From the yearly archives: "2013"

Multi-colored auroraNext month I will embark on a spiritual trip that has been in the works for over a year—one of many, I presume, that will put me directly under the divine lights (and enormous energy) of the aurora borealis. Rightfully, the aurora borealis is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and I am certain that along with the majestic display of Mother Nature illuminating the skies above, the spiritual power of Mother Divine will also be in full effect.

The aurora is a spectacular cosmic light show performed yearly by the Sun and the Earth, each contributing physical properties and phenomena which light up Earth’s atmosphere to vibrant reds, greens and purples, particularly at the poles (aurora borealis in the north, aurora australis in the south). Solar winds produced by the Sun send charged particles into the Earth’s magnetosphere, causing geomagnetic disturbances, while some of these particles are whisked into the Earth’s magnetic field and ultimately into the atmosphere, where they then react with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere), releasing photons that present in different colors from green (most common), to pink, to red, to yellow, to blue (least common).

Magnificent_CME_Erupts_on_the_Sun_-_August_31 (Copy)

Auroras are most visible at the poles—in an area called the auroral zone—where the ionized (charged) particles are most heavily concentrated and accelerated toward the Earth by the force of its own magnetic field.  The auroral zone sits typically at 3-6o degrees in latitudinal extent and at all local times or longitude (and ~ 10° to 20° from the magnetic pole defined by the axis of the Earth’s magnetic dipole); in other words, like a fluorescent halo surrounding an earthly crown, auroras light up the poles in vivid colors in ways which we only imagine when meditating on our own polar chakras.

auroral zoneBecause the majority of the Earth’s magnetic field lines enters and exits at the Earth’s poles, these areas are of high magnetic energy, which not only draws in charged particles, but also affects the human energetic system. For this reason, visiting the poles, and carrying out certain mental practices while there, could enhance one’s spiritual energy.

In fact the auroras have been the subject of many spiritual beliefs and superstitions throughout the ages. From Seneca, to Ben Franklin, to Tycho Brahe, the auroras have captured the inquisitive and reflective minds of many who have asked what these magnificent multicolored manifestations might mean. Since they originate at the sun as ejaculated particles from coronal mass ejections, shooting into the depths of the Earth’s magnetosphere, where a select few find their way into the Fallopian tubes of her magnet field, one could say that the auroras are birthed as a cosmic creation emanating from a celestial love dance between Father Sun and Divine Mother Earth.

We can thus look upon the auroras symbolically: as the universal creative process carried out by nature, or we could look at it as the macro-version of what we ourselves do as living beings—as divine creative beings—all the time. We emanate light and create form through our own microcosmic processes in exactly the same manner as the heavenly bodies do above and beneath us. We could say that all things in the universe are merely mirrors of one another—paralleling each other in phenomenal fashion, and that the universal creative process is no exception to this rule.

Arctic CircleSome spiritual teachings, particularly those of the Hindu-based philosophies, speak of regions of the Earth which contain and emanate enormous energy. It is said that when one visits these regions one can feel the vibrations emanating from the Earth. I believe the auroral zones are one of these regions. Whether in Alaska, Canada, Norway or any other location lying within the Arctic Circle, the strength of the Earth’s magnetic fields at this latitude creates a tremendous power, of which the vibrations can be felt by those tuned-into deeper levels of awareness. More importantly, though, the vibrations and heavy magnetism can recalibrate our own subtle electromagnetic fields, particularly when aligned within one’s consciousness. While the degree of ‘conscious attunement’ (which is really just a way to say intense focus) determines the level of recalibration (a quantum process), anybody focusing on ‘tapping into’ the essence of these Earthly vibrations, no matter what their current level, will feel and respond to the massive electromagnetic energy of the planet. Additionally the sky, air (wind) and even water in these regions will have resonating effects  on the subtle body. Focusing on the creative process during meditation, then, both universally (with nature as our model) and individually (our creativity), while underneath the auroras, can have an enormous impact on our awareness  (illumination) and influence (emanation).

Aurora Borealis Tromso

So whether we choose to look at auroras as purely physical phenomena—a light show created by simple atmospheric chemistry—or as actually having deep spiritual meaning,  anyone who has had the great fortune of witnessing this miraculous display of nature can agree that the northern and southern lights are heavenly beauties just magnificent to behold. In my mind the lights are the physical embodiment of the elusively luminescent progeny of a paternal Sun and a divinely creative Mother.

I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures.

Back to GodheadI am convinced that all people have a life’s purpose. We are ‘born’ into this existence with certain qualities and drives that are direct reflection of this purpose. The Hindu teachings call it dharma, and the epic scripture, The Bhagavad Gita, spends much time explaining it. It’s easy for people of atheistic or materialistic philosophies to dismiss this idea as simply spiritual mumbo jumbo, but if these people could open their minds to the fact that certain human struggles are timeless, then they might be able to appreciate the true origination of these works or philosophies.

As I said, we are all born into this existence with a dharma. In its full definition, dharma is the universal order—it is pure reality.

Verily, that which is Dharma is truth.

Therefore they say of a man who speaks truth, “He speaks the Dharma,”
or of a man who speaks the Dharma, “He speaks the Truth.”

Verily, both these things are the same.

~ Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad, 1.4.14

All aspects of the universe are determined by their dharma—it is the law that runs the entire operation (and beyond); the harmony in which all things resonate.

Zach Grether, A Canyon Lake Morning"  - 2013 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest, 2nd Place in Against the Lights Category
Zach Grether, A Canyon Lake Morning” – 2013 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest, 2nd Place in Against the Lights Category


What are those qualities that determine our dharma? Essentially, they are our values, the inner drives that determine how we spend our time and what we work on (toward). Each one of us is unique in the totality and hierarchy of these values, and they are part and parcel with our dharma, not one the cause or result of the other.

My dharma is to teach and to heal—I know this within the depths of my soul. I have no uncertainty about it whatsoever. It runs a little deeper (much deeper), but I want you to understand the essence of dharma. All my decisions are based on this duty I have to the universe, to existence and all its inhabitants. I take this duty seriously. It’s why I am here.

Nothing takes precedence over my purpose, nothing. This does not mean that I do not attend to other aspects of my life—earning money, my children, my relationships, my health. On the contrary, I connect all parts of my life to my purpose, which has been monumental for my decision-making abilities. If it doesn’t fit into my dharma—and believe me, many things don’t—then I don’t do it, period.

It is so easy to get caught up in the externals of life, and in this case, I mean external to our purpose (not dismissing the reality of the interconnectedness of all things). But here is something I discovered: When we are following our purpose (dharma)—when we are doing what we love, what we are here to do—we do not need to focus on the outer details. When we focus on the outer details (the externals), they simply become distractors to our true work. When we focus on our purpose, without attachment to the outcome, trusting in the universal dharma, the outer details take care of themselves. As hard as this may be for some to believe, just consider your life an experiment on this principle, and act accordingly…and you shall soon see.

But dharma again has a deeper meaning than just purpose, and this is a point of focus in The Bhagavad Gita: our dharma, our life’s purpose, is simply a tool for us to understand ourselves on a deeper level, and in this regard, as a matter of indistinguishability, for us to understand God.


And this is where I’ve likely lost the atheistic/materialistic among us. However, if you are still here, just appreciate that we all have a life’s purpose. It need not be grand or lofty, as being the loving caretaker of a beautiful garden and animal children is equally valuable as striving to end all suffering. In the end, our purpose—our dharma—is what drives us. You can help make your life easier (and more fulfilling) by basing all your decisions on your dharma, not focusing on results but on the work itself, and getting to know yourself, and God (sorry atheists) more deeply through complete dedication to your dharma.

