By Yin Nwe Ko (Linn)
Most Myanmar people have ever heard ‘Kamma – deeds, words and thoughts -, mind, season and nutrition.’
We know very well that to keep an individual alive and healthy is completely associated with the above four factors. Out of them, the most important one is nutrition. However, if any one of these four factors is abnormal, the health of an individual concerned is affected and sometimes even dead. As the nutrition is the most important one, the saying ‘Physical form is guarded by nutrition’ emphasizes the importance of nutrition.
One can obtain all round general knowledge about nutrition in the present IT age. That such knowledge is distributed through radio, T.V., newspaper, magazine and internet almost every day can be seen. For a careful observer, he or she will gain the knowledge nearly like a medico.
In the atmosphere of nutrition, food can be roughly divided into liked one or disliked one; proper one or improper one; seasonal one or unseasonal one etc. These terms can be understood by those who are not the medical men. For an ordinary one, he knows his likes or his dislikes. When he encounters his likes, he will happen to eat it a little more. Some will happen to eat more than his fills. He also knows his dislikes. When he encounters his dislikes, he will remain without having it or he will eat it less with feeling of delicacy in an unavoidable situation. Ordinary human beings cannot easily differentiate the seasonal food and unseasonal food. Only those having medical knowledge can know them. Seasonal food means the food which can be got naturally at the present arriving season. Everyone should have it a little as a medicinal one.
Nowadays, technology is well developed and so man has succeeded in producing new varieties of plants that can give crops and also parthenocarpic fruits for all seasons round the whole year. Everyone will notice that we can buy what we want to eat in the market of large cities like Yangon, Mandalay etc.
We must take great care of the food which is proper or improper. Proper food can keep one’s physical body stable and fit. However, improper one can even make a threat of one’s life and at least up to severe health hazard. Here, I would like to express the admonition of a well-experienced medical man of Indigenous Medicine.
If you place some salt onto your normal skin, you will feel nothing. However, you place a little salt onto your skin with a slight cut, you will surely suffer from excruciating pain. A person who has eaten a little improper food is like the one who places a little salt onto his skin with a slight cut. We should take note what is improper with us and avoid eating it again. Unfortunately, the improper food for some people is their favourite.
Food is divided into six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, hot, acrid and bitter – according to the Indigenous Medicine. However, western medicine differentiate food as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, mineral, water and fibres. Nevertheless, the concept of nutrition means that one should eat every taste a little each. Only one kind of tastes that is specially liked should not be eaten much. For instance, one who likes sweet eats sweet food and not the other tastes. Such activity should not be done. The remaining tastes should also be eaten a little each. In the same way, it is similar to in the western medicine. One who likes meat should not eat meat much. The remaining food such as vitamins, minerals, fibres etc. should be eaten in suitable proportion.
In western medicine, it is noticeable enough in expressing the association with physical body and food. Good food is a basic need of human body. It is of prime importance in the attainment of normal growth and development. The role of nutritious food cannot be neglected in the promotion of health and prevention of diseases. Our human body can be compared to a machine. Just as an engine burns up coal or oil in order to generate its energy, so the human body requires food in order to produce the forces which keep the heart beating, the lungs breathing and the limbs moving. But the discovery of vitamins at the turn of the present century has ‘rediscovered’ the science of nutrition.
Since then great advances have been made in the field of nutrition. Gradually, nutrition is assuming increasing importance in every region of the world where nutritional diseases are not only widely prevalent but they modify the course of events of almost any clinical disorder. In recent years the influence of malnutrition in the area of mental retardation is being actively investigated. In the more developed countries of the world, nutritional problems are somewhat different. Over nutrition is encountered much more frequently than under nutrition.
The health hazards from over nutrition are on increase in mortality and higher incidence of many diseases. So the nutrition of people throughout the world is one of the greatest international problems of the present day. The terms food and nutrition are sometimes used synonymously, but that is not correct. Food is a composition of mixture of various substances, the quantity of which may vary from it fraction of a gram in certain cases to hundreds of grams in other the term foodstuff is defined as anything which can be used as food. Nutrition, on the other hand, signifies a dynamic process in which the food that is consumed is utilized for nourishing the body.
Although food and nutrition are defined separate as mentioned above, there is a Myanmar saying ‘Food is also medicine; medicine is also food.’ According to Indigenous Medicine, food and medicine are regarded identical. It is sure as this saying is ancestrally relayed one generation after another, those of present age are find difficulty to deny.
To my long article short, I would like to put up that one should not miss the modernized view as well as one should not abandon the ancestral admonition. There are some words concerned with the food or nutrition that I like most. It was said by Sayargyi U Htut, who was our former headmaster of No. 1, Basic Education High School, Kyaunggon, Ayeyarwady Region, and who is now also a member of Council of Indigenous Medicine, Myanmar. He is living in Yangon at the moment and come to our town once a year on every National Day on which ex-teachers paying homage ceremony of No 1, Basic Education High School is held. Although he is in his 80s, he is still healthy and active and can come to the ceremony and go back to Yangon within a day. I am going to conclude my article with the words he had said in the 25th anniversary of ex-teachers paying homage ceremony.
“My students, you are also getting old. Take good care of your health. I’ll give you all a present associated with food you eat. I’ve been still practicing it up to now.
It is nothing but if you are going to eat food, eat only when you are hungry; eat what is proper with your health and eat less what you wish for.”