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Signs and Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning

October 4, 2016

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

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

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

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


Signs and Symptoms

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

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

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.

Diseases of the Gut Show at Your Skin

September 5, 2013

Tags: food, abscess, African-American, ageing, armpit, axilla, bloating, boil, cancer, cheese, chronic diseases, dairy, diabetes, diagnosis, digestive system, Diseases of the Gut Show at Your Skin, disfiguring, female, fish oil, fistula, genetics, gluten intolerance, gut, hidradenitis suppurativa, hormones, inflammation, inflammatory, lumps, Mediterranean, non-foods, obesity, overweight, painful, pilonidal cyst, pizza, probiotics, prognosis, pus, rash, relapse, resolution, skin disease, sugar, sweating, sweat glands, sweets, swelling, vegetables, weight loss

Less than a month ago, a young woman in her mid-twenties called me for “lumps in my armpit”. Now, that can be a thousand different things, not all easy to diagnose, some with dire prognosis. So, I told her I needed to see her.

She came, and the diagnosis needed one look only: Hidradenitis suppurativa. This poorly understood skin disease can’t be confused with any other: The patient has multiple red swellings and scars in the axilla, sometimes at other areas, too. You could describe it as boils in the armpit. They are painful and disfiguring. Conventional medicine describes them as inflamed sweat glands (which is what “hidradenitis” means, and suppurativa means “leaking pus”). They are similar to boils, pilonidal cysts, chronic abscesses, fistulas and different kinds of cysts. They might be exacerbated by hormones, excessive sweating, and overweight. Genetic factors clearly play a role – hidradenitis suppurativa is more common in females, and in people of Mediterranean and African-American descend.

Medicine might not understand the cause of it, but any layperson can see that hidradenitis suppurativa is a highly inflammatory disease. This young, pretty woman was slightly chubby – not badly, indeed. But I advised her to eat more vegetables with olive oil, and leave out all sugars and dairy products, as the most inflammatory foods. She also was bloated and had a family history of gluten problems, so I asked her to leave out gluten, too; at least for a few months. I also recommended anti-inflammatory fish oil and probiotics to help her poor, inflamed bowels to heal.

What happened to the young woman? - Within two weeks, she was dramatically better and had lost some pounds, and all the bloating. I never counsel to lose weight; I recommend a better diet, and the weight loss will follow automatically. She was happy about the result.

Unfortunately, then she went to a party where she indulged in all the wrong foods, including pizza, cheese, and sweets. The boils immediately recurred. I was not worried about the relapse: It only confirmed what she had learned: That what she eats has a beneficial or not so beneficial effect on her digestive system, and her health. – Her choice, really.

I know that at this age, all the young woman wants is to look good and be able to were a sleeveless top, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I will make a prognosis – even if I might not be around to see the result: If this twenty-five year old will be able to stick to her resolutions (at least most of the time), she one day will be vibrant fifty-year old. If not, she will go the way most people go in our society that adores foods that I’d call “non-foods” – and she will experience obesity, diabetes, cancer and the myriad of chronic diseases that seem to pop out of nowhere as we age. – Let’s see which way she chooses …

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.

Vegan And Vegetarian – Again

February 13, 2012

Tags: food, animal, animal husbandry, biking, BMI, body, brain, coconut oil, compassion, cow, detoxification, duck fat, eating grubs, ethnic background, evolution, evolutionary make-up, fasting, fat, fish, flesh, free-roaming, genetics, geographical background, grains, grass, grass-fed, gratitude, green smoothie, insects, junk food, lion, living web, local, marathon, meat, nature, nutrition, obesity, olive oil, omnivores, organic, overweight, prayer, pregnancy, spirit, starving, stomach contents, vegan, Vegan And Vegetarian – Again, vegetable-broth fasting, vegetables, vegetarian, weight

We are, by evolution, omnivores, my friend. Way back we ate grubs - be pleased that I don't do that anymore. But I would, in a starving situation.

If I don't eat meat once in a while, I get weak - I tried it. I am small and slim (BMI around 21). Meat is on the table about once a week. Fish three times, vegetarian three times.

Occasionally, I do vegetable-broth fasting for detox. I cook and eat several fresh vegetables every day. I make green smoothies every day. But my body tells me that it needs meat and fats (good fats, like coconut, olive, duck). If I don't eat fat, I get voracious and crabby.

Besides, I have the same weight since age twelve ... I must be doing something right.

Having kept my weight (except for pregnancies - I gained twenty pounds with my daughter, and forty with my son, bouncing right back to my normal weight immediately - umh, with some attention and work) all my life, of course, disqualifies me to dispense advice - because overweight people think it is sheer luck that I am slim. I have a chubby sister and a heavy brother (I love them dearly – and worry about them); I have one slim brother - no, it's not genes! - he is the one who commutes by bike and ran a marathon.

My basic idea about nutrition is that we all are coming from different ethnic, geographical backgrounds and therefore really need slightly different foods. What works for me, might not necessarily work for you. What we don't need, however, is industrial junk labeled as "food".

But: In nature, there is no "vegetarian" or "vegan" animal, really. A cow in the meadow gobbles up tons of insects with the grass it is eating. A lion, when devouring its prey, goes for the stomach contents first - which contain grasses and grains.

We all belong to the same living web. Our brains don't make us superior, or different. Thinking you should be "vegetarian" or "vegan" does not make you so; it does not alter your evolutionary make-up and the ancient requirements of body … and spirit.

Lastly, having said that, I am compassionate for the animals who will die for me. The rare times I eat meat, it is organic, grass-fed, free-roaming, preferably local. The animals should be kept humanely, and killed swiftly. I say a prayer over each fish or flesh that goes through my kitchen - not a religious prayer - a prayer of gratitude.

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.

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.

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,

Oryx Goulash and Kalahari Truffles - Namibian Dishes

March 30, 2011

Tags: food, antelope, Bantu tribes, beans – green, carrots, coleslaw, family secrets, French truffles, goulash, Hungarian goulash, Kalahari Desert, Kalahari truffles, Oryx Goulash and Kalahari Truffles - Namibian Dishes, mushrooms, Namibia, Namibian Dishes, olive grove, olive oil, Oryx Goulash, Ovambos, pork belly - smoked, rainy season, rice, savannah, sweet potatoes – caramelized, truffles, vegetables, vinegar, yogurt

Namibians have, because of their relative lack of vegetable farming, more meat (and no fish) in their diet – similar to Patagonia. Here are two dishes I especially liked:

Kalahari truffles
During rainy season – of which we surely got the brunt – Kalahari truffles pop up everywhere in the savannah. They are extremely tasty and sought after. But don’t think they will be showing easily: They make themselves noticeable by a tiny crack in the ground, and that crack is extremely hard to find, especially this year, with the very high grasses after the heavy rains.

