I've been inspired by my favorite blog - The Archdruid Report. He has serialized several books, in between weekly essays. I'd like to do the same - and here is my first offering of what will become my next book. This week's post explains the title.
I have watched the fields of integrative and functional medicine blossom over the past decade. When I attended Harvard Divinity School in the early 1980’s “integrative medicine” had not entered the lexicon. Although people on the “fringes” of academia and medicine talked about mind, body, spirit approaches I was more or less on my own in my quest to understand why traditional healing practices worked.
I started with sensory integration, studied as part of my occupational therapy curriculum at Boston University in the early 1970s. I saw it make changes in my patients with dementia, stroke, and a variety of physical and psychiatric disabilities during my first few years of practice.
In 1978 I moved to Tucson, Arizona and got my first exposure to traditional healers. The Tohono O’odham, Pima, and Yaqui nations within the Tucson metro region all have healers who practice in those communities. The Mexican-American community uses curanderismo to successfully treat a whole host of maladies. I listened to stories of healings and became fascinated by the richness of sensory experience they provided. I knew that I wanted to learn more about them.
The medical community held these practices in disregard, at best explaining positive outcomes as placebo effects. I knew that studying them from academic disciplines such as anthropology or psychology would only teach me why they did not work, so I ended up at Harvard Divinity School studying spiritual healing via theology. Not a perfect match, but at least I wouldn’t hear that it was all nonsense nearly as often. While there I had access to world class libraries, professors, all the courses at Harvard, as well as the nine other seminaries in the Boston Theological Institute – an amazing and sometimes overwhelming array of choices.
My study at the Divinity School had an interesting side effect, I had complete free-rein describing the workings of the nervous system, since no one there could comment on terms such as corpus collosum, reticular activating system or vestibular apparatus. When I got nervous about my understanding I headed back across the Charles River to Boston University where professors from my alma mater Sargent College would recommend papers I could read or suggest alternative scenarios. They kept me on the neurophysiological “straight and narrow path.”
Harvard provided me with the framework of academic rigor, and credentials for entering academia as a professor in the Occupational Therapy Department of Eastern Kentucky University. That position led to my first book, Biomechanics: Problem Solving for Functional Activity and later to another textbook, Kinesiology: Movement in the Context of Activity, now in its third edition.
Fast forward three decades, through years of: contemporary occupational therapy practice; the study of Integrative Nutrition; Traditional Chinese Medicine; and creating healing rituals for others. I am ready to approach biomechanics from a different perspective – using quantum rather than Newtonian physics this time around.
Traditional healers work on the quantum level where energy and matter have fluidity (E=mc2) and genes express themselves like light switches that turn on and off (epigenetics). Western technological science has finally caught up. Rather than dismiss the outcomes of these traditions, we have a scientific way to understand and explain them. I hope to share some of this information with readers of my blog, in my seminars, and eventually in a book, tentatively titled, The Biomechanics of Spiritual Healing.
My next blog will cover the inseparability of biomechanics and spirituality – the what, where, how, and why of healing.
All mammals, especially young ones, do things “just for fun” without planning or expecting a “pay-off” in food, money or even falling in love. Spend half an hour on social media sites and you’ll see videos of a dog playing ball with a tortoise, or wrestling with a crow. Apparently, birds and even reptiles play. Play seems very important to Mother Nature.
People have used play to survive starvation, prison, and illness. Anthropologists tell us that the average person living in low-tech “primitive” cultures spends about 20 hours a week “working” to provide themselves with food, clothing, and shelter. That leaves a lot of time left-over to play and sleep. Most human beings lived like that until a few thousand years ago. Yet, still we scoff that p-l-a-y could powerfully heal our everyday stress.
P-l-a-y keeps our bodies flexible, our minds alert, and our spirits ready for change.
