Most of you have probably heard of Hippocrates. He was a Greek physician in around 300 B.C. and is known as the “father of Western medicine.” Nowadays, every doctor must take the “Hippocratic Oath,” the general idea of which is for doctors to pledge to take healing seriously. Just to give you a couple of highlights of this important pledge:
- “I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of over-treatment and therapeutic nihilism.”
- I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.”
Hippocrates is also famous—particularly among doctors like myself—for saying: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
The problem is that this oath has become no more than a formality. Actually adhering to it has simply been discarded. For example, our approach in the West is largely reactionary. We have almost no real focus on prevention, rather we tend to throw pills at almost every problem. For the most part, this does not amount to a cure, rather a sort of band-aid to alleviate symptoms. In that sense, we don’t focus on prevention OR a cure.
What about overtreatment? We’re certainly not following that. There’s a term: iatrogenesis. It means preventable death by complications in medical treatment. A study conducted by three professors in 2006 found that between 1996 and 2006, almost 8 million people died of iatrogenesis. This includes adverse drug reactions, medical error, bedsores, infections acquired at a hospital, unnecessary procedures and a few other things.
Iatrogenesis kills more people every year than heart disease or cancer. So, you can say that it is actually America’s number one killer.
Drug overdoses killed 44,000 people in 2013. 52 percent of those were from prescription drugs. More people die from prescription drug overdoses than from overdosing on illicit drugs.
So, if our approach was to use food as medicine rather than drugs and surgery, we’d instantly eliminate the number one killer in America–medicine that isn’t food!
Beyond that, heart disease takes second stage in terms of killing Americans. And what causes heart disease? Bad diet, little exercise, obesity and smoking. These lifestyle choices combine to cause artery walls to stiffen and inhibit blood flow throughout the body.
Does this seem too easy to you??? Bad diet? Obesity? Your food-related solution awaits. We just knocked out the top two killers in America.
But what if you already have heart disease and you go to the doctor? You’ll likely be put on blood thinners so your blood can make it through the smaller, stiffer arteries more easily. You might be put on cholesterol medications and blood pressure medications. Women with heart disease are often given hormone therapy as well. If things get particularly bad, you’ll go under the knife where surgeons will either physically unblocks your arteries (angioplasty) or bypass a blocked section of your arteries (bypass surgery).
These medications all have side effects and dangers. Cholesterol medications can cause liver damage, kidney failure and muscle degeneration. Blood pressure medication side effects include headaches, persistent coughing, dizziness, diarrhea, low heart rate, etc. Surgery comes with all sorts of risks, and it’s rather unpleasant. Wouldn’t you just rather eat vegetables instead?
Reducing plaque buildup in your arteries and re-establishing flexibility is as simple as replacing bad foods with good foods, getting more exercise, quitting smoking and losing weight. Let’s start with your diet:
- Asparagus: The fiber and minerals in asparagus lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots. And about the worst side effect is that your pee smells a bit different if you eat a lot of it.
- Avocado: Daily avocado consumption has been proven to lower bad cholesterol levels, decrease triglycerides and give you GOOD cholesterol, a big function of which is to CLEAR your arteries of buildup! Side effects? Hmm… That’s a tough one. An irrational desire to grow avocado trees to support your now daily habit?
- Vitamin K actually improves and maintains the flexibility of your arterial walls. You can get high amounts of vitamin K from broccoli, kale spinach, swiss chard, mustard greens, collard greens and basically any dark green vegetable. The biggest “side effect” of Vitamin K is that it can interfere with the effectiveness of medications like aspirin and blood thinners. But you won’t be needing any of those anyway.
- Anything high in good cholesterol (HDLs) as opposed to bad cholesterol (LDLs) is going to attack the root causes of heart disease as good cholesterol actually does the opposite of bad cholesterol. Rather than clogging your arteries, it clears them out. That’s where coconut oil is great, which is composed of just about the highest concentration of good cholesterol you can find in the world. Side effects: Well, it’s an oil, so if you eat a lot of it, you’re going to be sitting on the toilet a bit more than you’re used to.This also applies to cold water fish, which are very high in good cholesterol.
- Antioxidants are highly effective for battling heart disease. They help to prevent and repair damage at the cellular level. You can get a good dose of antioxidants in green tea, berries, chia seeds, cinnamon, oranges, persimmon and pomegranate. One side-effect that should be mentioned. Beta-carotene, an antioxidant found in carrots and a few other things, can actually increase your chance of developing lung cancer if you smoke, and since smoking is a big part of heart disease, that’s worth mentioning here. But beta-carotene is just one of many types of antioxidants.
- Nuts: These are a great snack because, (1), they can help you replace your bad snacking habits with something healthy. (2), they are a great source of good vat, vitamin E, fiber and protein. Walnuts especially have been shown to regulate blood pressure and help keep arteries clear. Side effects? I googled, “what happens if you eat too many nuts?” Turns out there’s a compound in many nuts called phytates, which can cause a bit of gas and bloating.
That’s just heart disease folks. We could do a similar exercise on, say diabetes or arthritis, or even cancer. Hippocrates would be proud if we started taking his “food as medicine” rule seriously, and we would have so fewer deaths due to medical mistakes and over-prescriptions. We might even start curing diseases rather than just covering up and treating their symptoms!
Dr. Aaron Ernst, D.C. is host of News Talk 1110 WBT’s “AskDrErnst” show and clinic director of Maximized Living Charlotte.
He specializes in providing customized nutritional and detoxification total body healing programs, utilizing the 5 Essentials of Maximized Living.