Food as Medicine

Today I’m sharing the link to an upcoming showing of a documentary that features faculty that I work with at the National University of Natural Medicine. The film is called “Food as Medicine: A Documentary Film about Healing.” It’s based on an age old quote from Hippocrates that goes like this: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” It seems so simple, and yet it’s such a difficult goal to obtain.

Since I’ve been in biomedical institutions, I’ve seen a paucity of nutrition education in the medical field. When I was at the University of Colorado, the medical students received less than 6 hours of nutrition education. I’ve heard it has increased to 25 hours, but that only a fraction of the hours are clinical nutrition. When I was at Yale University, the medical students received about 3 hours of nutrition education. At Oregon Health and Science University, it has been increasing over the last 10 years, but still lacks the muster to be a solid nutritional education. The national average is 4.75 hours of clinical nutrition education.1Shockingly low.

In fact, one of the things that attracted to me to the National University of Natural Medicine was the fact that the naturopathic students received 96 hours of nutrition education. What they can do with food as a result of their education is incredible!

And it’s so necessary. In the US, six of the top ten chronic diseases have roots in nutrition. We always associate diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease with nutritional causes. But did you know that COPD, stroke, and Alzheimer’s also have strong links to diet? Osteoporosis and cancer are also strongly affected by nutrition. And pain!!! The number one complaint of people in the US, chronic pain, can be addressed with diet! As many people know, my personal interest is Parkinson’s disease. This is another disease that can be impacted by nutrition.

However, I regularly hear MDs scoff saying there’s no evidence that nutrition can impact health outcomes. Unfortunately, this comment was made again this week at the World Parkinson’s Congress in one of the keynote lectures. I always feel like I have to apologize for MDs who don’t read the literature. Their lack of education is somewhat embarrassing to me. Apologies if you’re an MD who understands nutrition. Please help me educate your colleagues!

My own passion is inflammation. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with several nutrition studies that reduce inflammation. Yes, chronic inflammation can be modified with diet. I’ve seen it with 3 different diets, and we’re publishing this data now. Our particular studies were whole diet studies. But the data is equally compelling with individual ingredients. In some cases, and in some individuals, it may take strong nutritional influences that might come from a supplement to slow inflammation, but in many cases reducing inflammation does not require a shot of prednisone! It can be done with fish oil, green tea, or curcumin.

So why don’t we use nutrition to address inflammation? Why do some physicians insist that diet doesn’t matter when nutrition impacts the biochemistry of EVERY cell in the body? I prefer to take the glass half full explanation – that people just don’t know that their diet plays such an important role in their disease processes. The other explanation is just depressing – that people know, but are too lazy, ignorant, or disempowered to care.

Nutrition is such a versatile thing. It can be done with pharmaceuticals! It can be done with surgery. In fact, it kind of has to happen every day if you think about it. When you combine good solid nutrition with exercise, an unbeatable combination emerges.

Thomas Edison said, “The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but will rather cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” The future is now. We can do this!!! Let’s get busy!

The film “Food as Medicine: A Documentary Film about Healing” is showing at NUNM on September 30th at 6 pm. For more information, you can go here:

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