COLUMNS Stephen Berk

Apocalypse Now?

I write this before the election, but I believe that if the extremist party Mitt Romney represents takes office, we are in for a boatload of horrors. Far from the pragmatic Republican Party of earlier decades, which often worked with the Democrats to craft foreign and domestic policy for the good of the country, this one is composed of ideologues, given to continuous war abroad and privatization of nearly all public services at home. They set out, in the words of their chief propagandist, Rush Limbaugh, to “make Barack Obama fail,” hardly a patriotic agenda in time of national economic meltdown. This crisis had been engineered by 1920s style deregulated markets, reestablished in a cooperative effort of both parties.

But now Republicans refused to participate in stabilizing a plummeting stock market by helping to reinstate even the most basic regulation of banking.

During the largely prosperous second half of the twentieth century, the Glass Steagall Act, which kept commercial banks from engaging in speculative market investments on the order of brokerage houses, prevented the US from sliding into the boom/bust cycles which began in the early 1800’s and culminated in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Glass Steagall passed during FDR’s presidency with bipartisan support. But the Obama administration’s much less rigorous Dodd-Frank bill passed without a single Republican vote. To Romney and Ryan, it is a stifling encumbrance on business investment. They want, as do the Wall Street money barons who fill their campaign coffers, to return to the complete deregulation of markets and derivatives that triggered the wild subprime loan speculation which caused the 2008 crash.

But return to unregulated markets is only a part of the extremist Republican agenda. The billionaires who fund the Romney campaign share a mania for privatization. Following anti-tax ideologue, Grover Norquist, they would privatize Social Security, placing earned senior retirements in an unstable, deregulated stock market, and they would also privatize Medicare, opening the door to more costly and restrictive treatments. Present insurance company “managed care” is the most expensive and inefficient in the world, largely because it is run for profits reaped by insurance executives. Privatization of Medicare, the one element of medical service delivery that is partially publicly funded and regulated, would produce huge new profits for insurance companies, but higher costs and reduced availability of care for seniors. Today’s Republicans, who cater to America’s wealthiest while claiming to stand for all families, also aim to repeal Obamacare, which they have convinced many naïve citizens will cost them more, when in fact it delivers care to over thirty million Americans who previously could not afford our high priced private insurance with its many exclusions.

But the worst aspect of Republican extremism is its massive militarism. Here Republicans violate their own supposedly small government principles. Romney repeats endlessly in debates, ads and speeches the neocon mantra that it is a very dangerous world and we must have even more than the present half to three quarters of a trillion dollar “defense” allotments per year to counter our “enemies,” among whom, for the first time since the Cold War ended, he numbers Russia. He continuously mouths the neocon line that the prospect of Iran getting a nuclear weapon is a grave threat to peace. Why? Pakistan, which harbors more terrorists than Iran, got them, and we did not bomb them. In fact, we retained them as an ally, even though they gave nuclear secrets to the familial rogue dictatorship, North Korea, which they now use to threaten our ally, South Korea. During the Cold War, deterrence worked between the Soviet Union and the United States. And it is so far working between arch rivals India and Pakistan. Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, surely a deterrent to Iran. Yet Romney endorses Israeli leader Netanyahu’s intent to preemptively bomb Iran. Iran borders Russia and partners economically with Russia, China, Venezuela and Brazil. An Israeli/American attack on it would cause a major regional war, raising oil prices out of sight and triggering another recession. Such a war could set the great powers in conflict in what could escalate to a third world war. Should Obama be reelected, all these things would be less likely, but you can bet the Republicans would devote their full energies to “making him fail again.”

Bodies In Balance COLUMNS

Healthy Aging

AS WE embrace fall and the bounty of summer begins to wilt and wither it makes me think of the aging process normal and natural to all living things. It is not a fact of life many of us enjoy exploring but being prepared for the course of aging can benefit our quality and quantity of life. Understanding that there are too many specific health challenges to cover in this article, I hope I can touch on some basics, which I expect will apply to most.

