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Developing a Happier Life – 10 Steps to Help

28 Sep

Hand drawing unhappy and happy smileys on blackboard

 

10 Steps to a Happier Life.

Developing and leading a happier life is not only focusing on what and how you are adding to your life but also what you need to reduce or eliminate. Below are 10 important guidelines for a happier life.

1.      Control of actions and speech to avoid actions that create unnecessary conflict and regret.

2.     Not associating with immature egotistical people; not allowing ourselves to be adversely influenced by them.

3.     Proficiency in one’s work. Using and improving the skills we possess to better life for ourselves and others.

4.     Honest business pursuits, free from inherent disrespect to employers, employees and customers. A wholesome occupation that one does well and enjoys.

5.     Doing acts of responsible generosity. Giving is a source of happiness for both giver and receiver.

6.    To cherish one’s family. To support through wise and kind behaviors one’s parents, children, partner and extended family either in the biological sense or also a community of friends and colleagues.

7.      Living one’s life in an unreproachable respectful way which eliminates shame, guilt, and one has nothing to hide, nothing to regret.

8.    Gratefulness and humility. Remember fondly all the people in your life who have supported and helped you.

9.    Contentment. Do not constantly seek new stimulations and objects.

10. Refraining from doing or allowing behaviors that are disrespectful and unkind to your self/body or others.

 These are 10 important guidelines that if not already followed will create a happier life. Can you think of more?

11. Another important aspect for a happier life is – Not to consume substances likely to poison my body and in a way that they distort my sensibilities and deprive me of my self-control and powers of judgment; such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and so on .

‘A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.’ Probably the Best Argument for Gun Control.

18 Jun

A famous quote of Roman politician Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4Bc-65 AD) is ‘A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.’ This quote simply states a simple truth of basic physics. An object at rest remains at rest until acted on by an outside force. A sword, sitting there, doing nothing, will not kill anyone. The same goes for guns or any other item that can cause death. None of them have any intent to cause harm, that is what the human adds to the equation. Only humans have intent, only humans can kill and the fact of the matter is they have been killing since pre-historical times and it is naive to think they will automatically stop for no particular reason. The inanimate objects are merely tools in the hands of a killer. As long as people have ignorance and unwholesome thoughts and intentions, and succumb to them, they will use tools to kill others. So since society cannot nor should constantly monitor the state of mind or intentions of its citizens (Brave New World), the most potent and catastrophic tools for killing ( i.e. assault weapons/bombs/etc.) must be restricted for the government to maintain a stable and safe society for its citizens.

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What Is your Newest Book About?

9 Jun

Since I first posted about the publication of my newest Book- The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations, I have had numerous inquirers asking about the content of the book. I thought the quickest look at the book contents would be to list the Table of Contents. Good reading!

The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations

Contents

Preface…xi

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

Chapter 2 Self/No-Self 7

Chapter 3 Self as Construction 23

Chapter 4 The Human Being as a Collective, Unified Unit 35

Chapter 5 Awakening and Enlightenment: Psychological Transformation and Transcendence 61

Chapter 6 Enlightenment: Reality, Actuality and Transcendence 73

Chapter 7 Knowing and Not Knowing – What is Possible? 81

Chapter 8 The General Doctrine of the Law of Dependent Co-arising 99

Chapter 9 Kamma 109

Chapter 10 Sense of Agency 119

Chapter 11 Agency Labelled as Self 129

Chapter 12 Dividing Existence – Duality 143

Chapter 13 Language Construction of Duality 163

Chapter 14 Identification 181

Chapter 15 The Buddha’s Compassion 197

Chapter 16 Memory 207

Chapter 17 The Unconscious 227

Chapter 18 Habits 243

Chapter 19 Cognitive Biases 253

Chapter 20 Meta-cognition and Mindfulness 267

Chapter 21 Automatic Influences on our Actions and Perceptions 277

Chapter 22 Organisms as Coherent Embedded Systems 299

Chapter 23 Happiness 379

Chapter 24 The World without a ‘Self’ 391

Chapter 25 Closing Thoughts 405

Appendix A Explanation of the effects of stress on the different systems of the human body 411

Appendix B Special experiences 415

About the Author

Rodger R. Ricketts, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher. He has been studying Buddhism for over thirty years, both as part of his own personal quest and also in the application its principles as a therapeutic tool in psychotherapy. He has written three books exploring the foundation of the Buddha’s Teaching in psychology. Rodger has given numerous presentations at wellness and professional psychological conferences on the topics of cognitive psychology, mindfulness and wellbeing. Rodger continues his study of both science and Buddhism, and maintains a regular meditation practice.

