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Signs and Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning

October 4, 2016

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

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

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

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


Signs and Symptoms

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

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

When Things Are Falling Down

November 19, 2015

Tags: order, herbs, movement, water, abdomen, aging, amalaki, antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, anus, ayurvedic, bacteria, balance, bastard myrobalan, bathroom, bibhitaki, bladder infection, bladder wall, birthing, bloating, bowel movement, child birth, comfort, complications, constipation, corn silk, cramps, cranberry, curse, diarrhea, death, diabetes, discomfort, Emblica officinalis, essential oil, eye, fatigue, female affliction, fluids, gastro-intestinal tract, germ, haritaki, India, Indian gooseberry infection, intercourse, internal organs, invasive procedure, Kegel exercises, kidney infection, medical advance, mesh, microbiome, olive oil outcome, pelvic muscles, perineum, pessary, plumbing, preventing falls, private parts, probiotic, prolapse, prophylaxis, rosemary, sepsis, sexual muscles, standing on one leg, surgery, susceptibility to infections, Terminalia bellirica, Terminalia chebula, thyme, toilet, triphala, urinary tract infection - recurrent, usnea, UTI, uva ursi, vulva, water - running, sanitation, side-effects, vagina, vaginal probiotics, washing hands, weight gain, When Things Are Falling Down, wiping, World Toilet Day, worst case scenario, yellow myrobalan

Today is World Toilet Day, and most writers today will talk about the importance of hygiene – which is indeed more valuable than all the other medical advances combined, in my opinion. Every person in the world deserves running water and good plumbing, and so many don’t have it: 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to decent sanitation!

But the things I am want to talk about are internal organs, and when they fall, or droop, physicians call it prolapse. It is, of course, a female affliction (curse?). Often it results from child births (and I wonder if modern medicine that wants to speed up the birthing process, has given us more prolapses – we never will be seeing a study about this, I fear). Prolapse can be uncomfortable when you walk, and even hurt outright. But the worst part is that they might cause recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs). There’s the connection to toilets, when you are running to the bathroom twenty times a day, and the whole middle of your being hurts like hell.

Recurrent UTIs are dangerous because a simple bladder infection can rise into the kidneys and eventually even leading to sepsis (an infection of the whole body), and at its worst, death. And death doesn’t seem to be the worst outcome: The many courses of antibiotics – often the doctor tells the patient that they have to be on antibiotics for the rest of their lives to prevent the worst case scenario – damage the precious bacteria in the intestines, and lead to all sorts of complications: weight gain, susceptibility to other infections, fatigue, bloating, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, and so on. The last few years has brought us so many studies about the microbiome (the beneficial bacteria in our bowels) that it is hard to exaggerate its importance to your health. And every course of antibiotics will damage that healthy balance in your belly. - Hear that I am not altogether against antibiotics; they have saved lives (mine, for instance). But they can have grave side-effects, notably now antibiotic resistance.

Conventional medicine recommends, besides Kegel exercises, surgery. Particularly, the insertion a special mesh down there to keep organs up, has not been very successful; women are suing the manufacturer in droves, and the mesh has been abandoned. But since every surgery carries a risk of infection and death with it – and repairing prolapse might make symptoms worse – surgery should be your last resort. You could also insert a pessary into your vagina to provide structural support. It works for some women.

Here are the natural alternatives to invasive procedures; combined – can make a huge difference in the discomfort or comfort you feel in your most private area:

1. Standing on one leg whenever you think of it – while brushing your teeth, waiting for the bus, chopping an onion. This will strengthen your pelvic (and sexual) muscles – and is not as boring as Kegel exercises. It is also good exercise for your legs and good for balance – very important to prevent falls when you get older.
2. Inserting vaginal probiotics every evening into your vagina.
3. Oral probiotics. They heal your bowels after a course of antibiotics, and have shown to decrease the number of recurrent urinary tract infections prophylactically.
4. Washing your hands after each bowel movement religiously and then pampering your private parts (wipe from the front to the back - vulva to perineum to anus; never the other direction!) with a mixture of olive oil and a few drops of an essential oil like rosemary or thyme; they are antibacterial. Make sure you always wash your hands and use essential oil before you, for instance, insert the nightly vaginal probiotic capsule. It is tiny, and no, it won’t interfere with intercourse.
5. Taking triphala, the ayurvedic herb, which will prevent constipation. Naturally, if your problem is diarrhea, don’t take triphala on top of it. Triphala is an ancient combination of three Indian herbs: Amalaki or Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis), Bibhitaki or bastard myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica), and Haritaki or yellow myrobalan (Terminalia chebula). Triphala is actually a balm for the gastro-intestinal tract, and is also good for your eyes. Besides it works against diabetes.
6. Take a zinc supplement to boost your immune system.
7. Prophylaxis with cranberry, uva ursi, usnea, corn silk, and so on, if needed every day. Especially after sex. Cranberry prevents bacteria to latch onto your bladder wall, so they are flushed out easier.

Women and their doctors often think that prolapse is an inevitable part of aging. It shouldn’t be! - Happy Toilet Day!

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.

Just Thinking … About Cancer

July 10, 2014

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, water, alcohol, awe, birthday party, boredom, cancer, cell, cold shower, cooking, commitment, death, decay, emotion – fake, energy, flower, friendship, function, gadget, genetic, genome, gossip, hands-on doing, heart, helping hand, hiking, hugging, indoors, joy of life, judgment, Just Thinking … About Cancer, kissing, laughter, love, moral, music, nakedness, Nature, office party, OMG!, open door, outdoors, pollution, religion, revenge, scientist, self-inflicted, sex, song, stargazing, stuff, survival, talking, tolerance, tribe, TV, vegetables, vitality

Just thinking … some half-baked thoughts.

Just thinking: What is cancer? Of course, cancer is genetic. But what are those cancer genes doing in our genome?? Scientists now seem to come to conclusion that cancer is less some terrible thing gone wrong deep down in our bodies, but more some last-ditch effort to let at least SOME cells survive. They happen to be cancer cells, and nobody likes them. But they are strong, surviving cells when the rest of the body decays. It’s not the best of all strategies because in the end, the body dies, but the cancer cells die with it. But that is what we need to concede: The cancer cells are stronger – in many cases. They are more primitive, and they have only one goal: to survive. The other cells in a body might be more likable – they laugh, they cook, they make music, they hug and kiss. We all like the other cells better. But, in the end, cancer cells so often win.

Just thinking: Why do we get cancer? The theory is that the cells are losing something – their vitality, their drive to survive, their energy, their joy of life. Causes? Too much bad food (think birthday parties at the office). Too much boredom. Too much drink. Too few herbs. Too little commitment. Too little movement. Too little friendship. Too little hands-on doing, too much talk and gossip. Too much TV. Too much fake emotions – OMG!. Too little heart. Too little outdoors, too much indoors. Too much pollution. Too few vegetables. Too few hikes into Nature. Too much stuff. Too much religion, too little awe. Too many functions, too few open doors. Too much judgment, too few helping hands. Too many “friends”, not enough tribe. Too few cold showers. Too many gadgets. Too few flowers. Too much morals, too little tolerance. Too much revenge. Too little stargazing. Too few songs. Too little nakedness. Too much sex – too little sex – who knows, but definitely not enough love.

Just thinking: What can we do so that cancer can’t grow? Of course, there always will be some terrible genes, and some terribly undeserved cancer. But scientists think that 50 to 70 percent of cancer are self-inflicted – at least. What we can do? It is not so much fighting cancer, it is more giving cancer no ground on which it can grow. The list is long what we can do – reverse all of the above. Personally I think eating a lot of freshly cooked vegetables every single day will go a long way. Because if you are eating vegetables, you automatically are not longer the person who brings sugary cupcakes to the office birthday party. And from there it all starts ...

Today Is International No-Bra Day!

July 9, 2014

Tags: order, food, movement, water, alcohol, antenna, bedroom, bra, brassiere, breast, breast cancer, breast health, breast size, cancer, circulation, cold wash, comfort, convention, cups, dairy, darkness, diet, gym, hormones, jogging, July heat, lifestyle, lunch hour, nightshift, sleep, sports bra, starch - white, sugar, support, Today Is International No-Bra Day!, trans fats, underwire bra, vegetables

Sweltering July is probably the best reason to throw out your bra – even if for only a day.

Because it is hot in there – in the cups. A few studies suggest that a link consists with wearing a bra and getting cancer. Unfortunately, those studies are not the best by scientific standards. We certainly should demand better studies!

Personally, I believe that a bra that cuts off circulation and traps heat close to one part of the body might be doing harm – the more hours a day one is wearing it, the more likely. Some people think it is the metal wire in the underwire bra that might work like an antenna, attracting bad “waves”.

One certainly should never wear a bra to bed – give your breast some freedom at least over night! But going all without is not an option for well-endowed women, because heavy breast can hurt with every movement. Sports bras certainly have their place. I wince whenever I see a woman jogging and her breasts are bouncing up and down – ouch!

Many years ago, in my twenties, I threw my bras out and never looked back – an easy decision because I have not much to hold. For me, a bra was a senseless convention. I had a beloved aunt who was as small-chested as I. She would gleefully pronounce: “What I don’t have today, can’t sag tomorrow!” Her attitude made my small size a no-problem.

For other women a bra might be a life saver – no rule applies to everybody. Today is a good day to examine if you are wearing a brassiere for comfort – or for convention. Throw out the convention … if you dare.

We know (by good studies) that bigger breasts are more likely to develop cancer. But that might have different reasons: Women who are overweight have usually a less healthy lifestyle. And more female hormones lead to bigger breasts, as well, potentially, to breast cancer.

What makes healthy breasts:

• A good diet with fresh vegetables (and avoidance of sugar, white starches, dairy and trans fats). Don’t be fat-phobic: Olive oil, coconut oil and butterfat are healthy.
• Regular movements – just move through your day, as opposed to spending time in the gym.
• A daily walk during– for moving and for daylight and vitamin D. Vitamin D prevents cancer.
• Moderate alcohol consumption. Enough sleep and real darkness in your bedroom: Light at night seems to increase the likelihood of cancer (especially if you are working nightshifts – which I certainly have, extensively, in my life).
• And here is my favorite – and of course, there are no studies to be had: Wash your breasts with cold water every day – take a face cloth and 21 splashes to each breast.

The Big Itch – Eczema

November 16, 2013

Tags: order, food, water, allergy, aloe vera, apples, artificial colorings, attention, balm of Peru, bell & hot pepper, carbs - white, coconut oil - virgin, comfort food, conditioner, cortisone, dermatologist, disease - chronic, dairy, disfiguring, eczema, eggplant, fat - bad, food elimination, gluten, gut, heart, inflammation, itch, label, make-up, nightshades, nuts, ocean, ointment, pruritus, personalities, potato, preservatives, probiotic, psychological theories, rash, remedy, shampoo, skin, soothing, spices, stress, sugar, sunburn, sunlight, swimming, tomato, vitamin D, wisdom

Today, in a New York Times blog, I published a version of this:

One remedy does not work for all - that is the wisdom coming out of these letters. Seeing a good dermatologist and soothing your skin with some cortisone and/or other substance stands at the beginning.

Leave out gluten, dairy, nuts, nightshades (tomato, bell & hot pepper, eggplant, potato) - they are, in my experience, the worst offenders. But I have seen people react to spices, artificial colorings, preservatives, even to apples. Use nothing on your skin than virgin coconut oil, aloe vera gel (best directly from the plant), and your prescription ointment. Try to avoid make-up and read the labels of your shampoo and conditioner: Balm of Peru is only one ingredient that lets rashes bloom! Take a probiotic and vitamin D, and go out into the sun as often as possible - but never to the point of reddening or burning.

Then listen to your body - to the itch? What food makes you itch? What activity? Because every body is different, and my itch is not your itch. As soon as your itch gets better, avoid the cortisone cream, and go all coconut oil.

If your body itches consistently after a certain food, eliminate it - it is hurting you. Eczema is an inflammation of your skin (often on the basis of your gut being inflamed, too). And every bit of inflammation lowers the threshold for the itch, and a new allergy.

A lot of psychological theories are floating around – that certain personalities get it, that one gets it during stress, and so on. I think it is probably the inferior food we fall for in times of stress – comfort food that is loaded with sugars, white carbs and bad fats,. And when you have a chronic disease and an extremely itchy, disfiguring rash – yes, you might seem odd to so some people …

When you have healed, try to introduce some of the eliminated foods again - very, very cautiously. Some you might have to leave out forever, or may have them only very occasionally.

Go swimming in the ocean, whenever you can! - And my heart goes out to you poor thing!

Can This Be Healed With Herbs Alone?

September 29, 2013

Tags: herbs, food, water, alcohol, allergy, aloe vera, Andrographis paniculata, ankle, antibacterial, antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, anti-germ, bacteria, bathing, berberine, black seed oil, brain, calf, cannabinoid receptors, Can This Be Healed With Herbs Alone, capsule, cheek, cinnamon, clay, cleanliness, coconut oil, cow, craziness, culture - bacterial, day care, diet, donkey, dosage, endangered species, Europe, experimenting, forehead, fragrance, frankincense, Germany, gold, goldenseal, goldenthread, head, healing agent, honey, honey-colored crust, impetigo, infection, Infectious Disease, injury, Iran, itch, lanolin, life-threatening, limb, Maine, Manuka honey, mosquito bite, mud, myrrh, nape, neck, neem, Nigella, ocean, olive leaf extract, Oman, oregano, primary care provider, proof of principle, propolis, rash - infectious, Russia, salt water, salve, Sankt Petersburg, scientist, sheep fat, shlep-sh***, skin infection, stable, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, tea tree oil, thigh, Three Magi, tincture, traveling, trunk, turmeric

Early July, in Sankt Petersburg/Russia, I was bitten by a mosquito. Not paying attention, I must have scratched the bite, and when I looked next – about a week later – my right ankle showed the telltale sign of a honey-colored crust: Impetigo!

Impetigo is an infectious rash, usually caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria. Since we were traveling, nobody did a culture, we never will know who the culprit is. For first aid, still in Russia, I dabbed tea tree oil on it – too late, as it turned out; I should have treated the mosquito bite thus!

At home, two weeks after the bite, for healing I added some herbs, taken by mouth: Olive leaf extract, oregano, Andrographis paniculata and neem. The rash got paler, but by then it had spread up my right calf, to both of my thighs, and to my forehead and right cheek. Tea tree oil immediately removed the itchy spots from my face, but the rest stalled – not getting better or worse. – It is interesting to note that impetigo usually spares the trunk; it prefers head and limbs. I conclude those bacteria don’t like it hot …

With all infections, it is a good idea to clean up one's diet - no sugars, dairy, and as few white starches as possible. Mine was already pretty good; not much I could do here.

We traveled to Maine. Bathing in the salt water every day was soothing, and accelerated the healing (careful if you try this at home: Some warmer oceans easily might carry offending bacteria!). But then it slowed down again. In my desperation, I applied mud from the edge of the ocean once a day – because in Europe muds and clays are thought of as healing agents. It sure didn’t look pretty – my legs were blackish, peeling and scattering dried mud wherever I walked and sat and lay – especially in my bed. But mud greatly helped: Every day the rash looked a bit paler, and felt less itchy.

In case you think I am a crazy doctor going off the cliff: All along I was in contact with my primary care provider, who happens to be specialized in Infectious Disease. Because I have many, many allergies to antibiotics, and because of the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, he thought it was worth to try alternatives. So, mud it was. I even took a jar full of mud home when we left Maine after the summer. But the jar soon was empty – and the rash blossomed again. I added propolis, black seed oil (Nigella) and to berberine (the yellow dye makes goldenseal and goldenthread antibacterial; but goldenseal is an endangered species, so I don’t use it) the mix of herbal capsules that I was taking by mouth; not all at once, but every three hours one of the herbs, while awake (dosage is found on the bottle).

An Iranian friend of mine wrote me that her grandmother would use a salve of turmeric and sheep fat (lanolin) on skin infections. So I made a salve with turmeric, adding cinnamon for fragrance, and Manuka honey for good measure (Manuka honey got excellent results in trials in killing bacteria). However, I used coconut oil instead of lanolin, because I had coconut oil in the house, it smells better than sheep fat, and it is known for having antibacterial properties itself.

Things healed nicely – until I noticed new lesions at the nape of my neck, where I must have scratched there – despite fussy cleanliness throughout. Presently, I am steeping myrrh in alcohol for a tincture; another friend recently had brought me myrrh and frankincense from Oman. Tonight, I will use this tincture for the first time. Mainly I am looking for replacing the turmeric with something less colorful – I am doubtful if I will ever be able to wash the yellow color out of my bed sheets … - And, yes, the Three Magi valued myrrh and frankincense as highly as gold! Why? Because of their anti-germ abilities, which was needed in ancient times when you lived with cow and donkey in a stable. Not to mention that frankincense binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

Against the intense itch, I am also using the jelly inside of a huge old aloe vera plant I grow on the windowsill. It soothes the itch, and seems to help to reduce the angry red.

Why going to this length (approaching three month) to treat an itchy – but luckily not painful – rash? Part is, of course, my many allergies. Another part is that the rash is not life-threatening – I have some room for experimenting. Also, I am not a kid in a day care situation who might spread the infection to other kids. And mainly I want to find out if curing this rash by herbs alone is even doable; finding proof of principle, as scientists say.

It’s not nice having an ugly rash. Adding ridicule to injury: In Germany, I was told, the slang word for this very unpleasant and persistent impetigo is “shlep-sh***!” - One could not have come up with a more suitable term!

Oh, and stay posted to find out if the herbs finally will work!

Bone Broth for Strengthening your Bones

September 9, 2013

Tags: food, water, antibiotics, bike accident, Bone Broth for Strengthening your Bones, bone soup, broth, bowel health, calories, carrot, celery, celeriac, cheap food, carrot, chicken soup, clavicle, collar bone, elbow, Europe, fat, fracture, frozen shoulder, garlic, Germany, hair, heal-all, husbandry, immune system, ligament, lovage, meat, mending bones, nails - fingernails, non-fattening, onion, organic, osteopenia, osteoporosis, oxtail, parsley, peppercorns, processed food, ribs, salt – herbal, scapula, shank, shoulder, shoulder blade, sick animal, simmering, skeletal appendages, snack, strengthening bones, tendon, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian, war, warming food, winter

Somebody in my family was in a bike accident and broke a shoulder – the collarbone as well as the shoulder blade. Ouch!

From my childhood in Germany, I remembered the heal-all properties of bone broth. Bone broth has all the ingredients a bone needs for knitting together again because bone broth is simmered for hours and hours – days, actually – until everything good in the bone now is swimming in the broth. Proof: If you try to eat the bones, they are soft and can be eaten like just another piece of meat. I find them just as tasty – but opinions differ here …

This is how you make a bone soup: Take beef bones like shank, oxtail and/or ribs. If you add chicken, it is better to have an old bird than a young one – the bones are stronger in an older bird.

Cover the bones with filtered cold water in a lidded pot, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to simmering. For taste, I add herbal salt and black peppercorns in a tea ball. If you don’t like the taste of bone broth very much, add whole onions, garlic and carrots. Since the broth is reheated and simmered every day for a few hours until eaten up, it is not appetizing to have other vegetables in there – they would cook into a mush. But vegetables won’t hurt because all of them carry the minerals bones need to grow strong. – Before you serve the broth for the first time, cool it down and remove all visible fat from the top. Not that the fat is not healthy; most people just don’t like it swimming on their soup. – The meat can be eaten, or be discarded. All its goodness (or most of it) is now in the broth.

Make sure you buy organic meat and bones only. The detrimental effects of meat are not so much caused by meat – as vegans and vegetarians think. Unhealthy effects of meat seem to be related to the sick animals we eat. Sick animal come from bad husbandry. Bad husbandry requires medications like antibiotics to make the animals look healthy – but they aren’t. How can we expect health from a sick cow or a poorly chicken? Lead stores in bones - so make sure you get animals that were raised and fed in a natural way.

Bone broth is not a good source of all amino acids, but provides three essential amino acids, namely arginine, glycine and proline. Also it is rich in gelatin – once your broth cooled down, it separates in fat on top and the jelly below. Besides strengthening your bones – not only in a case of fracture, but against osteoporosis and osteopenia too – bone broth is said to be good for general bowel health and the immune system because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Not surprisingly, it is also good for skeletal appendages like tendons, ligaments, nails and hair, and it “greases” the joints. It calms the mind and promotes sleepiness. Unfortunately, none of these benefits have been proven by science because there are no studies published on this subject – at least not that I am aware of (and I looked!!). In past times, however, broth was always given to sickly people and patients recuperating from major illness. It fell out of fashion with easily available and processed foods – that doesn’t mean bone broth won’t work. But don’t assume that so-called chicken soup from the store would have the same benefits. It won’t.

Making a bone broth is no work at all – and once it is in the pot, you have a snack always available. A non-fattening quick, warming snack, that is, and highly satisfying. With few calories. And cheap – in Europe bone broth was always used widely during and after wars, when food was scarce. The simmering broth on our stove will likely be served much longer than the bones need to be mended; I can make a new batch every few days – no sweat! It is good, warming winter food, too.

P.S. 9/17/2013: We did some experimenting in the kitchen, and indeed one can add vegetables to the bone broth without getting it mushy. Indeed, the vegetables make it even more tasty. Celeriac root and celery greens can be cooked for days without getting mushy. Same with carrots. And some tough herbs like parsley and lovage. As the ingredients will not be eaten - only the broth - you don't have to cut anything.

The results are also superb: The healing goes well, and since the young man is moving his arm constantly with micro-movements (without the slightest weight bearing, of course - he does not even have a frozen shoulder or elbow.

Degrees of Freshness – Or what I learned from an Alpine Meadow

July 28, 2013

Tags: food, water, air, alpine, animals, aroma, Austria, basil, bell flower, biodiversity, bulbs, burdock, bush, buttercup, cilantro, coltsfoot, cranesbill, crocus, dandelion, diversity, Earth, Europe, eyebright, farm, fresh, heal-all, garden, Germany, Good King Henry, grazing, Great Britain, Grimming Mountain, growth, Hamburg, harvest, healing power, health, hedge, herbal, humans, kitchen, limestone, lovage, meadow, meadowsweet, mowing, nutrients, ocean, oregano, parsley, plant, plantain - broad-leafed, plantain - narrow-leafed, poisonous, pollution, polyphenol, primal, processed, red clover, rosemary, Russia, scilla, silverweed, skiing, soil, species, stinging nettle, storage, Styria, sub-alpine, sun, supermarket, sweet Annie, tea, thyme, travel, tree, underground, vital, yarrow, hiking, vacation

People vacation in Austria – skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer. I never considered summer vacations in a land-locked country like Austria, because, originally from Hamburg/Germany, I am a child of the ocean – of all the oceans. But I am just back from one of the high meadows in Styria, smack in the middle of Austria. And what I found: a primal meadow.

The alpine meadows high up there, facing the Grimming Mountain, have been mowed twice a year, for hundreds of years, probably thousands of years. The plant diversity is unimaginable. In an article I read some years ago that in Great Britain the age of a hedge can be estimated by how many different tree and bush species grow there; roughly one species is added per decade. I imagine it must be similar with these ancient meadows, mowed over year after year, different plants moving in all the time, enhancing biodiversity over time. The converse is also true: If we abandon regular mowing and/or grazing – as often now is the case on the steep and hard-to-reach meadows, and in light of shortage of labor when the young people move into the cities for a “better” life – we will lose this biodiversity. And might regret it too late.

Because I was exhausted from my Europe travels through Russia, Germany, Austria, I brewed myself an herbal tea from the plants of the meadow right after arrival. The underground is limestone that let so many plants thrive: yarrow, meadowsweet, narrow-leafed plantain, stinging nettle, heal-all, broad-leafed plantain, red clover, eyebright, silverweed, Good King Henry, dandelion, sweet Annie. To which I added herbs from the kitchen garden: parsley, cilantro, rosemary, lovage, basil, oregano, thyme. Of course, other plants grew there that where not useful for my tea as they are poisonous, like cranesbill, coltsfoot, bell flower, buttercup, and a variety of spring-flowering bulbs like crocus and scilla that were now out of bloom. The tea had a gorgeous aroma, and I felt better and stronger immediately. Wish I could take such a meadow home!

My garden at home, lovely as it is, does not come close. Its plant variety is not as great, the individual plants are not as sturdy, their green is not as deep, their aroma is not as overpowering. From this exceptional plant health we can assume that their polyphenol content is higher, and that their healing power is greater. Mostly, it is the strong sun out there that enables such a lush growth. But also the absence of pollution of air, soil and water so prevalent where we live. Earth just isn’t that primal anymore as it is high in the alpine and sub-alpine meadows. I am coming home with a new yearning, namely to preserve what we have, and perhaps even return our planet to more health. Because, the life of plants, and animals, and humans are closely interwoven here on Earth, none can survive alone.

In my books, and here on the blog, I am touting fresh foods over processed foods. Fresh does not only mean harvested recently and stored for not too long, but also containing a high amount of vital nutrients. Up there, in the mountain meadow, I learned that degrees of freshness exist: Fresh from the supermarket: good. Fresh from your garden or directly from the farm: better. Fresh from an alpine meadow: best.

From Mouth to Anus

May 15, 2013

Tags: order, food, water, addiction to food, additive, aging, air, almond milk, antibiotic resistance, antibiotics, anus, baby, bacteria, bowels, brushing, buttermilk, cancer-breeding, caplets, capsules, carrageenan, caries, cosmetics, dairy - dangers of, dairy-free, dental hygiene, dentist, disease, fat, feed lots, fermented foods, flossing, fluoride, fluoride toothpaste, From Mouth to Anus, fruit, fruit substitute, full fat content, gastrointestinal tract, gene-technologically inserted, gum disease, gut-healthy, H2-receptor blockers, heartburn, hormones, household cleaners, inflammatory, ingredients, inhumane animal husbandry, improved, Internet, intestinal health, kefir, kimchi, labels, live cultures, meat, medication, medicine, microbiome, milk, milk products, milk proteins, miso, Mother Earth, mouth, mouth mucosa, natural, neem-based, no man is an island, nursing home, odor, oral cavity: acidity, oral health, organic, pasteurizing, patient, physician, plaque, poisonous, pollutants, Prevacid, Prilosec, probiotic powder, probiotics, processed, proton-pump inhibitors, quest, sauerkraut, skin, soap, soil, skimmed, societies – "primitive”, sour cream, stomach ache, sugar, sugar-free, sweetener, swish & swallow, swishing, Tagamet, tapioca, teeth, teeth brushing, tooth powder, tempeh, yogurt, Zantac

Medicine, for me, is a quest for my healthier self, and healthier patients. I am learning something new every day. In a way, I feel sorry for my patients of so many years ago – now, I think, I could help them so much better.

This also implies that you – the patient – could possibly be a step ahead of your physician, if you are trying to figure out what makes your body feel better and stronger and more awake, and happier. With the Internet, we all have more information at our fingertips, flawed and good information, for sure – but more of the latter. If you ask me.

Take for instance the stomach problems that plagued me when I was younger. Setting out with conventional drugs like H2-receptor blockers (Tagamet, Zantac) and proton-pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Prevacid) years ago, I at least got the problem under control. Then, twenty years the, I found that at the root of my heartburn and stomach aches were allergies: I left out the offending foods – and I dropped all meds, and never looked back.

Forward a bit, and I discovered probiotics – bacteria that are helpful for the intestines. They improved my bowels, and I took them faithfully for many years. I still recommend them to nearly every patient I encounter. Many studies link probiotics to good clinical outcomes, even if we have not yet quite figured out all the intricacies of how they work. One thing is sure: What you eat helps or destroys the microbiome that coexists in your body. A microbiome is the whole entity of bacteria, good or bad, that thrives with you, in you, on you.

Don’t worry – the good guys are winning right now. Otherwise you would be dead. But that the good guys are winning is not guaranteed – it could change any moment. You could crowd out the good guys with sugar, or commercial dairy, or destroy them with a course of antibiotics) or meat from one of those inhumane, antibiotic-resistance breeding feed lots – the list is long how you can hurt your microbiome inside and outside; cosmetics and household cleaners are high on the list. But even if we did everything right in our personal lives, outside forces can destroy your good bacteria – pollutants in water, air and soil.

Not to be an alarmist, but no man is an island, and if we don’t preserve our Mother Earth, we surely can forget about the intricacies of feeding our coworkers - our good bacteria - the right amount of this and that.

Health comes down to the health of our gastrointestinal tract. Lately, I have found that probiotics can be applied not just as capsules or caplets, but as probiotic foods. A big group which I just mention in passing are fermented foods – sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh, and so on. “Fermented” can be taken as another word for “loaded with gut-healthy bacteria”.

I have argued widely against the dangers of dairy – and still do. Ninety-nine-point nine percent of dairy is bad for you because of the highly inflammatory proteins and cancer-breeding hormones (be it naturally occurring, or gene-technologically inserted). But there is a tiny fraction of organic dairy that contains live cultures. Examples are yogurt, kefir, buttermilk and sour cream. But only, if they truly are organic, contain live cultures and have absolutely no additives that turn a good food into a nightmare: sugars, sweeteners, fruit, fruit substitutes, tapioca, carrageenan, and so on. In my mind, to qualify as natural they also have to have their full fat content – nothing skimmed or improved or processed any way other than pasteurizing – and the good bacteria have to be added afterward. Fat is not the culprit in milk and milk products – milk proteins are. Not only are they inflammatory, but also addictive. Now you can even get dairy-free organic yogurts, made for instance from almond milk. Or probiotic powders, ready to be dissolved in warm water. But always read the labels for ingredients!

Good dairy bacteria do not take away dairy’s inflammatory proteins and cancer-causing hormones. Therefore these probiotics should be taken in small amounts – very small amounts, indeed: a sip or a teaspoon full is the serving size here. And you don’t eat or drink them. You swish them around in your mouth as long as you can stand it, or unless you forget about them, and finally swallow them.

Probiotics thus taken increase not only your gut health, but especially your oral health. Studies show that probiotics swished around in the mouth after brushing your teeth reduce caries and gum disease in most cases – and I bet the result would be even better if people would add a healthy, sugar-free diet on top of this.

Using this to fight caries sure beats taking poisonous fluoride. Fluoride made me always uneasy: Studies link fluoride to cancer and neurotoxicity. But other studies clearly showed that it reduced caries – and I had not yet come by a natural method to preserve my teeth. Granted, “primitive” societies usually boast perfect teeth, but I had not quite found out why. Not sure, why, but sugar-free nutrition was probably the main cause. Then again, who of us modern Americans can boast a totally absolutely sugar-free diet – since infancy? Not that I know anyone.

Still, I am a believer in brushing and flossing (and also with good results, I have to say) – and don’t want to get rid of that. But neither fluoride toothpaste appealed to me, nor the brutal cleaning of my teeth at the dentist’s office twice a year. There is nothing natural in putting sharp metal scraping objects in your mouth. Now I am using an organic, neem-based tooth powder most of the time.

With oral swishing probiotics we gently provide a mildly acidic environment in our mouths for a few minutes. That cleans your teeth of plaque and implants healthy bacteria into the lining of your mouth, which then can grow during the next hours, or overnight, and fight bad bacteria. The result is amazing. And natural.

We take for granted that with advancing age we will lose our teeth, and that diseases will creep up on us. Ever been to a nursing home? A certain old-age odor emanates from those old bodies. We think the odor is normal. It is not. If one eats well, nourishes one’s oral cavity and intestines, in their entire length, and not destroys the precious skin bacteria with harsh soaps and cosmetics, we would smell like babies until our final days (and those will come even if we take good care of ourselves, but I bet those final days with be sweeter and easier if you have lived your life well).

Working on the microbiome in my mouth – that has been the newest station on my medical quest. In a way, this quest has been a journey from mouth to anus - and still is.

The Diabetes Book Is Finished …

May 7, 2013

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, balance, acne, advertisement, Alzheimer’s, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, apple, bacteria, beauty, book, calorie count, carrots, cauliflower, concentrated, cucumber, dementia, detail, devil, diabetes, digitalis, fatigue, Five Health Essentials, formula, foxglove, fungi, germs, great-grandmother, happiness, infection, insomnia, kale, label, manufactured, medicine - single-agent patented, natural, Nature, nutritional bar, organic, packaged, plant, smart, sugar cane, sugar - table sugar, superfoods, TV, virus

… and, of course, I already started to write a new one. About herbs and infections.