*For anyone who would love to uncover his or her dharma, I am available for consultations:

frozen veggiesAre frozen vegetables as good as fresh? Are canned? How about frozen dinners—all the same, right? I definitely believe there is a hierarchy when it comes to food, and I follow this pattern when making food choices. I’ve been doing it for so long that really it’s second nature for me, but I think being conscious of this hierarchy is a good idea for everybody so here goes.

For produce (fruits and vegetables):

Fresh and organic (if it lacks a thick skin, like apples or berries) > fresh and conventional > dried > frozen > canned > nothing > sweetened


I think juiced is better than whole if the volume of produce (fruits and vegetables) one consumes is generally low, or as people get older and have a harder time digesting fiber (it happens in some of us)

For meat

Fresh (the fresher the better), non-hormone, grass-fed (if beef) > fresh conventional > frozen* > cured* > canned* > processed

*(freezing, curing or canning your own fresh caught/cut meats better than mass produced)

imagesIt’s not that I totally avoid anything lower on the chain—that’s crazy. But the majority of what I eat—and I strongly believe this is the best practice—is on the top of the chain. It’s one reason I deplore eating out as a regular practice; you just can’t guarantee top quality ingredients all the time. And I don’t care how ‘nice’ the restaurant is, because you just never really know the whole of it (and anyway, there are other reasons, I believe, that dining out regularly is a poor health practice). It makes travel tough for me, unless I have access to grocery stores, because as I’ve said, I naturally lean toward following these hierarchies.

I think that once one develops a taste for fresh, whole foods it’s pretty hard to veer from them too often…that’s my experience anyway.

DreamerOne way that desire can keep us from achieving what we want:

We often hold ourselves back by using limited perceptions to fantasize about how great our lives will be once we achieve what we desire, but in reality we simply do not yet understand how what we think we want is very different from the way we imagine it. Only through tenacity, struggle, and disillusionment do we fully realize our dreams. You see, reality is far richer than the limited illusions we create in our minds, because without the struggle, the overcoming of obstacles and the disenchantment we wouldn’t fully awaken to the true glory of our magnificent vision. Only in fullness do we experience worldly phenomena, not in the fantasy of the ‘all good, all positive, and all effortless’ like our minds weave from the start. You don’t become your full self by having partial experiences. Not until you experience the full reality of any phenomenon will you graduate to your next ambition. So don’t become blind by chasing the unattainable and running away from the unavoidable—you will get more out of life by not allowing your unrealistic fantasies to guide you.

87609737Saw the tagline, “Same job for 5 years no raise, living the dream…” on Twitter the other day, and I liked it. The line got me thinking about value—both for oneself and others. Now I’m not trying to embarrass anybody by pulling out this tagline, but I think we all can reflect on, and maybe even learn from, the reality that this statement embodies.

I am intrigued by how many people just do not understand the concept of value, particularly the measure of value, which is one of the five functions of money. What something is worth to another person depends on how much they need it (demand), and how easily one can attain that same thing elsewhere (supply). If the item—and this can be an employee performing a certain task, duty or service—is readily available without much difference between sources, then its value will not be very high. If something is specialized, or harder to get, and people need or want that thing, then the value for that item or person providing it will be high. Now obviously economics becomes more complicated as we consider things like minimum wage, regulation and other factors, but in the general sense, monetary compensation is determined by worth to others.

going-out-of-businessSo how does this apply to individuals or businesses? Well on the side of business, perceived value is set in the pricing of goods or services. Again in a general sense, the market will tell a business if the prices it has set really reflect its worth. I say “in general” because other factors, of course, are involved in whether a company is profitable or not—things like marketing, understanding one’s demographics or niche, overhead costs, and so forth—which ultimately will determine the life or death of that business. So in the big picture a company has to be valuable in terms of goods, services and price to the people and communities it serves.

For individuals, two types of worth are important to consider: self-worth (how valuable you are to yourself) and worth to others. Self-worth is important because it determines how we think of ourselves, the goals we set, the risks we take, and ultimately how big we allow ourselves to dream. Low self-worth individuals keep themselves thinking and playing small, they allow others to walk all over them, and they allow fear (based on not feeling worthy enough) to guide their actions, and thus govern what they receive in life.

self-esteemMany of us have had low self-worth at some point in our lives. And many of us have also changed those patterns of belief within ourselves, and have thus gotten to experience the profound transformations that occur as a result of doing so. You may wonder how self-worth is truly and permanently changed in individuals, but this I will have to save for another post.* Just suffice it to say that it can be changed by anyone.

The other type of value is one’s worth to others. What do you provide for the world; what do you provide for others? Do you do something that makes other peoples’ lives easier? Have you created something—a tool perhaps (an app, software, process, etc.)? Do you make beautiful things? Do you make people look or feel beautiful? Do you do specialized work, like adjust the spine, clean pools, build things, or something that takes skill and know-how? Do you have special knowledge—of the law, of the human body, of metaphysics, of connecting to God? What do you do that other people can benefit from? And within your area of expertise, what makes you different from the others that do similar work? Aha! And this final question is what brings us back to square one.

rodman-reboundYou see, in the real world, what makes you special (self and other worth) is the most important factor in determining how much money you make. People are only going to pay you if you provide them with something they value. I remember a young street girl in Berkeley where I was a university student asking me for money one day; when I refused, she offered to recite a poem for a price. Now while I’m sure that she was a uniquely talented artist, her offer simply held no value for me. Had she offered to teach me physics or write a paper for me, on the other hand, I might have considered it…but clearly her solicitation was not considering the concept of value in an exchange.

url-12The same holds true in any monetary exchange including employment. If you work for a company and you do nothing to increase your value to them, then the chances that you will get a pay increase are pretty slim. Time served is simply not enough. Employees don’t always understand that laws prevent companies from just dumping people that don’t stand out, but you can probably bet (now that you are reading this) that your failure to get a pay raise is a direct reflection of your value to the company. It means that your work isn’t very much different from that of your peers; and it probably also means that the company believes if you were to leave—on your own volition, of course—that they probably couldn’t do any worse with somebody else, and they might even do better. That’s value connected to supply and demand!

The big moneySo how can you get a pay increase? You must demonstrate value to the person or company employing you, and that value has to be above and beyond what your competitors (peers) are offering. You first must be crystal clear on what that person or company values. This is where many people fail. They think that it should be something like time served, or a winning personality, or something else that likely only has value to them. But please understand that companies exist to earn profit. This is not an evil thing. Companies also provide goods and services, yes, and thus they provide a value to the world; but in the end: no profit = no company. And no company means every person working for that company is now unemployed. You see, it’s easy to vilify business in its quest for profits, but in the end many lives are connected to the life or death of a company, so considering the big picture is more realistic than what many do when evaluating the ethics of capitalism.

Here’s the bottom line: You want a pay raise—you need to show that business how you will help them be more profitable, period.

Champagne-Toast (Copy)If you can’t show a company how you will help them be profitable, then why would they value you above the average employee? Oh you think you are entitled to it over time…not if the company is not hugely successful you’re not. Yes if a company explodes—like Google, Facebook, or the government—then you’ll get a pay increase just for being on the team. But that’s not 99% of businesses: Profitability and extreme profitability are not the same, so if you aren’t showing your value to the company—how you individually and uniquely help that company be profitable—then you can hold your breath for your ten-year gold Rolex, because you probably aren’t going to get much of a pay hike unless the entire market goes upward. But if you can show your employer (clients) how what you do is valuable for them, and how if you were to no longer do it they might actually be less profitable and maybe even lose money (time, health, their freedom, etc), then you will be of utmost value to them, and I promise you, any smart company will pay for that.

