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.

 

Related Articles:

Occupy Farmer’s Markets!

Advertisements, you are what you watch

Apple 2.0 (the fruit) versus iPhone 6

 

 

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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!

 

Related Articles:

Time to Abolish Daylight Savings Time?

 

 

Occupy Farmer’s Markets!

“Now let’s start by, making it clear, who is the enemy here, and let’s show them, that it’s not them, who is superior”

-From the lyrics for Marching the Hate Machines into the Sun, performed by Thievery Corporation and featuring The Flaming Lips

 

I have occasionally spoken negatively of corporations in previous articles posted on this website. With an introductory quote like the one above you must think I’m about to declare all corporations evil. Are they all evil, do we need to purge ourselves of their existence, and is there a better way of doing business in this world? The answers I believe are no, sometimes, and definitely yes, respectively. I would never make such a sweeping statement as to say that all corporations are bad, and as a matter of fact I have spent the past several months researching whether I want to start a business of my own. The following paragraphs attempt to briefly draw a connection between the role of modern corporations and our health since, after all, health and environment are the primary themes of this website.

Wall St versus Main St

The Occupy movement that swept across the US a couple years ago attempted to demonstrate, among many other ideas, the increasingly disproportionate amount of wealth acquired by the top 1% of Americans compared with the remainder of the population. Because money equates to power and influence in the American political system, the Occupy movement wanted to raise awareness of the control that a tiny minority exerted over a vast majority. Beyond these massive societal issues are questions such as what are the costs to our health and the planet’s health when profit is always placed as the number one pursuit of a publicly traded corporation. The dominant business model in America is without a doubt; profit first, people second, and planet third, at least to the extent that the customers and laws allow for. When the primary purpose of a publicly traded corporation is to make a profit then people and planet are often exploited. This exploitation will continue until the customers get upset and their negative perception of the company begins to reduce profit, or until the questionable practices are challenged in court. There must be a better way…

Planet first, people second, and profit third

What happens when a company tries to reverse the order of priorities mentioned above? Sometimes it proves to be quite successful such as when a company like Whole Foods thrives off the selling of natural and organic food. In this case we even saw conventional companies like Walmart trying follow in the steps of Whole Foods, as was the case when they attempted to get into the business of selling some organic food. Similarly we see the launch of pioneering electric car company Tesla being followed by the other major car manufacturers attempting to develop more efficient and less polluting cars of their own. I use these examples to show that it is possible to have profitable corporations that can provide their customers with the services they need while limiting their impact on human and planetary health in the process. Sure, we could spend all day debating whether Whole Foods and Tesla have truly sustainable business models, but you get the point, they are a step in the right direction.

We are what we buy

It can be so easy to always point our fingers at the big bad corporations when in reality we should often be pointing our fingers at the mirror as the number one enemy we face on our path towards health and sustainability. We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, but what if we shifted that to “you are what you buy”. Corporations may seem evil for their destructive practices, and for selling their disease causing products, but the reality is that they would not exist if we didn’t continuously give them our money. This of course brings us to the slogan, “vote with your dollars”. While the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans are clearly voting with their dollars by lobbying politicians, the remainder of the 99% can also use our money to vote. No, we probably can’t afford to make a major contribution to a Senator’s election campaign, but we can purchase products that are non-toxic, low impact, healthy, all natural, environmentally responsible, organic, fair traded, and/or locally produced. Better yet, we can exert our influence over corporations by simply not buying a product, and I’m not only talking about boycotts, I’m also talking about reducing our consumption; “minimize it, and don’t criticize it”.

eat local

In Ayurveda…

One of the major benefits of Ayurvedic preventive medicine is that there is little need for major corporations. This system of medicine has been in existence for thousands of years, long before the modern corporation was ever conceived. We may need a few companies to responsibly import herbs and spices to the US, but other than that most Ayurvedic lifestyle practices can be performed using commonly available foods. These lifestyle practices can be performed by you alone, or maybe with the guidance of a practitioner depending on your level of knowledge. Everyone wants to be healthy and happy, but if that is what we really want then we need to stop and ask whether the food and products we purchase are actually making us healthy, and contributing to our happiness. More often than not we are buying products that we don’t really need, or even worse, products that are destroying our health and the health of the Earth. There are many small scale, local companies that are genuinely trying to run responsible businesses, and it is important that we give them our support. The Occupy movement started a conversation in America that continues to this day, now it is time to take advantage of the summer season and Occupy our Farmer’s Markets.

