Sunday, February 16, 2014

does making a lot of money make you behave badly?

"as a person's levels of wealth increase, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feelings of deservingness, entitlement and their ideology of self-interest increase."

paul piff at berkeley did a TEDtalk called, "does money make you mean?" (watch the video of the monopoly game, it's hilarious). the video came out in december of last year, but on february 2, there was an op-ed in the ny times called, "how inequality hollows out the soul."

what does that mean in real life? (a picture on zach vella's instagram feed shows a naked girl - or is that me - tortured and bound to a mercedes symbol. her hands and feet appear to be bleeding.

a reporter from a major news source called me and asked what was going on with
zach vella (my next door neighbor and the developer) and the condo project beside me, 11 north moore, which is getting quite a lot of attention with its $40 million penthouse apartment. the real estate agent representing it is fredrik eklund, whose second claim to fame is the reality show, the real deal. leo dicaprio, amongst others, famously toured the sales office.

paul piff found that more wealthy people were "able to moralize greed being good and the pursuit of self-interest being favorable and moral..."

the video came out in december of last year, but on february 2, there was an op-ed in the ny times called, "how inequality hollows out the soul."

"Paul Piff, also a psychologist at Berkeley, has shown that higher status is indeed associated with more unethical and narcissistic behavior. Mr. Piff found that drivers of more expensive cars were less likely to give way to pedestrians or to other cars. Higher status people were also more likely to help themselves to candies that they had been told were intended for children. He found that they also had a greater sense of entitlement and were less generous."

my youngest daughter is a serious student. she is always responsible, shockingly bright and very hardworking. getting into a great college is what keeps her up at night and she just turned 15. 

friday morning, i woke with a jolt thinking her alarm hadn't gone off. i jumped, but then realized that the light had changed and i was mistaken. so i said, "don't worry, you can still sleep for ten minutes."

she answered, "it's 6:58 and i've told you over and over that i wake up at 7:15! it is 6:58 so i still have 17 minutes to sleep - not TEN minutes!"

me: "what difference does it make if it is 17 or 10 minutes? in the end, it doesn't matter how smart you are or what college you get into if you are making other people feel small or stupid or taken advantage of."
i told her (like i tell all my kids) that the most important thing they can be is considerate to other people.
then the construction workers started shouting and banging in front of my bedroom window and it occurred to me that, in today's world, it's simply not true. 
many successful, wealthy people are quite comfortable taking advantage of or hurting the people who seem "unimportant" to them from the doorman to their less fortunate neighbors.
that ability to believe yourself "above" ethical or compassionate behavior - or even traffic rules - is now standard amongst the american wealthy. look at lisa demack who drove her mercedes through a stop sign and hit an ambulance. or the wealthy texas boy who killed four people and was acquitted because he suffered "affluenza."  (his parents could probably afford a very good lawyer).
the idea that there is opportunity (or even justice) for an ordinary person - wait, middle-class, college-educated, living in expensive real estate - is a lie. clearly, i am not a poor person, but i am disempowered.

so, after offering to clean up the flood, rent my apartment and fix it up, give me the money for the repairs or even talk to me - what happened? um, nothing. zach vella went on holiday in the caribbean. AFTER hanging an enormous sign for his project on the scaffolding outside my building.

my lawyer asked for them to pay for the repairs or at, the very least, follow up on all their offers. they simply ignored him. without a lot more money to pay for legal fees, they knew i wasn't going to do more than make demands. 

the end of the TEDtalk cheered me up. it IS possible for the 1% to feel compassion, as long as they faced it.

did i mention i briefly saw zach on the street two weeks' ago? he avoided me and rushed across the street to his big black SUV. (however, i do have plenty of friends who prove that the 1% are capable of kindness and compassion)

the truth is, none of us are perfect. we've all made mistakes or been inconsiderate, but taking responsibility for your actions, with compassion and empathy should not be restricted to the 99%.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The C-Word: All Those Pills!

I was watching Family Guy (the Amazons were watching, actually) and Brian (the dog) had fallen in love with an older woman. Stewie is the brilliant baby.

