The Food MD

The American audience has been saturated with advertisements for Pharmaceutical products since the mid-nineties. Whether it’s in print or on the screen, anyone can find a drug to address a multitude of symptoms a la Ray Bradbury’s “Farenheit 451.” Fast forward through the gently spoken side effects and the advice to “consult with your doctor before taking…” and most people presume life will be brighter, happier and glossier when on this drug. Oh, behold how gray propaganda works.

It’s a full body experience, alright!

In response to all these scripts is “The Food Hospital,”a program that airs on the BBC’s Channel 4 and The Cooking Channel here in the States. It explores the science behind using food as medicine. Patients with conditions and/or a variety of symptoms come in, are subject to a battery of scientific tests after which a food regimen is prescribed and monitored by its doctors to see if it can effectively treat them. During their follow up visits, patients and doctors meticulously review how the different foods eaten helped them through hematocrits (i.e. blood tests) and feedback, then compare the statistical results from the prescription drug alternatives. Sometimes the patients have already tried all the drugs on the market for their condition, so the comparison is first hand; however more often than not, the food program has the most profound impact sans side effects.

If we think about our history, man has always looked to nature for methods of disease prevention and curing sickness. There are still people in remote tribes using things like tree bark and crushed dung beetles to treat infection. As we cringe and contort our faces in disgust, an incredible thing occurs – the treatments WORK. I should remind you that many new medications being developed in pharmaceutical labs have their roots in botanical and organic sources, sometimes emerging from rainforest and bush treatments.  Of course, by the time the medication makes it to market, those sources have been altered and incorporated with a multitude of synthetic agents. Bring on the light colored pill and its numerous side effects. If, however, you knew that changing what you put inside your body could help treat you, which would you gravitate to?

A young woman suffering from debilitating PMS found that incorporating more calcium rich vegetables like broccoli and dark leafy greens into her diet helped to eliminate the severity of her symptoms. Prior to visiting the Food Hospital, her only medical option was taking an anti-depressant. For other conditions, the food prescription is a little more involved. Take, for example, the Portfolio diet, which is a vegetarian diet consisting of a four key cholesterol lowering foods that bring down the levels of LDL, considered the “bad” cholesterol. This “portfolio” consists of soluble fiber, (examples include oatmeal, oat bran, barley, peas, beans, lentils, psyllium, and vegetables such as okra and eggplant) nuts, soy protein and margarine enriched with plant sterols. It can be a challenging diet, but incredibly effective. In fact, its efficacy has been comparable to that of prescription drug Lestatin. Also in that vein of challenging yet effective is the Low FODMAP diet which is prescribed to people suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowl Syndrome). The science behind this diet is that consumption of foods with high levels of fermentable sugars end up creating more liquid and gas in the gut, thus leading to the uncomfortable symptoms experienced by those who have the condition. Foods with low levels of these sugars and especially when eaten in certain combinations and amounts have been found to drastically reduce  digestive distress. Since current prescription medications for IBS have varied results and obvious risk factors (think of the recall in 2000 of Lotronex after some users died as a side effect), it’s sort of a no-brainer to go the route of Px Diet. If you never thought food could have this kind of profound impact on health, then start thinking it NOW. Just note that none of the above diet programs or other ones should be undertaken solo. The script needs to come from a registered dietician and/or doctor’s referral.

Happy eating!

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Where my hands may fail me: Massage by Foot

In my waking life, I do a hell of a lot with my body, especially my hands. From clutching weights, punching pads or carrying my massage table around, my hands and upper body really serve me well. Factor in 15 to 20 hours of hands on massage per week and those are some busy hands indeed. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if something happened to my arms. Last year, when I was recovering from my supraspinatus injury, every day of massage was followed by an immense amount of stretching and icing of my tendon. I worked through it; however it gave me a sneak peak into just how over my career would be if I injured myself permanently. So many therapists leave the profession prematurely due to musculoskeletal injuries resulting from overwork, poor body mechanics and poor self care, to name a few. I love what I do, but much like my voice defines me as a singer, my hands, forearms and elbows define me as a massage therapist. They are my tools of the trade.  Without them, I am useless…or so I thought.

Take a look at the inspiration that is UK massage therapist, Sue Kent:

Sue was born with a deformity of her upper extremities rendering her hands useless for massage. Her feet are her tools, which she has trained to such a level over the past 7 years of practice that she is now an official therapist to the Paralympics of 2012 in London. She also rows, skis, swims, sails and runs. Her specialty is sports massage, which from experience requires precision, deep pressure and specificity. I’m totally awestruck that she has trained her feet to achieve these three requirements. Below is a video of her technique in action. I am truly amazed by the strength of her feet and the way she uses her big toes and heels to access muscles.

It’s people like Sue who show me that you can always find a way to make what you are passionate about a reality. At least I know that where my hands may fail me, I can always look to my feet.

More Info on Sue Kent here:

http://www.enjoyfeet.co.uk/Sue_Kent.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-16672120