Posts Tagged ‘nutrition’

sick

I think I’m dying. My heart is beating too fast, I’m too weak to get out of bed most days, and some days I don’t even have the energy to eat. It’s been like this for years. It’s been getting gradually worse.

I haven’t read a book, taken a walk, watched a movie, visited a friend, or done anything useful in months. I can’t focus, can’t even think most of the time.

I’m not the only one. Many of my friends are also ill. I see the sickness all around me. Every year there are less fish in the sea, less birds in the trees, less insects. The air smells more toxic, the industrial noise is getting louder. Every day, 200 species become extinct. Most rivers no longer support any life. Around half of all human deaths are caused by pollution. We’re all dying of the sickness.

My own illness can be attributed to heavy metal and chemical toxicity, from mining, vaccines, vehicle exhaust, and all the chemicals I’m exposed to every day, indoors and out. They’re in my food, in the air, in the water I drink. I can’t get away from them. There’s no safe place left to go. I can’t get any better while these are still being made, being used, being disposed of into my body.

It’s not just chemicals, but electromagnetic fields, from powerlines, phones, wifi and cell phone towers. The food of industrial agriculture, grown in soils depleted of nutrients and becoming ever more poisoned, is all I can get. It barely provides me with the nutrients I need to survive, let alone recover. Let food be thy medicine, but when the food itself spreads the sickness, there’s not much hope for anyone.

When the soil life dies, the entire landscape becomes sick. The trees can’t provide for their inhabitants. They can’t hold the community of life together. The intricate food web, the web of relationships that holds us all, collapses.

Will I recover? With the constant assault of chemicals, electromagnetic fields, and noise, it seems unlikely. Will the living world recover, or will it die along with me, unable to withstand the violent industries that extract the lifeblood of rivers, forests, fish and earth, to convert them into a quick profit?

Western medicine can’t help me. All it can offer is more chemicals, more poisons. And new technology can’t help the land, the water, the soil. It only worsens the sickness.

If I am to heal, the living world must first be healed. The water, the food, the air and the land need to recover from the sickness, as they are the only medicine that can bring me back to health.

The machines need to be stopped. The mining, ploughing, fishing, felling, and manufacturing machines. The advertising, brainwashing and surveillance machines. The coal, oil, gas, nuclear and solar-powered machines. They are all spreading the sickness. It’s a cultural sickness, as well as a physical one. Our culture is so sick that it barely acknowledges the living world, and has us believe that images, ideas, identities and abstractions are all we need. It all needs to stop. The culture needs to recover, to repair.

I need your help. I can’t do this myself. I’m close to death. To those who are not yet sick, those who have the strength to stand with the living, and stop the sickness: I need you now. Not just for me, but for everyone. For those close to extinction, those who still have some chance of recovery. We all need you.

Today is the last day on Earth for many species of plants and animals. Every day, the sickness consumes a few more of us. If I didn’t have friends and family looking after me, I wouldn’t be alive today. When the whole community becomes sick, there is no-one left to take care. This is how extinction happens.

It doesn’t have to happen. It can be stopped. Some people, mostly those in the worst affected areas, are taking on the sickness, fighting because they know their lives depend on it. They see the root cause of the affliction, not just the symptoms. They are taking down oil rigs, derailing coal trains, and sabotaging pipelines and mining equipment. They’re blockading ports, forests, mine sites and power stations, and doing everything they can to stop the sickness spreading further. They are few, and they get little thanks. They need all the help they can get. With a collective effort, the sickness can be eradicated, and we can all recover our health.

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Health.

Healthcare doesn’t need to cost anything.  Everything we need to heal ourselves is within us and around us.  Pharmaceutical companies and doctors don’t have exclusive rights to making us well.  Which they don’t tend to do anyway, because they can make more profits by keeping us sick and buying more of their “healthcare” products and services.

Most of what makes us ill comes directly from buying in to the money culture.  Workplace conditions, social expectations, processed foods with no nutritional value, food additives, medicines, the chemicals we use in our homes and apply directly to our skin.  The air inside an average house is more polluted than that along a busy highway, as a result of the building materials, paint, cleaning products and air fresheners (which are really air polluters) in the house.