The dialogue went like this:

Brian Griffin: She's 50, Stewie she's not an old woman [His phone rings and he takes it out and answers it] Hello?...Hey Rita...So, uh-what're ya doing this afternoon?
Stewie Griffin: [Imitating an elderly woman's voice] Oh I'm just sorting out my pills for the week, sweetie. 
Brian Griffin: [Still on the phone] Well you do that, and I'll be over a little later [He hangs up the phone] 
Stewie Griffin: [Condescending noise] Did I get it? Was she sorting out her pills for the week? That little plastic thing with the 7 boxes? [Excited noise] 

Me, too. Since I started seeing Integrative Oncologist Mitchell Gaynor, I have had one of those plastic pill boxes, along with an entire tray full of bottles of supplements. The supplements were put together by him and a genius pharmacist called David Restrepo and a very good Drugless Practitioner/Acupuncturist called Galina Semyonova. My friend, Mary Schook, is always searching out the latest and best forms of natural antiaging products, so she tipped me off to some better forms of vitamins. If you have any health issues at all, I suggest talking to someone who knows supplements as there is a lot one can rebalance with vitamins, minerals, oils, herbs and enzymes.

After three years of studying Chinese medicine, Holistic Nutrition and North American Herbology, everyone asks me about supplements - but they rarely take them. Or they buy a few from the drugstore and then forget to take them. Given recent news about the GNC, Target, Walgreen's and Wal-Mart, be conscious about where you get your products. I buy a lot online and others at my local Wholefoods, I know people who work in the Whole Body section and there are a few who really know their stuff.

The main obstacles to successful supplementation are as follows:

1. Knowing which brands provide the most bio-available (usable for your body) sources and forms.
2. How much to take and when to take them, for your own body.
3. Whether you take them with or without food and what time of day.
4. Which supplements work better in tandem and which you should never have together.


5. Waiting to feel the effects. Patience! Herbs, homeopathic medicines and vitamins work gently.

They are meant to work in conjunction with your body to address the underlying causes of your issues. In the beginning, they might give you an upset stomach or a headache, so you should have your practitioner's number on hand in case you need to have the dose adjusted for you. But generally, you should wait at least 2 weeks before you take a bigger dose and six weeks before you decide they are not working.

It's like exercise. The first day you go for a run, you will not drop an inch from your waist. Maybe even if you run every day for a week, you might feel more energized, but you still won't be much skinnier. Real change takes time. Rushing it can make you sick. Imagine if you immediately started running 5 miles a day after not doing any exercise for years, you'd probably feel pretty bad and more than likely you would injure yourself.

Here's the other argument I hear against supplementation:

"I get all the vitamins and minerals I need from my food and most doctors say that's enough."

There are several reasons why that doesn't work for most people - but especially not people with cancer. The food we eat is of varying quality, depending on how it was transported, how long it hung out in the shop and then your fridge and how you cooked it. Basically, the vitamin and mineral content is dropping since it got pulled off the stalk. And we're not even talking about how much less nutritious conventionally grown food is than organic. Then, depending on what's going on with your body, you don't always ingest all the nutrients in your food. Especially, as you get older, and your body produces less enzymes and acids to break the food down, you don't get the same value.

Last, if you have cancer or another chronic illness, you know it is systemic. Illness makes your body weak, can take away your appetite and, worse, limit your ability to absorb the nutrition from your food. If you are not well, you need more vitamins and minerals than you can possibly get from eating. And if you don't eat well, or if you are getting chemo or radiation, even more reason to supplement to help your good cells stay strong during the onslaught.

Obstacle 5 is the reason I never take multivitamins. First, because the various vitamins might cancel each other out, next because there might be things in there that my body doesn't need.  Also, some substances are best absorbed by your body at night and others in the morning. It's like the shampoo-conditioner-in-one, they never seem to do especially well at either job. Admittedly a multi is better than nothing. So, if that's your starting point -


If you do take a multivitamin, some advice. Choose one that comes in smaller capsules so that you can divide the dose, take half of the dose - or chop the pill in half - in the morning, with/after breakfast and half mid-afternoon or after lunch. The reason is that your body can use the vitamins most effectively with food - your stomach secretes hydrochloric acid to digest food which breaks down the supplement and allows absorbtion, otherwise, the supplement can go straight out to vitamin-enriched urine - and it can spread out the effects throughout the day.


Also, with any supplement you buy, try to choose capsules or liquid forms rather than pills. This is because the glue they use to bind pills is often so strong, even your stomach acids can't break it apart. To test if the pill will break down once you swallow it, drop one in a glass of water and see how long it takes to disintegrate. If it takes more than an hour, the pill is probably going straight through your body undigested.

