Food as Medicine: Lose the Junk, Keep the Joy
“Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.” – Elsa Schiaparelli
Food nourishes the body, the mind and the spirit. Food is far more important than simply fuel and a collection of nutrients that support healing and metabolism. Eating is meant to be pleasurable and enjoyed in good company. Food is central to celebrations and comfort in times of mourning. The food we choose is our sense of identity, defining what religion, culture, geographic area or even family we belong to.
Unfortunately, much of the modern foods we eat are increasingly more toxic to our body, mind and spirit every day. I know that it is possible to maneuver in this toxic food environment in such a way that sustains the joy and supports wellness and vitality, but that very few people have the knowledge, the skills or the support to achieve the wellness that is possible. There is strong scientific evidence that some people are more vulnerable (genetics, history of emotional trauma, socioeconomic status, loneliness…) to this environment than others and this vulnerability manifests itself as chronic illness. This health care provider knows it is not your choice to be ill and can provide compassion, support and personalized strategies to discover restored vitality and experience life to its full potential.
The Standard American Diet (SAD): Hyperpalatable foods that are so powerfully palatable that they over stimulate the “reward system” of the brain and are addictive. Hyperpalatability is a consequence of the deadly triad: salt, sugar and processed fats, as well as flavor and appetite enhancing chemicals (like MSG) and advanced glycation end products formed by cooking at high temperatures. These evolutionary drives in our taste system enhance survival by encouraging nutrient intake. But the modern food systems have artificially exaggerated them to encourage consumption. These foods promote severe, chronic, systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. This inflammation and oxidative stress induces insulin resistance which promotes further weight gain and broad spectrum of modern chronic illnesses. Nutrients have been removed and chemicals have been added by processing. Many of these chemicals are unknown to the body and stimulate immune responses or stress the liver. They are very low in antioxidants and phytonutrients that quench oxidation and suppress inflammation. Well over 70% of these foods are GMO modified and the full impact to the body of these genetic changes has not been fully revealed by science. Ironically, most of this food comes from only three plant varieties: wheat, corn and soy. They are also cheap and convenient. Even their packaging contributes chemicals called endocrine disruptors that alter thyroid, stress and sex hormone function. Daily consumption will rob you of your life and health.
The Functional Food Realm: It is this zone that the author and journalist Michael Pollan referred to when he advised “eat food”. Whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense, clean non-GMO foods raw or “gently” cooked and seasoned with culinary intelligence are absolutely delicious and joyful to eat. I want to reassure you that while some of these foods may be different than you are used to eating, they will be delicious TO YOU and built around food and flavors that you love, or will discover that you love, but just never knew. Because your tastes, preferences and needs are carefully integrated into the therapeutic diets, you will find that eating your way back into health will be a fun adventure rather than an exercise in deprivation. Note that there is some of the Functional Medicine realm that will not be in your diet plan. These are those things that, in spite of their benefits, you simply do not like and/or create an adverse effect due to an individual immune reaction or biochemical intolerance. Everyone has a few and the list is different for everyone.
Examples of Functional Medicine Diet Plans:
- Gastrointestinal Healing: GAPS, Elimination Diets, FODMAP, LEAP/MRT “Immunocalm”
- Cardiometabolic: Anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean, Calorie Restricted
- Detox Diets: Whole, raw, organic
- Mitochondrial Diets for Pain and Fatigue: Mito, Paleo, Ketogenic