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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

The Problem with Hand-dryers

May 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

On Writing

November 12, 2015

Tags: order, book, cleaning, decluttering, hands, heart, making the world a better place, mending, On Writing, rereading a book, shutting up, walking, writer’s block, writing

When you are stuck

• shut off all electronics – you cannot create an inside world while the outside world intrudes
• go for a walk
• write in long-hand
• do the mending, cleaning, decluttering, gardening you have been avoiding
• reread a book which you think is divine

If all this fails, shut up, go out and make the world a better place with your hands and your heart. Write only if you have something to say.

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.

National Celiac Day 2015

September 13, 2015

Tags: food, order, anti-nutrients, barley, celiac disease, genetic, gluten-free, gluten intolerance, government, grains, joke, lectins, moor, National Celiac Day 2015, nuts, oats, own your health!, our daily bread, overweight, restaurant, rye, seeds, wheat, wheat allergy, Yorkshire

Gluten intolerance as a diagnosis is now so widely used that it serves as the butt of jokes. But is it?

About 1 in 100 people have celiac disease – the genetic form. Many more have wheat allergies, and some suffer from the lectins (“anti-nutrients”) in wheat and other grains, seeds, and nuts. I won’t even mention the more than fifty percent of Americans who a seriously overweight, due to “our daily bread”.

Your health is important. When my daughter and I wandered the wild, lonely moors of Yorkshire this summer, every remote little inn and restaurant would carry gluten-free items. But we here still think it is a joke?

Yet – so many people have taken matters in their own hands, without waiting for the government to steps in and admit that not good fats are the culprits; wheat - and rye and barley and, sometimes, oats – are the offenders to our health.

Go on, people – own your health!

Maine Tea

September 5, 2015

Tags: herbs, order, chemicals – beneficial, biochemical pathway, cell, Chinese novel, chives, dandelion, evolution, German, goldenrod, green goodness of plants, herb walk, interconnectedness, kitchen garden, Labor Day, lady’s mantle, Maine, oregano, parsley, plantain, peppermint, pine needles, plants – poisonous, polyphenol, red clover, rosehip, sarsaparilla, scented fern, steeple flower, tea - field, forest and meadow, tea - garden, tea - wild, usnea, walking, woods, workshop

For too long I haven’t written here, being deeply immersed in my new Chinese novel (which will take some years to finish writing). But this Labor Day weekend we returned to Maine, and I want to share that today I made a wild tea:

• Goldenrod
• Steeple flower
• Usnea
• Dandelion
• Oregano
• Sarsaparilla
• Red clover
• Pine needles
• Scented fern
• Peppermint
• Rosehip
• Chives
• Lady’s mantle
• Parsley
• Plantain

I usually call it a garden tea, but today the ingredients are from whatever I found on our walk – more of a field, forest and meadow tea, as we call it in German. Some came from my neighbor’s kitchen garden (I have their permission), some from the Maine meadows and wild woods. Everything is rather dry this year, but things are growing – and if you ask me – want to be eaten and drunk.

I wonder how many different polyphenols and other beneficial chemicals I ingested with the large cup of tea I just imbibed. Hundreds – if not thousands. They all work their magic without that I have to know all the chemical names or biochemical pathways because the wisdom of my body cells will sort out what is useful, and what is not. Mind, I don’t include plants that are poisonous. Just plants that have accompanied us through millenniums of evolution, and therefore will help my body healing whatever bothers it. Long before it bothers me.

You can make your own wild tea. Don’t look for my plants – look for what is growing around you. Some plants you probably know already – like dandelion. Never use a single plant that you don’t know one hundred percent! Enroll in a workshop or herb walk and be guided by some wise person who knows the land. Don’t go through life without really knowing the world you are living in. You will grow in unexpected ways, and you will be healthier for it! Not only because we are primed to ingest the green goodness of plants, but also because you have to walk to get them. And because you will experience the interconnectedness of all and everything.

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.

Not Only Diabetes …

January 5, 2015

Tags: order, food, movement water, sleep, asthma, cheese, comfort, common sense, dairy, evidence - historic, health fad, junk food, Not Only Diabetes …, photo, pounds, research, scientific proof, testimonial, The Diabetes Cure, weight - ideal, weight loss

In the last week, several people came up to me to tell me how my book “The Diabetes Cure” has helped them. One was a woman who had lost a few pesky pounds (six, in her case, but I have seen fifty in others). She is bragging she’s back to her ideal weight, and feels great.

This is the kind of testimonial I expected, and am used to by now. But another woman reported that the horrible asthma, that has plagued her all her life, is mostly in remission. She blames my dietary advice for the change. It was really difficult for her to stop all the good cheeses, but she finally did – and she has never felt better. Or looked better!

Now, a testimonial is not a scientific proof. But in my book I cite hundreds of studies that support my views. My advice is not a fad, taken out of thin air. It has solid research behind it. Not to mention historic evidence (just look at photos from the thirties when most of modern junk and comfort food was not yet around!). And plain old common sense!

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.

Today is National Celiac Day!

September 13, 2014

Tags: food, order, agriculture, antinutrient, arthritis, autoimmune disease, bread, bulking up, cancer, celiac, Davis - William (born ???), depression, diabetes, diet, disease, Earth, fall, Fifties, foraging, fruit, gluten, gluten intolerance, grain, grass, greens, grub, gut, harvest, heart disease, humans, intestine, Jew, kamut, kernel, leaky gut, lectin, mammoth, medieval times, misery, Niemöller - Martin (1892-1984), nut, obesity, Our Daily Bread, overpopulation, poem, progress, rabbit, root, seasonal, seed, selection, Sixties, socialist, sowing, spelt, straw, Today is National Celiac Day!, trade unionist, wheat, Wheat Belly

For some reason – and, please, bear with me – the first thought to my mind is the famous poem by Martin Niemöller (1892-1984):

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


So, what is the connection?

First, there were the celiacs – people who could not tolerate wheat because of the gluten it contains. They were the fringe of the movement, so to speak, and not many people who were not afflicted took the sufferings of the gluten-intolerant very serious.

But now, about twenty years later, it has become clear that most people do better without wheat in their diet – not least, because the book “Wheat Belly” by William Davis has opened the eyes to the damages grains can wreak in the body.

Wheat contains gluten, and for some people – the celiacs - this gluten acts like a poison, destroying first the gut, and then nearly every other organ: arthritis, depression, cancer, and so on are related to gluten intolerance.

But wheat – like every other grain or seed or nut – also contains lectins. The other name for lectins are “antinutrients” – which gives you the idea that they might not be healthy for you. They are not. Lectins inflame the intestines, similar like gluten does in celiacs – only less so. But in the long run, the wreak havoc anyway. Sometimes lectins are described as ripping little holes in the lining of the bowels, which is a bit of a simple explanation and not quite right, but good enough if you want to understand why lectins are not good for you.

Having a “leaky gut” as a consequence of gluten and lectins sets you up for many diseases – the most spectacular is obesity – hence the “wheat belly”.

Why are there lectins in grains and seeds and nuts? Because plants don’t want their next generation to perish – they want their seeds to grow into new plants. Like animals, plants don't want to be eaten. Lectins defend the seeds by making them harder to digest. “Our Daily Bread” has made it possible to populate the Earth (overpopulate!), but it has come with a price: Disease and misery.

Our original foods were greens and roots and fruit (in season only) and some nuts in the fall, and a rabbit or a mammoth, but at daily foraging grubs were more likely. Human ingeniousness discovered that one could sow and harvest the seeds of grasses. Selection made the tiny grass seeds bigger, and made agriculture and “progress” possible. In the last fifty years, we even drastically improved on the wheat plant: shortening the stalks (straw is unnecessary) and bulking up the kernel (mostly by increasing the gluten fraction) – our wheat is nothing what it was in medieval times or earlier. Not even like anything in the Fifties or Sixties! Spelt and kamut had much less gluten than our modern “improved” varieties. Spelt and kamut also caused less disease.

First, a few unlucky people suffered from gluten intolerance. Now it has become widespread. Surprised? No. But it reminded me of the Niemöller poem.

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.

The Big Itch – Eczema

November 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Do A Book, Beethoven, And Bamboo Have In Common?

June 1, 2013

Tags: order, bamboo, Beethoven - Ludwig van (1770-1827), dancing, diabetes, direct mail, falling in love, house cleaning, hurdy-gurdy man, lawn, military band, pachysandra, piper, pub music, Rodale - publisher, roots, street music, String quartet op. 131, What Do a Book and Beethoven and Bamboo Have in Common?, wisteria, wormwood, writer

This morning, I listened to music while I was cleaning the house, after months of neglect. It was Ludwig van Beethoven’s string quartet op. 131. I can’t help myself but I always think about Beethoven as writing street music: A piper comes around the corner, creating excitement. A military band is heard from afar, then is coming nearer – the brass glittering in the sun, and the tune tickling the ear of little Ludwig. Coarse pub music lures with a rhythm that makes your feet stamp. A hurdy-gurdy man takes your penny and plays an ear worm that won’t leave your head for weeks to come – or never (Beethoven wrote this late in life). None of Beethoven’s music seems to show the street influence better than this quartet, if you ask me – and I am not an expert, just a listener. And then, in some passages, the street music stops, and you hear all the longing for a better life in young Ludwig’s soul. For all these reasons, I think LvB still speaks to us. At least to me.

But that was not even what I wanted to talk about. Yesterday, it seems to be official now, my diabetes book (as my part as the writer is concerned) was finished, as per today I am not allowed to make any more changes. The book is supposed to come out in August – initially as a “direct mail” product from Rodale’s, my publisher. It will take a full year before they will release it as a paperback and will show up in stores. Of course, it is available at Rodale's before.

I am exhausted, clearly. And elated. I have an idea for (and the first pages of) a new book, but I am not sure I still have the strength to go through with it. Give me a few days to recover – and to clean up the house!

Another thing that happened today: With a friend, I spend the morning in the garden, trying to kill a bamboo that had sprung – and burst – the pot we had planted it in about two years ago. Or, I have to say, my friend worked and I talked – that’s probably the more truthful description of our endeavor. My family were in love with the bamboo at one time – until I noticed new strong shoots coming out beyond the circumference of the pot. My worst fears have come true: We followed one of the roots three yards into the lawn! Remember, I already have a beautiful wisteria that is crisscrossing my perennial bed with shoots thirty yards long (no lie!), and pachysandra that’s my bane, and wormwood that creeps deeper and deeper into my flowers. – That’s why the bamboo has to go – and don’t tell me, after you fall in love with a bamboo that I didn’t warn you! And, of course, I will plant one root in a pot on the terrace because I don't want to live without the beauty of bamboo.

Half Magic

May 17, 2013

Tags: order, Are You My Mother?, adventure, author, book, book store, child, coin - ancient, comical, coming-of age, community, community of readers, Eager - Edward (1911-1964), favorite books, fractions, Half Magic, Harry Potter, Internet, magic, math, non-reader, reader, sad, teacher, two-day delivery, Where the Wild Things Are, wish making, world literature, Wurzel – Sue

In writing group this week, Sue Wurzel read a touching piece about a book she had read as a child called “Half Magic”. Several group members immediately recognized the title as one of their all-time favorites, too, and gushed and cooed and enthused until I – not having grown up in this country - felt I had missed out on an important piece of world literature. While the others were still evoking the book glowingly, I ordered it online (I know, I know, - I should support my local book store – but I admit that often my impatient enthusiasm gets the upper hand).

The “half” in “Half Magic” pertains to an ancient coin that fulfills your wishes – but always only by half. And wouldn’t you believe it: With half magic, the two-day delivery was cut in half – it never happens! - and the book arrived the very next day!

And by next morning – following in the footsteps of millions of kids before me who must have read it late at night, with hot ears – I had finished reading the book. It is magical, and I want it still to be around for many children generations to come. Thanks to the internet for that!

In “Half Magic” four children have hair-raising adventures owing to the magic coin. On the sly, they also learn about math and fractions. But what sets this book apart: In the very first pages, the author Edward Eager (1911-1964), creates a community of readers around books he loves and has no scruples to advertise. That is as if Harry Potter would admit that “Where the Wild Things Are” or “Are You My Mother?” were his favorite books ever.

All we readers know, of course, that this community of readers is deeply divided from non-readers in the world, and the Sue Wurzel’s story this week covers the exact moment when one little girl finds out that her respected teacher belongs to the other side – to the non-readers. A poignant moment of coming-of age, sad and comical at the same time.

“Half Magic” also is a funny book, with funny situations. But the four children, their mother and “a little man” are real people, coming each into the world with their own agenda, and taken seriously. There’s nothing funny about being the always-overlooked middle child, or the boy without a father. We understand the children’s dreams and fears, but we laugh at their clumsy, rash wishes with their unexpected consequences.

If you didn’t read “half Magic” as a child, your education somehow has been thwarted, and you should make good on it straightaway! And if you know a child between six and twelve that thrives in the company of books – this is the book for her! And if you know a non-reader – this might be the present that lures him into our community!

From Mouth to Anus

May 15, 2013

Tags: order, food, water, addiction to food, additive, aging, air, almond milk, antibiotic resistance, antibiotics, anus, baby, bacteria, bowels, brushing, buttermilk, cancer-breeding, caplets, capsules, carrageenan, caries, cosmetics, dairy - dangers of, dairy-free, dental hygiene, dentist, disease, fat, feed lots, fermented foods, flossing, fluoride, fluoride toothpaste, From Mouth to Anus, fruit, fruit substitute, full fat content, gastrointestinal tract, gene-technologically inserted, gum disease, gut-healthy, H2-receptor blockers, heartburn, hormones, household cleaners, inflammatory, ingredients, inhumane animal husbandry, improved, Internet, intestinal health, kefir, kimchi, labels, live cultures, meat, medication, medicine, microbiome, milk, milk products, milk proteins, miso, Mother Earth, mouth, mouth mucosa, natural, neem-based, no man is an island, nursing home, odor, oral cavity: acidity, oral health, organic, pasteurizing, patient, physician, plaque, poisonous, pollutants, Prevacid, Prilosec, probiotic powder, probiotics, processed, proton-pump inhibitors, quest, sauerkraut, skin, soap, soil, skimmed, societies – "primitive”, sour cream, stomach ache, sugar, sugar-free, sweetener, swish & swallow, swishing, Tagamet, tapioca, teeth, teeth brushing, tooth powder, tempeh, yogurt, Zantac

Medicine, for me, is a quest for my healthier self, and healthier patients. I am learning something new every day. In a way, I feel sorry for my patients of so many years ago – now, I think, I could help them so much better.

This also implies that you – the patient – could possibly be a step ahead of your physician, if you are trying to figure out what makes your body feel better and stronger and more awake, and happier. With the Internet, we all have more information at our fingertips, flawed and good information, for sure – but more of the latter. If you ask me.

Take for instance the stomach problems that plagued me when I was younger. Setting out with conventional drugs like H2-receptor blockers (Tagamet, Zantac) and proton-pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Prevacid) years ago, I at least got the problem under control. Then, twenty years the, I found that at the root of my heartburn and stomach aches were allergies: I left out the offending foods – and I dropped all meds, and never looked back.

Forward a bit, and I discovered probiotics – bacteria that are helpful for the intestines. They improved my bowels, and I took them faithfully for many years. I still recommend them to nearly every patient I encounter. Many studies link probiotics to good clinical outcomes, even if we have not yet quite figured out all the intricacies of how they work. One thing is sure: What you eat helps or destroys the microbiome that coexists in your body. A microbiome is the whole entity of bacteria, good or bad, that thrives with you, in you, on you.

Don’t worry – the good guys are winning right now. Otherwise you would be dead. But that the good guys are winning is not guaranteed – it could change any moment. You could crowd out the good guys with sugar, or commercial dairy, or destroy them with a course of antibiotics) or meat from one of those inhumane, antibiotic-resistance breeding feed lots – the list is long how you can hurt your microbiome inside and outside; cosmetics and household cleaners are high on the list. But even if we did everything right in our personal lives, outside forces can destroy your good bacteria – pollutants in water, air and soil.

Not to be an alarmist, but no man is an island, and if we don’t preserve our Mother Earth, we surely can forget about the intricacies of feeding our coworkers - our good bacteria - the right amount of this and that.

Health comes down to the health of our gastrointestinal tract. Lately, I have found that probiotics can be applied not just as capsules or caplets, but as probiotic foods. A big group which I just mention in passing are fermented foods – sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh, and so on. “Fermented” can be taken as another word for “loaded with gut-healthy bacteria”.

I have argued widely against the dangers of dairy – and still do. Ninety-nine-point nine percent of dairy is bad for you because of the highly inflammatory proteins and cancer-breeding hormones (be it naturally occurring, or gene-technologically inserted). But there is a tiny fraction of organic dairy that contains live cultures. Examples are yogurt, kefir, buttermilk and sour cream. But only, if they truly are organic, contain live cultures and have absolutely no additives that turn a good food into a nightmare: sugars, sweeteners, fruit, fruit substitutes, tapioca, carrageenan, and so on. In my mind, to qualify as natural they also have to have their full fat content – nothing skimmed or improved or processed any way other than pasteurizing – and the good bacteria have to be added afterward. Fat is not the culprit in milk and milk products – milk proteins are. Not only are they inflammatory, but also addictive. Now you can even get dairy-free organic yogurts, made for instance from almond milk. Or probiotic powders, ready to be dissolved in warm water. But always read the labels for ingredients!

Good dairy bacteria do not take away dairy’s inflammatory proteins and cancer-causing hormones. Therefore these probiotics should be taken in small amounts – very small amounts, indeed: a sip or a teaspoon full is the serving size here. And you don’t eat or drink them. You swish them around in your mouth as long as you can stand it, or unless you forget about them, and finally swallow them.

Probiotics thus taken increase not only your gut health, but especially your oral health. Studies show that probiotics swished around in the mouth after brushing your teeth reduce caries and gum disease in most cases – and I bet the result would be even better if people would add a healthy, sugar-free diet on top of this.

Using this to fight caries sure beats taking poisonous fluoride. Fluoride made me always uneasy: Studies link fluoride to cancer and neurotoxicity. But other studies clearly showed that it reduced caries – and I had not yet come by a natural method to preserve my teeth. Granted, “primitive” societies usually boast perfect teeth, but I had not quite found out why. Not sure, why, but sugar-free nutrition was probably the main cause. Then again, who of us modern Americans can boast a totally absolutely sugar-free diet – since infancy? Not that I know anyone.

Still, I am a believer in brushing and flossing (and also with good results, I have to say) – and don’t want to get rid of that. But neither fluoride toothpaste appealed to me, nor the brutal cleaning of my teeth at the dentist’s office twice a year. There is nothing natural in putting sharp metal scraping objects in your mouth. Now I am using an organic, neem-based tooth powder most of the time.

With oral swishing probiotics we gently provide a mildly acidic environment in our mouths for a few minutes. That cleans your teeth of plaque and implants healthy bacteria into the lining of your mouth, which then can grow during the next hours, or overnight, and fight bad bacteria. The result is amazing. And natural.

We take for granted that with advancing age we will lose our teeth, and that diseases will creep up on us. Ever been to a nursing home? A certain old-age odor emanates from those old bodies. We think the odor is normal. It is not. If one eats well, nourishes one’s oral cavity and intestines, in their entire length, and not destroys the precious skin bacteria with harsh soaps and cosmetics, we would smell like babies until our final days (and those will come even if we take good care of ourselves, but I bet those final days with be sweeter and easier if you have lived your life well).

Working on the microbiome in my mouth – that has been the newest station on my medical quest. In a way, this quest has been a journey from mouth to anus - and still is.

The Chinese Scroll

March 5, 2013

Tags: order, food, age, aging, antibiotic, antitoxin, baby, birth, Brussels, childbirth, Chinese, dinner, diphtheria, divorce, doctors, Europe, foolish & dangerous things, hitchhiking, love of life, luck measles, mother, nurse, Paris, parties, pediatric ward, perils, pneumonia, scroll, sick baby, The Chinese Scroll, tuberculosis, underage drinking, understanding, women, World War II, youth

At a fancy dinner, across the table, another guest talked about “women of a certain age.” I looked him straight into the eye and said: “I am not a woman of a certain age. I am 68.” There were a few gasps at the table.

Age seems to be a problem. But not if you have been a very sick baby that should not have survived 6 months when she came down with the double whammy of measles and diphtheria (they put her into a corner to die, and told the mother not to bother) – at the end of World War II in Europe when there were no antitoxins, no antibiotics, and no food. Or should have died of pneumonia every winter of her childhood. Or should have died of tuberculosis at age fifteen (or thereabouts). Or should have died in childbirth because the doctors deemed her too week to give birth of a baby of her own. Or should have died in her forties when the doctors thought she was too old for another baby. Not to mention two heartbreaking divorces, and all the foolish and dangerous things she went through in her youth: Hitchhiking alone from Brussels to Paris, drinking underage at parties – and more foolish & dangerous things I better don’t relate here.

Not sure what kept me alive during all those perils. Love of life, probably. And sheer luck.

But so it comes that I am not afraid of getting older – only curious, and proud.

I see my life as a Chinese scroll: Every day the scroll unrolls a bit more, and – surprise! surprise! – showing more and more of my improbable, disorderly, wonderful life: A gorgeous picture! Still a bit unfolding at the edges every single day. And how lucky I am to still be here, and see it unfolding, understanding more of myself, understanding better the forces that worked on me and nudged me and pushed me forward!

Oh, and that baby there, left to die in a corner of the pediatric ward? I imagine a kindhearted nurse who must have touched me and fed me and cuddled me secretly to keep me alive. And then, two weeks later, they called up my mother: Would she, please, finally pick up that healthy baby that was eating the food of all the other babies on the ward?

White Teeth

February 9, 2013

Tags: order, advertisements, backward, body, chemical industry, chemicals, culture, dental, dentist, embarrassed, enamel, grooming, health, inadequacy, insecurity, lily-of-the-valley, mouthwash, pubic hair, self-doubt, shame, shaved legs, teenager, teeth whitener, underarm hair, vagina, teeth, White Teeth

When I was a teenager, I complained to my dentist that my teeth were not white. He produced a kind of wheel on which were mounted fake teeth, in different shades of off-white. He pointed out that my teeth were on the upper end and that, basically, teeth were not white.

For me, then, it was good enough - my teeth had passed.

Then something changed. Or: The culture changed. Now the dentists are in cohouts with the chemical industry to give you white teeth - really white teeth. I think it started with cartoon-like advertisements that showed people with white teeth - as white as the paper on which they were printed. With a little star that connoted sparkle: Brilliant white teeth.

Nowadays people use harsh chemicals and destroy the beautiful, precious enamel of their teeth, surely shortening their teeth's lifespan. For sparkling white teeth! It comes from the same corner as no-underarm-hair, vaginas that smell like lily-of-the-valley, shaved legs, nude pubic areas, and mouthwashs.

None of them are essential for health. But if you don't espouse them, you feel backward, not groomed right and insecure. And that seems to be the point: To keep us self-doubting and embarrassed about our bodies. And as long as we are busy with our personal shame and inadequacies, we don't care much that the world goes to shambles, or that our neighbor is sad, or the kid down the block looks forlorn.

And that seems to be the purpose.,

Another Unproven Pearl

January 19, 2013

Tags: order, herb, food, Another Unproven Pearl, anti-inflammatory, breast lump, breast tenderness, dairy, diabetes type II, fibrocystic breast disease, grains, turmeric, women

As I am still writing like crazy my diabetes book, here another “unproven pearl” from my long experience:

Turmeric works against breast tenderness. Those lumpy areas in the breast – also called fibrocystic breast disease – can be alleviated with a generous dose of the herb turmeric sprinkled onto your food. Not daily – but whenever you feel you need it. Of course, turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory action - this is only one of its many uses and benefits.

Also: Observe yourself: When do you get breast tenderness? For many women, it comes after ingestion of dairy or certain grains. Have you found an offending food in yourself? That food item should surely be cut from your nutrition: Your body tells you that it hurts you.

But When the Next War Looked Like All-Too-Certain

September 14, 2012

Tags: order, anti-war, banker, book, broker, But When the Next War Looked All-Too-Certain, Emil and the Detectives, general, German, international, Kästner - Erich (1899-1974), major, military police, officer, minister, peace, poem, sergeant, translation, Und als der nächste Krieg began, war, women

Last night, for reasons readily understood, I translated an old German poem of Erich Kästner’s into English; the poem was first published in 1932. Kästner is the author of the famous children’s book “Emil and the Detectives”. In German, the title of the poem is: Und als der nächste Krieg began.

Erich Kästner: But when the next War looked all-too-certain (1932)

But when the next War looked all-too-certain,
The women said: No way!
And locked in brother, husband, son
And took the keys away.

In every country, every town, they stormed
Each sergeant’s, major’s, off’cer’s home,
And chased the guys, and got them tight,
And beat them with a broom.

They gave a beating to everyone who
had ordered to break the peace:
The bankers, brokers, ministers,
Generals and military police.

A lot of brooms were shattered then
And many a blowhard finished and done.
So many men cried, so many men whined.
The War was over before begun.

All that accomplished, the women went home
To brother, husband, son,
And said there was no War.

The men looked hard not in their eyes
But rather to the floor.

[translated by Alexa Fleckenstein 2012]

Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!

September 13, 2012

Tags: food, order, Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!, book, wheat, diabetes type II, diabetes type I, gluten intolerance, blindness, kidney failure, amputations, neurological damage, brittle diabetes, hospital, diabetes, end-organ failure, gym, garden, cello, a walking after dinner, exercises, writing a book, fresh food, fish, meat, dairy, sugar, sweetener, trans-fats, processed food, gluten, daily bread, evolution, genes, monotheism, hunter and gatherer, eating nibbling, Nature, holy, cattle, sheep, husbandry, religion, rules, timetables, schedules, Kellogg – Will Keith (1860-1951), breakfast, cornflakes, industrialization, prosperity, scarcity of food, adaptation, calories, burger, obesity, celiac disease, diarrhea, skin rash, bloating, neurologic, psychiatric, symptoms – gluten-related, gluten intolerance, under-diagnosed, lectins, Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, seeds, digestion, arthritis, depression, heart disease, cancer, celiac, wisdom of the body, toxicity of wheat, morphine-like substances, brain, longing, cocaine, heroin, agriculture, extinction, monotheism, guilt, over-hunting, ice-age, bison, elephant, deer, cow, gruel, ploughing, farming, corn, sugar, addiction, starvation, bread, pizza, cake, cookie, muffins, vegetables, addictive food, wheat kernel, harvest, milling, minerals, flour - white, diseases, vitamins, iron, flour - “fortified”, root vegetable, celiac, rye, barley, oats, dinkel, kamut, grains, hulls, waste, starch, bread - sprouted, gluten, sprouting, degenerative diseases, wheat, dairy, sugar, trans-fats, redemption, plant food, vegetables, herbs, fruit, beans, nuts, fish, rabbit

Not that I should luxuriate in writing blogs while I am finishing my diabetes book, but to call attention to the problems with wheat – on this occasion I just have to do it.

Since this is my big theme presently, let me roll up the whole gluten conundrum from the diabetic side: Ninety percent of people with diabetes type II are overweight; ten percent are not. Now – what gives the ten percent their diabetes?

