Ingrid Bergman is my favorite actress, and it’s partly because Casablanca is my favorite movie. No female character was ever more radiant, beautiful, and alluring than Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund.
Ingrid Bergman died on her 67th birthday. Hers was a relatively short life, but surely it was more exciting and tumultuous than anything she could have possibly dreamed of growing up in Sweden- and she did imagine herself as a great actress. But, it wasn’t her acting career but rather the heartaches of her personal life that caused her so much tumult.
But, even her childhood was tragic. She was born in Sweden in 1915 to a Swedish father and a German mother. But her mother died when she was only 3, and Ingrid was sent to live with an aunt. But, that aunt died less than a year later, so Ingrid suffered again. Then, she went to live with her beloved father, but he died when she was 12. Then, she spent her teenage years living with another aunt and uncle, who had 5 children of their own. So, it was a harrowing childhood, for sure.
The book I read was called Ingrid by Charlotte Chandler, and it is one of the best known Bergman biographies. It was good, and it almost left me in tears at the end. But, I am also rather annoyed with the author. She never mentioned anything about Ingrid’s smoking, and she was a heavy smoker. Her most famous character Ilsa Lund never smoked- even though Casablanca is probably the most smoke-laden movie ever made, and there were other female characters in it who did smoke. And, it was Ingrid’s decision not to smoke on camera in Casablanca. She said it was because “Ilsa was a good girl.” I learned that from reading a book about the making of Casablanca, and to me, it is an interesting piece of trivia that a tenacious biographer would have included. Ingrid Bergman not only smoked, but she smoked the strongest cigarettes in the world: unfiltered Gauloises cigarettes from France. She also drank quite a lot of alcohol, and her drinking was an issue between her and her first husband, Petter Lindstrom.
However, one thing the book did cover very well was Ingrid Bergman’s eating habits. I am going to address that, but before I do, I want to point out that I am not trying to disparage Ingrid Bergman. I admire her greatly, not just for her radiant beauty and immense talent but for her courage in coping with all the trauma in her life. She played Joan of Arc, and you could say she was Joan of Arc. I am just trying to analyze why she died of cancer at 67.
Ingrid Bergman liked to eat. The book said that. As a child and as an adult, she had a healthy appetite. And, I don’t say that facetiously. It is healthy to have a good appetite. But Ingrid was tall (5’9”) and rather big-boned, and it was a constant struggle for her to maintain her ideal weight. One of the biggest problems in her first marriage was that her husband, Petter, was constantly riding her about what she ate. Nobody likes that. And unfortunately, she leaned towards fattening foods. The Swedish diet that she grew up on was heavy on cream, butter, meat, fish, and low on fruits and vegetables. She had a powerful sweet tooth, and she adored “butter cookies.” Can you imagine using so much butter that you name the cookie after it? When she came to America, she discovered American ice cream. She found it to be so much richer and creamier than the European frozen desserts, such as Italian gelato. The book said that, when in New York, she would sometimes consume 3 or 4 big ice creams desserts a day, such as ice cream sundaes, and she would visit different ice cream parlors to avoid embarrassment.
The sad thing is that there is nothing wrong with having a sweet tooth. I certainly have one. It just depends on how you satisfy it. Eating fruits is the best and most natural way to satisfy it, and it would have been so much better if she had eaten fruits, and even pigged out on them. It may not have been practical for her as a girl growing up in Sweden, but once she became a movie star, I dare say she could have indulged in all the fruits she wanted. And you can argue that fruits alone might not have done it for her by then, but if so, it was only because she got conditioned to ice cream and other more intense sweets. When it comes to food, conditioning is a powerful factor.
