If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably expect me to write about food in the context of starvation on this Blog Action Day: Food. There is certainly a lot to say about that topic, and I see that several bloggers already have written some amazing posts about hunger.
I’m going to take a different angle and talk about food as medicine. Specifically, how we could make a huge impact on wellness (both physical and mental), crime rates, and learning if we started respecting food for what it really is: Medicine for our brains and bodies.
The Chemistry of Joy
Yesterday, I attended a small, informal discussion with Dr. Henry Emmons, M.D., author of The Chemistry of Joy. Dr. Emmons is a psychiatrist who has boldly gone where (almost) no psychiatrist has gone before. He has recognized that the mental health epidemic (specifically depression and anxiety) cannot be solved with pills alone. (Not even with pills and psychotherapy alone.) Rather, he has created a group program which combines nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness to create the resilience required to cope with the unpleasantnesses that life throws at you on a regular basis.
Even well-meaning psychiatrists tend to see depressed patients as brain chemistry gone awry rather than as a complex integration of mind, body, and spirit. ~Dr. Henry Emmons
He also manages medication, but rather than pushing more and more pills in higher and higher doses, he works with patients to either get off medication completely or to simplify the medication list. What a novel concept!
Food as medicine.
The Maudsley Approach
On a personal note, I have a loved one who suffers from an eating disorder and is currently in the Mayo Clinic’s eating disorder program in Rochester, MN. This program uses a version of the Maudsley approach, which is a family-based approach to helping children recover from eating disorders. One of the key tenants of this methodology is using food as medicine. The brain can’t function when it is malnourished, so there’s really no point in attempting psychotherapy until the brain has been re-fed. The Maudsley approach is currently hailed as the best form of treatment for young eating disorder patients, especially for long-term results.
Food as medicine.
Have you heard of the China Study? It is “the most comprehensive study on nutrition ever conducted.” The study is documented in a book with the same name by Colin Campbell, PhD. Dr. Campbell grew up on a dairy farm learning that milk was good for your bones and teeth. “It was Nature’s most perfect food.” Guess what he found in his research? Casein, a protein found in cow’s milk (among other foods) is the main culprit in cancer cell growth!
Casein, which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein, promoted all stages of the cancer process. What type of protein did not promote cancer, even at high levels of intake? The safe proteins were from plants, including wheat and soy. ~From “The China Study”
Dr. Campbell, the farm boy whose father died from a massive coronary at age 70, now follows a mostly vegan diet. He is 77 years old and going strong.
Food as medicine.
Food and Behavior
I read a book earlier this year (or maybe it was last year) written by a former probation officer by the name of Barbara Reed Stitt. It was called Food and Behavior. If you can’t tell already, I am exceedingly interested in the effect of food on the mind and body. In this book, Ms. Stitt tells a remarkable story about her time working with criminals and taking a radical approach to mitigating crime recurrence: Food.
The connection between food and behavior is so basic that it is being overlooked by parents, the school system, counselors and most of the medical professionals. ~Barbara Reed Stitt
Ms. Stitt would ask her violent charges what they ate and would consistently find a diet of “junk.” She also found that many of the parolees were sugar sensitive. So she would put them on a strict whole-foods diet and watch the transformation. The book claims that of the criminals who stayed with the program, not a single one had trouble with the law again.
Food as medicine.
School Food (or I’m Still an Angry Mom)
I continue to be shocked over what we feed our children at school. I have written about this several times and have finally taken a step toward doing something about it by joining our local school district’s Wellness Committee. Have you looked at a school lunch menu lately? It doesn’t much adhere to the meal plans any of the above resources prescribe. You will find “chicken” nuggets, cheeseburgers, tacos, and pizza. And the a la carte line has substances such as Pop-Tarts and Doritos. Really?
In Appleton, WI, a school for kids with behavioral problems decided to make a radical change in the food they served. They removed the vending machines and started serving organic, natural, cooked-from-scratch food to the students. The transformation was little less than miraculous.
Since we’ve started this program, I have had zero weapons on campus, zero expulsions from the school, zero premature deaths or suicides, zero drugs or alcohol on campus. Those are major statistics. ~Principal Coenen (from ABC News story)
Not worried about your kids, since you pack their lunch? Think about the kids where school food may be the only meals they eat all day. How will they ever have an equal chance at getting ahead when their brains are not nourished? It is no wonder we have a health (mental and physical) crisis on our hands. If we could only start introducing real food to kids when they start school, we could end this cycle once and for all.
I am passionate about food. I believe it has healing powers, and I’m not alone. Thousands of people have seen the benefits from eating a diet that makes them feel their best. Is it easy to eat like this? Not off the bat. Trust me, I’m still working through an elimination diet to determine exactly which foods make me feel bad. However, it’s worth the initial pain.
Let’s continue to spread the word and make a healthy future for our country. It’s time!
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