And this is what I am finding … again: So many herbs have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal action – it is mind-boggling. Nature wants us to be healthy – if we would just listen to her! When I wrote about diabetes, I found that we have not just a few diabetes-fighting “superfoods” – we have literally hundreds of them, or even more. Now I am finding a trove of herbs that want to help us win over germs (or live in happy co-existence with them). As usual, herbs alone don’t keep us healthy – herbs are only one of the Five Health Essentials: Water – movement – food – herbs - balance.

Again, it comes down to: What is natural, is healthy.

Interestingly, just because a manufacturer declares something “natural”, it doesn’t make it so. Point to proof: sugar. Yep, originally sugar derived from sugar cane. But after that cane has been mixed and cooked and clarified and decolorized and filtered and processed and concentrated and skimmed and refined, the end product table sugar does not deserve the epithet “natural” any more. Same as the single-agent patented medicine derived from a plant – think digitalis, manufactured from foxglove – doesn’t deserve it.

“Natural” on your nutritional bar doesn’t mean anything – it is not a protected word like “organic” is (and even for “organic” there are sinister endeavors at work to make it less so). Don’t fall for "natural". A cauliflower is natural, an apple is, and so are carrots and kale and cucumber … you know the list is nearly endless. But anything in a package, anything with a label, anything they advertise for on TV, anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce, anything with a calorie count on it, anything your great-grandmother didn’t eat is not natural, and not healthy.

Indeed, I could write so many books about how to live healthier (and if nobody hinders me, I just might) – how to be more energetic, smarter, happier, more beautiful, have purer skin, sleep better – and they would all come down to the five essentials: Water – movement – food – herbs - balance.

If you recognize these five essentials as formulaic, you are right –I want you to recognize the formula (and learn it by heart). We are from Nature, and need to live by Nature, as much as possible. Otherwise, we get sick. Needless to say, the devil hides in the details. My new diabetes book – out with Rodale’s probably in August - is chock-full with details, and so will be, I hope, the book I am writing now, on germs. That one will come out in due time – which I project about two years into the future. If we can project at all.

Time To Take Your Hat And Leave, Mister Fahrenheit!

August 19, 2012

Tags: order, water, allergy, Alone in Berlin, American, Andrographis paniculata, Bach - Johann Sebastian (1685 to 1750), basement flooding, bath, Belize, book, cabin, cat allergy, Celsius – Anders (1701 to 1744), children, clams, clay, cut, dairy, discussing, down-east, Earth, eating, echinacea, Europe, eye infection, Fahrenheit scale, Fahrenheit - Daniel Gabriel (1686 to 1736), Fallada - Hans (1893 to 1947), farming, forest, fungal infection, Gdansk, Germany, global warming, goldenseal, GSE (grapefruit seed extract), hordeolum, ice, inch, inflammation, kilogram, lobster, Maine, mathematics, math teacher, medical emergency, mercury intoxication, metric system, mucus production, mushroom poisoning, musings, mussels, mystery, Native American, naturalist, Nazi time, ocean, old growth, rain, rash, reading, redemption, rejuvenating, reverence, rock, saltwater, sauna, scallops, sheep farming, sleep, stimulating, sty, summering, summertime, Sweden, teabag, tea tree oil, temperature, thermometer, Time To Take Your Hat And Leave, Mister Fahrenheit!, trees, underarm rash, U.S.A., writing, wound

Last night in the sauna, our European friends asked again for an explanation of the Fahrenheit scale. It boggles their mind that we here in the United States still using the clumsy Fahrenheit thermometer readings, instead the easy Celsius version.

Celsius determined the freezing point of water as zero degree, and the boiling point of water as 100 degree. Fahrenheit, on the other hand, placed his zero point at the lowest temperature he personally ever measured (in an artificial cold mixture of ice and salts). He then determined the moment when ice forms on non-moving water as 32 degree. And a third fixed point was when he put the thermometer under his arm – which he called 96 degree. Things could not be more messy and arbitrary than that, methinks.

Not to take away from Mister Fahrenheit’s merits: He invented the thermometer. But his temperature scale outlived its usefulness. It is only used now in the U.S. and in Belize (does that tell us something about the political situation of Belize??). The Fahrenheit scale should go where also inches and feet and the American pound should go: On the garbage heap of history. It is time that we introduce the metric system. Mainly so that our children in school don’t spend an inordinate amount of time learning to work with one sixteenth of an inch, and something like that. To handle inches and feet make you fit for construction work, but not much more. The metric system is easier, makes more sense – and can take students to science and computer language and into the difficult future … if they didn’t have to learn inches and feet and Fahrenheit and miles and uneven pounds. As a former math teacher, mathematical prowess is important to me – and I don’t like at all that we are taking only place # 27 globally in math skills.

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686 to 1736) died already at age fifty. I wonder if he died of mercury intoxication, because he also invented the mercury thermometer. He actually started his career as a naturalist, after his parents died of a mushroom poisoning when he was in his teens. He was born in Gdansk, not far away from where I was born, and is a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach. – And, no, Anders Celsius from Sweden did not die of mercury intoxication; he died so young of tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, and interrupting my writing, I took a bath in the ocean. The water is rejuvenating, stimulating and cooling. In former years I had to leave after five minutes because I was cold to the bones. For the last few years, we leave because it gets boring. Anybody here still refuting global warming? Here, in down-east coastal Maine, we feel the consequences. Also by increased rains: We had water in the basement - the cement is broken, water comes in from all sides. Which had a good side-effect: We finally had to clean up the basement; it was overdue for about twenty years ...

Of course, it is still gorgeous summertime in Maine. We sleep and eat, we read and discuss, we do sauna (and a dip in the ocean afterward), and go for hikes. The other day, we had a lobster bake, directly at the ocean with churning white water, on wooden benches. Life could not be better. That is what the Natives must have thought hundred of years ago: This was their summering area, and their spirit of reverence for this place is still in the air. They would come from afar and meet here, to indulge in clams and mussels, lobsters and scallops. Then for two hundred years this paradisal spot of the Earth, was used cutting down the old growth, then farming it, which turned out not too successful – this is mostly barren clay and rocks around here. Afterwards, sheep farming, and then, nearly a century of neglect again so that trees could cover the land. Not like old growths 0 no, that we will never get back again. But still beautiful. Now, a few summer cabins are tucked into the woods, barely visible during day time because Maine has an ordnance in place that constructions need to be away 100 feet (30,48m) the upper shore line. But at night you see lights shimmer and sparkle through the forests – more than one would guess during the day.

I have read the German mystery, and found it satisfyingly light fare. Now I am reading Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin – and that is not light fare. But a marvelous book. That there was one German who could write about what happened to the population during Nazi time – I feel it is kind of a redemption.

My musings from Maine can’t end without describing a few of the tiny medical emergencies we had so far – and hopefully, we will not experience worse: Cat allergy: Andrographis paniculata; leave out all dairy to reduce inflammation and mucus production. A cut foot from a stone: Saltwater; tea tree oil. A sty (hordeolum): lukewarm teabag on eye; Echinacea, goldenseal and GSE (grapefruit seed extract) from the inside. An underarm rash (likely fungal): tea tree oil. – Everybody is doing remarkably fine.

Against Dandruff, For Healthy Hair

August 10, 2012

Tags: order, food, water, herbs, Against Dandruff - For Healthy Hair, alcohol, beans, birch sap, brown rice, carrot, dairy, dandruff, essential oil, fish oil, garbanzo, Germany, hair, hair – healthy, hair oil, hair water, lamb, lentils, neem, nuts, olive oil, oregano, poultry, protein, rosemary, seafood, starch, sweets, sugar, tea tree oil, vegetable, zinc. United States, Seborin, Weleda

Because someone asked:

Against dandruff, I would use a birch sap "hair water" - a specific brand I get from Germany (and is very expensive here in the United States) is "Seborin". Another brand might be by Weleda. - This is used after washing your hair, and is left in to dry.

You could also make yourself a hair oil with olive oil and some essential oil, like rosemary, oregano, tea tree or neem. Rub it in before washing your hair. Leave it on over night, then wash it out.

Also, dandruff might have to do with what you eat: Avoid dairy, sweets, alcohol and white starches (which are nothing more than sugars in a long chain). And alcohols are a form of sugar, too.

Food for healthy hair: nuts, beans, lentils, garbanzo, carrot, vegetable, brown rice, good proteins from poultry, lamb, and seafood; fish oil, zinc.

News from My Summer Reading Pile

August 2, 2012

Tags: order, food, herbs, water, Alone in Berlin, Atkinson - Kate (born 1951), Aufklärung aus dem Geist der Experimentalphysik: Lichtenbergsche Konjunktive, Bayer – John (born 1947), Bode - Thilo (born 1947), books, Boston, Chinese, classics, cook book, cult book, democracy, Die Essensfälscher: Was uns die Lebensmittelkonzerne auf die Teller lügen, Die Nacht des Schierlings, Dutch, Einstein – Albert (1879-1955), Einstein: A Biography, enlightenment, Enzensberger - Hans Magnus (born 1929), Europe, Every Man Dies Alone, experimental physics, Fallada – Hans (1893 - 1947), Fatelessness, food forgers, food industry, Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer's Market, French, garden bounty, German, Greene - Graham, Jin - Ha (born 1956), Hamburg/Germany, Heimat ist das, was gesprochen wird, hemlock, historical mystery, Hogg - James (1777 - 1835), Hungarian, I.M. Ischa Meyer In Margine In Memoriam, Japanese Invasion of China, Jen - Gish (born 1955), Je länger ein Blinder lebt - desto mehr sieht er, Yiddish Sayings, Lanzmann – Claude (born 1925), Leroux - Eddy, Lichtenberg - Georg Christoph (1742-1799), linguistics, Kertész – Imre (born 1929), Maine, Markson - David (1927 - 2010), medicine, memoirs, Mendelssohn - Moses (1729 - 1786), Müller – Herta (born 1953), murderer, Nanjing Requiem, Nazi Germany, Neffe - Jürgen (born 1956), Netherlands, New England history, News from My Summer Reading Pile, Nobel Prize, novel, Oelker - Petra (born 1847), Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, Palmen - Connie (born 1955), philosophy, physicist, presents, reading pile, Relativity, Schöne - Albrecht (born 1925), shaman, Shields - Carol (1935 - 2003), Somé - Patrice Malidoma (born 1956), Started Early - Took My Dog, The Heart of the Matter, The Lazarus Project, The Patagonian Hare, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, The Silences of Hammerstein, The Stones Diaries, The Wordy Shipmates, United States, Vowell - Sarah (born 1969), Wallace - David Foster (1962 - 2008), Waste Books, Wittgenstein’s Mistress, Wong - Tama Matsuoka, World and Town

Four days of Maine made me a different person, even more alive than usual, quieter. Already I have finished two of the books on my reading pile – the Einstein I had already started in Boston.

1. Jürgen Neffe, Einstein: A Biography, 2009 (English) – a wonderful book – makes one think one really understand Relativity now …

2. Carol Shields, The Stones Diaries, 1995 (I know, I know – EVERYBODY has read it already! Somehow I was behind)

3. Claude Lanzmann, The Patagonian Hare: Memoirs (I am reading a German translation; if you can, read the French original, from 2009). A difficult book. An important book – how Man is murderer to Man.

4. Tama Matsuoka Wong, Eddy Leroux, Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer's Market, 2012. I usually find cooking books boring. But this was given to me because it mirrors my philosophy: Thy garden bounty be your food and medicine!

5. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s Waste Books, 2000 (first printed in 18th century) (I read it in German). Lichtenberg is the perfect companion to my other philosopher friend, Moses Mendelssohn

6. Connie Palmen, I.M. Ischa Meyer In Margine In Memoriam, 2001 (German). Another present (originally Dutch). I am always eager to hear from new shores – and I know next to nothing about the Netherlands – the little stout democratic European country

7. Malidoma Somé, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, 1995. Another present – I was not aware how many books just trundle into my house because somebody thinks it is perfect for me. Of course, I devour everything about water. Don’t know about shamans, though. I like the herbal aspect. But am highly suspicious of the shaman side – that playing with power. As people do everywhere in politics and religion – only here more primitive, I fear.

8. Imre Kertész, Fatelessness, Novel, 2004. (From Hungarian). Kertész won a Nobel in 2002.

9. Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin (also translated from German under the title: Every Man Dies Alone), Novel, 2010 (originally published in 1947). The reviews are raving about this old-new novel about the life of Everyman in Nazi Germany.

10. Herta Müller, Heimat ist das was gesprochen wird (translated by me: Home Is Where They Speak My Language, a very slim volume, but I am not sure this has been translated officially). Another Nobel recipient, in 2009.

11. James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, 1824. Allegedly a wonderful classic – I have to find out for myself

12. John Bayer, The Lazarus Project, Novel, 1999. Not sure I can stomach the philosophy – but someone recommended it to me, and I will try

13. Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter, Novel, 1948. Gathering dust on my shelves for many years – now I want to tackle this classic, to find out for myself what made Greene so great

14. Jiddish Sayings (Je länger ein Blinder lebt, desto mehr sieht er – the longer a blind man lives, the more he sees), in German, 1965

15. Sarah Vowell, The Wordy Shipmates, 2008. New England history from a new perspective – funny and scathing, it seems

16. Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog, 2010. This mystery caught my eye – it sounded like a good summer read.

17. David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress, 1988. A weird novel, and something like a cult book – I wanted to read it when I heard that David Foster Wallace wrote the afterword

18. Gish Jen, World and Town, novel, 2010. Another present. People know that I am interested in everything Chinese – so, this book came leaping into my house

19. Albrecht Schöne, Aufklärung aus dem Geist der Experimentalphysik: Lichtenbergsche Konjunktive, 1982 (a book about the afore-mentioned Lichtenberg, who in real life was not a philosopher, but a physicist. Translated, this title would be something like: Enlightenment Grown Out Of Experimental Physics. It is very much a linguistic musing about how Lichtenberg used different forms of conjunctives in German to convey his sly critique of his time

20. Thilo Bode, Die Essensfälscher, Was uns die Lebensmittelkonzerne auf die Teller lügen, 2010. Translated, the title would be something like: The Food Forgers – How the Food Industry Heaps Our Plates With Lies. Of course, this is along the lines of what I am thinking and writing most of the time

21. Ha Jin, Nanjing Requiem, novel, 2011. A novel about the horrible Japanese invasion of China in 1937

22. Petra Oelker, Die Nacht des Schierlings, 2010. (The Hemlock Night) A historical mystery from my hometown Hamburg/Germany. This is a whole series, and my – still living in Hamburg - supplies me with them, knowing I will devour each new arrival. Don’t hold your breath for this ever being translated into English – there are not enough nostalgic ex-Hamburgers here in the States to make it worthwhile …

23. Hans Magnus Enzensberger, The Silences of Hammerstein, 2009. German history at its best, I have heard – people who lived through the Nazi times, and stayed decent


Compiling this list, I realize that I never can read all these books before we turn home to Boston! But it is a good feeling that I brought them all – I can find something for every mood, it seems.

However: Don’t send any more books! These will keep me busy until the winter holidays …

Summer Heat

July 18, 2012

Tags: order, water, air conditioner, air pollution - indoors - outdoors, bass, birthright, cello, cherries, children, cold exposure, cold shower, cold water, creativity, dinner - light, fall, fish, garden, heat, heating - central, houseplants, immune system, indoor air, mint, music, nap, pruning, reading, salad, season, shade, sleeping with window open, string camp, summer, Summer Heat, summer reading list, sweating, thunderstorm, September, tea, viola, violin, weeding, writing, work

A tremendous lightning-and-thunder storm brought a huge downpour and a bit of cooling to our region. Not much so. It is nearly ten o’clock at night, and I am still sweating.
You hear me often talk of the benefits of a cold shower (after the hot one). The cold water mimics the exposure to cold we need for a functioning immune system. Since we live in rooms with central heating and are not working outside so much, we don’t get enough of our birthright: cold exposure.
We likewise don’t get enough of the summer heat because most of us live in air-conditioned rooms. Not we though. In twenty years, we have used our central air conditioner a single time. We didn’t like it. We prefer to sleep with window open to get cleaner air. Contrary what you might think, the indoor air pollution usually is much worse than the outdoors air pollution. Hint: Houseplants help cleaning up indoor air.
We sleep with window open even in winter, in severe minus grades. I lie under about five duvets then and stay snugly warm.
Now, in summer, I am sweating – I can’t remember a hot and humid summer like this one. But sweating: That is what summer is for. Summer is a season that gives you a sauna for free: You can sweat out toxins which otherwise are hard to eliminate. Now I am getting rid of waste and damaging agents about twenty hours a day. Of course, I make sure that I take in enough water and salt, to make up for the losses. And be reasonable about it: If you have a medical condition, switch on the air conditioner. Keeping a cold facecloth at hand or taking a short cold shower can keep you cool.
I feel uncomfortable now, sweating. But I know I good I will feel come September: Cool and ready to work hard again. In this heat, I admit, working and writing comes nearly to a standstill; the garden slowly turns into a jungle again as if the months of weeding and pruning never happened. This is the time for cold black tea with mints from the garden, reading in the shade, enjoying delicious music and light dinners – cold fish with a salad and some cherries afterwards. On the weekends, I am planning long afternoon naps, This is not my most effective time – but it is getting me ready for work and creativity in the fall.
Soon I will give you my summer reading list. But for now I am in the middle of the summer string camp with two hundred kids playing violin, viola, cello and bass – and I am one of them. The one who plays cello badly. But having fun.
In an air-conditioned room, actually.

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.

Sebastian Kneipp’s Birthday

May 17, 2012

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, Bavaria, birthday, cheer, flowers, fruit, friendship, green tea, Germany, Kneipp – Sebastian (1821 to 1897), My Water Cure, Sebastian Kneipp’s Birthday, writing

Sebastian Kneipp’s was born on May 17th 1821, in a tiny village in Bavaria/Germany. Why does it matter?

Her brought the world the Five Health Essentials: Water, movement, food, herbs, order. Not they didn’t exist before – but he opened, in his very gruff way, the world’s eyes to natural health, which is always there, up for the grabs.

For me Sebastian Kneipp has a special importance: When I opened his book “My Water Cure” in the original, many years ago and just out of curiosity, I suddenly burned bringing his insights to my patients here, to this country – and that is how Sebastian Kneipp made me write my first book. And, yes, you pronounce the “K” in his name. No, not “Ka-nipe”; it makes just one syllable with an audible “K”: “Knipe”.

Long after I had started writing about Sebastian Kneipp I realized that he shared his birthday with my father. Here’s to them!

I will celebrate Sebastian Kneipp’s birthday by riding my bike to a sick friend’s house, delivering some flowers, fruit and cheer. In this last sentence, I packed movement, food and order – already three of Kneipp’s principles. If I throw in a package of green tea to what I will bring my friend, that adds water and herbs.

All what we need: water, movement, food, herbs, order – to stay healthy.

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.

Desperate Skin – Psoriasis

May 2, 2012

Tags: order, movement, water, food, herbs, acute disease, alcohol – excessive, allergies, alternative vs. conventional medicine, appendix - perforating, arthritis, balm of Peru, bay leaf, benzoic acid, biking, biopsy - skin, bone - broken, bowl, brain, breath, cancer, cardiac death, cardiologist, cat, chronic disease, cinnamon, citrus peel, cloves, cold shower, cooking, cortisone cream, cosmetics, curry, dairy, dead-end job, dentist, depression, dermatitis, dermatologist, Desperate Skin – Psoriasis, detoxification, diabetes, diet - “scientific”, dog, eliminating organ, exercise, expertise, feces, food allergies, fragrance, fresh food, friend, green herb, gums, gut, heart attack, hypnosis, India, inflammation, internal organs, intestine, junk food, kidney, lifestyle choices, lung, movement, Natural Medicine, nourishing, nutrition, obesity, pill, patient vs. person, pet, preservative, psoriasis, pregnancy, profit, psychological explanation for disease, rash, relationship, residency, Schuppenflechte, scientist, shampoo, shelf life, skin disease, skin allergy testing, sleep - more, spices, stroke, sweat, talking, teeth, toxic matter, turmeric, urine, vanilla, vegetable, veterinarian

Twenty-five years ago, my husband suddenly broke out in a rash: His fingertips were raw and started bleeding whenever he touched something - like buttoning his shirt. When he went on a trip to India, he could not carry a suitcase, but traveled with a backpack. When he came back, the rash had intensified, and I worried about him becoming despondent.

He consulted a dermatologist who told him he had “dermatitis” and prescribed a cortisone cream. “Dermatitis” means “inflammation of the skin” – duh! He was told these skin rashes would come and go, there was no known cause; he just had to live with it.

It is hard to live with leaving a trace of blood on anything you touch! The cortisone helped some. But the rash always came back when he stopped the cream. In his desperation, he went to half a dozen different skin doctors. The pinnacle was when a well-meaning friend gave him, as a present - a visit to a hypnotist. We should have known hypnosis wouldn’t work in a hard-core scientist …

Our friends thought it all was psychological: We were pregnant at that time, with our son, and the easiest explanation was that becoming a father was stressing my husband out. We could not really see the stress, as we were giddy with joy and anticipation. But it was true that the rash had appeared during our pregnancy.

For three years we tried to figure out what was going on, talking about it at nearly every dinner. Then one day I noticed that new plaques had appeared on my husband’s elbows. It seemed clear now that he had psoriasis. – At the same time he thought he observed that the rash on his hands always got worse when he used shampoo.

I made him ask his dermatologist for a skin testing, to look for allergies, and a biopsy, to confirm the suspicion of psoriasis. The doctor said there was no reason to do either. But because I was a colleague, the tests were done.

The biopsy confirmed psoriasis. The skin testing showed a whole angry area of patches – all related to spices: vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, curry, citrus peel and benzoic acid (a preservative). And balm of Peru – the fragrance that is in many cosmetics, including shampoos.

As a physician, I was all excited: Here was a case of psoriasis triggered by food allergies! Never in medical school had I heard of a connection between skin disease and nutrition! I talked with several dermatologists – none of them got excited. They flatly denied there could be a connection – even in the face of the biopsy and skin test results! Slowly it dawned on me that no dermatologist has any incentive to really cure his patients – as they then would be lost as patients.

We, however, implemented a new diet, leaving out the offending agents, and in no time my husband was healed. We even figured why the rash had first appeared during pregnancy: I was in the middle of residency when I got pregnant – which is usually not considered a good time for expanding your family. Because I was more tired, I cooked less and we went out eating more often. Just across the street was a tiny Indian restaurant; we became nearly daily guests there. And curry (probably the turmeric in curry, actually) was one of the problems.

In the long run, being forced to always cook from scratch I have helped the health of our family tremendously. Our son grew up knowing about the importance of fresh foods, and even turned out to be a dedicated cook!

Natural Medicine has long maintained that many diseases stem from the gut. We have basically four eliminating organs that might get rid of toxic matter: the kidneys (urine), the bowl (feces), the lungs (exhaled breath), the skin (sweat). Often the skin mirrors the health of the intestines: My husband’s body tried to get rid of the spices he was allergic too, and expelled them via the skin – which showed as a rash. Using cortisone cream only suppresses this natural way of detoxification, and pushes the problem underground – until even the internal organs are getting diseased. Never think that a skin disease is just a skin disease: The inflammation in your body might become visible in the skin, but the inflammation happens everywhere. A study showed that psoriasis sufferers have more strokes, heart attacks and cancers! It does not surprise me. But it might surprise the seven and a half million people who suffer from psoriasis in this country. For most of them it would already be curing if the eliminated all dairy products and excessive alcohol. And nobody tells them …

Of course, what is true for dermatologists is true for other specialties: Cardiac death is going down – not because of procedures cardiologists are doing but because people are paying more attention to what they eat, and they exercise more. – In obesity, the answer will not come from a little pill your doctor gives you, but from you moving around more and letting go of junk food. – Is your dentist interested in you having healthy teeth and gums – or is he interested in keeping you as a patient? – Veterinarians sell now “scientific” diet for your pets. But can that manufactured food compete with the food you cook yourself at home; I doubt it. Because that food is made for long shelf life and profits, not with the health of your cat or dog in view. – Your depression – does it warrant a pill and you being a patient instead of a vibrant, alive person? Would you do better talking with a friend about your problems, getting out of a sour relationship or dead-end job, nourishing your brain with fresh vegetables and getting up from your sofa and ride your bike?

In the last years, we have seen some physicians incorporating alternative methods into their mainstream medicine practice. Acute problems like a broken bone, an appendix threatening to perforate or a cancer definitely need a skilled conventional practitioner. Chronic problems, on the other hand, that have developed over years from had lifestyle choices – arthritis, diabetes, obesity rank high among them - do remarkably well with changes in lifestyle. No surprise there …

I am not saying that every problem goes away with better nutrition, exercise, cold showers, green herbs and more sleep. But you will be astonished how many problems will vanish into thin air. Give it a try! And don’t you worry that I am throwing out all conventional medicine! Today I am seeing my conventional dermatologist for a checkup. But I know what she can give me: expertise. Not my health. On my health, I have to work myself.

Comfort, Closure, Redemption

March 27, 2012

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, airing the room, chamomile, closure, coconut oil, cook, comfort, Comfort - Closure - Redemption, contraindication, crying, death, declutter, dying alone, faith – articles of, finances, forgiving, fruit, herbal tea, history, hogging, holding hands, holy basil, home, hospice, hospital, listening, nosiness, past hurt, peppermint, photo, possessiveness, praying, reading aloud, redemption, relationship, resilience, singing, sitting still, skin, snooping, stinging nettle, stress, talking, touch, time constraints, washing feet, working out problems

Nobody should die alone. The most important part is that you are with the dying person – the dying person should not be left alone, if possible. Not always is it possible to accompany a loved one on the last way – both my parents died far away from me. My father suddenly, when I was eighteen and away in boarding school – his heart gave out. My mother in Germany, of lung cancer, when I went through the rigors of medical internship in Boston. I remember sitting at night at the bed of a dying patient, and thinking that I should be sitting with my mother.

Many people feel uncomfortable in the face of sickness and dying. Not everybody finds wonderful last words and gestures. Here is what you still can do – naturally – for a dying loved one.

First, however, what you should not do:

• Discuss the ways the person hurt you in the past: It is too late now. Try to grow up before the person dies – work out your own problems
• Go through their things and snoop around. Even if you were the lone heir: Wait until afterward
• Keep friends and relatives away from the dying person to hog her/him for yourself
• Don’t press your personal afterlife believing and articles of faith onto the dying person

What you can do – naturally:

• Sit still at the bedside
• Hold hands: Touch can still be taken in when all the other senses are long gone
• Give a cold sponge bath – lying unwashed in bed is a horrible burden for many sick people
• Sing. I sang for my first, beloved mother-in-law when she was already unconscious. I think she heard me
• Keep the room warm, aired and uncluttered – at home, in the hospital, at the hospice
• Bring pictures from the past that the person might still enjoy – but only a few selected ones – don’t lug into the sickroom whole photo albums
• Forgive if the person was not what you expected from her/him in the past. He/she had her own history – and you might not know all the essential parts – for instance, how this person was hurt when he/she was young
• Remember the past - as long as the person can still talk. This might be your last chance. But don’t push it – take the cue from the dying person, not from your own urgency
• Zip up a light, delicious meal – or just serve fruit. This is not the time to restrict a person to a diet – this is now pure enjoyment
• Read aloud – if he or she can hear it or not: Share what you like to share
• Tell the person what he/she means to you. Sum up your relationship with the dying person – but not financial problems and time constraints the dying puts on you. Your own stresses (and they might be great and overwhelming) you have to work up alone or with other people in your life. Your own life is on hold while this person moves toward death
• Wash the dying person’s feet. Then rub coconut oil into the skin
• Talk about positive things from the past
• Listen to whatever the dying person has to say – if you like it or not
• Pray if the person wants to pray. Shut up if the person does not want to pray
• Declutter the nightstand without getting nosy or possessive
• Brew an herbal tea: Chamomile, holy basil, peppermint, stinging nettle. – or whatever you have at hand Ask the doctor if there are contraindications
• Endure the impending loss – you can – and will - cry later But you will take satisfaction if you stayed strong when you were needed to be strong.

World Water Day 2012

March 22, 2012

Tags: water, herbs, allergies to herbs, arterial disease, bath, bath – commercial bath ingredients, bath - herbal, bath oil, bliss, blood flow, breathing, bruise, candle - unscented, chamomile, children and herbal baths – careful!, circulation - sluggish, coconut oil, cold – beginning, cold shower, Earth, dandelion flower, eucalyptus, fever-lowering bath for children, foam, healing waters, herbal bath, herbal bath, high blood pressure – uncontrolled, ginger - grated, hops, insect bite, incense, insomnia, jasmine, lake, lavender, linden flowers, lung, meadowsweet, mint, muscle ache, muscles – sore, music, Nature, nerves – tattered, ocean, orange blossoms, parsley, pleasure, relaxation, river, rosemary, rose petals, sage, salts - bath, skin rejuvenation, skin sore, sleeplessness, soap, soul, stimulation, stinging nettle, tepid bath, tonic, valerian root, winter blah, World Water Day 2012

Today is World Water Day. Celebrate it with

• a dunk in the ocean, a lake or a river if your are living in a warmer climate
• a cold shower (Don’t do it if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure – controlled on medication is fine – or if you have an arterial disease)
• a nice warm herbal bath, together with gentle music and a lit candle (unscented because scented candles and incense are harsh on the lungs). Warm baths relax and soothe. And any fragrant herb you have at hand will increase water’s action:

- Chamomile works against sore skin and insect bites
- Dandelion flowers: Gather as many as you can find and throw them directly into your tub – they will make you playful like a princess and renew your skin and will drive out the winter blah
- Eucalyptus opens your lungs and helps you breathe
- Ginger, grated, to enhance blood flow to all parts of your body
- Hops for easing you into the night
- Jasmine to make you smile and refresh your skin
- Lavender for calming your nerves and rejuvenating your skin
- Linden flowers relax and might help with a beginning cold
- Meadowsweet helps sore muscles and will bliss you out
- Mint stimulates and heals your skin
- Orange blossoms for beautiful skin and nourishing your soul
- Parsley heals bruises
- Rosemary for relaxation
- Rose petals to enliven your skin after a long day
- Sage against stiff, hurting muscles after a workout
- Stinging nettle to push sluggish circulation, and are a tonic for your skin and your whole being
- Valerian root for easing tattered nerves and prepare for a good night’s sleep

So many more herbs grow on our beautiful Earth! Use any combination of herbs you like: Dare to explore!

Never make the bathwater too hot! And always, always. always end your hot bath with a short cold shower or gush, starting with feet, hands, face, and then your whole body – to close your pores.

Before you dress or go to bed, slather your skin with coconut oil. There’s nothing better for your skin!

Cooler bathwater acts more like a stimulant – when you want to go out afterwards and shine in the world.

And a tepid bath can lower fevers – especially helpful in small children. But in small children, especially those under three years of age, I would not use herbs in the bathwater, just plain water. They can have violent reactions.

You have two ways to do an herbal bath: To throw a handful of herbs directly into the hot bath water. Or to brew a tea in a pot, and then add the steeped tea to the bathwater. This last method is less messy. There’s actually a third way: To buy an herbal bath tea bag – much bigger than those used for tea in a cup – and throw it into the bathwater; contain a medley of herbs, usually to lift your spirits and to soothe your skin.

As always: Don’t use any herb that you are allergic to. Allergies to herbs are rare, but they can happen.

Herbal bath can heal. But don’t forget the immense pleasure they bring into your life! And other than commercial baths (foam, lotions, soaps, salts, etc.), they are pure Nature, particularly if you pay attention from where you get them.

And after a renewing bath like this you will know again why we have to protect Earth’s healing waters. Think about ways how you can save water!

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.

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.

Sebastian Kneipp Wins – I Lose

November 28, 2011

Tags: water, adrenalin, adrenals, age, bathtub, brown fat, California, Celsius, cold exposure, cold water, consumption, Danube River, downer, endurance, energizer, energy jolt, Fahrenheit, fall, Europe, Frankfurt/Main, hormone, immune system, kidney, life force, neurotransmitter, pool, qi, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), Sebastian Kneipp Wins – I Lose, stimulation, swimming, temperature, thermometer, TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine, traveling, tuberculosis, weight, Western Medicine, winter

Traveling earlier this month in Europe, I missed my daily swimming in the pool so much that I filled a bathtub in the hotel with water to the brim and got in. Now, it happened to be Frankfurt/Main in late fall, and the water was cold. How cold? I don’t travel with a thermometer but it was definitely colder than my Californian pool.

