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Top 5 Food Tips Ever

In honor of Dave Letterman retiring… I thought I’d do a list of the top 5 food priorities for optimal health:

1. Eat fewer oxidized fats– using low heat cooking for oils/fats of all kinds (boiling, braising, poaching) most of the time keeps free radical load down and saves your arteries from damage from outside sources (the two main sources are internal: infection and stress- so minimize those two too!)

2. Eat top quality fats (which means top quality proteins along with them)– small amounts of grass fed beef and dairy, antibiotic free and grass/bug fed chicken and eggs, wild sustainable fish, free range animal meat in general, and pesticide-free organic vegetable and whole grain fats are best to keep your nervous system, hormone processes (=metabolism), and immune system healthy and stable.

3. Eat mostly plants– make sure they are pesticide free for bee health and overall ecosystem health, and fertilized mostly by animals if possible for soil and water health… permaculture, sustainable and organic farming are top priorities!

4. Keep your food miles low– know your local sustainable farmers and buy local as much as you possibly can… keep your community, your soil, your water, and yourself healthy with a smaller carbon footprint.

5. Enjoy your food– eat slowly and chew well, learn to choose and cook delicious healthy food, and eat with people you feel nourished by as well… avoid screens and intense conversation and always make time to sit (not driving) to eat.

fresh tomatoes from the market (last fall actually…) :)

A New Tactic

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, definitely lots of changes coming soon! In the meantime, here’s a not-new idea… I’ve decided that since my blog isn’t getting many reads except for a voluminous amount of spam commenters, I would see what would happen if I just wrote about things that mattered to me, sort of like a regular blog… Opinions are such fun, and changeable, and elicit such reactions from people, I thought maybe an interesting discussion could get started better this way, and maybe I could learn more about what all of you think too…

Today I was listening to NPR on my way into work, and the familiar topic was: why extremely rich mostly (all?) white bankers haven’t been prosecuted at all when they stole money from millions of less fortunate people and caused the financial crisis, while (as an example) non-white people are sent to jail for having ‘open containers’ at a rate 24xs more than whites in the particular instance they sited.

Yes, statistics can say anything, and those two examples are far from seriously comparable, but a great point that was made during the discussion reminded me of a major issue that is always on doctors’ minds– in malpractice cases the judges are never, to my knowledge, practicing physicians, and if health care providers are called to jury duty they are usually classified as having a ‘conflict of interest’ or some such in that they’d be too biased towards the doctor in question. Now I’m not speaking about individual actual malpractice cases, but speaking of the following as a general rule that I think should apply to all court cases: Everyone should have a right to a trial by a jury of their actual peers AND a judge that has firsthand knowledge of their cultural background and life concerns, whether experienced in their own families, friends, or in clear direct experience of the people/groups in question.

While discussing the particular instance of open container laws, the program mentioned that most judges in inner city courts are from suburbs or the surrounding states of Delaware or Connecticut, which have a very different population and cultural composition than inner cities. It stands to reason that the defendants in those cases may have a larger-than-average bias against them during trial… so my question is, how can we change the system (or actually, implement the rights that are supposedly already written in) to improve understanding and representation in court cases to improve equality and justice for all?

My initial answer is to require judges to be picked from the communities they are to judge. And that juries should be made up of one’s actual peers. So, for instance, if I were to be taken to court for something, I would hope there would be at least one doctor on the panel, maybe two, hopefully near my age, practicing actively in similar specialties to mine (meaning some sort of primary care, as I’d think a plastic surgeon might have very little in common with my day-to-day life), and perhaps also one or two people with graduate degrees, and some people from the midwest who’d moved to wherever I was, as well as maybe a meditator or two. I realize that’s wishful thinking in general, but it illustrates my point– how can we expect a ruling to be fair if those judging have no idea where the person being judged is coming from? Unless our entire justice system and culture is suddenly changed to one of more openness and understanding, it seems that changing jury and judge profiles might be the fastest way to more effectively foster true justice.


Blueberry Soup with Ice Cream!! (kidding: Purple Carrot Soup with Sour Cream = much better :))

Sustainable Health Nutshell: Cook and Eat more of your own food, especially when you get it locally… it’s crazy delicious and easier on our Earth!

