We've all the heard the phrase "You are what you eat", but I suspect many of us take that to be a metaphor. But it is an absolute physiological fact that the vitamins, minerals, fats, amino acids and other elements we derive from the food we eat, quite literally, become our blood, our body tissues, so our skin, hair, eyes, organs, glands, brain and the hormones and other signalling chemicals that keep us alive and functioning. It really is worth dwelling on for a moment - the food we eat becomes, in time, the body we love and nurture or the body we maybe ignore, loathe or even fear.
I really want to emphasise the absolute power of diet in the story of our health. So often I hear people say that such-and-such a condition 'runs in my family' conveying the idea that they are, somehow, genetically predestined to develop this illness or that it is a natural consequence of old age. Very few conditions are actually encoded within our DNA - we know this from the relatively new area of medical research - epigenetics - that we might have genetic predispositions, but that it is our diet and lifestyle choices that will ultimately switch on these genes. Whatsmore, we know from different population groups around the globe that not all ageing populations are riddled with heat-disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes. These chronic illnesses tend to affect people in the Western 'advanced' world.
I want to emphasise the power of food, because food is so familiar to us and, as we know, familiarity breeds contempt. We take it for granted - it's just food. How can a bunch of humble vegetables reverse terrible chronic illnesses? Surely, we think, complicated medicines made in an expensive lab by people with long lists of academic qualifications after their names, that go through rigorous, (again) expensive research trials must be more effective? At this point in history, Western societies are more pharmacologically moulded than at any point previously and there are a number of reasons for this - partly the natural progression of Western philosophy down a dualistic, reductionist route, but also, the huge influence of pharmaceutical companies on our government and health service.
That said, if you have an acute illness or lose a limb in a terrible accident, you do not want a nutritionist, you absolutely want a medic specialised to deal with your acute situation. Western medicine has developed from the infectious illness model and the surgical model and this is what it does brilliantly. However, what it does far less brilliantly is manage chronic, or degenerative ill-health.
Food, and the nutrients contained within them, are powerful medicine - don't ever doubt it. But it is gentle, restorative medicine and it takes time to reverse a condition that has taken years to create. But if you have patience and some time on your side you might be amazed at the conditions a dietary programme can reverse. In fact, the only types of tissue-damage that diet doesn't seem to be able to reverse is damage to nerves. The four big conditions that cost the taxpayers such extortionate amounts, namely, type-2 diabetes, heart-disease, cancer and arthritis are all reversible with diet. Of course, this statement is a highly contentious one and needs qualification: the success of a dietary approach depends on how far advanced the condition is and the vitality of the individual. If the condition is very advanced and the individual is at the point of risking and acute medical event then intervention with medication or surgery is almost certainly necessary. The reality, with many chronic conditions, is that if they can be detected early enough (which they often can if you know what you're looking for) then a naturopathic approach may be entirely viable. And the rub with a naturopathic approach is that is will boost the health of your whole body.
So, take heart, whatever the state of your health, making some dietary and lifestyle changes could, in time, bear amazing fruit!
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