Hospitals contain infections that can’t be eradicated without destroying the building.  A visit to hospital is more likely to cause illness than to cure it.  Around 1 million Americans a year die of iatrogenic conditions, that is illnesses and injuries that are caused by medical treatment.  This includes adverse drug reactions, medical errors, infections, bedsores, malnutrition, unnecessary procedures and surgery.

So if you are concerned about your health, steer well away from western medical practices.  There are so many more fun and creative ways of looking after ourselves.  Has anyone ever had a good time in a hospital or doctor’s surgery?

Start by taking responsibility for your own health.  Paying a doctor or drug company to take this responsibility on your behalf will never work.  Even alternative medicine requires you to place trust in someone else to take control of your health.  This is a ridiculous practice, no-one else can ever know how their treatments will affect you.  Occasionally a treatment may work, but it’s hit-and-miss, and the expense to your health and finances is huge as you go through the process of searching for the most effective treatment.  Good health isn’t something you find in a consulting room.  Your body already knows what it needs.  The only medical practitioner who can ever truly heal you is you.  Get to know your body and mind, and create your own way of caring for yourself.  Trust your instincts, and do what feels right, not what someone else tells you to do.

Tune in to how your body works.  Take notice of how particular foods and activities affect you.  There are so many theories on what consists good health and nutrition.  Everyone experiences things differently, and has unique needs, so none of these theories can be totally correct for any one person.  What works best for you is something that you need to discover and create for yourself, no book or magazine can tell you what’s right.

Animals instinctively know which plants to eat to heal themselves when they’re ill.  Since humans have become domesticated animals we’ve lost this innate knowledge, and don’t trust ourselves to direct our own healing, in co-operation with our environment.  The substances we need to treat our illnesses are all around us.  All it takes is to observe your surroundings, listen, look, taste, smell and feel all of it, and use your intuition to discover what can heal you.  The soil, water, air and living things can all be part of our health, and we can be part of theirs.

The practices we need to take on are already known to our bodies, we only need to start listening, sensing the way the body moves and operates, to know instinctively what feels right for us.

People have cured themselves of cancer and AIDS purely by tuning in to the needs of their bodies, and not taking anyone’s advice, treatment or medicine.  This result has never been achieved by western medicine, and of course never will, because no profits can be made from liberated people in perfect health.  Medical researchers would be out of a job, there would be nothing to put all this research funding towards.

Many modern medical conditions and treatments exist only to market products by convincing people that they are ill.  HIV (which is not the same as AIDS) has been proven not to be a virus by leading researchers, but of course no-one pays attention to them because it would cut in to profits from their drugs and treatments.  Fluoride has never been shown to have any effect on dental health. It is only in our drinking water because it is a convenient dumping ground for this waste product from industry.

Generally the symptoms of illness that pharmaceutical drugs are used to treat are not in fact symptoms of illness, but of the body eliminating the illness.  For example a high temperature is a way for the body to make itself inhospitable to disease organisms; coughing and diarrhoea force the disease out of the body; snot is the white blood cells that have died in the process of destroying disease cells.  To heal ourselves we need to allow these symptoms to run their natural course.  Suppressing the symptoms with medicines only makes the illness worse.

The experience of illness, either physical or mental, can be an opportunity for an amazing journey of self-discovery.  Don’t look at it as something to be fought against.  It’s yourself that you’re fighting.  You may win the battle, but if you haven’t learnt from the experience and dealt with the underlying issues, the illness will recur, possibly in another form.  There’s a lot to be learnt by listening to your body and taking on what it tells you.  Check out The Journey by Brandon Bays.  Brandon cured herself of a tumour by listening to her own body.  She describes the process she went through so that readers can apply it in their own lives.

Adding popular nutrients to processed foods (the trendy ones at the moment are iron, folate, omega-3 and niacin) doesn’t benefit anyone, as nutrients can’t do anything in isolation, only as an element of whole foods.  The interactions between nutrients are complex, and they need to be consumed from a living plant to truly nourish our bodies.

There is no one perfect diet to suit everyone.  Some tribal cultures eat mainly raw fruit and vegetables, and many Inuit and Mongolian people eat only animal products, yet all are perfectly healthy.  Everyone has different needs.  Don’t let anyone tell you what you should eat, or how to look after your health, and don’t assume that what works for you will be suitable for anyone else.

Hygiene.

From the zine How to have an amazingly adventurous life for zero dollars a day.

