Archive for the ‘health’ Category


The Health Forum

November 12, 2009

Hey! I’ve resumed blogging… over at The Health Forum along with two other friends — James Ong and John Yeo — as well as guest writers. This will also focus on health issues and the first few posts cover topics such as H1N1 flu / pneumonia vaccination and water fluoridation.

Do drop by for a visit.




A rude, wrong cancer doctor

June 8, 2008

Time to resume posting on this blog. The last time I posted was in August 2007. I had been busy and also doing other things.

I must thank Dr Ang Peng Tiam, who is described on one website as “a medical oncologist who is regarded as one of the best in his field in Singapore and in the region” for giving me the, er, “incentive” to start blogging again.

The background is this: On Wednesday, June 4, Dr Ang wrote a column in Mind Your Body, in which he advised:

“Don’t listen to old wives’ tales. Cancer patients often think they cannot eat dairy products, meat or sugar because these will make the cancer grow faster. Some start taking only organic foods or become vegetarian. I tell them a balanced diet is especially important when they are undergoing chemotherapy.”

I sent a letter to STForum. It was quite strongly worded, so I wasn’t surprised that my letter was not published.

Here it is:


Dr Ang Peng Tiam is rude, wrong, unscientific and grossly irresponsible when he describes as “old wives tales” the beliefs that cancer patients should best avoid sugar, meat and milk products, adopt a vegetarian (or near vegetarian) diet and eat mostly organic foods. (It takes two to fight cancer, Mind Your Body, June 4)

He is rude to the entire community of natural health practitioners and a section of the medical profession that subscribe to such beliefs, by referring to them as “old wives”. Such name calling has no place in any discussion on any subject.

He is also wrong to say that such beliefs are old. The idea that diet is linked with cancer (and other illnesses) became popular only recently, arising from scientific research.

Nancy Appelton PhD, author of Lick the Sugar Habit, lists 76 harmful effects of excessive sugar consumption, giving scientific references mostly from the 1980s onwards. Apart from being directly associated with various types of cancer, sugar weakens immune function – and this allows cancer cells to spread.

Dr Colin T Campbell led The China Health Study – the biggest, long-term nutritional study ever undertaken. Dr Campbell grew up on a dairy farm, drinking a gallon of milk a day and believing that milk was wholesome and necessary. Today, he is a leading voice that warns against the great harm of milk.

The US-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has more than 100,000 members, including thousands of medical professionals, led by Dr Neal Barnard. It recommends a pure vegetarian diet and its website, is packed with scientific references about the harm of meat, milk and dairy.

Against all these, there is a great body of scientific literature about phytonutrients – plant nutrients – helping the body prevent and fight degenerative diseases, including cancer. And the few studies on organic foods generally show them to contain more nutrition, particularly phytonutrients.

Dr Ang dismissed all this science and more. Instead, he highlighted one isolated case of a young commando who survived toxic chemotherapy while adopting a high-calorie, high-protein diet that included milk shakes. Medical science calls such examples “anecdotal evidence” and rejects them.

By dismissing science as “old wives tales” and focussing on a single anecdotal evidence, Dr Ang is being unscientific in his approach. This makes him grossly irresponsible as a doctor and a man of science.



How to keep mosquitoes away

August 8, 2007

I wrote a letter to Mind Your Body about taking umeboshi to keep mosquitoes away. It got published today as The yin and yang of fighting mosquitoes.


Your August 1 edition of Mind Your Body carried an interesting discussion, Can garlic keep mozzies away? The answer given was ‘No’ but the article contained a vital piece of information – that drinking alcohol attracts mosquitoes!

As a student of macrobiotics, who looks at food and phenomena in terms of yin and yang, or ‘expanding’ and ‘contracting’ energy, I have always known this to be true. I did not realise that it had actually been confirmed by scientific research.

From the macrobiotic perspective, alcohol is yin or ‘expanding’. Having alcohol in the blood thus attracts mosquitoes, which are compact – that is, contracted or yang – creatures. Other yin foods like sugar, carbonated drinks, most food chemicals and excessive amounts of fruits will, according to macrobiotic principles, likewise attract mosquitoes.

The way to keep mosquitoes away is thus not garlic, but foods with qualities opposite to that of alcohol and sweets.