Genes, of course. But genes account only for part of the puzzle. Most slim diabetics have either type I diabetes (which I will not discuss here), or they have gluten intolerance. Disclosure: I am one of those ten percent, and while I don’t yet have full-blown diabetes with all the dismal consequences down the road like blindness, kidney failure, amputations, neurological damage, my number always hover at the upper border of normal or the low border of diabetes. For somebody who has brittle diabetes and ends in the hospital frequently, this seems a good place to be, and sure it is. BUT: By the time people are diagnosed with diabetes, a good third already shows sign of end-organ failure. Which means: They really already have advanced disease. I don’t want to wait doing nothing and closing my eyes.

So, what do I do? I move, for starters. I don’t go to the gym, but I work in the garden, play my cello, go for a walk after dinner with my husband, and do tiny exercises every time I get up from my chair during my long writing sessions (aaah – writing a book about health is not such a healthy thing, after all).

And I eat healthily. Fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, some fish, much less meat (but meat I do eat – and recommend), no dairy, no sugar, no sweeteners either, no trans-fats, and basically, nothing processed.

But back to gluten. We pray for our daily bread – and are not aware how recent the “daily bread” was invented – not longer than five to ten thousand years. Which is nothing in terms of evolution and our genes. Actually, our “daily bread” is around not much longer than monotheism – the belief in a single, singular god. I find that interesting: When we were hunter and gatherers, eating and nibbling and plucking from Nature wherever we went, we had multiple gods – the ones that were hidden in the groves, in the deep lakes, in the skies – and everything was whispering to us: Holy, holy, holy.

Then agriculture was invented with cattle and sheep husbandry, and we learned to sow and to reap, and suddenly there was that one stern god over us, telling to adhere to his rules – one obviously needs rules and timetables and schedules and order to be a farmer.

Forward a few thousand years to Mr. Kellogg, who gave us our breakfast cornflakes, and modern scientists who gave as bigger kernels of wheat, and then all the abundance that came with industrialization and prosperity – and here comes the modern American wave of obesity and diabetes. Where for millions of years always was scarcity – and that is what our bodies were adapted to for millions of years – now we can get the whopping calories of a burger for one dollar. Without to move out into the woods and hunt and gather.

If gluten is at the root of those ten percent of slim diabetics – so what! you exclaim, because you are fighting the pounds for most of your life. Gluten makes a few of us very sick – with celiac disease. Gluten makes a lot of us fat, with sickness down the road from the excess pounds.

Celiacs have no immune tolerance for gluten; they might get diarrhea, skin rashes, bloating, and all kinds of weird symptoms – including neurologic and psychiatric. Half of the symptoms are not showing in the belly, which is one reason gluten intolerance is still one of the widely under-diagnosed disease – even that the last ten years has turned the tide a bit.

The funny thing is: Wheat does not want to be eaten. Like basically all nuts and seeds, the wheat grain contains a family of compounds called lectins that are there to protect the grain from being eaten. The wheat plant has no interest, so to speak, to be gobbled up and extinguished. On the other hand, from the wheat’s point of view, of course, it is extremely advantageous that farmers everywhere now growing this seed that originally had a very narrow distribution, namely the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia. Somehow we managed to spread it more or less worldwide – or did the plant entice us to do its business?

Not sure. But nuts and seeds contain lectins that hinder digestion and make people sick with arthritis, depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so on – the celiac who runs to the bathroom ten times a day is only the tip of the iceberg. And it shows the wisdom of our bodies: To get rid as fast as possible of a toxic substance.

Wheat is addictive – it contains morphine-like substances that play with your brain and your longings just as cocaine and heroin do. I always picture how the first farmers, sitting placidly and satisfied in their hovels, invited the last hunters who came in from another fruitless hunt for something to eat (the rise of agriculture happened parallel to the extinction from overhunting the very large ice-age mammals – they had bison the size of elephants, and deer like cows at that time. The rise of monotheism happened at the same time … did we feel guilty for the overhunting??). The hunters got their bowl of gruels or their flat breads; it must have seemed heaven to them. As they never got enough of it, they came back for more and more, until they one day decided to plough a piece of land, and settle down as farmers themselves.

So, if you want to get healthy and/or slim, you first have to break the wheat (and corn! And sugar! But those are other topics …) addiction. You don’t die of starvation, if you leave out bread and pizza and cakes and cookies and muffins. You just get healthier. The food to eat: Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. And some brown rice, as rice does not seem so addictive as wheat. It just doesn’t taste so yummy, yummy that you want more and more of it.

In all of this, I haven’t even talked about what they do nowadays once the too-big, overinflated-by-starch wheat kernel is harvested: They mill it and grind it and take the good stuff out, namely the coarse outer layers that contains vitamins and ls . The make white flour from naturally brown flour, and because it is known that white flour contains nothing healthy and leads to deficiency diseases down the road, the “fortify” the flour with vitamins and iron.

Believe me, nothing is as well “fortified” as the original grain. I mean the really “original” grain which we cannot retrieve anymore because the first grains were so puny – not much more then a few hard nibs in your mouth while you were searching for the really belly-filling rabbit or root. If you want to do wheat at all (and if you are a celiac, you can’t have it ever again! Also not rye and barley; perhaps not even oats), at least stick to dinkel and kamut, some of the older grains. Not as old to go back to the dawn of times, but going back a few thousand years, to the first cultured strains. They contain more hulls and “waste”, less gluten and starch. You also can try sprouted breads where most of the gluten has been used up in the process of sprouting.

Our modern degenerative diseases have to do with mostly four culprits: Wheat, dairy, sugar, trans-fats. Our redemption lies in the plant world: vegetables, herbs, fruit. A few beans, a few nuts. Some fish. And occasionally … a rabbit.

Time To Take Your Hat And Leave, Mister Fahrenheit!

August 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Against Dandruff, For Healthy Hair

August 10, 2012

Tags: order, food, water, herbs, Against Dandruff - For Healthy Hair, alcohol, beans, birch sap, brown rice, carrot, dairy, dandruff, essential oil, fish oil, garbanzo, Germany, hair, hair – healthy, hair oil, hair water, lamb, lentils, neem, nuts, olive oil, oregano, poultry, protein, rosemary, seafood, starch, sweets, sugar, tea tree oil, vegetable, zinc. United States, Seborin, Weleda

Because someone asked:

Against dandruff, I would use a birch sap "hair water" - a specific brand I get from Germany (and is very expensive here in the United States) is "Seborin". Another brand might be by Weleda. - This is used after washing your hair, and is left in to dry.

You could also make yourself a hair oil with olive oil and some essential oil, like rosemary, oregano, tea tree or neem. Rub it in before washing your hair. Leave it on over night, then wash it out.

Also, dandruff might have to do with what you eat: Avoid dairy, sweets, alcohol and white starches (which are nothing more than sugars in a long chain). And alcohols are a form of sugar, too.

Food for healthy hair: nuts, beans, lentils, garbanzo, carrot, vegetable, brown rice, good proteins from poultry, lamb, and seafood; fish oil, zinc.

News from My Summer Reading Pile

August 2, 2012

Tags: order, food, herbs, water, Alone in Berlin, Atkinson - Kate (born 1951), Aufklärung aus dem Geist der Experimentalphysik: Lichtenbergsche Konjunktive, Bayer – John (born 1947), Bode - Thilo (born 1947), books, Boston, Chinese, classics, cook book, cult book, democracy, Die Essensfälscher: Was uns die Lebensmittelkonzerne auf die Teller lügen, Die Nacht des Schierlings, Dutch, Einstein – Albert (1879-1955), Einstein: A Biography, enlightenment, Enzensberger - Hans Magnus (born 1929), Europe, Every Man Dies Alone, experimental physics, Fallada – Hans (1893 - 1947), Fatelessness, food forgers, food industry, Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer's Market, French, garden bounty, German, Greene - Graham, Jin - Ha (born 1956), Hamburg/Germany, Heimat ist das, was gesprochen wird, hemlock, historical mystery, Hogg - James (1777 - 1835), Hungarian, I.M. Ischa Meyer In Margine In Memoriam, Japanese Invasion of China, Jen - Gish (born 1955), Je länger ein Blinder lebt - desto mehr sieht er, Yiddish Sayings, Lanzmann – Claude (born 1925), Leroux - Eddy, Lichtenberg - Georg Christoph (1742-1799), linguistics, Kertész – Imre (born 1929), Maine, Markson - David (1927 - 2010), medicine, memoirs, Mendelssohn - Moses (1729 - 1786), Müller – Herta (born 1953), murderer, Nanjing Requiem, Nazi Germany, Neffe - Jürgen (born 1956), Netherlands, New England history, News from My Summer Reading Pile, Nobel Prize, novel, Oelker - Petra (born 1847), Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, Palmen - Connie (born 1955), philosophy, physicist, presents, reading pile, Relativity, Schöne - Albrecht (born 1925), shaman, Shields - Carol (1935 - 2003), Somé - Patrice Malidoma (born 1956), Started Early - Took My Dog, The Heart of the Matter, The Lazarus Project, The Patagonian Hare, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, The Silences of Hammerstein, The Stones Diaries, The Wordy Shipmates, United States, Vowell - Sarah (born 1969), Wallace - David Foster (1962 - 2008), Waste Books, Wittgenstein’s Mistress, Wong - Tama Matsuoka, World and Town

Four days of Maine made me a different person, even more alive than usual, quieter. Already I have finished two of the books on my reading pile – the Einstein I had already started in Boston.

1. Jürgen Neffe, Einstein: A Biography, 2009 (English) – a wonderful book – makes one think one really understand Relativity now …

2. Carol Shields, The Stones Diaries, 1995 (I know, I know – EVERYBODY has read it already! Somehow I was behind)

3. Claude Lanzmann, The Patagonian Hare: Memoirs (I am reading a German translation; if you can, read the French original, from 2009). A difficult book. An important book – how Man is murderer to Man.

4. Tama Matsuoka Wong, Eddy Leroux, Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer's Market, 2012. I usually find cooking books boring. But this was given to me because it mirrors my philosophy: Thy garden bounty be your food and medicine!

5. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s Waste Books, 2000 (first printed in 18th century) (I read it in German). Lichtenberg is the perfect companion to my other philosopher friend, Moses Mendelssohn

6. Connie Palmen, I.M. Ischa Meyer In Margine In Memoriam, 2001 (German). Another present (originally Dutch). I am always eager to hear from new shores – and I know next to nothing about the Netherlands – the little stout democratic European country

7. Malidoma Somé, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, 1995. Another present – I was not aware how many books just trundle into my house because somebody thinks it is perfect for me. Of course, I devour everything about water. Don’t know about shamans, though. I like the herbal aspect. But am highly suspicious of the shaman side – that playing with power. As people do everywhere in politics and religion – only here more primitive, I fear.

8. Imre Kertész, Fatelessness, Novel, 2004. (From Hungarian). Kertész won a Nobel in 2002.

9. Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin (also translated from German under the title: Every Man Dies Alone), Novel, 2010 (originally published in 1947). The reviews are raving about this old-new novel about the life of Everyman in Nazi Germany.

10. Herta Müller, Heimat ist das was gesprochen wird (translated by me: Home Is Where They Speak My Language, a very slim volume, but I am not sure this has been translated officially). Another Nobel recipient, in 2009.

11. James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, 1824. Allegedly a wonderful classic – I have to find out for myself

12. John Bayer, The Lazarus Project, Novel, 1999. Not sure I can stomach the philosophy – but someone recommended it to me, and I will try

13. Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter, Novel, 1948. Gathering dust on my shelves for many years – now I want to tackle this classic, to find out for myself what made Greene so great

14. Jiddish Sayings (Je länger ein Blinder lebt, desto mehr sieht er – the longer a blind man lives, the more he sees), in German, 1965

15. Sarah Vowell, The Wordy Shipmates, 2008. New England history from a new perspective – funny and scathing, it seems

16. Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog, 2010. This mystery caught my eye – it sounded like a good summer read.

17. David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress, 1988. A weird novel, and something like a cult book – I wanted to read it when I heard that David Foster Wallace wrote the afterword

18. Gish Jen, World and Town, novel, 2010. Another present. People know that I am interested in everything Chinese – so, this book came leaping into my house

19. Albrecht Schöne, Aufklärung aus dem Geist der Experimentalphysik: Lichtenbergsche Konjunktive, 1982 (a book about the afore-mentioned Lichtenberg, who in real life was not a philosopher, but a physicist. Translated, this title would be something like: Enlightenment Grown Out Of Experimental Physics. It is very much a linguistic musing about how Lichtenberg used different forms of conjunctives in German to convey his sly critique of his time

20. Thilo Bode, Die Essensfälscher, Was uns die Lebensmittelkonzerne auf die Teller lügen, 2010. Translated, the title would be something like: The Food Forgers – How the Food Industry Heaps Our Plates With Lies. Of course, this is along the lines of what I am thinking and writing most of the time

21. Ha Jin, Nanjing Requiem, novel, 2011. A novel about the horrible Japanese invasion of China in 1937

22. Petra Oelker, Die Nacht des Schierlings, 2010. (The Hemlock Night) A historical mystery from my hometown Hamburg/Germany. This is a whole series, and my – still living in Hamburg - supplies me with them, knowing I will devour each new arrival. Don’t hold your breath for this ever being translated into English – there are not enough nostalgic ex-Hamburgers here in the States to make it worthwhile …

23. Hans Magnus Enzensberger, The Silences of Hammerstein, 2009. German history at its best, I have heard – people who lived through the Nazi times, and stayed decent


Compiling this list, I realize that I never can read all these books before we turn home to Boston! But it is a good feeling that I brought them all – I can find something for every mood, it seems.

However: Don’t send any more books! These will keep me busy until the winter holidays …

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.

Ethical Dilemma

June 17, 2012

Tags: order, food, addiction, bread, cheese, community, cow - unhappy, dairy, deli, dilemma, disease, Ethical Dilemma, Europe, free, fridge, Germany, gluten intolerance, Greek, hay fever, health care, hidden cost, inflammatory, milk, milk product, neighbor, obesity, pain, processed food, unhappy, upbringing, vacation, wasting of food, World War II, yogurt

My neighbors left for Europe vacation. They brought me their fridge’s contents; Several cheeses, Greek yogurt, two kinds of deli, a bread, milk. Which is kind of them. But we don’t eat food like that.

What is a woman to do? Should I throw it out – as is my initial impulse? The daughter delivered the bag of food with words that encouraged me to depose of the things if I didn’t want it – somehow, they knew these are not items I usually put on the table … Or should I hand it to my cleaning ladies who certainly would be happy to get nice things for free?

Only that those things are not “nice”. - Dairy is inflammatory, makes one fat and sets a person up for hay fever, and so much more. The deli is from unhappy cows, and highly processed. The bread we can’t eat because of gluten intolerance.

They are not “free” either. Down the line, because of the addictive nature of milk products, they cause health care costs. Someone will have to pay: The eater with pain and disease; the community for doctor.

Knowing myself, I anticipate that I will give the food to my cleaning ladies – I grew up after World War II in Germany – and wasting food is against my upbringing.

What would you do?

A Last Look At The Body

June 7, 2012

Tags: order, autopsy, A Last Look At The Body, Allgemeines Krankenhaus der Stadt Wien, alma mater, Austria, body, Braunschweig, Brunswick, cadaver, case load, clinician, cost-effective, death, disease, Europe, Hamburg, hospital, imaging procedures, Kiel, mathematics, medical knowledge, medical mistake, medical skill, medicine, Morbidity/Mortality Conference, nineteenth century, Nuremberg, Nürnberg, pathologist, philosophy, physician, Rokitansky - Carl von (1804 to 1878), school, social sciences, teaching hospital, USA, Vienna

Vienna, in the nineteenth century: At his teaching hospital – the Allgemeines Krankenhaus der Stadt Wien – a pathologist named Karl von Rokitansky institutes an autopsy on every single patient who dies there. After the autopsy, clinicians and pathologists sit down together to compare notes: The Morbidity/Mortality Conference is born.

New diseases were found, old diseases became better known, medicine improved greatly, and Vienna became a magnet for physicians who wanted to learn there - it still is Europe's biggest hospital. My father spend some semesters studying medicine in Vienna. In Europe, one is not as wedded to one's alma mater as one is in the USA; in Europe, it behooves everybody to seek out good schools and good teachers to learn as much as possible. For instance, I studied in Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Brunswick (Braunschweig), Kiel and Hamburg, and finished degrees in mathematics, philosophy, social sciences and medicine. Here, if you change schools, you are frowned upon. – Both methods seem useful in their own way – I am not sure which one I prefer.

Back to pathologist Rokitansky. For about a century after he made them mandatory, autopsies were the norm, especially at teaching hospitals. Now they are the exception: Barely one in a hundred dead bodies get a second look, to find out what the cause of their demise was. Autopsies are not “cost-effective”, and different imaging procedures, done when the patient is still alive give the patient a better chance to stay alive.

But medical knowledge and skills are in decline – and patients complain. It seems as if physicians don’t want to be confronted anymore with their mistakes. Before, a physician learned from every case. Now the physician just tries to handle the case load.

This time it seems it is up the patient to demand an autopsy …

Smell Of May

May 30, 2012

Tags: order, advantage, amine, animal, aroma, attar of rose, aurora, Austin - David (born 1926), baby, bearded iris, bee, birth, blooming, bordello, Bradford pear, brain, brothel, bush, business, cadaverine, California, camp, carnation, chemical, chestnut - edible, child, Christmas, cooking, corymb, dead body, depression, digging, DNA, emergency room, evolution, fall, February, fertility, flower, fragrance, garden, gathering, genetic, grub, helix, heritage, holiday, housing, hunger, impregnation, intercourse, June, learning, life-giving, linden, Mary Rose, May, Memorial Day, molecule, mother, Nature, odor, olfactory, papoose, peony, perfume, perishing, pink, plant, pong, pregnant, putrescine, Pyrus calleryana, reproduction, rhododendron, rhubarb, root, rose, scent, scientist, season, semen, September, sex, shelter, smell, smelling, snowball viburnum, sperm, spermidine, spermine, spring, summer, survival, strive, teaching, The Smell Of May, tree, viburnum, Viburnum dilatatum, wasp, whiff, Wikipedia, winter, wood

May makes me giddy. On Memorial Day we did a long walk, me with my nose up in the air all the while, sniffing. My idea is (no scientific proof – it’s just my private hunch) that if we are smelling flowers all spring and summer and fall, we prime our brains to get through winter without depression.

That statement exaggerates, but it contains a kernel of truth. I put my nose into any flower I encounter (careful not to be stung by wasps and bees because I had some unfortunate wasp encounters a few seasons ago, one of which landed me in the emergency room).

Roses are already blooming for a while, earlier than usual. My David Austin rose “Mary Rose” is the sweetest thing; the old attar of roses must have smelled thus. The peonies’ fragrance lies heavily over the yard; whites have a stronger fragrance than pink and red ones. Linden trees bloom in the summer they soil cars parked underneath with sticky sap but give off an addictive sweet odor: I can’t wait for it. Snowball viburnums fill May evenings with their perfumes sometimes so cloying, it reminds me of a bordello (even if I have only a vague idea about a real brothel). Bearded iris and rhododendron mostly have to make up in showiness what they lack in scent. The little carnations look modest when you look down on them, but their peppery aroma is bold and assertive.

One plant pong stands out though - the unmistaken whiff of human semen. Wow! It comes from Viburnum dilatatum. The viburnums are mostly known for the perfumy, showy snowballs, some faintly tinged with an aurora pink. Viburnum dilatatum however means business: This sturdy bush with white feathery corymbs gives off the plain smell of sex. Isn’t that what the flowers and the bees are all about? Impregnation, reproduction.

But – why would a plant use the human odor?

I don’t know the answer, and I also don’t know which chemicals produce this familiar scent – do you know? I used to think that it was the DNA (the helical molecule that transmits our genetic heritage). But a scientist who works with it, says DNA has no odor to speak of - and he should know. Wikipedia claims some amines like putrescine, spermine, spermidine and cadaverine are responsible for semen’s unmistakable odor. Spermine and spermidine sound just like it - but putrescine and cadaverine? Don’t they sound more like emanating from dead bodies than from the fluid that carries life-giving sperm?

Whatever chemicals are involved, I remember the same smell from rhubarb in bloom (which will happen in June in my garden), and from edible chestnut in the South. In California, people complain about the fragrance of a notorious tree, called Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) – but I have not sniffed it personally.

Why plants are doing this, namely using OUR fragrance? Dunno. All I can say that the fragrance talks to me – meeting me at a point I understand from experience. Ultimately, of course, it means that Nature uses the same molecules in plants, animals and humans. We are not extra or outside from Nature – we are part of her. Once a scent worked for her during evolution, she recycles it. In prehistoric times, spring was also for humans the time of be fertile and to become pregnant. Having a child born in late winter made sure that the mother got still some rest in the winter camp, but then could carry her small child around (in a papoose, for instance) when she went on her next spring duty: gathering fresh shoots from emerging plants, digging roots and grubs, gathering wood for cooking.

A baby born in February could learn walking during the next winter camp, and was ready to toddle behind with the next spring move. Does Nature with her scents conspire to make us want to have intercourse at a time expedient to give a child the best possible start? Nowadays, with sheltering housing and ample food all year round, these small advantages mean nothing anymore; during those years of hunger and strive, they might have made the difference between perishing and survival.

Nowadays, most babies are born in September, which has nothing to do anymore with survival advantage – only with what we did during last Christmas holidays. I have to say that I like the idea that Nature tries to nudge me into bed with someone – right now. Preferably my husband.

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.

Absolutely Unnecessary Products

April 26, 2012

Tags: order, water food, Absolutely Unnecessary Products, advertisement, air, aldehyde, anti-bacterial, artery-clogging, artificial sweetener, asthma, baking soda, benzene, brain-fogging, California, cancer, chemical, chores, chronic disease, clothing, coconut oil, cold water, dairy, detergent, douche – vaginal, dryer, dryer sheet, drying, facelift, food color, fragrance, Earth, energy – naturally, financially difficult times, fresh air, freshness, garlic, Gulf War Syndrome, household, inflammatory, liposuction, make-up, moisturizer, money saving, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, nutrition, olive oil, pollution, power drink, product, quality of life, recreational drug, resources – finite, rush hour, scent, sexy, shower, sleep, smell, soap, soil, stevia, suburban, sugar, sweetener, theater, toxic drink, toxic food, toxic fumes, toxic products, toy, towel, vaginal douche, veganburger, vegetable, vinegar, VOC, volatile organic compounds - VOC, walking, washing machine, Wonderbread

When I lived in California for a few months last winter, all the dryers stood on the same spot on all the porches – it was one of those modern, boring, suburban communities. All the households used the same detergents and dryer sheets. The same cloying scent was standing in the air - always. After rush hour, the smell peaked: All the dudes and gals coming home from work and did they daily home chores.

Dryer sheets are unnecessary (and toxic) products. Many volatile organic compounds are released in the air with every drying course, plus aldehydes, benzene, and other substances that are proven or under suspicion to promote cancer, asthma, and other chronic diseases. “Multiple Chemical Sensitivities” is such a syndrome, closely related to the “Gulf War Syndrome”. Researcher suspect that sitting around all day in barracks, exposed to toxic foods, toxic drinks, toxic fumes, toxic recreational drugs might be the root cause.

Even worse: Because the fragrances in dryer sheets are manufactured to last and last and last, it is near-impossible to get them out of your machine and out of your clothing (try vinegar and baking soda!).

You think your laundry smells FRESH?? That’s the power of advertisement. Does a guy who walks by me (or stands in the elevator with me) smell FRESH? Or SEXY? To me he smells chemical, and uninformed. - When I put my face in my hard towels, they smell lovely - because they are dried on the line, outside. Dryer sheets and vaginal douches would top my list of absolutely unnecessary products. But the list is close to endless, I fear.

Let’s start such a list! Because Earth is getting too small for all the people living on it, we can make an effort to omit – and perhaps ban! – all products that do not enhance the quality of life but only use up precious resources and pollute air, soil and water. Not to mention use up our money in financially difficult times.

Here is the list – not ordered by urgency just by what came to my mind:

1. Dryer sheets
2. Vaginal douches
3. Wonderbread (or any other nutrient-poor replacement of the real things made from scratch)
4. Anti-bacterial soap (except in medical settings – and even there I’d challenge the wisdom of using them)
5. Toys that are used a day, and then never again
6. Liposuction – go for a walk instead. Daily.
7. Moisturizer (use coconut oil after your shower – if you need it. On your whole body)
8. Artificial sweetener (if you really want to stick with the over-sweet taste you have been raised on, try stevia! At least, it is natural)
9. Dairy (most inflammatory, artery-clogging, brain-fogging food there is – right there with sugars)
10. Toner (splash you face with cold water whenever there is a possibility
11. Make-up (in most cases, except in professional situations like theater)
12. Veganburgers (or any fake “health” food. Cook a vegetable with olive oil and garlic. Or two. Or three. – That’s it!)
13. Food colors – Who needs neon-red and neon green and neon-purple in their mouth??
14. Facelifts
15. Power drinks (go to bed early enough so that your body gets energy naturally)

Help me! Let’s make this a looooong list!

Thought For The Day

April 17, 2012

Tags: order, A.Word.A.Day, citation, electronic overload, email, Facebook, inner fire, Italy, Rome, spirit, Schweitzer - Albert (1875-1965), Thought For The Day, traveling, TV, Twitter, words

Just a citation for today, taken directly from A.Word.A.Day - a wonderful tool for writing. But, over the years, I came to love their daily citations even better.

I am traveling again – Rome, Italy – and I am taking a holiday from electronic overload. We all should, from time to time, turn off TV and email, Facebook and Twitter.

“In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” - Albert Schweitzer, philosopher, physician, musician, Nobel laureate (1875-1965).

Spring Greens

March 30, 2012

Tags: order, herbs, food, bicycle, budding, chives, dandelion, delicatessen, excitement, flowers, garden, garden tea, garlic, life, liver health, skin health, smiling, spring fatigue, observing, olive oil, poisonous plants, salad, spring greens, Spring Greens, sprouting, stinging nettle, tea – herbal, vigor, winter blah, year - seasons, spring, sun, renewal, blooming, life, passion, winter - eternal

This is the time of the year to eat chives, dandelion leaves and flowers, and stinging nettle leaves from the garden. They replenish you with new vigor against the winter blah and spring fatigue. They flush your liver and bring a glow to your skin. And a smile to your face.

Stinging nettles, of course, should be stripped from the stalks (wear gloves!) and be cooked – a delicatessen with olive oil and fresh garlic! Chives you can munch right from the garden, and dandelions are good as salad, as cooked greens or as a tea. Have you ever made a glass teapot with the rich green of garden plants, sunny from the buttery-yellow flowers of dandelions? Yes, it’s time again for a garden tea! Anything that isn’t poisonous can go in.

All this is not new, of course. Just a reminder. But the essence of spring is exactly this yearly renewal! Nothing new under the sun, they say – but let’s not forget that this yearly renewal is the most wonderful thing that can happen: the blooming again of life, of passion, of being alive! Think it would NOT happen, and instead, we’d got eternal winter. That would be the end of life. So, go out every day now – perhaps on your bike, like I did today - and observe how little things sprout out of the soil or how buds burst open. Yes, it happens every year, nothing special about it – but boy-oh-boy – how it does get me excited!

