Gluten or dairy intolerant? You may not need to give up wheat and dairy, says Dr. John Douillard, DC, in his book Eat Wheat (Morgan James Publishing, 2017). Backed by years of clinical experience helping people who previously were unable to digest wheat and dairy, Dr. Douillard employs traditional thousands-of-years-old Ayurvedic principles backed by more than 600 scientific studies to develop the methods described in his book for gut health.

His conclusion? Most who claim to experience varied and myriad symptoms of discomfort as a result of eating dairy, wheat and other glutinous grains is the result of a toxic condition that has weakened their digestion.

Based on my own clinical experience, I agree that, with the exception of the less than 0.5 to 1% who actually have lactose intolerance and celiac disease (the latter being a serious conditions that can be medically diagnosed through simple clinical tests) should absolutely avoid consuming these foods. However, the rash of symptoms attributed to eating dairy and wheat ranging from simple bloating, heavy dull feeling and lethargy after eating, to a wide range of metabolic to mental and emotional conditions may do better if they view these as symptoms that may benefit from treatment rather than a primary handicap.

Thus I appreciate that this is not just another theoretical book but one that lists numerous cases of his patients who were suffering from various degrees of gluten and dairy sensitivities and intolerances and who, after undergoing recommended detoxification cleanses, reported that not only were they able to eat these foods again, but with better digestion and a more lasting improvement of health and well-being overall.

All systems of natural healing believe that the foundation to health is a healthy gut, meaning the ability to break down and assimilate vital nutrients and efficiently eliminate metabolic wastes. I agree with Douillard’s thesis that the underlying causes of gluten sensitivity-intolerance is a toxic, weak digestive system. In fact the symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity-intolerance are common to all traditional healing systems. The Western herbal tradition addresses this with the use of digestive bitters such as Angostura bitters commonly sold in liquor stores throughout the world and originally designed to relieve digestive problems by stimulating hydrochloric acid and biliary secretions. Then there is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with dietary and herbal treatment its most common diagnoses: Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver-Spleen Qi Stagnation and diseases caused by Phlegm. Finally Dr. Douillard’s specialty, Ayurvedic medicine, has a wide range of treatment and herbs for specific digestive problems and the elimination of deep-seated toxins called ‘ama’ which is related to the TCM concept of invisible Phlegm, or the lymphatic system which according to Douillard is lodged in the fat cells.

In fact, Douillard describes how the most  recent research has discovered a direct connection of the lymphatic system between the GI tract and the brain.  This explains the Chinese description of schizophrenia and psychosis as “invisible Phlegm masking the brain” and the relationship between gluten sensitivity-intolerance and the brain in Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain. However, merely eliminating gluten not only deprives us of the pleasure derived from these foods but also a wide range of associated vital nutrients they contain, including fiber, iron, zinc, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, Vitamin B12, and phosphorus.

With approximately 21% of the population currently adopting a gluten-free diet and a $9 billion gluten-free food industry (in 2014) to support it, there has been little interest in finding a deeper cause or cure. In fact, Douillard exemplifies how the condition he calls "toxicity impaired digestion" (TID) is best treated with traditional medicine, diet and herbs. 

His approach is to eliminate all processed and refined food from the diet, engage in periodic cleanses which he describes and are freely available on his website, and adopt a seasonal approach to foods based on regional availability which is described in his book and his previous book, The Four Seasons Diet, also based on traditional Ayurvedic dietetics.

On a recent vacation in Kauai, my wife, Lesley and I underwent Douillard’s four-day cleanse based on taking increasing spoonfuls of ghee first thing each morning and eat no other fat throughout the rest of the day; and the traditional Ayurvedic healing food kichari, consisting of split yellow mung beans and white rice, with traditional healing spices of turmeric, coriander and cumin prepared without ghee, three times each day. In addition warm water is sipped every 10 or 15 minutes and certain Ayurvedic herbs such as triphala for eliminating metabolic waste were taken.

The fast was remarkably easy to follow and adhere to and there was little hunger for other foods. You can download the details of Dr. Douillard’s short cleanse or even embark on his 28-day cleanse. There are three levels of foods to use besides the basic kichari and ghee, which is the foundation. One is to add vegetables and fruit to the regime and another, especially for those with low blood sugar, to add white meat such as chicken.

The most unusual and a key component of the diet was the morning intake of ghee – pure butter fat. Ghee is considered one of the most healing foods in Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine. Like all fat, it satisfies hunger but uniquely it cleanses and heals the walls of the intestines, stimulates the production of new bile for the liver and gall bladder, strongly strengthens the immune system, and encourages eliimination of old “ama” -- difficult to discharge, toxin-laden fat from the body – literally consuming good fat to eliminate bad.

We both felt significant benefit from this short cleanse and it did seem to ‘reset’ our digestive systems. We look forward to repeating the cleanse.

For many, reintroducing grains and dairy back into the diet may have to be a gradual process, beginning with yogurt, cheese or ‘scalded’ organic whole milk; with glutinous grains such as wheat, and occasional small servings of whole grains.

Douillard's point, in short, is that sensitivity-intolerance to these foods is not the cause but a symptom of deeper digestive imbalance, which if left untreated can be a precursor to more serious diseases later in life.  

Dr. John Douillard is the author of six books, numerous articles on natural health and fitness and the creator of a respected source for Ayurvedic health and wellness.


I always love to make gifts when I can and especially love to receive handmade ones, too, as do many people I know. If you do as well, or are wondering what to give someone, here are a couple of holiday herbal treats you can easily make that are not only tasty but also healthy – fruit leather and trail mix. Now before you turn up your nose at these seemingly prosaic ideas, read on for they are not made with “normal” ingredients and are extremely nutritious and medicinal.


What could be easier than stirring together three items and pouring into a bag? All that’s left is the wrapping! This herbal blend can be eaten anywhere, anytime, even as an afternoon office snack or a dessert. As well, you can add the mix to cereals, soups or cookies. Together this mix replenishes energy and nourishes blood. It is especially good for teachers, students, sales folks, or those who study and/or talk a lot.


  • Goji berries (lycii berries)
  • Longan berries (long yan rou)
  • Walnuts

Mix together in desired ratio. For an especially tasty mix, first blanch the walnuts for five minutes in boiling water, strain, cool and dry. Then add to mix.

Goji (Lycii) berries

This small, red, sweet berry tonifies Blood, treating anemia, dizziness, poor eyesight, night blindness, blurred vision, sore back, knees and legs, impotence, seminal and nocturnal emission, tuberculosis and peri/menopausal complaints. Very high in beta-carotene, lycii promotes regeneration of liver cells, inhibits fat deposits in liver cells, lowers cholesterol, prevents atherosclerosis, and enhances immunity.

Longan Berries (Euphoria longan)

These delicious berries quickly tonify Heart Blood like no other herb I know, alleviating palpitations, anxiety, forgetfulness, and insomnia, particularly due to overwork or from excessive thinking, studying, reading, or talking (all of which use a lot of Heart Blood and blood sugar in the brain). These berries are high in glucose and sucrose, which quickly replenish blood sugar.


The Chinese use walnuts to strengthen the Kidneys for alleviating low back and knee pain and frequent urination. They also warm the Lungs, treating chronic cough or wheezing (the type that occurs when it’s harder to inhale than exhale, there’s dribbling of urine upon sneezing, or there are accompanying symptoms of low back ache, frequent urination and/or night-time urination).

