YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE TO WATER, BUT…
Well, maybe you can’t force a horse to ingest something he doesn’t want to swallow, but you can force a human being to. We do it to ourselves all the time. It’s called dieting. Going on a diet is, essentially, eating according to force and will. You use your own will to force yourself to stay on the program, whether it’s eating high protein or high fat or high both, eating eight times a day, or eating under 2000 calories, or drinking instead of eating. On all dietary programs, it is your will that determines what you eat, when you eat and how much you eat. It has nothing to do with pleasure, hunger, thirst – or any other natural process that arises from either your body’s or psyche’s needs.
This is why every diet ultimately is doomed to failure.
I start with weight because it is a pandemic problem in our culture. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the population of obese men and women in America has increased from 12% in 1991, to 17.9% in 1998, and to 23.9% in 2000. In their study, they suggested that these figures may be much too conservative.
Overweight is, at times, the most visible sign of ill-health. While it may have become politically correct to think generously about overweight people, it is not medically correct. Recent studies provide strong evidence that being overweight isn’t just bad for you, it kills you prematurely. The October 1999 Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that concluded: “Obesity is a major cause of mortality in the United States of Americans 18 years and older.” Approximately 280,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to being overweight. If one were able to calculate the number of deaths indirectly attributable to overweight, the number would be enormous. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at over a million Americans, and concluded that obese people — defined as being more than 30 percent over their ideal body weight — run a significant risk of dying early, even if they’re in relatively good health and don’t smoke.
Remember though: although I am only starting our discussion with the issue of weight. Weight is just the surface picture, one of the most obvious and sometimes earliest manifestations of a state of ill-health and unbalance in the body. Weight, ultimately, cannot be regulated without many other biochemical factors coming into play. Why do we not do what we should do and do what we should not do when it comes to food?
If you are overweight, the odds are you feel at the mercy of your food cravings. You know you should eat less than you do, or differently than you do. But you just can’t bring yourself to do it.
Obviously, what we know and what we do are two different matters. We do not always choose to do what is best for us. (There are still hordes of smokers in this country; they have not all been living under a rock for the last 50 years, oblivious to the dangers of smoking; yet their habit persists.) This, then, is the important question: why do we not do what we should do and do what we should not do when it comes to food? Why do we finish off a perfectly satisfactory supper with a sugar-laden dessert, knowing that our guilt in the morning will be a justifiable penance? Why do we add more salt to our food than any competent heart specialist would recommend? Why do we engage in 3 a.m. eating jags, when a host of research shows that most weight gain is acquired from eating between 9 p. m. and 7 a.m. when the body needs to be resting?
Is the answer as simple as that we are at the mercy of our cravings? Well, maybe. But that answer doesn’t really get us very far. It only leads to new questions. Why are most of our cravings for salt and sugar? Why do we feel hungry in our minds when our bodies are sated? In other words, what is the nature of food craving? If we can figure out the answer to that one question, we will have come a long way toward helping ourselves to be able to eat healthier and, thus, be able to maintain our ideal weight as well as keeping our bodies in a state of optimal health.
It has become popular to answer these kinds of questions from a psychological perspective. As a psychoanalyst, no one knows better than I the psychological components that go into food habits. Yet, after studying my patients and my spa clients as long as I have, I have become convinced that there is more to the story. Food practices arise as much, if not more, because of biochemical reasons as they do for psychological reasons.
The implications of such a premise are far-reaching. It means that our food decisions are not really choices, at all, or at least not in the usual sense of the word. Rather, they are rooted in biochemical urges — more like what psychoanalysts would term compulsions. The nature of a compulsion is that it actually by-passes consciousness; we just do it automatically.
That’s the bad news: that to the extent that we follow unhealthy dietary practices, it is often beyond our control. We may feel temporarily relieved at such news, but absolution of responsibility doesn’t help us to improve our habits. It’s like the criminal insanity defense. The murderer may not have known what he was doing, or whether what he was doing was right or wrong, but what’s the consolation when the body is still dead? What’s the consolation if we’re still FAT?
There is good news, however. The good news is that the body operates like the U.S. government; it has a system of checks and balances. When we have a food craving — the kind of feeling that leads us to choose a food without our conscious will — all that is happening is that our body is engaging in its attempt to correct itself. It’s one of the myriad ways the body has of attempting to heal itself.
So far so good. But if the body is attempting to right a wrong, why are our food cravings so often for foods that are bad for us? How many of us have craved a carrot — a food rich in beta-carotene and vitamin B — over ice cream — a food rich in nothing except fat, sugar and cholesterol?
The answer is: we are misreading the signals. When a craving develops, the body is in a mild case of stress. A biochemical situation has occurred in which our system of checks and balances leaps into action. Too much salt, for instance, will stimulate a craving for sugar. Similarly, too much sugar will make us want to taste salt.
If we think about it, the food cravings most of us have always have to do with either salt or sugar. This itself is interesting and meaningful. Western science has identified four basic tastes to food: salty, bitter, sweet and sour. In traditional Eastern systems there are two others: pungent and astringent. Ancient East-Indian pharmacology and medical science enumerates 64 basic taste qualities. Yet, with all these varieties possible, most Americans crave the experience only of the two tastes of salt and sugar. In overindulging in these two cravings, we have essentially destroyed our palate’s ability to experience the full range of possibilities of taste.
The craving is deceptive, though. We think we want sugar or salt, and indeed, much of the time, we indulge ourselves in gratifying our craving. The deception, though, is more than problematic. It’s outright dangerous.
If we indulge our sugar craving by eating refined sugar, we satisfy our hunger but meet none of our body’s nutrient requirements. All of the vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins that would have come from a food in its natural state are still needed by the body. These nutrients, then, will be pulled from the body’s own reserves in order to support the metabolic activity stimulated by the sugar. A condition of nutrient debt is created. So, it is not just that sugar puts on weight. It is not just that it doesn’t have nutrient value. It actually creates a condition of stress in the body. Given enough of these stressful events, the body will become exhausted. If we indulge our craving for salt, we create an imbalance in the potassium/sodium ratio in the body. Potassium is important for its role in the contraction of muscles, including the heart. An excess of sodium causes an accumulation of water, bringing about an increase in blood volume, blood pressure and heart rate. Too little potassium, which is found in fresh fruit and vegetables, and too much sodium is a sure trigger for cancer, heart disease, kidney failure and stroke A familiar picture: a bad mirror So, now that you’ve satisfied your food carvings (in spite of your knowing better, and not wanting to), you’re left with the inevitable result: too much fat. See if this picture looks familiar to you.
