How to use food as medicine – know the food properties that can cure you
ood as a medicine is not a new idea, and in the past food played an important role in healing the sick. Humans and animals have gut instincts on what to eat when sick, we just don’t use it anymore. This valuable knowledge have been lost because our heavy reliance on chemistry and modern miracle drugs that now exist.
There is however a renewed interest in food as medicine. One pioneer is Dr. Henry G. Bieler with his book: “Food is Your Best Medicine” published in 1965. Still a relevant work with many followers even today.
Most of us are simply accustomed to use traditional medicine. But not eating well is what make us sick in the first place. We become sick by what we eat and make sick people even sicker as we feed them the wrong foods.
In hospitals and in long term facilities, food is only a industrial preparation designed to just meet the basic “dietary requirements” of protein fats and minerals. When I try do discuss the value of foods as healing and disease prevention, the reaction from doctors and nutritionists is usually one of cluelessness.
Food can prevent diseases
The natural revolution of the 1960’s brought a lot of food healing awareness, but by and large, we still victims of industrialized foods. By using food as medicine we could shrink health care costs by at least half.
Today 75% of the moneys spent in health care goes to treat metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease. Most, if not all caused by our over consumption of industrialized foods and obsessive compulsive starchy carbohydrates and sugar consumption.
Big medicine and big pharmaceutic industry walk hand in hand. Health care does not embrace food as medicine due to lack of research. But there is usually plenty of money to research new drugs. There is simply no money in food as medicine because there is no money in it. Big medicine is not really that interested in curing people; treatments is what bring the money in.
If you don’t think food changes our bodies think again. We eat 3 or 4 times a day and ingests substances that have a profound impact on our metabolism 24/7. It can take a little tuning up but, we are actually more aware of what we need to eat than we think – the body knows.
Following our gut feeling
We don’t need to search too deep to know we sometimes seek food as medicine without even thinking. When we feel like eating something or craving a particular food, our body is telling us we need that certain food.
So you say “my body is telling me I need chocolate” hold on to that though because you’re actually right. We do crave foods for a reason and we know this to be a medical fact.
Pregnant woman crave some strange things, a phenomena called pica and is attributed to a iron deficiency creating a crave for chalky or sandy materials.
Animals have the same instincts as well as early man. The concept of food as medicine is rooted in ancient healing traditions of Greek, Chinese and Indian medicine.
There is another problem. Not only we are not getting the right foods, but we also have problems absorbing them and using their nutrients.
There is a double edge sword effect in play. We are affected by what we eat, but we also affected by what we don’t eat.
We are not getting the right nutrients, but when we do we might not be able to absorb them, and this creates illness due to malnutrition.
Patients are getting fed enough quantity but (1) they are not getting the right foods and (2) foods may not be combined correctly and the result is a lack of proper absorption.
Research shows that 80% of cancer patients are malnourished, chemotherapy increases the body need for proteins and many other nutrients. Caloric intake drops among the elderly and cancer rates rise.
The Cephalic phase of digestion
There is a mind and body connection that affect the gut. This is linked to how we combine different foods and spices and herbs can promote digestive health. There are 90 million Americans who suffer from digestive diseases. There are several reasons why foods are not absorbed properly and that involves the “Cephalic” phase of digestion.
The Cephalic phase are the gastric and saliva secretions that occur when appetite is stimulated before eating begins. Many things can lead to impairment of the cephalic phase including stress and poor eating habits.
The impairment of the cephalic phase leads to diminishing blood flow to the gut and the result is less absorption of nutrients. The food which is not absorbed can wreak havoc in our bodies making us even more miserable and stressed which generate a feedback loop only making things worse.
The function of spices and food that is well prepared and well selected is more than just a simple case of style but it impacts how we digest and absorb nutrients. This is the pillar of health, and disease immunity. Absorption can also be augmented by the combination of foods we use. One amazing herb that should be consumed before a heavy meal is wormwood tea.
Knowing how to combine foods can increase the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Carrots and avocados are a nice combo because beta-carotene is better absorbed in the presence of fat if you don’t have avocados olive oil will do.
Apples and blueberries, spinach and blueberries makes a powerful nutrient-dense dynamic pair. The idea of eating specific and restricted diets is not part of “food as medicine” because every family of foods have highly nutritional content but is often not absorbed because they may need to be paired correctly supporting absorption.
