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Photo from Budapest Market Hall

“What is it about peppers that makes them so refreshing?”

One of the delightful bonuses to studying medicine in Hungary was the opportunity to be constantly reminded of the contribution Hungarians make to, well, everything. The legendary Albert Szent György was reputed to have asked this question, or something very much like it, while lunching on the very traditional repast of bread, salami and sweet peppers. I don’t know what Hungarians ate prior to Columbus, but since 1492, peppers have been part of the Holy Trinity of Hungarian cooking, a status they share with lard and onions.

Pursuit of this quest led to the discovery of vitamin C. Or at least the isolation of the chemical long known to cure scurvy and thereafter dubbed “a-scorbic (anti-scurvy) acid.” …


How much should you take?

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Crowd of people on the beach from pikrepo.com

How much is enough and how much is too much?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is between 400 and 800 international units (IU) depending on your sex and age. That’s enough to prevent rickets, the only deficiency disease with which this essential nutrient is associated. (Vitamin D can be made in sufficient quantities in the skin and is therefore not a true vitamin. And given its cholesterol backbone and physiological action, it more closely fits the definition of a steroid hormone, but let’s skip the semantic debate for now.)

Vitamin D is one of the oil-soluble vitamins, so you could potentially achieve toxic levels by taking too much. The maximal safe dose is widely considered to be 4,000 IU per day. But if you follow the popular health literature, it looks like the optimal amount of vitamin D is off from the RDA by a factor of ten.[1] And where did this 4,000 IU max safe dose come from? …


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Image from SweatBlock

I’ve written elsewhere (https://secondsixty.substack.com/p/water) about why we don’t need to drink the copious amounts of water the health experts recommend. Here I would like to discuss the benefits of running huge amounts of water through your body, mostly through sweat.

When you drink large amounts of water, it is absorbed into the blood stream, expanding the volume which triggers reflexes to increase diuresis in order to normalize the vascular compartment. Diluting the blood can have serious deleterious consequences from rupture of red blood cells to relative hyponatremia (low sodium) which can cause central demyelination, permanently damaging the central nervous system.

Just drinking water doesn’t get the water to where it does a body good — the extracellular compartment (the water outside the blood surrounding the cells.) …


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Photo from www.abiramiashram.com

A Japanese Zen master sits perfectly still in a quiet room with electrodes pasted to his smooth scalp. In the next room a scientist watches the electroencephalogram, or EEG, the readout of the monk’s brainwaves. After a few minutes, the scientist rings a bell. A sharp spike from the electrode placed at the center-line of the skull just behind the forehead registers at 200 milliseconds — the p200 wave — indicating awareness of the bell.

As the scientist rings the bell at one second intervals, the p200 wave registers consistently and does not diminish in amplitude.

This is unusual, because a normal brain untrained in meditation will become used to the repeated sound and eventually stop noticing it. The Zen meditator is aware of each chime as though it were the first. …


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From 50 Shades of Zen

I’m holding a big, juicy lemon in my hand. I squeeze it and roll it around. I smell that tangy, tart aroma. I cut the lemon, put it to my mouth and suck on it.

What is your mouth doing, right now?

There is no lemon. Just an idea clearly imagined, yet you are salivating as if you were actually tasting it. Your thoughts influence your body. You can’t help it.

Every parent has at some point experienced something like this: You tell the child not to slam that door and what happens? He slams the door. Maybe you lose your temper and scold the child. “Why did you slam the door? I told you not to slam the door! You’re always slamming the door. If you don’t stop slamming doors, I’m going to punish you!” …


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From Yoga with Intention

If you’ve spent any time at the gym, you’ve seen people putting in long stretches on the stationary bike, reading or watching TV to kill time. Or maybe they’re listening to music to take their minds off their routine.

If you want results, this is about as far from the right thing to do at the gym as you can get. Focusing on the exercise to do it safely and effectively, to make the workout as fruitful as you can, requires attention.

Alignment and doing the asanas correctly is only part of the practice of yoga. Breathing properly is also an essential element. …


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Image from Yogateket

If you spend any time doing yoga, you learn that how you breathe is an important part of the practice. What Westerners have less appreciation for is that the yoga of breath control — pranayama — is itself an independent field of yoga apart from the asanas and mental work.

The ancient Sanskrit word prana carries with it an almost mystical character. It is more than just air or breathing. Throughout the ancient world, not just India, the concept of moving air was wrapped in wonder. Known as ruah in Hebrew, pneuma in Greek, spiritus in Latin and chi in Chinese it was synonymous with life itself. Listen to this verse from the Gospel of John. …


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From The 7 Chakras by Belinda Grace

Hindu and Buddhist traditions describe a series of four to seven chakras (from the Sanskrit for “wheel”) located along the spine, which are hubs of energy collection and distribution. So elaborate are these descriptions that they each have their own physiological significance, seed syllables, sounds, subtle elements, colors, and even deities. They are said to influence qualities as subtle as emotions and virtues.

Traditional Chinese medicine and Taoist thought have similar theories involving the flow of energy (chi) along channels and intersecting at physiological centers often associated with physical organs. …


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From TheHeartySoul.com

“You will be very rich in money and women,” the shaman told me through an interpreter.

I was working in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1976 and got invited to a party in a nearby village. My translator’s father was a highly respected fortune-teller and she invited me to let him have a look at my hand. It was all in good fun and of course I took it no more seriously than I might take a prediction from my daily horoscope in the morning newspaper.

Fast forward 40 years and I’ve had to rethink the idea that something can be told about a person’s nature and future from examining their extremities. …


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Illustration from managers.org.uk

While in my final year of medical school an alarming event altered my career forever. While taking a shower one Sunday morning, I noticed that I couldn’t see the soap tray just to the left of the faucet. If I looked directly at it, I could see it just fine, but if I looked slightly away, it disappeared.

To my great fortune, I was doing a rotation in neurology at the time and knew how to test for neurological deficits on physical exam. …

About

Lloyd Sparks

Lloyd Sparks MD is a neuroscientist who writes on the subjects of health, fitness and fearless living.

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