Our friends live at the skirts of the Kalahari Desert but don’t find the truffles themselves. Ovambos collect the mushrooms that look more or less like sandy potato. The Ovambos are a loose connection of Bantu tribes, and make up the majority of people in Namibia; white people hover around six percent. So, politically, the political power is securely in Ovambo hands.

I’m not sure if the Ovambos follow their noses; the Kalahari truffle has that exquisite earthy aroma I know so well from European mushrooms, predominantly the so-called steinpilz (stone mushroom). One Ovambo woman seemed to be the expert; she offered several loads of truffles, all of which we gladly bought. She might have known the places where the truffles thrive - family secrets handed down in families from generation to generation.

We had a feast with Kalahari truffles, which need to be scrubbed extensively – but in truth, one never gets rids of the sand completely – and peeled. Inside they are light-colored, not black like French truffles. When cooked, they have firm flesh. We sautéed the mushrooms in olive oil with onions and ground oryx (antelope) meat. Side dishes: green beans and caramelized sweet potatoes. - Leftover mushroom are peeled, blanched and frozen, to be used later.

Oryx Goulash
Oryx are the most abundant meat deliverers in the area where I stayed with my friends. Without them, neither the white people nor the Ovambos could survive in Namibia. The goulash was made again with lots of onions and plenty of olive oil. Wild animals have no visible fat, so oryx dishes require much olive oil. My friends had harvested the oil themselves, under much hardship – hoeing the large olive grove by hand. The onions and the meat simmered for about two hours with pepper, salt and thyme until the goulash was just right – tomatoes might have made the goulash more Hungarian, I guess. We served the goulash with rice and two different kinds of coleslaw: one with carrots and yogurt, one with smoked pork belly and vinegar.

Congee and Beans

February 28, 2011

Tags: food, water, herbs, amino acids, Asia, bean salad, botulism, breakfast, butter beans, cabbage – sour, chelating, China, congee – recipe, cilantro, Congee and Beans, cravings, detoxification, dill, easy meal, economical meal, fermented foods, garbanzos, garlic, gluten-free, grape leaves, Greece, Herbes de Provence, herbs – dried, herbs – fresh, herbs – Italian beans, Hippocrates, Japan, Kellogg - John Harvey (1852-1943), Kellogg - Will Keith (1860-1951), legumes, lunch, maple syrup, marjoram, microwave, olive oil, parsley, pressure cooker, refrigeration, resveratrol, rice – brown, rice – short, rice cooker, Russia, tarragon, vegetables, pickles, salt and pepper, sauerkraut, savory, sweet tooth, umeboshi plum paste, Your food be your medicine

Surely, I've been stressing my mantra "Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables" on this blog; without vegetables, no health.

Think of congee and beens as "fast" vegetables. They don't substitute for greens and roots and cabbages. But congee for breakfast and beans for lunch keep me going all day until I arrive at my vegetable-laden dinner table. The amino acids in congee and beans complement each other to a full, nourishing set, and congee and beans have this in common: They are easy to make and very economical – I bet you can’t come up with a healthier meal that’s less expensive.

• Congee: This Asian dish is basically rice cooked with lots and lots of water into a very satisfying thick soup. If you think you know rice, and don’t like it, try congee. To me it always tastes like it was made in heaven by some motherly, nourishing angel. Here is how you make it yourself:

If you have a rice cooker with a congee setting (which I don’t), you have it easy. I use a pressure cooker. One cup of brown rice – preferably the short, sticky variety – to two cups of water. Cook for about ten minutes. After cooling, add three to four cups more water. Cook for another ten minutes or so (I know my recipes are awfully vague; that’s how I cook – you figure out your own way). The pressure cooker method works better if you do it in two steps rather than pouring in all the water in the beginning. If, on the other hand, you have only a simple, big pot, you let the rice simmer on very low heat for several hours. If needed, add more water.

One cup of dry rice, transformed into congee, fills about four big breakfast bowls. You serve it with any kind of fermented pickles – sauerkraut being very good and cheap. (Look up my old blog on fermented foods if you are not familiar with their health benefits). Chinese traditionally have some nice pickles – but it has to be the fermented kind, not the modern processed stuff, and the fermented pickles are not longer found easily. I have used sour cabbage from the Russian store, or Greek marinated grape leaves (high in resveratrol!). Japanese have great fermented things like umeboshi plum paste. You only need a little bit for a whole bowl. Whatever you like. But don’t do sweet stuff like maple syrup – the congee needs fermented foods. Anything sweet will only feed your sweet tooth. And it is not written in stone that a breakfast needs to be sweet – that is the Kellogg brothers' invention, I suspect.

I always add a liberal amount of olive oil because otherwise it won’t last me until lunch. By the way, you may add a pinch of salt to your bowl – but fermented foods usually provide all the saltiness you may want.

This breakfast has one great advantage: Filling without stuffing, it squashes all cravings – and makes you go until lunch without ever thinking of food.

• Beans: I apologize to the purists among you, but I use canned beans. Of course, one can also soak beans overnight and cook them – but I have more interesting things to do. When you buy canned beans, make sure they have no additives – they should be beans and water, nothing else.

You open a can of beans and heat the contents (including the fluid) in a small pot to a boil. Add olive oil (I can’t even think of life without olive oil!), and pinch of salt and pepper. Toss in a handful of fresh or a table spoon full of dried herbs: Dill and parsley turn a boring can of beans a festive and health meal. Tarragon goes beautifully with garbanzos (which, technically are no beans, but belong to the legume family), marjoram or savory are great with butter beans, Italian herbs or Herbes de Provence plus garlic make dark beans a spectacular meal. Cilantro goes with everything – again add some garlic, and you already have a detoxifying, chelating medicine – “Your food be your medicine” as Hippocrates already said. We can now buy so many different kinds of canned beans. Find out what you like – and then rotate, because it is not good to eat the same fare every day.

If you can’t warm up your beans at midday at work on a stove (don’t use a microwave!), you can also make a bean salad (same ingredients, just drain the fluid of, and perhaps cut a small onion into the mix). But keep your beans refrigerated at all times, as they are prone to botulism germs when left at room temperature longer than two hours. And, hopefully you know better than use a bulging can of beans – discard it!