Interesting and Surprising Facts about the Buddha and his Teachings

12 Mar

The Buddha was the first thinker in known history to teach the doctrine of human equality and social freedom amongst all humans. Society should be open to all, regardless of caste, color, or class. No caste, class, or race privileges existed among his lay followers or in the Order of the Sangha that he founded. Instead, social classes and castes are nothing but functional divisions of society, man-made, subject to change and resulting from social and historical factors. Any social doctrine based on the alleged superiority of a caste, class, or race, and advocating to keep it dominant by the use of force, will lead to the perpetuation of social tensions and conflict, and never bring about harmony and equality. The Buddha’s doctrine of equality means each person should be treated equally with dignity, and given an equal chance to develop their inherent potentials of economic, moral and spiritual progress, and of human perfection. Also, the Buddha was the first who attempted to abolish slavery, which included the traffic in, and the sale of, females for commercial purposes. In fact, this is a prohibited trade for his followers.

A man named Dighajanu once visited the Buddha and said, ‘Venerable Sir, we are ordinary laymen, leading a family life with wife and children. Would the Blessed One teach us some doctrines which will be conducive to our happiness in this world and hereafter?’ In a large number of his discourses, the Buddha has given practical guidance for the lay life and sound advice to cope with life’s difficulties. The Buddha identified four traits conducive to lay happiness (Pali: sukha) in this life: hard-working (uṭṭhāna-sampadā), being skilled and diligent in one’s livelihood; vigilance (ārakkha-sampadā), protecting one’s wealth from theft and disaster; virtuous friendship (kalyāṇa-mittatā), associating with and emulating those who are learned, generous, virtuous, wise, who will help one along the right path away; and, balanced living (sama-jīvikatā), abstaining from drunkenness, gambling and unwholesome friendships and behaviors.While accepting material comforts, Buddhism always lays great stress on the development of the moral and spiritual character for a happy, peaceful and contented life as well as society.

Buddhism teaches ‘The Middle Way’ because it avoids the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification.
For six years the, to be, Buddha fervently followed a path of self-mortification, yet it led, not to higher wisdom and enlightenment, but only to physical weakness and the deterioration of his mental faculties. Ascetic Gotama then thought of another path to enlightenment, one which balanced proper care of the body with sustained contemplation and deep investigation. He would later call this path “the Middle Way”. He had experienced both extremes, the former as a prince and the latter as an ascetic, and he knew they were ultimately dead ends. To follow the middle way, however, he realized he would first have to regain his strength. Thus, he gave up his practice of austerities and resumed taking nutritious food. Later, He became Awakened and The Noble Buddha.

The name bhikkhuni refers to a fully ordained Buddhist nun i.e. a woman who has taken higher ordination (upasampada) in the Buddhist monastic community. Bhikkhunis live a simple life, equal to that of a bhikkhu or monk. In fact, all the monks and nuns are equal as the disciples of the Buddha. The order of nuns was established lastly, after the Bhikkhu Sangha, and the communities of laymen and laywomen. Ananda asked the Buddha, “Lord Buddha, can women attain enlightenment?” The Buddha said to him, “Ananda, yes of course they can.” He said, “If they can, why don’t you allow them to join the Sangha, learning and practicing directly?’ Because of practical considerations, it took some time and persuasion for the Bhikkhuni Sangha to be established by the Buddha, but thanks to Maha Pajapati-Gotami and Ananda’s support it came to be.

In Buddhism, actions are not termed ‘sinful’ but unskilful or unwholesome. Buddhists do regard humans as sinful or ‘evil’ by nature but the wicked person is ignorant, foolish and immature. They need instruction most of all, more than punishment and condemnation. The Buddha has encouraged us to develop and use our highest understandings through responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Our suffering is not handed down by the Gods, instead, it is created by our not understanding the great principles of life: Life is impermanent, continuously changing and interrelated; there is No-Self and there is Suffering in life. As our Enlightened teacher, The Buddha advised us on how to lead a pure life and achieve the attainment of nibbana.

The Buddha did not encourage the use of magic, charms or fortune telling to improve our lives. They have no spiritual significance or value. It is only through our Right Understanding, Right Effort and Right Practice that we advance.

In the Kalamas Sutta, the Buddha said, ‘Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.’  Many honest seekers today, like the Kalamas, of the Truth become confused and worried by the many conflicting and inconsistent sects and theologies that are pronounced daily by so many people calling themselves the ‘light to follow’. The Buddha provided a simple and direct test to guide us to know the truth of his teaching: trust yourself, your own experience, and through your experience of the correct teachings which you have found to be reliable and insightful – follow and use. Those people who are “the wise” will teach with the plan that you will see the benefit for yourself through your experience and transformation and not through blind faith and, therefore, you don’t become a slave to their wisdom, instead, you use your reason, your common sense, and your own experience as the ultimate guide and confirmation. So you develop insights for yourself ultimately. While you can benefit from reading books and listening to teachers, etc, your true reliance is upon your real understanding created through the real work that must ultimately be done in transforming and purifying our individual mind. In the end you know for yourself the confirmation of the Buddha’s teachings – there is suffering and the ending of suffering- and this is the only authority needed or desirable.

