OkraIn African-American culture, there are several signature foods that may be eaten to ensure that the New Year gets off to the right start.  Two of my favorite foods for this are black-eyed peas and okra.  Black-eyed peas are said to be essential in order to bring “good luck” in the New Year; okra is a vegetable that is used in soups and stews – including gumbo and black-eyed peas.  When prepared well, okra not only offers many medicinal properties, but also tastes delicious.

Okra has some mucilaginous properties.  For some people, it can be described as downright slimy!  But this mucilaginous property makes okra great for cleansing and healing the digestive system.  It soothes inflammation in the entire digestive tract, adding quality moisture to the system.

Okra aids the small intestine in the proper absorption of nutrients into the blood stream.  It also helps promote more pro-biotic activity in the digestive tract.  In short, okra can be very helpful for problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gastro-intestinal ulcers, constipation, Crohn’s disease, malnourishment, malabsorption, stomach flu, high blood sugar, toxicity and sluggishness in the liver/gallbladder, heartburn and gas.

Now you can take matters in your own hands by eating great food in the New Year!  Check out the following easy okra recipe, contributed by my good friend and Tai Chi sister, Robin Rinehart.  Thank you, Robin, for this delicious recipe!!

Robin’s Happy New Year Okra

Use fresh okra only. No frozen because the frozen gets gushy and slimy.

Ingredients:

2 to 3 pounds of fresh okra
Salt and pepper (I used Himalayan pink salt and freshly ground pepper)
5 or 6 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 tablespoon turmeric (fresh or powdered)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sake
1/2 teaspoon Amchur powder (dry mango powder)

  1. Clean the okra beforehand.  Cut off the blunt end and after washing, and wrap the okra in paper towels to extract the moisture.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add turmeric and cook with the olive oil stirring until blended (about a minute)
  3. Add chopped garlic and chopped onion.  Stir until onions and garlic are soft.
  4. Add okra and salt and pepper (to taste) and stir just until okra is coated with the onion/garlic mixture.
  5. Add sake, cover, and let it all cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  The trick is to NOT keep stirring up the okra. This is what will keep it crisp and not turn mushy.
  6. Sprinkle Amchur powder over top and lightly stir the okra once or twice to blend in the powder.

The Amchur powder is optional. It has a strong flavor and I suggest you try a little on your finger first to taste.  I happen to think it gives the okra a bit of a zing!

Serve and eat!

CranberriesCranberries are one of those items that almost gets overlooked when it comes to preparing (and eating) the Thanksgiving feast! When I was a teenager, I can remember my mom’s voice: it would be a day or two before Thanksgiving; she’s done all the shopping and about to start working in the kitchen, when she would exclaim, “*#@&*! I forgot the cranberries!!” Then she’d send my sister and me to the store to pick up canned cranberry sauce.

The truth is, cranberries are at least as important as any of the other dishes being served for dinner. The red color is very festive, vegans and omnivores alike love the taste (sweetening definitely helps), and they bring together all of the other dishes to create a cohesive, complete meal.

Cranberries also have powerful medicinal properties. Cranberries (unsweetened) are great to strengthen the genito-urinary tract, and help to prevent and treat urinary bladder infections. The sour flavor of cranberries helps to astringe essence to stop excessive sweating and unnecessary loss of fluids.

Cranberries also contain proanthocyanidins. These are condensed tannins that facilitate wound healing, strengthen the arteries, veins and capillaries, and improve blood circulation. They are potent antioxidants, protecting against cancer and many other degenerative diseases. This makes cranberries the star of the show when serving a multitude of rich foods.

But back to Mom. She started making her own cranberry relish to have on hand so that she would not forget this important element of the Thanksgiving meal. She has shared it with me, and I’m passing it on to you. Her recipe calls for sugar; feel free to substitute grade B maple syrup, honey, stevia, or a combination to suit your dietary needs.

Enjoy!