Walnuts also act as a mild laxative, particularly in the elderly, anemic or those who feel cold. Constipation that doesn’t respond to normal herbal laxatives in people who are tired, anemic, cold, have clear, frequent urination, low back pain, low sex drive, lowered metabolism and/or edema of the legs usually respond to walnuts since they lubricate the intestines and provide enough heat and energy to move the stools.


While fruit leathers can be made from all sorts of fruit, this one is made with a fruit that is also quite medicinal and good for you: jujube dates (Zizyphus sativa, da zao). These plump red dates (or shriveled if they’re dried) are high in vitamins A, B2, C, calcium, phosphorous, and iron, and are great for quick energy.

They tonify both energy and Blood, treating poor digestion, weakness, low energy, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, clear watery diarrhea, and poor appetite, digestion and memory. Nourishing to the Spirit, they calm and stabilize emotions when feeling irritable, sad or crying for no reason. They are added like licorice to sweeten and harmonize other herbs in a formula. After cooking the dates in a tea or soup, eat them for their full medicinal value (remove pits first). They help weight gain and help malnourished children thrive.


  • Jujube dates
  • Water (or desired herbal tea)


Cook dates with water, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes. Cool. Remove pits from dates. Puree mix. Cook down again if needed to thick pudding consistency. Spread over parchment paper on oven or dehydrator trays about ¼- ½” thick. Slowly dry in oven at 140 degrees for about 12 hours or in food dehydrator for about 8 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it’s smooth and no longer sticky.

For sweeter fruit leather, add honey to taste. If desired, use a strained herbal tea for the water, such as astragalus, to give more energy and boost immunity.

Purchasing ingredients:

Goji berries and walnuts are easy to find as most health food stores carry them now. As well, many health food stores carry jujube dates and longan berries. If not, you can usually find them quickly by going to your local acupuncturist or they may be ordered from the following places:

Ron Teeguarden's Dragon Herbs




There is one kitchen spice most of us could use more of in our lives: cardamom.

While there are different types of cardamom (see end for details), just the plain old spice you have in your kitchen cabinet will do. It is a powerful digestive aid that comes in quite handy, for maintenance or acute distress. But it’s best as a preventative, too.

Cardamom is a very ancient spice. It is the seed of the perennial tropical vine in the ginger (Zingiberaceae) family. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is in the category of herbs called, “aromatic dispel dampness.” This means its aroma plus drying nature help to eliminate dampness in the digestive tract.

Symptoms of dampness include anywhere from a feeling of heaviness or edema to loose stools, diarrhea, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, abdominal distention, chest fullness or an oppressive sensation in the chest, and lethargy.

Further, when dampness congeals over time it forms phlegm, which in turn creates tumors, cysts, soft lumps, nodules, cancer, numbness, tremors and paralysis.

As well, cardamom alleviates food stagnation, or food that is poorly digested and so congests and collects in the body. This condition may be either acute or chronic. The acute type is similar to the after-effects of over-eating at a holiday meal and can even cause pain in the heart region; the chronic type occurs when digestion becomes impaired and the body can no longer fully digest or absorb nutrients.

When food overwhelms the stomach, it results in such symptoms as sour regurgitation, reflux or vomiting, belching and/or hiccupping, and foul breath, or it passes on to the intestines causing foul gas, loose stool, or foul-smelling diarrhea. The partially digested food then lingers in the body, congesting the organs and channels and slowing the circulation of Qi, Blood and fluids.

Acute food stagnation in the upper part of the body can cause palpitations or stuffiness around the heart and in the epigastric region. Many folks go to emergency care thinking they are having a heart attack, but what they are really experiencing is acute food congestion in the stomach.

In the middle part of the body, acute food stagnation can cause lack of appetite, fullness and distention of the epigastrium relieved by vomiting; insomnia with a full feeling in the stomach region, unrelieved hiccupping, epigastric spasms, nausea, foul breath, sour regurgitation, belching, abdominal fullness, bloating, and poor distribution and/or assimilation of nutrients.

Still wonder if you have dampness? Stick out your tongue in front of a mirror. If it’s swollen and/or has teeth indentations on the sides (called scallops), then you have dampness. If you have a white or yellow coat, that’s also dampness. The thicker and greasier the coat, the more the dampness has turned to food stagnation or phlegm.

So, are you inspired to find a solution?

Use cardamom!

This is the reason I’ve outlined so many symptoms here: cardamom can treat them all and this is one spice to have on hand. It will save you many a discomforting hour and perhaps even a trip to some sort of emergency care.

And yet, cardamom is a great herb to include on a daily basis. Most people include a long list of dampening foods in their diets: iced drinks, cold foods directly from the refrigerator, smoothies, dairy, soy, soy milk, rice milk, oatmeal, cucumbers, flour products (muffins, bagels, bread, pasta, chips, crackers, pastries), excess raw foods, salads, yogurt, ice cream, potatoes, fruit juices, excess fruit in general, specifically bananas, citrus and persimmons – I could go on and on.

TCM uses true cardamom, or sha ren (Amomum villosum, A. xanthiodes, Elettaria villosa, Cardamomum villosum)) for the above symptoms as well as morning sickness and a restless fetus. It is also frequently added to formulas with cloying herbs to aid in their digestion.

Ayurveda also widely uses cardamom. It is given to eliminate mucus and for colds, coughs, bronchitis, hoarseness, asthma, and a loss of the ability to taste.

For those who want all the specifics, here they are:


Cardamom Fruit, Round (Amomum cardamomum, Elettaria cardamomum)

Bai dou kou (Chinese)                                                      Family: Zingiberaceae

Also named: cardamom cluster, Amomi Fructus rotundus

Energy and flavors: warm, acrid

Organs and channels affected: Spleen, Stomach, Lung

Chemical constituents: d-camphor, d-borneol

Properties and actions: carminative, stomachic, antiemetic, expectorant; aromatically transforms Dampness, directs Qi downward

Contraindications: Deficient Blood or Yin

Dosage: 3-6g in decoction (added in the last five minutes); 2-5g as a powder; 20-60 drops tincture (1:10 @40%ABV), TID

Cardamom Seed, True  (Amomum villosum, A. xanthiodes, Elettaria villosa, Cardamomum villosum)

Sha ren (Chinese)                                                              Family: Zingiberaceae

Also named: grains-of-paradise fruit, Amomi Fructus

Energy and flavors: warm, acrid

Organs and channels affected: Spleen, Stomach, Lungs

Chemical constituents: 2-8% volatile oil comprising limonene, terpinene, dipentene, camphor, borneol

Properties and actions: antiemetic, carminative, antidiarrheal, aromatic, stimulant, stomachic, antiemetic; aromatically transforms Dampness, regulates Qi

Contraindications: Deficient Yin with Heat signs.

Dosage: 3-6g; Because of its essential oil content, Cardamom is added in the last five minutes of a decoction; 2-5g as a powder; 30-90 drops tincture (1:10 @40%ABV), TID


After writing about the various types of citrus and their uses I thought about using other fruits as medicine. My mind turned to quince, since our wild lemon tree looks very similar to it. However, quince is not in the same family as citrus, Rutaceae (the rue family), but in Rosaceae, shared with apples and pears. The raw fruit is hard and unpalatable, but when cooked the flesh turns a brownish pink and has a pleasant flavor. There are lots of recipes using it throughout the ages and its typical use is as a food. I knew the Chinese used quince medicinally but what about Western quince?

