One of the most important aspects of our job here at Hen Sen Herbs is to teach the patients how to eat properly. It is a very simple concept that what you put in your mouth determines the outcome of your health. In other words, you are what you eat. When you eat the food that is 100% natural and easily digestible, your digestive system doesn’t have to work hard to break down the food, and your body can easily assimilate the nutrients and convert it to energy you need.
On the other hand, if you consume the foods that are very hard to digest, your body will have to work extra hard to just to break down the food. This is why people become so tired and sleepy after a heavy meal like pizza or hamburgers. Sound familiar?
When you are young and strong, your body can tolerate hard-to-digest-food and eventually break them down into some form of energy your body can use. Some of us are genetically built stronger and are able to tolerate more abuses than others. But, we should never use this as an excuse to eat whatever we want. It will catch up to you sooner or later.
What if your body is already weak and exhausted from years of abuse? Will your body tolerate not-so-healthy food? It is likely that your already weak digestive system can no longer break down the food efficiently. Undigested food will not only further weaken your ability to digest, but also turns into some form of toxins which in turn damage other parts of your body.
It’s not hard to understand that the right food can help improve your health, or at least prevent you from getting sick. Yet many of our patients have a hard time grasping this simple concept, or even worse, some of them stubbornly refuse to accept it. In many cases, however, they understand how important it is to eat healthy food, but simply don’t have time to prepare healthy meals everyday.
If you are married with kids and both you and your spouse work many hours, your life can get really hectic and complicated. You feel like you have no time left for anything between work and kids. I know this because I have 4 kids and work 60 hours a week on average. So, I totally understand if you feel like you have no other choices but eating out or picking up fast foods on the way back home. I do it myself too from time to time. But I always regret it, because I usually feel a little sick afterwords from eating the food prepared in the restaurant. I would probably never eat at major fast food chain restaurant unless there are no other restaurants or grocery stores within 30 mile radius, for various reasons which I would not discuss here, but very closely related to the points I am trying make below.
When I am too busy or too lazy to cook, I usually pick the restaurant that serves good stir-fried vegetables with Tofu. This mean my choices are pretty much limited to Chinese or Thai food. I like vegetable stir-fry in Thai restaurants for the reason that they don’t typically use MSG or other unnatural flavoring, but it does tend to be very sweet and saucy. Chinese restaurants are well known for using tons of MSG or MSG equivalents.
There are some Chinese restaurants that do not use MSG, or at least they claim so. But depending on where you live, they may be very hard to find. So what you need to do is this: ASK THEM NOT TO ADD MSG. This usually solves most of the problem, however things are a little tricky sometimes. Here is what I mean:
The problem you are going to face when requesting no MSG is that they may not add actual MSG powder in your dish but they may still use the sauce or stock that already contain it. Typical example is Chicken Bouillon cube or powders. At the restaurant that I usually go to, owner knows me because I always request the same vegetables dish without MSG. But I know it’s still in my dish. Though it’s not as strong, I can definitely still taste it. They honestly may not be aware that there are so many MSG equivalent artificial flavors and chemicals in the sauce or seasoning products they use. This applies to many of the products you buy at the grocery store. We are going to discuss more on that later.
You may not have total control over the amount of MSG artificial flavors in your dish at a Chinese restaurant, but you can at least reduce it by simply requesting no MSG. Below average Mexican restaurants use many of the seasonings that are made from array of artificial flavors and chemicals.
So why are MSG and other artificial flavoring are so bad for you? The most common reactions to the MSG includes headaches, nausea, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, flushing or excessive sweating, skin rash, numbness, intense thirst, lethargy or sleepiness, ringing ears, tingling in the mouth. Severity of the reaction to MSG varies depending on the individual, but the chances are pretty good that everyone gets one of these side effects above to a certain degree.
Some people claims that they don’t get any of the side effects at all, but in my opinion it is worse than getting side effects. I believe their system has become so inflamed and numb to the point where their body no longer register dangerous chemicals, unless their digestive system is super efficient in eliminating it out of the body. Getting negative side effects means that your getting the signal from your body that it is dangerous to your health. So you should never consume it again.
