10 Ways Food can be Used as Medicine

EufIt’s no secret that Americans are sick, like, really sick. 18 years ago, at the turn of the century, it was determined that 45% of those living in the United States suffered from a chronic condition, such as diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and heart disease[1]. Almost 20% of our kids between 6-19 years old are classified as obese[2], and 1 in every 5 of us will die from cancer[3]. Those statistics really become harrowing when one realizes that approximately 70% of Americans are taking one or more prescription medications[4]. If anything, these medications are only making the United States sicker. While the FDA does not collect much information about those who die from prescription drugs, the European Commission estimates that approximately 200,000 Americans are killed per year because of adverse drug reactions[5]. In the US alone, 2.74 million people experience a serious adverse reaction to a properly prescribed medication, with 1.9 million of them needing hospitalization. Despite approval, many prescription drugs still carry a 20% risk of causing a severe reaction.

The thing is, drugs aren’t guaranteed to help. Even if they do, they may just kill you in the process.
The Department of Agriculture has recognized that, in more recent years, Americans seem to be choosing healthier lifestyles[6], and the way health has been progressing is pushing a growing number of parents and adults, like me, to choosing a more natural approach. One thing that I have discovered in my journey to health are the safe, yet remarkably effective, treatment options available right in nature. As my skepticism for prescription medication grows, my curiosity and appreciation for the natural only grows as well. Today, we’re going to be discovering 10 incredible ways that food acts as medicine.

1. Turmeric and Cystic Fibrosis

Turmeric, a plant that is part of the ginger family, boasts an impressive list of health benefits, and should be one of the foods we try and eat daily. When it comes to Cystic Fibrosis (or CF), a genetic disease that causes abnormally thick mucus to line the pancreas, intestines, and lungs, curcumin shows the ability to “almost completely correct the measurable defects of the disease[7].” Curcumin is the active, and most desired, main component of turmeric, and it doesn’t take much of it to really see a difference. The Nasal Potential Difference (NPD) defect, which is tested and examined when diagnosing and while treating CF, has shown to completely correct itself during treatment with turmeric[8]. Curcumin has also helps correct electrolyte abnormalities and prevent intestinal obstruction, as well as restoring function of diseased tissues[9].

2. Mango and Diabetes

Mangoes, the delectably sweet fruit of the mango tree, bring in warm thoughts of salty air, and warm sandy beaches. Native to Southern Asia, mangoes have only grown in popularity in the United States, and offer more than just the satisfaction of fulfilling a sweet craving for diabetics. With each bite, a mango offers a powerful punch of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and a beautiful natural molecule, Mangiferin. Mangiferin is considered a significant antidiabetic, and has wide benefits in the treatment of diabetes, because of its ability to lower blood sugar[10, 11]. Interestingly, rural African communities have been found managing adult-onset Type 2 diabetes with mango ingestion[12], as it also reduces inflammation overall, and helps protect the digestive system from gastric injury.

3. Cocoa and Heart Disease

Everyone needs a reason to eat more chocolate, and fortunately for us chocoholics, research is actually supporting its consumption. While only dark chocolate seems to offer health benefits, higher chocolate intake (upwards of 3.5 ounces per day!) is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events[13]. This protective benefit of cocoa is thought to be, in part, because it increases the good cholesterol found in the body, as well as reduces inflammation most commonly associated with heart disease[14].

4. Cinnamon and Alzheimer’s

One of my favorite parts of fall is the scent of cinnamon everywhere I go, it’s almost intoxicating. This red-brown spice, which has always been a staple on the American spice rack, is re-defining its beneficial profile. Alzheimer’s a degenerative disease of the brain that progressively destroys memory and other important mental functions. Though prevalence of this disease has grown tremendously, neither a main cause nor cure has been identified. When it comes to the neurons in the brain, a protein called tau plays a vital role. When we get older, we are at an increased risk of these proteins developing “knots”, and too many of those in concentrated areas often presents as Alzheimer’s. This is where nature comes in. The main component of cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, can actually prevent these knots from ever forming[15]. Not only does cinnamon impact these tau, but it offers neuroprotective effects overall and could even offer treatment once the disease has been diagnosed[16].

