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

On Writing

November 12, 2015

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

When you are stuck

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

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

How You Can Tell That Your Body Is Inflamed? The Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis (FFD):

September 23, 2015

Tags: order, food, water, movement, aging, air, allergy, Alzheimer’s, American, antibiotic, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disease, bronchitis - chronic, cancer, chronic disease, chronic pain, COPD, dairy, dehydration, dementia, depression, diabetes, do-it-yourself, drug – medical, drug - recreational, earlobe diagnosis, eczema, environment, Europe, finger diagnosis, finger nail, fingertips, Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis - FFD, gastritis, genetics, gluten, halo, hand, heartburn, heart disease, high blood pressure, How Can You Tell That Your Body Is Inflamed? The Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis (FFD), hypertension, inflammation, job - unfulfilling, Kneipp – Sebastian (1821-1897), lifestyle, longevity, microbiome, model, nail bed, nuts, obesity, observation, osteoporosis, overweight, pantry, pathology, pollution, pre-diabetes, relationship, skin disease, soil, stress, stroke, sugar, swelling, tongue diagnosis, toxin, Traditional Chinese Medicine, un-health, vitamin D deficiency, walking

Inflammation lies at the bottom of chronic disease - diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, some forms of depression and anxiety, heart disease, stroke, COPD (chronic bronchitis), osteoporosis, certain cancers, chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, allergies, asthma, eczema and other skin diseases, heartburn, gastritis – and so many more. Yes, often you would not get these diseases if you didn’t have the right (or wrong) genes. But let’s face it: Most of us carry the genes for those diseases. All we need is a bad lifestyle to trigger chronic ailments. All of which make your life miserable.

Of course, the main reason for the development of chronic diseases is that we are reaching older age than we used to – we have more time to hatch illness. But it is not that old age automatically renders you invalid and decrepit. One can have a healthy old age! But it takes some luck, and some effort.

So what are the habits that trigger chronic inflammation and chronic diseases? The usual – and well-known - culprits: Inappropriate diet, too little movement (or too much!), environmental pollution of water, air and soil, psychological stress, unhappy relationships, unfulfilling jobs, drugs (medical and recreational), deficient water intake, unnecessary drugs, overweight and obesity, vitamin D deficiency, unnecessary antibiotics that kill the natural microbiome in our guts and on our skin. Another list that could go on and on.

How do you tell that inflammation is damaging your body? Well, if you already have a chronic disease - that is the proof of the pudding. But If you are at the stage before a doctor runs some tests and finally makes the diagnosis – if you are in the pre-stages of disease – you might inspect your fingers for the telltale signs of inflammation: a red halo around the root of the nail, at the area of the nail bed.

That halo can be thin and faint, and it can be thick and swollen. In some patients, the redness goes up half their digits, or higher. It is an early sign of inflammation, and one doctors usually don’t know about. In fact, I didn’t learn this in medical school – I observed it in my patients.

The beauty of it? If you clean up your act, the halos get smaller and paler – you see within a few days that you are on the way to improvement. Especially if you leave out some offending allergenic food – the most common guilty parties here are dairy, gluten, nuts, sugar.

Why is it that your fingertips can tell me the state of your health, the degree of inflammation? Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the tongue to tell about illness and well-being. My favorite European teacher Sebastian Kneipp used to base his diagnoses and prognoses on the shape and color of the earlobes; he must have come to it by simple observation, just as I did. The tongue, the earlobes, the fingertips – why those? Mainly because they are easily visible. For sure, if your body is riddled with inflammation, you will have signs of it in nearly all your inner organs. But the inner organs are hidden from direct inspection. For evaluating the tongue, I’d have to ask the patient to open her mouth. Earlobes and fingers are there for the looking. – Your fingers and nails can tell the doctor much more about your health (or un-health). But the FFD is easy for lay people.

Let me tell you right away that I don’t yet know if only food allergies can trigger the redness of the fingers, or if other toxins or pathology processes do it too. I would think so. But there has been no study yet, just quiet observation on my patients.

What I like about the Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis (FFD): It is a do-it-yourself tool. You don’t need me to tell you something is wrong. You just need to look down on your fingertips. And if you see a reddish halo: Get up from your chair, and do something for your health: Go for a walk, and clean out your pantry!

High Blood Pressure – Low Blood Pressure

September 14, 2015

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, agricultural, artificial sweetener, attention, basil, beach, bladder, blood pressure, brain overstimulation, butter - cultured, cardamom, cat’s claw, celery seeds, chemical compound, cinnamon, circadian rhythm, coconut oil, cold shower, cold wash, cooking, darkness, dehydration, dizziness, drinking water, drug – anti-hypertensive, endocrine, energy - lack of, erectile dysfunction, farmer, fat, fighting, French lavender, garlic, grandmother, habit, hawthorn, heart attack, heartbreak, herbalist, high blood pressure, High Blood Pressure – Low Blood Pressure, hiking, hypertension, impotence, Internet, kidney, lifestyle, linden, low blood pressure, meat, medicine pearl, meditation, modern life, music, musical instrument, nettle - stinging, olive leaf, olive oil, organic, pebbles, processed food, quiet time, relationship, relaxation, salt, screen time, sleep, sleep before midnight, sleep deprivation, sleeping with open window, spice, starch, statistics, step counter, stress, stroke, sugar, telephone, TV, Twitter, urine color, vegetable, walking, walking barefoot, walking on uneven surfaces, weight - ideal, woodworking, yarrow

A new study to answer the question: Which is the optimal blood pressure goal? has been terminated prematurely because it became statistically overwhelmingly clear that lower blood pressure targets will save lives.

That is a great outcome of a study: The clear-cut benefit of lower blood pressure. Not that it is all news: In medical school I already learned this medicine pearl: People with low pressure live for a long time, but they will feel lousy often – from dizziness and lack of energy. People with high blood pressure feel on top of the world – until they drop dead of stroke or heart attack.

It is good to know that our recent blood pressure goals have been set too high. If you have high blood pressure, or borderline high blood pressure, get ready for your doctor to put you on medication, or increase your anti-hypertension pills.

But the question is: Why do I read one report after the other about this blood pressure study, and all the commentators remark on how important it is to increase medications – and not a single commentator mentions that there are ways to lower your blood pressure without pills - naturally?

There are! You don’t have to take pills for the rest of your life; they can have serious side effect – one of the least seems to be impotence (erectile dysfunction), which is obviously a minor problem for the prescribing physician, but may make your life thoroughly miserable.

Here, if you want to go the natural way:

• End your hot showers always with a short (20 to 30 seconds) cold shower. Don’t do it yet if your blood pressure is uncontrolled high. But if you are on a pill, reasonably controlled, to can make this a daily habit. If a cold shower feels too harsh, wash yourself down with a cold facecloth twice a day in front of the sink.
• Get yourself a cheap step counter and walk more. The step counter is not really necessary, but is a great motivator. Walk more stairs, too.
• Also, walk on uneven surfaces whenever you have an occasion. Walking the beach, hiking, and walking barefoot have all been shown to lower blood pressure. One study showed that walking barefoot on pebbles is especially effective. Why is that so? The more uneven the terrain is, the more muscles you use, and the greater is the relaxation effect.
• Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to more stress, and stress increases blood pressure. Aim for being in bed around ten pm. Read for a few minutes, then sleep in darkness, with open window, whenever possible. Grandmother’s advice that sleep before midnight counts double sort of bears out in modern circadian rhythm studies.
• Meditate if your stress level is high. Or do woodworking, or play a musical instrument – any hobby that absorbs your attention wholly and makes you happy has a good de-stressing effect. Even just listening to soothing music lowers your blood pressure.
• Drink enough water. Salt does not seem the main culprit (but it does not hurt to ditch all processed foods – which are notoriously high in salt), but not drinking enough is. Aim for very light yellow urine. Dark urine shows that you are dehydrated (unless there is a kidney/bladder problem).
• Keep your relationships in order. I am all for a good fight if it is necessary. But an unhappy relationship will break your heart – with or without high blood pressure.
• Reduce screen time – TV, Twitter, telephone and Internet. All overexcite your brain. Be yourself – find quiet time often.
• Eat a diet high in vegetables and herbs. Plants contain thousands of chemical compound which all conspire to keep your blood pressure low. Eat meat but only organic (or from a farmer whose agricultural practices you trust). Have plenty of good fats like organic olive oil, coconut oil, cultured butter – fat is not the enemy.
• Slowly move toward your ideal weight by eating less sugars and starches. Avoid artificial sweeteners, too.
• And if you insist on a pill, let it be herbs (it may be advisable to work with a good herbalist – or a doctor who know herbs):

o Stinging nettle
o Linden
o Olive leaf
o Yarrow
o French Lavender
o Cinnamon
o Cat’s claw
o Hawthorn
o Celery seeds
o Garlic
o Cardamom
o Basil

And so many more! Some may go into your food as spices when you cook. Actually, cooking every evening from scratch might be the best course you could take: It will relax you after work and absorb your attention – and it will heal you body that gets high blood pressure from the pressures and habits of modern life. In 95 percent, hypertension is a lifestyle issue; only in five percent, a serious medical diagnosis (kidneys, endocrine) can be made.

If high blood pressure stems from wrong lifestyles, I suggest we replace it with better, healthier, more joyful lifestyles.

Maine Tea

September 5, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lumosity, and Similar Brain-Enhancing Games

January 4, 2015

Tags: order, food, movement, arguing, book, brain-enhancing, computer wiz, cooking, daylight, family, friends, games, gardening, hobby, intelligence, IQ, knitting, learning, letter, life, Lumosity, Lumosity and Similar Brain-Enhancing Games, memory, playing the cello, railcar, reading, self, senility, talking, walking, work, writing

Somebody nudged me into trying Lumosity - I must have shown signs of senility, for those games are supposed to increase memory and, perhaps, IQ.

