How often should you snack?

I’m going back to my roots. After posting articles during November about Daylight Savings Time, the US Election, Pharmaceuticals, and Black Friday, today I’m going to write once again about my favorite subject, food. Based on my observations, people simply don’t know how to eat. That may sound like a funny statement because we all eat every day, and it is a task that is essential for our survival. Well, you may know how to eat, just put food in your mouth and chew, but do you know how to eat properly for efficient digestion and optimal health? The quantity, frequency, timing and combination of your food are all important factors affecting your digestion. Believe it or not, I could probably write an entire chapter on how to eat, but instead of that, today we will focus on a topic that is confusing to many people, snacking.

Radical snactivism

We’ve all heard the theory that it is important to snack many times per day to keep our energy levels high, but is that even true, and where did it come from? If you think about it, the frequent snack theory appears to be adapted to high performance athletes. Imagine a professional football player who spends the whole day lifting weights, running, and training for his job. The amount of energy expended by a professional athlete must be several times more than what you expend sitting in your cubicle and tapping on that keyboard. Frequent snacking seems appropriate for such a physically demanding lifestyle. Somewhere along the way sports nutrition got confused with the nutrition of the average person. Perhaps it was an improper dissemination of information through the media, or our fascination with professional athletes. Many of us obsess over our favorite athletes; we wear their jerseys and spend billions of dollars following them weekly, so it’s not difficult to imagine their diet strategies crossing over into the average person’s life. Another possibility is the source of funding for research. How much money is available to research the nutritional needs for producing a star athlete versus the nutritional needs for helping an average person reach their true potential? Perhaps the government can fund some research, but corporations heavily influence governments, and do corporations bring in revenue by selling wholesome breakfasts, or by selling snack packs? Regardless of the origin of the multiple snack theory, and the role of sports idols, money and politics; we have access to an unbiased source of information for guidance on how to eat. According to Ayurveda, a traditional preventive medicine system from India, the average person should practice a diet of minimal snacking.

sugar_ngm

2 meals per day

To understand why minimal snacking is the suggested diet of Ayurveda, one only needs to have a basic understanding of digestion. Digestion is at the core of Ayurveda because good digestion is thought to be essential for having good health. Ideally a person would wait until their previous meal was completely discharged from their stomach before eating the next meal, but if you are snacking 3-5 times per day there are simply not enough hours in a day to do this. Generally speaking, it should take at least 3 hours for your stomach to be empty, so if you ate every 3 hours beginning at 6am and ending at 9pm that would be 3 meals and 3 snacks. With a schedule like that some problems become immediately apparent. It is unlikely that you are eating on an empty stomach if your schedule consists of eating 6 or more times per day. If your stomach is completely empty then you must be either eating small meals or easily digested carbohydrates and sugars, and we have all been hearing lately of the dangers associated with diets high in sugar. Your digestion should improve if you wait until your stomach is completely empty before consuming the next meal, and as a result your overall health should also improve. To completely digest each meal then you will have to eat less frequently which of course means less snacking. One great strategy for eating less frequently is to eat large meals containing more slow burning fuels such as oils, fibrous vegetables, and perhaps some meat if you are not vegetarian. As you are increasing the amount of slow burning foods, try decreasing the fast burning foods such as sugar, flour, grains, and in some cases fruit. For an excellent and detailed description of what this meal looks like read Todd Caldecott’s article about breakfast. A large breakfast such as this allows me to go 6 hours without eating, and during those 6 hours I enjoy the benefits of a slow sustained release of energy without the inconvenience of having to interrupt my busy day to find more food. Ayurveda recommends eating twice per day, and the only practical way for a person to do that in this modern world is to make sure your two meals are large and dense enough to power you through the day.

From Time magazine.

From Time magazine.

Goodbye low fat diets

As we emerge from the failed war on dietary fat into a world of obesity, diabetes and cancer we can look to the past for guidance on moving into the future. Ayurveda is a valuable source of traditional knowledge that is not contaminated by money or politics. People would have never chosen the frequent snack theory if the low fat theory didn’t exist. It is difficult to snack all day if you are eating high quality fats because quite simply, you will not be hungry as often. So as we say goodbye to the low fat era we should also say goodbye to the high snack era. Unless you happen to be a high performance athlete, try eating like me, a radical snactivist.

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Celebrate Buy Nothing Day!

From Adbusters.org

 

It’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving is this Thursday, snow is already falling in the Eastern US, and Christmas is only one month away. Are you ready for the holiday season? Beyond eating turkey dinners with family and hanging festive lights, a new tradition has emerged. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has become famous for low sales prices, all night shopping, and busy shoppers crossing gifts off their lists. Once again, you ask why would this topic be included on a website dedicated to agriculture, food, health, and the environment? And once again I reply, as I did a couple weeks ago during the US Elections, because “everything is connected”.

Tradition, holiday, or religion?

It is no secret that Americans love to shop, and it has become well established over the past few decades that the holiday season is a profitable time for retailers, but what does this mean for the health of our society and our planet? It appears that the act of buying gifts for family has moved beyond the status of tradition to that of an actual holiday. Rather than being a small task that we do for those we love as we celebrate the larger purposes of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, and the New Year, there is now an entire day dedicated to shopping. The only thing missing is a Congressional declaration that Black Friday is an official US holiday. So shopping has arguably transformed beyond the status of tradition into that of a holiday, but does it stop there? As each year becomes more and more extreme the temptation arises to label shopping the new American religion. Retailers once opened their doors at normal operating hours until some of them thought it would be a good idea to open a few hours earlier. Like the US-Russian Cold War, an arms race ensued and eventually some stores started opening at midnight. Of course, it didn’t stop there, and some stores now even open on Thursday evening, barely late enough for most people to have digested their pumpkin pie. It appears to me as though the holidays have completely lost their meaning. Sorry if I’m stating the obvious here, but do we really believe that Americans are thankful for the kindness offered to them by our Native American hosts? Are we thankful for the rich and fertile soils, which are necessary to produce the abundance of foods that fill our plates? Do we celebrate the birth and life of Christ, or are we more focused on getting that new smart phone we asked for?

