Dry Skin

Question:  Many in my family suffer every winter with dry skin, particularly on our hands. While I realize this is not a life-threatening problem, it is an annoying condition and when the skin cracks and gets infected, it can be very painful. Is this normal or can it be helped?

Answer:  I can sympathize with your situation even though, as you say, dry skin, is not a life-threatening condition. However, it can be very discouraging and painful. Fortunately, there are simple measures that can provide significant relief.

First, and at the risk of being simplistic, it is clear that the reason the skin is dry is because the hydration level of the cells, in particularly the skin cells, is suboptimal. In other words, there is not enough water in your cells and therefore the cells contract. In addition, the normal oily secretions that the dermal cells put out is sluggish because the glands are unable to produce sufficient oils to balance out the rate at which the oils are removed. The situation is worsened in the winter because the use of indoor heat has, in general, a dehydrating effect, thereby further lowering the hydration level of the cells.

Many practitioners suggest that the solution is to drink more water–usually eight glasses per day of water is suggested. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help much as you may already have learned. The reason drinking a lot of water doesn’t work very well is because the water in our cells is actually derived from the metabolism of fats. (The water we drink mostly goes into the blood stream and then out via the kidneys.) It follows, therefore, that when the skin is dry, it means there is a relative imbalance or deficiency of fats, especially compared to the levels of carbohydrates in the diet. I find confirmation of this in my practice in that most of my patients who suffer from dry skin are thin and have been eating a low fat diet. They are also often hypoglycemic and crave sugar. Thus they are eating a diet that is high in carbohydrates but deficient in good quality fat. By changing the ratio, so that more calories come from fats than carbohydrates, the body produced more water for the cells. In addition, the body will now have more fatty acids available for our oil-producing glands, which are our natural moisturizers. Good fats include butter, lard, coconut oil, olive oil and small amounts of flax oil.

Other measures that can help this problem include taking fewer baths, or showers and minimizing your exposure to water or soap. While this may cause social concerns, the traditional view was that our natural skin oils were too valuable to be washed off more than, say, once a week. In many traditional cultures, people didn’t bathe during the entire winter! We do know that the oils on the skin are reabsorbed and recycled and do, in fact, have a nutritive aspect. As a compromise, a gentle dry brushing of the skin with a loofah then a quick rinse with just warm water can cleanse the skin and actually stimulate the glands to produce more oil.

A further measure is to use the element Sulfur as a therapeutic aid. Sulfur stimulates the metabolism and in general counteracts excessive drying and hardening of our cells. In this situation the best preparations to use are homeopathic Sulfur 6X, two times per day, or some type of sulfur bath, such as Epsom salts. One can also take advantage of the high sulfur content of egg yolks. Two or three times per week take a warm full bath to which you have added 2 raw eggs yolks, 1 cup of raw whole milk and 1/2 cup of raw honey. This can be used as either a full bath or locally on the area of dry skin.

For topical treatment, I would suggest Aura Glow, a preparation based on peanut oil recommended in the Edgar Cayce readings. With these simple remedies, you should have nice soft skin within four to six weeks.

Skin Cancer

Question: About six months ago I had a small growth on my cheek biopsied at the University of Iowa’s School of Dermatology. It came back as basal cell carcinoma. I already had one basal cell carcinoma excised from the top of my head. My face is starting to heal from the biopsy. I was advised to have the margins removed but have been hesitant because of the scarring. Is there anything I can do besides surgery to my beautiful face???

Answer: The history of skin cancer and its treatment is a very interesting exploration into the history of medicine in general and the treatment of cancer in particular. But first a little primer on skin cancer in general.

There are many different types of skin cancer, all of which get their names from the appearance of the various cells under the microscope. Practically speaking, there are two broad categories of skin cancer, that is melanoma and non-melanoma. This is the most practical way to think about skin cancer because melanomas have the possibility of spreading and killing the person, while generally speaking all of the other types of skin cancers do not spread except locally. By locally I mean a non-melanoma growth may “eat” away a large area around the original site, but it will never go to the lungs, liver, brain, etc. This is unlike melanoma, which can spread even in the early stages of the illness. In fact, I have known patients with very small original growths whose melanoma had already spread (metastasized) by the time of the diagnosis.

Because these types of cancer act so differently, they also need different treatments: the melanoma type more directed at stopping the metastasis, the non-melanoma types aimed at stopping the growth that you see. Another general point is that non-melanoma skin cancers have been more conclusively associated with trauma to the skin, usually in the form of sunburns, while melanomas may not have any relationship at all to sun exposure, although this is controversial in the dermatology world.

For the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers, like the basal cell cancer you have, it turns out there is a safe and effective alternative treatment out there which has been around for at least 200 years that I know of and probably much, much longer than that. The only problem is that it’s not for “the faint of heart”. The treatment is called Escharotic therapy and is best described in a recently published book by Ingrid Naiman called Cancer Salves. With Escharotic therapy, you put a caustic agent (usually sanguinaria root, but other caustics have been used throughout the centuries) in the form of a paste onto the skin cancer, then you cover the area, a few days later, the skin growth is gone and an open wound is in its place. Properly done, with the proper herbs, all of the cancer cells will have been eliminated by the paste and then an eschar, or big thick scab, will form. This scab then takes from three weeks to a year to heal in and fall off, depending on how big the scab is. When all complete, there should be healthy new skin in the area, that is totally cancer-free. You can find a full description of these procedures in Naiman’s book, and can actually obtain the particular herbs on her website, www.cancersalves.com.

I have followed this procedure in my patients four or five times, and in each instance the area eventually healed without any trace of the original cancer or as of yet without any recurrence of the growth after in some cases many years. The comment about “faint of heart” I include because many people don’t enjoy having a large black scab on their face for months. Also, some but not all patients complain of a kind of painful, pulling sensation as the scab heals and a kind of burning sensation in the initial few days. Neither is extreme, and in all cases the patients say they would do the treatment again, but these cautions are worth noting.

For people with multiple or recurring growths in which it would be difficult to do multiple escharotic treatments, I would use the Iscador treatment discussed on my website and in my book. In fact, I have often had the situation where I was treating a patient for another form of cancer with Iscador and incidentally their non-melanoma skin cancers either got better or didn’t recur in the usual pattern. I have also included the Mediherb Burdock comp at 2 tablets twice a day to this regimen, as the Essiac formula on which it is patterned has been very helpful for a variety of different types of skin cancer. This could be because its main herb, Burdock root, has a particular affinity for the skin. Of course, in addition to these medicines and local treatments, the Nourishing Traditions diet and cod liver oil should be used as well.

I have had numerous requests from patients who are undergoing treatment for cancer, particularly Iscador therapy, who would like to talk with other patients about their experiences. We want to act as a conduit to put people in touch with one another so they can get more information and share stories. The focus of this cancer discussion forum is on patients and their experiences. It will be wholly the effort of those who have an interest. I will not be involved in any way except as the initial facilitator for putting people together through a confidential email exchange. Click here for more information

“Low” Cholesterol

Over the past few years one question that comes up time and again is what to do about low cholesterol. It has been asked by people who have a lot “wrong” with them including cancer, AIDS, chronic fatigue; and it has come from people who feel well. Given the frequency of this question, I would like to address it in a generic sense, without reference to a particular case.

“Our data accord with previous findings of increased mortality in elderly people with low serum cholesterol, and show that long-term persistence of low cholesterol actually increases the risk of death. Thus, the earlier that patients start to have lower cholesterol concentrations, the greater the risk of death.”  The first two lines from an article entitled “Cholesterol and all-cause mortality in elderly people from the Honolulu Heart Program: a cohort study,” The Lancet, Vol 358, Number 9279, Aug 2001

My first real run-in with the phenomena of low serum cholesterol came about 15 years ago with my first AIDS patient. Like many AIDS patients he was well versed in alternative medical theories and treatments. As a result of his extensive reading, he was convinced that he could overcome AIDS if he could detox his body sufficiently. He went on many fasts, did juice cleanses, bowel cleanses, and took many natural medicines for his condition. He ate no meat, no fat, only vegetables, fruit, seeds and grains, mostly raw or sprouted. He was a wonderful fellow with a huge heart, but over the years I saw him waste away before my eyes. The newer AIDS drugs staved off his death for awhile but eventually he succumbed to his condition. About a year before his death we happened to do a blood profile which showed that his total serum cholesterol was 86, the lowest I had ever seen. (Normal is 150-250, although this depends on who defines normal.) From that point on, when I had a patient who was in extremis from a tough illness (usually cancer or a chronic auto-immune disease), I would often check the serum cholesterol and find similar but not as extreme results. Cancer patients often die with a serum cholesterol between 100 and 150. The same holds true for many other chronic illnesses, especially those associated with bodily wasting (cachexia). It is as if, in the wasting process, as all the fat is “burned”, so too is the cholesterol.

This phenomenon is well described in medical literature where we are told that low serum cholesterol is a consequence of the wasting, not the cause. This seems to agree with my experience with this situation: When a person has wasting and a low serum cholesterol, it doesn’t matter how much fat or cholesterol the person eats, it seems to have no effect on the serum total. The curious thing about this conclusion that low serum cholesterol is the consequence, not the cause, of the patient’s illness is that, when it comes to heart disease, doctors say just the opposite. In this case we are told that the high cholesterol is not the result of whatever is causing the damage to the blood vessels, but is the actual cause of this damage. This, to put it mildly, is a head-scratcher.

How these disparate conclusions have come about is a long tale which has been well told elsewhere (see especially The Cholesterol Myths by Uffe Ravnskov), but it reminds me of the similar confusion that surrounds whether “infections” cause illness or whether (as in nature) micro-organisms feed on and recycle debris. If you put inappropriate material into your compost pile, nasty organisms will come to break this material down. A simplistic person might say the compost pile has an infection; rather I think we can all agree that micro-organisms are nature’s recycling tools. The interesting history of why and how modern medicine got the micro-organism/infection story backwards is told in a fascinating book, Modern Medicine: The New World Religion by Olivier Clerc.

In any case, the latest twist in the modern cholesterol tale is that current recommendations for treating heart disease by lowering the serum cholesterol advise doctors to reduce the total cholesterol to the range of 80-130, exactly the levels one sees right before the person succumbs to their chronic wasting disease. I can’t help but be shocked by the potential consequences of this.

So what should you do if you find that, without obvious underlying illness such as cancer, AIDS or a chronic auto-immune or “infectious” condition, you turn up with a cholesterol below 150? The first and most important thing is to try to take an unbiased assessment of how you are feeling. Try to find a source of some imbalance that perhaps you have been overlooking. For instance, do you feel run down, fatigued, achy most of the time? Does something hurt which you are trying to ignore? In other words, a low serum cholesterol often means your body is struggling with something and you are using up your reserves. As you are on the lookout for the source of the struggle, you should as soon as possible adopt a Nourishing Traditions-type diet, including the liberal use of good fats, lacto-fermented foods, soup broth, and all the other healing elements of this regime.

If a source of the trouble is discovered (in one patient we discovered an underlying hepatitis, in another chronic Lyme’s disease), it should be addressed appropriately. If no reason for the low cholesterol is found, adopting a Nourishing Traditions-type diet will often resolve the low cholesterol issue, but only after about two to three years. In this case, there is often a situation of high stress or a chronic low level “infection” which is the source of the trouble. Any lifestyle changes to lower your stress can also be helpful; remember, the stress hormones are all made from cholesterol. In most cases, we either find the source of the trouble or it resolves on its own given time, patience, and a diligent approach to improving our lifestyle.

Getting Off Steroids

Getting Off Steroids

Question: I am taking prednisone for a health condition but do not like the side effects. What do you think about taking adrenal cortex extract instead and which brand do you recommend?

Answer: Let me widen your question a bit to make it more general for our readers. That is, what is the best approach to weaning oneself from the long-term use of prednisone and other steroid drugs? Interestingly, about 10-20 percent of the new patients who come to see me have this very concern. These can be people with a wide variety of complaints from asthma (steroid inhalers), rheumatoid arthritis (often maintained on long-term prednisone), colitis (usually they are using cortisone enemas), skin rashes (usually long-term topical cortisone preparations), polymyalgia rheumatica, lupus, many kidney diseases, and so on.

The initial reaction of these patients to the use of these medicines was nothing short of miraculous–pains vanish, bloody diarrhea clears up, and difficult skin problems melt away. Unfortunately, for most people this is the classic Faustian bargain. For within a short time, not only do the original symptoms return, necessitating higher doses, but the side effects of cortisone begin to show up.

The side effects of cortisone, prednisone, and similar drugs are legendary. They include diabetes, osteoporosis, edema of the face, mood swings, stomach ulcers and, very importantly, adrenal suppression. In other words, your own adrenal glands shut off their production of these valuable hormones. Why not, since they essentially have been “told” by the prednisone that the adrenals are no longer needed. This bargain, then, becomes a nightmare as the effectiveness of the drugs wears off, side effects become more serious and the patient is unable to stop taking the medication.

Of all the tragic situations I have dealt with in my practice, this all-too-common occurrence stands at the top of the list. What are we to do? The first answer is to recognize that by definition, if a certain condition will improve with the use of cortisone, then somewhere in its etiology must be an adrenal weakness. That this fact is denied by the medical profession does not make it less true. Therefore, for any condition that is treated in normal medicine with steroid drugs like prednisone or cortisone we should instead be strengthening the adrenal glands.

To do this, we refer to some basic physiology. First, we are dealing with the adrenal cortex, not the medulla (which makes adrenaline). The hormones that the adrenal cortex makes are all derived from our best friend — cholesterol. Yes, cholesterol is the precursor to all the valuable adrenal hormones that help us deal with stress, inflammation and trauma, and that help our body to heal. Therefore adrenal insufficiency (lack of adrenal cortical hormones) is a fat deficiency. So the first step is simple and logical: Eat more fat, especially cholesterol-rich animal fat. One of these fats should be cod liver oil to supply vitamin A. The adrenal cortex cannot make adrenal hormones out of cholesterol without vitamin A.

Second, adrenal cortical hormones that control inflammation and other metabolic events are in the class of chemicals called glucocorticoids; their primary function is to regulate sugar balance. You will make their job much much easier if you don’t eat any simple sugar and limit your total daily carbohydrate consumption to 75 grams per day. (Read Life Without Bread by Wolfgang Lutz for more information on this.)

Third, cut back on caffeine and caffeine-related substances (such as the bromine in tea) as much as possible. Caffeine works by stimulating the adrenal medulla to produce adrenaline. Then the adrenal cortex must work doubly hard to produce the “chill out” cortisoid hormones.

Fourth, the two major nutrients the adrenal cortex needs to do its job are vitamin B6 and vitamin C. These should be obtained from food sources or whole food supplements. One good source of all three of these vital nutrients is raw milk, which is probably why raw milk fasts have successfully treated many cortisone-related illnesses. Drenamin from Standard Process Laboratories combines these nutrients along with the adrenal protomorphogen to help stimulate the rebuilding of the organ. The beginning dose is 3 tablets, 3 times per day.

With many patients, even with hard work on diet and supplements it is still difficult to wean off the prednisone, especially the last 2-5 mg. In these cases I do use an adrenal cortex extract from American Biologics. For some, it is the only thing that works. Usually 2-3 drops per day is enough, but often we need to double this amount. I usually keep this going for six weeks after the prednisone has been stopped to avoid relapses. All the time during this treatment, the diet and Standard Process supplements should continue.

A final word: The adrenal gland is the processor of stress in our bodies. It is there to help us adapt. When we become exhausted by life, on a mental or physical level, our adrenal glands often fail to keep up, and illness ensues.

I define stress as anything that forces us to live contrary to what our inner guide is telling us is right for us. I want to emphasize that we need to follow our inner guide — not our parents, not the church, not our culture, not government nor anyone or anything else. So many people with adrenal illnesses live a life of “should.” To me, that is stress. In our comprehensive approach to illness this aspect of our health must be considered as vitally important.

April 2007

Diseases of the GI Tract

One of the curious and most consistent findings from researchers like Weston Price who studied indigenous cultures was the difference in disease pattern as compared to those in Western cultures. One of the most striking examples of this divergent disease pattern was the lack of evidence of any diseases of the gastro-intestinal tract in those living in the indigenous cultures. In fact, Albert Schweitzer commented on this at great length: He claimed that, after over 30 years working as a surgeon in various places in West Africa, he had never seen a case of hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis, gall stones, Crohn’s disease, cancer of the colon or even appendicitis amongst the natives who still followed their traditional ways.This is a marked contrast to the populations in our cultures in which these diseases are among the most common phenomena from which we suffer. In fact, if we include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation and GERD (otherwise known as heartburn), we find occurrence of these GI diseases in a majority of adult patients. The British surgeon Dennis Burkitt, who became famous in medical circles for the discovery of a type of lymphoma still called Burkitt’s lymphoma, studied this problem in depth for many years. His goal was to determine why Africans in particular had an almost total absence of diseases of the GI tract. Burkitt’s conclusions, which he wrote up in many papers, centered around the basic differences between the western and African diets, that is, their fiber content. He claimed it was the difference in the fiber content which conferred resistance to the GI diseases among the Africans.