But I enjoyed it. I got in to my neck, and stayed for a while. As it turned out, I stayed too long. Although the rest of my body heated up soon after I had toweled myself off, an ice-cold area over my kidneys the size of a football stayed with me – literally for days.

Uh-oh! I had overdone it! And Sebastian Kneipp had told me so. He used to warn that one should not exaggerate cold exposure. And as difficult it is to give exact numbers for the time frame of “too much” – if one stays cold in the kidney area for days after, as it happened to me, one clearly has gone too far.

Originally, he had cured himself from consumption (tuberculosis) by jumping into the winter-cold Danube River several times a week. When he later tried his method on other people, he quickly realized that not every body was not made for such endurance test: The older people were, and the thinner, the less cold they could handle – and he adjusted his theories to this insight.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine “qi” is the life force, and is generated in the “kidneys”, which is actually what we call the adrenals. In Western Medicine it is known that that the adrenals produce a hormone/neurotransmitter called adrenalin, which is an energizer. If you stimulate the adrenals a bit, it will give you that desired energy jolt; if you over-stimulate the adrenals, you get a downer.

Now, after two weeks of down time, when I didn’t dare to face the cold again, I swam again in the pool today. The temperature was 15 degree Celsius (59 Fahrenheit). I only swam one lap – wasn’t brave enough for more.

One lap might be too short to induce brown fat in my body, but it was exhilarating, and when I got out, my kidneys felt fine! And I restarted in time to strengthen my immune system for the winter.

The Thermometer Arrived – Finally!

November 9, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, air temperature, arm exercise, back exercise, blog, boring, bragging, California, cello, Chinese, cold shower, cooking, eating right, editing, exercising, faucet water, fresh produce, friend, functioning body, history, house work, husband, James – Henry (1843–1916), knee bend, La Jolla, language skills, life, music, novel, ocean temperature, perfect health, piano, pool lap, pool temperature, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), shopping, swimming, temperature, thermometer, The Thermometer Arrived – Finally!, “The Wings of the Dove”, traveling

My mail order thermometer arrived today. Now I can put numbers on my Californian shivering: The outside temperature today was 21C (70F), and the water temperature 16 (61F). When I take a cold shower, the water comes out of the faucet at 20C (68F) - much warmer than the pool. My guess had been that the pool temperature was at 60F – not too far off. Reportedly, the ocean temperature in La Jolla is just like my pool’s: 61F. I wish I had the ocean in front of my door …

It is getting harder and harder to go into the cold pool. Not so much because of the cold water but because the house is unheated, and taking a cold shower, toweling off, rubbing myself with coconut oil and then getting dressed takes up nearly half an hour - and all the time I am standing in the cold, shivering. Today I lit a candle in the small bathroom - not sure it raised the temperature, but it gave me the IMPRESSION of being a tad warmer.

Unfortunately, I will leave for nearly two weeks – traveling again. I wonder if I will be able to resume my good habit. Might be very hard – unless I buy a portable heater.

By the way! You hear me talking here mainly about healthy things like swimming, eating right, and so on, and I sound like a real bore, I know. But I do spend my days with far more interesting things than pursuing perfect health. In fact, I try to do AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE because, I too, find exercising boring – and stupid. But, there is no life unless you have a functioning body.

Today I made music with a friend all morning, she at the piano, I at the cello – that was heaven. I am re-editing my Sebastian Kneipp novel. I talked with my husband, family and friends. I read up on history. Also, I am reading Henry James’ “The Wings of the Dove”. And I am still making my way through the Chinese novel word by word (it will take a long time to finish that!), to improve my language skills. I cooked, shopped for fresh produce and did the usual house work.

I did my twenty-one laps in the pool, and twenty-one knee bends, twenty-one back exercises and twenty-one arm exercises. And then I sat down to brag about those little things on my blog. But those little things are not my life – they only make my life possible!

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?

More About Brown Fat

November 2, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, air-conditioning, baby, bear, belly ballast, brown fat, California, cinnamon, cleansing, cloves, cold exposure, cold stress, cold water, core temperature, coriander, depression, diabetes type II, disease, drug, experiment, fasting, Florida, food - warming, garlic, ginger, happiness, heating, hibernation, hunger stress, hypothermia, ice water, immersion, infection, insulin-resistance, La Jolla, longevity, metabolism, More About Brown Fat, Nature, obesity, onion, pharmaceutical firm, physician, pool, pounds, pre-diabetes, refrigerator - walk-in food, residential swimming pools, rutabaga, shivering, stress, stress mechanism - beneficial, stress – moderate, summer, sweating, swimming, temperature, toxin, U.S.A., water resources, weight loss, winter, winter kitchen, winter swimmer

My experiment is going on. Of course, I have no idea if it is really new brown fat that turns me into an oven every time after my daily cold laps in the pool. For all I know, I could have a not-yet-recognized infection or any other disease that makes me burn up. Only thing I know is that I feel terrific – for the moment.

But for the sake of an interesting exploration, let’s stick with my brown fat hypothesis. This is what I have learned about about brown fat so far:

1. It used to be thought that only babies (protecting them from hypothermia) or bears (keeping a reasonable core temperature during hibernation) have brown fat. It turns out that traces of brown fat are still around in adult people. – A little aside: Other ways to increase body temperature are increasing surrounding temperature, moving about, shivering, and eating certain “warming” foods like cinnamon, ginger, onions, garlic, rutabaga, coriander, cloves – interestingly foods often used in the winter kitchen. But there is no hint that those foods increase brown fat. Or a shred of a proof that a so-called "Brown Fat Diet" will increase that precious tissue in your body.
2. Brown fat can help weight loss by increasing metabolism speed.
3. Brown fat also can decrease elevated insulin-resistance (also called pre-diabetes) and a diabetic situation.
4. Brown fat can be induced to increase by cold exposure – be it by swimming in cold water, immersing in a tub filled with ice water, or dancing in a walk-in food refrigerator (don’t you wish you had one of those at home??).
5. Needless to say, there are already pharmaceutical firms are already working on drugs that might trigger growth of brown fat, without going through the ado of cold exposure. The easy way out, I call it. And definitely not an interesting way, if you ask me.

I like to think about cold-induced brown fat as one of the benefits of moderate stress. We all know that stress is bad for you, don’t we? Not necessarily though. Moderate stress might be what makes the body function in the way Nature intended it. With heated dwellings with forgo the winter cold stress – and get sick for it, lacking brown fat. With air-conditioning in the summer, we miss out on the sweating which give our body a good cleanse of all the toxins – and get sick for it. Occasional hunger stress (fasting!) is another beneficial stress mechanism. Not only do we get healthier on occasional fasting, and live longer with less belly ballast, it also seems we get to be happier with fewer pounds – and less depressed.

One estimate is that there are about three million residential swimming pools in California (I am not even mentioning the pools in Florida and all across southern U.S.A.). If these pools are anything like our pool here in La Jolla, all those turquoise eyes should be gazing at the sky, basically unused. All, of course, using up precious water resources. How about using them? If you are in decent health (ask your physician), you start by doing a single lap across your pool. Tomorrow two, and every day one more until you reach twenty-one laps. The brown fat will appear very fast – and will help you lose weight.

Putting on brown fat, however, might mean walking a fine line: You want to increase your metabolism by cold exposure. But you don’t want to get where most winter swimmers end up: with more fat on their bodies. Fat (of any kind) protects against cold, and makes you better able to withstand long swims in icy water. Don’t go there!

Brown Fat And My Californian Pool

October 31, 2011

Tags: water, movement, addiction, arms, baby, back, belly fat, blanket, blood vessel, brown fat, Brown Fat And My Californian Pool, California, calories, chlorine, coconut oil, cold exposure, cold - minor, cold shower, energy factories, exercise, fat - brown, fat – yellow, hand, husband, hypothermia, itching, knee bend, medical curiosity, metabolism, mitochondria, muscles, newborn, obesity, oxygenation, pool, posture, rash, skin, stubbornness, swimming, tea - hot with fresh ginger, warmth, water book, weight loss, yellow fat, iron, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), Kaltwasserkur, Cold Water Cure, winter, Danube River, tuberculosis, frailty

The experiment is still on: How long into the winter will I succeed to keep up my daily twenty-one laps in the pool?

So far, so good. The water is much colder now, but the days have been sunny and friendly – the fog lifted while we were at the East Coast.

Truthfully, lately it has been harder to face the pool: I am still battling a minor cold, and every day I have to decide if it is prudent to swim with the cold, or if I should just snuggle up in a warm blanket. But the exhilarating feeling after my daily swim – I seem to be addicted to it. I look full of vigor. My posture definitely is straighter. I am building up muscles where I never had any – on my back and my arms. Plus, the tiny belly I had is getting smoother (not smaller).

On the negative side is my skin. No outright rash or itching yet, but I have the suspicion that my skin looks a bit older, notwithstanding the coconut oil I slab all over me after each bath.

For a few days, I had been getting extremely cold after each swim, and couldn’t get warm at all. If you ever read my water book, you know that staying cold after water exposure is not a good idea. But with my inborn stubbornness (which might just get worse with age …) and medical curiosity, I kept doing what I should not have done: go swimming. And got colder and colder. In spite of the knee bends, blankets and hot tea with fresh ginger. Two nights in a row, I didn’t get warm all night – certainly not a healthy state!

Until yesterday. Shortly after I went swimming, had taken my short cold shower to get rid of the chlorine, had done my exercise, had rolled up in my blanket and imbibed the tea, I got really warm. Even my hands felt tingling with warmth. This lasted all night, and is still going on. I suddenly had the feeling that, for the first time in my life, that I was getting on the warm side in life. Like, where my husband always is.

Looking around for an explanation, I stumbled onto brown fat. Brown fat gets activated by cold. Brown fat is supposed to be healthier than yellow fat that just stores superfluous calories. Babies have more brown fat because it protects them from hypothermia – a constant threat for newborns.

Brown fat is not so much fat but is related to muscles. Brown fat is brown from the mitochondria and their iron contents; mitochondria are tiny energy factories. Brown fat has also more blood vessels for better oxygenation and is metabolically more active than yellow fat – it actually burns calories instead just storing them.

So, by swimming in the cool pool, I must have tapped into my brown fat – I can’t come up with any other explanation. And did you know? Brown fat is implemented in weight loss. Yes! Brown fat can make you lose weight – IF you have enough brown fat.

Sebastian Kneipp, the father of the Kaltwasserkur (Cold Water Cure) is famous for jumping into the wintry Danube River to cure his tuberculosis. Later, he modified his approach because he observed that some weakened patients were not able to withstand the bitter cold he himself had applied to his body. One could say he watered down his original approach … I had always repeated what I had been taught: that too much cold might be hazardous to your health. Which still might be true for frail people.

But I might be onto something here … I will let you know how this will work out.

P.S. After today's laps, I have very warm hands.

My Hospital Manifesto

October 30, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, acupuncture, antibiotics, art, blood test, caring, chemicals, cleaning, cleanliness, complementary medicine, conventional medicine, dairy, dialogue, die with dignity, disease, DNR, doctors, Do Not Resuscitate orders, Europe, family, financial resources, foodstuff, friendliness, Germany, herbal medicine, Hippocrates, hospital, hospital cafeteria, hospital double doors, hospital infection, hospital organization, hospital routine, housekeeping, hydrotherapy, journaling, last days of life, massage, medical school, medicine, moneymaking, movement, music, My Hospital Manifesto, national health insurance, nerd, nuns, nurses, nursing - scientific, nutrition, out-sourcing, paperwork, patient advocate, patient recovery, patients, pediatric, primary care physician, quiet, rounds, saving of money, students - brilliant, sugars, trans-fats, TV, under-served populations, very old, very sick, washing

If I would decide how hospitals are governed (and I don’t), these would be important points for me:

1. Food: Thy food be thy medicine – and vice versa – Hippocrates said. What is served as “food” in hospitals these times, is mostly abysmal and just goes to show that conventional medicine is not interested in really finding out the root cause of disease. In many cases, it is nutrition, stupid!
2. Cafeteria: Same for the place where all the visitors come and eat. It could be an educational experience, instead just another gorging with inferior foodstuff, filled with chemicals, trans-fats, sugars and dairy.
3. Quiet: When I was a child in Germany, and my father was a doctor, he used to take me on his rounds. Hospitals then were very quiet places. The nurses (often nuns) would walk on their rubber soles like on cushions, and they spoke with low voices. The doors to patient rooms were double doors – the patient had privacy and quiet.
4. What hasn’t changed much: That the hospital routine is not geared toward patient recovery but to a ward schedule convenient for doctors and nurses: Then as now patients are pulled out of sleep to measure their temperature or draw blood tests at four am. I would like to see more concern for the patient’s wellbeing than for the organization’s.
5. No TV in patient rooms: My guess is that at least seventy percent of all illness is self-inflicted. It used to be that being in the hospital was a time for contemplation about what brought one there. Not any longer – as TV is squeaking and squealing day and night.
6. Conventional and complementary medicines are BOTH used. There should be no bias toward the one or the other – what has been proven to work should be applied: Hydrotherapy, movement therapy, food, herbal medicine and art, music, journaling, acupuncture, massage, and so on – they all should be used to make patients better. As they are in most European hospital. And paid for by national health insurance. And, no, they are NOT going to be broke …
7. More cleanliness in the facilities. More cleanliness of the patients. Used to be that hospital were spic-and-span places where you could eat from the floor; not any longer. Instead of on cleanliness we trust in antibiotics – to our detriment. Same with patients’ cleanliness: Used to be that nurses washed the patients daily; not any longer. Nurses have gone scientific (necessarily so – but who is now responsible for caring?); the paperwork has become overwhelming. Housekeeping has been out-sourced. And simple ideas like a washing and cleaning have become obsolete. But hospital infections are skyrocketing.
8. More friendliness and caring toward the patient. The patient has become a moneymaking device.
9. Less care and resources to be spent on very old, very sick people in their last days of life – more on pediatric and under-served populations. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate orders discussed with every patient and/or every family). It will lead to savings of money and will allow people to die with dignity.
10. In medical schools, only half of the students should be A+ nerds; the other half should be people who really want to become doctors and patient advocates from all walks of life. We need very brilliant students because they push medicine’s frontiers ahead. But we also need caring primary care physicians. And putting them together in medical school will hopefully lead to a dialogue between them.

As I am thinking more about this, I might come up with more ideas. What would you wish to implement in the hospitals of the future?

Listen To Your Body

October 29, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, acupuncturist, addiction, advertisement, alcoholic, all-you-can-eat, arthritis, aspartame, asthma, beans, body, brain, breakfast, Brussels sprouts, buffet, caffeine, cereal, chocolate, cleansing, coconut oil, cold shower, craving, deli, dairy, deficiency, diet, diet coke, dinner, doctor, drinking booze, East Coast, exercise - moderate, fast meal, fat, fate, friend, GAIA, gut feeling, gym, hankering, health hype, health news, herbalist, herbs - women's, herbs - fresh or dried, homeopathy, hunch, hunch skills, husband, information maze, joint ache, junk food, left-overs, Listen To Your Body, lobster, M&Ms, marshmallow, meal - freshly cooked, meat, medical wisdom, medicine - conventional, mood, müsli, museum, natural, newspaper, nutmeg, official line, olive oil, onions, osteoarthritis, Own Your Health, passion, patients, pepper, phytogen, placebo effect, pool, pregnant, raisins, salt, scale, scientific breakthrough, sixth sense, sleep, soul, super-food, supplement, sweets, triathlon, thyroid, thyroidectomy, turkey, unscientific, vegan, veteran - homeless, vitamins, weight, Western diet, Weisman - Roanne, wine

A stalk of Brussels sprouts survived in my fridge while we were traveling to the East Coast. Last night, I suddenly had the vision that I would like to eat those green little roses – and of all things with raisins!

No clue where it came from. The sixth sense? But I knew I had to get up a bit earlier this morning to actually cook this strange breakfast for myself. Since the nearly twenty years I don’t indulge anymore in the ubiquitous müsli or cereal breakfast, I usually eat dinner left-overs or open a can of beans, throw in a handful of fresh or dried herbs, pepper and salt, and some olive oil – it is a fast meal, but no junk food.

At this point in my life, I take my gut feelings seriously. So I browned two large onions in coconut oil before I added the Brussels sprouts rosettes and a cup full of raisins. I let it simmer with some pepper and salt, until the rosettes were soft and the raisins plump. It was delicious – why had I never thought of adding raisins to this dish? The taste mingled the sharp black pepper and the sweet raisins to a new experience. Usually I serve Brussels sprouts with a good sprinkling of nutmeg.

Why do I take my hunches seriously? Because I figure my body wants to tell me about a slight deficiency. Of course I don’t follow hunches for marshmallows and M&Ms, because they are not natural – although I might turn to dark chocolate if I had a craving for something sweet.

Nearly thirty years ago I followed a hunch to visit a certain museum – five hundred miles away. And through that museum, I met my future (and now) husband … but that is a different story!

Why do I bring up something as unscientific as hunches?

Because daily we are bombarded by health news and scientific breakthroughs and advertisements for new super-foods – it is hard to find our way through this maze of information. I early on decided that I need to see – and feel – the difference in my body, my mood, my soul before I believe any new health hype.

For instance, I always craved more fat in my diet than medical wisdom allowed me to eat. It always seemed that my brain did not function well without enough fat – and I am talking good fats here, mostly olive oil. At that time, I was still timid and told my patients to stick to the official line in conventional medicine, namely to cut out fat. But secretly, I bathed my vegetables in all the fat I desired.

And interestingly, it was me who kept her weight since age twelve, not the people who had been advised differently. I was the one who weighed herself every day on a scale – contrary to what medicine was teaching at that time.

So, now, when you take a new supplement: Do you take it because your doctor/your herbalist/your acupuncturist/your friend/your newspaper told you so? Or because you feel suddenly so much better than before?

Over the years I found out that rarely do I feel better with ANY supplements. Exception are the phytogens (female herbs) by GAIA which I gave been taking for many years now. But I do feel better when I take my daily cold shower (or my daily laps across the pool), when I eat less at dinner and nothing thereafter, when I do moderate exercise throughout the day but feel miserable in the gym. I feel good about myself when I drop a small coin into the hand of a homeless veteran, but feel shabby when I argue to myself that he probably is an alcoholic who deserves his fate (nobody deserves that fate!!).

Over the years I found out that vitamins and homeopathy don’t do anything for me, but freshly cooked meals do. That leaving out dairy cured my asthma, and improved my osteoarthritis vastly. That I need about double as much sleep as my husband, and that I definitely need my small thyroid pill after half of my thyroid was taken out years ago. Without that tiny pill I turn into a nagging bitch (as my husband found out!).

Mind you, I don’t give in to silly cravings like drinking a ton of booze. But the occasional glass of wine seems to be fine. And when I was pregnant, I took very seriously my sudden hankering after lobster, and made my husband drive to a seafood restaurant late at night!

When one turns vegan, most people feel wonderful, initially. Because it is a cleansing diet, after the overload on meats, delis and dairy products of the Western diet. But do you still feel wonderful after a few years on this diet? Or do you believe the vegan ideology more than what your body tells you? Do you feel great after an all-you-can-eat buffet, or do you feel like a stuffed turkey? Do you feel great after a diet coke, or do you have the lingering suspicion you might be addicted to the aspartame and caffeine? Do you feel good after a triathlon, or do all your joints scream?

The big problem of course is that our brain can make us believe what we want to believe, deceivingly. It takes years of practicing your hunch skills before you can trust those wild notions coming out of nowhere. After all, there is something like the placebo effect, which may make you feel good erroneously – at least for a time.

But nobody else can answer the question “How are you?” – except you. Because every body is different, and only you can feel how you are. As my friend Roanne Weisman puts it: Own Your Health!

And, hey, I feel perfect today after Brussels sprouts with raisins!

Ibuprofen And Aplastic Anemia

October 16, 2011

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, water, ache, alcohol, anecdotal evidence, aplastic anemia, aspirin, bleeding risk, blood cell, bone marrow, bone marrow transplant, brain, cramps, culture, death, double-blind, drug, exercise, Europe, fresh foods, fibroids - uterine, Germany, GYN, headache, husband, ibuprofen, Ibuprofen And Aplastic Anemia, internal bleeding, kidneys, liver, menstrual cramps, natural method, painkiller, period, pills, placebo-controlled, platelet count, randomized, pain - root cause, salt, scientific study, skullcap, sleep, soft beverages, stomach lining, stroke - hemorrhagic, sugar, sun, TV

This is the story of a friend’s friend – no statistics behind it, no big scientific study double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled - nothing but anecdotal evidence (and you won't see a study done on this soon!). But a poignant story anyway, and a reminder:

A woman in her forties was in quite good health, as it seemed, until one day, she got weak and ill, and was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

Aplastic anemia is a very serious diagnosis. It means the bone marrow is not churning out the required number of blood cells necessary for survival, and her physicians recommend a bone marrow transplant to her.

One of the doctors told her that her platelet count was so low that she might start bleeding anytime (most worrisome is bleeding into the brain), and said that, as a minimum, she should stop all aspirin or ibuprofen (or any drug in that family of painkillers) as those might increase the bleeding risk.

Now this woman had taken high doses of ibuprofen on the advice of her GYN doctor for uterine fibroids and terrible cramps. She heeded the advice, stopped all pills, and slowly but surely, her blood cell count crept higher and higher, until it became clear that she did not need new bone marrow at all.

When I came to this country many years ago, I found that in a drugstore one could buy bottles of a thousand aspirin or ibuprofen pills. In Germany, one bought them in little tubes with ten or twenty each. That’s not only a difference in size: It is a difference in cultures: When you have a headache in Europe, you ask why you have the ache (nagging husband, too much sun, too much TV, too much booze, too little sleep, no exercise – the list is endless). You try to change the root cause of the pain. Here, you take a pill.

This woman had a good reason to take ibuprofen – her fibroid cramps – and took them under the supervision of a physician – and still, it nearly killed her. Ibuprofen can have bad effects on the kidneys, the liver, the stomach lining – and thousands people die each year of internal bleeding. Aplastic anemia is exceedingly rare. But this story illustrates that no drug is without side-effects and we need to have a healthy respect of any drug we put in our bodies.

Most painkillers are taken against headaches and menstrual cramps. Why not try natural methods first? More sleep, more movement, healthy fresh foods, water instead of soft beverages, less sugar and salt before periods, skullcap tincture against cramps – one has so many healthier options!

Always Make Sure Your Tank Is Full, And Your Bladder Is Empty

October 5, 2011

Tags: Order, food, water, Always Make Sure Your Tank Is Full - And Your Bladder Is Empty, billboard, bladder, California, chlorine, congee, contamination, energy wasting, fire hazard, frozen food, gluten intolerance, joy of cooking, lentils, Massachusetts, microwaving, miles, mixed, natural health food store, Pasadena, plastic wrap, pool, pre-boiled, precooked, prepared, prepared dinner, rain, ready-to-eat-meal, red lentils, rice, rice - basmati, rice - brown, rice cooking, rice - forbidden, rice - jasmine, rice - long, rice - short, rice - wild, San Diego, skin, supermarkets, tank, water reservoir, work less

That was a billboard advice in Pasadena yesterday. Certainly excellent advice. But I doubt I would ever had found that kind of slogan on a billboard in Massachusetts. With endless, confusing highways – freeways they call them here – and huge distances one has to do with every mundane task, full tank/empty bladder are imperative.

California is different, I am finding out. It never rains in southern California – and I am finding that is not true, either.

For one thing: The supermarkets: At home, we have a huge natural health food store where I live. Here it’s the size of a railway station. One of the differences in the products is that frozen foods, ready-to-eat-meals and prepared dinners are much more common. Three aisles full of frozen foods alone!

I tried to find rice and lentils. As in rice. and. lentils. Not precooked. Not in a fabulous sauce or in an exotic recipe. Just red lentils and rice. At home, I can choose between about half a dozen kinds of rice: long, short, basmati, jasmine, brown, forbidden, wild (which is not really rice and should not be eaten by people with gluten problems) – you get the idea. Here they have a thousand pre-boiled, prepared, mixed varieties. And a single uncooked variety: long. Happens that I want short, for my congee in the morning.

To cook rice is one of the easiest tasks in the kitchen: You measure a cup of rice, add two cups of water and a pinch of salt, bring it to a boil, cover it with a lid, and let it simmer on low flame until all water has been used up. While the rice cooks, you prepare other dishes. I doubt it is much easier to scrape precooked rice from its plastic wrapping, put it into a bowl and microwave (yuck!!) it. Not to mention that your rice is made in a way you have no influence on: You don’t know the kind of water they use. They might have done the “cooking” via microwaving. And agents from the plastic wrap might have seeped and contaminated your rice. All that for a doubtful gain in “less work.” - Joy of cooking – where did it go?

The one thing I really enjoy so far: the pool. Today it’s cold for San Diego – in the low sixties – and it was drizzling a bit when I did my daily laps. Nobody else dared this kind of weather and took a swim with me. The chlorine smell is but light – I hope my skin will not scream after a while. Rain here is needed of course. It fills the reservoirs and reduces fire hazard.

Red lentils I haven’t found yet. Although I am sure I will find a store that carries red lentils. It’s only a question of more miles, more energy wasting on the freeways. And of course a question of an empty bladder.

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!

My Eyes Were Resting On Green

August 11, 2011

Tags: order, food, water, apple - Braeburn, attention, barn, barren, beef - ground, black, blue, body and soul, bog, brown, cat food, chicken liver, Chinese brush painting, coconut oil, color game, commitment, concept, cooking, cornstalk, dandelion, dealership, effort, fir, fireweed, flag - American, flower, food - wholesome, forest, garden, Gobi Desert, green, green landscape, growing, hills, house - burnt-down, human, hungry, idea, lily pad, log cabin, loosestrife - purple, mailbox, Maine - down-east, maple geraniums - hardy, meadow, My Eyes Were Resting On Green, Namib Desert, Nature, New England, New Hampshire, oats - rolled, onion, orange, Otto – cat, pepper and salt, picket fence, pickup truck, pine, pink, pond, purple, recipe, red, rose, rosy, Route 2, spruce, steeple, sumac, sunflower, tired, town, tractor, tree – touching a tree, Turk’s cap lilies, United States, valley, Vermont, white, yellow

Yesterday I drove from Vermont to down-east Maine on Route 2. During the first part, my friend Bob guided me through tiny back roads from Vermont into New Hampshire to Route 2; if you ever have to follow another car like that, it helps if it is a fire-truck red pickup truck that you can’t lose out of sight easily. That bright red truck was the beginning of the color game for me when I later sailed across gentle hills east, east, east for seven hours. Since I took up Chinese brush painting in January, my eyes are drawn by lines and colors.

After the bleak, beautiful scenes of the two barren, forbidding deserts we visited this year – Namib and Gobi – I reveled in the green landscape that sustains me - body and soul. Green were the meadows, the lily pads on the ponds and the forests of maple, pines, firs, spruce and sumac. Saturated, satisfying green.

A few colors were sprinkled into the green canvas: rows of orange Turk’s cap lilies, a patch of tall yellow sunflowers, a surprising line of bright red tractors at a dealership, pink roses and big swathes of rosy fireweeds, an occasional blue mailbox and clouds of dainty pale blue flowers that might have been hardy geraniums, the subdued red of barns, brown male flowers uppermost on green cornstalks, the purple loosestrife that invades the boggier areas, the black ruins of a burnt-down house, and of course the white houses, steeples and picket fences we all expect from New England. Natural colors and man-made colors – but all insignificant against the green on the hills and in the valleys.

Many of the small towns along Route 2 were decorated with American flags red, white, blue, making a contrast to nature that seemed to say that the “United States” is a concept, and idea that deserves effort and commitment rather than growing organically out of the soil. Something that easily could be swallowed by fertile green if we don’t pay attention.

Gentle rain and creative fog formations wrapped the land, nourishing and renewing. We know, of course, that Nature can come upon us with force and destructive. Not here, not yesterday, though.

Green, of course, is our most wholesome food. When I arrived at the log cabin, tired and hungry, I began cooking a pot of fresh cat food for Otto from ground beef, chicken livers, some rolled oats and dripping wet dandelion greens from the garden. Then I thought the better of it and saved a few pieces of chicken liver for the humans: I browned two big onions in coconut oil, added a sliced Braeburn apple and a handful of green dandelion leaves, and pepper and salt. Last I added the few slivers of chicken liver. A meal for the gods!

During dinner conversation, my friend Matt said the sentence: “I make sure that most of the time I am not too far away to touch a tree.”

The Wolf That Ravages - Lupus

July 31, 2011

Tags: order, food, water, herbs, movement, alfalfa sprouts, Antrodia camphorata, apple, Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia vulgaris, artificial molecules, Astragalus propinquus, Astragalus membranaceus, autoimmune disease, basil, beans, blood, blood thinner, brain, Brussels sprouts, Bupleurum chinense, butter, caloric restriction, celery, chamomile, cheese, cheese - “milk-free”, dairy cilantro, clover, cod liver, cold shower, cooking, Cordyceps sinensis, cream, creams, curcumin, curry, DHEA, dried milk ingredients, exercise, fish, fish oil, flaxseed, food allergy, food intolerance, French Maritime Pine bark extract, garbanzo, gene-manipulated seeds, Gentiana macrophylla, GMOs, green tea, heart, hepatitis B, herbalist, herbs - culinary, herbs – medicinal, honey bee secretion, immune system, inflammation - chronic, joints, junk food, kidney, kidney failure, Latin, legumes, lentils, lipstick, lotions, lotus flower, lungs, lupus, Matricaria chamomilla, milk, mineral oils, miso, mono-crops, mugwort, mushroom - medicinal, Nelumbo nucifera, nutritional bar, nuts, obsessive-compulsive disorder, olive oil, oregano, overweight, parsley, peas, pycnogenol, photosensitivity, plant food, Rheum emodi, royal jelly, sauna, seeds, skin, SLE, sleep, Sophora flavenscens, soy, soy - fermented, soy-sauce, spices, spinach, sugar, sunlight, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, tarragon, tempeh, The Wolf That Ravages Your Life – Lupus, Tripterygium wilfordii, turmeric, vaccination, vegetables, vitamin D, vitamin E, weight loss, wormwood, yogurt

Lupus is Latin for “wolf” - an apt name for a disease that may maul your skin and inner organs relentlessly. Lupus is a group of autoimmune diseases that can affect skin, joints, blood, brain lungs, heart, and in its most feared form the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. One interesting picture produced by SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) of the brain can be an obsessive-compulsive-like disorder.

Autoimmune diseases – with all our scientific advances – are still not thoroughly understood. From experience and the literature I would consider the following steps if I were afflicted with lupus – which I am not.

1. Eliminate all dairy because casein seems to be hurting badly in lupus. Do not eat butter, cream, milk, yogurt, cheese, or any food with dried milk ingredients. For instance, “milk-free” cheese still usually contains casein. Since lupus is basically a disease of chronic inflammation in the body, it is wise to throw out all foods that contribute to inflammation – and dairy is the worse in that respect. Sugar and artificial molecules come in second. And food items you already know don’t agree with you (allergies and intolerances). Of all those, dairy has been consistently been linked with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

2. Fish oil. Take good-quality fish oil capsules daily, about three times three. Make sure you don’t have a bleeding problem because fish oil slightly thins the blood. Also eat small ocean fish.

3. Flaxseed. If you don’t have a nut-and-seed problem, flaxseeds have a healing quality in lupus. Use olive oil for cooking.

4. Vitamin D or sunlight is beneficial in lupus, but photosensitivity (skin reactions to sun) is a prominent feature of lupus. What is a person to do? If you can’t tolerate light, take a vitamin D preparation or eat cod liver once a month.

5. Eliminate soy unless fermented. The reports about soy are not clear – sometimes soy hurts, sometimes it helps. This might have to do with two facts, namely that unfermented soy is not better than any other bean, and might even be worse as soy is one of the new mono-crops of gene-manipulated seeds. GMO are linked to lupus by some authors. On the other hand, fermented soy has done well in all studies. Miso, a good soy-sauce and tempeh are fermented soy products; tofu and the “nutritional” bars are not.

6. Caloric restriction has been shown to delay the onset of lupus. That does not mean you should starve yourself. But if you are overweight – even if ever so slightly – you should seriously focus on losing the extra pounds – which might actually happen all by itself if you eliminate dairy, sugar and other junk foods.