*If you would love to know how to increase your self-worth your worth to others, and thus your financial worth, I am available for consultations: contact

flat,550x550,075,f One way that fear can keep us from achieving what we want:

We often hold ourselves back by using limited perceptions to imagine what our obstacles might be, but in reality we have no idea of what we will actually encounter in any endeavor. We think that we understand how the game is played, so we can, to some degree, know how things will carry out, but all we really have is an idea of what we think should happen, a script that only exists in our minds. Funny how the things we assume will challenge us are very often not the real obstacles; but other things come, things we can’t predict or even imagine until we actually take the leap. You have to understand that you will find a new way to solve the problems that you couldn’t even conceive were coming; and that you will forge who you are exactly by carrying out a unique struggle in that area of life in which you are choosing to play. So don’t hold yourself back from playing—you will get more out of life by not allowing your unfounded fears to guide you.


Two important studies for mind-body dynamics have been recently published showing more evidence for the crucial role of the mind in the healing process.While it might be tempting to think that healing is of a purely physical nature, evidence is surfacing to show us just how integral the mind really is in the process. These current studies just deepen the possibility that the mental is as important as physical when it comes to the body’s recovery, restoration and repair.

The most interesting aspect of these findings, however, are being largely ignored by the researchers, I believe. While I agree with the conclusions on both studies, I think that they are merely touching the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps they feel the necessity to remain conservative in their analysis, so as not to push any paradigmatic parameters, but I think their results reveal something even bigger—and a massive opening for further research. Check it:

The first study, published in the December 2012 issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science, looked at people who had undergone surgery for the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a common and serious knee injury. Participants were split into two groups—one receiving rehab only and one receiving rehab plus guided imagery (a form of visualization). Both groups completed six months of rehab. The guided imagery was carried out with the help of a therapist, and included mentally rehearsing physical therapy exercises, as well as visualizing the physiological healing process—for example, scar tissue breaking up and gentle stretching. The group practicing the guided imagery showed greater improvement in knee stability and decreased levels of stress hormones. Wow!

The second study, conducted at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and published in the February 2012 issue of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, looked at a group of patients scheduled to undergo gallbladder removal. Again the patients were split into two groups—one receiving standard care only, and the other receiving standard care plus relaxation and guided imagery techniques for three days prior and seven days after surgery.

“We used a relaxation intervention to try to reduce stress and therefore get a better inflammatory response to surgery and improve healing.” ~ Elizabeth Broadbent, professor of medicine, University of Auckland, in New Zealand

Visualize HealingThe first three days of guided imagery were focused on being relaxed and ready for the surgery, while the seven days following the procedure were focused on the body’s healing process (the group visualized oxygen and nutrients travelling to the wound site and helping the body knit the skin back together, easing discomfort, and providing “soothing relief.”) The group practicing the imaging techniques reported a larger reduction in stress than the control group, while their wound showed signs of greater collagen deposition and faster healing. Booyah!

But here is where I feel that both sets of  authors might be practicing a bit of conservative caution. They believe that their results showed, most predominantly, a decreased stress response, which is what improved healing. Now there’s no doubt in my mind that this is an essential piece to the puzzle—yet it is merely one piece, I believe, and a small one at that. What these studies say to me is that the mind is a major player in the healing process (and all physiological processes for that matter), and by using it in a focused manner—by visualizing details of the physiological mechanism of healing—we can actually guide the process along. Because, you see, I am certain we ‘create’ physical phenomena all the time. We already know that we can stimulate physiological processes (like heart rate and ventilation) by visualizing physical exertion (like running on a treadmill). So it’s no surprise to me that study participants increased their healing response by visualizing it happening on the cellular and molecular level.

I introduce this concept in my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, where I describe the digestive process in detail, and encourage readers to visualize the process as they eat a meal, to enhance digestion (more on this in a future post). Yes I am sure guided imagery also helped the subjects relax, and that the decreased stress response assisted in recovery by creating an environment conducive to healing. But I just can’t ignore the real possibility that by mentally visualizing the physical processes unfolding the entire phenomenon is enhanced in some way. It makes me recall the neurological findings that our bodies already carry out some ‘conscious’ physical actions before we are actually aware of them. So, somehow, we are not as conscious of our actions as we think. Just tells me there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to our physiological processes—obvious when we consider things like daily autonomic functions, but maybe not so much (although equally possible) when considering less rhythmic, yet equally regular, processes like healing.

Mind-body healingNow I know at least one criticism to my thoughts on this subject will be: But people heal all the time without visualizing the process, so that can’t be the sole, or even the primary, factor in healing…to which I would reply: Right, because on some level everybody is in-tune with the fact that, as living organisms, we do heal…so that belief, that understanding, that expectation, is already playing a role in the healing process, even if unconsciously. However, by focusing conscious thought on the healing process itself, I believe that it is possible to enhance the outcome, and these studies only seem to add credence to this notion. The real beauty in all of this is that for the open-minded scientist these findings are preliminary data that can and should lead to more detailed studies in the future investigating the mind’s role in the physiological mechanisms that make up the healing process. Pretty cool if you ask me.

food allergiesSeveral months ago I wrote a post on food sensitivities, and how I believe this ubiquitous human trait to be at the root of the inordinate amount of digestive disorders plaguing the US and much of the western world today. I would like to take this time to explain the process by which I believe food sensitivities move from a source of irritation, to symptoms, to chronic conditions, to frank diseases over time; and I will also discuss how this process is currently dealt with by the mainstream medical machine (your doctors). Once I am finished, I think you will clearly understand why I think this dynamic is what’s really leading to the explosion of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders in modern society.

As I have explained before, I believe that every person on this planet is sensitive to a variety of foods. These sensitivities differ from individual to individual. They can be as unique in their totality as the person possessing them. Some people are sensitive to nuts, some to dairy and others to shellfish—yes, your typical food allergens; the one’s that medical science recognizes and even tests for.

Berry + Walnut Salad with Strawberry Vinagrette (Copy)But some people are sensitive to foods that modern medicine would never consider causative agents in your typical GI disorders. Berries, melons, leafy green vegetables, chocolate, mint can all be disruptive to some people. I know—I happen to be sensitive to every one of these foods, each causing me symptoms that over time can become quite serious (I’ve done the research). And I have seen everything from chicken, to blueberries, to tomatoes cause symptoms in my children. Now while I believe that food sensitivities vary among people, I am quite certain that they follow a pattern of inheritance. One of my children definitely shares my sensitivities, while the other is similar to her mother, a food sensitivity body-type inheritance if you will.

I wish to be clear that I am not talking about food allergies here, which are a very distinct type of immune reaction to undigested proteins. The body sees these proteins as foreign and, as a result, goes on attack. This is precisely what medical science looks for when they do food allergy testing. The foods typically known to cause allergic reactions (some life threatening, like anaphylaxis) are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, shellfish, soy and wheat (the “big eight”).

Food sensitivities, however, are somewhat controversial among medical professionals (particularly in the UK and Netherlands), and thus do not show up on the radar of most medical doctors. Although I know a handful of rather open-minded and wise docs, I am certain that most shrug-off the notion that food sensitivities are primary causative factors to many GI symptoms epidemic in modern society. This is a big mistake.


After consuming a food that one is sensitive to, the body can respond in a number of different ways. My observation is that there exists a sensitivity spectrum within each person, such that some foods will cause a worse reaction than others in a person. For instance, I can actually have a few berries here and there—a blessing as I absolutely love them—and an occasional green salad won’t bother me too much, despite the fact that I can barely digest lettuce (I’ll spare you from the gory details, but let’s just say my body removes it as quickly as possible). Too much of either, however, and I get heartburn (acid reflux) and watery stool respectively (Sorry! Some gory details are necessary). Pork is another food I must be cautious with. While I love salami, more than just a little leads to some serious heartburn for me, which can last as long as a few days. Chocolate, on the other hand, hits me hard: I’ve had multiple episodes of severe gastritis, which on at least one occasion had sent me to the ER, where I had my healthy appendix graciously removed (because the notion that food sensitivities might be leading to a severe case of gastritis just wasn’t in the playbook [read: consciousness] of the staff there).

