Thursday, September 10, 2015

Think Differently about Syrian Refugees

On a recent radio show, The Take Away, I listened to the host, John Hockenberry, interview Rabbi Jonathan Sacks about Europe's current refugee crisis.  Rabbi Sacks is a global religious leader who was Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom from 1991 to 2013.

The two men first discussed Jewish refugees trying to leave Germany in 1938.  That crisis brought together diplomats from thirty-two countries who met in Avignon, France in June of that year. But every nation represented, closed it's doors to the refugees.  In the midst of that meeting, a few heroic individuals organized on the side a rescue train - which would eventually transport 10,000 Jewish children out of Germany.  Private citizens or organizations had to guarantee payment for each child's care and education. This series of rescue operations was informally called Kindertransport and it became a bright spot during one of history's darkest times.

Rabbi Sacks believes that a Kindertransport type gesture is needed today for the refuge children crowding the Syrian border.

When asked how he thought countries could welcome, embrace and assimilate the muslim refugees from Syria today, he responded:

I've been saying that Britain should be exporting a message of coexistence from Britain to the Middle East instead of importing a message of conflict from the Middle East to Britain.  Because in Britain we got on very well with the Muslim and Jewish communities.  We worked at that relationship. Locally in Britain we have managed those relationships well, but there is a huge spillover in Europe of the politics of the Middle East.  Today with all our global media a conflict anywhere becomes a conflict everywhere. 

Hockenberry then asked, "Why is it so hard for Israel to envision having a sanctuary for some of these people from Syria?  Often it is within walking distance."

Rabbi Sacks responded that Israel does offer medical sanctuaries. Because of political sensitivities, helping these refugees with medical care, has to be done well below the radar.

Sacks continued,

Israel has continued to be an asylum.  There's no question that Israel is only one of two countries (the other being the U.S.) that was built on and exists as a refuge for asylum seekers. There's no doubt that Israel has offered asylum, but at the same time, you understand that many Syrians themselves  are worried that if  they take refuge in Israel they will no longer be able to return to Syria.

Hockenberry: "Do you think the U.S. should do more?"

Sacks replied,

The U.S. is an enormous country who has thus far taken in only a few refugees from the Middle East.

I think humanitarian gestures go further to change the climate of international politics than military interventions.  Military interventions leave behind a legacy of resentment.  Humanitarian interventions leave behind a legacy of gratitude.

So if I were talking about long term winning the peace I would say that being a home for refugees would probably be the single most effective thing that Europe and the United States could do.

More weapons simply reinforce more of the conflicts of the past and allow us to replay and replay and replay conflicts which are never resolved.

Hockenberry: "Where is courage being shown now?"

Sacks answered,
I think Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, is showing that courage right now. She's talking about bringing in as many as 800,000 refugees.  That would be far more than all of the rest of Europe put together.  This is courageous and is very clearly being driven by a sense of historical memory, pain, grief, guilt - an attempt to redeem the past.

I think when you do attempt to redeem the past by an act of generosity and open heartedness and an open door policy then you do actually change the world.  That is the history we remember and it gives us hope as human beings.
I think an American historian calculated there has only been 29 years of peace since human civilization began.  So war is the eternal story.  But I think too much hope has been sucked out of the atmosphere of the Middle East and although it's another subject for another time, I do believe Jews, Christians and Muslims have to come together and say we all are members of the family of Abraham and there is such a thing as reconciliation.  Genesis is full of sibling rivalries but it ends with reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers and bear in mind that his brothers wanted to kill him  and eventually sold him as a slave.
The children of Abraham have a literature of hope. And I think I would sit with those children and talk those stories through and say that is your story and that is my story  and together we can build a world if we're willing to make that our story as well.
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© 2010-2015 Melinda Coker

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: “Melinda Coker, health coach and author of the book, Diet and Cancer: Is There a Connection?, teaches men and women around the world how to develop a healthy lifestyle.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Don't Drink Milk

What do you think of when you are told to keep your bones healthy?

I bet you answered “Drink Milk!”

That is how good the marketing arm of the dairy industry is.  They have made everyone in the U.S. a believer in their ad campaign.  In fact, they are even funding the nutritional training of students in our medical schools.  No wonder when patients ask doctors how to prevent osteoporosis, the doctors recommend extra milk!