Over the years, I’ve disciplined myself to eat only the natural foods with the least amount of seasonings or artificial flavorings. I can detect when there is something in the ingredients that is not natural (even when the mysterious ingredient is not listed on the label). For example, I used to eat a bag of potato chips from “Lay’s” (Classic one with minimum ingredients: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil and Salt). I used to think to myself, “It should be OK to eat because they only use 3 natural ingredients. But I noticed over the years that I got the similar reactions to that of MSG every single time. So, I learned to trust the signal from my body rather than ingredients listed on the product. I completely stopped eating the Lay’s potato chips. Ever since I started paying attention to how I feel after eating certain food, my sense of smell and tastes have become so strong that I can detect any synthetic unnatural flavoring at the first bite. If not, my body tell me soon after so that I don’t eat it again.
However, when I am exhausted and stressed at the end of the day, my “Artificial Flavorings & Chemical Detection System” doesn’t work quite as well. One day I was at the restaurant, the very same Chinese restaurant where I always request no MSG. I ordered a few more dishes besides my usual vegetable stir-fry with no MSG. I assumed they would use no MSG in the other 2 dishes. When I was eating, all I thought was “….mmmn they taste really, really Gooooood!” I was too tired to suspect that there was a lot of MSG. I came to realize later that they tasted too good to be true. But it was too late. The signal was loud and clear. My mouth was dry, my lips were burning and my stomach was very upset. Next morning when I was well rested much more relaxed, I opened the box of the leftover from the restaurant. I immediately closed the box and tossed in the garbage can because I couldn’t stand the SMELL of MSG. It almost made me throw up without taking a bite of it.
My point here is that you need to be very careful when you are really tired and stressed. You may end up eating whatever is available to you even when the food is dangerously unhealthy. Plus, extreme stress can causes your digestive system not to function at the optimum level, resulting in indigestion, gas, heartburn and other digestive problems. Another point I am trying to make here is that it is almost impossible to find the foods that are 100% natural and bland at the restaurants. Foods are either loaded with artificial flavorings or overly seasoned. It is because restaurants know that people in general do not enjoy plain and bland food. Their customers demand more flavors, more seasonings and more spices. One of the main reason why restaurants use MSG and other artificial flavorings is that they are much cheaper than other all natural alternatives. They also save significant amount of time and don’t require special skills. Any teenager could simply sprinkle the artificial flavorings in your dish to make better. So, it is simple economics for the owner of the restaurant. They save tons of money and labor by using unhealthy alternatives. And, they can get away with it because people still demand strong flavors even though it is unhealthy. There are some high-end restaurants whose owners take pride in their food and make everything from scratch using all the healthy natural ingredients. But their dishes are generally much more expensive because they use much higher quality ingredients and spend much more time in preparing food.
Let’s take chicken stock, for example. First of all you need to buy chicken bones or buy a whole chicken and butcher it yourself to separate the meat and bones. Then you have to add vegetables like carrots, celery, parsley, onion and so on. It takes 4 -5 hours of cooking and occasional skimming off the foam and fat that comes to the surface. They probably don’t have enough space to keep the big quantity of the stock, so spend another 2-3 hours to reduce and concentrate it for easier storing in the refrigerator. It costs time and money to produce high quality food. This is why average restaurants use artificial flavorings like concentrated chicken bouillon cubes or powder in place of real stock. So be aware that most of the foods you eat out there at the restaurant have some kind of unhealthy fake seasonings to a certain degree. If not, chances are more than a healthy amount of seasonings are used to make it flavorful enough for general public. Always ask yourself, “Is it worth risking my health just because I am too busy and lazy to cook healthy meal at home?”
We briefly talked about the negative side effects of MSG. They are serious health risks, but as long as you stay on healthy diet for a while, the effects usually wear off as your system slowly eliminates them from your body. For some people, the effects are so subtle that they don’t think of them as serious health risk. Because of this, they continue to consume MSG and other artificial flavoring.
Synthetic chemicals gradually accumulates in their system and contribute to the development of various chronic health problems over time. It happens so gradually in many baby steps that each minor health issue becomes the new norm in their lives. They learn to accept the problems as they are. This is the one of the reasons many people think of minor headaches, chronic fatigue, back pain as a part of aging process, until they become serious health issues. So, don’t be proud if you are one of those who don’t get severe side effects from MSG and other equivalents. You are not superman. No one is completely immune.