“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. This famous quote by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, rings even more true today than when he said it did back in 400 B.C.
Hippocrates was a physician who made a living by going door to door to see bed-ridden patients in their homes. His first hand observations of the effects of diet and lifestyle on overall health led him to create the philosophical foundation upon which modern medicine was founded. In fact, physicians since those times have taken the Hippocratic Oath through which they promise to uphold these basic principles of preserving health without causing any harm to the patient.
Lifestyles and medicine have changed a lot since the time of Hippocrates. In fact, modern medicine has never been further away from nature. In order for a medication to be patented and prescribed for the treatment of disease it legally cannot be natural because there cannot be a patent on a naturally occurring thing. So now as a result, we are far removed from the very foundation on which modern medicine was built. Drugs are commonly prescribed over food and lifestyle modifications. In fact, for many physicians and medical researchers, food has no therapeutic value beyond providing calories for energy. The blatant disconnect between nutrition and health is so severe in medicine nowadays, that many physicians don’t even ask their patients about their daily food intake before treating them.
What hasn’t changed, over the past 2500 years is our basic anatomy and physiology. Our bodies are still made of the same organs and systems and cells. Each cell still has the same nutritional needs today as it did in the days of Hippocrates. The cell is the most basic level of life and our bodies are made of millions of them. Each cell is like a tiny biochemical machine that performs different jobs depending on where it is located in the body. It takes raw materials from the food we eat and uses them to may hormones, brain chemicals, enzymes, new cells as well as a host of other essential substances. In fact, most cells in our bodies are replaced by newer cells at least every few years.
If the quality of the raw materials used to make these new cell is poor, as time goes on the overall health of these new cells decreases and the aging process is accelerated. Imagine a body made from candy bars, French fries, and diet sodas. Now compare that to a body made from fresh fruit, organic kale and spinach and lots of pure water. Do you think there would be a distinct difference in the quality and health of the cells and organs between the two bodies? There would absolutely be a difference. Therefore, if the health of the cells and organs in our bodies are affected by the type and quality of food we eat, it stands to reason that the food we eat has a direct impact on how we feel, both physically and emotionally. It will determine if our bodies work properly or if we will be susceptible to diseases such as heart disease, cancer, hormone imbalances, diabetes, thyroid diseases, depression, digestive disorders and other issues not ordinarily associated with diet.
As evident in our society, food can cause as much harm as good. According to the Centers for Disease Control, close to 70% of all US deaths are related to diet and lifestyle. As a Naturopathic Physician, at The Lifestyle Clinic, my main goal is to make sure that the basic nutritional requirements for each patient is being met. At our office, we don’t just look at symptoms. Instead when do a comprehensive evaluation of each patient’s medical history, family/genetic history, exercise routine, stress levels and all the major body systems. This ensures that we provide the best holistic individual food plan for each patient.
The type and quality of food we eat is extremely important. I place a direct focus on whole food nutrition. My patients are always encouraged to eat foods that occur naturally in nature as close to their natural state as possible and avoid processed and synthetic food. In fact, my philosophy is that there are only two basic food groups. The first is real, natural whole foods that you can recognize just by looking at them. The second is synthetic food products that do not occur in nature and you will need to read a list of ingredients to figure out exactly what you are eating. Needless to say, eating from the first group is always preferred. It is a simple philosophy that makes sense of nutrition in this very technical and complicated world. It eliminates the need for counting calories, grams of sodium, grams of fat and all the other unhealthy additives found in processed or synthetic food.
Natural food comes perfectly packaged and balanced by nature. If we eat a good colorful variety of organic fruits, vegetables and some lean animal protein, we provide our bodies with what they need to maintain, improve and preserve our health.
Written by Dr. Kivette Parkes, ND