1 package fresh cranberries (1 pound)
1 juicy orange (Mom likes Valencia oranges), sliced and quartered with skin on
About ¾ cup sugar
Water – enough to barely cover cranberries

  1. Put everything together in a pot; cover with water and stir to mix.
  2. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer until cranberries start to pop.
  3. Stir periodically to prevent sticking.
  4. Cook until it is the consistency you like.
  5. Let cool and transfer to a glass container with a lid.
  6. Cover and store in refrigerator.

DEEE-LICIOUS!

In this final article in our discussion of type 2 Diabetes, we will examine the effects of diet and nutrition as major contributors to this preventable disease.

In both the development and the treatment of type 2 Diabetes, nutrition is the key.  Poor nutrition is the great contributor to type 2 Diabetes, and proper nutrition begins to rectify type 2 Diabetes and bring the body back into balance, or homeostasis.  The body is awesome and phenomenal in that if a disharmony is not too far-gone, it will heal itself!

So let’s look at the nutritional aspect – what went wrong – and how to repair some of the damage in order to turn this type 2 Diabetes epidemic around.

Empty Harvest

Agri-BusinessIt all began with the Industrial Revolution.  The Industrial Revolution, which started toward the end of the 18th century in the United Kingdom, Western Europe and North America, is a period of history where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions, and continues to this day.  The Industrial Revolution is directly or indirectly responsible for some wonderful modern amenities, especially in the realm of engines, machinery, and computer/internet technologies.

Where agriculture and manufacturing are concerned, however, the quality of nutrition has changed dramatically in the following ways:

  • Farming has shifted from families and communities to huge agribusiness conglomerates
  • Agribusiness capitalism introduced the use of more pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to increase yield
  • Overuse of soil and non-rotation of crops created depletion of soil nutrients, therefore depletion of food nutrients
  • Deforestation, overuse of soil and use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides caused topsoil to be depleted – literally blown away with the wind
  • Capitalism in manufacturing food products stripped foods of nutrients in order to extend shelf life
  • Synthetic additives and chemicals were added to boxed and packaged foods to extend shelf life
  • Synthetic vitamins were added to boxed and packaged foods to prevent diseases caused by nutrient depletion

These and other repercussions of the Industrial Revolution are a direct result of what we’re experiencing today with the type 2 Diabetes epidemic.  In our society, we are programmed to be driven by convenience and taste.  We live in a society where good nutrition takes a back seat to our comfort and taste buds.  And our taste buds find lots of comfort in sweet and savory carbohydrates.

Foods That Contribute to Type 2 Diabetes

Let’s now take a closer look at what foods are contributing to this epidemic:

Carbohydrates – especially refined carbs is a main culprit.  Some examples include macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, pasteurized and bottled fruit juice, desserts, sodas, alcoholic beverages, bagels, etc.  The list is very long!  Suffice it to say that sugar, white flour, processed juices and sugary drinks and all other refined carbohydrates are great contributors.  Essentially, these foods turn into sugar and fat, throwing the digestive and endocrine systems out of balance to contribute to the development of type 2 Diabetes.

Fats – not so much naturally occurring fats for the most part, but those man-made, invented fats that the human digestion and metabolism simply don’t handle well.  These include margarine, shortening, hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils.  This last one, vegetable oils, requires a little further explanation.

Once oil is produced from a vegetable (for example, corn), that oil is very unstable and goes rancid very quickly.  In order to extend its shelf life, the oil is heated to very high temperatures and undergoes a chemical process in order to allow for an extended shelf life and “stability” of the oil.  But this and other unnatural oils will eventually be rejected by the body, and/or create a digestive/endocrine disharmony leading to type 2 Diabetes (or some other chronic illness).

Fake Sugars and Excitotoxins – these include high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, saccharin, splenda, MSG and texturized soy protein to name just a few of the more common ones.  These are essentially chemicals added to foods that replace real ingredients to extend shelf life and enhance flavor.  In addition, these create addictions to foods and can ultimately damage the body’s digestive, endocrine and nervous systems and seriously deplete the adrenals.

What To Eat

If you are diabetic, it all depends on what stage of the illness you are in.  Remember, everyone has a slightly different situation, so before embarking on changing your diet, please be sure to consult with myself or another qualified, licensed practitioner to find out what would be best for you.

