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Eating Your Way to a New Language


Wiktor says: here’s a guest post that I’ve always wanted to write myself. The usual word of caution: check with your GP / therapist / dietician before attempting any changes to your diet or heatlh regime. With that said – to your health, language learners!

Enter Dr. David Orman

When we think of success with language learning, certain themes come to the forefront. What is the best method for learning vocabulary? How can we become conversational in a relatively short span of time? What sites or apps or books will help ?

They all can be helpful. How many of us loved reading language books with the various “hacks” and helpful suggestions acquired from years of learning a variety of languages. Experience is an exceptional teacher, and when someone is willing to share “secrets,” we all benefit.

There is one topic that holds enormous benefit, that does not get much publicity. It is written about in great detail in other areas, yet oddly enough, does not get covered much despite the great importance of the subject. Of course, I am taking about nutrition and language learning.

How do we keep the organs used for learning, strong and healthy?

Did you catch it?

Go back and re-read the sentence in italics.

Most likely, you either missed it or thought it was a typo.

The word “organs” is plural.

Ask the average person, what is needed for learning language (from an anatomical/physiological point of view), and virtually everyone will say “the brain.” This of course, is true and I will cover specifics about keeping the brain in an optimal learning state shortly.

There are also 2 other organs that most would be quite surprised to learn as extremely important to short and long term memory. The organs are the spleen and the kidneys. Yes, the blood-producing, digestive-helping spleen and the liquid-waste-removing kidneys are as valuable and the gray matter.

First, The Brain

The brain of course is organ for which all thought, creativity and life itself originates. Its anatomy is extremely complex and functioning even more so. Details are outside the scope of this article.

As it relates to language learning and retention, I will keep it simple. For short term memory, think frontal lobe. It is the area behind the forehead. The real star of the show as it relates to memory and language learning is the Cerebellum. It is located in the back, about an inch or so above the hairline. It is the “battery pack” of the brain, so to speak. When this area is healthy, the ability to learn is enhanced.

There are a number of substances that keep this area strong and healthy, thus enhancing our ability to learning our favorite language. In terms of food, the idea are walnuts. They are considered “pinpoint” for feeding this region of the brain, providing it with rich proteins and essential fats and also boost powerful hormones such as Serotonin and Melatonin. Bottom line. . . . they make us smarter and calmer.

There are also many useful herbs that can help the functioning of the brain. Ideally, a person would consult with an expert to tailor make a formula**, but there are some safe, general substances. Here is a short list and brief explanation.
•    Ginkgo Biloba. This is an well known herb that bring additional oxygen to the brain itself. Also improves circulation which is not only great for the brain, but for the entire system.
•    For some Ginkgo is too simulating. In this case, Gotu Kola would be the point. Though not quite as strong, it does have similar benefits without the stimulating effect.
•    Brahmi is an Ayurvedic herb used to improve capacity and focused attention. It is also known to rejuvenate the brain and the nervous system.

There are many others, but these are inexpensive, safe and easy to find in many countries.

The Spleen

It is about 4 inches long or so, protected by the ribs and is responsible for blood production, helping with immunity and digestion. Never have meningitis? Thank your spleen.

Spleen’s little secret is that it is also a major organ for short term memory and thinking. You you not only think with your brain, you think with your spleen.

When you become overworked or are (over-) worried, the spleen becomes weaker. When this happens a person typically expresses “foggy memory or thinking,” forgets easily, has a hard time focusing and similar phrases. Obviously, this is a major impairment to language acquisition.

In addition to the above, one of the major causes of weakening of the spleen is over-consumption of sugar or dairy. Small amounts ironically will help. Large amounts will weaken. In practical terms, a latte 3 times a week is fine. A latte 3 times a day is not. Key lime pie on Saturday is fun. Key lime pie on a regular basis is a prescription for spleen weakness (not to mention obesity and other related problems).

The foods that keep the spleen strong are yellow, brown or golden in color. For example, pears, squash, potato, brown rice, yellow apples, bananas, certain peppers, turnips etc. Including these in your diet, particularly when learning anything is a great idea.

Again, certain herbs can be helpful. When I was going to school (learning Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine), many of us lived on the herb Hyssop. It is a mild, slightly sour tasting liquid that is exceptional for keeping the spleen (and digestion) strong. Others include:

•    Licorice root. Not these are the “twizzlers” but rather an herb called Glycrrhiza or its more popular name, Licorice. This helps clear “dampness” from the herb and provide energy that it needs.
•    Ginger. Yes, that warming, spice. . . .ginger. It is an exceptional food for the spleen and keeps the entire system warm.
•    Atractylodis. Powerful, but not well known herb. This is arguably the best for strengthening the spleen and well as helping with overall energy and wellness.

The Kidneys

In Natural Medicine (traditional Chinese Medicine), the brain is considered an extension or part of the Kidney energy. Therefore, when you keep the kidneys strong and healthy, the brain will be strong, creative and at its ideal state. Specifically, kidney energy is associated with long term memory.
The foods that strengthen the kidneys are salty in taste and/or dark purple in color. They would include celery, eel (sushi), grapes, prunes, dark meet (beef or chicken), olives, eggplant, purple cabbage and raisins come to mind.

A good nights sleep helps rejuvenate the kidney energy, and the opposite will drain it. In fact, over-doing anything is said to drain and weaken the kidney energy.

First, The Good News

There is an inexpensive liquid that is truly exceptional. I have used it for many decades in my physical ventures (marathons, martial arts) and mental ventures (language learning, school, learning shodo etc.). It is excellent. I mean, really excellent and is called Shou Wu Chih. You typically take about an ounce a day, 6 out of 7 days. It does not act in a manner like caffeinated drinks or anything of the sort. In fact, it is a slow increase of energy and alertness. Think of it as a watered down espresso without the crash.

Now, the Other News

Sorry folks, but it is rather rough tasting. It’s nature is bitter and it is rather strong. You will drink it for the benefits, not the taste.

Or the look. It is a very dark brownish liquid. Kind of like coffee color, but a little thicker in texture.

A few others to help with the kidney energy include:
•    Green tea. Most people know this one. It is also great for fat loss and improve energy.
•    Fo-Ti. If you won’t get brave and drink the Shou Wu Chih, use this. It is not as strong but still provides many of the benefits.
•    Parsley. You know this one also. It is a mild diuretic and when combined with cilantro, will help to pull toxic metals out of the system also.


For many of us, language learning is both exciting and a challenge. We have family, careers, extra activities but sill will find a way to block off time to learn our favorite language. It means that much.
Time being finite, we are also looking for any edge we can find. Sometimes, the most obvious one can be missed. Always remember to start with pure truth. In this case, it is the long-held notion of “Let food be your medicine.”


** Dr. David Orman is a Wellness Entrepreneur, Nutrition and Herb Expert and developer of the best selling Doc Wellness Supplement. He has treated thousands of patients over a 25 year span, lectured to Congress and taught at major universities.

In his private life, he teaches the Russian art of Systema, which is THE reason he is currently learning Russian. He can be reached at DocWellnessWorld.com.


Dr. David Orman
Wellness Entrepreneur™, Expert, Educator. 


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