Archive for September, 2011

Your Body’s Many Cries For Water

September 23, 2011

So goes the title of a rare book by F. Batmanghelidj, an Iranian born, British educated physician. Following medical school, he relocated to Iran to help establish hospitals and medical centers there.

 In 1979, Dr. B. was imprisoned during the Iranian Revolution but managed to survive because the prison needed a doctor. One night, he was called to see a man with a peptic ulcer. He had no meds to treat the condition and told the man to drink two glasses of water and he would return later to check on him. When he did, to his amazement, the man’s condition was much improved. He continued to note the response to just water in other prisoners with other problems.

 Dr. B. was released from prison in 1982, escaped from Iran, emigrated to the US, and set up a general practice. The full title of his book is, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water: You are not sick, you are thirsty! Don’t treat thirst with medications. 

He attributed many common disease symptoms to dehydration as their root cause, and was careful to check that his clients were well hydrated before prescribing medications. He died in 2004, but his writings, while controversial, are still available on his website,

 However, health professionals today routinely encourage people to drink plenty of water. Medication needs water to be distributed throughout the body and keep all systems working well. Our food needs plenty of water to break it up so that it can pass  through the wall of our intestines and on to the liver for distribution.

 Despite the emphasis on carrying water everywhere we go today, many of us do not drink enough water. Coffee, tea, soda, and beer don’t count. They are dehydrators.

 Over-the-counter meds, such as different forms of ibuprophen, taken excessively for chronic pain, can cause liver and kidney damage. If the kidneys’ can’t make enough urine, our bodies will retain too much water instead of using it.

 How can we know we’re drinking enough water? What are the signs to be on the lookout for? Thirst is the last sign that we need water. Thirst is a reminder that we haven’t been paying attention to other body signals like pain of any kind, fatigue, dizziness, joint and muscle stiffness, difficulty remembering, following through on instructions, slow healing of injuries, and constipation, to name a few.

 If you decide to check out the power of tap water (6-8 glasses a day), first be sure that your kidneys are making sufficient urine and increase the amount of tap water you drink slowly. Then, just observe the changes!

The Myth of the Holy Cow and Cow Culture Health

September 18, 2011

Humans repeat patterns of cultures so predictably that it’s fascinating to study older cultures, with all their myths, and see where we are in the timeline of repetition. For example, India’s myth of the Holy Cow has nothing to do with the Veda texts. The Vedas contain contradictory passages of ritual slaughter and consumption taboos.

 Cow killing stopped gradually as castes developed in response to population explosion. India needed soil and draft animals for its agrarian society. To dissuade people from eating beef, leaders promoted the Vedic principle of  ‘ahimsa,’ which means non-violence or non-harming. Today, India’s oxen continue to be used 50/50 with tractors and much of the milk is provided by water buffalo, which has a higher fat content than cow’s milk.

The cow myth is currently being strongly debated in India. Historian, Dwijendra Narayan Jha documents the discrepancies in his controversial book,  Holy Cow: Beef  in Indian Dietary Conditions. He notes that by 300 B.C. “the forested Ganges Valley became a windswept semi-desert and signs of ecological collapse appeared; droughts and floods became commonplace, erosion took away rich topsoil.” 

There’s no denying the parallels between conditions that started the Holy Cow belief in India and what is happening in the US today. Our history demonstrates a variation on the same theme. However, it has only taken us a few hundred years to reach a similar state.

When the settlers arrived in 1620, or a few years later, they brought cows with them. Bison were the only bovines here. They were wild, west of the Appalachians, and never lent themselves to domestication. Native Americans valued their lean, high energy meat and used every part of the bison for food, clothes, tools, blankets, and more.

However, the settlers were accustomed to domesticated cows whose meat was marbled with fat due to being tethered, or otherwise restricted from roaming and finding wild grasses. Their meat was tender and the fat stimulated appetites.

The settlers learned to grow corn and fed it as silage to their cattle. Due to the high sugar content of corn, cows became even fatter and their marbled meat was prized; it made excellent gravies for roasted meat. For broiled steaks, the fat was spooned up as a delicacy at the table.

As more people came to America, and the population expanded west, ranchers needed grazing land for their cattle business. Since Native Americans were already there, ranchers decided that if they killed all the bison, the native people would head for Canada and they’d have unlimited land. Many native people who didn’t go to Canada remained and starved to death. Those who survived became customers for ranchers.