Western Quince

Native not only to rocky slopes and woodland margins in Southwest Asia, quince (Cydonia vulgaris) is also indigenous to Turkey and Iran (as far back as Persia and Anatolia). Later it spread to Greece and of course from there to Europe and America. There’s lots of lore around quince. Sacred to Aphrodite, it was this fruit that Paris awarded to her. It was also the golden quince for which Atalanta paused in her race.

However, Western quince is quite different than that which grows in the East. The immature fruit is green with a dense grey-white pubescence, most of which rubs off before maturity in late autumn when the fruit changes to a golden yellow color. It’s long been used in jams and jellies, of course, but also as medicine, too.

Listed in Grieve’s A Modern Herbal (from 1931), it is demulcent, astringent and antidiarrheal. The fruit may be made into syrup and taken for diarrhea. The seeds are very mucilaginous and taken internally treat diarrhea and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Topically, the seeds make a good compress, poultice, ointment, or lotion for burns, chaps, ulcers, cuts, and to soothe the eyes. It can also be used as a mouthwash or gargle for mouth and throat inflammations.

Some people use common quince (Cydonia oblonga) interchangeably with C. vulgaris for digestive disorders, diarrhea, coughs, and gastrointestinal inflammation.

Homeopathic Quince

Quince is also a homeopathic remedy. Called cydonia, it’s used to strengthen the stomach and male sexual organs. It’s particularly used for penis enlargement by removing any infection in the prostate that can lead to this condition. (I know, “What dose?” you immediately ask!) Normally it comes in a 30C potency.

Chinese Quince

The Chinese quince (Chaenomeles langenaria) is also known as “flowering quince.” It is more like a bush of canes and has red fruit. Also in the Rosaceae family, it’s called mu gua in Chinese and has a warm energy, sour flavor and enters the Liver and Spleen channels. It is considered an herb to dispel Wind-Damp conditions, particularly in the joints and extremities. The dried fruit is used to move the Blood through the channels, relax the muscles and tendons, transform Dampness and harmonize the Stomach. It is anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, laxative, analgesic, and astringent.

Chinese quince is especially effective for the lower limbs, treating ligament pains, congestion of the blood and nerve channels, weakness in the lower back and extremities, severe cramping pains, abdominal pains, spasms of the calves, and swelling of the legs. It also unblocks food stagnation, similarly to hawthorn berries.

It is generally not given to those with heat and is taken in decoction using 3-12g.

Japanese quince (Cydonis japonica) is grown mainly as an ornamental for its red flowers.


To feel healthy, strong, vibrant, and vital each day sets the stage for all the other virtues, hope and interest. We will all eventually pass away sooner or later, but we owe it to ourselves to feel as good as we can each day we are alive. Since I happen to believe that good (non-fanatical) nutrition is the basis of health and well-being, and I’ve made it thus far to a pretty youthful and vibrant three quarters of a century by May of this year, I’d like to think I can discuss a thing or two about preserving wellness in the long haul.


Find something to be thankful for. I actually have a large printed sheet stuck to the ceiling over my bed that says "Gratitude" to remind me of this virtue.

Accentuate the positive

In the morning and at night before bed, take a moment to offer at least the possibility of giving and receiving love and blessings to anyone with whom you may be in conflict. Remember, at some level, we are all just actors on the stage of life. If you keep wanting tragedy and discontent, focus on the negative emotions of jealousy, resentment, hurt, envy, and so forth; if you want joy and happiness, focus on love, light and a joyous heart. This is important, but it need take no more than a conscious minute or two.

Make time to meditate

This could be as little as five minutes in the morning and before bed.  For meditation I have found a wonderful app called Insight Timer. Set any amount of time you wish to meditate to the sound of Tibetan gong bells. It also has a number of excellent guided meditations that you can use. Currently I do anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes each morning, but just taking a moment to tune in and touch the source of all that is ever present at the base of your consciousness each day, once, twice or more often, is arguably the most empowering act you can do for yourself.


Perform some simple yogic, tai chi or qi gong stretches – whatever you have time to do. As time permits I may also put in some aerobic activity: a jog of a mile or two, time on the elliptical, a walk, whatever.

Start the day with a dynamite smoothie

Now for the fun and delicious part: my ever-evolving breakfast health smoothie. In the recipe below I’m also sharing the point values for anyone following the Weight Watchers weight management plan.

You will need the following:

  • Almond milk, unsweetened or one cup of non-fat milk (1 or 2 points)
  • Paradise ORAC Energy Protein and Greens.  "ORAC" stands for "Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity." This is, in my unsolicited opinion, the best superfood combination I have found on the market. It combines the antioxidant power of over 24 servings of non-GMO, pesticide-free, certified organic vegetables and fruits, supplying complete amino acids and 22 grams of protein based on green peas per each two scoop serving. (3 points)
  • Walnuts, 6 halves (2 points)
  • One banana (0 points)
  • Berries, any kind, fresh or raw (0 points)
  • Chia seeds, 1 tsp (1 point)
  • Red Star brewer’s yeast (1 point)
  • Local bee pollen (optional)
  • Whole milk yogurt, 1 tablespoon (optional)
  • ¼ tsp each cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom, nutmeg powders: These spices not only add flavor but counteract the cold energy of the other ingredients and assist digestion and assimilation.

Blend these together and enjoy. Take each morning or more often as desired.

For a total of only eight Weight Watchers points and the satisfaction of knowing that you have satisfied your vegetable needs for the day and enough protein and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids from the walnuts and chia seeds to satisfy your daily requirement of that important fat nutrient. It is unlikely that you will be hungry again until at least until the middle of the afternoon and you can snack on some seeds, almond or make another smoothie with different ingredients such as soy milk, pineapple, mixed fruits, peanut, almond or cashew butter.

This is the most high-density protein and nutrient food-drink you can make and either starting the morning with it or using it as a restricted food for a week, will melt pounds off of your body and build health and wellness.

This sure works for me. If you try it, leave a comment and let me know what you think!

The holidays are fast approaching and before you know it, you might need to start cooking up a storm. But what if you’re tired of the same old recipes or you want to try something new? Look no further. I’ve got several ideas here to spice up your holiday eating as well as expand your culinary herbal horizons. And at the very end I’ve included several after-dinner digestive aids to prevent that awful sluggishness most of us feel after over-eating holiday meals.


Traditional Meal

Many of us love the traditional meals we serve at holiday time so I won’t mess with those plans. However, here are some ways you can sneak spices into your dishes so they are more interesting and healthy ones, too.

Creamed onions: Add cardamom, one of the best spices to help digestion and eliminate the dampening nature of dairy.

Winter squash: Cut in half and baked with a drizzling of ghee and generous sprinkle of cinnamon, this delish dish not only makes your kitchen (and house) smell divine, but the cinnamon also helps balance blood sugar and warms your inner metabolic and Kidney Yang fires.