I have examined most of the available writings of Burkitt over the years, and in doing so, I must say there are some confusing issues surrounding the so-called fiber theory. The most important has to do with one of the tribes with this absence of bowel diseases that Burkitt studied, the Masai people in East Africa. The Masai have been studied not only for their perfect bowel health, but their robust health in general, particularly with regard to heart disease. The curious thing about the Masai with respect to the fiber theory is that these people achieved this perfect GI health, and their diets have exactly zero amount of fiber. The Masai are cattle herders, and their entire diet consists of blood, meat and “sour” milk. In fact, they are supposedly disdainful of eating plants, saying this is food fit only for their cattle.

This and other similar stories would by any account pose serious questions about the fiber theory of bowel health. It is true that many African tribes do have a high fiber diet, but clearly this is NOT the unifying factor across the varied African tribes. If it’s not fiber, then what could it be? One possible answer is related to the climate they live in, for Africans could be considered the masters of lacto-fermentation. In fact, African tribes didn’t consume a large proportion of their food until it had been cultured for many days. Examples of this cultured food include Ogi, a fermented millet porridge, the staple in much of West Africa; cultured yams; cultured milk (they actually refused to drink milk that had not been cultured for at least three days); a kind of beer made from cultured grains, and many other cultured products. It is not incorrect to say that “culturing” was the predominant and, in some cases, exclusive method of preserving food throughout much of Africa.

Viewed through the modern scientific lens, the relationship between cultured food and bowel health is coming into clear focus. Cultured foods contain the good bacteria that normally colonize our intestines. The foods they are contained in have the nutrients (often called probiotics) that sustain these beneficial bacteria. The cultures are alive, eaten daily, and we now know that at least 90% of the bulk of the stool consists of good bacteria. The functions of the good bacteria in our gut include synthesizing B vitamins; producing antibiotic-type chemicals that prevent local and systemic infection; producing acetylcholine needed for maintenance of the health of the bowel wall; normalizing immune function, and on and on. It is not hyperbole to state that one of the fundamental requirements of good health is to have a healthy ecosystem in our gut. Without this, we and our GI tract are literally defense-less.

In my practice, and in the practice of the Nourishing Traditions diet, we make great use of techniques for the lactofermentation of food. We soak and ferment grains, dairy products, drinks and the all important vegetables, which we make into sauerkraut. In fact, a diet without the daily use of lacto-fermented foods to me is a deficient diet, one that lacks a key ingredient for the maintenance of good health. The addition of liberal amounts of these foods to the diet is the first step in the treatment of any of the various bowel diseases that plague so many people in our culture.

There are also other steps to take in treating such illnesses, including Crohn’s disease, which is an intense immunologically-based inflammation of the colon. We can use the probiotic preparation Mutaflor, which is a type of E. Coli that was found in soldiers in WWI who were resistant to cholera. Since that time, it has been cultured, purified and used for more than 30 years with patients suffering from various illnesses of the colon. We can also add the Standard Process preparation called Okra-Pepsin which helps in the digestive processes and strengthening the walls of the colon. And finally, as I describe below in this newsletter, low dose Naltrexone has been shown in a recent study to put more than 70% of patients with Crohn’s disease into remission due to its effect on the immunological events underlying Crohn’s.

With these therapies and the Nourishing Traditions diet, there is significant hope for those suffering from gastro-intestinal illnesses, and in particular for the otherwise devastating consequences of Crohn’s disease.

Theraputics:  Low Dose Naltrexone

For a number of years I have been following the progress of a therapy known as low dose Naltrexone with great interest. With the recent publication of the study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology showing a positive response rate of about 89% and a remission rate of about 67% for patients with Crohn’s disease, I feel it is time to start offering this therapy to my patients. Low dose Naltrexone is not only a promising therapy for many difficult illnesses, but an instructive story about the etiology of disease and a good cause for the new Fourfold Clinic we are founding.

The drug Naltrexone has been in use for many years. It is classified as an opiate receptor antagonist, as its action is to block the many opiate receptors in our bodies. For a person with an acute heroin overdose, a single dose of 50 mg of Naltrexone reverses this almost immediately. As a matter of fact, in the 1970s Naltrexone at a dose of 50 mg was used before methadone to detox drug addicts from opiates. Its use was eventually abandoned because it was so effective at blocking these receptors that the person felt terrible, apparently from having their endogenous endorphin receptors (which use the same receptors as heroin and the other opiates) significantly blocked.

An addiction specialist in New York City, Dr. Bihari, when using Naltrexone in this way, began to notice that many of his addicts who were also sick with AIDS had very low endogenous endorphin levels. Subsequently, it was clearly demonstrated that the endorphins we produce in our bodies (by the pituitary and adrenal glands) are the master regulators of immune function. The endorphins seem to control Natural Killer cells, cell-mediated immunity, white blood cell activation and a host of other immune functions. Dr. Bhiari then noticed that if he gave a very low dose of Naltrexone right before bedtime to people suffering from illnesses of immune function, this stimulated their production of endorphins, and the disease, over time, would remit. This was particularly effective in many auto-immune diseases, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and cancer. Over the years the approach was refined, the indications expanded and papers were written confirming its complete absence of toxicity and effectiveness.

The interesting thing about the Naltrexone story from the Fourfold Healing perspective is that, while low dose Naltrexone is the most effective agent in elevating endorphin levels we know of, other things have also been shown to raise these levels. These include exercise, acupuncture, diet (well, chocolate specifically), and iscador. In fact, these protocols are among the various modalities we will be offering at our clinic. For more information about low dose Naltrexone, visit the website lowdosenaltrexone.org. If you have further questions, please feel free to email or call the office for an appointment.

Recipe:  Asparagus Frittata

A Recipe from Jessica Prentice
Serves 3–4

I make frittatas all the time, using whatever produce I find in season at the farmers market. Asparagus is the great herald of spring, and so this is a perfect Egg Moon recipe.

  • 1 small bunch asparagus, about 3/4 pound
  • 1 large or two small leeks
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon filtered water
  • 4 hen’s eggs from family farm chickens, or 1–2 goose eggs, or 3-4 duck eggs
  • 1/3 cup cream, half-and-half, or whole milk (from a family dairy, if possible)
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese such as cheddar or Monterey Jack, or crumbled feta (cheese is optional)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Pepper, freshly ground
  • Nutmeg—a little grated fresh, or 1/8 teaspoon powdered

Preheat oven to 300º.

Break off tough ends of asparagus. Cut asparagus into 1” pieces on the diagonal.

Slice leeks in thick rounds and put in a bowl of cold water and mix to get the dirt out.

Melt butter in an oven-safe skillet (cast iron or stainless steel), and when it’s hot lift the leeks out of the water in handfuls, shaking off excess water, and put in the pan. Sauté over medium heat until just soft.

Add the asparagus pieces to the pan along with about a tablespoon of water. Cover the pan and allow the asparagus to steam for 1-3 minutes, until just tender.

Meanwhile, mix together the eggs with cream, milk, or combination.

Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. (Note: Because I trust my source for eggs, I always taste my raw egg mixture to check if it’s salty enough. For my palate, the egg mixture should be salty enough to taste the salt, yet not overly salty.)

Add the asparagus to the pan and pour the egg mixture over, then add in the cheese, pressing it gently into the eggs. Let cook on stovetop over low heat a few minutes, and then transfer to the oven and bake until the eggs are just set—this may take as few as 5 minutes. (You can also finish under a broiler, as long as the pan isn’t too deep and you keep a close eye to make sure it doesn’t burn).

Remove from oven, allow to cool for a minute or two, and slice and eat. Serve with salad and good bread, and maybe a few new potatoes.

Full Moon  Feast BookFull Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection — book by Jessica Prentice

Jessica Prentice is both a professional chef and a passionate home cook. She currently conducts cooking classes, writes a monthly New Moon Newsletter on her Wise Food Ways website, and offers monthly Full Moon Feasts in the Bay Area. She is a Bay Area chapter head for the Weston A Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts, and a founding member of Three Stone Hearth, a community kitchen in the Bay area. Her new book, Full Moon Feast, is about food and culture.

Recipe adapted from Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice. Copyright Jessica Prentice 2006 Chelsea Green Publishing Co. Used with permission.

December 2006

Flu Prevention and Treatment

A pressing need at this time of the year is an effective strategy for influenza. How can we prevent flu and other respiratory illnesses? If we come down with an illness, what can we to do to shorten the duration and recover as quickly as possible? A good place to start discussing this subject is the whole question of why there is such thing as a “flu season”. We all know that people tend to get sicker in the winter, but surprisingly there is no reasonable explanation in conventional medicine as to why this should be so. Through the years, I have heard that people are inside more in the winter therefore they spread viruses more readily in the winter. Somehow, having been on crowded trains in the summer has led me to doubt the accuracy of this conclusion.Something, though, is unquestionably different in the winter that exposes us to more sickness. There is one overwhelming factor that provides evidence for this winter sickness effect, and that is vitamin D, the chemical/hormone we produce in response to sun exposure. Clearly, vitamin D levels drop in the winter which, as we’ve discussed before, produce a number of consequences. Perhaps the most serious of these consequences is a drop in mineral/calcium absorption which then lowers the pH of the tissues. As a result, the tissues become more inflamed and susceptible to infection. Vitamin D, being a steroid hormone, may also have independent affects on immunity and resistance, a fact that is being borne out by the explosion of new research on the effects of vitamin D. Many of these studies can be accessed through the vitamin D council website, www.vitamindcouncil.com, which provides a more thorough documentation of the science of vitamin D.

My current strategy for preventing winter sickness and flu is to have all my patients take the cod liver oil/butter oil mixture from Green Pastures (available from Radiant Life or drrons.com) and, on top of this, add 2,000 IU/day of plain Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Then at the first sign of a cold or flu I have my patients take an additional 20,000 IU of vitamin D3, as a one-time dose, then continue with the cod liver oil/butter oil mixture, stopping the extra D3, and then repeat the one-time 20,000 IU dose after one week if they are not totally better.

In addition, I have found that taking preventative doses of Echinacea premium tablets from Mediherb (a division of Standard Process), 2 tablets per day, along with the Standard Process Immuplex 2 capsules twice per day has helped many of my patients decrease the frequency and/or severity of their colds and flus. Again, if in spite of this one does get sick, in addition to the above vitamin D3 protocol I give a three-day course of Echinacea (or Andrographis comp — also from Mediherb), 3 tablets, 4 times per day and switch the Immuplex to the acute version called Congaplex, given at a dose of 3 capsules, 4-6 times per day for three days. Many times, we can break the flu cycle with this protocol and convert a 2-3 week ordeal with an subsequent bronchitis to a less harmful, less onerous course of the illness. This protocol is especially helpful for children who tend to get sick, and for the elderly for whom sickness is often more of a burden.

These medicines can be obtained through any health care practitioner who works with Standard Process medicines.

Loving What Is (Byron Katie)

One of the most profound mysteries I have experienced is why my patients who fight against their illness seem to have so much trouble, while those who come to insight and acceptance tend to do better. My wife, Lynda, recently introduced me to the work of Byron Katie after attending a workshop with her at the San Quentin prison, where Lynda teaches Non-Violent Communication classes to the inmates. The concepts, “the work,” presented in this book are worth including in any discussion of a holistic approach to medicine and perhaps help shed a little light on this mystery.

The first hurdle to cross in Byron Katie’s book is the most important and perplexing: Is it really correct to love what is? This is an especially poignant and important question in a medical context. Is it true that, if you suffer from crippling and painful rheumatoid arthritis, you should “love” this situation with all its attendant pain and disability? Or what if you have life-threatening cancer or heart disease? Does this mean you’re supposed to love that as well? After all, this is “what is”. Interestingly, popular culture and conventional thinking tell us that patients who do best are those who fight against their disease. We are never supposed to accept this sickness, which is tantamount to giving up.

Or what about the inmates at San Quentin? Are they supposed to love their life in what are unquestionably inhumane and degrading circumstances? Isn’t it even a little arrogant for those in good health and relatively well-off to preach to those less fortunate that they should love their unfortunate situation?

The question of “loving what is” is also a practical matter for us. Many patients come to me precisely because they are unhappy with their health and want to make positive changes in their lives. Am I supposed to say, “It’s fine, just love your pain, you’ll be fine”.

Obviously, this subject is very complex. Through a series of directed questions that Katie has developed, she leads the reader in the discovery of the deeper meaning in any of the events that happen to us, the so-called positive or negative events. In fact, on deeper inspection through these questions, we see the whole concept of positive or negative events evaporate and begin to see life as amazing series of spiritually meaningful events. Through her questions, the reader gets deeper into meaning, purpose and true insights into our lives. Over time, using these questions as guides, Katie describes how you will begin to come to acceptance about your life, seeing your own life as a kind of spiritual journey full of joy and purpose. Using these questions to examine pain and illness can leads you to understanding, joy and profound insight into your life.

This stands in direct opposition to the approach that counsels us to “fight” our illness. I can only say that in my 20-plus years of medical practice, I am inclined to believe that Katie’s approach is by far the most productive in the actual recovery from illness. In fact, it seems to be true that my patients who fight against their illness seem to have so much trouble, while those who come to insight and acceptance tend to do better. There is no obvious reason why this should be so but I have seen it many, many times in my practice. Loving What Is is one of the tools we can use in our healing, as we practice acceptance and insight in our daily lives.

For more information on Byron Katie, visit The Work website.

Recipe: Chicken Soup with Wild Rice

This is a hearty, thick, nourishing soup perfect for winter. You can add more broth for a thinner soup.


  • 1/3 cup wild rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, schmaltz or other fat
  • 1 onion, diced or one large leek, cut into rounds
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 quart chicken broth (see page XX), or more for a thinner soup (you can also thin it out with water)
  • 1 bouquet garni (an herb bundle tied with string) including a bay leaf and any or all of the following: a sprig of thyme, a sprig of sage, a sprig of parsley, a rosemary stem
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • about 1 cup of chicken, either cooked or raw, cut into bite-sized pieces


  1. Put the wild rice in a jar and add the water and yogurt. Place in a warm place and allow to sit for at least 7 hours.
  2. In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil or fat over medium heat. When the fat is hot, add the onion or leek and sauté until it begins to turn translucent.
  3. Add the celery and sauté for a minute or two, then add the carrots and continue sautéing for a few minutes.
  4. Strain the wild rice and rinse thoroughly. Add to the sauté along with the broth, the bouquet garni, and the salt.
  5. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  6. Simmer, covered, over low heat until the wild rice is soft.
  7. Add chicken and simmer a few minutes more.
  8. Remove bouquet garni and add salt and pepper to taste.

Full Moon  Feast BookFull Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection — book by Jessica Prentice

Jessica Prentice is both a professional chef and a passionate home cook. She currently conducts cooking classes, writes a monthly New Moon Newsletter on her Wise Food Ways website, and offers monthly Full Moon Feasts in the Bay Area. She is a Bay Area chapter head for the Weston A Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts, and a founding member of Three Stone Hearth, a community kitchen in the Bay area. Her new book, Full Moon Feast, is about food and culture.

Recipe adapted from Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice. Copyright Jessica Prentice 2006 Chelsea Green Publishing Co. Used with permission.

July 2006


My medical career has essentially spanned the same time frame as the AIDS “epidemic”. When I entered medical school in 1980, we began to hear of this new illness showing up in gay men in New York and San Francisco. When I graduated in 1984, many deaths had resulted from this mysterious new illness. By the time I finished residency, it was announced that the cause had been discovered, a major first step in the path to controlling this devastating illness. Even then, though, some things didn’t seem to make sense.Throughout my medical training we were taught that, with viral infections, two “arms”of the immune system get involved, the cellular and the humoral. The cellular immune system is based on white blood cells and rids of us of invaders by engulfing and digesting micro-organisms such as viruses and bacteria. The signs of activation of the cellular immune system include fever, mucus, and often rash, as the white blood cells digest and excrete unwanted foreign substances. The consequences of the cellular immune system are the signs of illness that we see and that make us feel sick. The humoral immune system is the memory part of our immune response. It is the part that makes antibodies tailored to specific invaders that tag and remember these substances.