Happy Summer Solstice!!!

 

 

Learning to fly: tips for air travel

 

Learning to Fly with Pink Floyd

“There’s no sensation to compare to this, suspended animation, a state of bliss”-From the lyrics for Learning to fly, written by David Gilmore, and performed by Pink Floyd

 

Not just a Pink Floyd song

Traveling in good health is not easy. In fact, I regard it as one of the biggest challenges I face in my quest to be happy, healthy and productive. You may be staying in a hotel with no kitchen, experiencing insomnia in a different time zone, or struggling to find some green space in a dense urban area. Like anything in life, traveling in good health requires effort. It is already difficult enough just to stay healthy in the comforts of your home, so when you are traveling it is important to take the extra steps necessary to feel good. I know this isn’t what Pink Floyd had in mind when they made the song Learning to Fly, but I can’t resist a good play on words that combines one of my favorite songs with the topic of my article. Continue reading for some thoughts I gathered on my recent trip home.

Food, or lack of it

In the cutthroat business of air travel it seems less common to find a meal offered on a flight these days. That’s probably a good thing, for your health. In place of the inflight meal is the preflight meal as the modern American airport has come to resemble a shopping mall food court more than a hub for transportation. I recently heard accomplished fitness trainer Steve Maxwell say that he always fasts while he travels. While I doubt the benefits of fasting while flying have been scientifically proven, it seems like wise advice coming from an experienced traveler. Eating in combination with stress often results in poor digestion, so it makes sense to avoid food while flying since airports can be such stressful places. Some people do eat to reduce their stress, and this is fine, but for good digestion you really should only eat when you actually feel hunger, typically at least 3 hours after the previous meal. For those who can’t fathom the thought of a mini fast, bringing along a few snacks is not very difficult, and a much better option than the airport fast food. On my recent flight I brought some dried figs, pistachios, extra dark chocolate, and a banana in case the fast was uncomfortable.

Water

“Sir, would you like some water, a soda, or an alcoholic beverage?” No thanks, I said as I motioned to my liter sized stainless steel reusable water bottle. In comparison, it seems the little 4 ounce cup of water they offer is nearly worthless, and I find it works best to have access to a large bottle of water throughout the entire flight. As with the snacks mentioned above, it is not very difficult to bring a reusable bottle and then fill it at the fountain after passing through security. As for the alcohol, I wouldn’t recommend it, though I’m sure some people claim it counters the stress they experience. Obviously alcohol isn’t the only strategy available for dealing with stress. During my layover at the Denver airport I discovered these great private areas away from all the commotion where I was able to do some stretching and even some meditation.

Air

I normally advocate deep slow breathing, but in the confined environment of an airplane I winced at the thought of taking this recycled air deep into my lungs. People often comment on the dryness of airplane air, plus there are all the perfumes that people wear, and certainly an abundance of bacteria and viruses floating around. So what to do? Stopping short of recommending an air filtration mask, all I can say is to get out into nature and doing some deep breathing exercises as soon as possible after arriving at your destination. I’m always an opponent of synthetic perfumes, but I’m rarely an opponent of bacteria. I think we have greatly overreacted to the threat they pose, especially with our excessive use of antibacterial soaps. However, if you begin or end your travel with a weakened immune system then there is probably an increased chance of illness due to the inflight exposure. As I often say, the focus should be on building immunity rather than killing pathogens.