Play relieves stress and the inflammation that accompanies it. Medical science tells us that reducing chronic inflammation allows the body to heal. Enjoying games with other people releases oxytocin and boosts our immune responses. Playing, especially outdoors, gives us an appetite and revs up our metabolism so we can better digest our food. We work up a thirst and drink water that helps us eliminate toxins.
Play clears the mind. A 21 year study of healthy elderly showed that participants who danced or played board games three times a week stayed sharp much longer than those who did solitary activities like reading and crossword puzzles. Participants who exercised by climbing stairs and bicycling seemed more likely to get dementia. Children who have recess do better in school. Why?
Play lifts the spirit. It keeps our bodies flexible, our minds alert, and our spirits ready for change. Imagination fuels play. Whatever we dream up expands our future possibilities. Creative play draws on inner resources. Like a drink of water, play helps us eliminate both physical andpsychic toxins. When we play with others we open our hearts in friendship so stress and loneliness melt away. Play feeds our souls.
Play flourishes with structure. We need to set aside time and space for play every day of our lives. Traditional medicine practitioners understood this, thousands of years ago. They used simple life-style changes to keep the body, mind and spirit in balance so people could stay well and heal from disease. Many of us playfully explore Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong when we first learn about them. Then we discover that we need to practice, practice, practice to get the best benefits – just like a child who bounces a ball against a wall over and over and over until they learn to catch it every time, at every different angle and speed. Regular practice prunes away clumsiness, and polishes awkward movements into grace and beauty.
Make some time to play every day. It keeps you young!
 See accounts of: Ernest Shackleton’s second trip to the South Pole on the ship Endurance; Patch Adams and Norm Cousins’ healing use of laughter; and George Eisen’s book Children and Play in the Holocaust.
 Verghese, J., Lipton, R.H., Katz, M.J., Hall, C.B., Derby, C.A, Kuslansky, G., Ambrose, A.F., Sliwinski, M., Buschke, H. (2003). Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. N Eng J Med. 348:2508-2516. June 19, 2003.
Have you heard about the benefits of probiotics for boosting the immune system and calming gut inflammation? It seems I’m seeing it everywhere I look. Lots of people recommend foods like sauerkraut and yogurt, but with a picky eater those flavors usually don’t work well. How about everybody’s favorite condiment...ketchup!
Store bought ketchup inevitably contains lots of high-fructose corn syrup and sometimes other questionable ingredients. This simple recipe has less sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, and LOTS of gut-calming, brain-building probiotics.
Here’s what you need to make a pint (2 cups):
‣ 12 ounces organic tomato paste (no salt added)
‣ 1/8 - 1/4 cup water
‣ 2 tablespoons of whey*
‣ 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
‣ 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder (or substitute a prepared dijon mustard)
‣ 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
‣ 1/8 teaspoon cloves
‣ 1/8 teaspoon allspice
‣ 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
‣ 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
‣ 1/4 to 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
‣ (you can even add a bit of molasses for extra flavor & minerals.)
Here’s what you do…
1. Mix all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
2. Pour this mixture into a glass jar, large enough to leave 1" of space at the top of the jar.
3. Cover loosely and leave at room temperature for two days. The salt & vinegar will protect unwanted bacteria from growing until the friendly lactobacillus from the whey has a chance to multiply and preserve your ketchup.
4. After two days at room temperature, move your ketchup into the refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for a couple of months – if you don’t eat it first!
Tips for Working with Picky Eaters
You can use this ketchup to make Thousand Island Dressing by mixing it with an equal amount of mayonnaise. Make some Steak Sauce by mixing it with an equal amount of sour cream. Store both of these in the refrigerator.
This recipe comes from a wonderful course on Lacto-Fermentation at the Traditional Cooking School. If you want to learn more about making other traditional foods I recommend Wardeh's courses – they are fantastic.
Want to learn more about the power of probiotics for health?
The New York Times ran an article by Peter Andrey Smith on June 23, 2015, “Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?”.
Neurologist, David Perlmutter, covers the topic in depth in his excellent book, Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain - for Life.
