We are individuals. We have unique needs.
The right combination of foods for you as a unique person can be incredibly healing for your body.
With the advancement of gene testing and the research about the power of foods’ effects on these genes, this is becoming way more recognized and accepted. This rapidly growing field of science is called epigenetics.
Even the New England Journal of Medicine is warming up to the idea of opening up all facets of research to help heal .
Sometimes, this may include an individual’s response to treatment, not just restrictive clinical trials.
This is the power of one. Empower one person to become healthy, and their ability to positively influence the world becomes a reality.
The one person becomes happier, more productive, and the burden of illness goes away.Their positive health then influences those around them, creating an upswing in others’ health, attitude, and productivity.
The healing power of foods may be something that you have known about yourself all along if you are very in tune with your body’s signals and responses. Signals such as appetite, cravings, fatigue, highs and lows in mood.
Read on to find out why you, as an individual, have the right to perfect health, and how foods are powerful to help make this happen.
Does Research Determine Effectiveness of Food or Drugs?
Why is the individual response to various foods, even medications, important? Let’s take a quick look at how typical clinical research works and its inherent flaws.
This chart below is a scatterplot of a research study. Bear in mind, this is hypothetical. I will describe this arbitrary treatment as treatment x.
For every dot on the plot, it represents an individual’s status of artery plaque after treatment x with increasing time along the horizontal line.
You can see that generally, the rates of artery plaque reduce after treatment x, or drop below the horizontal line as time goes along. However, for some above the line, their heart disease worsens.
Yet, if we were to average the numbers out and use a statistical analysis, this may make assumptions that all people would benefit from treatment x.
What if YOU are one of the people above the line?
Why Individual Response Is Important
Research is important, but it isn’t without its own conundrums. The individual. You as an individual with unique genes, diet, lifestyle, and exposure.
Let’s take an example of a person that has multiple diseases and multiple medications. He is a person that has asthma, diabetes, heart disease, gout, an infection, and also has poor teeth and gums (periodontitis).
He eats a standard American diet, doesn’t exercise, and he takes 4 different drug treatments for all of his diseases. He also works in a factory with high exposure to toxins.
There is no research study on the planet that has used a treatment or combination of medications that is designed exactly to work for him and all of his risks of exposure with his job, diet, medication combination, and genetics.
Research studies carefully pick a very isolated group of people with very strict inclusion requirements. I fondly think of this a “cherry picking”. After all, they want to sell their drug. Who can blame them, really?
This is where your healthcare provider has to use the art of medicine to decide what is going to work best for you as an individual.
A doctor or practitioner uses their clinical experience at this point to help a person heal.
When Medicine Isn’t Enough
But is a medicine enough? A medicine often has one targeted action, which can be helpful, but it isn’t going to make a person heal back to normal.
Side effects may need to be closely monitored and depletion of nutrients related to the medicine need to be taken into account. See my Memoirs of Heartburn Woes and Zinc blogs for examples of drug-nutrient depletion issues.
If the patient I described above just takes medicines and does nothing to improve his food intake, his exercise, and exposures, he truly won’t get better.
Why Is Food So Healing For the Individual?
Enter foods. I recently wrote two blogs about lavender and I will tell you one more fact about this fascinating plant: Lavender has been studied to have over160 compounds in it that may have influence on how we feel.
Does lavender have any known major side effects? If you guessed no, you are right.
A carrot has over 200 compounds in it that have diverse roles for health in the body. One single carrot has that kind of power when you eat it.
Then….when you eat a lot of other amazing foods that are whole with the carrot, the healing power becomes omnipotent.
Nature seems to design foods perfectly and here’s why: the compounds often have added and magnified effects when eaten together. They have the ability to dampen some toxic responses as well.
For example, black pepper enhances the availability and absorption of many food and nutrients. It is like a nutrient enabler. It also acts to detoxify.
That isn’t to say that foods and edible herbs can’t have side effects, because they certainly can and do.
But whole plant foods and edible herbs can and usually do have synergistic healing properties.
How The Paradigm For Health Is Changing For The Individual
Just yesterday, I gave a presentation to physicians about various nutrient and food research. I do this to help spread the word about the power of food.
I had a doctor come up to me and he told me a heartwarming story about how the presentation I gave a year ago helped him decide to change his course of action for medicine.
He said that berberine, a natural plant substance, had worked so well for him when medicines were not. He also made a couple other lifestyle and supplement changes. His cholesterol numbers improved in a very large way. He feels great without side effects.
But why did the plant work so well for him? Nature produces amazingly complicated substances that have diverse, and usually multi-faceted effects on the body.
Plants are so diverse, that over 20,000 different beneficial plant compounds occur in whole foods. Medications? They generally have one action in the body.
This means that while medicine is important, it should never be taken without consideration for improvement in food intake and lifestyle.
How Do We Know What To Eat?
Complex, distinct, and aromatic flavors and colors of foods should be a clue to their vast benefits.
A whole food or plant extract might help balance immunity, improve cholesterol, reduce risk of cancer, and balance hormones (read my Broccoli blog).
Getting back to natural ways of eating is a big step.
And you deserve it. You are powerful.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.