The Buddha spoke of “beginningless time” and how there is no beginning. The Buddha said that “there is no first beginning, no first beginning is knowable.” (Samyutta Nikaya 15.1-2) This implies that certainly at even the most basic level of existence, everything is made of the same atoms and cosmic ‘stuff’ and we see exclusion and separation only made by our minds.

The Buddha gave to all a practical method (Eighfold Path) for the development of the mind and heart for the shaping of our lives to eventually achieve Awakening or Enlightenment. He did not teach theology or doctrinal orthodoxy. The Buddha understood that all religious doctrines and theology are human inventions built up by the particular authors out of their own mentalities and foisted on people’s minds from the outside. Instead, The Buddha was the teacher who gave the lessons and, if we so want, we are the ones who practice sincerely what he taught and thereby develop our own insights and knowledge of especially the primary Three Universal Truths of Impermanence, No-Self and the existence of Suffering. In Buddhism this is entirely a matter that each individual has to settle for him/herself. But if one makes the effort sincerely- the benefits appear immediately.

Emperor Asoka (304–232 BCE) was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent  from c. 268 to 232 BCE. He [propagated the relatively new doctrine of Buddhism to new heights, as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. He made Buddhism his state religion around 260 BC. He built thousands of Stupas and Viharas for Buddhist followers. The Stupas of Sanchi are world famous and the Stupa named Sanchi Stupa was built by Emperor Ashoka. During the remaining portion of Ashoka’s reign, he pursued an official policy of nonviolence (Ahimsa). Even the unnecessary slaughter or mutilation of Animals was immediately abolished. Everyone became protected by the king’s law against sport Hunting and branding. Limited Hunting was permitted for consumption reasons but Ashoka also promoted the concept of vegetarianism. Ashoka also showed mercy to those imprisoned, allowing them leave for the outside a day of the year. He attempted to raise the professional ambition of the common man by building universities for study, and water transit and irrigation systems for trade and agriculture. He treated his subjects as equals regardless of their religion, politics and Caste. The kingdoms surrounding his, so easily overthrown, were instead made to be well-respected allies. He is acclaimed for constructing hospitals for Animals and renovating major roads throughout India. After this transformation, Ashoka came to be known as Dhammashoka (Sanskrit), meaning Ashoka, the follower of Dharma. Ashoka defined the main principles of Dharma (Dhamma) as nonviolence, tolerance of all sects and opinions, obedience to parents, respect for the Brahmans and other religious teachers and priests, liberality towards friends, humane treatment of servants, and Generosity towards all.

Buddhism teaches that the two qualities-wisdom with compassion—are as interdependent as the two wings of a great bird. Together, where there is true wisdom there is compassion, where there is true compassion there is wisdom. This teaching develops positive cooperative relationships among all people and with sentient beings. It is a teaching for a peaceful, fruitful world and enlightened personal mentality.

Buddhism is concerned with how anyone, male or female, can follow a definite path of mental culture and development to have that same realization. In his own lifetime, The Buddha saw many of his followers realize Enlightenment. After his death, and down through the centuries, thousands have experienced the awakened state – and not only monks. Buddhism is a teaching that explains how realization can be acquired in one’s life – here and now.

The Greeks had a story of a handsome young man named Narcissus who went to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image or illusion. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, later he fell in the water and drowned. Narcissus is the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance.
The Buddha, before the Greeks, warned of the suffering caused by a belief and love of the illusion of a self. The Greek story is a nice exposition on this ignorance and the dire consequences of it. The Buddha taught the doctrine of Anatta or no-self.

Sometime between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD, the first representations of the physical Buddha were developed. These were absent from earlier Buddhist art, which preferred to represent the Buddha with symbols such as the stupa, the Bodhi tree, the empty seat, the wheel, or the footprints. The Buddha never encouraged statues or artistic representations of himself when he was living. The physical Buddha image like the standing Buddha in the photo was inspired by the sculptural styles of Hellenistic Greek influence.

When some people hear Buddhists say that ‘The World is an Illusion’ they think that means everything in the world is unreal, an illusion. This is a misunderstanding. The Buddha taught that the external environment is ‘real’ but our understanding of it is filtered through our senses, expectations, identities, and memories so our mental construction of the world is an illusion in that we believe that to be the ‘real’ reality but it isn’t – it is like a magic show. To be Awakened is to see beyond the tricks of the magician.

