7 Essential Secrets to Longevity

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Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Going Beyond Common Corrective Plastic Surgery

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a psychological disorder that affects a person by persistently preoccupying them with a perceived defect in their physical appearance. BDD sufferers may complain of a specific body feature, or several different features. They may also be obsessed with their overall general appearance.

BDD causes severe psychological distress, which can ultimately lead to deterioration of occupational and social functioning. It can cause severe depression and anxiety, or other anxiety disorders. It also causes the patient to completely withdraw from social situations.

The details surrounding the exact cause of can vary. Most clinicians agree that it is triggered by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors from the patient’s past or present. Patients who experienced abuse or neglect can also be affected.

Beginning symptoms of BDD can be viewed in adolescence, when normal sensitivity to one’s body image at this critical stage in their lives can be heightened dramatically. The myth surrounding BDD is that it affects mostly women, but both men and women can be affected. It is a chronic illness, with symptoms likely to persist or worsen if left untreated.

BDD can cause patients to seek out drastic measures to correct the areas of the body they deem unfit. Patients can undergo excessive cosmetic plastic surgery, putting demands on the plastic surgeon to continually correct their body. Patients desire sundry forms of cosmetic procedures and the cost of breast augmentation surgery, price of a facelift and various facial corrections and facial liposuction cost. Sufferers of BDD believe that drastic changes to their bodies will give them emotional relief. The truth is, the results of the plastic surgery leave the patient wanting more.

Treatment for BDD is absolutely necessary for the patient to achieve the tools necessary for healing. Cognitive-behavior therapy includes education about BDD and its treatment. It also helps the patient deal with obsessive thoughts and other problematic behaviors, such as the desire for excessive cosmetic plastic surgery.

Behavioral aspects work with exposure techniques and response prevention. Exposure consists of patients slowly learning to build enough confidence to begin to confront their fears. Techniques include exposure to public places, or allowing the patient’s targeted body part to be subjected to the criticism of others, without allowing patients to cover up or hide. Response prevention encourages the patient to deliberately avoid compulsions, such as the desire to stare into a mirror or physically picking at the targeted body part. Continued avoidance results in decreased or diminished compulsive activity.

Ninety-One-Year-Old Businesswoman Reveals Simple Formula for Healthy Longevity

power of faith
Does Faith Play a Positive Role in Longevity?

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Winston Churchill, British prime minister

Recently I interviewed a lady in her home in the Pacific Northwest. For reasons of confidentiality, I’ll call her Elizabeth.

The first thing that I noticed about Elizabeth is she is warm and engaging. Before I even got to the dining room table, she offered me a cup of coffee.

Born in 1918 of pure Norwegian ancestry, her formula for longevity is interesting more for what she doesn’t do than what she does.

She doesn’t take a handful of the latest anti-aging dietary supplements or eat organic food. She’s not a vegetarian or any other kind of food purist. She doesn’t engage in yoga, tai chi, aerobics or any other formal exercise program. Yet, she doesn’t have any significant health problems. In fact, when I looked over her medications, I saw three, which she probably doesn’t need at all.

Of course, she could just have good genes (and probably does).

I asked Elizabeth if she would tell me her secret for longevity. She smiled and said, “Well, I have several…”


“I trust in God and don’t worry about anything. I thank the Lord for my blessings daily.”

Could something this simple contribute to longevity? Studies agree it does…

A 1999 interview survey followed 21,204 people over 8 years and showed an increase in life expectancy of 8 years for people who regularly attended some kind of religious service vs. those who never or rarely attended.

A study of 5286 Californians over 28 years found that, after controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, and education; frequent religious attendees were 36% less likely to have died in any year.

Several other studies have also shown a positive relationship between faith and longevity.

Even doctors agree (99% of general practitioners in one survey): Personal prayer or other forms of religious practice can improve the outcomes of medical treatment.

Eat a Well Balanced Diet

“I eat good food.”

Elizabeth has owned and operated three restaurants and still loves to cook and entertain guests. Naturally, she became quite adept at choosing quality food and creating balanced meals.

Avoid Tobacco & Alcohol

“I never had alcohol in my house, and I never smoked. If my guests want to smoke, they do it outdoors.”

Stay Involved With Family, Friends, and the Community

“Staying involved gives me a reason for living. If I didn’t contribute something to others, what would be the point of living?”

Elizabeth socializes with her family and church group (which comes to her house for weekly Bible study).

According to her daughter, she is also a tough opponent when it comes to playing dominoes.