Buy Nothing Day

As consumerism spreads like bacteria across America’s borders into the emerging markets of Brazil, China and beyond, the planet is being devoured by our wants and needs. It would be bad enough if all 7 billion of us were simply shopping for the items we actually needed (in reality there are probably only 1-2 billion of us wealthy enough to shop). Instead, we shop for items that we merely want, or even worse we try to make ourselves happy by seeking the entertainment of some new toy that we quickly forget about. I suspect we are trying to fill an empty spiritual void with material possessions. Speaking from my formal education in Environmental Science, I would strongly argue that the planet is not able to supply our endless demands. I don’t want to sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas, but the truth is that Christmas was already stolen, by Walmart. Or did Walmart sell Christmas? Either way, if you want to show your love for somebody by buying a gift they would truly appreciate then I honestly see no harm in that. One sign of the problem here is seeing shoppers who view gift giving as a stressful chore they must endure, so they buy family members things they don’t even want or need simply to complete their duty. By now, you’ve probably heard enough, so you may be wondering what kind of action can be taken. Perhaps you should try taking no action. Buy Nothing Day has emerged as a global movement in response to Black Friday. However, if you must buy a gift then consider purchasing it from a local business, or making it yourself. Ask yourself what the person really needs, whether they will actually appreciate it, and if there is an environmentally friendly version of the product available. Instead of an item you could also purchase an experience such as a massage or a float tank session for your family member.

From buynothingday.co.uk

From buynothingday.co.uk

Mind, body, spirit

Now that Black Friday is a holiday, and Santa Claus is a corporate executive, where do we go from here? Economists always tell us that we need to grow the economy, but can the planet sustain nonstop consumerism while population rises to 9 billion and beyond? If shopping really is an attempt to fill a spiritual void with a material possession then it is probably time to reconnect to the spiritual world. Ayurveda tells us to eat organic kale for a healthy body, and to get good sleep for a rested mind, but we can’t forget the spirit. This holiday season instead of worshipping at the church of the shopping mall, consider spending some time in the wilderness on a winter hike, or take a trip to a sunny destination to connect with nature. If you must shop then be mindful, and don’t forget to have a very happy Buy Nothing Day!

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Just say NO, to pharmaceuticals

Photo from the Dogwood School of Botanical Medicine

Photo from the Dogwood School of Botanical Medicine

I’ve done it, during the entire month of October I did not swallow a single pharmaceutical, and as of today it has been 7 weeks since I last needed the help of a synthetic pill. To put this into perspective I am defining pharmaceuticals as not only the more powerful type prescribed by your doctor, but also the over the counter types available to anybody at the store. Seven months ago I shared with you a personal account of my monthly pharmaceutical consumption. Despite being a student of Ayurveda and a huge advocate of preventive medicine, I was still taking an average of 5-10 pills per month. The message I tried to convey back then was that nobody is perfect, but with some awareness and a little effort we could move towards a life of better health with a reduced need for pharmaceuticals.

Why is this important?

As I’m typing this, the question of whether this is a significant achievement arises. Considering the US pharmaceutical industry makes billions of dollars every year, these corporations wouldn’t be making such huge profits if a majority of the population wasn’t frequently consuming the pills they produce. In other words, I assume that going 7 weeks without taking any pharmaceuticals is uncommon in the US. Another reason I decided to share this with you is to demonstrate that saying no to pharmaceuticals required me to change my lifestyle. Rather than doing whatever I want, whenever I want, and ignoring the messages my body was trying to send, I had to be mindful of my lifestyle and avoid situations that might require the relief offered from a pill. One of the defining traits of preventive medicine is to remove the cause of disease. Contrast that with modern reactionary medicine, which typically treats the symptoms but rarely attempts to remove the cause. Symptoms are messages from your body saying that there is an imbalance occurring somewhere. Symptoms should not be thought of as minor annoyances that need to be muted through the use of pharmaceuticals. Sure, symptoms interfere with our busy lives, but if you suppress a symptom for long enough it could manifest to a more serious and difficult to cure disease. Finally, this achievement is significant because quite simply, many pharmaceuticals have harmful side effects. If the long list of potential side effects listed in a pharmaceutical advertisement doesn’t alarm you then consider herbal medicines, healthy diets and natural lifestyles, which rarely have any harmful side effects.