7. Herbs. There is a long list of herbs and plants helpful in lupus. I would not recommend any one over any others. And obviously, there might be other herbs and pants beneficial. For me it means that plant material – the way we should nourish ourselves naturally – is the way to go. So, eat a variety of vegetables. And from the list below chose food items, herbs and spices freely in your cooking. For medicinal herbs, chose one at a time and take it according to directions, until the bottle is empty, then choose another one:
Alfalfa sprouts
Antrodia camphorata (a medicinal mushroom)
Apples
Astragalus
Basil
Brussels sprouts
Bupleurum chinense (and other Buleurum species)
Celery
Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)
Cilantro
Clover
Cordyceps sinensis (a medicinal mushroom)
Curcumin (in turmeric and curries)
Gentiana macrophylla
Green tea
Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, garbanzo)
Lotus flower (Nelumbo nucifera)
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Oregano
Parsley
Pycnogenol (French Maritime Pine bark extract)
Rheum emodi
Royal jelly (a honey bee secretion)
Sophora flavenscens
Spinach
Tarragon
Tripterygium wilfordii
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, notoriously bad for the brain – absinth! So consult an herbalist for this)

8. Vitamin E and DHEA have been beneficial in lupus, but I would not take them without consulting a physician because both may have side-effects.

9. Avoid mineral oils (lipstick, lotions, creams, etc.) as mineral oils have been implicated in the development of lupus.
10. Certain vaccinations, especially hepatitis B, have been brought in connection with lupus. The jury is still out on that – but think twice before you get an unnecessary vaccination.

11. Exercise moderately.

12. Do sauna regularly for detoxification. Take a cold shower after a hot one to regulate your immune system.

13. Get enough sleep. Your body needs to repair during sleep.

Lupus might be what I like to call the canary diseases: Certain foods and lifestyles hurt all of us. But in some – the canaries – the damage shows earlier.

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!

How Many Chinese Does It Take To Screw In A Light Bulb?

July 21, 2011

Tags: water, order, Africa, arid region, Buddhism, camel ride, cave entrance, China, Chinese, cities, competitiveness, cultures, deforestation, desert, desert crossing, desert fort, desert - man-made, Dunhuang, earth, fertilization, France, Germany, Gobi Desert, Great Britain, How Many Chinese Does It Take To Screw In A Light Bulb?, Japan, Jewish property, joblessness, Lanzhou, leaves, light bulb - energy-saving, looting, Mogaoku, museum, Namib Desert, Nazis, Netherlands, nomad hordes, oasis, prayer, Qin dynasty, reforestation, roots, sand, sand dune buggy rides, sandstorm, soil, stress, tourism, traveler, tree planting, trees, USA, wages

This is not a joke, of course. This morning, they came to the hotel room – three of them: A woman, politely knocking and explaining the procedure (by gestures – my Chinese is bad); a man who carried the equipment; another man who screwed in the bulb nimbly and knowledgeable. The bulb was the energy-saving kind.

And all along they had fun, not bothered by efficiency or other Western values. This way, the Chinese government gives everybody a job – at extremely low wages. The Netherlands are another country that thrives on job sharing: People work less hours per week, take a cut in their salaries – and enjoy their increased free time. We, on the other hand, rather have excellent salaries (or the dream that we some day will have them) - and pay with stress, competitiveness and joblessness.

This light bulb changing took place in Dunhuang, in the Gobi Desert. Dunhuang is an ancient oasis and now a modern tourist attraction, with sand dune buggy rides (which I really can’t stand – but the males in our group think differently), camel rides (which I am not sure about) and a wonderful hotel that looks like an ancient desert fort.

In case you think Dunhuang is a little oasis like in the cartoons, it is a city of nearly 200,000 inhabitants that accommodates about a million visitors per year.

In the bathroom is a sign that reminds us that water is the “spring of life” and asks us to preserve every drop of it. Dunhuang is an oasis that is fed by a river that comes from the nearby mountains. Last months, they told us, the river was swelling above the bridge and areas were under water. Now the riverbed is stone-dry.

The Gobi Desert is – unlike the Namib Desert in Africa, about which I wrote before – a man-made desert: People cut down all the trees without reforestation. Without the deep roots and the leaves that fertilized the earth, the soil could hold no longer water. The result was sand, sand, sand – desert. And as always with deforestation, the cities and cultures that were once blossoming faltered and vanished.

Around Lanzhou, in a totally arid region, there is a huge reforestation program underway. I heard it is done this way: Every worker is getting one day per week off to plant trees and to maintain the trees. The outcome can easily be monitored: The trees live or die.

Near the Dunhuang oasis are the Mogaoku – a row of hundreds of caves cut into the rock and furnished with Buddhist shrines. This oasis that has revived travelers for thousands of years was the perfect place to pray for a safe return from the perilous desert crossings – or give thanks, on return. The caves had been built from the earliest Qin times until the thirteenth century, when nomad hordes threatened the area. So, the cave entrances were covered up by bricks and plaster and rocks – and sandstorms further made the sites unknowable.

In 1900, a monk discovered one of the caves by chance. By selling a script or a statue here and there, Western museums got wind of the treasures here, and came in several expeditions and bought up everything they could lay hands on. Thus, the old manuscripts and statues ended in the museums of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the USA. There they have been preserved probably better than in China – nevertheless, it is a loss China deeply regrets. Other than the lootings of Jewish property by the Nazis and allied forces, these were regular transactions, and it is unlikely that the Chinese will recover the treasures.

China Ramblings

July 18, 2011

Tags: food, water, order, movement, altitude, Beijing, Brisbane/Australia, candle, candy sugar, China, China Ramblings, Chinese date, civilizations, cleanliness, cold shower, conservation, construction, defecation, duck tongue, Earth, entertainment, exercise, family, fireworks, flowers - wild, friends, Gansu Province, grass, Grasslands, green tea, horse, Internet, Lanzhou, laughter, lazy Susan, logan, Mongolia, physiology, rancid, sea cucumber, Silk Road, slaughtering, stress, sunset, temperatures, Tibet, Tibetan minority, Tibetan monasteries, toilet, transportation, tourism, work, yak, yak butter, yak meat

We are sitting somewhere between Tibet and Mongolia in a remote place – Lanzhou - and waiting for our air plane that is delayed for hours ... Of course, we are having fun anyway. Our Chinese friends put together a new trip, with only three days notice - and it turns out wonderful - perhaps even better than the originally planned Tibet trip. We are visiting places along the Silk Road. Anyway, there are so many Tibetan temples here - it feels more or less like Tibet.

Remote place – don’t think “quaint”. China is so modern now, Internet is everywhere, and even the ancient Tibetan monasteries and old-fashioned stores are equipped with every new gadget – the monk this morning had a portable speaker phone to be able to address the crowd of tourists.

One thing about China: The Chinese work very hard, most of them – and driving through the country, one can see it: Tons of construction everywhere. They transport sand and stones – they don’t build one house – they build a whole village or a part of town. Hundreds of little stores along the main roads of a town, and many are producing, not just selling.

There are so many Chinese – and the need to feed the family is pressing. But they seem less stressed than we are, and always ready to smile and laugh - or is this only a superficial impression by a visitor who cannot see behind the faces? Because they are only allowed one child, they cherish that one child. To the point of spoiling - as some observers claim. As a rule, Chinese have not yet much time for entertainment. Their lives are work and family, it seems. Except for a little fireworks on Sundays …

On our first night in Beijing, I ate duck tongue. It is not a delicatessen. It arrives on the table because Chinese people eat everything and they let go nothing to waste. The duck is slaughtered not for the tongue, rest assured. And how does it taste? Like some tiny bit of dried meat on a stick – surprise, surprise: a duck tongue has a bone – or at least something that feels and looks like a bone. I won’t eat it again.

I also ate sea cucumber soup – and that was delicious! I had first eaten it years ago in Brisbane/Australia, and I still like it.

Last night, in the area occupied by the Tibetan minority in Gansu Province, we had dinner in a large gazebo, open to the grasslands and the sunset. First a tea was served with green tea leaves, Chinese dates (which are not really dates) , a sort of dried logan, and bits of candy sugar – an auspicious beginning for a long meal that lasted for hours. A Chinese meal is shared. Everybody sits around a round table with a lazy Susan. The dishes turn round and round, and so are stories and laughter. We are traveling with friends and their family – what could be better?

The temperatures in the Grasslands are extreme: At these altitude, it is very hot during the day, rather chilly in the evening, cold at night. This morning I took a cold shower – briskly cold.

Oh, and Chinese toilets. The toilets are supposed to bring you own. Chinese toilets are holes in the grounds. They have three important advantages:

• They can be kept cleaner than a Western style toilet because one doesn’t touch anything.
• They are more physiological: The squatting position furthers defecation.
• And one gets extra exercise by being forced to squat – it keeps Chinese people nimble in their hips and strong in their legs.

One more story about food: In the grassland I walked up to a parked truck filled to capacity with yaks. They were either a smaller kind, or not yet grown, about a dozen of them, with long rugged hair. I talked to one yak – he was frightened and sniveled and it broke my heart – these beautiful animals on their way to be slaughtered.

Like many of us, I am of a divided mind: I feel with the animals – but I also want to eat. As a physician, I know that many people become depleted in vitamin B12 if they avoid meat, fish and eggs. Personally, I could never be a vegetarian because I get weak after a short time and need some meat – about once a week. At our home, we have frequently vegetarian meals – just not always. – And for the record and the truth – yes, I ate yak meat that very evening because that was what we got served, and I was hungry after a day of sightseeing.

This is the human predicament: We want to do better, but we cannot totally avoid to kill other beings for our own benefit. At least, we should face the suffering we are inflicting, keeping it to a minimum by reducing meat consumption – and say a prayer for every non-vegetarian meal we are having.

We also had the famous nomad tea with yak milk. Whenever I had read about it, the milk was described as rancid. Ours was not – it was a pure, satisfying drink. – On the other hand, we had plenty of rancid yak butter fragrance in our noses today because that is what they make candles out in the monasteries. People bring that rancid butter as a tribute, it seems, plus money.

Last thing for today: The high meadows in the Grasslands are of exquisite beauty. Their wild flowers are full of aroma, and the grass is indescribably fresh. The nomads use it for their horses and yaks – they look so proud on their sinewy horses! I am aware that we come in just as tourists, but the nomads live off the land in a gentle and conserving way – and when most civilizations will have fallen down because we have exploited our good old Earth, these and other nomad people have a chance to repopulate the Earth in a new and better way – hopefully.

Weeds - Green Is Life-Giving

July 12, 2011

Tags: food, water, amaranth, arthritis, arugula, balcony, beet greens, burdock, cabbage, cancer, chard, chickweed, chlorophyll, collard greens, coumadin, dandelion, diabetes type II, dinosaur kale, dog poop, Earth, edible weeds, endive, escarole, eye health, garden, garlic, green leafy things, harvest, heart health, immune system, lamb's quarters, kale, knowledge, kohlrabi greens, lettuce, local herb walk, mâche, mizuna, mustard greens, olive oil, pesticides, plantain, pots, purslane, radicchio, rapunzel, shepherd's purse, spinach, stinging nettle, sunlight, supermarket, water cress, weed, Weeds - Green Is Life-Giving, yarrow, harvesting from the wild

With the “invention” of chlorophyll, life on Earth began to explode. Chlorophyll makes it possible to harvest the sunlight and turn it into food for animals and humans.

All greens keep you healthy – in so many ways; They fight and prevent cancer, they help the heart, the eyes, the immune system, and work against diabetes type II and arthritis – to name a few. All taste delicious simmered in little water with olive oil and garlic (fresh or dried), pepper and salt. Here are green leafy things you might find in your supermarket:

• Chard
• Spinach
• Cabbage
• Mustard greens
• Dandelion
• Collard greens
• Kale
• Escarole
• Arugula
• Beet greens
• Bok choy
• Rapunzel (mâche)
• Dinosaur greens
• Endive
• Water cress
• Kohlrabi greens
• Lettuce
• Mizuna
• Amaranth
• Radicchio

If you have a garden, or some pots on the balcony, or a stretch of land where dogs don’t poop (hard to find!), you have access to many more greens than just in your supermarket aisle – and for free!!

• Stinging nettle
• Dandelion
• Purslane
• Chickweed
• Plantain
• Burdock
• Lamb's quarters
• Shepherd's purse
• Yarrow

For harvesting from the wild, follow a few rules: If you take from your neighbor’s garden, ask for permission. Not only is dog poop a problem but pesticides and generally dirty roads. Don’t over-harvest – you wants some plants to set seeds, so that you can forage next year again. If you are taking coumadin, be aware that all greens can counteract it – take roughly an equal amount every day.

There is nothing wrong with edible weeds – they are delicious – it just takes an adventurous spirit. And KNOWLEDGE of the plant! Take a local herb walk with a guide. Don’t harvest and eat if you are not 100% sure – 99% is not good enough.

Water And Energy

July 5, 2011

Tags: water, air conditioner, atomic energy, bacteria, cabin, cold water, detergent, detoxify, elderly, energy, fan, frail, highway, Japanese reactor accident, Maine, restrooms, rubbing action, sick, sweating, washing hands, Water And Energy, water - cold, water flow, water - hot, water wasting

Driving up to the cabin for the first time this year, in one of the Maine highway restrooms I encountered something new: plain cold water for washing my hands. Finally! I had always wondered why we waste so much hot water and energy for washing our hands. Of course, recently a study had come out that showed that hot water does not remove more bacteria than cold water – the whole effect depends on the detergent and the rubbing action plus the water flow.

So, somebody acted on this new insight. Just think if all the thousands of highway restrooms and all the restaurants would change to plain cold water! We would all be the better for it.

And since I am at it: If you are not elderly and not frail and not sick, please, shut off the air conditioner this year! The Japanese reactor accident has shown us that energy comes with a price – and I guess, not many of us would want to pay with our lives for limitless atomic energy.

When we moved into our house some long time ago, we found, it had a central air conditioner. We tried it one night – and couldn’t stand it.

In the worst of hot, hot summer nights we have a simple fan running in the bedroom. Otherwise: Summer is upon us, and we savor every minute of it by slowing down, relaxing, playing it easy. And sweating. Sweating is the natural, seasonal way to detoxify. I am no fanatic, so I think air conditioners at the workplace are fine. Not that I like them – but they help to concentrate on the work instead of idly looking out of the window. And we are not discussing here possible health disadvantages of air conditioners – I want you to give REDUCING a chance before we are talking COLD TURKEY NONE.

These are the two thoughts for today:
1. Wash you hands with cold water.
2. Do you really need the air conditioner?

And a last thought:
Drink enough water during the heat!

Why Haven’t You Heard Kangen Water Mentioned Here?

June 26, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, alkalinizing, customers – gullible, dream – pipe-dream, Earth, health device, health myth, improving your life, Kangen Water, magic machine, miracle pill, money - saving, multi-level marketing scheme, positive thinking, reader, reality, resources – Earth’s, scientific study, seller, vegetable, water purity, Why Haven’t You Heard Kangen Water Mentioned Here?, writing

Water is our Earth’s precious resource; I spend my time writing about the importance of keeping water pure and how to use it for health. But Kangen water?

From time to time I get sucked into a discussion on the Internet – so this time again; over Kangen water.

What I tell them is that not a single scientific study validates Kangen water, that it is nothing but a multi-level marketing scheme, and that if you want to alkalinize your body you better eat vegetables. But do I have an impact? No, because there are mostly two kinds of readers: People who sell this product and are vested in its success. And gullible customers.

And those poor gullible customers should save their money instead of running after the age-old dream that a simple device can make you healthy. Exactly to dispel that myth I am here. Because, in reality, it is a gradual process of improving your life in so many ways – water, movement, food, herbs, order might be a concept you are familiar with by now. No miracle pill. No magic machine. No positive thinking.

Just doing a little bit better every day.

Keep A Cool Head!

June 16, 2011

Tags: water, air - fresh, brain temperature, Celsius, cool head - warm feet, cooling water tubes, Fahrenheit, feet - warm, head - cool, insomnia, Keep A Cool Head!, Maine, re-breathing stale air, sleep, Natural Medicine, water – recycled, wet socks, window open, winter

A study just out: Scientists built a cap with cooling water tubes to keep the brain temperature down. Turns out you sleep best when your head is at a little below 60 degrees Fahrenheit about 15 degrees Celsius.

What – they spent research funds on that?? Insane. Why invent a machine for something that is available easily in nature?

Then again: Natural Medicine tells us for more than a century now to sleep with the window open. For the reason that one doesn’t re-breathe ones stale reason. For a second reason: To keep a cool head.

The only other proven across-the-board condition that helps people go to sleep is having warm feet. Is this neat? Cool head, warm feet! You find the absurd prescription of Wet Socks in my water book (I don’t have the time to write about it now) – absurd, but it helps.

For today: Sleep with window open. Give it it try! Of course, we sleep with window open even in the coldest winter in Maine. You can start now - in summer weather. You don’t drink water that has once gone through your body and then been discarded. You shouldn’t re-breathe your used-up air either!

Alternative Goes Mainstream - Or Does it?

June 11, 2011

Tags: order, movement, food, herbs, water, acupuncture, alternative-complementary medicine program, Alternative Goes Mainstream, Arzt für Naturheilkunde, Ayurvedic Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, BIDMC, biophysical medicine, board-certified, Boston, Cheng - Jill and Hung, Chinese food, chiropractic, conferences – medical, Continuing Education, diseases, Family Practice, Germany, healing foods, healing modalities, hydrotherapy, Internal Medicine, massage, medications, medicine – alternative, medicine – conventional, Natural Medicine, overweight, Primary Care, quackery, relaxation, research, subspecialty, subspecialty degree in Complementary Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, under-exercised, yoga

Have you ever not told your doctor you are using an herb or a massage for your problems? Have you ever had a physician yelling at you because you dared mention such modalities at all? I am looking for gentle healing forms for twenty five years now – and I am astonished that I am still hearing about such fossil physicians and incidents.

This week I attended a gathering to celebrate a generous gift Jill and Hung Cheng have given to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston toward an alternative-complementary medicine program.

We celebrated with speeches (of course!) and healthy Chinese fare, and had a ball, generally – celebrating that a farsighted couple tries to overcome the big divide between alternative and conventional medicine.

BUT: Why are we still talking about alternative?

There is nothing alternative in using healing foods and movement to help patients. Not astonishing, a new study showed that overweight, under-exercised physicians are utilizing less food and physical modalities to help their patients. Which means: Overweight, under-exercised physicians prescribe more medications. Scary?

In Germany, many modalities like herbal therapy, Natural Medicine, massage, acupuncture, yoga, relaxation, hydrotherapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, chiropractic, biophysical medicine, and so on are mainstream. Which means that a physician can pass an examination in a subspecialty, in front of a board of peers to show his/her knowledge. I have done it (Arzt für Naturheilkunde).

Are there quacks in alternative medicine? Sure, there are. But so are in conventional medicine. Not talking to each other only perpetuates the shortcomings on both sides of the aisle.

This is what is needed:

• A subspecialty degree in Complementary Medicine that can be acquired by any physician who has passed the Internal Medicine, Family Practice or Primary Care Boards.
• Conferences and Continuing Education that automatically comprise ALL healing modalities that have been proven useful in certain diseases and conditions.
• More research in complementary modalities – of course!!

The Hhhh Sound

June 9, 2011

Tags: order, water, bear hides, breath, breathing, catastrophe, cave man, cold shower, exhale, happiness, harmony, health, hearth, Hhhh - exhaling sound, home, house, hope, humor, immersing in cold, inhale, let go, The Hhhh Sound, words– positive

Health, house, home, hearth, happiness, hope, humor – and many more – positive words start with an “H”. Did you notice?

Why is that so?

The “H” is the exhaling sound: Hhhh … It means we can let go. We don’t have to hold our breath because something will hit us from behind. We don’t have to exert ourselves – we can let go. We are at home - at Hhhhome.

When I take a cold shower after a warm one, I exhale. That one doesn’t come naturally. Naturally, one would hold one’s breath while the cold hits. By first exhaling and then immersing in cold, I tell my body: It’s okay! Just relax! All will be fine!

I bet the Hhhhh sound was born when the first man (?woman) found the first cave to live in. He sat down on his pile of bear hides, looked around pleased and exhaled: Home – finally Hhhhome!

Observe how you are running through your day: With your breath held and in constant fear of a catastrophe hitting? Or in harmony – there! Another one! – with your surrounding?

World Oceans Day 2011

June 8, 2011

Tags: water, August, congee, Earth, earthquakes, family, fires, floods, Gaia, Gaia hypothesis, grape leaves, Maine, morning ritual, ocean, plagues, rains - torrential, renewal, sauerkraut, sencha tea, summer, tea – green, tornados, tsunamis, vermin, whales, World Oceans Day 2011

Water is the most precious stuff of life. We drink it, we bathe in it, we revere it.

This morning I had a shower, then drank a sencha tea and ate a bowl of congee with sauerkraut and grape leaves. None of my morning ritual would work without water.

In August we will return to our cabin in Maine. It is small, but it is at the ocean, and so important for our family – most of our renewal starts there, every summer.

What is important today, on World Ocean Day 2011: That you tell at least one youngster to work on saving the waters, the whales, the life of our old Earth.

You know the Gaia hypothesis, don’t you? According to the Gaia hypothesis, our old Earth, Gaia, is an organism of her own – and we are just some lice in her hair. Isn’t that exactly the impression she gives us presently? She is shaking herself to get rid of the vermin on her surface by sending tsunamis, fires, tornados, earthquakes, torrential rains, floods, and plagues.

Regardless, if the Gaia hypothesis is right or wrong – it helps me to see my task better: To protect our old Earth as much as I can. Because she is the only home we have.

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.

Fast Will Not Last – A Step-By-Step Weight Loss Program

May 4, 2011

Tags: food, water, movement, herbs, order, allergies, anti-cancer, arthritis, asthma, bedtime, belly, beverage – diet, beverage soft, bisphenol A (BPA), BMI, breakfast, butter, cancer, carbon filter, celeriac, chard, cheese, chemicals in water, church, clean out the attic, cooked food, dairy, deli, diet beverage, depression, diabetes type II, dinner, dinosaur kale, environment, Fast Will Not Last – A Step-By-Step Weight Loss Program, fat - good, fish, fluoride, friend, gardening, garlic, grains, green leafy vegetable, gym, heart disease, herbal tea, inflammatory substance, kale, Kant - Immanuel (1724-1804, kohlrabi greens, legumes, light, lunch, lunch hour, margarine, meat, milk, obesity, olive oil, Own Your Health, play with the kids, political campaign, politics, protein, putter in the garden, reading project, red beet, reverse osmosis filter, ride a bicycle, root vegetable, rutabaga, sausages saving the world, shelter, sitting, sleep and weight loss, soft beverage, soup kitchen, spinach, spreads, starches, stevia, sugars, sweeteners, tap water, turnip, vegetable, vitamin A, volunteering, walk a dog, walk - daily, water - bottled, water – filtered, weight loss – fast, weight loss – realistic, Weight Loss Program - Step-By-Step, Weisman - Roanne, whole grains, winter, wrist bone, yoghurt, yo-yo dieting

Fast Will Not Last – A Ste

After politics, I better return to my own turf. My forte is one-to-one talking with on people, not saving the world.

Ali - on Roanne Weisman’s blog Own your Health - has asked me this question: How can I lose weight fast?

Truth is: Fast will not last.

Most common request seems to be: “Now it is May – can you help me lose fifty pounds till September, because I will marry in September.” My answer is always: “No!”

Weight loss should be really slow so that the body does not go into survival mode and defies weight loss. As disappointing as this may be, it is the only way to success. Yo-yo dieting has been shown to be especially detrimental to the heart, so don’t even start that process!

Here are my rules:

• Do not lose more than two pounds per month!
• Weigh yourself every morning.
• If you inadvertently lose more than two pounds per month, don’t gloat about, and don’t be disappointed if you regain some of that weight.
• Once you have lost those two pounds, put your focus on keeping off those two pounds. The real challenge is to not regain any pounds during the month.
• Weight loss does not happen by diet alone, and not by sweating hours in the gym. Weight loss comes from a healthy lifestyle.
• One of the most important parts of that healthy lifestyle is getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to high stress hormone levels in the body, which leads to cravings and overeating.
• The next day is won the evening before: Prepare breakfast and lunch, and plan dinner for the next day, then go to bed early. Don’t hang around in front of TV or computer beyond your “tired point” – because then you get a second wind and can’t fall asleep. Best bedtime is between 8.30 and 10.00 pm. If you think you can’t do that every night, give it a try one evening per week – and observe the difference in how you feel.
• Below is the step-by step program. Take a new step either every week or every month, or when you feel you need to do more for your health, or when the weight loss progress stalls.
• The most important question: Is your weight loss goal realistic? If you are of Dutch ancestry, you might never get to be a dainty as many Asians are (only a rule of thumb – there are small Dutch people, and large Asians!). For that look up your BMI - for instance here: http://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info-05-2010/bmi_calculator.html?CMP=KNC-360I-GOOGLE-HEA-FIT&HBX_PK=bmi&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=bmi&utm_campaign=G_Health&360cid=SI_148921798_7430108821_1.
• Your BMI will give you a weight range. If you are small-boned, you should be at the lower part of that range, if you are big-boned, at the higher end. How do you know about your bones? Compare your wrist bones with those of other people to get an idea where you stand.
• If you still have a protruding belly, you are not at your ideal weight.
• In every meal have some protein and some good fat. Legumes provide protein.
• Most important is your intake of vegetables, which should be mostly cooked, especially in the winter.
• Cut down on meat to once a week, and do not eat deli and sausages at all. Have some fish – preferably small fish.

And here are the weight loss steps:

Step # 1: Buy a green leafy vegetable (chard, spinach, kale, dinosaur kale, kohlrabi greens, etc), cook it with olive oil and garlic - and eat it.

Step #2: Leave out all soft beverages - including "diet" beverages.

Step #3: Drink herbal teas when you are thirsty. Or plain (or filtered) tap water. Don’t drink bottled water.

Step #4: Leave out all dairy (cheese, milk, yoghurt, etc). Milk is a highly inflammatory substance, totally alien for people beyond infancy, that leads to all kinds of diseases besides obesity: diabetes, arthritis, depression, cancer, allergies and asthma, heart disease, and so on.

Step #5: Buy a root vegetable (red beets, celeriac, turnip, etc), cook in salt water until just soft enough to pierce with a skewer. Serve with olive oil, pepper and salt as a warm salad. Rutabaga, because it is usually waxed, needs to be peeled before cooking. Cut in cubes, boil with a bit of water and pepper and salt.

Step #6: Go for a daily walk. Best is during lunch hour, for the anti-cancer effect of light. Ten minutes in the beginning is fine. Go with a friend – so that you may stay with this habit.

Step #7: Leave out all sugars. And don’t use any sweeteners. They fool the body into thinking you get sweets – and then your body wants more food. Besides, most sweeteners except stevia carry their own health concerns.

Step #8: Find a new vegetable every week in your supermarket – try out what you don’t know (most vegetables are delicious with garlic and olive oil). Some fat is required with all vegetables because otherwise you cannot absorb the vitamin A in them.

Step #9: Leave out all grains and starches until you have your ideal weight. Then you might re-introduce some whole grains – but only if you are not regaining.

Step #10: Observe how much you are actually sitting during the day. Sitting is detrimental to your health – and of course, we are a sitting culture. Think about ways to move more: Putter in the garden, clean out the attic, walk a dog, play with the kids, ride a bicycle. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant recognized this principle and kept his handkerchief at the other end of the room, so that he had to get up from his desk to blow his nose. Try to come up with your own – and better - movements!

Step #11: Stop all margarine, spreads and butter. If you still eat bread, dunk it in olive oil.

Step #12: Volunteer somewhere – in a shelter, a soup kitchen, a church, a political campaign, a gardening project, a reading help for youngsters –to get out of the house and do good!

P.S. This is a long entry. But it boilds down to two points:

1. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables - eat more, and more varied!

2. Put more movement into your day - little movements here and there.


P.P.S. Recheck this blog - I might add new points as they come up!

Osama bin Laden Is Dead – And The World Is Not A Safer Place. Nor Healthier

May 2, 2011

Tags: order, water, air, almsgiving, America, animals, Baha’i, blessing – threefold, books, Buddhism, burial at sea, Christianity, Christian Scientists, compassion, desperado, disaster - threefold, Earth, East – West, energy, family, fanaticism, fire, history, homeland security, humans, humility, Hussein - Saddam, Islam, jihad, Judaism, killing, minerals, mixing 'n matching, moderation, murderer, Muslim, Nazi, Nuremberg Trial, neighbor, Osama bin Laden, Osama bin Laden Is Dead – And The World Is Not A Safer Place - Nor Healthier, Pantheism, plants, politics, poverty, religion, responsibility, revenge, sacred, self-respect, soil, spirit, stones, Taoism, Three Jewels, Wicca, world, Zakat

Before, I was determined to keep out of politics on my blog. Which is not easy when events are global and terribly important.

Yes, Osama bin Laden masterminded horrible things – among others, he killed more Muslims than Americans. For that he should have gone to trial and be sentenced. Because killing a man who has killed does not make anything right. The Nazis got their Nuremberg Trial. Saddam Hussein in Iraq got a trial and an execution, and he is mostly gone; in him, we did not create a martyr. But in bin Laden we did – even if we buried his corpse in the ocean to prevent a new Mecca.

In a way, I am like many Americans today: relieved. In another way, this is not a good day for America - I know this will not be the end of the story. Revenge will finally get to our homeland again.

It is easy to blame religions on the endless wars between East and West. I happen to think that better economic and political systems will give desperado Muslims better goals in life, and will make jihad obsolete.

My friends are of all colors, and of many religions. We can learn from different religious teachings. Here are a few I like - and excuse my mixing 'n matching:

1. Christianity: Love your neighbor like yourself. Means: Do good, so that you can respect yourself. Means also: Muslims are our neighbors, too. Even murderers are our neighbors.
2. Buddhism: Before we are born, we choose our parents – to learn something important. Means: Don’t blame your parents if your life is not what you thought it should be.
3. Judaism: Revere your family, books, history.
4. Wicca: What you do good, will come back to you as threefold blessing. Same with what you do bad: threefold disaster.
5. Pantheism: The World is alive and filled with spirit. Humans, animals, plants, stones and minerals, the water, soil, air, fire – they all are sacred energy. With even a single one of these missing, Earth will perish.
6. Taoism: Hold up the Three Jewels: Compassion, Moderation, Humility.
7. Islam: Zakat (Almsgiving): A fixed portion of your income should go to the poor.
8. Baha’i: Fanaticism is forbidden.
9. Christian Scientists: One should take responsibility for one's health.

You can probably provide more ideas – we don’t have to engage in religious wars. Let me know what believes are important for you!

Treat Simple Urinary Tract Infection Without Antibiotics!

April 20, 2011

Tags: herbs, order, food, water, movement, Agathosma betulina, allergies, Althea officinalis, antibiotics, antibiotic resistance, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, bacteria, Barosma betulina, berberine, bilberry, black currant, bladder mucosa, bladder wall, blood in urine, bowel bacteria, blueberries, buchu, burning, Coleus forskohlii, corn silk, cranberries, D-Mannose, drinking hot fluid, E. coli, emptying bladder, Equisetum arvense, ER, estrogen deficiency, fever, flank pain, foreskin, fruit, genital folds, goldenseal, grape seed, grape skin, herbal tea, herbs - women’s, horsetail, Hydrastis canadensis, Indian Coleus plant, infection, intra-vaginally, Kegel exercises, kidney pain, kidney stones, Lactobacillus crispatus, lubricant, Mannose, marshmallow root, menopause, pelvic muscle, penis, private parts, proanthocyanidins, probiotics, pus from penis, pus from vagina, red wine, sex, soap, South Africa, standing on one leg, sugar, tea (black and green), Treat Simple Urinary Tract Infection Without Antibiotics!, urethra, urinary infection, urination, urine - cloudy, usnea, UTI, UTI in children, UTI prevention, uva ursi, vagina, vaginal flora, vaginal mucosa, vegetables, voiding, white starches, Zea mays

Most UTIs can be dealt with simply, with herbs, probiotics, and so on. Antibiotics should be reserved for the really dangerous infections. Not only should we curb antibiotic use because of possible resistances; it also has been shown that bacteria bury into the bladder wall during a course with antibiotics – only to pop up again a bit later!

But for starters, this warning: IMMEDIATELY see your physician or the Emergency Room, if you have any of these signs/symptoms:

• Blood in the urine
• Pus from your vagina /penis
• Fever (ANY fever means that the infection has gone beyond the confines of the bladder)
• Flank/kidney pains: If you have pain that far away from your bladder, it means that the UTI ascended to your kidneys. Or that you have kidney stones.
• ALL UTIs in children should be seen by a doctor.
• If you never had a UTI before.

