Book Notes: Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Claudia Welch

“If you can’t explain a concept to a six year old, you don’t fully understand it” — Einstein

PART ONE

Hormones — Ambassadors of Yin and Yang

  • if we can understand yin and yang, we have a simple framework for understanding the function of any hormone in the body and specifically the complex stress hormones (yang) and sex hormones (yin)… Whether we are talking about a liver cell, heart cell, fingernail cell, brain cell, or carbon molecule, each has form and substance. This is Yin. Each also has an energy that organizes, transforms, and directs the substance. This is Yang. Yin is mostly about mass, yang is mostly about energy. Yin is the thing operated on, yang is the operating force. 
  • Women’s dominant sex hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, have a predominantly yin influence in the body, whereas stress hormones, like adrenaline or cortisol, have a predominantly yang influence.
  • we are affected physically and emotionally by every quality with which we come into contact. The general rule is: like increases like.

Sex Hormones — The Ambassadors of Yin

  • estrogen is more yin than progesterone
  • These are the three main estrogens and their glads of origin:
    1. Estradiol is produced in the ovaries and in the adrenal glands. It is considered the most potent of the three main estrogens. After about the age of 50, or after surgery to remove the ovaries, it becomes the job of our adrenal glands to supply some of our estrogen, in the amounts we require (or to provide the biochemical precursors that our bodies can use to synthesize estrogen)
    2. Estrone is produced by the placenta during pregnancy, by fat tissue, and to a much lesser extent by muscle tissue. Estrone is the major estrogen for post-menopausal women, even though they will not be growing placentas, because the liver can transform estrone into estradiol and vice versa
    3. Estriol is produced by the placenta and, to a lesser extent, by the liver. It is some times called the “pregnancy estrogen” and is not a major player after menopause
  • Progesterone, testosterone and other hormones can serve as estrogen precursors. These precursor hormones are synthesized in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and throughout the entire body in fat, bones, muscle, skin, brain, and other tissue. Thus precursor hormones, body tissues, and even ovaries continue to provide estrogen after menopause. In fact, it is possible for an overweight woman to have more estrogen after menopause than a thin woman has before menopause, simply because of the amount of estrogen in her ample fat tissues.
  • To make estrogen, we also require aromatase and estrogen receptors. Aromatase is an enzyme that can instantaneously transform even precursor hormones, like testosterone, into estrogen. Like estrogen, aromatase decreases after menopause; but happily, it also becomes more potent. Also like the estrogen precursors, aromatase is widely available in our bodies before and after menopause. It is found mostly in fat and muscle tissue, but also in bones, blood vessels, brain tissue, and breasts.
  • If we have too little estrogen (yin), we may get vaginal dryness, dry skin, hot flashes and night sweats
  • “Good vs Bad” Estrogen
    • We have seen that estradiol is the most potent estrogen produced in our bodies. It is created in the ovaries and adrenal glands. From there the body converts it to ether good estrogen (2-hydroxyestrone) or toxic estrogen (16-apha-hydroxyestrone). I have not encountered an explanation in Western medicine about why the body would choose to convert it to bad estrogen. According to Eastern medicine, whether the conversion is to good or bad estrogen depends on whether the liver, the body metabolic processes, and the body’s qi are functioning optimally. Bad estrogens are longer lived than good ones and stimulate breast cell proliferation, so they can be a factor in developing breast cancer, which is associated with an increased rate of cell production. There is also some indication that when estrogen is not metabolized in our bodies in a timely manner, it stagnates and becomes problematic or “bad” estrogen
  • Progesterone: Yang within Yin
    • the yin hormone that is more yang than estrogen. Progesterone prepares the uterus for the fertilized egg and maintains pregnancy, but perhaps its main function is to keep estrogen in check in a woman. It is produced in the ovaries until after menopause, in the adrenal glands of both men and women, and in the testes of men… 
    • estrogen follows progesterones lead. for example, the body can make estrogen from progesterone, but it can’t make progesterone from estrogen
    • estrogen stimulates the growth of uterine lining, progesterone serves to hold the lining in place
    • Excess estrogen increases body fat, fluid retention, blood clotting and great cancer, and creates other problems — each of which progesterone serves to counteract
    • if progesterone levels are low, we may experience some symptoms similar to those of estrogen deficiency. This may be because there is not enough progesterone for the body to use as raw material to make estrogen.
    • Estrogen can be made in any tissue in the body and serves to build and nourish us both before and after menopause. Progesterone serves to support estrogen and to act as the check in nature’s check and balance system, so that estrogen’s influence does not become dominant.

Stress Hormones — The Ambassadors of Yang

  • Sex Hormones are the major yin hormones; stress hormones are the major yang hormones.
  • Adrenaline and cortisol are the two major players of yang
  • DHEA — a prohormone that balances cortisol much like progesterone balances estrogen
  • Adrenaline and cortisol are closely related. In fact whenever adrenaline increases, cortisol levels rise. Adrenaline provides a short term stress response and decreases quickly. Cortisol increases when adrenaline does, but stays active longer
  • If high stress becomes a way of life, cortisol becomes a permanent guest in the bloodstream. 
    • there are substances that serve to counteract the effects of cortisol. One is DHEA, the “yin within the yang” and balances the negative effects of cortisol
    • two other yang hormones are Oxytocin and Prolactin
  • Cortisol: Yang within Yin
    • Cortisol is a yang stress hormone produced in the outer portion of the adrenal glands. It controls the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and protein and plays an important role in infection fighting, blood sugar balance, immune response, thinking, and other healthy functions. In excess, cortisol can cause problems. It is a risk factor for depression, osteoporosis, weight loss or gain problems in the cardiovascular system, high blood pressure, and a host of other issues. There is a strong link between increased cortisol and depression and solid evidence of lower bone mineral density in women with increased cortisol.
    • If a woman is pregnant, another source of stress can come from her developing child. Studies have shown that an unborn baby’s adrenal glands may enlarge substantially in utero to supply its mother with the stress hormones that her body is demanding. This can create problems for the mother and for the child. If a child is born with already overtaxed adrenal glands, Eastern medicine would suspect that she may have a naturally lower tolerance for stress and be especially prone to a hypersensitive nervous system and its related hormonal dysfunction from her day of birth onward.
    • the more cortisol we have in the bloodstream, the more sensitive we become to stressful events
    • too much cortisol circulating in the body leads to overall hormone resistance, including thyroid resistance. This means that the body becomes desensitized to these hormones and more may be required to do the same job. Eastern medicine would suggest that this winds up taxing the organs or glands that produce these hormones. Excess cortisol also hinders the optimal function of many other essential hormones, such as sex hormones. Further, it promotes the breakdown of all yin in the body, including the bones, skin, muscles, and brain. In excess it can lead to protein breakdown, which in turn leads to muscle-wasting and osteoporosis, and blocks progesterones ability to support bone density. And it decreases libido. Many women mistakenly think that excess cortisol is directly responsible for their weight gain. This is not the case. Cortisol by itself actually breaks down tissue and can cause weight loss, but it can hinder the optimum function of insulin in a process that leads to the weight gain around the waist that many women find so heard to lose.
    • If cortisol is too high for too long, it causes accelerated aging, even when normal amounts of estrogen and progesterone are circulating in the body. When cortisol is high, it relegates the body’s resources to the extremities and keeps them on standby so that the body can be ready to run or fight. This starves the body’s vital organs of energy and compromises the immune system. This process contributes to increased blood sugar, high cholesterol, heart disease, memory loss, and osteoporosis. A weakened immune system can also play a role in the development of cancer and recurring infections, especially of the respiratory system.
    • After a time, or after a particularly traumatic experience, this process exhausts the adrenal glands. Rather than responding to stressors by secreting stress hormones they collapse and can no longer produce enough cortisol. Now or cortisol is too low rendering us lethargic numb achy and vulnerable to infections, viruses, and other malignant influences. We may also develop allergies and diabetes. Put colloquially, we may feel like shit when our cortisol is either too low or too high and or hormonal balance is subsequently disturbed
  • DHEA: Yin within Yang
    • DHEA serves to buffer, balance, or antidote increased cortisol in the body. Like cortisol, it is also made primarily in the adrenals. It can act as a weak estrogen and can be used to make estrogen or testosterone. It is said to reduce “bad” cholesterol, increase muscle mass and energy, and build and repair protein. These are all qualities that are yin in nature and balance the negative effects of increased cortisol in the body, which we can consider the main job of DHEA
  • Oxytocin and Prolactin
    • Oxytocin and Prolactin are naturally occurring hormones in both men and women, but are found in higher levels in women, which allow us to have different options for stress response than men. Although both men and women experience a fight or flight response to stress, women have these bonus hormones that offer an alternative plan of action.

