Update 3/31/2013:  In the last two months, I have changed my own diet in accord with the ideas put forth by Joel Fuhrman, MD, which can be found in his books (Eat To Live and also Eat For Health are two of them, and the most important) and on his website.

I have also recently viewed a movie, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, which can be seen by following the link, in which juice fasting proves curative for a couple of very overweight men with autoimmune disease.  While a 60 day juice fast is not something to be undertaken without medical supervision, the results in these patients was astounding.

Having seen the movie, and having followed Dr. Fuhrman’s  plan myself, I consider that they define a kind of standard for the power of nutrition to both create and to heal disease.  Modern nutritional science reveals that beyond energy, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and even antioxidants, food contains substances without which our bodies do not function properly.

For example, spinach is now known to contain substances called thylakoids, which when consumed enable the body to control appetite.  But rather than think of substances like these as potential supplements, I believe that we have to think that human beings co-evolved with the plant world (as well as the bacterial and viral world) and that consuming these substances (and having healthy bacteria incorporated into our bodies) is simply necessary for us to be healthy.

So now we can think of nutrition in terms of what we must eat to be healthy, and what we might eat which promotes disease.

Logically, if we are sick because of what eat eat  or do not eat, without correcting our diets any attempts to treat disease will need to be in some way drastic and to ultimately fall short of the goal of cure.

Another seemingly obvious conclusion is that the solution to the current “health care crisis” is for all of us to achieve a state of health which will not require expensive treatments for the diseases that poor nutrition promotes.

Update 11/6/2009:  Time does not permit a more proper re-write of this article, so I’ll only mention briefly three new aspects of my understanding of nutrition and therapeutics that I’m currently bringing into my practice.

  1. Firstly, I have a better sense of the powerful role that both good and bad nutrition can play in health and disease.  Especially given the rather toxic nature of today’s environment, it is increasingly important to eat well.  Current investigation in nutritional science has convincingly demonstrated that in addition to vitamins, minerals, proteins, essential fatty acids, that there are literally thousands of food constituents that perform vital functions related to how our genetic blueprint (genome) is expressed.  This science is called “nutritional epigenetics.”  Without a much longer article, I can only say that it appears possible to “correct” some of the unhealthy expressions of our DNA that either happened to our parents or which were created in our own lifetimes by our eating habits and/or environmental exposures;
  2. Secondly, it has become clear that many chronic diseases have as their root causes a combination of genetic vulnerability AND environmental triggers such as diets high in fats, sugars, and environmental chemicals.  Here I’m speaking of such things as obesity, type II (adult onset) diabetes, osteoporosis, chronic gastrointestinal problems, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, non-alcoholic liver disease, and even forms of cardiovascular disease.  Furthermore, these “diseases” may be improved or possibly even “cured” by the therapeutic use of nutrition.  I am now using the FirstLine Therapy program to help my patients with this aspect of their journey to health.  You may also be interested to explore some of the videos at this site to get a sense of the effects of following this program;
  3. Thirdly would be the tremendously under-diagnosed problem of gluten sensitivity.  There are many aspects of this problem which deserve a much more thorough treatment.  Much more information can be found on the Celicac.com website, but the internet is full of information regarding this, such as:  Celiacawareness.   In February 2009 I learned about Enterolab, a laboratory in Texas which has developed a very sensitive testing method.  I have primarily tested people with autoimmune diseases, such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc., and also people with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis) or people with poorly defined but complex multi-system medical problems.  A very high percentage of these tests have been positive, and the benefit to patients of going on a gluten-free diet have been extremely gratifying.

The article that follows is the original before today, and if and when I get time I’ll rewrite the whole thing. Until then, the concepts expressed in this update complement or even supersede those expressed below.

 

I like to make a distinction between the use of nutrition as
food and its use as medicine, and in general I much prefer the former
(see Herbs and Homeopathy.)

Before I studied homeopathy, I utilized nutritional supplements as therapeutic
interventions. While often effective, I found that people became reluctant
to take them for prolonged periods of time, and when the supplements were
discontinued, the problems resurfaced. This was unsatisfactory.

If someone is nutritionally deficient it only makes sense
to treat this by correcting the actual deficiency, and not by giving
a homeopathic remedy. The nutritional deficiencies that I am focusing
on at the moment are Iodine deficiency,
which I currently believe to be widespread and extremely important,
Vitamin D deficiency,
and Magnesium deficiency (see discussion on Osteoporosis),
and also Zinc deficiency, all of which are said to be very common.