That said, the following are some general recommendations:

Carbohydrates – Eat all the vegetables you want!  Focus on leafy greens, green vegetables and other colorful veggies that grow above ground.  Limit other starches like potatoes, bread and grains to no more than 2 small servings per day, or less than 60 grams per day.  Veggies should make up at least 50% of your daily food intake.  Fruit should be limited to one serving per day, eaten with some sort of fat in order to slow down the process of fruit sugar entering the bloodstream (see below).

Proteins – In moderation, but more than starchy carbs.  If you are vegetarian/vegan and diabetic (yes, there are many vegetarians/vegans who are diabetic, due to the high starchy carb intake), easy-to-digest nuts, seeds, fermented soy (tempeh, miso, natto), high quality organic cheese and small amounts of beans work well.  For omnivores, fish, eggs and fowl may be consumed.  Two to three servings of protein per day for all diabetics are generally advised.

Fats – These are also in moderation, but are vital, especially when consuming fewer starchy carbohydrates.  Fats are important for many reasons, the most important being that they are catalysts for balanced hormone production, and help reduce inflammation in all chronic illnesses.  Foods like avocado, butter/ghee, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds and their butters, and high quality fish oils will provide the best fat that the body needs to help with the healing process.  No need to worry about gaining lots of weight when consuming these types of fats in moderation – the body will metabolize and burn these calories first when the diet is low in carbohydrates.

Beverages – Water is the beverage of choice, though unsweetened herbal or green tea may also be consumed.

Other Considerations

  1. Find out if you have any food sensitivities or food allergies.  If so, you will want to eliminate those foods from your diet (at least for a while).  If you’ve been eating foods to which you are sensitive, these may have created the problem and may be key in addressing the disease, or even reversing the damage.
  2. Nutritional supplementation and/or herbal medicine are often necessary to help heal the digestive/pancreatic/endocrine systems.
  3. Cleansing the liver and other organs and pathways of elimination are vital to achieving and maintaining balance in the body.  Similar to the oil change that we do for our cars, cleansing the liver can be revitalizing, giving the body more energy, enhancing sleep, and allowing the body to more efficiently absorb nutrients.

Turn The Type 2 Diabetes Epidemic Around For Future Generations

There are several things that we each can do to turn this epidemic around and eradicate type 2 Diabetes.  Our future generations will thank us for it!

  • Eat organic!  Whether fruit, vegetables, dairy, eggs or other animal products, this gives a message to those who produce the food that a) we insist on healthy foods that are non-GMO, free of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides; and that b) there is proper attention and respect being paid to the soil and to the earth.
  • Eat locally grown foods.  Shop at your local farmer’s market and support the smaller farms.
  • Start composting and growing some of your own food.  You can do this even if you live in an apartment!  Alternatively, join one of the many community co-ops that are sprouting up where you can rent a small plot of land that will allow you to grow food.
  • Stop eating boxed and refined foods.  Prepare your own meals as much as possible, preferably from scratch – even if it’s just once a week!
  • Eat to live, rather than live to eat.

In Part One of this extended article, we outlined some of the various elements that make type 2 Diabetes a mosaic of chronic illness. We examined how each organ system plays a part in type 2 Diabetes, and how each organ system is affected by type 2 Diabetes.

In this 2nd part, we will outline and briefly examine some of the causes of type 2 Diabetes.

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

There are several very important causes of type 2 Diabetes which must be addressed in order to successfully prevent, treat, reverse and ultimately eradicate the disease. Addressing only one of the causes may bring some improvement, but often will not bring the complete results sought after. Some of the causes of type 2 Diabetes include:

  • Poor Nutrition
  • Genetics
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Iatrogenic
  • Stress

Let’s take a look at and examine each one of these causes:

Fast FoodPoor Nutrition – This is indeed a major key both in the development and in the treatment of type 2 Diabetes. It is a well known fact that poor nutrition in the form of too many refined foods, packaged foods, fast foods, junk foods, white flour and sugar contribute greatly to the development of type 2 Diabetes. In addition, the advent and widespread consumption of hydrogenated oils and trans-fats further add to the break-down of the digestive system in general and the liver/pancreas complex in particular.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800’s, foods have been increasingly produced in the world-wide marketplace to encourage maximum production, extended shelf life, and enhancement of taste – for maximum financial benefit of all the industries involved: agribusiness, meat, poultry, dairy, etc. In addition, topsoil and nutrient depletion of the soil is a result of poor standards of food production. This is a major factor in the upward worldwide trend of type 2 Diabetes, making nutrition a vital cause of the illness.

