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Interconnectedness (and Ed Yong!)

Oh Ed Yong, how I love your worrrrrrrk! It’s SUCH a light in bleak times, and he’s very real with us about what’s happening, with excellent analysis, written beautifully. Nerd swoon. Check this out:

Assessing any problem on an isolated present-moment-single-problem-focused level, will never actually fix it. This applies to individual health concerns, climate justice, and, in this case, public health as it applies to pandemic preparedness.

If we address an individual health condition (say, a Latine person recovering from a severe diabetic ulcer), we make sure they take their medication, have wound care, even help around the house and food while they recover. We don’t usually assess their long term home situation, social support, finances, stress levels, access to food, or health care. It’s even less likely we look with a wider view of the community and structures that allowed them to get that sick before getting help (e.g. structural and individual racism in health care). Good treatment is a good bandaid and buys us time, but doesn’t prevent even that one person from having something else happen as a consequence of the entire collection of conditions that led them there.

Turning to climate change, in November, the UN’s COP 26 meeting is happening, but the parties involved can barely agree on language, much less policies. Each individual country does not matter more than the whole since we’re all connected, but nationalism, power, and money are still driving 99% of the political conversations about climate change. We are unlikely to make helpful change without understanding and taking into account the history, racism, and economic injustice inherent in environmental issues. I’m angry that they’re blathering still, when the evidence is overwhelming and there are so many excellent options if we only had the courage to implement them. Money means nothing if we don’t have air and water and food, not to mention beautiful spaces, biodiversity, with working ecosystems worldwide.

From Ed’s article, there is funding in the US bill to improve diagnostics, vaccines, treatments, monitoring of future threats, and shoring up infrastructure slightly. But the things that will actually protect us and help us meet future challenges are the same as the things that will improve health overall and help us reduce the severity and impacts of climate change: improving equity in education, housing, wages/sick leave, food access and quality, and access to healthcare. The pandemic is likely to cost us $16 trillion, but that pales in comparison to the destruction that will come with the most severe outcomes of climate change. The money we spend on war and the carceral and police system now will not protect us from global destabilization from climate change. The way forward is to take this whole white supremacist colonialist capitalist structure and remake it. We’re all interdependent on each other and on the planet’s health to survive. No one is free or healthy until all the planet’s inhabitants are.

Medicine is a social science indeed, and so is environmental science. These things are all linked and need to be tackled together. Call your congress person, state representatives, local county board and city council, and ask them what they are doing – and because it’s unlikely to be nearly enough, push them. Support people and organizations that support interdependent and Indigenous frameworks and give us examples of how to do this work better and faster.

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IM4US 2021

The IM4US conference this weekend was pretty amazing. The theme was Decolonizing Medicine… and they actually succeeded to a much greater extent than any other ‘Integrative’ or ‘progressive’ or ‘inclusive’ or ‘diverse’ medical gathering or group I’ve participated in yet.

[yes, I am certain race- and culturally-specific groups are already doing this well – I am comparing at the moment groups that include white people and have been historically led/powered by white people and men.]

Two things stood out I want to highlight:

1. The concept of Interdependence (you may know this as ‘interdependent arising,’ from a Buddhist perspective) with Indigenous-centered (and led) healthcare (everything really), and

2. Acknowledgement of ‘new-age conspirituality’ that infuses a lot of ‘Integrative Medicine’ practice and discussion.

The first can dissolve destructive concepts and structures, at the same time as building and opening possibilities.

The second includes anti-science movements and conspiracy thinking at the same time as blame-focused ‘wellness’ thinking (i.e. that illness is a failure of the person to do things to be healthy).

To take power from the second so it stops harming people and dragging us backwards, we have to continue to build trust and deepen relationships that are honest and caring at their core, so that people don’t become prey to those seeking to sew division and fear. Indigenous-led practices and infusing the concept of interdependence into everything are the best frames for this kind of work, and I’m so hopeful that so many people are successfully incorporating and building with these ways of thinking.

I’d love to hear from any of you who attended what you thought, and those who didn’t- check out the IM4US site, and some of the speakers’ organizations, I’ll list a few below.

