it: Once they are down, there is no way to get up again, alone. The arms aren’t strong enough anymore to push you up, and the legs … forget the legs. So, that is the last time they have been down - voluntarily.

For, you see: down you will come. We all one day end in the earth. What brings us there are often falls. You trip or slip, and the next thing you know (if you know anything at all), the ambulance arrives and drives you off to the hospital. Only because of two things: You couldn’t keep your balance, and you couldn’t get up from the floor.

This is your homework today: Get down on the floor, and get up again. Once you are down, you can try a yoga pose like the fish, or the sphinx. But the point is really to be able to get up again. If you are not sure you can make it up, get help: Make a friend lend a hand.

Let the ground not be your enemy – let it be your friend, the place that gives you strength daily. We will go to the earth, but we also are from it. The Earth, our home, is not only for trampling on her, she is also supporting us. Her gravity exercises our muscles. We are alive as long as we can use her.

The Old Boring Calcium Question

October 25, 2010

Tags: movement, food, bone health, boron, British Medical Journal, calcium, cancer, chromium, dairy, diabetes, fruit, grains - whole, heart attack risk, heart disease, hugging and kissing, legumes, light, manganese, magnesium, milk, nuts, obesity, osteoporosis, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, skin – dark-skinned people, sleep – sufficient, sulfur, sun, supplements, The Old Boring Calcium Question, vegetables, vitamin D

Chances are you are taking a calcium supplement because are health-conscious?

But do you really need it – or are you even harming yourself with your calcium pill?

It is true that bones need calcium for growth. What is not true is that calcium alone gives us stronger bones. Bones need far more than just calcium: Other minerals like potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, chromium, sulfur, selenium, boron – and others – are necessary for bone health. Without these other minerals, calcium alone is pretty useless.

Besides, calcium pills – those fat bummers that are hard to swallow because of their size – are also hard to digest. As a physician, I have seen my share of undigested calcium pills popping up on x-rays, somewhere lying in the bowels, useless.

That milk is an unsuitable source of calcium, you have heard here before. Besides being an unhealthy food, the calcium from milk is also not as readily available as the calcium from vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and nuts. The plant world is so abundant in calcium that adding vitamin D to milk as a selling argument comes close to a joke: Dairy is a cause for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and so on.

For good bones you need a host of minerals – all conveniently available in plant foods – plus sun and exercise. Not so much sun, actually, as light. Even on an overcast day, a midday outdoors walk will trigger the necessary amount of vitamin D production beneath your skin. Inner-city people with dark skin are mostly at risk of osteoporosis because they need more sun exposure.

And if you don’t move, you will lose your bone strength fast. A little known fact: We are losing some bone every night, from being inactive during sleep. An active person will rebuild that loss (and more) the next day. An inactive person won’t.

A study in the British Medical Journal recently found that calcium supplement could increase the risk of a heart attack by thirty percent. Clearly, we have to rethink health: Health does not come from pills. It comes from a lifestyle that uses our body for which it is intended: joyful activity, fresh foods, sufficient sleep. And hugging and kissing, if you ask me.

Standing On One Leg

October 24, 2010

Tags: movement, balance, brushing teeth, exercise, exercise – harmful, high blood pressure, hypertension, Kegel exercises, leg, pelvic muscles, standing on one leg, walking, walking on uneven surface, yoga stance

Because I get bored stiff with doing exercise, I am always on the lookout for some easy way out.

The Five Tibetans were my favorites for a while, then the yoga ball. But both showed their propensities for inducing harm: The Five Tibetans gave me some lower back pain. The yoga ball made a kink in my neck. Both cases are probably brought on myself, by overdoing it.

But I found an exercise that is not harmful (at least not as of now) AND does not even take up any extra time. Unbelievable? Because you do it while you brush your teeth.

Easy: Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth. Change legs in the middle.

In the beginning, I was very wobbly. But I found focusing on the crease between leg and buttock, improves stability. Over about a quarter of a year, I have been getting quite good: I can lift my leg to a horizontal stance without toppling over.

This exercises, of course, your leg muscles. It also tones your pelvic musculature – without being as boring as Kegel exercises. By extrapolation, I would think that it will help lowering high blood pressure – as walking on pebbles or uneven surfaces has been proven to do exactly this. It think it has to do with using muscles, period.

And the most important effect: It works on the balance center in your brain. Elderly people are dying often from falls. So we need to maintain as much balance as we can.

Especially, if it is just a simple habit added to the twice-daily chore of brushing your teeth!. It turns out that standing on one leg has the same exercise effect as walking for forty-five minutes. Amazing, huh?

Breast Health – and Breast Beauty

October 22, 2010

Tags: order, water, food, movement, alcohol, arm swings, bra, breast, Breast Health – and Breast Beauty, celiac, cold wash, cold shower, dairy, exercise, gluten intolerance, growth hormones, Iran, jasmine, lymph flow, milk, Persepolis, smoking, vegetables

Remember the movie “Persepolis?”

My favorite scene was when the granddaughter asks her Iranian grandmother why she still has so beautiful breasts, at her age. The grandmother divulges her two secrets:

1. Wash your breasts with cold water every day. That can be part of a cold shower at the end of your warm one. Or you stand in front of the sink and wash your breasts with a cloth and cold water – about a dozen times.

2. Put jasmine flowers in your bra and carry the scent around you all day – it makes you feel beautiful.

I love that advice! From my experience, I have a few more bits to add for better breast health and more beauty:

3. Eat a diet high in fresh vegetables, with low meats, no dairy and little sugar.

4. Avoid all milk and dairy – they are causing breast pain and breast cancer. They contain growth hormones. Growth hormones are unnecessary and harmful beyond the infant stage.

5. Do not wear a bra at night. Your skin needs to breathe and your lymph needs to circulate. – Don’t wear a bra if you don’t need one.

6. For the same reason, do exercise: Let your arms swing. Brest cancer seems to occur more often in the left breast. Since 85 percent of people are right-handed, it stands to reason that we are not moving enough lymph around in the left breast and get less toxicity removed than on the right side (that is just a theory of mine – don’t listen if it doesn’t convince you).

7. Don't smoke or drink.

8. Find out if you are gluten-intolerant. Nearly all cancers are higher in celiacs than in non-celiacs.

9. Drink enough water – room temperature or warmer. Never ice-cold.

Movement for Beginners

September 25, 2010

Tags: movement, books, bottles - water-filled, dumbbells, egg timer, exercise – two-minutes, expanders, Movement for Beginners, nautilus, rowing machine, stationary bike, stepping stairs, treadmill, walking

The idea is to recapture the joy in moving you had when you were a child. Suggestions:

1. Walk 10 minutes every day – rain or shine, snow or ice. Bundle up and go outside. Stay in only if there is a danger of falling on ice. In that case: Bundle up, open the window wide and march in your room for ten minutes.
2. The 2-minutes exercise: Have an egg timer and any exercise machine you’ve got: stationary bike, treadmill, nautilus – doesn’t matter. Don’t go out and buy one. Dumbbells will do, or stepping stairs, or expanders. At the least, you have two books or two water-filled bottles in the house and can use them like dumbbells. Put the egg timer on two minutes and start. Do your movements in beauty and grace, open your joints, enjoy every second of change in your body, feel and savor the new sensations. DO it every day – NO excuses. – Afterthought: if you insist on buying a machine: buy a used old-fashioned rowing machine – they are the best.
3. Enroll in a yoga class.