And then, as they say: Enjoy!

P.S. Did you notice that congee and beans are perfectly gluten-free? No-sweat gluten-free!

My Food Pyramid Is Topped By Freshness

February 20, 2011

Tags: food, arteries – hardening of, beet - red, blueberries – frozen, bok choy, butternut squash, cabbage – white, caraway, cell repair, chard – red, cauliflower, chana dal, cilantro, cod, development – stunted, diabetes, dill, eating well, fats – hardened, food - enhanced, food - enriched, food - improved, food - manipulated, food - processed, food - ready-made, food ersatz, food pyramid, food substitute, freshness, garlic, Government, green sauce, hake, high blood pressure, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, My Food Pyramid Is Topped By Freshness, obesity, olive oil, parsnips, pineapple mousse, quinoa – red, ribs - grass-fed, salt, shelf-life, split peas, sugar, vegetables

If the Government would ask me for my opinion of redesigning the food pyramid – which they won't because they go the food industry – this single principle would guide my food choices: Freshness.

There actually is no other food than fresh food; everything processed, enriched, manipulated, enhanced, improved, ready-made is not food but inferior food substitute. “Food ersatz” cannot build and repair cells as fresh food can – the outcome is stunted development and disease in the long run.

If you think you are doing yourself a favor by eating, for instance an apple-flavored nutritional bar – think again. That bar has too much sugar and salt, to start with, promoting obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure – cornerstones of the metabolic syndrome. Its ingredients are made to have a long shelf-life. Why would you want to eat something even mold doesn’t want to touch? Its oils a hardened to make them not go rancid quickly – and in turn those hardened fats will harden your arteries. Its apple flavor is artificial and does not what a daily apple does so well: Keeping the doctor away.

Good health is very easy: Move a bit every day, eat well and get enough rest. Then, love a bit – and you are all set.

The devil of course is in the fine print. What does “eat well” mean? Your mind starts spinning if you listen to all the advice in books, online and on TV. But all you have to know is: freshness. Go to a supermarket aisle and buy four different vegetables. Preferably organic (But organic is second on the list; freshness is first). Prepare a meal today with two of the veggies; another meal tomorrow with the other two.

Here is what we had for dinner yesterday: red beet salad (made from scratch, of course), Chinese baby bok choy, cod with cilantro and dill, split peas; frozen blueberries for desert. Today we will have red chard with garlic and olive oil, butternut squash puree, hake fillet with green sauce, red quinoa; pineapple mousse for desert. Tomorrow I will slow braise grass-fed ribs and white cabbage and parsnips with caraway, and serve it with cauliflower and chana dal; for desert the rest of the pineapple.

None of this takes long cooking (the green sauce I have frozen from last time). But we will have a great dinner every single evening. Ordering a pizza would not give my family the same health benefits.

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.

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 Old Boring Calcium Question

October 25, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The Next Swine Flu Season

September 29, 2010

Tags: flu, H1N1, sleep, swine flu, The Next Swine Flu Season, vegetables

A panel of scientists have concluded that given the high level of immunity in the world wide population, the relative mildness of the H1N1 flu and the low probability that it might mutate to something much more threatening, the next flu season does not need to be marred by fears.

So, don’t fear! Get enough sleep, eat your veggies and enjoy your life!

Dairy IV: The Best of the Bad

August 8, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, addiction, breast discomfort, butter, butter - European cultured, butter - purified, butterfat, calories, cancer, cheese, chocolate milk, cows - grass-fed, cream cheese, crème fraîche, custard, dairy, Dairy IV: The Best of the Bad, fat - saturated, ghee, grains - whole, growth hormomes, hormones, ice cream, infections - milk-borne, inflammatory, kefir, legumes, milk, milk - raw, milk - skim, milk solids, nuts, organic, sugar, sun exposure, vegetables, vitamin D, yogurt, yogurt ice cream

As often as I tell my patients that dairy is unhealthy, they have a hard time abstaining.

So, let’s discuss which form of dairy is the least detrimental.

• Make sure you buy only organic. Commercial milk has extra growth hormones – and dairy is a hormonal food to start with.
• Ice cream: Probably the most unhealthy form of dairy. Not least because it is laced with sugar. Even yogurt ice cream is discouraged, for that reason. Highly addictive. And not needed in your diet because it has no nutritional value. Get your calcium from vegetables and herbs, whole grains, legumes and nuts, and your vitamin D from moderate sun exposure.
• Same with chocolate milk or any sweetened dairy product, like custards, including all yogurts other than plain ones.
• Cream cheese is made by adding more milk solids to milk. So, it is enriched with milk proteins. A bad idea.
• Cheeses: Never eat anything that is not cultured cheese but “processed.” If it comes in a perfectly square form, don’t eat it. Because nothing in nature comes square. Cheese is best to avoid – it is responsible for much of our present obesity epidemic.
• Raw milk is less adulterated than commercial milk, but you run the risk of unpleasant infections. If you know the farm and the farmer, you might want to take the risk. Still, raw milk naturally contains hormones that might make invisible or already diagnosed cancers grow.
• Whole milk is better than skim milk because it is less processed. It also contains less protein (because, by definition, skim milk contains less fat; consequently it contains more protein). And I am not worried about the milk fat as much as about the milk proteins because they are allergenic and they are inflammatory.
• Which means that butter and heavy cream are better than whole milk because they contain even less protein. The best, obviously, is ghee – or purified butter, also called butterfat. There the proteins have been skimmed off. Ghee does the least damage as far as inflammation from dairy goes – but you still have to worry about calories. We are less concerned nowadays with saturated fats. In moderation, they seem to be good.
• The best butter would be European cultured butter. No extra growth hormones, preferably from grass-fed cows.
• Yogurt, kefir, crème fraîche are cultured foods with wholesome bacteria (provided no fruit, sweetener, etc. are added). Make no mistake – they are still dairy products with inflammatory capacities, and contain hormones that might trigger cancer. Even worse, they are delicious and highly addictive. Once in a while, celebrating something grand, I allow crème fraîche on the table…

If you consume dairy products, observe how you feel: Do you experience bloating, reflux, joint pains, headaches, breast discomfort, cravings? Or what else? Become aware what dairy does to your body – and try to avoid it.

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.

