The ancient greek physician Hippocrates is known as the father of western medicine and for the saying, “Let food be your medicine and medicine your food”. His theory of medicine also revealed in the Hippocratic Oath… ‘Do no harm’ an oath doctors and nurses take upon graduating medical school. What happened that today’s medicine rarely practices Hippocrates Theory of healing using food, herbs and gentle healing practices? Hippocrates disliked using potent drugs for sickness but would look at a sick person ‘holistically’ to determine a cure. Very much like naturopathic doctors and herbalists do today. Seems strange that the main stream medical community, sometimes referred to as the allopathic community takes the Hippocratic Oath yet disdains those who practice this method.
What is also very interesting is the fact that most of the drugs used today in medicine have its foundation in particular herbs and food. The purpose of this article is to focus on the nutritional(let food be your medicine) and herbal aspects of healing and nurturing the body.
Vincristine a commonly used drug in chemotherapy from the Vinca Rosea or vinca vine related to the periwinkle is very toxic, poisonous yet approved by the FDA in the treatment of cancers. Another example you may be more familiar with is the Foxglove plant or Digitalis Purpurea from which Digoxin, a potent heart medication is derived from. Or Valium from the Valerian root. I bring these up as examples to show many pharmaceuticals today have their sources from plants or herbs. Unfortunately scientists tend to focus on the potent constituents of the herb or plant and extract only those for dealing with a particular disease. Whereas a particular healing herb may have as many as 125 constituents but scientists may extract only one or two discarding the remaining. There is an important reason why using a whole herb is better than a part. Our bodies know how to extract from a particular herb or herbs what is needed and discard naturally what it doesn’t use. What if the body doesn’t need two but needs 50 of the constituents? This also explains the many side effects that happen where if the whole herb is used these side effects generally do not occur but only occasionally. See the conundrum?
Hippocrates practiced passive gentle medicine. He would approach healing believing the body with proper nutrition, appropriate herbs and rest could heal itself in most cases. This is the basis for ‘alternative’ or ‘natural cures’ medicine. Hippocrates and others were masters at using various herbs and foods to target specific ailments. Today for example we read and hear about the importance of Vitamin A for eye health and the role of Beta Carotene found in red-orange foods like carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins. Yet scientists have found a way to extract beta carotene for use in kicked up supplements or use overseas to help children who are severely malnourished and in need of potent nutritional supplements.
The question is, why do physicians not have proper training in the area of nutrition when the basis of the Hippocratic Theory is founded on just that? As with many things, even in personal life we tend to forget the simpler things in favor of the more expedient or the ‘quick cure’. Sadly medicine has become big business and made many very very rich at the expense of peoples health. It must be noted that this situation is also seriously connected to the general populations desire for quick fixes and magic pills.
Healing takes time and patience. The body did not get sick overnight but over time. And over that time period the body is also trying to communicate exactly what it needs to get well by cravings and symptoms. This was the epiphany for me in helping my son Ethan get through cancer treatment and be able to be in remission today. I saw the connection to Ethan’s food cravings and what those foods are naturally loaded with and how his body responded.
A well balanced nutritional diet is essential for what ails the body. If suffering from a long term chronic condition, chances are the body will require significant time to heal. If suffering an acute situation or sudden illness, the importance of having a healthy body from the start is imperative to assist the healing process.
So what exactly is a proper balanced diet? Is this possible in today’s world? The answer is yes! But will take some perseverance, patience, educating yourself and time. Whether you live in an apartment or condo or home with a small yard or a big yard, you can grow much of your own food. Or you can purchase from local farmers and growers. There are many articles and books on how to grow your food in containers, raised beds and so forth. Money for either a few starter plants or several packets of organic seeds you can grow much of your own food year round or grow and preserve for year round consumption for under $50.00 depending on how you start. Then learn how to save seeds and use the following year and do it again and again year after year.
Now lets focus in on vegetables, fruits and herbs. This will be part 1 and part 2 will focus on grains. Below is a list of what we eat year round and seasonally. I will also include the main nutrition focus of the foods which hopefully will teach that you can eat your complete nutrition not rely heavily on pill supplements.
Tomatoes: we grow as many colors as possible. From dark colors to light. The darker the tomato the more antioxidants there are. Grow a ‘rainbow’ of colors, yellows, green, orange, mid red, bright red, dark purple to near black like black krims. Nutrition focus: Vitamins A, C, E,K, folate, B6, choline, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and more.
Peppers: green bell peppers to dark chocolate peppers, and a variety of sweet to hot peppers. Nutrition focus: over all protein at least 1gram, Vitamins A, the B’s, C, E, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and more. Capsicums should be an essential in your healing foods arsenal. Rich in Vit C and some pretty amazing healing properties!
Onions: yellow, purple, including leeks Nutrition focus: Vitamins C, B6, Folate, maganese, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, Omega 3 and Omega 6
Greens: variety of lettuces including kale to spinach etc. Nutrition focus: depending on what greens you are consuming spinach and kale for example are high in Calcium, vitamin K, iron etc. Google search for nutrition facts on any particular green you are interested in.
Potatoes: Russian fingerlings that range in colors, plus larger tubers that grow well in my area. Nutrition focus: Calcium, potassium- (fact, 1 medium potato has higher potassium than a banana!) magnesium, high in vitamin C, B6 and other trace elements.
Beans: again, many colors from yellow to dark purple including pinto, navy, black and more. Nutrition focus: protein, depending on what kinds of beans they can be high in Vitamin C, A, folate and many minerals including trace minerals.
Beets: many colors Nutrition focus: Vitamin B6, C, calcium, iron, magnesium and others including trace minerals.
