What is wrong with my food - and President Obama’s

Photo from author's backyard with text imposed
While there is much information in print and electronic media about foods, drinks and supplements that are good for human health, relatively speaking, there is lesser information on what is bad. This article is more about the latter than the former. The attention of this author was drawn to the topic on reading in today’s newspaper that President Obama was suffering from acid reflux problems leading to some complications in the throat as well.

At the outset, it may be mentioned that this article is not by a nutritionist, biologist or medical practitioner but simply by a highly educated person who has been very aware of his own body as well as others and learned from experience and study. Some of this common knowledge is shared here for others. The author firmly believes it contains useful knowledge that will help any human, not just President Obama to improve his or her food and drinks and therefore lead a better life. The question and answer format is used to make the article more understandable.

How do I know if there is something wrong with my food or digestion?

If you suffer from any problem, mild or severe any where in the digestive tract from mouth to exit, there is something wrong with your food, the way you consume it or in the digestive tract used to digest this food.

What are the kinds of things that can go wrong?

Beginning from the top, if you suffer from excessive belching, hiccups, acid reflux, heart burn, or worse, nausea, vomiting; and then proceeding downwards, stomach ache, rumblings and discomfort in your stomach, burning sensations and further down, frequent watery stool or too infrequent hard and constipative ones, pain, flatulence, too much stink in the feces etc. are all indications that something is wrong and needs to be fixed or improved.

What is the cause of these problems?

The causes can be classified into three categories

  1. There could be something wrong with what you eat or drink or the manner in which you consume it.
  2. There could be something wrong with the microbes and enzymes in your digestive tract
  3. There could be some problem in some part of the physical apparatus used to digest this food or the mind that overrules it (too much stress for example)

Do I need a doctor to fix it?

The answer to that is yes and no. If the problem is a severe one, it obviously needs immediate attention by a doctor. On the other hand, if it is a milder and chronic one it could self correct on its own provided you take care to improve your food and take some other corrective measures on your own. In many cases it will require effort on your part as well as some help from a medical practitioner.

If I get a really good doctor, is that not enough?

Unfortunately the answer to that is, no in many cases. In some cases a doctor will be sufficient; in most cases, work is required from you too for a lasting and durable solution that will help improve your health and life.

Why is a doctor not sufficient?

The simple answer to that is - a doctor is not God. The more elaborate answer is that human chemistry is as varied as human personality. Each is unique and what is good for one human sometimes does not work for another. Moreover modern medical science is still young and discovering while ancient one has not been well authenticated or documented. My own personal experience is that personal knowledge, study and experimentation is a great help in this direction. It has been my personal experience in very many cases as regards my own self as well as family and friends.

Could you describe one personal incident to support what you say?

Just to describe one incident, during the period Sept 1990 to September 1991, I took a sabbatical from academic work. A few months involved field work in the country side in India on a personal project at a location where good drinking water was not available. As a result, I contracted persistent dysentery that began around March 1991 and continued for several months. It was not a painful condition but required running to the toilet several times a day which was a nuisance and the stools were watery. They were also leading to weight loss below desirable limits. I ignored the problem until September 1991, thinking it would go away. In September 1991, I began a scientific appointment at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and began contacting doctors. There was access to some of the best medical practitioners in the shape of Medical Professors at the University. However despite many tests, the doctors declared that there was nothing they could find in stool tests etc. Prior to the tests a standard treatment for amoeba- Flagyl- had been tried but it had not worked. The problem persisted. The medical community has catch all phrases for conditions beyond their grasp and for this condition there is the IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome that has something to do with some nerves or something they can do nothing about. I am not suggesting that such a condition might nor exist but it also conveniently covers those that they cannot treat. I too let it go since the condition did not really interfere with my work or living in any major way. In this period a research paper I wrote with another Professor of UBC (on something called hydrocyclones, not surprising with the hydrocyclonic churning in my gut daily :) is widely cited in the scientific community. It can be found in google scholar citations.