Digestion…I will repeat what I’ve said before…this is the cornerstone of health. As we age so does this valuable system. The release of stomach acid decreases and with it the cues to pancreatic and gall bladder function begin to weaken as well. Individuals may have a lessening appetite, eat fewer and smaller meals, clearly this varies but is not uncommon. As digestion starts to deteriorate a vERY common symptom that arises is heartburn, for which acid-reducing medication is regularly prescribed. Sadly this quick fix is not a healthy long-term solution as the acid is required for essential vitamin and mineral absorption as well as overall digestive flow. Instead I would suggest a strong lemon or lime and water mix, or apple cider vinegar before or with your meals. This naturally acidic solution will instead strengthen the innate digestive function creating better health.

Inflammation…This is the root of disease, it’s really that simple. So logically if we can support the inflammatory pathways in a healthy and beneficial manner we can reduce the progression of diseases that deteriorate our health. The theory is simple it’s the practice that is a challenge, and again as individual lifestyles, genetics, etc vary there is no one simple way to assist this. One no brainer, however, is to reduce your stress or at least learn techniques to manage it. Stress is pro-inflammatory, but when managed can lessen its impact on your overall health.

I think as our world has become more stressful we see activities like Yoga, Tai Chi and meditation gaining popularity because they offer natural stress reduction. Really any kind of exercise will count here, but if you are a go-go-go, anxious, or putting others before yourself type personality then a high impact workout would not necessarily be as nourishing as a slow-down, self-reflective one. Food choices are another must in this category. Quality fresh foods will be less inflammatory than highly processed foods…seems obvious. Foods that may be affecting our gut health and immune health are also worth avoiding or at least eating as conscientiously as possible. Other wise known as food allergies or intolerances these foods are an irritant to the system, and constant irritation can over time cause inflammation. There are a variety of ways to discover what these foods may be if not obvious already, a great reason to seek the attention of your local naturopath or health care provider. Anti-inflammatory nutrients come from fish oils, turmeric, bromelain, alpha-lipoid acid and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Cognition…For many memory, thinking and speaking clearly are extremely important indicators of the aging process. Without touching on any one condition I think there are some terrific everyday tools, and nutrients that can support good cognition.

variety is not only important but also more fun. New foods, books, games, puzzles, routes to work, exercises, all increase the pathways in the brain. Doing some activity in your life where you are moving with your eyes closed is also great for the brain and your balance too. Learning in any way, like a language, artistic skill, craft or hobby can improve both the quality of your life and your brain function. One nutrient essential to brain function is B-12, remember to compliment any one B vitamin with a B complex to assure you are not creating deficiency elsewhere.

I know you’ve likely all heard about Gingko, wonderful for helping to open and access those small blood vessels and capillaries throughout the body, especially prevalent in the brain. Ginger is another circulatory tonic that I would combine for brain function, along with Gotu Kola an herb full of antioxidants to assist in blood vessel damage and repair. A basic multivitamin would cover many of the nutrients discussed here, in addition a sublingual B-12; the herbs can be added if this is an area of special concern.

Appearance…the way we look can create much apprehension for many aging adults. This is not only our skin, and hair, but the way we move and carry ourselves. For both men and women it is extremely valuable to build muscle mass before our 50’s; this means performing weight bearing exercise in addition to cardiovascular or the more stress alleviating exercises discussed above. After menopause women have a more profound shift in their physiology which includes muscle and bone loss. This occurs in men too, just not a dramatically. Keeping our musculoskeletal systems well nourished and flexible helps with ease of movement and long-lasting strength.

Our skin is not so unlike this system as it is made of many of the same basic building blocks, namely collagen and muscles. Since the skin is such a rapidly growing organ, it shows the signs of aging more readily. The skin as a whole benefits greatly from the use of antioxidants… vitamins C,D,E, bioflavonoids like rutin, quercitin, resveratrol, and foods like blueberries, acai berries, pomegranate, dark leafy greens and green tea. These antioxidants are a valuable toolbox which enhance the health of our aging bodies, they are incidentally also useful anti-inflammatory agents.

This month I am turning 40 and feel as healthy as ever! I’m sure as I continue to age my opinions may shift, but for now I am not in the anti-aging camp, as with all things naturopathic I believe in supporting the natural processes of the body…of which aging is part. I certainly do support any efforts to age in a healthy and vital way and hope these simple reminders can help you to achieve a bounty of health throughout your life.

DO something you love, BE with someone you love, EAT your vegetables, DRINK clean water, BREAThE deeply and MOvE your body EvERY- DAY!