Understanding How Yin and Yang Hormones Interact

  • Survival Always comes First
    • Basically, the body works the way a hospital does. Emergencies get priority. Comfort is nice, but it’s secondary to survival. This means that although the body enjoys the nourishing influence of yin hormones, it grants priority to yang stress hormones that will help us survive a crisis—run away from a lion. We must first survive in order to reproduce. The bottom line is: sex hormones are nice but stress hormones are essential. As you can imagine, immediate survival is a far greater priority than having supple skin, plump breasts, or even a healthy, non irritable bowel. This is how our body’s natural intelligence views things. If we run low on sex hormones or stress hormones or both, and there’s not enough raw material available to make both, a choice must be made. and the body makes it. It prioritizes stress hormones.
    • We have seen that progesterone can be used to make estrogen when needed, but it can also be used to make cortisol. This is not a reciprocal relationship. Stress hormones cannot return progesterones’s favor by shape-shifting into progesterone when the body requires more sex hormones. This reflects the body’s priorities. When we are under chronic or extreme stress, any available resources are allocated to support the body’s stress response instead of its reproductive function.
    • This strategy of putting the needs of our survival systems first might work as a short-term arrangement, but for many of us, it becomes a way of life. Herein lies the problem. The adrenal glands have already had to work overtime to produce all the stress hormones getting triggered buy our modern lives. Then they have to pump our sex hormones or DHEA to reestablish the balance between yin and yang, which was thrown out of whack by all the stress hormones in the first place
    • Little by little, we deplete both our sex hormones and our stress hormones. And because all these hormones—estrogen, progesterone, HDEA, and cortisol—are produced directly or indiscreetly in the adrenal glands or ovaries, it is not surprising that these organs burn out. They are not bottomless reservoirs that can subsidize a stressful lifestyle indefinitely without consequence. They have limitations, as do the rest of the endocrine organs, like the thyroid gland and the pancreas, for example. All endocrine glands secrete hormones, and when stress hormones are too high for too long all the endocrine glands are at risk. When they burn out the result is that or bodies cannot produce enough sex or stress hormones. The stage is then set for difficulties and discomfort. This is true at any age, but is especially pronounced during and after menopause.
  • At age 35, progesterone naturally begins to decline. At around 50, sex hormones decrease significantly. A postmenopausal woman produces 40-60% of the sex hormones that she did before menopause. Additionally, by the time she is 80, a woman has only 10-25% of the stress tampering DHEA that a 20 year old does.

Take Home Messages from Part One

  • Eastern medicine considers that there are two fundamental operating principles of nature around us and within us: (1) a nourishing and calming principle called yin and (2) an energizing, mobilizing, and activating principle called yang.
  • within our bodies sex hormones are predominately yin and stress hormones are predominantly yang
  • both yin and yang hormones are essential to the maintenance and preservation of our bodies as well as or species
  • Living a life that has a good balance between yin and yang—this is between nourishment and activity—leads to balances hormone levels before, during and after menopause
  • too much yin or too much yang throws off the balance in our minds, bodies and hormones
  • when we live too stressful a life we put a great demand on our yang stress hormones and the main organs or glands that generate or secrete them. this creates a relative increase of yang in relation to yin
  • when our stress hormones are in danger of running low our sex hormones can snap shift into stress hormones to meet the demand. this drains our sex hormones and results in hormone imbalance.
  • chronic hormone imbalance of this sort is at the root of most health problem women have, both pre and post menopause
  • synthetic hormones, whether in the form of hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, increase the risk of breast cancer heart attack stroke and all forms of dementia.
  • bioidentical hormones may not carry the same risks but are still best used as a stopgap measure while improving one’s diet, lifestyle and stress management.

PART TWO

Feeling Crummy—Our Best Early Warming System

  • Considerations
    • Avoid eating too many flour products, especially ones made form refined white flour. Many of us begin our day with toast and cold cereal made from flour, have a sandwich for lunch, eat cookies or a pastry for a snack and for dinner have pasta and a flour based dessert, such as cake. Although flour is a convenient quick way to satisfy craving and appetite, having a lot of it tends to clog the digestive system and smother the digestive ability.
    • In addition to lowering your intake of white flour, avoid alcohol, refined sugar and more than one caffeinated beverage (8 to 12 ounces) daily. These items often hinder the digestive process or aggravate the nervous system and end up acting like poison in the body.
    • If you drink coffee, buy organic
    • Make a list of the processed foods you now eat. See which can be most easily eliminated or can be replaced by a whole grain substitute. IF you do buy processed foods like cookies and breads, at least read the ingredients list. The fewer ingredients the better. The more mystery ingredients—the ones that sounds like chemicals instead of food—the less the chance that you are purchasing anything that could be called “whole"
    • Buy organic meat and dairy products. Buy organic produce and grains whenever possible
    • Top 10 foods to buy organic: any meat, any dairy, celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, spinach, kale, and potatoes. The Environmental Working Group [EWG] regularly updates their “dirty dozen” list of fruits and veggies with the most pesticide residue: LINK
    • Avoid hydrogenated fats (lard, shortening, margarine) and never eat trans fats
    • Artificial sweeteners are okay—for killing ants
    • Avoid iced drinks with meals as they hinder the digestive process. 
  • Improve Your Lifestyle
    • Wake as early as you can
    • Slow down in general. Stop multitasking. It dissipates energy. Studies have shown that multitasking has a detrimental effect on mental processes even when you are not engaged in it. Do one thing at a time. This will encourage focused calmer energy.

Menstruation

  • Why We Have Cycles
    • When yin and yang are out of balance in quantity or quality, she may suffer painful, heavy, scanty or irregular periods, headaches, skin breakouts, or extreme emotions accompanying her cycle
    • Menstrual blood is rich in immune cells and is the only blood in the body that doesn’t clot. This means that when menstrual blood flows, it freely bathes and cleanses the uterus, cervix and vagina with its antibacterial, antiviral properties.
  • Eliminating Cycles
    • the more cycles a woman has in her life, the greater her overall exposure to monthly surges in estradiol
  • Side Effects of Eliminating Cycles
    • Depo-Provera (form of birth control through injection of synthetic progestin) causes bones to leak calcium, possibly predisposing a woman to osteoporosis after menopause. Don’t take longer than 2 years
  • Eastern Medicines Take on Menstruation
    • Western medicine believes it can control a woman’s cycles and health better than nature can. From an Eastern perspective, intentionally stopping a woman’s period will lead to stagnation in her reproductive organs and to adulteration of the natural intelligence of the body—both conditions that lead to health concerns ranging from irregular heavy bleeding to endometriosis, tumors, and endocrine disorders.
    • If a woman’s yang hormones are balanced her cyclic timing is regular. When her yin hormones are balanced, she has both good quality and quantity yin and her cycle is neither scanty or too heavy.
    • Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda agree that a woman’s cycle should naturally be about 28 days from the first day of her period to the first day of her next period. Her cycle should be three to five days and have healthy, moderately bright red blood in a moderate amount. She should have no cramps or discomfort and no emotional upset before, during or after her cycle.