In the normal course of a viral infection, both arms of the immune system are involved. As an example, with chickenpox we see signs of activation of the cellular arm with the fever, mucus, cough and rash that characterize this illness. As with most viral infections, the signs of the illness are almost identical in type, if not in severity, across all people. In other words, chickenpox almost always gives the same type of rash, lasts the same length of time, etc., no matter who gets the illness. Next, the humoral immune system is activated, and six weeks later antibodies are produced which impart life-long immunity to the illness.

With this new disease of AIDS, the interpretation of how the viral immune system works seemed to change. For the first time we were being told that, even though every case of AIDS was caused by the same virus, there were many possible manifestations of this viral disease. And, shocking to me at the time, I remember distinctly finding out that the diagnosis of the illness was based on a test that detected antibodies in the blood to the HIV virus. What?! I had been taught for years that when we produce antibodies to a virus, this means we are immune to that virus. Why now, all of sudden, does detecting antibodies to a virus mean it is the virus making us sick? For me, this would be akin to saying that the German measles virus, when contracted by adults, can cause a kind of arthritis. With that line of “logic” when a middle-aged person comes in complaining of joint pains, we would do an antibody test, discover the antibodies (because the person did have German measles as a child) and then pronounce that it must be the German measles virus that is causing the illness. This is a mis-interpretation. We generally assume that the fact that we have antibodies mean we are immune. Why would it be different for HIV?

Subsequently other unusual facts and diagnostic discrepancies started to emerge from the AIDS crisis. We were told that the HIV virus was contracted through sexual or blood born contact. This was not the first such micro-organism to have this characteristic. All sexually-transmitted diseases are, of course, transmitted only through direct sexual contact, including herpes, Chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and many others. However, unlike AIDS, all of these illnesses share the characteristic of being almost equally present in both males and females. With AIDS, at least in the US, for the first time a sexually-transmitted illness has stayed almost predominantly within one sexual group, that is gay men (over 90% of the deaths in the US have been in gay men).

Additionally, with other blood-born illness such as hepatitis C, many cases are eventually found among the medical profession, due to the risk of inadvertently spreading the virus through needle sticks, a risk predominantly born by medical and dental workers. Inexplicably, with AIDS, as far as I know, only two dentists in the entire 25-year history of AIDS have contracted AIDS with no other risk factors (gay male, IV drug abuser, etc.). This, of course, might lead us to the question whether these two dentists were completely forthcoming in their answers about their risk factors.

The final unusual diagnostic discrepancy of the AIDS epidemic was that over the years, numerous patients, supposedly numbering in the thousands, who were found to suffer from the full blown AIDS illness, had no detectable levels of antibodies in their blood. In fact, they had no evidence of any sort of having a viral infection, even antibodies, but because they had all the AIDS symptoms, it was assumed that they must have had the virus at least at some point. This was an unprecedented conclusion.

Sometime in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the safe sex campaign began, and at the same time we saw as the introduction of the different categories of AIDS drugs, each supposedly targeting different aspects of the virus’s life cycle. What was once considered an early death sentence became a manageable disease, albeit with many unpleasant and even life-threatening consequences. This brings us to the present, where the dire consequences of the AIDS epidemic predicted in this country have largely proved to be unfounded. Back in the 1980s we were told that unless a vaccine was quickly discovered, we were basically doomed as a species because the virus would quickly spread throughout the heterosexual population, as had other sexually transmitted diseases. Twenty-five years later there is no vaccine in sight, there have been rare illness in those without risk factors (i.e. gay men, IV drug use, co-existing other sexually transmitted illness, malnutrition, etc) and, even today, fewer people die of AIDS in this country than in car accidents or of alcoholism.

But what about Africa? Don’t the AIDS experts tell us that unless massive action is taken the HIV virus will soon wipe out the economies and viability of different cultures in many African countries? Again, some inconsistencies exist in these predictions. For starters, people in Africa are rarely actually tested for the HIV virus when they are either screened or diagnosed with AIDS. The cases, as in this country, almost uniformly occur in people with other risk factors for illness. These include the some of the same risk factors of gay male sex, IV drug abuse, malnutrition, co-existing sexually transmitted illness. But they also include the specifically African issues of TB, malaria, as well as many other unchecked infectious illness existing in people highly exposed to environmental toxins amid a huge burden of poverty and social unrest. As with most illness, if one examines the epidemiological data, the best conclusion one can draw is that the poorer, the more malnourished, the more exposed to TB, malaria, toxic waste, and social disharmony that a person or culture experiences, the more likely they are to get sick with AIDS. This is highly unusual way for a virus to behave, one from which we supposedly have no natural defenses. These and many other issues surrounding the AIDS controversy have been extensively documented in all sorts of sources over the past twenty years. I would refer all my readers to the book by Christine Maggiore, What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?, the website www.virusmyth.org, and the article in the March 2006 issue of Harper’s magazine about the inconsistencies of the AIDS-HIV connection and the problem with the HIV drugs (available online at www.harpers.org/OutOfControl.html).

This is not a closed case. Many questions remain that need to be answered, and more to be asked. As we gear up to spend almost unlimited resources fighting this virus, it behooves us all to find out more about the facts behind this perplexing epidemic.

Therapeutic Thinking

Goethe, considered by many to be the father of modern scientific thinking as well as a great literary figure, urged physicians and scientists to be students of the book of nature. Modern, western-trained physicians generally put no stock in this dictum. Sadly the same can be said even for some who claim the mantle of “natural” or holistic health practitioners. It is not enough to use so-called natural medicines or vitamins. Rather, it is the thought process that determines whether medicine is “natural”.

“Right” therapeutic thinking involves the process of envisioning the human being as an integral part of the local and cosmic world. Right therapeutic thinking embraces the alchemical dictum of “as above, so below” as it attempts to understand the hidden processes that result in health and illness. Rather than seeing isolated symptoms and addressing them with chemical medicines, surgery or radiation, the true natural practitioner tries to educate the person back to health. He or she does this through a radically different envisioning of the illness and the human being. For me, it is this step that will lead us into a new and more exciting approach to healing of both individuals and the planet.

Let me try to illustrate this concept of right therapeutic thinking with a few examples. First, a relatively simple one: The most common illness that most of us will experience is the common cold, sometimes referred to as a viral infection. As we all know, the experience of a cold is often fever, mucus, a kind of cloudy feeling in the head, often followed by a cough, sore throat, congestion and bodyaches. Conventional medicine postulates that this illness is caused by a virus that invades our bodies and that will take time for our immune system to clear. Sometimes, if it is worse, it is said that this illness is the result of a bacteria that can then be cleared by using a medicine (antibiotic) that kills the bacteria. Most natural practitioners treating a cold claim that the same process is occurring, but that one can stimulate the immune system with such medicines as Echinacea or vitamin C.

In right therapeutic thinking, a different approach is taken. We look for the process or observable events that occur. In this case, the overall picture is one of heat and “activation”. That is, even though generally we don’t feel very active with an infection, there is a lot happening within our bodies. The tissues are red, the mucus is running, the lungs are coughing, the skin erupts. It’s as if we have become a hot, frothing volcano, spewing forth increasingly toxic mucus. If we imagine ourselves in the context of nature, and in particular the seasons, unmistakably this would be a summer experience, for winter is the time of coldness and contraction as literally the greenness of the earth, the smells, flowers, insect activity; in short, activity and buzzing contracts down into the earth. In contrast, the summer is literally abuzz. Abundant smells, colors, tastes burst forth from the earth in the warmth and sunlight.

In the context of the entire earth, the seasons are always in balance, which is the way the earth maintains its health. If the summer got too strong, or put another way, if the earth got a cold, then over time too much activity would be “breathed out” and the earth would sicken. The earth would become dry and barren if this exhalation weren’t checked. The earth needs the winter experience to rest and recycle.

How does the earth keep from being in an excess summer mode? One answer is that, soon after the height of mid-summer, as the earth is in full bloom, a shift happens, a shift that can actually be felt by very sensitive people. The meteor showers occur, which seems to bring about a shift in the activity on earth. Plants begin to die, fruits become seeds, and a coolness returns to the air. Meteor showers have been shown to contain a particular type of iron know as ferrum siderum (literally, meteoric iron). Thus right therapeutic thinking leads us to the conclusion that iron heals the earth from excessive summer.

Right therapeutic thinking sees the same process happening within the human being. When we have a cold or a bacterial infection, our summer processes have become too strong. We need to tone down the volcano, rest and recycle. Within the human being, a surprisingly similar occurrence takes place. Our bodies also use iron to bind and neutralize poisons. An illness called porphyria occurs when the unbound protein part of the hemoglobin molecule cannot be bound to iron. This unbound protein literally poisons and kills us; if it is bound to iron, it serves as the basis of our ability to use oxygen. Iron also binds to cyanide to render it harmless, and on and on. We neutralize poisons by binding them to iron. When we become iron-poor or anemic, we become weak and susceptible to all manner of toxic influences, including viruses and bacteria. It should be no surprise, then, that a medicinal preparation of meteoric iron has been used for centuries to treat hot, eruptive illnesses that affect humankind.

Delving deeper into the mystery of iron leads us to various mythological images. For instance, Saint Michael in Christian folklore was considered the bearer of iron as he brought his sword, made from iron, down to earth to slay the sulfurous dragon (illustrated by Jean Fouquet’s 15th century painting, right). The dragon, of course, represents the spewing forth of heat, poison and all that is unclean. It is fought through the courage and strength that is represented by the iron sword of Saint Michael. For the alchemists, iron correlates with the gall bladder and the planet Mars — the so-called red planet because it is rich in iron oxides. For those who practice right thinking, this is no surprise as the gall bladder is the organ that excretes poisons that have been processed by the liver. The bile flow is the mechanism of flushing out the mucus, pus and toxins, the markers of the hot, “infectious” illnesses. Bile flow is stimulated by bitters, which is probably why bitter herbs, e.g. goldenseal, have always been used in the treatment of sulfurous, “infectious” diseases.

To turn to a more complex example, let us look at AIDS from the standpoint of right therapeutic thinking. Setting aside the still controversial question of whether AIDS is caused by the virus HIV, if we look at the phenomenon of the person with AIDS, one conclusion that we could draw is that the person seems defenseless. In particular they become defenseless to a whole array of ubiquitous and usually harmless micro-organisms. We all have yeast growing in our gastrointestinal tract, we are all surrounded by pneumocystis and many other usually non-pathogenic viruses, bacteria and fungi. But, uniquely, a person with AIDS has lost the ability to fight, not a particular organism, but virtually any micro-organism.

This situation is perhaps unique in the history of humankind. I can’t help but wonder whether something has changed in past decades with regard to our relationship with the whole realm of micro-organisms. This relationship with micro-organisms leads to the concept of “self”, of what is a human being. We are taught that we are autonomous beings who live within this skin, and that “self” resides within the skin. In fact, within this same skin live billions of others, a bewildering combination of named and unnamed micro-organisms. Without these friends living within us, we wouldn’t survive the week. These organisms in our gut and every other orifice in our bodies digest our food, make vitamins (B12), maintain our mucosal linings in good repair (e.g. the gut wall), and make antibiotic-type substances that kill off more pathogenic bacteria. It is not so far-fetched to say that these others who live within us actually are our immune system.

In the last 60 years, we have waged war on this “other”, forgetting that there is no self without our microbial friends. We pasteurize our milk, give antibiotics to our animals, vaccinate our children and use antibiotics that get rid of our protective inner friends. This war on our inner ecology has been both relentless and devastating to our ability to maintain that which we call self. It also, fundamentally, has thrown us off from our ability to properly imagine the world in which we live. Truly, there is no such thing as the isolated, insular self. Humans must be in community, first with our inner microbes, the wider community of minerals, plants, animals, other people, and finally the entire universe. The concept of the isolated self doesn’t square with the reality of our basic physiology; it is the fundamental illusion of human existence.

In a funny way, the AIDS phenomenon has been instrumental in re-awakening the value of community. As many people were dying of AIDS, the value of human care, hospice, networking, etc., gained a stronger hold in our culture. Seen from the perspective of right thinking, AIDS is a call to re-envision community, starting with the ecology of our own bodies. Starting with the Nourishing Traditions diet (based on the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon), we begin to knit together the fiber of community starting with our food. We learn how to care for our inner ecology as well as the ecology of our farms and land. This ecological approach to AIDS bears fruit not only for individual patients suffering from immune deficiency but also reconnects us with the larger issues at work in our culture that are the true “causes” of this phenomenon.

In summary, I am not so much looking for new medicines or foods to treat individual illnesses, although those are certainly welcomed. Rather, I am searching for a new way to envision the human being and think about what is behind health and illness. Out of this envisioning will emerge specific therapies that hopefully will help not only individuals but the culture as a whole. Ultimately, our sicknesses result from the forces and imbalances in the larger world in which we live. Studying the book of nature is one approach to understanding this larger world.

Guest Column:  HIV – The Untold Story

by David Lowenfels

In this article I will take you on an introductory crash course of the HIV/AIDS controversy. I cannot possibly show you all the key points in a casual manner, but I will get you started on the journey. So fasten your seatbelts…

What is AIDS?

Of course you’ve heard about it: the fatal plague, spread by “unsafe” sex and blood, caused by the deadly virus called HIV. Anyone can get it. We’ve all seen the scary charts, cartoons, and photographs. This 25-year old story is reinforced daily by doctors, celebrities, and the media. But is the full story being told?

AIDS is not a single disease, but rather a syndrome — a collection of twenty-some-odd different diseases. The term AIDS was coined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the late 1980s as a surveillance tool so that it could keep tabs on this mysterious syndrome, whose cause was then unknown. If someone tests “HIV-positive” and has one of these 20 diseases, then he or she is diagnosed with AIDS. Never mind that these same diseases can and do occur in HIV-negative individuals.

In 1993, the CDC definition of AIDS changed. As a result, the number of cases doubled overnight, and AIDS quickly became a numbers game that now included people with no disease, yet who had fewer than 200 T-cells. Upon closer examination, one will find that that AIDS cases are reported cumulatively; this way, they appear to be constantly growing even when they are not. According to the CDC, AIDS cannot be reversed; once individuals have been branded with an AIDS diagnosis, they are medically stigmatized for life, even if they have recovered and are apparently healthy.

The Dreadful Test

The diagnosis begins with the gravitas of an “HIV test”, which is claimed to be 99% specific for HIV, yet really only tests for abnormal amounts of nonspecific antibodies. Those stigmatized as “HIV+” simply have a higher level of auto-antibodies than what has been deemed normal, according to an arbitrary black-or-white threshold. A global standard is lacking, such that it is possible to test “HIV+” in one country, and test “HIV-” in another. There are many diseases which demonstrably cross-react with the “HIV antibody” test, including tuberculosis, leprosy, and lupus. HIV proteins have been found in normal human placentae, not to mention everyone’s blood when undiluted [1]. The auto-antibodies are ubiquitous, yet strangely are still called “HIV-specific”.

In fact, “HIV” has never been properly isolated, which I will explain subsequently. Therefore it is ludicrous to claim that an antibody reaction against a protein of questionable origin is proof of infection with a deadly virus. To give such a diagnosis based on this uncertain test is medically irresponsible. “HIV” testing is psychologically harmful and should be used only for its original purpose, which was the anonymous screening of blood donations.

How was HIV linked to AIDS?

At an April 23, 1984 press conference held by Reagan’s Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler, Dr. Robert Gallo of the National Institute of Health announced he had found the “probable cause of AIDS”. This claim came just days after Gallo’s filing for a patent for the lucrative HIV-antibody screening test, a test that would be used to screen all blood donations in the U.S. and Europe. Yet two weeks passed before any actual scientific information was published. Mysteriously, that pesky word “probable” seemed to all but disappear in the ensuing months.

There is a story within a story here, which is notable but essentially a diversion: The legal dispute between France and the U.S., for the title of “discoverer of HIV” (Montagnier vs. Gallo), and corresponding royalty profits from the “HIV-antibody” test. Details of these allegations can be found in the investigation by Congressman Dingell [2], and a document called “HIVgate” [3]. This lawsuit was settled in a private meeting between Chirac and Bush, in which scientific history was literally rewritten to suit political means. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who discovered what, since the entire “discovery” is based on a platform of faulty logic.