Most of what is considered to be good hygiene these days stems from the marketing of products: convincing you that you need to buy things by creating a sense of insecurity.

I don’t use deodorant, shampoo, or skincare products and rarely use soap.  I feel perfectly clean and healthy, and never smell.  Our skin contains natural oils that protect it from drying, and every time we use soap we are removing this protective layer.

I find that swimming in the ocean, or an occasional hot shower without soap, is effective to keep clean.  Hot water can wash away dirt without removing the protective layer of oil, so soap isn’t necessary.

Hair doesn’t need to be washed, it contains natural oils that keep it clean.  I haven’t washed my hair for years, just rinse it occasionally, and I don’t experience dirty or greasy hair.  If you are accustomed to washing hair regularly, it takes a few weeks of not washing for your hair to find its natural balance and during this time it becomes incredibly greasy and disgusting.  It took me a few attempts to get through this stage, but after four weeks it feels clean and I haven’t had any need to wash it since.

I feel a lot cleaner since I’ve stopped using hygiene products.  It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but by stepping away from the belief that chemicals are necessary for cleanliness it makes perfect sense.  Nothing in nature needs cleaning, unless it has been contaminated with chemicals.

Eating food that is difficult for the body to assimilate creates toxins that need to leave the body somehow, and often this is through the skin, creating body odours.  I find that when I don’t eat refined sugar, I feel healthier, don’t need to use soap or deodorant and don’t need to brush my teeth so often.  For other people it might be meat, alcohol, caffeine or food additives that create smells or health problems.

Most of the hygiene products on the market are poisonous to our bodies and our surroundings.  You wouldn’t eat this stuff, why would you put it on your skin?  Skin absorbs poisons more readily than stomach lining.  Underarm deodorants are well known to cause breast cancer, and yet most women still use them.  Salt, bicarb soda and ti-tree oil are more natural alternatives to these products, but a person with a reasonably healthy diet really doesn’t need it at all.

People having been leading healthy lives for thousands of years without needing hygiene products, there’s no reason we should use them now.

Here are some alternatives to common hygiene products.

Sanitary pads and tampons. Rad pads are reuseable sanitary pads made from absorbent fabric.  They are much more comfortable to wear than adhesive plastic.  They don’t smell or leak, and are easy to wash out.  I wash them in a bucket and use the blood as garden fertiliser.  They last for years, and are easy to make from scraps of fabric.

Other options are sea sponge tampons.  They need to be boiled after every use, and last about 8 months.  I guess you could make them yourself.

Menstrual cups (such as The Keeper and Mooncup) are made of rubber or silicone and they only need to be rinsed after use.  This is something I can’t imagine how you could make for yourself or get for free, but you only need one and it lasts for 10 years.

Toilet paper. There is a native tree in New Zealand that is commonly known as toilet paper tree, as it has large soft leaves.  There are plenty of other leaves that could serve the same purpose.  In much of Asia people don’t use toilet paper at all, and wash themselves with water instead.

Loofahs can be grown at home, and can be used as a dishcloth or bath sponge.  They last quite a while and can be returned to the soil when they disintegrate.

Soap. Leaves of soapwort herb form a lather when they are rubbed with water, and this was commonly used before commercial soap production began in the 1800s.  Guava leaves have a similar effect, as does a tropical shrub called soapnut.

Laundry detergent. If clothes aren’t stained or oily, washing them in hot water without any products can clean them effectively.

Plastic washing balls and discs. These supposedly clean clothes without detergent.  I don’t know if there is a way to make something like this yourself, or how much these cost.  According to Wikipedia the science of how they work is dubious, and they are connected with a conspiracy involving Scientologists and pyramid marketing schemes.  I found one in a dumpster once (a laundry ball, not a conspiracy).  I think that’s what this green plastic spiky thing is, I’m not sure.  It might be a dog toy. It seems to work. My clothes don’t come out any dirtier anyway.

Do you really need to wash your clothes, your bedsheets and your body as often as you do?  Or do you just do it because it’s habit or your mum and the ads on TV say you should? If it’s not dirty or smelly, what’s the point in washing it?  Haven’t you got better things to do?