Dig Deep Farms in association with ALL IN Alameda county’s Recipe 4 Health program – food prescriptions and food access, learning about farming, and inclusive programs for East Bay families  (bonus – article in Edible East Bay

The Kitchenistas – whole food recipes and building community in the kitchen

Casa de Salud in Albuquerque NM – community built affordable and inclusive health care

Nā Pu’uwai – Native Health Care system in Hawaii – Moloka’i and Lāna’i – culture as strength

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Ayurvedic Teeth Tips

Ayurvedic Teeth Tips

September 12, 2012 by Dr. Andrea Seiffertt

Sustainable Health Nutshell: Your teeth are a major key to your health, immunity, and longevity! Floss, brush, and perform Gandusha daily (at least 5 minutes a day with organic unrefined sesame oil), and follow the tips below to make sure you keep your teeth healthy, happy, and pain-free throughout your life.

I went in today for my 6-month dental check-up and cleaning and it was lovely. This is new for me- I spent most of my adult life nervous about the pain from poking my unhealthy gums with pointy metal instruments. 4 visits ago I reached a point of understanding that something needed to be done. My dentist, tired of me flinching at every poke and not breathing during her lengthy exam (due in part to my squirming but also to the unhealthiness of my poor gums), handed me what I call a rubber-tipped gum annoyer and told me to use it and floss more. But I had been flossing. And brushing.

So I went home and looked at my gums. They were painfully red where she’d bothered them, and didn’t attach well to the teeth, despite my teeth being perfectly healthy, they weren’t behaving that way. I overheard my dentist tell another patient that the gums should form a seal around each tooth that prevents bacteria from getting in and protects the root. Mine weren’t doing their job well. I didn’t have any dry mouth disease or other health issues, so I racked my brain to find something that would help. Thank goodness for Ayurveda! I was already doing the Abhyanga message daily, and Nasya had rid me of nasal allergies, but I had overlooked the line about Gandusha or oil-pulling. I figured, if oil helped my skin so much, perhaps it would strengthen my gums and prevent further irritation and inflammation from bacteria like it does in my nose and on my skin.

Of course, it did. 2 years out and I’m a thousand percent better than before, so impressively so that my dentist has now started recommending Gandusha for other patients with gum sensitivity! The side-effects include whiter teeth, fewer cavities, and stronger enamel. There’s really no reason not to do it. Just remember to spit into the toilet so it doesn’t clog your drain!

More teeth tips from me and my dentist:

* Do NOT brush your teeth right after drinking wine- the acid weakens the enamel and brushing removes it. I suggest waiting till a bit after drinking, then swishing with oil first. Also, white wines can have more acid than red- so drinking white first, then red can make the red stain worse on your teeth- I suggest picking a color and sticking with it, and caring for your teeth well before and after.

* Use a serious sonic toothbrush. They do clean better, have smaller brush heads that reach into small spaces more, and cause most of us to brush longer than we would without the little beep.

* Get a gum annoyer and use it. It helps strengthen the gum seal around the tooth- think of it as strength training for your gums.

* Floss twice between molars and around your back teeth- things tend to stick there. Where plaque sticks, bacteria grow, and where bacteria grow, gums recede, cavities start, and roots get exposed. Ow.

* Oh, and floss. Every time you floss MILLIONS of bacteria from your mouth enter your blood stream and run rampant through your body, not just your mouth. It’s like Bootcamp for your white blood cells. Keep your immune system hopping.

* If you are a mouth breather- stop. No, really, pay attention to this- the air causes plaque to stick more to the dried out teeth surface. And make sure you use the oil-pulling technique, maybe twice a day if you can’t help breathing out of your mouth, especially during sleep, and especially if you snore!

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Simple Food Rules and the Pillars of Health

Simple Food Rules and the Pillars of Health

November 4, 2012 by Dr. Andrea Seiffertt

Sustainable Health Nutshell: Enjoy life, take care of yourself, your community, and your planet, and when something is out of balance, try and find the root of it rather than blaming it on something outside!