Those two games I played stirred up the following questions:

• Aren’t work and/or hobbies to be so interesting that they keep me on my toes, and learning?
• How come a game that a young computer wiz developed is going to teach me more than my life has taught me?
• Why would I want the kind of intelligence that can reroute a bunch of rail cars faster and faster, than the kind of slow and painful and difficult and limited intelligence that brought me to where I am now in my life?
• Do I want to think and function like anybody else? Or do I want to be myself?
• Can Lumosity do more for my brain than reading, gardening, knitting, cooking, playing the cello, writing letters and books, talking and arguing with my friends & family?
• Will those games increase my memory better than feeding myself right, and going for a long walk in daylight?

Diabetes Update

December 20, 2014

Tags: food, movement, order, bedridden, book, cane, data, decline, diabetes type 2, Diabetes Update, dog, falls, friend, insulin, music, nurse, prescription, reading, reversal, syringe, The Diabetes Cure, walker, walking

In my diabetes book I didn’t tell the whole story. I couldn’t because I had no data, and no proof.

But now the stories come in – here is one (I have changed names, etc., so not expose people):

A good friend of ours has been a diabetic type 2 for many years. I nearly had taken him as the example in my book how diabetes goes if you don’t do anything: The slow decline of all faculties. Last when I saw him – about two years ago – he was more or less bedridden. Daily, a nurse came in. He was on insulin – always a dire sign that things are not going well. In the past he had had several falls, and he labored with the consequences. He had been a highly successful man, but now seemed to be a burden onto himself.

This month, I visited him and his wife. Both had lost a great amount of weight, he was up and around. He uses a cane in the house, and a walker on the street because of his history of falls. But he does not lean heavily on the walker – it is more like a security blanket. We talked about the books he had read recently (always one of my favorite subject). He is going out every day; they have a dog, a gentle creature that seems to want to protect him.

When I asked how this marvelous change in them had come about, they pointed to a book on the kitchen table. It was my diabetes book “The Diabetes Cure”. The copy was well-read, obviously, beginning to fall apart at the spine. I had given them the book when it had come out, thinking that he was a good candidate to try my prescriptions. But not really believing they would do it.

In the book I write that most diabetes could be reversed, but I also warned readers that it was near impossible, once they already were taking insulin shots. I had seen some great changes in my patients, but I had never seen anyone throwing out their insulin syringe. So I didn’t claim that it was possible. My friend proved me wrong: He changed his eating, and he moved more (with the help of a physical therapist). And now he is off insulin! He is out of bed, and he is living again, pursuing the things that delight him in life: reading, enjoying his wife, music, going out for a walk, playing with the dog.

If he could do it, you can do it.

Seven Exercises from Heaven

October 3, 2014

Tags: movement, order, aging, arm flab, arthritis, ashtanga, athletics, back, back - upper, barbell, bedridden, bench, bench pressing, bending backward, cancer, childhood, dairy, death, decline, diabetes, diet, dumbbell, Exercises from Heaven, expander, flexibility, foam roller, gluten, gym, half-cylinder, head, heart disease, immobility, inward looking, Iyengar - B.K.S. (1918-2014), kettlebell, knee, laptop computer, leg, lotus position, muscle, muscle-building muscle weakness, musculature, neck, Nelson – Carol, pelvis, philosophy, posture, pressing, push-up, relaxing, rotator cuff, rubber band exercise, sleeplessness, spine spirituality, sports, sports medicine, sports team, strength, strength training, The Diabetes Cure, Theraband, traveling, walking, wall, wall pressing, weights workout, yoga, yoga ball, yoga teacher, youth, zazen cushion

As I have mentioned too often, I never have been athletic – in school, I was the proverbial girl that nobody wanted on their sports team. But as I cleaned up my diet (starting with gluten and dairy), my muscle weakness and arthritis improved.

Movement is important. And the older you get, the more urgent it becomes. People generally think that heart disease and cancer are about the worst conditions leading to final demise. Immobility is worse. Not moving – either by choice, or because of illness – is the clear beginning of the end.

Every evening after dinner my husband and I go out for a walk, down the hill, and up the hill. Often I run uphill – slowly, but without pause. That alone is not enough, I fear, to keep old age at bay. Obviously, you can’t stave off death forever – decline is inevitable. But you can give it your best effort.

When B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-20140, the revered teacher of my yoga teacher Carol Nelson, recently died, a picture of him in old age went around the world. It showed him in lotus position but with barely any muscles that I could discern. Now, he was really old when the photo was taken, but looking at him it dawned on my that in yoga we need three accomplishments:

• Spirituality - I’d translate that as inward looking
• Flexibility - yoga certainly accomplishes that)
• Strength – more muscles.

The last one, strength, can be trained in some of the more vigorous forms of yoga like ashtanga, but I prefer the deep, gentle yoga Carol Nelson teaches. That leaves me with strength training for homework. Since I am still not fond of gyms and strenuous workouts, I do a routine of seven small muscle-building exercises at home. They take less than ten minutes – actually, less than seven minutes! You can do them all together in one setting, or interspersed during the day.

1. Bending backward over a zazen cushion or a half-cylinder
2. Bench pressing
3. Wall pressing (a modification of push-ups)
4. Rubber band exercises
5. Yoga ball
6. Kettlebell
7. Dumbbells.

As you might have read in my book The Diabetes Cure, my philosophy is that exercise should never be overdone – we have sports medicine because we have sports, is my constant saying. Every exercise will be repeated twenty-one times, never more. If initially you can’t do an exercise twenty-one times, do as many as you can do without undue force, and slowly build up to twenty-one.

More information about each exercise:

1. Bending backward over a zazen cushion or a half-cylinder

This is not a strength training. But I start with opening my back because my worst problem is upper back posture (in childhood and youth, I spent much time bedridden). – Slowly count to 21, while you wiggle your back in place and bend it backward over the cushion. – When I travel, I replace this with bending downward from the hotel bed.

2. Bench pressing

Since I don’t own a bench, this is not exactly bench-pressing. But it is similar. I use a bar with two five-pound weights – including the bar, it’s 14 pounds. The point is not to use heavy weights, but to use light weights slowly, and regular – every day. Position the barbell over your lap, and bring your body in position: Stand knees up, and pull your arms backward, and make a hollow with your thoracic spine: If you lie too straight and heavy on your shoulder blades, there is potential of hurting your rotator cuffs. Do 21 slow repetitions. Push directly upward with your arms – and never over your face. There are several deaths each year of people who have dropped the barbells on their faces …


3. Wall pressing (a modification of push-ups)

Stand a bit away from a wall or a kitchen counter or anything stable, and push up with your hands 21 times. Be careful not to slip when you stand away from the wall. - If you can do real push-ups on the floor: Good for you! But, like lotus position, I am unlikely to get proficient at push-ups in this life.

4. Rubber band exercises

Use an expander-like rubber band over a bar (or from a hook). Use it twice 21 times to pull your arms down and back. This is the exercise that makes arm flab a thing of the past. Occasionally, sleepless in bed, I add this exercise: Lying on your back with elbows at my sides, I push into the bed, arching my upper back, holding the position for 21 counts. The relaxing of the muscles afterward is a good sleeping aid. - When I travel, I take Therabands.

5. Yoga ball

Lie belly-down over a yoga ball. Secure your feet at a floorboard or under a sofa. Lift your back from the hips 21 times without overarching your neck – it is better to let your head hang down a bit, and instead lift your arms. Gives wonderful strength in the lower back area, and will eventually strengthen your whole spinal musculature. – When traveling, one can do this exercise across a chair.

6. Kettlebell

Swing a small (5 pounds) kettlebell back between your legs and up to horizontal with your eyes 21 counts. Have a give in your knees. This exercise strengthens legs, pelvic musculature and arms. This is the one that always makes me pant. – I fear there is no good substitute for this when I travel as lugging around a kettlebell in my suitcase is not an option. I try to walk as many stairs in the hotels as possible – which has led to hilarious situations as we have from time to time ended up in the kitchen quarters or other off-limits work spaces.

7. Dumbbells.

Have a pair of small (5 pounds) dumbbells (or bottles filled with water or books). Push them up 21 times, high up over your head, and slightly backward – without creating pressure in your lower back area. This one took me the longest before I could do all 21 repetitions. – When traveling, I use my laptop as weight, and try not to drop it.

Lately, at yoga class, I notice how much easier the yoga postures are now that I own some muscles. The three goals – looking inward, flexibility and muscles – inform one on the other: They spread out through our bodies to keep us alive, healthy and, well, younger.

Golden Beach

July 1, 2012

Tags: water, movement, abalone, antibacterial, antifungal, asphalt, balance, barefoot walking, beach, beauty follows function, Black Beach, body, bone strength, California, coconut oil, danger, drowning, feet, force of water, fun, glitter, gold, Golden Beach, leather, Massachusetts, massage, mica, mineral, mood enhancer, petrolatum, petroleum-derived, Plum Island, rock, sand, sandals, shoe, shoe shine, silicate, skin, skin scrape, sparkle, submerging, sun, sun hat, Sunday walk, swimming, Vaseline, vitamin D, wading, walking, wave, wave breaker, workout

Today we went to Plum Island/Massachusetts for a long Sunday walk on the beach – and I nearly drowned. I can’t blame anybody but myself. I thought I had found an easy wading spot through the big rocks of a wave breaker – as my husband did the reasonable thing and walked around it. While I balanced on one foot, trying to find a landing spot for the other, a wave pulled the sand out under me, tossing me back and forth between the rocks like a toy – I have scrapes up and down my side to prove that I underestimated the force of water squeezing through a tight space. At least, I should have dropped my towel to be able to hold onto a rock with both hands. But I didn’t because one doesn’t throw out a still pretty good towel …

Although I had wanted to swim, I had not planned it in such a fashion. The nice couple that fished me out of my predicament before my husband even suspected that I was in danger, told me they knew there was a problem when my legs stuck out from the water higher than my head. In spite of total submerging, I did not even lose my sun hat! But I was pounded on the rocks like an abalone waiting to be served, and for a moment I feared I would drown in this ridiculous situation: feet up, head under water, trying to save an old towel.

Last winter, we had hiked Black Beach in California. This beach today was golden. Firstly, the sand is white with many sprinkles of yellow. And then, in the sun, I observed a beautiful spectacle: The incoming waves glittered and sparkled like gold. Silt was tumbling in with each breaking wave, and it must contain – all that glitters is not gold – mica. Mica is sheet silicate, a mineral. And then I saw the mica on the wet sand flash and shine, too. A really golden beach – or, at least, I call it Golden Beach now.