The most tumultuous time in her life had to be when she left her husband and daughter in America to join famed director Roberto Rossellini in Italy to make a movie. She had become enthralled with his "neorealism" approach to movies. It began innocently enough, but before long, she fell in love with Rossellini, conceived a child by him, and it became a major scandal. Can you imagine that a US Senator stood up before the entire Senate to condemn her? He even proposed legislation to formally condemn her. Condemnation came from all quarters. The Swedish Lutheran Church, of which Ingrid was a member, formally condemned her, and so did the Roman Catholic Church- even though she wasn’t Catholic. She received hate mail from all over the world, which, unfortunately, she read. What’s insane about it- besides the fact that it was none of their business- was that they didn’t even know the whole story. They didn’t know that her marriage to Petter was already on the rocks, and that she had already discussed divorce with him- for reasons that had nothing to do with Rossellini. She had been miserable in her marriage to Petter for a long time. It was a major reason why she worked so much- to get away from him. He was a tyrant. And the attacks on her motherhood were also unwarranted. She loved Pia. It is true that she went 6 years without seeing her, but that was only because Petter did everything he could to prevent it. He would not allow Pia to travel to Italy, and Ingrid could not come to America- for fear of her life. There were death threats, and there was even talk of arresting her. Eventually, Pia did reunite with her mother, and she also bonded with her Rossellini siblings. So, that aspect of the story did have a happy ending.
But, there wasn’t much happiness for Ingrid with Rossellini. He turned out to be just as bossy and controlling as her first husband. And he had one fault that her first husband completely lacked: unfaithfulness. The reason their marriage ended was because he went off to India to make a movie, and he returned with a young Indian woman whom he had impregnated. But of course, there were problems before that. From what I can tell, Rossellini was, frankly, a jerk.
My impression is that her first husband was loyal, reliable, and very mature and responsible, also very accomplished in his own field, which was Medicine, but he was also rather cold and unfeeling- or at least unable to express much feeling. Rossellini, on the other hand, had tons of feeling, but he was a perennial adolescent, totally spoiled, and recklessly irresponsible. So, Ingrid went from the frying pan to the fire to be with him. It must have been every bit as stressful as being with Petter and maybe more so. But as she said herself years later looking back, if she hadn’t gone with Rossellini, her three beloved children with him wouldn’t exist, and that was, indeed, the only way to look at it.
Her third and final marriage was to Swedish theater producer, Lars Schmidt. It was probably her most peaceable marital union, but there was still plenty of stress fighting with both her ex-husbands to get access to her children. And ultimately, Schmidt did the same thing that Rossellini did; he got a young woman pregnant, which led to their divorce. It’s amazing that the actress who, in her prime, was heralded as being the most beautiful in the world was cheated on by two husbands.
And she had other stresses. For instance, her daughter Isabella (the well-known actress and model Isabella Rossellini) developed a severe spinal scoliosis at age 13. She required multiple operations, braces, casts, etc., and it was an extremely laborious, protracted, and painful ordeal. Ingrid took two years off from acting to be by her daughter’s side.
In her early 60s, Ingrid discovered that she had breast cancer. There is no telling how long she had it because in the early stages it is completely asymptomatic. She discovered it while reading a magazine article about the importance of doing breast exams. So, she did one, and she found a rather large lump which proved to be cancerous. She underwent a complete, radical mastectomy, and then, for some reason, they had to go back in to remove more tissue. The removal of her lymph glands resulted in severe chronic swelling of her right arm, which was both painful and disfiguring. She always wore a shawl on that side to cover it.
But, she continued working after she got cancer, and she worked up until a few months before her death, her last project having been a television biopic about Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. Ingrid died in 1982 in Stockholm, Sweden- the same place she was born. And, she died on August 29- which was the same day on which she was born. Imagine that there she was celebrating her birthday, receiving calls of appreciation from family and friends from all over the world, and then, she died.
But, why did she die so young, especially when she looked so vibrant, healthy, and all "peaches and cream" when she was young?
Well, we know that smoking has been tied to breast cancer, and it’s a fact that drinking alcohol is even more strongly tied to breast cancer. And the tie with alcohol is linear, meaning that there is no level of “moderate consumption” at which there is no increased risk. It starts with the very first drink. One of the largest studies of its kind found that even moderate alcohol consumption, as little as one drink per day, increased the risk of developing the most common kind of breast cancer. And the more a woman drank, the higher her risk. Those women taking 3 drinks a day had a whopping 51% higher risk of breast cancer than non-drinkers.
