Over 200 years ago, Samuel Hahnemann recognised the importance of a balanced diet and good eating habits to our general health and wellbeing. Nowadays, modern conventional medicine is slowly becoming aware of the importance of ‘healthy eating’ and its role in combating chronic conditions such as heart and circulatory problems, type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia etc.
Thousands, if not millions of people have followed numerous and various diets for some decades. I believe it is fair to say that the majority of these regimes have been to promote weight loss, rather than to promote overall health and optimum wellbeing.
The exceptions of course are those diets and regimes designed to help with specific health conditions, such as gluten intolerance or the need to avoid of certain foods because of allergic reactions in the body, or to prevent candida overgrowth or coeliac disease and so on.
There are also of course vegetarian and vegan diets, which are often but not always followed as a matter of principled choice or for cultural/religious reasons. Also, many people sing the praises of the health benefits of following a paleo1 or Mediterranean2 diet, food combining,3 eating according to one’s blood type,4 or of eating to promote an alkaline environment within the body5.
In contrast, homeopathic attention to dietary habits and eating has mostly been driven by a perceived need to avoid foods and substances held to antidote or weaken the action of homeopathic remedies as they resonate with the patient’s energy and the main culprit or antidote in this respect has been widely acknowledged to be coffee.
A review of literature addressing dietary antidotes to remedy action in homeopathic treatment by Bhatia (2009) concludes that this notion originated from Hahnemann’s early writings and latter from some of the other practitioners like Boenninghausen and Clarke (Sankaran 1996). This need for strict dietary regulation and the removal of anything of a medical nature from the diet seems to have permeated our more modern belief system quite extensively.
However, Bhatia’s review concludes that such constraints are not needed today simply because the remedy selection, posology, and case management will have already been individualised by the practitioner in their prescription.
Therefore any homeopathic dietary restraints and recommendations should likewise be tailored to the patient’s own, individual sensitivities, food and eating habits as well as to the actual choice of remedy itself.
So, apart from any known foods or substances (even coffee!) that would aggravate the disease state in question, restrictions need not necessarily apply today, particularly if the person concerned has no problem with the substance in question.
1 a nutritional approach that focuses on eating only unprocessed foods that are high in nutrients and based solely on the foods presumed available and eaten by humans in the Paleolithic era.
2 A diet of a type traditional in Mediterranean countries, with a high proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, olive oil with moderate consumption of lean protein.
3 cf the William Hay diet whereby certain foods such as carbohydrates and proteins should not be eaten together as they are more easily and efficiently digested separately.
4 cf Dr Peter D’Adamo. It is believed that the human blood groups reflect peoples’ susceptibility to disease, vitality levels and emotional strength and is epigenetically inherited.
5 The alkaline diet is an eating plan that emphasises fresh vegetables and fruits with the aim of maintaining an optimal pH level in the body based on the premise that the food we eat alters the body’s pH to be either acidic or alkaline.
However, individual differences show that what may suit one person may not benefit the next and as homeopaths, we are ever mindful of this. So, unless someone has a specific allergy or intolerance to certain foods or does not digest and assimilate certain foods very efficiently then a well-balanced, good quality diet according to availability, personal preferences and circumstances is probably our best aid to improving the way our bodies use and digest our food, eliminate what we don’t need effectively and to maintain good health and wellbeing overall. Food is therefore our main fuel and a healthy pre-occupation with it should ideally come naturally to us.
So, our food needs be functional in the sense that it encourages our digestive systems to be fully effective and also be a pleasure for us to eat. Time should be taken to eat comfortably and in a relaxed way, although it seems it is increasingly difficult to make time and space in our busy daily 21st century lives.
Meals should look attractive or at the outset in order to begin the long and complicated digestion process that starts in the mouth by stimulating enzyme production in our salivary glands. Specifically, it is our salivary amylase that addresses starch and lingual lipase that gets to work on fatty acids to commence the assimilation process that we call digestion.
Perhaps one of the main drawbacks of a set diet or eating regime is that one can become too pre-occupied with it or become too bound by it so that food choice, preparation and cooking become boring rather than creative, and cooking and eating then become chores rather than pleasurable experiences.
Food should be enjoyable to think about and organise as well as a pleasure to eat and this calls for plenty of fresh, readily available, easy options for busy lives and a few uncomplicated, basic guidelines to bear in mind in making your choices.
Beyond avoiding processed and refined foods – including and especially vegan and vegetarian ‘meat alternatives’, drinking plenty of filtered or bottled water to keep body cells hydrated, what other basics are there to help optimise our eating to ensure our bodies as well as minds get the most out of your diet? What else should we include in nutritional advice and discussions with patients?
Eat a rainbow every day! Variety of colour is perhaps as important as quality in fruits and vegetables and so if all colours of the spectrum can be achieved in a meal so will a healthy range of nutrients be included in a meal. Aesthetically and therefore digestively this scores points for us.
Eat seasonally and or locally wherever possible. Perhaps most importantly, try to eat food that originates from a farmer’s field or is garden grown or wild whenever possible, instead of food that has been manufactured or developed in a food scientist’s laboratory.
Look at any packing and labelling carefully! Since so many people in western society must do much of their food shopping in supermarkets because of time and convenience, we need to be very cautious about label claims for health benefits claimed on any manufactured and pre-packed foods in order to give the illusion that we are buying good and healthful food for ourselves and family.
We need to especially alert to the labelling and processing behind so-called ‘meat alternatives’, ‘plant-based’ and low or reduced-fat substitutes that have flooded our shelves over the last couple of years – what processing has that stuff undergone or been subjected to achieve its USP (unique selling point) as a ‘healthier option’?
We also need to be aware of the country of source of non-local fresh fruit and vegetables and be aware as much as possible of their farming, transportation and distribution processes.
Basically, enjoy your food, and this embraces the preparation, cooking as well as the eating of it! Research your nutrients. Make it a fun, uncomplicated and creative process. Seek out readily available alternatives to refined sugars and starches for use in cooking, for example coconut sugar or jaggary instead of granulated, spelt or chickpea flour instead of white and so on.
Nutritionists have long promoted whole, real food such as vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean animal protein like smaller wild fish and poultry, and free-range eggs, and of course to eat organic produce wherever possible.
Ideally, meat-eaters are urged to stick to grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free meat. All these foods quite simply taste so much better than their inferior and over-processed counterparts and furthermore are of greater nutritional value to our bodies.
Food scientists tend to try to make people think that ‘special’ ingredients in foods are needed to stay healthy, but the industry is merely extracting such ingredients from the original, real source at the start. So surely, it would make much better sense to go to the whole and complete thing in the first place?
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
Hahnemann Samuel (1842) 6th edition, translated by William Boericke (1921) Indian Books & Periodicals Publishers (IBPP), New Delhi
Bhatia, Manish (2009): The Role of Dietary Restrictions in Homeopathic Treatment – Dr. Manish Bhatia (hpathy.com), papers February 17, 2009
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/the-blood-type-diet-review (accessed) Nov 2022)