I am consistently impressed with the benefits of dietary changes in my patients. Yesterday I had news of a former patient that came to me with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), who was also taking two potent immuno-suppressants called remicade and 6-mercaptopurine. I taught her how digestion is like a fire, and how she could use diet to support and enhance its function. I put her on a Paleolithic diet and gave a few simple remedies to balance digestive and immune symptoms. Three years later I hear she is doing very well, and can even eat “regular” food. As I was telling a patient today, eating is a strategy, and how close you walk the line is up to you – but there is a line, and we all need to learn where it is for each of us. And then when things go wrong – as they inevitably do – the essential thing to know is how rebuild that fire.
The basic method to establish the digestive fire is the use of soups and stews, and one traditional culinary variation on this theme is Mulligatawny soup. The term mulligatawny is derived from the Tamil word ‘milagutanni’, ‘milagu’ referring to pepper and ‘tanni’ referring to water. Mulligatawny soup is used to enhance digestion and clear phlegm (kapha), and only a stock that has had the fat skimmed from it should be used. Heavy, greasy foods are typically contraindicated in weak digestion.
2 cups soup stock
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp coriander seed powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt
Chopped fresh cilantro or green onion to taste
Put stock in a pot and warm until hot. In a separate pan, dry roast the cumin and black mustard seed at medium heat until the mustard begins to pop. Add in the coriander, pepper, turmeric and salt, and roast for another 30 seconds. Add this mixture into the soup, and garnish with cilantro or green onion.
This soup can also be used as a base for more complex recipes. Add a little cooked rice, roasted urad dhal or finely shredded chicken to enhance strength and build energy once digestion improves.