Comfort, Closure, Redemption

March 27, 2012

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, airing the room, chamomile, closure, coconut oil, cook, comfort, Comfort - Closure - Redemption, contraindication, crying, death, declutter, dying alone, faith – articles of, finances, forgiving, fruit, herbal tea, history, hogging, holding hands, holy basil, home, hospice, hospital, listening, nosiness, past hurt, peppermint, photo, possessiveness, praying, reading aloud, redemption, relationship, resilience, singing, sitting still, skin, snooping, stinging nettle, stress, talking, touch, time constraints, washing feet, working out problems

Nobody should die alone. The most important part is that you are with the dying person – the dying person should not be left alone, if possible. Not always is it possible to accompany a loved one on the last way – both my parents died far away from me. My father suddenly, when I was eighteen and away in boarding school – his heart gave out. My mother in Germany, of lung cancer, when I went through the rigors of medical internship in Boston. I remember sitting at night at the bed of a dying patient, and thinking that I should be sitting with my mother.

Many people feel uncomfortable in the face of sickness and dying. Not everybody finds wonderful last words and gestures. Here is what you still can do – naturally – for a dying loved one.

First, however, what you should not do:

• Discuss the ways the person hurt you in the past: It is too late now. Try to grow up before the person dies – work out your own problems
• Go through their things and snoop around. Even if you were the lone heir: Wait until afterward
• Keep friends and relatives away from the dying person to hog her/him for yourself
• Don’t press your personal afterlife believing and articles of faith onto the dying person

What you can do – naturally:

• Sit still at the bedside
• Hold hands: Touch can still be taken in when all the other senses are long gone
• Give a cold sponge bath – lying unwashed in bed is a horrible burden for many sick people
• Sing. I sang for my first, beloved mother-in-law when she was already unconscious. I think she heard me
• Keep the room warm, aired and uncluttered – at home, in the hospital, at the hospice
• Bring pictures from the past that the person might still enjoy – but only a few selected ones – don’t lug into the sickroom whole photo albums
• Forgive if the person was not what you expected from her/him in the past. He/she had her own history – and you might not know all the essential parts – for instance, how this person was hurt when he/she was young
• Remember the past - as long as the person can still talk. This might be your last chance. But don’t push it – take the cue from the dying person, not from your own urgency
• Zip up a light, delicious meal – or just serve fruit. This is not the time to restrict a person to a diet – this is now pure enjoyment
• Read aloud – if he or she can hear it or not: Share what you like to share
• Tell the person what he/she means to you. Sum up your relationship with the dying person – but not financial problems and time constraints the dying puts on you. Your own stresses (and they might be great and overwhelming) you have to work up alone or with other people in your life. Your own life is on hold while this person moves toward death
• Wash the dying person’s feet. Then rub coconut oil into the skin
• Talk about positive things from the past
• Listen to whatever the dying person has to say – if you like it or not
• Pray if the person wants to pray. Shut up if the person does not want to pray
• Declutter the nightstand without getting nosy or possessive
• Brew an herbal tea: Chamomile, holy basil, peppermint, stinging nettle. – or whatever you have at hand Ask the doctor if there are contraindications
• Endure the impending loss – you can – and will - cry later But you will take satisfaction if you stayed strong when you were needed to be strong.

The Matter Of The Toilet Paper Roll

March 5, 2012

Tags: order, answers – “right”, art, lifestyle, predilection, preference, private opinions, religion, rules, scientific facts, The Matter Of The Toilet Paper Roll, toilet paper, whim

In the light of recent events, I want to remind that there are two kinds of people in the world: The ones who like to pull off their toilet paper sheets from under, and the ones who do it from over the roll.

We understand that there is no right or wrong way of doing it. It is a matter of preference, of whim, of predilection.

The problems start when the under-people think the over-people are stupid or stubborn and need nudging and learn to adhere to the rules – exactly when the over people want to make the under-people like themselves.

Some questions have no right or wrong answer – they are lifestyle questions, religious questions, artistic questions. Be sure to discern between scientific facts private opinions. And beware of those who want to impose the “right” answers on us!

And, by the way, I am an under-person. Not sure though what you can do with this information …

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!

Thought For The Day

January 9, 2012

Tags: order, life - good, Thought For The Day

Do good, and dare to live your life!

New Year’s Resolutions

January 2, 2012

Tags: order, food, beauty, bigotry, caring, cheer all year round, community, compost heap, depression, dreaming of a better world, ending war, endorphins, exercise, fad diet, family, fresh foods, friendliness, friends, ignorance, joints, lean and mean, lending a helping hand, livable, loneliness, loved ones, muscles, New Year’s Resolutions, obesity, overweight, poverty, sadness, shedding the pounds, six-pack abs, smile, state of the world, weight gain, weight loss

Most of us have probably resolved to move more, eat better and – perhaps – lose a few pounds in the new year. All very commendable. But as I am worrying about the nation’s expanding waists, I worry more about the state of the world generally. People are not only fat, but they are sad, too, and lonely. There might be a relation between being overweight and being depressed (eating fresher foods and exercising more will increase endorphins in the body and make people happier).

But a person is not an island, and I think building a better world needs the effort of many people combined. Emphasis on “combined” – as we do not amount to much alone. But together with friends, loved ones, family, community we can tackle everything.

Fad diets won’t work in the long run – but smiles and friendliness and lending a helping hand here and there will go a long way. Six-pack abs are a fantasy - a body that is healthy must not necessarily look like an advertisement - it just has to function well. And too much exercise can will ruin joints and muscles. And in the end, all beauty will end up on the compost heap anyway.

A beautiful smile and a helping gesture, however, might never be forgotten. Let’s dream of better things than weight loss – things like ending war, poverty, ignorance, bigotry, loneliness. And by distributing cheer and much-needed help all year long we might, accidentally, run around a bit and shed the pounds … unthinkingly. I want the world not lean and mean, I want it friendly and livable and caring.

A Happy New Year to you!

Care Of Unsightly Fingernails

December 19, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Season’s Bliss

December 10, 2011

Tags: order, alms, Amnesty International, animal shelter, charity, caroling, Christmas, cook a healthy meal, cookies - gluten-free low-sugar, donation, gift ideas, gifts - named, gluten-free, Hanukkah, homeless, homeless shelter, holidays, knitting socks, Kwanza, neighbor, nursing home, people who have everything, poverty, Salvation Army, spare coins, sugar- low, toys - wooden, doll, board games

• Give your spare coins freely to homeless people
• Buy hat and mittens for a poor child
• Give to Amnesty International or another worthy charity; the one that gives most money to its clients and least to its CEOs is the Salvation Army)
• Visit a homeless shelter
• Knit socks for a soldier
• Take a child to a museum or a zoo – don’t buy anything to eat since the event is what you are showing the child
• Visit a nursing home, caroling
• Collect money and donate it to an, preferably not to the rich city organizations, but to a rural needy one
• Find inexpensive unusual gifts, preferably from Third-World places
• Wrap your presents in newspaper – or don’t wrap at all
• Cook a healthy meal for a neighbor who is house-bound
• Read a Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza story for the children in
• For people who have everything already: Make named gifts to charities
• Bring toys to a collection place that serves underprivileged children; stick to old-fashioned wooden toys, dolls and board games
• Bake some gluten-free low-sugar cookies and serve them to every visitor this time of the year, including the mailman
• Come up with at least three more ideas than I did – and tell us!

Fall Chores

November 19, 2011

Tags: order, Boston, Carson – Rachel (1907-1964), chemistry, chore, climate change, fall, Fall Chores, future, garden, herbicides, Indian summer, insect damage, lawn, leaves - bagging, leaves - blowing, leaves - raking, organic, pesticides, plant, raking, San Diego, Silent Spring, snow, traveling, tree

Because we are in San Diego for the sabbatical, we had only two times in Boston this fall for the dreaded chore of raking leaves. I was worried because, usually, it takes weeks of raking to deal with the bounty. - As an aside, we never bag our leaves; we distribute them over the perennial beds. Makes for an untidy garden, and lush growth the next year. Originally, the neighbors complained. Now they are proud of my blooming wilderness. Second thought to the side: One couldn’t do it for dainty little plants, they would be smothered.

Three weeks ago, I had raked for the first time this year. The weather was pure Indian summer, balmy and rewarding, and the chore was done in four hours of hard work – with a blower. I try to avoid the blower, as much for my neighbors’ sake as for my own. But with two days between traveling, I could not have done it by raking.

This time, I had four days, and I raked by hand. Because the weather had stayed beautiful so long, there were astonishingly few leaves on the ground; my task was easy. But it made me worry: Since we won’t be back before deep snow will cover the lawn, the lawn might rot under the leaves’ burden!

But then I looked up in the trees – there are barely any leaves left that can come tumble down. With two sessions, my fall chore is done. Wonderful!

Wonderful?

For at least fifteen years I have been observing (and complaining – but nobody listens, it seems) that in summer the crowns of the trees don’t look as full as in my youth. Now – that’s a sure sign of getting old, when nothing compares to your memories any more, isn’t it?

Only this time, I seem to be onto something real: Trees don’t have as many leaves anymore. Climate change. Insect damage. Whatever the cause is – one thing I know that in my garden it is not due to pesticides, herbicides or other bad chemistry – my garden is organic, and has been, ever since we moved in twenty years ago. But the future does not look pretty: Silent Spring.

Perhaps it is time to read Rachel Carson’s book again. And: Enjoy your fall chores – as long as we are lucky enough to have them!

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?

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!

Invasive Plants 3: Bamboo

October 14, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, order, anti-oxidants, Asia, bamboo, bamboo - as medicine, bamboo - nutritional value, bamboo shoots, bamboo wood, Bambusa, beauty, bone growth, building material, calcium, carcinogenic, Chinese brush painting, Chinese culture, Chinese food, cholesterol, coconut milk, copper, Crouching Tiger - Hidden Dragon, crystal healing, culm, curry, cyanide, dance, Dendrocalamus, fat, flavonoids, fiber - dietary, Four Gentlemen, furniture, gem stone, grace, harmony, healing stones, Hong Kong, infection - bacterial, ink - black, immune system, Invasive Plants 3: Bamboo, iron, Japanese culture, kitchen utensils, lungs, Made in China, manganese, migraine, mineral, mushroom, mushroom - button, mushroom - raw, Nature, osteoporosis, Phyllostachys, Poacea, poisonous, potassium, power, protein quartz, sauce, scaffolding, silica, snow, socks - 100 percent bamboo, TCM, tools, toxin, Traditional Chinese Medicine, true grass family, variegated, vitamins B, vitamin C, winter, zinc

One time, traveling in Hong Kong, we saw a bamboo outside our hotel room window grow about a foot per day. Amazing. The record for bamboos seem to be somewhere at a yard per day – which makes them the fastest growing plants on record.

Those were tall bamboos. At home, we grow smaller varieties – and always in a huge tub lowered into the soil. These things throw out side-shoots or culms, as they are called botanically, so fast – they would run over the yard in a few seasons if not properly grown in a pot. One stand in front of the entrance and greets the visitors.

Easier, of course, would be to not grow bamboo. But that is impossible. Because, for me, bamboo stands for beauty. They don’t flower (or only about every one hundred years or so); they don’t lure you with colorful berries. But their pointed leaves have a charm that I wouldn’t want to miss it from my garden. If you watched the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” you know what I mean – the scene in the tops of swaying bamboos is unforgettable! When I drew my first bamboo leaf with black ink, I was hooked forever on Chinese brush painting – and the living plant, which we all – from humble student to great master – try to capture, is so much more beautiful. It is as if grace and dance have been captured in a plant.

Bamboo is not one single species – there are many, from little to very tall, mostly green, sometimes variegated – but all in the Poacea family – also called the “true” grass family. Their long stems barely taper which makes them perfect for building materials. In China one can see huge skyscrapers being built or renovated, and the scaffolding is all bamboo – many, many stories high – quite an astounding sight for western eyes! The light but tough wood makes furniture, tools and kitchen utensils. And last time I bought a pair of socks, I found they were made of 100 percent bamboo, made in China.

In Asia, bamboo is used for food and medicine; you certainly have eaten crispy bamboo shoots in a Chinese dish. In Chinese Traditional Medicine, bamboo is used against bacterial infections, especially in the lungs. But be cautious: There are so many different “bamboos”, and some are poisonous. But the genera Bambusa, Dendrocalamus and Phyllostachys are generally edible – but check before you put them in your mouth: As with mushroom, 99 percent is not good enough; you have to be sure 100 percent!

It is better to stick to the ones you can buy in the supermarket: They are those fast-growing shoots I described initially. Make sure they are fresh and white once peeled, not already brownish. Even the edible bamboos contain toxins (cyanides) that have to be destroyed by cooking – never eat them raw (as you also know never to eat any mushroom raw – not even those innocuous-looking button mushrooms; they are carcinogenic).

The nutritional value of bamboo? They are high in protein and dietary fiber, and contain zinc, iron, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin C and many B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 - plus flavonoids – anti-oxidants. Because of their very low fat contents (and no cholesterol to speak of), they are delicious in coconut milk, as sauce or curry.

Those bamboo shoots have a high silica content; they make good food and allegedly are good for all connective tissue, including skin, hair and nails, and feathers – in case you grow them ...

Silica is one of the many minerals you need for strong bone growth – there’s a reason why those bamboo trunk grow into the sky so rapidly (and you know already that calcium alone doesn’t do a thing for your bone). Silica is the main mineral in quartz, which is also used as a healing crystal. I have not quite made up my mind about healing stones, but I like the beauty of gems, and a clear quartz supposedly is for harmony and power – it might be only in the eye of the beholder, but that counts heavily for healing. I look at them a treasures Nature gives to us.

In TCM, bamboo is thought to help the immune system. I have never used it myself or on patients though. Bamboo also seems to prevent migraines.

Japanese and Chinese culture revere bamboo. In Chinese painting, Bamboo is the first of the Four Gentlemen, and stands for an upright, hardy character – not difficult to see why, if you find the green leaves still on the stem in the middle of winter and snow.

Invasive? Yes! But useful and beautiful!

Be Prepared – Flu/Cold Season Is Upon Us

October 12, 2011

Tags: herbs, order, beach, Be Prepared – Flu/Cold Season Is Upon Us, breathing deep, cold, flu, GAIA, Grapefruit Seed Extract, GSE - Grapefruit Seed Extract, La Jolla, moon - full, ocean, Pacific Ocean, phyto-capsule, pneumonia, Quick Defense, sleep, walking, waves

Cold and flu season is upon us. Are you prepared?

For a minimum, have GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) and GAIA Quick Defense capsules in your house, so if it hits you, you can start taking something fast (they don’t pay me – I say this from many years of experience!).

By the way, the main difference between a cold and the flu is that a cold is more slowly in the making, getting worse from day to day. The flu hits you like lightning: Fine in the morning, half dead in the afternoon.

Take GSE in much warm fluid - it's caustic! 16 drops - four times a day.

"Quick Defense" by GAIA (a phyto-capsule of an extract different herbs - just follow directions – usually nibs any cold in the bud.

And do deep breathing: Three deep breaths every hour on the hour - you don't want to end up with pneumonia! And get a lot of sleep! People who are run down, get sick.

And, something not on the point: Last night we walked the Pacific beach here in La Jolla. New with each new wave, the ocean never bores. It was full moon. We were playing escaping the waves - just like kids - and had fun for nearly two hours. Nobody else was there – what a waste of a wonderful full moon!

Hopefully, tomorrow more about invasive plants!

P.S. I just caught a lizard – or something like a lizard, with four legs and a long tail – in my bathroom and set him free. - Glad I found him before Otto did.

Laying It On For The Hard Times To Come

October 7, 2011

Tags: food, order, anise star cookies, autumn, berries, bikini season, candy stick, cranberry sauce, December, dieting, fall, fruitcake, gefillte fish, gingerbread, glazed onions, ham, holidays, Laying It On For The Hard Times To Come, leaves turning, machine – the body is not a, marshmallow, meat – braised, natural rhythm, obesity, organic, plum pudding, pumpkin pie, raisins, red cabbage, rhythm - yearly, rugelach, seasons’ flow, starvation, stuffed goose, walking, weight gain, weight loss, winter, winter solstice

Studies show that people put on a few pounds more in the fall – and they lose some come bikini season.

You don’t want to increase your weight even more? Basically, that is a good concept. But laying on the pounds in the fall used to be a mechanism to help people cope with the starvation that inevitably came at the end of the winter.

Now, of course, starvation never comes (we hope!). What is a person to do?

Don’t fight it, is my advice. Count on that you will (and should) gain a few pounds now. Don’t start a diet right now. Eat the autumn goodies like braised meats (in moderation!), the pumpkin pies (better of course is the pumpkin without the pie!) and the berries now. After the holidays in December is the time to naturally slim down.

This is not a free pass to putting on pounds like a whale. My educated guess is that should be one, two, three pounds – never more than five!! But to fight the natural rhythm will only bring you defeat: We are hard-wired for weight gain during this season.

During the holidays, nibble a bit of everything: gingerbread men, plum pudding, stuffed goose, glazed onions, rugelach, gefillte fish, fruitcake, red cabbage with raisins, honey-soaked ham (organic!), cranberry sauce, anise star cookies. Let be all real, fresh foods – no candy sticks, no marshmallows – but don’t pig out on all these because with the winter solstice comes the turn in the year and the turn in your body: Then starvation – or dieting – should set in.

Your body is not a machine, and you shouldn’t will it to go against its yearly rhythm. You will only lose … but not pounds. Go with the seasons’ flow – to a degree. And go for a fall walk and watch the turned leaves.

We Fired Our Agent – And It Feels Wonderful

October 3, 2011

Tags: order, agent, author - powerless, book industry, books, bookstore, Boston, editing, literary agent, New York Times bestseller list, Olympic, publishing world, Salmon - Ben, self-publishing, skier, “Skiing and Natural Health”, We Fired Our Agent – And It Feels Wonderful

My last act before I left Boston was signing a letter that essential fired our literary agent. Few acts have felt so thoroughly good lately.

Truth be told, the agency had abandoned us before – they had not done anything for years to further us, and they vanished from the face of the Earth, meaning to say, their emails and websites are defunct.

We all hear constantly that the publishing world as we knew it is crumbling, and it certainly is. On the other hand, I have never seen as many wonderful books coming out as now – in the bookstore, I feel a child in the candy store (wish that saying would go: I feel like a child at a farmer’s apple stand …). It seems, if we put a computer into the hand of every person in the world, we will hear some amazing stories.

For a while now I have a book a bout “Skiing and Natural Health” in my drawer, and when I showed it to my agent I was told that it was soooo interesting – all we needed was a famous skier on board, so that the book would sell. That’s why the book still sits in my drawer. I wrote the book from my experiences as a not-so-stellar skier – which is more important and funnier as if a world-class Olympic had endorsed it. I think. The book industry thinks differently, obviously.

We had a wonderful first agent years ago, Ben Salmon - until he left for peddling kitchen ware because one can feed one’s family with selling pots, but not many agents can do this through their agenting thing. Editing is a hard, tedious job with long, long hours and not much reward.

What came after Ben, agent-wise, was disappointing. And now we are free again. I think that self-publishing for a moderate amount of money has changed the game. Now we can publish any book we deem worthy. And if we are not bothered by a big, inflated ego, it does not matter if the book shows up on the New York Times bestseller list. All that counts is that it is available for whoever wants to read it; I am a fan of the new technology. It turns us authors from a powerless entity at the receiving end to people who shape their own fates.

To The Other Coast

October 2, 2011

Tags: order, airport, barefoot, California, cat, cello, character, East Coast, food, obesity, ocean, Otto - the cat, sabbatical, San Diego, sun, tomcat - castrated, To The Other Coast, traveling, vet, West Coast, Black Beach

We relocated to the other coast, yesterday – for a few months. We will be in San Diego for a sabbatical. Swapping places makes it possible.

Otto, the cat, turned out the best travel cat ever. He also turned out to be too heavy (which the vet had just told me, while I had bristled – after all, Otto had been even fatter when I got him. Besides, what does a castrated tomcat have to live for but food??). I schlepped him through three airports.

My friends all envy me – going to California, into eternal sun, to the fun state. Me, on the other hand, I am not really a California girl – can’t take much sun, and what I like for fun – I will have to see ... This morning, I took a cold sitzbath – but the water was not really cold. One makes up for sitting longer – no fun, really.

But because it is Sunday and the real work will begin only tomorrow, we walked along Black Beach barefoot. Lots and lots of people. The wonderfully cold ocean made me at last arrive here with my heart, too.

Now I will pick up a cello that a friend of a friend will lend me for the time here. What is not to love in California?

Flying Tiger - Umh! - Flying Cat

September 19, 2011

Tags: order, airline, altitude, Boston, cabin, cargo, carrier - air-line-approved, cat, Flying Tiger - Umh! - Flying Cat, harness, health certificate, Houston, leash, pressure, San Diego, sedating, stress, suffocation, traveling with pets, vaccination, vet

We will fly to San Diego in about ten days, for a four-months sabbatical. Although somebody will be at home, we decided to take Otto, the cat, with us - he might miss us otherwise. Or we him.

Traveling with a pet is a bit of a nightmare. And Boston - San Diego means a lay-over in Houston; there are no direct flights. My first inclination was to put Otto in the cargo hold so that I didn't have to see his suffering. A bit cowardly, I know. But Otto is the type of cat who nicely curls up beside you for hours and hours of traveling; we do it to Maine all the time. And then gets to be a growling, ripping fierce defender of his freedom if you confine him into a box.

Of course, the airlines don't allow the cat out of the carrier on your lap. What to do?? - Reading up on the Internet, cargo looked less and less like a good idea; animals seem to die there, being exposed to extremes of temperatures and pressures. Then I thought of taking him into the cabin, sedated. According to the Internet, sedation is another bad idea; the animal might suffocate when it is too drowsy to move after it toppled. The numbers seem small - but I love my cat.

Here is what emerged as my plan:

- Booking in advance (which I did today) as only one animal is allowed in the cabin at a time.

- Using a soft, air-line-approved carrier (we own one). Pad it with a familiar towel, etc. and have a dark cloth at hand to cover the carrier. Animals seem to endure the stress of being confined and pushed around better in the dark.

- Taking a leash and harness because the carrier needs to go through the x-ray machine.

- Get a certificate from your vet that the cat is free of communicable diseases and that vaccinations are current. Not all airlines ask for it, but it is better to have it handy.

- I still have not decided if I should get a sedative, at least, just in case. I will discuss it with the vet.

Do you have experience with bringing pets across the continent and want to share them?

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.

Taking Care Of Oneself

September 5, 2011

Tags: order, food, advertisement, aging, appetite, Asian cultures, care of oneself, economy – bad, elderly, food industry, French, health care costs, high blood pressure, jail, natural laws, nursing home, obesity, overweight, parents - indulgent, responsibility, starvation, Taking Care Of Oneself, weight

At a dinner, I came to sit beside a beautiful French lady of a certain age, elegant and sophisticated. Always looking for good stories and good advice, I asked her what she did to keep her weight. She gave me that long look, shrugged her shoulder and said: “One takes care of oneself.”

I have often thought of the French lady’s remark. It sounds so easy – “One takes care of oneself.” But it involves a lot. It obviously is easy in these times and age to gain a lot of pounds as we are getting older. Some folks even seem to think that aging itself puts pounds on the scale, so “normal” is it to gain weight with every additional birthday. Similar to what we physicians thought about blood pressure: It was “normal” to have higher blood pressure with higher age. So normal actually that physicians had a formula for it: 100+age, the systolic blood pressure was to be. It turned out it was only “normal” in a statistical sense: Most older people had indeed higher blood pressure. But not “normal” in a healthy sense: Healthy people should stay around 120 over 80 – no gain with age. High blood pressure hurts the heart and the arteries, the brain and the kidneys – nothing “normal” in it.

The same goes with weight. In some Asian cultures, the grandparents helped with raising the children, but they tried not to be a burden on the families. They voluntarily ate less. Because the thinking was older people need less food. I am not sure they need less food if they are still active. But in those Asian cultures it was “normal” that older folks got skinny.

Presently, we hear much about self-reliance and self-care. It doesn’t come out of the blue. It comes from bad economic times and the realization that overweight, obese people not only eat more than they need, they also gobble up a bigger share of health care costs.

Taking care of oneself should not take the form of starving oneself – which is never healthy. But to make oneself knowledgeable about which foods pack on the pounds and leave us with a ravenous appetite right after we have eaten might be a way to go. It is easy to blame advertisements, the food industry, indulgent parents, or what not. But in the end it comes down to ourselves who make the decisions.

One doesn’t wake up one morning, and all of a sudden, with no forewarning, one has gained fifty or more pounds. It is a daily process, and we should look at our face in the bathroom mirror and should take a long look at what the bathroom scale shows. We harvest what we sow. The natural laws apply to all of us – no one is exempt. That’s what the French lady wanted to say, I guess.

Society has ways of dealing with people who can’t care for themselves: We are caring for the very young and for the very old, and usually that caring is fairly benign. We also put people in mental institutions and, in extreme cases, in jail if they can’t care for themselves. When States want to make laws restricting sugary drinks or forbidding smoking in public places, there usually is an outcry that rights are taken away. To me, who always was deathly afraid that somebody might take over my life and make decisions for me, it only seems consequent that laws have to take over personal responsibility in certain situations.

One doesn’t let oneself go. One shouldn’t be the problem but the solution to the problem. One takes care of oneself.

Walking Pneumonia

September 2, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Of A Mother

August 31, 2011

Tags: order, cat brain, cat - feral, dog, kitten, Love Of A Mother, Maine, Moses - the cat, runt of the litter, wildlife, woods

A few years ago, in September, my neighbor here in Maine looked out of her kitchen window and observed one of the feral cats that live in the woods here deposit something on her stairs. When she checked outside, she found a tiny kitten. It barely had its eyes open and looked like it might not live. They took it in, fed it by dipping a finger in milk and let the kitten lick it off.

Against all odds, the little one survived. They named him Moses. Moses always looks like the runt of the litter - he is so small even grown up. He is not feral anymore; he is a house cat, well loved.

The surprising thing was that the feral mother cat had brought her kitten to people, obviously well knowing that it would not survive fall and winter; it was born too late in the year. Feral cats avoid people like any other wildlife would do. We get a glimpse of them some nights in our headlights, but that is all.

As an aside: If mankind would die out and dogs and cats would be returned to the wild, experts think that cats would survive and thrive, and dogs would die out; dogs are too dependent on people.

Back to the mother cat: What is even more surprising: Months later, the neighbors found out that a second kitten had been left with people about a mile away as the crow flies. Obviously, the two were siblings: The sister has the same solid slate gray fur Moses has.

Now, here is a mother cat, with a brain of roughly 30 grams (less than two ounces) who can figure out what is best for her babies. She walked miles with her babies to bring them where they might be safest.

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?"

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!

My Eyes Were Resting On Green

August 11, 2011

Tags: order, food, water, apple - Braeburn, attention, barn, barren, beef - ground, black, blue, body and soul, bog, brown, cat food, chicken liver, Chinese brush painting, coconut oil, color game, commitment, concept, cooking, cornstalk, dandelion, dealership, effort, fir, fireweed, flag - American, flower, food - wholesome, forest, garden, Gobi Desert, green, green landscape, growing, hills, house - burnt-down, human, hungry, idea, lily pad, log cabin, loosestrife - purple, mailbox, Maine - down-east, maple geraniums - hardy, meadow, My Eyes Were Resting On Green, Namib Desert, Nature, New England, New Hampshire, oats - rolled, onion, orange, Otto – cat, pepper and salt, picket fence, pickup truck, pine, pink, pond, purple, recipe, red, rose, rosy, Route 2, spruce, steeple, sumac, sunflower, tired, town, tractor, tree – touching a tree, Turk’s cap lilies, United States, valley, Vermont, white, yellow

Yesterday I drove from Vermont to down-east Maine on Route 2. During the first part, my friend Bob guided me through tiny back roads from Vermont into New Hampshire to Route 2; if you ever have to follow another car like that, it helps if it is a fire-truck red pickup truck that you can’t lose out of sight easily. That bright red truck was the beginning of the color game for me when I later sailed across gentle hills east, east, east for seven hours. Since I took up Chinese brush painting in January, my eyes are drawn by lines and colors.

