Tag Archives: natural health

How to take a good sh*t

Nice title, right? The truth is, you may have been defecating incorrectly your entire life (well, from potty-trained toddlerhood onward).

“When nature is eased of any surcharge that oppresses it … relieved when overcharged,” the body feels one of its two great pleasures — the other of course is stuffing the other end with food and drink — according to Sir Thomas More in Utopia.

If relieving oneself regularly and easily is one of life’s great pleasures, then being frustrated by irregular and difficult bowel movements is nothing to scoff at. Indeed, a healthy digestive tract and colon is the very foundation of health. Think of the infrastructure of a building or city: The pipes must be clean, sound and flowing, or there will be some serious issues: sewage will get backed up, leading to impaction, infestation, and ultimately, ill health and disease.

We know that plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, moderate exercise (like walking), sound sleep, low stress and lots of water all help move things along. But there is something that virtually all of the oh-so-modern and sophisticated denizens of the civilized Western world are doing to thwart their poop processes.

The history of the toilet is an interesting one; flush toilets are as old as the Indus Valley Civilization circa 26th century BC. But the sit-down, throne-like “pedestal” porcelain version we are so used to using wasn’t invented until the mid-19th century; this contribution to mankind was designed for the Victorian royalty and aristocracy. What was good enough for the queen soon became standard, at least in certain spheres.

Supposedly, it is more civilized to sit than it is to squat. Our ancestors went out to the woods to relieve themselves, and our bodies are totally biologically designed to defecate in this manner. Try it when you are out camping. You will be surprised how quickly it all comes out. You begin to get what Sir Thomas was raving about.

Sitting puts a kink in our intestines and works against our bodies and against gravity. It makes the process less efficient and also causes some fecal matter to remain in the colon, which can lead to colon cancer. Sitting while defecating also can lead to prostate enlargement, prostate cancer and hemorrhoids; and, over a lifetime, leads to the deterioration of a balancing mechanism built into our heels for this purpose. (see this article for more information: http://aprovechoamerica.tripod.com/id10.html).

From a Wikipedia article on toilets in Japan:

A number of medical benefits are attributed to the squat toilet.[31] It has been suggested that the squatting strengthens the pelvic muscles of females, reducing the likelihood of incontinence.[dead link][32] Furthermore, it is said that this toilet builds up strength in the hips, and improves breathing and concentration. The upright squatting position also allows wastes to be eliminated more quickly and completely, reducing fecal transit time. Slow fecal transit is a major risk factor for colon cancer.[33]Other studies find that squatting prevents and cures hemorrhoids.[34] Assuming and maintaining the squatting position on a regular basis may also help maintain the flexibility of the knees.[35]

Squat toilets are very common in Japan, a place that prides itself on civility and cleanliness. (Bidets, another no-brainer, are also popular there as they are in Europe. Come on, America the greatest country on Earth? Not until we get with it in the bathroom). In fact, 75 percent of the world’s population squats to sit. Yes, a lot of this goes on in unsanitary conditions in the third world, but it is also common in developed countries throughout the world — countries such as Japan and France. A variation is the pedestal squat toilet used in India:

File:Pedestal-squat-toilet.jpg

If you don’t have a hole to squat over, don’t despair. You can get close to the same effect (although not quite to Utopian levels of defecatory ecstasy) by pulling up the resident bathroom trashcan and putting your feet on it. Some companies actually sell special foot stools for this purpose, but a trash can or anything that allows your feet to be elevated and your knees to bend will help.

I imagine that our ancestors’ waste matter was great for soil fertility, especially since their diet was largely plant-based. Modern day humans can go for a compost toilet; this one comes complete with attached footstool:

Sun-Mar Excel Self-Contained Composting Toilet, Model# Excel

Although the price is a little much. Shouldn’t pooping be free?