Antibodies are Cross-Reactive in Nature

An antibody is like a “key” that fits into a “lock” region on a protein/antigen. Imagine a master skeleton key that can fit many different locks. Conversely, imagine a loose lock that could be opened by several similar keys if wiggled just right. This is cross-reactivity. It is a gift from nature because it means that antibodies formed against one antigen later can be recycled against a similar antigen.

Mathematical logic states that the greater the variety of antibodies a person has, the higher the probability they will bind to a given antigen. Therefore the more antibodies a person has, the more likely they are to test “HIV+”. Because of cross-reactivity, it is impossible to deduce exactly which antigen the antibodies were originally formed against. Imagine putting three different acids into three kinds of milk, and trying to guess which acid curdled which milk. It is impossible. The only thing that can be proven is that the milk is curdled. Furthermore, it is impossible to tell when an antibody was produced, since they can persist in the blood for many years, if not indefinitely.

Retrovirus-Hunting: A Remnant of the War on Cancer

In order to understand the historical context, we must revisit the War on Cancer started by Nixon in 1971. Inspired by Peyton Rousâ’s experiments with chicken sarcoma in 1911, virus-cancer researchers devoted unprecedented research funds into finding a retrovirus that caused cancer in humans. Twenty years later, after squandering billions of federal dollars, this project was closed due to complete failure. What remained was a smorgasbord of unemployed retrovirologists, with narrowly focused laboratory skills and thinking. If there was any successful research from the War on Cancer, which is questionable at best, it would be from Bob Gallo’s lab, which made some mediocre discoveries of doubtful utility.

A Brief Lesson in Retrovirology

A “retro”-virus is named due to the “reverse transcription” of RNA into DNA by the enzyme reverse transcriptase (RT). Scientific dogma long held that DNA was always and only one-way transcribed from DNA into RNA, that is until the discovery of RT in 1970. At first it was wrongly assumed that the enzyme RT was an exclusive hallmark of retroviruses, and could be used as a footprint “surrogate marker” in lieu of an actual virus. But in 1971, it became well-known that RT was present in all forms of cellular life, namely as an essential part of the DNA repair mechanism (imagine DNA “band-aids” transcribed from RNA). Because this surrogate marker was now shown to be totally nonspecific, special rules for retroviral isolation were codified at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, under the supervision of retrovirologist Luc Montagnier. These rules included purification by centrifugal density gradient, and subsequent electron microscope (EM) photographs of the purified isolate from the 1.16 g/mL band. EM photographs are absolutely essential to show that the viral isolate is indeed pure virus and is not contaminated by debris from animal cells which could confuse the identification of viral protein. (see [4] for example photos) The bottom line is that many things may look like a virus, but only certain things actually are virus, and the rules are very strict about how to tell the difference.

Gallo’s Follies

In 1975, Bob Gallo claimed to have discovered the first cancer-causing retrovirus in humans, which he named Human Leukaemia 23 Virus (HL23V). In the following months, his peers showed that this discovery was a farce; Gallo had not followed the Pasteur Institute rules and instead used only nonspecific surrogate markers. In order to “prove” which culture proteins were viral, he used an antibody test that was later shown to cross-react with ubiquitous cellular proteins. The scandal was a huge embarrassment for Gallo, who was quick to blame everything on accidental laboratory contamination.

The point of this history lesson is that Gallo used identical evidence to claim his discovery of HL23V as he did for HIV. In fact, Gallo had a stronger case for HL23V than he did for HIV. This is because he could not find RT in cell cultures from AIDS patients until he combined the blood of ten different patients in what can only be called a “a real cell soup”. How can a virus that cannot be found in one person, magically pop out when mixed with the blood of nine others?

To his “cell soup”, Gallo added HTLV-I leukemia cells and powerful oxidizing (cell-damaging) agents, incubated for several days, and fished out a handful proteins from the 1.16 band, which happened to show RT activity. No EM photograph of the purified 1.16 g/mL isolate was ever published by either Gallo or Montagnier. Every single published photograph was from an unpurified cell culture, depicting non-viral budding commonly seen in fetal umbilical lymphocytes and other proliferating cells. As codified by Montagnier himself at the Pasteur Institute, virus-like particles in an impure culture is proof of nothing.

Gallo injected rabbits with these putative “HIV” proteins, which caused them to produce antibodies. He then extracted antibody serum from the rabbits, and mixed it with the blood of hemophiliacs and gay male AIDS patients. Because the rabbit antibodies formed against his “HIV proteins” reacted with the proteins in the patients’ blood, he concluded that these patients must be infected with his virus. However without first properly demonstrating that the original culture proteins actually came from a virus and not something else (which requires an EM photograph), this rabbit trick is merely a feat of circular logic and cross-reactivity.

As mentioned earlier, the more antibodies an organism has, the more likely they are to bind to any given antigen. At the time, hemophiliacs were regularly using unpurified blood products, as the genetic technology to manufacture monoclonal proteins was not yet invented. This exposed them to a wide variety of foreign antigens. In a similar manner, the gay men had been exposed to various antigens from all the lifestyle stressors they had encountered, including STDs, recreational/pharmaceutical drugs, and chronic infections from weakened immunity.

Deceit Exposed

Between 1990 and 1995, National Institute of Health and Congressional investigations took place regarding scientific misconduct in Gallo’s lab. These investigations ultimately found the seminal publications on HIV to be “of dubious scientific merit” and “really crazy” (due among other things to pooling the blood of ten people). In reality, there has never been adequate proof for this “new virus”, and the HIV/AIDS theory is a house of cards built on a sham. The only reason scientists believed it in the first place is because Montagnier and Gallo conveniently left out the crucial details in their publications!

In a 1997 interview, Montagnier affirmed: “I repeat we did not purify.” When asked if Gallo purified his culture, he replied: “I don’t believe so.”[5] Also in 1997, the missing EM photographs were finally published in two separate articles by Bess and Gluschankof.[6] These photographs showed gross contamination by human cell membrane “microvesicles”.[7]

Clinical Implications

If the so-called “HIV isolates” are composed primarily of human cell membrane fragments, it begs the question whether HIV even exists at all, or whether people who test “HIV+” simply have auto-antibodies to proteins from their own cells. That is exactly what has been claimed by dissenting scientists such as Dr. Heinrich Kremer, Dr. Alfred Hassig, and the Perth Group.[8] They have shown that the so-called “HIV antibodies” are actually formed against oligomers of the human cytoskeletal proteins actin and myosin, i.e. structural proteins that get exposed to the blood when cells die in an abnormal fashion (necrosis). This puts AIDS in the category of an autoimmune disease, which seems to be a good fit with both explaining disease progression and successful treatment. These researchers have shown how autoimmune syndromes can be triggered by various combinations of the five forms of oxidative stress: malnutritional, infectious, psychoemotional, chemotoxic, and traumatic. This points to AIDS as a multi-factorial phenomenon with unique triggers in each individual case, yet following a common degenerative pathophysiology. For more details on this biological aspect, I refer you to my recent article from the Townsend Letter[9], and the online library and FAQ at aliveandwellsf.org.

What I have shared with you in this article is really just the tip of the iceberg. This subject is as wide as it is deep, and there is a wealth of information available on the Internet and in books. How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go? The choice is yours.

1. www.robertogiraldo.com/eng/papers/EveryoneTestsPositive.html
2. The Dingell Report: www.healtoronto.com/galloindex.html
3. HIVgate by Janine Roberts: www.rethinkaids.info/documents/Africa/Janine%20Roberts%20-%20HIVgate.pdf
4. www.healtoronto.com/emphotos.html
5. Interview with Luc Montagnier, by Djamel Tahi, www.virusmyth.net/aids/data/dtinterviewlm.htm
6. http://aliveandwellsf.org/library#microvesicles
7. www.healtoronto.com/emphotos.html
8. http://aliveandwellsf.org/kremer, www.virusmyth.net/aids/index/ahassig.htm, www.virusmyth.net/aids/index/epapadopoulos.htm, www.theperthgroup.com
9. http://aliveandwellsf.org/articles/dfl_townsend_0606.pdf

About David Lowenfels

David Lowenfels is a scientist, musician, engineer, yogi, and bodyworker. He holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Master of Arts from CCRMA at Stanford University. He began questioning the HIV=AIDS model in 1999. What drives him? “Here in San Francisco, I find it heartbreaking to see so many men who are visibly deformed due to their toxic chemotherapeutic battle against a hypothetical virus…these drugs are physically mutating people by causing genetic damage to the mitochondria and DNA.”

Book Reviews

Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection
by Jessica Prentice

2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl
by Daniel Pinchbeck

I don’t normally review two books at once, but these, which seemingly have nothing in common, inspired me to double up this round. Jessica’s book is about food and the connection of food and culture, while 2012 is about the forecasted return to the earth of the legendary and perhaps mythical god Quetzalcoatl predicted to occur in the year 2012. Not much connection there? On deeper examination, these two books, both well written and fun to read, stimulate many questions about the current situation that humanity finds itself in. They both also delve into the subject of the nature of time.

Jessica Prentice is someone I have come to know professionally over the past few years. She writes recipes for this newsletter; we have done many workshops together; she has cooked for one of our Fourfold Healing conferences; she is one of the founders of the visionary community supported kitchen project (www.threestonehearth.com); hosts the Wise Food Ways website, and is involved in many other food-related activities. Jessica is a master chef, skilled communicator, effective teacher and a true social visionary when it comes to food and culture. We now also know that Jessica is a very good writer who has provided a guide to help us choose and prepare the healthiest foods possible. Full Moon Feast is full of practical, delicious recipes along with sources for all the best foods in the Bay area and nation-wide. This book also contains the interesting story of Jessica’s evolution in her pathway to embracing the Nourishing Traditions/Weston A Price style of eating. However, what I want to focus on here is the full moon aspect of the book. Full Moon Feast is written as a series of thirteen chapters, each of which describes a specific season or time of the year connected to certain food-related activities that traditionally happened during that time of the year. For example, salmon run and therefore are available for catching at only certain times of the year. Traditional people celebrated this salmon moon with specific festivals, prayers, and activities that all relate to the movement of the salmon. Jessica describes these in vivid detail, then suggests creative uses for the salmon that are available at this time of the year. She does the same for the other twelve moons.

What I think is so important and revolutionary about this book and its approach is that, by connecting local seasonal food with a new approach to our calendar, Full Moon Feast brings us not only better health but a change is our thinking. For example, why is it that our current time-keeping system and calendar is divided up the way it is? Why do certain months have 30 days, others 31 and one 28 (except every 4 years)? What do the names of our months relate to, why is January in mid-winter (except in the southern hemisphere) and July in mid-summer? What is behind these names and their connections to the seasons? I have no idea and, in fact, my guess is that there is no true reason behind many of these names and seasons. They are mostly arbitrary. In contrast, the moon when salmon return to earth connects us to real events happening in our natural world.

Certain times are when specific events happen in nature, and if we are paying attention, these natural occurrences stimulate us to do certain activities with regard to food. We connect to the celestial world (moons), the animal world (salmon), the plant world (the corn moon — when the corn is harvested), and have a guide to understanding on a visceral level (food) where humans fit into the entire natural scheme of things. The importance of this is that there is a coming revolution, a revolution of re-connection, a revolution where the strategy of domination, where humans attempt to dominate nature must end. In its place, will come the strategy of connection, not only with each other, but with the grandeur and meaning of the world around us. This fundamentally involves a change in our relationship with time. We must move from understanding time as an abstraction, time as a commodity, time as our enemy to a relationship with time that is filled with meaning and connection. Jessica’s book is a valuable guide to getting us started on this strategy of connection in a deep and timely way with the world around us.

Daniel Pinchbeck’s latest book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, is largely about time. Pinchbeck is a writer who has been investigating psychedelic drugs and changes in consciousness for a long time. In this current book he turns his attention to the Mayan prediction that in the year 2012 the end of an age is coming and a new age will commence. These Mayan predictions were all based on the precise and accurate study of celestial activity. In fact, Pinchbeck writes a lot about how the Mayan civilization, so advanced in many ways, was largely about exploring the relationship betweens humans, time and celestial events. In doing so, they were able to predict with almost startling accuracy many events, both outer events and events that relate to human awareness.

When one’s calendar is imbued with meaning, one’s life is all about connection. When a calendar marks very specific, observable and deeply felt celestial events, then humans can more readily find their places in the big picture. One of the main scientists Pinchbeck follows in this book is Jose Arguelles who, in Time and the Technoshpere, has written that time is “mental in nature”. He writes that “our current calendar has trapped us in a feedback loop of accelerating de-synchronization.” When Pinchbeck asks Arguelles, “How important is it in your opinion that people switch to your thirteen-moon calendar?” Arguelles replies: “Only harmony can unify” and “Condition the mind to an irregular standard and the mind will adjust to disorder and chaos as normal aspects of existence. Our civilization is based on false time, and artificial time has run out for humanity.”

Pinchbeck examines crop circles, the work of Rudolf Steiner, psychedelic plants, ancient cultures, and much more in a fascinating look at the relationship that some of our most profound thinkers have drawn between time and human thought and consciousness. In reading this book, my guess is that your theory of time and the possible coming changes at the deepest levels of our culture will be altered.

We all know that “things can’t go on like this forever”. There is too much pollution, too much waste, too much global-warming, too much hatred, too much killing, too much going wrong. 2012 gives some perspective on how we got here and some insight on what needs to happen to change our understanding of time and its connection to culture. Full Moon Feast gives some practical and fun strategies for implementing these changes in you own life.

Recipe: Coconut-Date Energy Balls

I love these little balls — they are sweet without being too sweet, and are rich with coconut meat and coconut oil. I store them in a cookie tin and sometimes bring them in the car with me when I know I’m going to be running around doing errands or other busy-ness. Their balance of good fats with natural sugars means they give both an immediate lift but also sustained energy until the next real meal can be had. They also make a nice sweet for after a meal, a good snack during a meeting, or a welcome addition to a lunchbox. They are great for kids to both roll and eat! They need to be kept cool or they will soften or melt.


  • 1 cup date paste or 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup coconut spread (available from Wilderness Family Naturals)
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut plus more for rolling the balls in
  • Optional: zest of a lemon or small orange.


In a food processor, process the date paste or dates for a few seconds or a minute or so. If using dates, they should be processed into a chunky paste.
Add the coconut spread (and the optional zest, if using) and pulse a few times until the two ingredients are mixed.
Melt one tablespoon of coconut oil in a very small pan, and then start the processor and pour the melted oil in through the top while the processor is running. Add the 1/4 cup sundried coconut and process for 5 or 10 seconds more. Then turn off the processor.
Remove the blade and then the processor bowl from the processor. You can either leave your mixture in there and work from that, or transfer the paste to another bowl to work from.
Put on some good music or a book on tape, or get a friend to help you, or call up a friend so that you can chat while you roll the balls. This is a repetitive and mindless task and though it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, it’s nice to have a distraction. Or you could be very zen about it and focus entirely on the task!
To roll the balls, pick up a very small handful of paste and press it in your hand. It should stick together. Then take the paste and press and roll it into a little ball, about one inch in diameter. Put the balls on a plate as you roll them.
When you have finished rolling all the balls, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and remove from heat.
Now take each ball and do this: put it in the little pan with the melted coconut oil. Shake the little pan so that the ball gets covered with coconut oil. Take the warm oiled ball and immerse it in the dried coconut flakes so that it gets covered with coconut. I do this by just putting the ball into the bag of freeze-dried coconut and rolling it around. Put the ball back onto a clean plate or straight into a cookie tin. Repeat with all the balls until they are all covered with coconut. Store in a cool place and eat as desired!

Full Moon  Feast BookFull Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection — book by Jessica Prentice

Jessica Prentice is both a professional chef and a passionate home cook. She currently conducts cooking classes, writes a monthly New Moon Newsletter on her Wise Food Ways website, and offers monthly Full Moon Feasts in the Bay Area. She is a Bay Area chapter head for the Weston A Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts, and a founding member of Three Stone Hearth, a community kitchen in the Bay area. Her new book, Full Moon Feast, is about food and culture.

Recipe adapted from Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice. Copyright Jessica Prentice 2006 Chelsea Green Publishing Co. Used with permission.

February 2006

It’s a new year, a new season since we last communicated. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look through this latest newsletter. In this edition, we discuss from several angles obesity and weight control, with a very powerful personal story from Richard Morris, author and food activist.

Did you know that Vitamin D is not a vitamin at all? In this edition I debunk some myths about Vitamin D, but more than that I talk about how to make sure we get enough of this substance that is crucial to health and to life.

