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Hungry? Really hungry? Or is it just hypoglycemia?

November 17, 2016

Tags: food, Alzheimer’s, amputation, ancient body, blindness, brain, dementia, diabetes, digestion, energy, fasting – one-day, heart disease, Hungry? Really hungry? Or is it just hypoglycemia?, hypoglycemia, impotence, insulin, jittery, meals, metabolism, music, polyneuropathy, prediabetes, scrapbook, Standard American Diet (SAD), starches – white, stroke, sugar, sugar high, sugar molecules, USA, weight gain, yard cleaning

Sometimes, working, I forget to eat. My friends don’t believe that you can forget to eat. They think if you don’t eat you get jittery and weak and blank in your brain – how can one work through that?

Then I remember that I used to be like that, too. To this day my family makes fun about the time I wanted to fast for a day, and broke the fast after three hours because I couldn’t go on – it felt as if I was falling apart.

The difference between being hungry and being in the grip of hypoglycemia lies in how healthy your metabolism is. When you are diabetic or prediabetic (and most Americans fall in either category), you are always looking for food. You cannot go without for any prolonged time. Most Americans, for that reason, do not only eat, but they snack in between. And, listen – I don’t blame them. Because if your metabolism is lousy (because of the Standard American Diet – or SAD) you NEED to eat frequent meals. Otherwise you fall apart. You feel you are hungry. In reality you are voracious because your cells are on a sugar rollercoaster.

This is how your metabolism – the sum of all the chemical and biochemical events in your body at any given time – functions if you eat SAD: You eat a load of sugar (white starches are chains of sugar molecules that are being digested within seconds of entering your mouth, filling you up with sugars, and more sugars). Your brain gets a nice sugar high. Insulin kicks in because high sugars are dangerous for your body (leading to blindness, impotence, heart disease, stroke, dementia, amputations, polyneuropathy, and so on). Since high sugars are so dangerous, your body shoots out much to much insulin. Next thing you know, your blood sugar is really low, and you feel lousy: weak, confused, shaky. What do you do? Well, you reach for another meal or a snack that starts the high-sugar/low-sugar cycle again. On the way, you gain weight because weight gain is the number one side-effect of insulin. And you go see-sawing through high and low blood sugars, never feeling top-fit and at your best potential.

What is the difference when your metabolism is healthy? You eat your three meals, and then you forget about it. You have energy to pursue what you love to do in life. And yes, sometimes you forget to eat because making music, or cleaning the yard, or making a scrapbook is so much fun.

What to eat to reach your perfect metabolism I have described in my diabetes book. But the main points are: Stop sugars and white starches (and don’t replace them with artificial sweeteners). Eat proteins and good fats in every single meal. Within a day or two, your body will experience the difference between hunger and hypoglycemia. When somebody around you says: “I am hungry,” I bet that in ninety percent they are talking the low-sugar jitters. Real hunger is different. Our ancient bodies are made to survive the normal periods of hunger and plenty of food. Our ancient bodies are not made to survive the overfeeding with sugars.

By the way, I didn’t say that you can just suppress that feeling of being “hungry” and ignore it. That is exactly the point: Hypoglycemia is a real condition, and really dangerous. Don’t try to starve when you come off a sugar high. Eat reasonably first. Then you can even put in a fasting day – as I can do now without difficulty. Or you can, once in a while, forget to eat altogether because you are so happily ensconced in a project that warms your heart.

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.

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.

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 ...

Summer Heat

July 18, 2012

Tags: order, water, air conditioner, air pollution - indoors - outdoors, bass, birthright, cello, cherries, children, cold exposure, cold shower, cold water, creativity, dinner - light, fall, fish, garden, heat, heating - central, houseplants, immune system, indoor air, mint, music, nap, pruning, reading, salad, season, shade, sleeping with window open, string camp, summer, Summer Heat, summer reading list, sweating, thunderstorm, September, tea, viola, violin, weeding, writing, work