 

Time to get grounded!

Time to get grounded!

 

In Ayurveda

The energy of motion is called vata in Ayurveda, and it is represented by the elements of air and space. Using the concept of “similar increases and opposite decreases”, Ayurveda has a simple approach to ensuring that our mind, body and spirit stays in balance. What modern technology is more similar to the energy of vata than flying in an airplane? As you fly through the air hundreds of kilometers per hour, thousands of meters from the earth you are without a doubt experiencing an increase of vata. Since “similar increases and opposite decreases”, the best remedies for dealing with modern air travel are vata pacifying foods and activities. Examples include warm, heavy and oily meals, or perhaps some slow and grounding yoga postures. We all understand that putting hot water on the stove makes the water hotter, so by extension we can understand that adding air travel to an already fast moving lifestyle can cause further imbalance.

Summary

  • Mini fast
  • Bring snacks or light meal to avoid fast food
  • Bring reusable bottle for plenty of water
  • Pass on the alcohol
  • Go to a park or green space after landing
  • Maintain strong immunity to avoid illness
  • Try grounding activities like yoga during the layover, or after the flight if you’re too timid for airport yoga 🙂
  • End your mini fast with a warm, heavy, oily meal rich in healthy fats

 

 

Rejuvenating Green Smoothie

Cook, or blend...

Don’t worry, no broccoli was used in this recipe.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

After posting articles the past two weeks focused on meat and dairy I think it is time we change directions and try something different. By now you are probably thinking that I’m as carnivorous as a wolf, but nothing could be further from the truth. I love eating fruits and vegetables and strongly encourage people to include as much fresh and organic produce in their diet as possible, especially the dark leafy greens, and cruciferous plants from the brassicaceae family. True, I do advocate for the consumption of animal products, but in the past I have also recommended that meat: should only cover a quarter of your plate, does not need to be included with every meal, and probably doesn’t need to be eaten every day for most people. With the help of this smoothie recipe, today is going to be one of those days where we can take a break from the meat.

Raw vegan

Raw vegan food diets have become more popular recently among the health conscious, and while I don’t regularly eat this way, in some situations I really enjoy this kind of meal. I normally advocate heavy, warm, moist/oily meals that are easy to digest and useful for providing a sustained energy throughout the day. However, it is not always necessary to eat this way, and sometimes the opposite is appropriate. For example, perhaps when it is later in the day and you don’t want to eat a large meal before bedtime, or if you have been feeling heavy and need a light meal to balance.

The recipe

1 cup water

1 cup blueberries (preferably “you-pick”)

1 banana

2 spoons RAW honey

1-2 inches of ginger root

1-2 inches of turmeric root

3 Tbsp sunflower seeds

1 cup water

½ lime juice

½ bunch cilantro

1-2 large kale leaves

Add each ingredient one at a time in the order listed above. As always, I recommend making variations based on your preference and need. Some possible alternatives include:

2-3 medjool dates instead of honey (the deglet noor can be used, but are firm and more difficult to blend)

1 pear instead of banana

parsley instead of cilantro

1-2 Tbsp nettle powder, or fresh if it grows near you!

6 out of 6 tastes

According to Ayurveda there are 6 tastes in food: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent. More or less of foods with these tastes can then be eaten depending on the person and their situation. Personalized taste proportions can be chosen based on: a person’s body type, health status, the season, the geographic location, age, etc. In other words, everything has an effect on us, and properly selected foods can be used as medicine to balance these factors and ensure we achieve optimal performance. This smoothie has all six tastes and therefore should be good for everyone in most situations. The honey is sweet, the lime is sour, the sunflower seeds are salty if you buy them roasted and salted (I don’t), the kale is bitter, the turmeric is astringent, and the ginger is pungent.

