Let Food Be Your Medicine
Full Nutrition is Better than Drugs
The ancient healer Hippocrates once said, “Let your food be your medicine… and let your medicine be your food.” As I think about that thought I realized that we do treat our food as a drug, albeit in a destructive way. Our consumption of fast food and sugar has enabled us to be the kings and queens of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and nearly every chronic disease found on earth.
Conventional thinking is to let your drugs become your food and your food the vicious promoter of the ailments we try to battle with our pharmaceuticals.
The reality is that drugs don’t provide you with nutrition — they only block or fool the body into believing, on a temporary basis, that something is balanced.
New scientific data is teaching us that Hippocrates was right. There are foods and ways we can eat that absolutely promote health. The trick is to weed through the data in order to address what works and what doesn’t.
Let’s journey through some of my recent discoveries regarding food as a drug.
The medical profession is beginning to understand the role of chronic inflammation as the cause and effect of most illnesses. One can say that anti-inflammation equals wellness. So how do we instruct the body’s flood of biochemical pathways to move in the right direction with food?
To begin, let’s find out where inflammation comes from. Foods loaded with sugar turn on the hormone insulin in the body, which produces fat which in turns produces chemicals that turns on inflammation. Pesticides, saturated fats, trans-fats and other chemicals foreign to the body complicate the picture.
A group up at Harvard looked at with one solution called “Calorie Restriction.” It is the most documented method of extending lifespan and healthspan in all species studied. Unfortunately for us, we enjoy our food and find it very difficult to be on starvation mode for any lengths of time.
Another way to approach inflammation is to pursue an anti-inflammatory diet. The best place to start is on your plate. If you divide your plate into thirds, you can begin with placing a piece of lean protein the size and thickness of the palm of your hand in one third of your plate, with the other two-thirds consisting of low glycemic fruits and vegetables. Make sure to get enough Omega-9 fats consisting of olive oil and avocado oil for example. Omega-3 oils are a very important part of squelching the inflammation. These oils are found in cold water fish such as Salmon, Sardines, Cod Liver, and others. A starter dose of EPA/DHA (the main ingredient in Fish Oil) is 2000 mg to 3000mg per day without disease. The dose goes up with specific diseases.
A December 2003 British Medical Journal looked at diet as a superior way to fight cardiovascular disease over drugs. The polymeal approach looked at red wine, fish, dark chocolate, fruits, vegetables, garlic and almonds to replace such as statins, ACE inhibitors, Aspirin, Diuretics and Beta-blockers, the polypill approach. The study concluded that ½ glass of red wine, 100 grams of dark chocolate, 400 grams of fruits and vegetables, 2.7 grams of garlic (one clove) and 118 grams of fish per day four times per week reduced cardiovascular disease events by 76%.
How is this possible?
The power is in the combination. Power phyto-flavanols found in grape wine (Vitis vinifera), tea (Camellia sinensis), and cocoa (Theobroma cacao) have been found to have an inverse relationship when their intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease. These phytonutrients show improvement of vasodilation, blood pressure, insulin resistance, and glucose tolerance.
Dark chocolate in and of itself has been shown to decrease blood pressure according to an article published in Hypertension in August 2005. According to the study, 100 grams per day of dark chocolate (containing 88 mg flavonols) times 7 days decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure while also decreasing LDL cholesterol and improving insulin resistance.
Some non-flavonoids derived from foods are also showing great promise in the fight against chronic diseases. Three examples include Resveratrol, Curcumin and Lignans.
Resveratrol is derived from the skin of grapes. Red wine has about 1.5 to 3 milligrams of resveratrol per liter. A 150 pound person would need to drink 750 to 1,500 bottles of red wine per day to get a therapeutic dose, which is 24mg per kilogram of body weight. Therefore the best approach is with extract supplementation. Resveratrol turns on a longevity gene in mice known as the Sirt-2. This is the same gene turned on during caloric restriction.
The Allium found in garlic is beneficial in the fight against Prostate and other cancers as well.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and broccoli sprouts contains two powerful anti-cancer compounds called Indole-3 Cabinol (I3C) and Diindo-methane (DIM). These compounds have been very effective in shutting off cancer cells in the breast and prostate.
Capsicin, the major pungent ingredient in red peppers, has an antiproliferative effect on prostate cancer cells. That means it arrests their division and stops the cancer’s growth.
Tomatoes contain Lycopene, which essentially quenches free radicals and effectively decreases the risk of prostate cancer by 25% to 80% depending on the study.
Curcumin, from turmeric, blocks the action of xeno-estrogens, which are synthetic estrogens coming from cosmetics, hair products and plastic drinking bottles to name a few. Essentially curcumin inhibits our good friend NFKB we spoke about earlier. In fact an article in Cancer Research in January 2006 reported how Curcumin effectively inhibited cancer cells in mice.
This is just a small example of foods that can be used as drugs to fight disease. So the next time your ready to marinade your favorite piece of meat you might want to try the drug, Tumeric Garlic Marinade- 2 tsps garlic powder, 1 tsp ground turmeric, ½ cup orange juice- mixed well and poured over meat, fish or poultry for 10 minutes.