food as medicine

Drugs versus Medicines

I can still remember being exposed to the propaganda from the War on Drugs when I was a child during the 80’s. First Lady Nancy Reagan led the Just Say No campaign from the White House. And who could forget the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, DARE, which originated from the Los Angeles Police Department? The Partnership for a Drug Free America created a famous commercial that said, “this is your brain (an egg), this is drugs (a frying pan), this is your brain on drugs (a fried egg), any questions?” Yes, I do have some questions. How powerful these messages must have been for me to remember them decades later. Despite being ingrained into my childhood memories, as an adult I find the messages to be disturbing and hypocritical. One question I have is, would the same people who told us to avoid Cannabis also tell us to avoid Percocet, Vicodin or other pain relievers? Or what about Psilocybin Mushrooms versus Prozac? I doubt it, and therefore two classes of drugs exist in our society, those that are good/accepted, and those that are bad/illegal. I would also ask you to think twice about the language involved here. Pharmaceuticals are now considered to be forms of “medicine”, while powerful plant medicines that were actually used by native cultures for thousands of years are now given the derogatory term “drugs”. How is it that pharmaceuticals derived in an industrial factory are accepted in our society despite sometimes being created so recently that the side effects are not yet understood, while plants such as ayahuasca, cannabis, iboga, peyote, psilocybin and huachuma, which have been traditionally used for healing, are deemed to be so worthless that it is nearly impossible to conduct a scientific study demonstrating their effectiveness?

Which will you choose?

Which will you choose?

DARE to be open minded

In the previous paragraph I contrast legal pharmaceutical drugs with illegal plant medicines to demonstrate the extreme and unexplainable policies adopted by the US government. However, we don’t need to look at such a controversial example. Instead consider Ayurveda, which advocates for the use of plant medicines that are already legal to prevent and treat disease. I totally understand that there are situations where it may be necessary to use pharmaceuticals for difficult disease, extreme pain, or for survival of the patient. I wouldn’t advise somebody who was just in a serious car accident to use Ayurvedic herbs for survival, likewise I wouldn’t advise somebody with minor depression to take an antidepressant for happiness. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of new developments in technology? The answer is that we should, when we need to, but we should also be shifting towards a lifestyle that avoids the cause of disease so symptoms don’t emerge that tempt us to consume a pill. In this busy, stressful modern world it can be difficult to consistently practice a healthy daily routine. Pharmaceuticals seem so convenient to us, swallow a pill and your are done, no need to change your behavior, an easy choice, right? But what happens when you need a second pill to treat the side effects from the first pill? What happens when the symptoms worsen, and you need to take a stronger pill with potentially stronger side effects? Or worse, what happens when your doctor says the pills don’t work anymore and now you need surgery? We don’t need to imagine such grim scenarios, instead we can be comforted by knowing that we have access to safe and effective traditional medicines such as Ayurveda, and it all begins right here, by becoming aware of options that you may not have known existed.

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Everything’s connected: US Election results

The phrase “everything’s connected” is often used within the spiritual community to describe their feelings and experiences on a higher level of consciousness. Ecological and Environmental Scientists also frequently use the phrase in reference to the cause and effect relationships between plants, animals, microorganisms, chemicals, climate, and many other factors that play a role in the web of life. This phrase also applies to Ayurveda, preventive medicine and human health. Recently, a visitor to this website commented on what he perceived as a lack of focus regarding the topics posted here. I appreciated this critique and interpreted it as, there is a lot of information being offered here beyond what you might find from a typical health site. In this fast paced modern world people are overwhelmed with information and they need to find quick and easy advice, so I understand his criticism. Posting an article about the US elections results may at first glance seem to be another out of focus topic, but hopefully the following will demonstrate that everything really is connected, including human health and American politics.

 

GMO Labeling campaign contributor Dr Bronner's

GMO Labeling supporter and campaign contributor Dr Bronner’s. From Facebook.com/drbronner

 

GMO Labeling

Some might say that if voters can’t approve GMO labeling in the foodie paradise that is Oregon then it can’t pass anywhere. However, the story is not that simple, specifically Monsanto and other agrichemical companies outspent their opponents by 12 million dollars and saturated the TV with their advertisements. Just as in Washington, surveys showed support for labeling in the weeks prior to the election, but in the end the Oregon measure lost by only 1%. What does it mean when corporations spend millions more than their opponents yet barely win? It demonstrates the power corporations have influencing important decisions that affect our food and health, and it also demonstrates that this fight is certainly not over. I imagine Bob Marley singing about Monsanto when he says:

 

“If you are the big tree, let me tell you that, we are the small axe, sharp and ready, ready to cut you down, to cut you down”

Lyrics for Small Axe, performed by Bob Marley

 

Bob Marley

From bobmarley.com

 

Recreational Cannabis

Speaking of Bob Marley… the pioneering spirit of the Pacific Northwest motivated voters there to blaze a new trail for the rest of the nation to follow, as they often do. The momentum generated by Colorado and Washington State continued as citizens in Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC voted to legalize the recreational use of Cannabis. Whether or not you decide to partake should be your decision alone, and not that of the government. Let’s be honest here, this is only a plant, and for a country to criminalize the consumption of Cannabis, yet declare itself “the land of the free, and home of the brave”, is quite simply ridiculous. Not only is Cannabis a plant, but it is also believed to have many medicinal properties. In this case the will of the voters prevailed partly due to a lack of major corporate opposition. Citizens in 4 US states now have safe and legal access to a natural plant medicine that has potential to replace pharmaceuticals and their associated harmful side effects. More importantly they can do this without having to get a prescription from a doctor which empowers them to take control of their health.

