US: Doctor uses some foods as medicines
Posted: May 26th, 2009 - 10:36am
Daphne Miller, the author of "The Jungle Effect: A Doctor Discovers the Healthiest Diets From Around the World -- Why They Work and How to Bring Them Home” writes there was a time when I might have scoffed at a physician whose pharmacopeia included gastronomical offerings. Like many of my colleagues, I left medical school with a sturdy respect for biomedical research and a belief that there was a drug to match every ill, or almost. When medication wasn't the answer, surely there was a surgery.
Such illusions were swiftly dispelled within months of entering a family medical practice where my patients range in age from 2 minutes to 102 years and, on any given day, I am challenged with everything from upper-respiratory infections to asthma and lung cancer. Rare are the moments when a specific pill promises a quick fix. To the contrary, medications often produce a buckshot-like effect, hitting organs far beyond their intended target. So prescriptions to control cough end up causing incontinence, arrhythmias and sleepiness, and those for joint and low-back pain frequently kick off a series of digestive woes.
Over the years, these frustrating experiences have prompted me to take a closer look at nutrition and herbal research. Take that soup: Unlike standard pharmaceutical cold preparations, which study after study has shown do little to block symptoms or speed up recovery, ginger and mushrooms have the potential to help, and with virtually no ill effects. Indeed, a phalanx of lab-coated scientists have finally convinced me of something that generations of traditional Chinese and Japanese healers, and my great-grandmother, already knew to be true: Ginger is an excellent decongestant, and mushrooms boost your immune system.
Some of the most compelling mushroom research has been done by Keith Martin, a nutritionist at Arizona State University and author of more than 30 papers in peer-reviewed journals. Martin and his colleagues have tested a variety of common mushrooms, such as white buttons and shiitakes, and found that in the presence of viruses such as those that cause cold and flu symptoms, all of them can raise the levels of the immune system's proteins to three to five times normal.