Stuffing: By adding sage, thyme, bay and rosemary to your stuffing mix, you’ll aid digestion and help protect everyone from the nasty colds and flu so common at this time of year.

Pumpkin pie: Spices are sure to be in your pies, but know that together cloves, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and cardamom all help digestion, eliminate dampness, warm the metabolism and balance blood sugar.


Add a Little Adventure to Your Meal

Side Dishes

Try these two vegetable dishes to expand your flavors and increase your meal’s health benefits.

Brussels sprouts with lemon and garlic: The garlic in this dish helps treat and prevent colds and flu. As well, lemon juice helps clear some Liver Heat that increases from all the tasty wine you might drink.

String beans with lycii berries (gou ji zi) and walnuts: This preparation is not only unusual in taste but also color and texture. Traditionally, Chinese long beans are used but I’ve made it with regular string beans just fine. Blanch the walnuts and soak the lycii berries before adding. Include the lycii juice, too. Lycii not only nourishes the body’s essence, it also helps eyesight and supports the Liver and Kidney energy. Walnuts tonify Kidney Yang and so treat low back pain, lowered metabolism, edema in the legs and mild constipation in those who are tired and cold.


Main Dishes

Calendula Quiche: Calendula flowers are anti-fungal and move circulation. They are used for skin complains, red and irritated eyes and liver cleansing. They add a beautiful visual touch to your meal as well.

  • 1 pie crust
  • ¼-1/3 lb. cheese (Monterey Jack, Cheddar and Swiss cheese
  • are good choices.)
  • 1 cup onions
  • calendula petals from 8-10 calendulas
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk

Grate the cheese and put in piecrust. Sauté onions and mix with calendula petals. Pour over cheese. Beat together eggs and milk. Pour over top of pie mixture. Bake 35-40 minutes at 375 degrees. Let cool. Cut into 6-8 pie wedges. Top each with a calendula flower.


Basil Pesto: Used as an appetizer or part of the main meal, basil helps digestion, treats colds, is anti-inflammatory and supports heart health. Garlic cures everything except what it causes: bad breath!

  • 3 packed cups fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • ¾ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½-¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ packed cup parsley

Puree everything together in a blender or food processor. Pour into a container and cover with 2 tablespoons oil to keep it from darkening.



Flowered Salad will surprise everyone and provide a spicy-sweet flavor, interesting texture and gentle fragrance to your meal. As well, colored flowers are striking against the green leaves in a flower salad. Flowers have been eaten for thousands of years – why not bring them back again?

Wash and dry edible flowers such as chives, nasturtiums, violets, borage, pansies, wild radish, Johnny-jump-ups, and rose and calendula petals. Add to salad greens right before serving. Lightly sprinkle on your favorite dressing (see below) and toss.


And Don’t Forget the Dressing!

Make one (or all!) of these vinegar dressings ahead of time and enliven your salads even more.

Spiced vinegar: Add 2-4 garlic cloves, 4-6 ginger slices and 1-2 whole cayenne peppers to apple cider vinegar.

Italian vinegar: Use a whole stem each of rosemary, oregano and thyme and 4-6 leaves of basil apple cider vinegar.

Dandelion vinegar: Use a handful of dandelion leaves and flowers in apple cider vinegar.



Try some new drinks this year! How about mulled cider, chai, or cinnamon milk? You might even make some herbal beers or wines, although those recipes aren’t included here.

Chai is a delicious spicy tea is regularly drunk in India. Chai helps relieve indigestion, gas and colds with strong chills and a low fever. It also makes a great winter brew to warm the body and metabolism, especially if you easily feel cold. Orange and tangerine peels are great digestive aids, alleviating gas, nausea and vomiting and clearing white to clear-colored mucus. Lemon peel is a traditional after-dinner tea in Italy to help digestion, while grapefruit peel lowers fevers and treats colds and flu.

  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger or ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
  • 7 peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 15 cardamom seeds
  • 1 peel from a whole orange (dry or fresh), tangerine, lemon or grapefruit
  • 1 pint water
  • ½ cup milk

Combine all the ingredients except milk in a pot. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add milk and simmer covered another 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey, if desired. You may brew this with black tea or other herbal teas such as rooibos.  You can also make it more or less spicy by adjusting the amount of milk used.


Ginger Ale Fizz tastes very much like old-fashioned ginger ale but is much healthier and is a great digestive aid and cold/flu preventer.

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root, or ½ teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup carbonated water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (raw or brown sugar is preferable) or honey

Bring ginger and water to a boil. Turn down heat to low and simmer covered for no more than 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Strain. Add carbonated water. Stir in sugar or honey. Let cool.


Cinnamon Milk is just one of many herbal milks you can make. Often used in India, cinnamon milk especially helps to firm loose or runny bowels, warms the body and aids digestion. This is a great drink for children or to help sleep after a long busy holiday.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Heat milk in a pan to scalding. Add powdered cinnamon and honey and stir well.



Cinnamon Halvah

Halvah is a wonderful candy made from sesame seeds and honey. Sesame seeds are high in calcium, a mineral that strengthens bones, teeth and nerves while honey is warming and helps clear white mucus. When cinnamon is added, it warms you up on a blustery day and aids digestion, too.

  • 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon powder
  • ½ cup honey

Lightly toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet, stirring constantly until the seeds start popping and turn brown. Cool. Grind sesame seeds in a nut and seed or coffee grinder, blender or food processor until they form a paste. Mix with cinnamon powder and honey. Spread mixture thinly on a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap up to cover. Refrigerate several hours. Cut into bite-sized pieces and eat.


Candied flowers have traditionally been eaten for centuries. They are a beautiful and delicate treat. Many different types of flowers may be used, but try violets, rose petals, borage, honeysuckle, or jasmine for starters.

  • A handful or two of flowers
  • 2/3 cup unrefined granulated cane sugar
  • ½ cup water

Gently rinse flowers in water and set to dry on a towel. Boil sugar and water 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until light syrup forms. Using a fork or tongs, dip each flower into the syrup and gently shake off the excess. Set flowers on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper. With a toothpick, straighten out any folded or bent petals. Let dry in a warm place out of the sun. Store in a tin until ready to eat.


After-Dinner Digestive Aids

How do you prevent the awful stomach bloating or food stagnation that arises after over-eating a delicious meal? Here are three choices that not only help digestion, but also taste fabulous, too.

Fennel Candy is a regular after-dinner treat to aid digestion.

  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon water

In a pan mix together the fennel seeds, sugar and water. Heat gently on the stove until the sugar dissolves and coats the seeds. Pour into a bowl. Add 2 more teaspoons fennel seeds and 2 teaspoons sugar. Mix together well and let cool.


Candied Ginger is typically eaten in China to aid digestion.

  • ¼ pound fresh ginger root (about 1 cup sliced ginger)
  • ½ cup sugar (raw sugar is best)
  • 1 cup water

Peel off outer skin of ginger. Slice ginger into paper-thin rounds. Bring the water and ginger to a boil and simmer 10 minutes covered. Remove and set aside the ginger slices. Add ½ cup sugar to the ginger water and stir until dissolved. Return pan to the heat and cover. Simmer 2-3 minutes. Remove the cover and continue cooking until a syrupy consistency is reached, about 5-10 minutes. Add ginger to the syrup and stir well to coat the ginger. Remove the ginger slices from the liquid and place into a bowl. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons extra sugar over them and roll in the sugar to coat the slices. Then place ginger pieces on waxed paper spaced apart. Let dry overnight. Store carefully in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.