And regarding diet, studies have shown a significant correlation between dairy products and breast cancer. Ingrid ate plenty of dairy- not just her beloved ice cream, but cheese, yogurt, butter, etc. And, the anti-cancer compounds that we now know occur in plants, particularly fruits and vegetables, she did not eat enough of. Not a single vegetable was mentioned in the book as a favorite of hers, and the only fruit mentioned was banana- as part of a banana split!
What about all the stress in her life? Did it contribute to her getting cancer? It had to have worked against her. But, I suspect that the worst thing it did was push her to indulge more in her bad habits. If you smoke, you smoke more when you are under stress. If you drink, you drink more when you are under stress. It seems that people treat themselves the worst when they are under stress.
I want to finish by pointing out that Ingrid Bergman was an incredibly nice person. She was good to everybody. And that included not only her ex-husbands long after they were divorced, but also their children. For instance, she bought gifts for the Indian son of Roberto Rossellini. And she made it a habit to invite him to family gatherings and treat him like family. This young man, Gil Rossellini, thought the world of Ingrid Bergman. Also, in the last year of her life, she tried to make amends with her first husband, Petter Lindstrom. He was a leading American brain surgeon by then. He had a wife and four children- plus the daughter he had with Ingrid, Pia. Ingrid visited him and his family in San Diego and brought them all gifts. She knew that the end was near for her, and she wanted to find peace and equanimity with Petter before she died. Reportedly, he did not respond in kind, but she tried. And, consider how brilliant she was: she spoke 5 languages fluently: Swedish, German, English, French, and Italian. And, she was an accomplished musician. In her first big Hollywood production Intermezzo, she played the role of a concert pianist, and she did her own playing. The sound that you hear in the movie is that of a professional pianist, but the hands that you see performing authentically on the keyboard are those of Ingrid Bergman.
I will leave you with some quotes from Ingrid Bergman, who was a great star and an inspiring person.
“Happiness is good health, and a bad memory.”
"A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous."
"I've gone from saint to whore and back to saint again, all in one lifetime."
One of the largest lifestyle studies in the history of medical research was recently completed. It was sponsored jointly by the US National Cancer Institute (a government agency) and the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (commonly known as AARP). It involved over half a million Americans who completed surveys and were followed for 9 years.
The results showed that higher consumption of whole grains correlated with a lower risk of dying- from all causes- including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and even respiratory diseases- in both men and women. Overall, men who ate whole grains regularly had a 23% lower risk of dying than men who avoided whole grains, and women had a 20% lower risk concomitantly. But concerning cardiovascular disease by itself, men saw a risk reduction of up to 56%, while women saw up to 59% less risk.
The authors attributed the results mainly to whole grain fiber, and they even found that whole grain fiber was more protective against colon cancer than other kinds of fiber, including fruit and vegetable fiber.
They also made note of the high antioxidant content of whole grains, particularly their sky-high polyphenol content. Polyphenols are protective compounds found in plant foods. They contribute much more antioxidant activity than the more familiar vitamins, such as C and E.
The researchers said that their study offered superior statistical integrity, noting that previous studies suffered from small sample sizes, narrow ranges of dietary fiber intakes, and inadequate controls for confounding factors.
You probably realize that back pain is one of the most ubiquitous complaints, provoking more doctor visits than any other symptom. I have been asked to comment about the role of diet and nutrition in back pain. But first, I want to emphasize the major role of biomechanics in the origin of back pain. The spinal column is a machine, a very complex machine, and like all machines, it has to be used correctly. Unfortunately, there is very little awareness of the proper use of the back, even among health care professionals. I was fortunate to be introduced to the Alexander Technique when I was in my 30s, and I feel that it has helped me greatly in my life. I am now 60, and I have no back problems at all- not the slightest bit of pain. And I am very active, exerting myself in both work and play. So, getting the biomechanics right is the first requirement for a healthy back, and I know of nothing better than the Alexander Technique.