This would be salt, which is very yang or ‘contracting’. In particular, macrobiotics recommends umeboshi, a salt-pickled sour plum similar to what the Chinese call sng buay. But it has to be natural, organic quality. Umeboshi containing chemical food colouring may not work.

One of my macrobiotic teachers related how, when he was in Africa, the ceiling of his room would be covered black with mosquitoes if he opened the windows. Since he disliked sleeping with air-conditioning, he slept with the windows open and with an umeboshi in his mouth – and was not at all bitten by mosquitoes.

While I have not experienced this personally, I have ever observed locals in Indonesia with swamps of mosquitoes buzzing over the heads and yet they never seem to be bitten or bothered. Is it something in their diet?

Right now, this is regarded as unscientific. But until some scientist bothers to conduct appropriate research, it will forever remain in the realm of ‘non-science’.

If a scientist is open-minded enough to further investigate this claim, he or she could well hit upon an important scientific discovery – and help save lives, avoid suffering, reduce the cost of medical care and reduce the need to constantly fog the environment with toxic insecticides.


Macrobiotics in Mind Your Body

June 24, 2007

Macrobiotics made it to the cover of Mind Your Body, the health supplement of The Straits Times, this week (Wed June 20).

I was pleansantly surprised, not least because I was mentioned right at the very end of the article, as a resource person. The journalist who wrote the article had not contacted me, so I was not expecting that.

Another pleasant surprise… this morning I got about 10 email contacts from my website, mostly about macrobiotics.

The main article was about this man, Michael, who recovered from a rare blood disorder by following a macrobiotic diet. Michael now runs an organic food shop, Camu Camu, at Blk 211, Hougang St 21, Tel: 6287 0267.

 A side article was about Doreen, a certified macrobiotic chef who (sometimes) teaches macrobiotic cooking classes. Doreen is a friend of mine and I was mentioned at the end of this side article. She must have told the journalist about me. Thanks Doreen 🙂

I was active in teaching and promoting macrobiotics during the 1990s. In fact, I introduced the subject to Doreen during a talk I gave athe Civil Service Club many, many years ago.

Although I am much less active now, and I don’t follow the diet so closely, I still go by its guiding principles. There is a lot of wisdom there, not just dietary wisdom but also about life.

Macrobiotics is too complicated to explain here, but you can read more at my websites: and

It’s a fascinating subject (to me, anyway) and a totally different way of understanding how food affects our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health (and vice versa).

I invite you to find out more.




The kampong chicken factory

June 3, 2007

What do you understand by “kapong chicken”?

If, like me, you believe it refers to chickens that roam about freely in kampongs (villages) – that is, the local equivalent of free-range, more or less organic, chicken –as opposed to those kept in cages in factory farms, well, you will be in for a disappointment and a shock.

According to more than one kampong chicken seller at the wet markets whom I have spoken to, there are at least two types of kampong chicken – the “real” type and the “fake” type.

The real type costs about $8.50 to $9 per kg and is a much bigger bird, so you will have to end up paying maybe $15 or more for a chicken. At the Ang Mo Kio Ave 4 market that I sometimes go to, this is called “mountain chicken”.

The one that generally sells for $5.50 per bird, in wet markets and supermarkets, is the fake type. These chickens are reared in cages in factory farms, where up to tens of thousands of chickens are confined in a covered shed. They do not get exercise or sunlight. Presumably, they are also regularly given antibiotics, because chickens raised under such conditions cannot be allowed to get sick. If one does, the sickness will quickly spread to the rest of the factory farm and tens of thousands of chickens will be destroyed.

So why are these “fake” kampong chickens called kampong chickens?

“They are the same species as kampong chicken,” the chicken seller at the market explained.

And so we have another case of misleading food labelling / food description that our health authorities seem to allow.




Doctor, no

May 27, 2007

No, this is not a post about the James Bond movie.

Doctor, no is the title of an article in the June 2007 issue of Men’s Health magazine about yours truly — about how and why I have not seen a doctor for the past 22 years. I thought it was a nice title 😉

Now Men’s Health is not the sort of magazine that I normally identify with. I just don’t fit into the image of the cover photo, which usually shows a muscled, macho guy.

But because I had been making some noise recently about trans fats and other health issues, I caught the editor’s attention and he asked if I would write some articles for the magazine. I agreed.

