Healthy Living GuideDietary GuidelinesTraditional and Alternative Medicine
Eat Mediterranean

Although countless observational studies have pointed to the health benefits of specific foods or nutrients, rarely have entire eating regimens undergone close scientific scrutiny. A notable exception is the Mediterranean diet, a term coined to describe the traditional eating pattern of people living in the region bordering the Mediterranean Sea.  The Mediterranean diet consists mostly of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds); animal protein consumed chiefly in the forms of fish and poultry; olive oil as the principal fat; and wine taken with meals (see figure for Mediterranean diet pyramid).

Although the diet was a product of the foods easily cultivated or gathered in the region centuries ago, modern research confirms its unintentional wisdom.  Multiple compounds in plant foods appear as antioxidants, slowing the aging process and hindering the development of cancer and heart disease.  By slowing digestion, the fiber in whole grain, legumes, and fruits can help keep blood sugar under control; fiber also creates a feeling of fullness, which may help satisfy appetite.  The monounsaturated fats in olive oil, nuts, and fish can have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help stave off heart disease and many other conditions.  Perhaps, most important to its success is that Mediterranean-style eating excludes many foods common to cause health problems:  saturated fat from animal source, trans fat, and refined carbohydrates.

Excess body weight increases your risk for more than 50 different health problems.  These conditions include the leading causes of death — heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, and diabetes — as well as less serious ailments such as arthritic knees and gallstones.

A Harvard study found that obesity increases the risk of diabetes 20 times and substantially boosts the risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and gallstones. Among people who were overweight or obese, there was a direct relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) and the risk of acquiring a disease: The higher the BMI, the higher the likelihood of disease.

Fat distribution also plays a role in health risk.  Visceral fat — that is, fat in the abdominal area that serves as padding between organs — is metabolically active, producing substances that spur inflammation and increase insulin resistance.  The best way to lose excess weight is to consume fewer calories and to indulge in a regular exercise program.

Limit Alcohol Intake

Every new year, we toast to good health for good reason.  Moderate drinking has been associated with reduced risk for heart disease and death from all causes. Alcohol of any kind increases HDL (good) cholesterol, improves insulin sensitivity, and reduces inflammation. Wine, in particular, contains small amounts of plant substances called flavonoids that have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity in laboratory experiments.

Men are advised not to exceed two drinks a day; in women, only once a day.  In women, the benefits of alcohol vanish with a second drink.  At more than the recommended limits, you increase your risk of cancers of the breast (in women), head and neck, and digestive system; hypertension; stroke; and car accidents.  At higher levels of consumption, the risk of pancreatic and liver diseases and neurological disorders rises.

Do Not Smoke

If you smoke, quit. There are few things you can do that will have such immediate and lasting benefits as giving up cigarettes.  In 20 minutes, your heart rate will fall.  By tomorrow, you’ll have cleared the excess carbon monoxide from your blood.  Within months, you’ll be breathing more easily and coughing much less.  Over the years, your risk for lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease will have dropped by at least half.  In 15 years, you’ll have erased your excess risk for heart disease.

Separate yourself from smokers.  Inhaling another person’s smoke is also emerging as a weaker, but still noteworthy, risk factor.  If you’re a nonsmoker, become a nag.  Let the smokers in your circle of friends and family know that you would like them to quit, and encourage them in their efforts.  Be patient.  Only four percent to seven percent of smokers are able to quit on any attempt without aids like nicotine replacement products or medical help, and only one-quarter to one-third who use any quit-smoking medicine, stay smoke-free for more than six months.  It usually takes many attempts before a person is successful at quitting.

Keep Moving

Lack of physical activity is an independent risk factor for nearly all of the diseases that are most likely to kill or disable you.  In the long-running Framingham Heart Study, sedentary subjects died a year and a half earlier than those who were moderately active.  Those who were very active enjoyed three and a half more years than their sedentary counterparts.