On the food front, the winter season calls for warming, nutritious meals, and Jessica Prentice brings us a hearty dish that is sure to please — sausage with cabbage and potatoes.

Finally, I want to be sure you’re aware of the upcoming Fourfold Healing Conference in Vancover, BC. Once again, Sally Fallon, Jaimen McMillan and I will present a series of lectures, workshops and presentations centered around this fourfold path to healing. I hope to see many of you there.

Tom Cowan

Focus: The Metabolic Syndrome

In the early 1980s, as the epidemic of obesity, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes was in full swing, it began to be clear that these and other conditions were fellow travelers. That is, they would often show up in the same person at approximately the same time. Researchers started looking at the possibility that they were not separate conditions that just happened to arise in the same person, but rather manifestations of a single underlying cause. A researcher at Stanford Hospital was able to determine that, in each of these diseases, many of the patients had abnormally high levels of insulin in their blood. He named this complex of illnesses, hyperinsulinemia (high insulin in the blood), or the metabolic syndrome.

The explanation of this phenomenon is actually fairly straightforward. There are three types of macro (large-quantity) nutrients that make up our diets: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Fats and proteins are used by our bodies to build our structure, make hormones, make immune proteins, provide raw material for enzymes synthesis, and on and on. Generally speaking, fats and proteins are needed by everyone to maintain the structure and function of our physical bodies. Carbohydrates, in contrast, are eaten to provide energy, and that’s all. What this means is that the protein/fat requirements are relatively fixed for a particular person and are based on body size (actually, lean body size). Another way to say this is that, without adequate dietary intake of complete proteins and healthy fats, our bodies cannot maintain their basic structure or function properly. Carbohydrates, in contrast, need to be eaten according to how much energy we are using in a given period of time.

If we run a marathon every day, we need to eat about 300 grams of carbohydrate food (about 12 bowls of pasta). If we sit on the couch all day, we need about 60 grams of carbohydrate food (one bowl of rice and an apple). The protein/fat requirement doesn’t change no matter how much or little activity we do. We still need adequate protein/fat, even if we do nothing. The problem of obesity comes when we sit on the couch and eat like a marathon runner. If we take in 300 grams of carbohydrate, what actually happens to the extra 240 grams of carbohydrates not used for energy? Our body has a system for taking care of this, which is called insulin.

Insulin is the hormone produced by our pancreas when we are “overfed” carbohydrates. It is the hormonal signal to store fat, which is what the body does with these extra carbohydrates under the influence of insulin. Without insulin, you can’t store fat. Without extra carbohydrates, you won’t make extra insulin. In theory, controlling weight is a simple process of lowering carbohydrate intake while continuing to nourish the real needs of the body, which are adequate protein/fat/vitamin/mineral intake.

Early researchers of the metabolic syndrome were shocked to find that insulin is an important player in all the illnesses mentioned above. Excess insulin is the hallmark of type II diabetes (older-onset, weight-related diabetes, as opposed to the childhood type). Excess insulin causes fluid retention and, hence, high blood pressure. It causes lowered gastro-esophageal sphincter pressure, hence reflux and heartburn (or GERD as we now call it). It cause stress on the heart, etc, etc. In fact, elevated insulin levels are the linchpin of many of the diseases we associate with aging. And elevated insulin is a result of a diet that is overly skewed towards carbohydrates as opposed to fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

When we look at the diet outlined in Nourishing Traditions (or that Richard Morris discusses in his article later in this edition), we see in action this principle of getting adequate fats and proteins. We see a diet that truly nourishes, a traditional human diet, a diet that has nourished the healthiest people for millennia. It is a diet that eschews empty carbohydrates, that focuses on meeting our daily needs for adequate proteins and fats. Perhaps most importantly, the Nourishing Traditions diet focuses on the quality of our food. For when we are nourished from both a biochemical and a soul point of view, through the aroma and flavor as well as the nutrients of our food, then we are on the path of regaining the health and vitality that is our true birthright.

Therapeutics: Vitamin D

When I was growing up, my parents and grandparents were always telling me: “Go outside and play. Get some sunshine for heaven’s sake!” As is often the case, there was profound wisdom in that childhood command, and much of it comes down to vitamin D. This crucial substance plays an important role in the healthy functioning of our bodies.

Vitamin D, also known as vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol, is a complex substance, and the story behind it is likewise a complex one. Let’s start with some of the facts. First, vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all. A vitamin was originally defined as a “vital” substance, one that was needed in the diet for optimal health, as, for example, vitamin C. Vitamin D, however, is not a necessary part of the diet and, in fact, there is some question as to whether we need to get any vitamin D through the diet at all. Second, the structure of vitamin D and how it is made in our bodies clearly puts it in the category of being a steroid hormone. That is, vitamin D is made from cholesterol, as are the other steroid hormones such as cortisone, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, etc. It has the same biochemical steroidal ring structure as these other steroid compounds, and it shares the same general function as other steroid hormones. As such, vitamin D, like estrogen, interacts with the cell membrane via cell membrane receptors to bring about a particular effect within our cells. The general effect that steroids produce is the turning on of specific protein synthesis, which is the case with estrogen, testosterone, and vitamin D. Thus, vitamin D is a steroid hormone that affects protein synthesis by acting as a messenger chemical in the body. That much is clear, although I’ll continue to refer to it as “vitamin D” for simplicity’s sake.

The proteins that each of the steroid hormones stimulate to be produced are relatively well known. For example, testosterone stimulates the production of the proteins associated with “maleness”, and so on. With vitamin D, these functions are also fairly well known. Vitamin D catalyzes the production of proteins involved with the regulation of calcium and the regulation of cell growth. We’re all aware of vitamin D’s role in calcium regulation from stories of children in Great Britain with little or no sun exposure who developed rickets, a softening of the bones from deficient calcium uptake from the intestines. The incidence of this disease led to the finding that vitamin D synthesis in our bodies is dependent on sun exposure.

In fact, vitamin D synthesis goes something like this. In our kidneys, we make the precursor to vitamin D from cholesterol. This precursor substance, which is fat soluble (ie dissolved in fat or oil) travels to the skin, where it is found in the oily layer coating our skin. This precursor substance then interacts with sunlight (actually the UV-B component of sunlight) to form the active molecule cholecalciferol or active vitamin D. This vitamin D goes to the intestines to catalyze the absorption of calcium, participates in the deposition of calcium in the bones, and goes to all the cells of the body to help regulate cell growth. If there is inadequate active vitamin D, then calcium deficiency occurs, the bones become soft (rickets in childhood, osteoporosis in adults), and the cells undergo excessive growth (otherwise known as cancer). Because the calcium in our blood is the main regulator of our acid-base balance, we can see that calcium and hence vitamin D balance are integral to our overall health, just as the pH balance is critical to the functioning of our enzymes which function optimally at a narrow range of pH. Vitamin D is therefore crucial to human life.

It should be no surprise to anyone that vitamin D is crucial to our health. Vitamin D is a primary physiological response to sunlight. People cannot live without adequate sunlight. It is as simple and profound as that. When people get inadequate exposure to sunlight, they become sad ( SAD, seasonal affective disorder), irritable, weak in their bones (rickets and osteoporosis), and have rank, unhealthy growth (just as a plant does that is deprived of the sun). We are sun beings, and we have developed a mechanism, through vitamin D, to absorb the sun into our beings. There is nothing more profound in human physiology than that.

What do we need to do to be sure we have enough vitamin D? We need adequate levels of cholesterol, from which we make that vitamin. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found only in our diets in animal fats (no plants have cholesterol). Eating animal fats, particularly from animals that eat green grass and spend their lives outside in the sun, is one way to get adequate vitamin D in the diet. Second, we need to maintain the oily coating on our skin, which contains the substances that interact with the sun to create the active form of vitamin D. And, finally, we need sun exposure, at least 20 minutes per day with as much of our skin exposed as possible. Thus, adequate vitamin D strategy is a high animal fat diet, from animals that live outside and graze green grass, limited bathing (bathing or showering washes the skin oils off, which is perhaps why traditional people rarely bathed), and adequate sun exposure. Oddly, the American way of life as prescribed by the “experts” is to eat a low-fat diet, bathe every day, and avoid the sun because it is going to kill you. Americans are severely vitamin D deficient.

How do we measure vitamin D levels? Based on the classic paper by researcher Reinhold Veith, we now know what optimal levels of vitamin D are in the blood and the adverse health effects of not having this optimal amount. As a measure, optimal levels of 25(OH)D, the only vitamin D test that should ever be used, are 50-80. Anything below this is associated with adverse health consequences. A normally nourished person with 20 minutes of sun exposure makes about 20,000 IU of vitamin D in that time, the daily requirement for vitamin D is about that from sun exposure and dietary sources. It takes most Americans between 2,000 and 4,000 IU per day to bring their vitamin D to the optimal levels, but this is very dependent on the diet, sun exposure and any supplements that contain vitamin D (such as cod liver oil). I would encourage everyone to check out the vitamin D council website (www.cholecalciferol-council.com) for a compendium of research articles on the relationship of vitamin D to human health.

I currently test most of my patients with any significant health issue for vitamin D adequacy and correct it if it is low. In addition to the Nourishing Traditions diet, sun exposure, and usually 1 tsp of cod liver oil, I use plain vitamin D3 to make up the rest, with some adjustment in the summer. Many health conditions are improved if we have optimal vitamin D levels in our bodies. There is profound meaning in a human being’s relationship with the sun, and in many ways, the whole vitamin D story confirms the old saw: “Get out and get some sunshine!”

Guest Column:

A Personal Perspective on Diet, Weight and Health
by Richard Morris

Early in the evolutionary arc of the human diet, the mechanics of finding and eating food were simple. People harvested locally available plant and animal foods, then prepared and consumed those foods according to their cultural tradition. Under the most favorable circumstances, there was an optimal balance between the body’s dietary needs and the day-to-day demands of living.

But then some of our enterprising ancestors got smart and invented agriculture, industrialization and the drive-thru window. Food was suddenly very complicated. We started counting calories and exorcising our guilty desire for full-fat foods, by exercising at the gym. Dietary piety notwithstanding, we usually found ourselves at the end of each year, overweight, undernourished and determined to do better next year. From this post-holiday season of despair, the modern New Year’s resolution was born.

According to a 2002 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology (2002, Volume 58, Issue 4), by the end of January, more than 36 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions will have abandoned all hope of success. The six-month study revealed that as the year progressed, rates of non-compliance increased virally, climbing to 54 percent by mid-year. Other sources suggest that by December, an epidemic of failure prevails with up to 80 percent of us deciding to give it another try next year.

Quite possibly our most popular resolution is to improve personal health through weight loss, diet and exercise. The fact that so many of us adhere to this timeworn tradition, despite a near guarantee of failure, speaks to the level of commitment many people have toward improving their health. Why, then, is it so difficult for us to eat right and exercise?

One possible answer to this question may have been revealed, thanks to a recent study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2006, Volume 295, Issue 1). This randomized intervention trial included over 48,000 post-menopausal women and was designed to look at the long-term correlation between body weight and a low-fat diet. The results revealed that older women on a reduced fat diet that emphasizes carbohydrates saw a weight reduction of about two pounds over an average of 7.5 years.

This study has been touted as proof that a low-fat diet does not lead to weight gain. However, when we consider that the average long-term weight loss for the participants can be measured in mere fractions of a pound over the course of a year, the study seems to have inadvertently proven that low-fat dieting doesn’t lead to weight loss either. For doctors and their obese patients looking for validation of the low-fat strategy, these results must be discouraging.

The most recent statistics from the CDC leave little doubt that obesity is a growing problem. Even more frightening is the specter of Type II diabetes, which often occurs in tandem with obesity. Could it be that our collective difficulty in managing our weight is due to the possibility that the most favored solution for reaching a healthy weight is no solution at all? Objective research, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggests that the answer is “yes”.

I speak from experience. Two and a half years ago I weighed over 400 pounds. That I gained so much weight is less astounding than the fact that while in college, I was the very model of athleticism. Conventional wisdom posits that an active lifestyle is a bulwark against obesity, but my love of sports provided little protection.

I exercised, became a vegetarian and succumbed to the promise of the low-fat lifestyle, but despite my efforts, the years of dieting and deprivation yielded nothing but modest weight loss followed by significant weight gain.

What can we make of this Jekyll and Hyde transformation that far too many people experience in their middle years? Given the dire reality of the average American’s health, it is tempting to believe that obesity and diabetes represent the “normal” outcome of modern living. But to reach such a conclusion is to set in motion the machinery of a self-fulfilling prophecy that sanctions the consumption of super-sized sodas and aggressively marketed prescription drugs. What then, are we to do?

Ultimately, we must choose between either conventional dietary dogma or take the road less traveled and seek a more holistic approach to better health. Turning our attention to what we eat is a good place to start.

Along with air and water, our connection with food can best be defined as an intimate relationship and yet, there are few things more impersonal than what we eat. Many people don’t know where their food comes from, what it is made of or how it was produced. Where children are concerned, some foods like ready-to-eat cereals are nearly indistinguishable from toys.

For decades our obsession with quantitative analysis, manifested by our need to count calories, has encouraged the belief that the quantity of the food we eat is more important than its quality. This deteriorating connection with our food is undoubtedly a contributing factor to the serious health consequences we face today.

Considering the JAMA study, some of the reasons we fail to meet our health goals should be apparent now. They include a lack of basic knowledge of nutrition, the incessant hunger and cravings that come from dieting, dissatisfying meals, persistent fatigue, and the de-motivation that comes from the diminishing returns of exercise. These were the very same issues I faced year after year–issues which up until 2.5 years ago, consistently thwarted my efforts.

To begin with, one of the most important steps we can take when seeking to improve the body is to first enrich the mind by learning more about our bodies and what we put into them. We must also look beyond the paradigm of conventional medicine in search of healthcare partners who are as skilled in the art of health maintenance as they are in the science of sick care. In time, we may come to understand that our goals are better served by setting our focus on gaining health rather than on simply losing weight.

Once I started down this path, the reasons for my past failures became readily apparent. I learned, for example, that my persistent hunger stemmed from the fact that my meals rarely left me satisfied. This was true at both the sensorial level (involving taste, smell and texture) and at the nutritional level. The foods I typically ate while dieting were low-fat, soy-based and artificially enhanced with preservatives and additives–in short, fake foods. The nutritional deficit from a diet unbalanced toward artificial foods left me with a persistent desire to eat, even after I had reached or exceeded the reasonable carrying capacity of my expanding stomach.

I was further beset by intense cravings for foods that readily converted to glucose–these were primarily foods that contained sugar or were grain-based. I found that the more of these foods I consumed, the more I craved them and contrary to their energy-boosting reputation, these foods left me perpetually fatigued and emotionally distressed. Most disturbing, my consumption threshold for these foods increased in parallel with my expanding waistline.

Through the Weston A. Price Foundation, I discovered that high quality sources of fat from coconut oil or butter, eggs and lard from pastured animals, were highly satisfying on all levels. Once satisfied, I was finally able to regulate my intake of insulin spiking foods.

Beyond food, one of the biggest issues we face in following conventional dietary advice is the counterintuitive effect of exercise. For many, exercise fueled on bland salads, low-fat energy bars and meal replacement shakes often disappoints and, at best, yields only short-term benefits.

With a proper diet of pastured meats, fresh produce and whole raw dairy as my foundation, daily exercise became a cause for celebration rather than a source of despair. Fatigue was replaced by a surplus of high-octane energy, which was enthusiastically invested in the gym.

In the end, I found myself divested of a minimum of 160 pounds along with sleep apnea, asthma, hypertension and a host of other maladies. I discovered that a healthy lifestyle is not solely dependent on exercise, counting calories or industry sanctioned solutions that don’t work. I learned that the quality of the food I ate really was more important, in the long run, than the quantity of calories consumed. Most important, with my newfound health, I’ve given up on New Year’s resolutions in exchange for resolving each new day to improve on the day before. Set free of the burden of ill health, we can all do the same.

About Richard Morris:
Richard Morris is an author, health researcher, real food activist and speaker. He is the creator of www.breadandmoney.com, an Internet destination that extols the virtues of traditional foods and the restoration of the family. His recently published book, A life Unburdened: Getting Over Weight and Getting on with My Life is a hard-hitting memoir and survival guide that details his recovery from morbid obesity. An ardent supporter of fair trade for the family farm, Richard plans to spend time in 2006 on a working farm “Reconnecting with my food at the source”.