5. Cloves and Dental Pain

Being human can hurt sometimes, and while it can be tempting to reach for an over-the-counter pain reliever, it’s important to remember the potential side effects they contain. Many people would classify toothache as one of the worst pains out there, and finding relief while waiting for treatment can be almost impossible. First documented in the 13th century for use in relieving dental pain, cloves definitely hold their own even today. Eugenol, the numbing component found naturally in cloves, is widely used throughout dentistry and is very well-known for its therapeutic properties[17]. Cloves actually spark opioid receptors in the body, which could have something to do with its impressive pain-relieving properties[18].

6. Rosemary and Cancer

Cancer is a scary word in our world. Most, if not all, of us know someone who’s had cancer, or have even been in the fight ourselves. In this day and age, it is a wise choice to take preventative actions against cancer development, especially when it seems like almost everything causes it. Thankfully, some of our strongest shields against cancer could be right in the kitchen. Rosemary has shown potent and effective anticancer properties[19]. Researchers believe that one way rosemary achieves this protective effect is by preventing cancerous cells from replicating[20].

 

7. Coconut Oil and Dental Health

In 2012, 91% of American adults between 20-64 years old had cavities[21], and this number really isn’t a shock, considering 10% of the Standard American Diet consists of added sugars. With concerning evidence surfacing about fluoride’s neurotoxic potential, a growing number of people are turning to coconut oil to maintain their dental hygiene – and for good reason! Coconut oil has impressive antibacterial capabilities that can be compared to some surgical scrubs[22], and can significantly decrease plaque formation and plaque-induced gingivitis[23]. In fact oil pulling, or swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil everyday in the mouth for 10-20 minutes, shows promising benefit, especially since coconut oil is effective in killing microorganisms, like Streptococcus mutans, Staphylococcus aureus, Helicobacter pylori, and Candida albicans[24].

8. Honey and Eczema

In recent years, eczema, an itchy inflammation of the skin, has only grown in frequency – especially in children – affecting over 3 million people per year. Most don’t ever quite identify the cause, but lifestyle changes can definitely make a difference. For my family, removing any soy from our diets, and moisturizing consistently with our miracle cream (read more about that here) made a world of difference. Honey has been used for wound healing and other skin ailments for over 8,000 years, and researchers are finally beginning to understand why. Honey’s natural anti-inflammatory effects help reduce itching and pain associated with eczema[25]. Honey promotes wound healing and skin regeneration, inhibits staph growth, and treats recurrent cases of the rash[26].

9. Oregano and Staph

One of the most common harmful bacteria to infect the human body is Staphylococcus aureus, which causes what is known as a staph infection. While the most common response to a staph infection is antibiotics, we’re now learning that these can do more harm than good. Because of the introduction of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, like MRSA, many doctors are growing a more healthy hesitation toward the prescription of antibiotics, and more people are looking for natural alternatives. Carvacrol and Thymol, the active and strongest components of oregano, have shown extremely strong antimicrobial action against Staphylococcus aureus, as well as MRSA, and come with significantly fewer side effects[27,28].

10. Chamomile and Anxiety

Americans are an anxious people. Affecting approximately 40 million Americans, anxiety disorders are considered the most common mental illness in the US. Pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medications come with a wide range of side effects, like insomnia, trouble concentrating, loss of appetite or digestive issues, anxiety, nausea, and drowsiness. Clinical studies have shown that chamomile can be used to treat mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder[29], as well as bipolar disorder and insomnia[30]. While much of chamomile’s benefit to those with anxiety disorders, but one study found 74% of those using long-term chamomile therapy to manage generalized anxiety disorder had no relapse at week 38[31].

 

So many Americans have trailed so far from what our natural diets should be. They’re swallowing more pills than vegetables, and the health of this nation is failing. Over 2,000 years ago, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, said that food was medicine, but somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten that. If we want to be healthy, we first my see what’s on our plate.