Ayurvedic smoothie guidance

Without getting into too many of the details, from an Ayurvedic perspective it is best to avoid some common smoothie practices such as adding ice, using excessive amounts of sweet fruit, adding yogurt, and eating them daily. In Ayurveda a diet that is primarily composed of raw vegan food is typically avoided, but I guess that is a difference in philosophy. I’m not trying to start a food fight here, so all differences aside, you definitely can’t go wrong eating one of these delicious green smoothies on occasion!

Further reading

Here are a few related articles I’ve written for the the herbivores, omnivores and carnivores that are interested in reading more:

Bitter is better, eating wilder foods

Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 2, Meat

The “Integrity Food” Revolution

 

 

What color is a Sattvic Planet?

Seriously???

Seriously???

 

Red?

Sherwin Williams seems to think the answer is red. At first glance this logo appears to be a vintage sign from the 1940s. This is one of those logos that make you think how ridiculous people were to believe what they believed back then. It reminds me of the old advertisements touting the health benefits of smoking cigarettes, spraying DDT, or any other product that has not survived the tests of science and time. However, this logo is the same one that they use today, in fact just a couple miles from my home they have a store with multiple large signs in front displaying this exact logo. Perhaps I’m overreacting, but I am amazed that in the year 2014 there is a major corporation with a logo advocating that we cover the planet with synthetic chemicals. All you can really do is laugh at the absurdity of their goal, but I probably shouldn’t be too surprised given the state of the world today. The Japanese atomic energy agency initiated the covering of the Pacific Ocean with nuclear radiation 3 years ago at Fukushima. British Petroleum was busy 4 years ago covering the Gulf of Mexico with oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. For the past 20 years Monsanto has been on a mission to cover your dinner plate with genetically modified organisms; see The difference between Apple 2.0 (the fruit) and iPhone 6 for my view on GMOs. When we see those vintage signs, logos and advertisements from an earlier era and wonder how our ancestors could have been so foolish, we should probably pause for a moment and ask ourselves if anything has really changed. The truth is that it has not. One chemical gets banned, while 100 new chemicals get invented and enter the market. You might feel good about your newly purchased BPA free product, but has anybody stopped to wonder what are the health effects of the new chemical they used to replace BPA? Enough of all that; let us move on to a lighter subject.

Earth Day

The title of this post asks what color a Sattvic Planet would be? The answer of course is GREEN! Earth Day was last Tuesday, so I’m a few days late, but on a Sattvic Planet every day would be Earth Day. I know that may sound cliché, but think about it, every action you take and every purchase you make has an environmental health consequence, and a personal health consequence. Don’t just ride your bike to work one day per year, ride as often as possible because it not only improves the air quality, but it also improves your quality of life.

In Ayurveda…

Sattva is a Sanskrit word derived from Sat which means Truth, and Tva which means Your, so sattva refers to Your Truth. The word sattva is used in Ayurveda to describe a state of mind that has many desirable qualities including: clarity, intelligence, balance, purity, and truthfulness. In Ayurveda attaining a sattvic mind is accomplished through a meditative process that simply involves looking within and discovering your truth, or your purpose. A Sattvic Planet is a concept of a world that we could all create together if as individuals we all began to attain a sattvic mind. In other words, global change starts at the individual level, and we can’t expect to solve society’s greatest problems until we achieve true personal health. On my About page I stated that you can’t have personal health without environmental health, and you can’t have environmental health without personal health. Since Earth Day was this past week I thought now would be a good time to revisit that statement, and remind people to stop and think about the current condition of the environment and what impact it is having on us. Also, think about the current condition of you and what impact you are having on the environment. Stay tuned for a future post where I discuss charismatic farmer Joel Salatin and his vision of creating a greener planet. Until then,

HAPPY EARTH DAY!

 

12 months since I was sick

Alex_Grey-BodyMind_Vibrator

Why should you care?