Ok, it’s been a while, lots going on, but I wanted to share this recipe as it was so good… Excuse the picture- I almost ate it all before I remembered to take one for you all!

sooooooo yummy!

1. Rough chop an onion, a few garlic cloves and a medium portobello mushroom.

2. Warm some olive oil with turmeric, fennel, cumin, coriander, black pepper, marjoram, and thyme till the spices just start to sizzle.

3. Sautee the veggies, adding occasional splashes of water when the sizzling sound gets too high pitched (= too high of a temp for olive oil- the water keeps it from oxidizing (which causes artery damage and inflammation when you eat oxidized oils) at higher than 212 degrees).

 4. While the onions are softening and the mushroom gives up its water, chop 2 good sized purple carrots, (or one purple and one red) and peel and chop a good sized sweet potato (not a yam if you want the taste and color to be purple and neutrally sweet–a sweet potato is beige outside and off-white inside, a yam is reddish outside and orange inside). Mix a bouillon cube if you like into a glass measuring cup of hot water and let it dissolve. (I only had salt-free vegan cubes on hand and was feeling lazy, but I usually try to use organic ones without palm oil and with less salt, or I forego it and just use more spices!)
5. Add the broth or water and carrots and sweet potatoes (and I had leftover broccoli stems I peeled and chopped and added in at the same time) so all veggies are covered. Bring it back to a boil then lower the flame and put the lid on so the veggies soften.
6. When it’s ready, use an immersion blender (or, “blendy-stick” as I lovingly call mine) and mix until there are still some veggie chunks but the soup is mostly a uniform saucy consistency. While it’s still hot, you can add in a green of your choice- I used arugula, chopped up the tops of a farmers’ market $1 bunch, but the second day I added a ton of cilantro, so you can pick, but I do suggest choosing one (arugula is sweet-bitter, cilantro is sour-bitter, spinach is sweet-astringent) so whichever you’re in the mood for), and if you use something like chard, sautee the stems in with the onion and garlic, and chop the leaves a bit more and let it boil a minute or so to break down the fibers so the texture of the soup isn’t odd.
7. To serve, add a dollop of sour cream and go to town. It might need a sprinkle of salt if you used a salt-free broth, but the sour cream usually takes care of that. If you’re dairy-free, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to brighten it up a bit.
Enjoy! Let me know what variations you come up with! xoxo

Simple Homemade Skin Care Ideas

Sustainable Health Nutshell: Try a simple home-made organic and sustainable skin cleanser starting with a basic formula- you can even make some for friends and family as gifts! Save money, avoid buying chemically-laden products, and keep your skin glowing and healthy all year round.

We’ve talked a lot in my office and on this blog about oil and fabulous health benefits of using various oils for Abhyanga, Gandusha (oil pulling for gum care), Nasya (nose oiling for allergies and illness-prevention), and Karana Purana (ear oiling for dryness and tinnitus), but not specifically about face care, so here you go!

I’ve been reading recently some great articles including this great one on home-made oil cleansers. I’ve compiled a basic list by category so you can pick which ones to try for yourself based on your skin issues.

Now, in the case of some skin conditions you’ll need to be more careful of the type of oil you pick and how you do this- check with your dermatologist always. For instance, with allergic skin (this includes Eczema) you’ll want to avoid sharply fragranced oils, sesame oil, some nut oils if you have a nut allergy, and most essential oils from the asteraceae  family (the ragweed family- this includes chamomile!).
For Seborrheic Dermatitis (itchy patches that seem oily and flaky, usually around eyebrows, eye lashes, and the nose, sometimes in the hair causing dandruff too), the yeasts and bacteria that overgrow love oil, so you’ll want to use lighter oils, less in general, perhaps add in tea tree oil if your skin isn’t too sensitive, and use cider or plain vinegar and water 1:1 as a toner. You can also take full strength vinegar and leave on the skin for 20 minutes before rinsing and conditioning lightly.