Hawthorn berries not only help heart function, but also help the digestion of meat and fats. In China hawthorn is made into thin wafers and eaten as candy after meals for just his purpose. Place a bowl of fresh or dried hawthorn berries on the table and let people eat as desired, or make into a paste that can be licked off spoons by grinding the berries and mixing with honey.

SHARE YOUR FAVORITE HERBAL HOLIDAY RECIPES IN THE COMMENTS SECTION and I’ll post them for everyone to use over the December holidays!

full_bellyWe are at the end of the Spleen/Stomach "time of year" – actually the Spleen/Spleen time – meaning that digestive and metabolic issues can be especially strained now. Every organ system "rules" about two and a half months of the year during which its energy should flourish. In addition, the last half-month of each season is also a Spleen time regardless of the organ system, thus Spleen/Spleen now. This will shift into Lung time about mid-September. Until then, digestive issues are up for many.

It’s amazing to me how people come into my clinic at the same time of year with similar health issues that match whatever organ "season" we are in. It’s no different now, as from about mid-August to mid-September, people frequently complain of diarrhea, low appetite, poor muscle strength or tone, loose stools or diarrhea, tiredness, inability to focus or concentrate, low vitality, bloating, gas, a need to clear the throat after eating, post nasal drip, runny nose, an inability to lose weight now, or obsession or brooding. These are all signs of Deficient Spleen Qi, Deficient Spleen Yang and/or Spleen Dampness.

When the Spleen is weak, other problems arise as well; as Ayurveda states, digestion is "the key to health." When Spleen Qi is deficient, the body not only doesn’t build sufficient Blood or Qi but also doesn’t supply them adequately to the organs or tissues.

Digestive issues can have great impact on our lives. I have a patient in his 20s, who after eating at a fast food restaurant just once, got colitis with diarrhea that lasted for over five years. He couldn’t date, work, or socialize because he didn’t dare leave his house for frequent need of the bathroom. Another patient could only eat eight foods because of her Crohn’s disease. Still another man in his 20s was up every night from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux), which greatly impacted his schoolwork. A different patient had gluten sensitivity, which limited his food intake tremendously. Many other patients can’t lose weight no matter what they try, even eating low-caloric diets of fruits and salads. I successfully treated all of these conditions with diet and herbs that focused mainly on strengthening the Spleen along with any other presenting patterns.

I’ve even seen people dash to the emergency room thinking they were having a heart attack while in actuality, they were experiencing acute Food Stagnation. I’ve talked with emergency room nurses about this and they say when an obvious heart problem isn’t present, most doctors start with a digestive medication to see if this alleviates the symptoms, which it often does.

In general, the Spleen is responsible for assimilation and transportation of nutrients throughout the body (metabolism). As this occurs on all levels, Spleen Qi not only controls food and fluid metabolism but also cell respiration and other similar metabolic functions. The Spleen rules the muscles, flesh and limbs, keeps the Organs in place and the Blood in vessels, opens to the mouth and manifests in the lips. The Spleen hates to be Damp, as this interferes with its ability to transform and transport food and fluids.

A weak Spleen causes poor digestion, low appetite, gas, bloatedness, acid regurgitation, loose stools or diarrhea, undigested food in the stools, malnutrition, weakness in arms and legs, fatigue, poor muscle development, edema of abdomen, hips and thighs, blood spots under the skin, easy bruising, lack of sensation of taste, prolapsed organs, frequent bleeding, abdominal distension, obsession, worry, and anemia. The tongue has scallops, trembles, may be swollen and has a thicker coat if there’s Dampness or Food Stagnation. The pulse is weak or minute.

These are the typical Spleen patterns found:




Stuffiness of chest or epigastrium

Loose stools with offensive odor

Feeling of heaviness

Low-grade fever constant throughout the day


Stuffiness of epigastrium and lower abdomen with some pain 

Lack of appetite 

No appetite 

No thirst or desire to drink 

Thirst without desire to drink, or desire to drink only in small sips 

Lack of sensation of taste, or flat sweetish taste in mouth 

Abdominal pain 

Skin eruptions containing fluid 

Feeling of heaviness 

Watery stools 

Scanty and dark-colored urine 






Burning sensation of anus 



Tongue: thick, greasy white coat

Tongue: sticky, greasy, yellow coat

Pulse: Slippery and Slow 

Pulse: Slippery and Fast 














cold limbs

Bearing down sensation


No appetite

Lack of appetite 

Prolapse of stomach, vagina, urinary bladder, uterus, anus 

Easily bruised


Fatigue and lethargy 


Frequency and urgency of urination or urinary incontinence 

Subcutaneous hemorrhaging 

Loose stools

Loose stools


Bloody nose 

Poor digestion 

Undigested food in the stools 

Extreme chronic diarrhea 

Blood in the urine or stools 

Slight abdominal pain and distension relieved by pressure 

Abdominal pain and distension relieved by pressure and warmth 


Blood spots under the skin 

Gas and bloatedness 

Gas and bloatedness 

Other signs of Deficient Spleen Qi  

Excessive menses 

Sallow complexion

Sallow or bright-white complexion


Sallow complexion


Weakness of the limbs

Weakness of the four limbs


Uterine bleeding




Shortness of breath

Tongue: pale or normal-colored with thin white moss; possible swollen sides

Tongue: pale, swollen, wet

Tongue: pale

Tongue: pale

Pulse: Empty

Pulse: Weak, Slow

and Deep

Pulse: Weak

Pulse: Fine


Stay tuned for Sept. 21 when I'll describe food and herbs for treating Spleen imbalances.


In my last blog post we explored patterns of disharmony for the Spleen, which are so prevalent at this time of year. Here, I'll discuss remedies for those patterns.

campfire_potSPLEEN DIET

There are many great treatments and herbs for strengthening the Spleen, but it all starts with what we eat since the Spleen and Stomach Organs are directly in charge of breaking down and metabolizing food and drink. This metabolic kitchen is like a pot of soup bubbling about 98-99 degrees on the stove. In TCM the pot of soup is the Spleen, the burner under the pot is the Stomach, and the pilot light of the stove is the Kidneys. Foods that digest easily in this soup pot are thoroughly cooked and warm in temperature.

When added to the soup pot, raw foods, cold foods eaten directly out of the refrigerator or freezer and cold energied-foods all stop the soup from bubbling and slow the digestive process until they warm up to match the body’s temperature. If digestion is strong, this occurs fairly quickly, but over time the body has to turn up the burner under the pot to counteract the coolness obstructing digestion.

When the metabolic Stomach burner suddenly "turns up" symptoms may arise such as forehead headaches (like the ice cream "brain freeze"), gum infections, bleeding gums, increased appetite, dry lips, mouth sores and/or bad breath. If the intake of cold foods continues, it also dampens the pilot light in the Kidneys, making it difficult to stay lit. This is similar to putting wet wood on a fire – it creates smoke (Stomach Heat) and burns low, providing little heat (Deficient Spleen Qi).

Eventually, the burner can’t be turned up any further. Digestion becomes sluggish until ultimately, food is not fully broken down and passes through the stools undigested, like wet wood dampening the fire so in time it goes out altogether (Deficient Kidney Yang).

