Archive | December, 2015

The Importance of Personal Refinement

14 Dec
  • This blog is about the topic of refinement in a personal sense.

I have read in different sources the difference between people who have developed a “refined” behavior, comportment vs. others who haven’t. For example, recently, I read a book on Haiku and there was a passage about Matsuo Bashò – the famous Japanese poet – in which he had expressed his thoughts on the nature of refinement and the nature of high art. He had written “Through the waka of Saigyò, the renga of Sògi, the painting of Sesshù and the tea of Rikyù, one thing flows. People of such refinement submit to nature and befriend the four seasons. Where they look is nothing but flowers, what they think is nothing but the moon. Perceiving shapes other than flowers amounts to being a barbarian. Holding thoughts other than the moon is akin to being a beast. Come out from barbarians, depart from beasts. Submit to nature, return to nature.”

I must admit that for some reason, when I was growing up, I had not learned well the importance and self-efficacious nature of refinement. I had approached the topic with suspicion and trepidation. I had associated it with pompousness, exaggerated ego and elitism. It appeared to be a behavior of the upper class not necessary or desirable for the working middle class. It was a bother like music lessons. Now I see this erroneous attitude of mine had to do with an understanding/approach to myself.

Growing up in the USA, a perspective I had learned was that I should be simple, plain, and not self aware to any great extent, not taking pleasure in the appreciation of my own development needed in personal refinement. Much of my distaste for personal refinement was a psychological attitude toward myself fostered by a Protestant ethic of simplicity, sameness and plainness. While I certainly was taught good manners and etiquette in my family as well as encouraged to appreciate art and music, etc, my mental block toward fostering personal refinement was the attitude toward the self. Simplicity was equated with simplicity of self as from a Protestant perspective. Now I see that as an American, the cultural linage from the Quakers, Amish, Baptists and other moral but stern Christian people have been a pervasive cultural baggage that significantly influenced my psychological development.

Max Weber had written extensively on the Protestant ethic and the following quote exemplifies this ethic’s approach to the Fine Arts. “But the situation is quite different when one looks at non-scientific literature and especially the fine arts. Here asceticism descended like a frost on the life of “Merrie old England.” And not only worldly merriment felt its effect. The Puritan’s ferocious hatred of everything which smacked of superstition, of all survivals of magical or sacramental salvation, applied to the Christmas festivities and the May Pole and all spontaneous religious art. That there was room in Holland for a great, often uncouthly realistic art proves only how far from completely the authoritarian moral discipline of that country was able to counteract the influence of the court and the regents (a class of rentiers), and also the joy in life of the parvenu bourgeoisie, after the short supremacy of the Calvinistic theocracy had been transformed into a moderate national Church, and with it Calvinism had perceptibly lost in its power of ascetic influence.

The theatre was obnoxious to the Puritans, and with the strict exclusion of the erotic and of nudity from the realm of toleration, a radical view of either literature or art could not exist. The conceptions of idle talk, of superfluities, and of vain ostentation, all designations of an irrational attitude without objective purpose, thus not ascetic, and especially not serving the glory of God, but of man, were always at hand to serve in deciding in favour of sober utility as against any artistic tendencies. This was especially true in the case of decoration of the person, for instance clothing. That powerful tendency toward uniformity of life, which today so immensely aids the capitalistic interest in the standardization of production, had its ideal foundations in the repudiation of all idolatry of the flesh.”

Also as David Kelley wrote, perhaps my coming of age in the ‘60’s had important consequences to my attitude toward the self discipline needed to refine one’s mental culture and behavior. “Rousseau hated the cosmopolitanism and refinement of Enlightenment life and vehemently criticized inequality, which he thought was an inescapable consequence of civilization. He offered an idealized image of primitive man not yet corrupted by civilization and of life in a nature not yet polluted by cities or machines. The source of those primitivist views was Rousseau’s antipathy to reason. He felt that emotion and instinct should be our guides to action. In this respect, he was the father of the 19th-century Romantic poets and of the counterculture of the 1960s, with its demand for sexual liberation, its contempt for “bourgeois morality,” its emphasis on self-expression rather than self-discipline. The Age of Aquarius sought release from the constraints of reason through drugs and New Age religions. Like Rousseau, it rejected the cosmopolitan modernism of the Enlightenment and praised the authenticity of primitive modes of life.”

Whatever the influences, it wasn’t until I started to explore other cultural points of view that I began to experiment with new ways of approaching myself. A significant influence for me became, and continues to this day, Buddhism with its emphasis on mental culture and etiquette as a means of better comprehending and relating to one’s self and the world. Etiquette became for me a practice which, in general, is concerned with the refinement of human behavior in its relationship with other human beings. Instead of being a system of self approval and haughtiness/superiority- ‘my etiquette is better than yours’-, it is a method of self refinement done in humility.

With my study and practice of Buddhism, I slowly began to approach my thoughts and behaviors in a manner that fostered refinement with humility. The results were satisfying which continued to encourage my practice. The use of meditation, esp. mindfulness, opened a new experience. As Robert Bogoda wrote, “The particularly important method of experiential verification necessitates consistent Buddhist practice—usually contemplation and meditation-as this refines the ability of a person to trust his or her senses through the cultivation of awareness and the implementation of mindfulness in everyday life. Buddhists posit that cultivated awareness is a requisite for trusting the information gathered from the senses, so that emotions and prejudices do not cloud one’s judgments. The refinement of one’s ability to accurately perceive the world and thus trust his or her senses is a primary reason why meditation is central to Buddhist practice.

Sati or bare attention is an important aspect of mindfulness. Sati is the objective seeing of things stripped bare of likes and dislikes, bias and prejudice. It is viewing things and events as they really are — the naked facts. The ability to do this is a sign of true Buddhist maturity. The principle of bare attention should be applied vigorously to everyday thinking. The results will be: clearer thinking and saner living, a marked reduction in the pernicious influence of mass media propaganda and advertisements, and an improvement in our inter-personal relationships. “

The Buddhist approach teaches that progress along the path does not follow a simple linear trajectory. Rather, development of each aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path encourages the refinement and strengthening of the others, leading the practitioner ever forward in an upward spiral of spiritual maturity that culminates in Awakening. Put briefly, it states that action is real, effective, and the result of one’s own choice. If one chooses to act skillfully and works to develop that skill, one’s actions can lead to happiness.

Now I think that refinement corresponds to sensitivity and comprehension. An increased sensitivity which of course also means an alteration in the self. The self is ‘entangled’ – (I borrow a term from quantum physics which means, ‘a system (relationship) containing two or more objects, where the objects that make up the system are linked in a way that one cannot adequately describe the state of a constituent of the system without full mention of its counterparts, even if the individual objects are spatially separated with the other.’ The division of self/object is absent and both are one interacting experience. It is a sense based experience.


From another perspective David L. Barnhill wrote, “Phenomenological hermeneutics focuses on experience, seeing it not as a subjective being experiencing an objective reality but rather a mutual implication of subject and object. That is, subject and object are not separate entities but part of a single field of experience, like poles of a continuum. What the author (for example Bashō) experienced was his particular being-in-the-world, not some objective reality. The text arises out of that experience and is itself a presentation of a mode of experience.”

Several examples of this experience are the following translations of a haiku written by Bashò:

Thinking to gaze at them, I drew extremely close to the cherry blossoms, making the parting ever so painful. trans. James Brandon

Gazing at them, these blossoms have grown so much a part of me, to part with them when they fall seems bitter indeed! trans. Burton Watson

“Detached” observer Of blossoms finds himself in time Intimate with them– So, when they separate from the branch, It’s he who falls…deeply into grief. trans. William R. LaFleur

So to conclude, I now understand better and value highly what Bashò wrote  regarding refinement, however, I would not be so strong in my characterization of people who haven’t yet come to understand the significance and transformative nature of personal refinement –“barbarian”. I like better the terms skillful vs. unskillful.

 O’ GREAT SPIRIT help me always to speak the truth quietly, to listen with an open mind when others speak, and to remember the peace that may be found in silence. Cherokee Prayer


BioTensegrity – body mechanics

14 Dec

Included here are a compilation of several articles on a really interesting as a model of biologic structures. These articles (edited for space reasons) by Stephen M Levin MD and others that hit on some key points.———————————————————————————

The Mechanics of Martial Arts

Eastern philosophy has not had a physical model for martial arts that a western trained mind could wrap a thought around. That is, not until biotensegrity.

The symbol of strength for western culture is the Greek god, Atlas. After a mythical war between the Olympians and Titans, Atlas, one of the losers, was condemned to stand as a pillar and support the universe on his shoulders for all eternity.

Following this model, strength, in western thought, is characterized as a rigid, unyielding and unmovable column. Western thought has the rigid column, the lever, and brute force, all concepts familiar to us since childhood when we built our first stack of blocks, rode a seesaw and smashed our first toy. In eastern thought, strength comes from deep within and is flexible, yielding and mobile; it flows. This difference in philosophy of strength is expressed in a difference in approach to combat sports. But eastern philosophy has not had a physical model for martial arts that a western trained mind could wrap a thought around. That is, not until biotensegrity. Biotensegrity is a mechanical model of biologic structure and function based on construction concepts introduced by Kenneth Snelson and Buckminster Fuller in the 1960s. In these models, the compression struts or rods are enmeshed and float in a structured network of continuously connected tension tendons. The shafts constructed by tensegrity networks are as different from a conventional column as a wagon wheel differs from a wire spoked bicycle wheel. Let me explain.

A conventional column is vertically oriented, compression load resisting and immobile. It depends on gravity to hold it together. It can only function on land, in a gravity field. The heavy load above fixes it in place. It must have ground beneath it for support. The weight above crushes down on the support below and the bottom blocks must be thicker and stronger than what is above it. If the spine is a conventional column, the arms and legs will cantilever off the body like flagpoles off a building. Moving an up-right, multiple hinged, flexible column, such as the spine as envisioned in conventional biomechanics, is more challenging than moving an upright Titan missile to its launch pad. Walking and running have been described as a controlled fall, a rather inelegant way to conceptualize movement. It certainly doesn’t describe the movement of a basketball player, a ballet dancer or a martial arts master. In the standard spine column model, the model for mobilizing the spine and putting the body in motion would be a wagon wheel.

In a wagon wheel, each spoke, compressed between the heavy rim and the axle, acts as a column. The wheel vaults from one spoke/column to the next, loading and unloading each spoke in turn. The weight of the wagon compresses the single spoke that then squeezes the rim between the spoke and the ground. At any one time, only one spoke is loaded and the other spokes just stand there and wait their turn. The spoke must be rigid and strong enough to withstand the heavy compression load and short, thick spokes do better than long, thin ones. The rim must be thick and strong, as it would crush under heavy load as it, too, is locally loaded. The forces are generated from the outside to the center. Using the column, post and lintel model, in a standing body, the heel bone would have to be the strongest bone in the body instead of, as it is in life, one of the weakest and softest. Biotensegrity bodies would be like a wire-spoke bicycle wheel. In a wire wheel, the hub hangs from the rim by a thin, flexible spoke. The rim would then belly out if it were not for the other spokes that pull in toward the hub. In this way, the load is carried by the tension of the many spokes, not the compression strength of one. The load gets distributed through the system and the hub is floating in a tension network like a fly caught in a spider web. All spokes are under tension all the time, doing their share to carry the load. They can be long and thin. Even loads at the rim become distributed through the system so the rim does not have to be thick and strong as in a wagon wheel. The structure is omnidirectional and functions independently of gravity. Unlike a conventional column, it is structurally stable and functional right side up, upside down or sideways. A tensegrity structure can function equally well on land, at sea, in air or space. Now think of each cell in the body behaving structurally as if it were a three-dimensional bicycle wheel. Each wheel would connect to each adjacent wheel the cell level, up the scale to tissue, organ and organism, a wheel within a wheel within a wheel.  In this system, all connective tissues in the body work together, all the time. It known, by recent experimental work that all the connective tissue, muscles, tendons ligaments right down to the cells are interconnected in just this way.

The body model would be more like Snelson’s Needle Tower where the bones of the tower are enmeshed in the wire tendons, never touching or compressing one another. Unlike flagpoles attached to the side of a building, the limbs are integrated into the system. The energy flows from deep within the structure, chi, out to the tips of the fingers and toes. The basic building block of the biotensegrity structures, the finite element, is the tensegrity icosahedron.

We need not go into all the details of the evolution of the biologic body here, but there are some very special properties of the icosahedron that explain the particular characteristics of the biologic structure. It is, mathematically, the most symmetrical structure and, in its resting state, is extremely energy efficient. Distorting the shape requires energy and when that energy is released, it returns to its least energy state, a, normally, self-regulating and self-generating mechanism. It is like a spring that, when distorted, will bounce back to its original shape. But it is a very special spring. When a steel spring is in its resting state, there is no energy storage. Adding a weight, say a kilo, will stretch the spring a defined amount, say 10cm. Each additional kilo will stretch the spring an additional 10cm. When the spring is released, all the stored energy is immediately released and the spring will snap back. If it is not restrained, it will bounce because of the accelerated motion. And, depending on how springy elastic it is, it will bounce and bounce and bounce, jerking up and down. This is the type of spring associated with the standard column, post and lintel construction of the body in western mechanics and is characterized as linear behavior.

The icosahedron, tensegrity spring is different and characterized as nonlinear. In the resting state, there is always some residual tension or tone in the system so it is never completely relaxed. If you add a kilo weight it may distort 15cms. But add another kilo and the distortion may only be 7cms, then 4cms, then 1cm. The icosahedron spring gets stiffer and stronger as you load it.