Genetics – Western science has asserted that genetics can play a factor in the development of type 2 Diabetes. There is a certain genetic factor prevalent in some ethnic groups, including those of Asian, African and Native American descent. This genetic factor may increase the chances of developing type 2 Diabetes. Interestingly, this gene seems to be most prevalent in individuals of Asian descent. According to the American Diabetes Association, Asians who follow a traditional Asian diet do not tend to develop type 2 Diabetes despite the fact that they seem to have a certain protein that shuts down the insulin receptor, creating insulin resistance. So despite the fact of genetics playing a role in the development of type 2 Diabetes, it is promising to note that the actual onset can be avoided through proper diet and other measures.

The bottom line is that I do not consider genetics to play a major role in the development of type 2 Diabetes, as this can be largely controlled with dietary elements and good nutrition.

Sedentary Lifestyle – The human body is designed for balanced periods of movement and non-movement. In today’s society, the scales have tipped way too far to the side of non-movement. Our sedentary lifestyle of watching TV and the widespread use of electronics has become a significant factor in the skyrocketing numbers of those with type 2 Diabetes – especially among youth and young adults. There are several reasons why exercise/moving the body is vital:

  • Increases blood circulation
  • Tones the vascular system
  • Tones the muscles
  • Strengthens the functioning of the organs
  • Allows the body to utilize energy and burn fat more effectively
  • Moving the body is crucial in preventing and treating type 2 Diabetes.

Iatrogenic – This is a term that means that an illness is developed or caused by Western allopathic medicine. There are certain medications that can actually contribute to or exacerbate type 2 Diabetes.

One such category of medications is statin drugs that lower cholesterol. This is not to say that you should stop taking your statin drug – at least not without the close supervision of your doctor. But it does become somewhat of a “Catch 22,” because once type 2 Diabetes or even pre-Diabetes is discovered, many doctors will automatically prescribe a cholesterol-lowering statin drug along with any blood sugar lowering medication.

Blood sugar medications are another category that can actually exacerbate type 2 Diabetes by creating another type of “Catch 22” situation for the patient. In this case, the medication may create the problem of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, prompting the person to quickly eat something sweet (candy, orange juice, etc.) in order to offset the effects of the medication.

This, in the long run, can be counter-productive, and for most people becomes bare-bones management of type 2 Diabetes, rather than actual treatment and reversal of the disease.

Again, simply stopping the medication(s) without a concrete plan and close supervision from your doctor is not advised, as it can cause more harm than good if you are already taking medications.

Stress – This includes worry, emotional upheaval and long-term depression. It is said that stress is the cause of all chronic illness, including type 2 Diabetes.

Think about it: how do you feel when you are happy, playful and carefree? By contrast, how do you feel when you are angry, fearful, frustrated or sad? These latter negative emotions, if held onto long-term, affect the body in non-optimal ways. Stress affects:

  • The entire digestive system, including the pancreas and liver
  • Sleep patterns
  • Hormone secretions, including the adrenals, thyroid and sex hormones
  • The nervous system
  • The immune system

This area of stress can perhaps be the most challenging and complex area to overcome in the treatment of type 2 Diabetes.

In part 3 of this extended article, we will discuss an optimal multifaceted plan for the treatment of type 2 Diabetes, focusing on nutrition and stress reduction.