It may not come as a sudden revelation. You may have been able to successfully pretend it wasn’t so bad, or been able to just shove the thought below your conscious awareness. Maybe you became obsessed with mirrors, on the eternal search for the perfect mirror, thinking that some of them were like those concave mirrors in the fun houses, and they made you look fatter than you actually are. Or maybe you just gave up, as I did for a while, looking in mirrors altogether.
But finally the day arrives when you can’t stand it any longer. You can’t stand the way you look in the mirror, and you allow yourself to know that the problem is not the fault of a bad mirror, the problem is the fault of a bad body. The scale reflects your hatred of the state you have gotten yourself into. You have gotten to the point where you can’t stand you way you feel. You can’t stand knowing how people see you. “That’s it,” you say to yourself. You have to do something about it. You make the firm decision that the diet starts TODAY. So, there is information that has been perking along in your brain for a while. It’s the NEW diet. Call it the zone diet, the air altitude diet, or the everything you want to eat but can’t resist – it doesn’t matter what you call it. It almost doesn’t matter what it requires you to do because at this point you are so desperate that you’ll agree to do almost anything. You begin your first day. Things are going along swimmingly. You strictly adhere to the specified program. You feel great, not because you have lost weight (too early in the game for that), but because you have finally reined yourself in; you are now disciplined, at long last. It doesn’t seem too hard now that you have committed to it. The end of the first week: you’re still going strong. You’ve lost 6 pounds. You’re feeling a little smugly and you think, “Well, that wasn’t so bad after all. I’ll just keep on going and I’ll be able to take this weight off in no time!” You know, as any serious dieter knows, that the weight loss is mostly water. But you don’t care. The scale is the judge and jury, and according to the scale, you’ve taken off pounds. In fact, to sway the judge and jury in your favor, you may even curtail your in-take of water (a seriously dangerous habit which we’ll get to later).
The second week ends. You’re still being “good.” But being good doesn’t necessarily lead to good news. To the contrary, bad news: the scale doesn’t reflect any weight loss. Oh dear. The third week ends and you’re still on the program, still being good. But the scale shows only a few more pounds. The results are discouraging. And, more importantly, you’re not feeling so good. Either you’re perpetually constipated, or your energy is low, or you’re depressed like never before, or your breathe smells and tastes like a sewer, or some of the weight you had taken off has now mysteriously reappeared (more on that later), or all of the above. I’ll stop the story here because you know the end. The end is that you go off the program. You gain all the weight back, and you swear you will never go on a quick-fix (or long-fix) diet again. And you don’t. At least for a while. You don’t until you get to that point of desperation again, and you hear about the next, newest sure-fire method that 8.7 of your friends have lost 16.7 pounds on. Why all diets are doomed to fail The National Institutes of Health recently conducted a study that documents dieters’ failures. They found that organized diet plans do not work for 95% of all dieters.
Three reasons they cited for these high failure rates were:
1. Diets are a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
2. Most diet programs rely on deprivation.
3. Organized diets fail because the associated caloric intake is too low, Let’s look at these reasons point by point.
Point 1: Diets are a short-term solution to a long-term problem. By the time a weight problem has become noticeable, there has been an eating dysfunction that has been present over a long period of time. You may not like my calling it an “eating dysfunction” because the term comes to scarily close to the term “eating disorder,” and you don’t make yourself throw up, or consume ridiculous amounts of food on eating binges. But nevertheless, if you are overweight, you do have an eating dysfunction. You might even say you have an eating addiction. The fact is: you are not in control of your food decisions; your impulses are. One doesn’t gain weight overnight. Even if the dysfunction began as a strictly psychological problem, by the time the weight has become manifested, it has evolved into a complex biological condition. Treating the condition of overweight by simply restricting food is the same as treating the symptoms of a disease instead of addressing the underlying causes of the disease. When diets focus on scale weight, or calories, they only serve to perpetuate the weight loss – weight regained dieting cycle.
Point 2. Most diet programs rely on deprivation. Most diets dictate such Draconian measures as forbidding favorite foods, providing skimpy portions or, as with liquid diets, no portions at all. This deprivation method flies in the face of everything we know about the psychology of overweight. There is almost always a psychological aspect to weight problems. Generally people overfeed themselves when there is a history of emotional deprivation. Food has acquired symbolic meaning, and it is used to quell uncomfortable feelings. In these cases, food has become a form of self-medication. A dietary program that advocates food deprivation only further aggravates what is usually a pre-existing, long-standing problem. This method, too, then serves to perpetuate the weight loss – weight regained dieting dilemma. There is almost always a rebound effect, and in order to regain emotional equilibrium loss from the state of deprivation, the dieter binges on forbidden food. Often the weight gained back exceeds even the weight loss. Deprivation diets are based on the idea that only the horse being led to water can decide whether or not he wants to drink. This concept is based on the use of will. We lose weight because we decide that we want to, and we force ourselves – against all desire (even against common sense) – to abstain from weight-gaining foods. Losing weight through deprivation is difficult because we are not mere machines of will-power. We are creatures of desires and needs, as well. And those differing aspects of our self are constantly in battle with one another, sometimes one winning out over the other, sometimes the other winning out over the one. We prefer to live from the pleasurable place of desire, so in the end, desire wins, at least for a time (until our conscience kicks in, for the umpteenth time and the umpteenth diet).