Menstrual Difficulties

  • Scanty or Absent Periods
    • as yin relates to substance, a scanty cycle usually indicates a lack of good quality yin—or good quality nutrition most commonly due to not eating enough or exercising too much
    • it is well documented that a woman’s period may become scanty or irregular, or even disappear if she engages in strenuous athletic activities or if she has insufficient nutrition. Intense physical training consumes a lot of yin. It is important for a woman to replace that yin, otherwise her nourishment in general and her sex hormones in particular will diminish
    • When estrogen is reduced due to excessive exercise over a prolonged period, it not only affects the menstrual cycle but may also contribute to increased risk of heart disease and dangerously low bone density
  • Eastern Medicine on Scanty Periods
    • a scanty menstrual flow is usually an indication of blood deficiency. Chinese medicine sees blood as a subset of yin, so we say that there is insufficient yin to support a woman’s menstrual flow. A woman will usually develop insufficient yin for one of two reasons. The first is that she is not consuming enough. The second is that she is burning through food, drink, and rest faster than she is replenishing it.
  • What Should You Do?
    • nourishing herbs that promote yin
      • Ayurvedic: shatavari, vidari, or ashwagandha
      • TCM: dang gui, shan yao, sheng di huang, and shu di huang
  • Heavy or Painful Periods
    • when menstrual flow is too heavy or painful, conventional medicine may diagnose uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or dysfunctional uterine bleeding.
    • Uterine Fibroids
      • Uterine fibroids are hard or soft masses of muscle tissue that can appear in any layer of the uterus and are most always benign. They may exist without any symptoms, or can cause abdominal, back or menstrual pain; a feeling of wight or pressure in the lower abdomen or bladder; frequent urination; constipation; infertility; and most commonly heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding.
      • Uterine fibroids range from microscopic in size to 3 pounds or even larger, expanding the uterus as if there was a full term pregnancy. If they are small, that may cause not problems, however if they are large or in a crucial spot they can block fallopian tubes, prevent implantation of the embryo or otherwise hinder conception. As many as 80% of women may get uterine fibroids, and the risk is increased by obesity—a sign of excess, poor quality yin. Fibroids are estrogen dependent and hormone sensitive, and their growth can be stimulated by estrogens and even by progestins (synthetic progesterone hormones) designed to counter some of the negative effects of estrogen.
    • Endometriosis
      • a condition whereby cells that belong to the uterus lining migrate outside the uterus, invading local tissues and organs and sometimes migrating as far as the lungs or even the nose. When a woman’s uterine lining sloughs off each month, creating her cycle, endometrial cells that have migrated outside of the uterus do so too, but unlike the cells inside the uterus, they don’t have an ext path. The resulting internal bleeding can cause inflammation, cramping and sometimes incapacitating pain and scarring that may lead to infertility. Endometriosis is stubborn. It can even recur after a hysterectomy, so it is useful to try to resolve it without surgery. It is exacerbated by estrogen and exposure to estrogen like pollutants like dioxin.
      • a german study showed that women with endometriosis were more likely to have higher levels of PCBs
    • Eastern Medicine on Heavy Bleeding
      • When we are stressed out, we often hold our breath and clench our bodies. Where we clench varies. Some women hold their stress in their shoulders, others in their abdomen and other sin their reproductive organs. Eastern medicine teaches us that bodily tissues will coalesce around what the body’s  energy is doing. IF your life force is flowing smoothly, your blood and tissues will be healthy and supple. If it stagnates, blood will stagnate and you will get ischemic muscles (muscles with decreased blood flow). The longer qi and blood stagnate the more stubborn the pain will be and greater the chance that masses, fibroids, or endometriosis will develop. In case of reproductive stagnation, a woman may have a pattern of holding stress in that area or there may be something in her life that is encouraging stagnation there.
      • Castor oil has an astounding ability to penetrate through the tissue, dissolve obstructive masses and relax and open vessels. In this case, castor oil packs, can break up the stagnation in and around the uterus, relax the tissues and blood vessels and support free movement of qi.
    • What Can You Do?
      • Herbal formulas
        • Yong jing wan is a good common formula.
        • Tailor a formula from tian san qi, churn xiong, hong hua, shan yao, and dang gui
    • Eastern Medicine on Irregular or Missed Cycles
      • If qi stagnates in the reproductive organs, there will be an obstructive influence in the channels of blood or qi, and we would treat it similarly to how we treat heavy bleeding. If deficient yin is the problem, we would ensure that the woman’s diet and lifestyle support proper nourishment, and we would treat it similarly to how we treat scanty periods

Birth Control

    • Breast Cancer — one study showed that after less than a year of using synthetic progestin only pills, there was a 60% greater risk of breast cancer. If a woman develops breast cancer before age 44, the chances are good that she has used combined oral contraceptives, meaning synthetic estrogen combined with progestin. If she uses the Pill before age 20, her risk of breast cancer may double. 
    • Higher Levels of CRP — Higher levels of C-reactive Protein have been linked to women’s taking oral contraceptives. Higher levels of CRP are associated with increased risk of heart disease. When the liver detects inflammation in the system, it produces CRP, which is not found in the blood under normal circumstances… If birth control is taken before a woman is 20, there is evidence that birth control pills reduce levels of important vitamins such as b6 and folic acid and increase the risk of breast cancer
    • Books for further reading
      • Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control by Weschler
      • The Pill: Are you sure its for you by Bennett
  • Fertility and Conception — Four Crucial Elements
    • a woman’s cycle and therefore her fertility are negatively affected by exposure to environmental toxins, low sperm counts, infection-related scarring in the reproductive organs, hormonal irregularities, diet, low body fat, smoking, drug and alcohol use.
    • A team of scientists at the University of Rochester found that even minimal exposure to numerous chemicals was linked to higher risk of genital abnormalities in baby boys. The team, which examined 134 boys, found that women with higher levels of phthalate-related chemicals in their blood were more likely to give birth to boys with undescended or small testicles, small penises or a shorter distance that usual between the genitals and the anus
    • A study at the University of Missouri has experts concerned that chemicals in oral contraceptives and some man-made chemicals, like ethinylestradiol and bisphenol A may lead to fetuses having damaged prostates and urethras.
    • Between 1938 and 1991, men’s sperm counts in 21 countries including the united states plunged an average of 50%, while testicular cancer tripled… this is due to the men having exposure in utero and as newborns to estrogen like chemicals in their mothers blood and milk
    • A Canadian study in 2002 revealed that mice living in a polluted environment passed on twice as many DNA mutations to their offspring as did mice that lived in cleaner environments
    • The Reproductive System
      • if a woman doesn’t have enough stored energy in the form of good quality yin, she may have difficulty ovulating, lose her period altogether, or be unable to sustain a pregnancy. If she has excess poor-quality yin, problems such as obesity or blocked passageways may hinder the conception process
      • poorly digested food are considered poor quality yin
      • unsaturated fats increase insulin sensitivity and calm inflammation in the body, trans fats do the opposite
      • Good quality sleep and relaxation promote a calm spirit and support nourishment essential to health and conception but too much sleep or lounging may serve to increase yin beyond a healthy level, if there is already adequate yin
    • Eastern Medicine on Conception
      • Panchakarma is a unique aspect of Ayurvedic medicine. It is a detoxification regimen designed to rid the body of toxic material 