Spoonful of SugarIn 1900, the average American consumed the equivalent of 4 pounds of sugar per year. Today, that number is 150 pounds per person per year, or about 3 pounds per week – and is steadily climbing! In 1900, incidences of type 2 Diabetes were rare. Today, just over 100 years later, type 2 Diabetes has inundated the world in record-breaking numbers and in epidemic proportions. The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2030, about 8% of the adult population will be Diabetic, and the mortality rate of those with type 2 Diabetes will have doubled from that of the year 2005.

Originally a disease of the affluent, people around the world and of all walks of life are developing this illness – an illness that is largely preventable.

It is my intention and a primary goal of mine to do whatever I can to eradicate type 2 Diabetes. I want to let you know how this has happened, and what we can each do to reverse this crazy disease that is wreaking havoc in our societies.

Type 2 Diabetes is an illness that represents what I call a “mosaic” of several disharmonies. This article will outline those various disharmonies.

Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the body has trouble processing sugar in the blood. Normally, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that serves as a catalyst to remove sugar from the bloodstream, and places the sugar into the tissues, which is in turn used by the body for energy (or stored as fat if the energy is not used).

But when too much sugar and starch (which also turns into sugar) is consumed, the pancreas and digestive system can’t process it all. The tissues become resistant to allow the insulin to process the sugar. This is what is known as insulin resistance. Therefore, the sugar remains in the blood, sending blood glucose levels higher and higher. Type 2 Diabetes occurs mostly in adults and seniors, but is increasingly occurring in children as well.

When there is too much sugar in the bloodstream, all of the body’s main organ systems may be affected. Let’s take a look at each system:

  1. Cardiovascular – glucose in the bloodstream causes inflammation of the vessels, causing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Over time, continued high blood sugar readings will affect the blood circulation in the extremities, causing numbness, tingling and eventual necrosis in the feet and hands, as well as erectile dysfunction, impotence and blindness.
  2. Gastro-intestinal – aside from gas, bloating, and elimination problems, the most obvious thing that relates to type 2 Diabetes is weight gain. Sugar turns into fat when not used as energy – and so weight gain occurs in 85-90% of type 2 Diabetics, with the bulk of the weight gain occurring around the waistline.
  3. Kidneys – these react by trying to filter the sugar out of the body, so people with high blood sugar will find themselves urinating more often. The body becomes dehydrated, so then the person will become thirsty. On top of that, the average Diabetic will not crave water, but rather something sugary and/or dehydrating, like soda, lemonade, juice or beer.
  4. Lungs – in Chinese medicine, the lungs regulate the releasing of fluids via perspiration. Diabetics will tend to have more spontaneous sweating, day and night. This will further deplete the body of vital fluids.
  5. Endocrine – when there is an excess of glucose in the bloodstream, all aspects of the endocrine system are out of balance. The endocrine system comprises glands like the pituitary, hypothalamus, adrenals and thyroid, releasing hormones that regulate every day bodily functions. The pancreas and liver are also integral parts of the endocrine system. They communicate closely with the other parts of the endocrine system as well as the brain. For instance, insulin, released by the pancreas, is a hormone of the endocrine system. Other hormone imbalances occur when there is an imbalance with blood sugar. The symptoms of these can be many, for example, insomnia, undue fatigue, the inability to lose weight, or cravings for sweet foods.

Many people have imbalances in one or more of these vital body systems, but never stop to think that it may have something to do with high blood sugar. It is wonderful to know that by normalizing blood sugar, many of those other symptoms may recede, allowing the body to become balanced once again.

I am excited to bring this leading edge information to you about blood sugar and type 2 Diabetes, and how to avoid it, control it – and yes – possibly reverse it!

This article is the first of a series on type 2 Diabetes. The next article will offer information on the causes of type 2 Diabetes. Part 3 will examine what to do to treat and possibly reverse Type 2 Diabetes.

Liver and GallbladderThe Liver, and its companion the Gallbladder, are vital in a myriad of functions.

The Liver is simply amazing!  It participates in endocrine processes, making hormones that communicate directly with and contributing in harmonizing the pancreas, adrenals, thyroid, pituitary and hypothalamus.

