The Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460-375 B.C.) has often been cited as the father of medicine and to whom we attribute these words by which we should all live: “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.” Who would dispute the value of these words and the wisdom we have all seen to be absolutely true. The link between nutrition and health is clear
and obviously dates back long before we all began to make this same connection and see its impact on the well-being on our patients. I think Dr. Mark Hyman also said it so well, “What you put at the end of your fork is more powerful medicine than anything you will find at the bottom of a pill bottle.” No arguments here!
Let’s just look at some of the basic facts. In 2018 alone, the United States spent nearly 3 trillion dollars on health care. Obesity rates in both men and women have skyrocketed to nearly 40% of all Americans in the last few years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with rising chronic disease incidence in adults and our children. Poor diet continues to be one of the biggest contributors to chronic illness and the concurrent mortality rates in our nation, pointing to the cause of death of one in five Americans each year. That figure tops other risk factors - pollution, lack of exercise, alcohol and drug use—combined.
The first step toward better health, longevity, improved quality of life and fighting the obesity crisis is … FOOD. Your nutritional choices play a big part in your overall health. Food is powerful in multiple ways. It can stave off depression, boost your mood and even help prevent cancer and other illnesses. Food IS medicine and when you think of food in this way, you're making the first step toward committing to a beneficial lifestyle change.
You Can Beat Your Genes
The nutrients in your food interact with your genes. The study of this interaction is known as “nutrigenomics." Where we once thought we were powerless is now an area over which we have at least some control. The ability to use nutrition to positively affect our genes means that we're no longer at the mercy of our DNA. This is especially exciting when it comes to fighting and preventing disease.
The Right Food Prescription.
Make a promise to yourself to eat nourishing food every day, ideally avoiding anything “in a bag or a box.” It’s not easy given the many temptations in front of us in every medium and everywhere we go. While it is important to choose organic and non-GMO foods and ideally, things like grass-fed, sustainably raised meats, I know that this may not always be possible for many of us. Cost, access to and availability of goods, time constraints and ridiculously busy lives all present challenges when it comes to eating well. So I encourage you to consider some basic guidelines and choose fresh, “whole” foods over processed (think local too!), use healthy fats like olive oil in cooking and try to cook at home more so you know exactly what’s in the food you eat. Reduce your sugar consumption and stick to “moderation” when you do indulge! Opt for fresh or even frozen vegetables and fruits without additives. And read the labels – it’s amazing what you can learn from ingredient lists and nutrition values to help guide choices.
Treating food as medicine is something that takes a commitment to change, but it’s a change for your and your family’s wellbeing, today and tomorrow. You really will begin to see the difference in how you feel and with each day, nutritious eating will become the best kind of habit to have. Here’s to your long, healthy and joyful life!
Dr. Suzanne Gazda, Integrative Neurology