Nutrition = Medicine

Words: Dr Richard FIRSHEIN 

Much research is being conducted on the value of nutritional and preventative medicine, giving us new insights into the body’s innate healing abilities, as well as ways to build up and create natural defences to ward off illness.

We are learning how vitamins co-operate with one another, and the way they work together with traditional therapies; we are also examining the way the body responds to specific antioxidants and phytochemicals [nutraceuticals]. We are no less aware of not just antibiotics, but also of the new concept of probiotics [dietary supplements containing potentially beneficial bacteria], not to speak of synbiotics [a combination of nutritional supplements comprising of probiotics and prebiotics, a category of functional foods].

The idea that health is more than just the absence of disease is at last emerging from the philosophical realm and making its way through into the scientific world. A fundamental shift is also taking place in our perception of health, and nutritional research is entering a new phase which will sure revolutionise medicine and the holistic treatment of illnesses.

East-West Advantage

Integrative medicine owes its existence to the merging of Eastern philosophies and Western medicine. The amalgamation of the two has allowed for a system of medicine that has the advantage of sophisticated state-of-the-art technology, concentrating not only on the elimination of disease, but also on the enrichment of physical and emotional well-being. Tests have been developed during the past few years, allowing physicians to go beyond the standard detection of pathogens, and evaluating each patient’s biological blueprint.

Tests that I perform, which are usually overlooked by conventional [allopathic] medicine are mostly nutrition, allergies and antioxidant levels.

Nutritional status. There are tests available that examine nutrient levels not only in the serum, but also at the cellular level. The tests detect specific vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly B-12, which is a growing problem among vegetarians. Other common deficiencies that may also be identified are zinc and magnesium.

Environmental allergies. This includes chemical sensitivities and toxic reactions. Checking for allergies is singularly important for individuals suffering with asthma and chronic sinus congestion. In addition, most of us are exposed to pollutants and toxins in our environment, often unwittingly. Exposure can occur as easily in an industrial unit, as it can in an office building, workplace, or your home. With over 50,000 chemicals in use, accompanied by poor ventilation and ‘out-gasing’ in many buildings, a significant burden may be placed on our immune system.

Intestinal imbalance. It has been estimated that one out of ten people in the US alone ‘houses’ a parasite. And, with the use of antibiotics, birth control pills, and prednisone, alterations of the bacterial flora are now commonplace. Such changes have been linked to a host of serious illnesses, such as rheumatoid conditions, secondary infections, candida, and allergies. They may also play a hidden role in oestrogen-related conditions, such as PMS and menopause.

Hidden food allergies. Long underestimated, food allergies and sensitivities are now viewed as serious contributors to a number of illnesses, including asthma, chronic headaches, and intestinal problems, such as colitis and irritable bowel syndrome [IBS]. Recent studies have shown that six million children in the US alone are suffering from food allergies.

Immune status. Evaluation of the function of natural killer cells — T and B cells — act as markers for various immune-altered states. Proper immune function is essential for the prevention and treatment of disease. While Western [conventional] medicine typically focuses on a patient’s symptoms, Integrative medicine concentrates on proper immune function. Instead of drawing decisive conclusions about the cause of disease based on apparent symptoms, and prescribing a standard treatment plan, complementary and alternative medicine [CAM] physicians search to determine the underlying cause of a disease, examining each patient’s unique needs, sensitivities and tendencies, and presenting them with a variety of treatment options. The best part — the patient is the one who makes the final decision.

A Case In Point

A thirty-year-old vegetarian architect had been experiencing chronic bloating, intermittent constipation and diarrhoea for nearly a year. He had been diagnosed with everything — from irritable bowel syndrome [IBS] to colitis [inflammation of the colon]. His conventional physicians had prescribed him prednisone — a powerful anti-inflammatory drug with long-term side-effects, ranging from cataracts and osteoporosis to kidney disease and heart failure.

An evaluation of his allergies, however, along with a vitamin analysis, and a check for [gastro-]intestinal dysbiosis [imbalance] revealed a positive culture for yeast, vitamin B deficiency, and soy allergy. We treated his allergies, his yeast condition and administered intravenous vitamin therapy. His illness has since been resolved.

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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