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The Power of Food as Medicine: Insights and Case Studies

Noel Mondejar, MD (Philippines), Health Director, Shalem Health Retreat Introduction

Greetings, readers! Today, I want to share some enlightening insights on the profound impact of diet on health, inspired by the wisdom of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, who famously said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." This ancient understanding continues to be validated by modern scientific studies, affirming that our dietary choices can significantly influence our health.


The Disconnect in Modern Healthcare

A thought-provoking quote by Wendell Berry resonates deeply: "People are fed by the food industry which pays no attention to health and are treated by the health industry which pays no attention to food." This stark reality reflects a major flaw in our healthcare system, where diet is often overlooked despite its critical role in maintaining health and preventing disease.

Defining Dietary Terms

To clarify, let's define some common dietary terms:

  1. Plant-Based Diet: Emphasizes nutrient-dense plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, and nuts.

  2. Whole Food Plant-Based Diet: Focuses on whole, unprocessed plant foods, particularly vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and nuts.

  3. Vegan Diet: Excludes all animal products but does not necessarily emphasize whole foods or restrict fat and refined sugar.

  4. Raw Food Vegan Diet: Excludes all animal products and any food cooked above 118 degrees Fahrenheit.

  5. Lacto-Vegetarian Diet: Includes vegetables, fruits, and dairy products but excludes meat, seafood, and eggs.

  6. Ovo-Vegetarian Diet: Includes vegetables, fruits, and eggs but excludes meat, seafood, and dairy products.

  7. Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet: Includes vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and eggs but excludes meat and seafood.

  8. Pescatarian Diet: Similar to a whole food plant-based diet but includes small amounts of fish, dairy products, eggs, and occasionally red meat.


Case Studies Highlighting Dietary Impact

  1. 78-Year-Old Male with Hematuria:

  • Condition: Grossly bloody urine and incontinence.

  • History: Enlarged prostate, kidney stones, ischemic heart disease, and hypertension.

  • Intervention: Advised to switch to a fruit-based diet with supplements.

  • Outcome: Remarkable improvement within four days, with the bleeding ceasing and no recurrence.

  1. 63-Year-Old Male with Diabetes:

  • Condition: Fatigue, nausea, muscle cramps, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol.

  • Intervention: Transitioned to a plant-based diet with exercise.

  • Outcome: Significant improvements in blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol within 16 weeks.


The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

  1. Diabetes:

  • Plant-based diets improve insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin resistance.

  • Studies show a 74% lower risk of developing diabetes for vegetarians over a 17-year period compared to non-vegetarians.

  1. Blood Pressure:

  • Vegetarian diets are linked to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

  1. Heart Disease:

  • Plant-based diets can regress atherosclerosis, reduce coronary events by 73%, and lower all-cause mortality by 70%.

  1. Cancer:

  • Regular consumption of soy products reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence and prostate cancer.

  • High intake of animal products is linked to various cancers, including colorectal, esophageal, bladder, breast, prostate, gastric, ovarian, kidney, and pancreatic cancers.

  1. Gut Health:

  • A plant-based diet supports a healthy gut microbiome, crucial for immune function and overall health.

  1. Mortality:

  • Plant-based diets are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.


Challenges and Recommendations

  1. Protein and Nutrients:

  • Plant-based diets provide sufficient protein and nutrients if balanced and varied.

  • Fortified foods and supplements can help meet vitamin B12 needs.

  1. Grains and Gluten:

  • Grains are beneficial unless there is a gluten intolerance, in which case gluten should be avoided.


Conclusion

Embracing a plant-based diet can lead to remarkable health improvements and a lower risk of chronic diseases. As highlighted by the Adventist Health Study, vegetarians experience lower mortality rates and reduced prevalence of high blood pressure.

By shifting our mindset from "live to eat" to "eat to live," we can enjoy healthier, happier, and longer lives. This approach aligns with the biblical dietary prescription found in Genesis 1:29, where God provides humanity with a plant-based diet for optimal health.

Let us teach our children the value of eating healthy, whole foods, and inspire a new generation to prioritize their diet for a better quality of life.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you found this information valuable. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!


Questions and Answers

  1. Q: Canola Oil Concerns:

  • A: It's best to choose organic canola oil to avoid genetically modified products.

  1. Q: Grains and Gluten:

  • A: Grains are a healthy part of a plant-based diet unless there is a gluten sensitivity.

  1. Q: Vitamin B12:

  • A: While vitamin B12 deficiency can be a concern, it is often found in meat-eaters too. Ensure a balanced diet and consider fortified foods or supplements.


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