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Food for Thought

The famous philosopher Hippocrates once wrote, "Let medicine be your food and take food as your medicine." What does this mean? While many of you reading this article may wish that our contemporary western medical principles return to their Hippocratic roots, I doubt that will occur. In the United States, over 65% of our adult population is overweight, and one-third of our children are considered obese. Although the number of patients surviving strokes, heart attacks, and cancer increases, the number of new patients diagnosed with cancer, heart, or lung disease continues to rise. Americans are getting sicker, bigger, and living longer degenerative lives. Many can't figure out why we don't feel well despite all the sophisticated medical equipment, breakthrough vitamin, nutritional products, new age diets, exercise programs, and detoxification remedies. I would propose taking a different approach to this medical dilemma and defining what food is: food for the mind, food for the Spirit, and food for the body.

In a fast-paced world, the adage of western culture is to use it now while we have it or end up losing it later in life. Traditional Chinese principles have always cautioned against unrestrained use of our bodies' energy, citing that we should store our energy while we have it to use it later when we need it. Consider this thought when you constantly need mental stimulation from television, music, nightlife, and reading, for instance, and find yourself with insomnia, depression, anxiousness, or irritability for no apparent reason. Sure, coffee, herbal teas, smoothies, energy drinks, or alcohol seem like the solution to stimulate or dull our senses, but the answer lies in the balance. The mind needs to shut off for a while and regenerate just as much as it needs to be stimulated. Meditation and prayer are forms of food for the mind. The Chinese call it "sitting still doing nothing," a concept hard to grasp in America. Upon starting a meditative process, thoughts will enter the mind and continue their way through as if a speeding freight train passes in front of us, never catching a detailed glimpse of each car. With practice, you will notice an embracing calmness develop inside your body. This will evolve to an awareness of a connection between your physical body and what truly feeds it, the Spirit.

In that stillness, the emptiness of the mind, you will notice that you are not alone. It could be that white light in your mind that beacons your approach or the feeling of a companion nearby, but there is a presence with you. In my opinion, the number one reason our nation and world cannot find health is that we have lost connection with the Spirit. We don't continually allow ourselves to be feed with the Spirit. Religion is being stripped out of schools, the government, and home life. What once was a nation under God in the pledge of allegiance is now a nation under the pursuit of material happiness, personal rights, and faltering ethics. You won't find the Spirit in the human genome, the atom, or in quantum physics. Our society instructs us only to have complete trust and confidence in ourselves alone. That's all we need. When the Spirit shows us finally through mental symptoms that it's malnourished, our modern medical system believes it has a deficiency of antidepressants, tranquilizers, or psychotic medications. These therapies once only destined for use in our elderly are now marketed for our children.

Our physical bodies are only calling cards for our Spirit. The body nourishes the Spirit, and the Spirit nourishes the body. We can help that nourishment by what we eat. I am amazed that there seems to be a new recently discovered nutritional product marketed to me almost daily that professes to be the thing my body lacks, and without it, I would fail to function. My answer to that is the human body has functioned for thousands of years without it to date. There is no new nutrient, just perhaps a lack of it. With the commercialization of our food industry came over-processed, refined foods consisting of sugars, fats, oils, and toxins that have disturbed and disrupted our digestion, metabolism, and elimination systems in our bodies.

Our bodies have lost the ability to decide for themselves what they need to balance. Instead, the trillion-dollar food industry tells us what to eat and when we eat it, chemicals in the food tell us that we want more. I ask my patients, "When was the last time you ate from a Vitamin C tree? Or perhaps, you happened to dig up that calcium citrate from the root of the calcium plant this morning. Nutrition doesn't come in a test tube or a "naked" molecule concentrated like a drug and fortified into the foods or vitamins we consume. It comes from whole foods. I would rather get my Vitamin B1 (thiamine) in its natural "package" from brewer's yeast, blackstrap molasses, or legumes than to ingest thiamine extracted from coal tar, a million years old and placed in a tablet. The body recognizes things in their natural form. The B-complex vitamins always exist together in nature, and that's how the body is used to seeing them.

Not only is the body not set up to utilize these "naked" concentrated molecules, but many of these seemingly healthy supplements also end up stripping our bodies of stored nutrients necessary to break these molecules down. Eating whole natural foods already contains the nutrient package.

Getting the entire feeding package is what our bodies were designed to utilize. We are unique, exquisite organisms perfectly created to function at optimal capacity if we are well feed. Designing your life for health doesn't have to be complicated or expensive, just balanced. Given the right tools to use, including meditation and prayer, faith, and whole foods, we can retrain them to function again. Spend a little time feeding your mind, spirit, and body, and it will reward you with bountiful health.

Stuart S. Shipe, R.Ph., D.A.O.M.

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