Point 3: Organized diets fail because the associated caloric intake is too low. This sounds like a total contradiction. This is the most difficult point to understand, but it is the most important. One would think that the lower you set you caloric-intake sights, the better off you are with weight loss. The less you eat, the more weight you lose. Right? Wrong. The body doesn’t work that way. The checks and balances system of the body means that its proper functioning is a delicate balancing act. When one system goes out of whack, another tries to compensate. The whole body is reading and righting itself all the time, consistently and persistently making its adjustments to itself. When you go into starvation mode (read low caloric in-take), your body interprets the deficient caloric intake as a life-threatening situation. It resorts to its built-in defense, trying to defend you against what it perceives to be eminent starvation. Your body attempts to conserve energy from the small amounts of food you are providing it with. It goes into the stores of body-fat you already have (thus the weight loss). But your body has made a pact with the devil; the only way it can conserve energy is by slowing down your metabolism. Here is the important point in our elementary lesson on biochemistry: in its effort to compensate for the perceived starvation threat, your body makes an automatic metabolic adjustment. This adaptation results in two biochemical processes: it causes lower (caloric) energy consumption and, as well, results in a tendency to store excess (fat) reserves. Consequently, your body’s natural defense against starvation — which was actually triggered by your dieting – has now created an impenetrable barrier against losing weight. You are storing fat rather than getting rid of it. Once the metabolic rate has slowed to the point where caloric stores are put into reserve, the body has gone into a famine mode of operation. When the dieter finally goes off the diet, the body goes out of famine mode and into feast mode. The dieter feels uncontrollably hungry, and indulges in the unstoppable, reactive food cravings. While this feels to the dieter like it’s a psychological weakness, this urge to binge is actually a biochemical response of the body. The body is attempting to right itself. The impulse to binge is so overwhelming that few of us can resist it, not because we are weak in will-power or undisciplined: it is because the body has understood that it will die unless you substantially increase your caloric in-take. So when people fall off the wagon with their diet, it is always done in a big (unhealthy) way, not in incrementally larger (healthy) portions. It is actually the body which has reasserted its needs over our will, and, rather literally, forcing us to do it this way. And all this is not even the worse news. The worse news is that now that you are off dieting, a new problem comes up. Now you notice that your body is even more susceptible to weight gain than it was before you started the diet. If you tried a low-calorie diet, your body did exactly what it should have done; it attempted to conserve energy by automatically slowing down its metabolic rate. But now that you have returned to eating normal amounts of food again, your body’s metabolism has trouble re-adjusting back to its normal rate. Once that happens, even more of the caloric-energy from the normal amount of food you eat, goes into storage. And what do we call that (excess) stored energy? We call it FAT.
This is the basic biochemistry of why deprivation diets don’t/can’t work. Virtually everyone (remember, 95%) who tries dieting will gain back most, if not all, the weight they’ve lost! Many end up weighing even more than when they first started dieting!
Not only are diets doomed to fail, they are dangerous Diets and other radical food programs, particularly the ones that count calories, will absolutely, no question about it, endanger your over-all health. I am going to give you the science for this point, too, so that you can understand why this is true.
Overweight means. technically, a state in which you have begun to store too much caloric energy in fat reserves. There are various reasons why this happens. It can be due to illness or inactivity. The most frequent cause is aging: as we get older our metabolism changes. When we were 30, our 3 times a week moderately energetic walk was enough to keep a balance between the amount of energy we burned and the amount of calories we took in. But at the age of 50, our metabolism has slowed down. This is almost inevitable. It happens to almost everyone as part of the aging process. And then, in order to maintain the same weight, we need to either exercise more or eat less. These are the bare facts, as unhappy as they are. Any dietary program that tells you otherwise is lying.
We, of course, measure weight in pounds. One single pound of body-fat is equivalent to 3500 calories (of stored energy). This amount is much greater than the average person’s daily caloric needs. To translate this into terms that anyone who has ever been concerned about their weight will understand: what this means is that in order to metabolize just one pound of body-fat, a woman would have to go on an absolute fast – no food at all — for two full days. A man — whose daily caloric needs are usually much higher — would take at least a day to burn-up 3500 calories. If you decided you wanted to lose 20 pounds of stored body- fat, it would take you 25 to 30 days of strict, low-calorie (starvation) dieting (and that’s being optimistic).
All kinds of chemical processes occur in the body when you suddenly change how you are eating. Dramatic changes can upset your body’s natural processes for assimilation of food nutrients, for cell rejuvenation, for muscle-building and energy conversion. Prolonged dieting can also cause a process known as katabolism. This is essentially a break-down of your lean muscle. It results in decreased vitality and increased body toxicity. If you lose lean muscle mass during a diet, you’ll actually increase your chances of gaining weight in the future. Perhaps most importantly is that dieting and loss of lean muscle mass results in a long-term reduction in body metabolism.
Now: let’s find the key to what will lead us to a sensible, do-able weight-loss and health-gain program. Read on.
WETTING YOUR APPETITE
Hopefully, by now you have sworn off all diets forever more. But you’re still stuck with that extra weight. So if you’re not going to diet, if you are convinced that one more bout with food deprivation will give you a nervous breakdown, then how exactly are you going to get that weight off? The answer is so simple. It’s an answer that is not even controversial. It’s a simple yet universally accepted truth that none of us ever take seriously.
The answer is: WATER The answer to weight loss and health gain is adding this one major, crucial element that few of us get enough of. We have all been told, from childhood, to drink lots of water. Every agrees on this wisdom: physicians, researchers, mothers, diet gurus, holistic health teachers. We all know we should drink more water than we do (just as we know which foods are good for us and which ones aren’t). But few of us do. The Nutrition Information Center at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center recently surveyed people about their water drinking habits. Two out of 3 Americans know the rule about drinking eight 8 oz. servings of water daily. Yet, only 1 in 2 actually follows this guideline. 21% of respondents said they drink eight or more glasses of water daily, 35% drink three or fewer servings, and 9% drink no water at all.
What we need (as opposed to what we want)
When we are in the midst of a food craving, particularly either sugar or salt, most of the time what the body really needs (as opposed to wants) is simply pure H2O — pure, clean, unadulterated WATER. In not reading the signal properly, we feed the body precisely what it needs the least of, the same salty or sugary substances that created the deception in the first place. The body becomes even more depleted of water.
An overload of salt or sugar has created a condition of mild dehydration in the body, and the body is asking that its fluid demands be met. We read the signal as wanting more food (usually sugar). Yet, a mere glass of water will satisfy the craving.
I know that this explanation sounds ridiculously simplistic — too easy to be true. Yet, I, and other smart doctors and researchers who have understood the value of water, have recommended water as a cure for food cravings to scores of people with absolutely impeccable results. Unfortunately for all the people who have suffered needlessly, it is only recently that any of us have begun to see the error of the ways of traditional western medical thought in regard to water.
When science began its inquiry into the human body, it followed the basic principles that had been established in chemistry. The 25% solid matter of the body was considered to be the solute, the substances that are dissolved and carried in the blood and serum of the body. The 75% water part was seen as the solvent, meaning that whatever it touches, it begins to dissolve that substance. Following the laws of chemistry and test-tube experiments, it was assumed that the solute composition of the body was the truly important part of the body. The solid materials were seen as the regulator of all bodily functions. The solvent, the water in the body, was seen as a mere space filler whose only function was a means of transport for the important solutes.