A few months later, a wisdom tooth developed an ache and once again I visited a University Professor. After examination, the doctor recommended surgical extraction of the wisdom tooth or as a measure to buy time, a course of antibiotics. I chose the latter course and the prescribed antibiotic was penicillin G. The process took a few days and before I could get the antibiotics the toothache had disappeared. It must have been the case of an exposed nerve that got blocked or atrophied on its own. Nevertheless since I had the prescription, I followed it. The very first day, I noticed that magically the dysentery that I had suffered from for over seven months, disappeared. My conclusion was that there must have been an infection by some microbe, amoeba or bacteria in the gut that the antibiotic conquered. It was something that the doctors had not been able to detect. The world of microbes is far too vast and large for modern doctors to detect them all.

In the decades since then, I have lived for many years in India, and suffered short term chronic dysentery problems on a few more occasions. On these occasions, I did not consult a doctor but treated them successfully on my own, in one case by an antibiotic again, in another by using a de-worming medicine (Albandazole)and in the most recent episode both an antibiotic and de-worming medicine were required on the same day for lasting relief. Only a medical practitioner could perhaps explain the precise mechanisms of this treatment and why it worked. Similarly there have been many other cases of heart burn, stomach aches etc that I and friends have suffered through life that were relieved through some experience and care. They are too numerous to describe in a brief note.

Just to add another brief incident, I had a new driver in 2001 and he had suffered from Asthma for over a decade. treatments by both  modern and traditional doctors had not worked. Just of the cuff I remarked that wheat does that to some people ( because of gluten) and could he get off it for a few days. his asthma disappeared and has not returned ever since even though he can consume wheat/bread once a day now.

While talking of various issues you also mentioned – the shit stinks (pardon the language) but does all shit not stink?

LOL! I recall asking the same question to a professional colleague and friend in 1986, who mentioned over a beer in a pub that his shit stinks. When I remarked, all shit stinks, he changed the topic saying, except Princess Diane’s. Some months later, I understood what he meant. That morning we were in our offices at the University of British Columbia. At the end of a row of offices and labs was the washroom. This friend visited the toilet that day and boy oh boy! did it ever stink. The stench spread all through the building so that some of us had to call it day. Since then I have discovered that the stench of human feces can vary from terrible to fine and if it is fine the stench does not spread even in toilet room leave alone a building. However, I daresay if you held the offensive matter to your nose, all shit probably stinks. My spiritual dabbling does indicate that for some godly persons and mystics (including myself briefly during 2007 in a mystical retreat in the Himalayas) the shit does not stink, but these are rare exceptions. Same goes for urine, compare for yourself after a meal of asparagus tips or another of the cocktail called Pee Johnny (Scotch and water of green coconut). One could put a stink index to these things between -5 and 10 with -5 like sweet scented roses :)

You mentioned microbes, what are the possible problems here?

All life forms think that they are complete machines in themselves. However, living things exist in co-operation and the human body too requires numerous microbes to survive. Many live in the digestive tract and along with enzymes help to process food needed for our survival. These are the good microbes. There are also bad ones that can create problems from mild to serious ones, even fatal. A deficiency in the good microbes or the presence of bad ones creates problems. We have already discussed the case of some bad ones and how they were dealt with.

Can our bodies run out of good microbes?

For sure one can. For example many antibiotics required to kill a bad microbe can also kill the good ones.

How do I get the good microbes back in my body?

One gets these back naturally from food. In order to get them back quickly ensure that you have raw food, salads or fruit daily besides cooked food. Yoghurt consumed at lunch (not dinner) is good and sprouts- Mung beans and Alfa-Alfa ( for enzymes) are good sources. If you can get the drink of a very young wine, that has little alcohol but more of live active yeast in it, or prepare your own, that also helps. If it is the right mix (e.g. fresh sugar cane juice used instead of sugar) it could get your gut flowering like the Queen's garden with good bacteria. However, this last method does usually produce temporary flatulence (expected with all the intensive gardening activity :) and should be discontinued after a week or so to be retried after gaps of a few months each, if required. Would not do at an International summit, would it? :)

What about good drinks to improve my diet?