You can see that as you add more weight a great amount of energy can be stored with very little change of shape of the icosahedron spring. When released, there is not the sudden, total release of stored energy as there is in a linear spring, but a great amount of energy can be released early and the last part can be released slowly and gently; a splashdown rather than a hard landing. This softens the blow and removes the bounce and jerkiness. As noted, not all the energy is released, some remains in storage. Grab onto your earlobe and pull. At first, it distorts easily, but then it stiffens and pulling on it doesn’t change the shape very much. Let go. It regains most of its original shape quickly, but the last bit is very slow. It does not bounce back like a rubber band and slap you on the side of the head. This is often termed in biomechanical circles as visco-elastic as it has properties that in some ways are like fluid and in other ways, like a stiff elastic spring. In biologic bodies with bones, the stiffest icosahedrons are the bones and the most energy can be stored there. When compressed or expanded the movement of the icosahedron is helical, like the threads of a wood screw, and this is consistent with what we know of normal body movement. When it behaves as a stiffening fluid, it becomes a shock absorber, soaking up the energy rather than focusing it.

Those of you who are martial art practitioners already know you don’t stand stiff and upright but move in all directions like a break-dancer. You know that the energy flows in and out from deep within the system and that you can bring energy up from the squishiness of your cells out to harden on the tips of your fingers. Your body is never completely flaccid; some tone always remains in the system. To get the maximum energy you screw yourself down and then explode with tremendous force from within, but never overshoot your mark. Pulling the force from deep within your structure is recruiting the entire body mass. Newton’s second law of motion is force equals mass times acceleration F = ma. Imagine the difference if a small car moving at 5MPH strikes your automobile or a bus moving at 5MPH strikes your auto; quite a difference. Consistent with that law, striking a blow with your whole body creates a greater force than just striking with your fist, as you are increasing mass. In the standard post and lintel model, the arm and fist are just hanging off the body mass and operate independently of it. In a conventional boxers blow, speed a is all-important as the mass m is mostly the fist, in the biotensegrity model, the entire body mass is involved. When absorbing a blow, it reverses the process by soaking up the initial force, distributing it, and then gradually stiffing at the cellular level where the cells, rather than all the resistance landing on a local area. The bone breaking impact, rather than focused where the blow landed, will be he resisted by all your cells in a wave that spreads from the impact site to a wall of billions of cells throughout the body, acting as perfect hydraulic shock absorbers, take up the blow. You go with the flow. Much of what seems unexplainable about the forces generated in martial arts are readily explained when the body is understood as a biotensegrity structure rather than as the common western post and lintel model.

The concept that the body is a tensegrity structure is not just a convenient model for martial arts practitioners. A turf toe injury in a quarterback will keep him from throwing a long pass.  The quarterback throws from his foot, not just his arm. We know that biologic tissues characteristically behave as nonlinear and visco-elastic material. In fact, this nonlinear behavior has been felt to be an essential quality of living tissue. Different researchers in different parts of the world have demonstrated evidence that the entire fascial network is interconnected so that a continuous tension network is known to exist within the body. We also know that at least some of the joints, like the shoulder girdle, transmit their loads through the tension of the soft tissue and not the compression of the bones. There is mounting evidence that this is the way all joints work. It is difficult to let go of concepts that have been part of us since childhood. The post and lintel lever system have intuitively been our model of how the body mechanically functions. On the other hand, we really know better. Just watch any child first learning to throw a ball. Our first throws are done as if the arm is a separate structure, detached from the body. We soon learn that to throw a ball, you must put your whole body into it as the football quarterback does. We just never had a model to understand what we were doing. Biotensegrity gives us that model.

2010 Stephen M Levin, medical director of the Mount Sinai Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 


Dr. Stephen Levin’s research in Biotensegrity holds the view that the body is a tensegrity truss system with tension members provided by a matrix of connective tissues, ligaments, muscles, blood vessels, nerves and fascia.

In this model, the bones are considered as spacers, not weight bearers along with incompressible fluids giving shape and form to a soft tissue entity.

Water in its structured form is enclosed in the body in fascial compartments. It helps to provide shock absorption and holds the shape of a tissue. The different densities of liquids contribute to their form as either a sol or gel.

Therefore, as we move from liquid state to a denser tissue determines how the tissue reacts. This effect carries on through all tissues from fascia to bone.

Polymers are clusters of molecules that again have tensegrous properties. When polymers are in fluid solution, they can withstand great pressures.

As a polymer, the fluid in the synovial sacs prevents the approximation of bones during weight bearing and their shock absorbency. This concept was researched by Dr. Levin in the mid-1970s.

During an orthoscopy of a knee under local anesthesia, he kept the patient standing in a weight-bearing posture through the support of a tilt table. His findings demonstrated that as long as the ligaments were held intact then the joint surfaces of the knee crura could not be approximated.

Under Newtonian principles of weight-bearing structures, this would never be possible. These same principles apply to all structures and tissues in the body. In the visceral system, the organs must position themselves in a closed fluid system. Some organs are held in place by the aid of negative air pressure suction and others by fascial and ligamentous attachment.

They are subjected to the forces of compression and tension as we move around and as the organs function as air or fluid movers or digesting foods. The weight bearing and movement behaviour of organs are known as turgor. In this model, the organs can expand and have mobility and motility qualities and interact with all their peripheral attachments.

The serous fluids that lubricate the space between organs allow an omnidirectional fluid shape sharing ability. When this fluid has the quality of a gel it acts as a buffer or spacer and a shocked observer. Stresses are absorbed through the tension members of the fascia supporting and surrounding the organs.

The fascia is a connective tissue forming a continuously interconnected system throughout the living body. It’s formed of liquid crystalline material and has the property of acting as a semiconductor. When fascia is moved, it produces tension under pressure, which generates a piezo electric field. Piezo-electricity comes from the Greek meaning pressure electricity. Oschman, J

 Stress to tissues can result in a crystallizing of the tissue turning a gel state to a sol. This affects the viscosity of the fluid to a restriction of the normal mobility of two adjacent structures. This can restrict the movement of an organ resulting in its immune response and function being impaired.

This impoverishment can result in many symptoms on its downward spiral towards pathology.

Standard methods of evaluating the body were based on Newtonian physics but this model does not fit our upright bipedal movement against gravity.

Newtonian physics can measure and calculate the strength of structures and the stresses they become subject to.

Unfortunately, the body is still reviewed and described in outmoded mechanical anatomical terms. Until the concept of Biotensegrity, the laws describing anatomical movement were according to Newtonian principles.

The cells that make up the soft tissues in the body arrange themselves into geometric shapes that just keep repeating themselves.

When cells gravitate together, they are subjected to natural laws governing their grouping and shape. The law of closest packing is the most economical way of stacking organisms.

If you stack a number of balls in a box there will be space between the balls. In the law of closest packing, the balls could be arranged to fit as tightly as possible into the case. In the closest arrangement, you end up with forms of icosahedron shapes.

Because there are actually no joined structures the icosahedron is quite unstable. This

results in the icosahedron oscillating and generating an energy field. Levin. S

In the study of Biotensegrity, the smallest components of bone or tissue arrange themselves as icosahedrons. Icosahedrons form structures that can withstand compression or tension in any direction. They can stack to make large structures like a beehive construction.

 In a tensegrity structure, compression elements float in the interspace of the tension wires. In the body, this would relate to the vertebrae in the spine. Each subsystem (vertebrae, disc and soft tissue) would be a subsystem of the spines metasystem, like the beehive analogy.

When viewed in this way you can understand their role in balancing tension and compression when stress is applied to the human frame. Extracts from Spine state of the Art Reviews Vol , No 2, May 1995, Hanley and Belfast, Philadelphia, Ed Thomas Deman M.D

Loads applied to the body distribute their pressure through the network of tension elements to create a balance. Even a pressure load to a small bone will distribute the load through the whole system.

A natural movement strategy in tensegrity truss architectural form is the closest explanation of nature’s laws at work in the human frame.

Bones floating in compression, tension network can form into trusses and extend out from the body like a bridge. This makes the body a weight mover, not a weight bearer. So in walking and especially when you are on one leg, the balanced tension maintains the integrity. Hatsumi says that you must learn to float in your walk. Hatsumi (2003).

The ligaments and soft tissues are constructed with soft viscoelastic materials that behave non linearly Journal of Mechanics in Medicine and Biology Vol 2,3 and 4, 375-388 World Scientific Publishing Co.

The difference between a mechanical structure and a human in motion is this non- linear flexibility of choice in movement.

In Newtonian physics, a four-dimensional universe is often described as a giant clockwork in three-dimensional space manifesting linear processes in time Power Vs Force D, Hawkins.

In other words, movement of a structure is determined by a concept of causality.

One-step sequentially leading to the next in mechanical formation.

The human frame is not ruled by this concept and is capable of nondeterministic, omnidirectional change inside of movements. This is like changing the formation of a step when you realize you are going to trip.

Pressure does not act locally on the tissue or follow a specific anatomical route along muscles or fascia. It follows to the depth of the tissue change and can act in a non-linear dynamic way that matches the tension/compression changes to the damaged tissue. This is brought about by the ability to palpate deeply into tissue without force feedback being a resistant force.

 In the art of Shinden, he told us that our energy or intent must come from the heart to our thumb to instigate the change. My initial understanding of this concept was to be sincere and benevolent or your intent to initiate healing in the client.

Although this is important, more recent research has demonstrated that the heart is the main generator of electricity in the body in the form of energy. Science also tells us that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only converted.

In the visceral approach, you are focusing on the tension of fascia around the organs. We need to integrate the concept of one point approach to a tensegrous structure changing sol to gel in the tissue matrix.

Dennis Bartram November 2004


The mechanical anatomy of a cell  In trying to reestablish a physical view of biology, Ingber has shown that cells, far from being formless blobs, use tension to stabilize their structure. And he has demonstrated, through two decades of experiments, that tensegrity not only gives cells their shape, but helps regulate their biochemistry.

Every cell, Ingber notes, has an internal scaffolding, or cytoskeleton, a lattice formed from molecular “struts and wires” not unlike the rigid tubes and tensed cables of Snelson’s sculptures. The “wires” are a crisscrossing network of fine cables, known as microfilaments, that stretch from the cell membrane to the nucleus, exerting an inward pull. Opposing the pull are microtubules, the thicker compression-bearing “struts” of the cytoskeleton, and specialized receptor molecules on the cell’s outer membrane that anchor the cell to the extracellular matrix, the fibrous substance that holds groups of cells together. This balance of forces is the hallmark of tensegrity.

Tissues are built from groups of cells, which Ingber likens to eggs sitting on the “egg carton” of the extracellular matrix. The receptor molecules anchoring cells to the matrix, known as integrins, connect the cells to the wider world. Ingber’s group in Children’s Vascular Biology Program has shown that a mechanical force on tissue is felt first by integrins at these anchoring points, and then is carried by the cytoskeleton to regions deep inside each cell. Inside the cell, the force might vibrate or change the shape of a protein molecule, triggering a biochemical reaction, or tug on a chromosome in the nucleus, activating a gene.

Ingber says that cells also have “tone,” just like muscles, because of the constant pull of the cytoskeletal filaments. Much like a stretched violin string produces different sounds when force is applied at different points along its length, the cell processes chemical signals differently depending on how much it is distorted.

“A growth factor will have different effects depending on how much the cell is stretched,” says Ingber. Cells that are stretched and flattened, like those in the surfaces of wounds, tend to grow and multiply, whereas rounded cells, cramped by overly crowded conditions, switch on a “suicide” program and die. In contrast, cells that are neither stretched nor retracted carry on with their intended functions.

Location, location, location Another tenet of cellular tensegrity is that physical location matters. When regulatory molecules float around loose inside the cell, their activities are little affected by mechanical forces that act on the cell as a whole. But when they’re attached to the cytoskeleton, they become part of the larger network, and are in a position to influence cellular “decision-making.” Many regulatory and signaling molecules are anchored on the cytoskeleton at the cell’s surface membrane, in spots known as adhesion sites, where integrins cluster. These prime locations are key signal-processing centers, like nodes on a computer network, where neighboring molecules can receive mechanical information from the outside world and exchange signals. “Adhesion sites are what’s important for major control of the cell,” Ingber says. “If you’re in one of these sites, you’re hooked up to a bunch of players, both mechanical and chemical. You can affect these players, which in turn affect a bunch of other players.”

Ingber offers the example of the oncogene src, one of the first genes known to cause tumors. This mutated gene doesn’t shut off – it sends unrelenting chemical signals telling the cell to grow. “But what’s interesting is that src is normally found on the cytoskeleton in the adhesion sites, near its signaling partners,” he says. “To produce a cancerous transformation, it must be at these sites because it needs to be integrated within the structure of the cell.”

Disease mechanics Based on these observations, Ingber believes that genes and molecules only partially explain disease origins. In fact, he asserts that many medical conditions are caused by a mechanical failure at the cell and tissue level. Examples include congestive heart failure, where the heart muscle loses its elasticity and becomes “floppy,” thus losing its pumping efficiency; and asthma, where changes in tissue mechanics cause the airway to stiffen, tighten and contract, increasing mechanical resistance and constricting breathing.

But often the mechanical basis of a disease is not so obvious. On an airplane not long ago, Ingber found himself sitting next to Jing Zhou, a researcher from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who told him about her work on polycystic kidney disease, or PKD. In children with PKD, huge cysts form in the kidney tubules, eventually replacing much of the mass of the organ itself, and causing the kidneys to fail. Zhou’s lab had found a gene linked to PKD and localized it to a thin antenna-like structure sticking out of the kidney cell, known as the primary cilium. But she had no explanation for the finding.