It’s not the food! was the most obvious thing I learned from my 10-day silent meditation sit a year ago. I was sick every single day, and couldn’t figure out why my body was rejecting everything I put in it- simple vegetarian healthy food, cooked with love, that was tasty and eaten in a calm (and quiet!) environment but a voice in my head kept saying it wasn’t the food, and sometime around day 8, during a group silent hour-long meditation session, I noticed an anxious fluttering in my chest, followed instantly by an anxious cramping in my gut and a pinball-like exchange that went between my head and heart and gut regarding whether I’d have to get up and leave the meditation room and be embarrassed and all the other things that had been coming up that week. and it clicked. Somehow I was creating and amplifying my body’s reaction to my thoughts and emotions. Now, if I’d been eating junk food or lots of GMO/non-organic processed stuff, maybe then the food choice would’ve had something to do with it but nope. This was all in my head as they say. But it was brilliant because it gave me a very clear understanding of how our consciousness either allows our natural state of health and balance or creates resistance to teach us something Apparently I still want to learn a lot! 🙂

Anyway, today’s post is to help you understand the basic framework of the 3 Ayurvedic Food Rules, and a brief explanation of the 4 Pillars of Health that we focus on when you come in for consultation Understanding the basics here can help you pinpoint where the health issue you have may be coming from, and once you find the source, you can then dig down and find the root and pull it up to eat (meaning process/transform) it!

The 3 food rules! 

  1. Eat delicious food. Enjoy each bite, sit down, eat it in a calm environment, eat only until 75% full, but 100% full of gratitude!
  2. Eat food prepared with love. When you can, choose food grown by an organic and sustainable farmer that loves their land, as close to where you live as possible. Cook the food with love and the intention to nourish and help create health.
  3. Eat according to your imbalance and constitution. You can ask someone like me for help, but you really know your body better than anyone- eat intuitively- imagine what the food choice you’re making will taste like, will feel like in your mouth and stomach, and how you will feel after eating it. If it isn’t nourishing and energizing, then perhaps make a choice that is!

The 4 pillars of health! {If even one of these is off, we feel terrible your body is asking for attention!}

  1. Sleep (rejuvenation includes rest and meditation): Humans natural hormone cycle would like you to turn lights down at 8, be asleep by 10, and sleep straight through until 530 or so- anything else causes the body to have to compensate and burn reserves. If you have trouble sleeping there might be a simple reason, but it might point to something else that could use a little attention! See my sleep post and please ask questions!
  2. Digestion (transforming and processing of food and experience): If you aren’t digesting what you take in and it rushes through too fast, if the body is creating toxins or storing too much, or it isn’t absorbing nutrients and energy efficiently, you’re probably not feeling as energetic or healthy as possible. Eating according to the food rules above will help- but again, it might not be the food! Timing, emotions, sleep, and nervous system overload all affect digestion (and thus the immune system), so sometimes changing one of those things fixes a perceived problem with digestion!
  3. Elimination (cleansing and releasing toxins both physical and mental/emotional): This is the loosening, cleaning, and pushing out of toxins. You eliminate through stool, urine, and sweat. If there are issues with these, again, it might not be the food, though food choices of course may be an issue. Using stool as an example- if you don’t eliminate efficiently (normal is once a day, between 5-7 am, easily and completely- sometimes with a second in the afternoon also during colon time between 5 and 7), toxins build up and can cause illness. If each elimination process is not too slow, not too fast, and without pain or difficulty, then you can assume the process is going well- if not, your body is asking for help!
  4. Purification (menstruation, exercise, and panchakarma= flushing the channels or srotas in Sanskrit): This is a periodic reset of the entire body system. For part of their lives, women get the chance to cleanse monthly without having to do anything at all (which may be why we live longer!), but ayurvedic panchakarma treatments can mimic the same process for anyone. Exercise is also helpful to create heat and movement to eliminate toxins. The body’s channels all need to be open and flowing to allow toxins to leave and for health to exist. Periodic flushing is recommended but is best done very gently and with the body’s own mechanisms in order to not deplete the system or cause more imbalance. Please ask me for individual recommendations!