All of these GI symptoms—from the minor to the severe—are simply the body’s attempt to remove an ingested food item that is acting like a poison to that body-type. I will admit, though, that I do not know the exact mechanism of the food sensitivity reactions. That will be for medical science to figure out once they finally acknowledge the prevalence and etiology of the phenomenon. But I am rather confident that most GI symptoms are the body’s intelligent response to the ingestion of a food which is an irritant (in the case of foods which lie on the milder side of the spectrum) or toxin (chocolate in me) to that body.

acid reflux medication

Think about it: Halitosis, hiccups, heartburn, excessive gas, bloating, cramping, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea—all are symptoms of the body trying to either remove an ingested food item, or the effects of that item being digested incompletely. But since your average medical doctor will likely not consider food sensitivities as a factor in your GI disorder, what do you think happens? Yes, he or she will go into the standard medical playbook, consider the symptoms only, and prescribe a treatment based on the severity and duration of those symptoms. Short-term and mild GI symptoms (those on the lower end of the spectrum) will get medicated, while the more severe and chronic cases will receive first a bevy of diagnostic testing (to observe how your physiology is changing—think endoscopy and colonoscopy) and then either medication, surgery or both. No doubt some docs will consider diet to a slight degree in your case management, but rarely will they do so as a serious or long term approach. And that’s where the real fun begins.

So the patient goes home with his or her medication and goes back to business as usual. You see, the rationale behind the medical approach to GI disorders, in general, is that it’s due to a genetic predisposition. In other words, they believe that by chance one just overproduces gastric acid leading to reflux; or by poor luck of the draw, one’s intestinal motility lags, so digested food is passed through the system slowly (causing constipation). The answer, then, is to overcome this genetic defect in physiological function by prescribing a powerful chemical substance. So essentially the medical message is, “Sorry you’re just one unlucky sucker, but you’re also lucky because we have the solution—medicine!” Now does this message really make sense?


Try applying that logic to any other physical phenomenon and you will see how truly pathetic it is. It’s akin to believing in spirits, and you know how science feels about that… This belief, which unfortunately has been infused into the consciousness of the general public, leads to symptom suppression, which works for a short time only, since the actual cause of symptoms has not been addressed. Ultimately, the body will work hard to overcome this suppression, because symptoms are not only the body’s response to insult, but also its communication—a way of letting us know that something is wrong. In this case, digestive symptoms are our body’s way of letting us know that we are poisoning it. And how does the human body overcome medicinal suppression—by increasing its physiological response, which in turn, increases symptoms.

So in practical terms: If you take heartburn meds for long enough, your body will fight back with greater heartburn. If you take antiflatulents, anti-diarrheals or anti-constipation meds long-term, then just watch your body rebound with even worse flatulence, worse diarrhea and worse constipation, whatever the case might be. Don’t believe me? Then go for it, but if you’re wise you’ll just take a look around you at all the people suffering from digestive disorders, and you’ll see them playing out the exact scenario I am describing.


Stomach Cancer

Over time this cycle of increasing GI symptoms, to suppression with medications, to even worse GI symptoms, to suppression with more potent medication, to even worse symptoms, is what I believe is the precursor to serious GI diseases—things like Barrett’s esophagus, stomach cancer, acute pancreatitis, cholecystitis, gallstones, Crohn’s disease, and colon cancer. I’m fairly confident that every one of these disorders results from repeatedly eating foods that the body is sensitive to, and ultimately, they act as a form of poison leading to pathophysiology and frank disease.

I’d like to finish by asking two final questions: One, do you really think pharmaceutical scientists, medical doctors, herb pushers or anybody else selling an outside-in remedy for your digestive disorders is smarter than your own body? And two, do you really think that the random chance, crummy luck of the genetic draw explanation for the prevalence of digestive disorders in the western world makes more sense than the innate intelligence of the body communicating through symptoms explanation? I thought so. Listen to your body.

More to come.

obesity (Copy)To do my part in the War on Obesity I decided to rekindle some old posts from 2011 and Tweet my thoughts on extreme fatness. As far as I can see, obesity numbers haven’t budged in the last two years, and even more likely is that they continue to creep upward. For those who don’t know:

In the US:

  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.
  • Between 1988–1994 and 2007–2008 the prevalence of obesity increased in adults at all income and education levels.
  • In 2010, there were 12 states with an obesity prevalence of 30%. In 2000, no state had an obesity prevalence of 30% or more.
  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

And in England:

  • _63000811_006009000-1 (Copy)
    The proportion of adults with a normal BMI decreased between 1993 and 2011 from 41% to 34% among men and from 50% to 39% among women.
  • The proportion that were overweight including obese increased from 58% to 65% in men and from 49% to 58% in women between 1993 and 2011
  • There was a marked increase in the proportion of adults that were obese from 13% in 1993 to 24% in 2011 for men and from 16% to 26% for women.
  • In 2011/12, around one in ten pupils in Reception class (aged 4-5 years) were classified as obese (9.5%) which compares to around a fifth of pupils in Year 6 (aged 10-11 years) (19.2%)

And just as when I first wrote those posts in 2011, the reaction was heated. So many ‘experts’ having the answer. Obesity is this. Obesity is that…yet I still hear the same ol’ stuff: straw grasping, the hope of finding that one thing that will deflate the worldwide obesity epidemic. Yeah, okay…

KC_Fitness_Magazine_launches_new_weight__523650000_20130426113224_640_480 (Copy)Honestly, I find it humorous…the numbers that come forward when the obesity Tweets go up, proclaiming this or that great idea or program. So convinced are these folks that they are wowing the world with groundbreaking information—something new; something we haven’t heard before. Genetics, hormones, enzyme imbalance, biochemistry… Wow! Really?! My goodness, who would have thought…?! Call the Nobel people…

Really it’s what I think when the responses come pouring in. And that’s exactly what I thought when I was approached by a young doctor and researcher by the name of Jameson Voss, a third year Preventive Medicine Resident at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.  His current research focuses on obesity, specifically the correlation between obesity and altitude, which has an inverse relationship he’s found. His recent work has investigated the obesity numbers throughout the United States and has found that as elevation increases, obesity numbers actually decrease, and they do so significantly. Hmmm…

downloadAs I started scanning his work, two things about Dr. Voss became immediately apparent: one is that he is a real professional, doing real work in the realm of the physiological sciences, not simply some schmuck selling books, or a weight loss program, or a television show, like many people I encounter when the obesity subject arises; and two, his work actually demonstrates some interesting aspects of obesity (or morphology, in general) that may not be readily apparent on first glance; but I assure you that if you think about it, and think about some physiological principles, as well as some of the things that I’ve been discussing in those earlier posts, you will see that it all makes perfect sense. You will see that Dr. Voss’ findings fit perfectly with the criteria that I’ve been screaming about for years: That there is no need to attempt to change what we already know about human physiology and metabolism; that there is no need to create a whole new theory on metabolic physiology by throwing out fundamental concepts—like calories, food type, or average food volume consumed—and instead focus on the biochemical and/or hormonal markers as the keys to understanding (and ‘defeating’) this seemingly enigmatic disorder.

Doctor Voss’ study found two interesting things: one, as I’ve already mentioned, is the inverse correlation between obesity and altitude, and two, a second inverse correlation, this time to urbanization. So as population density increases, obesity goes down. Wow, so what’s happening here?

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Age Adjusted Obesity Prevalence by County. This image was obtained from, but this particular map represents obesity prevalence and not diabetes.

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A topographical map of the USA. Note the similarities with the figure above.

