Starting with Thanksgiving Day and ending with New Year’s, the Holiday Season is a festive period during this time of the year. Many of us reunite with our families and get invited to many parties. Social gatherings always involve good food, and lots of it. Thanksgiving Day is a true gorge fest for someone like me. It is, after all, an American tradition and festival, and I have nothing against it, but as a health care professional, it is also my duty to educate people about the effects of overeating.
An old Japanese saying goes, “Hara Hachibu Ni Isha Irazu” (“You don’t need a doctor if your belly is only eighty percent full”). Studies show that the volume and quality of food intake greatly affects our immune system. It is known that a low calorie diet stimulates the growth of T-cells and the production of interleukin II (both play important roles in the Immune System). On the other hand, excessive calories hinder macrophages and neutrophils from destroying foreign bodies, making our bodies more susceptible to infections. It is recognized that limiting calories to sixty percent creates the optimal environment for healthy immune functions in trials done on mice that had free access to food. It is intriguing to mention that another old Japanese saying, “Hara Rokubu Ni Kusuri Nashi” means “No need for any medicine if your belly is only sixty percent full.”
In Japan, many cases of allergies started to be noticed in the early 1960’s, when coincidentally our diet improved, and we started to consume more animal proteins and fats. Many Japanese scientists link atopic dermatitis and asthma, increasingly widespread among children in Japan, to a calorie rich diet that we are not traditionally accustomed to.
The best solution for surviving this season is to chew well, maybe more than what you think is enough. As a Japanese, I am guilty of swallowing my lunch in fifteen minutes and slurping noodles often, but please remember that chewing stimulates secretion of digestive juices which aid digestion and reduces food intake by tricking your brain into thinking that you have eaten enough.
Eastern Medicine offers great remedies for over-eating. Acupuncture is a great way to restore over-worked digestive functions, and it works great for constipation and diarrhea. An herbal formula called Bao He Wan is popular in acupuncturists’ offices in this time of the year because the formula stimulates digestive functions and helps healthy bowel movements. Please consult an acupuncturist or herbalist if you are interested in taking this formula.
Have a great holiday season!