The purpose of this post is not to boast about my accomplishments, although I am quite happy to reach my goal, the purpose of this post is to open your mind to the possibility that sickness is not mandatory. Yes, becoming sick is a part of life that we have all accepted, and it happens even to the best of us, but it can often be avoided with some simple changes to your daily routine. Recently while listening to my instructor’s presentation he made the extraordinary claim that he has not been sick in over 3 years, and I believe him. If I can reach the one year milestone then why shouldn’t my teacher be able to reach the three year milestone?

Optimal health

I frequently write about “optimal health”, but I rarely stop to define this term. It is easy to imagine how the average person could benefit from the knowledge I share with you here at Sattvic Planet. The topics I write about are relevant to people suffering from obesity, lethargy, depression, pain and other common ailments, but what of the people who consider themselves to be healthy? If you are already jogging, drinking your smoothies, and eating your salads, is there anything for you here? If you think that getting sick a few times every year is normal then the answer is most certainly yes. Imagine all the time wasted lying in bed and feeling miserable; time that could have been spent having fun, relaxing, or being productive. The definition of health varies from person to person. Is health simply the lack of disease? Are marathoners healthy? Are people who take daily vitamins and supplements healthy? Are people who strictly drink soy milk healthy? It may surprise you that the answer is no in some cases. With so much conflicting information available today I don’t think that many people really know anymore what good health actually looks like.

Antibacterial soap?

How you ask did I survive 12 months in this hostile world without becoming sick? Did I use copious amounts of antibacterial soap and home cleaning products? No, in fact I avoid those as much as possible. Creating a sterile environment by using harsh synthetic products is highly overrated in my opinion and likely creates even more problems by exposing you and your family to toxic chemicals. Listen, when I know a sick person is nearby I definitely try to avoid contact as much as possible, but the most important factor in remaining free of sickness is to have a strong immunity, not a strong antibacterial. For more information on the benefits of bacteria, see Fermentation Nation (sauerkraut recipe)

The secret revealed

Last week I asked, Do you want to know the secret to abundant energy, weight loss, and looking attractive? I then revealed that there is no secret; there is no magic pill or superfood that will instantly produce these results, or prevent illness. You develop a strong immunity by eating a proper diet and following a daily routine. In addition to diet and lifestyle, the most important factor is to avoid stress, and be aware when the stress reach a critical level. Of course we can’t always avoid stress in our lives, but if we monitor ourselves closely we begin to notice when our body sends us messages. Listen to those messages! Perhaps you develop a headache from staring at the computer all week, maybe you feel lethargic from a week of poor sleep, or you are frustrated from mounting financial and relationship problems. When you begin to notice those messages pay attention and make some changes because your body is saying that if you don’t then sickness is coming. People often tell me they don’t know why they got sick, but in my experience every sickness I’ve had in recent years has originated from me becoming overly stressed, and subsequently having a weakness in my immune defense.

In Ayurveda…

One of the ancient texts lists 15 signs of good health, and among them are the following:

  • Arising easily with renewed energy in the early morning
  • No noticeable signs of the digestive process
  • Clear complexion, strong aura

I find this fascinating because these are symptoms that I doubt people consider when they evaluate their state of health. You may be wondering what exactly a strong aura is. In Ayurveda the term ojas is used to represent the strength of the immune system and the vitality of the person. Have you ever seen a person that looks really energetic, vibrant and healthy? This is ojas; this is what a strong aura looks like. A good example of this can sometimes be seen on people after day two or three of deep wilderness backpacking. Ojas comes from deep within and can only be imitated with substitutes such as cosmetics, or coffee. I understand that we all want to look good and feel energized, and this can be difficult in our hectic world, but I am simply trying to demonstrate the difference between true optimal health and our common perception of health. Ojas can only come as a result of consistently eating a proper diet and following a daily routine. If all goes well then I will be telling you one year from today that It has been 24 months since I was sick, wish me luck!

Do you want to know the secret?