Set Positive Goals

At age 89, Elizabeth located a piece of property with a fabulous view. “I decided this is where I want to live the rest of my life.”

She designed her house to create a continuing passive income. The house is created on three levels and has an attached apartment. It also has three upstairs bedroom suites. She rents the apartment to one of her 3 daughters and the bedroom suites to boarders.

Photo credit: Don Cann

The Great Swine Flu Scare

3 little pigs
Should you fear pigs?

Should You Be Worried
About Swine Flu?

In a word… No!

Still not convinced? Let me add some perspective…

According to the CDC (US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), there have been 13,000 deaths in the US from common flu since January. And they estimate annual US deaths from common flu to be 36,000. If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know (to date) there has been only one US death from swine flu (and that was an immigrant from Mexico).

Even most of the cases of swine flu showing up in the US are from people who were recently in Mexico. Why anyone would choose to visit a country that people are risking their lives to flee is beyond me, but that’s another story.

Although this particular respiratory virus (H1N1) appears to be spreading among humans and is of some concern as a result, the cases are generally showing up in young people. One theory why this is happening is older adults have come in contact with this particular virus sometime in their lives and developed an immunity to it.

As with any virus, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid contact with sick people, wash your hands frequently, and keep your immune system healthy. There is also strong evidence that keeping your vitamin D levels normal provides for a natural resistance to flu viruses (as well as several other diseases). Your doctor can check your level with a simple blood test.

Should You Take Tamiflu?

Multiple studies in Europe (published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet on Jan. 19, 2006) indicate Tamiflu is ineffective with a number of flu viruses including avian flu. In some cases people have even died as a result of taking it.

During the avian flu pandemic, governments built up massive stockpiles of Tamiflu that were never needed. On April 23, 2009 the World Health Organization said the total number of confirmed deaths worldwide due to avian flu since 2003 was only 257.

Since there are 36,000 deaths every year in the United States from common flu, one has to wonder why governments are going out of their way to create massive fear about a new possible pandemic.

Why is the CDC now recommending people take Tamiflu for this current swine flu, when there have been no studies to even indicate it would be effective?

Wonder how many government officials are getting rich by buying options on stocks of the makers of Tamiflu (Roche and Gilead Sciences)?

I’m much more worried about our government rapidly moving forward on socialized medicine in the US. We already have a clear picture of what government control in health care does in both the Medicare and Medicaid systems. Both are massively bloated with bureaucracy and are clearly not sustainable by anyone’s definition. In fact, they are both going broke. Of course, by hiding this under an umbrella of total socialized (government run) medicine, the problem can be buried for years.

But that won’t make the inherent problem go away! Government run health care doesn’t work, is always more expensive, and is a sham.

Photo credit: Xirzon

Tai Chi May Help the Elderly Live Longer in Their Homes

tai chi in a park
Gracefully Performing Tai Chi In the Park

“Every man desires to live long; but no man would be old.” Jonathan Swift

Several years ago, I had a sales job that involved calling on elderly people in their homes. Working in the community of Weston, Missouri I was amazed to find many people in their 90s still living in their own homes. While I don’t have any proof, my theory is the exercise of walking in this hilly Platte River community was a major contributing factor.

Recently I visited with an 84-year-old gentleman in his home in another part of the country. During the course of our interesting conversation, he mentioned he has been falling about once a week. He has already suffered some minor injuries. He is concerned he may not be able to continue living in his own home. He tried assisted living for 3 months, but felt the $4800 expense wasn’t justified. Except for some moderately painful arthritis, he is otherwise healthy.

Because he is all alone since his wife of 57 years passed away, he is also lonely and a bit depressed. Wanting to help, I decided to explore ways this gentleman and others like him may be able to continue living in their own homes. One promising solution is the practice of tai chi.

Tai Chi – Reducing Falls

Fall related injuries in older adults are the leading cause of death and serious injury. Despite its century’s old history, tai chi has only been studied scientifically in recent years. One area that has gotten lots of attention is in the area of fall prevention in the elderly.

One study of men aged 65 showed that those who had been practicing tai chi for at least 10 years scored higher on tests for balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular function than the sedentary group included in the study. The tai chi group didn’t participate in other physical sports or fitness programs on a regular basis.

But, it doesn’t take 10 years to improve balance. Another study of 22 men and women with mild balance disorders were able to significantly improve their balance based on a standard (Romberg) balance test in only eight weeks.