Freshness

July 16, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, basil, beet greens, bratwurst, cabbage - baby, carrots, cauliflower, chana dal, chives, cilantro, coconut oil, dill, dressing, fennel, fish, freezing, freshness, Freshness, garbanzo, garlic, grains, gravy - ready-made, green sauce, kitchen machine, legumes, microwave, mustard, olive oil, onions, parsley, rhubarb, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, split peas, sugar, thyme, vegetables, zucchini

We cannot eat perfectly healthy every single time we sit down to dine. But we should at least have an idea what the ideal of a meal can be.

Surrounded by friends and family, and outdoors – if possible. Even the tiniest of balconies will do; or an open window. A tablecloth would look lovely; at least a few matching plate mats, and always my best china. For whom would I keep it? My children will inherit what is not broken.

Ah, what for food? The answer is easy: vegetables. Tonight, at my home, it will be fennel – probably sautéed with onions, garlic and olive oil. And a baby cabbage, which I will steam whole with caraway. We will finish a leftover from yesterday (beet greens, cauliflower, young zucchini and green garlic). So, technically, we will have three veggies on the table – and I haven’t even mentioned meat or fish (I might do bratwurst today, in coconut oil – we still have some frozen from our May garden party, and we had fish or vegetarian for several days in a row. Served with chana dal (an Indian small garbanzo; they look like split peas, only yellow. One takes a cup of chana dal to two cups of water, brings it to a fast boil with a pinch of salt, and then simmers with a lid until all water is gone. The problem with chana dal (as with split green peas and most grains) is that they need skimming off some froth early on so that they don’t boil over.

For desert I will quick-cook rhubarb with a bit of sugar. Rhubarb is one of the few things that absolutely can’t go without sugar.

If freshness is the standard, then this is what we eat tonight: The warmed-up vegetables came from a friend’s garden– they were tender and delicious. The fennel is organic, from the supermarket; so is the cabbage. The cabbage and the rhubarb are local, the fennel came from far away. The bratwurst is organic.

Yesterday, with the fish, we had some green sauce – from the freezer. I usually make a batch for guests, and freeze the rest. I never use a microwave (not even for thawing) or use ready-made gravy or dressings, but I am not above freezing leftovers. Here is the Green Sauce recipe (you need a strong kitchen machine – a blender will not do):

Chop five cloves of garlic, a small onion and a handful of baby carrots. Add all the herbs you can put your hands on, one by one, and chop. Basil is a staple – and so are parsley, dill and cilantro. A few snippets of sage, chives, rosemary and thyme give fragrance. Add olive oil, a dab of salt and pepper. If it tastes boring (sometimes it does…), add a few teaspoons of mustard. Chop until fairly smooth. Chill and serve to fish and/or vegetables. Freeze leftover in portions.

If you live in the countryside (or if you have friends who bring you their produce) count your blessings. Otherwise make do with what you find in your supermarket. Organic is desired – but better a conventional vegetable than no vegetable at all! Local is super – but can’t always be had. I never go to the store with a recipe to follow: Number one, I am bad in following rules; number two, I go for what is fresh and what is cheap. I throw together what I think will work (olive oil and garlic rescue many of my dishes).

Brown rice or legumes (beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos) are dry. But vegetables should not be old or store-bought frozen or canned. Go for fresh, and strew on a few fresh or dried herbs. Here I say “dried” because fresh herbs can be very expansive – better dried herbs than no herbs.

No complicated cooking – just fresh produce. Enjoy!

Autoimmune Diseases

July 11, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, food, movement, alfalfa, allergies, aluminum, artemisia, arthritis, astragalus, autism, autoimmune disease, Autoimmune Diseases, barley, bowel problems, Brazil nut, bupleurum, calorie restriction, cannabis, cod liver, cordiceps, cortisone, curcumin, dairy, diabetes type I, diet, deli, fatigue, fat, fibromyalgia, fish, fish oil, gamgungtang, glucosamine, gluten, gluten intolerance, inflammation, kidneys, leaky gut, legumes, light, mercury, multiple sclerosis, muscles, mushrooms, neuropathy, nicotine, oats, olive leaf extract, padma28, parasites - intestinal, photo-sensitivity, pollutants, probiotic, psoriasis, resveratrol, rye, SAD (Standard American Diet), selenium, skin, squalene, statins, sugar, sunburn, sunshine, starches, sweeteners, tea - green, turmeric, thyroid, urticaria, vaccines, vegetables, vitamin D, walking, weight, wheat, Zyflamend

In autoimmune diseases the body’s immune system turns against cells of the own body, slowing destroying them, creating havoc like thyroid problems, allergies, arthritis and muscle weakness, skin afflictions, diabetes type I, neuropathy, autism (at least some forms), fibromyalgia, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, urticaria, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, bowel troubles – and many more.

Autoimmune diseases are on the rise – more people are suffering from them. Doctors are baffled and, on the whole, helpless. Strong medications like cortisone with myriad side-effects are employed, without getting to the root cause of autoimmune diseases.

Some researchers suspect that our modern diet plays a big role; others blame pollutants in the environment or the fact that we have much less intestinal parasites (compared with cave men) which makes the idle immune system turning against the self. Modern medical drugs (to name just one example - statins - that can cause an autoimmune muscle disease) might contribute.

Of course, I don’t have all the answers either – but these are some ideas that helped patients:

• Make sure you don’t have a gluten intolerance. Test are notoriously unreliable; a better idea is to leave out all gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats) and see if you improve. Many people feel so much better already after a week off gluten. Others need up to a year.
• Autoimmune diseases hurt the body at different organs. They all have in common an inflammatory effect. To do away with SAD (Standard American Diet) should therefore be the most important step: No sugar, no sweeteners, no white starches, no dairy (which might be the main culprit here!), no bad fats (nothing fried and processed). Instead: vegetables, vegetables, vegetables – and herbs, legumes, a bit meat and fish (but no deli). If you are not willing to cook for yourself and take yourself out of the mainstream food insanity, my hope for your recovery is slim.
• Moderate exercise: For a minimum, go for a walk everyday. Exercise produces anti-inflammatory molecules in your body.
• Bright light: Get some light outdoors. Not to the point of burning (autoimmune patients often have photo-sensitivity and are prone to easy sunburns). But light is important. If you have dark skin, you need more light. – Vitamin D might be what is protecting. I usually don’t give supplements; going outdoors daily and eating cod liver (delicious!) once a month should do the trick.
• Herbs (don’t take them all at once; try one after the other and give it time to work):

---Resveratrol; a strong anti-oxidant. Remember, there is far more resveratrol in the green vine leaves than in red wine – and nearly none in white wine and grape juice.