Along similar lines (literally), giving birth to a child is also best done in positions other than lying on one’s back. Documentaries such as The Business of Being Born and Pregnant in America talk about how our (must use the little quotey things) “modern, civilized” approach to birth — hospitals, exorbitant costs, forceps, drugs, pain, and generally long and unpleasant labor — is very unnatural. Many European and Eastern countries use midwives and time-tested methods to give birth at home. These processes are safe and often produce shorter, less painful labor, making the experience much more pleasant and comfortable. The mother should be able to move into a variety of positions (squatting, on all fours, etc.), listening to her body to tell her how to move and work with her body, the baby and with gravity.

These examples are two of many in which we consider ourselves unequivocally advanced and superior to cultures anterior and contemporaneous, but may in fact  be utterly backwards. In my next blog I want to discuss the widely held assumption/misconception of future as equivalent to progress, and how ‘new’ does not always equal ‘better.’

Give your face a natural glow

Unless you’re this girl*, you probably spend a lot of time trying to make your face prettier. For a variety of reasons that have to do with vanity, trying to impress others, self-esteem, natural instinct and societal pressures, most women feel compelled to enhance their facial beauty, and will pay big bucks for it.

You’ve probably heard the figures: the average American woman will spend over a hundred thousand dollars on beauty products over her lifetime, or about $100 a month. For the wealthy, that number skyrockets to cover Creme de la Mer ($150 for 1 oz.) and even more pricey creams and serums containing things like gold, exotic mushrooms from the Himalayas, seawater from the Mariana Trench, Japanese Koishimaru silk, royal jelly, and even the precious metal platinum (found in La Prairie Cellular Cream Platinum Rare, the most expensive facial cream in the world at $1,000 a pop).

They must work, because celebrities and trophy wives, although normally more attractive than average by default, maintain their glisten and radiance a little longer than us plebeians. Studies have shown that perceived facial attractiveness has a lot to do with the smoothness of skin, although there are quite a few other factors involved as well.

But is dewy skin something you have to pay hundreds for? Is it only reserved for the rich and famous? I think not. As evidenced by Lindsay Lohan**, it has far more to do with what you consume and imbibe and how you treat yourself. Nutrients, oxygen and feel-good hormones are the foundation for beautiful skin; many indigenous populations who ate a diet rich in fruits, seafood, nuts and proteins while living active yet carefree lives were noted for their picture-perfect skin. Here are some inexpensive ways to give your skin a glow:

1. Eat right. This is imperative. If you have skin issues of any sort (outbreaks, wrinkles, dryness, dullness) then consider this area. Sometimes it might take several weeks to see a difference. You know the drill: drink lots of water and cut out the soda; juice and eat fresh fruits and vegetables; cut out the refined salt and sugar; eat unprocessed whole foods without pesticides, preservatives, artificial ingredients, antibiotics and other unnatural additives.

2. Drink lots of water. Duh, right? But there are variations on this theme: drinking hot or warm water, especially in the morning, is very good not only for the digestion but for the complexion (the two are closely related). Water with fresh lemon juice is also very cleansing for the body and clears the skin. Herbal teas (my favorite is Passion from Tazo, which contains hibiscus, rosehips  and cinnamon, known relaxants) of many varieties are also beneficial.

3. Sweat. You can do this via exercise, sitting out in the sun (preferably in the late afternoon and not so long that you burn), in saunas, and by taking hot, steamy baths by candlelight.

4. Moisturize. But this doesn’t have to be super-fancy or super-expensive. For saturating, healing night creams, try pure shea butter, coconut oil, rosehip oil, almond oil, or even regular olive oil. For a light refreshing day moisturizer, try rosewater, jasmine, lavendar or plumeria spray (buy at Whole Foods for less than ten dollars or make your own by combining essential oils with water in a mister).

5. Relax. This is hugely important, not just for your looks but for your overall health, well-being and quality of life. You can counteract stress by meditating, taking long walks, basking in the moonlight, soaking in hot water and Epsom salt, and resting in the dark with classical music, candlelight and aromatherapy.

