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

Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!

September 13, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Five Health Essentials – Again

May 14, 2012

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, art, breathing, building block, boredom, cold shower, death, digestion, elements – exposure to, energy, freedom-loving country, hatred, life, mood, moving, muscle, music, natural order, nourishment, plants, protein, rejoice, relationships, relaxation, repair, rest, rest, repair and rejoice - order, sleep, sloth, The Five Health Essentials – Again, vegetal, waste, wellbeing

Water, movement, food, herbs and order are the five important areas you have to pay attention to if you want to be healthy.

Why does Natural Medicine promote exactly these five? It becomes clearer if we regroup them into a set of three:

1. Water and movement are needed to remind your body that it is still required to be alive. If you don’t move, and if you are not exposed to the elements (mostly cold), your body could as well not exist. A cold shower after a warm one reminds your body that it is still alive – that is why you come out of the cold shower brimming with energy, life and good mood. The same applies for movement. Life basically is movement – we diagnose death mostly by someone not moving, not breathing.
2. Food and herbs provide the building blocks so that this moving, breathing body is nourished and kept alive. What you eat is going into forming your body of tomorrow, it is essential to offer clean, fresh, mostly vegetal foods (plants) to your body – with enough proteins so that your body does not start to digest its own muscles.
3. Order – which always sounds strange in our freedom-loving country – is really about natural order: Rest, repair and rejoice are the three functions that go into the order category: Sleep, relaxation, relationships, art, music – whatever makes your life good adds to your wellbeing. In the long run, you can’t be well if you run your life against the natural grain with waste, hatred, boredom, sloth.

Do We Need Vitamins?

April 21, 2010

Tags: food, astronaut food, breast cancer, cancer, depression, diabetes type II, Do We Need Vitamins?, elimination, food sensitivities, glucose, gluten, gluten intolerance, health, heart disease, multivitamin, nutrition, syndrome X, toxins, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamins, waste

A recent Swedish study showed that breast cancer in women taking multivitamins was nineteen percent higher than in women who did not. Other studies earlier linked single vitamin preparations (vitamin E and A) also to higher cancer rates.

This feeds into my hunch that artificial high-dosed vitamin pills are not the same as vitamins naturally occurring in food. And why should they be?

Imagine: Glucose is a fuel molecule needed in every single cell of your body. But the moment we were able to refine sugar and put it on everybody's table, the downhill course in our health began: Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, syndrome X, depression, and so on.

Think about man-made vitamins in the same way: Too much of a good thing in too short time - your body just does not know what to do with it and is overwhelmed. As Annemarie Colbin once put it: If you pop a vitamin A in the morning, your body might be searching for the rest of the carrot the whole day…

Your vitamins should come from fresh food. There is no substitute for freshness – we are learning it now the hard way. As I see American cuisine in the last half century or so: In the fifties, families started to eat "modern" canned food and “enriched” cereals as an easy way to get meals on the table. Then frozen and take-out foods arrived. And to assuage our guilty feelings (somehow we know this can’t be right), we shove in vitamins.

Medically speaking, vitamin deficiencies do exists. If your physician diagnoses such a state, by all means take the prescribed pill. But not forever and ever. Your doctor should find out why you are deficient in the first place. Often, there is a poor diet, or an inflamed gut is unable to take up vitamins. Common causes for inflamed bowels are gluten intolerance and food sensitivities. Heal your gut with better food, and your vitamin deficiencies might improve.

In the seventies, a new fad took over: astronaut food. These were un-food-like substances (in the form of cubes in beautiful pastel colors) which could be digested without the need of elimination. See, going to the bathroom in space was considered a major obstacle. – What happened? Turns out, defecating is a marvelous thing because it eliminates wastes and toxins from the body. Astronauts got sick from their beautiful cubes, and astronaut food vanished from the market.

But wait – don’t throw out your vitamins yet. Keep them in a drawer, don’t take them every day. But if one day suddenly you feel like taking one of those vitamins; do take it. Because your body might be telling you that you need one. But only one.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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