“With a proper diet and lifestyle there is no need for medicine,

but without a proper diet and lifestyle then medicine is useless”

food as medicine

Everybody has the answer

What exactly is the secret to feeling great, having abundant energy, losing weight, and looking attractive? We all want to know that secret, don’t we? Well I’m here to tell you that I have that secret. By now you have probably noticed that I’m not the only one claiming to possess this knowledge. There are hundreds of companies fighting for your attention and trying to sell you their product. Pharmaceutical companies manufacture a pill for nearly any ailment you have. It’s so convenient, all you have to do is swallow a little pill once per day and let the benefits come rolling in. Supplement companies promise you that the most recently discovered plant from the depths of the rainforest is the best superfood to come along in decades. Modern chemical laboratories using sophisticated technology have discovered ways to isolate what is thought to be the primary ingredient responsible for health benefits. Using these methods you can now take super concentrated doses of isolated biochemicals extracted from plants. Weight loss diets guarantee that you will shed pounds in weeks if only you follow their special plan, why not give it a try? Energy drinks have become enormously popular with their claims to boost your energy by simply drinking a can of their special blend. Who wouldn’t want to have the energy of a bull, a monster, or a rock star? If an energy drink isn’t really your style, don’t worry because there is a coffeeshop on nearly every corner. What an amazing world we live in to be surrounded by so many options available to instantly improve your life. Isn’t life grand?

My secret

I’m here to tell you people that I have the secret, are you ready for this? The secret is that there is no secret. The secret doesn’t come in a pill, jar, can, or cup. Do you really think it could be that easy? In what can only be described as pure marketing genius, corporation after corporation, for year after year have repeatedly been able to convince us that they have the secret to all our problems, and all you have to do is swallow. It’s effortless, fast and convenient. The best part is that you don’t have to change anything else in your life, just keep living exactly as you do now. In the process, they have taken billions of dollars from us, and our health has arguably gotten worse over the years.

Food as Medicine

When I said there is no secret I was not being totally clear. There is actually a very simple way to feel great, have abundant energy, lose weight, and look attractive; it is called Food as Medicine. For full disclosure I should say that is the title of a book my instructor Todd Caldecott wrote, but I’m not here to sell his book, though if you want to read it I would highly recommend it. Food as Medicine is more than the title of a book; it is a concept, and the concept is that optimal health is available to all of us if we simply put more effort into how we shop, prepare and eat our food. One of the first articles I published was called What is the number one step you can take to improve your health? If you read that post then you would know that my answer to that question was simply to cook your meals.

In Ayurveda…

If only we knew what the corporations have known all along, there is not much money to be made in freshly prepared nutritious meals. How much profit is there in steamed kale? Not much, but if you harvest the acai berries from the Amazon rainforest, or extract curcumin from the turmeric root that is where the dollars add up. Let me be very clear, Ayurveda is a form of preventive medicine very much dependent on plant based medicine, so I’m not saying that these companies selling superfoods are 100% wrong. There are however, very clear distinctions; let’s look at curcumin for example. In Ayurveda you might add turmeric powder to your meal during preparation, but you would never extract isolated chemicals from the plant because the benefit of the turmeric comes when it is eaten as a whole food. Also, in Ayurveda these plant based medicines would not be taken so randomly. Instead, specific herbs would be prescribed to specific people in specific situations for limited durations. Would you rather pay a few dollars for a substantial supply of turmeric powder from the bulk section at the grocery store, or $30 for a couple weeks supply of curcumin from the supplement store? One of my instructors, Dr Suhas, once told our class an old adage “with a proper diet and lifestyle there is no need for medicine, but without a proper diet and lifestyle then medicine is useless”. If you read those wise words carefully there is a powerful message that I think requires little explanation. Now that you know the secret do yourself a favor, save some money and start buying fresh and nutritious foods that you prepare and eat daily, then watch the benefits take effect.

Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 3, Pharmaceuticals

A one month supply.

A one month supply.

