The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Overstretching the Food Movement and Holistic Medicine

You can count me among the people who think the new food movement is a wonderful thing. People are taking an interest in what they eat, and they are clamoring for quality foods--organic and nutrition-rich. They are rebelling against additives and toxins. They are also exploring "natural" medicine instead of having a blind faith in western doctors.

But this can be taken to extremes just like anything else. There are people who believe they don't ever need to see a doctor because they can "cure" whatever they have with the right combination of foods. They act like they can just eat their way out of any problem.

While in theory this may in fact be possible, as of right now there isn't anybody out there who knows the precise combination of foods for each individual person that will ward off or even cure all diseases. Even herbal remedies haven't been thoroughly tested and often they may not cure you but "rebalance" your body so that it can cure itself. Many work and many do not, and it may vary from person to person.

It is also problematic because these movements are partly a protest against western culture and medicine. They represent a desire to get back to whole foods and by working with the body in a holistic manner rather than filling us full of toxins and then having to fill us full of drugs when things go wrong. The problem is that these folks are treating food as if it is a drug. They are still in the "drug" mindset, even though they think they are protesting it. Eating grass-fed steak, despite being full of Omega-3's, is not the same as taking your heart medication. You can't pop steak cubes as if it were a pill and expect the same results. It works much, much differently.

Food is made up of chemicals and as such it can have curative properties, like a drug. However, it should be noted that natural, holistic health is usually focused on prevention and maintaining health rather than extreme cures. Drugs tend to have extreme concentrations of certain chemicals, whereas food normally does not. In my book, western medicine is still the place you need to go when things get out of hand. I think it would be a mistake for any person to put all their eggs in any one basket based on some hunch. I'll see a doctor when I need to and an herbalist/nutritionist as well. A lot of people die due to their blind faith in their doctors, but I have also personally seen people suffer by putting all their faith in "natural" cures that get them nowhere. Be smart and consider all options with an open mind.

Food by itself is also just one component of a healthy lifestyle. Putting a lot of wonderful foods in your body without an appropriate amount of exercise is like putting sugar in your coffee and not stirring. Sure, you'll get some sweetness, but you'll have to add a whole lot more to get the sweetness you need and in the end you just have a pile of sludge. The food movement and holistic medicine involve a deeper change in lifestyle and philosophy. It is not about popping pills or being passive while some doctor or herbalist "fixes" you. It is about taking an active and informed role in your own health and working at it day by day--listening to your body and sculpting the lifestyle that is conducive to good health.

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