Ingber pointed out that the cilium is designed to sense mechanical forces ¨ in the case of the kidney, the shear stress caused by urine flow. Normally, the force of the flow bends the cilium, triggering calcium to rush into the cell. He suggested to Zhou that perhaps cells affected by PKD have a faulty calcium signal and constantly “think” that shear stresses are high. This in turn might cause the tubules to enlarge more and more to accommodate the flow, eventually forming cysts. From this serendipitous meeting, a collaboration was born, and together, Ingber and Zhou showed that when the PKD-causing genes are disabled in mice, the “lever” of the primary cilium malfunctions and fails to trigger a normal calcium response.

Scientific heresy? Ingber has worked hard to defend the notions of cellular tensegrity and mechanical forces regulating cellular biochemistry. He recalls being publicly attacked while presenting at scientific meetings. But he also remembers an eminent scientist telling him, “If you’ve got them that upset, you must be on to something important.” And so Ingber returned to the lab bench. “I responded to my critics by devising experiments,” he says.

In 1993, his team reported in Science that when they used magnetic forces to literally twist the integrin receptors at the cell surface, the cytoskeleton stiffened in response to the stress and behaved like a tensegrity structure. In 1997, the team reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that tugging on the same integrin receptors causes changes in the cell nucleus. In 2000, a study in Nature Cell Biology demonstrated that mechanical stress at the cell surface causes the release of chemical signals inside the cell that kick genes into action. Tweaking receptors not linked to the cytoskeleton had no such effect. Other experiments have altered the extracellular matrix – making it alternately rigid or flexible – and documented effects on cell signaling and gene expression.

Nanotechnology and beyond Ingber’s study of tensegrity’s role in disease has helped him forge some unexpected connections. In 2003, he worked with Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur on a nanotechnology project, using a laser to obliterate a minuscule portion of a cell, a few billionths of a meter in size, without affecting surrounding structures. Ingber got involved because he sees the laser as a tool for cutting out a single structure in a living cell to explore its mechanical role. He has also delved into systems biology, a new field that uses computational approaches to explore how molecular parts organize themselves into a system whose properties cannot be predicted by the parts alone. Informed by tensegrity, Ingber hopes to understand how structural, mechanical, chemical and genetic factors combine to govern cell behavior.

He has also helped devise new approaches to tissue engineering, and even posits that tensegrity helps explain the origins of life. Observing that viruses, enzymes, cells, and even small organisms take geodesic forms like hexagons and helices, Ingber suggests that tensegrity is nature’s way of creating strong, stable life forms with minimal expenditure of energy and materials.

“Tensegrity has given me a path that goes deep and broad,” Ingber says. “I believe the greatest value comes when you cross barriers and boundaries and get a new perspective and vantage point. I’m not afraid of following my own path.” Nancy Fliesler 2005

All copyright held by authors cited in this compilation of articles


14 Dec

To continue this topic—

There is no longer any doubt that electrical currents do flow through the entire body in an intercommunicating network [54], and these electrical currents can indeed be detected as ultraweak magnetic fields by the SQUID magnetometer.

Acupuncture meridians were observed to have the properties of electrical transmission lines [46, 47]; by contrast, acupuncture points typically exhibit 10 to 100-fold lower electrical resistances compared with the surrounding skin. Acupuncture points may correspond to singularities or gaps between collagen fibres, or where collagen fibres are oriented at right angles to the dermal layer. Indeed, acupuncture points tend to be located along cleavage planes between muscles, or between muscle and bone or tendon [48]. Acupuncture points may also represent important junctions between channels and can thus simultaneously influence distant sites, as for example, sticking a needle into the acupuncture point at the side of the little toe could either be stimulating the eye to create signals in the visual cortex of the brain, or else it could be stimulating both eye and brain at the same time.

The conducting water channels in the connective tissues are continuous with the ordered hydrogen-bonded water proton wires – in the ion-channel proteins of the cell membrane. There is thus a direct electrical link between distant signals and the inside of every single cell in the body, capable of causing physiological changes inside the cells, including all nerve cells. This electrical channel of intercommunication depends on the mechanical continuity of the connective tissue matrix, a continuum that always changes as a whole. Mae- Won Ho


It is important that you know about the progress that has been made by modern science in the study of Qi. This will keep you from getting stuck in the ancient concepts and level of understanding. In ancient China, people had very little knowledge of electricity. They only knew from acupuncture that when a needle was inserted into the acupuncture cavities, some kind of energy other than heat was produced which often caused a shocking or a tickling sensation. It was not until the last few decades, when the Chinese people were more acquainted with electromagnetic science, that they began to recognize that this energy circulating in the body, which they called Qi, might be the same thing as what today’s science calls bioelectricity. We must look at what modern Western science has discovered about bioelectromagnetic energy. Many bioelectricity related reports have been published, and frequently the results are closely related to what is experienced in Chinese Qigong training and medical science. For example, during the electrophysiological research of the 1960s, several investigators discovered that bones are piezoelectric; that is, when they are stressed, mechanical energy is converted to electrical energy in the form of electric current. This might explain one of the practices of Marrow Washing Qigong in which the stress on the bones and muscles is increased in certain ways to increase the Qi circulation.

It is understood now that the human body is constructed of many different electrically conductive materials, and that it forms a living electromagnetic field and circuit. Electromagnetic energy is continuously being generated in the human body through the biochemical reaction in food and air assimilation and circulated by the electromotive forces (EMF) generated within the body.

In addition, you are constantly being affected by external electromagnetic fields such as that of the earth, or the electrical fields generated by clouds. When you practice Chinese medicine or Qigong, you need to be aware of these outside factors and take them into account.

Countless experiments have been conducted in China, Japan, and other countries to study how external magnetic or electrical fields can affect and adjust the body’s Qi field. Many acupuncturists use magnets and electricity in their treatments. They attach a magnet to the skin over a cavity and leave it there for a period of time. The magnetic field gradually affects the Qi circulation in that channel.

Alternatively, they insert needles into cavities and then run an electric current through the needle to reach the Qi channels directly. Although many researchers have claimed a degree of success in their experiments, none has been able to publish any detailed and convincing proof of the results or give a good explanation of the theory behind the experiment. As with many other attempts to explain the How and Why of acupuncture, conclusive proof is elusive, and many unanswered questions remain. Of course, this theory is quite new, and it will take more study and research before it is verified and completely understood.

Much of the research on the body’s electrical field relates to acupuncture. For example, Dr. Robert O. Becker, author of The Body Electric, reports that the conductivity of the skin is much higher at acupuncture cavities and that it is now possible to locate them precisely by measuring the skin’s conductivity. Many of these reports prove that the acupuncture which has been done in China for thousands of years is reasonable and scientific.

Although the link between the theory of the Body Electric and the Chinese theory of Qi is becoming more accepted and better proven, there are still many questions to be answered. For example, how can the mind lead to Qi (electricity)? (Of course, we know that there is no separation of mind/body- so there is no mystery- Rodger)How actually does the mind generate an EMF (electromotive force) to circulate the electricity in the body? How is the human electromagnetic field affected by the multitude of other electric fields which surround us, such as radio wiring or electrical appliances? How can we readjust our electromagnetic fields and survive in outer space or on other planets where the magnetic field is completely different from the earth? You can see that the future of Qigong and bioelectric science is a challenging and exciting one. It is about time that we started to use modern technology to understand the inner energy world which has been for the most part ignored by Western society.

This article is a direct translation of text from the book Taijiquan, Classical Yang Style by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. YMAA 1999

theoretical incompleteness

14 Dec
  • That the human mind does not perceive what is “there”, but what it believes should be “there”. H. von Foerster   
  • “The Theory is only proposing a more detached view of the place in which our Consciousness is spacing; it is meant to be a more holistic kind of Physics. On the other hand, we must accept the fact that all theories, including the present one, are only approximations of the Truth. Only if Man had an infinite mind he/she would be able to grasp Total Reality. By just verbalizing something, we have already approximated it. Math comes closer, but it is still an approximation, because Nature has too many domains from which it emanates. The fact that it is open-ended at its outer edge doesn’t allow us to take seriously any Theory of Everything.”R. Lampis
  • Thus it is most likely the case that no human endeavor is immune to theoretical incompleteness. This would then imply that any idea or concept cannot be completely defined, axiomatized or contextualized. It would also mean that a general correspondence theory of truth is unattainable and, moreover, that the notion of truth, itself, is undefinable. J.Mathen  
  • Vasubandhu writes “Thought involves a transformation of consciousness. For that reason, what has been thought does not exist. Therefore, all this is mere concept.” There is no denial of an object here. What is denied is the existence of a real object that is reflected “as it is” in consciousness. The fact that consciousness, while reflecting the object, has passed through several transformations makes it impossible for the object to be known “as it is.” For this reason, all that is available is a “concept” (vijnapti), not an ultimate reality or substance, either in oneself or in the world of experience. D.J. Kalupahana
  • Basic reality, i.e., reality which exists independently of the observer, is in principle not accessible in any DIRECT WAY. Rather, it is observable or describable by means of pictures on different levels, i.e., levels of reality. W. Schommers
  •  Everything is located in the head, not only the products of fantasy and scientific laws, but those things which we understand as “hard” objects. This is because we do not have the “hard” objects actually in front of us but “only” their pictures. W. Schommers The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment. B. d ‘Espagnat
  • When we reflect we abstract, that is, we divert attention from all that does not concern our purpose, and we generalize and construct in reflection only under the logical conceptions which are appropriate from our standpoint.       Thus we study a living being from one or another outlook. It is sheer fallacy to assume that because one of those views is itself justified the others are therefore false.       Reality is more than what in each case it has taken by abstraction to be, and if it is so no single order of conceptions is adequate to complete explanation. Viscount Haldane
  • “The entire universe has to be understood as a single, undivided whole, in which analysis into separately and independently existent parts has no fundamental status.” Bohm
  • The reason we see our world as we do is because of what we use to observe it. The human body is a just barely adequate measuring device. Quantum mechanics does not always wash itself out, but to observe its effects for larger and larger objects we would need more and more accurate measurement devices. We just do not have the sensitivity to observe the quantum effects around us. In essence we do create the classical world we perceive, and as Brukner said, There could be other classical worlds completely different from ours. Brukner and Kofler
  • There must exist, beyond mere appearances (…) a ‘veiled reality’ that science does not describe but only glimpses uncertainly. In turn, contrary to those who claim that matter is the only reality, the possibility that other means, including spirituality, may also provide a window on ultimate reality cannot be ruled out, even by cogent scientific arguments.” B.d’Espagnat
  • David H. Wolpert, a physics-trained computer scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center, has chimed in with his version of a knowledge limit. Because of it, he concludes, the universe lies beyond the grasp of any intellect, no matter how powerful, that could exist within the universe. Specifically, during the past two years, he has been refining a proof that no matter what laws of physics govern a universe, there are inevitably facts about the universe that its inhabitants cannot learn by experiment or predict with a computation.
  • Continuous time then appears epistemologically as a heuristic abstraction just as are ALL concepts describing reality. H.D.Zeh
  • As Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, puts it: “That your predictions about the universe are fundamentally constrained by you yourself being part of the universe you’re predicting, always seemed pretty obvious to me.”
  • According to classical physics, the universe consists of bodies in space. We are tempted to assume, therefore, that we live in a physical world consisting of bodies in space and that what we perceive consists of objects in space. But this is very dubious. J.J.Gibson  
  • The objective reality of the universe, if such can be supposed to exist, must forever be unknowable to Man as to Microbe. Wei Wu Wei We are only aware of that aspect of the universe of which the senses we possess are able to inform us. Wei Wu Wei  
  • A man has six senses – as oriental psychology has always understood – for he is aware of that aspect of the universe which is his mind. If we had further senses we may suppose that we should become aware of further aspects of the universe. To imagine that the universe is restricted to that of which we are aware is probably as ill-founded in our case as in that of the insect. Wei Wu Wei  
  • In this post-modern world we must update the old positivistic, reductionist, deterministic, non-duality paradigms. Rodger   
  • Bohm termed the world of the “implicate order”. While the explicate order deals with seperateness and independence, the implicate order is holistic and mutually enfolding. To lapse into “explicate language” for a moment, the implicate order is much vaster than the explicate. It is like a great ocean reaching below the surface of the explicate. The fact that our world appears stable is not so much that objects remain static in our world, but that the same patterns are constantly being born again only to die away as fast as thought.Only limited aspects of the implicate order can be made explicit, one at a time. Thus the entire implicate can never be totally accounted for. F. David Peat 
  •   …all knowledge in the conscious content is a differentiated system that cannot by definition articulate the universal principle of order.  M Kafatos, R Nadeau
  • The observer as an observer necessarily always remains in a descriptive domain, that is, in a relative cognitive domain. No description of an absolute reality is possible. Such a description would require an interaction with the  absolute to be described, but the representation which would arise from such an interaction would necessarily be determined by the autopoietic organization of the observer, not by the deforming agent; hence, the cognitive reality that it would generate would unavoidably be relative to the knower. H.R. Maturana
  • Somewhat ironically, science, having set out to know the ultimate nature of reality, is discovering that not only is this world beyond any direct experience, it may also be inherently unknowable P. Russell
  • Human thinking can only imagine reality, just as a portrait represents a person. And as a portrait is not “the person” it represents, likewise any theory is not “the reality” it describes. We then must humbly recognize that our minds’ coherence and logic do not necessarily match the consistency of reality. And that also entails that reality does “occur” and that we cannot conclude it is an “illusion of our minds” simply because we cannot make sense of it. Henri Salles 
  • If the thing and the thought about it have their ground in the one undefinable and unknown totality of flux, then the attempt to explain their relationship by supposing that the thought is in reflective correspondence with the thing has no meaning, for both thought and thing are forms abstracted from the total process. The reason why these forms are related could only be in the ground form from which they arise, but there can be no way of discussing reflective correspondence in this ground, because reflective correspondence implies knowledge, while the ground is beyond what can be assimilated in the context of knowledge. D. Bohm
  • “When you  perceive intelligently, you always perceive a function, never an object in the physical sense. Cameras always register objects, but human perception  is always the perception of functional roles. The two processes could not  be more different…. Stanislaw Ulum
  • The primary source of our confusion in analyzing the results of the experiments testing Bell’s inequality is that we have committed what Whitehead termed “fallacy of misplaced concreteness”. We have accepted abstract theoritical statements about concrete material results in terms of single categories and limited points of view as totally explanatory. The fallacy is particulary obvious in our dealings with the results of the Aspen and Gisin experiments. Although the results infer wholeness in the sense that they show that the conditions for these experiments constitute an unanalyzable and undissectible whole, the abstract theory that helps us to coordinate the results cannot in principle disclose this wholeness. Since the abstract theory can only deal in complementary aspects of the complete reality disclosed in the act of measurement, that reality is not itself, in fact or in principle, disclosed…. With the discovery of nonlocality, it seems clear that the whole is not identical to the sum of its parts and that no collection of parts, no matter how arbitrarily large, can fully disclose or define the whole. R. Nadeau,M.Kafatos

quotes about Unity of mind/body, consciousness, universe, 6th sense,synchronicity,choice, intention

