I find it extremely annoying that the west has gone sweet '" that is, sickly sweet.
This occurs not just in mainstream food products, but in health food as well. Until recently, it was easy to find sugarless products in health foods stores, but several years ago when one major brand that contained sugar in every product entered the health food market, all the other brands began to mimic that by adding sugar to their foods, too. Now it's nearly impossible to find salad dressings, crackers, spaghetti sauce and cereals for example, without any sugar in them whatsoever.
Today people consume 40 more pounds per year '" that's 40 MORE POUNDS '" of sugar today than a generation ago*! This is almost double the amount in only 20 years' time. I find this shocking. Normally this fact would conjure images of people in fast food lines ordering 'super size' meals or over-indulging in desserts, but today the situation is much more prevalent than that. Sugar is hidden everywhere and runs rampant in most every food in the grocery store, health foods included. It's insidious!
Consider this: there are 10 teaspoons of sugar in every can of soda; one can a day can increase your risk of diabetes by 83%. And there are three teaspoons of sugar in every serving of salad dressing (multiplied by the number of servings you actually put on your salad). Ketchup has one teaspoon of sugar in every tablespoon of ketchup '" that's one-third of its content! The list goes on and on.*
What I find even worse is that this situation now affects my choices, too. When health food store foods only included sugar in select products to enhance and provide a certain taste, shopping was easy. Now sugar is in everything. When I can't even buy salad dressing, spaghetti sauce or crackers because there aren't any choices without sugar (or to be factual here '" just one choice of dozens), that's poor choice indeed. And bad taste, too!
In fact, I had a good laugh in the health food store today when I saw a spaghetti sauce brand with bold letters on its label: NO ADDED SUGAR. Obviously, someone else has noticed this dilemma, too (so bravo to you!).
While natural foods tend to use alternatives to white, refined sugar, the natural varieties increase one's sugar load and insulin output, too. Even agave is high on the glycemic index, meaning that it quickly raises blood sugar in the body. On top of that, processed simple carbohydrates actually act like sugar without fiber in our bodies since they convert to sugar very quickly. This includes all those crackers, cookies, chips, pretzels, power bars, juices, breads, muffins, on and on and on. In a natural food store, these products often occupy entire aisles!
Yes, sugar may represent love and comfort, but this really means that the craving for sweet reflects the need to fill a hole inside of us that was created by something else. Sweet foods will never fully satisfy or fill those holes. Instead, we are really looking for another type of sweetness to fill our lives.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the sweet taste nourishes the Earth element and its organs, the Spleen and Stomach. The Earth element is at the center of all the other elements, providing grounding, centering, identity, nourishment and focus. It's also our relationship with ourselves and ability to manifest our visions and inspirations. It enables us to digest ideas, cultivate our paths, fully commit to ourselves, develop our true identities, love ourselves and have staying power over our lifetimes. A little sweet strengthens these aspects, but in excess, it makes us 'sticky' '" stuck and needy. In time this not only injuries our digestive processes, but impairs our abilities to develop strong identities as well.
Today, excess sugar is causing one of the fastest growing diseases: type II diabetes. Thankfully, 90% of it can be reversed simply through exercise and diet change. Warning signs of diabetes include: constant thirst, frequent urination, infections that don't heal, tingling in the toes and blurred vision. If you experience a few of these symptoms, it's time to make a change, especially if you smoke, have high belly fat, a sedentary lifestyle, and/or family history of diabetes, as all of these lead to type II diabetes.*
So I issue this challenge to the health food industry: make food products without added sugar again! It simply is not necessary. Let's bring true flavor back and nourish ourselves through our lives instead!
*According to Dr. Oz.
There is so much focus on what one should do in order to stay well that I sometimes find switching the tables helps people gain a different perspective of how their habits invite sickness into their lives.
Thus, I offer here the easiest ways to get sick. Have fun!
No matter what name you give it (or what animal you name it after), we're now full swing into the flu season. Michael's written on the great benefits of onion poultice; how can I pass up touting one of my favorite flu/lung/cough herbs '" garlic? So while you're plastering your chest with an onion poultice, eat or drink some form of garlic as well.
Garlic is said to be a cure for every ailment but the one it causes: bad breath! Its delightful fragrance comes from the presence of sulfur compounds, nature's own antibiotic (but if you eat parsley after the garlic, much of its undesirable odor is eliminated). Garlic is a rejuvenating herb because it both stimulates metabolism and detoxifies. In fact, the body absorbs it so quickly that if you were to rub a clove on your feet, you would be able to taste it within seconds!
Garlic is one of the very best herbs for respiratory conditions, colds, flu, sore throats, infections and earaches. Because it so powerfully heals lung ailments, I recommend it to most all patients with coughs or mucus (especially white or clear mucus).
I have found two methods to be particularly effective for lung ailments: garlic juice or garlic appetizer.
Once when I visited my parents I developed walking pneumonia (and didn't know it). I tried a variety of different herbs but had no results. Finally, I purchased a bottle of garlic juice at a chain grocery store and drank one teaspoonful every two to three hours. Within the first day I was well on the road to recovery and by the end of the third day, completely healed.