Sunscreen and moisturiser. Most commercial sunscreens contain lots of toxic ingredients, and are just as likely to cause skin cancer as protect you from it.  Better off wearing long sleeves and a wide hat.  Aloe vera, a plant that is easy to grow, contains a gel that is effective moisturiser, a mild sunscreen, and good first aid for burns.  Coconut and olive oils are also good as skin moisturiser and mild sunscreen.  There are some commercial sunscreens available that are made from natural oils and minerals.

Household cleaning products. Much of the paranoia around household germs is counterproductive to keeping us healthy.  Young animals and children naturally eat dirt to introduce the beneficial bacteria into their gut that will give them a balanced internal ecology, which gives them immunity to germs.  Preventing this from happening will cause illness rather than prevent it.  The products marketed to kill these germs are poisonous substances that do us more harm than good.

A healthy household ecology can evolve by encouraging frogs, geckos and (some) spiders that make their home indoors to stay, as they are controlling the pesky mosquitos and flies, and not causing any harm.  By using poisonous cleaning products you are harming these helpful critters, and well as your children, yourself and polluting our waterways, which causes plenty more damage to plants and animals downstream.

I find a sponge and scrubbing brush to be sufficient for most cleaning jobs.  Dish liquid is the only chemical product in the house, and even that is only necessary for greasy dishes.

Jackie French’s book Organic Control of Household Pests is good for creative ways of dealing with uninvited critters.

Weeds, ecology and health

This article was published in Chain Reaction #109 (The National Magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia)  July 2010.

What is a weed?  The generally accepted definition is that it is a plant out of place, but who dictates the right place for a plant to be?  The very idea of a weed is a cultural construction.  Nature knows no weeds.  The American poet Emerson wrote “a weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

What is seen as a weed depends on the context – the location and the values of the person making the judgement – so that a plant that is considered to be out of place is different in a garden, an agricultural setting or a native forest.

The concept of weeds comes from the culture of domination of nature.  We feel the need to control our surroundings, and can’t stand for plants that can look after themselves, exhibitions of nature asserting itself in our man-made environments.

These plants can be useful to us in many ways, as food and medicine, and they have an essential role in repairing damaged landscapes and creating healthy ecosystems.  The fact that they grow freely, without any work being done by us, means that they cannot be exploited.  For this reason weeds are not valued, and even considered an enemy, in western cultures.

By getting to know our local wild plants and making use of them we can move away from the paradigm of subjugating nature for the purposes of economic growth, and towards a more harmonious and integrated relationship with our world.

a patch of tasty wild food in a supermarket carpark: includes purslane, amaranth, mallow and others

In times of scarcity, a knowledge of local weeds becomes essential to survival.  During the world wars, many people around the world became dependent on weeds for food and medicine.  When the Argentine economy collapsed in 2001, the government distributed pamphlets with information about edible weeds.

As we become familiar with the weeds growing in our neighbourhood and use them in our daily lives, we develop a closer relationship with nature.  We find ourselves becoming a part of the environment we live in, rather than imposing ourselves on top of it.  Value can be discovered in neglected landscapes, by exploring these spaces that are considered wastelands and recognising them as diverse ecosystems that are a source of abundance.  A wild food hunt is an adventure, which can be so much more fun than shopping.  By taking notice of what is happening around us, the changing seasons, and the patterns and cycles of nature, we can learn about the natural world through direct experience, using all our senses.  We come to understand that it is the land, not the supermarket, that feeds us.  By eating wild plants and animals we significantly reduce our ecological footprint – the amount of land that is cleared and farmed to provide for our needs.

Leafy greens contain almost all of the vitamins and minerals we need.  By eating foods that are more nutrient-dense, we reduce the overall quantity of food we need to eat, which means less effort for our body to assimilate, and less effort and cost involved in shopping, transporting and preparing our food.  In green vegetables, 90 per cent of vitamins are lost within hours of picking, so by eating directly from the living plant we can optimise our intake of nutrients.  All wild plants contain more nutrients than cultivated plants, as they have to spread their roots further to obtain water and reach fertile soil.

Obesity is caused by the body craving nutrients and feeling a need to eat more.  It is a symptom of malnutrition, rather than a lack of self-control.  Many people in western countries don’t have access to sufficient nutrients and suffer a range of health problems as a result.  Adding a few weeds to our diet could be enormously beneficial to our health.