The Liver also participates in the digestive system processes.  Here, the Liver makes bile, a substance that is essential for the digestion of fats.  The Gallbladder is essentially a hollow sac that stores the bile made by the Liver, and sends it through the bile duct to the large intestine as needed for proper digestion.

Another major function of the Liver is that of detoxification.  Every particle of toxic substance, be it from food, the environment, man-made toxins, or the emotions, passes through the Liver, which in turn, produces enzymes and other substances to detoxify these poisons from the body in two phases.

As you can see, proper functioning and circulation of Liver/Gallbladder energy are vital in a healthy person.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a person who has balanced Liver/Gallbladder functioning exhibits the following qualities:

  • Is a good leader
  • Is courageous
  • Handles stress very easily
  • Is a good communicator
  • Has excellent digestion
  • Tolerates ingestion of healthy fats
  • Does not experience depression
  • Has a healthy self-image

By contrast, a person who has an imbalance of Liver/Gallbladder functioning may experience the following:

  • Depression
  • Easily angered, irritable
  • Hostile behavior
  • A feeling of being ‘stuck’
  • Digestive problems, including burping, gas, bloating constipation or loose stools, or       problems when eating fatty foods
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated blood sugar
  • PMS
  • Endocrine/Hormone disorders

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Liver has earned its nickname “The General.”  It does so many things to maintain homeostasis in the body that we often take it for granted.

According to Paul Pitchford, author of Healing With Whole Foods: “…In the West, the Liver and Gallbladder are the most congested organs of the whole body.  It is rare to meet someone in the industrialized West who has a balanced Liver…”

In the Five Elements of TCM, if one element is out of balance, it can throw the other elements out of balance, affecting other organ systems.  Often, decongesting and restoring proper functioning to the Wood Element, which is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder, will also bring other disharmonies back into balance.

The Importance of Liver/Gallbladder Cleansing

Periodic cleansing of the Liver and Biliary systems is the best way to decongest and restore functioning to the Liver/Gallbladder; it represents an aspect of preventive medicine at its best.

The human body is a microcosm of nature.  As such, with the change of the seasons, there is a shift that happens in nature.  This is the perfect time to make room for a similar shift in the body – to let go of that which no longer serves, and make room for the new – the re-NEWed energy that contributes to strength, vigor, health and longevity.

Cleansing the Liver requires several components, including diet, herbs and movement to name a few.  These and other components allow for the gentle, complete decongesting and cleansing of the Liver and Gallbladder while at the same time bringing all other systems into stronger alignment.

It is best to complete a detox program under the care of a health practitioner who will examine you and your needs, and then design a program with your individual needs at the forefront.

Spring is a great time of year!  It is a time of renewed energy, new growth, and yet balance.  Spring is also a time to take care of your Liver/Gallbladder through detoxification – Spring Cleansing.  You owe it to your health – your longevity.

Poppies in SpringAfter the dark, cold Winter where energy is stored and people tend toward hibernation and contraction, Spring is a welcomed time of new growth and renewed energy. Year after year, I marvel at the new buds and flowers, the birds chirping, and those bright green insects that seem to appear out of nowhere!

Spring is the time of the Vernal Equinox. Temperatures are mild – not hot or cold; daylight and darkness are in relatively equal proportion. It’s a step in the direction toward summer, and as such, it’s helpful to remember that it’s not summer yet! Sometimes we want to jump from winter lifestyle to summer lifestyle without recognizing the transition – and indeed the wonderful celebratory time of Spring.

According to the Five Elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Spring is the Wood Element. Following are some of Wood’s correspondences:

  • Season: Spring
  • Direction: East
  • Color: Green
  • Taste: Sour/Astringent
  • Emotion: Anger
  • Organs: Liver/Gallbladder

These correspondences each fit into proper perspective, given the tenets of TCM and the observations of nature.

So dress moderately, wear a light scarf to protect yourself from the Spring winds, and eat simply – in fact, this is the perfect time for a Liver Cleanse – to allow your body to transition out of Winter and into Spring.

Cleansing and detoxifying your body can help jumpstart weight loss and reduce the body fat incurred during the winter months. It can also reduce allergies, enhance sleep, and balance hormones, and more, to bring your body into full harmony with the season.