Ok! First off- always use unrefined (cold pressed if possible), organic oils from as local a source as possible.
Secondly- Castor oil is unabsorbable, so it will do most of the drying/cleansing/pulling off of your own oil and makeup, so use a bit more if you use a lot of makeup, and less or none if your skin is very dry already and you don’t have much ‘dirt’ to lift off.
Thirdly- get a blue glass little bottle from your local health food store to mix the oils in so you can measure easily and start with a small amount.

To use: Take a small amount, warm in your hands, and apply gently all over your face and leave on for a minute or so. Dampen a washcloth with very warm water and place over face to open pores and help the oil soften and become less viscous. Rinse washcloth and repeat until makeup is softened and easily patted off, usually ~3 times.

The basic recipe is: 10-20% Castor oil, 80-90% secondary oil. To choose a secondary oil, pick from a category below, and pick one or two add-ins if you like (add 3-10 drops per 1/4 cup depending on the viscosity and strength of the essential oil):

Dry or Mature skin base oils: Sesame, Apricot Kernel, Avocado, Argan, Jojoba
Dry or Mature add-ins: Ylang Ylang, Rosehip, Pomegranate, Baobab, Frankincense, Vitamin E

Sensitive base oils: Olive, Almond, Sunflower
Sensitive add-ins: lavender (irritating for some, careful), Rose, Helichrysum, Ylang-Ylang, Neroli, Frankincense

Acne-prone and Oily base oils: Olive, Almond, Hazelnut, Sunflower, Grapeseed, Jojoba
Acne-prone add-ins: Tea Tree, Tamanu (especially for scarring), Baobab, Geranium, Cedar, Clary Sage

Add-ins not for use in pregnancy but good for acne and inflammation: Borage, Neem, Sea Buckthorn, Turmeric oil
Add-ins for aromatherapy (use 1 drop only): Vanilla, Sweet Orange

Apple Cider Vinegar:
Toner for SD treatment- Mix 1:1 ACV with water in a spray bottle. Spray onto skin and scalp 30 min before washing as usual, and/or at night spray skin lightly and barely rinse off before bed.
Serious dandruff- spray full strength onto hair, rub in, leave on 30 min, shampoo out
Hair rinse for dryer hair- 1 cup ACV + 1 tsp baking soda- apply, allow to sit, rinse again and condition

Toner for any skin: Rose water

Some individuals have issues with certain oils, nuts, and flowers that no one can predict, so to start out, buy small quantities and enjoy experimenting. Also remember it takes a few weeks for your skin to adjust to a new routine- especially if you’ve been using chemicals or soap for a long time. The bacterial balance on the skin needs to right itself and whatever damage from the chemicals and bacteria-killing preservatives in most products needs to be allowed to even out. If you have questions or something comes up, please leave a comment or send me an email and we’ll troubleshoot your issue. Also remember what you eat can affect your skin too, so stay hydrated and eat healthy food too!

A good source for essential oils is Mountain Rose Herbs, and a good source for descriptions and uses as well as a brand you’ll find in many health food stores is Aura Cacia. Enjoy!

glowing from oil cleansing ;) haha

Living on the Edge– Preventative Medicine for Autumn

Sustainable Health Nutshell: Prevent illness with greater awareness and practical techniques to help your body through changes- focus on consistent Sleep, Routine, and Warmth!

Imbalances in our bodies become more unstable at the “edges” of phases of our lives– during periods of change, sometimes leading to system destabilization (noticed most obviously by an increased propensity to viruses and bacterial infections). It helps to be watchful and take good care of your body during transitions, especially Autumn and Spring, or whenever there is a transition in life. These times are great opportunities to tune into your body’s messages and learn about yourself, preventing further illness and suffering in the future.

Many of my patients mention that October and April are times of each year when patterns recur- anxiety, depression, anger, relationship changes, etc, and in western medicine we see a spike in colds and flus and allergy symptoms during those months. It’s been very true for me- and for many years I thought of October and April as ‘bad’ months where ‘negative’ things seemed to happen. For me it showed up as deaths, breakups, illnesses, moving across the country, changing jobs without meaning to, etc. What I came to realize was that when the earth changes, so do I, but I wasn’t aware of it before. Things happen constantly, ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ but my reactions to those things tended to become more erratic and frightening during season changes (or monthly changes!), and so my perception was that the events were ‘worse,’ when really my own reactions were causing me to suffer more during those times.