After my mishap, we continued walking the beach and the waves for several miles (me with that huge pink sun hat, and a good sunscreen applied to my legs). Walking barefoot on sand is about the best thing you can do for your feet – they get a much better massage and workout than walking in shoes and walking on asphalt. In the body, beauty follows function – and a well-used foot is a beautiful foot.

Walking at a seaside has other health benefits: fun and sun. Light induces the manufacturing of vitamin D under your skin, which helps you to stronger bones – to which the walking itself already attributes. Sun and water are easy mood enhancers.

- Only marginally related, but it still has to do with feet: For a time now I have observed the marvelous effects of coconut oil on the skin, its antifungal and antibacterial actions. I also noticed that my sandals now always look freshly shined – in spite that I never have the time or energy to shine shoes. It seemed as if the coconut oil from my feet would end up in my shoes and then – miraculously – wander to the outside leather, and make the dirt fall off. My shoes suddenly look so cared for.

Yesterday, I did an experiment: I slipped into some rather dirty old sandals after I had slathered coconut oil on my feet in the morning; the sandals were still very dusty from our last walk around the pond, on sand and gravel. And sure enough, I can already see, after a single application, that the trick worked here again: The shoes clean themselves from the inside out.

Remarkable as it is, I am more interested what it tells me about coconut on my skin: It will penetrate everywhere, and does it good healing work. Other than, say, Vaseline (or petrolatum), the petroleum-derived product. It covers an area of skin, but adds much less to the healing process.

Absolutely Unnecessary Products

April 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Mammogram, Or Not To Mammogram

January 31, 2012

Tags: order, movement, food, herbs, water, animal flesh consumption, breast cancer, breast cancer - surgery, breast cancer treatment, cancer - aggressiveness, cancerous cell, cancer prevention, cardio-vascular health, cold shower, daylight, diet, dying of cancer, environmental pollution, exercise, family history of breast cancer, fluoroscopy, heart disease, immune system, lifestyle, lumpectomy, mammogram, mastectomy, medicine, prostate cancer, radiation, science, sitzbath - cold, sleep before midnight, smoothie - green, thyroid cancer, To Mammogram, Or Not To Mammogram, tuberculosis, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian, vitamin D, walking

About this subject I do write with trepidation – as the right answers are still not known – medicine and science have not advanced far enough to let us make rational decisions. In actuality, regarding mammograms, we are living in something like medieval times.

Do mammograms help prevent cancer? No, they don’t. They do find some cancers. But they also “find” an unacceptably high number of “cancers” that aren’t cancers - false positives. For which women then undergo unnecessary treatment.

Do mammograms prevent deaths from cancer? The answer is amazingly unclear: For the longest time – basically for the entire twentieth century - namely since the advent of radical mastectomy, breast cancer death numbers didn’t budge. In the last few years, we seem to make a little dent. But it is not clear to me if it comes from therapies, or from better lifestyles that women have adopted - similar to the improvement of cardio-vascular health that happened mostly in the kitchen and the gym, not in the doctor’s office.

For thirteen years now I have not done a mammogram. Not because I try to be reckless, but because I have my doubts. In a way, I am sticking my head in the sand (breast cancer runs in my family). On the other hand, I have a history of heavy radiation as a child, and mammogram certainly is adding to my risk to develop breast cancer. You could say that I made a decision rather to die of breast cancer than from breast cancer treatment. You don’t have to follow me here – or rather, I don’t want you to follow me here because I shudder of the responsibility I would take on if I talked you out of mammograms. In reality, I always encourage my patients to have their yearly mammograms – regardless of the personal doubts I am harboring.

Because of my childhood radiation history – I had bad tuberculosis as a child with tons of fluoroscopy - my decision not to add any more radiation (I also have myself padded down at airports rather than going through the screening machines) is not applicable to everyone. In addition, I had mammograms since age eighteen every year because of lumps (and twice had lumps removed that turned out to be benign. So, I had an unusual number of mammograms - enough for a lifetime, I think. My doctors, because of my history, are basically waiting for me to develop breast or thyroid cancer. But over the years I came to realize that the real causes for breast cancer - diet, exercise and environmental pollution, including radiation - are not addressed by physicians and authorities. But I want to encourage every woman to come to her own decision. Every case has different variables.

Lately I am also changing my thinking about cancer generally - not that one person has it, and the other person doesn't have it. Truth is, at a certain age, we probably are all always having cancerous cells in us, and keeping them at bay as best as we can we good lifestyle habits seems to be much more important. - I also have a body that would react badly to any kind of treatment - so I rather am putting my energy into a good lifestyle. And cancers in later years are often less aggressive than cancer in children and young adults.

And a last thought: Medicine is yet is unable to differ between "bad" cancer and "good" cancer - we don't know which one will explode and kill a patient. So we are working with big guns on all cancers. It seems to me that surviving cancer has more to do with which type your cancer is and how good your immune system works than with any treatment. This argument is also very applicable to prostate cancer in men.

If I would find a lump, I certainly would have it removed surgically. If I get "exploding" cancer, I hope I will die gracefully. Not knowing if I already have such a time bomb inside me, I make sure I walk every day during daylight to get my daily dose of vitamin D and exercise, I eat my veggies and drink my green smoothie, I keep my animal flesh consumption low (but I don’t advocate vegetarian or vegan lifestyles), I take a daily cold shower or cold sitzbath to strengthen my immune system, and I make sure I sleep long before midnight so that my body can catch bad cells and repair what is broken – before it explodes.

The rest is not in my hands.

Bone Health

January 26, 2012

Tags: order, food, movement, herbs, bone, Bone Health, calcium, celiac disease, cleaning out the garage, declutter, fruit, gastro-intestinal problems, gluten sensitivity, grains - whole, greens, light, legumes, minerals, nuts, osteoporosis, osteoporosis - unexplained, parathyroid gland, plants, PTH, repair of the body, skin, sleep before midnight, sun, TCM, thyroid health, Traditional Chinese Medicine, vegetables, vitamin D, walking, working in the garden

We have talked about bone health before. But is comes up all the time. Here my thoughts:

• Light: A daily walk, sun or clouds for making vitamin under the skin. How high is your vitamin D level (blood test)? Should be over 40.
• Greens and other vegetables build bones. All plant material gives calcium plus all the other minerals needed for bone health. Fruit, nuts, herbs, legumes and whole grains are good, too – in moderate amounts.
• Avoid dairy and too much meat because their acidity leaches calcium out of the bones.
• Daily movement is important. Walking is probably the best. But anything helps – like cleaning out the garage or the attic, working in the garden.
• Sufficient sleep before midnight. Repair time in the body, according to Chinese Medicine, is between 11 pm and 1 am. If you are not asleep, repair can’t take place.
• Is your thyroid working normally? Over-activity leads to bone loss.
• Similar with the parathyroid glands: Make sure your PTH is in range. Is relatively rare – but an often overlooked problem.
• Unrecognized gluten problems can lead to osteoporosis. It turns out that half of all celiac patients have NO gastro0intestinal symptoms. So, it can unrecognized forever. Unrecognized gluten sensitivity is the most common cause of unexplained osteoporosis. Unfortunately, the tests are not 100% reliable – but a test is a beginning.

龙年快乐Happy Dragon Year 2012!

January 23, 2012

Tags: order, food, movement, herbs, abundance, alternative medicine, anti-depressants, art, arthritis, bacon, body and soul, books, brain, brownies, California, car, career, children - playtime, Chinese, Chinese New Year, church group, coconut oil, colleague, community, computer, consumption, cookies, cravings, cream puff, dancing, dairy, depression, deviled eggs, diabetes, diabesity, diet, dragon year, Earth, eating alone, eating at a table, eggs, epigenetics, family, fat, fat phobia, feelings - hurt, fish oil, foie gras, fresh foods, food - subsidized, friends, game boy, garlic, genetics, grandchildren, grandmother, greens - cooked, happiness, health care costs, health care - evidence-based, health - real, heart disease, hen, house - heavily mortgaged, hugging, Hyman – Mark (1958 to), ice cream, icing, laughter, lifestyle, 龙年快乐, 龙年快乐Happy Dragon Year 2012!, looking good, lunch hour, meat, mother, music, national health care system, new year, obesity, olive oil, organic, outside playing, over-population, overweight, “Own Your Health”, pancake, parents, pepper and salt, potluck, problem – solution, public office, relationship, San Diego, science, Scripps Conference, Seneca (4 BC to 65 AD), Shaw - George Bernard (1856 to 1950), sleep, solution - problem, starches - white, stroke, sugar, supplements - natural, tax dollars, tears, tribe, TV, TV key, village, walking, water - clean, Weisman –Roanne (1952 to)

The Chinese New Year begins today – time for miscellaneous thoughts and new resolutions!

龙年快乐 read character by character, means “dragon year happy happy” – pronounced long nian kuai le. What I find fascinating is that both “happy” terms are spoken with a down tone. In my ear that double happy-happy sounds less than a Western easygoing, lucky-feeling happy but grimly determined: You better be happy – or else! I might be over-stating it, but to me the Chinese kuai! le! shows perfectly the difference in the Chinese approach to ours: We expect happiness, well, to “happen”, for instance in a relationship. The Chinese know it is hard work …

Just finished the Scripps Conference on Natural Supplements here in San Diego – taking advantage to me being right here in California (for only another week now!). Here are some thoughts I am carrying home from that wonderful conference:

• Listening to the results of modern science (the conference was for physicians and health practitioners and the talks were evidence-based – using modern science; no touchy-feely mumbo-jumbo). It seems, my thoughts on health have well held up during those many years I am thinking about what our bodies and souls need. The only point where I am more radical is in fat consumption: Most health practitioners are still fat-phobic. I am not talking bacon dripping fat, ice cream and cream puffs here – I am talking olive oil, coconut oil, fish oil, and never say no! if somebody puts foie gras on your plate – it doesn’t happen that often! - George Bernard Shaw (1856 to 1950) had this to say: “No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office“.