After the bleak, beautiful scenes of the two barren, forbidding deserts we visited this year – Namib and Gobi – I reveled in the green landscape that sustains me - body and soul. Green were the meadows, the lily pads on the ponds and the forests of maple, pines, firs, spruce and sumac. Saturated, satisfying green.

A few colors were sprinkled into the green canvas: rows of orange Turk’s cap lilies, a patch of tall yellow sunflowers, a surprising line of bright red tractors at a dealership, pink roses and big swathes of rosy fireweeds, an occasional blue mailbox and clouds of dainty pale blue flowers that might have been hardy geraniums, the subdued red of barns, brown male flowers uppermost on green cornstalks, the purple loosestrife that invades the boggier areas, the black ruins of a burnt-down house, and of course the white houses, steeples and picket fences we all expect from New England. Natural colors and man-made colors – but all insignificant against the green on the hills and in the valleys.

Many of the small towns along Route 2 were decorated with American flags red, white, blue, making a contrast to nature that seemed to say that the “United States” is a concept, and idea that deserves effort and commitment rather than growing organically out of the soil. Something that easily could be swallowed by fertile green if we don’t pay attention.

Gentle rain and creative fog formations wrapped the land, nourishing and renewing. We know, of course, that Nature can come upon us with force and destructive. Not here, not yesterday, though.

Green, of course, is our most wholesome food. When I arrived at the log cabin, tired and hungry, I began cooking a pot of fresh cat food for Otto from ground beef, chicken livers, some rolled oats and dripping wet dandelion greens from the garden. Then I thought the better of it and saved a few pieces of chicken liver for the humans: I browned two big onions in coconut oil, added a sliced Braeburn apple and a handful of green dandelion leaves, and pepper and salt. Last I added the few slivers of chicken liver. A meal for the gods!

During dinner conversation, my friend Matt said the sentence: “I make sure that most of the time I am not too far away to touch a tree.”

What Stays

August 8, 2011

Tags: order, abuse, cruelty, death, difficulties, doubts, family, fears, finances, funeral, love, marriage, money, spouse, stroke, vice, What Stays

Coming from another funeral - this time in Europe - the question lingers: What stays if we have to die anyway?

In this case, love stayed. Love stayed long after the body of the loved one was felled by a series of strokes. For a dozen years the spouse cared for the loved one, with a thousand fears and doubts and difficulties, but never faltering. After all those many years, the loved one died at home, with the family by the bedside. - We all wish for such a death.

And such a love. Not asking what is in there for me. But asking what is the needed thing to do now. - We hear too much about who should be allowed to marry and who not. We should hear more what marriage involves. Not figuring out what he/she does wrong, but what he/she needs now. Whenever I feel sorry that I am not getting what I want, I feel a distances from the people I am with. When I ask: What can I give? What does he/she need now?, I feel close - and rewarded.

(It goes without saying that I don't condone cruelty, abuse, and the myriad of vices that make a marriage unbearable.)

We all know too many examples of the contrasting outcome: The spouse divorces the ailing partner, and runs away with the money, to a better life.

A better life? I cannot think of life and time better applied than caring thus.

Geronimo!

August 1, 2011

Tags: order, Afghanistan, Apache, battle, code word, Earth, Geronimo (1809-1929), Geronimo!, Golden Rule, health, history, idealism, minorities, Native American tribes, Osama bin Laden, race - “superior”, White Man, war

This morning, I woke up to a report on the radio of the capturing of Osama bin Laden.

After the enemy had been killed (without a trial), allegedly the attacker shouted three times the code word: Geronimo! Geronimo! Geronimo! I was lying in bed, asking myself if I had heard what I just had heard.

Geronimo (1809-1929) was the Apache leader who was at the forefront of the battle against the invading White Man – in a lost battle, as history showed. The “superior race” pursued the Native American tribes, expelled them from their lands, waged a war and broke uncountable promises and treaties.

To invoke Geronimo’s name as a code word was bad taste, to say the least. More likely, it describes the true spirit behind our war in Afghanistan and elsewhere. I protest the insensitivity. Perhaps I am hopelessly idealistic but there will be no health on this Earth, as long as we are not respecting minorities and still wage conquering wars. If for no other reason than for the Golden Rule (Don’t do unto others …), we should understand that we are all One and in the same boat.

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.

Varicose Veins - Phlebitis - Thrombosis

July 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Watermelon And Terracotta Soldiers

July 22, 2011

Tags: order, American debts, Army of Terracotta Soldiers, Beijing, Buddhism, China – unified, Chinese herbs, Confucian scholars, consciousness, Dunhuang, emperor, fiefdoms, Government – USA, Han dynasty, heat afflictions, heat collapse, heat stroke, heat wave, language, measurements, Mogaoku, money, overheating, potassium depletion, pyramid, Qin dynasty, roads, Traditional Chinese Medicine, USA, watermelon juice, Western medicine, Wuhan, Watermelon And Terracotta Soldiers

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are two different kind of heat afflictions: “red” and “white”. Red is what we call a heat stroke - when one is extremely overheated; white is when one has what in Western medicine would be called an electrolyte imbalance. Potassium depletion seems to play a major role.

In Dunhuang, I suffered a heat collapse. Visiting Mogaoku – the Buddhist caves - at around one hundred degrees, was a bit much for my system. In the evening, I refused to eat – which alarmed everybody. At that point, I could barely walk, and in a restaurant they built a make-shift bed for me from several chairs. While they were dining, I waited for them – for about fifteen minutes, or so I thought. In reality, one and a half hour had passed; I lost time (but not consciousness) – a weird feeling.

A few years earlier, after a visit in hot, hot Wuhan – another little dot on the Chinese map; turned out it has twelve million inhabitants – in July, I had a similar collapse in Beijing. That one was worse: I could not lift my head from the pillow anymore.

In both cases, my friend Hong was with me, and she gave me freshly pressed watermelon juice. Within ten minutes, in the Beijing case, I could lift my head, and from there I started eating and drinking again. This time, with the watermelon juice and a good night’s sleep, I woke revived the next morning.

The watermelon juice advice may come just in time for the heat wave in the USA.

Meanwhile, we traveled from dry Dunhuang to rainy Xian – the city that starts the Silk Road. The rain does the land good, and me, too.

Xian is famous for the Army of Terracotta Soldiers – which I have wanted to see for such a long time. It’s magnificent – but also scary because ancient records show that about 700.000 people had to die helping one megalomaniac emperor build his tomb. He, more than 2000 years ago, unified China and became the first Emperor.

Before, the regions had suffered many fiefdoms. The First Emperor of China (of the Qin dynasty) built roads, unified money, measurements and language, and built at his tomb for 38 year; it has the form of a grassy pyramid and is the largest grave installation in the world. When he died unexpectedly at age fifty – speculation goes he was afraid that any one doctor might kill him, so he had several and probably took too many Chinese herbs from too many doctors simultaneously – his son buried him in a pompous ceremony, walked out of the tomb and banged the door shut – leaving all the wives and concubines and court people including 450 Confucian scholars locked in; they died of suffocation. The son then had the tomb entrance camouflaged and killed the people who did the camouflaging. This son was the second and last emperor of the Qin dynasty and hung on only for three more years, then the farmers rebelled against the unimaginable exploitation and killed him. After fierce fights between two rivaling farmer bands, the Han dynasty was established.

Everybody has seen photos of the life-sized terracotta army – but to stand there and look into the faces is amazing. They were built after living models, and we know that each soldier sculpted here had to die for the Emperor. Each face is different. The faces look modern – one sees similar faces now on China's streets. To me it feels less like an army, more like a photo gallery of ancestors. Each gown and uniform has different adornments; even their postures are individual. All look serious and serene, as with a higher purpose.

China’s greatness does not lie in her past only. Every single American owes China about 6,000 dollars. For many years we lived above our means (and was it worthwhile???). Clearly, we can’t put the blame on our Government alone; we were in this together. Only hard work and frugality will get us out now.

I am not saying that everything is better in China than in America – we know that's not true – but I am in awe of the Chinese people who got themselves out of the mess Mao Zedong had put them in.

How Many Chinese Does It Take To Screw In A Light Bulb?

July 21, 2011

Tags: water, order, Africa, arid region, Buddhism, camel ride, cave entrance, China, Chinese, cities, competitiveness, cultures, deforestation, desert, desert crossing, desert fort, desert - man-made, Dunhuang, earth, fertilization, France, Germany, Gobi Desert, Great Britain, How Many Chinese Does It Take To Screw In A Light Bulb?, Japan, Jewish property, joblessness, Lanzhou, leaves, light bulb - energy-saving, looting, Mogaoku, museum, Namib Desert, Nazis, Netherlands, nomad hordes, oasis, prayer, Qin dynasty, reforestation, roots, sand, sand dune buggy rides, sandstorm, soil, stress, tourism, traveler, tree planting, trees, USA, wages

This is not a joke, of course. This morning, they came to the hotel room – three of them: A woman, politely knocking and explaining the procedure (by gestures – my Chinese is bad); a man who carried the equipment; another man who screwed in the bulb nimbly and knowledgeable. The bulb was the energy-saving kind.

And all along they had fun, not bothered by efficiency or other Western values. This way, the Chinese government gives everybody a job – at extremely low wages. The Netherlands are another country that thrives on job sharing: People work less hours per week, take a cut in their salaries – and enjoy their increased free time. We, on the other hand, rather have excellent salaries (or the dream that we some day will have them) - and pay with stress, competitiveness and joblessness.

This light bulb changing took place in Dunhuang, in the Gobi Desert. Dunhuang is an ancient oasis and now a modern tourist attraction, with sand dune buggy rides (which I really can’t stand – but the males in our group think differently), camel rides (which I am not sure about) and a wonderful hotel that looks like an ancient desert fort.

In case you think Dunhuang is a little oasis like in the cartoons, it is a city of nearly 200,000 inhabitants that accommodates about a million visitors per year.

In the bathroom is a sign that reminds us that water is the “spring of life” and asks us to preserve every drop of it. Dunhuang is an oasis that is fed by a river that comes from the nearby mountains. Last months, they told us, the river was swelling above the bridge and areas were under water. Now the riverbed is stone-dry.

The Gobi Desert is – unlike the Namib Desert in Africa, about which I wrote before – a man-made desert: People cut down all the trees without reforestation. Without the deep roots and the leaves that fertilized the earth, the soil could hold no longer water. The result was sand, sand, sand – desert. And as always with deforestation, the cities and cultures that were once blossoming faltered and vanished.

Around Lanzhou, in a totally arid region, there is a huge reforestation program underway. I heard it is done this way: Every worker is getting one day per week off to plant trees and to maintain the trees. The outcome can easily be monitored: The trees live or die.

Near the Dunhuang oasis are the Mogaoku – a row of hundreds of caves cut into the rock and furnished with Buddhist shrines. This oasis that has revived travelers for thousands of years was the perfect place to pray for a safe return from the perilous desert crossings – or give thanks, on return. The caves had been built from the earliest Qin times until the thirteenth century, when nomad hordes threatened the area. So, the cave entrances were covered up by bricks and plaster and rocks – and sandstorms further made the sites unknowable.

In 1900, a monk discovered one of the caves by chance. By selling a script or a statue here and there, Western museums got wind of the treasures here, and came in several expeditions and bought up everything they could lay hands on. Thus, the old manuscripts and statues ended in the museums of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the USA. There they have been preserved probably better than in China – nevertheless, it is a loss China deeply regrets. Other than the lootings of Jewish property by the Nazis and allied forces, these were regular transactions, and it is unlikely that the Chinese will recover the treasures.

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.

Anonymous = Venomous

July 9, 2011

Tags: order, anonymous hate mail, Anonymous = Venomous, crime stories, economy, education, fascism, Germany, gossip, hate, immigration – illegal, Internet, Jews, Law of Attraction, migrant farm workers, New Age, newspaper, politicians, scape-goating, venomous

We have enough of vitamin discussion for a while. The other thing on my mind lately is how hate recently has grown.

This is not a new phenomenon. It always happens in economically bad times: Politicians play out one group against another to curry favors to one group. We know how it ends: It ends in scape-goating and fascism. In the Thirties, in Germany, the targets were Jews; now it is immigrants.

Not that I am against a reasonable law to curb illegal immigration. But there is no reason to hate the unfortunates who want to make a better life for themselves and their families. We need rules, but if we start hating, the hate will come to haunt us more than the ones for which it was intended.

As an aside: The illegal immigrants fill usually two kinds of jobs: the ones Americans don’t want like cleaning houses and picking tomatoes, and the ones that Americans can’t do because education has been going downhill in this country for a while. - Let’s make better rules – but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater! (and let’s make education a priority!).

The Internet surely is spewing with hate mails – usually anonymous hate mail. Anonymous equals venomous all too often. I propose that we all are always signing with our full name – I think we would reconsider writing hateful contributions if those could be tracked back to the writer for many years to come.

Here are some questions:

1. Are you writing anonymous Internet contributions? Do you want to make the Earth a better place? Hate will not make it a better place. – Interestingly, no newspaper will publish a letter if it doesn’t have the full name (exceptions are intended to shield vulnerable parties – but even then the newspaper knows the name).
2. Are you following gossip and crime stories on TV and on the Internet with glee? Do you take sides – and don’t know the participants. Once, a long time ago, I worked in a medical prison situation. The people whom I met there, looked, talked, acted like you and me. But they all were murderers. Ever since then I wonder what makes a person a murderer – and I shun easy answers and prejudice.
3. Do you know any people of the group that is targeted for scape-goating? Get to know some – because you have to walk in somebody’s moccasins to understand their predicament.

Compassion and forgiveness are required in these difficult times. If you are a hating person (and we all have traits of hate – don’t think there are exceptions!) the hate will mark you face and will mar your life. My New-Age friends would say that, by the Law of Attraction, hat will attract hate into your life. You deserve better!

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.

Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786)

June 23, 2011

Tags: order, creed, Fromet Guggenheim, Germany, humanism, Jews, marriage, Mendelssohn - Felix (1809-1847), Mendelssohn - Moses (1729-1786), Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), philosophy, proposal, race, religion

Definitely, I am one for sappy stories. This will be one of a sappiest – but also one of the most poignant.

When the German philosopher and humanist Moses Mendelssohn proposed to Fromet Guggenheim, she hesitated to accept. He knew she hesitated because he was a hunchback, and told her this story:

“Before I was born, an archangel showed me a room with all the unborn people in the world. I pointed out a beautiful girl. The archangel agreed with that she was beautiful but, he said, you see she is a hunchback. So I offered to the archangel to take the hunchback on myself so that she could live a good life.”

Fromet married Moses Mendelssohn. They had six children and had a long and happy marriage. One of their grandchildren would be Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), the composer.

Moses Mendelssohn, a Jew, believed that people of all creeds and all colors and races should be living together peacefully.

My Neighbor Is Sick

June 22, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mara Heinze-Hoferichter (1887 - 1958

June 21, 2011

Tags: order, Auschwitz, children’s book, Deutsche Schiller Stiftung, family, Friedel Starmatz, Germany, Heinze-Hoferichter - Mara (1887 - 1958), Holocaust, Jew, “Nesthäckchen” series, Thirties, Twenties, violin, Ury - Else (1877-1943), war, World War I, writing

When I was a child, the most important book I ever read was “Friedel Starmatz”, by Mara Heinze-Hoferichter. Mine was a used book - because my mother didn't have the money to buy me a book a day. That was the rate at which I was reading.

The story was about a little boy who is separated from his family during World War I. In the woods, he finds anther family, with whom he grows up. He learns to play the violin, and at a concert, many years later – but I won’t give the end away.

This is not a modern book, and I doubt that children nowadays would want to read it. We still have wars, and horrible things still happen to children (and grown-ups). I tried translating the book, but its sensibilities seem outdated. Perhaps I will put it on the Internet one day, so that it will be available to English-speaking children.

I tried to find out about the author, Mara Heinze-Hoferichter. It seems she was born in Eastern Germany. She wrote books for children in the Twenties and Thirties. And then her tracks fizzle out. 1938 to 1941 she seemed to have gotten a stipend from the Deutsche Schiller Stiftung. But there is no notice about her death. How did she die?

Perhaps she was just old and passed away. Or she shared the same fate a Else Ury (1877-1943), the most successful German children’s books author in the Twenties. As a Jew, she perished in Auschwitz. She wrote the most German of German girls’ books – the “Nesthäckchen” series – but in the end, she was not "German" enough and was killed in the Holocaust.

You Are Not Raising Children

June 18, 2011

Tags: order, childish, children, gratification-seeking, grown-ups, involvement, love, No!, parenting, responsibilities, temper tantrums, self- short-term, You Are Not Raising Children

Your Are Not Raising Children

In fact, you are raising future grown-ups. Make sure they learn grown-up responsibilities, and are not stuck in childish temper tantrums, self-involvement and short-term gratification-seeking.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't love them. It means that they need to hear "No!" often.

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!!

The Hhhh Sound

June 9, 2011

Tags: order, water, bear hides, breath, breathing, catastrophe, cave man, cold shower, exhale, happiness, harmony, health, hearth, Hhhh - exhaling sound, home, house, hope, humor, immersing in cold, inhale, let go, The Hhhh Sound, words– positive

Health, house, home, hearth, happiness, hope, humor – and many more – positive words start with an “H”. Did you notice?

Why is that so?

The “H” is the exhaling sound: Hhhh … It means we can let go. We don’t have to hold our breath because something will hit us from behind. We don’t have to exert ourselves – we can let go. We are at home - at Hhhhome.

When I take a cold shower after a warm one, I exhale. That one doesn’t come naturally. Naturally, one would hold one’s breath while the cold hits. By first exhaling and then immersing in cold, I tell my body: It’s okay! Just relax! All will be fine!

I bet the Hhhhh sound was born when the first man (?woman) found the first cave to live in. He sat down on his pile of bear hides, looked around pleased and exhaled: Home – finally Hhhhome!

Observe how you are running through your day: With your breath held and in constant fear of a catastrophe hitting? Or in harmony – there! Another one! – with your surrounding?

A Hodgepodge Letter From Jerusalem

May 31, 2011

Tags: food, order, America, appetite, archaeology, architecture, Armenian Christian, Berlin, books, Catholic - Italian and French, cauliflower, chopped liver, Christian faith, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, community, Copts, David – King, detoxifying organ, Dinner Plate, Eastern Church, family, Florence, Food Pyramid, Greek Orthodox, history, Holy Land, hope, individualism, Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish life, Letter From Jerusalem, liver, Muslims, New York, peace, Peace for the World, portion size, religion, Russian Orthodox, salad - fresh, Sidney, stones, synagogue, Western Church

If you think that America is a melting pot – Israel is the most colorfully mixed country, the loudest and the most silent, the most hilarious and the saddest.

Jerusalem is the most beautiful city in the world. I know you might fight me over this – and I have indeed seen beauty all over the world. The bustling daring of New York, the lovely harbor of Sidney, the classical stones of Florence, the young energy of the new Berlin – you get it.

Jerusalem has something else: An ordinance in place for many thousand years – precisely since King David, I was told – that every house in the city has to be built of the local stone, at least the façade. The house might be an old synagogue or a modern high-rise - they all are clad in the same white-golden sandstone; even most pavements use this stone. When one approaches the city from afar, it looks like a dream dwelling: a white city shimmering on the hills.

That this thousands-of-years-old ordinance is still in place shows a will to community: The individual burgher might have preferred a modern glass building or a brick castle; nevertheless, he abides by the rules. Compare an American town with billboards and every-which style of architecture: There the individual will wins out, under all circumstances. I can’t make up my mind, which one I find the more useful guide pole – individualism or communal thinking - but I know that Jerusalem is singular, and beautiful.

Another thing I like about Jewish life: They cherish family, books, history. We all should live thus (I am saying this knowing full well that family life can be stifling, even in the best of cases).

Certainly, you want to hear about the food here: A meal starts with several fresh salads. The other night, with little appetite, I ordered only two appetizers: cauliflower and chopped liver. The cauliflower was delicious but so gigantic that I shared it with the whole table, ate until I was bursting – and then there was some left over. The chopped liver was a mountain into which I could only bore a little hole – and nobody wanted to share; I have a thing going for liver since childhood, but mostly avoid it now as liver is the main detoxifying organ in the body – even of a cow. Nobody at the table seemed to share my liver thing …

Our Government plans to abandon the Food Pyramid (about time!!), and replace it with the Dinner Plate. So, my Israel proportion shock comes just in time: For healthy nutrition you need to know really only two basics:

1. Freshness – everything you eat should have grown somewhere.
2. Portion size – your meal should fit on a small dinner plate. If you have to lose weight, make it a breakfast plate; they are smaller. No snacks – that goes without saying.

And a last observation from Jerusalem: The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is owned communally by several branches of the Christian faith: Western Church (Italian and French Catholic) and Eastern Church (Copts, Armenians, Greek and Russian Orthodox). And if I believe the tour guide, it is a mess: Those Churches are in constant fight over every inch of the church – so much so that the key is kept in the hands of a neutral third, the Muslims. It says something about religions if the message of Peace for the World is not heeded in the very church building it once started (or presumably started – history and archaeology are messy in the Holy Land).

In the Knesset, I heard the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, give a speech in Hebrew. I did only understand two words: Tikwa and Shalom – hope and peace. Good enough for me.

The French Paradox

May 20, 2011

Tags: food, order, anti-oxidants, beer, Bordeaux, bread, brie - triple, carbohydrates, cardiac death, cardiovascular disease, cheese, chicken, cigarettes, crème brulée, escargots, fat, fat - saturated, fish, foie gras, food – grown, food - plastic, food - processed, food - quality, food - real, French, French Paradox, freshness, fresh things, frying, garlic, Gauloises, HFCS, fat - hydrogenated, junk food, margarine, market - open, midday meal, onion soup, plant molecules, polyphenols, produce - fresh, proteins, resveratrol, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), smoking, snacking, snails, starches – white, sugar, tobacco, trans-fats, wine

We arrived in Paris on Sebastian Kneipp’s birthday – on the 17th of May and celebrated with a glass of wine. And a lunch consisting of three courses: Onion soup (minus the cheese and the bread), escargots (snails) in garlic, crème brulée. Not terribly healthy – but delicious.

Writing from Paris, of course, I want to talk about the French Paradox.

French people eat more fat (think triple brie and foie gras!), drink more wine (think a smooth Bordeaux!) and smoke more than their US counterparts (think Gauloises!), yet they die less of cardiovascular disease. American scientists dubbed this puzzle the French Paradox – and they have come up with some tentative explanations:

• The French surely are underreporting their cardiac deaths
• The French have their main meal at midday and take more time for it
• The French prefer wine over beer; wine contains healthy resveratrol
• The French don’t snack
• The French eat less trans-fats (frying)
• The French eat less hydrogenated fats (margarine, processed food)
• Perhaps saturated fats are not as bad as we thought
• The French eat less sugar, less HFCS, less white starches
• The French cigarette tobacco is not as adulterated American tobacco
• The whole study might be wrong


American scientists looked for the fat contents, the carbohydrates, the proteins to come up with an answer, missing the big, simple picture: fresh foods. Fresh food contains life-giving molecules beside the three biggies (fats, carbs, proteins). Those molecules are miniscule in weight, but hugely important in how they support health. We are from Nature, and throughout Evolution, we ate whole foods. Only modern “food” production has done away with Nature’s wisdom.

The three biggies were important when people were starving – if you don’t get fat and the other two, all the best polyphenols and anti-oxidants and other small plant molecules will not keep you alive. But now that we have plenty of food (which is a first in history – but don’t forget it is not yet true for every single person in the world), we need to turn to quality of food. Which needs we need to return to real food – the food Nature intends us to eat. And not to make it too difficult: It is mostly vegetables we need to bring back on our tables.

The French are eating real food; Americans are eating plastics masquerading as food. Don’t get me wrong – junk food is inching its way also into the French society. But overall, the French still go to the open market to buy fresh produce and freshly slaughtered chickens and fish. Except for the last item on the list, all the factors may play a role. But the main thing is the freshness of the food. The quality lies in fresh things, grown things – not concocted in the lab and manufactured in bulk.

And by the way, their cigarettes might be a tad healthier – but please don’t start your French new life with Gauloises!

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.

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!

Osama bin Laden Is Dead – And The World Is Not A Safer Place. Nor Healthier

May 2, 2011

Tags: order, water, air, almsgiving, America, animals, Baha’i, blessing – threefold, books, Buddhism, burial at sea, Christianity, Christian Scientists, compassion, desperado, disaster - threefold, Earth, East – West, energy, family, fanaticism, fire, history, homeland security, humans, humility, Hussein - Saddam, Islam, jihad, Judaism, killing, minerals, mixing 'n matching, moderation, murderer, Muslim, Nazi, Nuremberg Trial, neighbor, Osama bin Laden, Osama bin Laden Is Dead – And The World Is Not A Safer Place - Nor Healthier, Pantheism, plants, politics, poverty, religion, responsibility, revenge, sacred, self-respect, soil, spirit, stones, Taoism, Three Jewels, Wicca, world, Zakat

Before, I was determined to keep out of politics on my blog. Which is not easy when events are global and terribly important.

Yes, Osama bin Laden masterminded horrible things – among others, he killed more Muslims than Americans. For that he should have gone to trial and be sentenced. Because killing a man who has killed does not make anything right. The Nazis got their Nuremberg Trial. Saddam Hussein in Iraq got a trial and an execution, and he is mostly gone; in him, we did not create a martyr. But in bin Laden we did – even if we buried his corpse in the ocean to prevent a new Mecca.

In a way, I am like many Americans today: relieved. In another way, this is not a good day for America - I know this will not be the end of the story. Revenge will finally get to our homeland again.

It is easy to blame religions on the endless wars between East and West. I happen to think that better economic and political systems will give desperado Muslims better goals in life, and will make jihad obsolete.

My friends are of all colors, and of many religions. We can learn from different religious teachings. Here are a few I like - and excuse my mixing 'n matching:

1. Christianity: Love your neighbor like yourself. Means: Do good, so that you can respect yourself. Means also: Muslims are our neighbors, too. Even murderers are our neighbors.
2. Buddhism: Before we are born, we choose our parents – to learn something important. Means: Don’t blame your parents if your life is not what you thought it should be.
3. Judaism: Revere your family, books, history.
4. Wicca: What you do good, will come back to you as threefold blessing. Same with what you do bad: threefold disaster.
5. Pantheism: The World is alive and filled with spirit. Humans, animals, plants, stones and minerals, the water, soil, air, fire – they all are sacred energy. With even a single one of these missing, Earth will perish.
6. Taoism: Hold up the Three Jewels: Compassion, Moderation, Humility.
7. Islam: Zakat (Almsgiving): A fixed portion of your income should go to the poor.
8. Baha’i: Fanaticism is forbidden.
9. Christian Scientists: One should take responsibility for one's health.

You can probably provide more ideas – we don’t have to engage in religious wars. Let me know what believes are important for you!