 

“So you’ve got to legalize it, and don’t criticize it, legalize it, yeah, yeah, and I will advertise it”

Lyrics from Legalize it, performed by Peter Tosh

 

The urban blues

The US map Wednesday morning looked like it was completely painted red, with a few blue dots where the major cities are. The red Republicans took control of the congress from the blue Democrats. How is this change of power connected to health and preventive medicine? A quick analysis of the Republican’s environmental philosophy should help answer that question. Common sense tells us that without a clean environment we have nothing, no air to breathe, water to drink, or food to eat. Yet the Republican philosophy seems to be the opposite; “remove the burdensome environmental regulations that prevent us from growing the economy” is their rallying call. Sure, we all benefit from a strong economy, but growing the economy while destroying the environment is a recipe for disaster. I suppose it all boils down to whether you believe that in the end technology will save us. Should we pollute our clean rivers to make money, and then spend that money building machines to clean our drinking water? This is the political party that calls climate change a hoax, this is the party that blocks the designation of wilderness areas, and this is the party that fought a national health care system until the bitter end. I might sound like a frustrated Democrat (I’m actually independent), but all I really want to know is why a party that calls themselves conservative seems to understand very little about conserving the natural resources that we all depend upon. Yes, everything is connected, and the people you vote for will either protect our environment or sell it to the highest bidder. The League of Conservation voters, not to be confused with the league of conservative voters, is a great resource this time of year. Their scorecards tell you exactly how the incumbent candidates previously voted on important environmental legislation.

 

“Tell me man, can you eat your money?”

Lyrics from Money, performed by The John Butler Trio

 

Was Agent Smith a Republican?

Was Agent Smith a Republican?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sattvic Nation?

Admittedly, the scope of this site can be quite wide at times, and while politics may seem completely unrelated to preventive medicine, this past election shows us that everything really is connected. How we vote determines whether we are eating GMO foods, have access to potentially medicinal plants, and choose leaders who are good stewards of our natural resources. We are what we eat, and yes we also are what we vote for.

 

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Together we can abolish Daylight Savings Time

Dark Side of the Moon album art.

Dark Side of the Moon album art.

“And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking, racing around to come up behind you again”

-From the lyrics for Time, performed by Pink Floyd

 

It’s that time of year again. Here in the US we will be adjusting our clocks back one hour on Sunday, and Tuesday we will be voting in local and national elections. As the two events coincide I thought it would be a good opportunity to briefly examine the subject from a preventive health perspective, as it will clearly take action by our state or federal governments to end this confusing and arguably unhealthy practice.

Utah ponders, Russia acts

It is difficult for me to imagine having much in common with the people of Utah, a deeply conservative and religious state, yet recently there have been efforts underway by lawmakers there to permanently end DST based on a study that showed support from the citizens. Arizona and Hawaii are currently the only US states not participating in DST. Russia, like Utah, is another part of the world I ordinarily would not expect to lead the way, but the recent time change there will be the last for that country since it has decided to permanently end DST. It is difficult to imagine such a bold decision happening here in the US anytime soon given the current paralysis within the congress resulting partly from a flood of money into politics following recent Supreme Court decisions. Ridding the country of this practice will likely happen state by state just as we currently see with the legalizations of gay marriage, recreational cannabis, and possibly genetically engineered food labeling. Proponents from all three movements adopted a state by state strategy after realizing that a stagnant congress was unlikely to make any progress in the near future.

Why abolish DST?

Reasons for ending or maintaining the practice vary far and wide, from people wanting more light at the beginning or ending of their days, to businesses afraid of losing money, to researchers debating over whether the practice saves energy. Despite the diversity of opinion and scientific study results, there is one reason we should all be able to agree on; changing the clocks twice per year is quite simply annoying. Why do we do it? Does anybody really know? Who’s steering this ship anyway? For a nation full of sick, stressed and under rested people to go through this process twice per year makes little sense. We need all the help we can get and having to suddenly adjust our sleep schedules this way is just one more hassle, like the morning commute to work, in a long list of stresses that we deal with.

The natural perspective

The theme to this website is “Traditional lifestyles for a modern world”, and in the case of DST this theme is very applicable. You may argue that adjusting your sleep schedule is not that difficult, but as our lifestyles move further and further from traditional ways, the health problems begin to accumulate. They may be subtle at first, or perhaps you can’t even link the symptoms to the cause, but the effects are cumulative, and the more we can do to offset these causes the better we will be. Electricity, lighting, and clocks are all wonderful tools that allow us to live however we want, whenever we want, but in doing so we lose touch with the rise and fall of the sun and other natural rhythms of earth. A perfect example of this is the night shift worker who labors at the time when they should be sleeping. Even worse is the worker whose shift frequently alternates between night and day. Ask yourself when do you eat, or when do you sleep, and whether the timing of these activities is helping or hurting your health. One small habit I have begun recently is to try and dim the lights towards the beginning and end of my day. You can imagine how dramatic a transition it must be for our body to be exposed to hundreds of watts of light one moment and then lying in complete darkness the next, or the opposite when you awake. In addition, I find it helpful to abstain from the stimulation of internet or movies as close to bedtime as possible.

 

Photo by roy2k.com

Photo by roy2k.com

“And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon”

-From the lyrics for Eclipse, performed by Pink Floyd

A healthy democracy

Remember as you change your clocks tomorrow and drop you ballot in the box Tuesday that a vote for Sattvic Planet is a vote for better health. If you choose me as your preventive medicine representative I promise to always place the health of people and planet ahead of profit and politics. Say NO to DST, say YES to good sleep!

 

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18 months since I was sick

Image by Alex Grey

Image by Alex Grey

 

“Down with disease, three weeks in my bed, trying to stop these demons that keep dancing in my head”

From the lyrics for Down with Disease, performed by Phish

 

6 months ago I wrote an account of having reached 12 consecutive months without being sick, and today I am here to tell you that I have successfully avoided sickness for one and a half years. I’m writing this because you probably don’t personally know me, and this is my way of demonstrating to you that there are real benefits to following the diet and lifestyle practices that I write about every week. I also do this to prove to myself that my practices are effective. If I was getting sick every few months then I may want to stop and reevaluate my methods. Like every other person on this planet, I have health issues that I struggle with, but my goal is to constantly improve my health and knowledge, and then share the results with you.

