“Medicine has taken a new definition,” says Jodi Shroba, APRN, Clinical Nurse Practitioner at Children’s Mercy Hospital. What was traditionally viewed as “a drug you put in your body that makes you feel better,” is now being understood on a much broader scale. “Your prescription for medicine may be your diet. It may be exercise, sleep, reading, acupuncture. Medicine is whatever makes you healthier.” Food is medicine.
Thinking about health from this holistic perspective is an important shift in healthcare mentality. Instead of solely prescribing drugs (tablets, liquids, pills) to cure diseases, we can take steps to prevent their onset in the first place. But, let’s narrow it down a bit more and talk about food specifically.
We eat food everyday, generally three times a day.
Food comes in all shapes and forms, but not all food is created equally. Have you heard that phrase: You are what you eat? Well, that isn’t too far off from the truth.
“A lot of our health starts in the kitchen. Sometimes we think a healthy meal might help us to stay at a healthy weight or have enough energy to get through the day, but it also impacts how many vitamins and minerals we are getting, and what our overall health is,” says Julia Bracken, MD of Gastroenterology at Children’s Mercy Hospital. “[Healthy food] helps to foster healthy bacteria in our intestines that can aid in digestion and make us healthier even after those meals are completed.”
Food is our fuel. Our bodies need ‘the good stuff’ to function at maximum capacity. Healthy food is probably some of the tastiest medicine you will ever come across. However, healthy has a different definition for every body. You have to listen to your body and give it what it needs to be happy and strong. Sometimes this requires the advice of a medical professional.
Stephanie Page, MD of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Midwest Pediatric Specialists says, “if people can understand that food is medicine, they might think about the foods they are eating differently and be more inclined to change the way they eat, or at least change the volume and quantity of what they eat, knowing that they are advocating for themselves and helping themselves.”
Why recognizing Food is Medicine is important on a larger scale
All three of our medical professionals agree that food is medicine, and that we should not stop there. If food is medicine, then it should be treated like other mainstream medicines; that means being readily available and covered by health insurance. Food is medicine for more diseases than just food allergies, celiac disease, and EoE. The sooner we can get people healthy food, the sooner we can improve public health and put people on a more equal playing field.
Jodi Shroba: “If there is a way we can provide food at a covered expense, we are freeing the families of the financial burden and freeing them of the avoidance in the restricted diet. Everyone deserves access to healthy foods; that should not be dependent on their paycheck.”
Julia Bracken: “We have health insurance programs that help make sure everyone has access to prescription medications, but we don’t have any healthcare that gives people equal access to food, especially medically necessary foods. So families that have less resources are often at a disadvantage.”
Stephanie Page: “If we could change the philosophy of lawmakers in understanding that the way we eat and the food we eat is truly medicinal therapy for treating diseases, then we can have a profound impact in a lot of our patients’ lives. And if we could get lawmakers on our side to make it more affordable and understand that insurance companies need to pay for the foods or the difference in food costs, that could be a gamechanger for these families.”