14 Dec order parameter isomorphism connects mind and body, will and brain, mental and neural events. Mind itself is a spatiotemporal pattern that molds the metastable dynamic patterns of the brain. Mind-body dualism is replaced by a single isomorphism, the heart of which is semantically meaningful pattern variables…. we sould take Sherrington’s “enchanted loom” image of the brain very seriously indeed.         To provide a comprehensive online resource for those interested in learning about a sixth sense we call the squiggle sense. Why? Although all human beings possess the squiggle sense, most are unaware that they do. JA Scott Kelso  

Choice is the degree of freedom of potential action of a quantum coherent organism which is maximally spontaneous and free.  Rodger

The “self” is a representation of the autopoietic  life experience of the quantum coherent human organism. Rodger

The “mind” is not distinct from the body. There is no mind/body dualism. The mind is the embedded consciousness of the quantum coherent organism. Therefore, the “mind” is intimately responsive to the physical aspects of the body-at all levels. Rodger

Intention is the innate autopoietic matrix of the quantum coherent organism. Rodger

Can’t have our cake and eat it too: The price we pay for living/activity is the arrow of time. Rodger  

Consciousness emerges as a manifestation of the dissipative quantum dynamics of the brain. Professor Abrams

What does all this mean for consciousness? It simply means that reality, as empirically and mathematically demonstrated, does not exist in terms of a separately existing thing from which we take data. It means that reality is a question of a great number of configurations in which consciousness, the measuring device, and the thing measured exist in a configuration in which consciousness is an innate and intimate element. It means,… that consciousness is a necessary and original aspect of the universe as a whole and that consciousness is not merely an epiphenomenon piled on top of some material complexity, but that it was always already there in some aspect yet to be determined; … it means that the intuition of Nietzsche, the cosmic will to power, as described in Beyond Good and Evil, section 36, reflects a quantum mechanical view of the world. Nietzsche’s BGE 36 does nothing less than raise the question, consistent with the cosmology of his cosmic will to power, of the inseparability of perception from the material-energetic universe, a world which is not really external anymore–… it is, I believe, the most astonishing page in the history of philosophy… This is an ontology in which the stuff of the universe, whatever we may call it, has the element of consciousness. You cannot understand this statement if you insist on adhering to the idea of local and pre-existing reality for which you have been prepared by 2500 years of Platonism. What does this have to do with the macroscopic world? Let us turn to the idea of “coarse-graining”, a good introduction is found in Gell-Mann’s The Quark and the Jaguar. And let us remember that reality exists as a series of configurations and not as pre-existing and absolute local reality on which we will exercise our unprejudiced, scientific method. To put it another way–there are a great number of parallel universes and no original created and absolutely existing universe to which we blithely apply the scientific method in order to find out the truth. William Plank

It is clear that in some way, human nature is nature observing itself. This involves a self-referential recursion that must somehow be drawn from the wellsprings of its own nature. Human beings can be thought of quite literally as the complementary nature observing itself. This indicates that nature must entail some kind of non trivial self-reference. JA Scott Kelso,DA Engstrom

The universe must be self-reflectively aware of itself as reality-in-itself to manifest the order that is a prior condition for all manifestation of being. Since consciousness in its most narrow formulation for human beings can be defined as self-reflective awareness founded upon a sense of internal consistency or order, we can safely argue that the universe is, in this sense, conscious. Complementary constructs appear to be as fundamental to our conscious constructions of reality in ordinary and mathematical languages as they are to the unfolding of progressive stages of complexity in physical reality. The suggestion is that human consciousness infolds within itself the fundamental logical principle of the conscious universe, and is thereby enabled to construct a view of this universe in physical theory which describes the unfolding of the cosmic order at previous stages in the life of the cosmos.  M Kafatos, R Nadeau

Reality… is pictured as a limitless series of levels which extend to deeper and deeper subtleties and out of which the particular, explicate order of nature and the order of consciousness and life emerge. Synchronicities can therefore be thought of as an expression of this underlying movement, for they unfold as patterns of thoughts and arrangements of material processes which have a meaningful conjunction when taken together. F.D. Peat

In discussing singularity,”…the expansion is better envisaged as that of space itself, carrying the galaxies along for a ride. So when all the matter of the Universe was gathered together, that was because the space between galaxies was shrunk(or rather, not yet expanded). Space itself, and time, were created, like matter, in the big bang; there was no ‘outside’ into which the explosion expanded.”Davies/Gribbin

“In physics, combination of space and time used in the theory of relativity. When developing relativity, Albert Einstein showed that time was in many respects like an extra dimension (or direction) to space. Space and time can thus be considered as entwined into a single entity, rather than two separate things.” Dictionary  

“Within other rhetorical contexts, Dogen goes to equate time with one’s body and mind, ….These kinds of identification between time and the world suggests that space and time are inseparably interconnected and interpenetrate each other. In fact, Faure observes that Dogen’s ontologization of time is simultaneously a spatialization of it.”C.Olson

 “The space/time continuum -A very simple definition: space and time considered together as one entity.”D. Faige

“The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.” –Hermann Minkowski

“This being present, that arises; without this, that does not occur.  Everything is interconnected. If you were not, at this moment, and did not tie up or ever tie up all the aggregates or constituents that make you up, then those aggregates or constituents either might not have ever existed, or if they did, would be split up and used somewhere else, bumping everything from where it is to some other place…because if you were not, that is, never existed, then everything and every part that ever proceeded leading up to you being you would not have unfolded the way it has or be where it is or was or be impacted by what you are or have done or will do.”

It (psychological phemomena)is, surely, an ecology(Gibson), a synergy( Haken), a Gestalt(koffka), a coalition (Shaw&Turvey), a communion(Buddhism) – a deep and inextricable interaction between organism and environment (if such a distinction is accepted, for reasons of scientific analysis. P. Treffner

Healthy Organs -Liver

12 Dec

Two events promoted me to write this bog. First, in my last blog on Traditional Chinese Medicine, I was interested in how TCM places great importance to the health of the organs of the body through both diet and exercise. I noticed how this approach was quite different from the typical, popular health exercise and diet discussion in the USA and other western countries which almost never discusses the health of the body’s organs. However, I believe that the TCM perspective is valuable and so I decided to further explore what exactly Western health experts say about organ wellness.

Secondly, the other day I was talking to a friend about healthy living and I commented on how most Western health exercise programs emphasize only muscle/skeletal and in general cardio vascular exercise for fitness. I said we also need to be aware of the health of the body’s organs because actually most of serious health problems are located in the organs not in our muscle-skeletal system. My friend laughed and said “The organs, what can you do for the organs?” so, for the above two reasons, this blog explores what the American experts say about it.

If you need more info about this topic contact your health care professional.


Ways to Take Care of Your Liver

Health Lifestyle Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly help the liver to work well. Eating an unhealthy diet can lead to liver disease. For example, a person who eats a lot of fatty foods is at higher risk of being overweight and having non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Eat foods from all the food groups: grains, protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables.

Eat foods that have a lot of fiber such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, rice and cereals

Limit the Amount of Alcohol You Drink Alcohol can damage or destroy liver cells. Liver damage can lead to the buildup of fat in your liver (fatty liver), inflammation or swelling of your liver (alcoholic hepatitis), and/or scarring of your liver (cirrhosis). For people with liver disease, even a small amount of alcohol can make the disease worse. Talk to your doctor about what amount of alcohol is right for you.

Manage Your Medications When medicines are taken incorrectly – by taking too much or the wrong type or by mixing – the liver can be harmed.

  • Learn about medicines and how they can affect the liver
  • Follow dosing instructions

Talk to a doctor or pharmacist often about the medicines you are taking

Avoid Breathing in or Touching Toxins Toxins can injure liver cells.

  • Limit direct contact with toxins from cleaning and aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives in cigarettes

Do not smoke

  • Take care with aerosol sprays. When you use an aerosol cleaner, make sure the room is ventilated, or wear a mask. Take similar protective measures when spraying insecticides, fungicides, paint and other toxic chemicals. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Watch what gets on your skin. When using insecticides and other toxic chemicals, cover your skin with gloves, long sleeves, a hat and a mask. Wash off any chemicals you get on your skin with soap and water as soon as possible.
  • Eating healthy foods for the liver can improve and support liver function on a daily basis. Having a healthy liver results in greater energy and general well-being.
  • A poorly functioning liver can result in tiredness, headaches, bad breath, allergies and intolerances, problem skin and weight gain.

Foods that are healthy for the liver fall into two main categories.

  • First are those that promote the detoxification process of the liver. And second, are those that are high in antioxidants and therefore protect the liver while it’s carrying out its detoxification processes. Below is a list of the top eight foods that are considered to be good for your liver.
  • Garlic contains allicin which is a sulphur-based compound needed by the liver for effective detoxification. Garlic helps the liver rid the body of mercury, certain food additives and the hormone oestrogen.
  • CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage).
  • These vegetables are very powerful detoxifiers of the liver. They contain chemicals that neutralize certain toxins such as nitrosamines found in cigarette smoke and aflotoxin found in peanuts. They also contain glucosinolates that help the liver to produce enzymes it needs for its detoxification processes.
  • Drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice in a cup of boiled water first thing in the morning helps to cleanse the liver and promote detoxification. It also stimulates bile production, cleanses the stomach and bowel and stimulates a bowel motion.
  • BEETROOT (BEETS). It’s a blood-purifying tonic that is also capable of absorbing heavy metals.
  • In a study done by the US Department of Agriculture at Tuffs University, it was found that the following list of fruits had the highest levels of antioxidants (in descending order): Prunes, raisons, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, pink grapefruit, cantaloupe, apples and pears. Antioxidants help to protect the liver from the high levels of free radicals that are naturally produced during the process of detoxification.
  • Apples contain pectin that bind to heavy metals in the body (in particular in the colon) and help their excretion. This reduces the load on the liver and its detoxification capacities.
  • Increases bile production. One of the jobs of bile is to remove toxins through the bowel, as well as ‘unfriendly’ micro-organisms. It has been suggested that 30 minutes after eating globe artichoke, bile flow is increased by over 100%.

Artichoke contains both liver-protective/restorative powers. It acts as a blood purifier and has been proven in clinical studies to lower cholesterol, triglyceride levels and other metabolic waste products

  • BITTER LEAFY SALAD GREENS (dandelion, chicory, endive, rocket).
  • The bitterness of these foods helps to stimulate bile flow within the liver.

Top 10 tips for a Healthy Liver and Lymph 

Your liver has many functions; stores certain vitamins, minerals and sugars for use as fuel, cleanses/filters the toxins out of your blood and controls the production/excretion of cholesterol. Your overall health and vitality, to a great extent, depends upon the health of your liver. The thousands of enzyme systems that control virtually everybody activity are created there. If your liver fails to create even one of these enzymes, overall body function is impaired, creating greater metabolic stress on your body.

THE LYMPH composed of Lymph fluid consists of; the ’tissue fluid’ in which all of our cells are bathed, and the fluid within the ‘lymph vessels’. These are ‘blood vessel’ like tubes, which connect the lymph glands of the body. The Lymphatic System is also called the Immune System.

 Modern lifestyles can overstress your liver. Alcohol, tobacco, environmental pollutants, food additives, agricultural pesticides, popular cosmetic ingredients, common household products, stress, pharmaceutical and OTC (over-the-counter) drugs (including oral contraceptives and caffeine), gallstones, home repair materials, artist materials, garden chemicals and building materials can all kill liver cells.

Symptoms of liver imbalance include headaches, bruising easily, anxiety, depression, confusion, fatigue, jaundice, impaired libido (sex drive) and mental function, food allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities and PMS, as well as conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. When your liver is damaged it cannot remove toxins, which then build up in your blood and eventually, your brain.


