I believe that nutrition should be a very large focus in medicine. Doctors’ first response to illness should be to use nutrition and lifestyle changes to heal, supporting the natural healing ability of our bodies. Only when truly necessary should pharmaceuticals be used. When I speak these opinions to people, I sometimes get a blank stare. I get it; “healing our bodies through nutrition” sounds a bit abstract – a little crazy maybe. But let me put things in perspective.
When you have a headache, and you pop some advil or ibuprofen, it takes your pain away. That tiny little pill, smaller than the tip of my pinky finger, can do all that! Amazing, right?! Now compare the size of that pill to the amount of food you eat for a standard meal. I don’t know about you, but my dinner plate is about the size of my head, piled with food! In both cases – taking medication and eating real food – you’re giving your body something to use, something to break down and work with.
From a science standpoint, our physiological systems are all intertwined; the systems that allow our hearts to beat, our muscles to move, our lungs to breathe, and our food to nourish us work together in synchrony. The food that you eat affects each and every part of your body – from your skin to your digestive tract – because it is very literally the fuel for each of our systems. So healing through nutrition is not a crazy idea at all! In fact, it’s science. It’s medicine.
Don’t get me wrong, as a medical student and future physician, I understand and believe in the use of medication when appropriate. However, I do not support the over-prescription of medication or the abuse of antibiotics and over-the-counter drugs. Drugs should be used when necessary – when the health of the patient is at risk without them. Medication shouldn’t be assumed a life-long commitment. Instead, it should be seen as temporary support, while the goal of the physician should be to improve the health of their patient so that they don’t have to rely on drugs. Through nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices, we can prevent and treat many of our nation’s health problems such as type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, respiratory diseases from smoking, kidney disease, high blood pressure, obesity, autoimmune disorders, stroke, and even some types of cancer.
Maybe that headache is a sign that you’re dehydrated, hungry, stressed, or tired. Listen to your body, don’t silence it. The goal should be to address the underlying issue, instead of covering up the symptom.
“There were never so many able, active minds at work on the problems of diseases as now, and all their discoveries are tending to the simple truth — that you can’t improve on nature.” –Thomas Edison