The Doctrine of Karma or Kamma is not a mystical force and does not entail fatalism. Instead, it is a natural phenomenon, like gravity. Our thoughts create consequences inside our mind which we then act on. The doctrine refers to our intentional mental actions- our volitions. What we are now is determined by our thoughts and actions in the past and what we do next, in the future, is determined by our thoughts and actions in the present. Therefore, our kamma has the potential to continuously change depending on our development of our thoughts and actions. The Buddha was very clear in teaching the Noble Eightfold Path that we can definitely transform the quality of our mind and action for the better and ultimately achieve Enlightenment. So Karma does not mean that we have a fixed destiny across lifetimes that we must passively accept or that bad or good things happen only because of our past actions.

BioTensegrity – body mechanics

14 Dec
  • This is really interesting as a model of biologic structures. Here is an article (edited for space reasons) by Stephen M Levin MD and others that hit on some key points.

 

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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

———————————————————–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

Updated April 2005 ——————————————————————————

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

IS QI/Ki/CHI REAL or only a NEW AGE FANTASY? 2

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

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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

Healthy Diet, aging, anti-oxidants, Cancer, and Telomeres

28 Jul

This blog is about the very important topic of Healthy diet and our health. As you will read much of our health is determined by our diet and lifestyle. As with all research over time some research becomes outdated and new information is accepted. So this blog was for me an interest to find and share some of the best information at the time on diet, nutrition and health. Please use this information as a springboard for thinking and finding up to date information in these areas. Best health to you!

‘Priority to non-poisonous rather than nutritious foods.’ “It takes months to build and only a minute to break down. How strange!” I heard a carpenter talk thus to himself while wiping his brow. No matter how careful you are about your nutrition, if your care does not include the condition “Never take poison”, your dietetics can crumble from the foundation at any time. Preservatives, anti-drying chemicals, artificial coloring, insecticides, weed killers, artificial flavoring, (etc, etc, etc) – are all dangerous. Kanjitsu Iijima

And our sense of the word (healthy) stands in need of some broadening. When most of us think about food and health, we think in fairly narrow nutritionist terms – about our personal physical health and how ingestion of this particular nutrient or rejection of that affects us. But I no longer think it’s possible to separate our bodily health from the health of the environment in which we eat or, for that matter, from the health of our general outlook about food (and health). If my explorations of the food chain have taught me anything, it’s that it is a food chain, and all the links in it are in fact linked: the health of the soil to the health of the plants and animals we eat to the health of the food culture in which we eat them to the health of the eater, in body as well as mind. … Food consists not just in piles of chemicals; it also comprises a set of social and ecological relationships, reaching back to the land and outward to other people. Michael Pollan

Meat offers a good proof of the proposition that the healthfulness of a food cannot be divorced from the health of the food chain that produced it – that the health of soil, plant, animal, and eater are all connected, for better or worse. … The whole of a dietary pattern is evidently greater than the sum of its parts. … In recent years a less reductive method of doing nutritional science has emerged, based on the idea of studying whole dietary patterns instead of individual foods or nutrients. The early results have tended to support the idea that traditional diets do indeed protect us from chronic disease and that these diets can be transferred from one place and population to another. … Such an approach can take into account complicated interactions among nutrients and non-nutrient substances in studies of free-living people. Michael Pollan

ARE TELOMERES THE KEY TO AGING AND CANCER?

Inside the center or nucleus of a cell, our genes are located on twisted, double-stranded molecules of DNA called chromosomes. At the ends of the chromosomes are stretches of DNA called telomeres, which protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide and hold some secrets to how we age and get cancer.

Like the rest of a chromosome and its genes, telomeres are sequences of DNA – chains of chemical code. Like other DNA, they are made of four nucleic acid bases: G for guanine, A for adenine, T for thymine and C for cytosine.

Without telomeres, the main part of the chromosome – the part containing genes essential for life – would get shorter each time a cell divides. So telomeres allow cells to divide without losing genes. Cell division is needed so we can grow new skin, blood, bone and other cells when needed. Without telomeres, chromosome ends could fuse together and degrade the cell’s genetic blueprint, making the cell malfunction, become cancerous or die.

Geneticist Richard Cawthon and colleagues at the University of Utah found shorter telomeres are associated with shorter lives. Among people older than 60, those with shorter telomeres were three times more likely to die from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infectious disease.

When telomere length, chronological age and gender are combined (women live longer than men), those factors account for 37 percent of the variation in the risk of dying over age 60. So what causes the other 63 percent? A major cause of aging is “oxidative stress.” It is the damage to DNA, proteins and lipids (fatty substances) caused by oxidants, which are highly reactive substances containing oxygen. These oxidants are produced normally when we breathe, and also result from inflammation, infection and consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.