From here everything will come in its own way and at its own pace.

Opiates

September 20, 2010

Tags: order, movement, food, burn-out, dairy, drug problem, drugs – prescription, drugs – street, exercise – lack of, lifestyle, Massachusetts Board of Registration for Medicine, nutrition, opiates, Opiates, physicians, religions, responsibility, values

The Massachusetts Board of Registration for Medicine sends me an invitation to a day conference to learn how to prescribe opiates.

We know by now that people have switched from street drugs to prescription drugs – and that physicians who over-prescribe opiates are often the biggest users themselves.

Looks like Americans – doctors and patients alike – are in a lot of pain.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to go to the roots of the drug problem: Poverty, poor education, no outlook that your life will ever change to the better, religions that tell you are a sinner – and on the other hand overworked, burnt-out physicians who struggle to pay the bills and get their children through college?

And for both: Lack of exercise and exceedingly lousy nutrition setting up both groups to aches and pains. Even just removing dairy from their diet might set the body on the way of healing. Or going for a walk. Or turning the handle on "cold" after the hot shower. Or going to bed early enough to get a good night's sleep.

We don’t have a drug problem. We have a value problem (not more religion, please – less!) and a crazy lifestyle. And we – both groups – shun personal responsibility.

Fats Are Bad – And a Few Other Medical Myths I Am Not Sure I Still Believe In

September 7, 2010

Tags: movement, food, order, water, Aspirin, butter, calories, celery, Centenarian Study, coconut oil, cold, computer, cracker, dairy, drinking, fat, Fats Are Bad – And a Few Other Medical Myths I Am Not Sure I Still Believe In, fever, germs, hangover, milk, moderation, olive oil, pain medication, painkiller, posture, snacking before bedtime, sleep, snacks, sun, tea – herbal, Tylenol, yoga ball

1. Fats are bad for us. - Even at that time when I felt I was giving best medical advice to my patient (“Cut down on fat”), I myself never was really able to cut out fats much. I get so incredibly hungry without! But I am still at the weight I had at age twelve … and have slowly come to the conclusion that I probably gave bad advice to my patients. (Sorry!). What I advise now: Olive oil for salads, coconut oil for frying, occasionally a bit of European-style cultured butter (very occasionally!).

2. Exercise hard. – The Centenarian Study has shown that people who live to a ripe old age usually are not strong on exercise. They have friends, putter around house and garden and live for a worthwhile cause. Plus they have good genes. – I am not saying don’t exercise – but like everything else: Do it in moderation! – A minute here and there on your yoga ball, daily, will give you better health than the gym once a week (my guess – no studies done).

3. Eat a snack before you go to bed. – Diabetics are taught this, and usually crackers and milk are recommended, both of which I think are really bad ideas. That dairy is unhealthy I have said before; crackers are nothing else than cardboard “food” – devoid of any nutritional value.

4. Snacks, in general. – Bad idea. Few people fare well on the “more meals but smaller meals” advice. Most people do “more meals and more and more calories.” I never snack – and I never try my own food when I am cooking – I just smell out if more salt is needed. And healthy snacks like celery sticks without the dip? They really make me hungry. - Forget snacks! Think of something more important!

5. Oh, and carrying water with you wherever you go. – Don’t! We got two hands to do really interesting stuff with them like fixing a car or playing the cello – NOT for lugging a water bottle or a coffee pot around. You don’t have to drink in the middle of your exercise or yoga class – before and after is plenty. Except if you are crossing a desert, don’t be seen with a bottle/cup in your hand. And drinks with calories in them? Also a no-no: Water and teas are all what is needed. Because drinks with calories are not drinks – they are meals.

6. Take a Tylenol or an Aspirin for fever. – Now, the body makes a fever to kill the germs that invaded you. It’s usually not a good idea to interfere with your body’s action. Go to bed early, drink hot herbal teas and sleep it out is usually the better response to a beginning cold.

7. Take a painkiller against pain. - If a simple Tylenol, etc. will do the trick, the pain is probably not so bad that you cannot tough it out (which is easier on your body – all the pain medications have unwanted side effects). Also: Better think why you got the pain in the first place: Hangover? Too much sun? Too much computer? Too little movement? Bad posture? Too little sleep?

To be continued, I guess.

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.

The Five Health Essentials

August 18, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, alcohol, beer, biochemistry, circulation, clothing, coffee, cold shower, dehydration, drinking water, energy, ENM, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, Five Health Essentials, fluids, Health Essentials - Five, herbal tea, ice cold, iquids, liquor - hard, milk, over-hydration, saltwater nose rinse, sauna, seven - a sacred number, seven cups of water, sitzbath, soup, stomach, swimming, temperature, The Five Health Essentials, urine, water - drinking, water - filtered, water intake, weight loss, wind conditions, wine

European Natural medicine works with the Five Health Essentials. Here they are:

• Water - our wellspring, inside and out
• Movement – shapes our bodies and our minds
• Food - the building blocks of our body
• Herbs - the essence of Nature
• Order for our lives – balance in the world.

Today let’s talk a bit about water in general; I will tackle the other four Essentials in the next few days.

We are mostly water, and therefore we need water. Drinking water (or herbal teas) helps nearly all biochemical functions; we die pretty fast without drink (usually within three days). Without food we can survive about 30 days. – These are rough numbers – and don’t try this at home.

Every body nowadays knows that we should take enough fluid in. But few people are aware that one can overdo drinking. I usually recommend seven cups of water - from a beautiful cup – not from plastic. And preferably filtered. Seven cups, of course, is an inane recommendation because your size, the temperature, exercise, your clothing, wind conditions, what you have been eating, and so on will influence how much you really have to drink. Seven is a sacred number and should just keep you mindful of your water intake. But it is not written in stone. Better observe your urine: If it is getting dark, you need more water. If it is water-clear, you had too much.

Soup and fruit contain fluids; coffee and alcoholic drinks like beer and wine count less because they dehydrate. But they don’t count for nothing. Hard liquor and milk don’t count at all (and should be avoided altogether).

Whatever you drink, it should never be ice cold! Iced liquids hamper digestion by clamping down on blood circulation in the stomach, and decrease energy in the body. However, it is not enough to lose weight!

Water from the outside is as important as water from the inside. This is the perfect time for starting cold showers because the cold water is much warmer than it will be in a few months (unless you live in the southern hemisphere). August is the time to go swimming – in a lake, in the ocean, or even just dunking in a rubber pool in the backyard. Beyond cold showers you have heard here already about cold sitzbaths, saltwater nose rinses, sauna – all of which are tricks to keep you healthy.