This erroneous assumption prevented researchers from even asking the question of whether or not the regulation of the fluids of the body ever go awry. Now that we understand the multiple functions of the solvent, the water in our bodies, we know that the answer is that the fluids in our bodies can and do go awry, and much more often than we would imagine.
Most of us have an undiagnosed condition of sub-clinical dehydration. The traditional assumption that we only need to drink water when we experience “dry mouth” is totally false, and is, as well, a dangerous assumption. In fact, dry mouth is the last outward sign of dehydration. Food craving, in particular sugar craving, is a much earlier sign, but one that is not read correctly, and thus not responded to appropriately. So is tiredness. Fatigue can occur when the body is trying to carry out its normal functions on a limited supply of water. Many of us eat when we’re tired in order to get the energy surge that food gives us; what we need, however, much of the time, is just water. Actually, the list of symptoms we can have from a state of sub-clinical dehydration is almost endless.
The science of water and weight
The biochemistry behind the fact that drinking a sufficient quantity of water is the best way of losing weight is actually quite simple. The kidneys cannot function properly without enough water. If the kidneys are not doing their job well enough, then they will dump their overload into the liver. Normally the liver has the function of metabolizing stored fat into usable energy for the body. But if the liver has to do part of the kidneys’ job, then it can’t do its own job well enough. It metabolizes less fat than it should, and the un-metabolized fat stays stored in the body. Weight loss cannot occur because of the excess fat now stored in the body. Simply put, a decrease in water intake causes fat deposits to increase, and conversely, an increase in water intake reduces fat deposits.
Alkalizing your body
We cannot understand the science of weight without regarding the acid/alkaline balance of the body. All ingested substances (water as well as food), and all situations, be they physical or psychological, affect the body by creating either an acid or alkaline reaction, and leave either an acid or alkaline residue.
The acidity or alkalinity of a substance is determined by its pH. The pH of a substance measures the concentration of hydrogen ions, which can be either positive or negative. Fewer negative ions means less acidity and more alkalinity; more positive ions means more acidity and less alkalinity. The pH reading is one of the strongest indicators we have for the state of health of a person. Within a certain pH range, the person is healthy and energetic. Whenever there is disease of any nature present, the body will give a pH reading that is outside the normal range; this is almost always over-acidification.
The pH of the body is crucial in an overweight condition. One of the checks and balances system in the body is the chemical reactions the body has to too acid of a condition. The body has buffers, which are chemicals that neutralize, bind or dilute strong acid conditions. There are seven different types of buffers, but there is one in particular that has a specific effect on weight. This weight-buffer is found in low density lipoproteins, commonly called fat buffers, and these work to bind acids in the fluid systems of the body – the blood, lymph and extracellular fluids. Normally, the fat buffer allows the body to excrete the excess acids through urine. But if the excretion is not sufficient, either because there has been an overload of acids or because the eliminative channel is compromised, then these fat-laden acids are moved protectively away from the organs that sustain life. As a defensive move, the acids are moved into the body cavities, hips, stomach, thighs, or anywhere else that they can be stored without being directly life-threatening.
In short, overweight is the body’s checks and balances response to over-acidification. Fat cells carry acids away from the organs in order to protect the organs from the damaging effect of the acid.
The miracle of no more food craving
When the body’s need for water is met, the liver can return to its normal operation of metabolizing stored fat, and more fat can be used as fuel. When the body is well-hydrated, it is also alkalized. Water has the specific effect of maintaining alkalinity in the blood, lymph, intracellular and extracellular fluids. This is where the miracle starts. In a well-hydrated, alkalized body, there is a loss of food craving almost overnight. Weight stabilizes automatically at the correct weight for every body type. In the case of overweight, the fat cells literally dissolve away, carried off by the water.
As you’re losing your weight
When the body gets all the water it needs to function optimally, all body system fluids will be enabled to stay in balance. When this happens, you reach what we can call the “breakthrough point”. This is the point at which glandular function improves and metabolism is stabilized. Stored water is released as the new water comes in.
If you are beginning your water rehydration program as an overweight person, you will need even more water than your thinner counterparts. Larger people have larger metabolic loads. Since water is the key to fat metabolism, it follows that the overweight person needs more water to metabolize excess fat.
As you lose weight, you will need water to help with all the unpleasant side-effects of weight loss. Water helps maintain proper muscle tone. As water enters the cells, it actually plums the skin. Water will help to prevent the sagging skin that usually follows weight loss and will leave the skin clear, healthy and resilient. You will also need the water to flush out waste. Weight loss releases lots of waste from the body – including of course metabolized fat — and water helps rid the body of this waste.
In order to continue to lose weight, you cannot afford to lapse on your re-hydration program. If you stop drinking a sufficient quantity of water, your body fluids will again be thrown out of balance. Once again all your old symptoms will return. You will be at the mercy of your food cravings; you will feel lethargic; you will begin that awful cycle back to weight gain.
If you do lapse, however, you can stop the process dead in its tracks. All you will need to do is once again increase you water intake. Consume even more water than before, and force yourself to reach another breakthrough point. The formula is quite simple: more water, less fat. Less fat; less weight.
Forcing the horse to drink Don’t think that re-hydrating your body is going to come naturally. If it were, you would have been doing it all along. Ignorance of water’s importance has not been the issue. Or worse: when we are thirsty, we drink other water substances. Many people are actually “drinking themselves to dehydration” by consuming too many alternative and water-robbing beverages. The average American drinks nearly eight daily servings of beverages such as milk, juice and decaffeinated soft drinks. Americans also drink daily nearly five servings of caffeine- or alcohol-containing beverages. Beverages containing alcohol and caffeine act as diuretics, causing the body to lose water through increased urination, and, rather than rehydrating the body, they rob the body of water.
Knowledge is not the problem. The problem is that we have actually lost our natural thirst signal. We don’t drink water because we don’t experience ourselves as thirsty. And so, as with any other diet, you will have to resort to will power. You will have to force yourself to DRINK WATER. At least, at first. There are worse diets, worse punishments.
The truth is: you are a person of tremendous will. We are all. And if you have dieted in the past, this is a particularly apt description of you. That’s how you got as far as you did with all your unsuccessful diets: you asserted your will over desire.
The re-hydration program is infinitely easier than any of the diets you have tried in the past because it doesn’t involve deprivation. It involves adding, not abstaining. And it leads to weight loss and health gain.