But in regard to diet and nutrition, there are two effects to consider. First is the whole issue of weight. It’s easy to see how excess body weight can strain the knee joints and lead to premature degeneration of that joint. Well, it’s the same for the back. So, the role of a healthy diet in maintaining a healthy weight becomes paramount.
And the second issue relating to diet pertains to the quality of the circulation. Intervertebral disc degeneration is very common. We hear about “slipped discs” but that is a euphemism. There is no way for a disc to slip out of place. It doesn't slip, rather, it crumbles, much how a rotten tree stump crumbles. It “slips” only because its tissues have degenerated. You might say that the disc is dying. Why is it dying? It relates to the fact that there is very poor circulation in a spinal disc. It gets most of its nutrition and drainage by diffusion. The number of blood vessels is so few that as soon as arterial disease sets in, nutrition to the discs suffers greatly. What I am saying is that just as it is said that impotence may be the first sign of heart disease in a man (even though it is far removed from the heart), likewise intervertebral disc disease may be a sign of cardiovascular disease as well. It’s easy to see why smokers have a very high incidence of spinal disc disease that is 3X greater than non-smokers. They choke off the circulation to their discs with every drag of their cigarettes.
So, if you want to avoid back problems, first, learn how to use your back correctly, and the state-of-the-art method for doing that is the Alexander Technique. Second, get lean and stay lean because it reduces pressure on your back. Third, don’t smoke. Fourth, eat a diet that keeps your arteries clear and your blood flowing, which, to my mind, means a plant-based diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes, and not much of anything else. And let’s face it: if you eat an ample amount of all of the above-mentioned foods, you are not going to have much room left (in your stomach) for anything else. After all, how much food can you eat? Maybe occasionally eat a good piece of fish- if you can get it. Maybe, occasionally, have a free-range, organic egg. But these, and all other animal foods, should be limited. Make plant foods the vast bulk of what you eat. That’s what I do. And my back is strong. Strong like bull.
I just finished reading a biography of Howard Hughes, and I would like to comment about the health aspects of his life. Unfortunately for him, the health aspects of his life are what people remember most about him- his becoming an eccentric, deranged recluse, obsessed about germs (while paradoxically neglecting his own personal hygiene) and sinking into ever-worsening mental illness. The medical consensus is that he suffered from severe Obsessive/Compulsive disorder, but that medical term did not exist during his lifetime. And towards the end of his life, he may have become paranoid schizophrenic. But rather than labeling him, it’s more important to figure out why he sank into such severe mental illness.
Some of it began early. The obsession about germs he inherited from his mother. She would frantically remove him from a school or summer camp because of sudden fear of his contracting polio or other disease. Some of his early obsessions seemed peculiar, but relatively harmless. For instance, peas were one of the few vegetables he would eat, but he only liked small ones. Large peas he considered inedible, and he invented a device by which he could measure the size of peas and separate the larger ones from the smaller ones, and he carried it with him always. However, the same obsessive/compulsive nature that sparked his early quirks and eccentricities also drove his larger ambitions: to become the greatest aviator, the greatest industrialist, the greatest film mogul, and the richest man in the world. He succeeded on the grandest scale in becoming one of the most influential and impactful figures of the 20th century, not only in spite of his obsessive/compulsive nature but probably because of it. A normal person would never even have conceived of doing the things that he did.
Howard Hughes was gifted. I would say that he was one in a million, but that would be a gross understatement. He was one in a hundred million, and I am speaking of his ability to grasp and learn and get things done. Formally, he had little education beyond high school. He took a few classes at a Rice University in Houston, and he sat in on some classes at Cal State Poly, but once his father died when Howard was 18, he took control of the Hughes Tool Company and that was the end of his formal education. Yet, he was intricately involved in the technical aspects of his many inventions- as much so as the scientists and engineers he employed. He was truly a genius and a visionary- as much so as Thomas Edison and Nicholas Tesla. And if his mental illness had not advanced, his productivity would probably have continued for many more years- to his and the world’s benefit.
So, the question is why did he deteriorate mentally and so badly? Here are the reasons.