A third study of participants in their 60s and 70s, found practicing tai chi for 60 minutes – 3 times a week showed statistically significant improvement in balance, flexibility, endurance, and muscular strength in as little as 6 weeks. Retesting at 12 weeks showed even more improvement.

Tai Chi – Reducing Depression

There is good evidence from several studies indicating that tai chi, if practiced regularly, may help improve quality of life in the elderly. Beyond improved balance and the preventive effects against falls, it appears that the practice may improve overall physical functioning and sense of well-being.

Although it’s not been proven that tai chi is of any more value than any other exercise in elevating mood, it’s clear that most people who exercise regularly report feeling a euphoric high.

How to learn Tai Chi

Wondering how to get started in tai chi? Although there are various tai chi video exercise programs, to gain full benefits it may be best to seek guidance from a qualified tai chi instructor.

A tai chi instructor can teach you specific positions and how to regulate your breathing. An instructor also can teach you how to practice tai chi safely. This is especially important if you have injuries, chronic conditions such as arthritis, or balance or coordination problems.

Although tai chi is slow and gentle, with virtually no negative side effects, injuries are possible if tai chi isn’t done properly. It’s possible you could strain yourself or overdo it when first learning. And if you have balance problems, you could fall during tai chi.

You can find tai chi classes in many communities today. Contact your local senior center, YMCA or YWCA, health club, or community education center for help finding qualified instructors.

Tai chi classes also include the added benefit of a social element. Even though tai chi isn’t competitive, the social component has a strong potential to improve overall quality of life. And my 84 year old friend may find it easier to maintain a regular program of tai chi by attending a scheduled class.

If I were advising my new friend, I’d certainly suggest he talk with his doctor before beginning tai chi (or any kind of new exercise program).

April 25, 2009 is World Tai Chi Day. Perhaps you’ll find an event in your area to attend and learn more about this graceful exercise practiced around the world.

Photo credit: anna carol

Do You Have These False Expectations About Post Hospital Physical Rehab?

Wheelchair Barbie
Time for Some Rehab Reality

It has been my experience that most people who wind up in a physical rehabilitation facility after hospitalization don’t know what to expect. In many cases they are so turned off by the reality of rehab, they either get off to a bad start or leave… hoping any alternative is better than staying. With that in mind I’m writing this so you can go in with your eyes wide open and get the most from rehab.

13 Common Expectations

  • Plenty of time to decide on which facility you want to go to. Reality: It’s difficult even be able to choose ahead of time, because when you’re ready for discharge there may not be an available bed at the facility you want. Have a couple options in mind.
  • Staffing equal to what they experienced in the hospital. Reality: Not even close.
  • Physical therapy to begin immediately. Reality: Highly unlikely, especially if you arrive late on Friday. At best, you’re first session will be mostly an evaluation by the therapist.
  • A quiet room similar to the hospital. Reality: Highly unlikely. Bring earplugs.
  • Pain medications dispensed on a schedule just like in the hospital. Reality: The discharging doctor will most likely change your pain medications… maybe even to “as needed” (which means you have to ask for them) Talk with the admitting nurse and ask about the schedule.
  • A restful place for recovery. Reality: This isn’t like going home. There are going to be frequent disturbances by staff, unusual sounds in the hallway, and probably somebody yelling off and on.
  • Food served in room. Reality: Expect to go to the dining room as part of your rehab.
  • Easy access to their doctor. Reality: Your regular doctor probably won’t even come see you in the facility. You’ll likely have an assigned doctor who may not see you for days.
  • Discharge home after a couple weeks of Rehab. Reality: Unless you push for it, this is highly unlikely. Rehab facilities only make money while you’re there.
  • The full color brochure created by the facility is reality. Reality: Did you miss the picture of Barbie?
  • Immediate response by staff to needs. Reality: Expect to wait a minimum of 10 minutes and it can frequently be more
  • Restful sleep at night. Reality: Just in case you missed it before, bring earplugs.
  • Painless rehab. Reality: You’re joking right? In order to keep you pain free, you’d probably need to be on heavy doses of narcotics. All you’d want to do is sleep. Rehab takes effort.

7 Ways to Get the Most
From Physical Rehab

  • Trust your therapist to be your coach
  • Do the exercises your therapist recommends
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to work with your therapist
  • Be prepared for therapy by having your nurse pre-medicate for pain 30 minutes before the session
  • After the first couple of days, try to avoid narcotic medications during the day except right before therapy
  • Make sure you’re given pain medication about an hour before you want to go to sleep
  • Get a good night’s sleep without sleep medication, because these drugs tend to leave you lethargic during the day. If possible, stay out of bed until time to sleep. Bring some chamomile tea with you and have a cup or two before bedtime. Wear ear plugs to block unusual noises and sounds. Turn the TV off at bedtime.