Sweating It

July 31, 2010

Tags: water, order, movement, food, herbs, air conditioning, amphetamines, anti-epilectic drugs, Boston, bowel, cold exposure, colds, colon cleansing, copper, Deep South, dehydration, detoxification, drinks - warm or cold, elimination, fruit, high blood pressure, kidneys, lead, lungs, medication, mercury, metals - heavy, methadone, New Orleans, nickel, peppermint tea, relaxation, salads, salt, sauna, skin, sleep - improved, studies - medical, summer, sweating, Sweating It, toxins, winter, yoga, zinc

Awful, this summer heat, isn’t it? One sits, barely wants to move, and sweat runs out of every pore.

Actually, no! Sweating takes out toxins from our bodies; the skin is one of four elimination organs (the other three are kidneys, bowels, lungs). Sweating is beneficial. Enjoy your wet armpits – without them, you would age faster and might get cancer earlier. Sorry that I am so graphic. But the advantages of sweating are widely underrated.

People sit in air-conditioned houses, and at the same time they are shelling out big dollars for “colon cleansing.” Colon cleansing is a health scam. Eating better and drinking water or herbal teas will do the trick; colon cleansing will not make you purer - just poorer.

In the winter, a sauna does the trick. Not by accident was sauna in vented in Finland and Russia - cold, northern states that do not allow for sweat naturally. - Exercise can make you sweat. But don’t try too hard: Individual people start sweating at different points, and one should not exercise for the sake of sweating. Move for fun and purpose!

In the summer, let nature work for you: Sweat it out!

Heavy metals like nickel, copper, zinc, lead have been found in sweat in higher numbers than in the blood – but I wish, we had better studies available! For instance, I am only aware of a single study that saw mercury levels falling during a sauna protocol. Most medical studies are funded by pharmaceutical firms (and I don’t see any wrong in there, as long as they adhere to scientific ethics). But this situation leaves out studies on water, sauna, yoga, healthy food, to name a few – because not much money can be made of them. The only way to improve the situation is to demand such studies.

Medications may be released into the sweat, notably anti-epileptic drugs, amphetamines, methadone (but don’t get your hopes too high that sauna will get you through a drug test easily - it won’t!).

Sauna also prevents frequent colds and promotes better sleep. In Europe, people use saunas widely. Mostly, of course, for relaxation and fun.

Except for the very elderly and frail who are in danger of severe dehydration in the summer, an air conditioner is unnecessary. In our house, we have a built-in central air-conditioning system. We never – never! – use it (but we also live in Boston, not in the Deep South - perhaps I would feel different in New Orleans...). If it gets really sweltering at night, we run a simple fan in the bedroom. Summer is for sweating – and winter is for cold exposure; both have their health merits.

If you sweat, you lose salt and water. So drink enough! And put a pinch more salt than usually in your food to replenish – unless you tend to high blood pressure. - And before I forget it: Warm drinks are healthy; cold drinks - especially ice-cold - hurt you.

Instead of suffering through the summer months, take them as what they are: A free-for-all detox program – every year! Eat fruit and salads and enjoy the heat with a peppermint tea ... lukewarm. In the shade.

Quackery

July 30, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, order, accidents, allopathy, Andy Lewis, appendicitis, drug-dispensing, fever, genes, headache, health, heart attack, homeopathy, language - ambiguous, Lewis - Andy, medicine - alternative, medicine - conventional, Natural Medicine, naturpathy, New Age, procedure-oriented, profit-driven, quackery, Quackery, quackometer, relationships, science, sleep, stiff neck, sugar pills, supplements, tularemia, vitamins

On the British "Quackometer" site, I have been negatively reviewed: http://www.quackometer.net/.

This is what I answered:

Dear Mr. Andy Lewis,

Basically, I like the idea of a quackometer. On the other hand, I am not tickled that I received all those ducks. They are cute, though.

In my books and health blog, I use easy language while being informed about science. I use some new-agey terms so that people understand me – that explains “This web site is using lots of alternative medicine terms.”

At the same time, you accuse me of the opposite: “It is full of scientific jargon that is out of place and probably doesn't know the meaning of any of the terms.” You don’t want to argue with degrees - but here I have to: I was a teacher of mathematics and statistics, and have a master’s degree in philosophy, especially in epistemology (which is the science of what we can know, and where we better shut up – as Wittgenstein put it). That all before I studied medicine and finished with board-certification here in the U.S.A. in internal medicine. And I hold a degree in “Natural Medicine.” So, in all likelihood, I do understand the medical and scientific terms I use.

“It shows little or no critical thought and so should be treated with caution!” You might have overlooked my blog that states that homeopathy has no scientific basis – therefore I don’t use it with patients. But I did two courses of homeopathy to make sure I did not throw out a valuable tool unexamined. Then again, barely anybody dies of sugar pills – and here in the U.S.A. (unfortunately, I don’t have British numbers) about 100,000 people die per year of allopathic drugs. Only on your website today I found the information of this anti-malaria homeopathic concoction; that indeed is murderous, and I strongly oppose it.

However, since many ailments heal with time and better lifestyle, homeopathy (which is often combined with compassionate care and good advice for exercise and healthy eating) might be less of a safety problem than conventional medicine. I have practiced medicine for thirty years and have become skeptical of profit-driven, procedure-oriented, drug-dispensing allopathic medicine. But I would never discard good conventional medicine where it is needed and useful: When my son came home from camp with high fever, stiff neck and the worst headache of his life, I did not think for a second that “alternatives” were the answer. I drove him straight to the Emergency Room of a famous Boston Teaching Hospital (where they promptly misdiagnosed his tularemia – but that is another story…). – Appendicitis needs a good surgeon. And one doesn’t treat a heart attack by holding hands. – Guess we agree here.

Also, I am very critical of indiscriminate use of vitamins and other supplements without proven value and without documented deficiencies. You might also have noticed that I don’t sell anything – only my books which is the way to disperse ideas and knowledge). Not even a mug or a t-shirt.

There are bad genes and unfortunate accidents. But apart from that, health is a simple proposition, in my opinion: Eat well, sleep well, move a bit, drink fresh water, get your relationships and priorities right – and automatically, you will be healthier. Common sense, not more. But it is so much easier to pop a pill (allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic) than do something yourself - that’s probably why my books sell so poorly.

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

P.S. I forgot two arguments:

1. Using language as the sole indicator for quackery might not work because – as you somewhere noticed yourself – language is ambiguous.

2. Writing on a rather “quackery” website should not constitute quackery itself – I often just bring arguments which might be enlightening – and lure readers to my blog. Also, if writing on a “quackery” site makes me guilty of quackery – then writing on the “Quackometer” redeems me??

Last thought: Homeopathy fills a void that conventional medicine leaves: Homeopathic practitioners care and listen. If we want to persuade patients with our scientific arguments, we first have to return to caring and listening.

Update 1/2/2011:
They took me off the list, after all!!



How to Measure Diabetes

July 21, 2010

Tags: disease, food, movement, A1c, anemia, belly fat, biking, blood sugar, cheeks - rosy, dancing, diabetes - latent, diabetes management, diabetes mellitus, diabetes type II, end-organ failure, eye problems, fasting blood sugar, fat - bad, genetic disposition, glucose solution, hair - scant body hair, hemoglobin - glycosylated, How to Measure Diabetes, hypoglycemia, kidney failure, Natural Medicine, neuropathy, Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, overweight, starches - white, sugars, swimming, urine, walking

In ancient times, diabetes was diagnosed by licking the urine of the patient. If it tasted sweet, a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus (“honeysweet flow”) was made. As a physician, I am glad we have advanced to better tests...