Another factor in aging is “glycation.” It happens when glucose sugar from what we eat binds to some of our DNA, proteins and lipids, leaving them unable to do their jobs. The problem becomes worse as we get older, causing body tissues to malfunction, resulting in disease and death. This may explain why studies in various laboratory animals indicate that restricting calorie intake extends lifespan. Author: Lee J. Siegel (I reduced article for blog) What is Glycation? Glycation is a process by which proteins, certain fats, and glucose tangle together. It affects all body tissues, and tends to make them stiff and inflexible. Glycation causes most problems for organs where flexibility is most important, such as the heart, kidneys, skin and eyes. Once it has become glycated, the tissues start to produce ‘glycotoxins’, such as Advanced Glycation End-products – or AGEs, which are damaging to our cells. AGEs do this in two ways, both of which promote aging: they produce free radicals, and increase inflammation.

Glycation, and the glycotoxins caused by it, are a major cause of the horrible side-effects of being diabetic – higher levels of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and eye problems. Happily, though not widely known, these conditions can be partly or fully controlled, as discussed below.

Glycation is particularly relevant to diabetics as it is more likely because of the raised blood sugar which is a feature of diabetes.

Treatment of Glycation Treatment of glycation is through 3 routes: 1. Avoiding certain foods, 2. Keep blood sugar levels low, and 3. Supplementation.

  1. It is the preparation of food which is important when seeking to avoid glycation. Specifically, high temperature cooking must be avoided. Frying, grilling and roasting all produce glycation and ‘glycotoxins’.

Much manufactured food will have been prepared using high temperature processes. Junk food can be a nightmare of glycation! Food should be chosen which is which is raw, steamed, stewed or poached. A slow cooker is very useful to prepare meat, fish or vegetarian meals easily, conveniently – safely.

  1. A healthy blood sugar range is below 100mg/dL. Above this level, glycation occurs much more readily. This level can be checked with a ‘fasting blood test’; ie you don’t eat for a length of time, then blood is taken for analysis. If blood sugar is higher than 100mg/dL, action can be taken to reduce blood sugar. This can quickly be achieved by dramatically reducing starchy food in the diet, and replacing it with extra vegetables, salads and protein.

The starchy foods to cut out or reduce dramatically are; sugar itself, potatoes, and grains and grain products including bread, pastries and pasta. Fruit juice and cooked fruit should be reduced or cut out because its sugar quickly passes into the blood; but moderate amounts of whole fruit are fine as they contain abundant nutrients and their sugar is absorbed more slowly thanks to the fibre content of the fruit. Poaching, stewing, slow cooking is best.

Scientific American had a story about boosting telomerase through diet, exercise and stress reduction. Specifically, he (Ornish et al.)found that telomerase was boosted by 30 percent in prostate cancer patients who followed a plant-based, whole-grain diet with very little fat or sugar for three months. The men also took fish oil supplements, did daily 30-minute bouts of exercise, and practiced yoga or meditation for an hour a day. “Telomerase turns up those genes associated with disease prevention and turns down the genes associated with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer,” explains Ornish. Just an ounce. The “pound of cure” lifestyle approach examined in his study may not be necessary for healthier folks, he says. They may need only an ounce of prevention to maintain their telomerase levels: switching from regular to nonfat dairy products; adding two or three servings of fruits and vegetables to their diet, for example; or doing just a few minutes of daily meditation.  2009 It turns out that most of our DNA is the software involved in determining how and when 30,000 genes are expressed. Regulation of this expression can be affected by environmental, nutritional, and other factors. These changes to the genome by external factors, called epigenetic changes, can have significant effects on a wide variety of molecular processes. For example, one of the most important nutritional factors modulating gene expression is folic acid: a lack of folic acid has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Folic acid, which is found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and green lettuce, participates in a pathway leading to the stabilization of DNA.

Research has shown convincing evidence that dietary patterns practiced during adulthood are important contributors to age-related cognitive decline and dementia risk. An article published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences highlights information on the benefits of diets high in fruit, vegetables, cereals and fish and low in saturated fats in reducing dementia risk.

The mere existence of these and other epigenetic changes demonstrates that your DNA is not set in stone. It is a living part of the cells in your body and its software code can be influenced by nutritional and environmental factors.

Early bacteria living in Earth’s oxygen-poor atmosphere learned to extract energy from the sun that only 30% of processes normally associated with aging are dictated by genes, while 70% are under your personal control  through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle behaviors. by combining the energy with carbon dioxide from the air and water from the ocean, they were able to form the glucose they needed for their cells to function. This process, known as photosynthesis, gave these bacteria a huge advantage over competing species, but created a problem: the oxygen they produced as a byproduct of this chemical reaction threatened to destroy them through oxidation of their DNA. So, they developed specialized antioxidants called phytochemicals, which have properties that enable them to absorb the extra electrons found on oxidized chemicals and oxygen radicals. Phytochemicals are truly sponges for oxygen radicals.