Most weeds and leafy greens have some medicinal value.  The effects they are credited with vary between cultures and sources, and each individual experiences these effects differently.  Animals instinctively know which plants to eat when ill.  By getting to know the plants in our local area and tuning in to the way they affect our bodies, we may be able to regain these lost instincts and take responsibility for our own health.

Most leafy greens contain alkaloids – poisons that accumulate in the liver if eaten too often.  Different plants contain different alkaloids, so eating a variety provides a range of nutrients and prevents liver damage.  This same principle of varied eating, and everything in moderation, applies to all foods.

In the garden weeds have many benefits.  The weeds that grow in a particular place indicate the soil condition.  For example dock and sorrel can be found in poorly drained and acidic soils, salvation jane and horehound indicate overgrazed and compacted soil, caltrop and wireweed show that the soil is infertile and dry, and nettle, sow thistle and chickweed grow in rich, fertile loam.

As weeds are often deep-rooted, they bring nutrients to the surface that are not otherwise accessible to more shallow-rooted garden plants.  By cutting these deep-rooted plants and leaving them on the surface as mulch, the nutrients then feed surrounding plants.  The deep roots also aerate and add organic matter to compacted or poor soils, improving conditions for other plants.  Making compost or liquid fertiliser from weeds is another way to return these nutrients to the soil.

Weeds can form a living mulch, protecting the soil from the drying effects of sun and wind, and prevent leaching of soil nutrients.  Weeds can also contribute to pest management by providing an alternative target for pest species, and the flowers can attract predators that control pest insects.

Working with nature in the garden by observing and learning from wild plants, insects and animals that exist there can be enlightening, liberating and make gardening much more fun.

In degraded landscapes, weeds are essential in repairing the soil to create an environment where other plants can grow.  Weeds are a pioneer species, the first stage in the succession towards the healthy diverse ecosystem of a mature forest.  By colonising damaged land, weeds halt erosion, reduce salinity and add organic matter to the soil.  They protect other plants from sun, wind and predators.  As the plants that form the next stage in the succession grow, weeds are shaded out and the soil conditions become unsuitable, causing the weeds to die of their own accord.  Weeds such as blackberry, lantana, gorse and thistles are seen as an environmental problem but are actually nature’s way of redressing an imbalance.  They are part of the solution to underlying environmental damage.

Ecosystems change and evolve over time, as a result of changing climate, species migration and human impact.  Attempting to recreate the environments of 200 years ago is not necessarily a good thing, considering that humans have been altering the Australian environment for 40,000 years already.  Ecosystems of 200 years ago are no longer suitable to the conditions, and many introduced plants can be beneficial to our landscapes.

Some common edible weeds in southern Australia are dandelion, purslane, stinging nettle, fat hen, wild lettuce, mallow, chickweed and prickly pear.  When foraging for wild plants, there are a few points to consider.  Be sure to identify plants correctly, as similar looking plants may be poisonous.  Also be mindful of potential chemical contamination: railway corridors are often sprayed with herbicides, and runoff from busy highways may contain a range of contaminants.  Compared to the amount of chemicals applied to commercially grown fruit and vegetables, most weeds growing in urban and rural areas are unlikely to present a risk.  Be conscious of the amount you harvest in any location.  Leave enough behind for others to use, both human and non-human, and for the plants to grow and reproduce.

A plant will taste different depending on the conditions in which it grows.  The soil type, climate, season and plant genetics can affect taste and nutrient value.  Young leaves are much more palatable than older leaves, which become coarse and bitter.

Weeds can be added to salads, with the more bitter tasting leaves used only in small amounts so as not to be overpowering.  Weeds can also be cooked in the same way as any other leafy greens, in soups, omelettes or stir-fry dishes.  Green smoothies are an easy way to eat more leafy greens, by blending raw leaves with some fruit, for a tasty and nutritious breakfast.

References and resources

Australian Weeds – Gai Stern

How can I use herbs in my daily life? – Isabel Shippard

Growing Community: Starting and Nurturing Community Gardens – claire nettle

Beyond the Brink – Peter Andrews

Green for Life – Victoria Boutenko

Plants for a Future – www.pfaf.org

Article in The Age about edible weeds – http://www.theage.com.au/news/in-depth/bmetrob-one-persons-weeds-are-anothers-gourmet-lunch/2007/11/27/1196036885066.html?

Radio interview with David Holmgren – A Permaculture Approach to Weeds http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/14348