The best is good clean drinking water

How can I improve my drinking water?

Make sure it is neither too hard nor too soft.  Usually ground water is hard and surface water is soft. If you have access to both, mixing the two will help. A good way to get good drinking water if you do not have access to the best is to filter and boil it, then cool it, for a few days at a time stored in sterilized bottles, and exposed to sunlight too.

Can one use purifying devices from the market?

There are numerous devices such as RO, UV devices etc. that are available in the market but I prefer boiling because if these devices are not well maintained they may not work well and worse one would not know.

What about fruit juices?

These are great at breakfast. Fresh lime juice diluted with water and sweetened with honey or the undiluted water of a green coconut are some of the best and will greatly help in improving digestion and health.

What other care can I take with food?

If you suffer from any of the digestive problems mentioned at the outset, experiment with changing food habits. Try different foods until you discover the best. There are no universal rules that apply to all. Even bread is poison to some who are allergic to the gluten in it. You have to discover your own.

Are there some general guidelines that help?

Yes. Go for foods that helped develop life over millions of years not new fangeled stuff out of which life has not evolved. This means natural foods with least use of modern interventions like genetic modifications, insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are not natural. 

Food that is farm fresh and freshly prepared is better than stored or processed food. Do not overdo spices or frying in oil except for that special binge and prefer food habits of your childhood than new ones because your body developed out of that.

Do you recommend avoiding modern medicines?

No, but minimize their use and go for the simplest ones. For example a spoonful of milk of magnesia is great for immediate relief from heart burn and it is a good idea to keep some in tablet form around. However once you have got rid of it avoid the food that caused it, next time.

What about alcoholic drinks?

These can screw up the system. Avoid hard drinks like whiskey and all drinks for most of the day i.e. until sunset. If you have to drink, go for a glass or two of a lighter one like good wine or beer and eat something with it to help your system.

What are good things to eat with an alcoholic drink?

Definitely not beer nuts as found in the west or kebabs as in the East; the best is a toast with butter on it, a little mild cheese, thin delicatessen slices of white meats like chicken breast or turkey if you are not a vegetarian, Gouda or Cheddar cheese,  A lightly salted boiled egg cut in quarters unless you have already had a couple at breakfast, The crisp sweet centers ( light green to yellow unlike darker outer leaves) of Cos lettuce as found in Northern Iraq or South Eastern turkey are some.

You also mentioned something about the manner of eating?

This is as regards how much you eat at what time. Use a healthy period of your childhood as a guide and experiment. Eat slowly and chew your food well after thanking the Lord or Mother Earth that provided this food. With water, do not gulp it  and do not pour it down the throat in one go but drink that slowly too.

What about the mind?

This blog is full of articles varying from yoga to mantra meditation and mindful breathing, love, truth and simplicity etc that help. Just browse and search for them. Even the best foods will cause a problem to a stressed or evil mind and a stink that will spread not just around the building but around the block.

For the President or the First Lady , if they read the article (a link was sent to them on twitter) switch to a glass of a white French Bordeaux instead of whiskey or red wine ( causes acidity to some) etc. along with a bit of cheese or toast and butter, have glass of fresh lime juice and  a spoon of honey with water at breakfast, a tablespoonful of milk of magnesia if there is heart burn or acid reflux, a gargle with warm salted water or chicken broth as soup for dinner, if the throat is sore and with the Grace of the Lord - All shall be well  :)

Others, ask a question in comments for clarifications if any. Best wishes.

NOTE: There are several articles of general interest on food in this blog if you browse. If you liked this one you may wish to read more beginning with this one: 


You are both a good doctor as well as a dietician ! Your post is both interesting and informative ! Obama should be delighted to get your advice !
Ashok said…
Thank you Ramakrishnan Ramanathan. This knowledge is really good common sense that every educated human should have since it is basic to our life and living. Perhaps it may not be perfect but hopefully useful and hopefully a reader would point out areas for improvement in it through a comment. Thanks again appreciate it.
Ashok said…
I wrote this article in the afternoon and like many other posts it has undergone slight editing on reading later in the day.

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