Stay tuned for more information about Spring Cleansing, and keeping the Liver and Gallbladder healthy!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!  (Happy New Year)

Year of the Water SnakeWelcome to the Year of the Water Snake!

In Western culture, snakes are often feared, regarded as slithering, venomous creatures.

In the East, the snake has a different sort of character: it symbolizes transformation and growth. The Water Snake paves the path to rebirth, new beginnings and transformation. The self-assured and formidable Snake is a possessor of deep hidden wisdom and knowledge. The Water Snake is complex and always alert for deception and delusions. Its positive energy and objective focus offers us an opportunity to revisit and restructure our goals in search of answers and awareness.

The New Year brings new energy: the element of Water nourishes the seeds of growth, and along with the qualities of the Snake, these two together symbolize positive change. Old ways are shed in favor of the new – much like the way a snake sheds its skin.

People born in 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941, 1929, 1917 and 1905 are associated with the Snake energy. According to Chinese astrology, “Snake people” are very intelligent and intuitive, and prefer a calm, peaceful lifestyle. Water Snakes in particular are very influential, motivated, insightful, and highly intellectual. They work well with others and enjoy being recognized and rewarded.

Whatever year you were born, may you be prosperous, healthy and happy in this Year of the Water Snake!

 

Laughter is the best medicineThe holidays often bring a time of great family time, tasty treats, and heartfelt giving.  This can also be a time of high stress – more so than any other time of the year.  The suicide and crime rates tend to increase, and individuals and families may seem to experience more feelings of loss during this time of year.  With so many expectations placed on us, stressors can bring joy from being with family and friends, as well as difficulty in coping with life.

Stress may manifest in our lives and society in many ways.  Whether we live in an urban or rural environment, stressors are many:

  • Making ends meet
  • Raising children
  • Meeting deadlines, imposed by work, society, nature or self
  • Being social with family friends, colleagues, etc.
  • Sitting in traffic
  • Over-booking/over-committing
  • Over-working
  • Setting proper boundaries with others
  • Worrying about loved ones who are ill or who have chosen damaging paths for themselves
  • Trauma, past or present

How can too much stress impact your health?

It has a great influence in several ways.

Being stressed out tells your body to release more of the hormones adrenaline (aka epinephrine) and cortisol.  Adrenaline is the fight-flight hormone housed in the adrenal cortex.  Designed to protect you against life-threatening attackers like bears, tigers or oncoming vehicles, adrenaline is used in very minute amounts rather infrequently as a source of pure energy.  This energy is to be used in emergency situations to keep a person alive, as opposed to the day-to-day energy that is needed to thrive.

Today, high stress can engender a constant low-grade flow of adrenaline in the body, setting it up for adrenal fatigue and inflammatory illness.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is normally released every morning to wake us up, give us energy, and allow us to move through our day with ease and grace.  Toward the evening, cortisol levels in the body drop, allowing us to naturally move into a restful, sleep state.  It is during this sleep state that the body’s immune and endocrine systems repair and balance the body.

When there is high stress, cortisol works in concert with adrenaline, continuing to release high levels of the steroid.  The problems resulting from this combination are many:

  • Insomnia
  • Palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Achy joints
  • Hormone imbalances for both women and men
  • Weight gain
  • Chronic inflammation processes, like arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes
  • Auto-Immune diseases, like Crohn’s, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

So, how do you deal with the stressors of life?

There are six ways, from this writer’s vantage point:

  • Meditation
  • Good Nutrition
  • Supplementation
  • Exercise/Movement/Deep Breathing
  • Natural treatment modalities like acupuncture
  • Laughter

Meditation – or being still – helps us to re-connect with our Source, our Higher Self on a regular basis.  This not only gives us better focus, but is also a reminder that many of today’s stresses can be controlled simply by being patient and loving with ourselves and others.

Good Nutrition gives your body natural energy, allowing it to be fully functional.  Eating high-quality food at regular intervals keeps blood sugar even.  This makes it possible to more easily handle certain stressors that might normally seem daunting.