And what’s the single most important thing you can do to create a naturally glowing face? No, I’m not gonna say “Eat dark chocolate,” although I love me some dark chocolate and it wouldn’t hurt. The most important thing is to give your face some love. When you look in the mirror, look at yourself with love. Treat yourself gently. Think positive, loving, empowering thoughts about yourself and do not criticize yourself privately or publicly. What you think and feel can gradually become reality, and how you perceive yourself will affect how others perceive you.

You can even try this experiment. Spend several minutes repeating this mantra in your head “I am beautiful.” If you do this for half an hour or longer, then look in the mirror, you might be surprised that you actually do look more beautiful. You might also start getting different reactions from people. I have done this experiment several times myself, for example in a crowded airport. I will walk through seemingly invisible, with no one giving me a second glance. Then I will start repeating this in my head as I walk. Eventually, people will start to stare at me, and a few times they have even tried to approach me. One time a married flight attendant told me I stood out from the crowds and seemed to glow.

I don’t mean to say this in a bragging type of way. Indeed, these same strangers had been utterly unconcerned with me a couple hours prior. I do believe that thought can change reality, by some kind of unseen force. When you wash your face, touch it in any way, or put any kind of topical ointment on it, you should always send it loving thoughts when you do so. Your hands also can convey energy.

*This girl surely has a beautiful smile and a whole lot of cojones. While I personally wouldn’t choose to look this way even for religious beliefs, it takes all kinds to make a world. I’m just making a point that she is one of the very few women in the world who don’t try to enhance their appearance in some way, shape or form.

*Lindsay Lohan is gorgeous. I hope she can get back on the path to healthy living so her natural radiance can once again shine through, because she used to be one luscious looking redhead.

Books that saved me

Natalia Rose

When I was in college, I began to suffer from some unsettling symptoms: fatigue, severe anxiety, dizziness with fainting spells, prolonged sicknesses, depression and mood swings, and foggy and unclear thinking. I knew something was wrong with me; I knew I wasn’t supposed to feel like that. My whole life to that point, I had enjoyed exquisite, ectastic, perpetual well-being: endless energy, perfect metabolism, and constant happiness. I did well in school and was popular with my friends. What had happened to me?

An acculumation of prescription drugs and processed foods had created an extremely toxic environment. My liver had become overburdened, creating a domino effect of stagnation inside my body. But I didn’t realize this for a long time. Every night I would wonder what was wrong with me and pray to feel normal again, like I used to feel. I didn’t have a name or a specific diagnosis; therefore I couldn’t seek help from a doctor nor understanding from friends or family. To myself, and to everyone else, I was just inexplicably unwell and “off.”

One day my prayers were answered. I was guided to a particular shelf in my college campus where I found  books I had never seen or knew existed: books on natural health, holistic and alternative healing (alternative is an ironic term; it is alternative to what is generally accepted and is called Western medicine, but many of these practices have been used and proven effective for millenia), and nutrition. I finally learned the principles of the mind-body-soul connection. What you put into your body has a very profound effect on how you look and how you feel. Therefore, if you are not taking care of this one factor, you are significantly affecting your happiness, well-being and success potential.

The very first book that came to my rescue, and one that I will never forget, is The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. I do not eat all raw nor am I vegan, but this book enlightened me and spurred me to seek out countless other books (and later, documentaries) on the subject. I learned all about detoxing and the effects of the modern American diet and lifetyle. I began watching what I ate and seeking out super high-quality foods. I never consciously let another pesticide, preservative, hormone, antibiotic or artifical ingredient into my body again.

It took a long time for me to feel completely better. Years, in fact. It was a gradual process, but an interesting one. Thoughts and self-love are also very important. I hated that I had to deal with that situation, but glad of what I have learned. One important thing — something that many people find somewhat disturbing — is my avoidance of all doctors and medicine. I hope to never take a pill again and to never see a doctor again, unless it is an extreme emergency. If one has built a foundation of health, then sicknesses will be few; if something does arise, the body is always able to heal itself with the proper harmonious tools. There are many natural remedies that heal without side effects. Here are a few other great books:

Raw Food Life Force Energy by Natalia Rose

The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin

Eating for Beauty by David Wolfe

The Gerson Therapy by Charlotte Gerson

Natural Cures … by Kevin Trudeau (this one has mixed reviews; however, lots of interesting information about things you wouldn’t normally consider, like the damage caused by microwaves)

Not everything you learn and read about will fit your personal mindset and lifestyle. Some people choose to eat meat while others don’t. Some people think there is nothing wrong with taking pills — like birth control — on a daily basis. My personal beliefs were formed by experiences and research, validated by intuition and tangible effects.