There are basically four different tests to diagnose diabetes (I am talking here mostly of type II):

• Spot blood sugar. Since sugars rise and fall depending what and when you ate, this is a very unreliable test.
• Fasting blood sugar. Does only take a bit of blood, is cheap and fast – but still can vary with what one ate the day before. However, if your fasting numbers are up consistently, you should pay attention!
• Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: a complicated procedure where one drinks an awfully sweet fluid before blood will be drawn in half-hour intervals to ascertain how fast the sugar load is cleared out. It’s complicated, and very time-consuming for the patient. I object of giving a patient a drink 75 to 100 gm of unpalatably sweet glucose solution – which can’t be healthy if there is a disease caused by sugar. My suspicion is that this test is still be used because doctors can bill the most for this.
• Glycosylated hemoglobin, also called A1c: An easy blood test that gives a rough average of your sugars through the last month. I like this one the best because the usual ups and downs of sugar are not interfering with the test, but going into the overall measuring. With frequent episodes of hypoglycemia (too low blood sugars), the test might come back falsely low or normal. In iron-deficiency, A1c are higher than they really are, suggesting diabetes where there might be none. Every time one eats sugar, it “glycosylates” (adding a sugar to the molecule) a protein on the surface of an erythrocytes (red blood cells), and the chemical process is never reversed as long as the blood cell lives. Red blood cells live about three months; blood we draw is always a mixture of very young cells, newly released into the bloodstream from the bone marrow, and older cells, soon to be discarded. Measuring blood glycosylation therefore represents a fair mirroring of recent sugar intake and over time, those numbers can be compared: A lower A1c means you have done something right lately.

In conventional medicine, A1c is called normal if it is below 6.0. A1c is measured in percent of how much of the blood is “sugared”. Starting at 6.1, you have diabetes. That in it itself is rather absurd: A little step upward from 5.9 to 6.0 does not give you diabetes – you had it coming all along. In Natural Medicine, we think that between 5.0 and 6.0, one has “latent” (developing) diabetes. Why that number of 6.0? Because if one would chose 5.0 as the cut-off point, most Americans would have to be diagnosed with the disease.

The Oral Glucose Tolerance Test is more sensitive to detect cases of diabetes – but only if the cut-off point for diabetes is set at 6.0 A1c.

Arbitrarily putting the number to 6.0 does not make a person healthier. In fact, at the date of diabetes diagnosis, I good proportion of patients have already end-organ failure, namely eye problems, kidney failure, neuropathy – to name a few.

Just looking around tells us that many people are overweight and have some of the telltale signs of diabetes: belly fat, scant hairs on arms and legs, rosy cheeks. One sign alone does not make the diagnosis – but several together gives me an idea. But one can be very overweight and never develop diabetes, because in order to get the disease, you have to have the genes AND an unfortunate lifestyle.

Don’t think that genes are an excuse. Because diabetes type II does not strike, if one lives frugally. For instance, after World War II in Europe, basically nobody had it (but people died in droves of tuberculosis then…). Ten years later, with ballooning economies and waistlines, diabetes was back.

But you don’t have to starve yourself, to heal diabetes. You need a mixture of moderate movement (walking, swimming, biking – or dancing; whatever you like) and a diet without sugars, white starches and bad fats.

In diabetes drug studies, diabetes often is called “controlled” if the blood sugar stays within the limits if 7.0 to 10.0 A1c. We can be sure that at those numbers the damage done by high sugars is continuing in the body. I personally favor an approach that does not “manage” the patient’s diabetes, but gets rid of it. And in many cases it can be done, with exercise, better nutrition – and determination on the patient’s side.

Allopathy, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Natural Medicine – and Avandia

July 14, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, movement, allopathy, Allopathy, Naturopathy - Homeopathy - Natural Medicine – and Avandia, Avandia, drugs, finances, high blood pressure, homeopathy, hormones, hypertension, marriage - problems, medicine - conventional, medicine - natural, medicine - Western, minerals, naturopathy, pharmaceutics, pheochromocytoma, pills, sleep, stress, vitamins

You hear me mumble a lot about Natural Medicine. How does it differ from other kinds of medicine – allopathy, naturopathy, homeopathy? (Allopathy is another name for conventional medicine – the kind that is commonly practiced in the West)?

It is simple to explain: All those systems - except for Natural Medicine - believe in pills: Allopathy in pharmaceutical drugs; naturopathy in vitamins, minerals, hormones – small molecules that are supposedly lacking in your body; homeopathy believes in little sugar pills that don’t do anything at all, but at least keep the patient away from stronger, more detrimental drugs.

Don’t get me wrong: There is nothing inherently wrong with pills. In certain situations, we need them. Only that they are vastly overrated and over-prescribed and can, at times, do more harm than good. Mainly, however: They never address the root cause of the problem.

Let’s look at a patient who walks in with a blood pressure of 200 over 120. Would I want to deny him a pill? Of course, I would start him immediately on some pressure-lowering medications. I might even observe him in the hospital for a day or two if he looks brittle. But then I would work with the patient on his lifestyle – nutrition, water intake, movement, enough sleep, work stress, martial problems, financial debts: anything that might add to his high blood pressure. Not to make him an eternal patient, but to give him a chance at health. I would also make sure that he is not one of the five percent who have a physical reason for high blood pressure, like kidney disease or pheochromocytoma.

But my main goal would be to make the pills unnecessary.

The problem is: It is so much easier for the doctor to take out her prescription pad – and so much easier for the patient to take some pills for the rest of his life than facing the hard task to turn his life around and make it healthier. We are a culture of pill poppers; we want problems to go away – and fast. We have more important things to do than work on a lifestyle of health and happiness.

And because of that, we are sick.

Granted, there are hereditary diseases, and accidents, and sheer bad luck. But truly: Many health problems are in our own hands. Take diabetes – and the Avandia scandal: Do we really think a little pill can make up for thirty years of bad food choices and no exercise?

I, for one, don’t. Therefore, I opt for Natural Medicine.

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!

Upper Back Pain

July 10, 2010

Tags: movement, back pain, bones, bridge, buttocks, ecercises, Indian yoga statues, lower back pain, micro-movements, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, muscles, Oceanic Art, nape, neck, one leg standing pose, posture, shoulder, shoulder blade, snake in your spine, spine, stance, stretching, upper back pain, Upper Back Pain, walking, yoga

In the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston I recently saw a figure from Oceania (here a similar picture from Africa - sorry, I have no clue how to make it larger and still sharp). The figure, barely a foot high, is carved from black wood and on first look seems rather crude. On second look, it reveals the perfect posture in a way I have otherwise seen only in Indian statues depicting ideal yoga stances.

The figure stands with soft knees slightly bent which struck me at first as a sort of ridiculous stance. Then one sees its graceful straight neck, with chin tugged in ever so delicately – and one gasps: This crude figure exhibits deep knowledge of musculo-skeletal workings.

