Food As Medicine

Comic from bizarro.com

Comic from bizarro.com

It’s a catchy little phrase, isn’t it? Food as medicine. I guess I’d have to say that I’m kind of fond of both the phrase and the idea. There is something empowering about taking responsibility for my health and well-being through the choices I make around food. I much prefer this active participation in my own health over abdicating to medical professionals who are, no doubt, invaluable when it comes to trauma, infectious disease, and other medical emergencies — but, our day-to-day health should not be a medical emergency.

I have been intrigued by the effect of diet on health for many years. As I’ve mentioned before, my real interest began in 1997 when, at 27 years old, my then fiancé (now husband) was diagnosed with malignant melanoma — his second, actually. At the same time, I was dealing with chronic bronchitis — a condition exacerbated by the fact that I (we) worked the overnight shift in a smoky casino, drinking a lot of coffee (okay, and a lot of Diet Coke) and definitely NOT consuming a healthy, balanced, nourishing diet. At that point, I decided it was time for some changes — and I instinctively knew that it had to begin with my diet.

Fast forward almost 20 years and this is still one of the topics that I most love to research and apply in my life. I continue to read and make dietary changes based on what I learn, using myself as sort of an ever-evolving case study. Or course, there have been times when I sought the guidance of trained professionals when my own efforts did not seem to be enough — and thankfully one Dr. Farhang Khosh helped uncover the food allergies that were creating a significant imbalance in my body. I guess this is where the irony comes in. Some of the foods that I was eating (which were organic, wholesome and pretty well balanced) were the root cause of several issues that my medical doctor told me were simply symptoms of “getting older.”

So, if what we put in our bodies can create imbalance and myriad symptoms of dis-ease, doesn’t it make sense that figuring out which foods create optimal balance in our bodies would be the first step in fostering wellness in ourselves? This is where the “food as medicine” concept really resonates with me. I suspect that this audience is already mostly on board with this concept, but I still want to push it a bit (forgive me). I want to push it because I know too many people who, though they believe they are eating for optimal health, are still unwilling to investigate their own “optimum” because the lifestyle change would be inconvenient or “too hard.” I’m here to tell you that when I got the results of my food allergy tests, I actually cried when Dr. Khosh told me that I would not be eating cheese if I wanted to feel my best. I did NOT want to give up cheese—or the delicious raw milk I was drinking, or pizza, or eggs from my own backyard flock. But, I did want to feel better, so I did it. All of it. I’m not saying that everyone should give up wheat, dairy and eggs. “Food as medicine” is not a one-size-fits-all deal. I am suggesting that a small revolution of wellness could result if we each take responsibility for our own health, learning what each of us needs to be in a state of optimum health.

I cannot possibly detail the wealth of information on this subject, but I can provide some starting sources. I find that once I begin searching, I quickly find the entrance to the rabbit hole (at which point you should just get out of my way). Of course, my first introduction to this subject was in 1997 when Dr. Andrew Weil lured me in with his book entitled, Spontaneous Healing. Some people are referring to this medical model as Functional Medicine, though this particular definition is more inclusive than simply “food as medicine.” The University of Minnesota has a quick read with many links to Food As Medicine. Probably the most well-known advocate of a “food as medicine” philosophy is Dr. Mark Hyman, an M.D. based in Lenox, MA — there is quite a bit of interesting information on his website and in his books (the Keene Public Library does carry a few of his books). Beware: This website is one of those rabbit holes to which I referred earlier. If you want a good place to start, read this article entitled Eat Your Medicine: Food as Pharmacology.

I leave you here. Safe travels if you decide to take this journey to your own optimal health. Feel free to email me or ask for me at the Co-op if you’d like more information on this subject or if you have thoughts to share with me.

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