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 …

Otto’s Nipples

April 24, 2011

Tags: order, alcohol, breast, breast cancer, cancer, cat, cirrhosis, Creationism, Darwin, embryo, estrogen, Evolution, female, fetus, hormones, liver failure, male, nipples, testosterone, tomcat, Otto’s Nipples

You must have heard about my adorable tomcat Otto. He is all black, with two small white spots, on his breast and on his belly.

Every time he sees me, he throws himself on his back, begging for a belly rub. When I first got him from the shelter, his fear to be touched by a stranger was greater than his desire to get a belly rub. But over time, he became bolder, and now I can touch his belly most of the time, and indeed, he even demands it.

So, when I do my chore and rub his belly, invariably I am astonished to find that he has nipples, two nice rows of it. What a waste to put nipples on a male! In a female, the nipples would serve to feed the young. But in a male?

In the Creation story, God takes a rib from the sleeping Adam and shapes Eve out of it. So why did Adam have nipples? He shouldn’t!

I don’t want to offend religious feelings, but nipples prove that Evolution is real, and that Darwin was right. For me, nipples are the neatest evidence for the Earth and all her inhabitants having come a long way.

In fetal development, the first fourteen weeks are exactly the same in male and female. After that, under influence of the male hormone testosterone, a boy and his special parts develops. If testosterone is not supplied (as in a genetic girl), the fetus stays what it was, basically, and becomes a girl. And since having or not having nipples is of minor consequence, evolution never selected against nipples; they just stayed where they were left at week fourteen of embryonic development.

Medically, the male breast occasionally can develop cancer – just like the female breast does. But the number is only one in a hundred male cases to female cases. Anyway, an unusual swelling in a man’s breast should be evaluated by a physician.

However, swelling of both male breasts usually stems from the influence of hormones (or hormone-like substances). It is called gynecomastia, meaning: breasts like females. They can be a sign that testosterone levels are too low in a man, or that estrogens are too high. In any case, they should also be seen by a physician. This condition often happens in puberty, when the balance of hormones is not yet perfect, and most often it vanishes on its own.

In older men, development of breasts may have to do with obesity and/or alcohol consumption: When the liver is too busy with alcohol, it cannot break down estrogens very well – those estrogens are also produce normally in men, although in low numbers. But when the liver is failing, the estrogen level rises relative to testosterone levels, and gynecomastia develops. Time to drink less alcohol (or none)! The liver has a great capacity for regeneration – and half a year alcohol-free does wonders (if there wasn’t already cirrhosis, the end-stage of liver disease).

All these musings just from stroking Otto’s belly – amazing. But even more amazing is Evolution, I guess.

Writing Always – But In Which Language?

April 23, 2011

Tags: order, Americanized, Bavaria, China, cross stitching, English, European Natural Medicine, German, Hamburg, immigrant, language, mother tongue, Natural Medicine, novel, obsession, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), Sebastian Kneipp - Water Doctor, translation, writing, Writing Always – But In Which Language?

A few years ago I tried to translate my novel “Sebastian Kneipp, Water Doctor” into German – and I failed badly.

No surprise there: I have been living in the United States for so many years – sure, immigrants lose their mother tongue after a while!

That translation effort - I still remember it vividly: At that time I was probably at the 68th of the book. When I tried to translate it, it sounded awful: trite, shallow, stupid – you get the idea. I gave up on the translation with the feeling that I had lost my sense of “getting it” in German. Somebody else would have to do the job. I had become thoroughly Americanized, and was content with it – when I had decided to immigrate, that was what I expected, wasn’t it?

So, the problem was not that I had lost my mother tongue. The problem was that the 68th English version was not yet as good as the 83rd ...

Forward a few years: Last fall the novel was published - the 83rd version. Several German friends had read the English version of the novel and thought it would be a good idea to bring it out in German. I always said no, knowing I couldn’t do it. Then, recently, I had done a translation of a scientific text into German without difficulties.

Somehow, having successfully finished that translation must have worked inside me. As it happens so often with my projects that start on an unconscious level, one day I just sat down at my computer and began translating again. And this time, I liked the results – there was a voice, there was a language. Words came up from the past – I didn’t even know I knew them. As a youngster, I had had tuberculosis and spent a year in a sanatorium, in Bavaria (being from Hamburg originally) – you who have read the novel know that somehow my story made it into the book. Those old Bavarian words resurfaced when I needed them because Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to 1897) was a Bavarian – and he was the founder of modern Natural Medicine.

It will take me about half a year to translate the novel. But now I am hooked – I am working on it obsessively now. My husband claims I do everything obsessively, and it is true: I put the same obsession in when I had my cross stitch phase – stacks of hand towels and napkins at my friends’ houses still bear witness! I’d say that everything that is worth being done, is worth being done obsessively, immoderately, and well.

Of course, the translation takes me away from a few other projects I have cooking – like my next novel set in 16th century China. But it makes me very happy because I have not lost my mother tongue, after all.

Earth Day 2011

April 21, 2011

Tags: order, air conditioner, birthday present, blog, composting, detergent, Earth Day 2011, health fair, household, plastic, recycling, renewable energy, summer, toys – wooden, UMass Medical School Worcester, water – bottled

Don’t forget: Tomorrow is Earth Day (it is also my husband’s birthday! And about a year ago, I wrote my first blog here!).

Do something to help our burdened old Earth:

• Take recycling more serious
• Stop buying bottled water
• Compost your kitchen scraps
• Buy less plastic, more renewable energy items (as in wooden toys as opposed to plastic toys)
• Use less detergents, etc. in the household. Often we can get away with half of the amount we use
• For birthday presents, think less over the top, more homemade
• This summer, plan to use the air conditioner only if you are elderly or sick

Today, I met wonderful people at the UMass Medical School Worcester Alternative/Complementary Health Fair. I am too tired tonight; send me in one of YOUR ideas for a happy Earth Day!

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,

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!

Thought For The Day

April 7, 2011

Tags: order, water, Thought For The Day, bank, river, ocean, Russell - Bertrand, sea, waterfall, water images, words, writing

Instead of a long blog, I want to share this beautiful life metaphor - which I found on A.Word.A.Day. I like its water images:

An individual human existence should be like a river: small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.

- Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

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.

Precancerous Skin Growth – Try This First

April 4, 2011

Tags: order, angioma - senile, basal cell carcinoma, disfigurement, face, forearm, hand, heart attack, icing, keratosis - seborrhoic, keratosis - solar, melanoma, Mitchell - William A., naturopath, pimple - flaky, pre-cancer, precancerous, Precancerous Skin Growth – Try This First, recurrence, remedy, removal – early, scar, scientific research, seborrhoic keratosis, secret remedy, semen, senile angioma, skin efflorescences, skin growth, solar keratosis, squamous cell cancer, urine – early morning, vaginal fluid

From time to time, I promised to publish some unproven ideas here – hoping that somebody will pick them up and expose them to proper scientific research. - If you are squeamish, please, don’t read on.

Shortly before he tragically died of a heart attack upon hearing that his son had died, William A. Mitchell, renowned naturopath, sidled up with me at a conference and asked conspiratorially. if I knew a secret natural remedy that I hadn’t shared with anybody yet. And I did. I guess he wanted to compile those “secret” medicines for publishing.

This is what I told him – and you will see instantly why I hadn’t talked too much about it before: the usual fear of looking idiotic – or worse ….

Many older people have precancerous growths - usually on their hands, forearms and faces. They can be detected as rough little “pimples.” Often they seem just hard, flaky bumps. Untreated, they will one day turn into squamous cell cancer, a slow-growing skin cancer that, nevertheless, can lead to disfigurement. In this pre-cancer state, the usual treatment is icing, which often leaves scars, and has to be repeated every three to six months.

These precancerous skin growths often respond well to vaginal fluid or semen, applied once or twice a day thinly. If you don’t see an improvement within a few days to a week, you should see a physician and have conventional treatment. But the fluid often works like a charm. Alternatively, early morning urine can be used. If they vanish, the same treatment can be used if they recur – which the often do, same as if they are treated with icing.

DON’T try this on other skin efflorescences, like senile angioma, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma – it doesn’t work and, especially in the case of melanoma, you might lose precious time for early removal!

Masaru Emoto: Praying For Water

March 31, 2011

Tags: water, anger, Armageddon, atomic industry, attention, celebrities, Charlie Sheen, children’s children, consumption, disappointment, distraction, emotions - negative, Earth, earthquake, Emoto - Masaru, English, Europe, Fukushima Nuclear Plant, Gaia, happiness for all, high blood pressure, Japan, Japanese, justice, love, Masaru Emoto - Praying For Water, “Messages from Water”, nuclear forces, order, poet, poetry, power plants, prayer, radio, reactor accident, reactor - leaking, science, scientist, survival, tsunami, Universe, wanting ever more

Masaru Emoto has invited everybody to pray for the sickened water at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan, at noon today. Here are the words he suggests:

"The water of Fukushima Nuclear Plant, we are sorry to make you suffer. Please forgive us. We thank you, and we love you."

Even if you come too late today, it is never too late to send loving thoughts to suffering people and to the violated Earth. Prayer lowers blood pressure by making you one with everything around you. When we get upset or feel anger, disappointment, and so on, these negative emotions stand between us and the world. When we pray, we step back into the web of beings in this Universe.

Masaru Emoto has been, for many years, fighting to keep water and our mother planet healthy, and I admire him for this. As a fellow water fighter I do stretch out my hand to him.

However, I wish he wouldn’t call himself a scientist and what he does science. In reality, his beautiful photos in “Messages from Water” are poetry, and they would not lose anything of their power if he would call himself a poet. Water does not speak Japanese, nor English.

Water, however, and our whole ancient Gaia planet, needs all our attention and love so that we all and our children and our children’s children will survive. The Japanese reactor accident has made clear again that we humans cannot contain the nuclear forces we unleash with every newly built atomic power plant. The discussion in Europe about this is fierce – and surely comes down on the side of dismantling existing power plants and not to build new ones. While we here are still distracted by Charlie Sheen, and the like.

I am sick and tired of the old arguments of the atomic industry. One woman on the radio said that it was not the fault of the reactor – “the reactor was fine” – but it was the tsunami that did it in. Well, we humans don’t control earthquakes and tsunamis, and ANY leaking reactor forces Armageddon on the people in its vicinity, and perhaps on all of us.

We can use wind and sun, and we can live closer to the land and less over the top. We can make justice and happiness for all a priority, instead of consumption and celebrities and wanting ever more. For all that I am sending my prayers to Fukushima today.

… And Then You Die: Hazel Rowley (1951-2011)

March 21, 2011

Tags: order, … And Then You Die: Hazel Rowley (1951-2011), Australia, Beauvoir – Simone de (1908-1986), biographer, black male, cello, Depression – Great, endocarditis, feminism, Franklin and Eleanor, London, memorial, Mendelssohn - Felix (1809-1847), Native Son, Paris, New York, promiscuity, race, Recession – Great, relationship, Roosevelt – Eleanor (1884-1962), Roosevelt – Franklin (1882-1945), Rowley - Hazel (1951-2011), Sartre – Jean-Paul (1905-1980), sex, Songs Without Words, Stead – Christina (1902-1983), stroke, Tête à Tête, The Man Who Loved Children, white woman, Wright – Richard (1908-1960), writer

Hazel Rowley (1951 - 2011)
A few weeks ago I had chosen this title for a blog entry because I wanted to tell (again!) how short and precious life is. Then I had no inkling that my friend Hazel Rowley would die in New York on March 1st, unexpectedly.

Hazel was a fellow writer and biographer. Only last fall, her new Roosevelt biography had come out: “Franklin and Eleanor” - a book that I couldn’t put down, reading till late in the night. In November, on her birthday, I met her for the last time. She was full of sparkle and wit, and doubts and insecurities, and dazzling intelligence; nobody would have foreseen her sudden death.

When I asked her if she was planning another couple’s book (before “Eleanor and Franklin” she had done Sartre and de Beauvoir in “Tête à Tête”, she laughed and said that she was done probing deeply into the relationships of people. She had found lasting love and felt secure in it, ready to probe other issues. She said the McCarthy era interested her.

The period between book projects is always a brittle time for a writer. In short order, the love fell apart, a resistant bug settled on her heart, little pieces of the infectious growth broke lose, settling in her brain, and putting her into a coma, from which she, mercifully, never awoke – Hazel Rowley would not have wanted to live with half a brain.

Born in London, raised in Australia and England, she roamed the world – in Paris she lived for nearly two years - before settling in New York early in the millennium. When Hazel was young, Simone de Beauvoir had become her hero: a woman who wrote about women’s disadvantages in a male world, and who opened new paths for women of our generation; Hazel wanted to be where Simone de Beauvoir was: an woman writer, and an equal partner in a lasting relationship.

Christina Stead was Hazel Rowley’s first subject. Stead had made child abuse the subject of an autobiographical novel – in 1940! Christina Stead was a fellow Australian; her American publishers famously – or notoriously – made her set her novel “The Man Who Loved Children” in America. Hazel felt kinship to her lonely compatriot, a writer, a woman with a complicated love life, a woman often on the edge of society. And a woman who carved out for herself an independent literary existence – even before de Beauvoir.

Hazel’s second biography took on the black author of “Native Son,” Richard Wright, who in his life found no real home and only scattered success, ending up (and dying) in Paris, much too young. This is the only book by Hazel Rowley I haven’t yet read; I assume it was Simone de Beauvoir who directed Hazel to this American expatriate writer in whom de Beauvoir was greatly interested. But think: A young, rather unknown Australian white woman writing about an American black man – how dare she?!

Paris is also the setting of Hazel Rowley’s third book “Tête-à-tête”, the book about Sartre and de Beauvoir’s relationship. The two famous writers don’t get away scotch-free – this reader felt rather repulsed by their sexual predatory shenanigans. But as Simone de Beauvoir had been the one who showed us that traditional women’s roles were not written in stone, Hazel Rowley wanted to know if promiscuous sexuality would be worthwhile and livable - if you ask me: no - exploring the Sartre/de Beauvoir relationship objectively, without taking sides.

Her new book “Franklin and Eleanor,” probed another famous relationship. To me the book seemed especially timely, because the Roosevelt’s Great Depression and the present Great Recession share some commonalities, which takes the book to a higher level than even “just” being about male-female relationships. Eleanor Roosevelt had built a public and private life for which she had no role models – she did it with what was given her: her wit, her caring, her curiosity.

Neither Simone nor Eleanor were abstract feminists or men haters. On the contrary, men were invited into their lives. But they never gave up being a person and pursuing their own goals in life.

At her memorial in New York recently, so many people spoke eloquently about Hazel’s wonderful, bright presence – she had nothing lukewarm about her. Unable to speak in tongues myself, I played “Songs Without Words” by Mendelssohn for Hazel – badly, as always – but she would have wanted me not to chicken out.

Hazel had many more books in her, it was so clear – how I wish she had more time! (more…)

Story With A Moral

March 6, 2011

Tags: order, Chinese brush painting, coincidence, Concord (MA), curator, exhibition, lost, Ma Qingxiong, paintings, Providence, Story With A Moral

Today, on its last day, I wanted to go to the exhibition my teacher Ma Qingxiong and his students had put out in Concord - I think I had mentioned that I fell in love with that most ancient of painting traditions, Chinese brush painting.

Of course, in the morning, I couldn’t find the name of the church. I emailed Ma Qingxiong, but he did not answer. Without the name of the church, I could not find it online either.

Then, ten minutes after noon, there was his message with the address., and I rushed out – because the show was to close at 1 pm. Traffic was harder than I thought possible on a Sunday, but I made it to Concord, MA – only to get thoroughly lost. The street signs were skimpy, nice people I asked gave vague directions to wrong places. I landed in a Trinitarian Church – when I was supposed to be at the Trinity Church. From there, a friendly gentleman directed me to the other church – and I got lost again.

By now, it was long beyond one o’clock, and I was desperate. Now, to miss an exhibition is not the end of the world, but … Even if I would find the place, in all likelihood it would be closed. However, my life has taught me not to give up if there is even the tiniest chance of success. So I accosted a lady who walked her dog.

She gave directions but then interrupted herself and, with a long look, asked me what I wanted in the church. Because she was sure that by now it was closed.

Exactly! I said – but I want so much to see the Chinese brush paintings!

In that case, she said, I better get into your car, because I am the curator of the show, and I have the church key on me. - Her name was Margaret.

Bless Margaret! She opened the church door for me, and I took my time to look at the paintings, all alone. Then I switched off the lights and pulled shut the door after me, as I had promised.

The moral: Don’t give up too early - because strange, wonderful coincidences do occur. This was not the first time something like this happened to me – only the newest. And if it can happen to me, it can happen to you! The secret seems to be to stick around long enough so that the Universe can come to your help.

I thank the lady with the little dog - and Providence, or whatever you want to call it.

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.

How To Take A Pill

February 22, 2011

Tags: order, water, chin-to-chest, How To Take A Pill, neck, pill – swallowing, throat, tongue

Apropos your neck (see yesterday’s blog):

You know how to take a pill, don’t you – no big deal: You place the pill on your tongue, take a gulp of water, throw your head back – and voilà! The huge fish oil capsule is stuck somewhere, neither up no down, and it hurts.

The mistake lies here: One doesn’t throw back one's head. One tucks the chin to the chest, and then swallows.

Because in that position you create a greater space in your throat for the pill to go down safely without being stuck. This is the trick: Chin-to-chest, then swallow.

The Role of Your Neck in Urge Incontinence

February 21, 2011

Tags: order, Alzheimer's, bladder, childbirth, diapers – adult, food allergies, gluten intolerance, idiopathic, incontinence - urinary, inflammation - local, mitochondria, MS, multiple sclerosis, muscular strength, neck, nerve – pinched, neurogenic, observations – medical, overflow incontinence, Parkinson’s, posture, spina bifida, stress incontinence, stroke, urge incontinence, Wikipedia

As a physician I sometimes make observations that strike me as plausible – but I don’t have the wherewithal or time to scientifically check on them. Writing a blog might be one method to test an idea, and find out if others made similar observations.

So, here is my first one, pertaining to urge incontinence.

Wikipedia defines urge incontinence as “involuntary loss of urine occurring for no apparent reason while suddenly feeling the need or urge to urinate.” What really happens is the patient makes it to the stall but then goes before she has a chance to pull down her pants. Or she hears water tinkling, and tinkles herself.

The two other forms of urinary incontinence are stress incontinence and overflow incontinence. Stress incontinence comes from weak pelvic floor muscles – when you sneeze or run or laugh, you suddenly can’t hold your urine. Overflow incontinence is a constant dribbling of urine – as if the faucet can’t be shut off. All three forms are common in people of a certain age – therefore the hilarious TV ads for adult diapers. But according to my patients, incontinence is no laughing matter. People thus afflicted (women are in the majority here, probably because of what childbirth can do to one’s organs) are on the constant lookout for the nearest restroom.

The interesting part of Wikipedia’s definition of urge incontinence is “for no apparent reason.” Urge incontinence has been linked to stroke, Alzheimer’s, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s – they all can lead to urge incontinence. All are neurogenic causes (stemming from the brain and the nerves) – we lump them in one group, but still they are poorly understood. And then there is “idiopathic” urge incontinence. Idiopathic means: Doctors have no clue at all. But they think it has to do with local inflammation around the bladder.

Years ago a patient with urge incontinence told me that she could make the urge disappear (at least long enough to make it to the bathroom), if she stretched her neck. For a while I was not sure if any sudden distraction – like clapping your hands or hopping up and down – would do the same. But lately I returned to my first hypothesis, namely that the stretching of the neck works best. Because I have observed that the condition occurs more often in people with less than stellar posture, especially the ones whose head is slightly bent most of the time. Standing tall and erect, at least for a moment, seems to release the urge.

As for the mechanism – are certain spinal nerve fibers pinched when the head is bent? We need more research on that.

Poor posture is more common in people with gluten intolerance and food allergies – it seems as if they don’t have the muscular strength to keep their heads straight on their shoulders – perhaps on the basis of poorly functioning mitochondria (this is all speculation on my part; I would be happily disproved).

If urge incontinence is your problem, try this out – nod a bit, stretch your neck - and write me if it works for you! Perhaps one day a peer-reviewed study will be done.

Are You Biting Your Nails?

February 12, 2011

Tags: order, Are You Biting Your Nails?, cello player, children, coconut oil, doctor, emery board, gardener, hair pulling, hangnail, nail biting, nail biting triggers, nail eating, nail polish, nails, obsessive-compulsive disorder, onychophagia, psychiatric disorders, skin – dry, teenagers, trichotillomania, winter

Don’t.

Of course, that bit of advice is not sufficient – even when you are mortally ashamed that you do bite your nails.

You are in good company: About one third of young children and nearly half of all teenagers bite their nails, and some take it into their adult lives. Doctors have a scientific-sounding name for it – onychophagia (which just means: nail eating) and lump it together with other psychiatric disorders like hair pulling (trichotillomania) and certain eating disorders as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. But I don’t want you to run around with a psychiatry label – I just want to apply a little common sense.

Nail biting is more common in the winter: the skin is dryer, hangnails are more frequent – and before you know you are falling back into the old habit and bite your nails. Once you start, it is hard to stop – it is as if your fingers are screaming to be eaten.

If getting a fancy nail job done, doesn’t help – or if you have similar occupations like I have: doctor, gardener, cello player, neither of which should be done with lacquered fangs – perhaps these few tricks works for you:

• Carry an emery board with you all the time, and as soon as you have a hard spot around your nails, file it away – because those are the precursors of hangnails.

• At least twice a day, rub your hands with coconut oil. Don’t use any petrolatum-based lotion; they make it worse. If you fingertips are nice and soft, there is no reason to start biting. Carry a little container with coconut oil with you (food quality – same as you use for frying).

• Find out what makes you bite – boredom triggers it in me. So, I avoid boredom.

• Ask your friends to remind you not to bite.

• Admire your beautiful unbitten nails.

What’s the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?

February 11, 2011

Tags: order, breathing – difficulties, bronchitis, chest pain, chills, cold, cold medicine - over-the-counter, cold shower, death of flu, diseased people, earaches, elderly, exercise during the flu, fever, ear aches, flu, flu headache, limbs – sore, meninges, meningitis - minor, muscle ache, nasal mucosa, nose – stuffed, photophobia, pneumonia, queasiness, rest, running nose, scalp – sore, sinusitis, skin – sore, sore throat, sudden onset, sweats, viral disease, virus, weakness, What’s the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?, delirium

This is the question I am asked most often around this time of a year. How can one discern between the one and the other. Not that the treatment is very different – they are both viral and respond to similar measures. Only the flu lasts longer, and can lead to more complications. Sometimes, it it hard to tell which is which - but here are some guidelines.

A cold and the flu - both make you feel lousy. The flu makes you feel even lousier, but that is hard to figure out when you are in bed with something, your nose is stuffed, you can’t breathe right, your head hurts, and you are miserable.

Whereas a cold often starts slowly, with a little scratching in the throat over several days or bouts of sneezing, a flu often starts with a bang: One moment you feel fine – and an hour later you realize you are coming down with something really bad. Sometimes it even starts with queasiness in your belly, and you wonder what you are hatching. But very soon, all your limbs hurt, your muscles hurt, your skin hurts, your scalp hurts, your head hurts, and you develop a fever (most of the time): That’s the flu.

Complications of a cold include sinusitis (especially if you reach for over-the-counter cold medicine that tends to dry out the nasal mucosa and clog the system, instead of letting the phlegm flow out), and earaches.

A flu does often not present as an enormously running nose; a flu might have some stuffiness that doesn’t go away. Fever is rare in a cold, and prominent in the flu: When the fever mounts, you feel chills and want to be covered with a dozen duvets; when the fever falls, you are soaked in sweat and have to change pajamas and sheets.

A flu differs in that you are usually much more incapacitated. Sinus headaches in a cold can be bad, but flu headache feel like a minor meningitis – and it is just that: the virus is affecting your meninges (the outer lining of your brain): It hurts to move your eyes, it hurts to move your head, and light that shines into your eyes bothers you (photophobia). And a flu leaves you weak and seemingly unable to recover. A flu may make it impossible to get out of bed for a week or two, sometimes even three – you feel like you will never recover.

In a flu, all your strength seems to be sapped out of you, and you feel unable to do exercise. While you are still bedridden, it is not a good idea to push through because this is the time your heart can be affected too – and you need rest, not tough determination to get it over with. And let me say this out loud: This is not a time for cold showers or other heroic measures. Just lie back in your cushions and rest. A cold never leads to this kind of utter exhaustion.

I say rest because you might not be able to sleep – that has to do with the irritation of meninges, too. On the other hand, some people do nothing but sleep. Both is fine, and part of the picture.

What is not part of the picture: If you get delirious, if you get bronchitis and/or pneumonia, if your fever lasts longer than three, four days, maximally a week - then it is time to consult a physician. Because nearly nobody dies of a cold, but many people – especially the elderly and diseased – die of flu and its consequences every year.

The most common cause for cough is phlegm that comes down from the sinus and tickles your throat. The best way to deal with it is to rinse your nose with saltwater (which I have described somewhere here – look it up in the index). The cough of bronchitis comes from deep within the lungs, sounds like trumpeting, and your chest might hurt severely – that is a sign you should see your doctor.

Small Talk Shortcomings

February 10, 2011

Tags: order, alcoholism, belonging, boyfriend trouble, divorce, dysfunctional family, fibbing, happiness, meaningful talk, networking, no job, no man is an island, no room to live, quiet desperation, small talk, Small Talk Shortcomings, social interaction

A weird little study showed that if you do small talk you stand in your own way, foregoing happiness.

Small talk is the opposite of meaningful talk. Meaningful talk is when you talk about what is real and difficult, instead of glossing it all over. If you were brought up under the maxim that “it is not their business” and keep a stiff upper lip always, chances are that you are unhappy. Because we need to talk about what is dear to our hearts.

Interestingly, the moment you talk about your problems, you will find out that other people have their share of tribulations, too. Most people are not as happy as they pretend – Thoreau talked about the “quiet desperation” in peoples’ lives.

I grew up in a rather dysfunctional family. My mother used to cover up for my father’s shortcomings. Seeing my mother pick up my drunken father one day from the steps in front of our apartment building taught me how utterly fruitless her constant fibbing was: There he was lying dead-drunk for everybody to see. From then on, I always talked about what was real and bothering me – probably getting on many nerves.

Whenever I had a problem – no room to live, no job, boyfriend trouble, another divorce, whatever – I would grab the nearest bystander and talk it through. By and by, I got some good advice (some inane also, of course) and learned to sort out my life. I loved the people who answered in truth, even when the answer was not flattering to me. My friend Christina in Germany would start most of her sentences with: “ Really, Alexa, that’s absolute nonsense!” She still is my friend. One has to love the people who point out one's faults!

Not only made me talk feel more connected with people, it often led to finding the rent-apartment or job I needed – because other people started working on my problems once they knew them. It was a form of early networking (just don’t think that twittering is the same as really talking to real people about real issues!).

This study of 79 participants found that people who talked about substantial issues that were on their minds, were happier and had more social contacts. Our happiness, turns out, is closely related to our social interactions. No man is an island. “Substantive conversations create a feeling of belonging that leads to happiness,” the study concludes.