PLAY reduces stress and the effects of stress on our bodies. Stress causes inflammation and research points to inflammation as the root cause of most chronic health issues facing us from autism to AlZheimers. Play has no purpose or motive other than itself so…
These delicious and simple drinks provide health benefits: 1) Using whole fruits means you get all the nutrients those fruits provide; 2) You add little or no sugar; 3) Adding fresh fruit and letting it sit in the refrigerator provides a mild fermentation process that adds beneficial probiotics to your digestive system. Even if you add some sugar, these drinks provide only a fraction of what you would find in a soda or commercial soft drink.
Strawberry Water: Agua de Fresa
1 lb of strawberries, hulled, cleaned and chopped
1 quart of water
1/4 cup sugar (honey, maple syrup)
1 cup fresh halved strawberries
In a blender, add the chopped strawberries and enough water to get them to blend easily.
Blend until very smooth.
Transfer to a pitcher and add the rest of the water.
Taste before adding sugar. Start with 1/8 cup and taste again before adding more. Stir well and serve.
Watermelon water: Agua de sandia
Ingredients: 1½ cups diced watermelon, without rind
5 cups water
1/4 cup sugar (honey, maple syrup)
Put the diced watermelon in the blender with 2 cups of the water.
Blend until the black seeds break up (about 1-2 minutes.)
Let the ground seeds settle to the bottom, then pour the liquid into a pitcher, leaving the seeds in the blender to be discarded.
You will not need to use a strainer.
Add the rest of the water.
Taste before adding sweetener. Start with 1/8 cup and taste again before adding more.
Cantaloupe water: Agua de melón
1/2 cantaloupe, seeds and rind removed, diced (about 1½ - 2 cups diced melon)
1 quart water
1/4 cup sugar (honey, maple syrup)
Put the diced melon in the blender with enough of the water to cover.
Blend just long enough to make a coarse pulp.
Transfer to a pitcher and add the rest of the water.
Taste before adding sugar. Start with 1/8 cup and taste again before adding more.
Stir to dissolve the sweetener.
The resulting agua will contain small bits of fruit pulp. If you don’t strain them out you get extra nutrients and fiber.
Lime Water: Agua de Limón
1 quart water
1/2 cup of sugar (honey, maple syrup)
Peel a little less than half the rind off each lime.
Discard it or save it for a recipe using lime zest.
Cut the limes in quarters and put them in the blender with all of the water and sugar.
Blend on high setting for five seconds; longer blending will result in bitterness rather than the sweet-and-tart flavor the drink should have.
The lime wedges will still be in chunks.
Pour the contents of the blender through a strainer into the serving pitcher.
Taste before adding sugar. If it is too tart for your tastes add another 1/8 cup and taste again before adding more.
The gym I’m visiting echoes with the cacophony of adolescents at recess. Several students walk around holding fingers in their ears to diminish the noise. A fifteen-year old boy in a Justin Bieber T-shirt curls up in a fetal position on the floor. Occasionally teachers admonish him to sit with his back against the wall like a dozen other students spread around the perimeter of the gym. On the opposite side of the gym a seventeen year old girl shakes her carefully beaded hair while rocking and moaning. I watch a teacher warn her to stop making so much noise.
A half hour ago an equal number of even noisier teen-aged students filled this gym and no teachers admonished them to stop making noise. Those “general” education students are labeled “typical” and this group of “District 75” education students is labeled “autistic.”
We don’t use labels like “retarded” any more, but phrases such as “he’s a District 75 kid” leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about a child’s future. Like so many New York City schools this one reflects the diverse ethnic melting pot of our city. Autism cuts across all class, cultural and ethnic groups. I wonder how it is possible to have a room full of children so segregated from their “typical” peers, more than three decades after the passage of the federal law, “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” (I.D.E.A.) which mandated that all children receive an education in the “least restrictive” environment. Especially when we know children with autism do better surrounded by “typical” peers who can teach them social skills more rapidly and effectively through play?