If we could stand in this aware stance all the time, we would never suffer from upper back pain. Hunched as we are over computer screens, slouched onto chairs and sofas, unaware of our posture for hours and days on end, we do suffer. Here are a few exercises that should work against upper back pain:

• Micro-movements: Lie on your back – in bed, on the floor – and pull back one shoulder. Release, and pull back the other shoulder. Done repeatedly, it feels as if you wake up the snake in your spine, which starts undulating, writing. The movements are tiny. But they release muscle contractions from wrong posture. 21 times. Find new subtle ways of moving your spine.
• Stretching backward: Stand with knees soft and your buttocks tightened to protect your lower back (no use to swap upper back pain against lower back pain!). Bend backward and upward at the same time. Don’t collapse in your lower back area – it should feel like a puppet on a string, gently pulled back and up. At the same time, let go of your shoulders and let your shoulder blades glide down. The movement is a perfect up for the crown of your head, and a down for your shoulder blades. Once – whenever you think about it or feel the need to release your poor back.
• Lie on your back on the floor (this should not be done in bed, one needs a hard surface). Stand up your feet slightly apart. Raise your middle like a bridge. You now rest only on the nape of your neck and your feet. Slowly arch higher – without putting strain on your neck. Three times – but gently!
• Stand on one leg. I do this while I brush my teeth – so there is no extra waste of time. Lift one leg. Move it around – from side to side, upward, backward. Then the other leg. For a minute each. This strengthens pelvic and lower back muscles – without those your upper back has nothing to rely on.
• Walk as much as you can, preferably in hilly terrain. A strong upper back can only develop on the basis of strong legs and lower back muscles.

Do we get more stooped with aging? Or is the stooping aging us?

If I Had an Incurable Disease...

June 28, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, arterial disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, carrots, cat food, chronic fatigue syndrome, cod liver oil, cold shower, dairy, declutter, diet, disease - incurable, Etruscan history, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, eye infection, fibromyalgia, fish, fish oil, Five Health Essentials, foods - inflammatory, gardening, growth hormone, herpes, high blood pressure, hormones, If I Had an Incurable Disease..., immune disease, inflammatory foods, journaling, legumes, mandolin, meat, multiple sclerosis, mushrooms, oats, olive oil, phyto-nutrients, probiotics, quilting, repair, relationship - abusive, sarcoid, shower - cold, spirituality, vegetables, walk - daily, welding, whole grains, woodworking

At one point, my cat Kachi had a herpes eye infection that didn’t go away; whatever the vet tried – hundreds of dollars of medications (that was when I decided that I never again would put that much money into pet health care) - nothing helped.

When it threatened her good eye, I thought” What would I do in a patient who has an incurable disease?” Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was cleaning up my cat's diet.

Until then, she had been fed with dry food and cans – like so many pets. I stopped the dry food and cooked, pureed and froze her meals: meat, carrots, a handful of oats, fish.

Within a week, her eye started to heal. After three weeks she was fine. Interestingly, the condition returned, as soon as we returned to processed foods.

So this is what I would do if I had an incurable disease:

• Clean up my eating act. No dairy, as starters. Dairy provides double jeopardy in disease: It is highly inflammatory. Some poorly understood diseases – like sarcoid, autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and so on – will benefit from less inflammation. And dairy is a potent concoction of hormones that lets cells grow - which cancer patients should avoid it like the devil.

As always, don’t just avoid bad foods; cram your plate with good ones – and that means: vegetables, vegetables, vegetable. And herbs and fruit, of course. Plant material has all the phyto-nutrients that your body needs for repair. Plus, good oils like olive oil, fish, occasionally meat (but no deli and cured meats), whole grains, legumes.

But there is more:

• Moderate exercise. Don’t go crazy with mindless machines in a gym – just go for a daily walk, putter around in the garden, clean out attic and garage, and generally find things to do that involve movement.
• End every hot shower or bath with a short (seconds only) cold shower (unless you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or an arterial disease). A cold shower improved immune function, and if you have an ill-understood disease – like my cat’s herpes) – you want your immune system in best working order.
• Add medicinal mushrooms, probiotics, fish oil and cod liver oil to your regimen.
• Get a life: Don’t use sickness as an excuse not to pursue your dreams – go for them right now! Enroll in a course you always wanted to do: woodworking, Etruscan history, welding, playing the mandolin, quilting – whatever captures your fancy. Against physicians’ predictions, I have seen patients survive for many years on bad diseases. Because survival has much to do with the purpose in your life.
• Get a spiritual life: Write it down in your journal just like this: I believe in … And see what will come out. It might mot be religious - but it will be powerful because it stands for your deepest convictions. And then follow your path! Make connections with like-minded people. Needless to say: Let go of stifling, abusive, dead-end relationships (but don’t conclude too fast that it is all your spouse’s fault – it might well be yours; work on yourself first!).

Of course, here we have again the Five Health Essentials of European Natural Medicine: Water, movement, food, herbs, order. If I had an incurable disease, I would embrace these Health Essentials, and make the best of my life that it can be.

P.S. In the summer, I would make a daily garden tea.

Syndrome X Everywhere

June 22, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, water, apple form, central obesity, cold shower, Depression, diabetes type II, disease, HFCS, high blood pressure, high fructose corn syrup, hyper-cholesterolemia, hypertension, lipids, obesity, pear form, race distribution, shower - cold, sleep, syndrome X, Syndrome X Everywhere, vegetables

Nearly half of US adults have diabetes, hypertension, or hyper-cholesterolemia - these three conditions make up Syndrome X. Plus, the definition includes a fourth condition, namely “central obesity”: a big belly.

To make the diagnosis does not take a degree from medical school. One can SEE if people are healthy – or unhealthy. Their "love handles" give them away.

In the study, white people were found to have more often only one of the conditions, whereas black and Hispanics were more likely to have two or all three.

Have you ever seen photos of the Thirties? The people look outright … unreal. Slim. We had the Depression then, granted. Barely anybody was fat. As an aside, look at their faces: They also seem happier. America then was hard at work to get itself out of the bad economical times.

Central obesity is what is also called the “apple form”: Extra weight gathers in the middle, as opposed to dragging down the bottom – which is called the “pear form.” For reasons not yet totally understood, the “apple” is the dangerous one. Probably because the “pear” connotes some genetically programmed weight gain, and the “apple” is all – what shall we call it – cultural fat.

Physicians used to think that slab of belly fat just sits there, unmovable, unchanged, forever. Now they have found out that belly fat is extremely active – like a stealth factory churning out secret molecules that make people eat more and build up more fat. That is why belly fat kills.

Slimmer is not a question of beauty but of health. A disclosure: My father was hefty. I loved it. Still love compact people. But it does not make them healthier. It only means that I will go through the heartbreak to lose them earlier – statistically speaking.

Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to 1891), one of my medical heroes, once said: “Big dinners fill coffins.” He knew what he was talking – he carried a paunch himself. Interestingly, he was a vegetarian. He did himself in with dumplings.

Which brings us to food. I will not give you a long lecture about healthy eating. Avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a minimum, and stick to vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. Occasionally have some fish and (organic) meat.

We have the best health care system in the world?? Medicine makes us healthy??