Regular moderate exercise can help to protect you against the following problems:  heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, accidents, depression and anxiety, and infections.

Get Enough Sleep

Medical evidence suggests that for optimum health and function, the average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep daily.  But many people regularly fall short of that goal.  And as your sleep debt mounts, the health consequences increase, putting you at growing risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and memory loss.

In some cases, sleep debt results from insomnia or other underlying conditions that may require medical attention.  But most sleep debt comes from burning the candles at both ends — consistently failing to get to bed on time and to stay there until you’ve slept enough.  Fortunately, sleep doesn’t charge interest on the unpaid balance, or even demand a one-for-one repayment.  It may take some work, but you can repay even a chronic, longstanding sleep debt.

Use Supplements Selectively

It was once believed that it was possible to compensate for dietary deficiencies by simply popping a multivitamin pill every day.  But research suggests that multivitamins may not be all they’re cracked up to be.

In 2006, the US Natural Institutes of Health said there wasn’t enough evidence for a recommendation about taking multivitamins.  There’s also been little or no evidence of protection against cardiovascular disease or cancers from a number of individual vitamin supplements, including vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, and the B vitamin trio — B6, B12, and folic acid.

Recent research suggests that potential harm has been added to the mix.  In 2008, a Cochrane Collaboration review found that low-risk people in trials for a host of diseases who were given supplements of vitamin A, vitamin E, and beta-carotene had a slightly higher death rate.  And there’s some evidence that excess folic acid (the synthetic version of folate, a vitamin found abundantly in vegetables, fruits, and grains) may be contributing to an uptick in colon polyps.  Both observations, though, warrant further study.

Experts agree that the best way to get the nutrients we need is through food.  It is likely that what counts is the synergistic interaction of these nutrients — which might also help explain why trials of single nutrients don’t pan out.

However, it may be too soon to draw the line on all supplements.  Adequate calcium and vitamin D are essential in preserving bone density.  Although you can get the recommended 1,200 mg calcium requirement in your diet, studies suggest that most women do not.  It is possible to get the recommended vitamin D intakes (400 IU for women ages 51 to 70; 600 IU for women ages 71 and older) through diet or sun exposure.  But many health experts now recommend getting 1,000 IU, which is harder to do without taking supplements. Consult your doctor about the appropriate supplementation for you.

Start the year right by following the seven steps discussed in today’s article to a longer and healthier life.  Discover how you can feel better, look better, and live longer in these seven easy steps.

The Philippines published its first dietary guidelines in 1990. They were revised in 2000 and again in 2012.

Process and Stakeholders

The Food and Nutrition Research Institute – Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) initiated and chaired the inter-agency and multidisciplinary Technical Working Group on the 2012 guidelines.

The guidelines were approved by the National Nutrition Council. The communication and dissemination is spearheaded by the National Nutrition Council and endorsed by various government agencies.

Intended Audience

The guidelines are directed at the general population and also include messages on the feeding of infants and children.

Food Guide

The Philippines uses the daily nutritional guide pyramid and has developed pyramids for different population groups. The pyramid is divided into levels of recommended consumption. Messages about exercise and personal and environmental hygiene serve as support messages for the pyramid.

Food Pyramid for 1 to 6 Years Old
Food Pyramid for 7 to 12 Years Old
Food Pyramid for Adult


  • Eat a variety of foods every day to get the nutrients needed by the body.
  • Breastfeed infants exclusively from birth up to 6 months, then give appropriate complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond for optimum growth and development.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits every day to get the essential vitamins, minerals and fiber for regulation of body processes. Consume fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, dried beans or nuts daily for growth and repair of body tissues.
  • Consume milk, milk products and other calcium-rich foods, such as small fish and shellfish, every day for healthy bones and teeth.
  • Consume safe foods and water to prevent diarrhea and other food and water-borne diseases.
  • Use iodized salt to prevent iodine deficiency disorders.
  • Limit intake of salty, fried, fatty and sugar-rich foods to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
  • Attain normal body weight through proper diet and moderate physical activity to maintain good health and help prevent obesity.
  • Be physically active, make healthy food choices, manage stress, avoid alcoholic beverages and do not smoke to help prevent lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases.