Breast Health

    • Estrogen like pollutants, aptly called endocrine disruptors have detrimental effects in the body
    • breast tissue is rife with estrogen receptors and so may be particularly vulnerable to the nasty effects of chemical pollutants
      • If reducing avoidable exposures to xenoestrogens [by-products of industrial or chemical processing that have estrogen-like effects] were to make it possible to avert even 20% of breast cancers every year (four times more than are caused by inheritance of flawed genes), at least 36,000 women — and those who care about them — would be spared this difficult disease
    • Alcohol
      • One of the ways that alcohol leads to an increased cancer risk is that it interferes with estrogen metabolism. Healthy kidneys and liver (which is taxed by alcohol consumption) are vital to maintain a proper estrogen balance. A healthy liver break down excess estrogen in the blood and sends it to the kidneys, which flush it from the body. If alcohol compromises liver health, the liver may not break down excess estrogen efficiently. Instead, the excess estrogen will get reabsorbed into the blood and continue to circulate.
    • Radiation (Mammograms)
      • The US Preventive Services Task Force is an independent panel of experts that analyzes data and then advises the medical community on appropriate medical protocol. From 2002 until November 2009, they encouraged women to have yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. Their message was heavy on the “early detection saves lives” line. In November 2009, after analyzing the most current data available, they reversed their recommendations. Now regular mammograms are recommended only for women fifty and over, and even then only every other year instead of annually. The task force concluded that although these new recommendations would provide nearly the same protective benefits as the old ones, the negative effects would be roughly halved. The negative effects cited are the increased risk of unnecessary treatments, such as biopsies and treatment of cancers that are so slow growing they would never threaten a woman’s life and the significant anxiety and physical discomfort related to such procedures and treatments.
        • Additionally you can do nothing or opt for Self Breast Examination, but upon further analysis it is not clear that the SBE method is particularly helpful. In fact, it may present more problems than solutions. In a trial in China, conducted over about 10 years, 266,000 women were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One groups received regular periodic instruction in the SBE method and frequent reminders to practice it. The control croup received no instruction or reminders. After 10 years, the number of deaths due to breast cancer was almost identical. The group that practiced SBE had more women who had benign breast biopsies. This would seem stop show that women did find more lumps, but the lumps were benign and it might have been preferable not to find them in the first place than be subjected to the subsequent sometimes costly and ultimately unnecessary fear-inducing procedures that determined their benign status
    • Synthetic Hormones
      • for most women, the most important risk factor for breast cancer is lifetime exposure to estrogen. With each menstrual cycle, a woman is exposed to a surge in estradiol, the most potent of the three main types of estrogen. Therefore, the more cycles she has in her lifetime, the greater her overall exposure to estradiol. This means that the later a woman’s menarche, the earlier her menopause, the more pregnancies she has, and the more she nurses, the less she is exposed to the surges in estradiol that accompany her cycle. Indeed, less breast cancer is seen in these women than their sisters with early menarche, late menopause, fewer pregnancies and less nursing. 
    • Eastern Medicine on Breast Health
      • Toxic Sludge (Ama) — Ama is a sticky, toxic sludge created from poorly digested matter. It is also a by product of exposure to pollutants… Ama arises from toxic external chemicals that have an affinity with breast tissue, from ingested chemicals that have the same affinity from poor-quality food, or from poorly digested food. In each case, ama circulates in the bloodstream and lodges in the breasts if there is stagnation in the chest area.
      • Healthy digestion and elimination reduces the amount of ama that circulates in the bloodstream, and hence the levels of ama that are available to pollute breast tissue.
      • Soy is easier to digest if it is cooked well, consumed as warm soy milk, tamarin, tofu, miso, or tempeh and preferably eaten with fresh ginger.
      • Stagnation — we encourage stagnation by hold our breath, breathing shallowly and not having physical movement of our breast tissue
        • We rarely get cancer of the biceps, the hearth or other muscles. Eastern medicine would explain this by observing that energy and blood get pumped through muscles on a regular basis, bringing nutrition and acting as an efficient waste removal system. For example, even if we are not bench pressing weights, the muscles in our arms get used multiple times every day and blood pumps through them, brining nutrition and removing waste debris. This self cleaning system is not as efficient in breast tissue, which has less blood flow because unlike muscles our breasts are only mostly comprised of the more passive adipose (fat) tissue.
        • Throughout our lives breast tissue remains relatively stagnant compared to muscles. To further ensure a lack of healthy flow of prank through our breasts, we should our breath, pack our breast into bras (often underwire — which serves to hinder the flow of prank to them), apply antiperspirants that hinder the flow of prank and sweat and we get massaged by masseurs who avoid touching our breasts. We rarely perform the tidy, finger-tipped breast self exams we are taught and when we do they are hardly stimulating. Aside from a little foreplay our breasts may never see much action. With one notable exception: breastfeeding.
    • Getting Rid of Stagnant Sludge
      • Panchakarma — ayruvedic detoxification — studies have shown that within a few days about 50% reduction in fat-soluble toxins associated with chemical pollutants were seen without negative effects. Fats and lipids in the body store fat soluble lipophilic toxins, whose half-lives may be several years, but panchakarma practices use healthy fats in such a manner as to loosen and remove those toxins.
      • Additionally, it is important to ensure that diet, lifestyle and stress level are appropriate for each of us so that the digestive fire is strong. Then further ama formation is not fostered and any ama is eliminated from the body, little by little over time. 
    • What to Do
      • Avoid use of antiperspirants. Deodorants my be fine, but antiperspirants discourage toxins from exiting the skin in the armpits, thereby causing an undue concentration of toxic material near the breast. Be sure your deodorant doesn[t contain triclosan or phthalates (Fragrance is often code for phthalate!!)
      • Avoid caffeine, especially coffee. If you have coffee, make sure it is organic and try to limit it to one cup daily made with half decaf. Coffee is grown in places outside the US that use very strong pesticides and chemicals, which are estrogenic in nature and so are not good for women’s reproductive and breast health. Coffee itself, even organic coffee, tends to have an affinity with breast tissue and often has a negative effect on it and other reproductive tissue. When you couple this natural affinity with the malefic effects of the chemical residue associated with nonorganic coffee, it is likely to be an unhealthy brew… haha
      • Massage your breast. Because breasts are mostly adipose tissue, they do not have at the quantity of blood flow available in many other parts of our bodies where there is more muscle tissue with blood pumping through. So the ama that has collected in the tissue over time is allowed to stagnate and putrefy, or the tissue simply becomes denser. 
        • Keep a bottle of castor oil, Banyan Botanical’s Breast Balm, untested sesame oil or other appropriate massage oil in the shower. Each time you take a shower, warm some oil or balm in your hands and massage it vigorously into the breast tissue and around the area of the breasts including the armpits. In general if your breasts are lumpy, castor oil is better. If not, Breast Balm is particularly pleasant
        • if you have any lumps, it is best to avoid massaging them until you determine with your health care practitioner that it is safe to do so
        • Then follow up with a self exam of the breasts as taught by a qualified healthcare practitioner. This works in the oil further, as well as allows you to become familiar with the feel of your breast tissue at different times of the month
        • Then let the hot water of the shower rinse off the oil. Don’t use soap. Ayurveda teaches that it is good to leave a little oil on the skin.

Perimenopause and Menopause

  • Menopause is when it has been a year since our last period, and it is driven and accompanied by more dramatic changes with our sex hormones. Perimenopause is considered to last anywhere from a couple years to twelve or more before menopause and although this is not implicitly stated the term tends to be applied more to women who are experiencing discomfort with the transition
  • At menopause there is a more drastic change in our levels of sex hormones, but this isn’t necessarily a problem. Since we not longer make and bear babies, we no longer need to maintain the potential to nourish another being. We still require nourishment ourselves, however and provided we have not consumed too much yin in our earlier years by plowing through life’s obstacles our bodies can still provide us with what we need. Postmenopausal women still produce 40 to 60% of their premenopausal levels of hormones, that estrogen falls only 40 to 50% at menopause, and that we have the ability to synthesize sex hormones sufficient for our natural postmenopausal needs via the adrenal glands and our various bodily tissues. We have also seen that to make estrogen, we need estrogen precursors and aromatase — the enzyme necessary to convert precursors into estrogen — and we have both of these just about everywhere in our bodies even after menopause. SO we have great potential to synthesize sufficient estrogen.
  • Estrogen deficiency may simply be due to a long term excess of stress hormones draining our sex hormones. Adding more estrogen via hormone replacement therapy without calming the stress in our lives is like pouring water into a bucket with a hole in it.
  • Stress renders us less responsive to normal amounts of hormones and pretty much ensures hormonal imbalance. For example, a woman with excess cortisol but normal amounts of estrogen may get hot flashes or other symptoms typically associated with estrogen deficiency. IF this woman were to treat these symptoms with estrogen replacement therapy, she would possibly then develop estrogen dominant symptoms such as weight gain, water retention, and mood swings. This is also the case with other sex hormones (or thyroid hormone) and if this goes unchecked long enough it creates a general resistance to our own hormones…. The main problem is, by the time we reach menopause many of us have already drained our reserves of yin sex hormones in the service of our yang stress hormones. Now when our ovaries are producing a smaller quantity of sex hormones, our adrenal glands are supposed to kick in and produce more of the hormones and hormone precursors we need. But what if these glands are already burnt out from producing lots of stress hormones to manage our stressful lives over the last 20 years and by producing the DHEA required to assuage the effects of excess cortisol? Answer: They will be tapped and tired out and unable to deliver our postmenopausal hormonal requirements.
  • If yin is deficient we may not have enough nourishing qualities to keep us grounded, cool calm and lubricated. 
  • Hot flashes are a good indicator of hormonal imbalance. About 80% of menopausal women will experience at least one hot flash, making this a significant symptom accompanying menopause. Generally the more intense they symptoms of menopause the more out of balance the hormones are.
  • Eastern Medicine on Perimenopause and Menopause
    • if you focus on treating insomnia, for example, without addressing its cause (hormonal imbalance due to excess stress), you will have to treat it forever. 
    • As we age, our yin hormones decrease. Menopause marks the most dramatic drop. From this point onward, a woman has less of a buffer against physical or emotional stress
    • Ayurveda considers that menopause marks a major turning point for a woman. Its a time of transition when she is naturally suited to begin an inner journey. Up to now in her life, it was natural for her to educate herself, raise a family, develop her profession and engage fully in the world. Menopause is the time to reverse the momentum of her involvement in the activities of the world, turn this energy inward and begin to plumb the depth of her soul.
  • What to Do
    • herbal supplements:
      • shatavari, 3 to 5 parts (unless you have uterine fibroids or fibrocystic changes in your breasts, in which case I would omit it)
      • vidari, 3 to 5 parts
      • dang gui, 3 to 5 parts
      • shan yao, 3 to 5 parts
      • licorice, 2 to 3 parts (unless the woman has high blood pressure
      • sheng ma, 1 to 3 parts
      • if you suffer from insomnia, try taking two tablets of Banyan Botanical’s I Sleep Soundly an hour before bed

