Food as Medicine

Paige Swanson, MA, LPC-A, NCC on Sep 02, 2022 in Treatment Orientation

"It is haunting me, the feeling of no longer wanting to be alive," reports the client. He was just discharged from the hospital for ulcerative colitis, a hernia, bouts of psychosis, and a blood sugar level that was three times that of the normal level. After registering him for a biopsy and an ultrasound, the patient was left alone with his psychiatric issues bearing the brunt of his physical conditions. The doctors told him that the threat of stomach cancer was a wake-up call and that he needed to address the underlining conditions that were impairing his health.

This story is vaguely familiar for individuals suffering with psychiatric and co-morbid health conditions. Depression is among the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting an estimated 121 million people. And according to an article in the American Journal of Medicine, this client's co-morbid health concerns are compounded by the inability to seek affordable care. In a research survey conducted by Harvard and the University of California San Francisco, nearly one in three adults have problems paying for and affording medicine, treatment, or both. Research from the 2011 U.S. Centers for Disease Control's National Health Survey shows these statistics to be staggering.

In treatment, medical costs can become insurmountable. A total of nearly one in four say that they skipped medication dosages and therapy appointments due to cost. Responding to client's chronic health problems is becoming even more unstable as medical professionals are left empty-handed trying to treat a weakened society due to increasing levels of cost.

Systematic Inflammation and a Crippling Economy

Systematic inflammation within the bodies eco-structure damages intestinal organs and promotes long-term neural cell death that can inhibit cognitive learning capabilities needed to learn new tasks and produce a healthy amount of chemical compositions for sustained wellness. A crippling economy aiding in stress reactions to external stimuli produces prolonged exposure status to the onset of chronic complex and co-morbid diseases. Without preventative measures being developed to help in the affordance of healthcare costs and the reduction of toxic stress along the life-span, disparities in racial and economic health inequity will continue to rise and increase morbidity and mortality rates for those most disadvantaged.

However, there could be a short-term solution to a overwhelming, highly systemic problem: Food.

Food is Medicine

Where did we go wrong not teaching people to eat, pray, and love? There has been a great deal of research into potential nutritional treatments for dualistic and bidirectionally associated chronic health conditions like depression and cardiovascular disease, but the most promising results come from that of omega-3 fatty acids (seen in fish). Low levels of EPA+DHA in the body are associated with a greater risk of developing depression. Poor diet and obesity had a well-established link between depression and cognitive dysfunction. In a recent meta-analysis examining the effects of dietary interventions on mental health in 16 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of 45,826 participants, dietary improvement significantly reduced symptoms of depression [g = 0.275; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.10–0.45; p = 0.002] though no changes in anxiety were observed (Firth et al., 2019). These research studies show that preventative medicine may be a simple part of our culture, life-style, and daily communal practices.

Though most Americans eat way too many saturated fats and omega-6 oils found in meats and vegetables oils, they suffer from a limitation of the omega-3 oils. Fish oil composition has been reported to lower the risk of developing many cancers (breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancer) and many other chronic psychiatric diseases and inflammatory diseases.

Why We Should Eat the Rainbow

Eating is a phenomenological construct that is influenced via culture, biological need, psychological satisfaction, and social belonging. We should eat not just the food that looks brown and over-cooked — we should eat the rainbow. When shopping in the grocery store and choosing the food you wish to celebrate with your family and friends, your nutritional diet is one of the most important factors that should be taken into consideration.

Don't forget to:

  • Buy many different kinds of fruits and vegetables
  • Stock up on peas, corn, green lentils, and dandelion root for easy cooking
  • Pack a piece of fruit or some cut-up vegetables into your briefcase or backpack when you leave for work
  • Add fruits and vegetables to lunch by having them raw or in your soup or salad
  • Add dark, leafy greens and Swiss chard, collards, spinach into smoothies or in your stir-fries

Sometimes complicated issues can have an easy supplemented treatment regimen: Eat the rainbow and be grateful.

With an adherence to a composited, basic diet that is healthy, co-operative, and protective against free-radicals and oxidative damage, we're increasing a biological endurance to outside invaders. For example, dietary antioxidants protect & block free-radical damage by chemically reacting with the free-radical or pro-oxidant to neutralize the effects. Ingesting rich sources of antioxidant phytochemical from fresh juices or vegetable soups can increase the tonal tissue concentrations of these overall compounds, thereby increasing protective factors or natural supplementations for blocking free-radical and oxidative damage to the cells body.

Paige Swanson is a Associate Professional Counselor in Dallas, TX.

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