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

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.

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.

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.

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!
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

Tags - see also the non-captalized entries below!