Last night I had the weirdest dream—my new Macbook Air keyboard was soaking in turmeric water.
Thinking my laptop was damaged, I freaked out. But, to my surprise, it wasn't. Instead, I noticed the colors changing on my screen; Facebook was no longer blue but was shifting between green and red and other colors.
Later in the day, I started thinking about inflammation. Since the laptop wasn’t swimming in clear water, but in this yellowy liquid, it made me think about the connection between turmeric and inflammation—and the myriad ways inflammation shows up in our lives.
The word inflammation comes from the Latin inflammo, meaning “I set alight, I ignite.”
Inflammation is a crucial part of the healing process. It is an act of self-protection, and its aim is to remove harmful stimuli. Body “ignites” its own healing fire.
When the natural healing process is being interrupted too often, the body loses its sensitivity to act accordingly. Pain is not pleasant. It is natural to want to avoid it. But frequent use of painkillers can lead to bleeding of the intestinal lining, leaky gut, degradation of joint tissue and kidney, and liver damage.
Wildfires are nature’s inflammatory response; “natural” fire is nature’s way to keep the whole forest ecosystem in balance. It initiates and enables necessary change.
Whether it is pain in our body or wildfire, inflammation has a function. Interrupting the healing wave intrudes upon our innate connection to the Mother Earth and its potential to heal itself.
A study published in the May issue of Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica claims there is a connection between leaky gut and brain health; approximately 35 percent of depressed participants showed signs of leaky gut, based on blood tests.
Lack of blooming intestinal flora, strong digestive fire, and healthy bacteria present in the stool appears to contribute to depression, fatigue, and irratic mood swings. If we imagine the soil in the forest as similar to intestinal flora, we can imagine how vital this is for the health of our planet and the health of our species.
Our 21st century lifestyle has made us collectively depleted. We have not only depleted our healthy flora but the natural fat from our skin layers has been peeled away by the use of soaps and lotions loaded with chemicals, making us very vulnerable to the sun. And let me tell you, adding more of that toxic sunscreen on the top of fatless skin isn’t going to help much. It will make you Vitamin D deficient though, and studies show that low serum levels of vitamin D are associated with clinically significant symptoms of depression. The fear of sun has made us want to build a wall around us, isolating us from the thing itself that all life stems from.
If the soil is the intestinal flora, the ozone layer could be the skin. Are you seeing the big picture now or is it just my imagination taking a ride?
Industrial agriculture practices of using heavy fertilizers and pesticides continue to damage and deplete this vital natural resource, the healthy bacteria in our soil.
Whether the fear of the wild takes the form of discomfort, fire or human sweat, we want to do anything to our power to dampen it, kill it, re-direct it, tame it, make it wrong or take away its natural purpose.
This leads to a culture with no… culture.
1) the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
2) the act or process of cultivating living material (as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient.
Let’s go back to my keyboard and my dream. The fact that Facebook was no longer blue, was radical. Could it be that the lack of flora in our guts and in our soil keeps us never questioning the status quo. Call me naïve, but I bet if Hugh Grant, the CEO of Monsanto, was locked away and put on a 40 day fast, given only organic food, daily vitamin shots straight to his butt, lots of enemas, heavy doses of probiotics and superfoods, he would perhaps see the world with new eyes. Perhaps his love for science would turn into love for humans, animals, plants and all living beings, himself included.
What if our technology addiction wasn’t only causing repetitive stress injuries like tendonitis but also inflammation of our imagination, our creativity and our ability to experience joy and wonder? What if we as a planet suffer from inflammation as a reaction to choices in the past that left us injured, ignored and hurt? If that is the case, my hope is that the acute tenderness and swelling we feel now is just a local response and a necessary part of our self-protection and healing process.
May all of us be mindful of what we do with this delicate time on our way back home to the Mother we once knew.