Try the following tips for a healthy liver and lymph:

Avoid any foods of which you suspect you may be intolerant: They will produce toxins in the gut that can cause stress to the detoxification mechanisms. Bacteria, viruses, too much alcohol, coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks, smoking and the medicines that have powerful effects on the liver, stomach and other parts of the body can prove toxic Chew your food well to help release the enzymes that aid digestion. Consume plenty of foods containing: Consume plenty of foods containing foliate, flavonoids, magnesium, iron, sulphate and selenium and B-vitamins 2,3,6 and 12, since toxicity in the body can be caused by deficiency of the nutrients that the liver needs for detoxification as much as by exposure to toxins. Think along the lines of salads, beans, fresh juices, stir-fries cooked in a little good-quality olive oil, nuts, seeds, yoghurt (full-fat is fine). Steaming is a quick and healthy way of cooking vegetables, and the only vegetables to avoid are potatoes. Aim for a diet build on complex carbohydrates (brown rice), lean protein (beans, lentils, eggs, chicken, fish and a little lean red meat) and organic fruits & vegetables. Cut down on stimulants: such as tea and coffee, and depressants such as smoking & alcohol. Aim at drinking at least 2.5 liters of water a day.

Eat foods rich in antioxidants: which aid the natural detox mechanisms like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts and Soybean products. Nutrients that enhance our immune system are Vitamin C, Vitamin E, the B-vitamins, Zinc and Magnesium. These nutrients are either potent anti-oxidants capable of stopping the free-radical cascade of tissue damage or are involved in the enzymes that help detoxify damaging chemicals. Rest and feel good! :

One more really good way to boost your immune system and it’s free.

Laugh, Rest and feel good!

A depressed mind can cause a depressed body.

Laughter actually increases production of an antibody that is responsible for our first line of defense against bacterial infections. Laughter, lovemaking and exercise are the best medicine of all! Laugh Over time, the health of the liver and lymph may be restored. Taking beneficial herbs regularly and following a detoxification process can help to provide protection to either the sick or healthy liver during the course of daily life. This stabilizes cell membranes and encourages the regeneration of liver cells destroyed during their normal functions. Overview Poor nutrition is rarely a cause of liver disease, but good nutrition in the form of a balanced diet, may help liver cells damaged by hepatitis viruses to regenerate, forming new liver cells. Nutrition can be an essential part of treatment. Many chronic liver diseases are associated with malnutrition. Watch the Protein To quickly determine your daily protein in grams, divide your weight in pounds by 2. Too much daily protein may cause hepatic encephalopathy (mental confusion). This occurs when the amount of dietary protein is greater than the liver’s ability to use the protein. This causes a buildup of toxins that can interfere with brain function. Protein is restricted in patients with clinical evidence of encephalopathy. However, controversy exists regarding the type of protein a diet should contain. Vegetable and dairy protein may be tolerated better than meat protein. Medications, such as lactulose and neomycin, may be used to help control hepatitis-related encephalopathy. Due to the body’s need for proteins, protein restriction should only be undertaken with a doctor’s advice. Watch the Calories. Excess calories in the form of carbohydrates can add to liver dysfunction and can cause fat deposits in the liver. No more than 30% of a person’s total calories should come from fat because of the danger to the cardiovascular system. To figure out your daily calorie needs, you’ll need a minimum of 15 calories a day for each pound you weight. Watch the Salt Good nutrition also helps to maintain the normal fluid and electrolyte balances in the body. Patients with fluid retention and swelling of the abdomen (ascites), or the legs (peripheral edema), may need diets low in salt to avoid sodium retention that contributes to fluid retention. Avoiding foods such as canned soups and vegetables, cold cuts, dairy products, and condiments such as mayonnaise and ketchup can reduce sodium intake. Read food labels carefully as many prepared foods contain large amounts of salt. The best-tasting salt substitute is lemon juice.

Watch Vitamins A and D- Excessive amounts of some vitamins may be an additional source of stress to the liver that must act as a filter for the body. Mega-vitamin supplements, particularly if they contain vitamins A and D, may be harmful. Excess vitamin A is very toxic to the liver. Beware of Alcohol -You’ll need to stop drinking completely to give your liver a break – a chance to heal, a chance to rebuild, a chance for new liver cells to grow. This means avoiding beer, wine, cocktails, champagne, and liquor in any other form. If you continue to drink, your liver will pay the price, and if your doctor is checking your liver function tests, it may be hard to determine if a change in a test means there has been damage to your liver due to the disease itself or because of the alcohol. Beware of Alcohol and Acetaminophen -Acetaminophen is an ingredient in some over-the-counter pain relievers, and is contained in many over-the-counter drugs used for colds or coughs. Taken with alcohol, these products can cause a condition called sudden and severe hepatitis which could cause fatal liver failure. Clearly, you should never combine these two substances. If you have any doubt about what medicines to take simultaneously, ask your doctor. Beware of “Nutritional Therapies”- Herbal treatments and alternative liver medicines need to undergo rigorous scientific study before they can be recommended. “Natural” or diet treatments and herbal remedies can be quite dangerous. Plants of the Senecio, Crotalaria and Heliotopium families, plus chaparral, germander, comfrey, mistletoe, skullcap, margosa oil, mate tea, Gordolobo yerba tea, pennyroyal, and Jin Blu Huan have all been indicated to be toxic to the liver. 

Healthy Internal Organs- Kidney

12 Dec

Here is information about maintaining a healthy kidney. If you need more info contact a health care professional.


Given the extreme importance of the kidneys in maintaining good health, the topic of kidney health must be closely examined. Kidney care is extensive and incorporates principles of health that is not only confined to the kidney but impacts on a wide range of general principles of health. It is important to remember that the kidneys are only one part of a very complex human biological system. Each element of this system is in some way connected or related to the other elements within this system. In looking at kidney care, therefore, one has to expand the scope beyond just the kidneys. An example of these interactions is described by Andrew Davenport: The kidney and the brain play a major role in maintaining normal homeostasis of the extracellular fluid, and as such regulate intracellular volume, by controlling sodium and water balance. However, both hyponatraemic and hypernatraemic states commonly account for acute medical admissions, and also frequently occur during hospital in-patient stays. Both acute and chronic kidney damage can not only affect sodium and water homeostasis, but also the accumulation of uremic toxins; impairs cerebral higher functions and the ability of the brain to adapt to extracellular changes. Healthy Kidney Diet

Healthy kidneys ensure the removal of fluids and wastes from our bodies. Many vital body functions are controlled by the kidneys. A healthy kidney diet is important, because when the kidneys are affected by any disease, their functions begin to fail to the point of becoming fatal.

Our kidneys, that are located below the rib cage on either side of the spine, work as filters to remove waste products and excess water in the body through urine. Several symptoms may be noticed, if the condition of the kidneys begin to deteriorate for several reasons. Some of these symptoms are, itching all over the body, general tiredness, discoloration or blood and pus in the urine, reduced urine amount, appetite loss, nausea and vomiting. The hands and feet also tend to swell because of water retention. Muscle cramps and darkened skin are other symptoms of kidney disease. In order to control the deterioration of the kidneys, it’s imperative that one follows a healthy kidney diet. It is also important to understand when one may be at risk of developing a kidney disease, in order to be able to follow a suitable diet. When Are You at a Risk of Kidney Disease? One may be at a risk of kidney disease, when one suffers from any of the following:

  • The most common way of contracting a kidney disease is when one suffers from diabetes.
  • People suffering from high blood pressure may develop kidney problems.
  • Chain smokers are bound to suffer from kidney dysfunction.
  • If one has a family history of kidney disease, one is more prone to suffering from the same.
  • Kidney disease is also common in people who are obese, and in people who are above 50 years of age.

By following the below mentioned diet for healthy kidneys, one may reduce the risk of contracting Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). Even for those who already endure the same, this diet will help reduce the effects of the disease.   Healthy Kidney Diet  Persons with CKD are required to follow a diet low in proteins, which should also be low in sodium and potassium. For those who have diabetes along with CKD, one must also follow a low-carb diet. Mentioned below are some guidelines to avoid certain nutrients, and consume some others in order to be able to follow a diet for healthy kidneys. Sodium Sodium is a nutrient that controls blood pressure and also the fluids in the body. When the intake of sodium is high, it leads to water retention, thereby causing excess water to collect in the kidneys. Thus affecting the kidney functions. To control sodium intake:

  • Limit the intake of table salt in the food you eat.
  • Apart from table salt, there are various foods high in sodium levels such as crisps, crackers and processed foods. Try to avoid the intake of such foods.
  • It is wise to read the nutrition facts of any food product before purchasing it. These facts enlist the exact amount of sodium present in the product.

Proteins Impaired kidney function is caused by excess consumption of proteins. It is true that proteins help build muscle and repair tissues in the body. However, excess proteins increase the stress on the kidneys and increase the risk of kidney dysfunction.

  • Surplus proteins have been detected, mainly in non-vegetarians, as meat contains significant amounts of protein. As such, it is sensible to abstain from eating such products.
  • By consuming more vegetables and fibrous foods, the kidneys can work towards eliminating the extra protein as well as toxins in the body. The intake of vegetables will also help lower the risk of high blood pressure and excess weight, two other factors that are responsible for kidney dysfunction.

Thus, limiting the intake of protein will help decrease the stress on the kidneys.  Increased Water Intake: Kidneys tend to become unhealthy, when there is lack of water in the body, as their primary function is to filter wastes and eliminate toxins through urine. As such, they require enough water to perform this function.

  • It is important to drink at least 8 glasses or 2 liters of fluid in a day. Doing so will help flush out all the unnecessary toxins in the body.
  • Several fruits and vegetables are also high in water content. Some of them are watermelon, cucumber, zucchini and tomatoes, which have about 90% water.

An increased intake of these vegetables high in water content along with required amounts of fluid can significantly control any kidney problems and constitute the elements for a healthy kidney diet. Calcium and Phosphorus: These two minerals strike a balance when working together and help keep teeth and bones strong. When the kidney fails, there may be a collection of phosphorus in the kidneys, which is unsafe, while calcium may become low. As such, limiting foods high in the same, is essential.

  • Some examples of foods high in phosphorus are almonds, meat, lentils, dried fruits and cheese.
  • Similarly, foods high in calcium such as bananas, tofu, spinach and broccoli need to be consumed. However, dairy products should be avoided as they are high in phosphorus
  • In some cases, additional supplements will be required to adjust the level of both calcium and phosphorus in the body.

Potassium:  Potassium is a mineral that helps the kidneys function normally. When the kidneys fail, there may be a collection of potassium in the blood, which is bad for the muscles and mainly, the heart. As such, it is advisable to avoid potassium rich foods.

  • Salt used to flavor meals, that are available in the market are very high in potassium. Try to substitute salt with other flavoring agents such as lemon and herbs.
  • Other potassium rich foods to be avoided are papayas, white bread, oat bran, raw garlic and more.

Calories: Calories are important to health as they provide the energy that help us with our daily functions, and also help stabilize our body weight. When a diet is followed, it controls the risk of one becoming overweight, which in turn, helps control the risk of contracting kidney disease. In short, it is important to keep a watch on calories so as to control weight gain.  Foods to be Included for Healthy Kidney Diet Here are some foods that you may include in your diet for healthy kidneys.

  • Red Bell Peppers
  • Apples
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cranberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Asparagus
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Green Beans
  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Eggplant

By including these foods in your diet, you will be able to control any kidney problems or dysfunction. By Puja Lalwani


Physical exercise is another important factor to consider for optimum kidney health. It is a major piece of the health puzzle. Unfortunately, many of us sit behind a desk for eight or more hours almost every day. Further, when we leave our work places, we are so tired that it becomes easy to simply recline in our favorite chair and look at television.

This sedentary lifestyle contributes significantly too many health problems including obesity, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney failure. Without regular and consistent exercise, health cannot be optimized and disease cannot be prevented.

How can exercise help to optimize kidney health? Well in a number of way but especially by helping to lower or control blood pressure and increases insulin sensitivity, to prevent against type II diabetes (adult onset diabetes). As you might be aware, diabetes and hypertension are two leading causes of kidney failure. By implementing a program of regular exercise, you will help to prevent or control these two deadly diseases, and preserve and improve kidney health. Of course, if you think you have a medical problem, talk to a competent  health professional about your concerns. ———————————————————————————————————————————————————— While there are other organs in the human body these are the major ones. However, we must remember also that TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) rightfully emphasizes that the organs don’t work separately and that the health of one affects all. Remember the Kidney example: It is important to remember that the kidneys are only one part of a very complex human biological system. Each element of this system is in some way connected or related to the other elements within this system. In looking at kidney care, therefore, one has to expand the scope beyond just the kidneys.

Or this statement: There isn’t an organ in the human body that operates in a shell, without influences from other organs. Some very basic interactions include the nervous system and it’s interactions with every organ (sympathetic, parasympathetic) and of course musculoskeletal control. One of my undergrad prof’s used to call the liver the “most unselfish” organ, because almost everything that it does (gluconeogensis, metabolism of waste products, etc) is done for the benefit of other organs. The kidneys share also a very close role with the heart through the cardiovascular system.

However, in Western health, we still tend to separate organ functions but one sees a trend in all the examples of maintaining healthy organs. In short these are, avoid: excess protein consumption; excess sugar and salt; avoid excess alcohol; avoid toxins – both environmental and in the food or drink; avoid high fat food and trans fats; avoid being overweight and avoid excessive stress. On the other hand do eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily; do eat fiber and whole grains; eat foods high in antioxidants; do gentle exercise daily; get a good night’s sleep; drink water often daily and eat “good” fats. Also, there are certain foods that are more directly beneficial for each organ.

While the emphasis and theory is different between TCM and Western health, one can still benefit by following examples given by Western health experts in the maintenance of a healthy body through healthy organs. Qi Gung exercise is an excellent source of “gentle” exercise for the whole body which, of course, includes the organs. I hope this blog brings to focus what can be done in a proactive healthy lifestyle which includes a conscious choice to consider the vital organs.