Book Review: by Tom Cowan

A Life Unburdened: Getting Over Weight and Getting On With My Life
by Richard Morris

Obesity is a major American issue. For years every major American institution has had their say on the subject of obesity. The government has weighed in; most of the major physicians’ groups have weighed in; industry, particularly the food industry, has weighed in; and yet the problem seems to be getting worse and worse with more and more Americans being labeled as obese every year. According to reports, the dire consequences of obesity are threatening to ruin everything from our personal health to the nation’s economy. Theory after theory is tossed around and tossed aside as to the cause of obesity. Into this cacophonous mix comes the clear voice of Richard Morris, who has the one credential that most of the experts lack. He has actually overcome obesity, overcome it on his own, seemingly without the good counsel of doctors, nutrition authorities, or anyone really. He followed the advice contained in Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. For me, what makes Richard’s voice believable and even poignant in this debate is his personal, simple approach.

Richard’s message is at the same time radical, simple and straightforward. Simply stated, the true cause of the obesity epidemic in our country is that Americans have stopped eating real foods, foods that truly nourish our bodies and our souls. As a result, we walk around in a state, as described in other contexts, of being “hungry ghosts”. A hungry ghost is full of unmet needs. In this case, the need is for nourishment. The ghost is agitated, even angry, often compelled to look for more, insatiable in its need to get its needs met. Unfortunately, the hungry ghost lacks the wisdom to know where to look to get its needs met. It devours nearly everything in sight, but nothing that really nourishes. As time goes on, it wants more and more, but its strategy for getting fulfillment leads to less and less. It becomes frantic, even irrational in its quest. Finally, exhausted, it breaks down, beaten, ill, defeated.

This image tells the story of many overweight people, people who, as Richard points out, are given advice by doctors and experts that only serves to deepen their frustration and their failure. They are told to exercise: however, at 400 pounds it is hard to walk across the street, let alone go to a jazzercise class. They are told to eat a low fat diet or even a low food (calorie) diet: this just worsens their feelings of starvation, of their unmet need for nourishment. None of this gets them anywhere. As Richard points out, the only place to start is to eat nourishing foods, every day, three times per day and NOTHING else. In fairly short order, the game is up, the years-long quest for fulfillment on a nutritional level begins to be met, one,s whole being can finally begin to relax. More energy starts to appear, exercise becomes easier, thinking becomes clearer, one’s enthusiasm for life grows stronger. The food that nourishes on the physical level also, with its taste, freshness, aroma and economic benefits, begins to enliven one’s soul. The whole world begins to look, taste, and even smell differently. This puts them on the path, not just to less obesity, but more robust health on every level.

Richard’s book will be an inspirational guide to everyone who wants to take the lifelong journey towards health. Most especially it will be helpful for those struggling with their weight, but for everyone Richard’s story serves as a helpful guide to improving our personal health and the health of the world around us.

We’re fortunate to be able to include Richard’s own words in this edition, and we thank him for his contribution.

Recipe:  Sausage with Cabbage & Potatoes

A Recipe from Jessica Prentice –

This is one of my favorite wintertime meals.
I consider it an eintopf–the German word for a one pot meal.


2 tablespoons bacon drippings, olive oil, lard, or other fat
2 whole fresh sausages in casings
2 leeks, sliced thin, including much of the green part–or 1 large
onion, sliced thin
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
1/2 bunch greens (chard, kale, collards; or mustard, radish, or turnip
greens), sliced into ribbons
3 medium potatoes (such as Yukon gold), diced
1/2 – 1 cup chicken, beef or pork stock, as needed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 – 1 cup sauerkraut
Sour cream or creme fraiche

1. Heat the bacon drippings, oil, or fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the whole sausages and brown on both sides.
2. Add the leeks (or onions) to the pan around the sausage and sautee. When the sausage is cooked through, remove it from the pan and let it cool.
3. Add the shredded cabbage to the pan along with a pinch of salt and the optional caraway seeds. Continue to sautee a few minutes, until the cabbage begins to wilt.
4. Add the greens and stir gently.
5. Add the diced potatoes, another pinch of salt, and about 1/2 cup of stock. Cover, reduce the heat somewhat, and steam until potatoes are just tender. Add more water or stock if the pan starts to get dry.
6. Slice the sausage and add it back to the pan, stirring to incorporate and heat through.
7. Add plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust.
8. Remove from the heat and stir in the sauerkraut to warm it through–or add the sauerkraut to the bowls.
9. Serve in a shallow bowl with a big dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche

Bon appetit!

Jessica Prentice is both a professional chef and a passionate home cook. She currently conducts cooking classes, writes a monthly New Moon Newsletter on her Wise Food Ways website, and offers monthly Full Moon Feasts in the Bay Area. She is a Bay Area chapter head for the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. Her new book, Full Moon Feast, is about food and culture and will be available this spring from Chelsea Green Publishing. © 2006 Jessica Prentice

December 2005

As we move into the busy holiday season, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read our latest newsletter. In this edition, I’ve taken a hard look at heart disease and heart attacks, with a close examination of the theories that form the basis of much of today’s treatment. I’m particularly pleased to share with you a report from a dynamic study group in Brazil, Infarctcombat.org. If you have any interest in this topic, I think you’ll find the information of great value.

As an addition to the newsletter, I’ve included a book review this round, something I’ve been wanting to do for months. I hope you’ll find this useful as well.

No holiday season is complete without a cheery and nutritious recipe, this time a very simple but delicious Cranberry sauce. Enjoy!

Warmest wishes to you and your family for the holiday and coming year.
Tom Cowan

Focus: Redefining Heart Dis-ease

I would venture that there are not five western trained physicians on the planet who are not completely convinced that the cause of heart attacks are the blockages in the coronary arteries. In fact, a common synonym for a heart attack is to say the patient has had a coronary, meaning he has an illness of his coronary arteries. The whole edifice of cardiology, whether conventional or alternative, is based on strategies for detecting, stopping, clearing, or bypassing blockages in the coronary arteries. Some say the blockages are from cholesterol, others say it is homocsyteine, still others say it is inflammation that causes the blockages, even perhaps in the form of an undetected infection. When therapeutic strategies based on these fail, the next step is to bypass the blockages with an operation called a coronary artery bypass graft (or CABG for those into sauerkraut), or roto-rooter them out with the whole array of modern devices available to the modern cardiologists. The presumption of all this is the “fact” that it is the coronary arteries that are the root of the trouble. I, and others, beg to differ.

In a 1998 editorial in The American Journal of Cardiology (1998 Oct 1; 82(7): 896-897), Dr. W.W. O’Neill commented about a paradox in recent findings. In a number of trials of myocardial infarctions (hereafter referred to as MIs, more commonly known as heart attacks), many of the patients who suffered recent MIs were not found to have blockages in the arteries that led to the area of the heart that had suffered the infarction. This should have been big news, for what this cardiologist was saying was that when we look carefully at the angiograms (the test where we squirt dye into the arteries in the heart to see if they are blocked) of people who are having or who have recently had an MI, in some we find the artery is blocked and in others we don’t. This is actually a shocking statement, but to realize how shocking and controversial it really is we need to look at some history here.

Back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, heart attacks were first becoming prominent in American society, due largely to the rapid change in the American diet. Doctors wondered what was causing this relatively new phenomenon. Many theories were proposed, but the one that stuck was called the Thrombogenic Theory of Myocardial Infarction. Essentially this theory postulated that heart tissue, like any other tissue in the body, has a blood supply. When this blood supply is compromised by, say, plaque buildup in that blood vessel, then the cells “downriver” from the blockage will have their blood supply choked off, and under certain situations those cells will be deprived of their necessary food and oxygen and eventually will die. When they are dying because of inadequate flow, there is a painful feeling around the heart which we call Angina. When the cells actually die, we can that an Infarction. This is often a catastrophic event and many patients die as a result of the dysfunction of the heart itself as a consequence of their MI, or heart attack.

Many cardiologists and other doctors disagreed early on with this theory. They asked why it is only the heart that infarcts in this way. After all, this plaque development is in no way specific to the coronary (heart) arteries. Why do we not hear of liver attacks, foot attacks, and so on? Another criticism of the theory revolved around the well known phenomenon of collateral circulation: In many parts of the body, when an artery is blocked, the body “bypasses” the blocked vessel and makes a secondary (so-called collateral) circulation. Why not in the heart as well? These were the two main reasons many physicians didn’t buy the blocked coronary artery theory.

Since the thrombogenic theory was accepted in the early 40s as bottom line fact-of-the-matter, there have been a number of studies that have attempted to document that all people having MIs have blocked arteries to that area of the heart. But these studies have all failed miserably to show this connection. In a paper by Murakami in 1998 (Am J Cardiology, 1998;82 :839-44), the author found that, of those with an acute MI, 49% have a recent thrombus (blockage), 30% have no thrombus, 14% had moderate plaque (not considered enough to cause an MI), and 7% had “another condition”. Roberts, in an earlier paper (Circulation, 1972; 49:1), showed that in cases of acute MI with sudden death, 50-60% had evidence of sufficient thrombus to account for the MI. Spain and Bradess’s 25-year autopsy study of patients who died of heart attacks found 25% had sufficient thrombus to account for their MI and 75% had atherosclerosis (arterial blockages of some degree) (Am J Med Sci, 1960; 240:701). And finally and perhaps most importantly, these same authors in another paper (Circulation 1960, 22: 816) found that the longer the time elapsed between the MI and the autopsy, the more likely they were to find blockages. After one hour only 16% had sufficient blockage to account for the MI, whereas after 24 hours the total increased to 53%. The authors concluded that the arterial blockage is the CONSEQUENCE, not the cause, of the heart attack. This is why in every study I have seen, the longer the time interval between the MI and either the angiogram or autopsy, the more likely you are to see the blockage. How can we account for the results of these studies? Even if the number is 75%, the highest in the literature, what happened to the other 25%? Why did they also have an MI if their arteries weren’t blocked?

Because of my interest in the heart, I have been studying this seeming paradox for a long time. The usual explanations for this inconsistency between the theory and the facts is that some people have a spasm of their coronary arteries which, in the absence of the plaque, is enough to kill them in some cases. The trouble with this theory is that as far as I know no one has ever seen this occur, and it seems a bit implausible that a completely healthy artery somehow goes into a spasm, and next thing you know, the person dies. The more I thought about it, I felt something was wrong with this whole story.

Very recently, through a serendipitous internet encounter, I ran across a different theory which may explain the whole series of facts surrounding the cause and thus the treatment of MI/angina. The myogenic theory proposed by the Brazilian cardiologist Dr. Mesquita states that, rather than coronary artery disease causing MIs, the blockages are actually the consequence of the MI. According to Mesquita’s theory, the heart, because it is such an active organ and has such a high oxygen demand (like the brain, the other site of “infarctions” which we call strokes), is always a bit tenuous in its ability to extract enough oxygen from the blood. Exercise or other physical or mental activity increases the need for the heart cells to extract even more oxygen. As a result of stress, particularly chronic stress, the small blood vessels in the heart become constricted, which then compromises what we call the micro-circulation in and around the heart cells. This leads to decreased oxygen supply, especially with physical exertion, then anaerobic metabolism (meaning without air), then acidosis as the lactic acid builds up through this metabolism with an oxygen deficit and eventual death of the cells. After the cells die, an inflammatory reaction occurs which eventually compromises the artery leading to that artery, filling it with inflammatory debris that we see on autopsy and angiograms.

Let me try to explain this in another way. Under stress, especially chronic stress, the body over-excretes adrenaline and other stress hormones. These hormones cause the small blood vessels all over the body to constrict, which is why doctors and dentists, when they don’t want a tissue to bleed while they are suturing, inject Adrenaline in the area. Constricted blood vessels — and these are the small vessels, capillaries, not the coronary arteries — choke off the blood flow and hinder the removal of the wastes, predominantly acidic waste products. If this continues for many years and is exacerbated by increased demand like exercise, then the heart cells can die or become infarcted. It has nothing to do with plaque or blockages in the bigger arteries as these the body can easily bypass as they build up very slowly through the years. This explanation fits all of the known facts about the timing and development as well as the epidemiology of MIs, particularly in relationship to the crucial role that chronic stress plays on the development of MIs. I would also add that it is perfectly compatible with my claim that the heart is not the “pump” of the body.

This decades-long study by Dr. Mesquita is a truly remarkable contribution to our understanding of cardiology and the etiology of heart disease. Because of this, I have included in this issue a report by Carlos Monteiro on Dr. Mesquita’s studies (see below).

If this Myogenic theory is correct, then the billions of dollars spent on clearing out arterial blockages is essentially an exercise in futility, which is pretty much what the studies on longevity have shown. I am not saying that after an acute MI it is not important to “flush out” the artery. After the event, this flushing can be helpful, although probably not needed. What I am saying is that this clearing of arterial blockages does nothing to address the true cause of this illness.

The next step is to ask the question: Is there any way to affect the heart cells so that they are able to extract oxygen more efficiently and therefore be less susceptible to the acidosis that is the underlying basis of the MI? One thing, of course, is to avoid stress, but there is another perhaps more straightforward possibility. It has been known for centuries that there are a few plant medicines that clearly increase the efficiency of the heart cells. The medicines in these plants are called cardiac inotropes because they increase the ability of the heart to “pump” blood by increasing the efficiency of the cells and improving the overall contractibility and elasticity of the heart. The two main plants that do this are Strophanthus, an African vine, and Digitalis, common foxglove. I discuss these two in the next piece in this edition.

Therapeutics: Digitalis and Strophanthus

Digitalis is probably the oldest heart medicine, in fact one of the oldest medicines of any type, still in common use. Commonly known as the beautiful plant Foxglove, one still finds digitalis growing in most herbal and flower gardens in the western hemisphere. It is a striking plant, growing very tall and straight with amazing speckled bells coming off a central stalk. The mythos surrounding digitalis is that it makes the heart glad and is an especially good friend of the old man. Traditionally, it has been used for the condition known as dropsy in which, appropriately enough, the circulation slows down and can’t go uphill through the veins anymore. Eventually gravity takes over and the blood and fluid fall to the feet and into the lungs. The feet become swollen and lifeless, and the choking fluid builds up in the lungs. In modern times, we call this condition congestive heart failure.

Digitalis is a positive inotropic agent, which means it makes the heart “pumping” action more effective. In terms of how I see the heart, rather than increasing the pumping action of the heart, I would say it increases the flow of the circulation and improves the elasticity of the cardiac chambers. When the heart chambers are more elastic, they can hold back the blood more efficiently. Therefore when the gates open the forward flow is more effective. Almost miraculously, when patients with dropsy are given digitalis, within days they can breathe again, the fluid circulates, the swelling goes out of the feet and in many cases even erections, so dependent as they are on blood flow, will return. Truly the friend of the old man.

On a cellular level, science has shown that digitalis works its magic on the cell membrane, increasing the activity of the sodium/potassium pump, thereby keeping the electrical charge on the cells intact. This is important from the myogenic theory point of view, as it is the activity of the sodium/potassium pump that prevents acidosis from occuring. Acidosis is the central pathological mechanism behind myocardial infarction. Even better, digitalis has this effect not only for the heart cells but for every cell of the body. Many famous alternative oncologists, such as Max Gerson, MD, view this sodium/potassium imbalance and subsequent acidosis as the central mechanism in the development of cancer. (For more information on digitalis use in the treatment of cancer, visit the Digitalis page on our website.)

In a number of studies over the years, a surprising finding keeps showing up which has only recently become explainable. In autopsies and other studies of patients who died of or had an MI, trace amounts of digitalis compounds (digoxin and digitoxin) have been found in the blood, even in patients who had never taken the drug. As with opium and endorphins, the two main ingredients in digitalis are mimics of the endogenous (meaning normally within the body) hormones that regulate the contractions and rhythms of the heart. In other words, digitalis in some ways is an externalized replica of the way the heart communicates with itself. It is the plant form of the communication of the heart.

It should be no surprise then that studies of the use of digitalis for angina and myocardial infarction show digitalis’s remarkable ability to prevent or reverse the symptoms of myocardial disease, even in acute situations.

I first encountered Strophanthus about 25 years ago from my primary teacher in medicine, a German physician by the name of Otto Wolff, MD. He was passionate about Strophanthus, even having gone so far as to make a few treks into the African jungles to observe the habits of this tremendous creeping vine firsthand. He observed the indigenous native tribesmen who dipped their arrows into a slurry made of an extract of the seeds of Strophanthus, which they used to temporarily paralyze their prey. The Strophanthus seeds were found to contain an oily substance with a chemical called oubain, which was found to be a potent cardiac inotrope, even stronger that digitalis.