“In a time of destruction, create something.” ― Maxine Hong Kingston
And now, back to turmeric. Turmeric has long been used as a potent anti-inflammatory in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Inspired by my dream, I made turmeric milk and by following the easy steps below, you can, too:
• 4 cups of homemade almond milk*
• 1-2 tablespoon raw honey
• 2 tablespoon Nutiva refined coconut oil
• 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and 1 small turmeric root, peeled and sliced
• 2 tablespoons of lightly crushed cardamom pods
• grated or sliced fresh ginger
• pinch of black pepper (optional)
* Almond Milk: Blend three handfuls of organic almonds and 3/4 blender-full purified water in blender. Blend until the container gets slightly warm. Pour into a nut bag (un-dyed) over a big bowl. Best if you have a hook or a door knob to hang the bag to and from there, squeeze out all the milk. You can freeze the left-over skin and use it for a pie crust.
1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a light boil, whisk to combine ingredients. Reduce heat to low and simmer for up to 20-30 minutes.
2. Strain the milk if you have large pieces of ginger, cardamom, peppercorns, etc. To serve, add more honey (optional) or a dash of cinnamon and/or vanilla.
Enjoy warm! Keeps well in a Mason jar for 2-3 days.
Here are my other tips for living inflammation-free life, not in any particular order:
1. Embrace your skin. Get rid of every product you would not put in your mouth. Skin is your largest organ, so if you would not pour your lotion or deodorant over your liver, don’t pour it over your skin, either. I use Schmidts deodorant. And for moisture, I use Nutiva’s refined coconut oil https://store.nutiva.com/refined-coconut-oil/, and Youthing Strategies Sesame Oil http://youthingstrategies.com/products/. As a soap, Dr. Bronner is the way to go. Plus they just launched their toothpaste too. And for you ladies, if you are using perfume, keep it away from the very sensitive lymph nodes or switch to flower essences. My absolute favorite is Infinite Love Perfume by Lotuswei.
2. Eat good fat. Even if you can’t quit eating fast food and pastries over night, you can supplement your diet with daily Omega -3s to balance out the excess Omega 6 fatty acid (found in corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, peanut and vegetable oils and trans fats) levels. Number #1 product for this? Hemp oil.
3. Make your life and food real sweet. Avoid Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners. Aspartame is a neurotoxin that literally messes with your brain. Your immune system will attack this foreign chemical and create an inflammatory response. Instead, choose more wholesome sugars like coconut sugar, rapadura sugar and stevia. Instead of a diet coke, have a ginger beer, green tea or 100% fruit juice (cranberry, pomegranate or grape) and add sparkling water to it. Sweeten with Stevia or honey. And for lemon soda, simply add lemon or soda to a glass of seltzer and add Stevia.
4. Take probiotics. Try Healthy Force by HealthForce or find your favorite at your health food store. And plain goat yogurt kefir in moderation is a lovely way to “fertilize” your inner flora, too.
5. Avoid unhealthy environments as much as possible: A few months ago, I walked into a Target store for the first time. After ten minutes of spinning around, looking for a travel adapter, I had to rush out of the store without buying it. The smell inside the store made my head ache, my eyes water, and I think I might have had a mild panic attack. I learned my experience was not unique. The many chemicals, synthetic fibers, latex, adhesives, plastic and air fresheners are just a few ways we get exposed to environment toxins all the time. If you work in a store or office building, make sure you take a walk around the block frequently and if you have your own office, consider getting an air purifier.
6. Chronic stress and high cortisol levels take a toll on our immune system and trigger an inflammatory response. Find ways to minimize stress during your workday. Spend your lunch hour away from computer, ideally eat with others, and take time to chew your food well.
7. Keep your desk and fridge stocked with organic fruit and berries and veggies.
8. Get out to nature. Find that trail, creek or hidden spot you didn’t know existed in your area. Make it your weekly pilgrimage spot. Schedule a walk like it's a million dollar meeting—because it is.
9. Learn to sit or walk in stillness and meditate. Start with few minutes a day. You can use the Lunch Hour -walking meditation I made for you. Put it in your pocket and make it a daily ritual.
10. Repeat this simple mantra throughout the day: I love myself. I’m worthy. I blow my own mind. I define my own success. I belong to this world.