Letting Food Be Thy Medicine

Letting Food Be Thy Medicine

Fresh Blueberries in Basket“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”

~ Hippocrates, ca. 400 BC

Healing is about so much more than taking the right pharmaceutical, herbal or other prescription. We’re reminded often that our health is largely up to us; the choices we make every day can lead to vibrant health or to a never-ending struggle with chronic diseases and conditions, and everything between the two extremes. When we’re sick, we often try to eat what we think will make us feel better. Can food truly heal?

How? How can we really use food to heal ourselves? What did Hippocrates really mean when he said, “Let food be thy medicine.”? Hippocrates believed in the healing power of nature and the power of our bodies to heal themselves. Medicine has come a long way since then, bringing advancements for which most of us are grateful. Even so, it would benefit each of us to take a closer look at what we eat, particularly if we don’t feel well.

With so much conflicting information bombarding us about what food is “good” and what’s “bad,” we’re easily overwhelmed with choices. Some of the recommended regimens for various illnesses can seem overly restrictive—threatening to take the joy out of eating. Anyone battling a chronic illness understands the need for joy, which can be so hard to otherwise find or experience. Other recommendations just seem too hard, relying on exotic ingredients that are expensive and hard to find, or preparations that are too tedious and time-consuming for a sick person to handle. And, of course, there is a hopeless outlook that comes with chronic illness, which often results in feeling that specific eating guidelines couldn’t possibly help.

Healing from Lyme disease has been a journey like none I could have imagined. I’m lucky to be in the care of a wonderful, knowledgeable doctor and a gifted, loving naturopath, without whom I’d lack any direction at all. Even so, I know that this is not their fight alone. It’s mine as well. Like others in my situation, finding the energy to look for and understand alternative medicine supportive therapies is difficult. Just getting through many days is difficult; taking on extra challenges doesn’t usually hold much allure.

Everything in its time.

After a winter so sick from antibiotics that food (most healthy food I’d been used to preparing, anyway) just didn’t often interest me, my daily routine became seriously lacking in fresh vegetables—once my good friends. To complicate matters, the food that my body was able to tolerate was often starchy—healthy, whole grains and some root vegetables, but generally foods high in carbohydrates. Precisely the kind of diet that contributed to more joint pain and other symptoms.

Thankfully, I’ve slowly been able to incorporate fresh vegetables and fruits back into my diet, along with lots of probiotic foods, which I know are contributing to my healing. Patching together information from here and there, along with following my intuition, my diet is pretty healthy by most standards.

Yesterday, at a Lyme disease conference here in New Hampshire, I met Laura Piazza, the co-author of Recipes for Repair, A Lyme Disease Cookbook. Hearing Laura and others speak of the importance of diet in the healing process, I realized this is my time to sharpen my focus on how food affects my healing process. Could it be possible to feel better by paying closer attention?

This cookbook could easily have been described simply as a cookbook for eliminating inflammation in the body, because that’s what it addresses. (Absent the health information so generously included, it could just be described as a beautiful cookbook of unusual whole foods recipes.) Based on the so-called Lyme Inflammation Diet, detailed in The Lyme Disease Solution, by Kenneth Singleton, MD, Laura Piazza takes a list of foods to avoid and transforms it into a library of beautiful, tasty options. All designed to restore health by decreasing inflammation, eliminating toxins and introducing enzymes that may be lacking in a chronically ill person.

In a nutshell—and nuts are a “good” thing, by the way—it’s a diet rich in vegetables, high-quality proteins, healthy fats, fruits, fiber and whole grains (with less of an emphasis on grains than most of us are accustomed to). Most of the recipes in the book are gluten-free and dairy-free, although a few feature kefir. (Yeah!)

It’s a healthy way to eat and, from that perspective, the recipes stand on their own quite nicely.

Laura is a photographer and graphic designer who is, herself, healing from Lyme disease. She turned to her mother, Gail Piazza, a professional home economist and food stylist, a couple of years ago to help her find good food options while following Dr. Singleton’s Lyme Inflammation Diet. Her mother’s research and creativity is behind many of the recipes in the book, which they crafted together. Recipes for Repair features Laura’s stunning photography and book design skills, and a robust, informational introduction section, which is well worth a careful read—in spite of the intriguing recipes and photographs that follow.