Ultimately, you will have retrained your body to experience thirst. Drinking water will re- stimulate your body to give out thirst signals. Drinking sufficient quantities of water circles back on itself: water decreases your desire for food and increases your desire for water.
When I am out and about on the streets, I recognize everyone who, like myself, is leading the life of a horse who has been led to water, and did drink. We all carry water with us everywhere we go. I have a strap for my water container, and I wear it when I go for my run in the morning, I wear it when I take my daughter to school, I wear it when I go grocery shopping. In short, I wear it everywhere. I always have a big glass of water next to me when I work. I am never far from water. When I see others walking down the street with a strap for their water containers, we meet each other’s eyes, and there is a smile of recognition between us. We are the conquering horses, forced by first our will, and then our desire, to live a life of health through water.
Weight-loss, however, is not the most important reason to drink sufficient quantities of water. Keeping the body well-hydrated is, as well, absolutely essential to keeping the body in good health. So important is water for health that insurance statistics show that people who drink a lot of water live an average of five years longer than those who don’t make drinking water a habit.
It is now known that water has an essential hydrolytic role in all aspects of body metabolism. This means simply that there are all sorts of chemical reactions that take place in the body that need water to occur. Since the chemistry and the electricity of the body are intimately intertwined, without sufficient water, both the chemistry and the electrical energy of the body will be unbalanced. Water, too, is employed as an adhesive material in the integrity of the cell architecture. Also, proteins and enzymes of the body function more efficiently in well-hydrated, watery solutions. Water helps to maintain proper muscle tone by giving the muscles their natural ability to contract. Water helps the body to eliminate waste. Water is an important constituent of the body’s lubricants, helping to cushion the joints and internal organs, keeping body tissues such as the eyes, lungs and air passages moist. It should be clear by now that without sufficient water intake, one simply cannot be healthy.
Numerous diseases have been related to dehydration: stomach upset, rheumatoid arthritis, morning sickness, colitis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and allergies, stress and depression and, finally, cancer. This chapter will address each of these disease states in relation to dehydration.
Water retention: When there is insufficient intake, the body wants to hold onto every last drop of water that it has. Water is then stored in abnormal places, for instance, in the extracellular spaces (outside the cells). This condition shows up as swollen feet, hands and legs. Traditional medicine reads these signals incorrectly, and sees that the body is holding onto too much water. Diuretics are prescribed, which, in fact, force the stored water out and give temporary relief. But, nutrients are also lost, and the body is more depleted than ever of its water reserves. In fact, the body will naturally release its stored water when it has the quantity of water it needs for healthy functioning.
Constipation: In the state of dehydration, the body sets up a kind of drought management program. A priority distribution system is set up for the small amount of water that is available from the intake and for the small amount that may be left in the body’s reserves. One of the things the body can do is siphon the water it needs from its internal stores. For instance, one place where there is usually a lot of water is the colon. Water can be pulled from the colon to be redistributed to other parts of the body. But then the colon is left with too little water. A dehydrated colon is a plugged up colon, and constipation occurs.
Low blood pressure: Clinical studies at Johns Hopkins University have shown that low blood pressure can be corrected when the amount of fluid in the body is increased. Because low blood pressure is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, elevating the blood pressure gives some relief from symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Stomach upset, colitColitis, constipationis: Most stomach upsets are symptoms of dehydration. I have seen relief from pain within 10- 20 minutes after ingesting water. The principle is as follows: hydration is essential for the proper functioning of the mucosa, the innermost layer of the stomach. Normally, a portion of the stomach cells secrete sodium bicarbonate, and as the stomach acids try to move through the mucosa layer, the bicarbonate neutralizes these acids. Without enough water, or with too much salt, this protective mechanism breaks down. The acid is permitted to get through to the mucosal layer and pain ensues. Proper hydration provides a better acid barrier to the mucosa than any antacids or medication on the market. Even in the case of ulcers, hydration will allow the ulcer to repair itself in time.
Colitis, constipation and abdominal pain are often related to the body’s need for water. Colitis is often associated with constipation. One of the functions of the large intestine is to take water out of excrement so that there is a minimum loss of water from the body after food digestion. Proper hydration is essential for easy passage. Without enough water, the waste material will be dry and hard, and eventually the build-up of this undischarged waste will cause pain, or worse, inflammation.
Arthritis: Arthritis is helped by hydration because the cartilage in bone joints consists of a large amount of water. Cartilage surfaces need to glide gracefully over one another. In well-hydrated cartilage, this gliding takes place with a minimum amount of friction. In a dehydrated cartilage, abrasion occurs, and this abrasion damages the cartilage, thus causing pain. Eventually the damage can become severe enough to cause osteoarthritis.
The spine, too, as part of the bony structure of the body, needs water. In the spinal joints, not only is water a lubricant for the surfaces that come into contact with one another, it is also held within the core of the discs. In fact, 75% of the weight of the upper body is supported by the water volume that is stored in the disc core. The spine is one of the first places that systemic dehydration will show. The fifth lumbar disc, which causes low back pain, is almost always affected.
Depression: At times, a state of bodily dehydration manifests as psychological problems. The brain needs water in order to generate electrical energy. We may experience the state of brain dehydration as depression or apathy. As well, stress may be related to a water shortage. When we describe that we are experiencing stress, we should remember that stress can be physiological as well as psychological. Dehydration is, in fact, a great stress on the body. When the body is in stress, it will assume a crisis posture and will begin to mobilize a “fight or flight” response. Hormones are poured into the bloodstream. One of these hormones is vasopressin, which has the job of regulating the selective flow of water into some cells. Bodily stress will create the production of too much or not enough vasopressin. Thus, stress is both caused by dehydration as well as causing dehydration. The malfunctioning becomes circular.
MAKING WATER WETTER (and other additions and subtractions)
Not all waters are created equally. The question of whether we should be drinking tap, bottled or distilled water is discussed. Toxic effects of chlorine and fluoride are presented for drinking water as well as the effects of bathing in water treated with these chemicals. Practical guidelines are given for removing these chemicals from water. The health effect of the different kinds of water on the acid/alkaline balance of the body is offered. Research is presented on substances that can be added to water to augment its health effects. By the end of the chapter, the reader will understand the basic rehydration program that will aid in weight loss and health gain.
What kind of water to drink?
If you’re living in an urban area, the chances are that your tap water could make you sick. In 1992 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found over 800 municipal water supplies polluted with dangerous lead levels: these water systems supplied water to over 30 million people. The National Resource Defense Council found that 43% of all water systems in this country violated federal health standards. Researchers in Montreal, Canada concluded that one-third of all gastrointestinal illnesses are caused by drinking water.