This is personal

Please forgive me; I take pharmaceuticals. To be more specific I take Acetaminophen, Lorazepam, and Allegra infrequently and at low doses. There are two questions I imagine you are thinking right now:

  1. Why would an Ayurvedic Counselor be taking pharmaceuticals?
  2. Why would anybody share this kind of personal information for the whole world wide web to read?

This is the third part in my “Confessions Series”, and I have already made some shocking (sarcasm) revelations in my posts:

With my “Confessions Series” I am trying to show you that despite my best intentions I am not perfect, and I am also trying to show you that some concepts that may at first appear unhealthy are actually quite beneficial when used properly and in moderation.

I live in the same world as you

I too have minor health concerns. I live in the same environment that you do, I am exposed to the same stresses and toxins as you are, so I am not 100% immune to health problems. This is not a Sattvic Planet yet, and until it is there will always be challenges to achieve optimal health. Sure, I could move to Central America and spend my time surfing and eating fresh fruit at the beach all day long. In the evenings I could write to you about how easy it is to practice Sattvic Living, but I suspect that those of you living in the big cities would have a difficult time relating to my experience. I believe that my message is much stronger when you realize that I am not much different from you, and I am vulnerable to the same health problems as you are.

Acetaminophen

I take 325 mg of acetaminophen about twice a month to treat minor headaches caused by lifestyle imbalances such as dehydration, lack of sleep, alcohol, excessive exercise, and too much time in front of the computer. The good news is that I seem to take these pills less often than in the past, and I attribute this to mindfully avoiding situations that trigger these headaches. I have also become quite good at recognizing the onset of these headaches, and finding natural methods of pacifying them.

Lorazepam

I take 125 mg of lorazepam about twice per week to avoid insomnia. This is a ridiculously small dose, but since it is the pharmaceutical I take most often it is one of my biggest challenges. There are many natural herbs and techniques available to deal with insomnia, in fact I once read a book by Deepak Chopra called Restful Sleep that explains good sleeping practices from an Ayurvedic perspective. However, the reality is that good sleep is elusive for many Americans even when we read books on the subject and put forth our best efforts. I am very dysfunctional without a good night of sleep, and ultimately I decided that the minimal side effects from taking these tiny pills is less than the harm caused by insomnia.

Allegra (Fexofenadine HCl)

I take 180 mg of Allegra approximately once every 6 weeks to reduce a very unusual and unexplainable localized swelling that I experience. Western doctors are unable to help me in this case, and eastern doctors haven’t done much better. Normally I ignore the swelling as much as possible, but when my upper lip swells to the size of a sausage I’m sure you can understand why I might want to take a pill on occasion. This problem represents my greatest personal health challenge, but it is a mystery that I believe in time will be solved. I think the problem originates in my mind, and I have now moved beyond looking at physical causes such as food allergies, and have begun focusing on stress reduction remedies for my state of mind.

Minimize it

In sharing my dose and frequency of pharmaceutical consumption I hope to emphasize two major ideas:

  1. I take small doses, and I take them only when absolutely necessary.
  2. I am continuously trying alternatives that will allow me to be completely free of pharmaceuticals in the near future.

For example, the doctor prescribed 1-2 lorazepam during times of insomnia. Instead I take a knife and delicately cut the pill once into halves and again into quarters. The purists out there may say that I should be using plant based preventive medicine 100% of the time. I’m striving for that, really I am. It’s funny how an Ayurvedic Counselor seems to be held to a higher standard than a western doctor. Would it be odd if your doctor smoked cigarettes? I’m sure there are many who do.

Strive to thrive

Since my target audience is people who have not yet mastered their diet and lifestyle I don’t want to scare people away by acting like I’m perfect, and by giving the impression that you need to be perfect to improve your health. The reality is that it is very difficult to practice Sattvic Living in this world we’ve created, and often times all that we can do is to strive for the best that we can do. Ayurveda provides us with the guidelines necessary to look good, feel good, avoid illness, and lose weight. If you want to achieve optimal health and you follow these guidelines exactly then there is no doubt in my mind that you will succeed. However these guidelines are merely goals to strive for, and some of them may not be possible given your current situation. Don’t worry about it, take the long term approach and slowly include more healthy practices into your daily routine when you are ready and when your schedule allows it.