 Dr. Oz recommends these five supplements.  I'd agree, except for the calcium and magnesium and the folate and the recommended dose of vitamin D3. The amount you need of those vitamins and minerals depends on your body, sometimes you will need those, sometimes in larger amounts than others, sometimes not at all. Personally, I don't take Vitamin A or B, because my body hasn't needed it - and perhaps I get enough from dietary sources. I take more D3 in the winter when I am not exposed to enough sunlight and less in the summer when I am outside a lot.

If you have cancer, there is an oncologist called Nicholas Gonzalez who uses pancreatic enzymes to fight the growth. The idea behind this therapy is that cancer cells have a thick coating that makes them invisible to your immune system, thus your body does not always attack them and otherwise strong immune-boosting supplements, like turmeric and quercetin, can't get through. The pancreatic enzymes digest/melt away the coating on the cancer cells, allowing your body to then destroy them naturally. While most people produce pancreatic enzymes sufficiently, when you have cancer, you REALLY need them, thus supplementation can be key. I did not see Dr. Gonzalez, but I did take 15 capsules of pancreatic enzymes, three or four times daily.


With calcium supplements, one has to be careful about the source of the calcium. Many inexpensive supplements are made from ground up seashells or limestone. These substances are full of calcium but they are not always "bio-available," meaning, your body can't use them properly. Again, off to the kidneys, where they might cause stones. Also, without sufficient amounts of magnesium, vitamin D3 and vitamin K, too much calcium can cause an imbalance in your body, effectively draining calcium from your bones into your blood stream and soft tissues where, again, they can block arteries and cause trouble.

The best way to get calcium that is both soluble (dissolves in stomach acids) and is used by your body (bioavailable) is through plants and sea vegetables and algae. I suggest you look for a supplement that includes magnesium, vitamin K, D3 and strontium. Personally, when I do take calcium, I take New Chapter Bone Health and I break up the dose (six small pills) throughout the day. I take the majority of the pills at bedtime because it makes me calmer and helps me sleep better.

Similarly, many Vitamin E and D3 supplements are made of soybean oil. Soybean oil goes rancid very quickly, which makes it toxic. While soy is a phytoestrogen and has become controversial as a food source, the main reason I don't eat it is that 98% of the soy produced in this country is GMO and I believe anyone who has had cancer should avoid GMOs.

However, I am not a doctor but current recommendations for EVERYONE who is worried about getting cancer or bone loss supplement is at least 5,000 - 10,000 iu everyday.  To figure out what that means, 15 to 20 minutes out in the sun in Cape Cod gives you about 25,000 iu. Xymogen makes a good one that includes K2, which has the added advantage of being good for your teeth.  Personally, I take 6 to 8 drops every day of Micellized Vitamin D3. Along with large doses of vitamin C, it has also been shown to reduce asthma attacks in children.  And taking regular supplements of D3 can reduce your chance of cancer by 70%!


A disclaimer - I am NOT a doctor. I am telling you this purely from my own experience. Everything I list here, I tested on my body while still under the care of an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering. My liver, kidneys, blood pressure, eyes and skin texture all improved greatly while taking them during chemotherapy and afterwards.


Turmeric 300 mg, twice or three times daily - Curcumin is the active ingredient in Turmeric, so the one you take should have a high active curcumin value - read the label.

I took Meriva-SR by Thorne Encapsulations. I currently take one capsule a day of Sky Curcumin by Revgenetics which is cheaper and seems to work just as well. It also seems to have more of the root, because often, when one isolates the active ingredient in a plant or a herb, it doesn't work as well. Most natural ingredients work better in their natural form.

Turmeric is good for inflammation of any sort so it is also recommended for arthritis and I give to my kids for headaches and cramps.

Alpha Lipoic Acid Sustain, 300 mg, one daily I took Jarrow Brand. This helps reduce the irritation in your stomach.

NAC 600 mg, one daily. I took Pure Encapsulations. This increases your body's production of glutathione, which strengthen your nervous system and helps your body absorb other nutrients.

Rosemaria (rosemary oil) and Calendula, one capsules each, twice daily.  I took Completely Green, but it was quite expensive so I switched to New Chapter's Omega 7, which has a combination of Rosemary and Calendula as well as Sea buckthorn. I currently take 4 capsules a day of New Chapter's Omega 7 which seems to hydrate my skin as well as help with my memory. From a herbalist p.o.v., rosemary is antibacterial but also a nerveine, it helps calm the spirit and reduce headaches.