Photo credit: faeryboots

The Truth About
“Grass Fed” Beef

hungry cows
Heading Home After Eating Grass All Day

All Cows Eat Grass

Let’s get real about this “grass fed” beef thing. I know this is a touchy subject with some and expect to get some flak over this article, but I think it’s only fair you have the truth. I’ve purposely avoided discussing organic here, because that’s another subject, altogether.

Having grown up on a farm, I know that all cattle are grass fed. Farmers have lots of grass and it’s easier and much less expensive to grow good pasture than it is to grow grains. And from the farmer’s business point of view, it makes good economic sense to let those cows eat grass. Because, when he takes them to the cattle market, he’ll be paid on weight and the type or size of the animal. The cattle that command the best price per pound are generally steers (castrated bulls) in a certain weight range. Exceptions are young male calves that are raised for the veal market and heifers (female calves – which aren’t sold to be butchered).

It’s true most more expensive cuts of meat are finished out on grain (usually corn) in order to add fat marbling to the meat. And the fat actually improves the flavor & tenderness considerably. By the time it ends up in the meat case (You know – the one where they have someone individually wrapping it, so they can charge more.) at the store, the steak has had most of the fat trimmed off. We’ll talk about where that goes in a moment.

If you’re buying inexpensive hamburger or roasts, you are most likely getting “grass fed” beef.

Why? Because that’s how the butcher deals with old cows that never had much in the way of grain. They were fed grass, silage, or hay. In general, this will be females that have reached the end of their productive cycle on the farm.

When I was a teenager, I worked for a year in a small meat market. Each week, we purchased sides of beef and cut them up into roasts, steaks, etc. The leftover trimmings went into the hamburger, but it was never enough to satisfy the demand.

So, the butcher would purchase a hindquarter (where round steaks and roasts come from). You could easily recognize the difference in the appearance of the meat and fat (the meat is darker and the fat more yellow). It was from an old cow! We would supplement the lean meat of the hindquarter with suet (beef fat) from other trimmings (like steak & roasts) to create a hamburger with the right amount of fat to be tender and flavorful.

One of the most important considerations in eating is enjoyment, and I take little joy in having a tasteless, watery, tough steak. Instead, I much prefer a juicy flavorful steak such as this one.

raw steak
Marbled Steak – Mouth Watering Juicy Flavor

And for the record, corn is a grass.

So if it makes you feel better to buy a package of meat that’s labeled “grass fed”, go right ahead. But, you might want to question why they are charging more for beef that’s less expensive to produce than grain fed. The butcher will chuckle as he pockets your money. But he’s not likely to tell you the truth.

Cows photo credit: Marcy Reiford

Steak photo credit: VirtualErn

Expensive Antidepressants
No Better Than Sugar Pills!

Sad Woman
Depression Solutions Besides Pills

A few weeks ago, my wife told me about a family member who appears to be suffering from depression. She asked me to do some research to see what might be done. I told her I would look into it. Here’s what I found.

What Your Doctor May Not Know
About Big Pharma’s “Slight of Hand”

According to a comprehensive review by U.S. and Canadian researchers, at least 4 commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs simply do not work as advertised. After examining all data available for the drugs — including unpublished clinical trials by the manufacturers – it was found that patients taking the drugs improved no more than those taking placebo pills. The only exception was among severely depressed patients, who improved slightly more on the drugs than the placebos.

This study is unique in that it is the first time a study has been done using a full set of data from the FDA for the antidepressants Prozac (fluoxetine), Seroxat (paroxetine – also marketed under the brand name Paxil), Effexor (venlafaxine), and Serzone (nefazodone).

Note: After Serzone was linked to liver damage in a small percentage of people, the manufacturer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, discontinued its sale in the United States and Canada in 2004. (It had already been banned in some other countries.) However, the generic form – nefazodone, is still available in the US and Canada.

The authors of the study wrote, “Using complete datasets (including unpublished data) and a substantially larger dataset of this type than has been previously reported, we find that the overall effect of new-generation antidepressant medications is below recommended criteria for clinical significance. We also find that efficacy reaches clinical significance only in trials involving the most extremely depressed patients, and that this pattern is due to a decrease in the response to placebo rather than an increase in the response to medication.” Source: PLoS (Public Library of Science) Medicine February 26, 2008

I know for a fact that some doctors are still prescribing these drugs for elderly patients. So, if you have friends or family who are on these drugs, please show them this article.

