Can food be medicine? Let’s take a look

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Before modern medicine dominated our healthcare practices in the early part of the last century, seeking health advice for symptoms would typically involve taking a herbal concoction, listening to a wise sage who would pass down the wisdom of old of what to eat and what not to eat. Fast forward to 2022 and we now have at our fingertips advanced knowledge of how food affects our health and is one of the top indicators of risk for chronic disease.

Not only is what you put into your mouth important but also when you put food into your mouth. With all the recent research on intermittent and prolonged fasting and how it affects our metabolisms, profound positive changes can be achieved by prolonging not eating.

The modern adage ‘food is medicine’ coined by the institute of functional medicine in the last decade truly represents how powerful food choices can determine our health. Let’s break it down how.

1. The macro-nutrient ratios

More important than any other risk factor of food choice is how we determine our health after consuming the balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The ratio balance will strongly influence your risk of 3 chronic diseases diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. If you consume too many carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, noodles, sweets, sodas, then over time insulin (the hormone which regulates blood sugar) will rise and you’ll become pre-diabetic and further down the line diabetic. The health implications of this one disease, are far-reaching as systemic diabetes will affect your eyes, brain, kidneys, liver, nerves, and heart. Multiple organ dysfunction and disability is the insidious outcome of this simple imbalance in the diet.

2. Organic v non-organic/ fresh/ frozen

In today’s world, we emphasise the convenience and cost of foods, and the decisions to not order or consume ‘quality’ ingredients in our diets can have profound implications. Research produced in the USA recently highlighted that modern farming practices rarely replace the nutrients in foods today. Magnesium is one such nutrient that is very deficient in vegetables and fruits produced conventionally. So much so that magnesium deficiency symptoms are very common, like muscle cramps, insomnia, low energy, heart palpitations, PMS, and anxiety. And yet rarely do we connect the dots as to how chronic deficiencies can affect our health. Buying certified organic vegetables meats and fruits at least goes some way to identify agricultural practices which protect the nourish the delicate ecosystems optimise the soils, and optimise the nutrient update in plants and animals. Studies have gone to show the higher nutrient levels in organic vegetable v conventional.

The debate of getting farm-fresh or frozen foods is also confusing for many people. Without a doubt farm-fresh foods are the best as the preservation of nutrient levels is the highest. But with meats and fish, we can be a little more flexible and chose frozen or tinned versions as the nutrient content is preserved well and provides a potential lower-cost option.

3. Specialised diet plans

We have at our disposal a variety of specialised diet plans which can help a variety of conditions which people present. Ketogenic diets have real benefits for people who suffer from epilepsy, have diabetes, hypertension, acne, weight gain, or dementia. Elimination diets are great for people who suffer from auto-immune diseases, as it reduces the immune load of food on the delicate immune systems of compromised individuals. The FODMAP diet is especially helpful for people with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) as it restricts specific starches in the diet to help the gut recover. Detox diet plans which encourage the elimination of toxins out of the body are especially helpful in today’s world as humans are subtly exposed to a range of toxins ranging from heavy metals to petrochemical pollutants. These toxins are especially disruptive to the body in energy production, cognitive function, and cardiovascular health. So supporting liver and kidney pathways of ‘clean’ foods are gently supporting detoxification pathways of the body.

So we can see how the path to optimal heath does start with food choices for many people however it’s not like a magic pill that instantly changes the body’s metabolism. It’s a gentle restorative process that takes weeks and maybe months to see the benefits. From there on in, you can truly enjoy the benefits of what optimal health is, boundless energy, clear thinking, and calm minds.

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