A tremendous lightning-and-thunder storm brought a huge downpour and a bit of cooling to our region. Not much so. It is nearly ten o’clock at night, and I am still sweating.
You hear me often talk of the benefits of a cold shower (after the hot one). The cold water mimics the exposure to cold we need for a functioning immune system. Since we live in rooms with central heating and are not working outside so much, we don’t get enough of our birthright: cold exposure.
We likewise don’t get enough of the summer heat because most of us live in air-conditioned rooms. Not we though. In twenty years, we have used our central air conditioner a single time. We didn’t like it. We prefer to sleep with window open to get cleaner air. Contrary what you might think, the indoor air pollution usually is much worse than the outdoors air pollution. Hint: Houseplants help cleaning up indoor air.
We sleep with window open even in winter, in severe minus grades. I lie under about five duvets then and stay snugly warm.
Now, in summer, I am sweating – I can’t remember a hot and humid summer like this one. But sweating: That is what summer is for. Summer is a season that gives you a sauna for free: You can sweat out toxins which otherwise are hard to eliminate. Now I am getting rid of waste and damaging agents about twenty hours a day. Of course, I make sure that I take in enough water and salt, to make up for the losses. And be reasonable about it: If you have a medical condition, switch on the air conditioner. Keeping a cold facecloth at hand or taking a short cold shower can keep you cool.
I feel uncomfortable now, sweating. But I know I good I will feel come September: Cool and ready to work hard again. In this heat, I admit, working and writing comes nearly to a standstill; the garden slowly turns into a jungle again as if the months of weeding and pruning never happened. This is the time for cold black tea with mints from the garden, reading in the shade, enjoying delicious music and light dinners – cold fish with a salad and some cherries afterwards. On the weekends, I am planning long afternoon naps, This is not my most effective time – but it is getting me ready for work and creativity in the fall.
Soon I will give you my summer reading list. But for now I am in the middle of the summer string camp with two hundred kids playing violin, viola, cello and bass – and I am one of them. The one who plays cello badly. But having fun.
In an air-conditioned room, actually.

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.

World Water Day 2012

March 22, 2012

Tags: water, herbs, allergies to herbs, arterial disease, bath, bath – commercial bath ingredients, bath - herbal, bath oil, bliss, blood flow, breathing, bruise, candle - unscented, chamomile, children and herbal baths – careful!, circulation - sluggish, coconut oil, cold – beginning, cold shower, Earth, dandelion flower, eucalyptus, fever-lowering bath for children, foam, healing waters, herbal bath, herbal bath, high blood pressure – uncontrolled, ginger - grated, hops, insect bite, incense, insomnia, jasmine, lake, lavender, linden flowers, lung, meadowsweet, mint, muscle ache, muscles – sore, music, Nature, nerves – tattered, ocean, orange blossoms, parsley, pleasure, relaxation, river, rosemary, rose petals, sage, salts - bath, skin rejuvenation, skin sore, sleeplessness, soap, soul, stimulation, stinging nettle, tepid bath, tonic, valerian root, winter blah, World Water Day 2012

Today is World Water Day. Celebrate it with

• a dunk in the ocean, a lake or a river if your are living in a warmer climate
• a cold shower (Don’t do it if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure – controlled on medication is fine – or if you have an arterial disease)
• a nice warm herbal bath, together with gentle music and a lit candle (unscented because scented candles and incense are harsh on the lungs). Warm baths relax and soothe. And any fragrant herb you have at hand will increase water’s action:

- Chamomile works against sore skin and insect bites
- Dandelion flowers: Gather as many as you can find and throw them directly into your tub – they will make you playful like a princess and renew your skin and will drive out the winter blah
- Eucalyptus opens your lungs and helps you breathe
- Ginger, grated, to enhance blood flow to all parts of your body
- Hops for easing you into the night
- Jasmine to make you smile and refresh your skin
- Lavender for calming your nerves and rejuvenating your skin
- Linden flowers relax and might help with a beginning cold
- Meadowsweet helps sore muscles and will bliss you out
- Mint stimulates and heals your skin
- Orange blossoms for beautiful skin and nourishing your soul
- Parsley heals bruises
- Rosemary for relaxation
- Rose petals to enliven your skin after a long day
- Sage against stiff, hurting muscles after a workout
- Stinging nettle to push sluggish circulation, and are a tonic for your skin and your whole being
- Valerian root for easing tattered nerves and prepare for a good night’s sleep

So many more herbs grow on our beautiful Earth! Use any combination of herbs you like: Dare to explore!

Never make the bathwater too hot! And always, always. always end your hot bath with a short cold shower or gush, starting with feet, hands, face, and then your whole body – to close your pores.

Before you dress or go to bed, slather your skin with coconut oil. There’s nothing better for your skin!

Cooler bathwater acts more like a stimulant – when you want to go out afterwards and shine in the world.

And a tepid bath can lower fevers – especially helpful in small children. But in small children, especially those under three years of age, I would not use herbs in the bathwater, just plain water. They can have violent reactions.

