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Eating the Cure

Posted Jul 05 2012 3:03pm

Have you ever wondered, is this as good as it gets? Am I destined to feel the ravages of aging? Do I have to feel the nagging symptoms that I have come to accept as normal – a little more tired, a little more (or a lot more) belly fat, a little more trouble sleeping, a little more achy, a little more congestion, a little more indigestion and bloating, a lower sex drive? Or worse, are you suffering like one in two Americans with a chronic disease? Do you have pre-diabetes or diabetes (90% of which is not diagnosed)? Do you have an autoimmune, allergic or digestive disorder? Do you have mood, memory, attention problems or migraines? If so, the cure you’ve been looking for can be found at the end of your fork.

Disease is not a normal consequence of aging. Nagging symptoms, often heavily medicated, are not inevitable. They are the result of something very simple: Not following the basic laws of biology. Your body is a system, an ecosystem where everything is connected. When that system is out of balance, disease arises. And there are only a few ways the body becomes out of balance: Too much of the bad stuff (poor diet, stress, microbes, toxins and allergens), and not enough of the good stuff (whole, real fresh food, nutrients, movement, water, air, light, rest, sleep, rhythm, love, connection, meaning and purpose). These are the ingredients for a healthy human.

After practicing medicine for over 25 years, I am still startled to find how most of my patients do not connect what they eat with how they feel, thinking that disease is something that happens randomly, a thing that they get. Recent discoveries in the field of genomics, epigenetics and nutrigenomics provide a new paradigm for understanding how to treat disease. It is quite simple. Disease goes away as a side effect of getting healthy. You don’t have to treat the symptoms. Simply treat the cause and the symptoms vanish. Treat the system.

This past year, in partnership with Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and doctors Oz and Amen, we created a simple experiment: Teach people how to create health and watch disease go away. The 30,000 member church not only lost 250,000 pounds, but vanquished diseases – diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, allergies, asthma, irritable bowel, reflux, migraines, acne, low sex drive, fatigue and more.

The biggest lever to create biologic change is not a new wonder drug or new robotic surgical procedure, but food. The right food turns on the right genes, and creates biological signals that create health, while the wrong foods turn on genes that cause disease and create biological chaos. The average American eats 29 pounds of french fries, 23 pounds of pizza, 24 pounds of ice cream and consumes 53 gallons of soda, 24 pounds of artificial sweeteners, 2.736 pounds of salt and 90,700 mg of caffeine per year. Do we really think we can create health in that toxic environment? Conversely, we underestimate the power of real, whole, fresh food to transform our biology, not in months or years, but in days or weeks. What you put on the end of your fork is more powerful than anything you will ever find at the bottom of a pill bottle.

Dr. Dean Ornish has proven that eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet beneficially affects over 500 genes, turning off the cancer-causing genes and turning on the cancer-fighting genes. Even more startling is research by Elizabeth Warren, winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, and Dr. Ornish who found that you could reverse the inevitable shortening of your chromosomes that accompanies aging simply by eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Telomeres are the little end caps on your chromosomes. They get shorter as you age. Eating real food lengthens them. There is no drug or any intervention other than food that has ever been shown to stop their inexorable shortening, shortening your life in the process.

Each meal is a chance to heal. The good news is that despite doctors’ confusion and media misinformation, the science of nutrition is quite clear on how to get extraordinary results and create health.

Here’s how to prevent, treat and reverse almost every chronic illness. It is based on what I call the “nutrigenomic index” or how to turn on all the genes that create health. Try it for one month and not only will you lose weight and boost your energy, but many of your chronic nagging symptoms will go away.

1. EAT REAL FOOD If it was grown on a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, avoid it. If it has a label stay away. As my grandmother said, “Buy fresh, eat fresh.”

2. EAT THE RAINBOW Colorful plant foods, the dark greens, blues, reds, oranges and yellows are all indicators of powerful plant compounds called phytonutrients that turn on anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, detoxifying genes.

3. GET AN OIL CHANGE Most Americans are deficient in Omega-3 fats that make up 60% of your brain, prevent heart disease and diabetes and reduce inflammation. Eat sardines, wild salmon, but stay away from the mercury laden tuna and swordfish.

4. CREATE THE PERFECT PLATE 50% low starchy veggies like broccoli, asparagus, salad fixings, 25% lean protein (chicken, fish, beans, nuts or seeds), and 25% gluten-free whole grain like brown rice or quinoa or starchy veggies like sweet potato.

5. BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR Learn how to create the perfect plate (and meal) to keep your blood sugar even. Banish sugar from all forms for one month. Eating sugar and flour products spike insulin, the fat storage hormone, leading to belly fat or “diabesity,” a metabolic disaster area that is the biggest cause of heart attacks, diabetes, cancer, and even dementia.

6. POWER UP YOUR DAY WITH PROTEIN Protein for breakfast (whole Omega-3 eggs, protein shake, etc.) boosts your metabolism and builds muscle.

7. DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES You don’t compensate for them by lowering your intake of solid food and they spike your insulin, too. That means sodas, juices and too much alcohol (more than one glass with dinner).

8. BEAT THE WHEAT Wheat has taken over our food supply. Our modern dwarf wheat has a super starch (amylopectin A), super gluten and a super drug which makes you fat, inflamed and addicted. Two slices of whole wheat bread raise your blood sugar more than two tablespoons of table sugar. Give it up for the summer and watch your health transform.

9. DUMP DAIRY For the summer (or just a month), give up “nature’s perfect food” (only if you are a calf!). It can cause digestive problems, sinus congestion, allergies, asthma, eczema, and even acne.

10. NUTRIFY YOUR LIFE Take a good multi-vitamin and mineral, a fish oil capsule and vitamin D3 every day. Over 90% of Americans are deficient in one or more nutrients. And a multivitamin can even lengthen your teleomeres.

These ten simple, but powerful ideas are based on decades of nutritional science of how to create health. Collectively, they can vanquish the most dreaded diseases and nagging symptoms. Most of my patients say, “Dr. Hyman, I didn’t know how bad I was feeling until I started feeling so good.” That is my wish for all of you

Photography by Nathan Coe

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