Food as Medicine

I wrote this article several years ago (Maybe 5, I have a horrible sense of time).  I really enjoyed interviewing both Dr. D'Adamo and Alissa Cohen.  They both lived/worked within a short bike-ride form me at the time.  Very cool.  Happy weekend everyone - hope you enjoy!!  xxoC

The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease." 
-Thomas Edison

            Can proper nutrition heal, prevent and sustain a healthy body?  Interviews with two internationally known local experts give us an inside look at various approaches to health.  I spoke with naturopathic doctor James L. D’Adamo, originator of the blood type diet, in his Portsmouth practice; and Alissa Cohen, a pioneer of the raw food movement, in her Kittery home.

Thousands of years ago, great sages realized that the food we eat not only sustains us, but also underlies our health and happiness. We often fail to recognize that long after the taste of food has left our mouths, it continues to create our health or illness. A diet heavy in processed foods and artificial ingredients will weaken the body and over time result in disease and depression. A diet that consists of whole and natural foods can strengthen and support the body, resulting in vibrancy and ease. However, even within the realm of whole foods and organics, there is no one diet that is right for everyone – we all have unique needs.  In a society obsessed with health fads and faced with growing issues of food intolerances and allergies, we must explore our own personal constitution and physiology to unveil what food plan is right for each individual.

We are in a transition period. Many Americans are turning away from the health fads that focus solely on weight loss and calorie counting and are looking to diet plans that focus on nurturing the body. Systems such as Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have been used for thousands of years in China and India, respectively. They utilize nature and the seasons and work on supporting the body’s natural healing mechanisms. With roots in these ancient systems, the more modern approaches of the blood type diet, the raw food movement and macrobiotics all focus on creating a healthy body free of toxins and disease.

     We’ve also witnessed disease-focused health fads, such as the candida-free diet. The candida phenomenon was popularized by William Crook, MD in his 1983 book The Yeast Connection, and later by Donna Gate’s Body Ecology Diet. Pioneers of alternative medicine, these authors conducted research in hopes of enlightening the general populace on ways to attain vibrancy and health while reducing toxicity and disease.

I had the honor of interviewing the originator of the blood type diet, Dr. James L. D’Adamo, in his Portsmouth office and learned that though a large portion of his individualized nutritional program is derived from iridology, there is far more to the maestro’s plan than meets the eye.  When J. D’Adamo discovered the four blood groups’ correlation to health and lifestyle, no one had ever worked with it before, so his patients were his laboratory. After examining and helping tens of thousands of patients, he wrote his first book, hoping people would be able to embrace it to help them change their lives.  The key, he states, is in treating the individual.

“I think the largest mistake made within the field of natural healing and medicine is that we treat people instead of treating individuals. The most important thing a patient or a person needs to realize is that no two people are alike – no two people have the same fingerprints. We need to see that what is right for one person may be terribly wrong for another person, even if it comes out of a health food store.”  

Many of us have come across the blood type diet and assumed that if we know our blood type, we could simply follow the diet for that group. However Dr. J. D’Adamo’s plan is specialized to suit each individual.  His evaluation of patients focuses on blood type, sub-blood type, Rh factors, iris analysis and pulse diagnosis: all methods he has derived from over 50 years of research and treating patients. For example, someone with type O blood could also have a sub-trait of B or A. Then through his own form of iridology and pulse diagnosis, D’Adamo presents a program to his patients, including exercise and a nutritional guide, as well as supplements and herbs to support weakened organs.  

D’Adamo states that his job is to tell people the truth and then take a step back. “People need to become responsible … and to realize that the greatest treasure they have is their health.” He further states that, ultimately, one of the most exciting things about his program is that “what people do today ensures their future; it allows them to truly enjoy their golden years and not live them in a wheelchair.” 

Though specific diet and exercise vary based on factors mentioned above, he states that some foods that cause problems for a large percentage of the population are dairy, wheat, corn and tomatoes.  His research continues at the D’Adamo Institute for Advancement of Natural Therapies in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Toronto, Canada. 

The raw food movement also has roots in alternative healing. I sat down with local raw foodist, Alissa Cohen, author of Living on Live Food, in her Kittery home to get the skinny on her raw plan. Cohen, 39, is the perfect advertisement for the benefits of a vegan raw food diet. Energetic, strong and enthusiastic, yet grounded and down to earth, Cohen has the vibrancy of a teenager. She has been a pioneer of the raw food movement for about 20 years and states that the diet healed her of fibromyalgia and candida, and it has even enabled her to stop wearing reading glasses.

Cohen has seen a raw diet heal thousands of people, with diseases ranging from lead poisoning to diabetes. She claims that a raw food diet is the key to helping all ailments. She emphasizes that once the body is pure, the organs can work optimally and the body will heal itself. A raw food diet consists of fruit, nuts, greens, sprouts and even sprouted grains, so long as no cooking is involved. Raw foodists believe that cooking destroys the enzymes in food and causes much of its nutrition to be lost. Cohen suggests no supplements: On a raw food diet, no supplements are required – purification is the key.

Cohen herself sticks to 100% raw diet all the time.  A quick flip through the hundreds of recipes in her book shows that raw food does not get boring. She says the idea that the body becomes cold and weak is a fallacy and that once the body has become pure, it will sustain and heal itself. Though many believe that certain body types and those with weak digestive systems should never attempt a raw diet, Cohen attests to the fact that she has seen it heal digestive problems time and again. She believes that a raw food diet is right for every body, but the specific food choices within raw parameters may change from person to person.  

Critics cannot fault the raw food movement on lack of purity, though they will tell you that the diet lacks animal fats and can be high in natural sugars and harsh on the digestive system. Critics of a macrobiotic diet state the same – the body cannot thrive for an extended period of time without animal fats.

The ancient systems of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine garner less criticism and hold vital keys concerning seasons, times of day, tonifying weak organs and working with the heating and cooling powers of foods. For example, Chinese medicine states that a weak stomach could be tonified primarily by golden yellow and orange foods, such as ginger, yams and squash, and the Ayurvedic system would add that optimal digestion occurs between ten in the morning and two in the afternoon.

So how does one go about finding a plan that is right for them? Positions on specific food trends vary, and though it is important to conduct your own research, this process can easily become exhausting. Sometimes it seems as if the only thing everyone agrees upon are kale and flax. One of the most helpful routes to devising a plan that is right for you is to find a qualified alternative practitioner you trust. Attempting various programs on your own can result in confusion. This is especially important to remember if you feel unbalanced: Self-diagnosing is one of the most dangerous things you can do. You can research local naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists or homeopaths; all are well versed in helping patients achieve optimal health and prevent disease.

In the meantime, keep your home as chemical-free as possible, stock up on whole, organic foods that nurture your system and give you sustaining energy and try to eat in a calm state of mind. Find your allies in nutrition – the foods your body reacts well with.  It is helpful to reduce intake of the top food allergens – dairy, gluten, wheat, soy and corn – as well as any processed foods, chemical additives and preservatives.  Enhance the quality of your days by spending time in nature, engaging in your favorite hobbies or journaling. Commit to making daily habits that contribute to your greater health.