• Let’s correct that touchy-feely part: Turns out, we alternative practitioners know that body and soul belong together, and at the conference there was a healthy amount of hugging, laughter and tears going on. Because if one thing has become clear – through our old failings and brand-new science: One can’t go it alone. As a physician, I need like-minded colleagues; as a fat person, you need friends, family, community around you to make a dent in your weight – or whatever health problem you are tackling in the moment.

• Obesity is a good guess of mine because, firstly, now more than a quarter of Americans are grossly overweight – half are only overweight - and all conditions that physicians usually label as single diseases are coming together: heart disease, diabetes, depression, arthritis, obesity (Mark Hyman called it aptly “diabesity”), cancer – they are ALL ONE, namely a wrong lifestyle. Wrong food, heavily subsidized and advertised by your own government, with your own tax dollars. Time to take matters into your hands and “own your health”! “Own Your Health”, of course, is the title of Roanne Weisman’s book about alternative medicine. She wrote it after overcoming a stroke with the help of many different alternatives, after mainstream medicine had told her she would stay disabled and had to adjust to it. Boy, were they wrong!

• The old excuse that it is “all in the genes” cannot be used anymore. Yes, a lot of your weight might be determined by your genes – but only if you allow it to be so. The new science of epigenetics teaches us that genes can be switched on and be switched on – and guess, who does the switching? Your food does it, and you moving your butt around, that does it. Isn’t it marvelous?

• It takes a village to raise a child – you have heard it. It also takes a village, or a tribe, or your church group to change your health habits. Line up with a friend to start walking during lunch hour – five minutes in one direction, five minutes back. And be part of the solution, not the problem: Whenever you bring cookies or brownies or a potluck – don’t go to the old recipes! Explore new options without sugar, dairy, white starches. I always see that deviled eggs are the favorite of everybody – and they is nothing wrong with eggs, especially if the are organic, from free-walking hens. Bring cooked greens with olive oil and garlic, pepper and salt – they are delicious cold or hot! Educate your friends – don’t give in to their sugar-icing cravings! They will thank you.

• If we would not eat alone and always at a table (not in the car, not in front of TV, not in bed), we likely would be slimmer. In olden times, if you grabbed the biggest piece of meat, your mom would slap you and say: “Don’t be greedy!” If you asked for your fifth pancake, your grandma would say sharply: “Now is enough, dear!” And since nobody catered to their little hurt feelings, children found home less congenial than the outside and their friends. We always asked if we could go “outside” – whatever it was, it was not inside with the parents (your parents made you uncomfortable because they always wanted to prepared you for life), and it was not in front of TV, computer or game boy. When I was a child, our first TV came with a key – whatever happened to THAT technology?? - and we children could not even turn it on when the grown-ups were out working. Of course, we children soon figured out that the key was kept in the bar, behind the bottles. But it was a high-risk gamble – and TV was never half as exciting as our friends outside. We had one fat girl in class, in all of my thirteen years of school. And that poor girl, we all pitied her – but we wouldn’t play with her.

• “This body is not a home but an inn, and that only briefly.” Seneca (4 BC to 65 AD) said that. I think we have to start talking about what is needed: That people take their own health in their hands. Your doctors can only assist you – not do the work for you. So let’s start by calling fat “fat” – no more pussyfooting around it; physicians have long enough colluded with patients and avoided the “F” word: “I won’t call you fat, if you stay my patient”. The health care system is falling apart under the burden of health care costs brought about by overweight people (don’t forget – I still am for a national health care system!), the Earth is brought down under the burden of too many people who consume too much, and all our wealth so far has brought us very little real happiness it seems – if we judge by how many people are on anti-depressants.

• Bad news: Before you die of being overweight, the Earth might have died of pollution. Definitely, future generations – they are your kids, my kids, our kids and grandkids! – are in danger. Newborn babies have been found to have more than 200 industrial chemicals in their umbilical cord blood, right when they are born. The womb has not protected them. We are finding out the hard way that you can’t dump dirt there, and assume you are safe here. We all have only this one Earth – and do you want to be responsible for babies born with birth defects? Global warming is real – so is overpopulation and increasing environmental diseases.

• And what do they mean by “natural supplements”? I am glad to report that they do not mean artificially manufactured vitamins or new-fangled molecules, but they promote (mostly – no industry is perfect!) clean, whole, fresh herbs preserved in a bottle of tincture or capsule as well as possible. And if you are waiting for that miracle pill that might do the work for you – dream on! Real health is work. And didn’t you know it: Being sick sucks much worse.


Real health takes very little: A bit clean water, a few simple, fresh foods, a good night’s sleep – every night, a few herbs to treat little things early, abundance and walking and dancing and laughter with friends. Music, art, books. Ask more of this life just than a heavily mortgaged house, a car and a career!

A happy, hard-working New Year to you!

Offerings And Gluttony

December 7, 2011

Tags: food, water, movement, air, baby-sitting, back rub, books, breathing, cabbage, cake, candy, carrot, charities, coconut oil, cookies, cooking from scratch, diet, dog-walking, Earth, family, fat, flowers, food shopping, fried, friends, garden work, gift cards, gifting stress, gifts, gluttony, gratefulness, green beans, health, holidays, holiday meal, hot water, hydrogenated, ice cream, kale, kidneys, lettuce, lungs, meat, money, music, offerings, Offerings And Gluttony, olive oil, overeating, people in need, peppers, plenty, presents, processed, protein, season survival, second helpings, self-made jam, sharing, starches - simple, Star of Bethlehem, starvation, surviving the holidays, tea, time, tomato, Universe, variety, vegetable, voucher, walking

Bad news: The holidays are terrible for your health. Good news: The original thought behind the present shopping frenzy was divine: Be grateful for the offerings life hands you out all the time.

This season always overwhelms me, and to survive it seems to get harder each year. This is what helps me – it can be done anytime, anywhere:

Sit or stand with your palms turned up. Breathe in, breathe out. Notice how the Universe is there for you with all its plenty. Take the air into your lungs as a present. Take the water from your faucet as a present. Take your family and your friends as a present (as exasperating they might feel at times). If there are no family, no friends in your life, open your eyes: There are bound to be some – at least one – among the ten billion people on Earth who is destined for you (but you might have to go searching for them – the magi didn’t wait for the Star of Bethlehem to come to them). There are always people who are needier than you, as dire as you might see your situation now.

Be grateful for the tiniest thing: That is the message of the holiday season. Take the offerings, and share them.

AND the other problem linked to the season: gluttony. For this one high feats in the year, allow yourself gluttony. Enjoy it! It was invented for that: so that the rest you the year you can endure the drab and being reasonable. In olden times, naturally, starvation set, with scarce resources, and set the balance right. Nowadays, we have to use our brains because starvation is not likely to come to our help.

Here a few survival rules:

1. Don’t start a new diet big time around this time of the year! Instead celebrate with all your heart, and with all your friends and the whole bunch of your family. You don’t want to stand around munching on a lettuce leaf while everyone else is having a ball.
2. Don’t do second helpings – just DON’T. NEVER. Sample every variety, but don’t go back.
3. If you overeat, overeat on meat and fat – not on simple starches. Cut down on cookies, candy, cake, ice cream, and so on. Listen: I said: Cut down! Not: Avoid them altogether. After all, this is a wonderful season.
4. If you overeat meat: Drink lots of hot water or tea because the protein might otherwise hurt your kidneys.
5. If you eat fatty things, make sure that the fat is healthy: Nothing fried, nothing processed, nothing hydrogenated. Olive oil and coconut oil are actually good for you. Best, of course, is you cook your holiday meals from scratch – then you know what went in.
6. If you want to be extra goodie-good: Overeat on vegetables: Green beans, red cabbage, colored peppers, purple kale, red tomatoes, orange carrots. They will help you to get through the holidays. By the way: There are no restrictions on vegetables – you can have as many helpings as you want!
7. And after each heavy meal, take friends and family for a walk.
8. And against the gifting stress: It is always good to keep it simple: self-made jam, if you still have some. The old stand-byes: Books, music, flowers. The new stand-byes: charities and gift cards.And if you have no money, offer your time: a voucher for a back rub, baby-sitting, dog-walking, garden work is always appreciated.

Minimal Exercise Program

December 5, 2011

Tags: movement, anti-aging, arm exercise, back exercise, balance, ball – weighted, barefoot walking, bedridden, Black Beach, body pampering, bone mass, boredom, Boston, bowels - massaging, brushing teeth, cello, California, Chinese, constipation, daily exercise program, death, double chin, elderly, exercise program, exercises en-passant, falls in the elderly, family, fire, Five Tibetans, friends, garden, gentle exercise, German, gluten intolerance, gym machine, hip fracture, hypothermia, imbalance, immune-stimulating, immune system, injury, jogging, Kegel exercises, knee bends, leg strengthening, lower back pain, marathon, marriage, mindfulness, mindless exercise, minimal, Minimal Exercise Program, muscles, neck strengthening, osteopenia, osteoporosis, overexertion, painting, pelvic muscles, pinyin, pneumonia, pool, posture, reading, ruptured muscles, San Diego, sex, shadow boxing, soul pampering, spine, sports medicine, squeezing of shoulder blades, standing on one leg, swimming on dry, tai chi, tai ji, talking, tongue exercise, toning, traveling, triathlon, TV, upper back muscles, walking, warmth, writing, yoga

Reasons why I keep my exercise program as minimal as possible:

1. Exercise is boring.
2. Too much exercise may easily lead to injuries: We now have a medical specialty called “sports medicine”. If we didn’t overdo exercises, we would not need sports medicine. Using those modern gym machines while watching TV is a mindless enterprise. And as things go around, they come around – you could end up hurting yourself.
3. Definitely, there are more interesting things to do – playing cello, writing a book, reading tons of books, dabble with colors and brushes, being with family and friends, learning Chinese – to name a few.

On the other hand, I do have bad posture – inborn (many years of unrecognized gluten intolerance that weakened my muscles), and from years of being bedridden as a young person. Movement creates fire and warmth inside, without which we would not be alive. We need to move yes, but nowhere is it written that we need to jog or overexert ourselves in bad ways.