To end, I give this explanation on “fitness”:  What does physical fitness really mean? Many people believe that physical fitness is building muscle and developing a well-defined figure. We tend to focus on the aesthetic benefits that we lose sight of the importance of getting and remaining “fit” on the inside, as well. Physical fitness means just that: fitness in every sense of the word, both internally and externally. Physical fitness is really about having all of our vital organs, bones, and blood circulation performing at their optimum and working together as a whole, achieving overall health. Often, we are not even aware that our body is not functioning at its optimum. We get an occasional ache and pain, and before long, we become accustomed to living with it. The 1996 Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health concluded that exercise is beneficial to almost every organ and system in your body. This includes your digestive system, your kidneys, your bones and your brain. Exercise increases intestinal motility, the speed with which food passes through the gut, and reduces the incidence of many gastrointestinal disorders. One can see a reduction in gallstones and diverticulitis, a painful inflammation that results when food is trapped in pockets in the intestinal wall. Exercise also cuts the risk of colon cancer by almost half. Audrey marlene

Healthy Internal Organs- Lungs

12 Dec

Here is information about maintaining healthy lungs- if you need more info, talk to a health care professional.


In today’s health conscious world, proper care is taken to decide what foods to eat for lung health. We all know that lungs help us in breathing. Even this simple act requires a lot of energy from our body. If we don’t eat well and don’t take healthy food, our body will find it difficult to provide that kind of energy for breathing as well as for all its other daily functions. Proper nourishing food should be taken in the right quantity for better health of lungs as this effects the body’s metabolism and even the amount of carbon dioxide produced by digestion whose excess can make you feel weak and fatigued.

For good lung health, we must take a nourishing diet. Unfortunately there is no food or food group that has all the nutrients required by the body. In a way it is good because it allows us to enjoy a variety of foods to meet the requirements. Therefore it is essential to combine three or four food groups in every meal. You can even have some healthy food snacks if you want.

Let us see some dos and don’ts about the foods eaten for lung health.

  • Enjoying a variety of foods is a must. This will ensure proper nourishment for the body
  • We all know that fruits and vegetables are very rich in nutrients. So it is important to include a generous serving of fruits and vegetables in your daily meal.
  • Have plenty of cereals, breads and other grain products. This increases the fibre that is required by the body.
  • Avoid oily and greasy foods and take low-fat dairy products. The foods high in calories will only harm the lungs
  • It is better to have lean proteins such as eggs, fish, white meat chicken and turkey etc. Consuming lean meats reduce the intake of calories
  • Excess of salt is very bad for lungs as well as the overall health. Limit the amount of salt consumed
  • Cut your intake of caffeine and alcohol. These foods are very addictive and are bad for the lungs
  • Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water or other healthy beverages every day. Its good for lungs and it also flushes out toxins from your body
  • Don’t go for carbonated and sugary beverages. The foods with added sugar and refined starches such as cakes and candies should be avoided
  • Don’t combine beverages along with you meals. Having them along with the meals increases the pressure on the diaphragm
  • Avoid chewing gums as the air swallowed by us when we chew it causes bloating and gas

Besides having healthy eating habits it is also important to have healthy living style. You must be physically active and follow a regular exercise routine. Maintain an ideal weight. An overweight person carries extra weight around his stomach or the upper part of the body. It makes breathing difficult and puts strain on the lungs as well as on the heart. In the same way an underweight person will also face problems, as he will feel weaker and more tired easily. Therefore, you must try and maintain an ideal weight and take care about the best foods to eat for lung health and enjoy a long and healthy life.

More Best Foods For Lung Health

If you want to improve the functioning of your lungs, you need a list of foods that are the best foods for lung health and the appropriate way to eat those foods. People with damage to their lungs, COPD, often have a difficult time breathing after a large meal. Not only does the increased amount of food in your stomach require more oxygen to digest, it also takes more room and often pushes against your diaphragm. This makes breathing far more difficult. Beware of gassy foods, also. As your stomach fills with gas, it has the same effect as eating too much. It presses on your diaphragm and makes breathing far more difficult. Whether you have COPD, or simply want to improve the health of your lungs, you’ll find a variety of foods that can help you. The most important foods are fruits and vegetables. These foods provide plant fiber that helps you not only reduce your cholesterol but also move food through your system faster. Foods high in fiber include fresh vegetables, cooked beans, whole grains, dried peas and fresh fruit. Not only do these foods help reduce cholesterol but they also help control your blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled high glucose levels in the blood, diabetes, can cause damage to the lungs.

If you’re a smoker and have already done damage to your lungs, then the first thing you should do is to detox your lungs. Your lungs can go from black and clogged to pink and healthy by following a simple regimen

Get foods that contain plenty of vitamin D. Recent research shows that vitamin D helps to slow declining lung function in people with asthma. Scientists tested cell cultures from both asthmatics and non-asthmatics and found that calcitriol, a type of vitamin D, slowed muscle proliferation in airways. Muscle proliferation reduces lung function. Calcitriol, also acts as an anti-inflammatory. You can get vitamin D from exposure to the sun, but also from fish.

Look for colorful fruits and vegetables, which contain high amounts of vitamin A. Recent studies on lab animals indicate that a high intake of vitamin A can actually help heal the lungs. In addition, vitamin A also helps the body build more resistance to infections, including those in the respiratory area. Foods containing vitamin A in the form of retinol or beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, include Apricots, carrots, asparagus, cantaloupe, tomatoes and watermelon, to name just a few.

Increase the amount of anti-oxidants in your diet. Vitamin C and E are powerful antioxidants. Besides being an antioxidant and enhancing the antioxidant action of vitamin E to protect the lung cells from damage from free radicals, vitamin C also plays a major role in building collagen and elastin, both necessary for the health of all tissues. A recent study showed that if both vitamin C and magnesium levels played important roles in maintaining healthy lung tissues. Foods that contain high vitamin C are citrus fruits, red peppers, cantaloupe, rose hips, tomatoes and cucumbers, among others.

Help your lungs by reducing the amount of sugar you consume. Sugar has a negative effect on the body’s immune system, lowering its efficiency. If you want to keep not only your lungs healthy, but also the rest of your body, reduce your intake of sugar and sugary products.

Cut down on fats and salt. Whether you already have a problem with your lungs, such as COPD, or simply want to live healthier, cut down on your intake of saturated fats and salty foods. Sodium causes you to retain fluids and people with lung problems find that makes it more difficult to breathe. Fats clog your arteries. When this happens, it often builds up fluid in the lungs.

Eat appropriately, exercise and lose weight if necessary. Running, bicycling, walking and other aerobic exercises help work your lungs, cleanse them and make them stronger.

Maintaining appropriate weight is good for not only those with lung disease but also those that wish to continue a healthy life. When you select from the list of foods to eat for lung health, exercise and quit bad habits such as smoking, you’ll not only improve the health of your lungs but also your entire body.

If you are looking for a great way to keep your lungs clean, you should try a lung exercise. This is will aid you in breathing better and just feeling better in general. When you can breathe easily you can better do the things you enjoy in life, and you’ll be more confident when doing them.

One great exercise for lung, that you may want to consider include are breathing exercises. When you practice your breathing by focusing on it, you are much more likely to enjoy healthier and cleaner lungs as a result of your lung exercise.

The way to lung fitness involves exercising them, and there are many great ways for you to do this through cardiovascular exercise. By working out and strengthen your body you are also doing exercises for your lungs.

Are you aware that exercises increase lung function? If you jog, or walk briskly this is considered a lung exercise and can dramatically increase the functions of your lungs by allowing them to be stronger and cleaner than they may have ever been otherwise.

By doing a lung exercise every day or at least three times a week, you can drastically improve the quality of you life as well as your health. Being able to breathe better is a one of the best reasons to do so, and can really allow you to enjoy your life better too.

If you intend to live a long, healthy life, you’ll need to have clean and healthy lungs to do so. There is no better way that can allow you the most stamina or endurance other than this, so you can see the importance of maintaining a lung exercise on a regular basis.

Now, that you have some important information on how to help your lungs stay healthy and strong through lung exercise, you may want to also consider another way to keep you body strong and you lungs clean. If you smoke, you must quit smoking to keep your lungs as strong as they can be. It’s imperative to your health.

When you smoke, you’re inviting thousands of cancerous toxins into your body and this can destroy all the good you may have done with your lung exercise. It’s not easy to quit smoking but it’s imperative to have good health and clean lungs.

By utilizing a lung exercise, coupled with a quit smoking program, you can the best lungs that you possibly can. This will allow you to have a high quality and hopefully a very long life as well.

When you practice a lung exercise you’ll not only improve the quality of your lung but the entire health of your body.

Achieve Healthy Lungs

If you want to be able to blow out all the candles on your cake when you’re 75 (assuming your family dares to put a candle for every year) not to mention climb three flights of stairs without needing oxygen, now is the time to take action. What, you’re wondering, could you possibly do beyond quitting smoking to get your bellows in better shape? Plenty. Although quitting smoking tops our list, we also found another 18 tips that will have you doing less huffing and puffing and protect your lungs from damage and disease. 1. Have a heart-to-heart with your bed partner. Key question to ask: Do I snore? If the answer is yes, make an appointment with a sleep specialist and get checked for sleep apnea. The condition, in which you stop breathing dozens or even hundreds of times during the night, can actually damage your lungs nearly as much as smoking. Fortunately, it’s treatable. 2. Make several trips downstairs to the basement every day. The kind of exercise that makes your heart beat faster, like climbing stairs, riding a bike, or walking briskly, is very important for keeping your heart and lungs in good shape. For instance, studies find that walking about 15 minutes at a time, three to four times a day, improved breathing in people with emphysema, a lung disease. 3. Pop a fish-oil supplement every morning. Most airway problems, including asthma, are related to inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are the main ingredient in fish-oil supplements, reduce inflammation. 4. Breathe from your belly for at least five minutes every day. This kind of breathing, called diaphragmatic breathing, involves training and strengthening your diaphragm so it requires less effort to take in each breath. To do it, inhale deeply through your nose, filling your lungs from the bottom up. If you’re doing it right, your stomach will pooch out. Exhale and repeat.? 5. Expand your chest like a cocky rooster. To help your chest expand and boost your lung capacity, lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head and bring your elbows together so they’re nearly touching. As you inhale, slowly let your elbows drop to the sides so your arms are flat on the floor when your lungs are full. As you exhale, raise your elbows again. 6. Read the fine print on household cleansers. Some products, like oven cleaner, can be toxic if inhaled. And if the instructions say to open a window or use in a well-ventilated space, follow them, says Kevin Cooper, M.D., a Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center pulmonologist. 7. Enforce a no-smoke zone in your house. And avoid smoky bars and smoking areas in restaurants. It doesn’t seem fair, but secondhand smoke you breathe from these sources can damage your lungs just as much as the smoke from your own cigarette. 8. Wear a face mask or even a gas mask when working around toxic dust or fumes. “Occupational exposure is a major hazard to lung health,” Dr. Cooper says. Even simple household tasks like sanding paint could send damaging fragments into your lungs, he says . 9. Work in 10-20 crunches a day. Your abdominal and chest muscles allow you to suck air in and out. Strengthen them, and if you’re also practicing your deep breathing, you’ll have the breath power of a professional opera singer (or at least close). 10. Take your medicine and listen to your doctor if you have asthma. There’s some pretty good evidence that people with asthma eventually develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a lung disease that strikes people 65 and older. There’s also evidence that keeping your asthma under control with medication and lifestyle changes can prevent the disease from developing. 11. Make spaghetti sauce tonight, tomato and basil salad tomorrow night, and roasted tomatoes over the weekend. British researchers found that people who ate tomatoes three times a week had improved lung function and experienced less wheeziness and fewer asthma-like symptoms. 12. Look on the bright side. So the stock market is down; at least the bond market is up. When Harvard researchers followed 670 men with an average age of 63 years for eight years, they found those who were more optimistic had much better lung function and a slower rate of lung function decline than the pessimists in the bunch. 13. Get at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day. A 1998 study found that high amounts of antioxidants found in such foods, including vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene, meant better lung function — even in smokers! 14. Have a glass of wine tonight. Drinking wine, particularly white wine, both in the recent past and over your lifetime, seems to help your lungs. It has to be wine, though. Researchers found no such correlation when they looked at the effects of other forms of alcohol. Researchers aren’t certain why, but suspect it may be due to high levels of antioxidants in wine that protect cells from the damage from smoke and air pollution. 15. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss after every meal. Seems the state of your gums makes a difference when it comes to your lungs. Researchers at the State University of New York in Buffalo found patients with periodontal, or gum disease were 1 1/2 times more likely to also have COPD. Plus, the worse the gum disease, the worse the lung function, suggesting a direct correlation between the two. 16. Say no to dessert. There’s a direct link between what you weigh and the health of your lungs. Having extra weight makes your respiratory muscles work harder and less efficiently, researchers found in a 2004 study. This, in turn results in shortness of breath, which makes it hard to exercise, which makes it hard to lose the weight. 17. In hot, dry, or very cold weather, or in dusty or polluted air, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Our nasal passages are designed to filter the air and regulate its temperature and humidity. If you breathe in through your mouth, everything — dust, coldness, etc. — goes straight on into the lungs. 18. Take it easy when pollution or ozone levels are in the red zone. The more you exert yourself, the more you have to breathe through your mouth to take in larger volumes of air. This, in turn, means less filtering of the air during some very dangerous air quality times.

Healthy Internal Organs – Spleen/Intestines

12 Dec

I began these blogs on how to help our organs stay healthy since there is little info on this compared to the usual exercise info. So here is some info that can be helpful. If you need more info go talk to your health professional.