Autism is the new “diagnosis du jour,” knocking ADHD into second place. I have worked as an occupational therapist with students like these long enough to watch the epidemic unfold. I’ve read file cabinets full of research and spent countless hours teaching these children to write their names, tie their shoes, use the toilet, and most importantly, play with other children. I’ve studied the neurological underpinnings of traditional healing techniques at Harvard Divinity School and taught contemporary occupational therapy theory and techniques at universities.
Occasionally, I see children with autism diagnoses who could just as easily get a label of “quirky.” I see many, many more children who have earned their “autism” label justifiably. The current one in fifty statistic may be somewhat inflated, but it clearly and accurately reflects an epidemic.
The puzzle of autism fascinated researchers and clinicians even when it affected only a small percentage of the population. The epidemic has only increased our study and our knowledge. Though we may not have all the puzzle pieces, we have enough of them to know what works to “reverse” the effects of autism and how to slow down or even stop this epidemic.
So why do we engage in what Andrew Solomon in Far From the Tree calls “the slipshod brutality of giving up”?
Probably for the same reasons we cannot seem to make fuel efficient cars or grow our food without chemicals. Environmental toxins play a large role, both environmentally and also genetically, since parents pass along their own environmentally altered genes through epigenetics. We also know that these same environmental toxins play a part in the epidemics of childhood obesity and diabetes. We know food makes a difference, especially wholesome food, grown organically and prepared without sugar and other processed ingredients. In The Autism Revolution Martha Herbert, MD cites research that mirrors what Robert Lustig, MD documents in his book, Fat Chance: Beating the Obesity Epidemic.
We cannot find a “cure” because our attention gets diverted into sexy new drugs and candy coated cereals with “heart-healthy” and “gluten-free” labels. We have plenty of evidence, both anecdotally and through published research, on how to ameliorate and even reverse the effects of autism, and coincidentally ADHD, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The following very effective interventions require neither pharmaceuticals nor costly treatments: outdoor play; creative play; social play (i.e. games); and wholesome food. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv chronicles the importance of outdoor play and its role in children’s development. All over the US there are groups of parents, therapists and volunteers who use interactive play to improve children’s ability to communicate. Two of these treatment methods, Floortime and Son Rise, use play to build on an individual’s gifts, passions and strengths. In The Autism Revolution Dr. Herbert cites research to build a case for play, food and cleaning up the environment as strategies to prevent autism and reverse its effects.
If we know how to help children with autism why don’t we do it? Most likely because we find it difficult to make the kinds of sweeping changes we would need to see. No governmental agency wants to stop fracking, which clearly threatens our diminishing fresh water supply, let alone retool the automobile industry. Feeding children home-cooked meals and making safe playgrounds don’t support our struggling economy. In fact truly “curing” autism would have far wider and more devastating effects on our economy than Bernie Madoff or bursting the housing “bubble.” Nationally and globally we have made a collective economic decision to throw our children under the SUV.
Will eating organic foods and taking your child to the playground every day “cure” his or her autism? Probably not, because autism presents a multi-faceted and unique puzzle for every individual and every family. Helping children and adults with autism requires a myriad of conscious attention to details that can take 24 hours a day for life. Ask any parent of a child with autism about consciousness and detail.
Putting a whole lot of children with autism into a special school and teaching them how to sit quietly, fill out worksheets and tally up points for “good behavior” will do even less toward helping these people find meaningful ways to live in community and find some measure of happiness.