My exercise program changes all the time – I am always on the lookout for something faster and better. You might remember how much I liked the Five Tibetans – until I developed lower back pain. Recently I had to abandon my laps in the unheated Californian pool; the temperature got too low. I still jump in from time to time, just to get the immune-stimulating jolt of the cold water. But I can’t get my exercise that way anymore - danger of hypothermia and ruptured muscles.

Of course, back in Boston, I work in the garden and go to yoga classes, and have a house to tend to. Here, in this tiny apartment, I had nothing comparable – so far. Until last week , when I joined tai chi classes – or as it is called in proper pinyin Chinese: tai ji. In German, tai chi is called “shadow boxing” – and that describes well those flowing, artful movements I now try to learn. Emphasis on “try”: This is not my first time; in the past, I always had trouble remembering the sequence of movements. This time around, I will not even try to learn the sequence; I will just mimic my teacher and lose myself in the flow of gestures. Because, in the two more months we will stay in San Diego, how much can I really learn? Not much.

But in the first lesson, I already learned an important movement, which I now practice every time I pass by a mirror and notice how bent I have gotten up from my studies. Which makes two little exercises which I do in en-passant, not putting in extra time:

1. This squeezing of my shoulder blades that immediately makes me more upright. Firstly, it is a simple reminder; secondly, the squeezing loosens the muscles of the upper back and prevents that my head slowly vanishes between my shoulders like the head of a turtle in its shell.
2. Standing on one leg – especially while brushing my teeth, or waiting and whiling time away. This is good for balance, and for strengthening leg and pelvic muscles. Imbalance is what kills the elderly: Imbalance – fall – hip fracture – pneumonia – death; we physicians see it all the time. This exercise also increases bone mass in legs and spine, thus counteracting osteopenia and osteoporosis, thus preventing those nasty hip fractures. Standing on one leg is far more interesting and effective than Kegel exercises! Keeps your sex alive!

Not everything can be done on the go. So, I have this daily program – and don’t hold your breath! - each of these exercises takes less than a minute, and presently, I am doing six of them, each of them repeated 21 times. Twenty-one: That is the number of repetitions I have kept from the Five Tibetans. You can’t overdo much in twenty-one times, and twenty-one brings me just to the border of utter boredom.

1. Knee bends: Done wrongly, knee bends can hurt your knees. Therefore make sure that you are doing them right: Keep feet and knees together, keep knee caps over your toes, and don’t go deeper than you can easily do, but challenge yourself to go deeper with time. 21 times. Or, in the beginning, you might want to do this by holding on to something stable.
2. Arm exercise: Done with a small heavy ball. I have one of those weighted exercise balls – six pounds. When traveling, I am using my whale of a laptop – has nearly six pounds, too. Fill a plastic bottle with water (this is lighter), or find a heavy book. Slowly lift the ball (or whatever) with both hands and arms out-stretched, and bring it up above your head. Then bend your arms backward and down. Bring up your arms again, over your head and then down in front. Repeat this 21 times. It is good against arm flab, and strengthens the muscles of your upper back.
3. Back exercise: Stand tall. Take the ball in both hands behind you back and lift it upward 21 times. That will squeeze your shoulder blades and improves posture.
4. Swimming on dry: I started this after I had to leave the pool, because I missed the exercise that built up my upper back muscles. Come down on the floor on your belly, lift arms and legs slightly from the ground, and make swimming movements 21 times. A boon is that you are massaging your bowels in this position, which is good against constipation. Getting down on the floor daily acts also anti-aging.
5. Neck strengthening: This I do mornings and evenings in bed: Dig your heels and the lower part of your back head into the mattress. It feels like you arch your back in this position. Breathe in and out. It strengthens all back muscles, especially the upper back. It also works like a charm against a double chin.
6. Tongue exercise: This also helps to eliminate a double chin. Stretch out your tongue, 21 times.

One would think that a program this trifling would do nothing for the health of your body. On the contrary – I was never as toned and nimble as I am now, on this program. If however you are already doing triathlons or marathons: Stick with it, don’t listen to me … at least not until you come home injured. Then turn to my gentler method.

A big part of why this works is the mindfulness you practice all day: You stand on one leg while waiting for the bus. You get up from the computer and squeeze your shoulder blades. You are in the bathroom and stick out your tongue a few extra times. This program keeps you aware that you have a body, and your body needs attention and pampering, too. Moving your body gently pampers it. Lying down and doing nothing pampers your soul. There needs to be a balance between the two!

The other activity we do as often as we can, is walking. Here in San Diego, we have the beautiful Black Beach. If one removes shoes and socks and walks at the water line, in and out of the waves, it is great fun, and another great provocation to the immune system! And by walking and talking we keep our marriage afresh and alive.

Swimming In The Cold

November 7, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, order, aging, alcoholism, asthma, autism, bone health, bowel, calcium, cancer, cheese, children, cloudy day, cold pool, cold stimulus, common cold, daylight, death, dementia, depression, disease - preventable, doing your job, elderly, exercise, fat-free diet, flu, inflammation, immune function, influenza, inner city, intelligence - diminished, laps - twenty-one pool laps, learning a new skill, light, long pants, long sleeves, milk - “fortified”, mineral, MS, multiple sclerosis, noon, northern latitude, outside, phosphorus, physician, plant diet, RA, radiation damage, rain, raising a family, rheumatoid arthritis, SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), skin, skin cancer, skin color, smog, sun, sun exposure, sun hat, sunlight, sunscreen, Swimming In The Cold, vegetable, virus, vitamin D, vitamin D precursor, vitamin D preparation, vitamin - fat-soluble, winter, yogurt, walking, winter blues

One aspect of my cold pool experience is that, every day, with my twenty-one laps, I am sucking up vitamin D - so to speak. The vitamin is manufactured under the skin with sunlight – or even just daylight, on a cloudy day.

There is not one vitamin D but several. The precursors are taken up with food – all vitamins D are fat-soluble, so a fat-free diet doesn’t do a thing for you. And then these precursors are metabolized under your skin with sun exposure. As we age, or with darker skin, we require more light to do the job.

And don’t think that “fortified” milk, yogurt or cheese will provide you with the right amount of vitamin D. They will only make any disease in your body worse because they are inflammatory. Also, there are several forms of vitamin D, your physician should supply you with a vitamin D preparation, particularly in the winter and particularly if you are living in the inner city where light might be filtered away by high buildings and smog.

Vitamin D is important for several reasons:

1. It protects you from all kind of cancers. And, please, don’t be afraid that you catch skin cancer from that short of an exposure – not more than twenty minute. On the contrary! The other mostly unknown fact about skin cancer is that vegetables protect you from skin cancer much better than a sunscreen. Disclosure: I don’t use any sunscreen, ever. I usually dress with long sleeves, long pants and a sun hat. But I don’t fool myself with sunscreen: They are not doing the job they advertise they are doing.
2. Sun and day light protect you from the so-called winter blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The more northern you live, the more at danger you are for depression, and the higher the incidence of alcoholism is. So, go out daily, at around noon, sun or rain, and fill up on light! You also get the exercise and the joy of walking in a park, or even just on a bustling street.
3. Vitamin D is essential for your bone health. Vitamin D is important for uptake of calcium and phosphorus, among others, from your bowels – without vitamin D the food or pill just passes you by. You also, of course, need a diet high in plant material so that you have access to all the minerals your body needs – because calcium alone doesn’t do a thing for your bones.
4. Vitamin D is essential for immune function - it protects your health in so many ways, not only against cancer. It also plays a role in warding off the common cold and the more dangerous flu. A virus alone can’t kill you – you also have to have a weakened body and a low immune function to make you susceptible to death and disease.
5. Insufficient vitamin D seem to lead to diminished intelligence and autism in children, and to dementia in older people.
6. The lack of vitamin D seems to be involved in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS). Being outside - especially in your youth - protects you.
7. Low vitamin D in your blood makes you more vulnerable to stroke – it is easy to see if you don’t eat fresh food and never get out of the house, that you immediately are at higher danger of vascular events.
8. Vitamin D seems to prevent or improve several other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and asthma – and it protects against radiation damage.

All this I get from my twenty minutes in the pool each day. And that is apart from the cold stimulus and apart from the exercise I get.

Should we not start a movement making people use their unheated, underused pools more? – If I only knew how! I am such an apolitical person.

And I admit publicly: It is hard every day to walk into that cold pool. – But isn’t everything worthwhile hard? Like raising a family, doing your job day-in, day-out, learning a new skill – and being afflicted by a bad, possibly preventable disease?

Be Prepared – Flu/Cold Season Is Upon Us

October 12, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, tomorrow more about invasive plants!

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

Laying It On For The Hard Times To Come

October 7, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody Gains Weight When They Marry

September 23, 2011

Tags: food, movement, water, biking, birthday cake, black tea, breakfast, butter, cheese, cooking course, cream, dairy, dinner, diving, Everybody Gains Weight When They Marry, flour, green tea, herbal tea, hiking, hugging, immune system, juice, kissing, marriage, milk, nourishing, nutrition, nuts, obesity, outdoors activity, picnic, rowing machine, sex, snacks, soft beverages, spouse, stationary bike, touching, TV, Viennese walnut cake, walking, wedding, weight gain, yogurt

You probably heard it: On average, people gain fifteen pounds in the first few years after their wedding.

It is only natural that we want to pamper our spouses and want to feed them – the birds and the animals do it. The point is to put the right and healthful morsels in your spouse’s mouth. Because food can hurt. And food can heal.

Also: Get moving – together! Because marriage can be more than watching the same TV programs for fifty years from the same sofa.

Here a few ideas:
- Attend a cooking course together
- Alternate who prepares breakfast and cooking dinner - and then discuss after which meals you feel better
- Stop all snacks, preferably before you have children who will follow your example
- Plan an outdoors activity every weekend: a hike, a bike tour, a walk, a (healthy) picnic, a dive - whatever moves you
- Have sex often – it’s good for the marriage and good for the immune systems
- Take turns on a simple rowing machine/stationary bike in front of TV
- Eliminate all dairy (butter, cream, yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.) most of the time – and experience the difference
- Find recipes for a sinful birthday cake made without flour (hint: Viennese walnut cake - made of nuts and cream)
- Don't spend your money on juices and soft beverages; stick to water, herbal teas, green tea, black tea.