If you remember my post on the parasympathetic nervous system, and the role it plays in metabolism, I discussed that when we perceive ourselves to be in a stressful/challenging situation, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in to put us into the fight-or-flight mode. When that challenge then diminishes, and we feel safe, when we perceive ourselves to be supported and secure, when we essentially feel comfortable, then we go into a parasympathetic response—the rest-and-digest mode. Remember that I described how obese people have been found to be in an ANS (autonomic nervous system) or  parasympathetic imbalance—their rest-and-digest is overactive. In this state, metabolism slows down and fat storage increases, and this is one reason why obese people show slower gains in losing weight than do non-obese people.

fat-man-on-segway (Copy)Okay, so what does this have to do with Dr. Voss’ work? As I explained in those post on obesity and ANS imbalance, I believe there is an unrecognized, or better an unacknowledged, mental component to obesity. I believe that as people feel comfortable, as their daily challenges decrease, the more they operate in the rest-and-digest mode. People that live in cities just have to deal with a higher volume of daily stresses than do people living rurally or in the suburbs. Take it from a guy that has spent the last twenty plus years fighting Los Angeles traffic. I’ve had a knife put up to my neck simply for asking a young man to graciously remove his car from my office parking space…yes, these are the types of stresses which are so commonplace among urban jungle dwellers. You just never know when you’ll be the next person to be thrown onto the subway tracks…get it? It’s not that people living outside of cities don’t have stress, but as a way of life…well, I just never have trouble finding parking at the 7-11 outside the city’s parameters, if you know what I mean.

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And what about elevation? Well again it has to do with challenge, but this time the challenge is of a physiological nature. Because of the lower density of oxygen at higher altitudes, it is much harder to pick up this vital molecule during respiration, and as a result the body has to work harder for the same oxygen need as it does at sea level.

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download (1)This fact is precisely why boxers have trained at higher elevations for years (and the effects cyclists try to recreate doping with erythropoietin [EPO]). The challenges to cellular and cardiopulmonary respiration force the body to produce more red blood cells, because quantity here makes up for the decreased quality of oxygen uptake by the present red blood cells, and so a stress to the body occurs. This challenge, I believe, like any challenge to the body (and mind for that matter) forces the body into a higher metabolic rate—in other words, burning fuel becomes more efficient to power the increased demand on the human body. And because this physiological challenge is persistent, it gives people living in higher elevations an advantage with regard to burning fuel. Does this mean that people living at higher elevations won’t put on weight? No! We all have the potential to become overweight or obese, no matter what the elevation; but the increased physiological challenge across the population would explain why, relative to people living closer to sea level, that this population has significantly lower obesity rates.

09-pg-horizontal (Copy)Again, however, I wish to remind the reader to not get fixated on the physical aspect of stress. I truly believe that what we are seeing physiologically with populations living in higher elevations is a similar phenomenon to what we see with urbanization—it’s stress, both physical and mental, that puts people into sympathetic overdrive, and thus more efficient fuel (fat) burners. As I pointed out in some of the post from 2011, obesity is far more prevalent in Western developed nations. Again, when we feel relatively secure, safe, and supported—like we do in most western nations—we will have the tendency to lean toward a predominantly parasympathetic state. Wars, drought, famine or the constant threat of terrorism do not allow for parasympathetic imbalance, and thus obesity is purely an epidemic of wealth and convenience.

Obesity by Nations

So in my mind the answer is not to be found solely in one physical activity over another, as in diet over exercise, or by sitting in a  hypobaric chamber, nor will it be found solely in challenging oneself, because the obesity epidemic (not case-by-case obesity, but in its totality) is more complex than that. Other psychological factors play a role too, I believe—far too numerous to discuss in this piece—but I’ve touched upon some in the past. I just wish to be clear that I believe the missing piece to the obesity puzzle is in psychology, not simply in more reductive physiology.

060823_altitude_train_vlrg_8a.widec (Copy)Saying that, I am impressed with Dr. Voss’ work and his group’s observation of the inverse correlation between both elevation and urbanization and the prevalence of obesity. To me it is clear-cut evidence that the body responds to perceived stresses—both physical (as in respiratory challenges, or knives to the neck) and mental (perceived challenges, traffic, and so forth)—by entering a sympathetic response, and thus increased metabolism. The more time spent under perceived stress, the more the sympathetic response will be (which comes with its own associated negative physical consequences—like high blood pressure, myocardial infarction, among other symptoms and conditions).

Thank you Dr. Voss for your work. For me, at least, it provides some hard data illustrating real physiological and metabolic principles. It fits into a framework of what we already know about physiology, metabolism and obesity. But most important, it isn’t trying to recreate the wheel by claiming any new and fantastic theories about nature and the underlying mechanisms of metabolism within the obese physiology. That is exceptional work in my book.

human_guinea_pigsHow does it feel to be a human medical guinea pig, part of vast research project to determine whether ADHD is a true medical condition or not? And also to determine whether the current prescribed treatment—pharmaceutical speed—is a valuable treatment option for said potential disorder? Forget that the researchers (scientists, doctors, politicians, school officials, teachers, parents) have already made up their minds before the results have come in—that’s today’s medical research, philosophy and practice whether you like it or not. But how does it feel that your children are the ones being indiscriminately tested on? Oh wait…you don’t believe me…ah, I see…well then:

A recent study now suggests that Ritalin and other speed drugs regularly fed to children might cause long-term brain changes. You don’t say? Gosh, I recall some quack with a blog reporting that vociferously over the last few years… Yes, according to the study, users of methylphenidate (most commonly sold as Ritalin) had higher levels of a protein called the dopamine transporter in their brains after one year of treatment compared to before they starting taking the drug. And these increased levels may lead to future drug tolerance, and get this…”could result in more severe inattention”!

Dopamine_TransporterScientists have speculated that people with ADHD naturally have more dopamine transporters in their brains, but according to study researcher Dr. Gene-Jack Wang, of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., the new study suggests that the increase comes from the drug treatment itself and is not associated with the so-called condition alone. Prior to the study, none of the participants had ever been treated with ADHD drugs.

Even scarier is that this study only looked at the effects following one year of speed medication therapy. It is unknown what the longer-term effects might be. Do you still feel good about subjecting your kid to an ongoing medical study?

Among study participants, a 24% increase in the number of dopamine transporters was found in some areas of the brain, while there was no increase in dopamine transporters in a group of healthy participants who did not take Ritalin.

doctor worship (Copy)So my question to parents is, “Why?” Why do some of you so unquestioningly trust the authority of a profession that treats with dangerous drugs first, does research later? Isn’t anyone else out there uncomfortable with the notions of, “We believe that possibly…,” “We think it might…,” and other rationalizations of uncertainty when it comes to the health of your children? I would never, ever, ever subject my child to drugs because some arrogant professionals tell me that they “believe it might help.” Sorry but that’s sloppy parenting.

Unfortunately, too many people still consider medical science their ultimate health authority. No doubt, modern medicine does some pretty incredible things, but I am not placing my faith in a practice and industry that often acts before it knows…not when it comes to the health of me and my loved ones. Yes, I am offended by the modern medical approach to what I have so openly called a “non-condition.” ADD is NOT a disorder. We all have it when we are forced to endure something that doesn’t inspire us. Drugging our children because we can’t understand how to tap into their inspiration is not the answer. Hopefully this study is the beginning of the end to this massive public guinea pig project…but I doubt it.

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I recently discussed the concept of physiological variability, and how it’s factor most responsible for rendering a one-diet-best-for-all nonexistent. Part of that variability expresses itself in the form of food sensitivities. Every person walking this planet has a sensitivity to one food item or another–of this I am convinced; and it would make sense, since we probably share some genetic differences with a group of others, which account for these sensitivities. And it’s these food sensitivities, I believe, that are responsible for the majority of gastrointestinal or digestive ailments plaguing the world today.

To give you an example, I cannot handle berries of any kind digestively. Yes berries. They give me heartburn. Now I can eat a handful here or there; a small amount not being the problem (a blessing that allows me occasional indulgences). It is if I were to eat either a large amount in one sitting (unlikely), or a moderate amount over a longer period (much more likely) that I would experience significant symptoms.

berries (Copy)How do I know that berries bother me? Well I didn’t for many years, but I simply observed…and as I learned to become more in-tune with the messages my body sends me (subject of an upcoming post), I became aware of the various foods that caused me symptoms.

