Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

That's what Hippocrates said over 2000 years ago.
Maybe it should be incorporated into the Hippocratic Oath??

Of course...everyone knows "it's important to eat healthy." Lately, I've been a little obsessed with nutrition after watching two documentaries about food, Forks Over Knives and Food Inc. My obsession is only fueled by seeing a near total lack of nutritional knowledge and/or concern in most of the patients I see each and every daily.

But, does society really know how to eat healthy? I'm becoming more and more convinced that we don't. I thought it was crazy to hear about infants and toddlers being fed coffee in Haiti. Welp, here in America we feed our kids pop from a bottle. (That's straight from Bay City, MI) How about a 3 year old girl who weighs 60 pounds (...that's 20lbs above the average weight for a 3 year old!) and is still being fed from a bottle at night before bed. It's made me question our approach to medicine. And if we need more dietitians than primary care docs.

With all the regulating and big business that goes on in the food industry, with all of the recommendations supplied by the USDA, and with our superior American lifestyles, I'm realizing, through daily encounters with patients, we are often just as far from health as the people in Haiti. Maybe because some people just don't know, but I think it's that most people really don't want to try. Or maybe just aren't willing to change. After all, I suppose it's human nature to want what is easy.

In Forks Over Knives, it highlights two doctors who shop with patients and show them how to cook. Maybe that's what it takes. Maybe I'll start making house calls as a doc someday. I think I might like that.

Dr. Esselstyn promotes a whole foods, plant based diet in Forks Over Knives. No meat, eggs, cheese, or milk. His reasons for doing so are medically motivated and based on published research in medical journals, but still, he said he knows in America this diet seems extreme. I love his response to those who think his diet is extreme (myself partially included). "A half a million people in this country this year, who will have to have their body divided, their heart exposed, then veins will be taken from their leg, and sewed onto their heart. Some people would call that extreme." Touche.

How do I get people to change their diet as a doctor? Especially when they claim they don't have any money, don't have any time, don't care (it's been said by more than one patient...), or especially when they are already totally dependent on their "cholesterol lowering, blood pressure controlling, insulin providing, depression treating, erectile creating, pain eliminating cocktail" they take every day with breakfast and dinner. How do I do it when I (the big talker at this current moment) have a hard time eating veggies over Oreos dipped in peanut butter dipped in milk sometimes? Habits are hard to change. Food rehab perhaps?

I think doctor's worst enemies in successful nutrition treatment for problems like heart disease and obesity are themselves. It's too easy to take a pill. And they're too easy to prescribe.
(And maybe fast food, too. It's too easy to pull into a drive through. Trust me..I know. But driving by the long lines at the drive thru are starting to make me cringe).

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