When digestion gets this Cold, other symptoms manifest such as gas, bloating, sleepiness after eating, anemia, fatigue, weakness, lowered immunity, poor appetite, amenorrhea (lack of menstrual bleeding), loose stools or diarrhea, frequent copious urination, lowered sex drive, achy lower back and knees and a variety of other complaints. Although these symptoms can occur at any time of year, they are generally aggravated in late summer (due to the excessive intake of cooling summer foods), or winter (the coldest season and Kidney time of year).

On the other hand, excessive amounts of hot foods, either from a high temperature or heating energy, such as greasy or oily foods or the excessive intake of hot spices (chili), cause the soup pot to suddenly boil and splatter. This causes too much Heat in the body, leading to headaches, hypertension, irritability, restlessness, difficulty falling asleep, hyperacidity, hyperactivity, and thirst, among numerous other diseases. Thus, you need the correct energied fuel to maintain healthy digestion and stoked fires.




Protein (all proteins, especially beef)

Insufficient protein and nutrition

Cooked foods

Excessive intake of raw foods, including salads

Warm/room temperature drinks

Refrigerated foods and drinks

Root vegetables

Iced drinks

Winter squash

Frozen yogurt, ice cream, popsicles

Rice, quinoa, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, millet; peanuts; tofu

Excessive intake of flour products (breads, pasta, chips, cookies, crackers, pastries, etc.)

Spices (garlic, cumin, ginger, black pepper, etc.)

Excessive hot, spicy foods (such as hot salsa)


Excessive intake of vegetable juices


Excessive intake of potatoes

Peach, apple, mango, papaya, loquat; cook fruit with spices

Excessive intake of fruit and fruit juices

Beets, cabbage, carrot, yam, sweet potato, potato, string beans, peas, winter squash, lotus root

Excessive intake of supplements

Small amounts of whole sugar, especially malt



Along with eating Spleen-strengthening foods and eliminating Spleen-weakening foods, be sure to add spices to your meals. Note, I said spices and NOT spicy (like chilis) as the latter causes Stomach Heat. Spices are generally carminatives that aid digestion as well as flavor food. Examples are: ginger, cardamom, cloves, anise, fennel, garlic, cumin, and coriander. As well, be sure to drink all fluids at room temperature, or even better, warm, and eat mostly cooked foods at room temperature or preferably, warm.


One of the very best therapies to strengthen the Spleen is to do moxibustion. This therapy is a method of burning herbs, usually dried and aged mugwort, on or above the skin to stimulate Qi, Blood and Fluid circulation and warm areas of Coldness. As well, doing moxa on certain points can strengthen digestion and improve Spleen and Stomach energy. Here’s where to do moxa for this above the skin:

  • Over the midline of the abdomen between the navel and public bone
  • On a point located one hand-width below the knee cap and one inch out from the tibia (shin bone) – this point is called Stomach 36, or "three mile" meaning that if you’re too exhausted to walk further, when you stimulate this point you can walk another three miles. As well, this point stimulates gastric secretions and improves digestion, as tiny cameras in the stomach have shown when this point was stimulated.
  • One hand-width up from the wrist in the center between the tendons. This point is called Pericardium 6.

To use the moxa stick, either hold it still and move when heat tolerance is reached, returning after a few seconds and repeating the process, or move stick in circular fashion until warm. Continue until the area or point is warm and red, about 10-15 minutes. Put the stick out in raw rice, or place in a jar and screw the lid on tight.


Qi tonics are generally sweet in flavor and warm in energy. Qi tonics may slightly stagnate the Qi, which is why Qi-building formulas usually include herbs that regulate or move the Qi along with herbs that dispel Dampness. I wish I could give you western Spleen Qi tonics, but they don’t really exist in western herbalism. You could use adaptogens, but they are not strong Qi tonics.

Do not use Qi tonics during the acute stages of colds/flu/fever as they can push the pathogen deeper into the body, like locking a thief in the house. As Qi tonics can also cause colic in breast-feeding infants, use caution if nursing.

The very best way to take herbs for the Spleen is to cook with them. Add Spleen Qi tonic herbs to grains, soups, breakfast cereals and stews. Use the tea as stocks or in sauces. Be sure to remove the fibrous parts and pits from the dates but eat the rest of the herbs with the foods.


Spleen Qi tonics: Astragalus (huang qi), ginseng (ren shen), codonopsis (dang shen), Chinese wild yam (shan yao), white atractylodes (bai zhu), licorice (gan cao), jujube dates (da zao)

Combine with:

  • Damp-dispelling herbs like elecampane/pinellia, fu ling
  • Qi movers such as citrus, saussurea
  • Aromatic Damp-dispelling herbs like agastache, cloves, cardamom
  • Spleen Yang tonics like dried ginger or psoralae



The most common Spleen tonic formulas include:

Spleen Qi Tonics:

Four Gentlemen (Si Jun Zi Tang): (ren shen) or codonopsis (dang shen), poria (fu ling), white atractylodes (bai zhu), licorice (gan cao). This is the classic formula to tonify the Spleen. It treats fatigue, poor appetite, watery diarrhea, poor muscle strength and tone, and sluggish digestion.

Six Gentlemen (Liu Jun Zi Tang): add citrus and pinellia to above four herbs. This formula also clears accumulation of Phelgm and Dampness with such symptoms as acid regurgitation, chest fullness, cough with thin white sputum, and vomiting.

Ginseng and Astragalus Combination (Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang): astragalus (huang qi), licorice (gan cao), ginseng (ren shen) or codonopsis (dang shen), atractylodes (bai zhu), Angelica sinensis (dang gui), cimicifuga (sheng ma), bupleurum (chai hu), citrus (chen pi), jujube dates (da zao), fresh ginger (sheng jiang). This formula treats low energy, shortness of breath, fatigue, spontaneous sweating, low appetite, loose stools, irritability, intolerance of cold and prolapse of organs. It is said to be the best way to strengthen the Kidneys through the Spleen.

Spleen Dampness:

Wei Ling Tang: alisma (ze xie), poria (fu ling), polyporus (zhu ling), cinnamon twig (gui zhi), white atactrylodes (bai zhu), black atractylodes (cang zhu), magnolia bark (hou po), citrus peel (chen pi), licorice (gan cao), fresh ginger (sheng jiang), jujube date (da zao). This formula clears Spleen Dampness with symptoms of abdominal fullness, sensation of heaviness in the head and body, edema of the face and eyes, poor appetite, and watery diarrhea. As well, you could add herbs like cardamom or cloves to your normal Qi-building formula.

Spleen Yang Tonics:

Ginseng and Ginger Combination (Li Zhong Wan): ginseng (ren shen), white atracylodes (bai zhu), dry ginger (gan jiang), baked licorice (zhi gan cao). This formula warms the Spleen and Stomach treating symptoms of lack of appetite, no thirst, abdominal fulless that likes pressure, vomiting, and loose stools or diarrhea.

Food Stagnation:

See my blog posted in June, 2013.


scaledudeThe word is finally getting out. Approximately one third of Americans are overweight. As a result, they suffer from a number of metabolic diseases such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The health problems arising from this condition result in literally billions of dollars in additional health care costs.