---Astragalus has shown some benefit. Just know that allergies are frequent in patients with autoimmune diseases. So, if you show signs of intolerance (upset stomach, aching joints, rash, etc.), stop the herb.

---Turmeric (its main ingredient curcumin) has anti-inflammatory properties is.

---Green tea.

---Korean Gamgungtang.

---Padma28, a Tibetan formula. There are some controversies about this. Talk this through with a knowledgeable physician.

---Zyflamend, a blend of several anti-inflammatory herbs. Make sure you don't have an allergy to any of its components.

---Artemisia (vulgaris and annua) both have shown some anti-inflammatory effects.

---Olive leaf extract.

---Cordiceps, a medicinal mushroom. – Eating mushrooms generally has a good effect on the immune system. Just never eat them raw (they could cause cancer): Always cook mushrooms!

---Alfalfa sprouts.

---Gluscosamine, while not an herb in the strict sense, has shown anti-inflammatory promise.

---Bupleurum, a Chinese medicinal plant.

• Be careful with vaccinations. A link between shots and autoimmune disease is suspected by some researchers. That does not mean you should avoid all vaccinations; just stick to the essential ones. Discuss this with your physician – who hopefully has an open ear for alternatives. The link between vaccines and autoimmune disease might come from the suppressing of the normal function of the body, namely fighting viruses off; or might be a function of certain additives in vaccines like mercury, aluminum and squalene.
• Selenium might be missing in your diet (Brazil nuts have the highest amount of selenium, but most nuts have some; seafoods are more moderate sources of selenium). As you might have noticed, I am no friend of supplements: minerals (and vitamins) from a bottle are not the same, and have even been proven to be harmful by recent studies. – With nuts always stay aware that you might develop an allergy at any time.
• Add some good anti-inflammatory fish oil capsules (you should not belch up a fishy taste!) daily.
• Help your intestines with probiotics. The bowels might be at the root of autoimmune diseases: A chronically inflamed bowel (“Leaky Gut Syndrome”) leads to inflammation in other parts of your body.
• One study showed that calorie restriction might decrease inflammation. I would not aim for weight loss per se; eating a fresh diet might lead to weight loss anyway. But a one-day vegetable broth fast per week (see an earlier blog entry here) might be a good idea. – Interestingly, one study showed that fasting during infectious fevers reduced the risk of developing consequent autoimmune disease.
• Don’t try this at home … but nicotine seems to protect from autoimmune disease. So does cannabis (which is still illegal!).

If you want to know which of all the above ideas are most important – probably these: NO DAIRY, NO GLUTEN!

Composting Is Renewal of Life

July 4, 2010

Tags: order, birds, chipmunk, composting, Composting Is Renewal of Life, compost bins, fauna, fox, fruit, garden clippings, grapevine, herbicides, kitchen refuse, nightshade – deadly, pesticides, raccoons, raking leaves, soil bacteria, soil – compressing, squirrels, stepping stones, turning soil, vegetables, vine, weeds

Years ago, we moved into a house with a garden. The very next day I bought five composting bins. My husband declared that didn’t have my priorities right – with not a single cradle and box unpacked. I could not imagine what could be more important than starting composting.

You know what to throw in, and what not: No proteins – no fish, no meat, no cheeses. But all fruit and vegetable scraps can go in. Books (and better blogs than this) tell you how to layer kitchen refuse with garden clippings. My method is easier: Throw everything in, and let time do its business. With five bins, one is always ready with crumbly dark humus.

Another easy rule governs my gardening: No turning of the soil (except establishing a new bed). I don’t rake leaves in the fall; why would people take out of their garden what would nourish next years’ growth – and even pay to have this garden gold hauled away? The main point is to never ever step on the soil directly to not compress it. There are stepping stones all over my perennial beds and berry patches. That way, the soil bacteria have breathing room to do their good work.

Does my garden look tidy? Surely not. Some neighbors made sneaky remarks the first few seasons. They have long given up. Now everybody stands and stares and comments on the beautiful wild bloom of my garden. Because we don’t spray pesticides or herbicides, all kinds of fauna appear year-round: birds, skunks, raccoons, foxes, chipmunks, squirrels. Non-poisonous weeds I use in the kitchen – for instance the invasive wild vine that has more resveratrol in its leaves than red wine. Just be very aware that Nature can be fierce: deadly nightshade looks confusingly similar to the untrained eye. Know your stuff before you eat it!

If I Had an Incurable Disease...

June 28, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is more:

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

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

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

Syndrome X Everywhere

June 22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dupuytren - The Telltale Sign

June 11, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, alcohol consumption, bloot fats, contracture, dairy, diabetes type II, Dupuytren, Dupuytren - The Telltale Sign, hyperlipidemia, finger, hand, metabolic disorder, palmar fascia, penis, Preyronie's disease, vegetables

Dupuytren is a hardening of the fascia of the palm that leads to a contracture of the fingers – most often the fourth. One can see and feel the hard string right under the skin. Often, the non-dominant hand is involved – but I have seen it in both hands, too.

The cause of Dupuytren is unknown but it clearly runs in families, and seems linked to diabetes, abnormal blood fats, and increased alcohol consumption. It is seen more often in people of Scandinavian descend, and is ten times more common in men than in women.

A similar affliction of the penis is called Peyronie’s disease. One side of the penis shaft gets hardened, which leads to a permanent bend in the organ.

Often a surgeon tries correction – not always successful. Several not-yet satisfying drugs and procedures have been developed.

For me, Dupuytren is one of those diseases which seem to affect only a small part of your body – that funny area there in your hand. In reality, it is a systemic disease, affecting many more organs. I view Dupuytren as a metabolic disorder. Getting lipids under control is of utmost importance. A diet high in vegetables and herbs, no fried or fatty foods, especially no dairy, less meat and no alcohol can soften the hardened fascia and reverse the process.

Bowel Health I: Probiotics

June 9, 2010

Tags: order, food, acne, addiction, advertisements, antibiotics, arteries - clogging of, arthritis, barley, bitters, boredom, bowel health, Bowel Health I: Probiotics, casein, cholesterol - high, colon cancer, dairy, dementia, depression, diabetes type II, diarrhea, frustration, gluten, gut, heart, heart attack, Helicobacter pyloris, high blood pressure, inflammation, intestines, joints, kidneys, mineral absorption, multivitamin, nutrition, oats, obesity, opioids, pancreatitis, probiotic, psoriasis, rye, Standard American Diet (SAD), stroke, urinary tract infection, vegetables, vitamin absorption, wheat

In Natural Medicine, we work with the four elimination organs: kidneys, bowels, lungs and skin. If one is blocked or diseased, the body as a whole suffers.

