My Introduction to Medicine:
the Food and Pharmaceutical Industries and Ayurveda


Ingrid Naiman

Like many growing up in the West, eating seemed more like an aesthetic event than a medical necessity. On some vague level, I understood that food promotes growth, but I suspect I thought of this more in terms of quantity than quality; and I really had very little grasp of the pharmacological nuances of food beyond the notion that sweets are probably fattening. After studying Ayurveda, I realized that sweets are actually a sedative, and I came to believe that my mother intuitively understood this when she used ice cream to subdue me when my fires were out of control as a child.

I majored in Asian Studies at the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii (B.A. 1962) and went on to study Development Economics at Yale University (M.A. 1964.) From there, I joined the work force, first as a research analyst for the United States Trust Company and later as an economist for the Department of State in Vietnam (1966-68) and India (1968-70).

 

 

As an undergraduate, I had preferred philosophy and anthropology to disciplines that might lead to a real career. Upon graduation, I went to Japan as an exchange student. There, I continued to study the Japanese language and Buddhism, but on a particularly calm and quiet Sunday in Karuizawa, I read a report in the Japan Times about a tribe in Africa in which the entire adult population was blind, and children were used as seeing eyes. I flew into a rage. I realized that sanitation and health care would only shift the problem for these unfortunate people a little. However, if they were educated, they could fend for themselves better in a risky world. I decided that economic development would generate the opportunities for a higher standard of education as well as health care. I therefore applied to Yale and was told that my application was peculiarly irresistible.

I learned some startling and life transforming facts while working at my only "formal" jobs.

First, as the only woman in the research department at a time when companies were not yet obliged to have their "token" women employees, I was initially put in charge of the food and beverage industry. There, I learned unsettling specifics that everyone needs to know in order to survive.

My first summer on Wall Street cost me my innocence. The chemical and drug analyst was on vacation when the Vatican was to reach a decision on birth control. I spent my evenings reading files on pharmaceutical companies and realized that I would never again take so much as an aspirin unless it had been on the market for at least twenty-five years, preferably fifty. Pressure by management on research to develop products ahead of the competition had resulted in what seemed a pattern of falsification of data. In those days, the era of the thalidomide scandal, companies were failing to report dead monkeys and hyping new wonder drugs that, according to the legal papers I was studying, were rife with side effects and probably not capable of delivering the results promised.

After Wall Street, I went to Vietnam (1966-68) where I discovered more political ineptitude and more hazards associated with medicine. I had been inoculated for everything under the sun and was beginning to show classic signs of iatrogenic pathologies. My fevers only got worse in India. After I left the government, I decided never to have any more inoculations and, if necessary, I would be willing forge entries on my yellow card to avoid more injections of morbid matter. It was not necessary. While searching for a cure for my "tropical diseases" discovered Ayurveda!

In India, the pieces started to fit together. I was surrounded by ancient wisdom, piety, and more importantly a system of medicine that was essentially philosophical rather than scientific. I devoured everything I could on Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine and came eventually to realize that medicine and philosophy need not be separate. I also learned that the taste of food is a clue to its pharmacology. The Ayurvedic system is totally different from the food groups we were taught in grade school; it is also different from the categorization of food as carbohydrates, fats, and protein, the foundations of Western nutrition. Ayurveda is not concerned with calories so much as the digestibility of food. It does not teach a pat formula for eating such as we continue to uphold in the West by referencing minimum daily requirements for various vitamins and nutrients.

Constitutional Type

Ayurveda teaches that each person is unique. Each person is born with a body that has characteristics and idiosyncrasies unique to himself or herself. Every constitution is different; and what works for one person is therefore different than what works for another. From the day we are born, we begin modifying our bodies in accordance with what we eat, the seasons, where we live, and various other factors such as environmental hazards, stress due to personal circumstances and relationships, and Cosmic factors such as the cycles of astronomical forces.

By 1980, I had interfaced the basics of Ayurvedic pharmacology with spiritual psychology and astrology, and in 1986, I began working on the foundations of what I dubbed "Kitchen Doctor," culinary approaches to health management that involve extensive use of herbs and spices. Little by little, the pieces came together and my lectures on this subject were welcomed by individuals with health issues, including many mothers concerned for their children.

I always wanted to publish my work as a two-volume opus, but the requisite funds were never available and one manuscript was stolen from me. Now, with the advent of the Internet and the tremendous resource it provides for people with independent minds and spirits to investigate their healing options, I decided to publish on the web where I can gradually add pages as my time permits. I am doing this largely as a public service and therefore welcome your questions and will try to post as much material as visitor interest warrants. Please, therefore, feel free to write me. In the meantime, enjoy your visit.

Blessings,

Ingrid

 
     
   

           
     

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Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2000, 2001, 2005

 
     

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