It is not that a handful of berries is benign to my body, I’d like to point out–I just don’t have symptoms severe enough to really challenge me one way or another with a small amount. So even just a moderate amount of berries can give me an ever-so-slight heartburn. But I am definitely aware of the subtle change. To be so one really needs to practice tuning into one’s interoceptive senses.

food-sensitivities (Copy)Most people, however, are unaware of which foods they are sensitive to, with the exception perhaps of some real obvious ones, like lactose intolerance, for example, or allergies to shell fish…you know, the typical “food allergies” recognized by medical science. But sensitivity to berries, or mint, or chocolate (all sensitivities of mine) are not, and may never be, recognized by western medicine; I guess only time will tell. But again, I believe that every person walking the planet has sensitivities to foods western medical science would consider perfectly normal, non-reactive foods.

But one need only look as far as the prevalence of gastrointestinal disorders in the U.S. According to the Health and Human Service’s National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC):

  • 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. affected by one digestive disorder or another
  • 13.5 million people hospitalized every year
  • 236,164 annual deaths
  • 12 percent of all inpatient procedures
  • 31 percent of all ambulatory procedures

The conditions include:

Why so many digestive disorders? As I’ve said before, when medical science has no explanation for the true cause of disease, it tends to fall back on the ol’ randomness reasoning, disguised as something sophisticated, which they call genetics. Yeah right. Genetics are highly intertwined with evolutionary processes; our digestive systems evolved over millions of years. Genetics, as it is rationalized, is NOT the cause of the high prevalence of GI disorders—it’s diet!

gene-11 (Copy)Yes, GI disorders are about what you eat and drink. Some of that is obvious, like the amount of food one eats, or how much booze one imbibes, but I am convinced that the majority of digestive disorders stems from people chronically ingesting foods that they are sensitive to. It can be subtle enough for awhile that they don’t catch what’s bothering them—and believe me it’s very easy to blow off when symptoms are minor and transient—but over time, or as a particular food increases in frequency of consumption, symptoms can intensify, and even lead to flat out disease. Further, because many of these foods are considered “healthy” by medical science, academia, the popular media, and the average man’s common sense…well, they get overlooked.

Because, yeah, everybody knows that berries are good for you—why would they be harmful?

Next post: The probable sequence of events leading from sensitivity to disease. Stay tuned.

hysteriaHave your chaise longues ready folks, because this post is guaranteed to tickle. For me it’s in the taste of irony with regard to the history of an old guard prone to the accusations, oppression and persecution of any professions that it has considered an economic or authoritative competitor. But for you it may be the tickle of a different sort, one regarding a history of another kind.

Once upon a time the medical profession recognized a disorder known as female hysteria.  In the mid-19th century this condition was thought to result from the stresses of modern living. As the name indicates, it was a purely female phenomenon, and the symptoms included faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble.” Although the notion of female hysteria actually dates as far back as ancient Greece, it is the relatively more recent classification that interests me.

dr_swift (Copy)“The women who visit me vary in age and social standing. Some of the women have husbands, some are single and there have even been ladies of the night pay me a visit. There is no pattern to when or how their female hysteria will be brought on and the only way I have found to effect a cure is by the method of pelvic massage.”*

The prescribed treatment for this gender-specific stress disorder was the pelvic massage. Yes, doctors would treat patients to a hands-on genital rubbing, until the hysterical female reached sexual climax. Voilà! Patient cured by orgasm—well, until the next episode that is…

“My husband was shocked at my repeat visits to the doctor but insisted I should employ a maid at the house who would learn the doctor’s methods and deal with me whenever I required her services.”*

On first thought it might be easy to misconstrue that treating female hysteria was a pleasurable act for both doctor and patient, but in actuality it was an arduous task, so much that it was not uncommon for the therapeutic duties to be passed on to a midwife, or even a husband. Some women would take hours to reach “healing”, and this seriously cut into the time and economics for the doctor. As a result, a number of useful items were born, because as they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

f6a6ede3bcedba45ed13366ca63d3b84_vice_670 (Copy)The first item of interest was the fainting room. Homes we’re built with private rooms in which hysterical ladies would be treated; they were furnished with the latest in hysteria decor, like the fainting couch. These chaise longues were specifically designed for the ease and comfort of receiving pelvic massages. Finally, as doctors became overwhelmed by ever-increasing patient load, two nifty little devices were spawned. The water massager and the vibrator.

5898537729_539d755884_z (Copy)“In 1902, the American company Hamilton Beach patented the first electric vibrator available for consumer retail sale as opposed to medical usage, making the vibrator the fifth domestic appliance to be electrified, after the sewing machine, fan, tea kettle, and toaster, and about a decade before the vacuum cleaner and electric iron.” ~ Wikipedia

That’s right, folks—you can thank modern medical science for your pocket rockets, magic wands and jack rabbits–mechanical massagers designed to cure the ubiquitous condition of female hysteria. In an era when it was unfathomable that women had sexual needs that went beyond reproduction, these handy little stimulators were the buzz of medical technology.

“To get the best possible results and a thorough massage you must use The American Vibrator. No modern home is complete without one. Our machine is guaranteed.” ~ American Vibrator Company, St. Louis, Mo.

firstvibrator1902 (Copy)The twentieth century saw a sharp decline in the number of diagnosed cases of female hysteria, as study and observation could yield no particular cause for the disorder. In fact, over 75 pages of different causes were ascribed to female hysteria, some pointing out that it became a catchall diagnosis for any unidentifiable ailment.

800px-Designvibratoren (Copy)Sigmund Freud himself was at the forefront of reclassifying hysteria (from schizophreniaconversion disorders and anxiety attacks for example) into the now more commonly used anxiety neurosis. As society learned more about human sexuality, the practice of classifying what we would consider today as the need for a good ol’ romp a medical disorder diminished. Lucky for us the manufacture and sale of vibrators continued, but starting in the 1960′s they were hawked for the same uses that they are today—as sexual stimulators.

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The irony for me is that  today modern medicine continues to focus on other (alternative) healing professions’ sometimes less than rational historical roots, as a way to undermine what have become in many cases very rational practices. But from bloodletting to lobotomies, modern medicine has had its fair share of irrational theories and practices, some that continue today (like pharmaceutical treatments for ADD and depression). Cultural practices evolve with our understanding of the body, mind and physics. As we learn more, we adapt how we address “problems”. Sometimes it’s as simple as doing away with an illogical morality, as the curious case of female hysteria has proven. Paradigms change, and when we change our behaviors as a result we get closer to truly helping people. By the same token, without the challenge of finding a cure for female hysteria, we might still have some very overworked doctors, midwives and husbands. Phew…hallelujah.

*Legitimacy of quote unconfirmed

94_G (Copy)This post is not for the squeamish. If you’re grossed out easily–stop reading–because it’s about cerumen…yes, earwax. If you’ve ever had a feeling of fullness in one ear or both, or even heard crackling or swishing sounds, you may have an ear canal full of wax. I’ve had it before, a potato farm in fact, and was just reminded today of the possibility when a client asked me about his “stuffed up ear”.

Earwax or cerumen is the body’s natural protector of the ear canalInnate Intelligence at work in the same way tears, mucus, and saliva protect their respective entrance ways from microorganisms. A yellowish waxy substance, cerumen protects the skin of the human ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides protection from bacteria, fungi, insects and water. But when earwax gets impacted into the ear canal, it can lead to some annoyances and a few flat out problems.

Impacted cerumen can block the auditory canal leading to tinnitus (a ringing, swishing, or other type of noise). Because of the multitude of head noises, anything that blocks the ear canal lessens incoming noises from the outside environment, and thus increases one’s awareness of the inner movements of fluids and such. Water can also get trapped in the blocked canal creating a swishing sound, particularly on moving the head. Anybody who has experienced this know how unnerving it can be.