With the Standard American Diet (SAD), foremost our bowels are ailing. We live in a state of constant intestinal inflammation – and from there the infliction moves to skin (pimples, psoriasis), brain (depression, stroke, dementia), joints (arthritis), heart (heart attack, clogging of arteries. The two diseases that are “systemic”, namely affecting about every single organ in the body, are diabetes and obesity – and they are linked, as we know.

It is not difficult to conclude that the only remedy that will work, is cleaning up our act of how we eat – but for some people, this seems extremely hard. While there a several reasons to collude in making us overeat like advertisements, genetics, boredom, frustration, depression – the biggest reason is addiction. If one does not understand that food can be addictive, one cannot learn to avoid the offending foods like the pest.

Two of the main food culprits – I have mentioned them before – are gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats) and casein (dairy). Interestingly, they are chemically related. Interestingly, both are broken down into opioids – compounds that make you feel good and make you crave more.

To improve bowel health, we have to eat better – and the better eating mostly consists of vegetables, vegetables, vegetables (see, how I am repeating myself). Bitters help better digestion.

Aside from improved nutrition, a daily probiotic may be your best bet for bowel health. Probiotics are healthy bowel bacteria. Probiotics are live microorganisms – bowel bacteria – that belong in your intestines, but are not there because they have been killed off by antibiotic use (which you might have ingested without knowing with animal products) and/or poor diets.

These are the benefits which you might gain from a healthy gut flora: Reduced inflammation across the board, enhanced resistance to all kinds of infections like diarrhea, urinary tract and Helicobacter pylorus infections, increased mineral and vitamin absorption, protection against colon cancer, lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol – to name a few.

Probiotics are not for very small children (before their first birthday) or for patients with acute pancreatitis. Initially, probiotics might cause mighty rumbling in your bowels – so start low, with one capsule/pill per day, and slowly work your way up. If one brand does give you indigestion, try another one. And the more you can down (and afford), probably the better; think about reforesting: taking one capsule can be likened to planting a single tree.

We know that probiotics work – but we don’t know how. One study seemed to suggest that it does not matter whether the bacteria are alive or dead – they worked anyway. And they don’t seem to have lasting effects – only as long as one takes them.

But if you take a single natural supplement, forget multivitamins – take a probiotic!

Bitter Medicines

May 26, 2010

Tags: Herbs, food, angelica, angostura bark, artichoke, Bitter Medicines, bitters, cassia, cinchona bark, dandelion, digestive problems, gentian, goldenseal, indigestion, orange peel, quinine, roots, sugar, sweeteners, vegetables, yarrow

Life was never supposed to be sweet. We ate bitters all the time, from prehistoric times, plucking green leaves right and left as we roamed the savannah, until only a few generations ago when the home-made herbal bitter (an alcoholic extraction of bitter herbs) was always brought out after a big meal.

But in our modern times, we think we deserve better than bitter – we like sweet above all other tastes - and consequently, digestive problems are increasing.

Bitters stimulate the appetite (not that we really need it – I always wonder why a hundred years ago loss of appetite was a major problem, and nowadays my patients rarely ever complain about it). Bitters increase digestive juices, thus helping to digest heavy meals. By digesting faster, we feel earlier relief in our overstuffed stomachs (for the same reason - to get relief after a too-big feast - a family walk after the big Sunday midday meal is a beloved practice in Europe).

Bitters shorten bowel transit time, alleviating constipation.

What goes into bitters? The recipes are often family, factory or monastery secret, but there are some staples like artichoke, dandelion, yarrow, cinchona bark (quinine), ginger, orange peel, cassia, angostura bark, and lots of bitter roots like angelica, gentian, goldenseal. The recipes are legion, and every country has their specialties.

It helps to have Swedish Bitters (or any bitter) at hand when indigestion strikes (beware – they all contain around forty percent of alcohol – some even more). However, incorporating more dark greens and roots into you food is equally - or more - important. And so is eliminating the sweet taste from our foods so predominant now. Don’t use sugar, don’t even use sweeteners – come back to the healthy bitters! Let your taste buds rediscover the real world of tastes.

In the long run, your life will be sweeter with bitters: more health, more joy, more sweet life.

Dairy II: Bone Health

May 25, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention movement for bone health? I should.

Teenage Hell On Earth: Acne

May 16, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Sauna supports the skin in its elimination functions.

• Daily short exposure to sun is essential for healing.

• Incorporate breathing exercises in your routine. For a starter take three deep breaths (always start with exhalation) every hour on the hour (or as often as you think about it; don’t hold your breath; let it flow).

• The salty water of the ocean has healing properties that can be used during vacation times. At home, salt baths (with or without herbal additions) or mud compresses can simulate the real thing.

• Get involved in sports. All movement will help to eliminate your bowels faster – and the bowel is at the root of most cases of acne.

• Drink plenty of water – at least seven cups per day, more with exercise, from a beautiful cup. No purpose, though, running around all day with a bottle of water in your hand. One does not dehydrate that fast!

• Facial steam baths with chamomile are soothing.

• A Hildegard of Bingen recipe: Store grated horseradish in apple vinegar; clean skin with the solution (I have not tried it yet - let me know if you have!).

• Herbs for internal cleansing: dandelion root and stinging nettle (as a mix or single ingredients), together or singly. As capsules or tea.

• Beyond dairy: Eat fruit and vegetables as much as possible. Rule out gluten intolerance). Reduce animal fats and meats. No dairy and milk chocolate. Avoid all sugars and white starches.

• Quit smoking.

• Get enough sleep.

• Move! Walk and do yoga. The more you move, the better your body gets rid of ugly toxins.

• Against scarring acne get the help of a dermatologist – but avoid long-term antibiotics for minor acne because they only will confound the underlying problems in your bowels.

Diabetes - The Voracious Disease

May 8, 2010

Tags: order, food, alcohol, amputations, arthritis, blindness, cancer, cravings, dementia, depression, diabetes type II, Diabetes - The Low-Energy Disease, Diabetes - The Voracious Disease, energy, exercise, exhausted, fatigued, heart disease, hunger, impotence, kidney failure, moderation, obesity, over-eaters, overweight, pre-diabetes, stroke, vegetables, voracious

Diabetes is the disease that makes you eat and eat and eat.

Before, I termed diabetes the “low-energy disease” because it saps you of all strength (see my article on Roanne Weisman’s health blog). Today let's talk about diabetes’ voracious aspect.