I’ve never placed much trust in prescription drugs, although in some cases they can be lifesavers. But if they are no better than jelly beans…

So what alternatives are available to fight depression?

Avoid Feeling Caged by Depression
With These Four Healthy Habits

Why Diet Matters

A recent study showed that diets with high Omega 6: Omega 3 fatty acid ratios enhanced risk for depression Source: Psychosomatic Med 2007 69: 217-224. In fact, the study showed those with the highest level of depression had diets high in Omega 6 fatty acids. But, there’s more. Depression and stress promote something called “proinflammatory cytokine production” and diets high in Omega 6 fatty acids enhance it. The importance of proinflammatory cytokines is they are related to the onset and course of a spectrum of conditions associated with aging: coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, approximately 15% of cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and periodontal disease.

The good news is that Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. Good sources of Omega 3s: fish, wild game, seeds, nuts, & green leafy vegetables. Doctors suggest we have a 3:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Olive, coconut, & hemp oils have a much better ratio than corn, soy, and canola oils.

A diet high in Omega 3 EFA plus B vitamins such as is found in liver will help reduce depression. If you don’t particularly care for liver, a more palatable substitute is Brewer’s yeast, available in tablets or as a powder that can be added to soups. Note: (If buying Brewer’s yeast powder, be sure you get the “de-bittered” variety).

Another dietary approach to depression is simply to eat foods naturally high in tryptophan, the precursor for serotonin in the body. It is particularly plentiful in chocolate, oats, bananas, mangoes, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, and peanuts. One of the highest sources is Parmesan cheese!

Make Laughing a Daily Habit

Natural ways to enhance your serotonin levels: L-tryptophan supplementation, exercise, sunlight, and laughter! Mark Twain said, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Rent comedy movies. Learn and tell jokes. Go out of your way to be kind – People who regularly volunteer to help others have measurably higher levels of serotonin.

Treat Your Brain to Healing Scents

Religious leaders have contended for millennia that burning incense is good for the soul. Now, biologists have learned that it is good for our brains too. An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. SOURCE: Science Daily on May 20, 2008

Lavender essential oil has been shown to be effective in treating depression. Although essential oils evaporate rapidly, the effects are more lasting. The aromatic molecules permeate the air. When we inhale the aroma, these molecules travel into the nose and to the olfactory receptors, which transmit this information directly to the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system controls our emotions, influences the production of hormones, the immune system, and the nervous system.

Lavender essential oil has many known uses. It is a great aid for relaxing and winding down before bedtime. On the other hand, its balancing properties can also boost stamina and energy. Lavender is a great aromatherapy essential oil for reducing stress, alleviating fears, and soothing frustrations and irritability… especially in times of crises.

It’s important to find quality essential oils as some companies cut them with “carrier” oils. Since essential “oils” are not really oils at all, a good test is to put a few drops on a cloth. The essential oil should evaporate rapidly leaving no oily residue.

Consider Natural Supplements

“A February 2005 study in the British Medical Journal finally put to rest the effectiveness of St. John’s Wort as an antidepressant for people with moderate to severe depression. Half the study’s participants took the antidepressant Paxil (paroxetine); the other half took a minimum 900 mg daily of St. John’s Wort. After six weeks on these regimens, one third of those taking the Paxil felt less depressed; but one half of those taking St. John’s Wort were less depressed. The well-designed study also showed that St. John’s Wort caused fewer side effects than Paxil.”

When using this herb, it’s best to find a source made from the flowers and leaves with at least 3-5% hyperforin. One such brand is AMORYN. For potential side effects and drug interactions, please go to

Caution: If you are currently on an antidepressant, do not take St. John’s Wort. And never stop taking your prescription without talking with your doctor, because most antidepressant medications need to be slowing tapered before discontinuing.

Photo credit: Hamed Saber

Backyard Antioxidants
Free for the Picking

stinging nettle
Stinging Nettle for Spring Tonic

“If they would drink nettles in March,
And eat Mugwort in May,
So many fine Maidens,
Would not go to clay”

English Folk Rhyme

Our Fascination With Expensive Exotic Foods

Nearly every day, I see a new advertisement for some overpriced exotic food that’s supposed to be the latest thing you just must have to live to a ripe old age. From native drupes from South America (Acai) to organic coffee berries (yes berries), to an exotic fruit from the Himalayas; we’re told by some celebrity (like Oprah), that we’ve just got to have it. Now, I’m not suggesting these foods aren’t good, but by the time they’ve reached our home, the price is way too steep.