Should you get a flu shot?

I can’t answer that question for you, but I can share my personal experience with influenza vaccinations. My experience is quite simple, I don’t get flu shots, and in recent times I don’t get the flu. Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but I would like to believe that I have avoided the flu and other illnesses because I practice preventive medicine. It may not be wise for me to publicly state that people should avoid the vaccine; instead I want to highlight the difference between modern medicine’s version of preventive medicine versus that of a traditional system such as Ayurveda. Mainstream preventive medicine has come to mean that you routinely get your vaccines, blood tests and physical exams which is much different than Ayurveda where the emphasis is on building a strong immunity through diet and lifestyle. One of the purposes of this website is to help you take control of your health so that you can be less dependent on a medical system that here in the US is extremely expensive, reactionary, and heavily dependent on pharmaceuticals and surgeries. While I can’t replace your physician, I can provide information about preventive medicine so that you have less need for a physician as you regain control of your health.

Image by Alex Grey

Image by Alex Grey

 

How did I do it?

If you read 12 months since I was sick then you already know because my strategy hasn’t changed. In summary, I have avoided sickness by minimizing stress and listening to signals from my body that tell me to get some rest, and by focusing on strengthening my immune system rather than sterilizing my body and environment with antibacterial soap and harsh cleaning chemicals. Nearly every time I got sick in the past the illness was preceded by mental stress such as frustrations at work, body stress such as extended periods of poor sleep, or even a spiritual stress such as dissatisfaction with my position in life. Regarding cleaning products, we have been engaged in a war on microorganisms in this country for decades, and have been convinced that through heavy applications of chemicals we will be able to sterilize our path towards good health. The reality is that every day we are learning new information about the positive benefits of bacteria in our digestive system and on our skin. Developing a strong immune system allows you to defend against any microorganisms that you will inevitably encounter, and not have to be so paranoid about sanitizing your surroundings. For more information about taking a more relaxed approach to hygiene see the Huffington Post article Dirty kids: how germs can be your child’s best friend.

10 easy steps to immunity?

Unlike many healthy living resources on the internet this website rarely uses numbered lists of steps to take towards a goal. Instead the focus is more on mindfulness of how to live in general. As we all know, everything is connected including our mind, body, spirit, organs, thoughts, diets, and lifestyles. To present a list of steps meant to improve immunity doesn’t make much sense since that would likely be the same list to improve your sleep, digestion, or happiness. Instead I prefer to think of how to eat and live in general because this whole system approach is likely to solve multiple problems and not only one. Contrast this approach with the current medical paradigm, which uses a reductionist perspective to isolate individual chemicals and organs to treat symptoms rather than remove the cause of disease.

“If you can heal the symptoms, but not affect the cause, it’s quite a bit like trying to heal a gunshot wound with gauze”

From the lyrics for Sand, performed by Phish

 

2 years, 3 years, and beyond…

Well, I hope to report 6 months from now that I’ve survived another winter without getting sick. Until then, put down those harsh cleaning products, pick up a fork full of kale, and join me on creating a streak of your own!

 

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Eating for the Equinox (chicken crockpot recipe)

pastured chicken

Photo by everychickdeservesamother.com

 

The Autumn Equinox has come and gone and since then you have probably begun to notice seasonal changes. The days are shorter, the weather cooler, the leaves are falling, and the food available at your local market is changing from foods like berries, melons and snap peas to apples, squash, and parsnips. According to Ayurvedic principles, now would be a good time to adjust your diet to match our changing environment. This can be easy to ignore when we have access to foods like strawberries in January at the grocery store, but seasonal eating makes a little more sense when you start shopping for locally produced food as much as reasonable.

Warm, greasy and heavy

According to Ayurveda, as we transition from the season of Pitta to the season of Vata, we can also transition from the foods of Pitta to those of Vata. Sour and salty replaces the tastes of bitter and astringent, while the taste of sweet continues until later in winter during the Kapha season. Isn’t it interesting that salty and sour are the tastes you would experience while eating the cabbage you fermented during the summer to eat as sauerkraut during the fall, while sweet and sour would be most noticeably tasted with the fall apple harvest? Beyond the tastes of food, the qualities transition from cool and dry to warm and greasy (oily), while the quality of heavy continues until later in winter during the Kapha season. A good example of a heavy, warm and greasy food might be a dense winter squash roasted in the oven and then drizzled with a generous amount of ghee or coconut oil for moisture.

Meat in Ayurveda?

You may find it odd that a website with an Ayurvedic theme would have a recipe for chicken, but the ancient texts never forbid the consumption of meat, and in some cases encourage it for the recovery from disease. The Hindu religion is known to be vegetarian, and is also very common in India, so since India is the home of Ayurveda it is easy to see how the connection between vegetarianism and Ayurveda could be made. However, vegetarianism may be required to practice the Hindu religion, but that does not mean it is required to practice Ayurveda. Another fact to consider is that many parts of India are low in latitude and as a result have a much warmer climate. I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed this, but my appetite decreases when I’m in a hot and humid environment, which would make vegetarianism much easier closer to the equator. If you don’t believe me then try being a raw food vegan in northern Canada and let me know how that works for you. I’m not promoting eating meat; I’m promoting diets that are appropriate for your geography and your season. Simply put, those of us in the north have less access to fresh produce, and more need for nourishment during a cold winter. I’m not talking about eating meat for pleasure as most Americans do, I’m talking about eating what your body needs, which I’m willing to bet is far less than what we are currently witnessing around the country. Eating based on bodily needs will require people to be aware of their bodies, and to learn how to properly cook nutritious meals. I often say that PETA would be far more successful if they encouraged people to eat less meat rather than none, and that is because even though most people are probably eating much more than they need, telling them to quit completely can not only cause a defensive reaction, but it may also be inappropriate advice for their location and time of year.