Hug and kiss and touch often – and have a happy marriage!

Varicose Veins - Phlebitis - Thrombosis

July 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Bringing Home The Truth?

May 14, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, water, advertisement, antibiotics, automobile, Bringing Home The Truth?, canned food, coffins, cold shower, cooking, education, environmental clean-up, Five Tibetans, gardening, governmental responsibility, HFCS, health improvements of the twentieth century, homeopathy, housewives, hygiene, junk food, justice, kitchen, lilac, love - making, microwaves, music - making, Nature, painting, poverty, ready-made dinners, repairing a bike, scientific research, sewage, societal forces, stinging nettle, supplements, take-out food, truth, TV, vaccinations, water preservation, water supply, walking

You who have followed this blog notice that I do change my mind. For instance, I was a great supporter of the Five Tibetans – and to a degree, I still am. But then my lower back spoke up against the practice, and now I do modified exercises. I let you know.

Was my first opinion untrue? Not really. Different people have different needs, and plenty of people come back to me and tell me that I once recommended the Five Tibetans to them – and they are still doing them daily, and happily.

Spending time on the Internet and blogging about health sometimes feels to me as if I hit a wall: We health nuts are discussing minor improvements in our diets, when the majority of people are eating junk food, don’t know how to even cook rice (forget BROWN rice!), and spending every free minute in front of TV that carries them into fake worlds while stealing innumerable hours of their lives and their powers away.

That might apply to my blogs, too: Somebody reading this, is not walking right now, not playing an instrument, not gardening, not repairing a bike, not cooking stinging nettle greens, not making love, not painting the lilac in bloom now, not taking a cold shower.

And my blog (or all the other health blogs) doesn’t reach that majority. I have started worrying about this.

The other worry is that we bloggers seem to disperse truths – but we don’t seem to change minds. Or do we? I have been in too many online discussion where opinions about, say, homeopathy, clash, and the divides are never bridged.

We can say that most health improvements came at the beginning of the twentieth century with advancement of hygiene (better water supply, better sewage systems). Much less with antibiotics and vaccinations - as much as doctors want to exploit those tales. Then came our downfall in the fifties - the widespread automobile use let people walk less. And also in the fifties, housewives succumbed to advertisement that "helped" them spend less time in the kitchen: canned food, microwaves, ready-made dinners, take-out food, supplements, and what not. And in the seventies, HFCS, sealing our fates (or coffins).

So, this is my question of today? How do we make up our minds about what is healthy? Do we believe every published research study - some good, some shotty - or the myriad of business interests that pipe up on all occasions?

For me, after all the years of studying, health has become simple: Follow what Nature intended, and you will be all right. For all the little details: Hard to get at the truth. Besides, the truth might be manifold.

And, as before, health changes on a grander scale might come from societal forces rather than from our little opinions here: From environmental clean-up, water preservation, governmental responsibility, better education, greater justice, less poverty.

Today is Beltane!

April 30, 2011

Tags: Water, food, herbs, movement, order, annihilation, annuals, bacterial life, Beltane, blooming, broomstick, celebration, chemicals, cherry blossoms, children’s children, chives, daffodil, desert, Earth, fall, Gaia, gardening, gardening methods - unorthodox, global warming, green, leaves, May Dance, May First, mutations, Nature, nature religion, neo-paganism, non-turning of the soil, nourishing, novel, nuclear devastation, ozone hole, paganism, perennials, political, radiation, renewal – yearly, rite, ritual, science, Sebastian Kneipp - Water Doctor, soil, spring, spring rites, stepping stones, summer, Today Is Beltane!, tulip, walking, water tables, Wiccan, witches

Beltane is the ancient rite of greeting and revering spring, celebrated on the night that leads into the First of May. I don’t believe in witches riding on broomsticks – or, to rephrase this, modern science interprets the broomstick a bit different. But in my novel “Sebastian Kneipp, Water Doctor” the broomstick and Beltane play a major role. For that reason alone, Beltane is special for me.

The most amazing features of Nature are that she brought us forth and nourishes us, and that she renews herself yearly.

This force of renewal is enormous – but it is not inexhaustible. We can come to a point of no return if we are not careful with old Gaia, and that point of no return could come in several scenarios, all not pretty: Nuclear devastation – and in the past we have come close to several political annihilation situations. Lowering the water tables so that wide parts of the Earth would turn into deserts until nothing green grows anymore. Biological mutations in our genome, started by chemicals we deem safe now but might find out too late they are not. Overheating of the Earth – global warming; there are still people who deny that this is happening, in the face of science. Overexposure to radiation by increasing the ozone hole (we are working mightily on that one).

In my garden I practice what I call non-turning of the soil – it’s a leisurely and useful form of gardening. I leave the leaves on the beds in the fall (the neighbors got used to my untidy garden and seem to have forgiven me because they Oh! And Ah! in spring, summer and fall at the blooming results of my unorthodox gardening methods. - If one doesn’t step on the soil, one doesn’t compact the soil, so one doesn’t have to turn the soil. Between perennials, annuals and bushes my garden the stepping stones. I never, ever step on the soil because I know it is teeming with beneficial bacterial life that will be trampled and choked if I do.

So, I don’t care if you celebrate Beltane with a Wiccan ritual (be aware that most of this nature religion is less ancient than we usually think – most comes from nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ revival of old paganism) or with a Dance into May or with a walk under cherries blossoms or along daffodils and tulips or with a salad sprinkled with the first chives from the garden. But l do care that we not trample and choke our good old Earth and preserve her for our children and children’s children.

The thought haunts me that one day nobody might be able ever to celebrate spring anymore – either because Spring has ceased to return, or nobody is left to celebrate …

Summer Sandals – Summer Feet

April 19, 2011

Tags: movement, athlete’s foot, barefoot, beach, boot, coconut oil, comfortable, European shoes, garlic, feet, forefoot, foot, fungus, Gesundheits shoe, gluten intolerance, heels, instep, Jesus, Kneipp - Sebastian (1821-1897), leather, Mary Jane, olive oil, orthopedic boots, pebbles, sandals, shoes, skin - smooth, spine – alignment, stiletto pumps, strap, summer, Summer Sandals – Summer Feet, tea tree oil, treading, walking

Today, I bought a pair of sandals for the summer, and I hope it is not tot late to give you a few hints what to get – so that your feet are happy.

As a child, I learned to walk late (at age three), and nobody could figure out what the problem was (years later, I found out that I had gluten intolerance). Then I had to wear orthopedic boots until I was eight. So, for me it is true: If my feet are happy, I am happy.

Yes, I did wear stiletto pumps when I was young – and succumbed to a few other youthful follies. But now I am wearing COMFORTABLE shoes. There is a new kind that has very low heels – deeper actually than the forefoot. They supposedly are good for the alignment of your spine.

The truth is, however, not every foot needs the same boot. And not the same sandal. Choose one that fits well and is comfortable. Choose a breathing, flexible material. Of course, I am partial to European brands. They actually invented the “Gesundheits” shoe, aside from Jesus who wore comfortable sandals, too, as we know.

Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897) walked barefoot until he was twenty-one, and had a hard time to adjust to shoes, period. That why he invented a very wide show from soft leather, with a strap across the instep – a kind of Mary Jane.

What else to do for happy feet:

• Walk often
• Walk barefoot often, walking at the beach, walking on pebbles.
• Use tea tree oil or garlic against foot fungus (athlete’s foot).
• Treat feet with olive oil and/or coconut oil daily for smooth skin.

Tread lightly on our beautiful Earth!

The Basis of Willpower

April 8, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, Anna Karenina, assignment, bedtime, bouncing, brain, breakfast - perfect, candy, cooking from scratch, craving, cycle – benign, cycle - vicious, dawdling, diet, diet coke, doughnut, drowsiness, emails, energy, exercise, fats - hydrogenated, flavors - artificial, focus, grumpiness, habit - good, health bar, highly effective person, joy, listlessness, lunch, midnight, multivitamin, online news - unimportant, positive thinking, produce isle, purpose, self-help books, sleep, sleep-deprived, sleeplessness, soy - unfermented, spunk, sugars, sun shine, supermarket, The Basis of Focus, tiredness, Tolstoy - Leo, TV, veggies, walking, well-fed, well-moved, well-rested, willpower, work

Have you ever worked so hard that you got to a point where nothing worked anymore?

You worked so very hard – with lots of joy and energy initially. Until the task that broke the camel’s neck – say, an assignment lasting late into the evening. Proudly, you finish that, too, way beyond your usual bedtime. But because you are so very tired, you watch bit of TV – because a person needs a reward for working so hard, doesn’t she? After midnight, you collapse into bed.

Now you can’t sleep because your mind is still racing and thinking and planning. And when you wake next morning, you feel like a truck has run you over – you are tired, unfocused, grumpy. You get up anyway, because that’s what a person does. But sitting down for work, you find yourself unable to focus on what you wanted to do. You read any unimportant news online. You get off from your chair to snip off a wilted leaf from a potted plant. You file your nails. You dawdle. You peek into emails from strangers you usually throw away unopened. You do everything you can to avoid working on the task at hand.

It is as if what excited you yesterday so much, can’t excite you anymore. You have lost all spunk and steam.

What happened? Have you suddenly turned from a highly effective person to a bum? Have you lost all your goals?

No. All what has happened is that you are sleep-deprived.

And this is the message for today: At least ninety percent of your willpower comes not from your brain and positive thinking (as much as self-help books want you make believe). It comes from a well-rested, well-fed, well-moved body.

For some weeks now, you had been on a great diet and avoided all the foods that made you listless and drowsy - and sure enough, that’s exactly the food you crave now that you are sleep-deprived. But what’s the purpose anyway, the day already is not worth any better effort, it seems. So, you take a candy when your neighbor offers one, and for lunch you have two donuts. And then, to “make up,” you pop a multivitamin and munch a health bar – even if you know quite well that it is listed with sugars, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors and unfermented soy – things you normally avoid.