Yet, we tend to ignore what’s available for free in our own back yards. Here are 8 local wild foods, loaded with vitamins, minerals & antioxidants you might want to consider instead. All of these have various medical properties ascribed to them, but it would take far more space than I have here to differentiate claims from scientific validation.

Eight Neglected “Exotics”

Stinging Nettle – The young tender shoots are good in stir-fry or soups, and the fresh or dried leaves make an interesting & healthy tea. Just add some hot water, steep for 5 minutes, strain, and sip. The Romans collected and consumed nettle seeds. In Ovidius ‘Ars Amatoria’ there’s even a recipe using nettle seeds in an aphrodisiac drink.

Caution: There’s a strong reason why it’s called Stinging Nettle. The leaves are covered with fine hollow “hairs” which contain formic acid that sting when you touch them. Once cooked, they are fine, but even the dried leaves can still sting you. I strongly suggest using heavy-duty leather or rubber gloves to handle them.

Note: If you do happen to get stung, juice from the stem will reduce the stinging, and a companion plant frequently found growing near nettle is the common Touch-Me-Not or Jewelweed (Impatiens noli-tangere). The flower is yellowish orange and often spotted purple to reddish brown. There is another species (I. glandulifera), which has pink or white flowers resembling an orchid. Both species readily self-seed, and do well in moist shady areas. Because the juice immediately quiets the sting of nettle, you may want to grow some in your wild garden.

Dandelion – the young leaves (before flowering) can be used for salad-greens or added to soups or stir fry. The flowers can be made into wine & even non-alcoholic drinks. The pollen laden flowers can also be added to pancake batter or fritters. You’ll first want to remove all green portions from the flowers, because they are quite bitter. Of course, you’ll want to avoid dandelions, which have been sprayed with herbicides.

I find the best leaves appear in areas where the surrounding plants force them to grow long and wide to get the sunlight they need. It’s not unusual to find leaves 6”- 8” long. You can also add some plants to your garden. By feeding them nitrogen rich compost, you’ll be able to encourage leaf growth and extend the harvesting season. The roots of dandelions can be gathered and dried in the fall and make a healthy drink either alone or as an addition to your coffee.

Dandelion has been considered a culinary favorite in Europe for centuries and was actually imported by the early colonists to America where it has spread even into the mountains. A little known fact is the U.S. is a net importer of dandelion parts, which are used in herbal supplements.

Chicory – To most people today, chicory is just a little noticed roadside herb with pretty blue summer flowers, but the plants have been cultivated for thousands of years. It is said that Queen Elizabeth I of England drank chicory broth, and the Egyptians cultivated it around 5000 years ago. Today, it’s seeds & greens are sold as radicchio, which is nothing more than the forced leaves of a variety of chicory.

If you want to grow your own, the plant thrives in rich sandy soil, and responds well to compost. You can even “force” the roots during the winter months for the specialty green Belgian endive, which make a welcome addition to salads. The ground roots can be added to coffee or drank alone.

Wild blackberries & black raspberries
– Virtually all berries & especially those with blue-black coloration have antioxidants that apparently protect the body from many ill effects of aging. If you live in an area where they grow abundantly, consider yourself lucky. Specialty culinary preparers pay as much as $40 a gallon for these sweet berries and make them into jams which sell for premium prices in the market.

– In most parts of the U.S., these berries grow wild and are sold for $30 a gallon or more at roadside stands. Most are blue or black with a flavor similar to blueberries. They grow well in sun or shade and can frequently be found alongside mountain trails. In the Pacific Northwest there is also a red variety that grows well on old cedar stumps. The flavor is tart but quite good.

Huckleberries can be easily frozen or prepared into jams, tarts, and pies. I like to add a few to my summer salads. My chickens love them so much I’ve seen them fly up into the bush and gobble them down.

Bilberry: Blueberry’s Sweeter Cousin

Alpine bilberry, bog bilberry or tundra bilberry (V. uliginosum) is native to North America, Europe, and Asia from 38o to 78o north latitudes and from sea level to 9,000 + feet elevation. This species grows on wet or dry, acidic, organic or mineral soils and is often found at the edges of lakes and streams. The plants grow from several inches to about 36 inches tall, bearing single berries or clusters of two or three glaucous, blue berries one-fourth inch in diameter. Flavor is good, but yields are often low.