Most people assume that bottled water or spring water is cleaner and healthier than tap water. This is an incorrect assumption. In fact, there is no regulation for bottled water and often this water is more polluted than municipal water supplies.
For weight loss and health gain, the water that does the best job is distilled water. Only distilled water produces a completely negative ion reaction in the body. This will lead the body into an alkaline state, and will carry off disease-producing acids as well as fat.
What can be added to water to augment its ability to re-hydrate and alkalize?
A really good morning drink is to add chlorophyll to water. If this is the first drink in the morning (replacing the dehydrating, acidic coffee), it will cleanse the kidneys and wash away the residue that has gathered overnight in the bladder.
Alternatively, one can add lemon to water. The lemon, too, aids in carrying off the wastes that have built up during the night. The lemon water has another beneficial effect. Chefs throughout the ages have known the secret of using lemon as a seasoning to cut down on the use of salt in food preparation. Lemon has unique qualities that curtails the craving for both salt and sugar.
When to not drink?
We should stop drinking water a half-hour before we eat, not drink at all while eating, and resume drinking an hour after eating. Water dilutes digestive enzymes, thus making digestion more difficult. As well, drinking water with meals changes the way the body absorbs oils. People who drink water when they eat almost invariably suffer from dry skin. This is because small oily globules are released when we eat and then absorbed into the bloodstream. When we drink water while eating, the small oily globules become large pools of oil and water. Oil and water don’t mix, and this holds true in the stomach as well as anywhere else. These oils are then sent to the gall bladder, then to the liver that either digests them or stores them for fat — usually in our waistline. The oil never makes it to the skin, and, in addition, we grow fatter.
The exception to this rule is if we eat a low sugar/high-water content vegetarian meal. In this case, there is no problem drinking water with the meal.
Whether to drink cold or hot water?
Water (and all liquids) should always be drunk at room temperature. If cold liquids are drunk, the body temperature drops. The heart responds by pumping faster and the whole body is jolted.
If we drink cold water when we eat, the problem of oil and water not mixing well is aggravated. The cold solidifies the oils and turns them into grease. These oils in our stomach will be the same sludge as the oil that hardens after eggs are fried in shortening or oil. Then when the oils are burned in the liver, they leave ashes, just like the ashes in a fireplace. These ashes are tiny cholesterol crystals that deposit in our bloodstream and clog our arteries.
The most obvious attribute of water is its cleansing qualities. We use water to stay clean on a daily basis. But besides the pleasure of a good bath or shower, there are definite health benefits to being immersed in water.
We feel better after a shower or bath because we have used the skin (instead of our digestive system) to rehydrate our body. We feel better when we take a vacation at the ocean or at a lake not just because we are relaxing, but also because we are systemically rehydrating our whole body. Swimmers notice that after a swim, they almost always have to urinate, even though they have not drunk any water. The fact is: their bodies have been drinking the water through the skin.
Swimming in the ocean rehydrates the body to the same saline condition that the body was originally bathed in — mother’s womb. Swimming in clean, fresh water also has advantages. Fresh water lakes generally have algae growing in them. Algae brings oxygen into the water, Swimming in a lake not only rehydrates the body but oxygenates it, as well. Absorption and elimination through the skin
One of the most wonderful things about the human body is that its largest organ is on its outside. This is, of course, the skin. Being on the outside means that the skin is ideally suited for non-invasive therapies. We can, and do automatically and continuously, both nourish and detoxify our bodies through the skin.
The ability of the skin to accept substances and deliver them to the bloodstream is well- known, and used currently in traditional medicine. This is because the skin serves as a direct link to all the other organs. Physicians are now reviving the age-old practice of delivering medicine through the skin. Heart patients use nitroglycerin patches; cigarette smokers try to break their addiction through the use of nicotine patches. So great, in fact, is the ability of the skin to absorb substances that one drop of essential oil placed on the fingertip will show up in hair analysis ten minutes later.
The skin’s ability to excrete toxins, however, is not as emphasized. In natural health circles, the skin is referred to as the body’s third lung, or third kidney. It aids tremendously in throwing off all toxins from the body. We absorb more impurities, and eliminate more waste through the skin than any other organ in our bodies (including the colon). Two pounds of waste are eliminated every day through the skin. The skin works hand in hand with the kidneys. On hot days, we do a lot of our elimination through our skin, and our kidneys don’t have to work as hard. Conversely, on cold days, our kidneys take over this function of the skin because the skin is not eliminating very much.
The skin is often the first place that biological imbalance appears. When the other systems are overloaded in dealing with too many toxins, the skin is utilized as an organ of detoxification. Eruptions, blemishes, odors and colors may appear as the skin tries to do overtime in ridding the body of waste.
Ishnaan is a yogic concept that involves the use of water to utterly transform the body. In yogic tradition, you never say you’re going to take a bath or a shower — you say you’re going to perform Ishnaan. There’s a reverence, a grace to the concept of immersing your body in water and allowing the water to work a magical transformation and healing on you.
It is, in a way, unfortunate that modern plumbing brings water to us so easily. It has gotten us to be lackadaisical about the magic and possibility of transformation through the therapeutic use of water. In ancient times, hydrotherapy required 500 men to fill the huge tub. The tub had to be placed 40 feet above the ground in order to create enough water pressure to get the desired effect.
The science of hydrotherapy is extremely precise and it is here in the ancient yogic tradition that its laws were first discovered. Water therapy forces the capillaries to open and when they close again, the blood returns back to the organs. Each organ has its own blood supply so in doing this you have just given each organ a nice flushing out of old blood and replenishing of revitalized blood. When the organs get a flushing, the glands have to change their secretions. When the glands change, according to yogic tradition, youth returns. If the glandular system is revitalized, it secretes chemicals that are young chemicals, thus returning the body to youthfulness and health.
Hot water therapy
The simple, time-honored approach of warm and hot water hydrotherapy is available to everyone, and you don’t need to wait for a trip to a spa to use it. It takes only two therapeutic devices which all of us have: a shower and a bathtub. Hot water therapy is great for injuries that are less serious than those treated professionally, and is a great prophylactic against future injuries. As well, you can create your own mini-ocean environment and your own herbal sauna in your own bathtub for virtually pennies, and at no inconvenience.