The Egg and I - Revisited

February 9, 2011

Tags: order, antibiotics, Anybody Can Do Anything, Betty MacDonald (1908-1958), books, chicken farm, Chopin - Frederic (1810-1849), consumption, Great Depression, INH, isoniazid, Kneipp - Sebastian, MacDonald - Betty, Modigliani - Amedeo, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Native Americans, Onions in the Stew, Gauguin - Paul, sanatorium, Sebastian Kneipp - Water Doctor, Sterne Laurence, Stevenson - Robert Louis, Stravinsky - Igor, The Egg and I, The Egg and I - Revisited, The Plague and I, t.b., Thomas - Dylan, tubercle bacilli, tuberculosis, Wikipedia, Wolfe - Thomas

In Vermont, at our friends house, I stumbled upon an old book that had been big in the fifties – I saw my mother read it: “The Egg and I.” My mother usually was not a reader (she also was unhappy that she had given birth to this little bookish, red-haired girl that could neither dance nor sing). Our friends generously send the book home with me as a present. And what I found is that her books have aged gracefully; I am still laughing out loud. “The Egg and I” tells how Betty MacDonald as a child bride follows her taciturn husband to the Waof no running water, neighbors miles away, cooking, baking, cleaning, washing without modern amenities – and the dreadful chore of feeding and watering the chicks every three hours around the clock, all the while bears and cougars lurking behind in the woods. The book was a huge success. Because he describes her utter loneliness with a wonderful humor. No self-pity there (or let’s call it: hilariously disguised self-pity). By the next book “Anybody Can Do Anything,” Betty has left her chicken-farmer husband, predictably, and returns to her fun-loving but poor family: a doting mother, three sisters and a brother. This happens during the Great Depression, and they make do. They sing and scrimp and suffer, Betty as a working girl in an office – and all those pains make another sidesplitting novel. Presently, I am reading “The Plague and I,” her third novel, about the time she is diagnosed with tuberculosis – she calls it t.b. - and spends a year in a sanatorium. Hardship and scrimping have made her sick – don’t forget, this was the time before antibiotics, and many people were coughing and hacking and spreading deadly tubercle bacilli. Only in the fifties, the first tuberculocidal (meaning: able to kill tubercle bacilli) drug arrived: INH or isoniazid. Before, they had streptomycin which could not kill the bacilli, but at least helped to wall off the disease. I remember getting twice daily a HUGE syringe full of that stuff in one of my buttocks, until I could not lie on my sides any longer. Many children and adults still died, especially in Europe after World War II, when food was scarce. Out of this gruesome material Betty MacDonald shapes another highly amusing novel. Nowadays, tuberculosis is rare> But at that time, it was a big threat.

The year I spent in a tuberculosis sanatorium as a young girl, and my experiences of the disease, went into the Nora character in “Sebastian Kneipp, Water Doctor.” In the nineteenth century, when Kneipp lived (1821 to 1897), they called the disease consumption. The list of writers, artists, composers who died of consumption seems endless: Laurence Sterne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Dylan Thomas, Thomas Wolfe, Paul Gauguin, Amedeo Modigliani, Frederic Chopin, Igor Stravinsky were among them.

Betty MacDonalds last novel “Onions in the Stew” shows her finally having reached some normalcy: a husband, a house, and not any longer the constant struggle for survival. Perhaps for that reason I don’t find it all that interesting – but she milks the rainy weather of the northern West Coast for all the laughs she can get out of them.

Critics have argued with her description of Native Americans in the book – and I cringed some, too. She seemed unrepentant and said: ”Drunk and dirty is drunk and dirty.” Yet in “The Plague and I” she describes lovingly Oriental and black characters – a making-good of sorts, it seems to me.

Wikipedia shows Betty MacDonald on its long list of tuberculosis victims, but most sources report that this mirthful writer died of cancer – at age 49. Nobody got as much fun out of hardship as she did. And did you know that she is also the author of the "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" children's series?

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.

Your Hair Stands on End – Time for an Oil Bath!

January 17, 2011

Tags: order, water, herbs, air – dry, Ayurvedic Medicine, bad hair day, bath oil, body folds, coconut oil, cold shower, ears, essential oil, hair day – bad, itch, mineral oil, nut oil, nose, oil, oil bath – warm, olive oil, oregano, rose, rosemary, sauna, scalp, sesame oil, shampoo, shower, thyme, winter, Your Hair Stand on End – Time For an Oil Bath!

Winter is the time of the year when the air is so dry that skin irritations blossom and – worse! – one seems to have a bad hair day every single day.

Get ready for a warm oil bath! Any vegetal oil will do: Olive is perfect, but I have used other oils too. The original idea comes from Ayurvedic Medicine; they use sesame oil. Coconut oil has the finest smell.

Don’t use commercial bath oil preparations as they contain preservatives, even luxury ones. Often they are mineral-oil based. You really need plant oils. Nut oils work well, unless you have allergies. If you like the smell, add a drop of essential oil to your warm oil, like rosemary, thyme, oregano, rose, etc.

It is easy to do, just a bit messy. I have done it in the sauna, on a big towel, or in the shower. In the shower, make sure to stand on a small towel because you will be slippery like a fish, and I don’t want you to fall.

Warm about half a cup of oil, either in a second pot with hot water, or on the radiator, or with a tea light. Don’t use the microwave! Stand by when you heat the oil! It easily can get too hot – make sure it is just nicely warm.

Take the pot with oil into the shower stall and rub it into every nook and cranny of your body: ears, nose, between the toes, into all body folds. Pour it over your scalp deliberately and hair and rub it in. Let it work for ten minutes or longer.

Wash your hair well, twice, with shampoo. Don’t forget the short cold shower at the end!

Your hair will fall smoothly again and your itchy skin calms down – until it is time for the next warm oil bath, in about two weeks.

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.

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.

January is Novel-Writing Month!

January 1, 2011

Tags: order, adventure story, children’s book, cookbook, family history, legacy, life story, film script, health book, holidays, January is Novel-Writing Month!, journal, learning a musical instrument, medical novel, memories, mystery, novel, painting, publishing, purpose, satisfaction, theater play, thriller, travel report, wonder, writing

No clue who invented it – but January is novel-writing month.

Don’t feel restricted to a novel. You can write a thriller, a mystery, a children’s book, an adventure story, a film script or a theater play, a book about health or letting kites fly, about travels and favorite dishes – there is no limit.

The easiest is starting by writing down your own story. If you write it in the first person, it will become part of the family story. If you the find it turning out embarrassing – change it to the third person, and make it a novel.

This January just write a first draft. The first month of the year is usually a quiet month. The evenings are long and dark. Holidays and vacations are over. This is the time to write something down that you always wanted to write – instead of sitting in front of TV or computer, passively, turn on the “active” mode and write! At the very minimum, start writing a journal. Jot down your thoughts, observations, feelings. Show how YOU see the world.

You think you can’t do it? At one point, I had no desire to ever write – it just wasn’t on my agenda. I was a happy doctor and terribly busy to juggle medicine and family. One day I got an idea for a health book and started writing. I published two non-fiction books. Even before I published those, the idea for a medical novel came to me – I will never forget the date because it was two days before Christmas - December 22nd, 1999. The holiday pressure was just at its meanest when the idea struck. And what did I do? Wait prudently until the holidays were over? No! Of course, I had never heard that January is novel-writing month, and the urge to write down my ideas was too great – I sat down then and there at the computer, and began writing the novel. That first day, amidst pressing holiday needs, I wrote nearly three hours.

Little did I know that it would take me eleven years and 82 versions before I had brought it into publishable form.

You don’t have to aspire to publishing. But if you do, be aware that it never will be done with a single draft that – miraculously! – a publisher will want to buy and which then will make you millions of dollars. It will be many, man, many revisions before you will be there. And truth is: There’s no money in writing, in all likelihood. But there is satisfaction, wonder and purpose in writing.

If you don’t aspire to publishing, you still should write down your story. A friend of ours did it. He had been a career army man and a (responsible!!) father at sixteen, and he told his fascinating life story, interspersed with newspaper clips from the times – a wonderful legacy he one day will leave to his children and children’s children.

The only thing you have to do is: begin. January is the right (write!) month to begin.

Okay, okay, I hear you – you can’t write, you don’t want to write, und you will never learn to write. Suggestion: Paint a picture! Or learn to play an instrument!

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!

Five-Minutes Meditation

December 18, 2010

Tags: order, aches, anger, anxiety, boredom, breathing, egg timer, emotions, energy, fears, Five-Minutes Meditation, holiday stress, high blood pressure, insomnia, itches, jealousy, meditation, Kabat-Zinn – Jon, listlessness, pain, pain killers, procrastination, purpose, sadness, sleeplessness, stress, stress reliever

This is the height of holiday stress. Here a fast stress reliever:

• Choose a quiet corner
• Turn egg timer on 5 minutes
• Sit with crossed legs on the floor on a cushion; or on a chair
• Keep your back straight - let the top of your head touch Heavens
• Hands: palms-up and open on your knees
• Closed eyes
• Breathe in and out slowly – always start with exhaling (counting regularly might help the beginner)
• Do not move at all except keeping your back straight
• Empty your brain from thoughts and outside disturbances
• Pay attention to your sensations: breathing, aches, itches, fears, etc.:
• Let them happen.
• Stop when the clock rings
• Go on with your day with renewed energy and purpose.

The Five-Minutes Meditation is useful when
• you are stressed out
• your emotions overwhelm you (anger, sadness, anxiety, jealousy, etc.)
• you are tempted to binge out on food (perfect to do before each meal in obesity, for instance)
• you suffer with sleeplessness - just do it before retiring to bed
• you are listless and bored and procrastinating
• you have high blood pressure
• you have pains - instead of taking pills

For really learning to meditate, there are good programs, groups, and courses available.
Do not attempt to increase the time above 5 minutes.


Citation
"Meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It's about feeling the way you feel. It's not about making the mind empty or still, although stillness does deepen in meditation and can be cultivated systematically. Above all, meditation is about letting the mind be as it is and knowing something about how it is in this moment. It's not about getting somewhere else, but allowing yourself to be where you already are. If you don't understand this, you will think you are constitutionally unable to meditate. But that's just more thinking and, in this case, incorrect thinking at that."
"But to stay at it for even five minutes requires intentionality. To make it part of your life requires some discipline. " (From: Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are).

Odors - Is Your Body Betraying You?

December 16, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, after-shave lotion, allergies, animal, animalic, anus - gas, arm-pits, asthma, autonomic nerve system, Beano, body odor, bubble bath, chlorophyll pills, cold shower, cologne, convenient store, cooking, cosmetics, dairy, deodorant, dish washing liquid, feet - smelly, food allergy, foot spray, fragrance, fragrance-free detergent laundry, gas, gender-neutral, germs, gluten, gluten intolerance, halitosis, household products, incense, laundry detergent – fragrant-free, laundry softener, lily-of-the-valley, milk, mold, mouth – bad smell, mouth washes, natural, odorous, odors, Odors - Is Your Body Betraying You?, organic, perfume, prayer, preservative, roses, shampoo, shelf life, shower gel, skin – acidic layer, smell - bodily, soaps - scented, stabilizer, stench, stink, sugar, tea tree oil, underarm, vagina - odor, vaginal douche, vegetarianism, wrinkle cream, violets

A rose is a rose is a rose – but never will a rose grow out of one of your body orifices. Yet all the time we make believe: Bodily odors are among the most embarrassing facts of life. Those odors jump into your face unbidden, exposing the thin veneer that shields our modern identify – clean, well-shaven, sweet-smelling - from acknowledging our ancient, animalic bodies.

These are the most bothersome malodorous areas and orifices of our bodies: mouth, vagina, anus, feet, and modern science and salesmanship have figured ways to sell us products for smelling better – preferably like roses, lilies-of-the-valley, violets – soaps, deodorants,

They all have two things in common: They don’t address the root causes of stench, and they add to the pollution burden on your body.

Now is probably too late to tell you because all the scented soaps, incense, perfumes, colognes, after-shave lotions, shower gels, wrinkle creams, bubble baths and whatnot have already been bought – either for you, or by you.

Truth is there is no cosmetic product available that is good for us – not even the natural or organic varieties. They all require stabilizers and preservatives for their long shelf life – and none of those further your health. If mold doesn’t touch it, your cells don’t like it either. Oh, well – you remember this next year.

Let’s go to the root cause of odor:
• Underarm: If you need a deodorant, buy a fragrance free product. I like the tea tree oil kind. Check if you really need to use it every day. As you eliminate root causes (see: feet), your smell might get better naturally - don’t be obsessive about it.
• Vagina: We had this subject already: NO DOUCHES!!
• Halitosis: If you have an odor from your mouth (you can test it by cupping your hands over your mouth and exhale into them), it can stem form your teeth, gums, esophagus (feeding tube), lungs and/or stomach. Most often the culprit is the stomach. Eating a diet without sugar and dairy is a good beginning. Many people have a gluten people. And tomatoes are at the root often, too. Try to figure it out.
• Gas (coming out of that unmentionable hole): Excessive gas is linked to an inflamed intestinal tract. Dairy, sugar, gluten are most often the root cause (on this blog, I have written extensively about food allergies, milk’s inflammatory properties, gluten intolerance and so on).
• Feet: If you have excessive sweating of your feet (sometimes also of your hands), it can be your autonomic nerve system – doctors like this diagnosis. But more often, poor nutrition is at the root of smelly feet. Especially bad fats and animal proteins.

Here I want to lay to rest once and for all the discussion about vegetarianism: If you smell excessively at your feet and under your arms, you are having too much animal and/or bad foods for your body type, period. Science makes clear that we are omnivores, we eat all and everything – mostly because during history we didn’t have the luxury to be choosy; starvation was always near. But the amount you eat should not be unduly high, and should cover your needs – every body has different requirements. The animals you eat should be of good quality (organic, grass-fed). And don’t forget to say a prayer for every animal that has died for you.

We all have met those male types who have smelly feet and holes in their socks – so needy for a caring wife that likely they’ll never find one. Because, genetically, we are hard-wired to choose a healthy mate, and somebody who eats day-in, day-out from the convenient store around the corner and doesn’t care for his body, shows all the alarm flags of a poor mate. (Of course, this is gender-neutral – it applies to women, too).

Yep, bad food choices come out in your armpits and in your shoes. Hint: learn cooking from scratch! Women will love you!

A few more hints:
• If you take a daily shower and don’t have a blue-collar job, don’t use soap – how dirty can you get at the computer in a single day? Every wash takes away from the healthy acidic layer on your skin that protects your body from invading germs. – Always end with a cold shower to close the pores (unless you have a contraindication).
• Don’t use soap at all. When you wash you hair, use an inexpensive shampoo and RINSE EXTREMELY WELL.
• Never wash your hair twice in a row – that’s a ruse by the industry to sell more shampoo.
• Use a fragrance-free detergent for your laundry.
• NEVER use a softener – liquid or one of those scented towelettes. They pollute the environment and your body and have no value at all. Who says that a towel has to be soft? Try toweling yourself with a hard towel – and discover how the scrubbing makes your body come alive.
• Question any household product (dish washing liquid, etc.) that comes with an added fragrance. One of the reason we see so many allergies and asthma, is that our bodies desperately are busy getting rid of all those unwarranted scents.

Get used to the idea that we are odorous animals. If we eat right, we will not be stinky. But never will we smell like violets.

Even so, our healthy smell is full of pheromones that will drive the other sex wild.

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.

How the World Plays Your Brain

December 1, 2010

Tags: order, food, bacteria – gut, brain, computer, cortisol, electronics, fatigue, gut, How the World Plays Your Brain, insomnia, junk food, obesity, overweight, rest, sleep, sleep-wake-cycle, TV, weight gain

In the past, I have written about junk food that feeds the bad bacteria in your gut – and how this makes you think even more of unhealthy treats: You eat a hamburger, then suddenly you crave a donut (or a bag of donuts), and then you needs some twinkies and a soda to flush them down.

I have likened this process to a computer virus: The bad gut bacteria send messages to your brain, sidetracking your best intentions for healthy eating.

There are a few other players who fiddle with your brain, make you fatter and fatigued, and thus prevent you from reaching your goals in life.

Too little sleep is one of those players. If you haven’t gotten the amount of sleep your body needs – and the individual requirements differ, usually between seven and nine hours. If you get away with five to six hours a night, chances are you are using up your bank account of health.

Too little sleep produces stress hormones the next day, and stress hormones like cortisol make you eat more – ergo, weight gain.

A day is made or broken the night before: Can you find into bed early enough – or are you staying up too late, get unrestful rest, and have a sleep-deprived hangover the next day?

And here are two more players that wreak havoc with your brain: computers and TV. Both keep you busy and interested much longer than they should. Captivated as you are, you don’t heed your body’s little signals that it is time to go to bed. You go on working, watching, playing – and so the next day is spoiled because you have to run on less energy. Once you creep into bed, you have a hard time falling asleep. Or you wake up too early. Because staying up late disrupted your sleep-wake-cycle.

Being tired produces more stress hormones. And those makes you eat more.

The holiday season is a time of high stress and tons of running around because you want to bring joy to your loved ones. This year, try this sneaky little trick: No machines (TV, computer, electronic games) after dinner. Take a book, read, listen to music, ease into slumber time – between eight and ten o’clock. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t toss and turn. Take this gifted time for thinking what you want to do with your life, what is important to you. And snuggle back into the pillows.

Next day, observe how you glow and function at your personal best! You regained your brain!

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!

Spa - Sanitas Per Aquam

November 24, 2010

Tags: water, order, food, alarm, Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD), bath, California, cold bath, cold shower, Earth, exhale, Greeks, hot tub, inhale, Latin, liver abcess, Musa, pores, relax, Romans, Rome, Spa - Sanitas Per Aquam, sitzbath, spa, Teutonics, thermes, vassals, vital, victuals, vigor, vittles, weather – cold

Did you know that the word “spa” is an artificial word and derives from the Latin expression “sanitas per aquam” (health through water)? I didn’t – in spite of six years of school Latin. I learned it only recently.

Should have known – the Romans were big with baths. Not only with hot bath, the Roman “thermes”. Which of course had come down from the Greeks. The first spa, so to speak, was the little town of “Thermes”on Greek soil that had naturally occurring hot springs. But after Emperor Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) was healed from liver abcess by his personal physician Antonius Musa, cold baths became all the rage in ancient Rome – and among their vassals in the then-known world. The Teutonics belonged there too, after they were conquered.

Health through water – that applies to individual health, as to the health of our Planet Earth. Without enough clean, fresh water mankind would not survive. Some bacteria and other low life probably would – and would restart the whole process of evolution again.

Water is vital (another Latin word, derived from “vita” – life) for us - preferably cold from the outside, warm from the inside. This morning I did a cold sitzbath, and now feel invigorated and ready for the day. “Invigorate” comes from “vigor” - strength.
To stay with the Latin words: Victuals (pronounced “vittles”) are sustenance we need – from “victualia” meaning “provisions” – healthy, fresh foods.

Enough of words – show me the deeds! Back to cold water!

Now that the weather turned colder, it is harder to stick with your cold shower or cold sitzbath – did you notice? (Ha!)

Here is one tip: Exhale!

Years ago, I found that exhaling when stepping into the cold flow helped me to stay there. I never knew why. Meanwhile, I figured it out.

Exhaling is the relaxing mode, inhaling is the alarm mode. Try it! When we startle, we suck in our breath. We say “Don’t hold your breath!” when you can relax again. So, deliberately and slowly exhaling tells your body that everything is all right and nothing is to fear from the cold water.

And coming back to the California hot tub from the other day: That bothered me the most – that there wasn’t a cold tub to jump in afterward. Because, as we say in German, you have to “close your pores.”

Dead Sea Story

November 23, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, alcohol, auto-immune diseases, barley, bowel health, cake, citrus fruit, coconut oil, coffee, cookies, Dead Sea, Dead Sea Story, dairy, eczema, fish oil, gut health, Israel, nuts, oats, probiotic, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, rye, saltwater, soy, Standard American Diet (SAD), sun, wheat, yogurt

Years ago, I found myself in a hotel at the Dead Sea in Israel. The hotel also catered to patients, because it has been shown that sunlight and saltwater improves such conditions as eczema and psoriasis.

The hotel had an excellent buffet with all kinds of healthy vegetables and gorgeous fruit. For me most striking observation was that the patient group flocked around cheese, cakes, cookies, pizza, lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, and bacon, whereas the other travelers delved into the abundance of fresh foods. In addition, the patient group was visibly more overweight than the others. I had a hard time not pointing out to every patient the damage they were doing to their bodies just as they were seeking the healing waters of the Dead Sea.

You go online for eczema remedies, and you find a thousand products screaming “Here! Buy me!”

This is my simple advice:

1. Get rid of anything you might be allergic to. – Some researchers deny that allergies play a role – I don’t agree with them; but let’s not call it allergies then, but food intolerances. Because in many cases, food intolerance plays a role in psoriasis and eczema – and the Standard American Diet (SAD) is especially at fault. The offending foods? The list I gathered from my patients is long, and dairy for sure tops it. Citrus fruit, wheat (and, by association, barley, rye, oats), soy, nuts have been most often the culprits in my patients. Coffee (including caffeinated) seems to trigger eczema too.

2. Use coconut oil on the affected, itchy, thickened skin. Coconut oil is anti-bacterial, soothes the itch and helps the poor skin to heal.

3. If you can afford, vacation at the ocean. Moderate sunlight and saltwater do miracles for posriasis and eczema.

4. If you want to go the extra mile, get a good probiotic (bacteria that are helpful for bowel health – but not frpm yogurt, take capsules) to heal your gut, and take fish oil capsules against inflammation.

Often this works also for rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune diseases, too. An additional biggie in psoriasis is alcohol – avoid it.

Some other ideas why people now get eczema are that babies are brought up in a too clean environment, and that emotional issues play a role. The first we can’t do anything about once you are grown-up. The emotional issue – well, we all still struggle to grow up, don’t we? Can’t hurt to work on that.

Bought

November 15, 2010

Tags: order, Bought, extortion, health care, patient care, physicians

This weekend, I heard this story:

A man, enrolled in a good health care plan, had gotten a letter from his physician that he could stay his patient only if he paid 5000 additional dollars per year. Otherwise, would he please find another doctor.

This was the second time he had to change physicians for the same reason.

Is this a true story? It was told a dinner party, to good effect. Am I unbearably naïve and idealistic to never have heard of such a thing, or have some of my readers had a similar experience? I would like to hear about it.

Without much politicking – healthy living definitely fascinates me more than the intricacies of politics – one can safely say that health care in the United States is in tough shape, and that many physicians – especially primary care physicians – are underpaid. But we don’t need extortion on top of it.

As in other professional fields – education comes to mind - bureaucracy has taken over. Yet, many doctors still care.

YOU - as a patient, a physician – tell me that the above story is not true!

Inward-Bound

November 11, 2010

Tags: order, food, autumn, bones, Chinese literature, fall, fat, fire, gift-giving, holidays, immune system, Inward-Bound, Li Shizhen, mind, Oxford Chinese Dictionary, plant compounds, seasons, raking the leaves in the yard, TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine, vegetables, writing

You might have noticed that I am not writing blog as much lately as I did before.

Nothing wrong with me. I am just going inward.

Firstly, I am between two books. After finishing “Sebastian”, I felt in limbo for a while. Now I am back into writing the story of Li Shizhen (1518-1593). I am learning Chinese, in my fourth semester – and I barely can speak a single sentence. But I am starting to recognize characters – and it is totally engrossing! Yesterday, my new Chinese dictionary (Oxford) arrived. I was happy like a clam all day, looking up words that I hadn’t been able to find in my old pocket dictionary. The language is opening a culture to me. I am reading the classical Chinese literature, in English. And I am thinking about little Li, four years old. The people in his life have begun talking in my head, and I am jotting down what they are talking about.

Secondly, we are in the middle of autumn. This is the time of year to go inside, make a warm in the wood stove and think about your life. Also, it is a time for eating heartier food – my braised ox tails with cabbages from the garden was exactly the nourishing food we need right now: A bit more fat, a bit more substance, and tons of vegetables to supply us with the plant compounds feeding our immune system, mind and bones.

This seasonal inward motion is counterbalanced by the pull of the world: Talking with friends, using the Internet, going for my daily walk – all this tries to get me back into the fray. At Thanksgiving we will celebrate with friends again, like every year, and then it will be holiday parties and gift-buying and gift-giving – I will not stay this inward-bound for a long time.

But for the time I am. I cherish it, hoping for growth.

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 …

The Here and Now

October 27, 2010

Tags: order, Carol Nelson, exhaling, Here and Now, love, moderation, Nelson – Carol, philosophy, questions, sleeplessness, The Here and Now, yoga

Yesterday at yoga, my wonderful teacher Carol Nelson encouraged us to be in the Here and Now.

A great suggestion!

But then I thought: Wait a second!

As a physician I know that the people most in the Here and Now are Alzheimer’s patients. First, in the development of dementia, one loses the future and dwells on the past. Later on even the past dims, and there is nothing there than the Here and Now – a sad state of affairs.

That is not to mean, when your thoughts are churning about a project at work or a past lover who jilted you, it is not a good idea to focus on the Here and Now, take some deep, slow breaths - always start with exhaling! – and feel your diaphragm move.

It only means one shouldn’t stretch a philosophical tenet too far. The Here and Now has it merits – but driven to exclusivity, it becomes hollow and ridiculous. Moderation also is a reigning principle in philosophy.

However - now look at “moderation”, as a concept. When you are falling a love, deeply in love, do you want to “moderate” yourself? Or do you want to live the most important moments of your life?

Questions, questions…

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.

Berlin – About Friendship

October 5, 2010

Tags: order, Berlin, Berlin – About Friendship, boyfriends, childbirth, children, death, depression, farting, fishing, friendship, Germany, Iran, life, love, menopause, parents - old, politics, reading, work

I don’t know how I would have made it through my life without my girlfriends.

When I was younger, a girlfriend and I had a saying: “Love is more important, but friendship lasts longer.”

After a few false starts, I have found a wonderful man in my life. But my friendships with women still sustain me through rocky times. And give me much laughter.

Without the advice and support of other women, how would I ever have raised my children? Every little domestic disaster was talked through – and the big ones too. When I had my first child, I was all alone without any friends – living in our little nuclear family, talking to nobody outside, burying myself in reading. Nowadays, I think they would diagnose me with depression. But I know I was not depressed – I was without friends.

Presently, I am visiting Berlin that are filled with women friends for me, friends from far, far back, newer friends, and some in the middle. The last few days, I have reconnected with several old friends, having so much fun. During long walks, over tea or a good meal we told each other what happened in our lives since we met last time, we laughed and were touched.

Men seem to discuss work and politics, fishing and farting (not that I really know what their subjects are when they are alone!). Women talk about life and love and death, about childbirth, boyfriends, menopause, children and old parents. About work too because we all have deep interests. Even politics we mention occasionally.

What makes a good friendship? If you haven’t seen each other for a while – or many years – it is a sign of solid friendship if you click again the moment you meet. No repercussions why it took so long – just pure bliss that you are together again.

Recently in Iran, a made new friends who will stay friends for many years to come. Berlin has renewed some old friendships. New and old friends, they make you examine your life. Without them, life is not worth living.