You skip you noonday walk around the block and spend the afternoon in a daze, until you drink two diet cokes in a row.

After work (or what you passed off as work) in the evening, you are not up to anything and switch on the TV as soon as you walk through the door.

Let’s interrupt the vicious cycle right here!

Because it is a vicious cycle: Sleep deprivation leads to bad food choices and overeating, bad food choices lead to poor motivation to exercise. Lack of movements leads to further lassitude, more cravings, and so on.

But the other way round, it also is a cycle – although a benign one where one good habit feeds on the next: After a good night’s sleep – long before midnight! - you wake up refreshed and full of energy. You eat your perfect breakfast (which might be a bit different for different people because not all our bodies are the same), and you are off to a great start, doing what you want to do, doing what needs to be done – and all with a happy heart. You do your little exercises, you give your neighbor a hug (but politely refuse her candy), you resume your short walks and let the sun shine on your face, and your afternoon is as productive as your morning. You bounce off after work to get some good stuff from the produce isle in the supermarket, and cook a tasty little meal in the evening – all from scratch. You do a few chores, and sit down to answer some emails. You go to bed with your favorite book – perhaps “Anna Karenina” by Tolstoy – and switch off the light long before midnight.

You think a bit of sleep and a walk and a few veggies can’t make such a dramatic difference in your life? – Give it a try!

Have You Coddled Your Hippocampus Lately?

February 2, 2011

Tags: movement, water, herbs, food, Alzheimer's, blood fats, bone loss, brain, brain function, cold – common, cold shower, cold stimulus, daylight, diabetes type II, flu, freezing temperatures, Have You Coddled Your Hippocampus Lately?, high blood pressure, hippocampus, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, ice, immune function inflexibility – mental, junk food, longevity, lunch hour, memory, menopause, metabolic syndrome, mood, mood booster, muscles, New England, obesity, osteoporosis, pebbles, plasticity – mental, Parkinson’s, PMS, snow, vitamin D, walking, weight

A recent study shows that brisk walks boost memory in older adults. And makes your hippocampus swell visibly on MRI. I bet this also applies to younger people.

The hippocampus is a worm-like structure deeply buried in your brain that is involved in memory formation. In Alzheimer, it is the part of your brain that will show the first signs of degeneration. A youthful hippocampus gives you mental plasticity, the opposite of which would be the obnoxious inflexibility that some older people show. About six to nine miles a week in this study was linked to better brain function. Walking even more did not seem to have more effect on the brain.

It comes down to walking ten minutes in one direction, turning around and walking back ten minutes, which can be done during lunch hour.

Another study showed that people who walk faster live longer. That bodes badly for me – I am a slow poke. But we can safely deduct that people who don’t walk will not make it long at all.

Walking also boost mood. If I would be a moody person (which I am not), I would do three things: go for a daily walk during daylight, end every hot shower with a cold one, and take herbal preparations – in women particularly, herbs against PMS or helping with post-menopause. Not to mention that I would turn to fresh, nourishing food and away from junk.

Walking per se is good for you. Two other studies have shown, that the effect is even better if you walk on uneven surface – like on pebbles, at a beach or in hilly terrain. Walking on pebbles decreases high blood pressure, and makes you less likely to get Parkinson’s. Using more muscles and consequently more brain can explain these results.

The most dramatic effect, I think, that daily walking can have – besides on memory, longevity, hypertension, Parkinson’s and mood – is that light boost vitamin D production under your skin – even if it is just the pale little area of your face reaping the rays. Vitamin D has become an important research focus as it wards off bone loss, cancer, multiple sclerosis and infections.

Walking will also lead to less weight and fight the dreaded metabolic syndrome (diabetes, high blood fats and hypertension) better sleep – all exercise does. And better sleep has been shown to increase overall performance, mood and resistance to infections.

In New England presently, walking the icy streets among huge snow banks is not that enticing. But I bet snow shoveling has all the above benefits, too – if you avoid hurting your back and don’t slip on the ice. At least I hope. Because I spend the morning digging out our walkway and garage driveway. At least this I know: The cold stimulus is a trigger for better immune function: Snow-shoveling in freezing temperatures improves my ability to better fend off flu and the common cold.

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.

Is It January – Or Is It Me?

January 15, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Know About the Biochemistry of Birds

December 11, 2010

Tags: order, movement, water, balance, biochemistry, birds, Canada geese, cod liver, cod liver oil, cold shower, cold – stress stimulus, cormorant, Don’t Know About the Biochemistry of Birds, fire, gardening, ice, light, marriage, multivitamin, Nature, playing ball, pollution, pond, running, seasons, skin – dark and light, spirituality, sun, talking, vitamin A, vitamin D, walking, waterfowl, winter, wood stove

Today the pond was frozen over for the first time this year. The Canada geese have flown away to a place with still open waters, and the lone cormorant that, for weeks, had greeted us every time from the same spot is gone, too. We still can make out where he always had been sitting – a white sheet of guano at the edge of the reservoir (presumably soon being washed into the reservoir, enhancing our drinking water…).

We marveled at the bird every time we walked by. Why was he always sitting on that very spot so steadfast? Hatching time was long over. He was not deterred by the many passers-by. We had gotten fond of him, and his whimsical determination.

My husband and I take our walks to catch up on each other's lives; we are talking to each other (helps a marriage to survive). And to catch a ray of sunshine – so precious at this time of year when the sun gets lower daily. We want to build up some vitamin D under our skin to get through the winter without colds or cancer. I don’t know about the biochemistry of birds, but the cormorant must have thought along the same lines: Get in as much of the goodness of the sun. as long as it lasts!

Of course, a walk in the dark exercises your body, too. But walking (or running or playing ball or finishing up fall cleaning in the garden) in light has the extra benefit of helping your body to produce vitamin D under the skin. Lighter skin produces it more easily; dark skin needs longer exposure. Besides helping fight infections and cancer, vitamin D is essential for bone strength – and doing something outdoors, moving around, gives an extra boost to your health.

If we live right, we are able to do away with artificial vitamins. Isn’t it marvelous that the body finds the required vitamins in its food and produces some under the skin? Of course, the food has to be fresh, not processed – because artificial things (let’s not even call them food!) are devoid of what really nourishes your body. It has to be this way – that you find all your requirements in fresh foods – because, otherwise, how would have mankind ever survived without the multivitamin from the drugstore?

We do eat cod liver about once a month – giving us a hefty dose of vitamin D (along with vitamin A). It is delicious. But probably polluted – so we don’t have it often. If you don’t like the idea of eating cod liver, get a good cod liver oil preparation and take it during the winter months.

Our walks keep us healthy. Winter is not a time to stay indoors; it is the time to bundle up warmly, march out and come back an hour or so later with red cheeks, ready to sit in front of the warm wood stove again. That walk in the cold gives your body a stimulus to balance itself according to the season – similar as a cold shower does: Cold is a healing stress – if not overdone.

Out there, with the cormorant or the Canada geese or just the still surface of the frozen pond, we bond again with Nature and rediscover that we are part of it, and rediscover our spiritual home.

These Times Are Hard On Your Liver

November 30, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, water, herbs, alcohol, apples, artichoke, artificial coloring, artificial flavors, beer, breathing, cabbages, cakes, carrots, celeriac, celery, cirrhosis, cookies, cucumber, dandelion, detoxification, elderberry, fatty liver, feast, fermented foods, festivities, food – rotten, food – spoiled, gentian root, gizzards, gut, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herbal tea, holidays, kitchen herbs, liquor, liver, marjoram, massaging, meats, medications – over-the-counter, milk thistle, miso, oxygen, probiotic, radish, raisins, red beets, sage, sauerkraut, soy sauce, spices, stuffing - bread, stuffing - traditional, These Times Are Hard On Your Liver, walking, walnuts, wine

The liver is the heaviest organ in the body, and during the holidays, it is also the hardest working organ. Because the liver is your detoxification organ.

Too much heavy (sweet, fatty, alcoholic) foods hurt your liver – and too much even of good stuff can be hard on this most precious organ. But this is probably not the time to preach moderation. So what can you do to survive these taxing times? (I hope you hear the irony in my voice – when half of mankind is still starving).

Everything unhealthy has to be eliminated via the liver: spoiled and rotten food, modern preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings. If the liver is overloaded with rich foods and toxins, you end up with a fatty liver – a diseased liver that cannot fulfill its tasks properly. And if it gets really bad, you end up with cirrhosis, the shrinking of this valuable organ. Fatty liver is reversible with a better lifestyle; cirrhosis is not.

These are the essentials for a healthy liver:

• Drink enough water – not ice-cold. Herbal teas are helpful, especially in the winter season. Some of the herbs below come also as teas – make use of them. Enough fluid will flush out your liver.
• Elderberry juice helps regenerate the liver.
• Keep alcohol (wine, beer, liquor) at a minimum.
• After a big meal, go for a walk. A walk uses up some of the calories you have been ingesting, and it gives your whole digestive system a little boost – things in your stomach can settle, and the peristalsis gets a jumpstart. In Europe, Sundays and holidays will bring people out of their houses in droves – everybody goes for a walk after a feast.
• These herbs help to improve liver function: Most beneficial is milk thistle – you should have it at hand these days. Also helpful are bitter plants like dandelion, artichoke, sage, and gentian root. Most are available in capsules, often in combination.
• Kitchen herbs and spices also help digestion: For instance, the traditional stuffing for a goose is: grind the gizzards, add cut apples, raisins, walnuts and two hands full of fresh (or less of dried) marjoram. No bread!! Don’t know who invented the bread filling…
• A working gut relieves an overworking liver – and a probiotic helps with useful bacteria.
• Fermented foods like sauerkraut, soy sauce and miso help digestion. Traditional kitchens have very specific fermented foods – explore a Japanese or Korean store. Make sure you buy the real thing – not a modern product that still has the taste but no actual fermentation any more in the production process. Look up “fermented foods” in one of my earlier blogs.
• Make sure you eat not only meats and cakes and cookies – but also cabbages, red beets, celery and celeriac, carrots, cucumbers, radishes are famous for relieving a moaning liver.
• Take some very deep massaging breaths: Always start with exhaling. Deep breathing moves the abdominal organs, and oxygen is required in myriad detoxing chemistry processes of the liver. If you feel stuffed, do the deep breathing by lying on your back.
• Stop all unnecessary medications, especially over-the-counter drugs. They only burden your liver more.