Another time I had a terrible debilitating cough on Mother's Day. My son and husband wanted to take me out to lunch to celebrate and since I didn't want to disappoint them, I went along thinking I would keep them company but not eat. Luckily we found an Italian restaurant where, as we waited to order, a large appetizer of bread with raw garlic in olive oil sat on our table. Knowing garlic would help me, I coated several pieces of the bread with masses of the raw garlic dipped in olive oil and ate them with relish. By the time our meals had arrived, my cough was nearly gone and the next day I had fully recovered. I have seen had many a patient experience similar results using garlic juice or appetizer.
Of course, garlic has TONS of other great medicinal uses. It's a specific for regulating blood pressure, both high and low, and lowers blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and plaque in vessels, thus treating atherosclerosis. The deodorized garlic capsules work well in this case, which is a blessing, for it is quite convenient and of course, odorless (in fact, the aged garlic may be superior for these actions).
As well, raw garlic effectively improves weak digestion, stimulates circulation and treats arthritis, rheumatism, lower back and joint pains, genito-urinary diseases, nervous disorders, cramps and spasms and heart weakness. For any of these eat the raw cloves, or drink the juice or syrup. It may also be used in food poisoning due to shellfish.
The Chinese use garlic as a preventative and treatment for parasites and intestinal worms, particularly hookworms, pinworms and ringworm of the scalp. Either insert an oiled garlic clove in the rectum, use garlic enemas (made from garlic tea), eat 3-5 raw cloves of garlic, 3-6 times daily, apply the paste (mashed garlic in sesame or olive oil) topically for ringworm, and in general, use heavy doses for these indications.
Garlic is also good for amoebic dysentery, and an effective antibiotic for staphylococcus, streptococcus and bacteria resistant to standard antibiotic drugs. It is effective for vaginitis and leukorrhea (coat cloves in oil, wrap in muslin, saturate in olive oil and directly insert into vagina) and anti-fungal for the treatment of Candida albicans and yeast infections.
Allium sativum; Liliaceae; da suan; Sanskrit: lasunam
Part Used: bulb
Energy, taste: hot; spicy
Organs affected: Lung, Spleen, Large Intestine, Stomach
Actions: expels parasites
Properties: stimulant, diuretic, diaphoretic, hypotensive, alterative, digestant, carminative, expectorant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, parasiticide, antibiotic, antibacterial, antifungal, anticoagulant, lowers cholesterol
Biochemical constituents: volatile oil (about 0.2%) including allicin and aliin, B Vitamins, minerals
Dose: 6-15 gm; Since the volatile oils hold its active ingredients, garlic must be taken fresh for acute ailments rather than deodorized in capsules. For acute conditions, take 1 tsp. every hour of syrup, oil or juice; 3-5 cloves, raw, toasted or as paste/day; 30-60 drops tincture, 1-4 times/day
Precautions: avoid in high doses during pregnancy; do not use with Excess Heat or Yin Deficiency with Heat signs, acute inflammations, or take with problems of the mouth, tongue or throat; prolonged direct contact to the skin of fresh garlic can cause irritation; excessive use can irritate the stomach
Other: purple-skinned garlic has a stronger effect against parasites; eat with food as a preventative
Indications: respiratory conditions, colds, flu, sore throats, infections, earaches, cough, high and low blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, atherosclerosis, weak digestion, poor circulation, arthritis, rheumatism, lower back and joint pains, genito-urinary diseases, nervous disorders, cramps, spasms, heart weakness, parasites, intestinal worms (particularly hookworms), pinworms, ringworm of the scalp, amoebic dysentery, staphylococcus, streptococcus, vaginitis, leukorrhea, Candida, yeast infections
I know many of us are concerned about Swine Flu, and as I write this even the World Health Organization has declared a Level 5 outbreak; just one step away from Level 6, the highest, which is reserved for pandemics.
Somehow it all just doesn't compute. Maybe I'm sitting here with my own self-made and self-proclaimed measurement yardstick, but based on all the information so far, it looks like the customary blend of media hype feeding off the public's paranoia.
As of this writing there have been approximately 150 deaths and a little over 2,000 people supposedly infected with H1N1 virus. Even assuming unreported cases with double or triple that number lurking as a possibility, this still doesn't look anything like pandemic. Latest reports today seem to be that the number of deaths in Mexico have leveled off. So far in the US, there is one reported Mexican infant who died of the disease. The head of medicine in Mexico recently asserted that this viral pathogen did not even originate in Mexico but from Southeast Asia.
There are a few scattered cases reported throughout the country and the world but it's still far from anything approaching pandemic proportions. Further, thus far there is nothing that distinguishes the so called Swine flu from any other flu symptoms -- except that it can only be identified by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
It's certainly not news that some people die from the flu. In fact in the US, approximately 36,000 people die each year from the flu with the worldwide death toll numbering into the millions.