The usual cause of UTIs, especially in women, is sexual intercourse. Women have a very short urethra, so bacteria can walk up easily and invade the bladder. UTIs are most common in young women (frequent sex) and in women after menopause (lacking estrogen leads to shrinking tissues which means less protection against invading bacteria).

This is what you can do to prevent UTIs:

• Make sure that man and woman are clean at their private parts. Insist especially that your man washes behind his foreskin daily, and you yourself wash between the folds. Don’t use soap – daily water washings suffice!
• Use a lubricant to make sex smoother.
• Right after sex, the woman should get up and urinate to flush out potential bacteria.
• Avoid all sugars and white starches.
• If you tend to get UTIs often, take cranberry capsules for at least a day after sex. Cranberries prevent bacteria to lodge onto the bladder mucosa.
• Drink enough hot fluid.
• Take a daily probiotic – this helps get rid of bad bacteria in the bowel (which are most often the culprit in urinary infections).
• A new and promising treatment is another probiotic, Lactobacillus crispatus that normalizes the vagina flora (taken intra-vaginally), thus preventing “bad” bacteria to invade the bladder.
• Doing Kegel exercises or standing on one leg (see a former blog) to strengthen pelvic muscle. If your muscles down there are weak, you might not be able to empty your bladder fully each time – and that is a set-up for recurrent UTIs.
• Regularly take women’s herbs after menopause to strengthen vaginal mucosa.

Prevention of course is better than treatment. But when you get the familiar sensation of burning during voiding that heralds a UTTI, you should act IMMEDIATELY, because any infection is easier to treat, the earlier you catch it. Other symptoms of a UTI are: a cloudy urine, an offensive odor, discomfort in your bladder area and the urge to go frequently.

Apart from the measures above that you should continue, use these tried-and-true herbs in a tea, three times a day:

• Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
• Usnea spp. – a group of lichens growing on trees

Other herbs helpful in UTI:
• Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) – or any other source of berberine would do as goldenseal is an endangered species.
• Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) – soothing, but not necessarily healing
• Buchu (Agathosma betulina – formerly Barosma betulina), a plant from South Africa.
• Corn silk (Zea mays) – and old stand-by
• Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) – should not be taken too long as it is harsh on the kidneys.
• Indian Coleus plant (Coleus forskohlii) reportedly has effectivity against UTIs too, but the data are still scant. This would be a plant to investigate if you have allergies to all the aforementioned herbs.
• Also worth trying is D-Mannose – not strictly an herb, but a sugar - which only works against E. coli that happens to be the most commonly found bacterium in UTIs.
• Similar proanthocyanidins that work in cranberries are also found in blueberries and strongly colored fruit and vegetables, tea (black and green), black currant, bilberry, grape seed, grape skin and red wine,

Thought For The Day

April 7, 2011

Tags: order, water, Thought For The Day, bank, river, ocean, Russell - Bertrand, sea, waterfall, water images, words, writing

Instead of a long blog, I want to share this beautiful life metaphor - which I found on A.Word.A.Day. I like its water images:

An individual human existence should be like a river: small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.

- Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

Masaru Emoto: Praying For Water

March 31, 2011

Tags: water, anger, Armageddon, atomic industry, attention, celebrities, Charlie Sheen, children’s children, consumption, disappointment, distraction, emotions - negative, Earth, earthquake, Emoto - Masaru, English, Europe, Fukushima Nuclear Plant, Gaia, happiness for all, high blood pressure, Japan, Japanese, justice, love, Masaru Emoto - Praying For Water, “Messages from Water”, nuclear forces, order, poet, poetry, power plants, prayer, radio, reactor accident, reactor - leaking, science, scientist, survival, tsunami, Universe, wanting ever more

Masaru Emoto has invited everybody to pray for the sickened water at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan, at noon today. Here are the words he suggests:

"The water of Fukushima Nuclear Plant, we are sorry to make you suffer. Please forgive us. We thank you, and we love you."

Even if you come too late today, it is never too late to send loving thoughts to suffering people and to the violated Earth. Prayer lowers blood pressure by making you one with everything around you. When we get upset or feel anger, disappointment, and so on, these negative emotions stand between us and the world. When we pray, we step back into the web of beings in this Universe.

Masaru Emoto has been, for many years, fighting to keep water and our mother planet healthy, and I admire him for this. As a fellow water fighter I do stretch out my hand to him.

However, I wish he wouldn’t call himself a scientist and what he does science. In reality, his beautiful photos in “Messages from Water” are poetry, and they would not lose anything of their power if he would call himself a poet. Water does not speak Japanese, nor English.

Water, however, and our whole ancient Gaia planet, needs all our attention and love so that we all and our children and our children’s children will survive. The Japanese reactor accident has made clear again that we humans cannot contain the nuclear forces we unleash with every newly built atomic power plant. The discussion in Europe about this is fierce – and surely comes down on the side of dismantling existing power plants and not to build new ones. While we here are still distracted by Charlie Sheen, and the like.

I am sick and tired of the old arguments of the atomic industry. One woman on the radio said that it was not the fault of the reactor – “the reactor was fine” – but it was the tsunami that did it in. Well, we humans don’t control earthquakes and tsunamis, and ANY leaking reactor forces Armageddon on the people in its vicinity, and perhaps on all of us.

We can use wind and sun, and we can live closer to the land and less over the top. We can make justice and happiness for all a priority, instead of consumption and celebrities and wanting ever more. For all that I am sending my prayers to Fukushima today.

World Water Day 2011 – Seen From the Namib Desert

March 22, 2011

Tags: water, food, Angola, agriculture - plant, Benguela upwelling, deforestation, desert, ecosystem, fauna, flora, fog, fruit, gazelle, goats, Gondwana, grazing, Harald Süpfle (photo), Independence Day - Namibia, jerky, Namib Desert, Namibia, overgrazing, rain, rain clouds, sheep, South Africa, sweet water reservoir, thunderstorm, ur-continent, vegetable, well drilling, Welwitschia mirabilis, West Gondwana, World Water Day 2011, World Water Day 2011 – Seen From the Namib Desert

Every 22nd of April, World Water Day is celebrated. This year I observe it from an unlikely place: The Namib Desert.

The Namib is the oldest desert of the world. We know that some deserts have been man-made, by human deforestation and overgrazing of goats and sheep. This desert, luckily, is not man-made. When West Gondwana split from the original one-lump ur-continent Gondwana about 140 million years ago, conditions arose for the arid coastal strip that we call the Namib Desert. Then and now, warm moist winds from the north are cooled down by a cold ocean stream, the Benguela upwelling. The mixture results in cold air that can’t rise up high enough to make rain clouds, just fog. So it rarely if ever rains here, which creates this desert, many hundred of miles long, from Namibia to Angola. Those cool ocean fogs maintain the nearly invisible desert fauna and spare flora.

History aside, the most prominent feature of the Namib Desert are the wandering dunes, spectacular formations in constant movement, propelled by the winds. I marvel at the sharp edges, undulating forms, surprising patterns one finds and the colors of yellow and red sand, sometimes dusted with crimson or black – the beauty of this desert is indescribable. The desert reaches right to the edge of the ocean. One would think there should be a thin stripe of green between them, but there is only the stark contrast of endless yellow sand and endless turquoise ocean.

Plants and animals eke out a living in the Namib Desert. Welwitschia mirabilis is such a plant, ancient and immutable, nurtured by the ocean fogs that roll in most days. Hundreds of years old at times, perhaps even thousands, Welwitschia has two long leaves (usually ripped into several strands by the constant desert winds) and a middle trunk that grows incredibly slow. We saw a colony of plants of male and female plants spreading on the desert floor – it takes hundreds of years before you’d call the middle a real trunk that visibly reaches some height from the ground.

How can a country like Namibia exist? Due to a sweet water reservoir beneath this scorched coastal stripe. Namibians are very aware how fragile this ecosystem is, and fierce regulations who is allowed to drill a well and where are in place. Namibian agriculture consists mostly grazing cows and sheep. A famous meat product is a jerky made from springbok, a wild antelope. Due to lack of water, Namibia has nearly no plant agriculture – most fruit and vegetables are imported from South Africa by which Namibia was annexed until 1990, when it freed itself during a bloody rebellion. By chance, their Independence Day happened to be yesterday – March 21st.

And by another chance we arrived last week during some of the worst rains and thunderstorms the Namibian remember. We ended the first leg of our trip at a washed out bridge and had to make a huge detour. And for all that unusual rain, the Namib Desert, in places, showed us a fine, fuzzy green – a beautiful welcome.

Congee and Beans

February 28, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then, as they say: Enjoy!

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

Stress – Good and Bad

February 24, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, abdominal fat, adrenalin, affair, aging, alarm mode, allergy - food, animals - grain fed, balance, beans, biochemical processes – life-sustaining, blood pressure, cancer brush painting, cardamom, cat, cell - dried, cellular health, companionship, competition, cortisol, cross-stitching, dairy, depression, development - of children, diabetes type II, dog, ENM, European Natural Medicine, exercise, family, fats – fried, fats - hardened, food - fresh, free radicals, friends, fruit, ginger, grains - whole, growth hormones, happiness, heartbreak, heart disease, hobby, hug, joy, kiss, inflammation, inflammation response, interleukin-6, knitting, loneliness, longevity, music, nuts, overdrive, pet, puttering in the garden, relaxation, sexuality, sleep, slouching, spices, stress, Stress – Good and Bad, sugar, tea, tea - herbal, touch, vegetables - cooked or raw, walking - daily, white flour, white starches

A recent study shows that stress increases interleukin-6, a powerful agent of inflammation in the body. Interleukin-6 is, of course, not the only chemical in the body that is affected by stress: Stress creates free radicals that make you age faster. Stress puts the body in high alarm mode via adrenalin and cortisol. Stress decreases growth hormones and stunts the development of children. Stress increases abdominal fat, which leads to diabetes and other diseases.

Stress makes us sick; with this new study, we know a bit better how that happens: Years and years of inflammation in your body can lead to diabetes, heart disease, depression and cancer.

But did you know that there is bad stress and good stress? Bad stress is what life and other people do to you; good stress comes from setting yourself goals and working hard for it. Balance is the keyword here.

Balance fights stress, as European Natural Medicine knows:

• Movement: Moving around most of the day breaks down stress hormones in your muscles, and makes you feel relaxed. Again, too much exercise and competition can wreak havoc in your body. But daily walking is the minimum. Find a healthy balance between slouching and overdrive.

• Eating fresh food: Vegetables (cooked or raw), fruit, beans, nuts have powerful compounds that reduce inflammation in the body. Foods that increase inflammation are: sugar, white starches, dairy, grain fed animals, bad fats (especially fried and hardened). Grains (even whole grains) are sort of in the middle between good and bad: better than white flour, for some people they still trigger the body’s inflammation response. Observe yourself to find out where you stand. - Anything you are allergic to works in your body like a flame-thrower, increasing inflammation.

• Herbs and spices are packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins, and so on. They gobble up the free radicals and they add taste, zest and decreased inflammation to your life. Today I will just mention two: ginger and cardamom. Put some ginger and/or cardamom in your tea or herbal tea – they both are perfect winter spices.

• Touch: The more you touch and hug and kiss, the better you feel. I am not talking about sexuality though – even if the sex cravings of some people might be explained thus. I am talking about loving your family, your friends. Getting into complicated affairs might only increase your life stresses.

• Keep a pet: Companionship and again, touching, lowers blood pressure, and makes people happier and live longer. Loneliness kills by breaking your heart. A cat shows you the wisdom of taking it easy; a dog is always happy to see you.

• Music, painting, knitting, cross-stitching, puttering in the garden – whatever hobby makes you happy also makes you healthier.

• Water: A dried cell is a stressed cell. Make sure every cell of your body is watered well (but not water-logged) to decrease stress on the cellular level, so that the healthy biochemical reactions can take place and sustain your life.

• Sleep is the most important and most definitely underused stress reducer. If you stay up late for TV, a computer game or just plain old partying, you create the set-up for a stressful next day. Be in bed before ten at least once a week – just to be reminded how good it feels not to have to rush through sleep.

• Joy – put as much of this stress reliever into your life. One of the easiest – and most needed – ways to arrive at joy is working for the joy of other people.

The Means And The Goals

February 23, 2011

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, beauty, care, create, diet, ENM - European Natural Medicine, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, explore, fad diets, justice, happiness, laugh, learn, love, narcissistic bore, natural order, nurture, over-exercised zealots, push-ups, rest, share, sleep, superfoods, Swiss cheese, The Means And The Goals, tofu, vitamins, wake, water – bottled, weep, work, world – a better

For me, the Five Health Essentials have one advantage over all the fad diets and exercise programs: The fifth Health Essential.

Remember, in European Natural Medicine, there are five Health Essentials:

1. Water (note that I didn’t say: bottled)
2. Movement (note that I didn’t say: exercise)
3. Food (note that I didn’t say: superfoods)
4. Herbs (note that I didn’t say: vitamins)
5. Order.

Number five – order - is the one I want to talk about today. Number one to four are only the means; number five tells you that there are goals in life beyond living for the perfect diet or the perfectly sculpted body. We live to enjoy life to the fullest: to love, to learn, to share, to explore, to nurture, to care, to create.

Number five tells you that you are part of the natural order: You are born, and you will die. In between are your days and nights, which you can fill with garbage, or can fill with purpose and meaning.

Nothing in nature comes in round numbers (think 80-10-10! – one of the current fad diets) and nothing in nature comes in a square (think tofu!). Natural order makes you laugh and weep, sleep and wake, work and rest.

You know those over-exercised zealots – those narcissistic bores. Or those food faddists whose brains seem build from tofu with Swiss cheese holes. It is not about how you look or how many push-ups you can do (actually, being able to do one would be swell) – it is about leaving the world a better, happier, more just and more beautiful place for all its inhabitants.

Order – think what it could do for you.

How To Take A Pill

February 22, 2011

Tags: order, water, chin-to-chest, How To Take A Pill, neck, pill – swallowing, throat, tongue

Apropos your neck (see yesterday’s blog):

You know how to take a pill, don’t you – no big deal: You place the pill on your tongue, take a gulp of water, throw your head back – and voilà! The huge fish oil capsule is stuck somewhere, neither up no down, and it hurts.

The mistake lies here: One doesn’t throw back one's head. One tucks the chin to the chest, and then swallows.

Because in that position you create a greater space in your throat for the pill to go down safely without being stuck. This is the trick: Chin-to-chest, then swallow.

I Hate The Gym – You Too?

February 6, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, adhesives, aeration of rooms, anger, asbestos, birds’ songs, bliss, brooks, building materials, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, cleaning supplies, confusion, copiers, correction fluid, cosmetics, craft materials, degreasing products, depression, detergent, drywalls, endorphins, energy - increased, engagement, exercise, ficus, floor coverings, flowers, garden, glues, grass, green, gym, high blood pressure, houseplants, I Hate The Gym – You Too?, indoor, indoor pollution, lacquers, meta-analysis, molds, muscles, music, NordicTrack machine, outdoor, outdoor pollution, paints, Parkinson's, permanent markers, philodendron – heartleaf, printers, radon, revitalization, skiing - cross-country, smell, snowstorm, soil, sounds, spider plant, tension, terrain - uneven, upholstery, varnish, wall-to-wall carpeting, waves, wax, wind, window open, wood preservatives, workout

My intense dislike of the gym just got a scientific underpinning: A meta-analysis reveals that exercise done outdoors has more benefits that the one indoors. A meta-analysis is not a study from scratch but reviews already existing studies. In this case, researchers tried to figure out if there are benefits to exercise in a natural outdoors environment vs a confined gym.

The disadvantage of a meta-analysis is that the original studies might be flawed – in spite that the researchers tried to weed out those studies – and that their flaws get compounded. In this case, the original studies were furthermore hampered by not using objective measurements of wellbeing but “self-reported” statements: People just talked about how much better they felt outdoors than indoors.

And so the 833 individuals sound less scientific but gushing when reporting how they are feeling after their exercise in nature: “Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.”

I believe them even without a proper study because going to a gym would make me depressed – and I am not a depressed person to start with. On the other hand, when I putter around in the garden, I am suffused by bliss. Working out on my ages-old NordicTrack machine in the basement strengthens my muscles; going cross-country skiing lifts my spirit.

Clearly, working out in a gym increases endorphins and makes one feel better. But outside, we have the added benefit of light in our eyes and on our skin – which has been shown to decrease depression and boost vitamin D production. For once, Boston did not have another snow storm today so that I could not fill my outdoor needs by snow shoveling but I hacked away on ice for a good hour – to prepare for the next snowfall which is forecast for this week.

Outside, there's also less pollution. Contrary to common assumptions, indoor pollution generally is much higher than outdoor pollution (unless you live directly at a busy highway or near a spewing factory) – thanks to detergents and other cleaning supplies, cosmetics, wood preservatives, paints, varnish and lacquers, drywalls, molds, radon, asbestos, carbon monoxide, copiers, printers, correction fluid, glues and craft materials, wax, permanent markers, adhesives, degreasing products, building materials, upholstery, wall-to-wall carpeting and other floor coverings – to name some.

Therefore it is recommended that we aerate each room at least twice a day by pushing the windows open for fifteen minutes. And that we sleep with windows open all night. Asking around, I find that not many people do either.

Outside has usually uneven terrain – different from the even floor of a standard gym. The unevenness leads to better muscle workout – without that we notice the extra effort. This lowers blood pressure and might stave off Parkinson's.

Another advantage of the great outdoors is the color green: We are hard-wired to love a green landscape because green signals plants that produce oxygen and food for us, and hold precious water in place. Green is soothing to our eyes, and to our minds. There is not much life in eternal ice or the dry desert – green is our life. You can reduce indoor air pollution by having houseplants – heartleaf philodendron, spider plant and ficus are not hard to keep alive.

For the benefits of outdoors, let’s not forget the smell of flowers, mowed lawns, freshly turned soil. And the sounds: birds’ songs, rustling wind, lapping waves, babbling brooks – music to our ears.

Of course, researchers now call for better studies to measure all that. But you and I have known it all along: Outdoors is better!

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.

What’s In A Diagnosis?

January 23, 2011

Tags: order, water, food, movement, antibiotic, ballroom dancing, change jobs, chronic fatigue, diagnosis, divorce, fever - high, headaches - worst of his life, high blood pressure, hypertension, lifestyle, marital counseling, modern-day, pill, sleep, stiff neck, stress, tennis, therapy, tick-borne disease, tularemia, What’s In A Diagnosis?

Sometimes a patient is desperate for a diagnosis: If she has been going from doctor to doctor, and has been told uncountable times that nothing is wrong, it's all in her head - she might be relieved if she finally gets told she has "chronic fatigue." At least, now she can deal with it.

Sometimes a diagnosis can save a life: If your belly hurts, and the diagnosis is “appendicitis”, a surgeon will operate on you, and your life is saved in all likelihood. When my son, a few years ago, had high fever, stiff neck and the worst headaches of his life, only the diagnosis of a physician turned the course of the disease around. The physician thought it likely was a tick-borne disease and probably tularemia: With the right antibiotic, my son recovered quickly.

Sometimes a diagnosis is just and word: Say, your doctor tells you that you have hypertension - high blood pressure. That doesn’t help you much. It helps the doctor to know what pill to prescribe you – for the rest of your days. Now you are a patient.

High blood pressure is a typical modern-day stress disease. Only about five percent of people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure, have an underlying medical condition. The rest – ninety-five percent! – have a wrong lifestyle. But interestingly, the diagnosis doesn’t tell you that there might be a difference – or that something else than a pill might help you.

If you have an especially astute doctor, he will tell you that you have “essential hypertension”, “essential” here meaning no real reason he knows of. With other words, the diagnosis is a medical throwing up his arms in the air, declaring nothing can be done. Except for a few pills, of course.

You have stress because your boss is unreasonable, or your spouse is the nagging kind, or your gambling debts are threatening to destroy your family life – again, you might not be able to do much. On the other hand, you might be starting thinking about what can be done. Getting more sleep every night? Eating more vegetables? Going into therapy? Returning to school, training for another line of work? Divorcing your spouse, or going to marriage counseling together? Enrolling in a course of ballroom dancing together? Changing jobs? Taking up tennis to get a handle on your stress and work some of the anger off physically?

No – you have a diagnosis, and now you get a pill. That’s all. Your doctor didn’t even tell you to drink more water, I bet.

You were probably told to go easy on salt. That is nice advice – if you were also told that most processed and restaurant foods contain too much salt, even your breakfast cereals and the “nutritional” bar. And that the salt problem is really big in black people but less of an issue in Caucasian people.

Chances are that your doctor also gives you a diagnosis of too high cholesterol – hypercholesterolemia. That’s another pill, right away.

Your doctor didn’t tell you that high blood pressure and high cholesterol aren’t two different diseases. They are one bad lifestyle. More often than not they go together.

And, oh, now you got diabetes! Your sugars are too high and this new diabetes really needs good management. Your doctor might even give you a new name for the three diseases above: Syndrome X. He will wiggle his head in concern, because having all three makes it really dangerous. One has to be treated extra-extra carefully – with many pills.

Some (or all) of those pills have side effects. Liver failure, depression, impotence, muscle inflammation, fatigue, upset stomach, and so on – which will require more pills and more monitoring.

None of the pills will buy you real health – glowing, sweaty, happy health as you might experience when you play a round of pick-up Frisbee or swim in the ocean.

I am not saying here you should throw away all the pills your doctor gave you. I am just saying you should strive for health, not for diagnoses and an assortment of pills, so that, one by one – and with the supervision of your physician – you might be able to drop the pills.

What is the difference between this diagnosis and that diagnosis? My son’s illness had nothing to do with lifestyle, and all to do with a nasty bug. Most diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood fats, and many cases of depression, arthritis and cancer have a whole lot to do with lifestyle. If you break a bone, only a good cast will help mending it – and good food will speed up the healing process.

Once you have a cancer, of course, a bit of lifestyle change is not enough to save your life – you need surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. Once the cancer is diagnosed, eating more fresh vegetables and going for a daily walk in sunlight might help you recover – but better would have been you would have started on a healthy path many years ago.

The uncomfortable truth is: Health does not come out of a pill bottle. And a diagnosis is just a name. What you do with your life counts for your health.

Singing the Praise of an Ugly Plant - Aloe Vera

January 20, 2011

Tags: herbs, water, Africa - Northern, aloe, Aloe vera, aloin, antiseptic, Arabic peninsula, band-aid, bedsore, burns, calligraphy, Chinese supermarket, comfrey, desert plant, diabetes type II, eczema, emolliant, film – healing, health food store, heartburn, houseplant, lubricant, redness (inflammation), Singing the Praise of an Ugly Plant - Aloe Vera, stomach pain, surgical cut, tea tree oil, ulcer, wound, wound - deep, wound healing, wound - superficial

If you have a black thumb and all plants wither if you just look at them, you still should have one houseplant, namely aloe. It does not ask for much: Put it on a windowsill and water it once in a while. The danger is more in over-watering, not in under-watering, as it is a desert plant. Its rosettes are boring, and the spiny edges of its leaves might be out to get you.

Aloe vera is a succulent (meaning: storing water) plant that comes from the arid regions of the Arabic peninsula and Northern Africa. It has been cultivated for thousands of years due to its medicinal properties, and one can’t find any natural stand anymore in the wild – all now existent plants seemed to have been planted purposefully – certainly this is a hint that aloe is a useful plant.

Aloe has long leathery leaves. The leaves can be spotted or not, the plant can be smaller or bigger – doesn’t matter. All the aloe one can buy has the medicinal properties.

Why do I want to sing the praise of Aloe vera here?

Last week, concentrating on my calligraphy, admiring the black lines of my brush on the paper, suddenly a beautiful red streak mixed itself in – a truly amazing color scheme: black, white and red. Only, the red was bleeding from one of my knuckles – and I didn’t even know how I had hurt myself. A flap of skin was barely hanging on. I applied a bit of tea tree oil and a band-aid, and continued my calligraphy.

It healed slowly - being on the knuckle where constant movement stretches the skin, didn’t help. Every time I thought I could take off the band-aid, the flap hung onto something, and the wound ripped open again, and bled. Taking onions out of their netting, stacking the stove, retrieving glasses from my pockets – everything conspired that the wound wouldn’t, couldn’t heal.

Then I thought of aloe. I have several plants in the house. I cut off one of the fleshy leaves at the base, and dripped some of its juice onto my knuckle, after I had reapplied tea tree oil. Aloe vera is said to have antiseptic activities too, but tea tree oil is always my choice to prevent infection of wounds. This time I skipped the band-aid. The juice dries to a film, and underneath healing takes place.

Within minutes of applying the aloe juice, the wound looked less angry. After two hours it had shrunk to about half its size. I could better see what was still viable tissue and what not – I cut of the dead protruding ends, and now I am not as likely to rip open the wound again.

Since yesterday, I have applied this mixture of tea tree oil and aloe juice several times. Today the wound is a quarter of what it had been, all redness is gone, and I assume by tomorrow all will be fine.

Because aloe heals wounds so quickly, it should never be applied to a deep wound - say, a bed sore or a surgical cut. Aloe would further superficial healing and wound closure so fast that the underlying wound could still be festering, and then break open again. Aloe is for superficial wounds only!

In the summer, comfrey does a similar spectacular job of healing a wound, but few people even know the plant with its soft felt-like large leaves and lovely purple drooping blossoms, and even less would know how to apply it to a wound (mash the leaves first – or chew them).

One also can buy huge aloe leaves in Chinese supermarkets and health food stores. Those I would first wash with a mild detergent before cutting – who knows how they have been treated before!

Interestingly, scientists are still debating if aloe furthers wound healing. They must have never watch the wound shrink within minutes after applying the plant juice to the wound. I suspect that studies were done with commercial aloe preparation – and those might not work the same way as fresh juice.

Each time I want to use the plant, I cut a thin slice of the leave, just to renew the cut surface, and immediately juice drips out.

Now that I have sacrificed a whole leaf, I will put the rest to good use: I brush my teeth with the inside gel because it heals gums. I also eat the gel when I have an upset stomach. Never eat the outside hard part of the leave as it contains aloin, a strong laxative that has been banned from over-the-counter- preparations because it is harsh on the intestines, and could even lead to the miscarriage of a baby. Whereas the inside gel is soothing and anti-inflammatory. So finishing up the leave, eating a few bites here and there, will do my whole body good. Aloe is also used as a food stuff, so there is no harm in eating it – on the contrary!

This is what the Aloe vera gel does:

• Wound healing, including burns
• Gum healing
• Stomach-soothing, especially good against heartburn and ulcers
• Anti-inflammatory
• Antiseptic
• Emolliant - softens and smoothes the skin, especially in eczema
• Lubricant
• Anti-diabetic (in preliminary studies)

It does a lot more. But just the wound healing should bring it into every household!

Boston Area Workshop – Yoga & European Natural Medicine

January 19, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, Boston Area Workshop – Yoga & European Natural Medicine, Carol Nelson, common sense, European Natural Medicine (ENM), health, immune function, Nelson – Carol, relaxation, winter, wisdom, workshop, yoga

Do you want a healthier, more meaningful life? Come, learn to put to work time-proven wisdom. What here I am only talking about, you will see in action, hands-on.

Carol Nelson and I will combine for an afternoon workshop at the end of the month in Cambridge/Massachusetts to bring some light into gloomy, cold January. Natural methods help you to bolster immune function for a healthier winter. Bring your health questions to this afternoon, and fulfill your yearning for a more real life.

Our session will be framed Carol Nelson’s introductory yoga session and a closing yoga relaxation.

In between I will talk about the Five Health Essentials: Water – Movement – Food – Herbs – Natural Order to give you natural methods to get through the winter healthily. Nothing complicated – just plain old common sense.

You will find times, address and fee on the event page. Pre-registration required.

Your Hair Stands on End – Time for an Oil Bath!

January 17, 2011

Tags: order, water, herbs, air – dry, Ayurvedic Medicine, bad hair day, bath oil, body folds, coconut oil, cold shower, ears, essential oil, hair day – bad, itch, mineral oil, nut oil, nose, oil, oil bath – warm, olive oil, oregano, rose, rosemary, sauna, scalp, sesame oil, shampoo, shower, thyme, winter, Your Hair Stand on End – Time For an Oil Bath!

Winter is the time of the year when the air is so dry that skin irritations blossom and – worse! – one seems to have a bad hair day every single day.

Get ready for a warm oil bath! Any vegetal oil will do: Olive is perfect, but I have used other oils too. The original idea comes from Ayurvedic Medicine; they use sesame oil. Coconut oil has the finest smell.

Don’t use commercial bath oil preparations as they contain preservatives, even luxury ones. Often they are mineral-oil based. You really need plant oils. Nut oils work well, unless you have allergies. If you like the smell, add a drop of essential oil to your warm oil, like rosemary, thyme, oregano, rose, etc.

It is easy to do, just a bit messy. I have done it in the sauna, on a big towel, or in the shower. In the shower, make sure to stand on a small towel because you will be slippery like a fish, and I don’t want you to fall.

Warm about half a cup of oil, either in a second pot with hot water, or on the radiator, or with a tea light. Don’t use the microwave! Stand by when you heat the oil! It easily can get too hot – make sure it is just nicely warm.

Take the pot with oil into the shower stall and rub it into every nook and cranny of your body: ears, nose, between the toes, into all body folds. Pour it over your scalp deliberately and hair and rub it in. Let it work for ten minutes or longer.

Wash your hair well, twice, with shampoo. Don’t forget the short cold shower at the end!

Your hair will fall smoothly again and your itchy skin calms down – until it is time for the next warm oil bath, in about two weeks.

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.

The Teeth in Your Mouth

January 12, 2011

Tags: herbs, order, food, movement, water, allergies, aloe, amalgam, arthritis, bacteria, bone, brushing teeth, caries, chewing, chronic fatigue, debris, dental hook, dental treatment, dentistry – natural, diet - sugar-free, dyes in toothpaste, electric toothbrush, filling – dental, flossing, floss - tape, floss - thin, fluoride in water, fungi, gum disease, gum line, headaches, hygiene - dental, infections – recurrent, laser treatment in dentistry, migraines, molar, myrrh, dentistry - natural, neem, neem stick, neuralgias, oregano, parodontosis, people - “primitive”, periodontitis, plaque, plaque-fighting herbs, plaque removal, rheumatic pains - soft-tissue, sinusitis, soft tissue pains, susceptibility to infections, tea tree oil, teeth, The Teeth in Your Mouth, Tom’s of Maine, toothache, toothpaste - color-free, tooth health, vagina, virus, x-rays - dental

When I was sixteen, I got a toothache – one of the molars on the lower left hurt. The dentist was very nice and said he couldn’t see anything (that was before the time of dental x-rays) but would bore a hole to see how the tooth looked inside.

He couldn’t find anything bad on top. So he drilled another hole on one side, then on the other – all for the sake of exploration. “Sorry,” he said, “I can’t find anything “. He sent me home after filling the tooth with amalgam, on three sides.

Next day I had a whopping sinusitis, and it became clear that the aching tooth had been an early warning sign.

These many years later I still have that tooth, repaired on three sides – after no caries at all! I still have it because that encounter left me an avid tooth-brusher – and very skeptical of dental treatment.

Clearly I am not a dentist and not an expert in tooth health – but I must have been doing something right all these years because I still have all my teeth. Science also has established that good teeth signal good overall health.

Diseases of teeth are mainly two: caries (tooth decay) and parodontosis (gum disease). When gum disease gets worse, it loosens the teeth (then it is called periodontitis); one can lose a perfectly healthy tooth only because it lost its grip on the bone (or the other way round).

Here my dentistry ideas – and don’t forget I am a lay person in this field (and welcome the discussion with dentists!):

1. Brushing: Brushing your teeth after each meal or snack is important (and it might even cut down on your snacks!). An electric brush is the best. But even by hand can be effective if you do it right: Brush into the gum line – not just across it. Use a color-free toothpaste, like Tom’s of Maine (they don’t pay me to say this – but this is what I use) because allergies to dye can cause gum disease. Don’t use a too hard brush.

2. Flossing: The first time I ever heard of flossing was when I came to America. I thought Americans were crazy, and I hated the feeling of floss between my teeth. But after a bout with gum disease, I started flossing – and it made all the difference. Using tape instead of regular thin floss has made it bearable for me. Floss once a day – be always gentle on your gums.

