Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Milk of Magnesia and Lemon Juice

If the eyes are the window of the soul, then the tongue must be called the mirror of the digestive tract. (Gross-out alert! I may be going some places that certain people will find ....at the least, unappealing, and....at the most, downright disgusting. You have been warned.) Right now my tongue is white, my breath is noxious, and my digestive system is sluggish. This has been the pattern following chemotherapy treatments since the beginning, but I am very conscious of the experience this time around. All of this focus on digestion makes me think of my mother's frequent requirement during my childhood that I "stick out my tongue." Clearly, she could look at me and know that all was NOT running smoothly. One look at my tongue would tell her how serious the problem was and what to do about it. If I was lucky, the solution was merely MIlk of Magnesia. If my tongue was really coated, then out came the dreaded bag which hung on the back of the bathroom door. I will say no more.

It interests me, however, that the motherly directive "stick out your tongue" seems to have disappeared. And I am not suggesting that an obsession with our bowels needs to make a comeback (Have you seen "The Road to Wellville?" Yikes!), but I do think that a closer connection with our bodies and how they work is not a bad thing. I also wonder how my mother learned about the connection between the white tongue and the condition of my interior.

I have also thought a lot lately about other "folk traditions" in healthy living which I experienced growing up, and which I now know to be solidly based in good science. The best example has to do with drinking lemon juice. When I was growing up, we lived with my Grandmother Davis, who was born in 1874, so she really came from a radically different world than the one I lived in. She died when I was 10. Each morning she would have a cup of hot water with fresh lemon juice before having her breakfast or her morning cup of tea. I know from talking with my mother that my Great Aunt Mamie (my grandmother's sister) followed this ritual also. In talking with my husband Gordon, I have learned that his grandmother (born, I believe, in the 1880's) did the same thing. - Now, here is the part I find most interesting:

While looking into ways to help my body during and after cancer treatment, I found that it is advisable to increase the alkalinity of ones body, because cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment. This is hard to accomplish, but can be done. Even though lemons are acid, their reaction in the body is to cause increased alkalinity. On top of this is the fact that the ingestion of lemon juice increases the production of bile in the liver, which allows the liver to work more efficiently in getting rid of toxins. Right now chemotherapy is overloading my body with toxins, so anything I can do to energize my liver is a good thing. And just for good measure, lemon juice aids digestion, acts as a mild diuretic, and hastens wound healing. Needless to say, I am drinking my lemon juice.

So, what I want to know is, how did my grandmother and her generation come to understand the advantages of drinking lemon juice? Was this habit born out of observation of the effects? Did they really know what they were doing, or was it something that they picked up from their mothers, who got it from their mothers? And the final question is, why did we stop doing it? Was it just too simple? Would we rather take a pill or potion whose ingredients we cannot pronounce, just because they have been developed by a drug company? Sometimes our easiest and best answer is......right on the tip of our tongue or right in our own grocery aisle.

One final note: I found out where the mystery book came from - Gordon's first cousin Ann Womble Strader sent it, thinking there was a card enclosed. I am glad to have the mystery solved. I have now read another book by Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church, which I loved also. Now I need to buy a copy, because it will need some underlining as well.

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