We have a disease care system; doctors “manage” diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid abnormalities, and so on, but they don’t cure you. Why should they? They’d lose a patient. So they are going on “managing” your diabetes, high blood pressure, high lipids. If you want health, you have to do it yourself. The old-fashioned way: more sleep, fresher food, cold shower, a daily walk – one step at a time.

Before You Die

June 19, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, Before You Die, biking, bungee jumping, cello, cleaning out the attic, cold shower, Dickens - Charles, fasting, forgiving, Great Wall, growing vegetables and herbs, Hugo - Victor, learning a new language, mountain climbing, musical instrument, painting, parachute jumping, Paris, pottery, publishing a book, reading, shower - cold, skydiving, soulmate, tai chi, Tolstoy - Leo, touch an iceberg, weaving, wood working, writing

If you find no new block entry here – does it mean your blogger is sitting idly around at the beach?

No. She is immersed in the novel she tries to finish before she dies. What is it you must finish before you die? Remember Miss Rumphius? Her grandfather had told her the three things one has to accomplish in life: To travel foreign lands; to live at the ocean (You might remember that “Miss Rumphius” is a Maine story); to leave the world a more beautiful place.

Husbands always feel one should clean out the attic before I die, or such – but we, who should do it, lack enthusiasm for the attic. Given one wouldn’t want to leave the mess to one’s children to sort out – but then again, who is going to die die THAT SOON??

There are tons of bucket lists on the Internet what to do before we die. Here is mine:

1. Finish your novel.

What are other people aspiring to do before they die? Skydiving, bungee jumping, parachute jumping. Too much jumping, it seems. Too short-lived and not along my alley. How about these:

2. Learn a musical instrument (or painting or wood working or weaving or pottery).
3. Grow your own vegetables and herbs. And perhaps blueberries.
4. Forgive that incredible jerk/bitch (we all have one in our lives).
5. Climb a mountain. Doesn’t need to be Mount Everest – but should be bigger than the Blue Mountains near Boston. Take part in a long bike ride. Or learn tai chi – anything that gets you moving out of your comfort zone.
6. Do a vegetable broth fast for a whole day. Once a week – until you have your ideal weight; then go to once a month.
7. Learn a new language.
8. Take a cold shower. Every day.
9. Read Les Misérables (or War and Peace, or Our Mutual Friend – or the other thousand-pages-plus tome you always wanted to read).
10. Sleep under the stars and watch a sunrise.

Others I liked: Walk the Great Wall of China, Visit Paris, Publish a book, Touch an Iceberg. Many of those traveling goals sound like fun – but they expand your carbon footprint enormously. Visiting Paris or leaning to play the cello? I have done both; nothing against Paris, but the instrument beats the town by miles.

Find Your Soul Mate would be a worthy goal, wouldn’t it be? But that is not in your hands. Strive for something attainable - you don’t want to build your life on Grace or Fate or Incredible Luck.

Dairy II: Bone Health

May 25, 2010

Tags: food, movement, acid-alkaline balance, boron, breastfeeding, calcium, chromium, daily requirements, dairy, Dairy II: Bone Health, deli, fruit, grass, hormones, iron, magnesium, manganese, meats, milk - fortified, osteoporosis, phosphorus, potassium, proteins, selenium, silica, sulfur, vegetables, zinc

Bones contain calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, silica, iron, zinc, selenium, boron, phosphorus, sulfur, chromium, and more – but the dairy industry tries to tell us all we need for strong bones is calcium?

Cows eat nothing but grass – and we can’t compare with their bone strength (granted, they have different stomachs than we have – but I also haven’t asked you to eat grass…).

Vegetables contain enough calcium for strong bones. Plus they contain all the other minerals healthy bones require. We don’t need fortified, adulterated, hormone-injected dairy products for our bones. Also, the daily requirements for calcium seem to be put artificially high: In one study in Africa, women took in about only half the recommended dose and maintained excellent bone health.

Nuts are also full with all the different minerals we need. The problem with nuts of course, are allergies and reactions to lectins. So, if nuts don’t agree with you, don’t push them! And beware of rancid/roasted nuts! Their bad fats do more harm than good whereas fresh nuts contain beneficial omega-3’s.

Another problem with dairy is that it provides protein – and the Standard American Diet (SAD) contains too much protein as it is. We are omnivores by nature – once in a while a piece of meat (not deli!) between our teeth provides us with essential nutrients like vitamin B12 that are hard to come by otherwise – just not every day. But too much protein leaches out calcium from the bone – at least that is one theory. It says that the metabolic products of protein digestion are acidic, and need alkaline buffering for buffering, and so calcium is leached out of the bones. Regardless if this hypothesis is true, high protein (meats and dairy) diets have been linked to osteoporosis.

Lists of calcium contents, comparing dairy with vegetables, often show higher values for dairy products. What these lists don’t tell you is that calcium from dairy is not as easily absorbed as from vegetal matters (fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts – everything that has really grown) because high protein hinders calcium absorption.

Don’t think you get much benefit from a calcium supplement! Number one, the calcium without the other minerals will not do you much good. Number two, as a physician I am all too familiar with that oblong white spot on an x-ray of the bowels – the not-absorbed calcium pill. You better put your money into fresh produce!

Did I mention movement for bone health? I should.

Aging Is Inevitable - Or Is It?

May 21, 2010

Tags: order, movement, food, aging, Aging Is Inevitable - Or Is It?, belly crunches, centenarians, overweight, two-minute exercise

Yes, aging is inevitable, but how you age, makes all the difference. You can get a bit stiffer and a bit fatter and a bit more stooped and a bit more depressed every day, or you can embark on an exciting journey starting today that will make you glow with health, sparkle with interest and explode with love.

Will it be difficult? Not more difficult than doing two minutes of exercise every day, eating a bit more reasonably and finding something you love to do. If you start with two minutes exercise a day, you will soon find that your body wants more. What hinders you to get up from your chair right now and do ten belly crunches? Or, if you can't get down on the floor, lifting your knees ten times, then your arms?

Studies done on centenarians – people who made it to 100 – show that it took only surprisingly simple things to keep them alive that long. Good genes help of course, but more important might be staying busy and keeping involved with friends, family, community. Centenarians did not spend long hours at the gym or money for expensive spa vacations or face lifts.

All what is needed are simple, everyday gestures and measures: cleaning out the attic, puttering around in the yard, cooking a meal for a sick friend, knitting a shawl for a grandchild. What centenarians did not do: Sit in front of TV or at the computer. Really, they did nothing spectacular. But the unspectacular made a long, spectacularly fulfilled life.

The Dreaded Cellulite

May 19, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, movement, water, arthritis, beans, brown rice, brushing - dry, cancer, cellulite, cold shower, cold water, dairy, dementia, depression, diabetes type II, fat, garbanzos, gynoid lipodystrophy, heart disease, legumes, jumping, lentils, lipodystrophy, metabolic health, milk, olive oil, overweight, shower - cold, sitzbath, starches, stroke, sugar, The Dreaded Cellulite, white starches

Cellulite – in medical terminology: gynoid lipodystrophy – is what many women dread: those dimpled masses of fat around the thighs.