3. Herbs: For a while I went to regular hygienic sessions. But the brutality with which they used sharp instruments to remove plaque appalled me; there is nothing natural about that process – “primitive” people have healthy teeth because of their sugar-free diet. I got myself a dental hook and did the work myself – gentler. Since then, I have started brushing my teeth with a drop (or a few, depending) of herbs – and all the plaque has melted away. No hooks and medieval treatment anymore!

• Tea tree oil: This is a great plaque-fighting herb. Use one drop, once a day, together with your regular toothpaste. When you feel your plaque is in control, use it less often – about once a week because one of the concerns with tea tree oil is that it is allergenic, to a degree.

• Oregano, myrrh, neem, aloe (the inside gel of the leaf only): These (and other) herbs one can use to brush teeth and gums. Use the one or other herb extract with each brushing of your teeth – rotate them so that the likelihood of developing an allergy is reduced. It will keep the dentist away. – One can also buy neem sticks for cleaning teeth – that is how it has been done in India for thousands of years.

The discussion about fluoride is not yet finished. I have read tons of scientific papers about it – and still cannot make up my mind. It is a toxic substance and I am against using it indiscriminately in drinking water. But I like it in toothpaste as many studies have shown that fluoride greatly reduces caries. When we use the herbs above against gum disease, we also are fighting bacteria with toxic compounds (namely herbs) – only we assume (and have studies to back it up) that herbs are gentler on our bodies than the mining by-product fluoride. Also, I know that herbs help against gum disease. But herbs are less established against caries.

Eating fresh food, chewing well, not snacking between meals, avoiding sugary beverages (including all juices!) will go a long way protecting your teeth. Still, you should see a dentist regularly to make sure that a little problem didn’t creep up. A small hole is easily mended – a big hole might mean the tooth has to come out.

Don’t whiten your teeth! The process of whitening damages the precious tooth enamel. Also, we are supposed to have off-white teeth (actually, rather yellowish-looking) – that color connotes health. Only people on TV strive to that whiteness which is unnatural and unnecessary – and damaging. (But then again, you know me – I am also against under-arm shaving…).

If you ask: I would never have a root canal. In Natural Medicine, we think of a root canal as breeding “focus” of bacteria, viruses, fungi and debris that can’t be good for your body in the long time. Sealing bacteria into a body cavity spells future disaster. Arthritis, soft-tissue rheumatic pains, neuralgias, chronic fatigue, headaches and migraines, susceptibility to infections and allergies are thought to be caused by such a “focus” in the body. Modern treatments with laser, etc. certainly give better outcomes. But dentists acknowledge that there is not such thing as a sterile root canal.

And don’t forget: Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth to exercise balance and pelvic musculature! What good are all the teeth in your mouth, if your vagina falls out?

The Soft Martial Art

January 11, 2011

Tags: order, movement, water, herbs, anti-aging, art, bamboo, brush painting, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese brush painting, Chinese orchid, chrysanthemum, concentration, Four Gentlemen, Four Treasures, ink stone, longevity, martial art – soft, multi-tasking, mum, muscle aches, networking - social, painting, plum blossom, social networking, The Soft Martial Art

Because of the Chinese novel I am writing, I am learning Chinese - for two years already. This winter I also enrolled in a class for Chinese brush painting.

Not so much for the painting - I have only a little talent there. But for learning more about the cultural background of calligraphy (writing of Chinese characters) and brush painting in general.

Already the first session made me happy because it fed me so many little tidbits: The whole calligraphy thing is not so much about putting scribbles on paper – no it is about breathing, sitting straight, holding the brush just right, and to concentrate. Calligraphy is also called the “soft martial art” – who would have known?? Chinese people think that calligraphy promotes longevity.

In brush painting, one needs the Four Treasures: brush, paper, ink stick and ink stone. The ink stick is ground on the ink stone with water to produce the ink. Nowadays, one can buy ready-made ink in a bottle, which I use in class. At home, I prefer grinding my ink stick all the while already thinking about what I want to paint. I like the transformation of water into a writing liquid – the archaic process that happens here and now.

Chinese art is very different from Western art. Whereas we emphasize individual freedom, Chinese brush painting teaches traditional forms. You learn the basics before you start experimenting. There is one kind of stroke for the bamboo leaf, one kind of stroke for the bamboo stem, one kind of stroke for the bamboo node. I will learn strokes for plums blossoms, orchid grass, chrysanthemum flowers, and later strokes for pines, rocks, clouds and water. And you use a different brush for each of these strokes.

Bamboo, plum blossom, Chinese orchid and chrysanthemum – they are also called The Four Gentlemen. Because those four plants stand for character traits the Chinese have held in high esteem since olden times: Bamboo leaves are green in the winter. Bamboo bends in the wind but barely breaks, and if it breaks, it sprouts new leaves from the breaking point. So, bamboo stands for adhering to principles; also for flexibility and resourcefulness. Plum blossoms flower in mid-winter – right around now they will start – and represent cheerful survival. Chinese orchids are much less showy than our usual flower shop specimen, they are prized for they modesty, for their working without anybody noticing – yet doing a marvelous job. Chrysanthemums (“mums”) bloom in the fall when not much else does, thus calling to mind a proud, tough gentleman. – A white chrysanthemum is also used as an herb in Chinese medicine.

Perhaps you scoff at the idea that brush painting is a martial art. But let me tell you that I had muscle aches in my right arm after my first two-and-a-half-hours session: You do use your muscles.

And in these times of social networking and multi-tasking, I cherish anything that brings back the rapidly dwindling art of concentration.

Odors - Is Your Body Betraying You?

December 16, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, after-shave lotion, allergies, animal, animalic, anus - gas, arm-pits, asthma, autonomic nerve system, Beano, body odor, bubble bath, chlorophyll pills, cold shower, cologne, convenient store, cooking, cosmetics, dairy, deodorant, dish washing liquid, feet - smelly, food allergy, foot spray, fragrance, fragrance-free detergent laundry, gas, gender-neutral, germs, gluten, gluten intolerance, halitosis, household products, incense, laundry detergent – fragrant-free, laundry softener, lily-of-the-valley, milk, mold, mouth – bad smell, mouth washes, natural, odorous, odors, Odors - Is Your Body Betraying You?, organic, perfume, prayer, preservative, roses, shampoo, shelf life, shower gel, skin – acidic layer, smell - bodily, soaps - scented, stabilizer, stench, stink, sugar, tea tree oil, underarm, vagina - odor, vaginal douche, vegetarianism, wrinkle cream, violets

A rose is a rose is a rose – but never will a rose grow out of one of your body orifices. Yet all the time we make believe: Bodily odors are among the most embarrassing facts of life. Those odors jump into your face unbidden, exposing the thin veneer that shields our modern identify – clean, well-shaven, sweet-smelling - from acknowledging our ancient, animalic bodies.

These are the most bothersome malodorous areas and orifices of our bodies: mouth, vagina, anus, feet, and modern science and salesmanship have figured ways to sell us products for smelling better – preferably like roses, lilies-of-the-valley, violets – soaps, deodorants,

They all have two things in common: They don’t address the root causes of stench, and they add to the pollution burden on your body.

Now is probably too late to tell you because all the scented soaps, incense, perfumes, colognes, after-shave lotions, shower gels, wrinkle creams, bubble baths and whatnot have already been bought – either for you, or by you.

Truth is there is no cosmetic product available that is good for us – not even the natural or organic varieties. They all require stabilizers and preservatives for their long shelf life – and none of those further your health. If mold doesn’t touch it, your cells don’t like it either. Oh, well – you remember this next year.

Let’s go to the root cause of odor:
• Underarm: If you need a deodorant, buy a fragrance free product. I like the tea tree oil kind. Check if you really need to use it every day. As you eliminate root causes (see: feet), your smell might get better naturally - don’t be obsessive about it.
• Vagina: We had this subject already: NO DOUCHES!!
• Halitosis: If you have an odor from your mouth (you can test it by cupping your hands over your mouth and exhale into them), it can stem form your teeth, gums, esophagus (feeding tube), lungs and/or stomach. Most often the culprit is the stomach. Eating a diet without sugar and dairy is a good beginning. Many people have a gluten people. And tomatoes are at the root often, too. Try to figure it out.
• Gas (coming out of that unmentionable hole): Excessive gas is linked to an inflamed intestinal tract. Dairy, sugar, gluten are most often the root cause (on this blog, I have written extensively about food allergies, milk’s inflammatory properties, gluten intolerance and so on).
• Feet: If you have excessive sweating of your feet (sometimes also of your hands), it can be your autonomic nerve system – doctors like this diagnosis. But more often, poor nutrition is at the root of smelly feet. Especially bad fats and animal proteins.

Here I want to lay to rest once and for all the discussion about vegetarianism: If you smell excessively at your feet and under your arms, you are having too much animal and/or bad foods for your body type, period. Science makes clear that we are omnivores, we eat all and everything – mostly because during history we didn’t have the luxury to be choosy; starvation was always near. But the amount you eat should not be unduly high, and should cover your needs – every body has different requirements. The animals you eat should be of good quality (organic, grass-fed). And don’t forget to say a prayer for every animal that has died for you.

We all have met those male types who have smelly feet and holes in their socks – so needy for a caring wife that likely they’ll never find one. Because, genetically, we are hard-wired to choose a healthy mate, and somebody who eats day-in, day-out from the convenient store around the corner and doesn’t care for his body, shows all the alarm flags of a poor mate. (Of course, this is gender-neutral – it applies to women, too).

Yep, bad food choices come out in your armpits and in your shoes. Hint: learn cooking from scratch! Women will love you!

A few more hints:
• If you take a daily shower and don’t have a blue-collar job, don’t use soap – how dirty can you get at the computer in a single day? Every wash takes away from the healthy acidic layer on your skin that protects your body from invading germs. – Always end with a cold shower to close the pores (unless you have a contraindication).
• Don’t use soap at all. When you wash you hair, use an inexpensive shampoo and RINSE EXTREMELY WELL.
• Never wash your hair twice in a row – that’s a ruse by the industry to sell more shampoo.
• Use a fragrance-free detergent for your laundry.
• NEVER use a softener – liquid or one of those scented towelettes. They pollute the environment and your body and have no value at all. Who says that a towel has to be soft? Try toweling yourself with a hard towel – and discover how the scrubbing makes your body come alive.
• Question any household product (dish washing liquid, etc.) that comes with an added fragrance. One of the reason we see so many allergies and asthma, is that our bodies desperately are busy getting rid of all those unwarranted scents.

Get used to the idea that we are odorous animals. If we eat right, we will not be stinky. But never will we smell like violets.

Even so, our healthy smell is full of pheromones that will drive the other sex wild.

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.

Vagina: Keep Her Young!

December 8, 2010

Tags: order, water, movement, herbs, food, black cohosh, brain, cabbage, Chinese balls, drooping of internal organs, GAIA, home cooking, joy, Kegel exercises, masturbation, menopause, moral values, odor - vaginal, phyto-estrogens, PMS, probiotics, red clover, responsibility, sexuality, sitzbath – cold, sexually transmitted diseases, sleep, smell - vaginal, soap, soy – GMO, soy – mono-crop, standing on one leg, trichomonas, vagina, vaginal prolapse, Vagina: Keep Her Young!, vitex, wild yam, yeast infection - vaginal

Warning: If this offends your sensibilities, don’t read it!

When you have reached a certain age, people often comment on your looks: “You look ab-so-lute-ly faaa-bulous!”

Yeah. But how do you feel? How does your vagina feel – the part of your body that’s invisible, most of the time?

I happen to think that your vagina comes right after your brain in ranking organs for importance. And I think there are ways to keep her happy – and keep you happy. Responsibly, of course – that goes without saying.

Sexuality, I think, has been given to us for a bit of joy in our earthly travels. As a physician, I have observed that different vaginas can exude different levels of exuberance. As a woman, I have decided that I want to keep my precious parts healthy and vigorous. It’s for you to decide if you want to have a sad, smelly pouch down there – or alive tissue that vibrates with vigor and health and lust.

These are a few ideas, starting with movement:

• Kegel exercises, of course, are designed to preb=vent/improve the drooping of internal organs called prolapse. Nobody does Kegel exercises however because they are so boring. But if we would do them, we would benefit: Our internal organs would sag less, and get more blood supply – always a good thing.
• Alternatively, Chinese women have two small balls that are inserted into the vagina. While you walk you try to not let them fall out. This exercises has the same effect as Kegel’s – only they are more fun. The balls usually are made from shiny metal, come always in a box of two, and one has a tiny chime inside. Sounds a bit un-puritanical, though.
• My own method: Standing on one leg while brushing my teeth. It strengthens the whole pelvic musculature – with no extra time and effort.
• Using it, of course. Use it, or lose her. If you don’t have a partner, be diligent yourself. Don’t attach moral values to a bodily function that makes you happy and relaxed and keeps you young.

Now comes water:
• Drink enough fresh water and herbal teas to keep a good turgor down there.
• Cold sitzbath: This is not for the faint-hearted, especially not during the frigid times of year. But the benefits are great. Fill the bathtub with about one to two inches of water (use the time when the water is running to wash your breasts with cold water until they tingle with cold and life). Sit down. Move your legs to let the water swash over your thighs. Count to twenty-one. Get out. Towel well. If your feet are cold afterward, walk on your toes, jump on the spot, go for a walk – do anything to get warm fast again. – A cold sitzbath should not be done if you have a cold, an acute urinary infection, fever. Your body needs to be warm before you start. And never let the cold water swap over your kidney (waist) area; the cold water would use up your chi, as the Chinese say, weakening your whole system. Kept down at your vagina and legs, the cold water invigorates tired old tissues – a rejuvenating treatment.
• Don't use soap down there. This is - right after your eyes, I'd say - the most delicate area of your body, and you wouldn't rub soap into your eyes. The daily cold sitzbath will clean you well enough - provided you wash yourself with a fresh cloth after each defecation - don't wipe forward; always backward! When you take a shower and use shampoo, get a bit of the shampoo on the outside area - not inside or between the folds.
• Don't douche yourself - I said: DON'T DOUCHE YOURSELF! There is a light animal smell down there (if everything is healthy) which is a sign of health - you don't want to smell there like lilies of the valley!!

Herbs:
• Because every woman’s body is different, it sometimes takes a few trials to find the right herbal formula. I am partial to GAIA herbs and use their formula (they don’t pay me to say this!). But others work well, too. I often recommend single extracts, and put them together like black cohosh, red clover, wild yam and ginkgo biloba. Some women blossom if you add vitex to the formula. Female PMS and menopausal herbs do not only keep you healthy down there, but influence your whole body. Especially, they address the mood swings and depression that often come with declining hormones. And since they are not hormones, phyto-estrogens don’t have the same bad side-effects as hormones – don’t let your doctor talk you out of them. All studies about cultures where the diet is high in natural phyto-estrogens have shown very low breast cancer risk.

Food:
• As always, fresh food feeds the inside of every little cell in your body. Don’t think there is a shortcut for good food or cooking at home. No “nutritional” bar or restaurant can match the simple goodness of a cabbage dish made at home (cabbages, remember, are full of cancer-fighting agents).
• Food also plays a role if you want to avoid the smelly part: Everything that gives you gastro-intestinal troubles gives you overgrowth with wrong bacteria and yeast - and they might wander into your vagina (and will, given any chance!). If you have a "smelly" problem, consult your physician because it could be a case of trichomonas or any other sexually transmitted disease. And if nothing else helps, try a better diet: Leave out gluten, dairy, sugars, sweeteners and white starches.
• And don’t fall for that soy scam: The only soy products that are good for you are fermented ones (miso, real soy sauce, tempeh). Stay away from the GMO-tempered soy mono-crop that is destroying the rain forests in South America and does nothing for your health – or for your vagina.
• Use a probiotic if you have an odor - that helps your gut health. And use plain cultured yogurt in your vagina twice a day until the problem is gone.

Sleep:
• Get enough sleep because nothing in your body works when you are tired – and you certainly can’t make a tired vagina wake up by sitting all night on her in front of the computer.

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!

Spa - Sanitas Per Aquam

November 24, 2010

Tags: water, order, food, alarm, Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD), bath, California, cold bath, cold shower, Earth, exhale, Greeks, hot tub, inhale, Latin, liver abcess, Musa, pores, relax, Romans, Rome, Spa - Sanitas Per Aquam, sitzbath, spa, Teutonics, thermes, vassals, vital, victuals, vigor, vittles, weather – cold

Did you know that the word “spa” is an artificial word and derives from the Latin expression “sanitas per aquam” (health through water)? I didn’t – in spite of six years of school Latin. I learned it only recently.

Should have known – the Romans were big with baths. Not only with hot bath, the Roman “thermes”. Which of course had come down from the Greeks. The first spa, so to speak, was the little town of “Thermes”on Greek soil that had naturally occurring hot springs. But after Emperor Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) was healed from liver abcess by his personal physician Antonius Musa, cold baths became all the rage in ancient Rome – and among their vassals in the then-known world. The Teutonics belonged there too, after they were conquered.

Health through water – that applies to individual health, as to the health of our Planet Earth. Without enough clean, fresh water mankind would not survive. Some bacteria and other low life probably would – and would restart the whole process of evolution again.

Water is vital (another Latin word, derived from “vita” – life) for us - preferably cold from the outside, warm from the inside. This morning I did a cold sitzbath, and now feel invigorated and ready for the day. “Invigorate” comes from “vigor” - strength.
To stay with the Latin words: Victuals (pronounced “vittles”) are sustenance we need – from “victualia” meaning “provisions” – healthy, fresh foods.

Enough of words – show me the deeds! Back to cold water!

Now that the weather turned colder, it is harder to stick with your cold shower or cold sitzbath – did you notice? (Ha!)

Here is one tip: Exhale!

Years ago, I found that exhaling when stepping into the cold flow helped me to stay there. I never knew why. Meanwhile, I figured it out.

Exhaling is the relaxing mode, inhaling is the alarm mode. Try it! When we startle, we suck in our breath. We say “Don’t hold your breath!” when you can relax again. So, deliberately and slowly exhaling tells your body that everything is all right and nothing is to fear from the cold water.

And coming back to the California hot tub from the other day: That bothered me the most – that there wasn’t a cold tub to jump in afterward. Because, as we say in German, you have to “close your pores.”

Dead Sea Story

November 23, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, alcohol, auto-immune diseases, barley, bowel health, cake, citrus fruit, coconut oil, coffee, cookies, Dead Sea, Dead Sea Story, dairy, eczema, fish oil, gut health, Israel, nuts, oats, probiotic, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, rye, saltwater, soy, Standard American Diet (SAD), sun, wheat, yogurt

Years ago, I found myself in a hotel at the Dead Sea in Israel. The hotel also catered to patients, because it has been shown that sunlight and saltwater improves such conditions as eczema and psoriasis.

The hotel had an excellent buffet with all kinds of healthy vegetables and gorgeous fruit. For me most striking observation was that the patient group flocked around cheese, cakes, cookies, pizza, lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, and bacon, whereas the other travelers delved into the abundance of fresh foods. In addition, the patient group was visibly more overweight than the others. I had a hard time not pointing out to every patient the damage they were doing to their bodies just as they were seeking the healing waters of the Dead Sea.

You go online for eczema remedies, and you find a thousand products screaming “Here! Buy me!”

This is my simple advice:

1. Get rid of anything you might be allergic to. – Some researchers deny that allergies play a role – I don’t agree with them; but let’s not call it allergies then, but food intolerances. Because in many cases, food intolerance plays a role in psoriasis and eczema – and the Standard American Diet (SAD) is especially at fault. The offending foods? The list I gathered from my patients is long, and dairy for sure tops it. Citrus fruit, wheat (and, by association, barley, rye, oats), soy, nuts have been most often the culprits in my patients. Coffee (including caffeinated) seems to trigger eczema too.

2. Use coconut oil on the affected, itchy, thickened skin. Coconut oil is anti-bacterial, soothes the itch and helps the poor skin to heal.

3. If you can afford, vacation at the ocean. Moderate sunlight and saltwater do miracles for posriasis and eczema.

4. If you want to go the extra mile, get a good probiotic (bacteria that are helpful for bowel health – but not frpm yogurt, take capsules) to heal your gut, and take fish oil capsules against inflammation.

Often this works also for rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune diseases, too. An additional biggie in psoriasis is alcohol – avoid it.

Some other ideas why people now get eczema are that babies are brought up in a too clean environment, and that emotional issues play a role. The first we can’t do anything about once you are grown-up. The emotional issue – well, we all still struggle to grow up, don’t we? Can’t hurt to work on that.

First Impressions of America

November 12, 2010

Tags: water, America, Boston, Europe, First Impressions of America, Haight Ashbury, hot tub, nakedness, nudity, Romans, Rome, sauna, San Francisco, Saturday night, women’s spa

This old story – nearly thirty years old - story has two parts. This is Part One:

My first visit ever to America, was with a boyfriend, in the very early eighties. He took me to friends in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco. They were a nice couple, with two little girls.

While we were politely chatting in the living room, over a tea, they asked the usual questions of a newcomer: How was your trip? How do you like America? How do you like San Francisco?

Then the husband asked: Do you want to try a hot tub?

Now, I didn’t even know what a hot tub was. I looked to my friend. He nodded. Sure, I said.

That very moment, the three of them got up and started stripping – right there in the living room. If in Rome, do as the Romans! So I undressed, too. We went out on the porch where I got to see my first hot tub, and got to sit in one, continuing our polite coversation.

As a European, of course, I was no stranger to public nakedness. But in the living room of people I had just met half an hour ago??

Part Two: About two years later, I visited Boston for the first time, interviewing for a job. Tired after a stressful day of traversing the city and encountering hospitals and Chiefs of Medicine, I wanted to take a sauna in the evening. At that time, I was boarding with a friend, but she was away for the weekend. So I tried on my own to find a reviving sauna. First thing I learned that there were no public saunas in Boston. I was desperate – in Germany, it was so much of the culture to go once a week and relax in dry heat. Nada here.

I called around. On a Saturday evening nearly nobody answered. Somebody suggested going to a women’s spa. I found one that had a sauna, but I needed to be a member. After a lot of cajoling and explaining my visiting status, I finally succeeded in convincing them to let me use their sauna once, for a fee.

On that Saturday night, the women’s health club was deserted (I learned later that on Saturday nights EVERYBODY here has a date). I had the whirlpool all for myself. By now, I had experience with hot tubs, of course, and happily dunked there first. A lone woman came by, looked down at me and said: My, are you white!

Now I am a redhead with very white skin, that’s true – but to comment on that I don’t tan like other people? I said nothing, not sure I really had heard what I had heard.

I retired into the empty sauna, feeling right a home – in spite that American saunas are not as hot as ours. But at least I had arrived where I wanted to be this Saturday evening.

The door opened and a very bulky woman moved in. I wiggled to the side and made room for her. Her breathing made funny noises and she gave me some sideward glances. Then she spoke up: I am not offended by your sight.

Number one, I found it a strange English sentence. Number two: What was so remarkable about me that everybody had to comment on me? I said nothing – especially did I say nothing about what she looked like to me.

Again she said: I am not offended by your sight. This time I looked her full in the face, asking what she meant??

She must have gotten that I was utterly baffled, and that I had an accent. Delicately, she pointed out that, in America, you wear a bathing suit in the sauna.

Yes, the huge woman was wearing a tiny-teeny bikini. And here I was, embarrassed and white-skinned, sitting naked in a public sauna! The little guest towel I had brought from my friend’s house, did not even wrap around me.

And wait a second, I wanted to scream. If there’s no nudity allowed in America - what was that in San Francisco then??

Breast Health – and Breast Beauty

October 22, 2010

Tags: order, water, food, movement, alcohol, arm swings, bra, breast, Breast Health – and Breast Beauty, celiac, cold wash, cold shower, dairy, exercise, gluten intolerance, growth hormones, Iran, jasmine, lymph flow, milk, Persepolis, smoking, vegetables

Remember the movie “Persepolis?”

My favorite scene was when the granddaughter asks her Iranian grandmother why she still has so beautiful breasts, at her age. The grandmother divulges her two secrets:

1. Wash your breasts with cold water every day. That can be part of a cold shower at the end of your warm one. Or you stand in front of the sink and wash your breasts with a cloth and cold water – about a dozen times.

2. Put jasmine flowers in your bra and carry the scent around you all day – it makes you feel beautiful.

I love that advice! From my experience, I have a few more bits to add for better breast health and more beauty:

3. Eat a diet high in fresh vegetables, with low meats, no dairy and little sugar.

4. Avoid all milk and dairy – they are causing breast pain and breast cancer. They contain growth hormones. Growth hormones are unnecessary and harmful beyond the infant stage.

5. Do not wear a bra at night. Your skin needs to breathe and your lymph needs to circulate. – Don’t wear a bra if you don’t need one.

6. For the same reason, do exercise: Let your arms swing. Brest cancer seems to occur more often in the left breast. Since 85 percent of people are right-handed, it stands to reason that we are not moving enough lymph around in the left breast and get less toxicity removed than on the right side (that is just a theory of mine – don’t listen if it doesn’t convince you).

7. Don't smoke or drink.

8. Find out if you are gluten-intolerant. Nearly all cancers are higher in celiacs than in non-celiacs.

9. Drink enough water – room temperature or warmer. Never ice-cold.

The Persian Bridge

September 15, 2010

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, abbaya, Afghanistan, Anglican Church, Arabia, Armenian, bread baking, Bridge - The Thirty Three Arches Bridge, burka, chador, dairy, doogh, Dubai, family, flowers, Hafez, head scarf, history, homogenization, Iran, Isfahan, Islam, Jews, moderation, Morocco, mosque, parenting, pasteurization, Persepolis, poetry, purity, Saudi Arabia, Shiite, Shiraz, Sunni, Tehran, terrorists, The Persian Bridge, Turkey, U.S.A, veil, yogurt

Greetings from Tehran! We have been traveling in this wonderful country, full of roses and laughter, and one of the cradles of civilization. Iran, as every country that I ever have visited, is teaching me something.

In the ancient city of Isfahan, we saw an old bridge, called The Thirty Three Arches Bridge. The city still sizzles with brutal heat in September, and people go to the bridge to sit in the shade and enjoy the cool breeze that is generated by a two-storied construction with narrow passages for the wind, and look over the water. It actually looks more a long building over the river than a bridge. We returned in the evening when the lights reflected on the dark waters, and people sat in groups, and walked and talked. A man sang a song about lovers. I could not imagine anything more beautiful or more peaceful.

The river is broad here in Isfahan; in this arid country with very little rain, the waters are melted snow of a nearby mountain range. A few hundred kilometers downriver though, the river vanishes from the surface of the Earth, petering out in the desert sand, and feeding underground aquifers (making oases possible in the desert). Imagine: A river that never reaches the ocean – the people always have thought of it as a gift from Heaven to this special place, and they are careful building irrigation systems and avoid wasting the life-giving liquid.

What took me by surprise: The Thirty Three Arches Bridge has no railings – the stone just ends, and there is the abyss! I kept a respectful distance. But what about those many families and children? Children who run around late in the night! I could barely look at the people that ambled too close to the edge for my taste, or at the little girl that sat a foot away from the void, enjoying a picnic with her family!

Our guide was astonished that I worried. “Oh, they learn!” he said. “Nobody ever falls down.”

Imagine the situation at home: Someone surely would dare leaning over too far – and than sue somebody for missing rails!

It seems that we teach our children that somebody is always caring for them (until it suddenly ends with college or some real-life experience); Iranians teach their children that they better watch out because life is dangerous.

Children and family are very important to Iranians. And so are flowers, poetry and history. They revere their poets like saints. We visited Hafez’ tomb in Shiraz, and our guide declaimed one of Hafez’ poems, in Farsi. Not so much for us, the tourists, but because he loved it with all his heart. At a dinner in a restaurant, the bandleader, in between music, recited a long poem.

The reason for our travel is that my scientist husband is invited for a scientific presentation, and I accompany him, privileged to see the beauty of this country. We walked the ancient ruins of Persepolis. On a frieze there one man holds the hand of another – together they faced the Great King to whom they had to bring their yearly taxes. I saw much caring for one another here: Two young men carrying a sick old man between them - perhaps their father; we would call an ambulance and have professionals do the work. Older children tend their younger siblings in a loving way. Men are holding hands as a sign of friendship. Only once did I hear yelling between two taxi drivers.

Scientists are an international community – and they respect the rules that constitute science: You can come up with any weird idea – but you have to deliver proof and reasonable argument, and submit it to the scrutiny of your peers. Wish that everything in the world would work like that!

Tehran is a city of between fifteen and twenty-five million: loud, polluted, with uncontrollable traffic. It is near impossible to cross a street – cars have priority. But at night, a thousand lights are spreading up the hills – where the air is better.

The pungency of herbs and spices hovers over the bazaars. Iranians use herbs in their yogurt drinks and in bread, and spices in their food. Their fragrant rice dishes with saffron or aromatic green herbs are famous. - At the restaurant, along the wall, there were niches decorated with life-sized clay figures performing old crafts: a miller, a toolmaker, a potter. The last niche was occupied by a merchant in herbal medicines.

Not that you think everything is perfect in Iran. They must have wife-beaters here, same as we have them at home. I suspect the one or other government agent is keeping an eye on us. Very occasionally we have seen hostile looks and heard remarks about the stupidity of infidels. But the vast majority of the people are very kind, and curious. Nobody flinches when we mention that we are from the U.S.A. One woman came up to me and asked: “Do you think we are terrorists?” She was anxious for the answer. Parents nudged their children to practice their English with us, and whole families wanted to be photographed with us (making the government agent seethe with anger).

Iran is a Shiite country and has a long history of – and that might surprise you as much as it surprised me – religious tolerance: Jews live untroubled in Isfahan for nine hundred years, and Armenians and other Christians have churches (among them an Anglican). We were proudly shown the Jewish quarters and the four-hundred-year-old Armenian Church – our guide explained its murals with the same zest and knowledge as the mosaics in the beautiful mosques.

In one of the mosques a man prayed, and our guide excitedly explained that he was a Sunni – he didn’t use the little clay disc Shiites put between them and their foreheads when they bend to the ground. And he held his arms crossed in front, instead of letting them hang by his side. The guide was proud that he spied the Sunni – but there was no hostility, he was allowed to pray in the Shiite mosque without problems. That in spite of difficulties between the two Islamic branches in other countries.

Every hotel room has a prayer rug and the little clay disc, and an arrow on the ceiling pointing to Mecca.

The food is fresh and good – and definitely for us guests – plentiful. But I did not see a single obese person. A bit of a potbelly, yes. But no gross obesity. They eat not much fast food – a boon they derive from being at odds politically with the Americans; everything is freshly cooked. What would happen if we were at total peace with each other, and MacDonald and Burger King would invade the country? (Though I saw Iranians drink Coca-Cola lustily – I could not know if it was the real thing or an Iranian fake – I can’t read their letters). But Iranians clearly have a philosophy of temperance: One eats and drinks in moderation (and no alcohol ever; at least none that I saw). The moderation philosophy - I couldn’t agree more with it.

In one restaurant they allowed me observe how they bake an ancient kind of flat bread in a brick oven on hot little pebbles – an art. - They have a yogurt drink – doogh – which is perfect in this heat. Their yogurt is delicious, and doesn’t give me the troubles it always does at home – an observation I already made in Saudi Arabia. I suspect it is the process of pasteurization and homogenization that renders our products inedible. Or they have very, very special cows …

By now, I have visited several Islamic countries: Turkey, Morocco, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iran. They are all different. Women in Iran wear long-sleeved coats or kaftans that have to cover the behind and should not emphasize the waist, and trousers, often blue jeans. To hide the wrists seems important – the Iranians must know something about erotic wrists that eludes us. And they wear a head scarf. It loosely covers the hair – more a token than a real hiding. Some women wear a chador that covers all hair. Very few wear a veil – which had been the norm in Saudi-Arabia.

We never, ever saw a single beggar or a drunk on the streets. It seems to be the specialty of autocratic states that they can “clean up” because individual rights don’t count much. A teahouse also served opium; a mild kind, judging by the reaction of the customers.

From Saudi Arabia I still own an abbaya - a black cassock-like thing that reaches the floor (in Saudi-Arabia, the desert sand) and a head scarf. The women here appreciate my effort to abide by their laws, and I like the abbaya because: No thinking in the morning about what to wear. Of course, I don’t like the abbaya as a political statement. Alas, I am an un-political person. At least, I have not seen a single burka, the tent-like garment that is frequent in Saudi-Arabia, and the law in Afghanistan. - In one mosque, as I was about to wrap myself into an additional chador because our guide had recommended it, a woman took it out of my hand, pointing at my outfit. She felt I was already perfectly dressed. - My head scarf had always been sliding down. Now I fix it with two barrettes, with fake gaudy glitter – and so far nobody has berated me for it.

