In my book Eat to Beat Disease, I outline several powerful ways in which food can be used as medicine to prevent and combat numerous critical illnesses. Right now, our healthcare system is struggling to heal millions of sick people – many of them suffering from preventative chronic diseases. And the food we eat is seriously compromising the efforts of our health care system. In the United States, about half a million deaths (worldwide about 11 million deaths) are attributed to poor diet.
Food is a tool that every single one of us can be employing multiple times per day to help reduce disease risk on a number of levels. When we consider dietary risk and illness, we typically think of foods that should be removed from the diet. But removing foods from the diet is much more challenging (and far less appealing) than adding in beneficial foods that have protective effects against disease.
The following is an overview of the ways in which food can be used as medicine to beat disease.
Angiogenesis is the mechanism by which the body grows blood vessels. It is a common denominator in many of today’s most prevalent diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke, blindness, and more. In my field of Angiogenesis, we have discovered that when foods are analyzed in the same way that pharmaceutical drugs are examined, many of these foods can actually go head-to-head with commonly prescribed drugs. Some noteworthy examples include:
- Soy contains isoflavones, which are antiangiogenic. Several human studies show that consuming more soy is associated with lower breast cancer risk and reduced risk of breast cancer mortality.
- Tomatoes contain lycopene, another antiangiogenic molecule. Studies in men have found that those who eat more cooked tomatoes have a lower risk of prostate cancer.
We know that animals like starfish can regenerate after one of their limbs has been removed. But did you know that humans are also capable of regeneration? Our stem cells are called into action after an injury and one of their primary purposes is to replace damaged cells. As they divide, they can turn into the different types of cells that are required at that moment. We do not have to turn to conventional medicine to stimulate stem cell growth. Similar to angiogenesis, there are foods that we can consume that encourage stem cell production.
- Cacao, or dark chocolate, has been analyzed in a similar pharmaceutical method and it was determined that the polyphenols within it can actually double the number of stem cells in your circulation.
- Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids have also demonstrated the ability to increase stem cell activity.
The trillions of bacteria that reside within our gut microbiome are related to many of the chronic diseases that threaten us today. We can feed the “bad” bacteria with foods that can boost them, avoid foods that might make them stronger, or eat foods that encourage the growth of the beneficial bacteria that is so healthy for us.
- Kiwi fruit is prebiotic, meaning it promotes the growth of the “good” bacteria. One study conducted by the National University of Singapore illustrated that eating kiwi increased Lactobacillus (beneficial bacteria) presence in human subjects by 35 percent in 24 hours.
- Sourdough bread also contains Lactobacillus Reuteri, which can inhibit the growth of cancer.
Immunotherapy is one of the greatest breakthroughs of modern medicine, but not everyone responds to these treatments. Research has determined that a single gut bacterium seems to be responsible for the success of these immunotherapies. A scientist named Laurence Zitvogel discovered that the people who responded well to checkpoint inhibitors, one form of immunotherapy, contained Akkermansia bacteria in their gut while others who did not have as much success with the therapy did not contain the bacteria.
- Pomegranate is one of the only ways in which you can obtain Akkermansia. You cannot ingest it through a probiotic, but you can eat a pomegranate or drink pomegranate juice in order to get a healthy serving of the immune-boosting bacteria.
- Broccoli sprouts have proven to enhance the number of Natural Killer T cells in the human immune system.
5. DNA Protection
DNA protection is critical for health. The human body undergoes 60,000 mutations in our DNA every day. With those mutations comes the potential for error and the possibility of cancer. Then why are we not getting diagnosed with cancer more often? Well, our DNA can fix itself — and there are foods that can help to boost those repair mechanisms.
- Orange juice is high in vitamin C and other bioactives that have been shown to improve the blood’s ability to protect DNA.
- Almonds, oatmeal, bananas, and tofu contain magnesium, which is a necessary mineral for the upkeep of DNA repair mechanisms.
I am a Medical Doctor with a genuine appreciation for conventional medicine, so I am not suggesting that food should be used in place of modern medicine. Rather, I am proposing that food and medicine can be used in tandem to help prevent and heal various diseases. For more details on which foods can serve medicinal purposes, check out my book, Eat to Beat Disease.