One study showed that people who were severely overweight, improved their cellulite when they lost weight. But people who were less overweight, experienced worse cellulite after weight loss. What is a woman to do??

The Natural Medicine take on cellulite is that it is poorly exercised, inflamed fat, and here is what you can do:

• Eliminate all dairy and milk products (cheese, butter, yogurt, milk solids) from your diet. Dairy seems to be the one single aggravating factor in the diet. The Mediterranean diet (lots of vegetables, herbs and olive oil plus small amounts of meats) seems healing. Dairy is a highly inflammatory food; olive oil is anti-inflammatory.
• Also leave out white starches and sugars. Replace with brown rice and legumes (beans, lentils garbanzos).
• Start with a very moderate program to exercise (because big programs don't work; they overwhelm you). For instance, Jump up and down one minute – and find out how awfully long a minute is… If you have that minute in your daily routine every single day, go for two minutes. Next step: Go for a short walk at lunch hour. Take the steps.
• Brush your skin with a dry brush – always in the direction of your heart. It is not as effective as exercise, and very boring, but it mobilizes those sluggish fat cells – at least a little bit.
• Always end your hot shower/bath with a short cold one (unless you have uncontrolled high blood pressure and/or arterial disease).
• Cold sitzbaths are recommended if you also have varicose veins. Fill at least an inch or two of cold water in the tub. Sit with legs outstretched for one to two minutes.

Cellulite is not a beauty problem. It is a quick measure of your metabolic health. While a little bit of dimpling might just come with age, those factors that now annoy you with cellulite will, in the long run, present you with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia, arthritis, depression, cancer, and so on.

Happy birthday, Sebastian!

May 17, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, accidents, acute disease, cold water cure, chronic disease, consumption, Flexner report, Floyer - John, Happy birthday - Sebastian!, health, John Floyer, Kneipp - Sebastian, Sebastian Kneipp, spa, tuberculosis

Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to 1897)
Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to1897) celebrates his birthday today, May 17th.

He was born as a poor weaver’s son in Bavaria/Germany, destined to become a weaver, too. But he was a gifted child. Supported by the local teacher and his mother, he finally made it into priest seminary – only to get sick with consumption (tuberculosis). Given up by several physicians, he embarked on his own healing process, found a little booklet about the Cold Water Cure that had been inspired by the Staffordshire physician John Floyer. In case you think, Floyer was just another British quack: He introduced counting the pulse rate into medicine.

Sebastian Kneipp, without medical training, jumped into the gray Danube River in winter, three times a week, and cured himself. From there, he went on to develop his Five Pillars of Health (water, movement, food, herbs, order) and became world famous.

With World War I, World War I and the Holocaust everything German was despised here – and natural healing was replaced by scientific medicine, especially after the Flexner report denounced everything that did not come from modern medicine as “unscientific.” It took disgruntled patients (and the Internet) to return to the old truths.

My connection to Sebastian Kneipp? I grew up in Germany after World War II, and Kneipp’s principles were part of the landscape: We took cold showers, ate heartily and slept with windows open – but in medical school I found “scientific” medicine so much more enticing and scoffed at the old folk medicine that was way too much connected to the Nazis for my sensibilities.

Until I started practicing real medicine and realized that for chronic disease we physicians had not much to offer. The pills - because of side-effects - were often a worse cure than the disease. So, I read up on the old stuff, only half convinced, but always looking out for things to help my patients.

During a sabbatical year in my home country I did courses for a degree in Natural Medicine, and it was then that I spotted a reprint of Sebastian Kneipp’s most famous book (sold in the millions): My Water Cure. I took it in my hand, a bit curious how the old Kneipp would hold up to modern times – and I was immediately hooked. He understood the human body and the rest of the human predicament so well, I found, that on that spot I decided to write and bring his ideas again to the U.S. I say “back” because around the beginning of the twentieth century a “cold water craze” had already swept this country, with spas and doctors practicing natural medicine; they even had their own magazines and newspapers!

Of course, it is not an either-or – we need modern medicine and natural medicine, and both have to stand up to scientific scrutiny. But our bodies and souls are ancient, with ancient requirements. For acute diseases like infections, accidents, even some cancers, modern medicine has made great strife, and we are grateful for it. In chronic disease, modern medicine is still looking for that miracle pill – when only going to the roots and changing your lifestyle the old-fashioned way will get you to that glowing state of health that is your birthright.

Happy birthday, Sebastian!
You'll find an etching of Sebastian Kneipp on the "medical questions?" page.

Teenage Hell On Earth: Acne

May 16, 2010

Tags: food, water, herbs, movement, order, acne, antibiotics, bacteria, blackheads, bowels, breathing exercises, cold shower, cold wash, comedones, dairy, dandelion, eliminary organs, face cloth, fish oil, guts, hamamelis, Hildegard von Bingen, hormonal imbalance, hormones, horseradish, intestines, lungs, kidneys, milk, mud, nettle - stinging, pimples, probiotic, rubbing alcohol, salt water, sauna, shower - cold, skin, sleep, smoking, soap, steam bath, sun exposure, tea tree oil, teenage, Teenage Hell On Earth: Acne, vegetables, witch hazel

In Natural Medicine, the skin is one of the four elimination organs. The other three are the lungs, the kidney/bladder and the bowel. If one of these is diseased or overloaded with toxins, the excess has to be dealt with by the skin. And it often comes out as acne, especially in young people when hormones totter from childhood to adulthood. Imbalances in hormones during puberty might trigger acne but are usually not the whole problem. And acne is not solely a teenage problem.

In acne – as in many skin diseases – the gut is ailing. The main culprit in the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) is dairy – cheese, milk, and so on.

Besides giving your inflamed bowel a respite from inflammatory food, here is what else you can do against acne:

• Take a probiotic to re-establish gut flora. Add fish oil against inflammation.

• Do not touch face or other areas with your fingers because bacteria – fed by unhealthy fare – bring a pimple to bloom.

• Use a face cloth only once. Everyone should at least have two dozen face cloths. Buy them in bulk, cheap.

• Do not squeeze pimples as this can leave scars. You can squeeze blackheads (comedones) after a bath or shower when they are soft. Always disinfect with rubbing alcohol, hamamelis water (witch hazel) or tea tree oil.

• Take a cold shower always after a hot one or a bath.

• Wash your face frequently with cold water during the day.

• Do not use soap, detergents, make-up, creams in your face. Cold water is all it needs. With very oily skin, a once or twice per week facial scrub (ground almonds, apricot kernels, rolled oats – the simpler, the better) is recommended. Avoid soapy additions. Keep hair grease away from your face.

• Sauna supports the skin in its elimination functions.

• Daily short exposure to sun is essential for healing.

• Incorporate breathing exercises in your routine. For a starter take three deep breaths (always start with exhalation) every hour on the hour (or as often as you think about it; don’t hold your breath; let it flow).

• The salty water of the ocean has healing properties that can be used during vacation times. At home, salt baths (with or without herbal additions) or mud compresses can simulate the real thing.

• Get involved in sports. All movement will help to eliminate your bowels faster – and the bowel is at the root of most cases of acne.

• Drink plenty of water – at least seven cups per day, more with exercise, from a beautiful cup. No purpose, though, running around all day with a bottle of water in your hand. One does not dehydrate that fast!