If someone’s diet is “pushing” the body into incorrect functioning
(such as overeating carbohydrates leading to insulin
resistance leading to heart disease
), it makes sense to correct
the diet, and not to instead give a homeopathic medicine. The same is
obviously true for other “lifestyle” problems, such as lack
of sleep
and exercise. Homeopathy will
not fundamentally correct these problems, which Samuel Hahnemann recognized
as etiologic in disease in the mid 1700’s. He did not consider problems
caused by such “errors in regimen” to be chronic disease at all, and
stated that they should be treated by correction of the regimen.

At the same time, in the modern era we can recognize that people’s cravings
for certain foods, and the motivations for their unhealthy behaviors may
be treated homeopathically. It remains important, however, for all of
us to take responsibility for our actions and to live a healthy lifestyle.

Carbohydrate
intolerance
: Mankind has evolved over a period of millions
of years. Only in the last 10,000 years have we been able to “domesticate”
grains, allowing us to forgo the life of hunter-gatherers and become agriculturally
based, making it possible to live in fixed geographic locations and develop
modern civilization. It is becoming more clear, however, that the “diseases
of civilization” (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) may have arisen
from this fundamental shift in human activity and behavior.

Recommendations for proper human nutrition have been incorporated
into many fads. The current recommendation (approximately 2000) of the
orthodox medical and dietary establishment, known as the Mediterranean
diet, emphasizes carbohydrates and recommends Olive oil as the primary
fat source. Scientific research suggests, however, that for many people
this diet does not accomplish the stated goals of lowering cholesterol.
Instead, emphasizing carbohydrate leads to insulin overload, leading
subsequently to insulin resistance, obesity, and heart disease. Especially
for those who tend to be somewhat hypoglycemic (low blood sugar, intolerance
of hunger and going too long without eating), this idea is important.
For those who have not been able to lose weight despite exercise and
a low calorie diet, this idea may be very important. As detailed in
Enter The Zone (Barry Sears — publ. Harper Collins), The Carbohydrate
Addict’s Diet (Heller and Heller — publ.New American Library), and
Protein Power (Eades and Eades — publ. Bantam Books), the diet should
be protein adequate (not a high protein diet), low in carbohydrate (especially
those from sugars, grains, potatoes, etc.), and moderate in fat. The
Atkins diet is another “low carbohydrate” regimen, popular
in the early 2000’s, and which was studied and reported on in medical
journals, showing some benefit to cardiovascular health.

If you have any family traditions regarding food, dating back at least
a couple of generations, it is likely that there is some nutritional
wisdom in those foods for your particular cultural and genetic make-up.
Both of these factors are important.

Vegetarianism
— While it is true that some people do better on animal protein based
diets, it is clear that vegetarianism has many advantages. Among these
include high fiber content, high quantities of “phytonutrients”
(chemicals having anti-cancer and other medicinal properties),
relatively high mineral concentrations, low caloric value, etc. Meat
based diets are considered by some to be environmentally irresponsible
and non-sustainable (see Diet for a New America by John
Robbins). The fat content of animal based diets is high, and also the
amount of hormonal pollution owing to the feedlot practices that
produce animal proteins for mass consumption. A middle ground is
possible, substituting vegetable protein sources for much of what
passes for protein in the usual American diet. The use of soy products,
however, must be seriously questioned owing to information I have
recently encountered. See Health Alerts
for more information.

Essential fatty acids — This is a complicated topic, about which much has been written elsewhere. See especially Edward
Siguel’s work
.
Essential fatty acids are fats which the body cannot make by itself and
which therefore must be supplied by the diet, much like vitamins. While
I do not agree that there are “bad” fats, it is certainly true that the
usual American diet is imbalanced as regards fat intake. A relative
deficiency of “omega-3” vs. “omega-6,” and that this imbalance produces
significant problems. The usual American diet shifts us into a “pro”
inflammatory state, which is clearly a problem for suffers of such
illnesses as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, and also problems like
pre-menstrual syndromes, dysmenorrhea (severely painful menstrual
cramps), etc.

Obesity — Americans in general do not use
their bodies in a physical way enough (exercise) and they tend to eat
too much. This produces a condition known as being overweight which,
when severe, is called being obese. The adverse health consequences
of obesity are well-known, and can only be mitigated by weight loss.
The difficulty that most people have in losing weight can be addressed
by looking at lifestyle factors, nutrition, exercise, and homeopathic
treatment.

Vitamin D deficiency — click here
for more information