You have two ways to do an herbal bath: To throw a handful of herbs directly into the hot bath water. Or to brew a tea in a pot, and then add the steeped tea to the bathwater. This last method is less messy. There’s actually a third way: To buy an herbal bath tea bag – much bigger than those used for tea in a cup – and throw it into the bathwater; contain a medley of herbs, usually to lift your spirits and to soothe your skin.

As always: Don’t use any herb that you are allergic to. Allergies to herbs are rare, but they can happen.

Herbal bath can heal. But don’t forget the immense pleasure they bring into your life! And other than commercial baths (foam, lotions, soaps, salts, etc.), they are pure Nature, particularly if you pay attention from where you get them.

And after a renewing bath like this you will know again why we have to protect Earth’s healing waters. Think about ways how you can save water!

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.

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!

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?

The Roots Of Philosophy

September 9, 2011

Tags: order, Adorno – Theodor W. (1903-1969), air conditioner, animal, animal rights defender, Arizona, biography, botany, California, Chinese history, collapse, common good, Critical Theory, deep gaze, Earth, famine, genius, Germany, hatred, heat, herbs, history, Holocaust, humans, manager, medicine, music, Nature, Nevada, New Mexico, novels, non-fiction, official, orphans, philosophy, plants, pollution, power outage, power station, public - general, responsibility, San Diego, summer reading extravaganza, system, The Root Of Philosophy, war, warning sign, World Wars

After the summer reading extravaganza of novels, I am back at my usual non-fiction fare – medicine, Chinese history, general history, philosophy, herbs and botany, music – whatever catches my interest.

Last night, in a biography about the German philosopher Theodor Adorno I came across a sentence of his that took my breath away. Took my breath away because the “Critical Theory” is more known for its political stance than for soft-hearted fuzziness. Took my breath away also because it expressed a sentiment that I thought belonged more to my private musings than in a philosophy context.

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.” (p. 255, Detlev Claussen, Theodor W. Adorno – One Last Genius).

The book is uneven: It suffers from the contradiction that Adorno (and Claussen) think that biography is impossible after two World Wars and the Holocaust – and then Claussen wrote a biography after all. Topped by calling it “One Last Genius.” Adorno must be a-squirming in his grave; he definitely did not believe in the concept of “genius.”

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.”

This says we are not different, not apart from Nature – and that one day we will be asked what our responsibility was in the destruction of the Earth with all her plants, animals and humans. - Last night my nephew called from San Diego to tell about the huge power outage of southern California and parts of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. It had been sweltering hot there for days, and the “system” collapsed.

As a citizen, I ask myself if there were not warning signs and if this collapse could have been prevented by astute officials running the Californian power grid - and I would fire the higher ranks at the power stations. As a person I think that not everybody who had the air conditioner running on “high” really needed it for medical reasons. Neither the power station managers nor the general public had the common good in mind, it seems.

Animals have already what we have lost: The deep gaze on what is important, and what is not. I am not a died-in-the-wool animal rights defender because I still maintain that people are more important. But one can push that argument only so far before we land at the fact that we, too, are animals, and not so highly developed ones in many cases. We produce wars, famines, orphans, pollution, hatred – to name a few human accomplishments.

We need to be taught by philosophy what matters; animals know it. And in their eyes you can read it – if you want to see it.

Back To School

September 6, 2011

Tags: order, food, acoustic bass, addiction, adult education catalog, alcohol, archeology, art, Back To School, birds, blueberries, calendar year, cello, Chinese, cleaning out the attic, cooking from scratch, Daoism, drawing from the nude, flowers, French, German, glass blowing, Gone With The Wind, herbalist, herbs, history, homeless shelter, Kneipp - Sebastian (1821-1897), knitting, learning something new, Maine, math teacher, mushrooms, music, New Year, novel, physician, posture, quilting, reading, resolution, rock climbing, school year, September, square dance, stars, tai chi, tax law, Trager bodywork, translating, trees, voice lessons, volunteering, writer

Even after so many years, September is my favorite time of the year – going back to school, that is. The magic of sitting there with a sharpened pencil, eager to learn new stuff, has never abated. In my life, I have done this and that – from math teacher to physician to writer – and I have come to appreciate that my best feature is my joy in learning something new. My father planted it in his children. A physician, too, he knew all the trees and the flowers and the birds and the stars, he loved history and art and music and archeology, and above all reading.