 

20141012_113536

Photo by sattvicplanet.net

 

 

Crockpot time

The size of my crockpot is 5.5 quarts, or 5.2 liters, and I find that a 5.5 pound, or 2.5 kg bird can easily fit. This recipe is very simple, but that is the point, to realize that cooking high quality meals is a convenient and healthy way to live. Here is the recipe:

4-5 pound chicken

1 onion

2-4 bulbs of garlic

½ T oregano

½ T thyme

½ T rosemary

½ T black pepper powder

½ T pink salt

1 T dried parsley

1 T dried basil

3-4 cups water

Dice the garlic and allow to sit for 10 minutes to maximize the nutritional benefits. Place the bird and the water into the crockpot. Dice the onion and add it to the crockpot along with garlic and all the spices. Sprinkle the spices under, on top of, and all around the bird. I like to set my crockpot to 10 hours on a low setting. You can flip the bird after about 6 hours if you like. The final result is more like a stew than an oven roast, but you can try a shorter duration or less water if you prefer that effect. Serve with roasted squash or root vegetables and some steamed dark leafy greens. Don’t forget to save the bones for a bone broth!

Integrity Food

When buying your chicken I highly recommend a locally sourced, pasture raised product. This will require you to search beyond the deceptive “all natural” and “cage free” feel good options available at the grocery store. Did you know a cage free bird might never see the sun, breathe clean fresh air, or have enough room to run around? An organic, pasture raised bird may cost 2-5 times as much as a conventional bird, but don’t you think it is worth it? A pastured bird might be more nutritious if they are eating insects as they were meant to. I find it odd when the label says “vegetarian fed” since chickens are known to eat insects, but they obviously don’t have that opportunity in an indoor facility. My last chicken had a slightly wild taste to it versus the typical bland and neutral flavor we are all accustomed to. A pastured bird should be less likely to get sick since it is not breathing dirty air in a confined space and is therefore also less likely to need antibiotics. Wouldn’t you rather eat a healthy chicken than a sick one? I actually get at least 10 servings from a bird, so when you look at the per meal price it is not bad compared to what you would pay at a farm to table restaurant. Besides the nutrition, taste and health, I think raising animals on pasture is much more humane, and a great way to support your local family farmers.

 

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LSD made Steve Jobs “Think Different”

Artwork by Symbolika

Artwork by Symbolika

 

This weekend marks the anniversary of Steve Jobs death, and for me it marks my day of birth. Three years ago, on what I can only describe as a serendipitous day, I celebrated my birthday with the purchase of the first Apple computer I have ever owned, and on the exact same day learned that the man responsible for creating my new computer had just died. Prior to that day I had never once taken the time to think about Jobs, yet since then I have discovered much about the man who is arguably one of the greatest inventors of modern times, culminating last month in me listening to his autobiography audiobook.

Think Different

Apple ran an advertising campaign in 1997 called Think Different, and based on some of the following quotes Jobs really did think different following his consumption of LSD. In the Steve Jobs autobiography written by Walter Isaacson, Jobs is quoted as saying:

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could”

In John Markoff’s book, What the Dormouse Said, Jobs describes his experiences with LSD as:

“One of the two or three most important things I have done in my life”

Jobs is also on record with the US Department of Defense as having admitted to using LSD 10-15 times and describing the experiences as:

“A positive life changing experience”

 

Artwork by Symbolika

Artwork by Symbolika

 

World’s most valuable company

What exactly can we learn about these honest confessions describing some extremely personal moments from his life? Many people suspect that psychedelic substances have the potential to enhance creativity in people, and Jobs said that taking LSD was a positive, profound, life changing experience that altered how he saw the world, so naturally there is some speculation that LSD played a role in the enormous success of Jobs and his company Apple. Just how successful has Apple become? It is considered to be the most valuable company on the planet with a valuation of approximately $600+ billion dollars during 2014. A few years ago Apple took that title from the reigning champion Exxon. It is important to note that Exxon is a company that exists simply to extract resources, a process that leads to the destruction of the planet in forms such as ocean oil spills, climate change and air pollution. Unregulated resource extraction for the past few centuries has been one of the most common ways to generate wealth in America; coal, lumber, and seafood are only a few examples. Perhaps we are seeing a glimmer of hope that the most valuable company is now one that exists to create and not to destroy.

 

steve jobs locus

Meditating on a Mac in the lotus pose.

