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

Is It January – Or Is It Me?

January 15, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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