Sadly, alcohol destroyed his brilliant brain. These days, I am mulling how much I myself am prone to addiction: We just came home from Maine, and I wanted to get my daily fix of blueberries – and my grocer has run out of blueberries. Run out of blueberries! I am appalled. And I am mulling if this is my form of addiction – blueberries?

Well, it could be worse. My resolution for this fall and winter – yes: resolution, because the New Year really begins with the new school year, not with the new calendar year, if you ask me – is learning more Chinese, more cello and more translating my Sebastian Kneipp novel into German. And to find a grocer who still carries some blueberries …

What's your September resolution? Cleaning out the attic? Taking lessons on acoustic bass? Doing a course in tax law? Learning to cook from scratch? Joining a quilting bee? Tackling drawing from the nude? Find an herbalist to introduce you to local herbs and mushrooms? Trying rock climbing? Investing in voice lessons? Brushing up on your French? Exploring daoism? Volunteer at a homeless shelter? Retraining your square dance steps? Rereading "Gone With The Wind"? Working on your posture with Trager bodywork and tai chi? Blowing glass? Knitting a sweater?

Tell us! Only you can know what you are dreaming of doing. Go for it! The adult education catalogs are out.

Summer Reading 2011

August 26, 2011

Tags: order, A Sentimental Education, art, Austria, Balzac - Honoré de (1799-1850), books, Comédie Humaine, Cousin Bette, Dickens - Charles (1821-1870), education, Flaubert - Gustave (1821-1880), gardening, Hard Times, idealsism, Indian Summer, Madame Bovary, Maine, minerals, music, Nachsommer, Nietzsche - Friedrich (1844-1900), nineteenth century, painting, realism, rocks, sculpture, Stifter - Adalbert (1805-1868), Summer Reading 2011, The Maine Woods, Thoreau - Henry David (1817-1862)

You are asking what I am reading this year in Maine.

As we are staying here much shorter than usual, I did not bring too many books. I wanted to read some French classics which mostly eluded me so far: Balzac and Flaubert.

But I had been "working" a German novel on and off for a year, in turn fascinated and repelled at the same time, and had difficulties making up my mind what to think about it. The novel wasn't translated into English until recently. Its English title is "Indian Summer", which is not totally getting the meaning of the German "Nachsommer", which means a summer after the summer. It was first published in 1857.

The author Adalbert Stifter hardly recommends himself - he slit his throat later, and seemed to have been a petty Austrian school superintendent, exactly the kind of guy young people would abhor, who thought that everything old is better than everything new, and that young people should learn from the older generation, without asking and without arguing - not exactly my ideal of education.

But then again, so much could be said for the fields he educates his young hero Heinrich in: gardening, rocks and minerals, art, music, sculpture and painting, and so on.

This is heavy fare, but worthwhile if you have time and want to think deeply about what matters. Friedrich Nietzsche counted it among the only four books he let stand of the nineteenth century.

I began reading "Cousin Bette" by Honoré de Balzac. For two nights it gave me nightmares - so I avoid now reading it at night. The people are so incredibly mean to each other! I haven't finished, and this is only a tiny puzzle piece of Balzac's huge oeuvre "Comédie Humaine" - I should defer judgement. But I was close to throwing it away. I expect books to show me the good in people, and like to think that the good will prevail in life - as idealistic that is. - Balzac and Flaubert are not called "realists" for no reason.

From that summer I was reading all Dickens, I still have left over "Hard Times". Not sure if I will not elope with Dickens soon ...

The two books by Gustave Flaubert I brought with me are "Madame Bovary" and "A Sentimental Education". - You will hear about them from me - probably later in the fall because there is no way that I finish reading them here.

And, I forgot: In the bathroom we always have lying open Henry David Thoreau's "The Maine Woods".

Tell me what you are reading!

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.

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!

Musical Education

January 16, 2011

Tags: order, Anka - Paul (born 1941), Bach - Johann Sebastian (1685 to1750), Beatles, Beethoven - Ludwig van (1770-1827), cello, classical music, daily practice, Everly Brothers, flute, gramophone, Holt - John (1923-1985), Kleine Nachtmusik, Monteverdi – Claudio (1567-1643), Mozart – Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791, music, musical education, Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story, Pachelbel - Johann (1653-1706), piano, pop music, records – 45er, Tchaikovsky – Peter (1840-1893), Telemann – Georg Philipp (1681-1767), Wagner – Richard (1813-1883)

Music, art, books – they all round out a healthy life to make it fulfilled and happy. Here I have a confession to make: When it comes to music, I am outmoded: I prefer classical music.