The article is quite long, so here are just brief excerpts:

I was born half dead. According to my mother, I was a “blue baby” – not breathing and blue all over. And a doctor massaged me to life, using brandy! At five, I developed tuberculosis, along with two of my older sisters. Once again, my life was saved by a doctor.

But while doctors gave me life, they did not give me health. I grew up weak and sickly. At one stage, I was visiting the doctors and taking their medicines every two or three weeks. Thus, it was only natural that I started to look for ways to improve my health.

I had not deliberately sought to stop seeing doctors. Like most people, I took for granted that doctors and the drugs they prescribed were absolutely necessary.

A few things had changed, however. First, I’ve learnt how to take care of myself such that, for minor ailments, all I now need to do is rest and, perhaps, take some simple home remedies.

Second, I’ve discovered that complementary and alternative healthcare often work better – faster, more effectively and without unpleasant side-effects – than chemical-based medicine.

Third, as I read and researched more about health, I also discovered that doctors often do not truly understand what is going on. For example, I once read medical literature that said: “The third leading cause of end stage kidney disease in the US is glomerulonephritis, a disease that damages the kidneys’ filtering units. In many cases, the cause of this disease is not known.”

Essentially, this tells me that kidney disease is caused by a disease that damages the kidneys! I have lost faith in people who consider such statements enlightening…..

The article goes on to talk about how plenty of carrot juice, plus a diet of mainly salads and raw fruits, helped solve the severe sinus problem that plagued me since childhood — but brought on other problems instead.

First, I developed a skin rash that would not go away for months, until my open-minded doctor recommended me to consult a Chinese sinseh. That was my introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine and I began to respect it a lot.

Then, one cold rainy night, after having a salad for dinner, I woke up with a mild asthma attack. I switched back to eating mainly cooked food after learning macrobiotics and yin and yang.

Meanwhile, I discovered the power of natural remedies… Once, I had a high fever. By that time, I no longer had any Panadol at home. I flipped through my book of natural remedies but I had none of the various herbs and other remedies recommended – except for a cold, wet towel. I applied the towel over my head and the fever subsided in half an hour.

Of course, it is not always that simple. When I fell badly ill in 2003 (it turned out I had chicken pox) no amount of home remedies, not even my trusted Chinese sinseh’s herbal brews, could provide quick relief. I had to let the illness run its course and just do my best to control the symptoms.

In such cases, perhaps a strong dose of antibiotics and other chemical medicines might have been more efficient. But by then, I also knew that such a course of action, while possibly beneficial in the short term, would weaken me in the long term.

I learnt recently that the intestines of a normal, healthy person has about 100 trillion (100,000,000,000,000) “friendly” bacteria in the intestines. They enhance immunity, help digestion and bring many other benefits. Even when a person falls ill, the good bacteria still far out number the bad.

No way am I going to destroy all of that goodness with antibiotics – and create an environment for harmful bacteria to reproduce more easily. Not when doctors are scientists are themselves finally acknowledging that antibiotics had been over-used and abused, resulting in more and more strains of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. For example, tuberculosis used to be easily treated with antibiotics, but is now more difficult to treat than ever.

The article ends off with an emphasis on the importance of research and self study, and some food for thought about the safety of modern, chemical-based medicine:

I had been gradually restoring my health since 1985 and learnt much during the process. This learning is absolutely necessary for anyone wishing to reduce his or her dependance on the medical system. It is serious learning, not from hearsay or, worse still, from the promotional literature of multi-level marketing companies touting health products.

Today, much of that learning can be done via the Internet. It’s a place of much information but, unfortunately, also misinformation, some intended, some simply misguided. You need discernment, which comes from experience as well as from making mistakes.

Fortunately, any mistakes associated with natural health and alternative medicine are usually mild. Yes, once in a very long while, someone might die from alternative medical treatment or from taking some natural food products like royal jelly. Because such incidents are exceedingly rare (like “man bites dog”), they make sensational news.

In contrast, medical treament kill hundreds of thousands of people each year. It is routine (like “dog bites man”), not news, so you seldom read about it in the newspapers.

But there is even a medical term for this – iatrogenic illness, meaning illness caused by medical treatment. These may be due to errors such as misdiagnosis, wrong treatment and wrong prescription or overdose of drugs. They may also be due to legitimate reasons such as acceptable side effects of drugs, or “normal” complications arising from surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other routine medical treatment.