In some quarters of affluent Tehran women wear more make-up and Western-style clothing. They wear their scarves, but as a fashion statement, elegantly. Then again, Tehran is also the place where politics clash very hard, as I was told. Surprisingly, many Iranians voice their political views very openly to us, wanting to assure us that they have no Anti-American feelings.

In Iran, women are educated – before the religious revolution that got rid of the Shah, this was a very westernized country. Not to mention that Iran has a history of thousands of years of culture – we have little over four hundred. Universities don’t have the division between genders that Saudi-Arabia has: Men and women learn and work together (but in the airport, as a woman you go through a special security gate). - When I talk to women here, they have little envy for our freedom in the West; they worry that we loose our hearts, our middles.

Of course, many women here have no choices; I don’t want to belittle their struggle. Women always ask if I have children, and how many. They do look down on countries that produce too many children. Because they know the burden is on the women.

If history teaches us something, then it is this: That no one government ever lasts forever. I fear about how they will be able to solve this conflict – these wonderfully hospitable people. Iran is a country of beauty and incredible friendliness. People know what counts: family, poetry, flowers, history. And food.

Of course, I have no saying in the matter, but I wish religions would keep their beautiful thoughts to themselves instead of waging holy wars. Trying to keep “pure” and going to Heaven afterward are two unreachable goals, if you ask me. We should put the same effort and religious zeal into being friendly to our children, bringing fresh food on the table and making Earth a happy place to live for everyone.

When was the last time you read poetry aloud to someone you love?

Fats Are Bad – And a Few Other Medical Myths I Am Not Sure I Still Believe In

September 7, 2010

Tags: movement, food, order, water, Aspirin, butter, calories, celery, Centenarian Study, coconut oil, cold, computer, cracker, dairy, drinking, fat, Fats Are Bad – And a Few Other Medical Myths I Am Not Sure I Still Believe In, fever, germs, hangover, milk, moderation, olive oil, pain medication, painkiller, posture, snacking before bedtime, sleep, snacks, sun, tea – herbal, Tylenol, yoga ball

1. Fats are bad for us. - Even at that time when I felt I was giving best medical advice to my patient (“Cut down on fat”), I myself never was really able to cut out fats much. I get so incredibly hungry without! But I am still at the weight I had at age twelve … and have slowly come to the conclusion that I probably gave bad advice to my patients. (Sorry!). What I advise now: Olive oil for salads, coconut oil for frying, occasionally a bit of European-style cultured butter (very occasionally!).

2. Exercise hard. – The Centenarian Study has shown that people who live to a ripe old age usually are not strong on exercise. They have friends, putter around house and garden and live for a worthwhile cause. Plus they have good genes. – I am not saying don’t exercise – but like everything else: Do it in moderation! – A minute here and there on your yoga ball, daily, will give you better health than the gym once a week (my guess – no studies done).

3. Eat a snack before you go to bed. – Diabetics are taught this, and usually crackers and milk are recommended, both of which I think are really bad ideas. That dairy is unhealthy I have said before; crackers are nothing else than cardboard “food” – devoid of any nutritional value.

4. Snacks, in general. – Bad idea. Few people fare well on the “more meals but smaller meals” advice. Most people do “more meals and more and more calories.” I never snack – and I never try my own food when I am cooking – I just smell out if more salt is needed. And healthy snacks like celery sticks without the dip? They really make me hungry. - Forget snacks! Think of something more important!

5. Oh, and carrying water with you wherever you go. – Don’t! We got two hands to do really interesting stuff with them like fixing a car or playing the cello – NOT for lugging a water bottle or a coffee pot around. You don’t have to drink in the middle of your exercise or yoga class – before and after is plenty. Except if you are crossing a desert, don’t be seen with a bottle/cup in your hand. And drinks with calories in them? Also a no-no: Water and teas are all what is needed. Because drinks with calories are not drinks – they are meals.

6. Take a Tylenol or an Aspirin for fever. – Now, the body makes a fever to kill the germs that invaded you. It’s usually not a good idea to interfere with your body’s action. Go to bed early, drink hot herbal teas and sleep it out is usually the better response to a beginning cold.

7. Take a painkiller against pain. - If a simple Tylenol, etc. will do the trick, the pain is probably not so bad that you cannot tough it out (which is easier on your body – all the pain medications have unwanted side effects). Also: Better think why you got the pain in the first place: Hangover? Too much sun? Too much computer? Too little movement? Bad posture? Too little sleep?

To be continued, I guess.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

September 6, 2010

Tags: food, order, water, allergy - blood-mediated, allergy - cell-mediated, apple, allergies – fast and slow, autoimmune disease, back pain, blood test for allergies, cancer, chocolate, citrus, constipation, corn, craving, dairy, depression, diabetes type II, diarrhea, drugs – medical, eggplant, eggs, flavor enhancers food allergy, food colorings, food intolerance, fruit, gluten, heartburn, HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), infection, irritable bowel syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome?, joint pain, lectins, mental fog, MSG, nightshades, nuts, obesity, pain, peanut, peppers - bell and hot, pills, potato, preservatives, prescription medication rash, recreational drugs, runner’s diarrhea, seafood, skin problem, skin test for allergies, soy, stomach ache, stool – floating, thirst – excessive, tomato, yeast

In my thirty years in medicine, I have never diagnosed anybody with “irritable bowel syndrome.”

Not that I didn't want to make the diagnosis. But it always seemed to be the last resort - if there wasn't a better explanation for the patient's symptoms. And there always was.

If my patients came with the label, I quietly looked for a more appropriate diagnosis, mostly some kind of food intolerance and/or infections. And if they came with any of the myriad of gastrointestinal complaints, they deserved a thorough workup.

Food allergies: Physicians differ between food allergies and food intolerance. For the patient the difference is minimal: The only action that will help is leaving out the offending food.

Allergies are mediated either through blood – then they show up in blood tests. Or they are cell-mediated, which means they can’t be detected by blood tests; skin prick test is the way to go then.

If you usually feel good (or even just better) in the morning before you eat, food problems are likely. – Floating stools point to a food culprit, too.

There are rare and dangerous diseases, therefore a doctor should eliminate serious diagnoses. But this is what you can do yourself:

• Write a food journal. Everything that goes into your mouth should go in here – including beverages, pills and chewing gum. A pattern might become clear once you regularly record everything.
• In my experience, these are the most common food offenders: dairy, soy, nuts, gluten, corn – especially HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant, bell and hot peppers), citrus, seafood, lectins, food colorings, preservatives, flavor enhancers (like MSG), eggs, apples and other fruit, chocolate (though probably less common than people think – it usually are the non-cacao ingredients that cause trouble), yeast. And don’t forget: prescription medication! Recreational drugs.
• Read labels! Of course, foods without labels – like kale and carrots – are healthier anyway because only processed food is required to be labeled.
• Has anybody in your family a bowel disease? You might have the same.
• Jot down pains, headache, heartburn, stomach ache, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, blurred vision, slow urination, skin rashes, blocked nose or ears,
• Don’t eat after dinner – and don’t have dinner late. The sheer bulk in your stomach may create the discomfort; besides it prevents the cell repair that should be taking place nightly – but can’t happen when your body is busy digesting.
• Are you very thirsty – especially during and after a meal? That might be a sign of a food allergy. Don’t suppress your thirst – this is how your body gets rid of the offending food: by diluting it.
• If you suspect food allergies, leave out the whole list above plus whatever you suspect for a week. Then one by one, every few days reintroduce another food from the list. – Sometimes only repeated exposure shows the problem – that happens mostly with cell-mediated allergies.
• Blood-mediated allergies are the quick ones – that can bring you to the emergency room - like peanuts. Never try to force your body into accepting any food that it doesn’t want!
• Slow allergies make you sick over time – by the chronic inflammation in your body. That causes for instance cancer in the long run.
• Take a probiotics regularly. I personally like Primal Defense (this is not an endorsement – only an idea to start with. Begin with a small dose, slowly take more. If a probiotic does not agree with you, change the brand.
• Most people benefit from fish oil – to counteract the constant inflammation that comes with food allergies.
• Chew well.
• Eat vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. Not only are they good for you – they also seem to cause fewer allergies.
• Serious runners suffer from a curious disease called “runner’s diarrhea” (about fifty percent of them.
• Obesity might be a sign for food allergies: We tend to crave exactly the foods that are worst for us.
• And most importantly: Don’t eat it if it hurts you!

Unfortunately, you can even have a bowel disease without any gastrointestinal complaints: About fifty percent of gluten intolerance (celiac sprue) patients never notice anything wrong with their belly. But they might have joint or back pain, diabetes, autoimmune disease, mental fog, depression – and a host of other problems.

September Blessings

September 4, 2010

Tags: order, water, back to school, beginning, cello, Chinese, friends, cold water, Kneipp - Sebastian, Li Shizhen, learning, Maine, novel, resolution, seasons, September, September Blessings, writing group

All seasons are my favorites, but September sticks out for me.

In the summer, I wither in the heat – that is why Maine is my refuge during the hot days. Maine’s cold water – I can’t understand that nobody advertises it! The Bahamas never tempt me. - We returned home to Boston tonight, into a sticky hot house. On our evening walk, however, the air was crisp – just as one expects of September.

Yet the main reason why I always look forward to September is that I love being back at school, so to speak, with sharpened pencil and a rested mind. As a child, I couldn’t wait for the new school year, the new subjects, and my old friends. Later, my enthusiasm lagged at times – but the start always beguiled me.

Much more than the New Year, September is my time for new beginnings, good intentions and resolutions. My Chinese course will restart this month, our writing group will reconvene, and I will take cello lessons again.

This year, September is even more special: On September 2nd, I finished my Sebastian Kneipp novel - or I think I finished it (thought that once before…). The quiet in Maine gave me all the concentration I needed. I might restart my “Chinese” novel about Li Shizhen (1518-1593) and/or finish the nonfiction book about skiing and health. Life is good.

Life is good as long as one still finds things to learn, to discover, to tackle. – What will you tackle this September?

Ugly Reflux

August 21, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, movement, order, water, acidity, alcohol, aloe vera, antibiotics, artichoke extract, Ayurvedic Medicine, Barrett's esophagus, betaine HCl, bone-enhancing drugs, cabbage juice, caffeine, calendula, chamomile, chewing, chocolate, citrus, coloring, corn syrup, dairy, DGL, digestion, eggplants, elm - slippery, enzymes - digestive, eating late, endoscopy, enzymes - digestive, esophageal cancer, flavorings, food allergies, food - cooked, food intolerance, food - processed, food - raw, foods - spicy, germs, gluten, grains - whole, gut, heartburn, HFCS, hiatal hernia, H. pylori, indigestion, infection, inflammation, junk food, licorice, marshmallow, mastic gum, meals - too big, neem, nightshades, nuts, over-eating, peppermint, peppers, plantain banana, potato, PPIs - proton pump inhibitors, preservatives, probiotics, reflux, SAD (Standard American Diet), stabilizers, starches - white, stomach, stomach acidity - high and low, stress, sugars, timing of food intake, tomato, trans-fats, Ugly Reflux, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

Reflux is one of those ailments which keep people going to the doctor and take medication forever – and on the face of it, there’s no cure.

And, in the long run, it can be a dangerous disease. Longstanding erosion of the esophagus can lead to Barrett’s esophagus and even cancer.

Why are so many people with the diagnosis of reflux?

Reflux is, in most parts, another disease with owe to SAD – the Standard American Diet. People have intolerances to certain foods and allergies, and those keep the esophagus (and possibly the stomach and the whole gut) inflamed. Instead of eliminating the offending foods, the doctor prescribes Zantac or Tagamet or even one of the stronger proton inhibitors. And has gained a life-long patient.

In the long run, those stomach medications create new problems: Since they all reduce acidity, they also may hinder digestion, and further infections as the stomach acid is supposed to kill invading germs.

PPIs (proton pump inhibitors, drugs lik, Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium), the strongest anti-heartburn medications can also be addictive, can trigger food allergies, and can weaken your bones.

Heartburn only comes in very rare cases from producing too much acidity for no good reason (that condition is called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, and should be ruled out by your doctor if the burning goes on relentlessly, regardless what you do). Normally, your stomach reacts with acidity when you eat something wrong. Or if you just each too much, period. So, why fighting the acidity, if you can eliminate the underlying cause?

Sometimes physicians diagnose a “hiatal hernia” – a gap in the diaphragm that allows the stomach to come a bit into the chest area. No connection has been found between HH and reflux. It seems that many people have a hiatal hernia, for reasons unknown – or for carrying a paunch that pushes the organs up into the lung cavity; for instance, it is very well known, that heartburn is extremely common in highly pregnant women. Perhaps also lacking exercise makes the diaphragm go limp. Whatever it is, hiatal hernia does not cause reflux.

If you want to break that cycle – here is what you can do:

Find out what your body does not tolerate. It is not difficult. Write a food journal. The most common culprits are, in my experience,
• Gluten
• Dairy products
• Corn syrup (HFCS)
• Tomatoes (and the whole nightshade family actually – peppers, eggplants, potatoes, too).
• Chocolate could be the culprit.
• Or nuts.
• Harsh foods: alcohol, caffeine, citrus, and spicy foods.
• ANYTHING can lead to a reaction. And not only burning in your esophagus; bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, joint pains, migraine headaches, and many more symptoms can stem from food intolerance.
• Certain medical drugs are the culprits – Fosomax, for instance, that is intended to make your bones stronger (I would not touch it because of its side-effects. Better food and more movement certainly gives you stronger bones without side-effects).
• Sometimes it is not the kind of food but how it is prepared: raw versus cooked. Usually, cooked is easier on the stomach.
• It might be the timing: Some people get away with a raw salad or an acidic fruit during the day, but not at night, as the last meal that lingers in their stomach.
• Or a whole food group: Many people do better without sugars and white starches and reduced whole grains.
• Basically, all junk foods and processed foods are under suspicion. They contain trans-fats and preservatives, coloring, stabilizers, flavorings that are alien to you body.
• Drink enough water - but not with meals or right afterward.

Of course, it is better, to not be indiscreet in the first place. But if you are looking for healing alternatives:
• Mastic gum is my favorite; it is an agent that covers the stomach and helps if you have been indiscreet, food-wise. Unfortunately, mastic is not cheap. An alternative, paid by insurance is Carafate, with a similar action.
• DGL licorice helps – it is a deglycyrrhized licorice that does not have the bumping effect on blood pressure. This comes also as a lozenge.
• Other herbs that soothe the stomach are chamomile tea, aloe vera juice (or eat directly from the plant – the jelly-like inside of the leaf; avoid the green outside leaf – it is a harsh laxative), slippery elm, plantain banana, calendula and marshmallow (the real herb – not the sweet candy!), cabbage juice, artichoke extract. But watch it: I, for instance, have a chamomile allergy; that would make the situation worse.
• It is always a good idea to start out with the Ayurvedic herb neem which kills all sorts of infections because, unbeknownst, germs can cause all the indigestion. Ask your doctor.
• In an acute attack, sleep with your upper body a bit elevated (turns the flux downward).
• Always chew your food well! Big chunks might lie in your stomach like stones.
• Help your whole digestive tract with probiotics.
• Eliminate stress – especially when you eat. Sit down for three meals a day – don’t gobble things down on the run!

This is what to avoid – besides hurting foods:

• Too big meals.
• Eating after dinner.
• Peppermint – as it has a relaxing effect on the sphincter that closes of the stomach.

A reminder: Before you embark on a natural healing course, it is a good idea to have endoscopy – because you don’t want to overlook anything serious. And make sure your doctor looked for an H. pylori infection. On the other hand, there is evidence, that a bit of H.pylori might be necessary for normal digestion – and triple antibiotic definitely could do some harm.

And then – just to confuse things: Elderly people often have too low stomach acidity, and if they are taking medications that lower it even more, one can imagine that this will lead to problems. There is a supplement for this condition: betaine HCl. And some patients with can be helped with digestive enzyme – a whole new topic.

The Five Health Essentials

August 18, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, alcohol, beer, biochemistry, circulation, clothing, coffee, cold shower, dehydration, drinking water, energy, ENM, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, Five Health Essentials, fluids, Health Essentials - Five, herbal tea, ice cold, iquids, liquor - hard, milk, over-hydration, saltwater nose rinse, sauna, seven - a sacred number, seven cups of water, sitzbath, soup, stomach, swimming, temperature, The Five Health Essentials, urine, water - drinking, water - filtered, water intake, weight loss, wind conditions, wine

European Natural medicine works with the Five Health Essentials. Here they are:

• Water - our wellspring, inside and out
• Movement – shapes our bodies and our minds
• Food - the building blocks of our body
• Herbs - the essence of Nature
• Order for our lives – balance in the world.

Today let’s talk a bit about water in general; I will tackle the other four Essentials in the next few days.

We are mostly water, and therefore we need water. Drinking water (or herbal teas) helps nearly all biochemical functions; we die pretty fast without drink (usually within three days). Without food we can survive about 30 days. – These are rough numbers – and don’t try this at home.

Every body nowadays knows that we should take enough fluid in. But few people are aware that one can overdo drinking. I usually recommend seven cups of water - from a beautiful cup – not from plastic. And preferably filtered. Seven cups, of course, is an inane recommendation because your size, the temperature, exercise, your clothing, wind conditions, what you have been eating, and so on will influence how much you really have to drink. Seven is a sacred number and should just keep you mindful of your water intake. But it is not written in stone. Better observe your urine: If it is getting dark, you need more water. If it is water-clear, you had too much.

Soup and fruit contain fluids; coffee and alcoholic drinks like beer and wine count less because they dehydrate. But they don’t count for nothing. Hard liquor and milk don’t count at all (and should be avoided altogether).

Whatever you drink, it should never be ice cold! Iced liquids hamper digestion by clamping down on blood circulation in the stomach, and decrease energy in the body. However, it is not enough to lose weight!

Water from the outside is as important as water from the inside. This is the perfect time for starting cold showers because the cold water is much warmer than it will be in a few months (unless you live in the southern hemisphere). August is the time to go swimming – in a lake, in the ocean, or even just dunking in a rubber pool in the backyard. Beyond cold showers you have heard here already about cold sitzbaths, saltwater nose rinses, sauna – all of which are tricks to keep you healthy.

News from My Summer Reading Pile

August 14, 2010

Tags: water, order, adrenals, arterial disease, breathing - improved, chronic fatigue, circulation, cold shower, detoxification, diabetes type II, exercise, fatigue, Georges Simenon, glands, gout, high blood pressure, hangover, hemorrhoids, immune function, James Bond, lungs, Maigret - Commissaire, mood enhancer, mystery, News from My Summer Reading Pile, obesity, ovaries, pain - chronic, pituitary, respiratory health, rheumatic diseases, Simenon - Georges, skin health, testes, thyroid, varicose veins

Remember my summer reading list? Slowly I am making my way through, devouring one Commissaire Maigret after the other. This is what I found:

“He had a bath, followed by a cold shower, and ate a substantial breakfast while watching the rain fall as continuously as on a November morning. At nine o’clock he had the ballistic expert on the line.” (Excerpt from “Maigret and the Surly Inspector”)

Not only James Bond – Commissaire Maigret also is fond of cold showers! Georges Simenon wrote this story in 1946. Something that was once common wisdom, namely that a cold shower does one good, has mostly been forgotten.

Just as a reminder – here are the benefits of ending each hot shower/bath with a cold shower (don’t do it if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure and/or arterial disease).
A daily cold shower

• boosts immune function
• lifts your mood
• fights fatigue and hangover
• normalizes your blood pressure
• decreases chronic pain
• trains and improves blood circulation – arterial and venous
• detoxifies the body
• deepens breathing, relieving obstructions in the lung
• tones subcutaneous connective tissues
• improves lymphatic circulation
• rejuvenate and heals skin
• regulates the activity of all glands (pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, ovaries/testes
• enhances motivation for physical exercise
• is helpful in diabetes, obesity, gout, rheumatic diseases, chronic fatigue, varicose veins and hemorrhoids
• regulates sympathetic/parasympathetic nerve system (the non-voluntary part of the nerve system) to an optimum

Now that the water is summer-warm it is the perfect time to begin cold showers. In February, it will be murder – I am screaming every time I have to get into the cold shower. But I do get in!

Soy - The Tainted Miracle Food

August 12, 2010

Tags: food, water, allergies, almond milk, beans, deforestation of the Amazon rainforests, edamame, fermented foods, garbanzo, gene-manipulated, health bar, indigestion, joint problems, legumes, lentils, milk, miso, organic, over-fertilization, pests - susceptibility to, rice milk, skin problems, soil depletion, soy, soymilk, Soy - The Tainted Miracle Food, tempeh

Soy is the new wonder food - sooo healthy! Drinking soymilk is a nice first step to get away with the ubiquitous milk and dairy. But there are problems with soy. But what with all the health claims?

Many people get allergies to soy. I observe it in my patients that, roughly after five years, the soy problems are starting – indigestion, joint and skin problems. But during those five years, people get out of the milk habit – and that is a good thing in my eyes. After soy, there is still rice milk and almond milk. And after those, there is always water.

Soy’s estrogenic effects are well-known. Less well-known is that all legumes (beans, lentils, garbanzos) contain estrogenic-like compounds: phyto-estrogens. Yes, soy is highest – but by now we could have learned that bigger is not always better. Especially not, when it is non-organic and gene-manipulated (the verdict on that is still out - until then, I prefer to be on the safe side). Avoid soy as a powder and filler. Especially, avoid it in so-called health bars which contain soy for a sole purpose: That you might think it is healthy and buy it.

New studies have shown that the marvelous properties of soy do not apply across the board; they only happen with fermented soy products – like miso or tempeh – but not with unfermented soy products. I think of soy as one of the beans. Not as a miracle food.

Soy has become the next super mono crop, with agricultural subsidizing, big time. And with all the ensuing problems: depletion of soils, over-fertilizing, and susceptibility to pests. Not to mention massive destruction of the Amazon rainforest to accommodate this new hyped-up crop. We need don’t more soy; we need a few healthy soy food items: Edamame (the young, tender soybeans still in the pod, often steamed with soy sauce. Miso: Use the fermented paste, not the dried stuff from a package. Tempeh, the Indonesian pressed and fermented soybeans. Delicious in all kinds of stir-fries - way better than tofu if you ask me. Tofu is a highly processed thing, coming in a perfect block. Once in a while, of course, you may indulge min tofu. But stop thinking about tofu as health food. Nothing in nature comes in a block.

Soaking and Sprouting

August 2, 2010

Tags: food, water, agricultural revolution, allergy, amaranth, animals - prehistoric, antinutrients, bean dishes, bloating, Brazil nut, bread - daily, calcium, calories, cavemen, colitis, cooking, dairy, deer, diarrhea, digestibility, digestion, famines, fermented foods, flavonoids, food allergies, fowl, fruit, gastro-intestinal tract, game, genetics, grains, greens, grubs, hunters and gatherers, indigestion, lectins, leftovers, legumes, lentils, mammoth, milk, minerals, mung beans, nuts, pigs, polyphenols, population growth, protease inhibitors, phytates, raw foods, roots, seeds, snacks, soaking, Soaking and Sprouting, sprouting, sprouting jar, sprouts - commercial, starvation, stomach - upset, World hunger

“Give us our daily bread” is a prayer. If somebody is out there to listen to this prayer, He seems to prefer to listen to First-World supplicants; the Third World does not need to apply, apparently.

World hunger is appalling, but perhaps it is beneficial that not all people get to have their daily bread. Because our staple bread, surprisingly, contains ingredients that might hurt you.

All seeds – including grains, legumes and nuts – contain indigestible parts. It is a survival strategy for seeds: They don’t want to be eaten, they want to germinate and build new life.

About five to ten thousand (depending on where people lived) years ago, the agricultural revolution happened. Suddenly we were eating grains (the other part of the agricultural revolution was coaxing cows into give up their milk for human consumption). When people still were hunters and gatherers, grains barely ever showed up in their meals – grains then were trifling kernels, not worth the effort. Cavemen ate greens, roots, nuts, small fruit (big fruit are the result of modern hybridization), game, fowl and grubs – whatever was available. Not much was available, so famines and starvation were frequent – especially after mankind had successfully hunted to extinction the huge animals that populated the world in prehistoric times: huge deer, woolly mammoths, giants pigs, and so on.

Agriculture was a step forward. It provided more calories, and reliably so. More children could survive; populations slowly increased.

But grains come with a price: They contain antinutrients (such as lectins, phytates, protease inhibitors) that have negative health consequences. These ingredients interfere with the successful uptake of important molecules – mostly minerals, like calcium – and they are harsh on the gastro-intestinal tract. As they are indigestible, eating them can lead to upset stomach, bloating, diarrhea, even colitis.

But things are never easy: Polyphenols and flavonoids are also antinutrients, and we surely want those in our daily fare (though not in overdose).

Antinutrients can be destroyed or at least reduced by cooking, sprouting and fermentation. About fermentation and its benefits we have already talked. We also discussed raw foods-only diets, and that cooking makes more nutritional components available.

Soaking and sprouting is a method still not used widely enough. I can't marvel enough that the simple fact of adding water to a seed will make it easier to digest (be aware that for some people it is not enough to eliminate the digestive problems). Store-bought sprouts in the past have occasional had problems with germs, alfalfa and soy bean sprouts, for instance - a good reason to do it at home. Just keep your (simple) equipment clean. There are a few tricks for different sprouts from amaranth to Brazil nuts, from mung beans to lentils which I don’t want to discuss here – information is easily found on the Internet.

This is my stress-free methods: Soak in clean water overnight. There are plastic jars available at health food stores with sieves of different sized hole, for small and bigger seeds. One can also just (and perhaps healthier without plastics leaching out) use glass jars and paper towels and/or cheese cloth for straining.

Pour off the water next morning, rinse in clean water (repeatedly, if the water is cloudy) and let stand for sprouting (or beginning to sprout). Eat your sprouts during this day. For me it works – without being too meticulous about it. I like sunflower, flax, sesame, almonds. Make sure you start with seeds that have not been irradiated, roasted, salted or processed in any way; organic is preferable. Make sure you don’t let them sprout for too long, they might get bitter. Experiment with different soaking/sprouting times. Anything longer than two, utmost three days can lead to mold – discard it. Always clean jars and sieves thoroughly.

Add sprouted seeds and nuts to bean dishes, leftovers and as snacks.

If you seem to have “allergies” to every single nut or seed there is, try removing antinutrients by soaking and sprouting. After all, yours might not be a real allergy, you might just not be able to digest certain indigestible food ingredients. Which is determined by genetics.

Sweating It

July 31, 2010

Tags: water, order, movement, food, herbs, air conditioning, amphetamines, anti-epilectic drugs, Boston, bowel, cold exposure, colds, colon cleansing, copper, Deep South, dehydration, detoxification, drinks - warm or cold, elimination, fruit, high blood pressure, kidneys, lead, lungs, medication, mercury, metals - heavy, methadone, New Orleans, nickel, peppermint tea, relaxation, salads, salt, sauna, skin, sleep - improved, studies - medical, summer, sweating, Sweating It, toxins, winter, yoga, zinc

Awful, this summer heat, isn’t it? One sits, barely wants to move, and sweat runs out of every pore.

Actually, no! Sweating takes out toxins from our bodies; the skin is one of four elimination organs (the other three are kidneys, bowels, lungs). Sweating is beneficial. Enjoy your wet armpits – without them, you would age faster and might get cancer earlier. Sorry that I am so graphic. But the advantages of sweating are widely underrated.

People sit in air-conditioned houses, and at the same time they are shelling out big dollars for “colon cleansing.” Colon cleansing is a health scam. Eating better and drinking water or herbal teas will do the trick; colon cleansing will not make you purer - just poorer.

In the winter, a sauna does the trick. Not by accident was sauna in vented in Finland and Russia - cold, northern states that do not allow for sweat naturally. - Exercise can make you sweat. But don’t try too hard: Individual people start sweating at different points, and one should not exercise for the sake of sweating. Move for fun and purpose!

In the summer, let nature work for you: Sweat it out!

Heavy metals like nickel, copper, zinc, lead have been found in sweat in higher numbers than in the blood – but I wish, we had better studies available! For instance, I am only aware of a single study that saw mercury levels falling during a sauna protocol. Most medical studies are funded by pharmaceutical firms (and I don’t see any wrong in there, as long as they adhere to scientific ethics). But this situation leaves out studies on water, sauna, yoga, healthy food, to name a few – because not much money can be made of them. The only way to improve the situation is to demand such studies.

Medications may be released into the sweat, notably anti-epileptic drugs, amphetamines, methadone (but don’t get your hopes too high that sauna will get you through a drug test easily - it won’t!).

Sauna also prevents frequent colds and promotes better sleep. In Europe, people use saunas widely. Mostly, of course, for relaxation and fun.

Except for the very elderly and frail who are in danger of severe dehydration in the summer, an air conditioner is unnecessary. In our house, we have a built-in central air-conditioning system. We never – never! – use it (but we also live in Boston, not in the Deep South - perhaps I would feel different in New Orleans...). If it gets really sweltering at night, we run a simple fan in the bedroom. Summer is for sweating – and winter is for cold exposure; both have their health merits.

If you sweat, you lose salt and water. So drink enough! And put a pinch more salt than usually in your food to replenish – unless you tend to high blood pressure. - And before I forget it: Warm drinks are healthy; cold drinks - especially ice-cold - hurt you.

Instead of suffering through the summer months, take them as what they are: A free-for-all detox program – every year! Eat fruit and salads and enjoy the heat with a peppermint tea ... lukewarm. In the shade.

Quackery

July 30, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, order, accidents, allopathy, Andy Lewis, appendicitis, drug-dispensing, fever, genes, headache, health, heart attack, homeopathy, language - ambiguous, Lewis - Andy, medicine - alternative, medicine - conventional, Natural Medicine, naturpathy, New Age, procedure-oriented, profit-driven, quackery, Quackery, quackometer, relationships, science, sleep, stiff neck, sugar pills, supplements, tularemia, vitamins

On the British "Quackometer" site, I have been negatively reviewed: http://www.quackometer.net/.

This is what I answered:

Dear Mr. Andy Lewis,

Basically, I like the idea of a quackometer. On the other hand, I am not tickled that I received all those ducks. They are cute, though.

In my books and health blog, I use easy language while being informed about science. I use some new-agey terms so that people understand me – that explains “This web site is using lots of alternative medicine terms.”

At the same time, you accuse me of the opposite: “It is full of scientific jargon that is out of place and probably doesn't know the meaning of any of the terms.” You don’t want to argue with degrees - but here I have to: I was a teacher of mathematics and statistics, and have a master’s degree in philosophy, especially in epistemology (which is the science of what we can know, and where we better shut up – as Wittgenstein put it). That all before I studied medicine and finished with board-certification here in the U.S.A. in internal medicine. And I hold a degree in “Natural Medicine.” So, in all likelihood, I do understand the medical and scientific terms I use.

“It shows little or no critical thought and so should be treated with caution!” You might have overlooked my blog that states that homeopathy has no scientific basis – therefore I don’t use it with patients. But I did two courses of homeopathy to make sure I did not throw out a valuable tool unexamined. Then again, barely anybody dies of sugar pills – and here in the U.S.A. (unfortunately, I don’t have British numbers) about 100,000 people die per year of allopathic drugs. Only on your website today I found the information of this anti-malaria homeopathic concoction; that indeed is murderous, and I strongly oppose it.

However, since many ailments heal with time and better lifestyle, homeopathy (which is often combined with compassionate care and good advice for exercise and healthy eating) might be less of a safety problem than conventional medicine. I have practiced medicine for thirty years and have become skeptical of profit-driven, procedure-oriented, drug-dispensing allopathic medicine. But I would never discard good conventional medicine where it is needed and useful: When my son came home from camp with high fever, stiff neck and the worst headache of his life, I did not think for a second that “alternatives” were the answer. I drove him straight to the Emergency Room of a famous Boston Teaching Hospital (where they promptly misdiagnosed his tularemia – but that is another story…). – Appendicitis needs a good surgeon. And one doesn’t treat a heart attack by holding hands. – Guess we agree here.

Also, I am very critical of indiscriminate use of vitamins and other supplements without proven value and without documented deficiencies. You might also have noticed that I don’t sell anything – only my books which is the way to disperse ideas and knowledge). Not even a mug or a t-shirt.