BUT it is not my fault. Here is how I was brought up and how my tastes were formed:

As a child, my father would sit the kids on the sofa, in a row, and would play endless records for them, mostly Beethoven and Wagner. We children were bored, predictably, and eagerly waited for him to get his fill of rum and milk to fall asleep. He was a brilliant doctor, and a hopeless boozer. At those moments, we children didn’t mind him drinking – we prayed he’d get drunk fast enough so that we could get away and play.

At around twelve – like all teenagers then – I fell in love with Elvis Presley, with Paul Anka, with the Everly Brothers. For my thirteenth birthday, I got a gramophone – the first among my friends; one could play 45er records on it.

But then my parents shipped us off to boarding school; family life had become too unpleasant. The boarding school was housed in an old castle, with bastion, cannons and forgotten towers, and the rules were strict: All music was verboten. No radio, no gramophone – cassettes had not been invented, I think, and CDs were far in the future. For several years I had no access to music – except for my piano lessons by a flamboyant Hungarian teacher who was a sensation in our all-girls boarding school.

Every morning, at assembly, some girl performed a musical piece, on the piano, violin, flute, for the edification of all of us, allowing us to doze a few more minutes. Tchaikovsky was already too modern for the taste of our stern headmistress, which resulted in a bland musical diet of Bach, Pachelbel, Telemann, Monteverdi. You get the idea – no more Everly Brothers.

One teacher had a young wife who was just a bored as we girls were. She invited a few of us over for tea and – gasp! – subversive music; she also owned a gramophone. The music she introduced us to, never had I heard anything that heavenly! It was Mozart’s Kleine Nachtmusik. This music became the battle song of our secret rebellion – those sixteen-year-old girls in their school uniforms, sipping tea, and plotting their future lives. Oh, our lives had to be so different from our parents!

In case you think that the morning assemblies were our only exposure to music – we also had ballroom dancing lessons. Without boys, of course. And what we learned was – foxtrot? No! waltz? No! rumba? No! – we learned quadrille! Quadrille is an old-fashioned dance, slightly more modern than minuet, and actually the forerunner of square dancing. No wonder that the summer I turned seventeen and learned English in Bournemouth/Great Britain, I went out every single night to the Ritz Ballroom and danced rock’n’ roll. Except for Sundays, when everything was closed. And I thought it must be awful to be old – like, twenty-five! – and not go rock’n’rolling anymore.

When I came out of jail, uh, boarding school, to my own surprise, I had outgrown Elvis. The world meanwhile was crazy about the Beatles. But I had become jaded; I couldn’t get interested in pop music anymore. Instead I went to endless Wagner operas – they couldn’t be long enough for me - and classical concerts whenever I could afford them.

For fifty bucks I bought an old piano plus a piano stool and a huge heap of ancient sheet music. All classical. Playing piano all night helped me greatly getting over boyfriends that had dumped me.

Fast-forward to my six-year-old son declaring he wanted to learn cello. Nobody in the family had ever thought of cello! In his first Suzuki lesson I fell in love with the sound of the cello (which in itself is another convoluted story). Because I didn’t want to take it away from him, I waited until he turned to acoustic bass in his teens. Then I took up cello lessons – am still taking lessons now, years later. Even as a late starter, I am finally out of being a beginner; I am solidly intermediate now and play my cello every day.

There is a wonderful old book by John Holt: Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story. He took up the cello later in life – a story similar to what I am telling here, only degrees more obsessive!

If you do something only ten minutes every day, you can’t but get better. And: It is never too late.

Hildegard von Bingen

September 17, 2010

Tags: herbs, food, canonization, crystals, Gordon - Noah, green force of the flesh, Healers of the World, Hildegard of Bingen, Hildegard von Bingen, Iran, Kneipp - Sebastian, Li Shizhen, music, mystic, Noah Gordon, plant kingdom, Rhineland, Schubert – Franz, sanctification, Saint Hildegard, sexuality, stones, Tehran, The Physician

Still from Tehran. -

On this day in 1179, Hildegard of Bingen died. Her exact birthday is not known, but it was also in September - 1098.

This medieval nun lived in the Rhineland. She was given to a nunnery when she was only eight and, against all odds, succeeded in medicine, music and politics. By the time she passed, she had written many books, had composed music and was in contact with many important political and intellectual leaders – a woman on top of her times.