Perhaps what makes hot water therapy so effective — almost magical in its effectiveness — is that it represents our origins. Life itself arose out of the primordial soup that was warm and moist. All through the ages, human beings have recognized the enormous benefits of hot water. Wherever natural hot springs bubbled up to the earth’s surface, centers of healing and regeneration were created. Today spas occupy these sites, and they remain just as popular and just as effective in healing many ailments.
When we step into a hot shower or bath, we are calling upon our bodies to make an adjustment to this new environment. There is an immediate increase in blood pressure, followed by a corrective drop in blood pressure as blood rushes to the skin to meet the warmth of the water. This warmed blood then penetrates more deeply into tissue below the skin. Wherever there is more blood, there is more oxygen and more nourishment, since blood is the carrier of oxygen as well as other nutrients. The increase in oxygen brings about a feeling of relaxation. This relaxation of muscles is essential for health.
Although we generally think of muscles as being like rubber bands which become tighter as they are stretched out, in fact, muscles operate in just the opposite fashion. Muscles are longest when they are at rest and shortest and most constricted when they are in use. When a muscle is contracted, or in use, the fibers which constitute it are spaced relatively close to each other and blood flow is constricted. When a muscle is in a relaxed state, however, these fibers are far apart. There is plenty of room, then, for the blood to circulate, bringing in nourishment.
We have the general ability to tighten or relax our muscles at will. However, there are times, particularly when we are in one position for an extended period of time, that our muscles seem to have a will of their own. They tighten up, even though we don’t consciously will or want them to. Contraction, then, can become a chronic condition; there is an actual shortening of muscles, and we are left in rather continuous pain.
Hot water has the additional effect of increasing the overall temperature of the body. The heart rate and respiration also increase, as does the rate at which the body uses oxygen and excretes waste material. Perspiration eliminates metabolic waste products, and this cleansing augments the sensation of calmness and relaxation.
Relaxing muscles has effect on both the skeletal system and the nerves. Nerves run through muscle tissue and constantly constricted muscles can pinch these nerves. Because muscles are attached to bones through tendons, tightness in a muscle can exert pressure on the bones to which they are attached. Each of these conditions can be quite painful. But when muscles are enabled to let go of their tightness, nerves are soothed, pressure on bones is alleviated and pain is relieved.
The net effect of all these physiological changes is that there is greater mobility for the muscles. Because of this increase in freedom of movement, exercises and stretches can now be performed to give those tired and constricted muscles the workout that will restore them to proper functioning. Lengthening the muscles back to their normal condition is essential for relief of pain, as well as for overall healthy functioning. Performing certain simple exercises and stretches, as well as administering self-massage in the shower or bathtub is the real power behind hot water therapy. As the muscle contracts in the exercise, blood is pushed out, flushing out toxic materials. As the muscle relaxes, the blood rushes back in, bringing in fresh oxygen and nutrients.
The exercises that are best to do in the shower or tub are yoga exercises. Yoga and hot water both have the effect of stretching, and thus causing relaxation. Each exercise should be repeated a number of times and each posture should be held for a number of seconds. It’s best for each individual to decide on his or her level of comfort, but it’s important to gradually increase one’s stamina.
Concentration of breath is very important in yoga. We are attempting to bring oxygen into every nook and cranny in our bodies, so the breath and movement need to be coordinated.
In the shower, the exercises are done under the running water, and it’s best to position the shower head so that the water is hitting the area that you’re stretching.
1) For the shoulders and head, you can do the shoulder shrug, which means simply planting your feet about 18 inches apart, raising your shoulders as high as you can get them while you inhale, and then letting them drop as you exhale.
2) Shoulder circles are rotations of the shoulders, first in one direction then in the other. Again, inhale on the upswing and exhale on the downswing.
3) Next you can do the head rotation, circling your head around as far in every direction as you can get it. In yoga, a basic principle is symmetry. Every motion in one direction has to be counteracted by a motion in the opposite direction. So always rotate in both directions. As the head is in the back, inhale; when the head is forward, exhale. Each of these three exercises, the shoulder shrug, shoulder circles and head rotation helps to break up calcium deposits at the base of the head. This calcium restricts blood flow to the brain. So, in doing these exercises we are feeding our brains.
4) For the middle back, the swan to the seal are excellent movements. Bring your shoulders straight forward as though you are trying to get them to touch in front of you. Then bring your shoulders back, letting your hands fall naturally behind you. Inhale with one motion and exhale with the other.
5) The pelvic tilt consists of rotating your pelvis around with your arms resting on your head. You can do circles, or move from side to side. Wherever there’s pain, it means there’s restriction of movement and not enough oxygen in the area. These are then the areas that you want to work with both most gently and most ambitiously. Exercises can also be done in the bathtub. The tub should be half filled with warm water. Place either a cushion or towel on the bottom of the tub to soften the feel of the tub.
1) The first exercise is called the cow/cat posture. Go down on all fours with the top of your toes touching the tub bottom. On the inhalation, sway the small of your back so that your stomach muscles drop and your head is back. Then go into your exhalation with the cat posture by arching your back upwards, letting your head drop. You can alternate between these postures as many times as you want but always do them together.
2) Then go into what is called the swayback horse posture by flattening your back, letting your stomach muscles relax, and then swaying the small of your back so that it drops down. The head needs to be raised now. The movement from cat to horse can be made as many times as you’re comfortable.
3) The knee walk is good for abdominal muscles. Relax against the back of the tub and pull your knees toward you. Place a hand on each kneecap, and walk your knees, one at a time. When you get more comfortable with this exercise, you can make it a little more strenuous by placing your hands on your side and letting your knees do all the walking.
4) Knee circles begin with the same posture as the knee walk, and consist of simply rotating your knees around in a circle, keeping your back on the floor of the tub the whole time.
5) You can also do a version of the pelvic tilt in the bathtub.
These exercises are just a sampling of what’s possible. Virtually any yoga exercise can be modified to turn it into a shower or bathtub exercise. You can get creative, and in response to the signals your body gives you, devise your own regimen. Cold water therapy
Cold water specifically helps to oxidize the cells of tissues, increasing the absorption of oxygen and aiding in the elimination of carbonic acid. In making parts of the body cold, you are actually asking your own circulation system to warm you from the cold. This exercising of the circulatory system builds up a resistance in the body to take care of ordinary situations — drafts, cold weather, and exposure to pathogens — which might cause illnesses if you’re in a weakened state.
The yogis understood how to use cold water therapy to achieve absolutely precise effects in the body.
