“Let food be thy medicine
Medicine be thy food.”
Food is Medicine.
Food is medicine, and I rediscovered this by participating in a detox. In our culture of trying to feel better, the “new year” brings lots of cleanses and detoxes. I have never participated in a cleanse or detox because I thought if you chose healthy foods, then why would you need to cleanse your body.
This new year my partner Matthew and I decided to embark on a liver cleanse. We prepped for a few weeks before starting by modifying our diets and taking out gluten, dairy, and any processed foods. We also decreased the amount of fat in our diet. Going into the cleanse, I thought this would be easy, I eat healthily, and I know how to cook healthy foods. What a surprise that it was a challenge! By the 4th day in, I was tired, cranky, and just wanted “real food.” We powered through, and in the end, I’m grateful for the experience. What I learned is the detoxes/cleanses are really about bringing one back to the basics of food. Cutting out all the process foods and returning to the basics of foods and nutrition.
Food and Illness
As a pediatrician, I have seen first hand how foods can heal and harm. In America, our obesity rate is up over 185% and tripled in children in the last 50 years. Our society has become focused on weight and fad diets instead of addressing the real problem: our food supply and the quality of our food supply. In our fast-paced world, Americans rely on fast foods and processed foods to eat quickly. Even when we feel that we are making healthy choices, labels many times are misleading. The basic quality of our food produced here in the United States has declined with our fruits and vegetable yielding a lower concentration of nutrients. Many of our foods have pesticides, harmful chemicals, and antibiotics in them wreaking havoc on our bodies. Our food is medicine, and poor quality food leads to chronic illnesses and disease.
The Liver and Healing
In addition to just getting back to the basics of food, the cleanse focused on the liver, and it brought to mind the Eastern medicine approach to healing organs and in specific the liver. In Western Medicine, we focus on solutions to illnesses and rely less on prevention. Western doctors also tend to separate emotions and stresses from the disease. Eastern medicine knows the importance of treating the whole individual: body, mind, emotions, and soul. The liver is responsible for the smooth flow of emotions, as well as the Qi (energy) and blood. It is the organ most affected by excess stress or emotions. Anger is the associated emotion with the liver. The eyes and the tendons of the body are also associated with the liver. So when one is having tendonitis or difficulty seeing, looking at the liver will yield healing. When we work on healing one organ, it tends to work at improving many processes in the body.
Prescription: Food Is Medicine
So what are we to do with our food, healing our organs, healing our whole body? I’m blessed to be on this journey to healing for the last 30 years and excited to share a few things that I have learned through this process.
- Start with loving your body, mind, and soul. Spend some time enjoying every inch of yourself, including your organs. This jumpstarts healing and any cleanse or detox. The human mind is powerful, and setting an intention to heal will eventually manifest.
- Eliminate processed food. It’s best to shop on the perimeter of the grocery store instead of in the aisles. Here you will find your fresh produce, meats once you have tackled the elimination of processed foods, then eliminating food groups that cause inflammation such as dairy, gluten, and some nuts.
- Get in the kitchen. Cooking can seem overwhelming. I was lucky to have a mom who cooked for our family. I had to learn how to cook when I started my family, and then I had to learn how to cook with healthy foods. Fortunately, there are many resources online as well as cookbooks. Two cookbooks I use regularly are Nourishing Traditions and Clean Eats.
- The quality of food is a dilemma. One must balance cost, health, time. In general, I find it is good to buy in bulk because it tends to be cheaper. Also, cooking on the weekend and preparing weekly meals and snacks saves time during the busy work week. Organic foods are best; however, if you can’t afford, then certain fruits and veggies are better organic and other ones one may buy conventional. The dirty dozen are foods that tend to contain more pesticides, whereas the clean 15 have fewer pesticides. Reading labels is difficult. What does 15 g of sugar mean? What are those ingredients?
- A detox or cleanse is a way to jumpstart a healthy change in your diet. There are many out there on the market, and it can be confusing what to choose and what will be good for your own body. One needs to be careful to take it slow and not to shock the body. Eastern bodywork essential to balance the energy of the body and maintain healthy organs. In Asia, many doctors get paid as long as they keep their patients healthy, and then once sick, they no longer get paid. This is the importance they place on preventive care. Maintaining a healthy body, mind, spirit requires tune-ups.
- Daily meditation and gratitude practice are important rituals in self-healing. Food does nourish our body, mind, and soul. Meditation allows nourishment to do its magic. Gratitude is an attitude. When we stay in a place of appreciation, our energy remains calm. Taking time each day to be present and be grateful for this wonderful life is key to a whole, healthy person.