Carrots: many colors Nutrition focus: Vitamin A, B6, Niacin, Vit.K, folate, Choline, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, Omega 3 and Omega 6
Radishes: including black spanish Nutrition focus: Vitamins A, B6, C, K, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, Omega 3 and Omega 6 and more.
Egg plant: Nutrition focus: copper, Vitamin B, B6, manganese, K, potassium, folate and more
And sometimes we grow pumpkins, melons and a great variety of cucumbers. This is not an exhaustive list of what we grow but will give a good idea of what you can grow yourself.
As you can see there is a great volume and variety of vitamins, minerals and dense nutrients that when eaten in a balanced way can supply the body all it requires for optimal health! And using certain foods like those used in our son’s diet are rich in Vitamin C , potassium and calcium to name only a few. You can assist the body in healing and help correct imbalances. Juice them, eat them raw or in combination in hot dishes, stir frys etc, the variety is endless and only limited by your imagination.
Here is a way get even your most finicky eater to eat a combination of fruits and veggies on a daily basis. Make the following recipe of dehydrated items and when dry throw them in your blender, food processor or coffee grinder all together and store in an airtight container like a clean spice container. Sprinkle on foods or add 1tsp to your child’s food. One teaspoon or 16 grams of this blend will give your child one full serving each of fruit and veggies! How easy is that? You can also take this blend (customize it with your favorite veggies and fruits) then add a little oil and vinegar, herbs for an awesome healthy salad dressing.
Recipe for dried fruit and veggie powder : dehydrate either in oven or dehydrator the following: 1 sliced banana dipped in lemon juice to keep from browning, 1 med carrot sliced thin, 1 med apple sliced thin also dipped in lemon juice, 1 med tomato or 2 roma tomatoes sliced about 1/4 inch thin, a handful of Kale or spinach leaves. That’s it! **to dry in oven set your oven to 150 or lowest setting. Place your sliced items in a single layer on cookie sheets. It may take up to 12 hours to completely dry so you might want to do this overnight. If you have a dehydrator just follow the instructions that come with it**
I also grow a kitchen and medicinal garden of various herbs like basil, oregano, chamomile, mints, purple coneflower aka Echinacea, calendula etc and practice wild crafting in our local woods. Before wild crafting you really need a good field guide and please take a class with a local herbalist or get the assistance of a wild plant expert in your area. Many wild herbs and foods also have their evil counterpart and it is important to know what you are harvesting. A plain example are mushrooms.
We also practice vertical gardening. Simply growing vines up and then supporting the fruits with old nylons or something. It is amazing what you can grow even with a small space. Just get creative and have fun eating healthy.
So what to do with all you grow? Dehydrate and store in air tight containers, can your food if possible and/or freeze. There is alot of information online, at your library to learn these things. You can also make a little extra income selling your produce at your local farmers market or to friends and family or just give it away to someone in need.
I am not advocating a vegetarian diet either. Our bodies also need certain enzymes and amino acids found in lean meats and fish. We eat beef, poultry, lamb and sometimes fresh locally caught fish. Balance is the key!
Whole grains are also essential to a balanced diet. You have heard the saying, “Bread is the staff of life. ” Cultures from the beginning of time have been eating bread or grains. A good hearty whole grain bread is good for the gut and nourishing. Foods today especially whole grains like corn, wheat and rice are becoming highly processed and stripped of essential nutrients. Just like herbal medicine, scientists strip the essential parts taking only one or two parts then presenting the public an end product that ends up over the long term increasing health issues instead of resolving them.
And many have succumbed to recreating the processed food taste and texture believing it normal when nothing could be further from the truth. Example would be the heavy use of starches like tapioca or potato starches in gluten free breads to recreate that soft white bread. There is nothing nutritional about these starches and then add xanthum or guar gum to the mix so what you have is the same as many bread companies who take several day old bread, dumping it back into a big mixing bowl, add enzymes to break down the bread into a glutenous mass. Add a bit more salt for flavor, some added yeast and oil, a handful of preservatives and for good measure a cup or two of synthetic vitamin and minerals then use this bubbling concoction to make a fresh batch of breads for the marketplace. Shocked? It is true! But don’t take my word for it, research it. Why do you think some bread costs only 1-2 dollars compared to whole grain breads that cost $3.99 or more? In Part 2 I will go into a bit more detail on this subject.
When Ethan was sick with cancer, he craved breads among his other cravings. Bread truly is the staff of life and the most basic of foods anyone can and should be able to eat. However, now we have a serious problem with digestive issues including irritable bowl syndromes, gluten allergies and Celiac’s disease. It takes time for disease to ruin a body and it takes time to heal the body. I pointed out in my last blog the plague of Pallagra or severe niacin deficiency that took place back in the early part of the last century. The reason was stripping out the nutrients of grains and corn and bleaching the grains. When scientists discovered the reason for the Pellagra outbreak instead of going back to keeping natural grains intact they continued to strip and bleach but then added the nutrients back in instead of keeping what is natural natural. They call that ‘enriching’.
Gluten free breads and mixes are mostly starches with the added gums to make those starches stick together like gluten. Once in a while consuming these things are ok but to make it part of the daily diet is not the best. Over the years people have been waking up to the need to eat whole grains and then you have the other side that says to eliminate grains altogether. What we need is balance!!! Goes back to the Hippocratic Theory of healing.
When working on my whole grain naturally gluten free bread and baking mixes the solution was found in the ancient ways. Grains and other foods were simpler yet the power of the nutrition was complex and healing. Mankind have been eating seeds and grains since the beginning like millet, sorghum, teff etc. And it appears to be coming around full circle where even the main stream medical community is waking up. See you in Part 2.
Laura Halfpenny the Mom on a Mission