There has been so much good research and so many reputable studies on the fact that milk is probably the last thing that will keep your bones strong.  Cornell University’s Dr. Colin Campbell states, "The correlation between animal protein [intake] and fracture rates in different societies is as strong as that between lung cancer and smoking."

Countries that have the highest consumption of cow’s milk and other milk products (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese) also have the highest rates of hip fractures. Those populations that consume the most animal protein, also have the highest levels of calcium excreted in their urine.

Dr. Dean Ornish writes, "The real cause of osteoporosis in this country is not insufficient calcium intake, it's excessive excretion of calcium in the urine. Even calcium supplementation is often not enough to make up for the increased calcium excretion."

When people eat too much animal protein it increases the acid load in the body which allows calcium to be drawn from the bones thus weakening them.  Therefore, the amount of calcium in the urine is increased. This effect has been established for over eighty years.

To minimize your risk of osteoporosis, eat a variety of whole plant foods and avoid animal foods, including dairy.  Eat plenty of beans and leafy vegetables and stay away from refined carbohydrates like plain pastas, white breads, candies and sugary cereals.

To learn more about osteoporosis and to get support with your healthy eating, check out the programs at MelindaCokerCoaching.

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© 2010-2015 Melinda Coker

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: “Melinda Coker, health coach and author of the book, Diet and Cancer: Is There a Connection?, teaches men and women around the world how to develop a healthy lifestyle.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

Would a One Million Dollar Reward Change Your Plan?

One morning during the recent holidays, while I was working in the kitchen, my young granddaughters sat at the breakfast table playing a game of Table Topics.  That’s a game consisting of a pile of cards with questions.  It was fun listening to them as they took turns reading the questions and then discussing their answers.

One question in particular caught my attention. “If you were offered one million dollars could you get straight A’s next year?”  Of course, both of them answered in the affirmative and said that they were already trying to make straight A’s so it probably wouldn’t make any difference.


I immediately started thinking about that question as it might relate to more average students.  After all I am a former college instructor.  A high school or college student might get very motivated by that possible reward and do some things differently, such as:
1.) Really pay attention in class.
2.) Make an appointment with their teacher/professor if there was something they didn’t understand.
3.) Hire a tutor for the subjects that were more difficult for them.
4.) Make sure they were spending enough time studying and doing class assignments.
5.) Roll back on any extra curricular activities that were interfering with their study time.
6.) They would make sure they got enough sleep each school night and that they ate nutritious meals so they would be at their best in class.


If you’ve been thinking about getting a new job, starting a part-time business or even launching a big project, what would you do differently to pursue that goal if you were offered one million dollars to get it done in the next year?  You might take some of the following actions:
1.) Maybe you would have a new sense of urgency and wouldn’t let other things get in your way of working on it.
2.) You would really try to develop your goal and figure out exactly what you want to accomplish.
3.) You would possibly hire someone to help you, such as a coach, a mentor, a professional resume’ writer or even a graphic artist.
4.) Maybe you would take on a partner so you could share your expertise and resources and work together.
5.) You would probably make a list of all of the steps you could think of to make your project a success.


You may have been thinking about organizing your home or office for a couple of years, but just haven't gotten started.  If you were offered a million dollars to get it organized, you might think about the following ideas:
1.) You would probably make a specific list of exactly what you want to get organized.
2.) If you are not the organized type, you might call in a professional organizer to help you.
3.) Maybe you would purchase some plastic bins to use for sorting – the things you will keep and the things you will dispose of.
4.) Once the sorting is completed, you might decide to spruce things up a bit by purchasing some new furniture or storage units so you would be more inclined to stay neat and organized.


I know most of you have been thinking of losing some weight but you just haven't gotten around to it. What if you were offered one million dollars to lose that extra twenty pounds in a year?  That could  be the motivation you need.  Some steps you might take would be:
1.) Research and decide on a diet plan.
2.) Find an accountability partner or a coach.
3.) Keep a journal of all the food you eat.
4.) Weigh weekly.
5.) Read motivational stories of others who have lost weight.
6.) Stick with your plan.
7.) Revaluate monthly.

I’m sure you have thought of even more ways that a one million dollar reward could get you started on one of your goals.  Thinking that way certainly helps you develop some clarity about what it is you would need to do.

Let me know if that imaginary one million dollar reward helps you refine what you want to accomplish and gives you some understanding about how you would do it.

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© 2010-2015 Melinda Coker

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: “Melinda Coker, health coach and author of the book, Diet and Cancer: Is There a Connection?, teaches men and women around the world how to develop a healthy lifestyle.”