Is Agave really a healthy sweetener?

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Avoid agave?

Recently a friend commented on the inclusion of agave in the recipe from my post Best oatmeal recipe ever, for dinner. She advised me to reconsider the promotion of this popular sweetener due to scientific evidence that conflicts with marketing claims that agave is a healthy sweetener. After a quick search I realized she appears to be correct. Agave is actually comprised of more fructose than the highly targeted high fructose corn syrup. Advocates often tout agave as ranking low on the glycemic index, and therefore eating it allows you to avoid the characteristic blood sugar spike and crash. The problem is that the low glycemic ranking is due to the fact that your body doesn’t know how to properly metabolize highly concentrated fructose. In other words, you get the benefits of sweet taste, and you can avoid the energy spike and crash, but only because you are eating a food that your body doesn’t know how to deal with. Since your body does not metabolize concentrated fructose efficiently researchers think it can lead to a list of serious health problems. See this post by Gary Taubes in the New York Times for details.

Who to trust?

With all the conflicting health and diet information available to us today, it is easy to understand how some bad choices could be made. Everyday we are either: given advice from the federal government, reading a new study from the university, hearing of a new product from our friends, or seeing an advertisement from a corporation. Many of these sources often conflict, so the question becomes, who to believe??? Since each of these sources is sometimes right and sometimes wrong it can be confusing for sure. Here is a brief summary of the agave phenomenon:

  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup and cane sugar came under attack after years of being added to the food supply.
  2. Marketers recognizing a rising public reluctance to buy HFCS and cane sugar advertised agave as a healthy alternative sweetener.
  3. Natural food stores began carrying agave and customers enthusiastically bought the product often advertised as “raw” and “organic”.
  4. Researchers recognized the link between concentrated fructose and multiple serious diseases.
  5. Upon learning of the high fructose content of agave, negative customer reactions begin.

One of the reasons I study Ayurveda is because it has been practiced for thousands of years. Now compare the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda to a new supplement, weight loss drug, or scientific report that has existed for only a few years. If there are negative health effects then hopefully modern science will eventually come to the rescue by revealing the truth, but do you really want to use a product for 10 years before science comes to that conclusion? By using Ayurveda as my guide I hope to avoid the hype of breaking news stories and stick to time tested techniques that are safe and effective.

Alternatives?

Despite this small misstep I think the remainder of my article was rock solid. Let’s not forget that the primary purpose of the article was to recommend avoiding sweets entirely during the morning, and to only eat them in the evening if desired. In my defense, I did mention that sweeteners were optional in the oatmeal recipe, and I also listed maple syrup as an alternative ingredient. I haven’t heard anything terrible yet about maple syrup, so this is what I enjoy on occasion. What about honey you say. Honey is often used in America as a sugar alternative in many recipes and food products, but in Ayurveda the ancient texts clearly state that it is best to avoid heating honey, for health reasons. Instead Ayurveda frequently uses honey for medicinal purposes, but always in a raw form. Agave’s success was born out of a desire to find a healthy sweetener alternative. I believe this way of thinking is where the problem originates. Instead of searching for alternatives we should be trying to minimize our sugar intake from ALL sweeteners. I’m not trying to sound like the sugar Grinch, but we clearly eat too much sweeteners in our modern diet, for a historical perspective see my earlier post Our Paleolithic ancestors rarely ate sugar, should we do the same?

Honesty counts

I posted this update because it represents the ever changing body of knowledge that is food and health science. Even after years of studying and experimenting with food and lifestyle I am still learning. On that note, if you ever see me make a statement that you think is incorrect then I encourage you to please inform me. Until we meet again…