Everyday Miracles

Nutrition

Words: Dr Richard FIRSHEIN 

I am privileged to be practicing integrative medicine during a time of revolution –– the Nutraceutical Revolution. Nutraceuticals are nutrients that have the capacity to act like medicines.  They are ‘natural’ pharmaceuticals.

The real miracle –– nature’s power to heal — has always been available to us.  But, now science has given us the tools to understand the mystery of healing foods and nutrients.

We can study and isolate the chemical composition of plants, fruits and vegetables, fish, flowers, berries, and herbs. We can explain just why they powerfully impact our cells and our lives.

These days, we know what a nutrient is doing to our blood, our cell membranes, even our DNA, and how it protects us from cancer, or heart disease, or thinning bones. And, we can often measure the effects in our body within hours of ingestion. We can watch the miracle in action through the powerful lens of modern science.

Powered Nutrition

Yes, we can change our lives. Today, front-page news about medical triumphs not only covers heart transplants, or even the marvellous and sophisticated science that maps the human gene. It’s about the power of nutrition. To highlight this kind of power:

  • Tomatoes may cut the risk of deadly prostate cancer by nearly half
  • A modest dose of a single B-vitamin, folic acid, can prevent tragic and common birth defects
  • Within weeks of eating fish, or supplementing your diet with fish oils, your body’s oestrogen levels shift dramatically in favour of the most protective, anti-cancer form of oestrogen
  • Daily portions of broccoli can cause similar strong shifts in oestrogen balance, and prevent cancer
  • Taking fish oil capsules for a mere 12 weeks significantly slows the growth of colon tumours
  • Olive oil lowers the risk of breast cancer and heart disease
  • Green tea can reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Nudged between today’s headlines is one of the great stories of our time: that nutrition can literally save lives. I don’t claim to offer a cure-all for every person, nor can I magically pull anybody I treat back from the brink of death. What I do promise is that in many cases of ill-health, from mild malaise to life-threatening disorders, nutritional medicine can make an astounding and life-altering impact. Moreover, we can do more than correct illness. We can prevent it, when we understand how nutrients can help maintain our vitality and good health.

Common Thread

I’ve been practicing medicine for over three decades, and although the field is deepening and refining itself every week, I’ve found that I often rely on a versatile, hardy, and relatively small army of researched nutrients to do much of the healing work.  Some of these are ‘super-nutrients’ that seem to work to prevent disease across many categories.

Soy, for instance, can help boost and balance hormones and prevent cancer. Fish oils seem to work wonders in chronic inflammatory diseases, from asthma to colitis, yet they are also useful for thinning the blood and thereby protecting the heart. Ginkgo, an ancient and powerful herb, also thins the blood, fights allergies, and improves circulation throughout the body, so that it is useful in everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s disease.

Many of these nutrients work synergistically. I have assembled nutritional programmes that heal chronic illness, fight fatigue, boost the immune system, and help balance hormones. My programmes combine both common and relatively unknown nutraceuticals: amino acids, like glutamine, and newer compounds like lutein and modified citrus pectin.  You may be stumbling over these words now, but they will be, sooner than later, familiar friends to you.

What I try to offer in my medical practice and writings is a healthy way of eating and living, along with the most powerful nutrients known to medicine. I call them super-supplements, and I’ve studied how they work and why they work.

Healthy Lifestyle: A Must

These nutrients are part of an overall programme that I offer my patients, including healthy lifestyle changes, exercise, and stress-reducing activities, like meditation and yoga. I don’t believe that nutrients are magic bullets all by themselves. They rarely heal illness if you go on eating an unhealthy diet laden with saturated fats, processed foods, and sugar. I do believe that if you eat well, live well, and then add one or more of the necessary ‘super’ supplements, 80 per cent of chronic illnesses can be reversed, or prevented completely.

Humanity’s healthiest diets have evolved over tens of thousands of years, in far-flung and radically different climates, from the heart-protecting diet of the Eskimos, which is largely made up of fish, to the cancer-fighting rice-and-vegetable-based cuisines of the Chinese.

Yet, today, all these far-flung foods are available to us, right here at home, in the US, or anywhere, or wherever you live. Using everything from North Alaskan salmon to umeboshi plums, wild game to passion fruit, bok choy to spelt, we can create a biologically optimum diet that incorporates the latest findings on nutrition and healing.

We also now know what broccoli does inside the cells to help prevent cancer, how fish oil gets absorbed into the cell membrane and prevents inflammation, and just what chemical magic soybeans trigger to help prevent cancer.

You’d sure call it ancient wisdom transformed by science.

Dr RICHARD FIRSHEIN, DO, is the Founder-Director of The Firshein Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York City. He is a leading innovator and authority in the field of preventative and nutritional medicine, integrating Western and Eastern medical practices. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine and has served as professor of family medicine. An internationally recognised leader in the field of integrative medicine and healthy aging, a cancer researcher, prolific author and writer, Dr Firshein has written several ground-breaking books, including the bestselling Reversing AsthmaYour Asthma-Free ChildThe Nutraceutical Revolution and The Vitamin Prescription [For Life]. This article is ©Dr Richard Firshein.

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