Food Medicine

In this week’s issue, we shall devote our column to exalting “medicinal values or therapeutic effects” of regular, ordinary, food that people all over the world eat as part of their diet. The reported health benefits of some of the foods we have listed are anecdotal — passed down from generations — and many 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 dangerous “curative 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), 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, calamansi 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, which we suggest you first confirm with your physician, and save for future reference:

• Arthritis  – Apple, pineapple, malunggay, cantaloupe, grape, grapefruit, orange, mustard green, strawberry, tangerine, cucumber, lettuce, cherries, celery, cauliflower

• Insomnia  – Onion, cabbage, celery, avocado, onion, apple, banana

• Hemorrhoids – Prunes, date, beans, eggplant, plum, sweet potato.

• Nausea – Pineapple, papaya

• High cholesterol – Garlic, soybean (tofu), red wine, grapefruit, tomato, apple, eggplant, corn, cabbage, peas, beans, green leafy vegetables, high fiber cereals, malunggay

• Indigestion – Plum, papaya, pineapple, banana, apple, grapefruit, cucumber, peach

• Sinusitis – Onion, hot pepper, tomato

• Gastric ulcer – Pumpkin, rice, avocado, banana, date, okra, peach

• Hypertension – Bamboo shoots, guava, pear, tangerine, squash, cherries, jackfruit, peach, celery, orange, malunggay

• Impotence – Pumpkin seeds, avocado, seaweeds, date, oyster, hot pepper

• 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.

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

• Heart attack – Just like for cancer prevention, high fiber and low cholesterol diet, plus a lot of fruits, berries, and vegetables like malunggay.

• Stroke – The same anti-oxidants as above for prevention

• Cuts and burns – Sesame seed oil, coconut oil, olive oil

• Dry scalp, skin – Coconut oil, papaya, avocado, sesame seed oil

• Constipation – Papaya, prunes, green leafy vegetables, peanuts

• Diarrhea – Bananas, apples

• Dizziness – Onion; ginger for motion sickness

• Gallstones – Soybean, radish, tomato, apricot

• Headache – Beets, cabbage, apple, asparagus, malunggay

• Cuts, stings – Papaya local application

• Depression – Banana, chocolates

• Diabetes – Ampalaya vegetable helps lower blood sugar a little only, not effective as treatment.

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.

Unhealthy diet, smoking, alcohol, and lack of exercise are the four 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.

In the book, “Let’s Stop “Killing” Our Children,” I highlighted the significance of a proactive and preemptive approach to healthy lifestyle and disease prevention, starting early at the cellular (DNA-Telomere) level to effectively ward off major diseases we currently consider normal and expected as we age. Our children and the future generation do not have to have these “ailments of aging” afflicting most of us today, if we protect the integrity of their DNA starting from the womb and begin healthy dieting in the crib. (www.philipSchua.com)

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 industry 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 Rodrigo R. Duterte 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 new legislations, if needed, and enforce all pertinent laws without delay, to protect the Filipinos by putting an end to these malignant merchants of deception and fraud.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email: [email protected]

Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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