After recess, I provide occupational therapy to a slight fourteen year old boy who huddles over a map he draws from memory. I want this student, and every child I see, to find passions he can use to light a path to adult life. I ask this teenager what part of the city he’s drawing but I cannot hear his muttered response through the t-shirt he has pulled over his mouth and nose. I take out my phone and open a map application. I scroll around until if find the recognizable shoreline of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Back in the mapmaker’s classroom, a sixteen year-old student, built like a Russian basketball player, works on choosing the correct picture from a selection of three small cards. The sixteen-year old likes to color but we cannot let him have crayons because he gets too excited covering every square millimeter of paper with color. Lately this young man becomes violent when people try to stop him or redirect him from coloring back to the tasks of sitting still with his hands folded, making no sounds and doing nothing more than looking out the window or choosing a card to please an adult.
As I watch the mapmaker pencil in streets, piers, parks and highways for Bay Ridge, the school psychologist stops by to tell me this teenager’s “colorer” classmate will soon go to a “residential setting.” I watch the mapmaker’s shoulders shiver as he listens. I ask, “Is it upsetting to hear us talk about your classmate in front of you?” He nods, yes.
What can I say to this middle school student? How much does he know about “residential settings,” and does he see this in his future? Does he dream another life for himself? Very few students escape from District 75. I envision the mapmaker in an office drawing maps with a beautiful selection of colored pens and markers – or maybe in Union Square selling his creations to people who want a hand drawn map to frame and put on the wall. I fashion this vision into a prayer.
When I travel around the US teaching parents and therapists how to get children to eat, I show a graph of autism’s growth from the 1990’s to 2010. The graph looks like the steep climb at the beginning of a really scary roller coaster ride. I mark off the points where we introduced genetically modified foods into our diet (just as the roller coaster takes off from the station) and the point where we took some mercury out of some of the vaccines (that point where the roller coaster jerks and connects to the gears that keep it climbing higher and steeper). I tell participants I’m not a statistician and I do not make any presumptions about cause and effect. Instead, as a Harvard educated theologian and an occupational therapist specializing in autism, I wonder, how many angels will it take for us to clean up the air, water and food supply? How many angels will it take for us to stop racing to the top and start eating together as families and making time for children to play?
Theologians love word problems with “angels” in them. Here’s what I believe based on a study of herd animals. When 51% of the animals looked at a water hole, the whole herd moved in that direction. When 51% of us have autism, or 51% of us love someone who has autism, then we will stop buying processed foods and start growing backyard “victory” gardens. We will begin sharing food with our neighbors and sharing gas in carpools. We will refuse to buy new cars, houses, appliances and clothes. Instead we will make music, art, child care and love. We will profoundly and radically change everything about the way we do business, education, health care, housing, and everyday human relationships; in a word, evolution.
Think about salads as if you were making a drawing or a picture.
Use leafy greens to make a textured background, then add all the other ingredients as accents.
As for the rest of the supply list
Greens prepared like this are usually fresher, less expensive and keep longer than bags of pre-mixed greens. You can also try more varieties than you will get in prepared bags, but bags of prepared greens work just fine.
This is the all-time easiest way I know to make yogurt at home. You can spend a total of 30-45 minutes of time and have fresh, delicious yogurt for much less than you would pay in the store. All you need is a crock-pot, some milk, and some plain yogurt with live, active cultures* in it.
- 1 quart to ½ gallon of milk (for best results AVOID “ultra-pasteurized” – usually you want to buy the store brand and it’s the best price so you win all the way around)
- One 4-8 ounce container of plain yogurt with live, active cultures* (for best results – get yogurt made only from milk & live, active cultures* - and no other additives)
You can add a teaspoon at a time to regulate sweetness. Make sure the yogurt tastes good. You’ll find you don’t add as much sweetener as the manufacturer does.
- Maple syrup
- Jellies & jams
- Fresh fruit
- Canned pie fillings (look for ones without corn syrup)
- Frozen fruit
- Chocolate chips
- Crumbled up cookies (try ½ a cookie first)
If you want to make a drinkable yogurt you can experiment with adding more or less yogurt to the heated milk – this will affect how thick the yogurt gets. Before serving add some juice or fruit nectars (unsweetened if you can find them).