Hildegard usually is usually labeled as a mystic. But in my opinion, she is anything but. When you read her works, you get the impression of a sharp intellect and endless curiosity. Among other things, she described two hundred kinds of fish found in the Rhine. That’s not mystic, that’s scientific! And when she writes about sexuality, she is so matter-of-fact – you wonder where she learned all that.

She composed celestial music – mostly only for women’s voices – just out-of-the-world! If you ever have a chance, listen to her! In her music, she is mystic, if you wish – but so is Schubert…

For me she is important as a healer. She used and described herbs extensively. Her crystal healing is controversial but interesting – after all, we are from the Earth, like stones. She talks about the “green force of the flesh” – meaning: We will be much healthier when our food comes mostly from the plant kingdom. This insight has lost nothing of its actuality.

Very shortly after her death, the process for her canonization by the Catholic Church had been instituted. But in nearly a thousand years, her status stayed at “beatification.” Also, the Church made sure that women would not follow Hildegard’s uppity. The misogynistic delay of sanctification has not hindered the common people to call her “Saint Hildegard” ever since.

She definitely is interesting – and I hope to write about her in my series of “Healers of the World.” I began with Sebastian Kneipp (my Kneipp novel will come out shortly); now I am writing about Li Shizhen, the sixteenth century Chinese physician and herbalist. And, hopefully, Hildegard will be the third.

One healer I will not write about is Ibn Sina, or Avicenna, the great Persian physician and scientist, who lived a century before Hildegard. Not that he was not important – our travels here in Iran remind me again how much he was. But somebody has already written a wonderful novel about him: Noah Gordon, The Physician.

The Role of Parents

May 13, 2010

Tags: order, children, music, parenting, rules, The Role of Parents

Parents (and grandparents) have two assignments, as far as I am concerned: One is to love their children, and one is to say “No!” to them, loud and often.

We don’t do our children any favor to give in to any whim and wheedling – and they don’t have to be told with any little effort they exert that they are “so special.” Children’s task is to prepare for life, and parents’ task is to show them the way.

When my son was little, we had a musical party each June, until he went to college - an afternoon full of roses and sun and music and friendship. There was one rule: At least one member of a family had to play or sing – otherwise the family was disinvited. You can’t believe how many requests I got to make an exception for little Johnny or darling Emma! I always said “No!”

My husband said I couldn’t do that, it was impolite. I said it was my party and my rules.

We performed, one after the other, and then we shared potluck and played games. Over time, so many parents approached me and said how glad they were we were sticking with the rules. Because they themselves were unable to say “No!” to their son/daughter. Now those children who had so much “freedom” are grown up – and I wonder how they will fare in life.

How did my son stay with his instrument through all those years? I always agreed he could stop playing - but only at the end of the school year because one sticks with things (at least for a while). At the end of the school year, after all the rehearsals and our musical party, he felt so good about himself that there was no discussion of quitting ... until November.

We Are Hard-Wired For Awe, Respect, Morals

May 7, 2010

Tags: order, water, air, art, awe, babies, books, education, families, Good Mother Earth, justice, kindness, money, morals, music, Nature, nurturing traditions, power, religion, respect, sex, soil, spirituality, We Are Hard-Wired For Awe - Respect - Morals, worldwide community

A Yale study just concluded that babies already can differ between good and bad behavior. In eighty percent of cases, the baby chose the “good guy” puppet after they had seen a short puppet show.

Exactly what I always thought: We are hard-wired for awe, respect and morals. Unfortunately, we are also hard-wired to follow peer-pressure – and those two forces fight war over our souls. To enforce the knowledge of good and bad, we need a nurturing culture around us, in families, and schools.

Let’s not take morals too narrowly, though. Most morals have very little to do with sex (after all, it is a biological drive and, in all cultures and religions, has been hard to suppress), and very much to do with money and power. (Does not mean that I am a libertine; just means that sniffing out other people’s bedroom habits is not my cup of tea).

Religions often abuse our innate longing for goodness and request obedience to their rules and superiors. I personally think goodness is already undermined if you have somebody paid as a priest/minister/pastor; I hold that people should come together voluntarily and should stay unpaid lay celebrants. Religions that preach to hate, should be out. Spirituality that fosters kindness should be in.

This is what I want to see celebrated: Nature foremost because we would not be here without Good Mother Earth and her water, air and soil, families, nurturing traditions, worldwide community, justice, music, art, education and books.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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