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Top 12 Things I Learned on My Latest Trip to Brazil

1.) Beautiful, beautiful scenery!  This view is from a restaurant overlooking the Bay of Paraty.  To get to this magnificent lunch spot on the bluff, we took a 30-minute boat ride from the town.

2.) Christmas is the time to visit São Paulo.  Normally a city of over 11 million people, most of those people leave the city for the holidays which makes it a wonderful time to visit - absolutely no traffic congestion!

3.) São Paulo has numerous beautiful parks and we walked, hiked and climbed through a few of them.  Unusual animals we saw in one of the "wild" parks included capybaras, monkeys, iguanas and black crickets.

4.) Bring your own "Kleenex."  I had to use toilet paper for cosmetic purposes and everything else for which we normally use tissues.

5.) Delicious tiny coffee expressos were served everywhere - in homes, hotel lobbies, gas stations and restaurants.  I don't usually drink much coffee, but those little cups were fun to drink.

6.) Graffiti on nearly every building and wall in the city of  São Paulo.  The vandals seem to pounce on any clean wall or new building.

7.) Signs in many restrooms (including the international terminal at GRU) asking that you do not put toilet paper in the toilets as the plumbing is old and cannot take it.  They keep small covered trashcans next to the toilets.

8.) Weather is moderate.  It feels great and windows are always open, unless it's raining.

9.) The people speak Portuguese and I don’t.  Thank goodness we were with hosts who spoke both Portuguese and English.  I couldn’t even pronounce the words correctly.  You certainly can’t try to use English or Spanish pronounciations as you will be wrong every time.  Some of the English menus were quite comical as it seems they were having as much trouble with English as I was with Portuguese.  I think "Espagueteal Suck" is supposed to mean "spaghetti!"

10.) Hubcap hills and right angle turns.  The roads down to the coast were two-lane and cars were bumper-to-bumper.  The roads seemed to go straight down with complete right angle turns to slow you down.  There were hundreds of hubcaps lining the roads at these turns.

11.) A busload of Columbians - Actually a busload of any nationality usually means disaster.  The Columbians had rented out the whole top floor of our hotel in Campos do Jordão which meant that all of us guests on the first floor were kept awake most of the night.

12.) The toll roads in the state of São Paulo didn't seem too crowded until we got to the only fuel, food and bathroom stop on the road.  The "Roasted Chicken Express" (English name) was so crowded I couldn't believe it.  Cars just had to circle around the whole property waiting for another car to pull out for a parking place.  And, this was not even considered a crowded day!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

American Adults Are Overweight

A headline in today’s local newspaper proclaimed that more than two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese.  We have heard that so often that it is no longer shocking.  

What is shocking is this picture of Jack and Jackie Kennedy taken in 1955.  I can already hear your comments, “OMG, they are too skinny!” or “They are so thin, they must have an eating disorder.”  

Do any of you remember when most Americans were this thin?

Today American women seem to be on a perpetual diet, but they don’t seem to be getting any thinner. They say things such as, “I wish I could lose some weight, but I just don’t have the discipline,” or “I really know I should lose some weight, but it’s not that important to me right now.”  Or, we hear the Oprah-like statement, “We just need to be happy with our body, no matter what size we are.”

As a health coach, I want to help people get healthy - and, overweight or obese is NOT healthy.  In fact, I’ve set a goal to help 500 women become healthy.  

How am I going to define “healthy?”

Since it’s important to use objective measures rather than just asking women how they feel, let me explain what I’m going to use.

1.) BMI under 24.9 – To find your BMI, put your current weight and height in the BMI calculator.  If you are in the normal range, “good for you!”

Being overweight or obese is NOT a cosmetic problem.  That extra weight raises your risk for serious health problems such as: gallstones, type 2 diabetes, abnormal blood fats such as high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, cancer, osteoarthritis, infertility, coronary artery disease, a stroke and sleep apnea. Medical care related to obesity in our country in 2002 was estimated to be $100 billion.  

2.) Blood Pressure under 120/80 – Blood pressure tends to rise with age if you are not following a healthy lifestyle.  Nearly 1 in 3 American women has high blood pressure.  You can prevent high blood pressure by reducing sodium (salt) intake, being active, and keeping a normal BMI.  High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease.  To measure your blood pressure, you can schedule an appointment with your physician or go to your local pharmacy and use their FREE blood pressure cuff.

