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Food as Medicine: Powerful New Drug Could be at the End of Your Fork

Posted Sep 16 2008 11:56pm

It shows that food is the most powerful “drug” we have not just to prevent, but also treat, cure, and reverse most chronic illnesses.

Unfortunately, most physicians did not learn the two most important things we need to know about in medical school -- nutrition and the role of the environment and toxins in our health.

My goal is to help my patients heal and get better and I have no particular allegiance to any type of treatment -- whether it is a drug, surgery, radiation, or new procedure.

I have at my disposal the best medicines and pharmaceutical treatments. I can send patients to the best surgeons and specialists anywhere in the world.

But time after time, I find the most powerful, fastest acting, and most dramatic results come from using food as our main medicine.

I use food for healing, not because I believe it is better to use natural treatments than to use drugs, but because it works better and only has positive side effects.

And I’m not alone.

This June, I will be giving the keynote speech on the history of nutrition and medicine at a course in Baltimore called “Food as Medicine,” sponsored by the Center for Mind Body Medicine.

You can find out more about this here:

This course breaks important ground in bringing nutritional science to healthcare professionals in a digestible, practical, hands-on format.

Dr. Jim Gordon, who was the chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, pioneered this course more than seven years ago. He was recently honored as one of the five pioneers of integrative medicine by the Bravewell Collaborative and has been a leader in mind-body medicine, nutrition, and healing for nearly 40 years.

Over the last seven years, he has trained hundreds of practitioners, including faculty from more than 50 medical schools, which are now including this knowledge of how to use food as medicine in their curriculum.

Clearly, things have changed.

I remember a food-related meeting years ago, which included the nutritionists, doctors, chefs, and owners of Canyon Ranch, where I worked. I made it very clear during that meeting that I believed the future of nutrition and the culinary arts must recognize the therapeutic value of food to heal chronic illnesses.

As soon as the words “food is medicine” left my lips, I was under attack.

The vehement response from the chief chef was that food is only about good taste, not good health, and that we were not the Mayo Clinic.

Fortunately, this antiquated view is changing.

More and more food services, restaurants, and other institutions are recognizing the healing power of food and are including healing foods as part of their offerings.

The “Food as Medicine” course addresses things that most practitioners never learn in medical school, such as the scientific basis of nutrition as a therapeutic tool, how we can eat in a sustainable way, and how the health of our planet has directly affected the health of our food and the health of our bodies.

The course stresses areas such as nutrigenomics, the idea that food is information that speaks to our genes and turns on messages that create health or disease.

It also explores the role of stress, nutrition, hormone balance, the health of our gut, and the importance of detoxification and food.

The course is based on the basic tenets of Functional Medicine but is broken down into simple, practical tools practitioners can use every day with their patients.

It addresses specific nutritional approaches for conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, ADD, asthma, allergies, autoimmune diseases, fibromyalgia, and adrenal, thyroid, and neurodegenerative problems. Practitioners are advised on the use of nutritional supplements and cutting edge laboratory tests.

All this is done in an experiential way that increases self-awareness and includes food demonstrations and organic meals. In fact, this year they are using The UltraMetabolism Cookbook as a source for the meals that are served during the course.

The faculty this year is outstanding.

They include:

  • James Joseph, a leading antioxidant researcher from Tufts University
  • Collin Fogarty Draper, an expert in nutrigenomics
  • David Ludwig, head of the obesity program at Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
  • Gerard Mullin, from John Hopkins Medical School
  • Michael Lumpkin, a professor at Georgetown University Medical School
  • Many other distinguished speakers

The course director is actually the nutrition director of The UltraWellness Center, Kathie Swift, who has been involved in creating and developing this course over the years.

Anybody interested in nutrition is welcome to come.

Any healthcare practitioner will benefit -- including physicians, osteopaths, medical school faculty, nurses, nurse practitioners, registered dietitians and nutritionists, physician assistants, community healthcare practitioners, psychologists, mental health professionals, and other health professionals.

According to Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the leading researchers in the world in nutrition, “It is time to end the confusion. ‘Food as Medicine’ presents the best current scientific evidence for physicians, nutritionists, and other health professionals who want to counsel patients and teach students.”

I encourage all of you to tell your healthcare practitioners about it -- and consider attending yourself. This course provides tools and information to use the most powerful weapon against disease in the 21st century, your fork.

You can find out more about this here:

Remember what Hippocrates said:

“Leave your potions in the chemist’s crucible if you can handle your patients with food.”

Now I’d like to hear from you…

How does your doctor view nutrition?

What experiences have you had by using food as medicine?

Do you plan to attend the conference?

Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, M.D.

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