In the US, medical studies have found iatrogenic illness to be the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. One 1994 study found a death rate from iarogenic illness of “only” 0.56 percent. This seemed a low and acceptable figure. But it translated to 180,000 people dying in the US each year, equivalent to three jumbo jet crashes every two days!

Comparing with other industry standards, the author of the study, Dr Lucian Leape, pointed out that a mere 0.1 percent error rate would produce:

• in aviation, two unsafe planes landing at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport every day;

• in postal services, 16,000 pieces of lost mail every hour;

• in banking, 32,000 cheques deducted from the wrong bank account every hour!

When I read reports such as this, I become more determined than ever to keep myself drug-free and doctor-free.


The Chendol piles remedy

May 24, 2007

Some friends in a discussion group were recently talking about piles or haemorrhoids. And one of them wrote that piles is normally a problem faced by older people.

This was not true in my case and I shared my experiences with piles with the group. Since I am back to blogging, thought I share them with you too. I may have discovered a delicious piles remedy…

 Piles. I grew up with them, had them ever since young. Everybody else in my family seemed to have it and to me it was “normal” to have piles.

 During national service, one day after training, I sat on the bed, got up and found a big patch of blood on my bedsheet. Next day went to see army doc, got scolded like hell for not reporting piles, said “Can die if not treated”.

How was I to know? To me it was normal. And I thought I would be scolded or charged for trying to skive by reporting a “normal” condition.

Thus I had my first operation, for piles, around age 18, shortly after entering NS. BTW my operation was bloody painful. No GA, I was awake throughout, just local anaesthetic. It was not the pain of the cut but I felt as if my intestines were being pushed and pulled, feeling was one of tremendous stomach ache. And recovery took long time.

Most others I know had relatively painless piles operation. To this day I wonder if it was because my op was done in a government hospital by “ordinary” doctors rather than by specialists?


Few years after the op, piles returned. Bleeding again.

Then in my 30s I started path of natural health and began to eat healthy diet with little meat, more fibre (from brown rice, more veggies, etc) and generally the bleeding stopped.


More recently, started bleeding again and it was quite bad, a lot more blood than ever before. I was worried for a while.

I asked my nutritionist friend, amd he said the bleeding was probably due to infection / inflammation. He recommended PROBIOTICS ie friendly bacteria.

He gave me some very high potency probiotics, 250 billion live bacteria per gram. The recommended dosage is just a fraction of a gram. I use the back of Chinese porcelain spoon to scoop a little, maybe about 100 billion bacteria, 2 times a day, early morning and late night.

In contrast, most probiotics sold in health stores has only 2 to 5 billion live bacteria. Yakult etc has about 2 billion, plus plenty sugar, coloring etc.

 It seems a lot, but our guts have 100 trillion of them. That’s 100,000,000,000,000 or 1 followed by 14 zeros. So taking 2 to 5 billion actually has negligible effects. And there are no problems with overdose. Probiotics have no known side or harmful effects.

My nutritionist friend said to check back with him after two weeks.

Almost to the day, in 2 weeks, bleeding stopped. I thought it was too good to be true. Then the bleeding came back again, then stopped again.

But I got lazy and stopped taking the probiotics. Bleeding returned. Whenever I took probiotics again, the bleeding would stop again after 3 or 4 days.


Then in past 3 months or so, suddenly I had no more bleeding even though I stopped taking probiotics — because I not in the habit of taking supplements, only taken when in trouble.

I was wondering how come?!?

Then I realised, the one major change in my food intake these past few months is that I discovered this wonderful chendol at Tekka market and had been taking it several times a week. Just had another two cups tonight.

(This is the stall that, as you enter the hawker centre from Serangoon Road, it is on the LEFT side of the block of stalls, about 6 or 7 stalls from the end. It is more or less directly back-to-back with the famous brayani and chapati stalls.)

I remember coconut oil being helpful for many conditions, including problems in the intestines. Among other things, coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is a potent destroyer of virus, bacteria, yeast and parasites. Click here to read more about benefits of coconut oil.

Is it really the chendol that solved the problem? I don’t really know and I don’t really care.

The chendol is delicious anyway 😉