Rice Bran Oil Tocotrienols, one capsule, twice daily. I took Pure Encapsulations. This is a non-soy vitamin E that hydrates the skin and organs but also fights free radicals, especially in breast cells.

Wheat Embryo, one capsules, twice daily. I took Completely Green, but there are others available. This is a rich oil that hydrates your skin beautifully especially after chemo has ravaged it.

Plant-derived Calcium. I took Coxamin, one capsule, twice daily. Now I take the previously mentioned New Chapter Bone Health.

Vitamin D3, 8,000 iu. I took Micellized Vitamin D3, 1000 iu, eight drops daily in my green juice every morning.

Vitamin C, 1000 mg, three to four times daily. I used Lypospheric Vitamin C, I squeezed two envelopes in my green juice in the morning and one in the afternoon. I chose this brand because I noticed an immediate bounce in my energy levels after taking it. It's also recommended by the website which is a not-for-profit resource for alternative/complementary cancer therapies. Whether or not you agree with Linus Pauling, vitamin c does seem to make you feel better - and if you take good quality l-ascorbic acid, you do not get an upset stomach or diarrhea when you take large quantities.

Shitake, one capsule twice daily. I used Completely Green brand again. This was the brand recommended by Mitchell Gaynor. These days, I tend to take a multi-mushroom complex. I do however eat LOTS of mushrooms - Shitake, Maitaki, Reishi, Chanterelle - but NO BUTTON MUSHROOMS, NO PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS, NO CREMINI - these basically all one kind of mushroom and so watered-down that they have little to no nutritional value (the nutritionist I went to see, Joel Fuhrman, suggested they have negative value).

Pro-Omega, 1280 mg, one capsule daily.  This is one capsule of concentrated fish oil, manufactured by Nordic Naturals.

Peak Immune, 250 mg, two capsules, twice daily. This is a combination of rice bran and shitake polysaccharides (I think) and is designed for people with compromised immune systems. I did not take it again after the first four months after stopping chemotherapy.

Krill Oil, 500 mg, one capsule twice daily. I don't know if it's redundant to take krill oil and fish oil but soon I didn't feel like I needed them both. I took the Mercola brand as I tend to find them trustworthy and conscious about their ingredients.

Immunotix 3-6, one daily. This is a beta-glucan which is especially useful for people who need more white blood cells and want to strengthen their bone marrow post-chemo. It is expensive and I only took it for three months.

Since I had neuropathy, balance and memory issues from the chemotherapy, I took several nerve formulas.

Alpha GPC, 300 mg, one capsule, twice daily. I took Jarrow brand. This is a phospholipid that crosses the brain barrier and helps learning and memory. I have to say, my short-term is still in the process of coming back.

Co-Q 10, 200 mg, once daily. I buy my co-q 10 in q-gel form from a company called epic4health. I have a friend whose father used to sell supplements and he recommended them as the best supplier of co-Q 10 and fish oil.

Enada, 5 mg, one capsule twice daily. This is meant to improve mental clarity and energy. I took this for three months and then stopped as I wasn't sure what effect it had. Post-chemo, I had trouble with word retrieval, reading comprehension (big handicap for a copywriter) and short-term memory which gave me terrible anxiety.

Rhodiola 60, one capsule daily. I took Thorne Encapsulations brand.  Rhodiola is an excellent anti-stress herb. I'd recommend it any time one is feeling overwhelmed or anxious and not getting enough rest. It helped a lot with the post-chemo hot flashes which were brought on by anxiety - and my constant confusion and memory issues. I found it very hard to understand the meaning of street signs or notices.

Triple-Bee Complex, one capsule twice daily.  This is a combination of bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis which are said to nourish the body and brain and activate killer cells. According to Mitchell Gaynor's Cancer Prevention Program book, out of print now, but a brilliant and useful text, bee pollen may delay or avert breast cancer. It's also great for seasonal allergies.

Bacopa, one capsule, three times daily. This is an ayurvedic brain herb. Apparently, it is very useful to take for people who have alzheimer's and/or parkinson's. I did take it for some time but stopped as it no longer seemed useful. It is an adaptogen, meaning it will naturally adapt itself to your needs so one could take it in the long term.

