Before we are able to use food as medicine, we have to first talk about the whole picture here.
I know you’ve probably heard the saying, ‘you are what you eat.’ But you aren’t just what you eat. You are what you do. Every action you take – what you eat, what you do for work, how you sleep, how you interact with others – matters.
And every action you take affects not only your body, but your mind and spirit as well. Let me explain…
Each one of us is a soul that has a body and a spirit. These three components are intricately connected – this is where you get the term holistic.
Holistic medicine is treatment of the whole person. This means that the physical effects aren’t the only thing considered, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual effects as well.
The goal is to have these three components – the soul, spirit, and body – in balance, where all three are healthy and none are neglected.
You are truly healthy when all three are in balance.
I fear that often we focus on our physical, mental, and emotional health but neglect our spiritual health. But as the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link. So, you are only as healthy as your unhealthiest component, whether that’s your body, mind, heart, or spirit.
Whole Person, Whole Diet
Just as you cannot isolate your soul, spirit, and body, you cannot isolate one food item you eat from your whole diet.
What I mean here is that if you were to add medicinal foods to your diet of mainly junk food, the effects of the medicinal foods would be blocked by the junk food. Your whole diet matters.
It turns out that a lot of fast food and highly processed foods (cakes, cookies, snack foods) are anti-medicinal. These foods can cause a lot of inflammation in your body.
On the other hand, minimally processed foods (fruits, vegetables) are full of nutrients that boost your immune system and fight inflammation. Less inflammation = healthier you.
So, you’re not going to be able to use food as medicine if you add healthy foods to an unhealthy diet. You’ve got to change your whole diet to get the whole benefit of healthy foods.
This is not to say that you can’t ever have junk food.
We, dietitians, have an 80/20 rule. At least 80% of the time you should eat foods that promote your health, and the other 20% you can enjoy those delicious cookies and ice cream.
But, Wait! There’s More…
Now, you may change your diet to one full of nutritious, health-promoting foods, yet still not feel any healthier.
This is because food is only one piece of the puzzle.
Other pieces include sleep, your environment, self-care, other things you put in your body (drugs, alcohol), and stress. Each one of these (plus other factors) plays a part in being healthy.
If you have healthy eating down, how’s your sleeping? Or how about your self-care?
When you start taking into account all aspects of your health, you will begin to see that as empowering as healthy eating can be, it can be even more empowering when you’re healthy in all of these areas.
No Quick Fixes
If you’re reading this right now because you have a condition or some weight that you want a quick fix for, I do not know a quick fix for you. Please forgive me if I have disappointed you.
The only solution I have to offer is one that will help you rebuild your health from the ground up.
There is no promise that eating a diet full of nutritious whole foods alone will cure your afflictions or help you get to your desired weight. This is why it’s important to have healthy sleep and self-care schedules and to get regular exercise too.
But, I can promise you that if you consistently pursue nutritious whole foods, you will be fueling your body with what it needs. And if you work to have a healthy overall lifestyle, you’ll be able to maximize your energy, productivity, and health.
When I say maximizing your health, I mean that you’ll heal your body in the ways that it can be healed.
The unfortunate thing about the consequences of our actions is that at times some amounts of our consequences are permanent. But, there is hope!
The best thing about a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle is that you’ll be preventing any further consequences from happening. And prevention is so, so, so important!
Since I am a dietitian, I can help you with learning how to use food as medicine.
I can help you prevent food-related conditions. And if you are already afflicted by a food-related condition (type 2 diabetes, celiac, IBS, Crohn’s, etc.) I want to help you find a way to minimize the symptoms while boosting your health. I want you to be able to take control back over your health by eating a nutritious diet and living a healthy lifestyle.
Starting next week, we will dive into individual foods and their benefits. But, I want you to keep in mind that individual foods work best in a diet full of healthy inflammation-fighting foods. My goal for you these next few weeks is to discover information about foods that can boost your health.
Though using food as medicine is not a quick fix, it is an investment for a healthier you.
Here’s to a healthier you!