 

The war on drugs

If you think about it the connection between LSD and Apple’s success is really quite fascinating. Apple is an American company, and America’s political system is dominated by capitalism. The leaders of this country would like to see nothing more than the birth of a hugely popular, market dominating investment opportunity like Apple. At the same time the leaders of this country have decided that nearly all psychedelics are illegal and have no medicinal purposes despite a massive amount of traditional knowledge supporting the opposite. Medicines like ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, san pedro / huachuma have been used by indigenous people for thousands of years. Steve Jobs took LSD even though it was illegal, and it is very possible that his psychedelic experiences played such a major role in altering his consciousness that he was able to create products that were innovative enough for his company to be the most valuable on the planet. Jobs had a vision for his products that left most of his competitors scrambling to keep pace with him. Where did this vision come from and why were his competitors unable to see what he saw? The US criminalizes people for simply trying to alter their consciousness and is a fiercely capitalistic country, yet it is entirely possible that psychedelics helped Jobs build the world’s most valuable company, so I wonder what the investors on Wall Street would have to say if the war on drugs had actually succeeded in deterring Jobs from LSD.

India, Buddhism, Meditation, and Diet

It is important to note the many other factors that made an impact on Jobs and likely played a role in his success, including his trips to India in search of his greater purpose in life. Jobs was also a Buddhist, known to practice meditation, and nearly obsessive about eating healthy food which to him often meant being vegan. Psychedelics may not be for everyone, but they seemed to have changed Jobs life, and to imagine him not taking them because of their legal status, and perhaps not having the vision to create Apple would be a great loss to our culture. I know some people are critics of Apple and they will argue that the world would be no different whether or not Apple ever existed, but if you stop and look at his long list of pioneering efforts even the greatest critic has to admit that his accomplishments were impressive. It is impossible to know how much of a role psychedelics played in Jobs life, and it is impossible to know what the world would be like without Apple, but judging by his quotes on LSD I’m willing to say these substances hold much potential for technological innovations and spiritual advances in our lives.

 

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How much soap should you use for healthy skin?

dr bronner

Try Dr Bronner’s

Talk dirty to me

We’ve been taught our entire life the importance of good hygiene, and how frequent use of soap is essential to avoid offending the noses of the people around us, and to steer clear of infectious disease. How accurate are these teachings, and may they even be damaging our health in ways we never imagined? Now I could present my typical argument to you that common body products contain toxic chemicals that we should all avoid, and I certainly will, but there are some further risks you should consider the next time you lather up in the shower.

Goodbye antibacterial, hello probacterial

Recently there has been an emerging field of research and media coverage on the roles bacteria play inside our bodies, specifically within our digestive system. Probiotic foods such as yogurt and kombucha are commonly found in natural food stores, along with the probiotic capsules that doctors often prescribe following a dose of antibiotics for your infection. That may not be news to you, but did you know that scientists are now pioneering into a less understood territory and have begun researching the beneficial roles that bacteria may play ON our bodies, and not just inside our bodies? In this New York Times article the author highlights an innovative company called AOBiome that is attempting to sell a probiotic product that you apply externally rather than swallowing. Initially they plan to offer this as a health enhancing product, but hope to someday get approval to treat specific skin diseases with their product.

Colonize it, don’t criticize it, yeah…

The concept behind reducing the use of soap, and maybe even intentionally applying bacteria to your skin, is that all these years we may have been inadvertently removing bacteria from our skin that serve a purpose. Imagine if some species of bacteria naturally exist on our skin in a balanced ecosystem that reduces odors, prevents disease, and allows wounds to heal. Now imagine what happens to that harmonious ecosystem when you scrub your skin with a soap made of harsh chemicals 1-2 times every day. Research is ongoing, and we are far from any conclusions, but if external bacterial colonies prove to be beneficial then we will realize that for decades we have been battling the bacteria that exist to help us. This definitely wouldn’t be the first time humans thought they could improve a perceived inferior natural situation only to actually make matters worse. Just as we are now learning that dietary fat is actually good for our health despite being told for decades that it will kill us and make us obese, I wouldn’t be surprised if scientists discover that we should be trying to build colonies of bacteria on our skin rather than destroy them. Obviously those in certain professions, surgeons or food handlers for example, need to be very careful with their hygiene, but there is increasing concern that antibiotic soaps are being overused by the average person, and now companies like AOBiome are showing just how far down the wrong path we may have traveled.

sappo hill soap

Sappo Hill is one of my favorites.

The vicious cycle

I don’t know about you, but even though the research is only now beginning, a lot of this seems intuitive to me. We buy all these harsh soaps that our parents and the corporations taught us to use, then we buy all these creams and products to moisturize our skin after stripping our skin of the oils that our body naturally produces. We would rather apply chemicals that were developed in a factory to moisturize our skin than rely on our own bodies, or use plant based oils. Next we buy cosmetics to cover all the damage caused by the harsh soaps and chemical intensive body products. It seems to me that cosmetics often times are just substitutions for not taking care of your body. Finally we go to the doctor to receive a prescription for a pharmaceutical skin product to help us with our skin conditions that seem so common now. Perhaps these skin conditions are partially caused by our excessive chemical use and our deficiency in beneficial bacteria? Regardless of the cause of common skin conditions, I try to avoid the faulty logic that traps people in this vicious cycle and have reduced my use of soap and body products. The only body products I’m using are the occasional use of sunscreen and deodorant as I experiment with various essential oils to find an effective substitute for deodorant.

What are you waiting for?

The company in the New York Times article expects at least a decade to maneuver through the approval process of the FDA, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait years to experiment on your skin. As I mentioned, I reduced my use of soap, but I still take warm showers and use soap when and where it is needed. If you do use soap then try to find a mild natural version like Dr Bronner’s or Sappo Hill. Experiment, see what works best for you and ask your partner to sniff you and give their honest opinion. In the Steve Jobs autobiography former coworkers often complained about his odor, but Jobs would ignore them and argue (mistakenly) that vegans don’t stink. I’m not encouraging you to offend your neighbors like Jobs did, instead try to find a balance between reducing the chemical attack on your skin and smelling pleasant for others around you.