In Ayurveda, the edge is an important concept. There are planetary shifts all the time: night to day, full to new moon, season to season. In our linear lives, we shift all the time too: adolescence and menopause, marriage or divorce, births and deaths, moving our home or work location, and we transition between work and vacation (even week to weekend- notice the ‘Monday morning heart attack‘ and superbowl sunday heart attack phenomena). Ayurvedic clinicians pay close attention to the idea of homeostasis, so we also notice more closely what our physical bodies experience during the shifts in the planet’s cycles. This extends to the cycles in our emotional and practical lives as well, but let’s focus on the Fall season for today.

You may notice that when the weather gets cooler, your skin may become dryer. You may notice allergy symptoms that seemed invisible during the summer. You may crave sweets and more sleep but you may try to keep the fire from summer going and stay up late, over-exercise, or increase caffeine intake to combat fatigue. You may notice that this happens every fall! You may get a cold or the flu during the change of season, but may attribute it to going back to school (yourself or your children). While of course more exposure to the petri dish of a school environment brings more viruses into your vicinity, if the immune system is strong that wouldn’t present a problem. The issue is that during the change of seasons, any imbalance that was subtly growing during the past months or years may choose the destabilizing effects of the sun changing and weather changing to present itself as a more obvious weakness in the physical (usually immune) system, energy system, or emotional realm. Immune system problems present commonly as auto-immune diseases (including seemingly small things like psoriasis or rosacea), allergy (immune system over-reaction), acute colds of flus or other infections, or digestive difficulty.

The reason for this is pretty simple- the body wants to be in homeostasis or balance, and that means it wants to be in sync with the circadian rhythm and the cycles of this earth that our bodies are made of. When we let something go (for example, we keep having an improper diet and expecting our body to eliminate extra toxins well, or we sleep too little and expect our energy to be full blast so we supplement with sugar and caffeine instead of sleeping when we are tired, or we notice a nagging small symptom in our menstrual cycle, digestion, or other organ and instead of looking deeply and making sure we take care of our body’s message to us, we ignore it and hope it goes away on its own or fail to notice it entirely due to busy-ness), if it is a message from the body that something isn’t fully healthy or stable, then it may continue growing instead of fading on its own. It can become worse, or perhaps move to another seemingly unrelated system and try to get our attention that way.

My favorite example is what we call ‘excess liver heat’ showing up as irritability or frustration or mild allergies, or skin flushing with alcohol, then wakening regularly between 2 and 4am, then perhaps hot flashes or migraines or loose stools, then irritable bowel or heavy and painful menses, then sometimes moving into the western medical arena with something more serious like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, or a heart attack… Not that all of those are caused by any one thing consistently– clearly all illness is an individually-mediated process, those are just examples of how missing a whisper from the body can manifest as a loud shout, then a yell, then a sledgehammer of a wakeup call.

To avoid this, let’s make sure our bodies trust us by not forcing them to compensate during transitions when they’re already taxed by physiologic and energetic adjustments to the changing outer environment. For fall specifically, try the following. When the days get shorter and cooler, move your bedtime back a bit to ensure extra sleep before 10pm. Try the sesame oil routines to prevent dryness and lubricate the skin and mucous membranes to help fortify our outer defenses against potential attack by viruses and bacteria. Stick to a daily routine more closely during transitions to reassure your body that you will indeed eat, sleep, and exercise to help it stay safe. Trade lots of raw foods for some warmer cooked foods, especially breakfast and dinner, to help your digestion not have to work so hard to ‘cook’ and extract nutrients from your food.

Watch your edges, your transition points, whether they are from season changes, monthly changes, or more life-changing and emotionally-charged events like relationships, work, school, or moving. Use preventative medicine and Ayurvedic techniques to understand your body better, so you may avoid illness and fully experience health!

Happy fall everyone!

Homecoming W&M campus 10/13 :)