In the human body, different types of antioxidants are found in specific locations where they can be most effective. For example, some act only in the oily environment of fat cells while others act in the liquid, water-like environment of muscle cells. This latter adaptation is particularly important, as the primary energy producers within muscle cells, the mitochondria, also leak oxygen radicals in oxygen-poor environments. The ability of antioxidants to mop up these radicals enables them to play an important role in the fight against cell damage and the development of cancer. This is where exercise can be particularly useful exercise increases the levels of many antioxidants in the muscles, thus reducing the levels of dangerous free radicals.

The Color System of Antioxidants

The different types of antioxidants can, for the most part, be grouped by color. For example, the antioxidants found in red tomatoes are identical to those found in red watermelon or pink grapefruit. Although the system is by no means perfect, organizing phytochemicals by color is an easy way to help you differentiate between the different types of antioxidants and learn how to get a variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants into your diet.

The red group, including tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon, contain lycopene, one of the most well-studied antioxidants in the fight against prostate cancer. Population-based studies that were conducted when prostate cancer was diagnosed at more advanced stages clearly demonstrated that increased blood levels of lycopene and increased intake of lycopene-containing foods were associated with a reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer. In recent years, as the population of prostate cancer patients has shifted to the identification of cancers at earlier stages, and as the population of patients has changed, some of these associations can no longer be demonstrated.

There are several short-term studies in which tomato paste or lycopene supplements were given to men prior to prostatectomy. Lycopene was identified in the prostate tissue after surgery and there were changes in prostate cells suggesting benefit. Multiple animal studies have also demonstrated the ability of lycopene to reduce tumor growth as well. It is also clear from multiple studies that the benefits of lycopene are more readily available when absorbed from cooked tomato products and juices than from whole tomatoes. In fact, more than 80% of the lycopene in the American diet comes from cooked tomato-based products such as pasta sauce, tomato soup, tomato juice, and ketchup.

Ultimately, studies focused on the ability of lycopene to prevent the initiation and progression of prostate cancer have not yet established definitively the benefits of increasing the intake of lycopene-containing foods or supplements. More research is needed to clarify the potential benefit of this nutritional component.

Importantly, some animal studies have shown minimal or no benefit to lycopene alone for slowing prostate cancer growth, while whole tomato extracts have been shown to slow tumor growth. Thus, the benefits to the red group are likely due to more than just lycopene, and simply taking a lycopene supplement will not confer the same benefit as eating whole fruits and vegetables. Again, this is a simple reminder that there are no shortcuts to a healthy diet and regular exercise.

The red/purple group, including pomegranates, grapes, plums, and assorted berries, all contain anthocyanins, which accounts for the color of the group. However, different berries in this group have unique properties. For example, pomegranates have ellagitannins, which inhibit inflammation and may have benefits for heart health, cancer prevention, and dementia, while cranberries have proanthocyanidins, which target a bacteria common in urinary tract infections. The full benefits of blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries are still being studied, but they all have antioxidant power and work together with the other red/purple berries.

The orange group, including carrots, mangoes, apricots, cantaloupes, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, contain alpha and beta carotenes. Beta-carotene, the more well-studied of the two, is converted by the body into vitamin A, which is important for vision, and works together with the red, green, and yellow/green antioxidants. Note that carrots provide about half the alpha and beta carotene in the average American diet, with significant contributions from tomato-based products.

The orange/yellow group, including oranges, peaches, papaya, and nectarines, contain betacryptoxanthin, a minor carotenoid that accounts for only a minute amount of the daily intake of all carotenoids by the average American. About 87% of cryptoxanthin comes from orange juice, oranges, and tangerines. However, one must be cautious about relying on processed juices as some of the nutrients are removed during production and high amounts of sugars are often added.

The yellow/green group, including spinach, collard, yellow corn, green peas, avocado, and honeydew melon, contain lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids concentrate in the eye and contribute to eye health. Lower intakes have been associated with cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the primary preventable cause of blindness in America.

 

The green group, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, and kale, contain sulforaphane, isothiocyanates, and indoles. These compounds stimulate genes in the liver to produce enzymes that break down carcinogens, including those that are produced when overcooking and/or charbroiling meats.

The white/green group, including garlic, onions, asparagus, leeks, shallots, and chives, contain allyl sulfides, which activate an antioxidant response in cells.

Plant foods that don’t fit into the color system can also have unique benefits. For example, celery has salicylic acid, which is closely related to the active ingredient in aspirin and has been used for centuries to relieve headaches. Mushrooms are a complex group of plant foods with possible effects on the immune system at the level of the intestines.

