Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Of Cold Sores And Kidney Stones--Got Milk?

So there was a time in my life when I seemed to get a cold sore at least every two weeks.  Just as one would barely heal, another would emerge.  If you've dealt with cold sores, you know how painful and debilitating they can be.  Stressful life events, sun exposure, and even wind on my face pretty much guaranteed an outbreak.  That was before I discovered the Department of Agriculture's online list of foods to eat and foods to avoid to prevent cold sores (and some types of kidney stones).  Since then, I have not had a cold sore for years at a stretch.  Quite a spectacular cure for me personally.  Thought it was time to share this life-changing information, in case someone else doesn't yet know about it.  I found the Department of Agriculture's list copied here:

It is common knowledge that cold sores are caused by a herpes virus.  Turns out though, that the herpes virus uses an amino acid (the building blocks of proteins) to grow.  In particular, they must have the amino acid arginine to thrive.  In the wisdom of mother nature--all things in balance--the amino acid lysine opposes the actions of arginine.  Both arginine and lysine provide good things in our bodies and are unavoidable and necessary, but for those of us prone to cold sores and kidney stones, giving lysine the upper hand in the lysine-arginine ratio will offer us protection. 

So, you want to eat foods that will keep the levels of lysine slightly higher than the levels of arginine.  Basically, foods on the 'good' list, that contain more lysine are from the dairy group (and many types of fish as well--see the list).  I am lactose intolerant, so used to eat very little from this group, which set me up for the frequent outbreaks I used to get.  I had to sort out which dairy items I could tolerate, and add them back into my daily diet.  Now I enjoy kefir, yogurt, frozen yogurt, and all kinds of wonderful cheeses.  I still avoid milk, ice cream, and sour cream wherever possible.

On the 'bad' list--foods that are higher in arginine (that support growth and development of cold sores and kidney stones)--are chocolate, nuts, raisins, and whole grains.  Interesting that my favorite breakfast used to be oatmeal with walnuts and raisins.  Does the herpes virus drive our appetite?  Seems it did mine.  I still crave chocolate and nuts.  However, I have so far found that I can  prevent cold sores (and kidney stones) and enjoy the foods I love, as long as I make sure that I've had enough dairy (foods higher in lysine).  I also have developed a habit of taking an extra 1000 mg of lysine in pill/capsule form every day--just to make sure to tip the lysine-arginine scale in favor of lysine being in charge.  Don't underestimate diet though just because you can take a pill--a serving of peanuts has about 5000 mg of arginine (per the list), so taking 1000 mg of lysine via capsule will be insufficient protection (the contribution seems to be 1:1) if you haven't ingested enough from the 'good' list (dairy, fish, see list). 

As if frequent outbreaks of cold sores isn't bad enough, we've been hearing for quite some time that people who get frequent cold sores are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.  A precursor of lysine has been shown to be protective of brain function--and it follows that because arginine and lysine oppose each other (and perhaps their precursors do as well), that keeping that ratio tipped in favor of lysine's precursors would also offer protection for your brain. 

Kidney stones also run in my family, although thankfully, I've not yet experienced any, and am hoping that cold sores are an alternate form of this genetic gift.  Doctors used to tell people prone to calcium oxalate kidney stones to avoid dairy products, because they thought that calcium in the diet was contributing directly to development of that type of stones.  In recent decades though, this thought has emphatically reversed (lysine may help to retain calcium, rather than it being excreted and contributing to stone formation), so dairy has since been touted as protective and preventive.  In fact, the 'good' and 'bad' food lists for preventing cold sores align very well with those for folks prone to calcium oxalate kidney stones.  Yet another reason to 'drink your milk!'