Gluten-Related Symptoms and Diseases

September 24, 2010

Tags: order, abdominal pain, acanthosis nigricans, Addison’s disease, ADHD, alcoholism, alkaline phosphatase (bone) elevated, allergic rhinitis, alopecia areata (patchy hair loss), amenorrhea (absence of menstrual period), anemia, anemia – iron deficiency, anemia – refractory, anemia - vitamin B12 deficiency, anti-endomysium antibodies (EMA), anti-gliadin antibodies (AGA), anti-tissue-transglutaminase antibodies (tTG), antiphospholipid syndrome (frequent miscarriages and other problems), anxiety, aortic vasculitis, apathy, aphthous ulcers, appetite – poor, arthritis, arthritis – enteropathic, arthritis - juvenile idiopathic, asthma, ataxia, ataxia - progressive myoclonic, atherosclerosis, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), autism, learning disorders, autoimmune cholangitis, autoimmune diseases, autoimmune hepatitis, autoimmune thyroid disease, balding – premature, bipolar disorder, Bitot’s spots (foamy patches on whites of eye), bleeding – unexplained, blepharitis, bloating, blurred vision, bone fracture, bone pain, brain atrophy, brain fog, bronchiectasis, cachexia (general wasting), calcium – low, cancer - small cell of the esophagus, cancer (adenocarcinoma) of the small intestine, cancer of the esophagus, cancer of the pharynx, Candida infections – recurrent, cardiomegaly, casein intolerance, cataracts, cerebral perfusion abnormalities, cheilosis (cracked lips and corners of mouth), cholesterol – low, chorea, chronic bullous dermatosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, colitis, common variable immunodeficiency, complications during pregnancy – labor - delivery and post-partum period, congenital anomalies, constipation, copper deficiency, coronary artery disease, cortical calcifying angiomatosis, cow mill “allergy”, cutaneous vasculitis, cutis laxa, cystic fibrosis, dairy intolerance, delusions, dementia, depression, dermatitis herpetiformis, dermatomyositis, diabetes Type I, diabetes Type II, diarrhea, disorientation, Down syndrome, dry eyes, duodenal ulcers, dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual periods), dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), early menopause, easy bruising, ecchymosis, eczema, edema, Enteropathy Associated T-cell Lymphoma (EATL), epilepsy, erythema nodosum, esophageal motor abnormalities, eyes – dry, eyes – bloodshot, erythema elevatum diutinum, failure to thrive, fatigue, fatty liver, folic acid (folate) deficiency, food allergies - blood-mediated and cell mediated, food cravings, gall bladder – impaired motility, gas, gastric emptying – delayed, gastritis, GERD - Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, glucose abnormalities - too low or too high, gluten, Gluten-Related Symptoms and Diseases, Grave’s Disease, growth retardation, gums – bleeding and swollen, hair loss, hallucination, headache, heartburn, heart disease, hemochromatosis, hemosiderosis - idiopathic pulmonary, hepatic granulomatous disease, high blood pressure, homocysteine elevated, hyperactivity, hyperkeratosis – follicular, hyperparathyroidism, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, hypocalciuria, hypogonadism, hypoparathyroidism, hyposplenism (atrophy of spleen), hypothyroidism, hypotonia, ichthyosis – acquired, pulmonary hemosiderosis – idiopathic, IgA deficiency, IgA nephropathy, impotence, inability to concentrate, infertility, insomnia, intrauterine growth retardation, iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy – severe, irritable bowel syndrome, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, keratomalacia, kidney stones, lactose intolerance, lassitude, late menarche (late start of menstrual periods), leaky gut syndrome, liver enzymes elevated, loss of memory, lymphadenopathy, lymphoma - B-cell non-Hodgkin’s, lymphoma - cryptic intestinal T-cell (refractory sprue), lymphoma – non-Hodgkin, macroamylasemia, macrocytosis (red blood cells larger than normal), macrolipasemia, magnesium - low, malabsorption, melanoma, memory loss, migraine, miscarriage, monoarthritis – recurrent, multiple sclerosis (MS) – a possible link, muscle pain and tenderness, muscle spasms and cramps, muscle wasting, muscle weakness, nail problems, nausea, nervousness, neuropathy – peripheral, neutropenia (low white blood cells), nightblindness, nosebleeds – unexplained, obesity, occult blood in stool, ocular myopathy, osteitis fibrosa, osteomalacia, osteomalacic myopathy, osteonecrosis, osteopenia, osteoporosis, pancreatic insufficiency (poor digestion), panic attacks, parathyroid carcinoma, penicilllin V impaired absorption, phosphorus – low, pityriasis rubra pilaris, plasma proteins low, Plummer-Vinson Syndrome, PMS, pneumococcal septicemia, pneumonia – recurrent, polyglandular syndrome, polymyositis, potassium - low, premenstrual syndrome, primary biliary cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, prolactinemia, prothrombin time prolonged, prothrombinemia, prurigo nodularis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, puberty – delayed, purpura – idiopathic thrombocytopenic, rhabdomyolysis – hypokalemic, rheumatoid arthritis, rickets, sarcoidosis, Schizophrenic Spectrum Disorders, scleroderma, seborrhea, short stature, Sjögren’s syndrome, skin rash – itchy, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, smell - loss of, sperm abnormalities, spina bifida, sprue – refractory (see: gluten), steatorrhea (pale, malodorous, floating, hard-to-flush stools), stomach ulcer, stroke – premature, sugar intolerance, swelling, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), taste - loss of, tetany, thrombocytopenic purpura – idiopathic, thyroid disease - juvenile autoimmune, tongue – red and/or burning, tremors, tuberculosis - increased susceptibility to, Turner’s syndrome, urinary tract infections – recurrent, urticaria - chronic hives, uveitis, vaginitis, vasculitis, vasculitis of the CNS (Central Nervous System), vitiligo, volvulus (twisted intestines), vomiting, weight gain – unexplained, weight loss – unexplained, xerophthalmia (dry eyes), zinc – low

Nearly one in one hundred people have gluten intolerance (gluten enteropathy, sprue, celiac sprue). In only fifty percent of them does the disease show with gastro-intestinal symptoms - the rest has non-intestinal symptoms.

Be aware that many of these symptoms can also have other causes - this list does not replace a doctor who sees you!

• Abdominal pain
• Acanthosis nigricans
• Addison’s disease
• Alcoholism
• Alkaline phosphatase (bone) elevated
• Allergic rhinitis
• Alopecia areata (patchy hair loss)
• Amenorrhea (absence of menstrual period)
• Anemia
• Anemia – iron deficiency
• Anemia - refractory
• Anemia - vitamin B12 deficiency
• Anti-endomysium antibodies (EMA)
• Anti-gliadin antibodies (AGA)
• Anti-tissue-transglutaminase antibodies (tTG)
• Antiphospholipid syndrome (frequent miscarriages and other problems)
• Anxiety
• Aortic vasculitis
• Apathy
• Aphthous ulcers (mouth sores)
• Appetite – poor
• Arthritis
• Arthritis – enteropathic
• Arthritis - juvenile idiopathic
• Asthma
• Ataxia
• Ataxia, progressive myoclonic
• Atherosclerosis
• Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
• Autism, learning disorders
• Autoimmune cholangitis
• Autoimmune diseases
• Autoimmune hepatitis
• Autoimmune thyroid disease
• Balding – premature
• Bipolar disorder
• Bitot’s spots (foamy patches on whites of eye)
• Bleeding – unexplained
• Blepharitis
• Bloating
• Blurred vision
• Bone fracture
• Bone pain
• Brain atrophy
• Brain fog
• Bronchiectasis
• Cachexia (general wasting)
• Calcium – low
• Cancer - small cell of the esophagus
• Cancer (adenocarcinoma) of the small intestine
• Cancer of the esophagus
• Cancer of the pharynx
• Candida infections – recurrent
• Cardiomegaly
• Casein intolerance (cow mill “allergy”)
• Cataracts
• Cerebral perfusion abnormalities
• Cheilosis (cracked lips and corners of mouth)
• Cholesterol - low
• Chorea
• Chronic bullous dermatosis
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Colitis
• Common variable immunodeficiency
• Complications during pregnancy, labor, delivery and post-partum period
• Congenital anomalies
• Constipation
• Copper deficiency
• Coronary artery disease
• Cortical calcifying angiomatosis
• Cow mill “allergy”
• Cutaneous vasculitis
• Cutis laxa
• Cystic fibrosis
• Dairy intolerance
• Delusions
• Dementia
• Depression
• Dermatitis herpetiformis
• Dermatomyositis
• Diabetes Type I
• Diabetes Type II
• Diarrhea
• Disorientation
• Down syndrome
• Dry eyes
• Duodenal ulcers
• Dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual periods)
• Dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse)
• Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
• Early menopause
• Easy bruising
• Ecchymosis
• Eczema
• Edema
• Enteropathy Associated T-cell Lymphoma (EATL)
• Epilepsy
• Erythema nodosum
• Esophageal motor abnormalities
• Eyes – dry
• Eyes - bloodshot
• Erythema elevatum diutinum
• Failure to thrive
• Fatigue
• Fatty liver
• Folic acid (folate) deficiency
• Food allergies - blood-mediated and cell mediated
• Food cravings
• Gall bladder – impaired motility
• Gas
• Gastric emptying – delayed
• Gastritis
• GERD - Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease
• Glucose abnormalities - too low or too high
• Grave’s Disease
• Growth retardation
• Gums – bleeding and swollen
• Hair loss
• Hallucination
• Headache
• Heartburn
• Heart disease
• Hemochromatosis
• Hemosiderosis - idiopathic pulmonary
• Hepatic granulomatous disease
• High blood pressure
• Homocysteine elevated
• Hyperactivity
• Hyperkeratosis - follicular
• Hyperparathyroidism
• Hypertension
• Hyperthyroidism
• Hypocalciuria
• Hypogonadism
• Hypoparathyroidism
• Hyposplenism (atrophy of spleen)
• Hypothyroidism
• Hypotonia
• Ichthyosis - acquired
• Pulmonary hemosiderosis - idiopathic
• IgA deficiency
• IgA nephropathy
• Impotence
• Inability to concentrate
• Infertility (in both sexes)
• Insomnia
• Intrauterine growth retardation
• Iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy - severe
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Keratoconjunctivitis sicca
• Keratomalacia
• Kidney stones
• Lactose intolerance
• Lassitude
• Late menarche (late start of menstrual periods)
• Leaky gut syndrome
• Liver enzymes elevated
• Loss of memory
• Lymphadenopathy
• Lymphoma - B-cell non-Hodgkin’s
• Lymphoma - cryptic intestinal T-cell (refractory sprue)
• Lymphoma – non-Hodgkin
• Macroamylasemia
• Macrocytosis (red blood cells larger than normal)
• Macrolipasemia
• Magnesium low
• Malabsorption
• Melanoma
• Memory loss
• Migraine
• Miscarriage
• Monoarthritis – recurrent
• Mouth sores
• Multiple sclerosis (MS) – a possible link
• Muscle pain and tenderness
• Muscle spasms and cramps
• Muscle wasting
• Muscle weakness
• Nail problems
• Nausea
• Nervousness
• Neuropathy - peripheral
• Neutropenia (low white blood cells)
• Nightblindness
• Nosebleeds – unexplained
• Obesity
• Occult blood in stool
• Ocular myopathy
• Osteitis fibrosa
• Osteomalacia
• Osteomalacic myopathy
• Osteonecrosis
• Osteopenia
• Osteoporosis
• Pancreatic insufficiency (poor digestion)
• Panic attacks
• Parathyroid carcinoma
• Penicilllin V impaired absorption
• Phosphorus - low
• Pityriasis rubra pilaris
• Plasma proteins low
• Plummer-Vinson Syndrome
• PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
• Pneumococcal septicemia
• Pneumonia – recurrent
• Polyglandular syndrome
• Polymyositis
• Potassium - low
• Primary biliary cirrhosis
• Primary sclerosing cholangitis
• Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
• Prolactinemia
• Prothrombin Time prolonged
• Prothrombinemia
• Prurigo nodularis
• Psoriasis
• Psoriatic arthritis
• Puberty - delayed
• Purpura – idiopathic thrombocytopenic
• Rhabdomyolysis - hypokalemic
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Rickets
• Sarcoidosis
• Schizophrenic Spectrum Disorders
• Scleroderma
• Seborrhea
• Short stature
• Sjögren’s syndrome
• Skin rash – itchy
• Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
• Smell - loss of
• Sperm abnormalities
• Spina bifida
• Sprue - refractory
• Steatorrhea (pale, malodorous, floating, hard-to-flush stools)
• Stomach ulcer
• Stroke – premature
• Sugar intolerance
• Swelling
• Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
• Taste - loss of
• Tetany
• Thrombocytopenic purpura – idiopathic
• Thyroid disease - juvenile autoimmune
• Tongue – red and/or burning
• Tremors
• Tuberculosis - increased susceptibility to
• Turner’s syndrome
• Urinary tract infections - recurrent
• Urticaria - chronic hives
• Uveitis
• Vaginitis
• Vasculitis
• Vasculitis of the CNS (Central Nervous System)
• Vitiligo
• Volvulus (twisted intestines)
• Vomiting
• Weight gain – unexplained
• Weight loss – unexplained
• Xerophthalmia (dry eyes)
• Zinc - low

I will add to this list as I come across new links –keep checking!

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.

The Persian Bridge

September 15, 2010

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, abbaya, Afghanistan, Anglican Church, Arabia, Armenian, bread baking, Bridge - The Thirty Three Arches Bridge, burka, chador, dairy, doogh, Dubai, family, flowers, Hafez, head scarf, history, homogenization, Iran, Isfahan, Islam, Jews, moderation, Morocco, mosque, parenting, pasteurization, Persepolis, poetry, purity, Saudi Arabia, Shiite, Shiraz, Sunni, Tehran, terrorists, The Persian Bridge, Turkey, U.S.A, veil, yogurt

Greetings from Tehran! We have been traveling in this wonderful country, full of roses and laughter, and one of the cradles of civilization. Iran, as every country that I ever have visited, is teaching me something.

In the ancient city of Isfahan, we saw an old bridge, called The Thirty Three Arches Bridge. The city still sizzles with brutal heat in September, and people go to the bridge to sit in the shade and enjoy the cool breeze that is generated by a two-storied construction with narrow passages for the wind, and look over the water. It actually looks more a long building over the river than a bridge. We returned in the evening when the lights reflected on the dark waters, and people sat in groups, and walked and talked. A man sang a song about lovers. I could not imagine anything more beautiful or more peaceful.

The river is broad here in Isfahan; in this arid country with very little rain, the waters are melted snow of a nearby mountain range. A few hundred kilometers downriver though, the river vanishes from the surface of the Earth, petering out in the desert sand, and feeding underground aquifers (making oases possible in the desert). Imagine: A river that never reaches the ocean – the people always have thought of it as a gift from Heaven to this special place, and they are careful building irrigation systems and avoid wasting the life-giving liquid.

What took me by surprise: The Thirty Three Arches Bridge has no railings – the stone just ends, and there is the abyss! I kept a respectful distance. But what about those many families and children? Children who run around late in the night! I could barely look at the people that ambled too close to the edge for my taste, or at the little girl that sat a foot away from the void, enjoying a picnic with her family!

Our guide was astonished that I worried. “Oh, they learn!” he said. “Nobody ever falls down.”

Imagine the situation at home: Someone surely would dare leaning over too far – and than sue somebody for missing rails!

It seems that we teach our children that somebody is always caring for them (until it suddenly ends with college or some real-life experience); Iranians teach their children that they better watch out because life is dangerous.

Children and family are very important to Iranians. And so are flowers, poetry and history. They revere their poets like saints. We visited Hafez’ tomb in Shiraz, and our guide declaimed one of Hafez’ poems, in Farsi. Not so much for us, the tourists, but because he loved it with all his heart. At a dinner in a restaurant, the bandleader, in between music, recited a long poem.

The reason for our travel is that my scientist husband is invited for a scientific presentation, and I accompany him, privileged to see the beauty of this country. We walked the ancient ruins of Persepolis. On a frieze there one man holds the hand of another – together they faced the Great King to whom they had to bring their yearly taxes. I saw much caring for one another here: Two young men carrying a sick old man between them - perhaps their father; we would call an ambulance and have professionals do the work. Older children tend their younger siblings in a loving way. Men are holding hands as a sign of friendship. Only once did I hear yelling between two taxi drivers.

Scientists are an international community – and they respect the rules that constitute science: You can come up with any weird idea – but you have to deliver proof and reasonable argument, and submit it to the scrutiny of your peers. Wish that everything in the world would work like that!

Tehran is a city of between fifteen and twenty-five million: loud, polluted, with uncontrollable traffic. It is near impossible to cross a street – cars have priority. But at night, a thousand lights are spreading up the hills – where the air is better.

The pungency of herbs and spices hovers over the bazaars. Iranians use herbs in their yogurt drinks and in bread, and spices in their food. Their fragrant rice dishes with saffron or aromatic green herbs are famous. - At the restaurant, along the wall, there were niches decorated with life-sized clay figures performing old crafts: a miller, a toolmaker, a potter. The last niche was occupied by a merchant in herbal medicines.

Not that you think everything is perfect in Iran. They must have wife-beaters here, same as we have them at home. I suspect the one or other government agent is keeping an eye on us. Very occasionally we have seen hostile looks and heard remarks about the stupidity of infidels. But the vast majority of the people are very kind, and curious. Nobody flinches when we mention that we are from the U.S.A. One woman came up to me and asked: “Do you think we are terrorists?” She was anxious for the answer. Parents nudged their children to practice their English with us, and whole families wanted to be photographed with us (making the government agent seethe with anger).

Iran is a Shiite country and has a long history of – and that might surprise you as much as it surprised me – religious tolerance: Jews live untroubled in Isfahan for nine hundred years, and Armenians and other Christians have churches (among them an Anglican). We were proudly shown the Jewish quarters and the four-hundred-year-old Armenian Church – our guide explained its murals with the same zest and knowledge as the mosaics in the beautiful mosques.

In one of the mosques a man prayed, and our guide excitedly explained that he was a Sunni – he didn’t use the little clay disc Shiites put between them and their foreheads when they bend to the ground. And he held his arms crossed in front, instead of letting them hang by his side. The guide was proud that he spied the Sunni – but there was no hostility, he was allowed to pray in the Shiite mosque without problems. That in spite of difficulties between the two Islamic branches in other countries.

Every hotel room has a prayer rug and the little clay disc, and an arrow on the ceiling pointing to Mecca.

The food is fresh and good – and definitely for us guests – plentiful. But I did not see a single obese person. A bit of a potbelly, yes. But no gross obesity. They eat not much fast food – a boon they derive from being at odds politically with the Americans; everything is freshly cooked. What would happen if we were at total peace with each other, and MacDonald and Burger King would invade the country? (Though I saw Iranians drink Coca-Cola lustily – I could not know if it was the real thing or an Iranian fake – I can’t read their letters). But Iranians clearly have a philosophy of temperance: One eats and drinks in moderation (and no alcohol ever; at least none that I saw). The moderation philosophy - I couldn’t agree more with it.

In one restaurant they allowed me observe how they bake an ancient kind of flat bread in a brick oven on hot little pebbles – an art. - They have a yogurt drink – doogh – which is perfect in this heat. Their yogurt is delicious, and doesn’t give me the troubles it always does at home – an observation I already made in Saudi Arabia. I suspect it is the process of pasteurization and homogenization that renders our products inedible. Or they have very, very special cows …

By now, I have visited several Islamic countries: Turkey, Morocco, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iran. They are all different. Women in Iran wear long-sleeved coats or kaftans that have to cover the behind and should not emphasize the waist, and trousers, often blue jeans. To hide the wrists seems important – the Iranians must know something about erotic wrists that eludes us. And they wear a head scarf. It loosely covers the hair – more a token than a real hiding. Some women wear a chador that covers all hair. Very few wear a veil – which had been the norm in Saudi-Arabia.

We never, ever saw a single beggar or a drunk on the streets. It seems to be the specialty of autocratic states that they can “clean up” because individual rights don’t count much. A teahouse also served opium; a mild kind, judging by the reaction of the customers.

From Saudi Arabia I still own an abbaya - a black cassock-like thing that reaches the floor (in Saudi-Arabia, the desert sand) and a head scarf. The women here appreciate my effort to abide by their laws, and I like the abbaya because: No thinking in the morning about what to wear. Of course, I don’t like the abbaya as a political statement. Alas, I am an un-political person. At least, I have not seen a single burka, the tent-like garment that is frequent in Saudi-Arabia, and the law in Afghanistan. - In one mosque, as I was about to wrap myself into an additional chador because our guide had recommended it, a woman took it out of my hand, pointing at my outfit. She felt I was already perfectly dressed. - My head scarf had always been sliding down. Now I fix it with two barrettes, with fake gaudy glitter – and so far nobody has berated me for it.

In some quarters of affluent Tehran women wear more make-up and Western-style clothing. They wear their scarves, but as a fashion statement, elegantly. Then again, Tehran is also the place where politics clash very hard, as I was told. Surprisingly, many Iranians voice their political views very openly to us, wanting to assure us that they have no Anti-American feelings.

In Iran, women are educated – before the religious revolution that got rid of the Shah, this was a very westernized country. Not to mention that Iran has a history of thousands of years of culture – we have little over four hundred. Universities don’t have the division between genders that Saudi-Arabia has: Men and women learn and work together (but in the airport, as a woman you go through a special security gate). - When I talk to women here, they have little envy for our freedom in the West; they worry that we loose our hearts, our middles.

Of course, many women here have no choices; I don’t want to belittle their struggle. Women always ask if I have children, and how many. They do look down on countries that produce too many children. Because they know the burden is on the women.

If history teaches us something, then it is this: That no one government ever lasts forever. I fear about how they will be able to solve this conflict – these wonderfully hospitable people. Iran is a country of beauty and incredible friendliness. People know what counts: family, poetry, flowers, history. And food.

Of course, I have no saying in the matter, but I wish religions would keep their beautiful thoughts to themselves instead of waging holy wars. Trying to keep “pure” and going to Heaven afterward are two unreachable goals, if you ask me. We should put the same effort and religious zeal into being friendly to our children, bringing fresh food on the table and making Earth a happy place to live for everyone.

When was the last time you read poetry aloud to someone you love?

Totally Unproven Pet Theories of Mine

September 9, 2010

Tags: food, order, antioxidants, aromatherapy, berries, brain, cherries, depression, flowers, hypothesis – medical, immune system, limbic system, nose, olfactory brain, rose, smell, Totally Unproven Pet Theories of Mine, winter

Yesterday I refuted some of medicine’s pet tenets. Today I tell you some of my private unproven theories (hypotheses):

1. If you eat a lot of berries and cherries during the summer, it gears up your immune system and you make it through the winter healthier. - We know that berries are healthy because of their antioxidants – but as far as I know there has been no study done if the effect lasts for the whole next winter.
2. Similarly, if you smell a lot of roses (or other flowers) you get through the winter less depressed. No study here, either. But the nose and the olfactory part of the brain are closely linked to the “feelings” part of the brain (limbic system). – Besides, what other reasons would there be that we like so much to smell good things than to ward off depression? Aromatherapy uses that connection, too – but I am not sure there solid studies exist.

More to come!

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.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

September 6, 2010

Tags: food, order, water, allergy - blood-mediated, allergy - cell-mediated, apple, allergies – fast and slow, autoimmune disease, back pain, blood test for allergies, cancer, chocolate, citrus, constipation, corn, craving, dairy, depression, diabetes type II, diarrhea, drugs – medical, eggplant, eggs, flavor enhancers food allergy, food colorings, food intolerance, fruit, gluten, heartburn, HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), infection, irritable bowel syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome?, joint pain, lectins, mental fog, MSG, nightshades, nuts, obesity, pain, peanut, peppers - bell and hot, pills, potato, preservatives, prescription medication rash, recreational drugs, runner’s diarrhea, seafood, skin problem, skin test for allergies, soy, stomach ache, stool – floating, thirst – excessive, tomato, yeast

In my thirty years in medicine, I have never diagnosed anybody with “irritable bowel syndrome.”

Not that I didn't want to make the diagnosis. But it always seemed to be the last resort - if there wasn't a better explanation for the patient's symptoms. And there always was.

If my patients came with the label, I quietly looked for a more appropriate diagnosis, mostly some kind of food intolerance and/or infections. And if they came with any of the myriad of gastrointestinal complaints, they deserved a thorough workup.

Food allergies: Physicians differ between food allergies and food intolerance. For the patient the difference is minimal: The only action that will help is leaving out the offending food.

Allergies are mediated either through blood – then they show up in blood tests. Or they are cell-mediated, which means they can’t be detected by blood tests; skin prick test is the way to go then.

If you usually feel good (or even just better) in the morning before you eat, food problems are likely. – Floating stools point to a food culprit, too.

There are rare and dangerous diseases, therefore a doctor should eliminate serious diagnoses. But this is what you can do yourself:

• Write a food journal. Everything that goes into your mouth should go in here – including beverages, pills and chewing gum. A pattern might become clear once you regularly record everything.
• In my experience, these are the most common food offenders: dairy, soy, nuts, gluten, corn – especially HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant, bell and hot peppers), citrus, seafood, lectins, food colorings, preservatives, flavor enhancers (like MSG), eggs, apples and other fruit, chocolate (though probably less common than people think – it usually are the non-cacao ingredients that cause trouble), yeast. And don’t forget: prescription medication! Recreational drugs.
• Read labels! Of course, foods without labels – like kale and carrots – are healthier anyway because only processed food is required to be labeled.
• Has anybody in your family a bowel disease? You might have the same.
• Jot down pains, headache, heartburn, stomach ache, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, blurred vision, slow urination, skin rashes, blocked nose or ears,
• Don’t eat after dinner – and don’t have dinner late. The sheer bulk in your stomach may create the discomfort; besides it prevents the cell repair that should be taking place nightly – but can’t happen when your body is busy digesting.
• Are you very thirsty – especially during and after a meal? That might be a sign of a food allergy. Don’t suppress your thirst – this is how your body gets rid of the offending food: by diluting it.
• If you suspect food allergies, leave out the whole list above plus whatever you suspect for a week. Then one by one, every few days reintroduce another food from the list. – Sometimes only repeated exposure shows the problem – that happens mostly with cell-mediated allergies.
• Blood-mediated allergies are the quick ones – that can bring you to the emergency room - like peanuts. Never try to force your body into accepting any food that it doesn’t want!
• Slow allergies make you sick over time – by the chronic inflammation in your body. That causes for instance cancer in the long run.
• Take a probiotics regularly. I personally like Primal Defense (this is not an endorsement – only an idea to start with. Begin with a small dose, slowly take more. If a probiotic does not agree with you, change the brand.
• Most people benefit from fish oil – to counteract the constant inflammation that comes with food allergies.
• Chew well.
• Eat vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. Not only are they good for you – they also seem to cause fewer allergies.
• Serious runners suffer from a curious disease called “runner’s diarrhea” (about fifty percent of them.
• Obesity might be a sign for food allergies: We tend to crave exactly the foods that are worst for us.
• And most importantly: Don’t eat it if it hurts you!

Unfortunately, you can even have a bowel disease without any gastrointestinal complaints: About fifty percent of gluten intolerance (celiac sprue) patients never notice anything wrong with their belly. But they might have joint or back pain, diabetes, autoimmune disease, mental fog, depression – and a host of other problems.

September Blessings

September 4, 2010

Tags: order, water, back to school, beginning, cello, Chinese, friends, cold water, Kneipp - Sebastian, Li Shizhen, learning, Maine, novel, resolution, seasons, September, September Blessings, writing group

All seasons are my favorites, but September sticks out for me.

In the summer, I wither in the heat – that is why Maine is my refuge during the hot days. Maine’s cold water – I can’t understand that nobody advertises it! The Bahamas never tempt me. - We returned home to Boston tonight, into a sticky hot house. On our evening walk, however, the air was crisp – just as one expects of September.