Step two was to grow the cattle business. When the herds pulled grass up by the roots, soil began to erode, draining topsoil of its nutrients. Ranchers continued to feed cattle corn, which was difficult for cattle to digest.

By 1960, we began to see sick beef, sick chicken and other sick foods in our markets. People were finding growths and demanded regulations. In 1960, rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) appeared. In cows, it increased their milk production and in steer, their bulk. The industry claimed that there was no interaction between rBGH and human growth hormones and that cooking the meat and pasteurizing the milk destroyed the hormones anyway. Research to the contrary was discounted.

Fifty years later, the evidence is clear as we look around and note that young women, raised on plenty of beef and milk, now struggle with huge breasts. Men are also developing large breasts and both men and women are electing to have breast reduction surgery.

Do we want this trend to continue? Are we headed for a time when our caste system invents a myth to reduce beef consumption for most of our people while continuing to be consumed by the few?

A pivotal time may be eminent as corn rootworm becomes resistant to Monsanto’s GMO seed and Roundup, as it is in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

Currently, giving cattle growth hormones when they are 300 days old and then putting them in holding pens on a steady corn diet for several months, means they are big enough to slaughter at 15 months of age. Grass fed cattle mature in 2-3 years. If genetically engineered corn is allowed to wipe out heirloom strains of corn, and suddenly becomes vulnerable to root rot on a grand scale, we could repeat the same scenario India faced in 300 B.C.

It is time for us to check current research about our foods, and change what can be changed, to keep each other well. In this information age, we can no longer claim, “If we only knew.”

Calling All Gerdics

September 9, 2011

It’s anyone’s guess how prevalent GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) is today. The highfalutin name itself sounds pretty ominous. Put simply, on the lower end of the esophagus where it connects to the stomach, there is a sphincter, a valve that opens every time we swallow, to allow food into the stomach. That valve is supposed to close once the food is through.

 With the condition called GERD, the sphincter doesn’t close reliably, food backs up into the esophagus, and the area around the sphincter becomes painful. Sometimes, people worry that they’re having a heart attack because the sphincter is right over the heart.

 Since I’m a Gerdic (someone with GERD), I know what it’s like to wake up in the night with chest pain that felt like a blob was shifting side to side when I turned in bed. When I sat up, it disappeared (definitely not a heart problem or it wouldn’t stop then.)

 The literature will tell you that if you’re a Gerdic, you should not lie down for at least 2-3 hours after you eat to allow food to pass through your stomach and not annoy you by trying to get back up into your esophagus. It will also tell you foods to avoid and, if you are obese, to lose weight. Overeating just keeps that sphincter wide open from a bulging stomach. Most important, chew everything thoroughly so that it can pass through the sphincter to your stomach without straining it.

 In my quest to become a reformed Gerdic, I elevated the head of my bed 6” and began taking a recommended over-the-counter remedy at bedtime. This took care of the GERD but gave me a new problem: restless sleep with frequent night awakenings.

 Then, a reader told me that when she asked her physician if he knew of an herbal remedy for GERD, he immediately said, “Licorice Root.” So she tried it with great success.

 With nothing to lose, I picked up chewable licorice root tablets at my local health food store and was amazed to find that gradually, I no longer needed the bed elevated and went back to sleeping like a top. 

 What’s the magic with licorice root? It produces a viscous mucus, which coats and protects the stomach wall and limits acid production. I like the idea that a condition is possibly curable!  The cure may take longer for some folks than others, depending on severity and commitment to changing eating habits, but it’s doable.

 What foods do Gerdics need to avoid?  That’s easy: all the things we love – coffee, chocolate, alcohol, spicy, fatty foods and combinations thereof  – the acid crowd. However, the problem isn’t those foods; the problem is eating too much of those foods too often. They need to be balanced with fresh greens, veggies and fruits.

 Stomach acid is not all bad. Our body produces it to begin digesting meats and tough foods. We just don’t need to add huge amounts of acid foods that only foul up the works.

To keep each other well, now’s a great time to appreciate the last of the fresh string beans, basil, chard, parsley and arugula, and be on the lookout for winter squash and apples and….