Does your food pass my Stomach Test?
Have you too been taught from a young age to “respect” food? To gobble it up without question? To politely compliment everyone’s cooking “skills” if they cook something for you? To chime in with everyone’s comments on “the food was good/great”? I’ve met many people who go through stomach pain, sleep loss, acid reflux, flatulence (fart attack?) and bloating, but they either have no clue about which foods are causing the problem, or they fear speaking up about the food quality. Perhaps it’s also a loss of hope that things would ever improve.
It’s time we brought The Stomach Test into the picture, to provide our digestive systems a beacon of hope. It’s not yet a comprehensive test. It’s a start. It needs inputs from your experience, to be refined and improved. “Stomach” here, is meant to encompass the entire digestive system.
The Stomach Test
When delving into finding The Real Cure for Eye Strain, I desperately had to figure out what caused my sleep loss. So I kept track of everything I consumed for a year. You’ll not realize the importance of these points if your digestive system recovers quickly enough. People tend to think they have a stomach of steel. However, as you age, or when you suffer on a daily basis, you’ll notice what I did. Food has to pass my six tests to qualify as “good food”:
- No burnt food: Burnt particles in food cause digestive discomfort, which leads to sleep loss. I now throw off the black, burnt spots from bread toast, barbecued chicken, parathas/rotis, etc. If onions, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves or anything else gets burnt when frying them, throw it away and start over.
- No under-cooked food: Food that felt like chewing-gum, also resulted in sleep loss (it wasn’t cooked properly) and it’d result in flatulence and/or loss of appetite (I believe the digestive system creates this loss of appetite, to take time to recover). Cooking rice, parathas and other rotis properly is especially necessary. I’ve written more about it below. Well-cooked food also kills germs and tapeworm eggs, for example (you should also be aware that some bacteria form heat-resistant spores). I would also add unripe fruits to the category of “under-cooked” food.
- A healthy, balanced proportion of ingredients: Spicy food is never really a problem if it’s balanced well with other ingredients. Avoid foods that contain excess salt, oil, or sugar (many processed/packaged foods have these in excess). It’s important to diligently follow the ingredient proportions of well-established recipes.
- No adulterants: Oh I just don’t know what to say about the evil/ignorant scum who adulterate food. It’s not just adulterants. Ideally, this point should also encompass pesticides and formalin used to preserve fish. Why on earth are people not actively investigating and eliminating food adulterants? Water from certain water filters that left a “layery” feeling in my mouth and even the way certain coffee was prepared, resulted in stomach discomfort that led to sleep loss.
- Hygiene: You know about washing hands before eating. What you may not know, is how Helicobacter pylori is transmitted and how it damages the stomach. Avoid places where people or situations can cause bodily fluids, dust, pollutants, insects, or filth to contaminate the food.
- Spoilage: This one is obvious. Don’t let the “respect food” philosophy convince you into eating spoiled food just because you don’t want it to be wasted. Simply throw it away.
- Rice and flat-breads: Remember this: It is not necessary that that rice grains should be separate from each other when cooked. It’s more important that rice is cooked with sufficient water for the right duration (or even boiled with excess water and then drained). Most varieties of rice need four or five cups of water per cup of rice. I know you’d be surprised if you’ve been taught to use just two cups of water. Do a bit of searching and understand the role of amylose and amylopectin. Freshly cooked rice has reasonably separate grains, and that texture feels good while eating. On cooling, rice will clump up, and that’s normal. Using less water to ensure that cooled rice grains remain separate, is counterproductive. Rice cooked with insufficient water can cause sleep loss. I’ve also noticed that many people don’t ensure that chapathis and parathas get fully cooked (inner portion).
- Cooking knowledge: There are many stalls and eateries, where the people who cook the food are not professionals. They need to be trained. Even people in well-to-do families are often not taught how to cook. This leads to serious errors not just in the way they cook food, but also in how they use cooking equipment. I’ve heard of certain European schools which teach children how to cook. Wouldn’t it be prudent to have a professional cooking course in school or at least in college? Cooking and cleaning are basic life-skills. Knowledge about what constitutes a well balanced diet (and why it’s necessary) is also essential.
- Hair loss: When the digestive system suffers from the effects of bad food, the body seems to go into a state of distress. Sleep loss is one characteristic, but I’ve noticed that excess hair loss (from the head) also happens. Given that DHT (DiHydroTestosterone) is one reason for baldness, I’d suspect that excess DHT or testosterone is produced when the body goes into this distress mode. I’m not sure about this, but I did notice a drastic reduction in excessive hair loss, once I started getting better sleep as a result of eating food that passed my Stomach Test.
- Identifying what causes it: Flatulence and loss of appetite can be signs that certain foods caused trouble in the digestive system. Different people respond to various foods differently, so over a period of time, diligently figure out which foods are affecting your sleep. It can be food from a hostel, a restaurant, a stall, a bakery, cafe or a packaged snack or even from somebody at home who does not understand the principles of cooking. Make sure you get well-cooked home-food.
- The best drink: It’s not coffee, tea, beer, or a carbonated beverage. The best drink is DiHydrogen Monoxide (water).
When you see people who snap and get irritated at the slightest annoyance, there’s a good chance that they have not got proper sleep. Sleep loss does that to people. There’s a lot of friction in this world that can be avoided when people are calm and composed. Having access to food that passes my Stomach Test is one part of ensuring good sleep.
We really need to do a lot more, to ensure that our loved ones and the people of our country have access to well cooked, nutritious food. Knowledge, training and awareness are a large part of ensuring it happens.