Until next time,
Savannah

 

References

1. Anderson, Gerard The Growing Burden of Chronic Disease in America
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497638/pdf/15158105.pdf
2. CDC Obesity and Overweight
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497638/pdf/15158105.pdf
3. American Cancer Society Lifetime Risk of Developing or Dying from Cancer
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-basics/lifetime-probability-of-developing-or-dying-from-cancer.html
4. Mayo Clinic Nearly 7 in 10 Americans Take Prescription Drugs, Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center Find

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans Take Prescription Drugs, Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center Find


5. Harvard University New Prescription Drugs: A Major Health Risk with Few Offsetting Advantages
https://ethics.harvard.edu/blog/new-prescription-drugs-major-health-risk-few-offsetting-advantages
6. USDA American Adults are Choosing Healthier Foods, Consuming Healthier Diets
https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2014/01/16/american-adults-are-choosing-healthier-foods-consuming-healthier
7. New Scientist Curry Spice Could Alleviate Cystic Fibrosis 
https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4912-curry-spice-could-alleviate-cystic-fibrosis/
8. NCBI Curcumin, A Major Constituent of Turmeric, Corrects Cystic Fibrosis Defects
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15105504
9. Hereditary Genetics Curcumin and Cystic Fibrosis Defects: A Spicy Treatment
https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/curcumin-and-cystic-fibrosis-defects-a-spicy-treatment-2161-1041-S7-e001.pdf
10. NCBI Effect of Mangiferin on Hyperglycemia and Atherogenicity in Streptozoticin Diabetic Rats
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15740886
11. NCBI Mango Supplementation Improves Blood Glucose in Obese Individuals
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4155986/
12. NCBI Mangifera Indica (Mango)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249901/
13. BMJ Journals Habitual Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Healthy Men and Women
https://heart.bmj.com/content/early/2015/05/20/heartjnl-2014-307050
14. Harvard Health Publishing In the Journals: Cocoa Reduces Inflammation Associated with Heart Disease
https://heart.bmj.com/content/early/2015/05/20/heartjnl-2014-307050
15. Science Daily Cinnamon has Potential Ability to Prevent Alzheimer’s
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130523143737.htm
16. NCBI Cinnamon, A Promising Prospective Towards Alzheimer’s Disease
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29258915
17. NCBI Essential Oils, Their Therapeutic Properties, and Implication in Dentistry: A Review
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606594/
18. NCBI Analgesic Effect of the Aqueous and Ethanolic Extracts of Clove
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4075701/
19. NCBI Anticancer Effects of Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officianalis L.) Extract and Rosemary Extract Polyphenols
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133115/
20. PLOS One Anti-Proliferative Effect of Rosmarinus Officianalis L. Extract on Human Melanoma A375 Cells
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0132439
21. CDC Dental Caries and Tooth Loss in Adults in the United States, 2011-2012
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db197.htm
22. NCBI Comparison of Antibacterial Efficacy of Coconut Oil and Cholorhexidine on Streptococcus Mutans: An in vivo Study
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5109859/
23. NCBI Effect of Coconut Oil in Plaque Related Gingivitis – A Preliminary Report
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4382606/
24. NCBI Oil Pulling for Maintaining Oral Hygiene – A Review
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198813/
25. NCBI Traditional and Modern Uses of Natural Honey in Human Diseases: A Review
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758027/
26. SAGE Journals Treatment of Recurrent Eczematous External Otitis with Honey Eardrops: A Proof-of-Concept Study
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758027/
27. NCBI Antimicrobial Properties of Plant Essential Oils Against Human Pathogens and Their Mode of Action: An Updated Review
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5206475/
28. Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science Evaluation of the MRSA Sensitivity to Essential Oils Obtained from Four Algerian Medicinal Plants 
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3d18/5fa9283988c793e0db7b55c8e69baee3997d.pdf
29. NIH Study Shows Chamomile Capsules Ease Anxiety Symptoms
https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/040310.htm
30. SAGE Journals Clinical Applications of Herbal Medicines for Anxiety and Insomnia: Targeting Patients with Bipolar Disorder
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0004867414539198
31. Journal of Clinical Trials Long-Term Chamomile Therapy of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Study Protocol for a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Trial
https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/longterm-chamomile-therapy-of-generalized-anxiety-disorder-a-study-protocol-for-a-randomized-doubleblind-placebo-controlled-trial-2167-0870.1000188.php?aid=31955