The spleen is located on the left side of the abdomen and weighs around 200g in the average healthy adult. The spleen can be considered as two organs in one; it filters the blood and removes abnormal cells (such as old and defective red blood cells), and it makes disease-fighting components of the immune system (including antibodies and lymphocytes). Since the spleen is involved in so many bodily functions, it is vulnerable to a wide range of disorders. However, the human body adapts well to life without this organ, so surgically removing a diseased or damaged spleen is possible without causing any serious harm to the patient.

Spleen structure

The body of the spleen appears red and pulpy, surrounded by a tough capsule. The red pulp consists of blood vessels (splenic sinusoids) interwoven with connective tissue (splenic cords). The red pulp filters the blood and removes old and defective blood cells. The white pulp is inside the red pulp, and consists of little lumps of lymphoid tissue. Antibodies are made inside the white pulp.

Similarly to other organs of the lymphatic system, particular immune cells (B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes) and blood cells are either made or matured inside the spleen. Blood enters the spleen via the splenic artery, which subdivides into many tiny branches. Each branch is encased in a clump of lymphocytes, which means every drop of blood is filtered for foreign particles as it enters the spleen.

Situated just under the left side of the ribcage, the spleen is an amazing, multi-tasking organ that performs a variety of functions. Its main function is to create lymphocytes to filter or, when needed, to destroy red blood cells. It is also where white blood cells are busy protecting the body from foreign agents. As an active organ that endures ongoing punishment from poisons and unwelcome invaders, the spleen is always susceptible to enlarging and rupturing.

Avoiding enlargement

  1. Another function of the spleen is to return useful nutrients and other elements to the body by filtering them for reuse. This is why spleen health, though often neglected, is imperative. A healthy spleen can be managed through a healthy diet and by avoiding substances that tend to cause enlargement. Slightly increasing in size during digestion, the average adult spleen is about 3 inches by 5 inches. When the spleen is under stress, it responds by slightly enlarging. Sometimes, when diseases and physical conditions like leukemia, lupus, sickle cell and rheumatoid arthritis are present, they can cause the spleen to enlarge so much that it may rupture. This happens when it performs many tasks at once and when it is sent into a full-blown, defense mode. Viruses and bacteria are also contributing factors to an enlarged spleen. One thing you can do to attempt to maintain spleen health is to try, when possible, to avoid contracting a bacterial or viral infection. Do this by practicing good sanitation and hygiene: wash your hands frequently, avoid contact with people who are ill, and get regular checkups to catch any illnesses early.

Avoid Harmful Substances

  1. Because your spleen is an active organ that filters, supplies, destroys and rebuilds cells regularly, it depends on a good supply of nutrients in order to function optimally. Illegal drugs, excessive alcohol, smoking and overly processed foods that are stuffed with unnecessary ingredients can all cause your spleen to enlarge. Avoid eating these processed foods in excess to help improve the health of your spleen. Once it is enlarged it may rupture, and excessive bleeding can create a serious emergency or even the need for surgery. Without surgery, the spleen can be healed, but only with discipline and care in order to nourish it back to health and later by applying preventative measures to keep it healthy. This would involve following a careful diet regimen, and taking medications such as antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor.

The spleen is an organ that is not always taken seriously. Much of that has to do with the fact that many people have ruptured their spleen and are living healthy lives without it. But the spleen does have benefits, such as fighting infection and balancing body fluids, and when a spleen is removed, other organs have to take on bigger roles. So to keep fighting off infections with a healthy spleen, you need to know what food you can eat to strengthen your spleen.

  1. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and grains in your diet. These foods are all easier to digest. Raw fruits and vegetables keep many of the enzymes that are lost in cooked, processed foods, making less work for the spleen.
  2. Buy more organic food. The spleen needs to process the pesticides in conventional food, treating them as chemicals that shouldn’t have been in the body in the first place. Even if you wash your food, many of the pesticides have already been absorbed. However, organic food can pass right through. But since organic food is often more expensive than conventional food, try purchasing organic food that is in season to save money.
  3. Don’t eat too much at a time. The body can only digest so much food at a time, so when you overeat, food gets backed up, straining the spleen.
  4. Chew your food thoroughly. Like overeating, not chewing your food creates more work for your entire digestive process.
  5. Eat your larger meals earlier in the day when your spleen is functioning at its highest levels. Organs get more tired as the day goes on.


There are several things you will have to do to maintain healthy Intestines. First of all, the more exercise the better. It really does not have to be painful. The important point is movement. You don’t have to go to the weight room, but walk when you can. Your thighs are your body’s biggest muscles, and exercising them forces your body to pump a lot of blood. When you increase your blood circulation like this, you are exercising your heart (very good for you), and the increased circulation and higher metabolism means that your body can process any junk within it at a faster pace. Don’t force yourself to do some horribly painful jog, and get all sweaty to the point that you hate the idea and can’t possibly motivate yourself to repeat it the next day, or never. But increase your daily activity slowly and at a leisurely pace. With little quick exercises you can keep your body in fairly good shape. Walk almost everywhere, or jog there, find on a map a nice route through tree-lined residential areas or parks, so it is quite a pleasant experience. So you can think of ways how to exercise, multi task so to speak, in such a way that it will not consume any extra time during your day, and not be a painful and regretful experience for you. This will increase your body’s metabolism to the point that it will be much better able to process any junk you might eat.

And try to shift your diet away from such junk food. Sure, go to McDonald’s once in a while, or eat an unhealthy hotdog, or a bag of chips with coke etc., but always be conscious of whatever you put in your mouth. read the package. You know, it is not that difficult to find a bag of chips (or snacks – such as a granola bar) that is healthier. Once again, if you make a slow transition in this department as well, your shift will not be a painful and torturous experience. The important point is not to go overboard to the point that you abandon your intentions. Go as slow as you need, but be resolute in your shift. And you will find that your taste buds will change accordingly. Below you will find some simple healthy recipes. It really is not difficult to eat healthy, cheaply, and it can be a joy to cook and eat such healthy food.

Now if you take care of these two points you will go a long way towards a healthy body, and healthy intestines. It does not really make sense to go into great detail about healthy intestines if you are regularly pounding your system with garbage, and if you are inactive. Once you have attained the above state to some degree, you can proceed to focus on your intestines (although you can certainly focus on everything at the same time). Your intestine, in a healthy state, apparently maintains some bacterial balance. Like a swamp which helps keep a lake clean. Full of certain types of bugs which eat the bad stuff.

Your intestines are similar, and if it is coming out as hard as a brick or as runny as Niagara, it is a sign to you that you are doing something wrong. One way you can regulate the bacteria is by drinking Kefir every day. It introduces a certain bacteria into your system to help maintain your intestinal ecology the way it should be.

You should also regulate your poo. I know, sounds pretty funny doesn’t it? But it makes total sense to examine what comes out. If my poop smells bad, I always think back to what I ate that day or the day before, and decide to try and avoid it. Pay attention to how your stomach feels and your body in general after eating crap food. So gauge your body this way, watching what you put into it, paying attention to how you feel afterwards, and examining what comes out. Do not treat your poo with disgust. As some sort of bad evidence you want to conceal and flush out of your sight as quickly as possible, but as something that you can examine and use to regulate your body and what you put into it.

Pork and beef are generally bad, because, in different ways, they help clog your intestines. So try to cut down those, try to eat only the lean and healthy stuff, and in between it eat stuff that helps flush out your system. Like for example Spinach salad. With a healthy dose of olive oil (very healthy for you), some good vinegar, squeezed lemon, a bit of spice, perhaps grated cheese, maybe even diced apples, and you have a rather delicious and very healthy meal which you can whip up in no time flat. Or use Romaine lettuce. Apparently Boston or Ice salad does not have much nutritional value. Go to your local health food shop and start asking lots of questions. Eat long grain brown rice rather than white processed rice. Sure, it might take 40 to 50 minutes to cook, but if you do it properly it requires no maintenance. Just throw it on the stove, during which time you can do lots of other stuff. Oh yes, throw sesame seeds on practically everything (soup, salad). There are very easy ways to eat healthy and not spend hours and a thick wallet doing it.

You can also try the intestinal flush < once in a while. Like plugging your garden hose into an outdoor faucet and turning it on full blast. Really clean out all the dead leaves accumulated over the winter. Your body works on the same principle as your car and your kitchen sink. So just give it an equal amount of attention and you will find yourself getting much healthier in ways you might not have dreamed of. Which will allow you to enjoy life much more, and that blasted car, if you really need it.

Olive oil, olive oil, and more olive oil. Apparently you can have as much as you want. Actually cleans and unplugs your arteries. Don’t waste your time with the extra virgin stuff, which sounds good but is further processed and has fewer nutrients. Cook with it, pour it into your salad, and drink it with disgust during your annual liver cleanse, ha ha.

What kinds of exercises help to increase bowel movements and bowel frequency?  First, the exercise must be regular. Occasional exercises better than none at all but regular exercise works best. Intensity counts also.

Here from a survey of existing research are the 5 best exercises that increase bowel movements:

  1. Jump rope. Jumping rope for 20 minutes to half an hour every day helps to increase blood flow to the entire body, including the intestines. The up-and-down movements can be hard on your legs in you are out of shape, and hard on your knees if you are overweight.  Try jumping without the rope just a little bit off the floor on a carpeted floor r exercise mat. This will soften the impact on your knees.
  2. Brisk walking. Briskly walking 35 to 45 minutes a day was cited by most of our readers as the single best exercise for bowel movements. The emphasis is on brisk walking. Strolls help our general health, helping to lower blood pressure and sugar levels as you know from other articles we have done, but brisk walking helps most to move the intestinal tract. Stride out long and strong, shoulders back and arms swinging. You don’t have to hit the ground hard. Just glide briskly.
  3. Yoga.  Two poses in particular are effective in moving the bowels. The first is the cross over leg stretch. Lie on your back. Raise your left leg and cross it over the right leg.  When you finish your left leg should form a big “T” with your right leg.   Don’t worry if you’re not flexible enough to make a true T. Just start.  You will feel a slight stretch in your hip. Now. Do the other leg.  Repeat 5 times on each leg.

The other pose which helps bowel movement and also erectile dysfunction is the warrior pose.  The reason it works is that it is form of squat.   

  1. Lunges.  Lunging principally works your thigh muscles. Bu a secondary benefit is that they also move your intestines as you dip lower into the lunge.  Remember, the intestines are over 25 feet long in an average adult, and when you bend deeply, you are stretching about a third of your intestinal tract. So, do at least 5 deep plunges every other day.
  2. Squats. There’s a reason we go to the bathroom while in a natural seated position. Squatting aligns more of the intestinal tract downward. However, merely sitting in this position is ineffective. You have to do “three-quarter squats” to move your bowels. To do a three-quarter squat, bend down half as far as you would bend to sit in a chair.

Bonus Tip 6. Bicycle Crunch. The bicycle crunch is an intense crunch which works your entire abdomen. It also gently moves your intestinal tract from side to side and facilitates bowel movements.

Research for teaching ESL to adult learners

12 Dec

As I teach ESL (English as a Second Language)I rely on research to structure the content of my classes for adults. Here are some interesting articles:
There has been a longstanding interest among second and foreign language educators in research on language and the brain. Language learning is a natural phenomenon; it occurs even without intervention. By understanding how the brain learns naturally, language teachers may be better able to enhance their effectiveness in the classroom.

Brain Development: Can Teaching Make a Difference?

It has long been known that different regions of the brain have specialized functions. For example, the frontal lobes are involved in abstract reasoning and planning, while the posterior lobes are involved in vision. Until recently, it was believed that these specialized regions developed from a genetic blueprint that determined the structure and function of specific areas of the brain. That is, particular areas of the brain were designed for processing certain kinds of information from birth.

New evidence suggests that the brain is much more malleable than previously thought. Recent findings indicate that the specialized functions of specific regions of the brain are not fixed at birth but are shaped by experience and learning. To use a computer analogy, we now think that the young brain is like a computer with incredibly sophisticated hardwiring, but no software. The software of the brain, like the software of desktop computers, harnesses the exceptional processing capacity of the brain in the service of specialized functions, like vision, smell, and language. All individuals have to acquire or develop their own software in order to harness the processing power of the brain with which they are born.

A number of studies support this view. However, all were carried out on animals, because it is not possible to do such research with humans. Caution is called for when extrapolating these findings to humans. The studies discussed below reveal the incredible neural flexibility of the developing (and aging) brain. (See Chapter 5 in Elman et al., 1997).

Cortical tissue transplanted from its original location to a new location in the brain of young animals takes on the structure and function of its new location and not those of its original location. More specifically, neurons in the visual cortex of rodents have been transplanted to regions of the brain that are normally linked to bodily and sensory functions. The transplanted tissue comes to function like somato-sensory neurons and loses the capacity to process visual information (O’Leary & Stanfield, 1985). Likewise, if input from the eyes is rerouted from what would normally be the visual area of the brain to what is normally the auditory area of the brain, the area receiving the visual input develops the capacity to process visual and not auditory information; in other words, it is the input that determines the function of specific areas of the brain (Sur, Pallas, & Roe, 1990).

Greenenough, Black, and Wallace (1993) have shown enhanced synaptic growth in young and aging rats raised in complex environments, and Karni et al. (1995) have shown expansion of cortical involvement in performance of motor tasks following additional learningin other words, the cortical map can change even in adulthood in response to enriched environmental or learning experiences.

These findings may have implications for language educators: for one thing, that teaching and teachers can make a difference in brain development, and that they shouldn’t give up on older language learners.