Supplementation is vital, as many of us are missing those very nutrients in our diet that will balance the hormone and immune systems and relieve inflammatory processes caused by chronic imbalance.

Exercise, movement and deep breathing do a few things.  They:

  • Tone the body
  • Help to burn calories
  • Assist with weight loss
  • Increase oxygen levels in the body
  • Increase blood circulation
  • Release dopamine and endorphins that help stop pain and elevate the mood

Treatment with acupuncture and several other modalities of traditional Chinese medicine can do the following to jumpstart your body to heal:

  • Balance all hormones, including adrenaline & cortisol
  • Aid with sleep and relaxation
  • Reduce/manage pain
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce cravings for certain substances/foods that are detrimental to health
  • Reduce weight
  • Elevate mood
  • Regulate the immune system
  • Relieve and reduce inflammation
  • Balance blood circulation

Laughter is a must.  Whether you like to watch funny movies, your favorite comedy show, or engage in an activity that engenders healthy laughter, this contributes greatly in reducing stress by making life a little bit lighter.

We will often have stressors showing up in life.  But stress is manageable and doesn’t have to impact our health.  When taking proper precautions and utilizing treatment methods outlined above, we can unplug from the matrix and manage that stress – like water off a duck’s back!

HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY, FUN, SAFE, STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY SEASON!

Health MatrixI consider myself an intelligent person.  Logic and rationalization of what makes sense in life have always been important to me.  I suspect you had similar experiences as well.  As a result, life has been a journey of adventures, discoveries, and yes, some hard-learned lessons.

Nutrition, especially as it relates to the U.S. food industry, is an area with which I have found myself preoccupied over the past several years.  I have attempted to use logic and rationalization in order to fully understand what it is truly all about.

There have been many “eureka” moments on the subject of nutrition.  But what I have recently become aware of is that even those “eureka” moments were fueled – partly by my own ignorance – and partly by external forces like the media, the various food industries, the FDA and the AMA, to name a few.

While one’s awareness is constantly changing and updating, a major shift in my awareness started about two years ago when I began coursework, did research and wrote a thesis on type 2 diabetes.

What I found did a few things:

  • Outlined the sheer worldwide epidemic of type 2 diabetes, not just isolated to certain groups of people in the U.S.
  • Virtually everyone is affected by these trends, whether they develop Diabetes or not.
  • A proverbial monster has been created in that the eradication of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases is virtually impossible without grassroots education and restructuring of nutrition and lifestyle.

My very own beliefs about health and nutrition have been turned upside-down as result.  I realized I have been “plugged into the matrix,” unconscious and unaware of many myths about nutrition that affect our health in negative ways.  I suspect the same may be true for you as well.

Some of these myths include:

  • A low-fat diet is the healthiest diet
  • A low-fat diet is best when wanting to lose weight
  • Coconut oil and butter are ‘bad’ for you
  • Multivitamins with megadoses of synthetic isolates are good for your body

On the other hand, there are certain facts that do remain true:

  • Despite decades of low-fat eating, cardiovascular disease remains the #1 cause of death in the U.S.
  • Cancer is the 2nd cause of death in the U.S.
  • Despite public health education on healthy eating, type 2 diabetes has exploded exponentially and worldwide in the past 50 years, with no sign of letting up
  • Auto-immune disease and other chronic illnesses are also increasing at a very high rate, with 1/11 Americans contracting these illnesses
  • Among industrialized nations, U.S. citizens spend the most money on pharmaceuticals, yet rank #45 in the world in terms of good health practices, with several non-industrialized nations faring better than the U.S.
  • For the first time in recorded history, it is estimated that the average lifespan of our children’s generation will actually decrease!

Please join me these next few months in a series of presentations and discussions that will explore the truth about nutrition and how it affects your health.  Unplug yourself from the matrix and begin to truly think outside the box!  Allow right-thinking to emerge for the sake of yourself and your family, your community – indeed your planet.

Doris-Owanda Johnson, Ph.D., L.Ac.