With diabetes (or pre-diabetes) you are hungry all the time. Food is on your mind constantly. Why is that so? Several reasons, two which I find most compelling in understanding the disease diabetes:

The more you eat, the fatter you are – the more famished you feel. In olden times, when food was scarce, this was a survival trait: If, by chance, suddenly a whole mammoth had to be devoured, people had to fress beyond feeling full so that the bounty would not spoil and they put on fat for leaner times. Those leaner times always came. The problem, of course, is that nowadays they never come.

A second mechanism by which overeating occurs is that, on one level, it is really not you who is craving food – the bacteria in your gut are. And they signal “hunger!” to your brain – liken it to a computer virus. Studies found that overweight people have different bacteria in their guts than lean people. So, if you are eating the wrong foods – and too much of them – you are feeding the bad bacteria, and they get more greedy. If you would change to a healthier diet, better bacteria would grow, and you would be less hungry.

Most over-eaters eventually develop diabetes type II. Which, for me, is one of the worst diseases because it is absolutely, totally avoidable (ahem … at least in ninety percent). Diabetes leads to blindness, kidney failure, impotence, amputations – not to mention that it is linked to heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, dementia and depression.

There's no magic bullet to cure our cravings besides being aware of it, avoiding the foods that foster cravings (sugar - alcohol is a sugar, too! -, sugar substitutes, bad fats, white starches), and loading up on vegetables – the bitterer, the better. The more, the better. The greener, the better. Moving around more certainly helps. Personally, in the clutches of one of those hunger pangs, I convince myself that I am not falling down dead from starvation if I now don’t grab anything edible right now.

P.S. Those unfortunate ten percent of people who get diabetes and are not overweight, often have gluten intolerance or similar metabolic problems - they can be helped, too!

Natural Skin Care

April 28, 2010

Tags: water, cold water, food, vegetables, skin, wrinkles, fishoil, olive oil, coconut oil, sleep, compassion, friendliness, Natural Skin Care, soap, smoking

Save a lot of bucks, do the Earth a favor and come out beautiful!

Never in my life have I used make-up (okay, okay, once as a teenager!) and it shows at sixty five (disclosure: The picture I am using here is two years old and flattering).

Good genes help, of course. Other than that – here is what I did and what you can do. Or, in skin care, what you DON'T do seems to count the most:

• No smoking. Smoking is the worst wrinkle-maker in the world (confirmed by studies).

• Cold water: Whenever you wash you hands, splash you face with, especially if you tend oily skin. Cold water acts like a mini instant face mask.

• No soap. Unless you are a miner or auto mechanic, soap has no place in your face. And if you have to use something, use a pH-adjusted detergent. But for normal people: Absolutely no soap! Americans, on average, must be taking a shower every day or every other day. How dirty can you be? Let warm (not hot in your face!) water gently run over your face (and end each warm shower with a cold one!).

• In the shower, use your shampoo gently for your armpits and private parts. Rinse well! Again: soap is too harsh for delicate areas.

• No make-up, no moisturizer, no cold cream, no lotions – no nothing. Beauty can't be bought.

• Use olive oil or virgin coconut oil for your skin – find out which suits your skin type better. But only if you need them – don’t clog the pores with perfectly good skin with anything. I started using oil around my eyes in my fifties, not earlier. If you have very dry skin, start earlier. But don’t slobber it all over. If your cheeks and chin are fine, keep to eyes and neck.

And here is the biggest beauty secret of them all: Skin beauty comes from inside. It depends on what you eat: good oils (again olive oil and coconut oil; I take my cosmetics directly from the kitchen…) and heaps of vegetables. Leave out sugars, sweeteners, fried foods, an excess of meats (poultry is also meat!), trans fats, bad cooking oils and dairy. Eat more fish than meat - preferably small fish as they are less polluted.

If you want to do something special, take some good fish oil capsules (if you burp back fish, they aren’t so good!).

Get a good night's sleep before midnight! Make sure you are not getting sleeping folds by placing pillows to support you.

And: Smile! Friendliness and compassion show in your face - latest after thirty!

The Super Foods … Bunkum

April 27, 2010

Tags: food, almonds, avocado, beans, berries, blueberries, brocco rabe, broccoli, broccolini, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, cinnamon, daikon, food in season, food rotation, garlic, health, jicama, kale, olive oil, onions, red beets, red cabbage, root vegetables, rutabaga, Savoy cabbage, spinach, summer squash, super foods, The Super Foods … Bunkum, vegetables, walnuts, white cabbage, winter squash

You have read and heard it so often: The Ten best foods, the Five Best Fruits, The Super Foods Without Which You Will Die...

Some of the lists contain meritable foodstuffs, often judged by their anti-oxidant contents. Apart from outright scams (brand-names) on those super-food lists, the usual suspects are blueberries (all the berries, really), broccoli, walnuts, spinach, beans, cinnamon (without the bun), almonds, avocados.

There is nothing wrong with these foods. But the concept of “super foods” is all wrong.

If you eat the same super food again and again, you have a higher chance to sensitize against it and end up with an allergy. Also, you might get an overfill of some phyto-nutrients, and become deficient in others. Not to mention that we have to worry about pollution - you don’t want to eat the same mercury-laden morsels day after day. We were made for roaming the savannah and nibble here and there, all day long. That gave us enough exercise, and rotated our groceries, depending on area and season.

Asked about healthy nutrition, I like to say (stolen from realtors who stress “location, location, location”): Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. Today I want to add: Rotate, rotate, rotate! The point is to eat a wide variety of meats, fish and vegetables, preferably local and in season (less meat, more vegetables!).

Having emphasized variety, here are some under–used and relatively inexpensive vegetables: Onions, garlic and all cabbages (broccoli, kale, brocco rabe, broccolini, Brussels sprouts, white, red, Savoy) – eat them often. Summer and winter squash, too. Don’t forget root vegetables: Red beets, carrots, celeriac, daikon, jicama, rutabaga.

Assignment: Each time you venture to your local market/supermarket, find one new vegetable! Bring it home and serve it - any vegetable tastes good cooked (but not overcooked!) with olive oil and garlic.

One-Day Fast

April 26, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, health, herbs, balance, broth, cabbages, cleansing, dandelion, detoxifying, eggplant, fasting, garden, garlic, grains, herbal tea, juice fasting, legumes, mushrooms, nettle - stinging, One-Day Fast, onions, peppers - bell and hot, phyto-nutrients, potato, sweet potato, tomato, vegetables, weight

No, it’s not what you think - one-day fast is not for losing weight. It is for cleansing and giving your gastro-intestinal tract a day of vacation. Spring cleaning for your body, so to speak. One day - and you will feel terrific about yourself as you feel the lightness in your body.

