This blog post is all about using diet and lifestyle changes as preventative medicine. Is this something that you have ever considered? We have not evolved to require medication and we do not get sick as a result of medication deficiency. Find out below how the power of food can help chronic conditions.
Modern medicine has given us many blessings. In the first half of the 20th century, insulin was discovered. It soon became available as a drug, and subsequently type 1 diabetes was no longer a deadly disease. In the 1940s, antibiotics became available and have since saved millions of lives. It seems hard to believe now that before then, an injury as slight as the scratch of a rose’s thorn could kill you. Surgeons save lives every day, removing inflamed appendices, stitching up injured tissues, screwing bones back together, replacing joints and even organs.
Yet, the one thing modern medicine still cannot cure is chronic diseases. Contrary to the impression conveyed to us, it is not even particularly good at managing them. For chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, dementia, depression and more, the treatment of choice is drugs. However, all drugs come with unintended side effects. What’s more, according to Danish physician and researcher Peter Gøtzsche, prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death in Europe and the US.
Very little attention is given to prevention, despite ample evidence that diet and lifestyle choices play a significant role in the development of chronic illness. A real food diet, movement, sleep, sunshine and natural light, relaxation techniques and stress management go a long way to prevent us from falling ill in the first place, but even late in the day – when a chronic disease has already struck – diet and lifestyle changes are still able to slow or even halt the progression of the disease or even reverse it altogether. For example, we now know that type 2 diabetes, which used to be considered progressive and incurable, can be reversed, either through gastric bypass surgery or a change of diet. No drug can achieve that! But if there’s a choice between changing the diet or have gastric bypass surgery, I know which one I would try first.
Even if there is a genetic predisposition to a specific disease that runs in your family – say cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, depression or cancer – diet and lifestyle choices still matter. Genes can be switched on or off. Genes load the gun, but poor diet and lifestyle choices pull the trigger.
Can food really be that powerful?
In short: Yes. Many people think of nutrition and the value of food only in terms of calories: “You need X amount of calories to sustain life, X amount to be healthy.” And also, “If you want to lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you consume.”
Yet, food is so much more than calories.
(Real) food contains a plethora of nutrients your body needs. Many of those, you only need in trace amounts, but you do need them. The human body consists of and evolved to require protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and lots of other nutrients from food. You did not evolve to require medication, and you do not get sick as a result of medication deficiency!
Nutritional deficiencies cause or contribute to many illnesses. In cases where malnutrition or malabsorption are not the underlying cause of disease, food can still a) reduce the damage and b) help the body heal itself.
I’m not saying there is no need for medication – far from it – but you may need less or none if you give the body what it needs for repair and maintenance.
On the flip side, of course, the modern diet contains a lot of so-called ‘food’ that you do not need at all. Not only that, but the evidence that modern ultra-processed food ((think convenience food, novelty foods, junk foods) causes harm is also mounting.
The power of food
Almost every client I see books in because they are looking for help with one, perhaps two, specific issues. That could be weight loss, hormone balance or digestive health (or something else). Almost every one of them also experiences other, apparently unrelated symptoms, which can be severe or just niggling nuisances: headaches, sleep disturbances, joint pain, tiredness, irritability, skin conditions … Once we start working on the issue they wanted to address, without fail, some or all of those other problems improve or go away completely, often before the main issue has been resolved.
Once the body heals, it heals. Unlike drugs, which usually deal with one thing, such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol or blood glucose, nutrients get to work wherever they are needed. Win-win!
How to use food as medicine
If you want to get (or stay) healthy, you need to think about what you eat as well as what you don’t eat.
1. Eat real food
2. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates
3. Eat natural fats
4. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
5. Take a break from eating now and again
6. Speak to a nutritional therapist
The above tips are a great place to start if you are healthy and would like to remain so. If you already have a chronic illness, I recommend working with a nutritional therapist – like me – who will be able to give customised dietary and lifestyle advice. Although the above tips are suitable for healthy people, there may be caveats if you have a diagnosed condition. It is safest to work with someone trained in nutrition to avoid pitfalls.
For every chronic disease and health condition, there are foods that promote it and foods that can help ease it. When I’m working with private clients, I take a detailed medical and family health history, look at your current diet, recommend functional tests, and work with you on a diet and lifestyle plan that fits into your life and works for you. With your permission, I will work with your doctor and healthcare team to get your health back on track. If you know you need this level of personal support, book a complimentary call with me and let’s get to work!