One of my favorite Labor Day hikes takes me to a couple alpine lakes in the wilderness where these berries grow in such abundance you can literally fill your hand with berries without moving your feet. These fresh juicy flavorful berries taste similar to blueberries, but are much sweeter. Typically along the trail I’ll also find blue huckleberries and wild blueberries.

Elderberries – elder flower tea or fritters in the spring and elderberry wine in the summer. The flowers can also be dried and used for tea later. And the berries can be made into jams, jellies, & chutneys. If you’ve never had elderberry wine, you’re missing a rare treat, especially if you make it yourself. Although the elderberry tree can get up to 30’ tall, it responds well to pruning. My chickens think the berries are a real delicacy.

Fireweed – high in potassium & phosphorus and a good source of Vitamin C. American natives ate the young shoots just like asparagus – lightly steam & eat or use them in stir-fry. They tend to grow in open areas, along ditches, and burned over ground (hence the name). The summer flowers of this member of the Evening Primrose family are delicate and rose to purple

I’m sure if ask knowledgeable elders in your community, they can tell you about other local plants you can harvest. In the process, you’ll get some healthy exercise & sunshine. And you’ll also know you aren’t nearly so dependent on your grocer for your food.

Just a final note: Although Mugwort is mentioned in the rhyme above, Artemisia vulgaris is now not considered to be safe to take internally. It is a fine aromatic and can be used in herbal baths to relieve aching muscles and joints. It makes a fine ornamental addition to the wild garden, & the sage-like smell of the dried herb is said to repel moths.

Stinging nettle photo credit: tillwe

Wild billberry photo credit: mwri

Back Pain
#2 Reason for Doctor Visits

my aching back
Oh… My Aching Back!

According to Johns Hopkins Dr. Simeon Margolis, “back pain sends more people to the doctor than any complaint except upper respiratory symptoms.”

So there I was, unable to reach the phone, 30 kilometers away from my doctor, and I thought, “It doesn’t have to be this way. A backache doesn’t have to get me so low down – spread-eagled on the floor!”

It gave me little comfort to read that Apprentice star Claire Young says her “killer high heels” wrecked her spine and left her in agony.

All ye pretty women out there reading this, take heed and take the heels off. Obviously, plenty of people were being as silly as me.

So I was taken to the doctor, plus signed up for a physiotherapist and a yoga instructor. Then I pleaded with my boss for a week off. At this point I realized there were some things I could have done to avoid the debilitating pain, the doctor’s bills and the week off without pay

Types of Back Pain

Acute – If a sudden movement, sprain or strain on the muscles triggered the pain, then that pain would be acute. If you don’t continue to strain your back acute pain should disappear in a few days if you apply balm, alternate applying cold & hot packs, & maybe get a massage.

Chronic – your back has been aching for more than a few weeks or months, especially when you get to work

Causes of Back Pain

  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bladder or kidney infections
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Cancer
  • Wearing ridiculously high heels
  • Dehydration
  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Repetitive movements

Also, did you know that a severe backache could be because of indigestion? And this should surprise some, a joint problem that affects the jaws, can lead to severe backache.

A sagging bed could lead to chronic backaches, so look out for that. If you can’t buy a new one straight off, slip in something rigid (such as a piece of 5/8 inch plywood) between the mattress and the bed frame to keep the mattress from sagging in the middle.

Action Plan

  • Get to know what you are up against: Acute or chronic?
  • Questions your doctor might ask you: Most doctors find it a challenge to find the exact reason for severe chronic backaches. Help them as much as you can by noting if there is a central point that pains and if that pain radiates from there to other parts of the body. When the pain is at its worst and if it pains all the time, or only when you move, walk, bend down and so on.
  • What is the cause: Rule out any spine-related problems. This might require you get an X-Ray. Apparently, my spine is crooked, so I have to extra care about how much weight I lift, how I get out of bed and several other things. The doctor suggests I turn to my side and get up. Apparently, just sitting up is out. Don’t just pop an anti-inflammatory or painkiller, just because it’s in front of you. Talk about the probable reasons with your doctor, it will be easier to cure it completely.
  • Exercise: Lie on the floor, bring up your knees to your chest and put some pressure on your knees. This lengthens the spine and massages it. However, those suffering from some kinds of severe chronic aches may not be able to do this. Consult your doctor. Yoga, Tai Chi and acupressure are relatively safe methods of reducing the pain and remedying the problem. Strength training may help in building a stronger back, so choose what works best for you.
  • Sit right: If you have a desk job, you are probably slouching forward all the time. Remind yourself to sit straight, stretch your back and get your own cushions or footstools, if your employer won’t get you a better chair.
  • Heat and cold: If the pain is acute, ice may be the best remedy. It reduces any swelling and the relief is greater if you massage the sore spot with the ice. Heat works best after you have used an ice bag for two days at least. Moist heat is recommended, i.e., wring a towel in warm water and keep it on your back.