For a clear mind: In the shower, let cold water fall just below your lower lip for 15 minutes.
For energy: In the shower, let cold water fall between your eyebrows and upper lip for 15 minutes.
To induce sleepiness: In the shower, let the water fall on your forehead for 15 minutes.
Cold water for colds: When you have a head cold, the fastest way of getting rid of it is to do a cold sponge bath. Make sure the bathroom is warm, and then sponge your whole body with cold water. Wrap up quickly in a sheet or big towel, without drying yourself. The principle here is that you’re getting your body to respond more vigorously to warm you, so you don’t want to interfere with your body’s doing all the work. Then hurry to bed and lie there covered as warmly as possible for an hour. Do this every hour four times. Then get up and dress warmly. You’ll notice that each sponging gets you to feel warmer. By the third sponge, you should actually begin to sweat when you are in bed. Congestion in your nose will clear up; in fact your nose may begin to run profusely for a while. And your head will feel lighter. It’s a guaranteed one- day cure for a chest or head cold. The next day you’ll feel 1000% better.
Cold water for infections and inflammations: You can get good results with local infections and inflammations by using a cold water spray on the affected area. The process is the same. Wet the area with a shower spray, then cover yourself without drying and relax. Repeat this several times. Once you get the hang of this therapy, you can get really creative and follow the basic rules while, at the same time, following your own intuition about what would help your body to respond.
Cold water for overweight: Cold water therapy keeps the glands in good working order. There is almost always some kind of glandular disturbance in an overweight condition. Also, keeping the bowels and kidneys functioning, which cold water therapy effects, helps to discard toxins which often settle in as extra weight. For losing weight, it’s best to do a hip spray in the morning and a back spray in the evening. These techniques help to both cleanse and keep the cells of organs well saturated with water. As well, the muscles will stay well-toned, and you will avoid that sagging that comes with weight loss. Of course, cold water therapy should be augmented with drinking lots of water and healthy eating habits. To do the hip spray, aim the shower spray directly at your hip. Do this several times, then wrap up and jump into bed for a half hour. Remove the wrapping and stay in bed for another half hour. To do the back spray, you need someone to aim the water at your back. Go up and down the back several times, wrap and go to bed.
For a complete body rejuvenation: This is the most powerful yogic water application. Yogis believe that daily performance of this cold water shower will insure health and long life. First, coat your skin with almond oil. Then, immerse your whole body in water as cold as you can stand it. It may take a few attempts to get used to it but what’s remarkable about the technique is that after the first shock of the cold, you actually will feel warm, not cold. Your blood rushes out to meet the challenge of the cold and begins to generate its own heat. This is better than a sauna or a steam bath where your body is passively heated; here it is an active process, activating your entire circulatory system and changing your entire bloodstream. The technique is to stand under the cold shower, massaging each part of your body that the cold water is hitting. Use each foot to massage the calf and foot of your other leg. The almond oil will help to keep the heat sealed in. Repeat the cold dousing and self-massage several times until you’ve been in the shower for 15 minutes. By the time you get out, you should feel toasty warm or even hot. Then towel dry yourself; put on warm clothes and wrap yourself in a blanket. This technique totally rebuilds your body and you will feel simultaneously invigorated and calm.
Cold water therapy was also practiced some years ago at the Kneippe Sanitarium in Woerschofen, Germany. This was a highly successful and popular treatment for a variety of health problems; over 4000 patients a week were treated using cold water therapy. One of the keys that Kneippe discovered was that if you have good circulation all the way down to the legs, it gives you good circulation all the way up to the head, and everywhere in between. The Kneippe Sanitarium became known for its Kneippe water walk, which consisted of a 30 foot walk through cold water which reached up to the knees. You can create the same effect as the Kneippe water walk.
Kneippe outdoor water walk: Use a simple garden hose without the sprinkler attachment. Run the water against your leg, starting at the point that is farthest away from your heart, the ankle of your right leg. Move the stream of water up your leg until you reach your groin, then around and down the back of the other leg. Then do the same to the front. Let the water evaporate naturally; otherwise you don’t get the benefit of your circulatory system getting activated. To augment the effect, end the treatment with a barefoot walk through either sand or grass.
In the winter, you can do the same thing in your bathtub.
Kneippe indoor water walk: Fill the tub with water just a few inches as cold as you can tolerate, and walk back and forth. It may be painful at first, particularly if your circulation is poor. But you will feel your feet begin to get a little numb, and then warm. This is the time to step out. Build up tolerance for being able to walk for five minutes.
If you’re really adventuresome, you can try the same thing outside in new, clean snow. In both circumstances, warm your feet by continuing to walk for a while with shoes and socks. Alternating hot and cold water therapy
Alternating exposure to hot and cold water is an extremely powerful therapy. The simplest way of using hot and cold water therapy for health maintenance in your own home is during your morning shower.
Hot and cold shower: Start with warm water. You can go to as hot as is comfortable. This will open the pores in your skin, and allow them to exhale toxins. Then ease into cool water which will close your pores. Make the water increasingly cold until your breath quickens. This is the response that you want and where you should end your shower. At the right dosage, your body will have just received a good influx of invigoration and your skin will glow radiantly if you make this a regular part of your routine.
Another method of alternating hot and cold is to do a hot-cold wrap.
The hot-cold wrap: You need first to line your bed with plastic. Take a sheet that has been dipped in a warm stew of herbal water, lay it out on the bed and wrap yourself thoroughly in it. Cover yourself with blankets and relax for a half-hour. Then repeat this using the same sheet, now dipped in cold herbal water. This wrap is probably the most beneficial of the hot/cold applications, but also the most work.
Using alternating hot and cold packs is a way of drawing blood into specific organs and tissues when there are localized problems. In effect, you are stimulating the same circulatory response that is created by exercise. Because hot relaxes the tissues, blood is drawn into the area of the application. Cold, on the other hand, constricts the area, pushing blood away from the exposed tissues. By alternating hot and cold, you draw blood in, then force it out. Alternate the packs ten times, applying them for only half a minute cold, and a minute hot. This is a particularly effective treatment for moving along stagnant blood. Most benign growths are either caused by stagnant blood, or create stagnant blood. For instance, fibroid tumors in women respond well to frequent use of hot and cold packs applied to the abdomen. Using alternating hot and cold water in a sitz bath, which you can buy from your drugstore, is also an effective way of dealing with both gynecological and urinary tract problems.