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, beginning at 5:30 PM PST I will offer a free 1½ hour webinar on safe, balanced weight loss. Please register in advance for participation.

In advance of that webinar, I would like to offer a few ideas that you might find useful and that we will talk further about during the webinar. Even incorporating a few of these into your daily routine can make a big difference in your ability to shed those unwanted pounds over time.

Foods and food quality

 Eat whole, pure foods. Before you reach for that extra fatty, sugary, starchy something ask yourself the questions, "Is it worth it?" and "Am I willing to wear it?"

Eat as many fresh vegetables and fruit as you can.

Everyday, be sure to eat quality protein, such as a 3-ounce serving of meat, 2 eggs, dairy including milk and yogurt, or beans.

Satisfy cravings with proteinaceous foods such as nuts, hard boiled eggs, and non-fat yogurt.

Try to eat more slowly, giving your appetite time to catch up with your hunger.

Don’t be afraid to discard or donate excess food. For many of us in our time and place, overeating is more of a problem than starvation and the earth is always ready to renew itself with our discarded waste and food. Parents: don’t eat your children’s leftovers. This can be the bane of many parents who fail to lose weight.

Restaurants are notorious for large portions. In most cases, you can easily eat only half of what is given and save the leftovers for a delicious meal the following day.

Whenever possible, share desserts.

It is often better to have a small bite of something that may not be so good for you in your adventure in weight loss than to struggle with unsustainable self-denial.

Do snack. Studies have shown that eating small amounts throughout the day charges your metabolism. For such occasions, carry a bag of seeds or nuts to help satisfy some of those hunger cravings for things that are not so good.

Don’t miss meals! Having said this, while breakfast is usually considered the most important meal of the day, if you are not hungry or have overeaten the previous day, you might wait until midmorning brunch and or have something light such as fruit or a low-calorie high-protein fruit smoothie.

Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Whenever possible, drink first and eat later, or better yet, learn to recognize the difference.


Keep a diet diary or use one of a number of online diet diary calculators. Most of us get fat because we lose awareness and control over what we eat.

Check the scale regularly, one to three times weekly.

If you begin an exercise routine, keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat; with added muscle, the body tends to have higher metabolism and burn calories more efficiently. Do not get discouraged because the scale does not reflect weight loss. Instead, use a tape measure to measure your abdomen, arms and thighs and track your progress that way.


Adequate sleep is vitally important to any weight loss program. One of the reasons we eat so much is because we are chronically tired and we learn to use food as a temporary metabolic stimulant. I think this is one of the biggest reasons many people are over their healthy weight.

On the other hand, make it a habit to get at least 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a day. Gardening, by the way, is fabulous exercise. Find ways to get more movement in your life such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Consider listening to audiobooks while exercising, jogging or walking.

Triphala and Garcinia

Triphala and Garcinia cambogia are traditional and the best supplements to use for weight loss and weight maintenance. I’ve put these two herbs together in Planetary Formulas’ Triphala-Garcinia Program. I know the research doesn’t support the extravagant weight loss claims attributed to the use of garcinia, but taking three 1300 mg tablets of this formula along with an 8-ounce glass of water a three times a day, a half hour before meals is an effective supplement when accompanied with a comprehensive dieting and lifestyle program.

Among Triphala’s myriad uses as a key treatment in Ayurvedic medicine is weight regulation through whole body detoxification. Triphala, comprised of three fruits, amla (Terminalia emblica), haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) and bibhitaki (Beleric myroblan). Each fruit corresponds to each of the three doshas or humours of the body, harmonizing, detoxifying and eliminating all excesses in a balanced way. It is the most effective herbal antioxidant and among its many uses, it optimizes digestion, assists liver detoxification, prevents accumulation of fatty deposits throughout the body including the circulatory system, and normalizes bowel function with no dependency.

Garcinia inhibits the liver enzyme that turns carbohydrates into fat. It also quells hunger.

The basic strategy for the use of herbs for weight loss is to help digestion and promote detoxification. Additionally, many overweight people have an underactive thyroid gland, which causes low metabolism. Because of its iodine content, kelp or bladderwrack provide the essential nutrients necessary for the production of thyroid hormone. These are all found in Planetary’s Triphala-Garcinia Program.


Kichari: An Ideal Food for Balanced Weight Management

Kichari is an ideal food for all healing and is especially useful for promoting balanced weight loss, treatment of insulin resistance, Syndrome X and diabetes. It makes an ideal food consumed occasionally or as a mono-diet over extended periods of time.

Kichari, commonly known as "mung dahl" in Indian restaurants basically consists of split yellow mung beans and white basmati rice cooked with the three basic spices of turmeric, cumin and coriander, rock salt and ghee or clarified butter.

This basic recipe can be served alone or with the addition of complementary spices such as asafetida, and various vegetables to make a stew. As such the combination of carbohydrate and beans make a complete protein with which the addition of ghee and spices are easily digested.

For much more on kichari, plus multiple recipes, please see my previous blog:

Kichari: The Food of the Gods

High-Protein Breakfast Smoothie

I often like to start the day with a breakfast smoothie using 1 cup of whole or non-fat milk (lower calories), or a nut milk such as almond milk.

Next I add a protein- vegetable- and fruit-rich powder. Often, I use two scoops of Orac’s Protein and Greens which contains 17 grams of pea protein. To this I add:

6 walnut halves

1 teaspoon of bee pollen

1 tablespoon of brewer’s yeast

1 banana

Berries, frozen or fresh

Perhaps an occasional mango

For digestion and metabolic warmth I might add ½ teaspoon each of ginger, cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.

Starting the day off with this high-energy superfood will usually satisfy all my hunger urges for a half-day or more.

The next two meals might consist of a bowl of kichari.

Be sure to register for the weight loss webinar on Oct. 1 where I will present traditional natural approaches to weight management based on ancient principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and modern naturopathic approaches!

scaleA few months ago, I found myself asking the question that so many of my students and colleagues were polite enough to not ask me:

"What is an herbalist, author of multiple best-selling books and articles on natural healing, mentor to an entire generation of healers, doing walking around with a pot belly and some 40 to 50 pounds of life-threatening flab?

The truth is, I had tried on numerous occasions to lose weight using various well known methods, including fasting. Fasting certainly works as any caloric reduction would, but the problem is the almost uncontrollable urge to eat anything and everything, especially after completion of a fast. It’s the old ‘action-reaction’ law that haunts everything we try to do.

Basically, whatever one has to say about weight loss, and evidently judging from the plethora of books and experts out there, that’s a lot, it all boils down to caloric restriction and raising one’s metabolism; in other words, less food and more movement.

But there is one more vitally important aspect to weight loss, one that has been the unique aspect of the Weight Watchers method: the psycho-emotional component. It was in September 1961 that Jean Nidetch, an overweight woman from Queens, NY, called a group of friends to share her obsession of eating freshly baked cookies. It was from this that she realized that the most effective keys to weight control was not only the types and amount of foods that one eats but the mental aspects of "empathy, rapport and mutual understanding" that precedes all other measures. Her discovery resulted in a personal 70-pound weight loss and the beginning of one of the most effective weight control organizations in the world. Jean began by turning her weekly cookie eating fests to weekly support gatherings to encourage and help fellow dieters to lose weight and feel healthier. The key was gentle and supportive, personal and collective accountability. With that philosophy at its core, Weight Watchers was organized as a company in 1963.  Instead of counting calories that went into the thousands each day they developed a system of counting only a limited number of points – an important psychological approach that makes the whole thing a lot more practical than counting calories.

