Food As Medicine

We at Midwest Mermaid Muse talk a lot about the healing value of our food. Browse our website and you will find that we believe in the health benefits of mushrooms and seaweed in particular. Our Merman Jay Fickess thinks it’s worthwhile to explain why we believe in them and what those benefits mean to you. But first it’s worth writing about what the benefit is of eating to begin with and why changing our perspective on food has value.

There are lots of things that go into our decisions about what to eat. Taste, appearance, time, money, emotions, and culture are all things that influence our food choices. We know we should eat healthy, whole foods and that we should reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat that are found in many processed foods. It may seem foolish to ask ourselves why this is important when it’s become so well known that we should eat this way. A good answer to this question lies in how we view food, that it should be seen as a medicinal practice to keep our cells functioning properly and our bodies in good shape.

Food can be viewed as information for our bodies’ cells. “The nutrients in food enable the cells in our bodies to perform their necessary functions.”Nutrients give our bodies instructions about how to function. In this sense, food can be seen as a source of “information” for the body.1

We know that our cells make up the organs and tissues of our bodies. A developing perspective, frequently seen in the practice of functional medicine, is that our bodies and their functions should be seen as systems that each influence the other.2 As an example, many of us are aware of the importance of gut health because of its effect on other systems in the body. “Because 80% of the immune system is contained in the gastrointestinal system, a person’s issues with immunity could be related to faulty digestion.”3

At the cellular level, the way that nutrients act as information is written about in an article by Maria Hatzoglou, Martin D. Snider, and Padma Maruvada called It’s All about Balance: Cellular Responses to Nutrients and Development of Disease.

Nutrient sensing is essential for the growth, development, and function of cells and tissues. Cellular homeostasis is achieved by sensing changes in the nutrient supply, followed by adaptive responses. However, when adaptation fails, cellular stress and the stress responses can trigger development of disease.4

Maintaining the health of our cells and the systems they compose should be considered when choosing what foods to eat.

Besides reducing the amount of processed food that we eat that contains a lot of salt, fat and sugar, it’s also, perhaps obviously, important to introduce the right foods into our diet. One point of view on this, given by Rachelle Williams, is to think of the “natural intelligence” of our food.

Using food as medicine starts by changing your approach to food from that of restriction to introduction—of an abundance of the right foods. The advantage to eating this type of diet was that food was consumed close to the source, pure and unmodified for the most part, thus retaining “natural intelligence” in the form of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.5

So, food is nutrition that helps our cells and the systems they make up stay in balance, function properly and prevents, and in some cases, cures disease. Food is medicine. Now comes the more difficult part: how to make choices for foods that support our bodies instead of tearing them down. At Midwest Mermaid Muse, we really want you to reap the benefits of getting more seaweed and mushrooms into your diet. In upcoming articles, we’ll explain how these foods keep our bodies running smoothly.

1, 2, 3. Denton, Carolyn. “How Does Diet Impact Health?” Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, University of Minnesota, 2016, www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-diet-impact-health.

4. Hatzoglou, Maria; Snider, Martin D.; and Maruvada, Padma. “It’s All about Balance: Cellular Responses to Nutrients and Development of Disease”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4188232/.

5. Williams, Rachelle. “5 Ways to Use Food as Medicine.” The Chopra Center, 30 July 2018, chopra.com/articles/5-ways-to-use-food-as-medicine.

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