*and for those times when I take for granted my enjoyment of chocolate and walnuts, without attending to my dairy intake, I suffer the consequences.  However, a bit of powdered myrrh (available at health food stores) dissolved with a drop or two of water in the palm of my hand, and applied to the affected area provides soothing, healing relief.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Is Mindfulness Therapy Just A Fad?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’s Mindfulness ‘Infatuation’

While clicking through the many photographs of the American Indian Select List of our National Archives in 2008, I found my face on a Kiowa Chief named Satanta.  Having grown up with all connections to my Native American ancestors severed, I was fascinated by this photograph that looked so much like me, and I immersed myself in learning more.  Along the way, it became apparent that Native American medicine shares many important ideas with Buddhism (and others have written on this subject; for example, see 

Interestingly, some of these shared ideas, such as compassionate mindfulness, have recently been embraced by modern Western Psychology, such as with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I find this development to be very exciting, for its potential as portending a paradigm shift from a left-brain hemisphere, every man for himself perspective to a right-brain hemisphere, we are all connected perspective.  Such a shift would be in alignment with the larger brewing group process--if social media is an accurate gauge.  Others, however, wonder if it is just the latest passing fad.

The Buddhist practice of mindfulness asks us to practice waiting silently at our internal center--to compassionately observe and accept our own internal flow of thought and emotion, and to practice stepping back from that flow, in detachment.  The Buddhist mandala is a Sacred Circle that symbolizes an enlightened mind, and depicts four directions with a center.  Like the practice of mindfulness, both the Buddhist mandala and the Native American Medicine Wheel direct us to go inside ourselves (to our center) to wait in silence and observe with compassion.  

“Walking, I am listening to a deeper way.  Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me.  Be still, they say.  Watch and listen.  You are the result of the love of thousands” (Linda Hogan, Chickasaw Nation).

The Native American Medicine Wheel or Sacred Circle is a compass for living in balance on the Red Road or Spiritual path.  It shows us our current position (which describes our true animal nature and includes our strengths and weaknesses), and in which direction we need to travel in order to find balance.  As with any compass, every direction on the Medicine Wheel is of equal value to the whole.  At the center of the Medicine Wheel is the place of balance and of awareness that we are all connected (Mitakuye Oyasin, a Lakota prayer of Oneness).  This awareness reminds us of our duty to care for all our relations—because at the Center of the Sacred Circle, we understand that what is done to one, is done to all.

In Buddhism, as in Native American medicine, centered balance means acceptance of what is--that no matter what comes, ‘it is all good,’ and it is all temporary.  Let it go, observe its flow.  Wait it out and soon you’ll know ... balance.  This is a very different approach than C.B.T.’s standard of reaching into the flow and pulling out all of those negative thoughts to examine, challenge, and unravel, as defined causes of one’s suffering.  Whether Beck and Ellis will eventually fade into the background, or whether compassionate mindfulness will burn itself out as just the latest passing fad in C.B.T. practice instead, as some are wondering, remains to be seen.  I for one, am rooting for a paradigm shift toward right-brain hemisphere processing, in alignment with Native American and Buddhist principles.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Adanvdo Yonv

This hand painted sign was made by Jan Rice of Heartworks.etsy.  In Cherokee syllabary, it says 'Adanvdo Yonv', which means 'Spirit Bear.'  The sign shows the principal directions of a Native American Medicine Wheel (E, S, W, N, Above, Below, and at the Center) and a Spirit Bear walking in balance (at the Center).

I have not always walked in balance, and in fact, could better serve as a cautionary tale than a good example :-).  All things in their own time.

Bears are healers, nurturers, caregivers, artists, etc..  Bear medicine represents the universal resource that is the comfort and love of all mothers, and is akin to Goddess energy.  Lessons of Mother Bear include finding strength by learning to go inside (introspection) when change (transformation) is needed for healing.  Those with bear totem are creative, intuitive, sensitive, emotionally intense.  They see that we are all connected and part of the One, but easily lose patience with those who are too self-centered or those who would harm the little ones.  Those with Bear totem often neglect to care for their own needs, so can benefit from a lesson from the other side of the Medicine Wheel, to care for oneself before turning to help others, in order to protect personal resources.