*Brands that have “LIVE, ACTIVE CULTURES”
Cloud Top, LLC
Perpetual bone broth from New Year's day turkey - Day 5
During the hard, cold months of winter, when finding fresh and local vegetables gets difficult, traditional diets often focus on meat, grains and beans. I’ll feature those recipes in the next few newsletters. This month we look at bone broth which warms up your kitchen as well as your tummy! Make it in a crock pot for pennies. Add it to any dish instead of water or “store-bought” soup stocks to boost nutrient density AND add flavor.
Using bone broth makes a great “chaining” choice when transitioning a picky-eater to more healthy foods for several reasons. Many children like bland, slightly salty soups and easily accept a bone broth. Homemade bone broth can transform even empty calorie foods like noodles into a nutrient dense meal. Bone broths contain gelatin which acts helps us overcome food sensitivities by healing inflamed gastrointestinal tracts.
Bone broth’s nutrient quantities vary from batch to batch. Since the cooking process slowly dissolves bones, its broth has all the ingredients in bone and cartilage. Our bodies absorb and use the minerals and nutrients from bone broths even more easily and readily than those we get from supplements, making them an even better choice for keeping picky-eaters and everyone in the family healthy.
You will get protein from any attached meat, fat from marrow, skin or solid fat, and gelatin from the dissolved cartilage and bone. Many nutritionists recommend bone broths for: food allergies; colic; problems digesting dairy, beans, meat, grain (especially gluten); gastro esophageal reflux; gastritis; ulcer; hiatal hernia; inflammatory bowel disease; irritable bowel syndrome; leaky gut syndrome; malnutrition; weight loss; muscle wasting; cancer; osteoporosis; calcium deficiency; and anemia.
As you can see bone broth will make everyone feel better. Check out the list of nutrients at the end of this post. If you take any of these as supplements consider adding a crock pot of bone broth to your weekly menus. You can save money, improve the taste of your food and get healthy with no more than 10 to 20 minutes of your time per week.
Where to Get Bones for Bone Broth:
Perpetual Bone Broth – Keep your bone broth going for up to a week if you use it every day. Add more water to replace the water you remove. The longer it cooks the more nutrients leach out of the bones. At the end of the week the bones will be mush. This method works well for people on a GAPS diet or other diet regimen that uses lots of broths and soups. (Thanks to Jenny McCarthy at www.nourishedkitchen.com for this variation.)
Clean out the Fridge – Add frozen vegetable scraps, vegetables that have wilted (not rotted) during the last hour of cooking. Strain the cooked vegetables out with the bones. Some vegetables turn the broth bitter (beets, broccoli, turnips) or sweet (carrots) if they cook too long so best not to add these to a perpetual soup. Parsley and parsley trimmings, onion, garlic, celery and celery leaves add flavor and will do alright cooking longer than an hour.
Things to Make with Bone Broth
Add bone broth anywhere you would put water or soup stock.
Clear Broth - When you make perpetual soup you can strain the broth through a coffee filter or mesh tea strainer to make yourself a warming cup of pure goodness.
Kitchen Sink Soup – Add fresh or left-over meats, chopped vegetables, noodles and seasonings of your choice to make a hearty soup.
Egg Drop Soup – Whip up one egg for each cup of hot broth. Stir eggs into broth. A meal won’t get any easier than this! Add some chopped green onions for flavor and color if you want to get fancy.
Doggies’ Delight – Throw a ladle full of broth into your dog’s dry kibbles and watch their eyes light up in gratitude. Make sure you let it cool off before serving it. Once the bones have cooked for 24 hours and gotten mushy you can add a few of those as well. Make sure you can crush bones with your ladle before adding chicken or pork bones to a dog’s dish. Some cats like bone broth, too.
Here’s the list of nutrients found in bone broths.
Sodium and potassium
Collagen I, II, III & the amino acids found in collagen:
Play with Your Food
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Sustainable Health: Simple Habits to Transform Your Life