In Ayurveda

The innovative company mentioned above is really not very innovative, they are simply reintroducing a concept that has been with us since the beginning of human history; bacteria live on our skin, and it is probably not bad for us, and maybe even good for us. I wonder if it is worth buying their product when similar results could probably be achieved by reducing the use of harsh soaps, and finding natural ways of applying bacteria to your skin. In Ayurveda plant based oils are regularly applied to the skin to prevent and treat numerous health conditions, and artificial products are avoided, as they are known to be absorbed through the skin and consumed similarly to the food you put in your mouth. Following the application of these oils I have been advised to rinse off excess oil with a warm shower, but not to use soap as this would reduce the benefits. The reality is that in this modern world most of us are really not dirty at all. How dirty do you get sitting at the desk and typing on the keyboard? If you work at a petroleum refinery, an auto repair shop, or a greasy restaurant then I can understand your need for soap, but for the rest of us the need doesn’t really exist. The theme to this website is “Traditional lifestyles for a modern world”. Often times we think the solutions to our problems need to be complicated, highly technical, and purchased from a company, yet many solutions are already available from traditional sources and can be as simple as removing products from your life rather than adding more.

 

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Weapons of Mass Distraction

You are what you watch

You are what you watch

WAKE UP!!!

Last week my yoga instructor said the American society has been attacked by Weapons of Mass Distractions. I think he was referring to things like TV, advertisements, video games, casinos, professional sports, smartphones, mainstream media, and the everyday culture you experience at the office, grocery store, and even in your neighborhood. The WMDs are exploding all around us, and we are all the victims, so how do we wake up from these distractions? It’s not an easy question to answer. I know we all think that we are awake; there is a Starbucks on every corner, but that is not the type of awake I’m talking about. If you’re not one of the fortunate few who wonders if there is more to life than the next episode of America’s favorite TV show then perhaps you need to be blasted into consciousness. Many people have profound experiences while experimenting with various chemicals during summer music festivals with their friends, though I don’t think that is the ideal scenario. If you really want to get serious about this then you may even consider participating in a medicinal plant ceremony with an Amazonian shaman. Of course chemicals are not the only way of being awakened, though they can be fast and powerful tools. A less intense method might involve beginning the practices of breathing, meditation, yoga, or float tank therapy. Another option might be to substitute your daily mind numbing activities with something more stimulating, such as listening to these episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast…

JRE498

The Joe Rogan Experience

I know the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) podcast is not for everybody. For example, as a martial artist and a commentator for mixed martial arts, often times professional fighting is discussed on his show; which is probably a turnoff for some people. What I find fascinating about the JRE is that he is one of the most famous people I know that openly discusses taboo subjects with his guests, and there are thousands, if not millions of people listening to him every week. Joe’s guests often include fighters and comedians, as you might expect from a man who is a fighter and a comedian, though they are not the guests who I normally listen to, but if you know what to look for there are some real gems in his archive of podcasts. Among my favorites are the episodes with Amber Lyons and Aubrey Marcus discussing in great detail their trips to the Peruvian Amazon where they participated in traditional Ayahuasca healing ceremonies conducted by a native shaman using plant medicines. There is no place else on the internet that I know of where you can find such lengthy and highly detailed conversations about these subjects, led by such a well known moderator, and listened to by so many people. He may not be the best choice for academics or the spiritually advanced, but I see that as his strength. Because Joe speaks in a language that appeals to the common person he reaches a wide audience of people that normally wouldn’t be exposed to his message. Though it is difficult to measure, I imagine that Joe and his guests are responsible for waking many people from a life unconscious. One of my good friends owns a float tank studio, and many clients report on their first session that they first learned about floating from Joe.

JRE-amber lyon

Conscious Consumption

When I talk about being awake, or attaining consciousness you might think of some mystical eastern religious concept that is difficult to relate to, but I’m simply referring to the act of being aware of your surroundings and considering the consequences of your actions. Life is really just a long series of decisions and the choices we make constantly shape our bodies and the world around us. What should I do with my free time, watch TV, or read a book? How should I go to the store, in a car, or by bike? What should I do with this waste, compost it, or throw it in the garbage? Should I sit down to eat my meal on a plate, or order it to go in a disposable container? What should I eat for breakfast, a donut, or some whole foods? Do I need to buy the newest smartphone or does my old phone still serve me well? Do I feel good about my career, and does my job make the world a better place? Taking a look around I think it is safe to say that a majority of the American people are distracted and unconscious. Our consumption is high, our health is poor, and we are killing the planet we depend on for survival.

In Ayurveda

Everyday, we are surrounded by a constant stream of distractions. The billboards on the side of the highway, the commercials playing on the radio, the incoming messages on your phone, and the big football game Sunday afternoon. Some of them are desired, and others are annoying, but they are both distractions. They are a source of constant noise that prevents us from listening to our bodies, observing our natural environment, and focusing on the things that really matter. With advancements in technology, and the increased sophistication of capitalism it has become more difficult than ever to escape these Weapons of Mass Distraction. This is why including breathing, meditation, yoga, or float tank therapy into your routine is beneficial. I can’t recommend psychedelics from an Ayurvedic perspective, but I know they are extremely powerful, and can quickly cause people to examine their lives and ask why they do what they do. In some cases they may be appropriate when used responsibly.

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