Also, keep in mind that because the color of the fruit or vegetable is tied to its chemical properties, foods with deeper, richer colors are typically more nutritious. Compare, for example, a regular store-bought tomato with one bought from a local farm. To be able to ship a firm tomato by truck, the tomato is picked while it is still green and is rapidly ripened by being blasted with ethylene gas, a substance normally produced by the plant as a signal to ripen. While ripening, the family of lycopene compounds accumulates, especially in response to heat and light. However, once ripening stops, the accumulation of lycopene stops. Because the ripening process is stilted, the color of the typical store-bought tomato is often somewhat washed out. By contrast, the tomato that ripens naturally on the vine at the local farm is typically deeper in color and richer in taste and thus more nutritious.

Incorporating a variety of both colorful and colorless phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables can help to maximize intake of key chemical elements required to maintain healthy tissues and reduce the risk of disease.

How can this cause cancer? Well, if a tumor suppressor gene is abnormally turned off, or an oncogene is turned on, then cancer (carcinogenesis) can occur. One key is a chemical change to the DNA called methylation. First, we need to define the process to make it clearer. Abnormal methylation in cancer has been known for 20 years. Hypo-methylated areas turn on normally silent areas such as virally inserted genes or inactive X-linked genes. Hyper-methylated areas silence tumor suppresser genes.

We know that cancers have abnormal levels of methylation and we know foods can help prevent cancers. Is there a link between foods and epigenetics? Yes! The study of food nutrients and their effect on disease through epigenetics is known as nutrigenomics. Epidemiologic studies suggest there are bad foods and good foods. BAD: red meat, processed meat, grilled meat, dairy, animal fat, partially hydrogenated fats. Good: Fish, fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains. Foods with epigenetic effects include green tea, cruciferous vegetables, and grapes. Usually we hear about antioxidants and foods. Antioxidants are important but there are beneficial substances in foods called polyphenols which can affect genes. Of the polyphenols, different forms exist but flavonoids are the most highly cited for health benefits and are found in a variety of vegetables and fruits. Types of flavonoids include flavanols in tea, isothiocyanate in cruciferous vegetables, anthocyanidins in grapes and berries, flavonone in citrus fruits, flavonols in onions, isoflavones (genistein) in soy.

These findings demonstrate that a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness…. In fact, dietary protein proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level consumed… These findings show that heart disease, diabetes and obesity can be reversed by a healthy diet. Other research shows that various cancers, auto immune diseases, bone health, kidney health, vision and brain disorders in old age(like cognitive dysfunction and Alzheimer’s) are convincingly influenced by diet. The diet that has time and again been shown to reverse and/or prevent these disorders is a whole foods, plants-based diet. …We now have a deep and broad range of evidence showing that a whole foods, plant-based diet is the best to reverse and/or prevent these disorders…..The most promising preventions and treatments have now been shown to be diet and lifestyle changes, a constitutional approach to health. T. Colin Campbell The most impressive evidence favoring plant-based diets is the way that so many food factors and biological events are integrated to maximize health and minimize disease. Although the biological processes are exceptionally complex, these factors still work together as a beautifully choreographed, self-correcting network. It is exceptionally impressive, especially the coordination and control of this network. T. Colin Campbell  All tea contains polyphenols, but the highest levels are in green and white tea. Green tea has been well studied and appears to have anti-cancer benefits. In China, green tea drinkers are 50% less likely to develop gastric or esophageal cancer (Carcin 2002; 23 (9): 1497), and 2 cups daily added to topical tea extract reversed oral leukoplakia (J. Nutri Biochem 2001; 12 (7): 404).

Green tea has powerful antioxidant effects but it also helps to balance normal methylation in DNA. In fact, one study in esophageal cancer cells demonstrated that EGCG from green tea is able to turn on tumor suppressor genes that had been chemically silenced by methylation (Cancer Research 2003;63:7563).

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Bok choi and their anti-cancer effects have been demonstrated in epidemiologic studies. These powerful vegetables not only induce enzymes that break down carcinogens but they also inhibit DNA methylation allowing tumor suppressor genes to thrive. Inhibiting abnormal methylation also helps cruciferous vegetables to inhibit the cancer causing action of tobacco smoke by preventing the formation of nitrosamine-DNA adducts.

Grapes, which contain resveratrol, are excellent for heart health and they have anti-cancer activity. Grapes work by preventing the formation or initiation and promotion of cancers. They don’t have methylation actions as discussed above but they work by modulation histones.

