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Excerpt from the chapter Food as Medicine: We eat our way into our symptoms, and we can eat our way back out:
"Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." - Hippocrates
We live at a strange crossroads in history. Over the last few decades, the human species has been hypnotized by the temptations offered by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The 1950's ushered in the "better living through chemicals" age. And we believed, and we bought and swallowed and injected and are still consuming them in massive amounts, and, most recklessly, injecting such chemicals as ethylene glycol (antifreeze), aluminum and formaldehyde into our babies as part of vaccines, without any prior safety testing.
But now with massive chronic disease plaguing our most industrialized populations, autism closely following children's shots, and more pathology coincident with concentrated chemicals, we are beginning to wake up from our long post-World War II slumber. Now begins the next era when synthetic chemicals are starting to be seen as, however useful in many applications, best kept at a distance from our bodies, our homes, public spaces and wilderness.
The old era of unthinking reliance on a synthetic existence is showing severe disadvantages, just as the urgency to forge new relationships with nature is becoming apparent. Plants and other whole foods are coming into their own new era as naturopathic physicians and other well-informed health practitioners rely on them for their central role in healing. Within our lifetimes, natural substances will eclipse pharmaceuticals in medical practice, as the general public awakens to its far superior healing capacity.
But the pharmaceutical industry will be the slowest to catch on, just as most physicians and druggists of the early 20th century refused to believe that absence of certain nutrients could bring on such horrible diseases as scurvy, pellagra and beriberi. Then as now, allopaths were eager to lay blame for these diseases on microbes, until . . . oops! limes cured the "limey" British sailors of their scurvy, and we saw that Vitamin B3 prevented pellagra, while Vitamin B1 prevented beriberi and Vitamin D prevented rickets. As usual, conventional medicine corrects itself long after the natural physicians are already healing patients. In fact, evidence now shows that even bubonic plague, which allopathy still attributes exclusively to bacteria known as Yersinia pestis, was more likely to strike those with low Vitamin C intakes and those who did not eat garlic.
What would possess a person to think that food could possibly be medicine? Our first clue is the structure of our intestines. Whatever comes into the mouth later travels through miles of efficient tubing that extracts certain molecules from the food we eat, then converts them to one common molecule, Acetyl Co-A, from which the building blocks of the body are then made: protein, glucose and (healthy-type) fats. The intestines are great little machines, but not omnipotent. That is, they can convert food molecules to Acetyl Co-A, because food has familiar and malleable combinations of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. But it cannot do that with bizarre substances that the body is unfamiliar with, such as petrochemical products and synthetic substances used in pharmaceuticals. The body has no experience with many of these substances, has little clue what to do with them, and often excretes them, which may explain why placebos so often equal or surpass drugs in clinical trials. More often, though, as the body tries to either detoxify or wall off the offending invader drug, it creates new metabolites, which have multiple pharmaceutical effects, some of which may be quite harmful.
Food, on the other hand, is right at home in the body, since our species has always processed it, and we have become quite efficient eating machines as a result. Therefore, we easily break down ingested protein to its component amino acids. These then in turn get rearranged into the proteins that our genes tell us to make, all of the busy construction that takes place in the womb, and for the rest of us: replacement of lost skin and membrane cells, slightly longer fingernails, hair, scabs over wounds, etc. Carbohydrates and dietary fat get broken down to Acetyl Co-A and rearranged to form the molecules our body needs to function, because this is how our bodies have been handling things for all of our existence as a species. How would the body be able to do that from a pharmaceutical? It can't. It's like trying to make your car run on orange juice.
Except for the last century in industrialized society, both humans and animals have almost exclusively relied on plants for their medicine. In fact, it is instructive that, as wild animals are still known to seek plants that are appropriate treatments for whatever illness may be present, rather than also having access to our pharmaceuticals, animals observed in the wild are still free of chronic disease, even when living all the way to their maximum lifespan. Our veterinary and zoo populations, on the other hand, present a very different picture: cancers, heart disease and epilepsy are seen quite commonly among people's well-loved pets who are subject to a highly processed diet as well as synthetic pharmaceuticals by us, their well-intentioned owners and the pet food industry.
Whether we were created or evolved, we have been so intimately connected to plants for all of our existence as a species that we cannot live without them. We connect with plants and exchange with plants down to our very cells and our smallest molecules. That is why they heal us like nothing else can. Our historical reliance on plants has been an integral part of every human society. Plants and humans resonate on levels that are still beyond our comprehension, including biochemical and physiological levels, and some would say aesthetic and emotional as well. How could humans and plants so closely have shared this earth, one with the other, and not had complementary, multi-faceted relationships with each other? Hippocrates said, "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food." Medicine is what you get when the most appropriate plant is given to an ill person. The plant kingdom does play the major role of all foods in this wonderfully beneficial relationship for us.
Quality whole foods are the currency of life
Whether you believe in creation, or evolution or are undecided, most of us would agree that our bodies (that is our anatomy and biochemistry, our metabolism of food) is substantially the same as that of our recent ancestors. What happens when we substitute factory chemicals such as synthetic food and pharmaceuticals for the water and many different nutrients that our cells and our children's cells and internal organs need simply to function well? In fact, the very sad consequences of the latest generations' food and medication choices is becoming more apparent everyday as we are now seeing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease become epidemic in our society. The United States has the worst health status (life expectancy and infant mortality) of any of the industrialized nations, yet we spend the most money on healthcare and take the most pharmaceuticals. Why are Americans getting sicker and sicker while drugging ourselves more and more?
Forget what you ate until today. What you eat from now on is vitally important to your continued well-being.
Until just a few generations ago, our ancestors were wonderfully fit and healthy compared with present-day generations. The majority lived good, active, healthy lives and ultimately died peacefully in their sleep. Today that is a rarity. Whereas chronic disease, chronic pain, and prolonged end-of-life care were practically unheard of for our ancestors, it is becoming much more the expected outcome for us. What single difference between these two centuries impacts our bodies the strongest? The overwhelmingly different factor in our lives is the refined, processed, chemical products that we eat, that our ancestors simply did not eat. If our species, for better or worse, whether created, evolved or in-between, performs best on whole foods (vegetables, fruits, meats, etc.), then we can understand that putting synthetic liquid or solid wastes in the body will simply trash our most valuable possession: our own good health.