Food Medicine

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In this issue, we shall devote our column to exalting the "medicinal values or therapeutic effects" of regular, ordinary food that people all over the world eat as a part of their diet. The reported health benefits of some of the foods we have listed hereunder are anecdotal, passed down from generations after generations, and have not been thoroughly and scientifically proven. But since they are regular food items we consume daily, trying them for some of the ailments or situations they are allegedly effective for is simply natural and safe. As long as one is not allergic to them, ingesting these food items does not result in adverse "side-effects" as could be encountered in, say, Noni Juice or some other cure-all "food supplements" in the market today.

Besides their essential nutritional value, many of the foods we ingest regularly have "medicinal effects" that we are not conscious about but which help alleviate or correct some diseases or conditions. It is common knowledge that scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), for instance, is cured by eating a lot of citrus fruits, or that hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) among diabetics will be alleviated by eating candies, sugar or other sweets. Or, that banana and apples are good for diarrhea, while papaya, prunes and other fruits, and vegetables are good for constipation.

But did you know that onion, hot pepper and tomato are good for common cold? Or that cherries are good for cramps? Or that apple, grapefruit, kalamansi are good for halitosis (bad breath)?

Here is a list of medical conditions and the corresponding food items claimed to either prevent, alleviate and/or cure them:

1. Arthritis: Apple, pineapple, cantaloupe, grape, grapefruit, orange, mustard green, strawberry, tangerine, cucumber, lettuce, cherries, celery, cauliflower.

2. Insomnia: Onion, cabbage, celery, avocado, onion, apple

3. Hemorrhoids: Prunes, date, beans, eggplant, plum, sweet potato

4. Nausea Pineapple, papaya

5. High Cholesterol Soybean (tofu), red wine, grapefruit, tomato, apple, eggplant, corn, cabbage, peas, beans, green leafy vegetables, high fiber cereals

6. Indigestion Plum, papaya, pineapple, banana, apple, grapefruit, cucumber, peach

7. Sinusitis Onion, hot pepper, tomato

8. Gastric Ulcer Pumpkin, rice, avocado, banana, date, okra, peach

9. Hypertension Bamboo shoots, guava, pear, tangerine, squash, cherries, jackfruit, peach, celery, orange

10. Impotence Pumpkin seeds, avocado, seaweeds, date, oyster, hot pepper

11. To lose weight All variety of fruits and juices, like grapefruit, orange, apple, pineapple, radish, tomato, lettuce, especially when eaten as a substitute for red meat and carbohydrates.

12. Cancer For prevention, high fiber, low cholesterol diet (fish), plus frequent intake of processed tomato (ketchup, tomato paste), broccoli, apricot, strawberry, cherries, mustard green, okra, apple, carrots, papaya, prunes, spinach, peach, pumpkin, watermelon, green leafy vegetables

13. Heart Attack Just like for cancer prevention, high fiber and low cholesterol diet, plus a lot of fruits and vegetables.

14. Stroke The same anti-oxidants as above.

15. Cuts & Burns Sesame Seed Oil, coconut oil, olive oil

16. Dry scalp, skin Coconut oil, papaya, avocado, sesame seed oil

17. Constipation Papaya, prunes, green leafy vegetables, peanuts

18. Dizziness Onion

19. Gall Stones Soybean, radish, tomato, apricot

20. Headache Beets, cabbage, apple, asparagus

These are only a few sample conditions where foods have been taken not only for their fundamental nutritive and caloric value but for their alleged medicinal effects. We want to emphasize that these food items are not substitutes for prescription medications. As a general rule, one should never stop taking prescription drugs without consulting with a physician.

Diet, smoking and alcohol are the three most important, if not the most notorious, killers of man and the reason why in today's world we have catastrophic numbers of obesity, hypercholesterolemia, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, depression, infertility, male erectile dysfunction, and degenerative diseases like arthritis, gout, osteoporosis, etc. Of course, there are other factors that contribute to the epidemic of these ailments, but food, even more than heredity, plays a very significant role in the causation of diseases. What we eat, how much we eat, what we do not eat, how we take care of ourselves, or how we abuse our body, determine, to a great extent, how healthy or unhealthy we are, our quality of life, and our longevity.

The United States Congress and the Food and Drug Administration are now putting the screws on the so-called "food supplements, alternative medications, herbal and homeopathic therapies," all of which make up for a flourishing 30 Billion US Dollar-business annually. The medical and lay community in the United States are now (finally!) realizing that majority of the so called "food supplements" with purported therapeutic values are nothing more than a money-making scheme that victimizes hundred of millions of unsuspecting people around the world.

I sincerely hope that President Joseph E. Estrada and our legislators in the Philippines will follow suit to safeguard our people and our country from the unscrupulous domestic or foreign manufacturers, money-hungry distributors and dealers of falsehood, who, by malicious design, have been preying on the ignorant and trusting public long enough. Our government and lawmakers should promulgate laws without delay to protect the Pilipinos by putting an end to these malignant merchants of deception and fraud.

©2003Raoul R. Diez, M.A.O.D.