We’ve all heard that doctors, upon graduating from medical school, take the Hippocratic Oath where they swear to work to protect the health of those that they serve. Unfortunately, many medical professionals in today’s world are more interested in selling you an expensive prescription than actually taking care of your health. Much of western medicine has become fixated on promoting the newest antibiotic, the most innovative vitamin supplement, or the most modern miracle drug that will supposedly help us to take better care of our bodies and our health.
Interestingly enough, Hippocrates, an ancient Greek philosopher and early doctor whose name is the basis for the Hippocratic Oath, said way back in 431 B.C.: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Medicine as food? Food as medicine? In our modern day societies, things are almost exactly the opposite. Food is seen as one of the main causes of disease, and medicine is something entirely different that is used to fix health problems caused by food. Diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and triglycerides, obesity, and numerous other increasingly common ailments are all caused, in part, by food.
So what was Hippocrates trying to tell us about 2,500 years ago? I’m Dr. Foodle, and as my name suggests, I, like Hippocrates, believe that health and food are not two mutually exclusive categories. I believe that food (real food, that is) contains all the properties necessary to be the medicine that maintains our bodies healthy and heals us when things go wrong.
Most all indigenous cultures around the world understand this relationship between food and medicine. Indigenous groups from the Amazon jungle, to name just one example, have consumed certain forest mushrooms that contain antibiotic properties in order to maintain their health and treat infections when they occur. Western medicine, on the contrary, discovered certain fungi that contained penicillin. Instead of recommending that we cultivate and consume these fungi, researchers found a way to extract the antibiotic penicillin from the fungi, turn it into a pill form, and market it as medicine.
These two very different forms of responding to issues of health and sickness are revealing. Whereas indigenous cultures believed, like Hippocrates, that food could be medicinal in the sense that it gave us what we needed to maintain ourselves healthy and functioning correctly, Western societies separated food from its medicinal and therapeutic purpose and replaced that with the idea of medicine as something completely different.
In recent times, however, the wisdom of Hippocrates is once again starting to take hold in our modern societies. Hundreds of thousands of people are discovering how unprocessed, organic, whole foods offer a wide array of nutrients, phytochemicals, and other properties that keep us healthy without the need of a doctor´s visit. Compared to the majority of processed foods we find in the supermarket that are nothing but processed corn, soybeans, sugar, and unpronounceable chemicals that cause harm to our bodies, these whole foods allow the body to develop the ability to heal itself.
Perhaps the day will soon come when the Hippocratic Oath for doctors will also include the admonition attributed to Hippocrates to “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”