Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Acid reflux

In the early morning of Sunday, I woke with a burning sensation in my throat. It felt like my stomach’s acid has overflowed back into my mouth. Earlier, I had a large dinner of steamed dumplings topped off with fried pepper flakes and noodles. I have always over indulged my self with dumplings especially after having discovered the spicy delights of fried pepper flakes fried in olive oil. This evening’s immoderation proved too much for my stomach. Strangely I never liked this condiment in the past whether in Singapore or Bangkok. It’s a normal staple in Thai dishes and mixed liberally by the Thais in their food. In the Philippines, it first seemed like fried garlic seasoned with pepper when served in upscale Chinese restaurants like West Villa.  In Asia, this seasoning is usually placed in noodle dishes like ramen served with beef or chicken or maybe steamed chicken and garlic rice and, of course, steamed dumplings. But I never liked its hot flavors until now.

I started to like this spicy condiment only recently. Perhaps it’s an urge for spicy Asian food which I rarely get here in Southern USA. I usually get my fix with a trip to nearby Thai or Indian restaurants but the local adaptations are cooked with the American palate in mind (which means easy on the fiery stuff like chili and peppers). Mexican food is entirely different and lacking in the spicy Asian taste. One needs to make do with home cooking – buying Asian cooking ingredients in the nearby Vietnamese food stores. Most of the Asian groceries are either Vietnam or Indian because Chinese and Japanese dishes have gone main stream. Chinese and Japanese ingredients can be bought in supermarket chains like Wall-Mart, Bi-Lo and Costco. But there is also a wonderful Japanese grocer nearby where one can buy authentic Miso soup, soba noodles, Wasabi and Soba sauce.

This brings us back to Asian or perhaps South East Asian dishes that one tries to cook at home. Ingredients for Philippine, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Chinese and Singaporean dishes can be bought from the Vietnamese grocer along Wade Hampton Boulevard (belonging to refugees from the war). It is about a 30 minute drive from home. So we get to eat Asian fare like kare-kare, green chicken curry and chicken in red curry sauce. The ingredients for dumpling can be bought anywhere but the application of Asian style cooking is the key. In Singapore, one could have a multitude of different Asian dishes any time of the day. Now one has to have a special occasion to have Asian food usually American style Chinese or Japanese food. So one cannot help but indulge whenever the opportunity arises. Hence, my recent problem with acid reflux.  Of course, the problem is not the type of food but really the overeating due to my culinary nostalgia.

One’s metabolism seems to have gone sluggish with Western food – a diet with more meat, bread, potatoes, sugary pastries and sodas. One always had this problem; of bloating, gas and sluggish metabolism which one tries to fix with exercise, sauna and colon cleansing (via laxatives). But no significant improvement due to the Western diet and one’s overeating. So I have been reading Kevin Trudeau’s book ‘Natural Cures’. His views are similar to Dr. Andrew Weill and other alternative medicine gurus. I am following his suggestions by drinking 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar before each meal, taking probiotic supplements with acidophilus and taking dry saunas after exercising (instead of hot tub immersions). I also stopped my cholesterol medication and, soon, my high blood pressure pills to reduce my body’s toxicity. Instead, I will take Vitamin E and explore alternatives like chelation and liver cleanses. Reverting back to a simple diet like oatmeal and almonds for breakfast is also a goal. 

I plan to be more serious in doing Yoga and other physical techniques like Alexander and Fedelkrais method and continuing Tai Chi exercises to handle stress. I am starting to feel old as I get cramps while doing certain physical poses that were so easy to do before. Flexibility exercises are becoming more important with advancing age. It’s a different perspective which started with my reading of Andrew Weill’s work plus Buddhist and Indian philosophy.  One must adapt one’s mindset as one grows old. This weekend, I finished reading a book on Twitter and an article on Cloud Computing in Business week. It changed my perspective on the emerging technology trends. Business week is turning out to be a good magazine under Bloomberg. It’s a changing world so one needs to understand the inner and outer environment that one finds himself in.

Last Saturday, I attended a Toastmasters conference nearby. It was the second conference that I attended in my Toastmasters life. The registration price is much cheaper than in Singapore. Last year the main speaker was the Toastmaster president (a former aide to Al Gore) while the recent speaker was the 2008 speech contest winner- the first African American woman to win the award. She gave an entertaining and gritty speech – with sections that reveal her life as a Baptist minister’s daughter from Texas and near death experience due to cancer and lupus. She’s a true survivor, achieving a rare spiritual wisdom that one acquires from extreme hardships. The breakout workshops were also good especially one where 3 speakers from different generations spoke about their Toastmaster experiences.

It was a relaxing day as I drove in and out of the conference during breaks, going home to eat lunch, read and attend church; blissfully unaware of the coming acid reflux attack. I also finished ‘No Country for Old Men’ which is one of the best books I have read. I have now started listening to the immense novel ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen which is comprised of nineteen disks as compared to Cormac McCarthy’s seven discs for his classic on the drug trade. The book is actually a meditation on one’s choice of good or evil. McCarthy is more in the Ernest Hemingway mold – brief, precise and robust prose while Franzen is more in the John Updike mode – flowery, elegant and exuberant prose. Perhaps a compromise in style is more effective like F. Scott Fitzgerald or Vladimir Nabokov – both writers that I have fleeting knowledge.

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