When it comes to
medications, I find that people tend to fall largely into two main camps: those
who reach for the pill bottle at the first sign of distress in their bodies;
and those who stubbornly avoid any sort of interference whatsoever with the
body’s natural ability to heal. I, admittedly, fall into the latter
category. Mainly due to the fact that all my life, I have always experienced
sensitivity to medications. Very rarely have I taken them
without some sort of unwanted side-effect reeking havoc on my system.

   

            Surprisingly, this is
quite the ordinary occurrence in our modern American culture. These days
it seems that there’s very literally a pill for every ill. Or at least that’s
what pharmaceutical companies and their advertisers would have you believe. And
while this “quick fix” approach to health may offer much in the way
of convenience, there are risks far greater and deeper felt than the odd
adverse effect.

   

               News articles abound
that bring into sharp focus the rampant issuing of prescription medications
that begins with the treatment of one chronic or debilitating illness, then
turning into more prescription drugs to treat the varying adverse side effects
of the first. Avoiding drug interactions then becomes a tricky and expensive
game of managing pill after pill, side effect after side effect and, in most
cases, specialist after specialist. Sometimes with deadly consequences.

   

               When did we become so
convinced that we need drugs to function day to day? We have somehow come to
accept our dependence on drugs, so much so that we’ll pay exorbitant amounts of
money to get what we need. Which in most cases is quite simply freedom from our
pain. How much of our dependence on prescription medications is simply due to
our tendency to blindly trust in the findings of modern medicine and science,
and how much is a direct result of the marketing and advertising of
prescription medication by pharmaceutical companies?

   

               To date, the U.S. is one
of only two developed countries in the world that allow drug companies to
advertise their products on television; the second being New Zealand. What’s
more, ads rarely provide the sort of context that consumers need to make sound
decisions about their health – about how often a drug actually works or whether
an alternative treatment may actually provide more relief. One study, from
the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that 57 percent of claims in
drug ads were potentially misleading and another 10 percent were outright
false.

              

               This coupled with the
growing number of cases where antibiotics are prescribed for ailments they
will not treat, we are now seeing a steadily increasing number
antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and fungi. Antibiotic-resistant
infections are responsible for at least 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths
each year. For some, the effects of the medication taken are worse than the
symptoms of the medical condition.

   

               It’s statistics like
these that are causing many people to wonder if medicine, for all it’s
pill-popping convenience, is indeed all it’s cracked up to be. The “quick
fix” is quickly becoming a one-way ticket on a speeding bullet train to a
kaleidoscopic array of debilitating illnesses or symptoms, and even death. Many
of us are finding ourselves saying out loud, as so many old television ads from
my youth would begin by exclaiming, “There has to be a better way!”

    

               “Let thy food be thy
medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Enter the food as medicine movement. Is it
as simple as eating what is readily available at the grocery store,
straight off the shelf? Well, not quite. Here in North America, over 50 percent
of our food is processed food. Only 5 percent of our food is plant-based, a
fact that many proponents of the food as medicine movement would like to see
reversed.

              

               Truth be told, the food
as medicine movement has been around for decades. However, a small but growing
number of California based physicians and medical professionals around the
world are beginning to make food a formal part of treatment, rather than
relying solely on medications. By prescribing nutritional changes, they’re
trying to prevent, limit or even reverse disease by changing what patients eat.

              

               Patients begin to really
look at their personal relationship to food. Many people don’t know how to
cook; rather, most people only know how to rewarm food. This means being
dependent upon pre-packaged food with high salt and sugar content. Teaching
ourselves about which foods are nutritious and how to prepare them can transform
our lives.

   

               In the last year and a
half I myself have been witness to, and proof of, such transformation. A
training schedule that forced me to re-evaluate the fuel, or lack thereof, that
I was giving to my body, coupled with several adverse reactions to
medications (one reaction seeing me feverish and doubled over in excruciating
pain in the emergency room) prescribed to me at the beginning of 2017 had me
reassessing everything I was putting into my body out of necessity. The drugs
that my physicians were giving me to make me better were actually making me
sick. Nearly a full year into my own shift in perspective on treating my food
as medicine finds me 25 pounds lighter, more energetic, vibrant and armed with
what feels like a more grounded, and deeply satisfying relationship with my
body and my food.

   

               How do we incorporate
nutrition and lifestyle advice into the treatment of chronically ill patients?
It begins with a shift from the “quick fix” of relief in the short
term, which is what medications are primarily focused upon, to adjusting our
goals for health in the long term. Changes in nutrition and lifestyle have been
shown to make lasting improvements to a person’s health, even after the
treatment has ended. The same cannot be said of prescription medication. Plain
and simple.