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Cerumen can get impacted from using a Q-tip to clean the ears. That was the case with me, and I was certain my ears were clean, as was my client today, but I soon learned otherwise. While in chiropractic college, my first student intern took a look in my ears and exclaimed, “Holy ear funk–you’ve got a lot of wax!” Nonsense I thought, but he advised I buy an irrigation tool and clean out my ear canals that way. And boy was he right. Pencil eraser shaped bullets washed out of my ears. Yeah, it was a sight.

But it wasn’t until I went to see an ENT (ears, nose and throat doctor) for severe sinus headaches that I had the shock of my life. He went into my ear with a little sculpting like tool, and out came a rock the size of Gibraltar. Truly I was shocked by the size because I would have never even guessed the ear canal to be able to hold such a geological specimen. Dang!

earwax_twig_ruler (Copy)Although tinnitus can be caused by a number of other things, impacted earwax can lead to some real hearing problems. One is conductive hearing loss. As opposed to sensorineural hearing loss, which is an actual insult to the auditory nerve, conductive hearing loss results from the blockage of sound waves into the ear canal. So if you find yourself saying, “Huh? What? Whadja say?” a lot…you might want to get your ears checked for impacted wax.

Some other symptoms of impacted cerumen:

  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • A feeling of itchiness in the ear
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Odor coming from the ear
  • Dizziness

2008_11_01 (Copy)My client today was quick and adamant to let me know his ears were clean. And I relayed my Rock of Gibraltar story to him, because…yeah, I thought mine were too. But unless someone is looking in with an otoscope…uh, don’t be so sure. And if you just can’t stomach going to the doctor, then purchase an irrigation tool kit. This setup will have some oil drops to place in your ears to soften the wax. After a few minutes you can stat squirting water in with the bulb, and trust me when I say you might be in for a shock. Just don’t be so quick with putting a lid on the job, because it may take a number of squirts–ten, twenty, just hang in there. And, really, stop the Q-tip stuff. Believe me that activity as a regular practice is probably doing more harm then good by really packing that wax in tight. Okay, you don’t want to be oozing cerumen on your collar–a Q-tip can be sometimes appropriate, but I certainly wouldn’t make it a daily habit.

There you go: If you’ve made it this far, you’ve got an iron stomach. Or very waxy ears. What?! Huh?! Whadja say?! Clean your ears, pops.

130111132600-pmt-dr-mehmet-oz-piers-gets-a-flu-shot-00003502-horizontal-gallery (Copy)You know what I love about T.V.? Watching it evolve from a thoroughly controlled entity replete with scripts, laugh tracks and network censorship, to a medium of ‘reality’ documentation—free-flowing, Kardashian-like dimensionality, every turd up for evaluation. Just brilliant!

And nothing more perfect to shed light on one of our most archaic belief systems than the good ol’ fashioned boob tube. The scene couldn’t have been more perfect. While every other industry has been molded and reshaped like a burning rod of steel pounded unmercifully by the hammer of modernity, the outside-in disease model of modern medicine has, oddly, remained unscathed. As a result, the old guard has clung to their outdated beliefs so strongly that they have literally blinded themselves to common sense. No, not common sense in the mass consciousness tomfoolery sort of way that the term is usually meant for, but in the “we-are-having-keen-observations-in-spite-of-the-BS-you’ve-been-trying-to-feed-us” kind of way.

Take the flu shot for example: I’ve reported in this blog numerous times the evidence implicating the vaccine as the biggest medical hoax of the last hundred years. In fact, I got so tired presenting obvious holes in the flu shot bull shot that I vowed to retire from the business. But then along comes a story so juicy, I just couldn’t resist. Thank you T.V. 2013!

Piers Sick After Flu Shot (Copy)In true dramatic form, American television unleashed two of its brightest stars—Piers Morgan, the pompous British ‘reality T.V.’ journalist, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Oprah spin-off in his most famous role as the culture’s leading medical authority—in an attempt to strengthen the establishment’s propaganda on the flu shot. If you are unaware of the script—and you’d really have to have spent the last two decades tucked away in a cave for that to be the case—then let me just fill you in. Goes something like this: If you are to survive the most horrendous scourge of the modern age, The Flu (or swine flu back in 2009), then you’d better get your flu vaccination. Oh…and if you don’t: You’re stupid!

Yes the western medical  model, so convinced of its paradigmatic correctness, comes up with one rationalization after another to explain the notorious ineffectiveness of its modern miracle:

The last one is my particular favorite and what this post is all about. True, ye’ old flu-shot proponents, an inactivated virus like the ones that make up the flu shot can’t cause infection, because…well, they’re dead. But they do, in fact, cause an immune response…uh, that’s the point…and that response will be fraught with symptoms like body aches, fever, congestion, cough, and so forth. And that’s just what happened in the latest episode of “Pound My Paradigm,” starring Piers Morgan who took the flu shot, and Dr. Oz who administered it (video below): The patient got observably ill immediately following the injection….ha ha haaaaaa….I love T.V.!

Now I know that you Neandrethalic noblemen championing the flu-shot are perfectly correct in asserting that Mr. Morgan does NOT have the flu; not from the flu shot anyway. I mean he could…um…have gotten it…um, days, hours, minutes before he actually got the shot…uh yeah, that MUST be it!…that fits the paradigm perfectly. Yes, he got it right before he got the flu shot, because everyone knows…the flu shot works. Duuuuuuuhhhhh!

Thank you, again, Mr. Morgan and Dr. Oz for your fabulous performances on ‘reality’ T.V. Couldn’t have written the script better myself.

*And thank you Dr. Brent for the heads-up on this laugher.

The Wellnss JourneyLater today I will be interviewed (archived podcast here) on The Wellness Journey with Lynnis Woods-Mullins (@PraiseWorks), and we’ll be discussing the wellness aspect of social media. Wellness and social media? You bet. Social media is simply an extension of our already hard-wired nature to form social groups. The stronger (and for some people bigger) the groups, the more mental and physical advantages one has. There may even be a connection to longevity. Dang! Yes, being social is a part of the human evolution.

Our strongest advantage as a species is our ability to organize and manage large groups. We learned early on that we would be more powerful as one thousand than as simply one or a few, and so we took advantage of our capacity to cooperate and form civilizations. Now cooperation is not a purely human phenomenon, as many animal species do it, but in sheer capacity and sophistication, humans take the cake. We’ve expanded our social organization progressively from the beginning of existence, moving from hunter-gatherer tribes to the internet. Social media is just the next leg of that human social evolution.

Scientist have recently become increasingly interested in the social benefits to health. Several 2008-2009 studies showed promising results:

  • computer-cc36a4c4552c434fd40d98e79fa1dabeddea202a-s6-c10 (Copy)A 2008 study of stroke sufferers showed that being able to maintain valued group memberships played as important a role in positive recovery as an ability to overcome cognitive difficulties (e.g., problems with memory and language). After their stroke, people’s life satisfaction increased by 12% for every group membership that they were able to retain.
  • A 2009 study of residents entering a new care home. This showed that those who participated as a group in decisions related to the decoration of communal areas used those areas 57% more over the next month and were far happier as a result. In contrast, the use of space by residents in a control group declined by 60%. Moreover, these differences were still apparent three months later.
  • Another 2009 study looked at the impact of group interventions on the health and well-being of 73 people residing in care. After a period of six weeks the researchers found that people who took part in a reminiscence group showed a 12% increase in their memory performance, while those who received individual reminiscence or a control intervention showed no change.
  • Another 2009 study also studied nursing home residents and looked at the relationship between their sense of identity and well-being and the severity of their dementia. The study’s key finding was that a strong sense of identity associated with perceived membership of social groups, was a much better predictor of residents’ well-being than their level of dementia.