Histones are the chief protein component of the DNA chain (chromatin). They act as spools for the DNA to wind around which then shortens the length of the DNA to 30,000 times shorter than an unwrapped strand. This process not only allows the long DNA chain to fit into a cell but also plays a role in gene expression because how the genes are wound affects which are exposed and available for turning on or off. Rolling the spool a different way would expose other genes and change their expression.

Histones are modified after translation by acetylation, methylation, phosphorylation, ubiquitination. The changes occur at lysine residues (except for phosphorylation of serine or threonine). When the histone is acetylated the charge is changed and the histone loosens its grip on the DNA strand and the DNA unwinds, exposing the genes to be transcribed, or repaired.

When histone tails (H3,H4) are acetylated, genes are transcribed, when they are deacetylated, genes are turned off. Histone deacetylases work to maintain deacetylated sites.

Resveratrol, found in grapes, activates Sirtuins; SirT1 (Sir2 proteins). There are at least 7 Sir2-like proteins and they are histone deacetylators. Sirtuins are induced in animals during starvation states. They seem to have a life preservation effect. Interestingly, when an animal is starved, it can live longer. When the calorie intake of rodents was decreased by 40% in rodents, they actually lived 50% longer and appear to have fewer chronic diseases. The same benefit occurs when rodents when they are given resveratrol in their diet.

Resveratrol deacetylates histones causing tighter packing of the chromatin and a lower level of transcription of DNA. This silencing of the DNA is thought to be the mechanism of life prolongation, heart health, and its beneficial actions to prevent cancers. This is why grapes or red wine is beneficial to your health. How much red wine should you drink? No one knows for sure, but any beneficial effects might be negated after two glasses a day because of the alcohol. I wouldn’t advise drinking more than this until more is known. The data is very promising, but more research is needed.

The foods that we put into our bodies on a daily basis, whether it is fast food, raw foods or organic foods, have an effect on us. For instance, did you know there are foods that prevent cancer? You read right, these same foods can also help prevent other chronic diseases as well. In this article we will explore 3 green giants in the food world that can help prevent disease.

1 – Broccoli

The first green giant of foods that prevent cancer is broccoli. According to an article by J. Cohen published by the National Cancer Institute in 1992, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University announced the discovery of a compound found in broccoli that prevented the further development of tumors by 60% in participants as well as reduced the size of existing tumors by 75%. Broccoli also contains Vitamin C, Fiber, Calcium, Vitamin K, Beta-Carotene and much more, it is also a great source of iron for those that do not eat meat.

Broccoli also contains sulforaphane which scientific studies have shown to be effective against a specific bacterium that is a common cause of gastric ulcers and gastric cancer. Smokers under the age of 65 are encouraged to indulge in a cup of broccoli a day as studies have shown it to help battle colon cancer cells as well.

2 – Spinach

The second green giant of foods that prevent cancer is spinach. Spinach is a powerful food. It contains Vitamins C and E, Beta-Carotene, B vitamins, Calcium, iron and many more natural minerals and nutrients.

Spinach has been shown to help protect the eyes from age-related degeneration. Spinach, as well as other green vegetables, is high in potassium and low in sodium. Along with the mixture of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and other minerals, spinach is great for lowering your blood pressure.

3 – Wheatgrass

The second green giant and perhaps most powerful of foods that prevent cancer is wheatgrass. Wheat Grass is one of the most beneficial complete foods there is. It is very high in chlorophyll and provides natural detoxification. The chlorophyll found in a liquid ounce of wheat grass and other leafy greens not only cleanses and builds blood, but research now shows that it may also assist in offsetting the adverse effects of radiation. Wheatgrass is one molecule away from hemoglobin in the human blood so it is the closet we can come to a blood transfusion without actually getting a blood transfusion. Now that is a powerful food!

Wheatgrass is high in oxygen like all green plants as it contains chlorophyll. The brain and other tissue in the body function at an optimal level in a highly-oxygenated environment. Science has proven that chlorophyll stops growth and development of unfriendly bacteria and can assist in increasing low red cell count. It is so nutritionally condensed that 15 pounds of Wheat Grass is the equivalent of 350 pounds of carrot, lettuce, celery, and other juices.

The above 3 types of food are just a few of the green giants in foods that prevent cancer and there are many others. Remember, the foods — good and bad – that we put into our bodies affect us. Make the right choice.

There are many contributing factors in the causes of cancer such as diet, lifestyle, stress, toxicity and more. Eating good amounts of the above is a great way to improve your overall health and immune system, but it is important that you look into the other factors as well.

The National Cancer Society has estimated that nearly one in three cancer deaths are actually diet related. Those are astonishing statistics considering that means we may actually be able to prevent cancer with our diet choices, or cause it.

Research has shown that certain foods actually contribute to the growth of cancer while others help to lessen the risk. The dietary choices we make today affect us for the rest of our lives.