Easy ways to detox

Exercise, sweating, juicing, and soaking up sunlight are all purifying activities. Some other easy ways to detox are to bathe with Epsom salts and to drink lemon water.

Benefits of Epsom salts:

  • Flushes out toxins and heavy metals
  • Eases stress and constipation
  • Promotes good sleep and glowing skin
  • Reduce inflammation and migraines

And many more.

Benefits of lemon water:

  • Stimulates, cleanses and strengthens the liver
  • Cleans the blood
  • Clears the complexion
  • Reduces phlegm in body, alleviating asthma and allergies
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Builds healthy brain and nerve cells due to magnesium content
  • Kills bacteria, parasites and pathogens
  • Flushes out toxins and fat
  • Aids in digestion
  • Dissolves gallstones and kidney stones

And many more.

Grapefruit, asparagus, broccoli and sweet potatoes are  cleansing foods which help neutralize free radicals. It is also interesting to note that Epsom salts, lemon, grapefruit and sweet potatoes all contain high levels of magnesium. It is estimated that around 80 percent of the population in North America is deficient in this mineral, partly due to soil depletion. Magnesium combats stress, promotes relaxation and is vital  for proper artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function. Wow. Sounds like we all could use more of it!

These simple ways to detox will make you immediately look and feel better. Over time, they can prevent countless chronic degenerative disease.

I like it hot and sweaty

I love to sweat. Whether from basking in the midday sun (yes, I lay out in the sun), an outdoor run, a dancing marathon, or a sauna session, breaking a sweat feels cleansing and refreshing.

Sweating is a purifying act that cleanses the body and clears the mind. We are saturated every day with toxins from air, food, environment and water, and sweating allows us to get rid of them — chemicals and heavy metals like urea, nickel, excess zinc and ammonia.

By opening up the pores, enhancing circulation and washing away dead skin cells and bacteria, the process of sweating is beneficial for the skin and can result in a glowing, healthy complexion.

I recently experienced a lovely day at The Russian and Turkish Baths, one of my favorite places to visit in Miami. This underground labyrinth is modeled on the baths found all over the European and Asian continents and the ones originally indulged in by the Ancient Greeks and Romans.

Underneath a Miami Beach resort called The Castle, these baths are relaxing, and, according to the Miami New Times, a great place to meet singles. You wear a swimsuit and, for $35, can stay for hours. The baths are open every day until midnight and have a cafe/juice bar, a gym, a relaxation room, a hot tub filled with ocean salt water, an aromatherapy steam room, a hammam, a cold ‘polar bear’ room, cold water showers and pools, hydrotherapy rooms, opportunities for massages and treatments (like platza) and various other hot saunas like the infrared sauna, which penetrates deep into your cells.

Here are some benefits of infrared saunas:

  • Causes weight loss
  • Helps treat cellulite
  • Improves your immune system
  • Improves your strength and vitality
  • Helps cure several skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis and acne
  • Strengthens the cardio-vascular system
  • Helps control your blood pressure
  • Detoxifies your body
  • Gives you more energy and relieves stress
  • Helps treat burns and scars
  • Relieves pain (joint pain, sore muscles, arthritis)
  • Helps control your cholesterol level
  • Helps treat bronchitis
  • Helps treat hives (urticaria), gout, tissue damage, prostate hypertrophy

I happen to think that the FDA and the American Cancer Society and the like are incredibly corrupt. They think antiperspirants are fine and declared that people who think otherwise are perpetrating a hoax. Antiperspirants often contain strong chemicals and aluminum, which has been linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. It is not good to block your pores under your arms because your body needs to cleanse and this area is near your lymph nodes. Here is an article that explains further, but it is buried under four search term pages sponsored by these corporate-funded institutions that claim this is false. It is up to you to do the research and figure out what and who you want to believe.