And since we are discussing liver health: Hepatitis A can be acquired through food (especially uncooked oysters, and such), hepatitis B and C through sex, drugs and blood. There are vaccines available against A and B. Unfortunately not against C. It might be wise to get vaccinated. Talk to your doctor.

And enjoy the festivities!

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 …

Standing On One Leg

October 24, 2010

Tags: movement, balance, brushing teeth, exercise, exercise – harmful, high blood pressure, hypertension, Kegel exercises, leg, pelvic muscles, standing on one leg, walking, walking on uneven surface, yoga stance

Because I get bored stiff with doing exercise, I am always on the lookout for some easy way out.

The Five Tibetans were my favorites for a while, then the yoga ball. But both showed their propensities for inducing harm: The Five Tibetans gave me some lower back pain. The yoga ball made a kink in my neck. Both cases are probably brought on myself, by overdoing it.

But I found an exercise that is not harmful (at least not as of now) AND does not even take up any extra time. Unbelievable? Because you do it while you brush your teeth.

Easy: Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth. Change legs in the middle.

In the beginning, I was very wobbly. But I found focusing on the crease between leg and buttock, improves stability. Over about a quarter of a year, I have been getting quite good: I can lift my leg to a horizontal stance without toppling over.

This exercises, of course, your leg muscles. It also tones your pelvic musculature – without being as boring as Kegel exercises. By extrapolation, I would think that it will help lowering high blood pressure – as walking on pebbles or uneven surfaces has been proven to do exactly this. It think it has to do with using muscles, period.

And the most important effect: It works on the balance center in your brain. Elderly people are dying often from falls. So we need to maintain as much balance as we can.

Especially, if it is just a simple habit added to the twice-daily chore of brushing your teeth!. It turns out that standing on one leg has the same exercise effect as walking for forty-five minutes. Amazing, huh?

Movement for Beginners

September 25, 2010

Tags: movement, books, bottles - water-filled, dumbbells, egg timer, exercise – two-minutes, expanders, Movement for Beginners, nautilus, rowing machine, stationary bike, stepping stairs, treadmill, walking

The idea is to recapture the joy in moving you had when you were a child. Suggestions:

1. Walk 10 minutes every day – rain or shine, snow or ice. Bundle up and go outside. Stay in only if there is a danger of falling on ice. In that case: Bundle up, open the window wide and march in your room for ten minutes.
2. The 2-minutes exercise: Have an egg timer and any exercise machine you’ve got: stationary bike, treadmill, nautilus – doesn’t matter. Don’t go out and buy one. Dumbbells will do, or stepping stairs, or expanders. At the least, you have two books or two water-filled bottles in the house and can use them like dumbbells. Put the egg timer on two minutes and start. Do your movements in beauty and grace, open your joints, enjoy every second of change in your body, feel and savor the new sensations. DO it every day – NO excuses. – Afterthought: if you insist on buying a machine: buy a used old-fashioned rowing machine – they are the best.
3. Enroll in a yoga class.

From here everything will come in its own way and at its own pace.

Beautiful Feet

July 28, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll never want to hide your feet again!

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.

How to Measure Diabetes

July 21, 2010

Tags: disease, food, movement, A1c, anemia, belly fat, biking, blood sugar, cheeks - rosy, dancing, diabetes - latent, diabetes management, diabetes mellitus, diabetes type II, end-organ failure, eye problems, fasting blood sugar, fat - bad, genetic disposition, glucose solution, hair - scant body hair, hemoglobin - glycosylated, How to Measure Diabetes, hypoglycemia, kidney failure, Natural Medicine, neuropathy, Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, overweight, starches - white, sugars, swimming, urine, walking

In ancient times, diabetes was diagnosed by licking the urine of the patient. If it tasted sweet, a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus (“honeysweet flow”) was made. As a physician, I am glad we have advanced to better tests...

There are basically four different tests to diagnose diabetes (I am talking here mostly of type II):

• Spot blood sugar. Since sugars rise and fall depending what and when you ate, this is a very unreliable test.
• Fasting blood sugar. Does only take a bit of blood, is cheap and fast – but still can vary with what one ate the day before. However, if your fasting numbers are up consistently, you should pay attention!
• Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: a complicated procedure where one drinks an awfully sweet fluid before blood will be drawn in half-hour intervals to ascertain how fast the sugar load is cleared out. It’s complicated, and very time-consuming for the patient. I object of giving a patient a drink 75 to 100 gm of unpalatably sweet glucose solution – which can’t be healthy if there is a disease caused by sugar. My suspicion is that this test is still be used because doctors can bill the most for this.
• Glycosylated hemoglobin, also called A1c: An easy blood test that gives a rough average of your sugars through the last month. I like this one the best because the usual ups and downs of sugar are not interfering with the test, but going into the overall measuring. With frequent episodes of hypoglycemia (too low blood sugars), the test might come back falsely low or normal. In iron-deficiency, A1c are higher than they really are, suggesting diabetes where there might be none. Every time one eats sugar, it “glycosylates” (adding a sugar to the molecule) a protein on the surface of an erythrocytes (red blood cells), and the chemical process is never reversed as long as the blood cell lives. Red blood cells live about three months; blood we draw is always a mixture of very young cells, newly released into the bloodstream from the bone marrow, and older cells, soon to be discarded. Measuring blood glycosylation therefore represents a fair mirroring of recent sugar intake and over time, those numbers can be compared: A lower A1c means you have done something right lately.

In conventional medicine, A1c is called normal if it is below 6.0. A1c is measured in percent of how much of the blood is “sugared”. Starting at 6.1, you have diabetes. That in it itself is rather absurd: A little step upward from 5.9 to 6.0 does not give you diabetes – you had it coming all along. In Natural Medicine, we think that between 5.0 and 6.0, one has “latent” (developing) diabetes. Why that number of 6.0? Because if one would chose 5.0 as the cut-off point, most Americans would have to be diagnosed with the disease.

The Oral Glucose Tolerance Test is more sensitive to detect cases of diabetes – but only if the cut-off point for diabetes is set at 6.0 A1c.

Arbitrarily putting the number to 6.0 does not make a person healthier. In fact, at the date of diabetes diagnosis, I good proportion of patients have already end-organ failure, namely eye problems, kidney failure, neuropathy – to name a few.

Just looking around tells us that many people are overweight and have some of the telltale signs of diabetes: belly fat, scant hairs on arms and legs, rosy cheeks. One sign alone does not make the diagnosis – but several together gives me an idea. But one can be very overweight and never develop diabetes, because in order to get the disease, you have to have the genes AND an unfortunate lifestyle.

Don’t think that genes are an excuse. Because diabetes type II does not strike, if one lives frugally. For instance, after World War II in Europe, basically nobody had it (but people died in droves of tuberculosis then…). Ten years later, with ballooning economies and waistlines, diabetes was back.

But you don’t have to starve yourself, to heal diabetes. You need a mixture of moderate movement (walking, swimming, biking – or dancing; whatever you like) and a diet without sugars, white starches and bad fats.

In diabetes drug studies, diabetes often is called “controlled” if the blood sugar stays within the limits if 7.0 to 10.0 A1c. We can be sure that at those numbers the damage done by high sugars is continuing in the body. I personally favor an approach that does not “manage” the patient’s diabetes, but gets rid of it. And in many cases it can be done, with exercise, better nutrition – and determination on the patient’s side.

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!

Upper Back Pain

July 10, 2010

Tags: movement, back pain, bones, bridge, buttocks, ecercises, Indian yoga statues, lower back pain, micro-movements, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, muscles, Oceanic Art, nape, neck, one leg standing pose, posture, shoulder, shoulder blade, snake in your spine, spine, stance, stretching, upper back pain, Upper Back Pain, walking, yoga

In the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston I recently saw a figure from Oceania (here a similar picture from Africa - sorry, I have no clue how to make it larger and still sharp). The figure, barely a foot high, is carved from black wood and on first look seems rather crude. On second look, it reveals the perfect posture in a way I have otherwise seen only in Indian statues depicting ideal yoga stances.

The figure stands with soft knees slightly bent which struck me at first as a sort of ridiculous stance. Then one sees its graceful straight neck, with chin tugged in ever so delicately – and one gasps: This crude figure exhibits deep knowledge of musculo-skeletal workings.

If we could stand in this aware stance all the time, we would never suffer from upper back pain. Hunched as we are over computer screens, slouched onto chairs and sofas, unaware of our posture for hours and days on end, we do suffer. Here are a few exercises that should work against upper back pain:

• Micro-movements: Lie on your back – in bed, on the floor – and pull back one shoulder. Release, and pull back the other shoulder. Done repeatedly, it feels as if you wake up the snake in your spine, which starts undulating, writing. The movements are tiny. But they release muscle contractions from wrong posture. 21 times. Find new subtle ways of moving your spine.
• Stretching backward: Stand with knees soft and your buttocks tightened to protect your lower back (no use to swap upper back pain against lower back pain!). Bend backward and upward at the same time. Don’t collapse in your lower back area – it should feel like a puppet on a string, gently pulled back and up. At the same time, let go of your shoulders and let your shoulder blades glide down. The movement is a perfect up for the crown of your head, and a down for your shoulder blades. Once – whenever you think about it or feel the need to release your poor back.
• Lie on your back on the floor (this should not be done in bed, one needs a hard surface). Stand up your feet slightly apart. Raise your middle like a bridge. You now rest only on the nape of your neck and your feet. Slowly arch higher – without putting strain on your neck. Three times – but gently!
• Stand on one leg. I do this while I brush my teeth – so there is no extra waste of time. Lift one leg. Move it around – from side to side, upward, backward. Then the other leg. For a minute each. This strengthens pelvic and lower back muscles – without those your upper back has nothing to rely on.
• Walk as much as you can, preferably in hilly terrain. A strong upper back can only develop on the basis of strong legs and lower back muscles.

Do we get more stooped with aging? Or is the stooping aging us?
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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