Eating Doma is habit passed down from centuries and still honored as part of our tradition and honored custom in every important ceremony in the country.
Doma Pani, therefore, is a well heard and shared phrase among Bhutanese. Offering Doma is part of the traditional offering during the auspicious Zhugdrel Phuensum Tshogpa ceremony. Often, we are not concern about the health benefits and risks associated with eating and chewing Doma. The surrounding hygiene and pollution caused is a different story.
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 600 million people around the globe use some form of betel nut (doma). It is also identified as the fourth most popular psycho-active substances in the world after nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine. People chew it for a boost of energy and to heat their body. Doma release’s adrenaline, resulting in a feeling of euphoria (making you feel warmer) and well-being because of catering to an addiction. The studies relating to effects of chewing Doma is relatively less universal, while Bhutan has none so far.
A medical review of the nut’s effects published in the Indian Journal of Medical and Pediatric Oncology concludes that it is an addictive substance with many harmful effects.
These are oral cancer, stomach cancer and other dangerous disease all associated with eating Doma apart from being addicted to it. Comparatively, most of the studies have proven chewing or eating Doma is not safe even if it has some short term benefits in digestive issues.
Doma is not only bad for personal health, but also causes for other hygiene related diseases in the community. It is common in almost all the corners of city to to see walls painted white with lime while the corners are red with spit. This is most seen in most town areas, which is not a good showcase of Bhutan for visitors.
The smell of the Doma in meeting rooms is even worse, especially in the presence of international participants. The change in seasons makes it even worse. Most of the people consume more Doma in winter to boost their energy. Is the Doma only alternative to boost your energy and make you feel warm?
If we can avoid eating Doma is good for personal health, budget and our environment.
Opinion by Nim Dorji
The writer is a researcher in Thimphu.