Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Daoist Diet and FODMAP
I've recently started to put a bit of emphasis on my diet. Primarily, this has come about because my wife was concerned about the way certain foods affect me. I have suffered from what would probably be called "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" for most of my life. I sometimes get terrible gas, horrible diarrhea, and cramps that will go on for days at a time. I'd just basically given up caring about this problem, and just accepted it as part of life---just like my horribly flat feet.
But since my dearly beloved is new to all of this, she insisted that I try to do something about it, so she insisted I try a gluten free diet, even though I thought that it was all just a lot of poppycock. I was complaining about this with a friend, but he sent me a link to an essay from the website, "science-based medicine" that suggested that while people might not be helped by cutting gluten out of their diet, a type of sugar that is associated with foods high in gluten might be causing them problems. Reading this article, then got me interested in a specific diet the "FODMAP" that helps people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Basically, this diet tries to reduce some very subtle elements of our diet that seem to cause problems with some people's digestive system. Studies at Monash University in Australian seem to indicate that this is the only treatment that has ever been found to work with everyone who has IBS.
This is pretty interesting stuff to anyone who's suffered this disease. I mentioned it to my MD during my last check-up and he'd heard of it. His exact words were "Gluten free diets are a silly fad designed to get people to waste money on over-processed foods. But the FODMAP is legitimate medicine, I recommend it to my patients."
The diet is pretty involved, but I have tried to follow it to the best of my abilities. A couple of interesting wrinkles are involved. For one, it recommends a real reduction in the amount of foods one eats that are high in gluten---except for sour dough wheat bread that has been allowed to slowly rise over a long period of time. The theory is that the digestion process allows the wild yeasts to pre-digest those elements of wheat flour that I have problems with. As a result, I've begun to make my own sour dough bread.
And here's a video that discusses this point :
I also came across this press release from the university where I work that suggests that sour dough bread is good for your blood sugar levels.
What has this got to do with Daoism?
Well, what we eat has always been an issue with regard to what the Daoists call "waidan" or "external alchemy". This is the old school of Daoism that suggested that people should do crazy things like eat mercury in order to become an accomplished man. This eventually died out and was replaced by "neidan" or "internal alchemy", which was the idea that people should cultivate themselves through meditation and yoga, such as "sitting and forgetting" and taijiquan, respectively. Modern Daoists still are interested in the effects that come from specific types of diet, however. Quanhzen Daoists, for example, are supposed to be vegetarians and not eat garlic or onions, for example.
I've always been very wary of these dietary restrictions because I constantly got conflicting statements about what I should or shouldn't eat. For example, the school of Daoism I was initiated into is supposed to be vegetarian, but the teacher who ran the school was adamant that everyone should eat meat in order to be healthy. In fact, if he found out someone was not eating meat, he would sit next to him at meals and take meat off the platter with his chopsticks and put it in the guy's bowl and make him eat it!
Anyway, when I was at my wife's house over the Winter Solstice, she was adamant that everyone would eat only FODMAP, except for the feast. She printed off a list of foods, both acceptable and forbidden off this site, and we ate accordingly. I have to say that the results were quite remarkable. I haven't felt this good in a long time. And when I do stray from the rules, I notice problems right away. I've been trying to figure out where traditional Daoist rules fit into the FODMAP and there doesn't seem to be much correlation at all. They both are adamantly opposed to garlic and onions, but FODMAP is also opposed to mushrooms, which are something that my Daoist teacher recommended as being very beneficial. Both FODMAP and my teacher are in favour of meat, but Quanzhen Daoism is vegetarian.
So, go figure. But the one thing that his has done has got me thinking about diet as a mechanism for pursuing Daoism, which I suppose is something new. There are a myriad of Daos to pursue in our brief lives!