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Professor Jolanda Jetten from the University of Queensland, Australia commented on the findings from these studies: “New research shows just how important groups and social identity are to well-being. This is something that people often overlook in the rush to find medical solutions to problems associated with ageing, but it is time that these factors were taken much more seriously”.

And says Dr Catherine Haslam of the University of Exeter in the U.K.: “On the basis of what is now a very large body of research we would urge the medical community to recognize the key role that participation in group life can play in protecting our mental and physical health. It’s much cheaper than medication, with far fewer side effects, and is also much more enjoyable.”

Other studies that I have reported on in this blog also show the wellness benefits to social interactions. One study (2008) showed that people with large and strong social networks fared better following surgery—in healing time and extent. Another study (2008) showed that our sociability is actually a biological/neurological  trait, giving further evidence to its role and interdependence in human evolution.

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Another in 2009 which showed that repressed emotions can lead to greater risk of dying from a cardiac event, while a 2010 study showed that having strong social networks and interactions actually decreased death, in general, by 50%.

These studies simply confirm why using social media to remain connected, and thus in wellness, is the wisest practice people can adopt. Social media isn’t just digital narcissism, as some skeptics have defined it. It is real interactions, in real time, with real people (and if you really can’t tell the difference, then you really do need to get out more)—the perfect ingredients to rich social health and wellness. Keep Tweeting.

fat-meal-restaurants (Copy)When it comes to good nutrition, there is little doubt that eating out is inferior to dining at home. People whose lifestyles dictate that they primarily eat on the road are coming out the worst for it. Studies show that foods prepared at restaurants—whether fast-food or sit down—are higher in calories, saturated fat, salt and sugar, and lower in dietary fiber. A recent European study has even found a link between eating fast-food and the increased incidence of allergies, asthma and eczema in children.

According to an international collaboration that included researchers in New Zealand, Spain, Australia, Germany and the UK, young teenagers are particularly likely to have severe asthma (nearly 40% greater incidence) if they eat burgers and other types of fast-food more than three times a week. For children aged six to seven the risk increased by 27%. Children eating fast-food were also more likely to get severe eczema and rhinitis (stuffy, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes). The results were published in the journal Thorax.

Despite being too soon to show causation, the paper says that the link between fast-foods and asthma/allergies is entirely plausible. It could be “related to higher saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, sodium, carbohydrates and sugar levels of fast-food and possibly preservatives”.

sugarYes, every compounds above could potentially be the culprit, if causation is actually determined. But it may even be simpler than that. Last post I discussed the four dietary universals—energy, nutrition, hydration and environment—and I also discussed how a junk food diet increased the likelihood of having none of the universals satisfied, so it is also possible that the resulting sub-clinical malnourishment from a chronic fast-food diet can lead to an overall weakening of a body’s constitution, thereby setting it up for immune dysfunction.

Here’s the skinny (pun intended, pun intended!): Repeatedly eating out is murder on the body. It doesn’t matter how “nice” the restaurant might be, food prepared outside of the home will nearly always have more calories, preservatives, salt and sugar than food prepared at home—it’s got to taste good, fer crying out loud. And it will always have a higher probability of causing foodborne illness (food poisoning). Not that one can’t get food poisoning from food prepared inside their own kitchen, but realize this: Food from a restaurant touches an inordinately greater amount of hands than the food you purchase fresh. Yes, foods obtained at a grocery store are handled as well, no doubt, but food at restaurants is handled way more, believe me. I worked in restaurants for years. I know.

092585524589920f0977bbb0be41Listen, eating out is fun. Some of the most amazing food I’ve ever experienced has been at restaurants, but anything more than occasionally just isn’t conducive to optimal health. The bad news is that Americans in general, and probably the entire western world, seem to be eating out more than ever before. A new report from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) reveals food prepared away from home—whether eaten in restaurants, fast-food and other locations, or as take-out or delivery to be eaten at home—is now a routine part of most Americans’ diets, accounting for 41% of food expenditures and 32% of caloric intake.

The good news, on the other hand, is that a 2011 survey showed that home cooking has become an increasingly popular among younger generations (18-35 year-olds). Wonderful! That’s the way it should be. I am pleased to see young folk interested in this type of living—it’s smart and will take them farthest with regard to health and quality of life.

I’ve included a video below to gross you out. I am grateful for the access to this kind of information on the Web, because people should know what they actually don’t see behind a kitchen’s closed doors. Enjoy, but have barf-bag handy.

earth2 (Copy)When I talk about health, I generally like to focus on universals–that is, what is true for everybody across the board, and not just the nuances of one diet or another. For example, drinking the juice of an açaía berry is not universal. It may be rich in antioxidants (although there is no scientific evidence to support this marketing claim), but it is not an essential food consumed by people all over the world. Having a diet rich in antioxidants, however, is a universal. Drinking water from a hole in Costa Rica is also not a universal, although maintaining sufficient hydration most certainly is. To pound the point home, there isn’t one person reading this that wouldn’t suffer the same fate were he or she to swan dive off a ten-story building. That’s because everybody is subject to the law of gravity–it’s universal, get it?

Okay so when it comes to dietary health, then, only four universals exist. The human diet must fulfill all four of the following:

  • Act as an energy source—food provides us with energy, measured in calories; energy not immediately used is stored as fat.
  • Act as a nutrient source—in the form of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for metabolism, regulation and tissue repair.
  • bigstock-close-up-view-of-bacteria-12354305 (Copy)Provide water for proper hydration—some “experts” believe that we get all the fluids we need from our food, but I am not one of them; no doubt, though, that diets high in plant-based sources get a good portion of their daily water replenishment from food.
  • Maintain a beneficial gut environment—we now know that the foods we eat directly influence our gut microbiota: the organisms that inhabit our intestines and, among other things, help the digestive process.

That’s it. A healthy diet should fulfill these four universal requirements in the most efficient way. This is a point worth elaborating: While many diets (and I’m speaking of a way of eating here, not a fad diet, per se) may fulfill all four universals, they may not do so efficiently. This is likely the case for the majority of people on the typical western diet (some whole foods, lots of processed foods), which is high in calories and low in nutrients. These people often get their necessary nutrients, but at the expense of having to eat more food to do so. They are not malnourished, but instead over-nourished. Think about it, a diet low in essential nutrients will cause the body to communicate, “More nutrients, please!” in the only way it knows how: By increasing the appetite.

malnourished (Copy)Other diets, like those based on junk food, candy, and/or near-starvation (anorexia) lead to none of the universal being fulfilled, which causes malnutrition, and eventually the breakdown of the body.

So, again, the healthiest diets fulfill the four universals most efficiently. But what’s the best diet for you?  The one that fulfills all four universals with the least amount of food.

Now to say there is one diet that can fulfill this requirement for all people would be lie…because everybody is different. My body type is such that I need lots of protein. When I eat carbohydrate-rich meals, regardless of the source, I get weak and shaky within an hour. Thus, I need protein in every meal. Because of this personal nuance, I find that concentrated sources (meat, eggs, dairy) work best for me. This is NOT a universal; it is a nuance of my dietary needs. Believe me, I know plenty of people that thrive on a predominantly plant-based diet. Physiological variability I tell you.

That’s why I say stick to the universals. If veganism gets you there, then groovy, man. If it’s raw foodism—rock out. All that matters is that the four universals are most efficiently met.

Don’t get caught up into dietary nuances. Eat the widest variety of whole, natural foods that your body likes and craves, and try to get everything you need nutritionally with the least amount of food possible. I promise that you’ll get closer to achieving optimal nutrition by following these principles. It’s the human variability that throws the monkey-wrench into most popular diets, but universal is universal, so keep that in mind every time you eat. And if your way of eating already fulfills all four dietary universals, then you’re doing just fine.

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