Depending on one’s starting weight a fixed number of points is allotted for each day. In order to keep weight loss balanced, and to prevent rebound so that the loss is permanent, the number of points allotted for each day during the weight loss phase continues to slightly diminish as one loses weight. Because many consider Weight Watchers not simply a weight loss method but weight maintenance one as well, when one reaches one’s target weight range, the formula changes to allow more points for weight management. It is at that stage that one can solicit Weight Watchers for free lifetime membership.

Previous to Weight Watchers, I would start a diet program and then find that I was getting nowhere because I always managed to eat more than I needed since I didn’t realize how much that extra slice of bread or ice cream indulgence really cost me in terms of my ability to lose weight. So I failed and gave up.

Next there were the restrictive diet regimes, many if not all of which I know intimately and well, either from personal experience or the countless numbers of patients I’ve supervised over decades. Such programs definitely work for awhile but again the pendulum swings back and before we know it we have driven ourselves insane following some rigid fad dietary regime that denies us access to our favorite foods. This drives to the other end of dietary insanity, where we find ourselves putting on the pounds with beer, pasta, cake, pies, candy, you name it.

Weight Watchers’ success is in the realization that strictly in terms of weight loss, along with food quantity, it is not so much what we eat but how much accountability we keep to others and ourselves.

The funny thing is, I knew that Weight Watchers worked because I tried it several years ago and had indeed lost weight. The problem then was that it was inconvenient to keep a handwritten daily diet diary and making sure that I ate within the personally allotted daily point allowance based on my weight. Nowadays, they still have personal calculator that one can purchase to be sure one stays within the daily allowance, but I personally found that downloading and using the Weight Watchers online app for iPhone (and other smart phones), together with the handy bar scanner where one could scan a product’s bar code to get the number of points for a serving of any packaged food makes the process of weight loss like a game based on the choices I make and am willing to make throughout the day.

Rather than ruling out an indulgence of that wonderful aroma of baked flour, fat, sugar and cinnamon that wafts to my senses between flights in airports, I can look up the points for the Cinnabon and see that yes, I could eat it, but it will cost me an entire day’s worth of 30 points to do so, and isn’t really worth it.

In addition to knowing how many points I am allowed to consume and the convenience of logging these on my iPhone app, what makes Weight Watchers really work for me is going to the weekly weigh-in sessions, which take about 45 minutes each week. So far as I’m concerned, all three components have been an essential part of my commitment.

One of the common complaints about Weight Watchers has been that previously it did not emphasize healthy eating as much. Attempting to maintain its fundamental approach that allows one to eat or drink anything so long as they remain within the point allowance, in recent years Weight Watchers evolved a Points Plus system. This identifies a category of pure, nutrient dense, whole foods in a recommended category of "Power Foods." Consuming more of these foods leads to greater satisfaction, less hunger and greater health. For example, a cup of rice, whether it is white or brown, is still 5 points. Since it is always about making smart choices, one may choose whether a half cup at approximately 2 points or so together with a high protein food such as an egg, also at 2 points, would be a better and more long lasting satisfying choice. Weight Watchers also allows a limitless amount of vegetables and within reason fresh fruit point-free and they encourage five servings of these daily which goes a long way toward feeling satisfied while losing weight. Because many mistake the need for food with the need for water, Weight Watchers recommends 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. I don’t think this takes into account the increased tendency towards frequent urination that occurs for many as they age.

Often when I counsel patients on diet I ask them to keep a diet diary. Each time they bring it to me I tell them how their food choices may sabotage their efforts to heal. I then began to consider that what was good for the goose just might be good for the gander (me). Serendipitously, this occurred just at the time when I read a study published in the August 2012 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine1. It was a sizable study involving 1,685 overweight or obese U.S. adults ranging from 25 years and older that found that people who kept food diaries and were only encouraged to eat a healthy diet and keep physically active were able to shed almost 13 pounds on average. According to the senior investigator, Victor Stevens, PhD, senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., "those who kept food records six days a week -- jotting down everything they ate and drank on those days -- lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less."

Much like Weight Watchers, accountability, rather than whether someone ate too much sugar or not enough whole grains or vegetables, was the major reason for the success of this approach to weight loss. This was further emphasized by the fact that these subjects were also required to meet weekly in groups to share their food diaries and brush up on skills like how to judge portion size.

Somehow this rang a bell for me and it didn’t take long for me to reconsider Weight Watchers, the only systematic approach to weight loss that I had tried and achieved a measure of success.

As an Italian, my dietary Achilles' heel is pasta. On New Year’s eve, Lesley and I went to dinner at our favorite newly opened local Italian restaurant (for those of you who live in the Santa Cruz area it’s called Casa Nostra and it happens to be located in my hometown of Ben Lomond). Knowing that we were going to dinner that evening, I had only one meal that day: an 8-point breakfast of whole grain cereal, banana, blueberries, lycii berries, walnuts (the best appetite appeaser), and non-fat milk. This left me with 27 points for the evening, enough to accommodate an uncharacteristic indulgence in a superb marinara meat lasagna. It so happened that theirs was not so much smothered with high calorie cheese but with beef so to my taste the consistency, the health value and the points were better. If I didn’t have so many points to spend, I would have had to consider halving the serving for a meal the next day, instead, I was happy to indulge my epicurean propensity and eat their full portion. When I tabulated the points I found that of even this at best only took up perhaps 12 to 14 of my 27 points remaining. This left room for our stopping after a movie at another excellent local German restaurant (Tyrolean Inn) for their most exquisite warm apple strudel even topped with a dollop of whipped cream!

The next morning I awoke, meditated, got to the bathroom scale, and was delighted to learn that I didn’t gain weight from my on-the-town foray of the previous night. In fact, I even lost a tad. This was even before getting on the elliptical rider, which I alternate with a daily two-mile jog and some weight resistance training and yoga. Besides the self-esteem that many associate with a thinner body, there is the real benefit of the ability to enjoy life more fully. One of my greatest satisfactions is that I can now do all the yoga asanas I once used to do some 20 or so years ago.

And oh, I forgot to tell you how much weight I have lost over five-month period – a whopping 30 pounds! At the young age of 73, I’m rapidly approaching my new weight goal, which may be close to what I was in my late teens. By the way, about four months ago I gifted one of my grown children a Weight Watchers membership and she just let me know that she’s lost 19 pounds to date.

beforeww   afterww

Above: Michael Tierra before (left), and after (right) Weight Watchers

So if you are into making another New Year’s resolution to shed the pounds, I suggest that you consider joining Weight Watchers online and attend the local weekly meetings for at least the first three months. I think the further accountability and the ongoing support from others who are on the same path is well worth the modest expense.

So there you have it! I’ve given you all my new year’s advice for the big question that many have at this time - how to lose weight in this year. May you be as successful and feel as good.

[i] American Journal of Preventive Medicine Volume 35, Issue 2, Pages 118-126 (August 2008) DOI:10.1016/j.amepre.2008.04.013

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