Pancreatic Enzymes, 15 capsules three times a day. I took the Allergy Research brand because they manufacture the capsules for Gonzalez.

Probiotics, three times daily. At first, I took 1/3 of a sachet of VSL3, the idea was to restore my digestive tract post-chemotherapy. Later, I wanted a larger selection of bacteria (for immune issues), so I started taking Mercola's Probiotic which does not need to be refrigerated and is enteric-coated so it survives the trip through your intestines to your stomach.

PolyMVA, 2 tbsps, four times a day. This incredible weird supplement is especially good for the immune system, leukemia and pancreatic cancer, as well as reducing the incidence of bone metastasis post-chemotherapy. Leukemia was the main side-effect of my chemo-drugs so I thought it wise.
I noticed an immediate difference in my energy levels and sense of well being taking this. I have to say I have only caught one cold in the past four years, even during the worst of my immune system damage post-chemotherapy and I am around lots of schoolchildren who cough, sneeze, share my food  and drinks and wipe their noses on my towels. It's expensive but I recommend it to everyone who has cancer or even bad respiratory infections (at smaller doses).

Exhilarin, one pill twice daily. This is an ayurvedic combination of herbs, including ashwaganda, holy basil, amla and bacopa, which is very good for calm and focus, especially during menopause.

Resveratrol, 200 mg, 1 daily. I actually took Shaklee's Vivix which seemed to make an amazing difference in my skin quality, too. Today, I take two capsules a day of Revgenetics Nitro 250.

Melatonin, 5 mg, two at bedtime. Personally, I found I built up too much of a tolerance to melatonin. I started needing 20 to 25 mg to fall asleep so I stopped and switched to a tea of chamomile, passionflower, valerian, skullcap and hops.

Every afternoon, I drank one smoothie made of

Stem Cell Strong, one scoop. This is a combination of mushrooms and fruits.
Slim blend, one scoop.  
One-half an avocado
One or two stalks of kale, deveined
Half a cup of vanilla hemp milk
A handful of fresh or frozen berries
Half a cup of frozen acai
Coconut water to make it more liquidy

Every morning, I drank a cup of hot water and lemon and then 16-24 oz of "green juice."

I used three or four stalks of kale (deveined)
4 big leaves of romaine or swiss chard
1/4 to 1/2 green apple
1 half cucumber
3-4 stalks of celery
1 lemon
1 small bunch of parsley and/or coriander
1/4-1/2 inch of ginger root

Sometimes, I replaced the apple with carrot but it makes the juice browner.

Juicing is crucial when you have cancer because it floods your body with vitamins, minerals and enzymes that are immediately available to your body. The proponents of juicing include Norman Walker, Max Gerson, Fred Bisci, Alex Junger and a whole series of raw juice purveyors. The best method for juicing is using a cold-press - at home, one can buy a Norwalk Juicer if one has a big kitchen - because it extracts the most nutrients with the least damage to the enzymes. Personally, I use the Omega HRT slow juicer. If I don't have time, I buy my juice, but I make sure it is fresh, not hpp-processed and bottled for a month as that kills a lot of enzymes.

The combination of raw food, juicing, enzymes and colonics have been extremely successful at resolving all kinds of chronic and systemic illnesses at places like Hippocrates in Florida. If I had a little time and money, it would be worth it to go there and reset your body post-chemo or radiation or in the early stages of cancer.

I should add that I had acupuncture and a massage three times a week for two months while on this program. I did not eat wheat, sugar, dairy or other animal products - except maybe at a birthday party, a few bites here and there. I drank three liters of purified water daily. Every two weeks, I went to an energy healer like Penney Leyshon.

I exercised almost every day, swimming laps and/or pilates or yoga.

In the past four years, since the cancer and the tumor disappeared and the scars healed themselves, I have slacked off in terms of supplements - and I have to admit, I don't look nearly as good!

I do currently take essiac tea every morning as a prophylactic and have been for the past three months, with no adverse effects.

The above regimen cost me more than $1500 a month, and that doesn't even include the doctors and there was only so long I could afford it.

But this is is what worked for me.

Remember, this is an arsenal. It is a group effort. Diet, acupuncture, supplements, exercise, energy work, prayer or meditation, therapy, getting A LOT of rest.

It's not enough to do one or two things because cancer is a big disease. And it's here to teach you something. So do everything you can to learn the lesson and move on.