Yet the main reason why I always look forward to September is that I love being back at school, so to speak, with sharpened pencil and a rested mind. As a child, I couldn’t wait for the new school year, the new subjects, and my old friends. Later, my enthusiasm lagged at times – but the start always beguiled me.

Much more than the New Year, September is my time for new beginnings, good intentions and resolutions. My Chinese course will restart this month, our writing group will reconvene, and I will take cello lessons again.

This year, September is even more special: On September 2nd, I finished my Sebastian Kneipp novel - or I think I finished it (thought that once before…). The quiet in Maine gave me all the concentration I needed. I might restart my “Chinese” novel about Li Shizhen (1518-1593) and/or finish the nonfiction book about skiing and health. Life is good.

Life is good as long as one still finds things to learn, to discover, to tackle. – What will you tackle this September?

Maine Time

August 29, 2010

Tags: Water, order, ablution, boat, cat – feral, chipmunk, cold water gush, deer, down-east, eagle, fox, heron, hummingbird, hummingbird moth, kayaking, Kneipp - Sebastian, lake, loons, Maigret - Commissaire, Maine, Maine Time, moon - full, ocean, ospreys, Paris, red squirrel, river, sauna, seal, Simenon – Georges, swimming, tern

For two weeks already, we are in Maine. The Internet works only sporadically, and my mind is not on blogging.

Maine, this summer, has taught me these points:

1. At least once a day, I dip into the ocean – either for a swim or after the sauna. The water down-east used to be so cold, I would freeze to the bones in minutes. But global warming is real: Now I can stay much longer.

2. The French Commissaire Maigret, Georges Simenon’s master detective, describes a morning in Paris thus: “Maigret always loved wandering the streets, while Paris made its morning ablutions.” Ablution, of course, is a fancy word for a cold water gush.

3. On my birthday, at full moon, we kayaked at night to the seals’ rock. It was something to remember – the smooth ocean, the bright moon, the sleepy calls of water birds. I saw the other boat only by the silvery run of drops from the oars.

4. If you dream of owning a boat, forget the expensive stuff – the stinkers with motor. Get a kayak, used, if possible! Put your kayak in a river, a lake, the ocean. Hear the silence of Nature speak to you when you paddle by.

5. I see herons, eagles, cormorants and terns – and the ubiquitous seagulls; I hear loons and ospreys. And, so far, I met a fox, deer, seals, feral cats and lots of chipmunks and red squirrels. The most exciting meeting was a with a hummingbird moth – because I had never before seen one. And we have real hummingbirds, too; it’s inconceivable how they can survive this far in the north. I understand they drink birch sap in the spring. In August, they suck nectar from my phlox.

6. I think I might be finished soon with my Kneipp novel. But I have thought that before …

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.

Cat Food

August 15, 2010

Tags: food, order, beef, carrots, cat, cat food, Cat Food, chicken, dander, diabetes in cats, dill, dog, fish, fish oil, kidney failure, liver, liver - fatty, liver disease, meat, oats, obesity, Otto, parsley, predator, Rivka, thyroid disease, turkey, vegetal

This morning I marveled at Otto’s silken black fur and how he has changed in ten short months into a purring bundle from a frightened, grimy cat with dander flying all over the place. I got him from a shelter last October, after our last cat Rivka had been carried away by a Maine eagle – or so we think; she left no trace.

The first thing I did was to add a capsule of fish oil (prick the capsule and dribble the fish oil over the food) a day to his food, for a month, against the dander.

I am not a veterinarian but, like humans, cats are part of nature and thrive on natural foods. Canned and dried foods are unnatural and unhealthy for our pets (all this applies to dogs too, but I don’t know much about dogs. I would think that dogs can handle a slightly higher portion of vegetal matters in their diets). Why do we have so many cats with diabetes, obesity, kidney failure, thyroid disease? It is not only that we over-feed our pets; diseases also stem from unnatural, stale food with ingredients that are alien to cats. In the wild, cats are predators with a predominantly fresh meat diet.

Only when we travel does Otto get canned or dried food. Once in a while, he gets a few dried morsels when he is good. The fresh food I cook for him, I freeze until it is used. This is what Otto eats twice a day:

• Meats. Buy something cheap like chicken, turkey, beef, not too fat. Preferably two different kinds. No bones.
• Liver. If I forget the liver (which I have at times), Otto sulks. Usually I get chicken livers. Make sure they are not yellow. Yellow indicates fatty liver - a liver disease.
• Fish. Any ocean fish will do – I take what’s on sale. No bones.
• Plant matter: Either a handful or two of rolled oats. Or a small bag of carrots. Or a bunch of parsley. Or dill. The emphasis is on “or” - cats are no vegetarians; they need a little bit of plant material, but not too much.

Cook until the meats are very soft. Puree. Serve. Love your cat.

News from My Summer Reading Pile

August 14, 2010

Tags: water, order, adrenals, arterial disease, breathing - improved, chronic fatigue, circulation, cold shower, detoxification, diabetes type II, exercise, fatigue, Georges Simenon, glands, gout, high blood pressure, hangover, hemorrhoids, immune function, James Bond, lungs, Maigret - Commissaire, mood enhancer, mystery, News from My Summer Reading Pile, obesity, ovaries, pain - chronic, pituitary, respiratory health, rheumatic diseases, Simenon - Georges, skin health, testes, thyroid, varicose veins

Remember my summer reading list? Slowly I am making my way through, devouring one Commissaire Maigret after the other. This is what I found:

“He had a bath, followed by a cold shower, and ate a substantial breakfast while watching the rain fall as continuously as on a November morning. At nine o’clock he had the ballistic expert on the line.” (Excerpt from “Maigret and the Surly Inspector”)

Not only James Bond – Commissaire Maigret also is fond of cold showers! Georges Simenon wrote this story in 1946. Something that was once common wisdom, namely that a cold shower does one good, has mostly been forgotten.

Just as a reminder – here are the benefits of ending each hot shower/bath with a cold shower (don’t do it if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure and/or arterial disease).
A daily cold shower

• boosts immune function
• lifts your mood
• fights fatigue and hangover
• normalizes your blood pressure
• decreases chronic pain
• trains and improves blood circulation – arterial and venous
• detoxifies the body
• deepens breathing, relieving obstructions in the lung
• tones subcutaneous connective tissues
• improves lymphatic circulation
• rejuvenate and heals skin
• regulates the activity of all glands (pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, ovaries/testes
• enhances motivation for physical exercise
• is helpful in diabetes, obesity, gout, rheumatic diseases, chronic fatigue, varicose veins and hemorrhoids
• regulates sympathetic/parasympathetic nerve system (the non-voluntary part of the nerve system) to an optimum

Now that the water is summer-warm it is the perfect time to begin cold showers. In February, it will be murder – I am screaming every time I have to get into the cold shower. But I do get in!

Life Is Not Fair

August 5, 2010

Tags: order, fairness, life, Life Is Not Fair

Life is not fair! How often have you said that, and grumbled?

Poor, rich, healthy sick, gifted, dumb, beautiful, ugly - most attributes come to us unbidden, and are unfair. This is a lesson we have to learn in life, if we want or not.

The world is not a fair place - the only thing that is in our hand is making it a fairer place.

We can lend a hand to the down-trodden; or we can kick them down a bit more. In most cases, nobody will see it.

Only we ourselves know what we have done - and we have to live with ourselves - with our friendly self, with our mean self - for the rest of our lives.

Loved Ones

August 1, 2010

Tags: order, black thoughts, family, family reunion, hiking, love, loved ones, Loved Ones, rich and famous, saving the world

What is the most important part of your life? Your job of saving the world? Your career as a great artist? Becoming rich and famous?

Mine is my family. The small one and the wider one. We have yearly family reunions with about fifty people, in different locations so that all have a chance to attend.

But today I am writing about the small part of my family. My husband and son are on a hike. On a rather difficult hike. I am sitting here at home biting my nails. Perhaps my husband should have married a more adventurous wife. I love walking and weekend hikes. But out there, in the real wilderness, I could not even carry my own backpack.

What if …

What if something happens to them?

We all have those black thoughts, and what they teach us is that we should love and care while it lasts, because even in the best of cases, it will not last forever.

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!!



On a Rainy Summer Day: Read!

July 29, 2010

Tags: order, African-American, Austen - Jane (1775-1817), Barbery - Muriel (born 1969), biography, books, Brontë sisters, cello, Chesterton - G.K (1874-1936), China, Chinese, Colbin - Annemarie, declutter, Dickens - Charles (1812-1870), Father Brown, gardening, Hill - Laurence (born 1957), Kleist - Heinrich von (1777-1811), Kuriyama - Shigehisa, lightning, Loti - Pierre Ebert (1850-1923), Maigret - Commissaire, Mantel - Hilary (born 1952), Mitchell - David (born 1969), Mittelmark - Howard, Mungello - David (1943), mysteries, Newman - Sandra, novel, philosophy, On a Rainy Summer Day: Read!, Oshinsky - David (born 1944), polio, rain, reading, Rowley - Hazel (1951-1911), Simenon - Georges (1903-1989), Stead - Christina (1902-1983), Stewart - Katherine Silberger, summer reading list, swimming, writing, yoga

What are you doing if it is raining? Do you let it ruin your day/your summer/your life?

This is what I do (not to mention that not everyone is on vacation, of course):

Declutter. I take one corner in my house, and start. I plan to do only ten minutes, but if I get carried away and stick with it longer, so be it. Yesterday, although it was not raining, I started in my study. Because it needed it sorely– and heat can be just as forbidding for the outdoors as rain is.

Play the cello. Still badly. But since my recent summer camp, with 120 adorable kids (I was one of them), I extended my repertoire to jazz and swing. Really fun!

Read. And this is what I want to write about today: my summer reading list. One summer, in Maine, I read one Dickens novel after the other; another summer, I tackled Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. This year’s is without rhyme and reason – just what tickles my fancy:

• This summer, I want to read as many of Georges Simenon’s mysteries as I can get my hands on. Superintendent Maigret is the hero. So far, I have read about six. A joy to rediscover him.
• G.K Chesterton’s Complete Father Brown Stories. Finished already. These mysteries did not age quite as well as Commissaire Maigret’s but if you like an old-fashioned, Catholic sleuth – this is for you.
• David Oshinsky, Polio: An American Story. If you grew up in the fifties, this one will touch you.
• Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall. Won the Booker Prize. A engrossing novel about Henry VIII, Anna Boleyn and the whole mess they created. Beautifully densely written – not for breezing through.
• Howard Mittelmark, Sandra Newman, How NOT to Write a Novel. This is a re-read for me. Easy to read, and instructive.
• Christina Stead, by Hazel Rowley. If you read Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, you might want to learn more about the life of its Australian author.
• David Mungello, The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500 to 1800. Is on my reading list because of the Chinese novel I am writing. Probably too scholarly for the average reader.
• David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Also a must-read for my Chinese project – but more fun.
• Another reread: Annemarie Colbin, Food and Healing. There are so many interesting details that once in a while I have to take it out again.
• Shigehisa Kuriyama, The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine. Very interesting, very philosophical. Kuriyama teaches at Harvard.
• The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery. An intelligent delight – finished it already.
• Pierre Ebert Loti, An Iceland Fisherman. Warmly recommended by my friend Diana. This is an old book – from 1886. A different pace, a different voice than what we are used to now.
• Laurence Hill, Someone Knows My Name. A gripping tale about African slaves coming over the ocean to our shores, against their will.
• And an enjoyable little fluff: Yoga Mamas, by Katherine Silberger Stewart. Fluff - but taking yoga serious.
• And my old stand-by, perhaps the best story ever written in German: The Marquise of O, by Heinrich von Kleist.

I get my books either from the library or buy used – otherwise I could not sustain my reading addiction.

This is what I could do: Go for a swim in the rain. It’s exhilarating. Just make sure there is no danger of lightning. Every year, about one hundred people are killed in the US by lightning, mostly in the southeast. Worst state is Florida; Alaska is safe – you guessed it.

Or go deadheading the roses and dahlias in the rain. Might be adventurous too. Because, as I always say, Nature build me water-tight: No rain gets through my skin.

Beautiful Feet

July 28, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, athlete's foot, back pain, Beautiful Feet, essential oils, feet, gluten, gluten intolerance, headache, heels - cracked, high heels, hips, knees, myrrh, neck pain, olive oil, orthopedics, podiatry, rosemary, slumping, tea tree oil, thyme, toe nail fungus, walking

It is summer, and we are showing our feet. You rather want to hide yours? Here are two, no three beauty tips:

1. Walk on your feet. Feet are beautiful when they are functional. Feet that are not used become ugly.

As a child, I had the ugliest feet you can imagine. I only learned walking when I was three. Then I had to wear orthopedic boots until I was eight. Needless to say, I never enjoyed walking. – Fast forward: I found out my problem were not my feet but gluten intolerance. I started walking – really enjoying it – and my feet have become beautiful over time.

2. Don’t wear high heels – or wear them as little as possible. High heels twist your whole body out of shape, not only your feet.

Many years ago, in Germany, I consulted a physician for headaches. He looked at me, looked slowly down at my body, fixed his stare on my feet and said: “No wonder, with those flat feet!” – If you wear high heels, it affects your hips, your knees, and your entire spine (low back pain, slumping, neck pain!).

3. Against toe nail fungus, cracked heels, calluses (except for corns, they need special treatment - perhaps by a podiatrist): Apply tea tree oil to your feet; put extra attention on your toe nails. Then rub your feet with olive oil – same stuff you cook with. It is nice to add a drop of essential oil like rosemary, thyme, myrrh to a small bottle – gives an extra nice scent. In the beginning, treat your feet twice a day; later, when they look beautiful, do it once a day.

You’ll never want to hide your feet again!

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

July 27, 2010

Tags: order, adrenalin, alcohol, breakfast, cheese, chemicals - harmful, computer, dairy, DNA repair, fast - nightly, feet - cold, feet - warm, grapes, insomnia, meal, melatonin, milk, radiation, repair, sleep, sleeplessness, snack, socks, soporific, To Sleep or Not to Sleep, tryptophan, TV, wet socks, wine

We all have heard that the tryptophan in milk, cheese or turkey makes us fall asleep faster – so off we go and enjoy a little snack at bedtime. I guess even doctors have given that advice.

It is bad advice. Tryptophan does not do the trick – and melatonin from wine or grapes does not do much either. Alcohol is the worst soporific because it makes you fall asleep by dampening down your brain - only your brain recovers and gets over-excited. So, you won't sleep long.

One should have the last meal not later than six or seven pm - and NOT have a snack before turning in to bed. We call it breakfast because we are supposed to break the nightly fast in the morning. If we eat late, the body is busy digesting instead of sleeping and repairing. Repair is crucial because daily we are exposed to harmful chemicals and radiation that break DNA strands which could lead to cancer.

The two things that help falling asleep easier are:

1. Going to bed with the early signs of tiredness. For most people that would be between eight and ten. If you then watch TV or sit at the computer, you get a second wind and sleep the worse for it. As a doctor who did many nights of duty, I know that one can experience even get a third and fourth and so on wind if needed – adrenalin always gets us going - but it is definitely not healthy.

2. Warm feet make you fall asleep as a study showed; cold feet keep you up. Taking a warm foot bath, or going to bed with socks might help. Perhaps you even one day you try the crazy-sounding “wet socks” - an old-world sleep remedy. I have tried them – they help: You need two pairs of socks; preferably one cotton, one wool, but both cotton works, too. Wet the cotton pair with cold water (as cold as comes from the faucet), wring lightly; they should be wet but not dripping. Put on the woolen pair of socks on top of it. You can wrap your feet in a towel if you want – but a bit of moisture does not hurt your bedding. Sleep.

You will sleep like a baby. If you wake in the night, you may remove towel and socks. But you might not wake until the morning.

Berries - Gift of Summer

July 26, 2010

Tags: food, order, Amelanchier, anti-aging, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-depressant, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidants, Aronia, berries, Berries - Gift of Summer, bilberry, blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, Celtis, chokeberry, cholesterol-lowering, cloudberry, cranberry, crowberry, currants, depression, dewberry, diabetes type II, elderberry, Empetrum, falberry, Fragaria, gooseberry, greens, growing berries, hackberry, Hippophae rhamnoides, huckleberry, high blood pressure, immune-regulating, lingonberry, liver protection, loganberry, Morus spp., mulberry, olallieberry, olfactory nerves, phyto-nutrients, picking berries, raspberry, Ribes spp., Rubus chamaemorus, Rubus loganobaccus, Rubus parviflorus, Rubus phoenicolasius, Rubus spectabilis, Rubus spp., salmonberry, Sambucus, sea-buckthorn, seasons, serviceberry, skin cancer, smell, smelling the roses, strawberry, sun protection, super-foods, tayberry, thimbleberry, Vaccinium spp, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, vegetables, walking, whortleberry, wineberry

You know by now that I don’t believe in super-foods. We are supposed to eat a variety of foods, always changing with the seasons. Now is berry time!

Not everything we call a berry is one in the narrow botanical sense. But I am talking about food here – so let’s take it loosely. This list is not exhaustive – just mouth-watering:

* Bilberry or whortleberry (Vaccinium spp.)
* Blackberry - many kinds: dewberry, boysenberry, olallieberry, and tayberry (Rubus spp.)
* Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.)
* Chokeberry (Aronia)
* Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
* Cranberry (Vaccinium spp.)
* Crowberry (Empetrum spp.)
* Currants: red, black, white (Ribes spp.),
* Elderberry (Sambucus - be careful: some are poisonous)
* Falberry (Vaccinium spp.)
* Gooseberry (Ribes spp.)
* Hackberry (Celtis spp.)
* Huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.)
* Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
* Loganberry (Rubus loganobaccus)
* Mulberry - black and white (Morus spp.)
* Raspberry (Rubus spp.)
* Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)
* Sea-buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
* Serviceberry (Amelanchier)
* Strawberry (Fragaria spp.)
* Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
* Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius)

In summer, we have the duty – and the joy – of eating berries - I am eating fresh blueberries right now. Mentioning that berries are full of anti-oxidants might bore you to tears because you have heard it so often. But it’s the truth, nevertheless.

Health benefits of anti-oxidants:

• Anti-aging
• Protects the skin against sun damage. Yes you heard right: EATING stuff protects you against skin cancer … maybe better than slobbering sunscreen all over you. Best, of course, might be a combination of both. And even more important: sunhat and long sleeves.
• Anti-cancer
• Reduce high blood pressure.
• Anti-inflammatory (and as many diseases are mediated through inflammation, this is a godsend).
• Protects the liver (which is the organ that does all the work detoxifying your body).
• Anti-bacterial
• Immune-regulating
• Anti-diabetic
• Lower cholesterol
• Anti-depressant

And these are only a few of the benefits of eating berries. They are probably as true for eating your greens and other vegetables. But since berries are so much more delicious – just do your duty and eat them!

You can also plant some in your garden or on the balcony (I used to keep blueberries in containers). And go out for a long walk in the countryside, with a friend and a can, and pick berries for free. Because now is the time!

I think (and this now is totally subjective) that berries are sent to us so that we stock up on wholesome phyto-nutrients in order to survive the next winter better.

And since I am at it, I might as well mention that I believe smelling the roses (and other flowers) at this time of the year, will get us through the next winter without too much of the winter blues. Pure speculation, of course … but then again, the nose and the olfactory nerves are in the vicinity of our brain.

The Troubles

July 22, 2010

Tags: order, alcohol, attitude, charity, clutter, children, coughing, debts, drama, dreams, drugs – recreational, family, finances, forgiveness, gossip, gratefulness, hand washing, helping out, loneliness, mayhem, perseverance, reading, recycling, relationship, responsibility, sneezing, spirituality, tardiness, text-messaging, The Troubles, troubles, TV, water

Are you addicted to drama and mayhem in your life?

Are you living within your financial means?
Do you start projects and never finish them?
Are you always having boyfriend/girlfriend trouble?
Do you waste water?
Are you patient with children?
Are you gossiping?
Do you think at the end of your life you will be held responsible?
Are you holding on to old grudges?
Do you wash your hands after you used the bathroom?
Do you say “please” and “thank you” often?
Are you friendly with your family, even if you find them difficult?
Do you watch brainless TV programs?
Are you taking recreational drugs and/or excessive alcohol?
Do you reach out when you feel lonely?
Are you always late?
Do you cover your mouth when you sneeze/ cough?
Do you read a book once in a while?
Are you text-messaging when you drive?
Do you think the world and the people in it owe you something?
Have you given to charity in the last month?
Are you neighborly?
Are you eating more than your share at the table - given that there are about ten billion people who also want to eat?
Do you work hard for your dreams?
Is your house cluttered?
Do you recycle?
Do you lend a helping hand – even to strangers?

Are you the problem – or are you part of the solution to the problem?

Salt Water Nose Rinse

July 20, 2010

Tags: water, order, food, food allergies, food - spicy, bacteria, beverage - ice-cold, chill, colds - acute, dairy, dander, draft, dust, exhaustion, hay fever, high blood pressure, infection, milk, mites, mucus, nose rinse, ocean, phlegm, pollen, salt, salt water, Salt Water Nose Rinse, sea salt, sinusitis - acute and chronic, sleep - sufficient, sneezing, thermos, virus

This water application sounds a bit gross on first encounter. But a salt water nose rinse works well in acute colds, acute and chronic sinusitis, hay fever and sneezing attacks, regardless of their cause, because the rinse flushes out dust, pollen, mites, dander, viruses, bacteria and all kinds of irritating debris from the nasal passages. Therefore, it shortens acute infections and relieves chronic problems.

Take a quarter teaspoon of table or sea salt in a glass of lukewarm water. Stir, lick: Its saltiness should be somewhere between that of the ocean and your tears. Now put a bit of the saltwater into your palm and sniff it up one nostril. It might feel like you are drowning – but you are not. Spit out the phlegm that comes down in the back of your nose. Do the other side. Finish the other side.

This can be done many times a day, especially with an acute cold. For many chronic conditions, it might be enough to do it twice a day. Contraindications: If you tend to have high blood pressure, rinse out your mouth afterward and swallow none of the salty phlegm that will still come down after a few minutes due to the cleansing action of the nose rinse. If the fluid stings or burns in your nose, you might have too little or too much salt; experiment!

A few other tips for chronic sinusitis:

• Avoid all milk and dairy products as they are mucus-producing.
• Avoid ice-cold beverages because they can trigger sneezing attacks and exacerbate asthma. Drink hot beverages – lemon and honey seems to soothe chronic sinusitis. Herbal teas are healing: linden, elderberry flowers, honeysuckle, fennel, thyme, and so on.
• Interestingly, getting chilled might affect some people with chronic conditions. Avoiding cold, draft and having a hot beverage (thermos!) before getting out of bed, might do the trick of warming up.
• Exhaustion depletes immune function; getting enough rest and sleep is especially important in children and adolescents.
• Avoid spicy foods.
• Look for triggering food allergens.

Summer Fare

July 19, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, order, almonds, apple, asparagus, bread - multigrain, cabbage - red, cherries, chicken, corn on the cob, crab meat, dill, food - seasonal, freshness, fruit, lamb - braised, lentils, lobster, mandarins, mayonnaise, moderation, mushrooms, mussels, nuts, olive oil, onion, pear, pineapple, salt and pepper, shrimp salad, seasons, sesame seeds, strawberries, summer, Summer Fare, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, walnuts, watermelon

In the summer, we don’t like to eat heavy foods. We have a natural tendency, an innate knowledge, to eat lighter in hot weather. Braised lamb red, cabbage and sweet potatoes is a combination I would not serve now; in the fall, with temperatures down, it will be delicious.

Here is a recipe for a light shrimp salad, easy to make:

• About five to ten cooked shrimps per person. Remove tails and slice the shrimp lengthwise. (Instead of shrimp, cooked lobster, chicken, mussels, crab meat, mushrooms would work).
• Add an onion, finely chopped.
• A can of mandarins or pineapples, or fresh apple or pear (or whatever fruit, you fancy).
• Walnuts or almonds or whatever nuts.
• A bit salt and pepper.
• Fresh or dried dill (or any herb).
• And mayonnaise – as little as possible. I prefer a mayonnaise made with olive oil. You can stretch the mayonnaise with juice from the mandarin can, or with a few drops of olive oil; or both.
• Serve the shrimp salad with corn on the cob, broiled (with sunflower or sesame seeds and olive oil) asparagus, and lentils or a multi-grain bread.
• End the meal with fresh fruit – a watermelon or cherries or strawberries from the field.

This is a good example how I cook: I use what I have at hand and what is fresh and in season and therefore cheap. It never tastes the same twice. And never ever ask me: How much? I am a “feeling” cook, not a measuring one.

This is a Sunday dish. Eating mayonnaise every day is not such a good idea for the waist line – even if it is finger-licking good. By the way, if you have a mixer, you can make your own mayonnaise: Separate eggs into yolks and egg white (use the whites for making meringues later). Beat the yolks until they stiffen a bit. Drop by drop add olive oil – never stop beating, slowly first, then faster. The secret is in never to add too much oil at a time so that the mayonnaise does not curdle. Takes five minutes to make.

Summer fare is about freshness and moderation. Thinking about it: It's the same in the winter. Except that in the summer, the heat helps you with the moderation part - it curbs our appetites.

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.

Truth in Wine

July 13, 2010

Tags: water, food, order, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, bacteria, cancer, diabetes type II, dolmades, food, French Paradox, fungi, grapes, grape juice, heart disease, meals - shared, phyto-nutrients, resveratrol, sleep, supplement, Truth in Wine, vine, vitamins, wine

Resveratrol - a phyto-nutrient in red wine - is the wonder “drug” that is credited with the so-called French Paradox, namely that the French smoke more and eat more fat, and still have less heart disease, is explained by this. Even doctors now recommend a daily glass of wine.

I dunno. Perhaps their better health might have to do with that the French mostly eat fresh food, take two or three hours for their biggest meal of the day to share with family and friends, and have it more often at midday than in the evening. And they sleep more.

Not to take away from the wonderful goods resveratrol delivers in the body. Resveratrol is an anti-oxidant produced by the vine that gives us wine to fight off attacks by fungi and bacteria. In mice and rats, resveratrol has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Allegedly, it also prolongs life (no real proof yet!).

It sounds like this is the stuff we should eat.

But should we eat it as a supplement? Probably not.

Every time we find a super drug,” a few years later it turns out that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Besides, resveratrol supplements are not made from the real thing – they are synthesized in a factory.

So, have a little red wine now and then – definitely not daily. Drink water for thirst. And eat dolmades - those Greek/Turkish vine leaves filled with rice and/or meat. What the wine advertisers don’t tell you: There is quite a bit more of resveratrol in vine leaves than in wine – and without the intoxicating effects. Unfortunately, there is even less in grapes and grape juice.

Interestingly, even if one takes high doses of resveratrol, only very little of cab be detected in the blood – your liver hurries to turn this “super drug” ineffective very quickly by changing its chemistry. To me this says: Don’t overdose on this drug! The body does not like it in high doses. As many phyto-nutrients, they should be taken often but in small doses, and that is best accomplished by eating a varied diet - like our ancestors the cave men did.

P.S. Occasionally, I get asked if "once in a while" it is okay to take a supplement. Because we don't always get around to eat healthili.

To which I answer: We should. - But apart from that: If one takes a supplement, it should probably be a low-dosed vitamin or anti-oxidant. Because taking high-dosed supplements adds to the toxic burden.

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