Initial enthusiasm for strophanthus as a medicine was tempered when it was claimed that the oubain could not be absorbed into the body through the oral route. As time went on, much to Dr. Wolff’s disappointment, it was nearly abandoned as a medicine. Then a few studies were done in association with the one remaining manufacturer of oubain, the medicine now being called Strodival. One study of patients with angina showed 81% of patients had complete remission of their anginal (chest pain) symptoms, as compared to 72% of the control group who did not take Strodival and whose angina worsened (World Research Foundation report). A second study showed that after MI, the use of Strodival decreased the evidence of progression of the MI — often within minutes — in 85% of the subjects, a remarkable result. It was found that, as with digitalis, the heart uses oubain in its endogenous communication system. It is as if digitalis and strophanthus contain exact copies of the hormones that the heart uses to regulate its own beat and elasticity.

Luckily for us, the fears of my dear teacher Otto Wolff may not come to pass. A number of cardiac clinics and hospitals in Europe have rediscovered the cardiac tonic effect of strophanthus as well as its swift onset of action. It is said that a sublingual dose of Strodival will often stop angina within minutes and can also have a positive effect on developing MIs again within a very brief period of time.

I would encourage all my patients with an interest in digitalis and strophanthus in the treatment of angina/MI to read carefully the following article, visit the website www.infarctcombat.org, and then get in touch with me to discuss this further.

Strodival/Oubain Web Article (same pdf link as title)

Guest Report:

Two Heart Disease Theories, Same Therapeutic Treatment
by Carlos Monteiro

“I wish it was easy to write about Digitalis. I despair of pleasing myself or instructing others
in a subject so difficult. It is much easier to write about a disease than a remedy.
The former is in the hands of nature and a faithful observer with an eye to tolerable judgment
can not fail to delineate a likeness; the latter will ever be subject to the whims,
the inaccuracies and the blunders of mankind.”
William Withering, Letter, Sep 29, 1778

For centuries, drugs that increase the power of contraction of the failing heart have been used to treat congestive heart failure (sometimes called dropsy). The cardiac effect is due to the content of cardiac glycosides. Squill or sea onion, Urginea (Scilla) maritima, a seashore plant, was known by the ancient Romans and Syrians and possibly also by the ancient Egyptians. Squills were used erratically, but some prescriptions indicate that they may have been used for the treatment of edematous (sodium retention) states. The toxic effect of the strophanthus species was known from poisoned arrows used by the natives in Africa. Digitalis, derived from the foxglove plant, Digitalis purpurea, is mentioned in writings as early as 1250: A Welsh family, known as the Physicians of Myddvai, collected different herbs, and digitalis was included in their prescriptions. However, the drug was used erratically until the 18th century, when William Withering, an English physician and botanist, published a monograph describing the clinical effects of an extract of the foxglove plant. In 1785, the indication and the toxicity of digitalis were reported in his book, An Account of Foxglove and Some of its Medical Uses with Practical Remarks on Dropsy and Other Diseases. In the 19th century, digitalis was called a “God-given remedy” or the “opium of the heart”.

Theory 1: Herrick’s Coronary Thrombosis (Thrombogenic) Theory
In his classic paper written in the early 20th century, James Bryan Herrick (besides presenting his proposition of a pathophysiological triggering mechanism) wrote of his therapeutic experience using digitalis and strophanthin for angina pectoris and coronary thrombosis:

“…If these cases are recognized, the importance of absolute rest in bed for several days is clear. It would seem to be far wiser to use Digitalis, Strophanthus or their congeners than to follow the routine practice of giving Nitroglycerin or allied drugs. The hope for the damaged Myocardium lies in the direction of securing a supply of blood through friendly neighboring vessels, so as to restore so far as possible its functional integrity. Digitalis or Strophanthus, by increasing the force of the heart’s beat, would tend to help in this direction more than the Nitrites. The prejudice against Digitalis in cases in which the Myocardium is weak is only partially grounded in fact. Clinical experience shows this remedy to be of great value in Angina, and especially in cases of angina with low blood pressure, and these obstructive cases come under this head. The timely use of this remedy may occasionally in such cases save life. Quick results should also be sought by using it hypodermically or intravenously. Other quickly acting heart remedies would also be of service.”

Herrick’s priority in his treatment approach was to preserve the myocardium in front of coronary thrombosis. This clinical approach was largely ignored by his colleagues; perhaps it didn’t sound plausible, possibly due to the absence of experimental support. Or perhaps Withering was right in his despair of trying to explain a remedy (see above quote). Regardless, the fact is that Herrick’s therapeutic approach isn’t largely discussed at medical schools or in scientific papers. As a result, most physicians remain in total medical ignorance about his clinical practice in the treatment of angina and acute myocardial infarction (AMI), also known under the general term “heart attack”. Herrick’s Thrombogenic Theory was adopted, but his therapeutic conduct was forgotten.

“The cardiac patient does not die from coronary disease, he dies from myocardial disease!” George E. Burch, cardiologist and teacher, 1972

Drew Luten, professor at Washington University School of Medicine, said in his book The Clinical Use of Digitalis, published in 1936: “There is no evidence that the mere occurrence of coronary thrombosis constitutes an indication for digitalis”. He also said: “Without minimizing the possibility of risk inherent in the theoretical objections above noted, it should be kept in mind that the existence of any special danger from digitalis in patients with coronary thrombosis has not been proved”. Nonetheless, there was no citation in Drew Luten,s book about the positive clinical experiences from Herrick and others regarding the safe and effective use of digitalis in front of coronary thrombosis.

This repeated omission over time has certainly contributed to the formation of the current dogma on how to deal with heart disease.

Even so, different doctors in different times and countries have used Digitalis and Strophanthin (Ouabain) in the treatment of acute myocardial infarction and angina. Some doctors also used it as prevention therapy. In Germany today, some 3,000 physicians still use the oral (sublingual) Strophanthin in angina and acute myocardial infarction.

Theory 2: Mesquita’s Myogenic Theory of Myocardial Infarction
In 1972, Quintiliano H. de Mesquita, a Brazilian cardiologist, professor and scientist, developed a new pathophysiological explanation for the triggering of heart attacks or acute myocardial infarction which he named “Myogenic Theory”.

In Myogenic Theory cardiac glycosides, such as digitalis or strophanthin/ouabain, are compatible remedies for acute myocardial infaction. According to Mesquita, the treatment with these cardiotonics should be started as early as possible in order to correct the regional myocardial collapse in progress.

Mesquita also stated that cardiotonic administration protects the myocardial fibers in collapse, ischemia, and is useful in preventing the necrosis which certainly could occur in without the use of this remedy. Once past the acute period, the cardiotonic should be used as a maintenance treatment, which blends with the myocardial infarction prophylaxis, in order to defend the ischemic myocardium in its functional side. (Cardiac ischemia is the name for lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle.)

Professor Quintiliano de Mesquita and his team at Matarazzo Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil, have applied cardiotonics intravenously (digitalis or strophanthin/ouabain) in 1,183 patients with acute myocardial infarction, recording a survival rate of almost 90%. By using intravenous strophanthin in 126 cases of unstable angina, he avoided the AMI with 0% hospitality mortality rate. In 1975, he was awarded the Ernst Edens Traditionspreis, a prize given by the International Society to Fight against Myocardial Infarct, located in Stuttgart- Germany.

In 2002 Quintiliano de Mesquita published a new paper that presented his clinical experience using digitalis over a period of 28 years in the prevention of congestive heart failure and acute coronary syndromes (unstable angina, acute myocardial infarction and sudden death). The study involved 1,150 cardiac patients. The global mortality rate for the patients without previous myocardial infarction was 14.2%, while the global mortality for the patients with previous myocardial infarction was 41.0% (1.4% per year). Surprisingly, the cancer mortality in the wake of this 28-year study was just 1.7% in total, confirming studies that show digitalis useful as anti-cancer agent, inhibiting proliferation and inducing apoptosis (cell death).

Quintiliano de Mesquita’s 2002 case study used the following cardiac glycosides: Digitoxin, Digoxin, Acetildigoxin, Lanatoside-C, Betametildigoxin or Proscillaridin-A (Scilla), at therapeutic daily doses – nontoxic, preferably lower.

Some special remarks about digitalis

* Beyond its properties as inotropic positive agent which stimulates cardiac contractility, low doses of oral digitalis have potentially beneficial modulating effects by decreasing excessive neurohumoral responses, improving symptoms, and protecting against the progressive deterioration of cardiac dysfunction. The noradrenaline/adrenaline blocking by low doses of digitalis can also be helpful in preventing acute coronary syndromes triggered by mental stress.

* It is important to note that during the 19th century the term congestive heart failure was also used to designate other diseases of the heart and, until the beginning of the 20th century, digitalis was prescribed for the treatment of organic heart disease, including angina. At that time digitalis was extensively indicated in hypertension cases to prevent heart failure.

* The recent discovery of endogenous cardiotonic hormones (digitalis-like substances) in mammals serves as a new important argument for the Myogenic Theory. From our point of view cardiac glycosides and other cardiotonics found in nature are the “insulin for heart disease” because they can complement an eventual and deficient production of endogenous cardiotonic hormones produced by the human body and thus support cardiac metabolism and protect the heart from the infarction, as proposed in Myogenic Theory.

In parallel, an unusual but interesting new hypothesis states that alterations in the metabolism of endogenous digitalis-like compounds and in their interactions with the Na/K-ATPase may be associated with the development of cancer.

About Carlos Monteiro
Carlos Monteiro is an independent researcher and president of Infarct Combat Project. He is a defender of the Myogenic Theory of myocardial infarction since its development in 1972, helping Dr. Mesquita and his team as assistant and collaborator. After Dr. Mesquita’s death in 2000, he continued the fight, as an independent researcher, for the Myogenic Theory point of view. Infarct Combat Project is an international non-profit organization, Internet based, providing information, research and education to fight heart disease. ICP was created in 1998 at www.infarctcombat.org. Email: secretary@infarctcombat.org.

Book Review by Dr. Cowan

Should I Be Tested for Cancer?
by H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., M.P.H.

Gilbert Welch, M.D. is a family practice physician, epidemiologist, and professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, in my former home state of New Hampshire. He has written one of the most important and controversial books on medicine since Medical Nemesis was written by Ivan Illich in the late 1960s. Dr. Welch’s book takes on perhaps the most sacred cow in all of conventional medicine (which, by the way, Dr. Welch counts himself as a practitioner of conventional medicine), getting screened for early disease detection. Does catching illness at its early stage, in particular cancer, improve the outcome? At first glance, this question is so obvious as to be almost ludicrous. After all, if you diagnose a serious illness like cancer early, then certainly the patient stands a better chance of surviving. Dr. Welch decided to take a look at all the studies done throughout the entire world that were attempts to prove this theory, and he then wrote a book about what he found.

Before I get into the book, let’s be clear about some definitions. We are talking here about screening for cancer on a person who is well, has no signs of illness, who goes in for a test because it is the “designated” time. This study and my comments do not include a person with a cough, difficulty passing urine, a breast lump, or other signs and symptoms. These people are not being screened; in this situation, we are looking for a reason for their difficulty. This is a different (although somewhat unexplored) situation altogether.

We are talking only about screening. As an interesting historical note, in the 1940s more than 97% of visits to medical practitioners were generated by the patient to address some issue concerning that person. Now, more than half of all medical visits are exclusively about screening, “prevention”, including things such as annual physicals, well baby exams, vaccination, etc., or about following up or treating “illnesses” that were unnoticed by the patient and found by the doctor. Until now there has been very little data on whether this enormous industry of prevention actually does anyone any good. We now have that information concerning the subject of cancer, thanks in part to this book.

According to Dr. Welch only two studies have ever shown a survival benefit from the disease that was being screened for. The first is called the HIP mammography study, one of the largest mammogram studies ever done. In this study the deaths-per-1,000 rate for breast cancer fell from about 6.8 in the unscreened to about 5 per 1,000 in the group that had yearly mammograms. A modest, but significant drop. The second study was called the Minnesota fecal occult blood test, in which people in Minnesota were screened for blood in their stool every year for ten years as a way of detecting cancer of the GI tract. Again, almost identical numbers were found, a drop from a death rate of 6 per 1,000 from colon cancer in the unscreened group to about 4.8 per thousand in the screened group. The amazing thing about both of these studies, again the only two he claims showed a significant drop in the death rate from any screening study, is that when you chart not the death rate from breast or colon cancer but the all-cause death rate meaning simply who was alive in 10 years, the rates were an identical. EXACTLY identical. On that same note, I sometimes tell my patients: If you care about what you die of, then you could do a screening test. If you care whether you’ll die or not, then don’t bother. (All my patients fall into the second category!)

Dr. Welch also studies epidemiological data concerning prostate cancer over the past 40 years. He states that in the TURP era, when the diagnosis of prostate cancer was made by sticking a long brush up the man’s penis and running it back and forth a few times (not a lot of men signed up for that test), the incidence of prostate cancer was about 100 per 100,000 men. In 1990 when the blood test for prostate cancer came into wide use, the PSA test, the incidence skyrocketed to about 220 cases per 100,000 men. The whole point of this endeavor was that finding it early would result in fewer deaths from this disease. However, plotting out those numbers instead shows only a SLIGHT increase in the prostate cancer death rate since the introduction of the PSA test. Recently, I had dinner with a retired doctor who spent his whole life diagnosing prostate cancer on slides. I asked him, “What is the incidence of prostate cancer in a 75 year old man who dies from a car accident”. His reply surprised me: “Whatever you want it to be”. He explained that if you give him 10 minutes to search, he will find cancer cells in about 15% of these men. If you tell him to take the whole week and find any prostate cancer cells if they are present, he will find it in 100% of these men!

Dr. Welch reviews many studies like these I’ve mentioned all with similar results. The conclusions he comes to are that screening for cancer has never been shown to improve outcomes for patients, and that it is an enormously expensive (we’re talking trillions of dollars here), fear-producing, somewhat futile undertaking. What are some the reasons for this futility? Among them is that most cancer will never actually hurt a patient; screening inherently finds mostly slow-growing cancer, whereas the more aggressive tumors more likely to hurt an individual are found by the person himself. Also the treatments we use may do more harm than good. We as a society get scared literally to death by all this cancer fear mongering. And by spending all this money on useless tests we are bankrupting ourselves and therefore unable to spend the money where it might do some good, for example on cleaning up the rivers. There are probably many other reasons for the failure of screening as a preventive measure. That it has and continues to fail will not be disputed by anyone who reads Dr. Welch’s enlightening book.

Recipe:  Fresh Cranberry Sauce

A Recipe from Jessica Prentice

There is no reason to buy canned cranberry sauce for this holiday season. It is very easy to make and tastes much better.


12 oz fresh cranberries
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water pinch of cinnamon and cloves (optional)
honey to taste


Wash the cranberries and put in a pan. Pour the maple syrup and water over them, add the optional spices, and bring to a simmer.
Cook until the cranberries pop open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
Stir and taste. Add honey by spoonfuls, stirring, until it is a little bit sweeter than you want because it will lose some of its sweet taste when you chill it.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to eat.
Jessica Prentice is both a professional chef and a passionate home cook. She currently conducts cooking classes, writes a monthly New Moon Newsletter on her Wise Food Ways website, and offers monthly Full Moon Feasts in the Bay Area. She is a Bay Area chapter head for the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She is at work on a book about food and culture, due out in Spring 2006 from Chelsea Green Publishing. © 2005 Jessica Prentice

Update – WAPF Conference report

The 6th Annual Wise Traditions conference contributed by Larry Wisch

The 6th annual Wise Traditions Conference was held November 11-13 in Chantilly, VA. What follows is a brief report from my experience there as the San Francisco chapter leader and first time conference participant.

The Weston A. Price Foundation conference was founded in 1999. In that first year there were 64 attendees at the conference. This year nearly 900 people attended, of which about 150 of us were local chapter leaders. This international organization now has a total of 7,500 members and 350 chapters worldwide.

With 40 exhibitors and 10 sponsors, the conference center felt like a combination of a farmers’ market and green festival. Attendees could meet and ask questions of many of the suppliers that advertise in the WAP quarterly Wise Traditions. The food hall had farmers’ stalls selling raw cheeses, grass-fed meats, dense fresh breads, salmon jerky, ferments, raw butter, coconut concoctions, natural root or ginger beers, and much more.

In the tradition of conscious nutrition, lunches and dinners at the event were catered by Chefs John Umlauf and K. Michael Sullivan. “Have a little fruit on your whip creme”. What a pleasure to attend a conference at a hotel and not fear the food!