Traditional medicine has been practiced since ancient times in every culture throughout the world and has been an integral part of human evolution and development. The evolution of Philippine traditional medicine is an interesting study that is influenced by religion, mysticism, magic, superstition, folkloric herbalism and western medicine.

Philippine’s common traditional medicine practitioners include the following:

  • Hilot or Manghihilot acts as a midwife, a chiropractor or massage therapist to promote health and healing
  • Tawas or Mangtatawas, this practitioner uses alum, candles, smoke, paper, eggs and other mediums to diagnose the cause of illness associated by prayers and incantations
  • Albularyo, a general practitioner who uses a combination of healing modalities that may include prayers, incantations, mysticism and herbalism. Albularyos claim to draw healing powers from a supernatural source (shamanism)
  • Medico, a general practitioner similar to an albularyo but integrates western medicine to promote healing
  • Faith Healers, a practitioner who claims divine power bestowed by the Holy Spirit or God. A patient is required to have faith and believe in divine powers to effect healing

These traditional medical practitioners covers a wide spectrum of practices and differs from one another. Even in this modern times where information and advanced science has greatly progressed, traditional medicine still enjoys a large following most especially in rural areas.

In recognition of the deep seated practice of traditional medicine as an alternative modality for treating and preventing diseases in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) through its former Secretary Juan M. Flavier launched the Traditional Medicine Program in 1992. This program aims to promote an effective and safe use of traditional medicine.

Then President Fidel V. Ramos appreciated the importance of the traditional medicine program and signed into law Republic Act 8423 (R.A. 8423), otherwise known as the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA) of 1997. This gave rise to the creation of Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC)which is tasked to promote and advocates the use of traditional and alternative health care modalities through scientific research and product development.

Since then the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) through its “Traditional Health Program” has endorsed 10 medicinal plants to be used as herbal medicine in Philippines due to its health benefits.

10 Medicinal Plants in the Philippines endorsed by DOH

  1. Akapulko (Cassia alata) – a medicinal plant called “ringworm bush or schrub” and “acapulco” in English, this Philippine herbal medicine is used to treat tinea infections, insect bites, ringworms, eczema, scabies and itchiness.
  2. Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) – common names include “bitter melon ” or “bitter gourd ” in English. This Philippine herbal medicine has been found to be effective in the treatment of diabetes (diabetes mellitus), hemofrhoids, coughs, burns and scalds, and being studied for anti-cancer properties.
  3. Bawang (Allium sativum)  – common name in english is “Garlic”. Bawang is a used in Philippine herbal medicine to treat infection with antibacterial, antiinflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-hypertensive properties. It is widely used to reduce cholesterol level in blood.
  4. Bayabas (Psidium guajava) – “Guava” in English. A Philippine herbal medicine used as antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, antioxidant hepatoprotective, anti-allergy, antimicrobial, anti-plasmodial, anti-cough, antidiabetic, and antigenotoxic in folkloric medicine.
  5. Lagundi (Vitex negundo) – known as “5-leaved chaste tree” in english is used in Philippine herbal medicine to treat cough, colds and fever. It is also used as a relief for asthma & pharyngitis, rheumatism, dyspepsia, boils, and diarrhea.
  6. Niyog-niyogan (Quisqualis indica L.) – is a vine known as “Chinese honey suckle”. This Philippine herbal medicine is used to eliminate intestinal parasites.
  7. Sambong (Blumea balsamifera) – English name: “Ngai camphor or Blumea camphor” is a Philippine herbal medicine used to treatkidney stones, wounds and cuts, rheumatism, anti-diarrhea, anti spasms, colds and coughs and hypertension.
  8. Tsaang Gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam.) – English :”Wild tea” is a Philippine herbal medicine taken as tea to treat skin allergies including eczema, scabies and itchiness wounds in child birth.
  9. Ulasimang Bato|Pansit-Pansitan (Peperomia pellucida) – is a Philippine herbal medicine known for its effectivity in treating arthritis and gout.
  10. Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii) – commonly known as Peppermint, is used in Philippine herbal medicine as analgesic to relive body aches and pain due to rheumatism and gout. It is also used to treat coughs, colds and insect bites.

