Hippocrates was credited with being the first person to believe that diseases were caused naturally, not by superstition and gods. He was also popularly credited with saying "Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food." but also said "to eat when you are sick, is to feed your sickness." How important is food as medicine or is it even medicine at all?
Hippocratic medicine was to be a humble and passive practice meant to be based on "the healing power of nature", not what it has become today. As the father of medicine, Hippocrates believed disease was the product of environmental factors, diet, and living habits. Hippocrates was reluctant to administer drugs and engage in specialized treatments but instead put his faith in food. He was an ardent supporter of moderation and fasting:
"The addition of food should be much rarer, since it is often useful to completely take it away while the patient can withstand it, until the force of the disease reaches its maturity. The man carries within him a doctor; you just have to help him do his work. If the body is not cleared, then the more you feed it, the more it will be harmed. When a patient is fed too richly, the disease is fed as well. Remember – any excess is against nature."
Similarly, Dr. Herbert Shelton, considered the father of the modern day Natural Hygiene, stood by the same belief -- that even in the most serious of illnesses, Fasting Can Save Your Life. Shelton brought to light how the body heals itself, given the "proper conditions" time and again with a full recovery and improved health. His healing protocol also did not involve food or medicine.
Culturally, modern day society has become conditioned to reach for a pill at the slightest sniffle. Often we never consider what our illnesses tell us. To illustrate, think about having a cold; you get a sniffle, take an over-the-counter medication or antibiotic and get on with your day. A week later, when that cold turns into the flu, you medicate again. When that flu progresses to pneumonia, you medicate yet again, never stopping for a moment to realize the continuation of disease could have been prevented had the cold been properly treated.
Medications work against the body, not with it.
While it may be surprising to some, drugs and medications are synthetic chemicals that work against the body, not with it. In fact, medicine suppresses the body's efforts at healing itself, so whether there's medication or none, the body will always bear the burden of having to do the healing work. That is to say that when a medicated body has to work against both a disease and a prescribed medication, it will have to pull double duty to heal.
What happens with Antibiotics is far worse. Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight bacteria. They either stop bacteria from reproducing or kill them. Alarmingly, antibiotics don't work without a consequence. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, worldwide, adverse drug reactions may affect up to 10% of the world’s population and affect up to 20% of all hospitalized patients. What's more, a recent study found that antibiotics strong enough to kill off gut bacteria can also stop the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, the section of the brain associated with memory.
As the pattern of prescribing antibiotics for every ailment continues, health diminishes. This is why, according to the CDC, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics in the United States each year and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.
Basically Food is Medicine, If Its Junk
If Hippocrates were here today and had to make a true comparison of "food as medicine" the closest example would be processed foods. Like medicine, processed foods work against the body, not with it. Similar to antibiotics over-consumption of processed foods lays the groundwork for illness and disease and diminishes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. As with taking medication, the body pulls double-duty to process junk food and to eliminate it. Sure, the body will accept these foods, even process them and adapt to eating them for it's own survival, but like medication, processed foods are a stressor in the end, not a healer.
Nature's Foods Are Not Medicinal, They're Healing -- Big Difference
To prevent disease, or truly heal it, Hippocrates favored natural and wild foods as so-called medicine. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, wild foods and herbs, work with the body's processes to encourage healing, instead of working against it, allowing the body the energy it needs to heal itself and repair and replace cells. Hippocrates concluded that to eat in a way that coincides with nature prevents heals but that is not say it's medicinal. Nature's foods encourage health, prevent illness and nourish the body on a cellular level so medication isn't needed.
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