A one-day fast is best done on a weekend. You prepare for the fast on Friday evening, fast all Saturday, and slowly resume (healthier) eating on Sunday. Team up with a friend because if you share your experience, you are more likely to stick with it.

For Friday dinner, you keep it light: no meat or fish, nothing fried, no dairy. Prepare a big pot of vegetable broth: Anything vegetal can go into it, except for plants from the nightshade family (tomato, potato, eggplant, bell and hot peppers) or starchy ones (grains, legumes, sweet potato, etc.). Onions, garlic and cabbages are the back bone of this broth. I put in handfuls of herbs from my herb garden, and right now I definitely would splurge on stinging nettle and dandelions. Use rests of lettuce and whatever vegetables are wilting in your fridge. Mushrooms are perfect.

You boil the vegetables with plenty of water. No salt or pepper, though.

Next day, you are only allowed the broth (don’t actually eat the vegetables!) whenever you feel hungry. Vegetable-broth fasting is much better tolerated than fruit juice fasting because the broth is alkaline, not acidic – much gentler on your stomach and your whole system. For years I was the laughing stock of my family because I once had tried a juice fast – and lasted all of three hours before I caved in to my overwhelming hunger! This never happens on the vegetable broth fast.

If you want, you can drink water and/or herbal teas. Nothing else is allowed - not even chewing gum! - Whenever the fluid level in the pot gets low, just pour more water in. The strength of vegetables is good enough for several “steepings.”

Take your Saturday easy: Go twice a day for a walk, rest a lot. Experienced fasters can work during this kind of gentle fast. But for your first time, concentrate on how you feel. Write a diary, listen to music, meet friends.

On Sunday morning you restart eating with a light breakfast: Again no meats or fish - stay vegetarian all Sunday. On Monday you resume normal eating – hopefully a bit more mindful.

Besides restocking you with valuable phyto-nutrients, the main effect of the one-day fast is a thorough cleansing and detoxifying – without harsh herbs or laxatives. Once you feel the new lightness in your body, you might want to repeat the experience. A healthy person should do this probably once a month. A sick or overweight person once a week. No, you don’t lose weight from the fast – but you might lose weight from re-setting your hunger stat: After the fast, you get more appreciative of food, you chew longer, you eat slower and less, and you go for the healthier choice.

Who Loves It Dark, Warm, Moist and Sweet?

April 23, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, food, athlete's foot, balance, jock itch, microwave, nail fungus, olive oil, onychomycosis, rosemary, Standard American Diet (SAD), tea tree oil, thyme, Trichophyton rubrum, vegetables, Who Loves It Dark, Warm, Moist and Sweet?

Under-cover, in America’s shoes, nail fungus is attacking like body-snatchers. To call it “athlete’s foot” is giving nail fungus a too-nice name. Think about the germs invading a body after death; nail fungus is invading your body already before death!

Conventional wisdom has it that we get the fungus because we catch it from public spaces like pools and hotel rooms. Truth is, the offending fungus spores – most often those of Trichophyton rubrum - are everywhere and hard to avoid. Still, nail fungus was uncommon only a few generations earlier. We pick up the offenders because our body defenses are down. Down from a diet high in sugar. Note that the acronym for American Standard Diet is SAD!

Nail fungus likes it dark, warm, moist and sweet. Therefore, let’s spoil it for the invaders and make it bright, cool, dry and decidedly unsweet! Wear light, airy shoes. Go barefoot often. If you have to wear heavy boots or sneakers, use ample baby powder, and change shoes and socks often. You can microwave your shoes after wearing (one minute on high) – but only if there are no metal buckles on them. And you want to try out with less than a minute because some modern materials melt and blister. Alternatively, dust your shoes with foot powder right after slipping out of them. Walk barefoot at home or wear slip-resistant socks.

There are many natural methods to fight nail fungus, usually involving the one or other essential oil and/or garlic. This is what is highly effective (unless you have an allergy to any of the ingredients):

Rub feet and nails twice a day with tea tree oil. Since tea tree oil tends to dry out the skin, apply olive oil (perhaps with a drop of thyme or rosemary oil) afterward to keep the skin nice and smooth. Repeat religiously twice a day until all signs of fungus is gone; then continue once daily for prevention.

And the unsweet part? Whenever you eat something sugary, your nail fungus thrives. Don’t feed the invader! Build a shield around you – by a diet high in vegetables!

The above applies also to another fungal disease: Jock itch. It is only so much harder to air the area out...

Spring Fatigue - Undiagnosed

April 19, 2010

Tags: herbs, food, chives, dandelion, fatigue, fruit, greens, health, nettle - stinging, spring fatigue, Spring Fatigue - Undiagnosed, spring onions, tonic, Urtica dioica, vegetables

A disease exists in Europe that is never diagnosed here: Spring fatigue. Around February, March, April everybody complains about it - and suffers.

Spring fatigue happens when the body is depleted of essential nutrients at the end of the winter, after not enough fresh fruit and vegetables in the cold months.

Do American people not have it? I think they do have spring fatigue - they are just not told about it. Because there is no pill against it. And the rather like to think they have spring fever...

Yet the remedy is easy: Eat about as many fresh greens you can put your hands on: chives (around this time I put handfuls of chives on and in about everything), dandelions, spring onions, stinging nettles, kale, chard, spinach. Many might be weeds in your garden.

Stinging nettles? Yes! It is a weed, but I planted it in my garden on purpose (in a raised bed). Yesterday, I made my first nettle soup of the season. The recipe is easy: Boil one or two cut potatoes (including skin) with a little bit of water and salt. When half soft, add stinging nettle leaves (the stems are tough; you need gloves to handle nettle because they sting), olive oil and pepper. Boil until soft - only a few more minutes. You can puree it - I did. But one can also just eat it like a green vegetable. Never forget the olive oil - without fat, your body cannot assimilate vitamin A from the greens.

Europeans think the stinging nettle is the most valuable herb, period. They use it for a tonic, strengthening the body overall. It is also good against hay fever, but you better buy it as phyto-caps for that purpose. The nettle root is used against prostatitis.

Make sure you know your herbs and harvest your herbs from a clean place - not where dogs pee on them. Go for a local herb walk to learn about herbs.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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