3.) Total cholesterol under 150 mg/dl. – A high cholesterol level puts you at greater risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke and cancer.  Lower blood cholesterol levels are linked to lower rates of heart disease, cancer and stroke.  To get a cholesterol test, you can give blood at your local blood bank and they will usually send your cholesterol reading for FREE.  You can also schedule a finger prick at a local Walgreen’s, look up an on-line cholesterol screening test or make an appointment with your physician. 

If the readings of your three screenings are not in the “ideal” range, you are welcome to sign up for a coaching program.

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© 2010-2015 Melinda Coker

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: “Melinda Coker, health coach and author of the book, Diet and Cancer: Is There a Connection?, teaches men and women around the world how to develop a healthy lifestyle.”

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Tribute to Blue

Our sweet, tired Blue wore completely out today.  When I took him out the back gate for his absolute favorite pastime in the whole world  - a walk – he just laid down and couldn’t get up.  Rick carried him to the car for a ride to the vet.

Blue was in “shock” and “dehydrated” so the vet kept him at the clinic so he could do some tests.  We were all hoping for a miracle.  After a couple of hours of tests, x-rays and fluids, Dr. Ramsey called to say there was nothing more to do.  The x-ray showed that his heart had shrunk and was unable to produce the blood volume he needed – possibly due to a tumor on his adrenal glands.

Rick and I went back to the clinic and loved on him as he breathed his final breath.

He was such a regal, beautiful dog.

It’s hard to believe he started out so tiny.  Here I am holding him at 3-weeks of age.

Our poodle, Pogo, sired two litters and we were awarded two pups in 2001 – Blue and his sister, Molly, who ultimately went to live with Candace.  Those two were best buddies and ran and played like crazy whenever they were together.

Sometimes to keep them quiet they were put in their pen.

Our dogs have always loved to travel and when in the car they are strapped in with their seat belt harnesses.

Blue was a member of a large “tribe” for awhile with Pogo, Molly and Doodle Bug.  As you can tell, walks could be quite exciting!

Halloween in Hollytree was always quite thrilling, with hundreds of trick-or-treaters.  So Pogo and Blue got dressed up each year and we all sat out on the porch with our treats.

Blue always had a special place in Logan’s heart and whenever Logan would visit, Blue was either in his lap or on his shoulders.

 Blue has also had his moment of fame when he was asked to be in a music video.  Stayton Bonner sings a song about his dog, Willie.  Unfortunately, Willie had died so Blue was asked to stand-in.  He did a great job and we should have gotten him his Screen Actors Guild card so he could have starred in more productions. ☺

A trip to the Circle Star Pet Resort was always a treat for Blue and Riley.

Bye, bye my beautiful boy.

RIP my sweet Blue and enjoy your new, energized body!


Other Links:

Blue could HOWL with the best of them.  He hated for us to leave and he would howl to let us know.

He loved our feral cats and he and Socks would cause quite a ruckus.  Socks will certainly miss you, Blue.

Blue has slowly weaned Riley away from playing as he got sicker.  But, they did love to play while Blue felt good.

The “Me and My Poodle” video by Stayton Bonner

Blue ‘s picture is also featured on the header of the Circle Star Pet Resort website (4th one).

April 5, 2001 – July 19, 2013

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Arthritis, Inflammation and Leaky Gut

If you've got arthritis, you know how painful it can be.  Approximately half of all people over 65 report having arthritis with symptoms of swelling, limitation of motion, or pain.  The regions of the body most affected are the hands, neck, lower back, hip and shoulder.

There are three types of arthritis with a known cause:
  1. Traumatic Arthritis - Joints can be inflamed as a result of an injury, such as from tripping and spraining an ankle.
  2. Suppurative or Septic Arthritis – Joints can be infected with bacteria from the blood stream.  This tends to occur in infants and young children.
  3. Gouty Arthritis – Uric acid crystals can accumulate in the joints.
Other forms of arthritis are said by doctors to have “no known cause.” Arthritis of “no known cause” can be divided into two broad categories:
  1. Degenerative (osteoarthritis) - This is the most common arthritis found in people living in Western civilizations.  It is seen in x-rays of the hands in over 70% of people who are 65 years and older.
  2. Inflammatory - This includes juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis (AS). These aggressive diseases affect less than 5% of the people living in the United States today. 
Arthritis just means inflammation of a joint.  Arthritis is not a genetic disease, nor is it an inevitable part of growing older.  Many studies have linked the inflammation of arthritis to our Western diet.