Learning a little about the most important ways your body wants to work can help point out a problem, can help you translate your own body’s messages, and can then allow you to see that you can choose to remove obstacles to your own best health!

Happy learning!

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November 4, 2012 by Dr. Andrea Seiffertt

P.S. On being tired, irregular sleep and health, and the cortisol/adrenaline emergency response when were up past 10 pm: The internet is not an emergency- go to bed! me to a patient, and to a friend, and to myself

P.P.S. With the election and such coming up VOTE! first of all- people have died for our right to participate, so please honor them and do! but for more in-depth understanding of issues and different perspectives, you may want to try other publications for information and points of view. I’ve been reading the Sun lately when I have a free moment this interview with Rabbi Michael Lerner is fantastic, and a beautifully stated perspective on sustainable politics and using the power of love and humanity to really get to the root of conflict and misunderstanding The October issue has a great interview with Joel Salatin, and whether you agree with these perspectives or not, neither of these men are gaining power or wealth from expressing their thoughts on these subjects, and both have been criticized and marginalized in mainstream media and by the government for what they believe about these huge issues that affect the entire world so I encourage everyone to educate themselves on the issues that matter and take seriously these decisions that could change the world dramatically and then, VOTE!

P.P.P.S. With much gratitude to my beautiful friend on our hike yesterday for the reminder to myself: Remind yourself, as many times as necessary> There is nothing wrong with you! You are an amazing, beautiful, precious human. You are an infinite source of love and joy at your core, no matter what you perceive there is covering it up. There is only one of you in the universe! Celebrate your uniqueness and fill yourself up with love so that it spills out onto everyone else too. Be the way you want the whole world to be. Everything changes when we do.

Happy November.

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5 Tips to Keep Healthy During Holiday Travel

Tips to Keep Healthy During Holiday Travel

December 7, 2012 by Dr. Andrea Seiffertt

Sustainable Health Nutshell: To keep digestive and immune systems happy during travel and holiday party schedules, keep the nervous system as calm as possible. Meditate, listen to calming music, use sesame oil to moisturize the sinuses and skin, and take a warm, simple (and mostly liquid) diet when flying.

Do you expect holiday travel to be terribly stressful, exciting and fun, or a little of both?  Are you one of those people that always gets sick on planes? Or does your digestion becomes so irregular during travel or during the diet variations of the holiday season that you use medications to help with symptoms, or give up entirely, becoming resigned to being uncomfortable and vowing to improve ‘next year?’ Does this season more than others affect your sleep and compound any stress, digestive troubles, or immune system suppression? Besides the obvious (getting up and stretching during flights and car trips, resting if you do get sick, limiting alcohol intake, sleeping and exercising enough, and eating the healthiest food you can), you’ll be happy to know that all of these issues can be improved or avoided entirely with a few simple tips!

Flying! The altitude and pressure changes, the dryness, the close quarters and recirculated air, noise, and time zone changes our circadian hormonal rhythms must adjust to, all can wreak havoc on our nervous systems. Since the nervous system affects sleep, digestion, and the immune system, just flying itself can be a major player in our health during travel. The following will keep the stress on your body minimized during and immediately after the flight:

  1. Use 2-3 drops of nasya oil in the nostrils before and after (and during if it’s longer than 2 hours). You can also place a drop or two in your ear canals (and use earplugs) to help with the noise. The oil acts as a physical barrier to viruses, bacteria, and allergens, and keeps the sinuses moisturized. Oils infused with herbs like brahmi can also help keep your mind clear and calm during travel too. Ask me for individual recommendations for herbalized oils or supplements for travel. Keep up your abhyanga routine as well to make sure your skin stays comfortable, and rub a few drops on your hands before and after flying- the daily massage also helps detoxify and move lymphatic fluid to keep your immune system humming along!
  2. If you don’t need to, don’t eat anything right before, during, or right after your flight. The pressure change affects the gas in your digestive tract (imagine what it does to those plastic water bottles!), and affects its efficiency. If you are hungry or the travel is lengthy, eat small amounts of warm smooth things like thin oatmeal or soup- avoid foods that are more difficult to digest like dry, raw, or cold food (including meats and cheeses).
  3. Keep hydrated with Spice Water. You’ve heard me talk about this often, but the extra-dry environment of a plane cabin is a perfect time to try it out. Pack a small bag of spices (2 parts fennel seeds, 1 part cumin seeds, 1 part coriander seeds, and perhaps a little ginger for winter), and an empty thermos. When you find a restaurant with a hot water dispenser or on the plane, ask to have it filled, and add ½ a tsp or so of your own spices to the water and sip throughout your flight. The spices keep your digestion gently stimulated to help you detoxify, and keeping hydrated of course helps all systems function optimally. The added benefit is that there are no plastic cups or cans to dispose of!

During car travel, listen to calming music or upbeat books on tape to pass the time without being disturbed by violence or negativity in popular music or news. A few good ones I’ve found recently (and I love singing along- but that might just be me J) are Deva Premal’s meditation cd and the 108 sacred names of the Mother Divine.

The last tip is arguably the most important of all and can be your gift to yourself this season: keep to your daily meditation practice as much as feasible. Whatever your practice- meditation, mindfulness, prayer, or yoga- the reminder that you are, at your core, love, peace, and joy, will help carry you blissfully and compassionately through the holiday season. At the same time it will help your immune system function optimally, stabilize emotions through stress and colder darker weather, and keep joy, love, and compassion (for yourself as well as everyone else) at the forefront of your holiday experience!

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February 22, 2013 by Dr. Andrea Seiffertt

Sustainable Health Nutshell: (I tell all my patients the following- thought it was a good time to reiterate!)
My job as a doctor is to help you contact the part of yourself that knows what is best for you and will allow you to most efficiently bring yourself back to balance and truly heal. I cannot fix anything and could never (and would never) do your work for you. If it were even possible, that would be cheating, and disrespectful to your own process. I can, however, help you contact that part of you that naturally pulls you towards health, I can educate about physical, mental, and energetic things that may help you become more aware of how your body works, I can translate your body’s messages, and I can encourage tissues to live in a place of more ease and efficiency with OMT and I can hold space and encourage you to do the right things for yourself. But only you can truly heal yourself, or rather, remember that you are whole and allow parts of you that have forgotten that fact to reintegrate.

This may be a bit esoteric, but after spending 4 days immersed in what I can only describe as medical meditation, I thought it was a good idea to put it out there since the concepts are central to what I’ve been doing all along anyway. (yay, synchronicity! love when that happens) The class I took was phase 2 of Osteopathic Biodynamics. The system teaches how to contact and engage the patients’ indwelling therapeutic force and promote healing. After learning and using Osteopathic manipulative skills for years, it’s fascinating that I’ve seen more healing happen with this version of A.T. Stills teachings than the standard methods developed and taught since his passing.

When I teach meditation (see my little manifesto here), I teach a technique to help students connect more easily to the part of themselves that is peaceful- really, that is pure consciousness, or love, or their soul that is a part of God, or whatever you like to think of it as (semantics and religion don’t really matter- the technique works whether or not you believe in anything or even the technique!). The funny thing is, what I learned this week was how to apply that exact principle to treating patients. The same core part of each of us that is peaceful, calm, and full of love, that is unfettered by the messiness we call daily life, is what my teacher, Dr. Jim Jealous, calls the Health. And the same thing I’ve been calling the unified field or pure consciousness is what he terms the Tide. Now, if I hadn’t been meditating and teaching it and attempting to get my patients to do the same, this whole class might have sounded not a little insane to me. But as it stands, I’m definitely interested in learning more, and can’t wait to use the skills I’m learning to help my patients and improve my Osteopathic technique.

So, it seems there is a practical medical application for meditation, and I am so glad I was led to it. Learning how to contact that indwelling therapeutic healing force that we all have to bring all the layers of ourselves back into the wholeness that we’ve forgotten we are. Who wants a treatment?