First, as a young man, he contracted syphilis. It’s not known for sure how he got it, but he did consort with a lot of prostitutes early on. And it wasn’t the usual kind of dalliance. He hired them, not so much for his gratification, but to teach him sexual techniques. He decided that he wanted to become the greatest lover of all time and bed every beautiful Hollywood star and starlet, and he very nearly did it. But, without wanting to go off on a tangent, I have to say that syphilis is rather like AIDS in that the exact nature of the disease is controversial. And the treatment of syphilis, even during Howard Hughes’ time, was extremely harsh. Howard Hughes was treated with mercury and arsenic! Can you imagine? I have to wonder to what extent his brain damage was due to syphilis and to what extent it was due to the treatment he received for syphilis. One thing is for sure: the treatment did not help him.
Second, he suffered a total of 14 crashes, and that's including automobile and airplane. We could add a 15th head injury- the time that Ava Gardner clobbered him over the head with a heavy metal statuette, which landed him in the hospital. His worst accident was the crash of the experimental XF-11 spy plane. That time, a head concussion left him in a coma for days, and he very nearly died. He broke almost all his ribs and had other fractures, including a skull fracture, plus a collapsed lung, and he was badly burned over much of his body.
Third, as a direct result of the above accident, he started taking opiates and other drugs for pain, particularly codeine. He resisted it at first. He prided himself on being a clean liver. He never smoked, and he abhorred smoking, even among his women, including Katherine Hepburn. He drank alcohol socially, but he was never an alcoholic, and he eventually gave up alcohol completely. He never used recreational drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, which were popular in Hollywood, even then. In the end, codeine addiction debilitated him as much or more than anything else.
Fourth, he was a lifelong insomniac. At first, he did not take drugs for it; he just stayed up. But eventually, he began taking Seconal (which is a harsh barbiturate, no longer in common medical use) and Librium (which was the very first benzodiazepine). Howard Hughes is another good example of the fact that, as bad as insomnia is, it’s better to live with it than to take drugs for it.
Fifth, and finally, Howard Hughes deteriorated because of subterfuge and chicanery. He came to rely on one William Gay who put together the so-called “Mormon Mafia” which comprised Hughes’ inner circle in his final years. They kept him dangerously plied with Codeine, Librium, and Valium all the time, precisely to control him and his vast empire to their own benefit. After Hughes' death in 1976, criminal charges were filed against members of the Mormon Mafia by the government of Mexico (where Hughes was living at the time of his death) and by at least one state government (Nevada). But nothing came of it other than some fines. No one did any jail time. The final coroner’s report revealed that Hughes died of: codeine poisoning (there was enough codeine in his system to kill 5 people) starvation (he was well over 6 feet tall and weighed only 90 pounds) and kidney failure (which was undoubtedly caused by the drugs).
So, what are the health lessons to be learned from the life of Howard Hughes? One, pick your parents wisely because his mother, like him, suffered with mental illness; Two, stay away from prostitutes and unsafe sex; Three, protect your noggin; Four, don't rely on drugs for sleep no matter how bad it gets; Fifth, be wary of doctors, because the fact is that the Mormon Mafia could not have laced Hughes with drugs without prescriptions; licensed medical doctors were involved, just as in the cases of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Judy Garland, Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger, and so many others. And finally, don’t trust anybody with your health. Always be in charge of your own health. Some things you delegate. Your health, you don’t.
This time I will complete my review of Dr. Donald Miller’s personal supplement program.
Vinpocetine- This is an herbal extract that increases cerebral blood flow. It also has other protective effects on the brain. Typically, people take 20 mg/day. Dr. Miller takes 40 mg/day. I have not been taking any lately, but only because of C&T. I don’t dispute that it is beneficial.
Chlorella- Dr. Miller takes 1000 mg/day. I have taken green products in the past, including Blue Green Algae and Chlorella, but lately I have not been taking any, and it’s partly because I have fresh greens from my own garden.