As recently as 1957, no case of rheumatoid arthritis could be found on the continent of Africa.  These once unknown joint diseases have now become common as people have migrated to wealthier nations or moved to the big cities in their native countries.  With these changes people have abandoned their traditional diets of grains and vegetables for meat, dairy products, and highly processed foods.

Although unknown in Africa before 1960, African-Americans now lead in the incidence of lupus in the US.  The mechanisms by which an unhealthy diet causes inflammatory arthritis are complex and poorly understood, but involve our intestine and immune system.

Leaky gut syndrome has been theoretically suspected as a major factor in a wide range of food and chemical sensitivities, arthritis, asthma, headaches, digestive problems of varying seriousness and chronic fatigue.

Our intestinal lining (or gut wall) is a semi-permeable membrane, like a sieve, that allows small molecules (the products of digestion) to pass through, and blocks the larger molecules. These larger molecules then travel through our intestine and are eliminated. When functioning as intended, the gut wall prevents those larger molecules from stimulating food sensitivity and inflammatory reactions.

Infections, toxins (such as drugs, chemotherapy, anti-inflammatory medications) and an unhealthy diet (too high in fat, cholesterol, and animal protein) can compromise the barrier and allow large molecules to pass into the blood.  This condition of increased intestinal permeability is referred to as a "leaky gut."

Patients with inflammatory arthritis have been shown to have inflammation of the intestinal tract resulting in increased permeability.

What to do about "leaky gut?"

In scientific studies, fasting has been shown to decrease intestinal permeability, thus making the gut "less leaky."  This may be one of the reasons fasting has been shown to dramatically benefit patients with rheumatoid arthritis.  When patients return after the fast to a diet with dairy products, the gut becomes more permeable and the arthritis returns.  An unhealthy diet containing dairy and other animal products causes inflammation of the intestinal surfaces and thereby increases the passage of dietary and/or bacterial antigens (foreign proteins).

Some components of the rich American diet are known to impair the function of the immune system.  Vegetable oils (both the omega-3 and the omega-6 variety) are particularly strong suppressors of the immune system.  Low-fat diets have been shown to retard the development of autoimmune diseases, similar to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, in experimental animals. Those vegan diets that have failed to help arthritis patients have been high in vegetable oils, which are known to damage intestinal integrity.

The importance of the overall diet cannot be overemphasized.  Proper foods such as whole starches, vegetables and fruits, keep the intestinal barriers strong and the immune system in a fighting condition. In addition to being free of animal products, the diet must be low in fat of all kinds - vegetable oil (even olive oil, corn, safflower, and flaxseed oil) and animal fat.  When it comes to blaming individual foods, dairy products seem to be the most troublesome foods, causing the most common and severe reactions.  Many reports indicate grains, such as corn and wheat can also aggravate the symptoms.  The truth seems to be almost any food can cause trouble, but few people react to vegetable foods.

The immune suppressing quality of oils (for example, fish oil and primrose oil) has been used to suppress the pain and inflammation of arthritis, but like too many drug therapies the ultimate outcome may not be best for the patient.  Suppression of the immune system prevents it from doing its work of removing invading foreign proteins.

One dangerous paradox in arthritis treatment is that the drugs most commonly used to treat arthritis are toxins to the intestinal barrier.  All commonly used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like Advil, Motrin, Naprosyn, etc.), apart from aspirin and nabumetone (Relafen), are associated with increased intestinal permeability in man. While reversible in the short term, it may take months to improve the barrier following prolonged use.

What won't change in either form of arthritis with a change of diet, is the permanent destruction, stiffness and deformity which has already happened through years of disease.

If you suffer from arthritis (either degenerative or inflammatory), try changing your diet for at least two  weeks.  Eat only whole starches (sweet potatoes, brown rice), vegetables (green and yellow) and fruits (except citrus).  Water is your beverage.

After 2 weeks, you should be feeling much better.  At that point you can add in grains and citrus.  If you start to have symptoms again, eliminate those and add them back in one at a time to see if you can decide which food(s) cause the adverse reaction.

Stop taking any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and if necessary, replace with aspirin or nabumetone (Relafen).

If you try this "anti-arthritis" diet, write a comment and let me know how it worked for you.