Learning Through Connections

The understanding that the brain has areas of specialization has brought with it the tendency to teach in ways that reflect these specialized functions. For example, research concerning the specialized functions of the left and right hemispheres has led to left and right hemisphere teaching. Recent research suggests that such an approach does not reflect how the brain learns, nor how it functions once learning has occurred. To the contrary, “in most higher vertebrates (humans), brain systems interact together as a whole brain with the external world” (Elman et al., 1997, p. 340). Learning by the brain is about making connections within the brain and between the brain and the outside world.

What does this mean? Until recently, the idea that the neural basis for learning resided in connections between neurons remained speculation. Now, there is direct evidence that when learning occurs, neuro-chemical communication between neurons is facilitated, and less input is required to activate established connections over time. New evidence also indicates that learning creates connections between not only adjacent neurons but also between distant neurons, and that connections are made from simple circuits to complex ones and from complex circuits to simple ones.

For example, exposure to unfamiliar speech sounds is initially registered by the brain as undifferentiated neural activity. Neural activity is diffuse, because the brain has not learned the acoustic patterns that distinguish one sound from another. As exposure continues, the listener (and the brain) learns to differentiate among different sounds and even among short sequences of sounds that correspond to words or parts of words. Neural connections that reflect this learning process are formed in the auditory (temporal) cortex of the left hemisphere for most individuals. With further exposure, both the simple and complex circuits (corresponding to simple sounds and sequences of sounds) are activated at virtually the same time and more easily.

As connections are formed among adjacent neurons to form circuits, connections also begin to form with neurons in other regions of the brain that are associated with visual, tactile, and even olfactory information related to the sound of the word. These connections give the sound of the word meaning. Some of the brain sites for these other neurons are far from the neural circuits that correspond to the component sounds of the words; they include sites in other areas of the left hemisphere and even sites in the right hemisphere. The whole complex of interconnected neurons that are activated by the word is called a neural network.

The flow of neural activity is not unidirectional, from simple to complex; it also goes from complex to simple. For example, higher order neural circuits that are activated by contextual information associated with the word doggie can prime the lower order circuit associated with the sound doggie with the result that the word doggie can be retrieved with little direct input. Complex circuits can be activated at the same time as simple circuits, because the brain is receiving input from multiple external sourcesauditory, visual, spatial, motor. At the same time that the auditory circuit for the word doggie is activated, the visual circuit associated with the sight of a dog is also activated. Simultaneous activation of circuits in different areas of the brain is called parallel processing.

In early stages of learning, neural circuits are activated piecemeal, incompletely, and weakly. It is like getting a glimpse of a partially exposed and very blurry photo. With more experience, practice, and exposure, the picture becomes clearer and more detailed. As exposure is repeated, less input is needed to activate the entire network. With time, activation and recognition are relatively automatic, and the learner can direct her attention to other parts of the task. This also explains why learning takes time. Time is needed to establish new neural networks and connections between networks. This suggests that the neural mechanism for learning is essentially the same as the products of learninglearning is a process that establishes new connections among networks and the new skills or knowledge that are learned are neural circuits and networks.

What are the implications of these findings for teaching? First, effective teaching should include a focus on both parts and wholes. Instructional approaches that advocate teaching parts and not wholes or wholes and not parts are misguided, because the brain naturally links local neural activity to circuits that are related to different experiential domains. For example, in initial reading instruction, teaching phonics independently of the meaning of the words and their meaningful use is likely to be less effective than teaching both in parallel. Relating the mechanics of spelling to students’ meaningful use of written language to express themselves during diary writing, for example, provides important motivational incentives for learning to read and write. Second, and related to the preceding point, teaching (and learning) can proceed from the bottom up (simple to complex) and from the top down (complex to simple). Arguments for teaching simple skills in isolation assume that learners can only initially handle simple information and that the use of simple skills in more complex ways should proceed slowly and progressively. Brain research indicates that higher order brain centers that process complex, abstract information can activate and interact with lower order centers, as well as vice versa. For example, teaching students simple emotional expressions (vocabulary and idioms) can take place in the context of talking about different emotions and what situations elicit different emotions. Students’ vocabulary acquisition can be enhanced when it is embedded in real-world complex contexts that are familiar to them. Third, students need time and experience (“practice”) to consolidate new skills and knowledge to become fluent and articulated.

Are All Brains the Same?

Brains are not all the same. Take the early research on left-right hemispheric differences with respect to language. For most individuals, the left hemisphere is critically involved in most normal language functions. We know this because damage to the left hemisphere in adults leads to language impairment, which is often permanent. However, approximately 10% of normal right-handed individuals have a different pattern of lateralization; their right hemispheres or both hemispheres play a critical role in language (Banich, 1997, pp. 306-312). Males and females have somewhat different patterns of lateralization, with males being more left-hemisphere dominant than females. In the domain of reading, brain maps of students with dyslexia demonstrate that there are very large individual differences in the areas of the brain that underlie their difficulties (Bigler, 1992).

We also know that the areas of the brain that are important in specific domains of learning can change over the life span. There is increasing evidence of right hemisphere involvement in early language learning but less in later learning. Young children with lesions to their right hemisphere demonstrate delays in word comprehension and the use of symbolic and communicative gestures. These problems are not found in adults with right hemisphere lesions. Stiles and Thal have argued that there may be a link between the word comprehension problems of children and the right hemisphere, because “to understand the meaning of a new word, children have to integrate information from many different sources. These sources include acoustic input, but they also include visual information, tactile information, memories of the immediately preceding context, emotionsin short, a range of experiences that define the initial meaning of a word and refine that meaning over time” (Stiles and Thal, as cited in Elman et al., pp. 309-310). We know from a variety of sources that integration across domains of experience is a right-hemisphere function.

By implication, brain research confirms what we know from education research: that educators must make provisions for individual differences in learning styles by providing alternative grouping arrangements, instructional materials, time frames, and so on. Instruction for beginning language learners, in particular, should take into account their need for context-rich, meaningful environments. Individual differences in learning style may not be a simple matter of personal preference, but rather of individual differences in the hardwiring of the brain and, thus, beyond individual control.


Our understanding of the brain is continually evolving, thus our interpretation of the implications of findings from brain-based research for teaching and learning should also continually evolve. Brain research cannot prescribe what we should teach, how we should organize complex sequences of teaching, nor how we should work with students with special needs. Educators should not abandon their traditional sources of insight and guidance when it comes to planning effective instruction. They should continue to draw on and develop their own insights about learning based on their classroom experiences and classroom-based research to complement the insights that are emerging from advances in brain research. Fred Genesee, McGill University

———————————————————— What was highlighted in our previous article is the need for language to be meaningful at all times, and this is common ground for both children and adults alike. A quick look at present-day language courses clearly shows that this is not the case at all. You will see from the very first lesson, that the students have laundry lists of words to master and memorize, grammar, vocabulary, grammar and more vocabulary to make them feel they can even “touch” the language, those pretty “tangible” patterns they learn lesson after lesson that make them feel so secure and confident. The truth is, in the vast majority of cases, that whenever presented with a REAL situation in which they have to use the language, more often than not they dry up and are unable to utter two coherent phrases altogether. Are they to blame for their “failure?” Of course not. If what you are trained to do exclusively is grammar, repetitions and drills, you cannot be expected to produce something different, something communicative. The magic “click” that is supposed to take place in the students’ brains after constant hammering and repetition apparently never takes place or if it does, in the best of cases, it is in less than 2 per cent of the learners. What does this show? Clearly it is an indicator that must make us reflect on the importance of our teaching practices. Just because we as teachers learned things in a certain way does NOT mean that it is THE way. Pragmatic results clearly show that a grammar based approach to teaching a language is highly ineffective since language per definition entails communication. Until we come to understand this simple fact, we will keep seeing students dropping out of their language studies because “they are too hard for them, they are not cut out to learn a second language” and statements like these. And they may be true… They do NOT need to learn a second language. Then need to acquire it in all the senses of the word.  Julio Foppoli ————————————————————————————————- The Older Language Learner

by Mary Schleppegrell

Can older adults successfully learn foreign languages? Recent research is providing increasingly positive answers to this question. The research shows that:

  • there is no decline in the ability to learn as people get older;
  • except for minor considerations such as hearing and vision loss, the age of the adult learner is not a major factor in language acquisition;
  • the context in which adults learn is the major influence on their ability to acquire the new language.

Contrary to popular stereotypes, older adults can be good foreign language learners. The difficulties older adults often experience in the language classroom can be overcome through adjustments in the learning environment, attention to affective factors, and use of effective teaching methods.


The greatest obstacle to older adult language learning is the doubt–in the minds of both learner and teacher–that older adults can learn a new language. Most people assume that “the younger the better” applies in language learning. However, many studies have shown that this is not true. Studies comparing the rate of second language acquisition in children and adults have shown that although children may have an advantage in achieving native-like fluency in the long run, adults actually learn languages more quickly than children in the early stages (Krashen, Long, and Scarcella, 1979). These studies indicate that attaining a working ability to communicate in a new language may actually be easier and more rapid for the adult than for the child.

Studies on aging have demonstrated that learning ability does not decline with age. If older people remain healthy, their intellectual abilities and skills do not decline (Ostwald and Williams, 1981). Adults learn differently from children, but no age-related differences in learning ability have been demonstrated for adults of different ages.


The stereotype of the older adult as a poor language learner can be traced to two roots: a theory of the brain and how it matures, and classroom practices that discriminate against the older learner.

The “critical period” hypothesis that was put forth in the 1960’s was based on then-current theories of brain development, and argued that the brain lost “cerebral plasticity” after puberty, making second language acquisition more difficult as an adult than as a child (Lenneberg, 1967).

More recent research in neurology has demonstrated that, while language learning is different in childhood and adulthood because of developmental differences in the brain, “in important respects adults have superior language learning capabilities” (Walsh and Diller, 1978). The advantage for adults is that the neural cells responsible for higher-order linguistic processes such as understanding semantic relations and grammatical sensitivity develop with age. Especially in the areas of vocabulary and language structure, adults are actually better language learners than children. Older learners have more highly developed cognitive systems, are able to make higher order associations and generalizations, and can integrate new language input with their already substantial learning experience. They also rely on long-term memory rather than the short-term memory function used by children and younger learners for rote learning.


Health is an important factor in all learning, and many chronic diseases can affect the ability of the elderly to learn. Hearing loss affects many people as they age and can affect a person’s ability to understand speech, especially in the presence of background noise. Visual acuity also decreases with age. (Hearing and vision problems are not restricted exclusively to the older learner, however.) It is important that the classroom environment compensate for visual or auditory impairments by combining audio input with visual presentation of new material, good lighting, and elimination of outside noise (Joiner, 1981).


Certain language teaching methods may be inappropriate for older adults. For example, some methods rely primarily on good auditory discrimination for learning. Since hearing often declines with age, this type of technique puts the older learner at a disadvantage.

Exercises such as oral drills and memorization, which rely on short-term memory, also discriminate against the adult learner. The adult learns best not by rote, but by integrating new concepts and material into already existing cognitive structures.

Speed is also a factor that works against the older student, so fast-paced drills and competitive exercises and activities may not be successful with the older learner.


Three ways in which teachers can make modifications in their programs to encourage the older adult language learner include eliminating affective barriers, making the material relevant and motivating, and encouraging the use of adult learning strategies.

Affective factors such as motivation and self-confidence are very important in language learning. Many older learners fear failure more than their younger counterparts, maybe because they accept the stereotype of the older person as a poor language learner or because of previous unsuccessful attempts to learn a foreign language. When such learners are faced with a stressful, fast-paced learning situation, fear of failure only increases. The older person may also exhibit greater hesitancy in learning. Thus, teachers must be able to reduce anxiety and build self-confidence in the learner.

Class activities which include large amounts of oral repetition, extensive pronunciation correction, or an expectation of error-free speech will also inhibit the older learner’s active participation. On the other hand, providing opportunities for learners to work together, focusing on understanding rather than producing language, and reducing the focus on error correction can build learners’ self-confidence and promote language learning. Teachers should emphasize the positive–focus on the good progress learners are making and provide opportunities for them to be successful. This success can then be reinforced with more of the same.

Older adults studying a foreign language are usually learning it for a specific purpose: to be more effective professionally, to be able to survive in an anticipated foreign situation, or for other instrumental reasons. They are not willing to tolerate boring or irrelevant content, or lessons that stress the learning of grammar rules out of context. Adult learners need materials designed to present structures and vocabulary that will be of immediate use to them, in a context which reflects the situations and functions they will encounter when using the new language. Materials and activities that do not incorporate real life experiences will succeed with few older learners.

Older adults have already developed learning strategies that have served them well in other contexts. They can use these strategies to their advantage in language learning, too. Teachers should be flexible enough to allow different approaches to the learning task inside the classroom. For example, some teachers ask students not to write during the first language lessons. This can be very frustrating to those who know that they learn best through a visual channel.

Older adults with little formal education may also need to be introduced to strategies for organizing information. Many strategies used by learners have been identified; these can be incorporated into language training programs to provide a full range of possibilities for the adult learner (Oxford-Carpenter, 1985).


An approach which stresses the development of the receptive skills (particularly listening) before the productive skills may have much to offer the older learner (Postovsky, 1974; Winitz, 1981; J. Gary and N. Gary, 1981). According to this research, effective adult language training programs are those that use materials that provide an interesting and comprehensible message, delay speaking practice and emphasize the development of listening comprehension, tolerate speech errors in the classroom, and include aspects of culture and non-verbal language use in the instructional program. This creates a classroom atmosphere which supports the learner and builds confidence.

Teaching older adults should be a pleasurable experience. Their self-directedness, life experiences, independence as learners, and motivation to learn provide them with advantages in language learning. A program that meets the needs of the adult learner will lead to rapid language acquisition by this group.