This is what the inventor of the electric bulb, the man of also hundreds of other inventions and patents said:
“The Doctor of the Future will give little medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”
Thomas A. Edison
I absolutely agree with Mr. Edison. Much has been written on the value of this or that vitamin, microelement or other nutritional supplement. A big topic lately is the microbiom (the bacteria that co-habit in us) and what it does for us. Yet, I see, every day, people with digestive problems coming and covering my desk with supplement bottles. Here within the limited space of an article I will share with you key points you can consider to improve your digestion and multiple other conditions all related to poor nutrition.
1) When do we eat, how many times a day? Here is the Ayurvedic perspective, which I find very much to the point. As the seasons change through the year the best time to saw and grow plants and harvest them is in the spring, summer, and autumn and not the winter. The days continuously change from day into night and the best time to sleep is the night and the best time to be active is the day and not the other way around. Same way the Ayurvedic physicians have determined cyclical rotation of the three Doshas throughout the day and that the best time to eat is when the Pitta Dosha is active. Pitta is related to what they call “Digestive Fire”. Those are the times when the digestive enzymes are released and the whole digestive system is ready to process, digest, “cook” and assimilate the food. Don’t we want to go with the flow and use that to our benefit? This “Pitta time” is in the morning from 10am to 2pm and at night from 10pm to 2am. These times vary according to the season.
So I am advising my patients and you to have two major meals – brunch and supper with the supper being the more substantial one. This could be supported also with our knowledge from conventional human physiology: Our digestive system is governed by the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system which is active at night when we sleep. A lot more is happening during this magic time, ruled by the moon: our hormones peak, our physical body gets repaired and rejuvenated, children grow,…. So we have a nice meal before bed, our digestion works for us during the night, we get up in the morning, go to the bathroom for number two and we are “detoxified” and ready to start our day. You are not doctors, but some people who are more open and proud with their good digestion may have shared with you what their bathroom habits are…… That’s exactly right – people with good digestive system go to the bathroom usually once a day in the morning. Imagine how many people with guilt trips to the fridge right before bed or waking in the middle of the night to check the fridge when the “ Digestive Fire“ is on are relieved to hear this. Lately even the diabetologists observed that people suffering from Diabetes are better controlled with two meals a day and not as previously though multiple. I am sure there will be “objections”. “But what about my heartburn?“. Well, what I discussed applies to maintaining a good digestive system. If you have heartburn that means that you have a digestive problem that needs to be corrected first. Some of the tips I am discussing further are going to help you do that.
2) What do we eat? How do we eat? We want to eat varied nutritious food filled with herbs and spices, which provide additional help – stimulate the digestion and provide vitamins, microelements, enzymes. Now that we know that the digestion is sort of a “fire” cooking the food for easy assimilation, how many volunteers do we have to gulp ice water with their meals? Do we want to dilute the digestive juices, do we want to lower the temperature by that reducing their activity, do we want our insides get stressed and shiver with cold? So my advice would be – sip your wine with your meal – in moderation it helps your digestion, provides antioxidants and other good staff and you may be enjoying it which again stimulates the digestion. When do you have a nice cold drink or a beer? There is time for everything – that you can have on a hot day when you want to chill down, but not with your meal.
3) “New trends” – Yes, medicine could be fun! What is “In“ is transferring poop taken from individuals with healthy digestive system into the digestive tract of persons with poor digestion. This is done by colonoscopy or by a capsule. There are still some medico-legal aspects that need to be addressed before it becomes a widely accepted practice because this could be considered a transplant. This practice may be beneficial temporarily in isolated cases. Here is why I believe we cannot routinely rely on it. In order for the good bacteria to flourish in your digestive system you need to give them good nourishment. Different bacteria feed on different foods. The more variety of foods you eat the more variety of good bacteria you will nourish and the better your digestion will feel and the better nourishment you will get. If you don’t do that after the “transplant” the good bacteria are going to die of starvation and be taken over again by bad bacteria that produce gasses, bloating and toxins. Same concept applies to probiotics. That’s why if you are on them you have to continuously take them to have the beneficial effects. Their effect will die off within a couple of weeks of stopping the probiotics as the bacteria die out from starvation.
So what to eat? We are part of nature. We are part of the environment and the environment is within us too. 80% of the volume of our feces is bacteria. We want to be friendly, good, gentle with the environment around us and within us, if we want to feel good. What that means is that we will be better off if we eat food that will keep the good bacteria in our digestive tract good, variety and happy. Pay attention – good bacteria like good nutritious food abandoned in fresh and cooked veggies, fruits, fats, proteins, fermented foods. Then you will have a whole army of bacteria on your side working to provide you with substrates, vitamins, etc that you can easily absorb and your body be happy and nourished. If we eat limited variety of foods and especially with low nutritional value, sugary, processed foods that can sit on the shelves forever without spoiling, then we will be nourishing bacteria that produce gasses, bloating, toxins, reflux, heartburn and constipation. Now you would probably understand why it is worth to put time, effort and money in eating well than suffer, take permanently medications to suppress symptoms and go for endless tests. As they say, the choice is yours. My goal is to educate you to take an intelligent decision. It took some time for the official medicine to recognize how important our food is for us and that we can use it instead of and for medicine. There is a postulate in Ayurvedic medicine: “ Medicine without proper diet is not going to work. But if you have a proper diet you do not need medicine.” I fully embrace this view and use it in my practice.
If you are one of those who after applying this advice do not get better, maybe you need a bit more individualized approach, which is perfectly OK. We are all different and you may need things done slightly differently. Please call me and let me help you gently get out of your situation and regain your original Blueprint of Healthy Body, Mind and Spirit.
Thanks for the attention,
Love and blessings to all of you,
Siranush K. Cholakian, MD