Lathrop/Kendal North Residents' Website

Wellness Matters

Food as Medicine: The First Principle of Prevention

I rarely talk much about diet, mostly out of resignation that it is a topic so fraught with confusion and a habit so resistant to change.  You’ve all lived long enough to have been bombarded with new fads, new trends and often contradictory recommendations.  Though armed with some clear approach to lose weight or clean up offending food habits, we still find ourselves returning to what’s familiar and comforting.  I don’t want to tackle here the complex psycho-emotional issues and chemical realities of addiction (as for me and so many, especially around sugar, I believe we are talking about addiction.) And though I believe it’s important, I want to put aside the moral and environmental issues around eating animal protein.  What I do want to underscore is the idea that food is our first medicine, and the misuse or overuse of food can be the cause of the injuries that we hope to heal.

Last time I wrote about the work of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation.   While there is no clear understanding of what causes Alzheimer’s, what is known is that the brain is a fleshy organ that needs the right nutrition, plenty of oxygen, protection from the oxidizing impact of stress, and quality sleep to allow for repair and reorganization.  ARPF’s first pillar of prevention is diet and supplements.  Their recommendations are:

  • 20% “good fats” such as extra virgin olive, avocado, flax seed, or coconut oil; nuts and Omega-3 from fish
  • 40% lean protein from fish, chicken, turkey and soy
  • 40% complex carbohydrates from fresh vegetables, legumes, and whole grains
  • “super-foods for the brain: blueberries, spinach and others” (I would point to importance of phytonutrients, as well as the anti-inflammatory effects of garlic and spices such as turmeric and capsicums)
  • They urge everyone to take a high potency multivitamin along with mineral supplements that includes folic acid. They also point to the impact of Vitamin C taken along with Vitamin E in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The whole list of memory specific nutrients is available from their teaching materials in my office or online.

The key element in many of these considerations is the role of inflammation, the cumulative and often destructive response of the body to irritants.  What causes inflammation in one person  is not necessarily the same as in another, though we know that the modern diet high in refined carbs and sugars is a major culprit.  The imbalance of organisms in our gut fed by certain food choices also contributes to inflammation.  And it goes without saying the ever multiplying list of additives and industrial chemicals we ingest from food and the environment is a burden to healthy tissue.

To quote James Baldwin, “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed if it is not faced.”  Following a preventive and supportive diet is a daily challenge, but without clear knowledge we fall prey to the misguided habits or our youth and the ubiquitous influences of commercial food and restaurant interests.  I urge us to become our own clinicians and see our diet as the first prescription we fill.

For more good information, both Lathrop libraries have collections of newsletters and special reports from among others: Tufts University School of Nutrition Science, Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic. Thanks to David Morrisey for his help with this in Northampton.

Arthritis Advisor, Mayo Clinic Health Letter, Harvard Health Letter   courtesy of David Morrisey 









Click on the links below to read all of Rob’s articles

Food as Medicine: The First Principle of Prevention March 2017

The Stories We Write and The Stories We Live February 2017

Neighbors Caring In Northampton January 2017

How Much Support Is Enough? January 2017

Aging In Place January 2017

Seasonal Tidbits December 2016

Want To Make A Healthy Change? Start With the Right Goal December 2016

Living in the Rhythm of the Year December 2016

Fight Heartburn and GERD: Diet and Lifestyle Can Make a Difference (Part one of two) December 2016

Fight Heartburn and GERD: Diet and Lifestyle Can Make a Difference (Part two of two) December 2016

The Four Keys To Well-Being November 2016

Fitness Committee Working to Get You Moving October 2016

CPR-Responding in a Cardiac Emergency October 2016

Independent Musing October 2016

10 Easy Steps to Prevent Colds and Flu September 2016

Be Prepared For Stroke Response September 2016

Musings at the Edge of Things August 2016

Anybody Home? August 2016

Vitalize 360-A Powerful Tool in the Wellness Toolkit July 2016

Directing your Care- Hospice at the Roads End July 2016

Feeling Better is as Easy as ABC June 2016

Directing Your Care – Certified Home Care is the VNA June 2016

Directing Your Care – Time Spent in Rehab June 2016

Retired Men at Work May 2016

Tick Prevention May 2016

Directing Your Care: Who is the Hospitalist? May 2016

Directing Your Care: Injured When Away From Home April 2016

New Partner on the Path: Lathrop’s Fitness Committee April 2016

Responding to an Emergency: Lathrop’s Safety Net March 2016

What’s Your Plan? March 2016

Foods that Fight Inflammation February 2016

Straight Talk On Depression February 2016

Reaching For Fitness January 2016

Pendant and Pull Cords – January 2016

Caregiver Support Group – January 2016

Mindfulness Basics -December 2015

Holding Light in Darkening Days – December 2015

Correct Walker Use – December 2015

Assistance for You Should the Time Come – November 2015

The Gift of Never-ending Work – October 2015

On Being Mortal – October 2015

Grief and Praise – Changing Aging October 2015

Cultivating Vitality, Yoga – September 2015

MIND Diet – September 2015

Staying Healthy in the Months Ahead – September 2015

Walking Promo – September 2015

Falls, the Game Changer – August 2015

Stay Driving -August 2015

More on Driving Safety – August 2015

Wellness Plan and Coordinating Care – July 2015

Tune ups, Maintenance and Possible Spare Parts – July 2015

Six Dimensions of Wellness – July 2015

Morning Edition Walking Piece – June 2015

MD Recommendations – June 2015

Informing the Web of Care – Advanced Directives -June 2015

The Web of Caring Part 1 – May 2015

The Web of Caring Part 2 – May 2015

Wellness Matters – April 2015