Heart Health

  • Women’s vs Men’s Heart Health
    • One study found that the top six signs of a heart attack in women are unexplained or debilitating fatigue that doesn’t go away with sleep, difficulty sleeping, shortness of breath, indigestion, nausea, and tightness and pain in the back arms jaw or neck
    • women's heart disease is often different from men’s. Women can be more likely, for example, to have clear coronary arteries but have microvascular disease, where there is a constriction or stiffening of the smaller arteries that nourish the heart, leading to oxygen deprivation to the heart muscle
    • women who took an estrogen-progestin supplement had a 26% higher risk of heart disease. And estrogen replacement therapy alone instead of reducing the incidence of congestive heart disease as hoped, increases the risk of gallbladder diseases and clot related problems such as stroke and pulmonary embolism
    • Eastern medicine would say that Nancy (who had it all. was slim, ran five miles a day, never smoked had “perfect” blood pressure, a family history of longevity, watcher her diet and was only 39, yet developed microvascular disease and was prescribed four heart medications) not only had it all but had too much. Too much ambition too much pushing beyond her natural limits. In general she had too much activity that depleted her yin, the nourishing element in life.
      • running is one of the exercises that can deplete yin
    • One good way to build yin is to nap — Occasional napping carried a 12%lower mortality rate, whereas regular nappers enjoyed a 37% decreased risk.
    • How could yin deficiency lead to microvascular stiffness? Generally, insufficient yin in the body can lead to a reduction in the flexibility of blood vessels, increased heat that dries and stiffens vessels, or constriction of vessels. 
  • Inflammation and Heart Health
    • inflammation occurs when the body detects infection and dispatches white blood cells to the site. For example, white blood cells may respond to deposits on blood vessel walls as a threat and arrive on the scene to remove them. Inflammation is a natural defense mechanism of the body, but is not meant to be on the job 24/7
    • Stress
      • when we experience physical or emotional stress, stress hormones are increased in the body and sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated. When this happens, hormone-like substances called eicosanoids also become imbalanced. Their imbalance is associated with tissue inflammation.
    • Ongoing Low Level Inflammation
      • C-Reactive Protein, a protein not found in the blood under normal circumstances. The liver produces CRP when it detects inflammation in the system. Chronic low grade infections associated with such conditions as gum disease, hypertension, rheumatoid  arthritis, chronic tissue injuries, or colitis increase CRP. 
      • In women, CRP seems to be a better predictor of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, than LDL cholesterol. Persistent inflammation may lead not only to heart attacks but possibly to colon cancer, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases as well. 
    • Environmental Toxins
      • One substance that has been shown to block the body’s inflammatory process is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is found in marijuana. HOWEVER, before you run out to score some weed to protect your heart, it is important to know that the study was on mice that were fed THC. Smoking cannabis may actually damage the heart.
  • Exercise
    • Can you touch your toes? If you can, your cardiac arteries are likely more flexible than those of someone who can’t. Why would that matter? because supple arteries allow blood to move more freely through the body than stiff ones, which require the heart to work much harder, possibly leading to a greater risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Emotions
    • The heart is a remarkable organ. Modern medicine is only beginning to realize its importance and relationship to stress and emotions. In 1983, the heart was reclassified as an endocrine organ because it produces and releases a number of mood-altering hormones, including dopamine, oxytocin, norepinephrine and atrial natriuretic factor, which affects blood vessels, the kidneys, adrenal glands and the brain.  Remarkably, we find oxytocin levels in the heart as high as concentrations in the brain. Our thoughts become biology as these hormones have far-reaching effects in physiology.
  •  Alcohol
    • A 2006 Danish study including 27,000 men and nearly 30,000 women determined that although men reduced their chances of heart disease with one drink daily, women did better with one drink weekly.

Osteoporosis

  • A woman’s risk increases if she has vision problems (especially with depth perception), if she is tall or weighs less in her fifties than she did at age 25, or if she has had broken any bones (wrists, ankles, hips) after age 20. Her risk also increases if her mother experienced broken bones. If a woman has a hip fracture before she turns 80, chances that her daughter may suffer a similar fate increase roughly threefold
  • the most critical time to precent bone loss is during the first 5 years after menopause. This is the time in a woman’s life when she will lose bone mass most quickly, between 1 and 2% per year. In general, women gain bone mass until they are 25 years old, level off until age 35, then lose about a half a percent per year until menopause. After the 5 year post menopausal drop, bone loss slows down to about 1% per year and back to half a percent again after age seventy.
  • There are 2 major reasons for excessive bone loss. The first involves a process whereby specialized cells called osteoclasts dissolve the old bone cells too fast. This process is catalyzed by too much yang, which occurs when the body is marinated in stress hormones. The second is an insufficient number of fresh, healthy bone cells —osteoblasts— coming in to rebuild the bones. Eastern medicine would say that this is a result of not enough yin, or substance (i.e. bone mass) relative to yang.
  • Hormones and Bone Loss
    • Stress hormones are crucial for survival: however, in excess they promote the breakdown of all yin in the body, that is, all structural material including the bones, skin, muscles, and brain. This leads to a double assault on bone health. First bone mass is decreased by high levels of cortisol. Second, many tissues that produce estrogen are depleted, resulting in decreased production of estrogen. Estrogen slows the development of osteoporosis, and it has been common for doctors to prescribe synthetic estrogen (balanced with a progestin if the woman has a uterus) to combat osteoporosis.
  • Calcium, Diet, Exercise
    • The origin of calcium is not milk, it’s in the soil and it gets taken up through the root systems of plants, which are then eaten by cows. So, to get enough calcium, what we really need to eat are plants.
    • Some sources show that increased protein hinders calcium absorption.
    • We need hydrochloric acid and vitamin D to get calcium from the stomach to the blood stream. Then we need micronutrients, progesterone or testosterone, and exercise to get it from the blood into our bones. If nutrients are available but don’t get circulated via the bloodstream and absorbed into the body and its deeper tissues, they are wasted.
    • Yin (structural material, like nutrients) and Yang (movement and exercise) support each other
    • When women engaged in simple strength training exercises designed by the Tufts scientists, they gained about 1% bone density in their hips and spine over the course of a year, their balance improved and bone fractures were prevented.
  • Osteoporosis Drugs
    • When taking a bisphosphonate pill, it is important to drink a full glass of water and to sit or stand for a while afterward so the medication doesn’t irritate, ulcerate, or otherwise damage the esophagus. Esophageal troubles caused by bisphosphonates may lead to other problems and end up all but incapacitating women who had been otherwise active and healthy. When we are elderly, we can be especially vulnerable to a pattern where initial harmful evens trigger a whole series of negative reactions
      • this drug has the potential to affect anyone’s digestion in a negative way, leading to poor-quality yin in the body. If poor-quality yin feeds the bones, the resulting bone quality will be inferior as well

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

  • although modern science does not know what causes Alzheimer’s disease, it does know that people with Alzheimer’s have protein deposits in the spaces between their nerve cells (called plaque) or within the nerve cells (called tangles). Plaque or tangles may hinder free communication between nerve cells or directly affect their health.
  • if we change our behavior, our bodies and minds change too
  • Eastern Medicine on Alzheimer's
    • there are at least two major causes for buildup of plaque or angels (which Ayurveda would include under the umbrella term ama, or toxic sludge in the body). One cause is underlying heat or inflammation, which causes the body to create a buffer to protect its tissues from being affected. This buffer can be ama. Another cause is the inefficient digestion of all that we ingest—food, drink, and environmental pollutnats such as insecticides and pesticides. The resulting ama circulates in the body and lodges in the heart, brain and other vulnerable tissues. In either case, the ama can manifest as plaque, tangles or other sticky material. Western medicine is beginning to suspect that plaques and tangles exist in response to other factors

PART III

Importance of Diet and Lifestyle

  • A recent study of the effect of lifestyle and diet on longevity revealed an interesting connection with an enzyme called telomerase, which guards against age related cellular damage. Telomerase repairs and lengthens the protective ends (called telomeres) of our chromosomes. If these catlike ends shorten, they leave our chromosomes more susceptible to damage or death, which quickens the aging process. Factors like smoking, obesity, and sedentary lifestyles are known to be associated with shorter telomeres, and evidence suggests that telomeres and lower telomerase levels are risk factors for heart disease and cancer. Appropriate diet and lifestyle appears to increase telomerase levels by about 29%

Quality and Quantity of Food

  • Pippali, a common herb in Ayurveda, related to the black pepper we use in cooking is warming and supports digestive function if there isn’t enough heat in the body
  • In Ayurveda, digestive capacity and strength (or “fire”) is called agni and is very yang.
  • Ayurveda says that it is desirable to have a good appetite because that means our digestive fire is strong enough to transform what we eat into the energy and refined biological substances that our body needs to maintain health. Poor appetite indicates low digestive fire, which means that when we do eat, our food will not be well digested and become ama and excess, poor quality fat. 
  • There is also an Ayuvedic remedy to increase the digestive fire and create true appetite: Take a slice of fresh ginger about an eighth of an inch thick. Put a pinch of rock salt on it, with a few drops of lime juice. Chew this about 30 minutes before meals.