Control your thoughts

Some people are more prone to suffering from chronic pain than others. This is really important to understand because it offers a plausible explanation for the fact that some people do not stick to their medicine, give up on exercise programs that can make them feel better, or continue with a lifestyle that makes the pain worse. Source: Cleveland Clinic

Some of these characteristics are:

  • A person who strongly feels responsible towards others and goes to any lengths to discharge their duties
  • A uncontrollable urge to do whatever it takes to get the job done, often sacrificing one’s own needs to achieve it
  • Not being easy on oneself or others
  • Holding very strong beliefs
  • Using pain as a way to seek attention or to buy time

Your spine is the main message center for your body. All the muscles and nerves associated with it are extremely important. So any pain affects the proper functioning of your body and should be tackled immediately.

Photo credit: Valerie Everett

How To Halt or Reverse
Vision Loss

eyes right
Tips to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

How To See Better…for Longer

When it comes to taking care of your eyes, and I cannot stress this enough, you’ve got to be regular. Get them checked regularly, incorporate healthy eye-food into your daily diet, give your eyes rest & exercise regularly.

  • According to a 7 year study, running and other brisk activities lead to greater cardio-respiratory fitness that is associated with lower cataract risk in men
  • Yoga incorporates several poses that increase blood circulation to your eyes and strengthen the eye muscles. Also, several poses reduce stress levels through the body and increase lung power, so your entire body, including your eyes feels refreshed.

Paul McCartney demonstrates some eye yoga exercises he learned in India.

Although, I must add, you mustn’t move your head as much as he does while you are doing these eye exercises.

What Makes the Eyes Weak?

Some of the common age-related eye disorders set in because of a diet that lacks nutrients that improve vision or prevent vision from deteriorating; or due to loss of tissue tightness around the eye socket, leading to droopy or puffy eyelids; or weakening of the retinal muscles leading to lower closer-range vision and so on.

Incidentally, smoking reduces blood circulation to the eyes. And in the study cited above, being overweight can increase your chances of developing cataracts.

Conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and dry eyes are so very common these days, what with the way we stare at the computer, walk around without sunglasses on sunny days and stay awake for longer than our eyes can stand.

Cataracts are clumps of protein molecules that cloud up your lens making it difficult to see clearly, whereas a build up of pressure on the optic nerve causes glaucoma. This happens when the watery liquid flowing between the lens and the cornea is blocked.

Small Changes for Healthier Eyes

  • While at work make sure that the source of light is behind you, and not shining directly at you. Overhead lights are fine as long as they do not throw off the glare at you from the computer screen you are looking at. If you can manage: position the light source over your left shoulder, if you are right-handed, and over your right shoulder if you are left-handed.
  • If you need glasses, get them (and get glasses of the right power). Do not sacrifice your vision for the sake of not looking ‘nerdy’
  • Blink. Blink. Blink. Fifteen-twenty times a minute.
  • Every now and again, rub your palms together and place them over your eyes. Count to 20. Do this regularly.
  • Don’t let cigarette smoke, or any kind of smoke get into your eyes. It can cause the formation of free radicals in the eye, which can cause macular (retina muscle) degeneration.
  • Prevent your chances of getting eye infections by washing your hands often, especially if you are in a public space. Do not share face towels or eye cosmetics. And do not rub your eyes too vigorously.
  • Avoid reading while ill, because this puts extra strain on the eyes

Super Eye Foods

  • Bilberry extracts. This herb has been shown to slow the development of cataracts. It increases the blood supply to the eyes.
  • Red, orange, yellow fruits and green vegetables are particularly good for the eyes. They are loaded with antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamins A, C, E
  • Omega 3 oils found aplenty in cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, cod and sardines are good for the eyes.
  • A tea made from eyebright, Echinacea, clover, burdock and licorice boosts your immune system… helping you resist eye infections.

Chinese eye massage techniques and exercises.


Photo credit: ^@^ina