The reform of health care through healthy eating

“SPENDING on food and health together make up more than 30 percent of the U.S. economy, yet our politicians and civic leaders aren’t discussing these important issues. They may bicker about how to finance health-care reform, but I’d like to see more attention on the reform itself. It boggles my mind to think the conversation remains stuck on figuring out how to pay for health care rather than diminishing our need for it. Each one of us can make a difference if we each are part of reducing the overall demand for health care. The result will follow one of the fundamental laws of Econ 101: when we start living strong, robust lives, we’ll lessen our need for health care, causing the demand to decrease and costs to go down. Simple as that.” — David B. Agus, MD, “A Short Guide to a Long Life,” 2014.

Thanks to David B. Agus, MD, one of the world’s leading cancer doctors and author of “A Short Guide to a Long Life,” for recapturing the still relevant role of Hippocrates, a great Greek physician from over two thousand years ago. Dr. Agus emphasized how healthy individuals can play a significant role in health care reform through prevention and with healthier bodies, reduce the demands for health care services.

“Walking is the best medicine. Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.” – Hippocrates (c. 460 B.C. – c. 370 B.C.)

It was a trip to the Philippines that laid bare one’s lack of good health.

In Leyte, the weather was fickle with sunny mornings and rainy afternoons, all in 12 hours and repeated several days a week, resulting in ambient mold spores and pollen in flowering blooms in trees.

In six months of travel through the plane, ferry, car, bus and tricycle emissions, it led to a breakdown of the immune system from a triple threat of bronchitis, allergies, and asthma, requiring emergency hospitalization.

Role of healthy nutrition

Food allergies occurred and for two weeks, this writer subsisted on steamed fish and steamed vegetables exclusively.

No pastries, no desserts, no fruits, no red meats, no chicken, no fruits and no pork could be eaten, as these led to belabored breathing and coughing.

When I got back to the U.S, green juice became part of breakfast and 10 years later, juicing is still a habit of fortifying the immune system.

Part of this habit of ‘fortifying the immune system’ includes cooking meals with mostly organic produce or preparing salads from homegrown, pesticide-free, organic lettuce and tomatoes. I discovered that drinking organic milk no longer creates lactose intolerance, unlike regular milk.

Studies show that 80 percent of the immune system lines the gastrointestinal tract. This means, if you control the gut, you control the health of your body.

Christine Gonzalez, N.D., Ph.D. introduced the role of healthy nutrition in preventing diseases and cancers. In her book, “Yes You Can Prevent & Control Cancer,” she stresses that the “wrong food is the most important factor in the promotion of disease.”

She wrote about some of the anti-cancer superfoods, the right foods one must have as part of healthy living and preventing diseases.

Vegetables — Research has shown that “cruciferous vegetables provide protection against certain cancers, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. These vegetables stimulate the production of enzymes that detoxify carcinogens.”

She cites the research studies done at John Hopkins University where laboratory animals were fed cruciferous vegetables and exposed to a dangerous carcinogen, aflatoxin, a type of mold found in peanuts. These animals had 90 percent reduction in their cancer rate.

Why? The vegetables increase these animals’ productions of glutathione peroxidase, one of the most important protective enzyme systems in the body.

Colorful fruits and vegetables — She wrote that “raspberries, boysenberries, strawberries, dark cherries, blueberries, and blackberries contain a powerful anti-cancer agent, ellagic acid, which causes cancer cells to self-destruct.

“The deeper the color of the vegetable, the more ‘phytochemicals’ it contains. Some examples are beets, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, squash, moringa (malunggay) leaves, sweet potato leaves, bitter melon (ampalaya), arugula and charantia leaves (ampalaya leaves.) Within these pigments lay 20,000 bioflavonoids and 800 carotenoids providing immune stimulation to destroy cancer cells and extraordinary antioxidant protection for the human body.”

Moringa (malunggay) is also known to result in hormonal balance and aids in digestion. Notice how malunggay leaves are promoted by grandmothers to aid lactation amongst breastfeeding mothers. Papaya in chicken tinola helps with digestion of proteins, while pineapple also assists in digestion, as well.

Or the use of yakult, for the ingestion of probiotics in a yogurt drink, which “helps balance one’s inner ecosystem.” Or taking organic Greek yogurt, European Style, for its live cultures of L. Acidophilus, L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, Bifidus, all of which are good microorganisms that can aid in digestion daily, as protection for a healthy gut.

For example, L. Acidophilus produces an enzyme that breaks down the lactase, the sugar in milk.

L. Bulgaricus and S. Thermophilus both help produce an acidic environment in the gut and promotes the growth of good bacteria to digest the foods we take and help extract the nutrients from them for the body’s use.

Inflammation and onset of diseases

Among nutrition-conscious physicians like Dr. Oz, he describes inflammation as the source of some common ailments: gout, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and lower back pain.

Some seek acupuncture to rid the body of its accumulated toxins, known as detoxification, while others take an omega-3 supplement to support the body’s optimal inflammatory response and promote unimpeded blood flow.

In some hospitals, glutathione injections are routinely given to cancer patients to help their bodies discharge the accumulated toxins, as some nurse/relatives shared.

Others with rheumatoid arthritis do water aerobics to soothe sore joints, increase energy and to help them sleep better at night.

In 2007, I learned how a body can have a systems breakdown with a lack of sleep, caused by a malfunctioning body system, from toxins accumulating due to the stress of travel, and chemicals from prepared restaurant foods with preservatives, MSG and soy sauce.

I also learned the difference between adequate medical care both here and abroad. Abroad, in a third world country, a conscientious doctor found the appropriate medication, Flovent and Serevent, combined into one Swiss medication for asthma prevention. While in America, it is dispensed as two medications, in the form of an inhaler and another in a dry powder form.

But, by giving the body its required nutrients from juicing and balanced meals, such that in a plate ( ¼ for fruits, ¼ for vegetables, ¼ for protein and ¼ for grains), proper eating can give a new lease in one’s life.

Atul Gawande, MD — a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and professor at Harvard Medical School, and the author of three best-selling books — made us aware that our lives are more than a series of nights of sleep.

“You may not control life’s circumstances, but getting to be the author of your life means getting to control what you do with them,” she wrote.

Footnote: Part I was on “Acupuncture insights of R. Antonio Whiteley,” published in the Asian Journal’s Los Angeles Weekend Edition on April 1. Part II is on “The reform of health care through healthy eating,” in this issue, April 8. Part III will be on Dr. Araceli de Guzman and the Philippine Medical Society of Northern California’s Medical Mission in Dumaguete.

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.

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