Food, Medicine, and Poison

  • He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skills of the physician —chinese proverb
  • Ayurveda teaches us that food—nourishment—is anything we ingest that is digested well, nourishes us, and passes through the body without any negative effects. Medicine is that which enhances digestive ability and poison is that which hinders it. IF we can’t digest what we are eating even if it is the organically sprouted and juiced nectar of the gods, then it is considered poison to us.
  • It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has — Hippocrates
  • Ama, or Toxic Sludge
    • How does poor digestion lead to the formation of ama and subsequently to disease? We ingest stuff. It gets broken down into smaller and smaller particles, is absorbed into the blood stream and does to nourish and build our tissues. If what we ingest is digested well and completely, the molecules absorbed are high-quality, refined, biologically useful building material for strong, healthy tissues. If either what or how we eat is problematic, the food stuff will be poorly digested and the resulting molecules are sticky, toxic sludge molecules
    • The vulnerable areas of the body are called khavaigunyas in Ayurveda
    • Ayurveda teaches us that if digestion is weak, it affects not only the transformation process in the digestive tract, but also the transformation going on in other tissues in the body, such as the muscles, bones and organs. Either our own digestive and transformative processes are strained due to a history of poor dietary or lifestyle choices or we have been over exposed to toxic chemicals.
    • Eat in a Calm environment — A full third of the nervous system is associated with the guts. IT is impossible to digest our food well when we are stressed out. When we are calm, our digestive organs are relaxed. When relaxed, they are more likely to function optimally.

What to Eat

  • Enzymes and compounds in fruits and veggies
    • Phytochemicals, such as lutein, beta-carotene, allicin (in garlic), isoflavones (in soybeans), lycopene (in tomatoes), flavanoids (in green and black teas), sulforaphane glusosinolate (SGS; in broccoli and especially in broccoli sprouts), and lignans (in flaxseeds)
    • Inducers (eg sulforaphane) of enzymes that do useful things like detoxifying carcinogens
    • Glucosinolates, which are found in cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli sprouts but also Brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower
    • Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants
    • High fiber, which may prevent colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease
  • Eastern medicine focuses on whole foods rather than any particular component of that food (focusing on the benefits on any individual vitamin, mineral, antioxidant that a given whole food has is more of a sales tactic to generate revenue than anything else)
  • Chocolate
    • The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported the healthy effects of dark chocolate (however, white chocolate and even dark chocolate with milk didn’t make the grade.) It’s plant phenols — specifically the cocoa phenols — seem to be responsible for lowering blood pressure and delivering megadoses of antioxidants
  • A daily does of Triphala (a mixture of 3 herbs) is a common practice in Ayurveda, and can help maintain a healthy digestive tract, provided you have no acute illness or diarrhea, are not preggers, do not have your period or have other contraindicated conditions. Trifle helps support a healthy gastrointestinal tract and provides a very gentle daily detox to counteract exposure to unavoidable environmental pollutants. (available at banyanbotanicals.com)

Meat

  • I’ve often thought there out to be a manual to hand to little kids… called “Welcome to Earth” and one thing I would … tell them about is cultural relativity… A first grader should understand that his or her culture isn’t a rational invention; that there are thousands of other cultures and they all work pretty well; that al cultures function on faith rather than truth; that there are lots of alternatives to our own society… Cultural relativity is defensible, attractive. It’s a source of hope. It means we don’t have to continue this way if we don’t like it. — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • If someone is weak, it is often due to a weak digestive system that dos not digest or absorb food completely or well.
  • meat contains substances that cause an increase in homocysteine levels, which in turn is associated with increased risk of heart disease. High homocystine levels irritate the linings of arteries, increasing the likelihood that they will clog, whereas the folate and vitamin b6 found in vegetables and grains reduce homocysteine levels — another reason to minimize the meat and maximize the veggies is that meat is a source of excessive phosphorous which causes a loss of calcium in the body.
  • Blood follows qi (energy) and qi follows shen (spirit). If spirit is disturbed, energy will become disturbed and then the body will immediately or ultimately become disturbed.

What Not to Eat

  • many fast foods have high levels of acrylamide, a substance the EPA defines as colorless, crystalline solid that is probably a human carcinogen. It induces gene mutations and stomach cancer in animal tests and is known to cause damage to the central and peripheral nervous system.
  • the New York Times reported on a study by researchers at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, wherein it was demonstrated that the cardioprotective effects of fresh garlic on rats were decreased if the garlic was crushed and left two days to dry. The drying process allowed volatile chemicals to dissipate, apparently diluting their potency
  • When we feed ourselves substandard edibles and process them in extreme ways, we provide our guts with substandard building blocks of nutrition. Poor quality building blocks lead to construction of poor tissues. Poor tissues construct a feeble body.
  • Acai berries are said to have 10 times the amount of anthocyanin (antioxidant pigments) that red wine has and yerba mate is sed to contain more antioxidants than red wine. 
  • Cola — the phosphoric acid in cola beverages binds to calcium in the but and prevents it from being absorbed
  • It is curious to note that much of the practice of using pesticides and insecticides can be traced back to WWII. During the war, chemicals were developed for use in chemical warfare. After the war, when they could no longer be used toward such a sinister purpose, the companies were able to find a new use for the chemicals: insecticides and pesticides. This Allowed them not to waste the chemicals and instead to find financial reward in their continued use. Using the same chemicals that were designed to cause human beings suffering to spray on what they eat seems like an odd logic

