Coconut cacao sweet potato (yam) recipe

Garnet "yam". Photo by Sattvic Planet.

Garnet “yam”. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

 

Chocolate for breakfast?! Well, almost, but not quite. Many people often confuse cacao and chocolate, the former being the primary ingredient for the latter. However, in addition to cacao, chocolate often contains milk from conventional dairies that we should probably be avoiding, sugar which we already eat way too much of in our diets, and other unnecessary ingredients depending on which chocolate you buy. When eaten alone cacao can be equally as delicious as a bar of chocolate, without the negative effects on your health.

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The Spiritual Carnivore

A traditional Cuy meal, also known as guinea pig. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

A traditional Cuy meal, also known as guinea pig. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

 

I’m writing this post from a small village in the Peruvian Andes where a community of spiritually focused foreigners have either visited or settled over the years. Having arrived only yesterday I obviously have much to learn about this community, though a couple of my observations seem very clear to me already. First, they seem to gather their practices from a wide array of disciplines such as Ayurveda, Buddhism, and indigenous Shamanic culture. It seems to be a true hybrid of global spiritual philosophies. My second observation, which is the inspiration of this post, is that vegetarian and vegan diets are the preferred choice at their hotels, restaurants and retreats. I’m talking about the foreign community here and not the locals when I refer to the choice of diet, as the locals appear to eat chicken, beef, trout, alpaca, eggs, and cheese.

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An Owner’s Manual for life

Photo by Roy2k.com

Photo by Roy2k.com

 

When we were born, our bodies didn’t come with an Owner’s Manual that gave us instructions on how to operate this new vehicle, or did it? What should you eat, how much should you exercise, and when is the best time to sleep? These are all questions that some of us may be thinking about if we want to recover from poor health, or if we are striving for optimal health. However, if we are not thinking about these questions then we must have already found an answer, so where did that answer come from? If you were fortunate to be born into a family of knowledgeable parents then you probably received most of your guidance from them. Yet many people are not so fortunate, and receive guidance from their parents that steers them away from health. Besides our parents, if we are not actively asking questions on how to live then we are likely to receive guidance from our media, which seems to have displaced our culture. The media saturates our senses to a level that dilutes whatever remnants of traditional knowledge there are remaining in our society. Who are the village elders passing down their wisdom in modern America, McDonalds, Coke, Monsanto? I guarantee that if you are not actively asking questions on how best to operate your body through life then you are receiving answers from a constant stream of corporate advertisements and television shows. Don’t fret, because I’m here to tell you that there is a reliable source of knowledge available to all, but only if you are willing to open your mind.

Ayurveda = Knowledge of Living

Assuming you already know what Ayurveda is, let’s summarize by defining it as one of the oldest systems of medicine known to humans. Sure, there are plenty of books on the market today explaining how to eat, but who to believe? Butter was good then it was bad, and now it is good again, depending on whom you talk to. Perhaps you place all your trust in science, but even this powerful tool can produce some conflicting results depending on how the research is performed and who funds it. I find comfort in receiving guidance from a system of medicine that has survived the test of time, especially when it is supported by modern science.

The Daily Regimen

In Ayurveda the term Dinacarya refers to the daily regimen. I find it fascinating to know that a daily regimen exists for the sole purpose of promoting optimal health, and that the source of this knowledge was not contaminated by the influences of money. Pure knowledge that is presumably free of ego, profit, confusion, or other forms of interference. So if you are asking the question of how best to live for optimal health, and you trust Ayurveda as a reputable source of traditional knowledge, let’s begin with a very brief introduction to Dinacarya. The following list is from sunrise to sundown.

Awaken: early is best, before sunrise, usually between 3-7.

Evacuate waste: with regular digestion this should be first on your list.

Drink: warm or room temperature water, up to 750mL.

Cleanse the mouth, eyes, nose, and throat: Techniques include scraping the tongue, brushing the teeth, filling your mouth with oil, gargling, using herbal rinses for the eyes, nasya and neti pot for the nose.

Breathe: deep-breathing exercises known as Pranayama.

Therapeutic smoking: no, this is not an excuse to smoke cigarettes, rather medicinal herbs are used in small doses. Vaporizers could provide a healthier alternative.

Exercise: people may be surprised to learn that you should only perform to one half of your strength. Stop when perspiration, dryness and heavy breathing begin.

Massage: full body self-massage using plant based oils, though dry massages are sometimes appropriate.

Bathe: minimize or eliminate soap, instead soak in fragrant waters, remove oils with bean powders, and clean your hair with herbal rinses.

Yoga: remember, this is not a form of exercise; it is preparation for meditation.

Meditate: to attain mindfulness

Eat: diet is at the core of Ayurveda and can’t possibly be summarized here, but every factor related to eating is considered. Eating 2 meals per day is recommended.

Duties: finally, you can begin the duties of your day, while practicing the mindfulness attained during meditation of course. Naps should be avoided.

Sex: before bed, winter and spring are the best times.

Sleep: between 7 and 11 is best, especially if you’re waking between 3-7 in the morning…

Unlearn all you’ve learned

Well, I had to be concise as each of the above topics could easily fill an entire page, or in the case of eating, an entire book. Consider this an introduction to a subject that you can dig deeper into later if you are interested. The dinacarya appears to be very time consuming doesn’t it? To be honest, I am definitely not completing a full daily regimen every morning. However, I include as many practices into my day as possible, and some days are better than other. For example, on days when I don’t work it is possible to complete much more of the regimen. Before you dismiss the daily regimen as being impractical in this modern world, think of it as a goal you strive for, but recognize that you may never fully reach. Perhaps you can’t do a full body self massage with oil every day, but once per week is more reasonable. To my young readers, remember that you don’t have to live like everybody else. Instead of working 60 hours per week to buy a huge house and fancy car, have you considered working less and using the free time to focus on your health and happiness? We really need to examine our priorities in life. And to the busy single mothers with small children, it only takes 15 seconds to scrape your tongue!

 

“Instant quick, new improved, hurry hurry rush rush, world on the move, marijuana illegal, but cigarettes cool, I might look kind of funny, but I ain’t no fool”

-From Synthesizer, performed by Outkast

 

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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!

 

Related articles:

What is the number one step you can take to improve your health?

Do you want to know the secret?

12 months since I was sick

0 Easy Steps to Consciousness

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.

 

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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.

 

Related articles:

The “Integrity Food” Revolution

The Season of Sweet

Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 2, Meat