For some, this way of eating might present radical change, but it’s sure to be change that is rich with flavor, joy and hope at every turn. It calls for eating whole, organic foods and thinking carefully about every meal and snack. It inspires the reader to ask, at every meal, “How does this food contribute to my healing?” It calls on us to be involved with our food as active participants, conscious in every bite.

For me, it means consciously choosing only the foods that are healing, and saying no to some of the starchier foods that I’ve been used to. It challenges me to reduce the proportion of overall carbohydrates in my daily choices, and focus again on whole foods in healthy balance. I am comfortable with the principles and philosophy in this book, overall, and actually welcome some clear guidelines at this time in my healing journey.

Wanting nothing more at this time than to greet summer with energy and vitality that have been almost wholly missing for me over the last couple of years, I’m up for the challenge.

Recipes for Repair CoverOf course, there’s “No” list involved in eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Avoiding sugary foods, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, trans fats, additives and processed foods is key. Eating whole, organic, fresh food, including a lot of raw vegetables and fruits, is important. Cooking with a healthy oil like olive oil and enjoying healthy fats in nutrient-rich foods like nuts is encouraged. There’s not a lot to feel deprived about. It’s good food.

Good cookbooks inspire us to be creative in the kitchen. This cookbook does that, and more, by integrating the goal of restoring health into the day’s food choices.

If you’re facing any kind of chronic illness that might benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet, consider Recipes for Repair. Reducing inflammation in the body is critical to lightening the burden on the immune system, making this a healthy way of eating for all of us.

When you’re letting “food be thy medicine,” what’s on your plate, in your bowl or in your cup?

12 responses

  1. If you’re going to have grains with Lyme, they’ve got to be whole grains if you are going to survive the antibiotics. Lyme patients may also be potassium deficient, so eating foods high in that nutrient should help.

    I hope that you are starting to heal. It is a long, slow process.

  2. Thanks for the tips. Focusing on whole, rather than refined flours (even the “healthy” ones like brown rice flour and millet flour) should be a good thing for me. Nobody’s mentioned potassium (that I recall), so I’ll definitely look into that. Looking back, I know I’ve made progress, but it’s frustratingly slow. Thanks again for sharing your own story—it really helps.

  3. This sounds like a wonderful book for anyone, but I sure hope it helps you with your recovery. I just read your very sweet comment on my blog (I’ve been detained) and it touched my heart! Thank you for the kind offer to divide your perennials and give me some! In fact, I am in the process of buying a home in Peterborough – yay! I don’t think I’ll have time to do much gardening this year, but next year – watch out!
    All the best, sweet friend.

    • It’s basically just a healthy diet, low in simple carbohydrates and rich in lots of good things. You’re welcome to borrow the book if you want. It’s got some good info and some lovely reciipes.

  4. I love that you called out active participation. At our Wellness Community here, that is one well-documented tangible result that they’ve seen through research. Active-patients are more likely to have positive outcomes.

  5. I’d love to see those studies, Tammy. Participation is definitely the new model, even in traditional medicine, but it’s surprising how passive it’s possible to become when you’re sick and just want help getting better. Besides having the chance to really make an impact on our own healing, it just plain feels better to DO something!

  6. Hi Eleanor

    I just came across your very kind review of our book. I hope that you’ve been enjoying the recipes and that you’re progressing well in your recovery. Be well and let me know how you’re doing when you have a chance.

    Thanks again for the kind words!

    Sincerely,

    Laura

    • Laura,
      I’m definitely enjoying the recipes, although I have to say I’m struggling worse than ever with my recovery. At least I’m confident that I’m doing all the right things now; I appreciate the wonderful information in your book.
      Eleanor

      • I’m sorry! I know the feeling. I do everything I am told, but can’t seem to get ahead of this thing. I hope you turn around soon! Email me if you ever want to chat about protocols. Glad you are enjoying the recipes. Feel better soon!

  7. Pingback: Onion Lore and the Winter Ahead | Nourishing Words

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