How Food Can Act as Medicine

I came across an article recently that addresses the current health crisis happening across our nation and provides a common sense solution to help improve the health of the people of the United States and prevent the same problems from happening in the future.

Helping People with their Health

A story in the Statesman Journal recounts the experience of a woman who has spent the bulk of her career as an internist at Kaiser Permanente. For 16 years, Carmelo Mejia has helped people treat their chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension just to name a few. After realizing that these treatments didn’t truly address the problem at hand, Mejia wanted another solution. Rather than help prevent the illness in the future, she was simply helping people mask the symptoms or slow them for a short period of time before it progressed. She wanted a more proactive approach that could address the issue at, or even before, its conception.

As she explains, for most of the people she works with, years of an unhealthy diet and poor lifestyle choices have led those individuals to the health problems they face. Treating these conditions after they develop is “like dealing with a leaky faucet by repeatedly mopping the floor.” Rather than always choosing medication and treatment after the fact, which is often the path suggested by doctors, Mejia turned to food to help avert the problems in the first place.

It’s the Food

Despite the overwhelming research on the benefits of a healthy plant-based diet, its effects and the effect of
nutrition in general is often ignored or dismissed as inconsequential to the overall results in the medical field. It can make a huge difference in the outcome of a patient, though. According to Mejia, a nutritional approach utilizing a whole-foods, plant-based diet can help prevent and even reverse some chronic illnesses, which is why she has begun using that method with her patients. Though it can be difficult to get people to change their ways, because food is such a highly personal subject for most people, once they do, the results are astounding.

Lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol are just a few of the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Reversing heart disease and diabetes are possible through a change in nutrition, too. Because plant foods are high in fiber, low in saturated fat, lacking in cholesterol and trans fats, and are low on the glycemic index, they are the perfect foods to help manage or reverse health problems brought on by diet and lifestyle choices.

Think Long Term

As Mejia points out, this kind of intervention isn’t meant to replace traditional medical care, but rather be used as a complement to medication and other treatment, which can often save lives, especially in the short term and in case of emergency. The traditional system of treatment and medication isn’t getting us too far, though. Because health care is getting more expensive and people in the United States are getting sicker, our annual health care spending is costlier than ever. With a preventable disease ranking as our nation’s number one killer, it is clear that we could use some serious changes in our diet.

Stroke, diabetes, and cancer, which are also often lifestyle related, take millions of lives annually, as well. By skipping out on high fat foods like animal products and processed or packaged foods full of preservatives, your diet can not only help bring your numbers under control, but can help you reach a level of health you may never have attained before, which includes high energy levels, clearer skin, and healthy digestion, among other things.

It’s vital that we as Americans begin to focus less on convenience in the short term and more on long term health and consciousness if we want to improve our chances of survival and reduce the havoc that health care spending is wreaking on our economy. Next time you sit down to a meal, question whether your meal represents a journey to health or a journey to sickness. If it’s the latter, try instead to fill your plate with plants and feel the difference.