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Your food can be your medicine...don't miss the opportunity!

1 Jun 2014 3:35 PM - Food for thought from the experts in naturopathic medicine

I have just had the great fortune to attend the annual conference of the Institute of Functional Medicine in San Francisco. As a naturopath, when I am seeing clients here in my Melbourne clinic, functional medicine is really what I practice. 

"In order for you to be your healthiest self we need to address the underlying causes of your symptoms...not just apply symptomatic relief.  This means we have to address things like diet, sleep, stress, relationships, exercise, genetics, biochemistry and digestion.  Functional medicine looks at you as a whole person (within your unique environment) not just a bunch of symptoms or a particular diagnosis."

The theme of this year’s three-day conference was “Food and Nutrition: the ultimate upstream medicine”. There were close to 1500 attendees, most of them doctors, keen to learn more about how nutrition affects health. We had three days of fantastic speakers presenting the latest research on nutritional controversies, effects of genetics, food addiction, the psychology of food and so much more. 

Much of the focus was on weight management, chronic diseases (such as diabetes) and the general state of the American diet (not good!) From what I can gather (and from what I observed in my travels, the situation is much worse in the US compared to Australia (but we are catching up at a rapid rate).

I’ve come away with more reading to do and more things to study in greater depth. 

Take home messages about the impact of food choices on our health

From David Ludwig MD, PhD, Professor, Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health:

  • We have gone from species diversity to marketing diversity…the variety in our diet is an illusion (i.e. too much of our nutrition comes from the same few sources...e.g. wheat, rice, red meat, chicken)

  • “We could save the world if we got out of the car”

  • Improving the quality of our diet can modify our weight “set-point” and helps our brain get out of “survival” mode

From Jeffrey Bland PhD:

  • Cereal boxes are not the domain of personalised nutritional counselling (i.e. you need to make sure you are getting advice relevant to your needs from suitably qualified professionals, not marketers or people trying to sell you something)

From Mark Hyman MD:

  • (on food addiction) It appears our chemistry drives our behaviour (i.e. it's not just a matter of willpower)

  • If it has a bar code/nutritional panel…is it really food?

From Marc David MA:

  • When you watch animals (grazing for example) you realise humans have lost the “naturalness” to how we eat

As you can gather, there was a groundswell of feeling that many of us have lost our way when it comes to food and our health.  This is something I work on with my clients every day.

There was also a fascinating debate between lead proponents and researchers of the Paleo diet, the Mediterranean diet and the "nutritarian" diet as to which is “right” as well as a wonderful discussion between Michael Pollan and Mark Hyman about “nutritionism”, pressures of sustainability and the power of “Big Food”.  You can read more about that discussion in my blog "Eat to improve your health".

And a tip from Rebecca Katz on how to get your children to eat more vegetables...get them a guinea pig...when they see their pet eating vegies, they will too.  Not sure if this would work but it might be worth a try if you have a fussy eater in your family.

And finally, this message from Patrick Hanaway MD:

“It’s never too late to eat mindfully….even if it’s the last bite”

Food for thought, don't you think?

So, here is my health challenge to you...

I really want you to think about what you eat, the effect it is having on your health and the fact that many of the common health problems of today are preventable or significantly improved when we address the underlying nutritional needs and not just the symptoms.


It can be hard working out how to improve your diet or what to eat to help your health, so if you need a helping hand, call the clinic for a naturopathic consultation on 03 9620 9503. It will really make a difference to your life.


In good health,

Kaye Wright
Melbourne CBD

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