Essential Elements of a Healthy Lifestlyle

  • Wake Up Routine
    • Wake early ( at the same time every day)
    • Clear your face, teeth and mouth. Brush your teeth, scrape your tongue and gargle with warm water. The tongue accumulates bacteria overnight. This helps diminish their numbers.
    • Drink a glass of warm water. This stimulates a bowel movement and cleanses the gastrointestinal tract
    • Eliminate
    • Apply cooling salve or cool water to the eyes. This refreshes the eyes
    • Gargle with salt water and use a net pot to irrigate the nail cavities with salt water. These steps should only take bout 3 minutes. Put 1/4 teaspoon of nonionized sea salt in the bottom of your net pot, fill with warm water and follow the clear directions that come with the pot. We are all exposed to a multitude of pathogens everyday especially if we work or live with a lot of other people. Being exposed to pathogens is not the problem. The problem is problemeration of the pathogens, which often occurs in the nasal passages or throat. Rinsing the nasal passages and gargling with salt water helps us avoid proliferation of bacteria and viruses that we are exposed to and prepares us nicely for doing some breaking exercises.
    • Meditate, engage in quit contemplation or read inspiration material for 15 to 60 minutes. If 
  • Sleep — too little sleep contributes to diminished yin. It creates a relative excess of yang, leading to excess circulating of stress hormones
    • Improving sleep:
      • make sure to exercise at the same time every day and outdoors if possible. This is helpful in aligning with natures rhythms and may benefit the pineal gland functions which support our natural biorhythms
      • Apply warm bhringraj oil to the soles of your  feet and your scalp before bed.
  • Environment
    • Since WWII, environment polluting chemical many of which are termed endocrine disruptors have become increasingly widespread in our environment, in certain pesticides, drugs, fuels, stain resistant clothing and furniture treatments, lawn care products, personal care items, cleansing products and plastics among other sources. As DuPont used to say about Teflon, “its everywhere”… And probably in everyone too. In one survey of 27 body burden studies (body burden is the term to describe the amount of environmental pollutants that are found in a persons body) every single participant was found to have PCB’s and organochlorine pesticides in their bodies, even people who were born after PCB’s were banned. Even unborn babies where found to have “hundreds of chemicals in their little bodies.” It turns out that the human body is like a sponge, soaking up water is permeating its environment.
    • Pesticides and Chemicals
      • Some that are more commonly heard of are 2, 4 dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (also called 2,4-D, this is a pesticide used on lawns and an active ingredient in Agent Orange); phthalates (used as plastic softeners and cosmetics, among other things); DDT (now banned); ozone destroying CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons); bisphenol A (BPA); various chlorinated and brominated compounds such as polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs, used as fire retardants and close cousins of PCBs); dioxin, triclosan (an ingredient in many antibacterial products) and many others. Some like POPs (persistent organic pollutants) include many halogen (chlorine, bromine, fluorine, or iodine) atoms that have long half-lives (between 2 and 10 years) in the bodies of animals and humans and in the environment.
      • When the US began to phase out leaded gasoline in the 1960s, one of its additives —ethylene dibromide (EDB)— needed a new home. So Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, the largest supplier of EDB, began to supply it to farmers as a pesticide. When the EPA abruptly suspended all agricultural uses of EDB in 1983 because of evidence that it was carcinogenic and a mutagen that was contaminating groundwater, EDB was reincarnated as a flame retardant. Back in the day, flame retardants were marketed as protection against the dangers of fire due to cigarette smoking. Flame retardants have increased in use ever sine. So now they’re ubiquitous. They’re on our clothes, furniture, car upholstery or otherwise in contact with our bodies. EDB is not the only chemical used as a flame retardant, nor is it the only toxic one. 
      • Many of these chemical can cause inflammation in the body. When the liver detects this inflammation in the system it produces C-Reactive Protein. High levels of CRP are an indicator of increased risk for heart disease.
      • Endocrine disruption caused by these chemicals can result in decreased follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), decreased natural progesterone, and blocked function of aromatase and decreased estradiol levels
      • Modern science knows that the higher an organism is on the food chain the more concentrated these chemicals become in its body. For example, small fish exposed to chemicals in plant food are algae are eaten by bigger fish. They in turn are eaten by even bigger fish. Then a human consumes this bigger fish so that the pollutants are most highly concentrated in the human at the top of the food chain. The only organism higher in the good chain that this human being is the breastfed infant. Breastmilk can be a concentrated delivery system for environmental toxins. For Example in 1970 the Environmental Defense Fund found that the levels of DDT in great milk were up to 7 times greater than in cow’s milk sold in stores. 
  • Avoiding Chemicals
    • try to use pots and pans and utensils that are made of stainless steel, cast iron, heat resistant ceramic, glass or wood, to avoid leading out toxic chemicals into hot food and liquids
    • avoid nonstick cookware
    • avoid using plastic “to go” cups, especially with hot liquids
    • always read labels
    • don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put in your mouth. The skin is the largest organ in the body and will absorb chemicals as well as anything else applied to it
    • store food in glass, stainless steel or ceramic containers
    • avoid using plastic wrap, especially on hot food
    • if you are a meat eater, buy organic
    • buy organic food and drinks whenever possible
    • avoid canned soft drinks — they are lined with BPA
    • Avoid PVC products (vinyl plastics or polyvinyl chloride) or products that are associated with phthalates. PVC products are often identified with the number 3, the letter V or the letters PVC inside or underneath the universal recycling triangle. They also may have a distinct odor, like that of vinyl shower curtains.
    • Try cloth shower curtain rather than PVC vinyl ones
    • if it smells toxic it probably is — whether  it contains PVC, phthalates or some other chemical and therefore try to minimize smelly stuff in your building and living choices as well as in choices related other aspects of your environment
    • Go green, literally with plants: English ivy, Gerbera daisies, Madagascar dragon tree, potted mums, and variegated snake plant are just some examples
    • Avoid personal care products that list “fragrance” or “parfum” as an ingredient

Stress Management

  • Stress has at least 3 readily observable causes. The first cause is a mixture of multitasking, too much ambition and too much activity. This combination robs us of time for contemplation, relaxation, and cooking healthy food. The second cause is related to the first. It’s the illusion that we are in control of everything and that if we don’t keep juggling all the ball, the show will end in humiliation and disaster. This self-imposed perspective leads to an overblown sense of responsibility and tremendous fear of impending doom. A third sources of stress is unavoidable external circumstances, like some illness, accidents, or the sickness or death of parent or children.
  • Basic Deep Breathing
    1. lie on your back with a pillow under your knees. Place your hands on your lower abdomen. Breathe through your nose throughout the entire exercise. Close your eyes. Imagine your torso is like a vase. Just when you fill a vase with water, the water fills the bottom of the vase first and gradually and fills the middle and then the upper portions of the vase, feel your breath filling first your lower abdomen then middle and then upper body.
    2. Breath will follow prana and prana will follow your focus. They are as inseparable as a show from a tree. As breath fills your lower abdomen, prana irrigates the organs of elimination and reproduction. As it fills the middle portion of your torso, prana irrigates the digestive organs. As it fills your upper torso, it irrigates the lower, middle and upper lobes of the lungs and heart
    3. as you inhale your breath very slowly fills first the lower, then the middle then the upper portions of your torso, and finally rises to about 8-10 inches above your head. Keep the attention here for a few seconds and then allow your exhale (through the nose) to very slowly surrender your breath back down the path it took on its way up. Prana will follow the breath back down through the upper, then middle portions of the torso and return to the lower abdomen.
    4. Continue breath like this for about 5 minutes, keep your hands on your lower torso. You should feel your lower abdomen rise as you begin your inhale. As your breath fils your middle torso, it will rise too. When it fills your upper torso, your entire torso should feel expanded. Likewise each section should relax as you exhale your prana down through each section
    5. If you feel any tight areas in your body as you are breathing, you can try “breathing into” those areas until they feel free and easy. If you don’t experience the feeling of “breathing into” an area, place your hand over that tight areas and imagine there is a straw that reaches into that area from outside your body. Imagine that you are not breathing through your nose but through that straw directly into that tight area. As the breath enters the tight area, the area quickly releases and becomes free. Engage in this releasing process for about 5 minutes. Then go back to breathing fully through the entire torso. If emotions come up, continue to focus on the breath, rather than on the emotions
    6. Allow your breath to return to normal. Bring your attention back to the room you are in and slowly open your eyes.

