What if you walked into your doctor’s office with a complaint and walked out with a prescription for food, exercise or meditation? Sound strange? You’ve likely heard that eating right and exercising are important factors in your health and you might even be aware of a growing movement to use food as medicine, but what does that really mean? Can the way we eat and live actually reverse illness and disease?
The idea of food as medicine is not new thanks to Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine, and his famous quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. But Western society shifted away from this theory and away from home cooked meals made from whole foods as we adopted a faster paced life. Heck, even our eating habits became faster. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is now made up of fast, convenient, processed foods that are readily available 24 hours a day.
Modern food and farming practices have reduced the amount of nutrients that are available in the foods we eat. There also riddled with dangerous chemical preservatives, colorings, flavor enhancers and other ingredients that are largely unrecognizable, much less pronounceable. Sugar is actually hiding in plain sight as there are nearly 100 different names for sugar that manufacturers use.
The ease of readily made food allows us access to food the moment we want it; consider that our ancestors spent time hunting and gathering food. This meant fasting, often for days, which allowed their bodies to digest what they had taken in and to burn their own fat reserves for energy rather storing it.
Modern medicine and doctors have their place, but our society has become all too comfortable with expectations of quick fixes which often mask symptoms rather than address the root cause.
All whole, clean, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods offer some level of therapeutic qualities that can play a critical role in balancing blood sugar, controlling inflammation, helping the digestive process and countless other body functions.
Through epigenetics, we also know that our lifestyle can turn our genes on or off, just like a lightbulb switch. Think about it this way, the foods we eat will either hurt us or heal us to some degree. Everything put into the body, from the foods we eat, to the constant stress we are under, will help determine how our genes are expressed and whether or not we will be healthy or ill as we age.
Once you begin modifying to a diet that uses less processed foods and is more predominantly plant based, you will literally experience the difference. Food becomes more than just basic sustenance; it can truly offer a form of medicine.
Healing the body isn’t always as simple as just eating food and hoping that nourishes us enough. Mindset, managing stress and resting are just as important. Change often doesn’t come easy for most people, which is why the best approach is to make slow, long term lifestyle changes. Here’s a few simple steps you can begin incorporating today:
- To start on your healthy path, begin by adding more vegetables to your meals, especially the dark green leafy ones which deliver a boost of blood cleansing nutrients.
- Eat the rainbow! Eating a variety of colorful vegetables will help ensure you get a range of antioxidants.
- Begin to listen to what your body is telling you. Our bodies send signals all the time that give insight into what is happening on the inside; learning body intuition will help guide you on your path.
- Chew your food thoroughly. Sound contrite? The more you chew your food before swallowing, the less work the digestion system needs to do to break it down, allowing for extraction of more nutrients.
- Stop eating when you are 80% full. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain you are full. You can always eat more after taking a break if you really need it.
- Start a gratitude practice. Name three things you are grateful for every day.
It’s all about making conscious food choices along with other pillars of health like mindfulness, meditation, community, proper sleep and energetic modalities to support and heal the body. Begin to make modifications in those areas and watch the change happen.
Could the future of medicine actually include food and lifestyle prescriptions? It can, it will and it’s already happening.