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Food as medicine

Food as medicine

The old saying goes ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Now many nutritionists say you can substitute orange or banana in place of apple or some other fruit. The concept of ‘food as medicine’ is rooted in our most ancient of healing traditions, including Greek, Indian and Chinese medicine. “Food is Medicine” is a term which was originally coined by Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine; it was his belief that eating wholesome food is the basis for good health and prevention of disease. Hippocrates said almost 2500 years ago “Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food”. We know it well what is good food; whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; minimize white poison; sugar, salt and meats; and watch how much we eat. Overeating is more dangerous!  “While the rest of the world is living on McDonald’s Burger and sugar, we have been traditionally eating sattvik diets and drink karela  and Locky juices and tulsi and neem and all kinds of naturally healthful goodies.  Why then, are we facing an increase in ischemic heart disease and coronary artery disease (up by 73%), low back pain (up 63%), and diabetes (up 104%)”?  Possibly we have moved away from natural fresh foods and depend on refined, overcooked or canned meats and veggies. we have seen farm-fresh whole foods become gradually displaced with manufactured replicas, while bearing witness to previously uncommon diseases such as heart disease and cancer which are now the first and second causes of death (with adverse drug reactions closing in at number three, due to medicalization ).  Food is something much more powerful than mere nourishment – it forms the essence of your well being. It is not just calories, as some may like you to believe.  To ensure better health tried and tested ‘food therapies’ be made available. The fundamentals of using edible herbs, barks, seeds, stems and leaves to treat illnesses is well documented in our ancient texts including Charaka Samhita, formulated 3,000 years ago.



Some common conditions

Banana, spinach, celery, oatmeal, avocados, watermelon, beetroot, sunflower seeds, oranges and carrots have been useful for the treatment of high blood pressure, a common but dangerous condition.


Chronic constipation is a common problem with a large percentage of population, esp among the sedentary workers and stressed people. The problem is rampant at all ages. Abuse of purgative medicines is also common to treat it. In order to get your digestive system back on track, you must make sure what you’re eating is the right amount. Oats are high in fibre and so are lentils, flaxseeds and chia seeds. Prunes are also rich in fibre and a natural laxative. Raisins are another great way to get your system going. You can have them as is or soak them in hot water, crush and then eat. Doctors also recommend you include vegetables like broccoli and spinach that are rich in insoluble fibre. They also suggest figs and honey. Dependence on laxatives or purgatives is a strict No.


Food has a great role in eye diseases as well. The highest concentration of xanthophylls (Lutein –L and zeaxanthin-Z)  are found within the retina, and believed to have role in supporting retinal function. Studies report that increased dietary intake and higher serum levels of lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Studies report that supplementation of L and Z improved the visual acuity in patients. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in people over the age of 50. Although evidence supporting the role of L and z in the prevention and treatment of diabetic  retinopathy is currently limited, trials suggest they have a role in reducing oxidative damage and possibly preventing disease progression. An age-related cataract is another leading cause of blindness. Approximately 74% of L and Z are located in the epithelium and cortex, where the lens is exposed to oxygen in the surrounding aqueous humor. A few trials have investigated the role of carotenoids in the prevention of cataract formation. Xanthophylls (L and Z) are found selectively within the retina, concentrated in the macula, and have been appropriately referred to as macular pigments. Role of vitamin D has been established in dry-eye conditions.
Ayurveda emphasizes a lot on use of natural foods to treat or prevent several  ailments. They say, ‘Allyl sulfides in garlic and onions prevent heart disease, phytates in grains and legumes protect against cancer; carotenoids in mangoes, carrots, apricots, pumpkin, green leafy vegetables and lignans in flaxseeds have protective effect against cancers and many other ailments.  Isoflavones in soy protect against osteoporosis, indoles and isothiocynates in cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli too have protective effect against cancer.  Ellagic acid in grapes, strawberries, raspberries and nuts function as antioxidant and anticancer substances. Pre-biotics in garlic, barley, oats & pro-biotics in fermented milk and yogurt help in improving gut function and offer immunity. Besides, there are functional foods obtained from animal sources like dairy products, which contain CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and fish which provides Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). The CLA has been shown to inhibit cancer – particularly cancer of colon, ovaries, prostate, breast, blood, bone marrow (leukemia) and skin. CLA also helps lower cholesterol and prevents heart diseases by exhibiting its antioxidant activity and inhibiting formation of free radicals. The foods like raw vegetables, too much spicy, sour, salty, heavy, oily, too much sweet, sour or salty food are found harmful.  Similarly, irregular eating habits, excessive physical exercise, skipping meals, emotional stress, too much exposure to the Sun., excessive rest and over-sleeping are considered as not good for health.


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