Changing Lifestyles, Changing Lives

  • Scientists once thought brain damage was irreversible and that memory loss and metal atrophy were an inevitable side effect of again. In recent years however, breakthroughs in the field of neuroplasticity have revealed the brain’s ability to form new nerve connections to compensate for disease or injury, to rewire, repeater and adapt to new or changed environments
  • Some mentors are fond of saying: “it is wise to live with reality, otherwise reality will certainly come to live with you.” If we are constantly trying to change what is, constantly pushing for things to be different, we can injure ourselves. Many of us are the habit of chasing our ambitions, for example, even beyond the point where the body has reached its limits. We push and push and being to get headaches; we take painkillers and push on. We begin to get constipated; we take some laxatives and keep on. We get anxious; we take Prozac or St. John’s wort, and press on. We ignore the body’s SOS signals to stop whatever it is we are doing to damage it. Renaissance physician Paracelsus said, “Man is ill because he is never still.” Some of us need to hit the wall — have some significant crisis or illness — before we respond. Even when we finally turn our attention toward healing body and spirit, we may do so reluctantly.
  • “Perhaps more souls are lost to heaven by the sense of duty to earth than by downright sin and evil” — Kirpal Singh
  • Take Home Messages About Diet
    • eat meals at regular times everyday
    • eat in a calm, clean environment. if you are upset or distracted you could eat perfect goods yet not digest them well
    • eat only when hungry. if you never have a true appetite, increase your exercise, especially in the early morning, and take the following remedy a half hour before meals: thoroughly chew a then slice of fresh ginger with a pinch of rock salt and a spray of lime juice
    • eat right quantity of food. Eat almost to the point of satisfaction so the digestive fire is never overly taxed
    • Chew food thoroughly.  Take a deep breath and a moment of quit after swallowing your last bite and before you go on to your next activity
    • eat most foods warm. cold food is more difficult to digest. if you are going to eat raw or cold food or drinks, it is best to consume them at midday or in hot weather, when the warmth of the atmosphere can support you digestive fire
    • enjoy drinks at room temperature, warm or hot. cold drinks hinder digestive capacity
    • consume organic foods and drinks whenever possible
    • eat simple food when life is complicated. the more complicated your physical or emotional life, the more simple your food should be.
    • Enjoy mostly whole, freshly cooked foods including cooked grains, beans, veggies, and some fruit. If you are too thin, favor more nourishing heavy dense foods like yams, squashes, stews, some beans, dairy — if you can tolerate it, and whole grains. If you re too heavy, favor more lightening motivating foods like greens, light soups some spices some beans and less grains.
    • enjoy beans which are equally nourishing and motivating. They are often difficult to digest if not prepared well. To make them more digestible ask them in cool water overnight and then cook them until they are mushy, preferable with a piece of kombu and spices like cumin, coriander or ginger, and a pinch of asafetida (also called hing), which aids digestion. When the beans are finished cooking you can discard the seaweed if you don’t like the taste or texture.
    • In general, when you eat heavy foods like grains, beans dairy, or mashed potatoes or squashes, consider adding some turmeric, black pepper, and ginger to them in the cooking process. Cumin, coriander, and fennel are also suitable for most people. Considering that as you may well be eating grains, legumes, or dairy on a regular basis, you will also be reaping the benefits of these amazing spices
    • be a vegetarian that eats a first size portion of organic, grass fed, or wild caught meant. Be sure it is organic as any meat concentrates environmental pollutants more than dairy and much more than vegetables and fruits. When eating meat, you should consume it in a form that is easily digestible, such as in a soup
    • Eat lost of veggies
    • Veggie sprouts, especially broccoli sprouts are packed with vitality. Have two to three tablespoons of broccoli sprouts daily, if you have access to them and can digest them. If you can’t digest them well raw, you can add them to stir-fried veggies, steamed veggies and soups, when they are finished cooking
    • Eat some dark chocolate daily, if you know you can tolerate it. Having a small square or a piece the size of a truffle, except when you are sick or have poor digestion. Skip it if it give you migrants, menstrual pain or any other uncomfortable symptom
    • Drink unrefined or “cloudy” varieties of fruit juice at least three times a week.
    • Use extra virgin olive oil and other cold pressed high quality oil. 
    • Use pots, pans, and utensils made of stainless steel, cast iron, heat-resistant ceramic, glass, and or wood to avoid toxic chemicals leaching into hot food and liquids
    • store your food in glass, ceramic, or stainless-steel containers instead of plastic, to avoid estrogenic chemicals leaching into your food

Diet Related things to Avoid:

  • foods that cause you to have uncomfortable digestive symptoms. If you have gas, bloating, heartburn, intestinal noise, diarrhea, or constipation, you are not digesting well. You will need to change fighter what or how you are eating.
  • frozen, canned, or leftover food. It is considered old  and harder to digest than freshly cooked foods
  • refined sugar. there is nothing inherently wrong with the sweet taste. It is nourishing for the body, provided it is associated with naturally sweet foods like apples, yams, grains, or natural sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup or barley malt, and it is taken in moderation. But refined sugar is highly processed and like other highly processed foods, comes with nasty side effects. For example: over the past 20 years, the US per capita consumption of sugar has increased from 26 to 135 pounds a year. No surprisingly, diabetes has increased 70% in the past decade alone.
  • Cold food is harder to digest than warm foods. Some cold food, like ice cream or salad is okay in the middle of the day or in warm weather when environmental heat supports your internal digestive fire. This is why we tend to enjoy salads and ice cream more in the summer, and hot chocolate and soups in the winter
  • Cold or carbonated drinks tend to hinder digestive capability
  • Raw food (fruits, veggies, salads) especially 9in the morning and evening. They are okay to have in the middle of the day or in summer
  • Highly processed or fast foods, and products made with refined white flour such as pasta, white bread, cakes, pastries, cookies, and breakfast cereals.
  • Highly processed or cold forms of soy, like soy isolate powered ( especially if it is consumed cold), soy shakes, soy based fake meats or soy ice cream. Especially avoid these in the morning, evening or cold weather, when there is no environmental heat to support the capacity of your digestive fire, as they are difficult to digest. Also avoid them in you have symptoms of estrogen dominance, like uterine fibroids or fibrocystic breasts.
  • Saturated fat and trans fat. Avoid deep fried foods. It is heavy to digest
  • Caffeine, especially in coffee. If you do drink coffee, be sure it is organic. Non organic coffee is grown with chemicals that can disturb hormonal balance
  • Alcohol. It interferes with calcium metabolism, healthy breasts and sound sleep. It is also associated with increased risk of many cancers, including breast cancer. 
  • Phosphates. They decrease calcium absorption. Foods that contain phosphates include cola, root beer, alcohol, coffee, and meats.
  • Non organic meat, fish, and dairy. Meat contains the highest concentration of estrogen-like chemicals. The higher on the food chain, the more true this is. Dairy contains lower concentration than meat, but more that fruits and vegetables.
  • Non organic food in general, especially if you are pregnant or nursing. The estrogen like chemicals that go into its production cause hormone sensitive disorder in the body, and fetuses and infants are especially vulnerable to their damaging effects.
  • Freaking out if you have to eat nonorganic foods sometimes. The stress of being rigid and fearful may well outweigh the negative effect of a little nonorganic food
  • Eating while anxious, upset, emotional, bored or distracted. It disturbs digestion.
  • Eating on the go. IT also disturbs digestion.
  • Excessively spicy foods, unless you are positive that you are someone for whom this is a healthy practice
  • Heating, eating or storing food or drink — especially if they are hot — in plastic or styrofoam containers or plastic “to go” cups, because estrogenic chemicals may leach into your food and drink. IF you have to use plastic containers or lids, be sure your food is at room temperature before covering or storing it. 
  • Using plastic wrap on your food, especially hot food.

Lifestyle

  • emphasize overall health over symptom management.
  • Have a daily routine. This allows the nervous system to relax. Your routine should incorporate all the important elements of your life. Try to include the most important ones early in the day, before other events of life obstruct your efforts
  • Have an exercise routine that is appropriate for your current condition. Start by learning how to feel qi or prana. Then choose a 20 min daily exercise routine that is good for you. In general, if you are too thin, a mental stretch from of yoga, tai chi, qi gong or other mental routine is best. If you are too heavy, more vigorous forms of exercise like strenuous forms of yoga or logging are more appropriate. Look to improve or maintain your flexibility so that at a minimum, if you are sitting on the floret your legs strain in from of you you can bend from your hips and touch your toes. In addition to your regular exercise routine, add a brisk 20-30min outdoor walk at the same time every day. Outdoor exercise is beneficial to support your internal natural rhythms.
  • Include at least a little meditation or quite contemplation in your daily routine. This allows a minimum of a few minutes a day when you feel free of responsibility. It also affords a sense of communion with yourself and the divine.
  • If you are extra stressed, and have no contraindications, practice some mental pranayama (breathing exercises) daily. Like abhyanga, it has a quieting effect on the nervous system, and a balancing effect on the mind and hormones.
  • Learn how and when it is okay to cheat on your diet or in your lifestyle habits. As a general rule, cheat only a little and only when you feel healthy and rested. We can least afford to learn on vices when we most want to. In times of stress, we need to eat and live as well as possible.
  • Use disciple to achieve balance and then employ awareness to keep it there. Don’t trust your craving until you are balanced and healthy.
  • Educate yourself on your current condition and the appropriate lifestyle and dietary choices of you. 
  • Digest emotions as you do food. Buried, denied or unprocessed emotions become mental ama in the same way that undigested food becomes physical ama.
  • End or improve any toxic or strained relationships, including the relationship with yourself.
  • Eliminate any poisons in your life, to the extent possible. If this means pharmaceutical drugs, first improve your diet and lifestyle, then look to eliminating or lessening medications.
  • Respect your body’s natural urges. When you are truly hungry, eat. When you are truly thirsty , drink. When you are truly tired, rest. Surrender the pace and needs of your body
  • Laugh
  • Engage in mentally stimulating burt not stressful activities
  • Do less multitasking and give more full attention to one thing at a time.
  • Watch less than 10 hours of TV a week
  • Avoid environmental pollutants like PVC, BPA, phthalates, and dioxins
  • Avoid organic chemicals that have “cholera” as part of their name, such as chlorophenol weed killers (e.g. 2,4-D, which is used by some commercial lawn services)
  • If you have to be exposed to environmental pollutants, surround yourself with houseplants like English ivy, gerber daises, Madagascar dragon trees, pot chrysanthemums, and variegated snake plants.
  • Only put on you skin what you would consider putting in your mouth. Avoid chemical-packed lotions from major department stores.