Some people may absorb food nutrients in different ways and we simply don’t have the tools to find out exactly why, but research have indicated that to be true. The best way to ensure these combinations is to make sure we have a rich and as varied as possible diet. Lack of absorption is important but equally important is inflammation.
The quality of foods we eat can cause chronic inflammation in our cells tissues and organs. This condition puts our immune system in a constant attack mode with serious impact to our health. We can make improvements using a range of anti inflammatory foods that are available. This is important since 35% of cancers have a relationship with inflammation.
The body can only take so much. Processed and packaged foods are at the top on the list of “inflammation foods” and that goes to baked goods, pies, and cookies. Hospitals and long term care facilities usually offer nothing but industrialized foods and everything is laced with sugar. Since 80% of all packaged foods have sugar it becomes a serious matter because it is nearly impossible to control how much sweets one ingest. The body can only tolerate about 50 gm of sugar per day, but the average American consumes over 100 gm/day. The other factor is how we cook our foods. There is a direct link between sugar and cancer.
A lot of carcinogens can be created by the heat we apply to foods specially when cooking meats. One of these carcinogens are called heterocyclic amines which are formed by the heat-catalyzed interplay between creatinine found in meats (muscles) and amino acids. When these heterocyclic amines are given to male rats they immediately develop prostate cancer and females develop colon and breast cancers.
Another myth busting straight from “food as medicine” camp is getting cancer from pesticides found in fruits and vegetables. Lynda McIntyre a registered dietitian with a specialty counseling cancer patients at both the Kimmel Cancer Center at Hopkins and the Sibley Hospital Center for Breast Health in Washington D.C. says “Less than 2 percent of all cancers can be directly related to what the additives are in food.
Up to 60 percent can be related to what we’re not eating.” The right approach she said is to “eat the rainbow” meaning eat the widest variety of colors you can find; the brighter the food the richer the color and the higher the amount of antioxidants it contains. We can change who we are by making changes on how we eat and what we eat and when this concept is further extended to cure diseases, it becomes a revolutionary concept. There is so much doctors could do if they used more food as medicine rather than relying solely in heavy duty big gun drugs.
While drugs treat the symptoms food can help the body achieve health equilibrium on its own which produces better long term results. Treatments that heavily depend on drugs require increasingly higher doses and often does not lead to a cure. Healing takes time, participation and work, hard to get supply items. For example doctors could be using peppermint as a irritable bowel syndrome medication which works so well relaxing the esophagus you have to be careful not to use too much risking a heartburn due to acid reflux. Many common kitchen staples can be used effectively for prevention or relieving of gut related maladies. Caraway oil have been well studied in the treatment of gastroparesis and slow motility problems in the upper GI tract.
According to Gerald Mullin a top expert specialist in food and gut disorder physicians can easily use ginger for patients suffering from gastric dysmotilities or other GI problems. Ginger works just as well as Zofran a commonly used anti-nausea drug. Caraway has also been well studied; its oil can be beneficial in the treatment of gastroparesis and can help those with slow motility and problems in the upper GI tract. Fennel, ginger, dill, cumin can also be helpful on everyday basis. It is unfortunate that most medicine today does not include food as a healing component.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” is Hippocrates famous quote but has grown to be a distant memory in the minds of most physicians today. Instead of investing in the basics there is a continued support for treatments that involve drugs and addressing the symptoms which only leads to more drugs and worst; surgery.
Food as medicine conduces to practices that look at patients whole wealth and aim at a permanent cure and balance that the patient can achieve on her own with. It is time to return to basics if we are to achieve health and wellness for individuals. Food is the most basic yet the most critical for maintaining health and preventing disease.
- 6 Basic Principles Of Using Food As Medicine
- Food is medicine (Facebook)
- In Ayurveda-style cooking, ‘food is medicine’
- Food as medicine for the communityv PDF
- Chocolate: Food as Medicine/Medicine as Food
- Food as Medicine (food listings and properties) by Jerry Brunetti
- The Wisdom of Dr. Henry Bieler
Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride
Dr. Terry Wahls, MD presents a lecture on what foods to eat to be healthy.
Natasha Kyssa: Let Food be thy Medicine