Information on the program and schedule of speakers can be found on the WAPF website at www.westonaprice.org/conference/. This year, there were 35 interesting presenters, all of whose talks will be available through Pfeffer Productions at (443) 528-3997.

In addition to the keynote speeches, there were different tracks each day. I followed the lacto-ferment track on day one and the cancer track on day two. Other tracks covered biological dentistry, fertility issues, nutrition in schools and hospitals (what a novel concept!), and heart disease. Of course, issues of raw milk and of appropriate fats were also discussed.

High points for me were the talks by Sally Fallon, Tom Cowan and Sandor Katz. Sally has a way of presenting radical information in a digestible manner (pun intended). Dr. Cowan received a standing ovation for his cancer presentation. Sandor gives practical lessons and great samples about fermentation and food activism. Three doctors spoke at length on Vitamins A, D and B12. I’d rather ingest them than hear about them, but the audience seemed attentive.

The event wasn’t all lectures and presentations. On Friday evening there was a dance and on Saturday an awards banquet. I must have been at the right conference because everyone I met was interesting and fun to chat with.

On Monday there was a day long meeting of chapter leaders. Eight presenters gave reports on the works proposed or in progress. Topics ranged from web-based ordering systems to San Francisco’s Nourishing Our Children Campaign to a nutrition curriculum to local WAPF franchise stores. Very inspiring developments.

I recommend attending this conference, and will continue to do so whenever I can. What a great opportunity for education in an environment of like-minded, concerned people.

Larry Wisch is a San Francisco WAPF chapter head.

October 2005

Fourfold Path To Healing Info

Dear Friends,

It’s here! We’re pleased to provide you with a report on the Fourfold Path to Healing Conference in late July. Written by roving reporter Lizette Marx, this article appeared in the October 2005 issue of Nutrition Professionals Quarterly. We thank Lizette for doing such a great job in capturing the essence of that weekend.

On a separate note, because of the burgeoning of interest in the newsletter, our subscriber list has grown to the point where we’ve had to find a more efficient way to deliver the goods. We’ll continue to provide you with bimonthly newsletters electronically. However, rather than have the entire newsletter in an email, we will provide highlights of articles, with links to the full online version. This will save space in your e-mailbox and allow us to be more creative and efficient in delivery to you. Let us know what you think.

Here’s wishing you a warm and healthy October, and we’ll be back in a month with your Fourfold Healing newsletter for Nov/Dec.

Tom Cowan

SPECIAL EDITION: a report on the Fourfold Conference July 29-31, 2005

Special Report by Lizette Marx
Authors Thomas Cowan, MD, Sally Fallon and Jaimen McMillan brought their book, The Fourfold Path to Healing, to life during a three-day conference brimming with lectures and classes about nutrition, therapeutic protocols, and movement and meditation. The event, which took place at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in Oakland, CA from July 29 through July 31, drew a crowd of more than 160 people — ranging from whole food nutritionists, doctors, healing arts practitioners and dedicated Weston A. Price devotees to Waldorf school teachers and families enlightened by the wisdom of the Nourishing Traditions diet and the benefits of lacto-fermenting, brothing and buttering a path toward health.

Speaking of lacto-fermenting and brothing, attendees at the conference were also treated to hearty, delicious, “slow food” meals prepared by Wise Food Ways chef, Jessica Prentice. She will share her wisdom in the kitchen with her first book to be published in March 2006.

The Fourfold Path to Healing is a collaboration of Cowan, Fallon and McMillan’s work that took nearly ten years to produce. In this book, principal author Dr. Cowan, dovetails modern medical research with the wisdom of traditional societies and the healing art philosophies of Rudolf Steiner to explain how to achieve true health.

Putting the content of the book into a conference format was yet another collaborative effort by the authors, who brought in Carol Thompson as conference manager. Thompson wears many hats in her life: Waldorf preschool teacher, parent of two Waldorf school children, public relations writer and graphic designer. “I first met Tom a year and a half ago during a doctor appointment. His whole concept about health rang true to me,” said Thompson during the opening night of the conference. “[This weekend] these three authors will streamline the information in their book into a digestible format that we can all take home with us.”

The conference opened with each of the authors taking a turn to explain his or her role in the book’s development and the connections shared with one another during the process. Each day began with a key lecture in the morning followed by breakout sessions with each of the authors in the afternoon. Participants split off into a track of their choice: Nutrition with Fallon, Therapeutics with Cowan, or Movement with McMillan. As the reporter for this event, I was fortunate to be able to float from track to track, but even with this advantage, the conference was so rich with information it would have taken another three days to make all of the topics available to everyone.

Tom Cowan
Heart of Gold

Thomas Cowan, MD, resembles both academic professor and down-to-earth family doctor. When he first walked on stage during the conference, he immediately asked the audience to please call him Tom, rather than Dr. Cowan. “I never understood that,” he mused. “I don’t know of any other profession where this exists. If I were a plumber, you wouldn’t call me Plumber Cowan, you’d just call me Tom or Mr. Cowan. My wife is a communication specialist but no one introduces her as “Communication Specialist Smith”; she is just Lynda.”

“This book and this conference is about the heart,” Cowan said. “The chapter on the heart is the heart of the book and where you’ll find the most controversy.” Cowan elaborated on this during the second day of the conference where he challenged our thinking about the heart’s true function in our body with his signature lecture, “The Heart is Not a Pump”.

Explaining the role of the heart in our body’s orchestral design is just one myth Cowan wants to dispel. Cowan believes there are many deep myths in our culture and psyche, which reflect the way we live.

Cowan began his medical practice 20 years ago. It was while teaching gardening as a Peace Corps volunteer in Swaziland, South Africa that Cowan decided to become a doctor. During this time, he read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price and learned about the principles of biodynamic agriculture developed by philosopher and scholar Rudolf Steiner. These two men inspired him to learn medicine. As a doctor, Cowan uses a variety of alternative therapies, primarily whole foods nutrition, herbs and homeopathic medicine to treat illnesses. However, instead of relying solely on the practice of prescribing remedies to treat different ailments, he is determined to discover how each individual can achieve total health.

“It is the patients who don’t respond to the usual treatments that have the most to teach their doctors,” he writes in the introduction of his book. “Factors we normally don’t associate with illness could be impediments to healing.”

This “mystery”of why some patients get better and some do not led Cowan to develop his own medical philosophy. He uses the anthroposophical teachings of Rudolf Steiner as a foundation for his medical practice and in developing his therapies. According to Steiner, the human body has four “bodies”or spheres of activity. When all of these spheres are in balance, an individual can enjoy good health.

The four spheres are the physical body, life-force body, emotional body, and mental body. Steiner believes that each of these “bodies” represent one aspect of our total being. Each sphere is also governed by a different set of rules that, when followed, can help one achieve balanced health and wellbeing. Cowan takes this philosophy and applies it to his practice by helping his patients look at not only how to treat a specific illness but to discover where their health took a wrong turn.

Cowan describes his approach to therapeutics in this way, “The way I treat everything is to try to understand how nature does it, how the body does it, and then I accentuate it,” he explained during one of intensive breakout sessions.

To illustrate this he described the role of infections in the body. “Infection is the therapy,” said Cowan. “We try to guide it in the right direction to move it out of the body so that it doesn’t have a toxic effect.” With a deep understanding of how each patient presents a matrix of interconnected health issues, Dr. Cowan also keeps the big picture in mind by observing what he refers to as “the Universal Healers”– warmth and rhythm. What makes Cowan an extraordinary physician is that he walks his talk, his is a true commitment to seeing patients as whole people.

Sally Fallon
Everything’s Better with Butter

If there is one thing Sally Fallon wants everyone to come away with during her talks, it is that fat is not the enemy. “If you don’t know the answer to something I talk about here, if you can’t explain it, just remember the answer is always going to be fat,” Fallon says with a wry grin. She isn’t kidding. Fat– that is, quality, organic, unrefined dairy, animal and tropical fats — is the key to health. We were all misled with the low-fat mantra and while more and more people are beginning to embrace dietary fats again, many are still confused about the good, the bad, and the ugly of fat. Fallon is a true believer and she makes no bones about her delight in this misunderstood macronutrient. During one of the breakout sessions in which she detailed the nuts and bolts of a traditional foods diet, she said she puts ½ a stick of butter in her bowl of oatmeal. Someone asked her, “A half of a stick?” And without blinking, Fallon deadpanned, “Well, you can use more if you want.”

Fallon is the founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation and author of Nourishing Traditions, a book that has blossomed into a traditional foods movement. Many often refer to this way of eating as “the Nourishing Traditions diet” and have even started support groups to help each other learn the recipes and share ingredients and cooking techniques. In her book, Fallon describes in well-researched detail the importance of animal fats, fermenting, and cooking homemade bone broths. Unlike cookbooks that merely provide recipes and a few menu suggestions, Fallon has used her book as a platform to “challenge politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats.” Her slow food recipes also challenge our time-sensitive culture with instructions for making foods that often take several days to prepare.

Like Cowan, Fallon’s interest in nutrition grew after reading Weston A. Price’s book. After learning about the superior nutritional benefits of quality animal fats and other dietary principles, Fallon began to feed her own family these foods. When her children became old enough, she applied her skills as a journalist and chef to the subject of nutrition and began working on a cookbook with lipid and human nutrition specialist, Mary Enig, PhD, author of the classic Know Your Fats. Fallon and Enig have recently co-authored another book, Eat Fat, Lose Fat.

During the conference, Fallon provided detailed research and clinical studies to support the benefits of raw milk, healthy fats, and the misconceptions about cholesterol. Fallon focused heavily on the concerns surrounding raw milk. One of the myths she wanted to dispel is that “raw milk is like playing Russian Roulette with your health.”

“Milk is like blood,” she explains, “when you pasteurize, all of its safety factors are inactivated or dramatically reduced.”

“We have the technology to get raw milk to every person in this country, even in the most remote of areas but instead, we are using our technology to destroy milk’s benefits via pasteurization,” Fallon continues, with a hint of sadness as she flips through slides clearly showing raw milk’s immune boosting and health promoting properties.

Not surprisingly, Fallon also bashed the use of soy products. The Weston A. Price Foundation has articles on its website and gives out free pamphlets describing the dangers of soy. “I’ve been accused of being in the pay of the milk industry because of my position against soy,” Fallon says smiling. She is of course not paid to say anything of the sort, but ever the professional journalist, Fallon is armed with more than enough compelling data to back up her claims.

She reinforced other dietary minefields such as white sugar and flour, damaged fats, and processed foods. As an alternative to modern eating habits, Fallon provided many examples of what she calls “Mythic Foods”. We watched slide after slide of pictures of roast leg of lamb with mashed potatoes, pot roast, chicken liver pate, meat stocks and other hearty, comfort foods straight from her own kitchen. Fallon’s presentation, which was conveniently given before snack and lunch, caused many in the audience to stir with hunger. She encouraged everyone to think deeply about what they choose to eat and how they approach cooking.

“Your kitchen is your temple. It is a sacred and spiritual place,” Fallon said.

At one of the breakout sessions, Fallon elaborated on her mythic foods philosophy with more than 10 different rules to follow when cooking and eating. Some of them seemed obvious like avoid refined sugar, eliminate toxic metals and additives, and “be kind to your grains and your grains will be kind to you” (i.e. no white flour, soak your grains, etc). Her final suggestion was one many of us often forget to do and that is to practice forgiveness.

“Practice forgiveness. When you are under stress, you can’t digest. Forgive yourself, forgive your parents, forgive your children, and forgive the system.”

Jaimen McMillan
Emotion in Motion

“Tom wanted Jaimen McMillan to do the emotional healing part of the book. One of the great ironies of this book was that I was working with the world’s most coordinated man and he was working with the world’s most uncoordinated woman”, says Fallon when first introducing McMillan at the conference.

If Cowan and Fallon are the heart and mind of the Fourfold Path to Healing, McMillan is the spirit. Dressed in white from head to toe, McMillan was truly dynamic in both his gracefulness and his entertaining demonstrations of how many of us inhabit our bodies and move through the world.

McMillan is the founder of Spacial Dynamics, the study of the interplay between the human being and space. According to McMillan space itself is one of the most neglected components in the study of human movement. “With Spacial Dynamics,” McMillan explains, “you choose how you want to embody your space. When you change the space, you change your body.” He relates the quality of a person’s movement to their inner health. In the Fourfold Path to Healing, he writes, “…an integrative approach suggests that when we set out to heal our emotions, the most appropriate starting point is the realm of motion — movement and exercise. This is because the way we move is dictated by how we feel.”

On his website McMillan differentiates Spacial Dynamics into eight different types of space: inner space, body space, personal space, interpersonal space, social space, public space, suprapersonal space, and infinite space. He explains that difficulties in enlivening one or more of these spaces can lead to problems in relating, communicating, integrating, and being consciously active; such difficulties may even lead to a paralysis of the will. And as suggested in the book, they can also lead to illness.

At the conference McMillan demonstrated the connection between emotion and motion with hilarious impressions of different personalities coming on to the stage. His examples showed how a minor change in movement can shift the way a person feels and the way he or she is perceived.

“Motion comes before emotion. Emotion comes from motion,” McMillan explained. “Before you actually ‘feel’ something there is a subtle movement within the body. That movement is the cause of the emotion.”

McMillan urged us not to apologize for having a body, for thinking that we are taking up space. “Your body is not in the way. It is a space. A space, we can learn to live in. Most people do not know how to live in every part of their body.”

He mapped out the different “rooms in the body”. The head is the library, the vocal chords are the music room, the heart is the living room or the hearth, the intestines are the workshop, a little lower is the bedroom, and lower still is the basement and then the ground floor is the feet.

“A person should be able to move around in their own ‘house’, but most of us get caught up in the library,” McMillan says point to his head.

McMillan’s breakout sessions included many different movement exercises from the book. These exercises are designed to help us control our body space and move around in our rooms. The idea is that when we can occupy every “room” at will, we can direct positive healing energies to each space in our body.

When some of the exercises caused many participants to start laughing and “enjoy themselves”, McMillan pointed out the movement and mood connection. When one is suffering from depression they typically don’t “move” very much. Movement and exercise delivers a positive, mood-elevating message to the brain and that creates healing in the emotional body.

RecipeLactofermented Peach Chutney

In case you missed last month’s newsletter, we’re including Jessica Prentice’s nourishing recipe again. This delicious compote was served at the Fourfold Healing Conference in Oakland!

2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1/4 boiling filtered water
8-10 peaches
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons black or brown mustard seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 4-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon powdered turmeric or 1 1-inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled
1 tablespoon sucanat
1/4 cup whey
4 teaspoons sea salt (1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)


Put the fenugreek seeds in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Allow to soak overnight or for at least 6 hours.
Peel the peaches and cut into a small dice. Put the peach pieces into a large bowl.
Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the peaches.
In a small cast iron skillet, toast the cumin, mustard and fennel over medium heat until they begin to smell fragrant. Add the seeds to the peaches.
Grate or mince the ginger and add to the peaches.
If using powdered turmeric, add it to the peaches. If using fresh, grate or mince as you did with the ginger.
Sprinkle the sucanat and the whey over the peaches
Sprinkle the salt over the peaches, and the 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Stir thoroughly and taste. The mixture should be salty but delicious.
Transfer to a 2 quart jar. It is a good idea to gently weigh down the top of the chutney so that the liquid rises above the solids. I do this by using a flexible plastic lid (such as the kind that comes on a yogurt or cottage cheese container) that fits inside the jar. Then I fill a small, narrow jar with water and set that on top of the lid. This pushes the chutney down but allows the liquid to come up over the top.
Allow to ferment at room temperature at least overnight. If it is hot, 24 hours may be enough. If it is cool or just warm, allow to ferment for about 48 hours.
Transfer to the fridge and eat within one month.
Variation: Tomato Chutney
Substitute tomatoes for the peaches.

Jessica Prentice is both a professional chef and a passionate home cook. She currently conducts cooking classes, writes a monthly New Moon Newsletter on her Wise Food Ways website, and offers monthly Full Moon Feasts in the Bay Area. She is a Bay Area chapter head for the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She is at work on a book about food and culture, due out in Fall 2005 from Chelsea Green Publishing. © 2005 Jessica Prentice

Reminder – Make Plans Now!
The 6th annual Wise Traditions Conference is coming up November 11-13 in Chantilly, VA. Join Sally Fallon, Mary Enig, Tom Cowan, and Mark MacAfee for a full weekend of discussions and workshops, delicious food prepared by Chef John Umlauf and Chef K. Michael Sullivan. Hope to see you there!