Types of Medicinal Medicines

Medicinal plants can be used by anyone, for example as part of a salad, an herbal tea or supplement. Many herbalists, both professional and amateur, often grow or wildcraft their own herbs. Making your own herbal medicine preparation is not only fun, but can be cost-effective. In using the abovementioned herbal medicines, some may require some degree of skill, you have to use your own judgement if you decide to use one. Below is a list of general ways on how to prepare your own herbal medicine. The list is not all inclusive and you have to see individual articles for the herb you use so that you will know how to prepare them.

Herbal Teas. There are two methods of making herbal teas, infusion and decoction. Infusion is steeping lighter parts of the plant (leaves, flowers, light stems) in boiled water for several minutes. Decoction is boiling tougher parts, such as roots or bark for a longer period of time. Herbal teas are often used as a home remedy, and as an alternative to tea and coffee.

As a general rule unless recommended by a herbalist, Prepare 1 teaspoon of dried herb for every 1 cup of water. Let it steep in boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain the herbs out and drink 3 to 4 times a day.

Herbal Tinctures. Steeping a medicinal plant in alcohol extracts the alcohol-soluble principles into a liquid form that can be stored for long periods. Herbalists may mix several herbal tinctures to form an individualized prescription for each patient. Plant tinctures are also the basis for many homeopathic medicines. To prepare your herbal tincture you will need: (8 ounces of finely cut dried herbs, 1 large glass jar that can hold 4 cups of liquid and 2 cups of vodka).

Instructions. Put the dried herb into a large, glass jar and pour in equal amount of liquid, making sure the herbs are completely covered (this is very important). Store the jar in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks, preferably 4. Make sure to shake the mixture every day. When ready to use, filter the mixture using a cheesecloth bag, coffee filter, or fine cloth, capturing the tincture liquid below in another container. Store the tincture in clean, dark glass containers, out of the sun. If stored properly the tincture will be preserved for two or more years. Vinegar tinctures should be refrigerated.

Note: A drop of tincture is equal to 1 tsp of herb juice. For Vinegar Tinctures, use 1 ounce of herb per 5 ounces of vinegar.

Fluid Extracts. Fluid extracts are stronger than herbal tinctures, and can be made with alcohol or glycerin.

Herbal Poultices. Poultices are a solid, vegetable fat-based mixture used externally. They have the shortest life span of any herbal remedy and must be made fresh for every use.

Powdered Herbs and Tablets. Herbs that are dried and (sometimes) certain parts are separated out then diced to powder fine consistency. Powered matter can then be compressed or put in an empty pill coating to form a tablet.

Herbal Creams and Ointments. An ointment usually is mixed with beeswax (or something similar) to make it more applicable to outside the body, such as on a cut or scrape.

Essential Oils. Extraction of volatile liquid plant materials and other aromatic compounds from plants gives essential oils. These plant oils may be used internally in some forms of herbal medicine as well as in aromatherapy and generally for their perfume, although their medicinal use as a natural treatment (alternative medicine) has proved highly efficacious in the treatment of headache and muscle pain, joint pain and certain skin diseases.

Herbal Supplements. Herbal supplements tend to be commercial products in tablet or capsule form manufactured and marketed by the health food industry for sale in retail outlets to the general public, although there are some types that are sold only to healthcare practitioners for prescription. Herbal supplements are often standardized to contain stated levels of active phytochemicals. Some herbalists may not agree with the standardization of active ingredients, preferring instead to use the whole plant.