IP-6- It’s interesting that he takes this because it is actually a form of phytic acid that occurs in whole grains and legumes. Some pundits, such as Dr. Mercola, condemn soy because it is high in phytic acid, and here Dr. Miller is taking phytic acid (1020 mg/day) as a supplement. I don’t take it, but I do eat whole grains and legumes without fear.
Curcumin- This is the active ingredient from turmeric, and Dr. Miller takes 1500 mg/day. I take 500 mg of our optimized turmeric supplement called Longvida. Turmeric may be the most broadly beneficial herbal substance in the world. It has vast, proven benefits to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, brain aging, and more. That’s why it’s on my Daily Supplements page.
Quercetin- This is a valuable bioflavinoid that occurs in fresh produce. Besides having powerful antioxidant effects, it strongly inhibits allergic reactions without any adverse effects. Dr. Miller takes 500 mg/day. I am not taking any quercetin at this time, but only because of C&T. I am all for quercetin. Note that white-fleshed foods are high in it, such as apples and white onions.
Grapefruit seed extract – Dr. Miller takes 125 mg/day for its anti-microbial properties. I do not take it. I suppose I might if I had microbial issues.
Horsetail- Dr. Miller takes 440 mg/day. I know we put it in our Vein Support Formula because it helps build collagen and strengthen the walls of blood vessels. I don’t take it only because I don't particularly need it.
Hesperidin- Dr. Miller takes 250 mg/day to increase capillary strength. I don’t take it. It’s abundant in citrus, and I eat plenty of citrus.
Goldenseal- Dr. Miller takes 470 mg a day for its immune-boosting effect. I do not take it. Again, you can’t take everything.
Saw Palmetto and other prostate herbs- Dr. Miller takes them and so do I. I take our ProstaCol formula which was designed by Dr. Ward Dean.
Probiotics- These, of course, are the beneficial intestinal bacteria. Dr. Miller takes them every day- a 20 billion cell formula. I only take them occasionally, perhaps once or twice a week. I don’t think I need to take it every single day because I’m not doing anything to hurt my intestinal flora, such as eating refined carbs or drinking alcohol.
Fucodin-This is a brown seaweed which is taken mainly as an immune booster. It has other health benefits, and we do offer it, but I have not been taking it. Dr. Miller takes it in liquid form, 1 oz daily.
Lithium- Dr. Miller takes lithium aspartate in an amount that delivers 20 mg of elemental lithium. Lithium, a mineral, is a mood elevator and nerve stabilizer. And it’s very possible that lithium is a required mineral for humans. We offer it in the form of lithium orotate, which is very safe and effective, but I have not been taking it.
Amygdalin or Laetrele- This is so-called Vitamin B-17 derived from apricot pits. It has a small dose of cyanide, which supposedly targets cancer cells. Despite the cyanide, it is not known to be harmful to humans, and I believe that. Cyanide occurs in other foods as well, particularly lima beans. An apricot kernel is like a bitter almond, to which it is related. Dr. Miller takes 100 mg/day. I don’t take it.
Melatonin- Dr. Miller takes 6 mg/night of this nighttime hormone. I typically take 1.5 mg/night, by taking two of VRP’s .75 capsules. The health benefits of melatonin go far beyond helping with sleep.
And that does it! Thank you for your patience. You can see that Dr. Miller is most definitely a nutritional supplement enthusiast. I realize that it’s more than most people would be willing to take, and not just because of cost but because it’s a lot of pills and capsules to swallow. But, believe it or not, there is actually one supplement that I take that Dr. Miller does not take, and that is benfotiamine. Benfotiamine is the fat-soluble form of thiamine, which is Vitamin B-1. Benfotiamine is known for being an anti-glycation agent. For at least 20 years, it has been used widely in Europe to both treat and prevent diabetes. Diabetes runs on both sides of my family. My paternal grandfather had it so bad that before dying in his 60s, he went completely blind and lost both his legs. So, I take one benfotiamine capsule a day. But, it’s the only thing I take that is not also on Dr. Miller’s list.
Thank you again for reading this. We will go on to a new subject next time, which will be by reader’s request: back pain.