Recently a number of health officials are beginning to cautiously question the growing hysteria around the growing Swine Flu hysteria. Recently on his daily networked radio show, even Dr. Dean Edell, an AMA loyalist if there ever was one, pointed out that over 800 people of all ages die from the flu each week, and he questioned the amount of attention and media hype this latest global threat poses.
So if it's not as bad as it seems, why are we hearing about it every hour like it's going to wipe us all out?
To quote the bard, "something smells rotten in the state of Denmark." As always, when paying attention to such things, consider: who stands to gain? This is what brings one back to the global pharmaceutical industry - the true '˜pandemic' to human civilization if there ever was one.
What is happening is that the European drug maker Roche is greatly increasing its production of Tamiflu with a tremendous boost in stock prices bankrolling millions. GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of the anti-flu drug Relenza, is also an investor boom with a steep increase of its stock prices.
Bottom line: Don't get carried away by alarmist media hype, wash your hands often, and keep it all in perspective.
What can one take to prevent and treat influenza? In North America, an extremely bitter herb known as boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) was traditionally used for "breakbone fever," as the flu was called in the 19th century.
The traditional Chinese formula called Jade Screen (Yupingfeng San) was first described in 1481 and was used to strengthen the Wei (defensive) energy of the body, otherwise known in modern medical terms as the exterior immune system. Jade Screen consists of three herbs: astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous), white atractylodes (Atractylodes macrocephela), and ledebouriella (Saposhnikovia divaricata). Astragalus root has known antiviral and antibacterial properties. Like astragalus, white atractylodes also tonifies Qi (energy) and serves as an assistant or synergistic helping herb with astragalus. The herb ledebouriellia (fang feng), further dispels pathogens, i.e., invading bacteria and viruses, from the surface of the body (skin, nasal passages, mouth, lungs, etc.).
Interestingly, ledebouriella is in the same Apiaceae family as the native North American species of ligusticum herbs such as osha (Ligusticum porteri) which was used by the native and local people had a noticeable benefit during the 1917-1918 Spanish flu pandemic that killed tens of millions of people. Those who took these native herbs only got a relatively mild case of the flu which was deadly to most others.
There is considerable supportive research that daily intake of supplemental vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is effective for preventing colds and flus.
Finally, it is important to not allow oneself to get over tired and adhere to a health supporting dietary and lifestyle regime. I also recommend the regular daily use of probiotics to enhance the body's innate immune wellbeing.
An old method my mother used to prevent my catching airborne colds and flus was to go to the pharmacy and purchase a camphor cube, which she would wrap in a thin muslin cloth and pin inconspicuously to the upper part of my undergarment. As a preschool and lower school kid, I was sent off to school wearing this and I only barely understood what it was for. I do remember that whenever I was wearing it, I never caught a cold or flu.
Asafetida was also similarly used. Bruised garlic can be used as well, but then your child would be immensely unpopular!
But you don't have to use these old odoriferous methods of cold and flu prevention on your own family. The herbs described in my last post do a much better job. Seasonal dietary additions like the ones below also go a long way to warding off Fall and Winter bugs.
Chop up a few cloves of garlic, place in a jar or bowl, and add enough extra virgin olive oil to cover. Dip bread in the oil and eat freely throughout the day. You can make a big batch to last the week or make a fresh batch everyday, using the leftover garlic in your cooking; but keep in mind that the longer the garlic sits in the oil, the stronger the oil becomes. Just don't let it go rancid. To prevent this, keep it tightly covered to keep it away from air and light. To stay on the safe side, I'd say don't make more than you can use in a week, tops.
For the same purpose, try fresh ginger tea sweetened with honey. Thinly slice a few pieces of fresh ginger and pour a mugful of boiling water over them. Cover and steep for 15 minutes or so (until the water turns yellow), strain, and add honey to taste. You may take this delicious tea liberally throughout the day. It's amazingly effective for those first signs of sniffles and mucus.
Both of these are quite pleasant and tasty and you probably won't have much of a problem getting your kids and everyone in the family to try them.
One of the most important things you can do to boost your immune system is to incorporate plenty of fermented, probiotic foods in your diet, at least once daily. Many cultures save a space for fermented foods at most meals. Notice how traditional Japanese meals begin with a warm cup of miso soup; Koreans serve a spicy vegetable-based fermented food called kim chee; German cuisine uses sauerkraut and other fermented foods; and Northern Europeans, Indians and Arabic people have a tradition of eating unsweetened cultured dairy such as kefir and yogurt.
Probiotics are defined as microbial food supplements that supply the body with a group of organisms known as lactic acid-producing bacteria usually found in yogurt and other fermented foods like the ones mentioned above. Lactic acid bacteria have been found to: 1) improve GI tract health; 2) enhance the immune system, synthesizing and enhancing the bioavailability of nutrients; 3) reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance; and 4) reduce the risk of cancer. Regularly including probiotic foods and/or supplements in the daily diet is an effective approach for health maintenance and disease prevention.
Next week I'll go over a few more Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese herbal formulas specific for Fall and Winter for adults and children.
Do you remember any folk methods your parents or grandparents used to help you stay well in the cold and flu season? Did they work? I invite you to contribute these in the comments section.