• Facial steam baths with chamomile are soothing.

• A Hildegard of Bingen recipe: Store grated horseradish in apple vinegar; clean skin with the solution (I have not tried it yet - let me know if you have!).

• Herbs for internal cleansing: dandelion root and stinging nettle (as a mix or single ingredients), together or singly. As capsules or tea.

• Beyond dairy: Eat fruit and vegetables as much as possible. Rule out gluten intolerance). Reduce animal fats and meats. No dairy and milk chocolate. Avoid all sugars and white starches.

• Quit smoking.

• Get enough sleep.

• Move! Walk and do yoga. The more you move, the better your body gets rid of ugly toxins.

• Against scarring acne get the help of a dermatologist – but avoid long-term antibiotics for minor acne because they only will confound the underlying problems in your bowels.

Micro-Movements - Awakening the Snake in Your Spine

May 12, 2010

Tags: movement, exercise, micro-movements, Micro-Movements - Awakening the Snake in Your Spine

No time for exercise? Sitting in your car/at your desk all day? Too lazy to get up from your couch?

Here is the ideal exercise for you: micro-movements!

For the first time, it is best learned on the floor, on a folded blanket or a yoga mat – but once you know what it is, you can do it wherever you feel like it. There is not much more to it than the title gives away: You wiggle your spine. Start with your shoulders (up-down movement) or your pelvis (down-up), or do a combination.

In the beginning it will feel jerky, uncoordinated. But the more you get the hang of it, the more it flows. The more it extends your spine. The more you feel the effect. The more you become aware of what you are doing: mindful movement.

You might think that exercise requires throwing around your legs and arms. No, what really counts for opening your body is the spine. Move your spine and the rest of your body will follow. It is like a mini yoga session and will give you all the benefits of exercise – suppleness, body awareness, improvement of posture, relaxation of muscle tension – short of cardio-vascular effects. But it does use up calories! (Do it in the car only at red lights!)

Once aware of your spine, you can do the micro-movements everywhere, especially when you are waiting and are bored. Why not use that time for a little, private bliss?

Simple Health Is Attainable

May 10, 2010

Tags: order, water, movement, food, health, herbs, balance, diabetes type II, heart-lung transplant, repair, simple health, Simple Health Is Attainable, smoking

Do you have diabetes?

Yes? Do you really HAVE diabetes? Or is it just a label you are carrying?

Not to dispute the reality of the symptoms you feel or the havoc the diabetic condition can wreak in your body - but they are, after all, just names doctors made up. A diagnosis helps to find a pill against the diagnosis.

That has its good sides, and its bad. Especially with a diagnosis of diabetes: Do you really believe that a single little pill can reverse years of not exercising and eating the wrong foods? I don’t.

But I do believe in simple sheer good health. Instead of fear-mongering with labels, let's focus on what we can do to stay/become healthy. Your body actually wants to get healthy and has a vast ability to repair itself - if you just give it some room and help. If you eat your green veggies, move briskly through life (instead of lingering on the couch or a chair in front of TV and computer), if you drink fresh water, do not smoke, relate warmly to other people, get enough sleep - you might never have to see a doctor all your life.

Admittedly, bad things happen to good people, and environmental hazards are as yet under-reported and not well understood in their impact on our bodies. But aside from that (and genetics), you are responsible for a good portion of your health. Estimates are not scientific – but an educated guess is that you hold about seventy-five percent of your health outcome in your hands.

Our bodies are really old, old things – not meant for driving in a car, eating TV dinner and marshmallows, staring at a screen for most of the day, exist holed up in our individual cubicles (at home and at work), exposed to noise, electronics, polluted air and other ills of modern times.

We don’t want to move back into the cave; we like the amenities of modern life – for instance the ease of connecting with loved ones via telephone of computers. The more it behooves us to counteract the bad modern influences and have as many of the natural elements in our lives as our good old bodies need: Water, movement, fresh food, herbs, and balance.

Back to diabetes (or any other diagnosis): If modern lifestyle is at the root of diabetes (and it is!), then go to the roots, make some meaningful changes, and don’t expect betterment from a little pill, please - not like the patient whom I once counseled against smoking: “The heck, when I get lung problems, they’ll give me a nice, new heart-lung transplant.”

Back Pain - One Riddle Solved

April 17, 2010

Tags: movement, Anacardiaceae, anti-inflammatory, back pain, Back Pain - One Riddle Solved, cashew, chocolate, joint pain, mango, nuts, poison ivy, Trager movement education, Zyflamend

My neighbor comes by yesterday, limping and moaning: Acute back pain. Knee jerk reaction: I send him to a Trager practitioner.

The neighbor returns later, with his son, to tell me about the miraculous treatment. The practitioner seems to think this is not a disc but a sacrum problem, somehow. I offer the son a piece of chocolate (dark, milk-free - of course); the boy declines politely because he just had chocolate - with nuts. The father brags that he is eating a lot of nuts, for health - especially cashew.

Cashew?? Cashew is in the poison ivy family (Anacardiaceae, or sumac family). It is well known for inducing inflammation in the body - especially in the back and joints.

So, this is the diagnosis: Cashew-induced sacroiliitis. Probably not helped by a recent flight from Europe and long hours of sitting at the computer. Not to mention a little bit of weight gain (when your belly grows, you bend backward and compress the area of your lower back - just watch a pregnant woman waddle by).

Besides Trager movement education, I recommend Zyflamend (an herbal concoction that is expensive but has anti-inflammatory action). And, needless to say: No more cashews. Oh, and no mangoes - same family.

Zen Running

April 16, 2010

Tags: movement, jogging, running, Zen Running

Do run very gently. Do not lift your feet much. Do not come down heavily - tread like an angel. Do not run like a machine. Do not get carried away with athletic fervor. Aim for grace. Be gentle on your joints. Wear comfortable running shoes. Or run barefoot.

Do not run on two consecutive days. Do not run more than three times in any given week.

Build up your stamina with the following schedule. Most people are healthy enough to do this. If you have diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, etc., ask your physician beforehand. If you miss running for some time, do not go back and start anew - just continue along the schedule.

Alternate running with walking according to this schedule:

2 min run, 1 min walk, repeat 10 times
3 min run, 1 min walk, repeat 9 times
4 min run, 1 min walk, repeat 7 times
5 min run, 1 min walk, repeat 5 times
7 min run, 1 min walk, repeat 4 times
9 min run, 1 min walk, repeat 3 times
10 min run, 1 min walk, repeat 3 times
15 min run, 1 min walk, repeat 2 times
30 min, no walk.

Each of these levels you run at least three times - so that you need at least one week to reach the next level. Once you reach 30 min, you stay there indefinitely. If you skip time, restart where you were - you don't have to go back.

If you feel you are very much out of shape, start with 1 minute. Do not skip the two repeats on each level before you go to the next. - At all time, run with your mouth closed - breathe through your nose. If you get short of breath, run slower. - If you feel pain and discomfort in your legs, shake them out and try to run even gentler. Do not give in to a little pain. If the pain persists and gets worse, see your doctor. - Rain, etc. should not deter you - wear adequate clothing.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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