What you eat can make you sick … or well
By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. -
A couple weeks ago, I overate a lot of great food during the Thanksgiving Day holiday. For days thereafter, I did not feel so good. “…almost every major medical condition you can think of is either caused or affected in some way by what you eat.” Physician, Isadore Rosenfeld, Clinical Professor of Medicine at New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center and attending physician at both the New York Hospital and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, wrote those words way back in 1995 in his book titled, “Doctor, What Should I Eat?” That book addresses the food factors contributing to, or the healing of, over 65 diseases ranging from acne to yeast infections.
What you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how well you burn up what you eat and how effectively you rid yourself of the waste created by that burning, all can affect your physical, mental and emotional state. When was the last time you looked at your grocery cart to see what poisons you are feeding your family? When have you looked at your grocer and asked for medicinal foods? When has your family doctor taken you to the supermarket and shown you which foods to buy and how to read labels? Sound preposterous? Not to Dr. Rosenfeld.
In answer to such questions, Rosenfeld writes, “But does your doctor give you prescriptions to bring to your pharmacist [grocer] specifying what drugs you need and how to take them? You bet! That’s what doctors do best. They give you medication–and they should–because many drugs are lifesaving. But that’s not enough. Proper medical care should also include advice about the right foods to eat to help you prevent illness as well as to help cure it. There should be no contest or confrontation between diet and medication; it is not a matter of either/or. Too many nutrition enthusiasts and holistic practitioners decry the use of pharmacologic agents, while `traditional’ doctors don’t pay enough attention to the importance of your diet.”
Practically all psychological disorders are influenced by what you eat. Anxiety, depression, thinking disorders, sexual disorders, sleep disorders, eating disorders, and an array of classical “mental” disorders are affected by what you put into your stomach. Many times, the cure for such disorders lies right under your nose…your mouth. Have you ever taken a course in nutritional medicine? In all probability, neither has your doctor.
Nutrition is a required course in only 25 percent of medical schools. It remains an elective in the rest. Rosenfeld goes on to say, “…that’s not enough to really get into the subject or to impress future doctors with its [nutritional medicine’s] importance. So over the years, the medical establishment has left the matter of diet to health food enthusiasts, many of whom they view as `nuts.’”
Even those physicians who are aware of the impact of food on our health, rarely provide nutritional guidance because according to Dr. Rosenfeld, “the `system’ punishes them for doing so. …You won’t even find a place on your insurance claim form to record the time spent by your doctor explaining the importance of lifestyle, exercise, weight loss, alcohol and substance abuse, birth control—and nutrition.” But doctors are paid well by insurance companies for taking a few moments to lance a boil or remove a cinder from your eye.
Every one of the past six Surgeons General of the U.S. has reported that 85 percent of the illnesses for which we seek medical treatment “are lifestyle-related.” According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 percent of all cancers are preventable; 85 percent of cardiovascular disease is preventable; obesity accounts for over 65 percent of our health problems; and the primary factors in 8 out of the 10 top killers of both men and women in the U.S. is “poor diet/exercise.” How can health professionals, treat your lifestyle? They can’t! Only you can modify what you eat, how much you eat, and whether or not you move your body.
Rosenfeld concludes: “I am an `establishment’ physician, and I use every effective medication at my disposal to treat the sick. …I focus on nutrition to help you work with your doctor, with a nutritionist if necessary, and maybe even with your grocer, to make sure that what you eat is good for you.”
Since food contributes so heavily to our illnesses, it also impacts our healing and wellness. Clearly, how much food I ate on Thanksgiving contributed to “not feeling so good” thereafter. Probably the best way to address the “health-care crisis” in America today is for each of us to take full responsibility for staying well. As a part of that process, we need to educate ourselves about what we eat and then follow what we’ve learned in our diets. And when we do become sick, we need to learn what foods we might eat and what physician-prescribed medications to take, both of which will maximize our chances of healing quickly.
Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life coach from Wellington, Colo. He serves on the faculty of the International University of Professional Studies.