There are bad genes and unfortunate accidents. But apart from that, health is a simple proposition, in my opinion: Eat well, sleep well, move a bit, drink fresh water, get your relationships and priorities right – and automatically, you will be healthier. Common sense, not more. But it is so much easier to pop a pill (allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic) than do something yourself - that’s probably why my books sell so poorly.

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

P.S. I forgot two arguments:

1. Using language as the sole indicator for quackery might not work because – as you somewhere noticed yourself – language is ambiguous.

2. Writing on a rather “quackery” website should not constitute quackery itself – I often just bring arguments which might be enlightening – and lure readers to my blog. Also, if writing on a “quackery” site makes me guilty of quackery – then writing on the “Quackometer” redeems me??

Last thought: Homeopathy fills a void that conventional medicine leaves: Homeopathic practitioners care and listen. If we want to persuade patients with our scientific arguments, we first have to return to caring and listening.

Update 1/2/2011:
They took me off the list, after all!!



The Troubles

July 22, 2010

Tags: order, alcohol, attitude, charity, clutter, children, coughing, debts, drama, dreams, drugs – recreational, family, finances, forgiveness, gossip, gratefulness, hand washing, helping out, loneliness, mayhem, perseverance, reading, recycling, relationship, responsibility, sneezing, spirituality, tardiness, text-messaging, The Troubles, troubles, TV, water

Are you addicted to drama and mayhem in your life?

Are you living within your financial means?
Do you start projects and never finish them?
Are you always having boyfriend/girlfriend trouble?
Do you waste water?
Are you patient with children?
Are you gossiping?
Do you think at the end of your life you will be held responsible?
Are you holding on to old grudges?
Do you wash your hands after you used the bathroom?
Do you say “please” and “thank you” often?
Are you friendly with your family, even if you find them difficult?
Do you watch brainless TV programs?
Are you taking recreational drugs and/or excessive alcohol?
Do you reach out when you feel lonely?
Are you always late?
Do you cover your mouth when you sneeze/ cough?
Do you read a book once in a while?
Are you text-messaging when you drive?
Do you think the world and the people in it owe you something?
Have you given to charity in the last month?
Are you neighborly?
Are you eating more than your share at the table - given that there are about ten billion people who also want to eat?
Do you work hard for your dreams?
Is your house cluttered?
Do you recycle?
Do you lend a helping hand – even to strangers?

Are you the problem – or are you part of the solution to the problem?

Salt Water Nose Rinse

July 20, 2010

Tags: water, order, food, food allergies, food - spicy, bacteria, beverage - ice-cold, chill, colds - acute, dairy, dander, draft, dust, exhaustion, hay fever, high blood pressure, infection, milk, mites, mucus, nose rinse, ocean, phlegm, pollen, salt, salt water, Salt Water Nose Rinse, sea salt, sinusitis - acute and chronic, sleep - sufficient, sneezing, thermos, virus

This water application sounds a bit gross on first encounter. But a salt water nose rinse works well in acute colds, acute and chronic sinusitis, hay fever and sneezing attacks, regardless of their cause, because the rinse flushes out dust, pollen, mites, dander, viruses, bacteria and all kinds of irritating debris from the nasal passages. Therefore, it shortens acute infections and relieves chronic problems.

Take a quarter teaspoon of table or sea salt in a glass of lukewarm water. Stir, lick: Its saltiness should be somewhere between that of the ocean and your tears. Now put a bit of the saltwater into your palm and sniff it up one nostril. It might feel like you are drowning – but you are not. Spit out the phlegm that comes down in the back of your nose. Do the other side. Finish the other side.

This can be done many times a day, especially with an acute cold. For many chronic conditions, it might be enough to do it twice a day. Contraindications: If you tend to have high blood pressure, rinse out your mouth afterward and swallow none of the salty phlegm that will still come down after a few minutes due to the cleansing action of the nose rinse. If the fluid stings or burns in your nose, you might have too little or too much salt; experiment!

A few other tips for chronic sinusitis:

• Avoid all milk and dairy products as they are mucus-producing.
• Avoid ice-cold beverages because they can trigger sneezing attacks and exacerbate asthma. Drink hot beverages – lemon and honey seems to soothe chronic sinusitis. Herbal teas are healing: linden, elderberry flowers, honeysuckle, fennel, thyme, and so on.
• Interestingly, getting chilled might affect some people with chronic conditions. Avoiding cold, draft and having a hot beverage (thermos!) before getting out of bed, might do the trick of warming up.
• Exhaustion depletes immune function; getting enough rest and sleep is especially important in children and adolescents.
• Avoid spicy foods.
• Look for triggering food allergens.

Allopathy, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Natural Medicine – and Avandia

July 14, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, movement, allopathy, Allopathy, Naturopathy - Homeopathy - Natural Medicine – and Avandia, Avandia, drugs, finances, high blood pressure, homeopathy, hormones, hypertension, marriage - problems, medicine - conventional, medicine - natural, medicine - Western, minerals, naturopathy, pharmaceutics, pheochromocytoma, pills, sleep, stress, vitamins

You hear me mumble a lot about Natural Medicine. How does it differ from other kinds of medicine – allopathy, naturopathy, homeopathy? (Allopathy is another name for conventional medicine – the kind that is commonly practiced in the West)?

It is simple to explain: All those systems - except for Natural Medicine - believe in pills: Allopathy in pharmaceutical drugs; naturopathy in vitamins, minerals, hormones – small molecules that are supposedly lacking in your body; homeopathy believes in little sugar pills that don’t do anything at all, but at least keep the patient away from stronger, more detrimental drugs.

Don’t get me wrong: There is nothing inherently wrong with pills. In certain situations, we need them. Only that they are vastly overrated and over-prescribed and can, at times, do more harm than good. Mainly, however: They never address the root cause of the problem.

Let’s look at a patient who walks in with a blood pressure of 200 over 120. Would I want to deny him a pill? Of course, I would start him immediately on some pressure-lowering medications. I might even observe him in the hospital for a day or two if he looks brittle. But then I would work with the patient on his lifestyle – nutrition, water intake, movement, enough sleep, work stress, martial problems, financial debts: anything that might add to his high blood pressure. Not to make him an eternal patient, but to give him a chance at health. I would also make sure that he is not one of the five percent who have a physical reason for high blood pressure, like kidney disease or pheochromocytoma.

But my main goal would be to make the pills unnecessary.

The problem is: It is so much easier for the doctor to take out her prescription pad – and so much easier for the patient to take some pills for the rest of his life than facing the hard task to turn his life around and make it healthier. We are a culture of pill poppers; we want problems to go away – and fast. We have more important things to do than work on a lifestyle of health and happiness.

And because of that, we are sick.

Granted, there are hereditary diseases, and accidents, and sheer bad luck. But truly: Many health problems are in our own hands. Take diabetes – and the Avandia scandal: Do we really think a little pill can make up for thirty years of bad food choices and no exercise?

I, for one, don’t. Therefore, I opt for Natural Medicine.

Truth in Wine

July 13, 2010

Tags: water, food, order, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, bacteria, cancer, diabetes type II, dolmades, food, French Paradox, fungi, grapes, grape juice, heart disease, meals - shared, phyto-nutrients, resveratrol, sleep, supplement, Truth in Wine, vine, vitamins, wine

Resveratrol - a phyto-nutrient in red wine - is the wonder “drug” that is credited with the so-called French Paradox, namely that the French smoke more and eat more fat, and still have less heart disease, is explained by this. Even doctors now recommend a daily glass of wine.

I dunno. Perhaps their better health might have to do with that the French mostly eat fresh food, take two or three hours for their biggest meal of the day to share with family and friends, and have it more often at midday than in the evening. And they sleep more.

Not to take away from the wonderful goods resveratrol delivers in the body. Resveratrol is an anti-oxidant produced by the vine that gives us wine to fight off attacks by fungi and bacteria. In mice and rats, resveratrol has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Allegedly, it also prolongs life (no real proof yet!).

It sounds like this is the stuff we should eat.

But should we eat it as a supplement? Probably not.

Every time we find a super drug,” a few years later it turns out that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Besides, resveratrol supplements are not made from the real thing – they are synthesized in a factory.

So, have a little red wine now and then – definitely not daily. Drink water for thirst. And eat dolmades - those Greek/Turkish vine leaves filled with rice and/or meat. What the wine advertisers don’t tell you: There is quite a bit more of resveratrol in vine leaves than in wine – and without the intoxicating effects. Unfortunately, there is even less in grapes and grape juice.

Interestingly, even if one takes high doses of resveratrol, only very little of cab be detected in the blood – your liver hurries to turn this “super drug” ineffective very quickly by changing its chemistry. To me this says: Don’t overdose on this drug! The body does not like it in high doses. As many phyto-nutrients, they should be taken often but in small doses, and that is best accomplished by eating a varied diet - like our ancestors the cave men did.

P.S. Occasionally, I get asked if "once in a while" it is okay to take a supplement. Because we don't always get around to eat healthili.

To which I answer: We should. - But apart from that: If one takes a supplement, it should probably be a low-dosed vitamin or anti-oxidant. Because taking high-dosed supplements adds to the toxic burden.

Cold Sitzbath

July 12, 2010

Tags: water, anal fissure, back pain - acute, chamomile extract, Cold Sitzbath, episiotomy, happy half bath, hemorrhoids, infertility, insomnia, Kneipp - Sebastian, leucorrhea, libido, pelvic pain, pelvic problems, prostatitis - acute and chronic, Sebastian Kneipp, sitzbath, sleeplessness, urinary tract infection, varicose veins

Another name for the cold sitzbath is “happy half bath” – and “sitzbath” is a translation from German. The original word is “Sitzbad,” where “bad” obviously means bath, and “Sitz” comes from to sit.

I coined the term happy half bath because there is nothing more refreshingand and uplifting - short of dunking into the ocean in Maine - than filling a tub with a few fingers’ breadth of cold water and sit there for a few minutes; usually one to two. The water can be reused.

Besides that it is the perfect refreshment on a sweltering summer day, a cold sitzbath also has beneficial effects for health – not only for mood. Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to 1897) who, as a priest, had a bit of a problem with the other gender and sexuality, said that a cold sitzbath is good for “down there”, meaning it relieves all kinds of pelvic ailments – from infertility and decreased libido (in both sexes) to pelvic pain, leucorrhea, hemorrhoids, anal fissures and after episiotomies (then often with chamomile extract). For gynecological purposes one can also buy special basins.

A cold sitzbath helps against varicose veins (a diet low in inflammatory foods helps, too!).

A cold sitzbaths is not a good idea if you have acute urinary tract infection or acute prostatitis. For chronic prostatitis it might actually be helpful. And don't do it when you have acute lower back pain.

Another indication for a cold sitzbath is insomnia. Staying for a moment in the cold water, then going to bed, you can feel how the blood leaves your overworked brain and warms your feet – both important conditions to find sleep.

And a Happy Half Bath keeps your private parts functioning and beautiful!

If I Had an Incurable Disease...

June 28, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is more:

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

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

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

Syndrome X Everywhere

June 22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before You Die

June 19, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, Before You Die, biking, bungee jumping, cello, cleaning out the attic, cold shower, Dickens - Charles, fasting, forgiving, Great Wall, growing vegetables and herbs, Hugo - Victor, learning a new language, mountain climbing, musical instrument, painting, parachute jumping, Paris, pottery, publishing a book, reading, shower - cold, skydiving, soulmate, tai chi, Tolstoy - Leo, touch an iceberg, weaving, wood working, writing

If you find no new block entry here – does it mean your blogger is sitting idly around at the beach?

No. She is immersed in the novel she tries to finish before she dies. What is it you must finish before you die? Remember Miss Rumphius? Her grandfather had told her the three things one has to accomplish in life: To travel foreign lands; to live at the ocean (You might remember that “Miss Rumphius” is a Maine story); to leave the world a more beautiful place.

Husbands always feel one should clean out the attic before I die, or such – but we, who should do it, lack enthusiasm for the attic. Given one wouldn’t want to leave the mess to one’s children to sort out – but then again, who is going to die die THAT SOON??

There are tons of bucket lists on the Internet what to do before we die. Here is mine:

1. Finish your novel.

What are other people aspiring to do before they die? Skydiving, bungee jumping, parachute jumping. Too much jumping, it seems. Too short-lived and not along my alley. How about these:

2. Learn a musical instrument (or painting or wood working or weaving or pottery).
3. Grow your own vegetables and herbs. And perhaps blueberries.
4. Forgive that incredible jerk/bitch (we all have one in our lives).
5. Climb a mountain. Doesn’t need to be Mount Everest – but should be bigger than the Blue Mountains near Boston. Take part in a long bike ride. Or learn tai chi – anything that gets you moving out of your comfort zone.
6. Do a vegetable broth fast for a whole day. Once a week – until you have your ideal weight; then go to once a month.
7. Learn a new language.
8. Take a cold shower. Every day.
9. Read Les Misérables (or War and Peace, or Our Mutual Friend – or the other thousand-pages-plus tome you always wanted to read).
10. Sleep under the stars and watch a sunrise.

Others I liked: Walk the Great Wall of China, Visit Paris, Publish a book, Touch an Iceberg. Many of those traveling goals sound like fun – but they expand your carbon footprint enormously. Visiting Paris or leaning to play the cello? I have done both; nothing against Paris, but the instrument beats the town by miles.

Find Your Soul Mate would be a worthy goal, wouldn’t it be? But that is not in your hands. Strive for something attainable - you don’t want to build your life on Grace or Fate or Incredible Luck.

Bad Weather

June 12, 2010

Tags: water, aquifer, Bad Weather, climate, cold shower, flash floods, hurricane, rain, sanitation, shower - cold, tornado, tsunami, water - drinking, water level, water - privatization, water shortage, weather, wells

It’s raining outside, and not for the first time lately.

But don’t call this “bad weather”! Because we need the water. Perhaps not acutely here in the North-East, but worldwide, water shortage is growing – and will only get worse.

Here some water facts:

• About one billion people in the world are short of water, and suffer from consequences of poor sanitation and not enough drinking water.
• Mexico City is sinking because water for 20 Million people is pumped out under the city and cannot be refilled.
• Beijing’s aquifers are drying out because, with heavy industrialization, more wells have been drilled: Water levels are falling about a meter per year. Wells need to be deeper now: Up to a thousand feet. Rivers and lakes, especially in the North, are drying out.
• The same happens in Africa where, for instance, Lake Chad is getting to look like a puddle.
• Similar things happen here: California faces drought and water shortage. Texas wants to privatize water. For Colorado, future shortages are on the wall – due to population growth, global warming and extensive use of Colorado water by other states.
• Groundwater gets more polluted from agricultural and industrial run-off. Lee water is soaked up in forests and meadows because more and more land is covered with asphalt – the asphalt industry worldwide still grows by two percent every year.
• Bottled water is becoming a commodity – and you make firms rich (and yourself poor) if you buy bottled water. Water is your life right – it should not be peddled away.

For now only this: There is no bad weather – just healthy water. Unless we are talking hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, flash floods …

The Dreaded Cellulite

May 19, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, movement, water, arthritis, beans, brown rice, brushing - dry, cancer, cellulite, cold shower, cold water, dairy, dementia, depression, diabetes type II, fat, garbanzos, gynoid lipodystrophy, heart disease, legumes, jumping, lentils, lipodystrophy, metabolic health, milk, olive oil, overweight, shower - cold, sitzbath, starches, stroke, sugar, The Dreaded Cellulite, white starches

Cellulite – in medical terminology: gynoid lipodystrophy – is what many women dread: those dimpled masses of fat around the thighs.

One study showed that people who were severely overweight, improved their cellulite when they lost weight. But people who were less overweight, experienced worse cellulite after weight loss. What is a woman to do??

The Natural Medicine take on cellulite is that it is poorly exercised, inflamed fat, and here is what you can do:

• Eliminate all dairy and milk products (cheese, butter, yogurt, milk solids) from your diet. Dairy seems to be the one single aggravating factor in the diet. The Mediterranean diet (lots of vegetables, herbs and olive oil plus small amounts of meats) seems healing. Dairy is a highly inflammatory food; olive oil is anti-inflammatory.
• Also leave out white starches and sugars. Replace with brown rice and legumes (beans, lentils garbanzos).
• Start with a very moderate program to exercise (because big programs don't work; they overwhelm you). For instance, Jump up and down one minute – and find out how awfully long a minute is… If you have that minute in your daily routine every single day, go for two minutes. Next step: Go for a short walk at lunch hour. Take the steps.
• Brush your skin with a dry brush – always in the direction of your heart. It is not as effective as exercise, and very boring, but it mobilizes those sluggish fat cells – at least a little bit.
• Always end your hot shower/bath with a short cold one (unless you have uncontrolled high blood pressure and/or arterial disease).
• Cold sitzbaths are recommended if you also have varicose veins. Fill at least an inch or two of cold water in the tub. Sit with legs outstretched for one to two minutes.

Cellulite is not a beauty problem. It is a quick measure of your metabolic health. While a little bit of dimpling might just come with age, those factors that now annoy you with cellulite will, in the long run, present you with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia, arthritis, depression, cancer, and so on.

Happy birthday, Sebastian!

May 17, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, accidents, acute disease, cold water cure, chronic disease, consumption, Flexner report, Floyer - John, Happy birthday - Sebastian!, health, John Floyer, Kneipp - Sebastian, Sebastian Kneipp, spa, tuberculosis

Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to 1897)
Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to1897) celebrates his birthday today, May 17th.

He was born as a poor weaver’s son in Bavaria/Germany, destined to become a weaver, too. But he was a gifted child. Supported by the local teacher and his mother, he finally made it into priest seminary – only to get sick with consumption (tuberculosis). Given up by several physicians, he embarked on his own healing process, found a little booklet about the Cold Water Cure that had been inspired by the Staffordshire physician John Floyer. In case you think, Floyer was just another British quack: He introduced counting the pulse rate into medicine.

Sebastian Kneipp, without medical training, jumped into the gray Danube River in winter, three times a week, and cured himself. From there, he went on to develop his Five Pillars of Health (water, movement, food, herbs, order) and became world famous.

With World War I, World War I and the Holocaust everything German was despised here – and natural healing was replaced by scientific medicine, especially after the Flexner report denounced everything that did not come from modern medicine as “unscientific.” It took disgruntled patients (and the Internet) to return to the old truths.

My connection to Sebastian Kneipp? I grew up in Germany after World War II, and Kneipp’s principles were part of the landscape: We took cold showers, ate heartily and slept with windows open – but in medical school I found “scientific” medicine so much more enticing and scoffed at the old folk medicine that was way too much connected to the Nazis for my sensibilities.

Until I started practicing real medicine and realized that for chronic disease we physicians had not much to offer. The pills - because of side-effects - were often a worse cure than the disease. So, I read up on the old stuff, only half convinced, but always looking out for things to help my patients.

During a sabbatical year in my home country I did courses for a degree in Natural Medicine, and it was then that I spotted a reprint of Sebastian Kneipp’s most famous book (sold in the millions): My Water Cure. I took it in my hand, a bit curious how the old Kneipp would hold up to modern times – and I was immediately hooked. He understood the human body and the rest of the human predicament so well, I found, that on that spot I decided to write and bring his ideas again to the U.S. I say “back” because around the beginning of the twentieth century a “cold water craze” had already swept this country, with spas and doctors practicing natural medicine; they even had their own magazines and newspapers!

Of course, it is not an either-or – we need modern medicine and natural medicine, and both have to stand up to scientific scrutiny. But our bodies and souls are ancient, with ancient requirements. For acute diseases like infections, accidents, even some cancers, modern medicine has made great strife, and we are grateful for it. In chronic disease, modern medicine is still looking for that miracle pill – when only going to the roots and changing your lifestyle the old-fashioned way will get you to that glowing state of health that is your birthright.

Happy birthday, Sebastian!
You'll find an etching of Sebastian Kneipp on the "medical questions?" page.

Teenage Hell On Earth: Acne

May 16, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Sauna supports the skin in its elimination functions.

• Daily short exposure to sun is essential for healing.

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

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

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

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

• Facial steam baths with chamomile are soothing.

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

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

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

• Quit smoking.

• Get enough sleep.

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

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

Simple Health Is Attainable

May 10, 2010

Tags: order, water, movement, food, health, herbs, balance, diabetes type II, heart-lung transplant, repair, simple health, Simple Health Is Attainable, smoking

Do you have diabetes?

Yes? Do you really HAVE diabetes? Or is it just a label you are carrying?

Not to dispute the reality of the symptoms you feel or the havoc the diabetic condition can wreak in your body - but they are, after all, just names doctors made up. A diagnosis helps to find a pill against the diagnosis.

That has its good sides, and its bad. Especially with a diagnosis of diabetes: Do you really believe that a single little pill can reverse years of not exercising and eating the wrong foods? I don’t.

But I do believe in simple sheer good health. Instead of fear-mongering with labels, let's focus on what we can do to stay/become healthy. Your body actually wants to get healthy and has a vast ability to repair itself - if you just give it some room and help. If you eat your green veggies, move briskly through life (instead of lingering on the couch or a chair in front of TV and computer), if you drink fresh water, do not smoke, relate warmly to other people, get enough sleep - you might never have to see a doctor all your life.

Admittedly, bad things happen to good people, and environmental hazards are as yet under-reported and not well understood in their impact on our bodies. But aside from that (and genetics), you are responsible for a good portion of your health. Estimates are not scientific – but an educated guess is that you hold about seventy-five percent of your health outcome in your hands.

Our bodies are really old, old things – not meant for driving in a car, eating TV dinner and marshmallows, staring at a screen for most of the day, exist holed up in our individual cubicles (at home and at work), exposed to noise, electronics, polluted air and other ills of modern times.

We don’t want to move back into the cave; we like the amenities of modern life – for instance the ease of connecting with loved ones via telephone of computers. The more it behooves us to counteract the bad modern influences and have as many of the natural elements in our lives as our good old bodies need: Water, movement, fresh food, herbs, and balance.

Back to diabetes (or any other diagnosis): If modern lifestyle is at the root of diabetes (and it is!), then go to the roots, make some meaningful changes, and don’t expect betterment from a little pill, please - not like the patient whom I once counseled against smoking: “The heck, when I get lung problems, they’ll give me a nice, new heart-lung transplant.”

High Blood Pressure - the Disease of Lost Balance

May 9, 2010

Tags: order, water, acupressure, acupuncture, aromatherapy, art therapy, Ayurvedic Medicine, balance, biofeedback machines, breathing exercises, cold shower, cupping, electrolytes, exercise, high blood pressure, High Blood Pressure - the Disease of Lost Balance, HTN, hypertension, journal writing, massage, minerals, music therapy, overweight, Raynaud's, salt, shower - cold, sleep, stress, Traditional Chinese Medicine, visualization, weight lifting

If you have high blood pressure, ask yourself if you have balance in your life. If you feel you are off-kilter - here is what you can do:

1.Balance physical and mental exertion: Walk 10 minutes every day. No excuses: rain or shine, snow or ice. Bundle up for the weather and just go. Best times are after work, to release stress, and at noon to catch some rays of sun. — Shut off TV and computer - move more. Take up activities you like. Avoid weight lifting and isometrics, rough contact sports, races and competitions — your blood pressure is already high enough.

2.Balance inhaling and exhaling: Quit smoking and learn breathing exercises. Here is a simple one: Take three deep breaths every hour on the hour while awake. Always start with a deep exhalation.

3.Balance your electrolytes: Cut down on salt and salty foods like deli and canned goods. Food in restaurants and ready-made foods are loaded with hidden salt. Drink tons of water to flush out excess salt.

4.Balance warm and cold: End every hot shower with a cold shower: Turn the handle on very cold, start at your feet, then your hands and face. Finally the whole body. The whole thing takes just a few seconds. - Contraindications: uncontrolled high blood pressure, severe hardening of the arteries, Raynaud’s.

5.Balance your weight toward ideal. Even one pound less means that you have stopped the steady weight gain that people think comes normally with age. It does not. Five pounds totally changes your metabolism toward healthy.

6.Balance sleep and activity: Go to bed early, between nine and ten o’clock. Read yourself sleepy. Get up before seven o’clock. Follow your natural rhythm of sleep and wake. It is possible to go shopping at three AM, but it does a number on your system ... a HIGH number.!

7.Balance the seasons: Follow Nature's yearly circle. Eat in season: lighter in the summer, heartier in the winter. Open your window at night, avoid overheated or overly air-conditioned rooms. Engage in seasonal activities.

8.Balance the colors in your meals: The more colorful, the better. Try a new vegetable each month. Use olive oil for cold dishes, coconut oil for hot ones. Garlic and onions are good for your heart. Fish oil counterbalances the myriad of inflammatory agents in our diet.

9.Balance work and relaxation: Take time for your family and friends, music, arts, and hobbies. Learn something like yoga, meditation, tai chi or another relaxation technique.

10.Balance with herbs: Herbs are not first-line drugs for high blood pressure, but hawthorn flowers and berries might help reduce it. Always discuss herbs with your physician. Avoid unnecessary medication — especially over-the-counter (for instance, pain meds can increase blood pressure).

11.Balance your mood with natural herbs or pleasant activities instead of alcohol or drugs. After weight, alcohol is the most common cause for high blood pressure.

12.Balance your attitude: Avoid negative emotions like hate, envy, regret, jealousy, greed, contempt. Nourish your heart chacra: Anxiety and stress elevate your blood pressure; happiness lowers it. Look at your relationship with your significant other, with God and Mother Earth. Or with your pet. Bring meaning into your life by connecting with people — family, friends and people less fortunate than you.

13.Balance your week: Plan an outing/ excursion/ event each weekend. Do not stay at home to catch up on work.

14.Balance your minerals and other small molecules: Eat nuts - unless you have an allergy - because they provide all the important minerals for keeping your vessels elastic.

15.Balance stress with alternatives: acupuncture and acupressure, Ayurvedic Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, massage, cupping, aromatherapy, visualization, music therapy, art therapy, journal writing, biofeedback machines — anything that makes you feel good.

Measure your blood pressure at home and write it down for yourself and your doctor.

We Are Hard-Wired For Awe, Respect, Morals

May 7, 2010

Tags: order, water, air, art, awe, babies, books, education, families, Good Mother Earth, justice, kindness, money, morals, music, Nature, nurturing traditions, power, religion, respect, sex, soil, spirituality, We Are Hard-Wired For Awe - Respect - Morals, worldwide community

A Yale study just concluded that babies already can differ between good and bad behavior. In eighty percent of cases, the baby chose the “good guy” puppet after they had seen a short puppet show.

Exactly what I always thought: We are hard-wired for awe, respect and morals. Unfortunately, we are also hard-wired to follow peer-pressure – and those two forces fight war over our souls. To enforce the knowledge of good and bad, we need a nurturing culture around us, in families, and schools.

Let’s not take morals too narrowly, though. Most morals have very little to do with sex (after all, it is a biological drive and, in all cultures and religions, has been hard to suppress), and very much to do with money and power. (Does not mean that I am a libertine; just means that sniffing out other people’s bedroom habits is not my cup of tea).

Religions often abuse our innate longing for goodness and request obedience to their rules and superiors. I personally think goodness is already undermined if you have somebody paid as a priest/minister/pastor; I hold that people should come together voluntarily and should stay unpaid lay celebrants. Religions that preach to hate, should be out. Spirituality that fosters kindness should be in.

This is what I want to see celebrated: Nature foremost because we would not be here without Good Mother Earth and her water, air and soil, families, nurturing traditions, worldwide community, justice, music, art, education and books.

De-cluttering Your Home, Your Mind, Your Life

May 6, 2010

Tags: order, water, charity, clutter, de-clutter, De-cluttering Your Home - Your Mind - Your Life, depression, feng shui, garbage, health, qi -life energy, stress factor, Ten-Minutes-De-cluttering Program, toxic dump, wind

Believe it or not: A cluttered home is a severe stress factor in your life – at least, if I believe my patients. An untidy home makes people feel inadequate, ashamed and asocial. Because their homes are so messy, they don’t invite people over and become more and more isolated.

Feng shui, the Chinese art of bringing luck, health and prosperity to your life seems, on first look, rather outlandish – another form of quackery. On second look, feng shui (literally “wind water”) wants you to tidy up your place.

Actually, the “water” part refers to the place where you choose to live: It has to be at an “auspicious” spot - which sounds like weird magic. But in olden times, the perfect dwelling spot was near water; today, without having an inkling of feng shui, what appeals to us – a green neighborhood, a view from a little hill, not much traffic – is also a healthy choice (unless there is an undisclosed toxic dump nearby…).

The “wind” part means – at least in my interpretation – that you have to create space so that the wind can blow freely around in your home - a fancy way of saying you have no clutter around. The Chinese also call this wind “qi” (pronounced chi) - the positive life energy. In your house, is a visitor greeted by a pile of shoes, old newspapers and stacks of plastic bags that long should have been carried out to the garbage? Or is your entrance welcoming?

Now, with my cosmic greed for books, the wind has a bit of a hard time here. BUT those books I do love, they are not a burden on me, and I keep them in order by handing down some, from time to time, to local schools. I am really not the tidiest of persons. But here is a little secret, handed down from my late, beloved mother-in-law Hilde: If you don’t have time for big cleaning, at least keep the table free of clutter. Try it – immediately, the room looks better.

And here is the Ten-Minutes-De-cluttering Program I developed for my patients who are drowning in disorder and depression:

Have an egg timer (I use an egg timer for all sorts or weird things). Put it on ten minutes. Start de-cluttering in a corner – any corner, but preferably at the entrance. For everything you take into your hand, find a final place: file or shelf room, garbage, charity. And one box with "Cannot yet make up my mind." That box you store for one year; then throw it out.

When the egg timer rings, you are done for the day – unless you suddenly find yourself in the mood of doing some more. Next day, you do the same – even if you did over-time the day before. If you do only ten minutes per day, your place can’t but get "windier" – and you can’t but get relief.

Water Emergency

May 4, 2010

Tags: water, cooking, Water Emergency, water shortage, World Water Day

In the Boston area where I live, two million people have been under a spell for four days: They had a water emergency.

Of course, for a time now, there is a water emergency in the world. The UN created World Water Day (March 22, exactly a month before Earth Day) in order to pull attention to the fact that the rich countries are not conserving water, and the poor countries are suffering. Global warming will only make the situation worse.

So, back to Boston: Did we run out of water? No. Because of a main break, we were required to boil our water for two minutes before ingesting it. That led to a run on supermarkets, and in no time bottled water was sold out. People were panicking.

A neighbor called us in Maine to tell us of the catastrophe. We filled a 23 liter tank with our delicious Maine well water and headed home. Did I say “catastrophe”? Today the boiling water order was lifted. But it leaves me sad.

My mission (one of them) in life is to spread news about the health benefits of cooking your own dinner from scratch every evening – for your family, for yourself. As I see it, the catastrophe lies in this: People can’t cook – they can’t even boil water!

The good news: People might pay more attention to the world-wide water problem.

Natural Skin Care

April 28, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One-Day Fast

April 26, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do As James Bond Does …

April 25, 2010

Tags: water, cold shower, Do As James Bond Does …, Fleming - Ian, hangover, health, Ian Fleming, James Bond, immune system, mood, shower - cold, skin beauty

… and take a cold shower!

In thorny situations, James Bond might not get a good night’s sleep (not to mention a decent meal – most often a Scotch has to do), but he always takes a shower. He starts with a nice hot one, ending with a cold one.

Every time, he steps out of the shower refreshed and ready to take on the world’s enemies again.

Of course, you wouldn’t know this juicy tidbit about James Bond from the movies. But if you read Ian Fleming’s books, you'd find that a cold shower is James Bond’s heal-all.

What is it about a cold shower?

Among other things, it brightens your mood and strengthens your immune system – making you less likely to catch a cold. James Bond seems to use it to clear the brain fog of a hangover. Or smell good for the next beautiful woman. I do it for health benefits and beautiful skin.

Contraindications: Uncontrolled high blood pressure (if you are on medications and your blood pressure is reasonably controlled, you will be fine). Any kind of narrowing of the arteries like atherosclerosis and Raynaud’s. - There are no negative side-effects of a cold shower if not overdone.

You start with a warm/hot shower. Stepping out of the stream, you turn the handle on cold. Begin with your feet, then your hands, then splash your face. For your first time, this might be all you can tolerate. Later you go on to legs, arms, chest and back. Leave out the scalp if you tend to have sinus problems.

The cold shower never takes more than a few seconds (thirty at most. If you don't feel on top of the world when you step out of the shower, but cold and shivering, you overdid it and have to scale back.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

Tags - see also the non-captalized entries below!