I use this natural deoderant and it works great. As in, I smell good. Give it a try.

On a similar note, I love real rosewater and jasmine spray for my skin and hair, roll-on essential oils and this natural perfume — all found at Whole Foods. The majority of perfumes and colognes can be carcinogenic.

Your skin soaks up whatever you put on it — so go as natural as you can, and make sure to work up a sweat as often as possible.

Your mom is being targeted

Better Homes & Gardens is the third most popular magazine in the United States, bested only by AARP Magazine and AARP Bulletin (AARP is the American Association for Retired Persons; these publications are targeted towards the burgeoning Baby Boomer demographic).

Over 7.6 million American women are mailed a copy every month. And when you take into account all its sister publications (like Family Circle, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Parents), all under the Meredith Corporation umbrella, you can deduce that over 75 million women are exposed to not only recipes, stress-reduction techniques, beauty tips and decorating features, but to targeted advertisements. Which, disturbingly, are often those of Big Pharma: Merck, Lilly, Pfizer, et al.

I became intrigued when I was flipping through an issue and was horrified to see page after page of prescription drug ads. In a recent issue, I counted six (besides others for over-the-counter meds and ultra-beneficial products like M&Ms, Campbell’s Soup, refined Domino’s Sugar, McDonald’s, Eggos and Cocoa Pebbles cereal). All except one were 2-3 page ads (the second and third pages needed to list all the myriad, horrifying potential side effects). They were mainly for bladder and cholesterol issues: Vesicare, Enbral (psoriasis), Livalo, Toviaz, Celebrex (arthritis) and Zetia.

Only the United States and New Zealand allows for television advertising of prescription drugs; and the United States — which makes up five percent of the world’s population — accounts for forty-two percent of the money spent on prescription drugs.[4] (sourced from rationalwiki.org).

Seeing an ad does not necessarily incite action. But when your doctor is pushing pills (because they get research stipends and other incentives for doing so) and you are seeing them in every other ad on the TV and in your favorite magazine, and you don’t know any better, you might just think they are a good idea. Taking these pills, I promise you, will cause much harm and very slight, if any, good.

Read a little more.

Drink up some passion

There are myriad delicious flavors of tea. Made with leaves and infused with herbs, spices, flowers and fruits, each variety is packed full of antioxidants and unique health benefits.

But one of my all-time favorites, and one I’d like to recommend, is Passion by Tazo. Caffeine-free, it is made with hibiscus flowers, passion fruit and mango, licorice root, orange peel, cinnamon, rose hips and lemongrass.

I am attracted to its sweet taste, but it turns out it is providing me with a mugful of vitamin C and countless other health benefits, everything from calming nerves to lowering blood pressure to enhancing cognition (click the links above to learn more).

I was reminded when I visited a wizened herbalist at the weekend farmer’s market that there are many natural spices/plants/roots/flowers that can heal. I would love to learn more about what each one can do and then apply them as needed.  Tea drinking is common in India, Japan and in other cultures, but I think many of us in developed western societies are unaware of the power of plants to heal and enhance and make well.

Perhaps you can explore these natural remedies, not only to heal but to prevent future ailments, refresh your skin and provide natural mood, energy and immunity boosts, in place of drinking coffee, artificial drinks (soda, energy drinks, anything with high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, etc.) and relying on over-the-counter pills and medicine.

A few years ago I decided to never take any pills or medicine again. But, I did take Advil for menstrual cramps. Recently I have discovered that there are natural remedies for that as well! Do some research and you will find a wealth of good-tasting, nice-smelling, pleasant ways to treat your body right. Now doesn’t that beat the two pages worth of devastating side effects on the ubiquitous ads for yet another toxic and expensive pill with a manipulatively clever name?