Tuning Your Hormonal Orchestra

Hormones are your body’s chemical messenger system. They control many, if not most, of your major body functions, including digestion, mood, sleep, metabolism, respiration, stress, growth, movement and mood. Hormones, in short, are a big deal.

They also pack a powerful punch, and so they need to be balanced. To keep things running smoothly and to keep your body “in tune”, they have to be produced in exactly the right amounts at the right time.

This makes your hormonal system a little like an amplified orchestra with various instruments and roles to play:

  1. The pineal gland is the timer, to tell the system when to sleep and when to play.
  2. The hypothalamus is the sound man, detecting signals from the audience and reading the sound levels, balancing the output of control hormones.
  3. The pituitary gland, like a conductor, tells the individual players when and how forcefully, to do their part. If all is in balance, the individual player does just the right amount of work and the system is in tune.
  4. The thyroid hormone is the rate controller, increasing the speed of the beat and the efficiency of the instruments.
  5. The neurosteroids, or sex hormones, control tuning, maintenance and repair of the many instruments.

All of this must work in a complex biological harmony. Otherwise, like a poorly tuned orchestra, the results can be pretty awful.

Fortunately, the hormonal orchestra is usually an elegant and effective performance. The problem arises as we age, when hormone production begins to slow. It’s then that we hear the first problems in the musical score that is your body.

The progressive loss of hormones begins with the pineal, at about age 20, followed at about age 25-26 by declining growth hormone. After that, pregnenolone decreases, then DHEA, testosterone and progesterone, with estrogen in women following closely behind testosterone in men.

As hormones decline, your poor thyroid is left to handle the bulk of the work, like a lone musician trying to play an entire symphony alone.

Off Key: The Effects of Low Hormones

If we look at blood tests just a few months into menopause, a woman’s blood may contain:

  • Zero estrogen, testosterone, growth hormone and melatonin, and;
  • almost zero pregnenolone, progesterone and DHEA.

Is it any wonder things feel different? Like a poorly tuned orchestra, these changes don’t usually go unnoticed:

  • Low testosterone and/or progesterone causes depression and panic attacks.
  • Low progesterone causes menstrual irregularity, painful menses, water retention, poor sleep, reduced memory capacity, reduced self-esteem and inadequate maintenance and repair of the brain and nervous system.
  • Low estrogen causes hot flashes, night sweats, poor sleep and general misery.

All of this elevates your stress levels and further inhibits the ability of your thyroid hormone to do an increasingly difficult job. As more time goes by, the orchestra slips further out of tune. Your body loses its balance, can’t manage sugar and cholesterol metabolism, and is unable to heal quickly, fight off infections, avoid autoimmune diseases and kill cancer cells.

It’s reasonable to conclude that many of our age-related disabilities (if not all) have their root in this progressive reduction of hormone production. Add the stress of modern life to the mix, and you have a musical score for accelerating the development of disease and the aging process.

The good news is that it’s possible to bring the orchestra back into tune! Using accurate testing and bio-identical hormone replacement, you can relieve some of the troublesome symptoms of aging and your body can begin to play a more pleasing score.

To learn more about your hormonal orchestra—and bring your instruments back into tune—contact the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book an appointment with Dr. Gervais Harry, MD online here.

Are You Addicted to Your Phone?

Tens of thousands of years ago, when we homo sapiens were just getting started, we had to be able to effectively meet our goals in order to survive–we had to find water, get enough to eat, seek shelter, and generally get things done. Unlike now, if we just lay about all day not accomplishing anything, we’d die. We had to be goal-oriented.

The key driver for this goal-seeking behaviour was, and is, a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is the reward chemical–it provides the little hit of “goodness” we feel when we accomplish a goal. (That delightful feeling of crossing something off your to-do list? Dopamine.) It’s an evolutionary gift from a long line of ancestors that helped us survive. It helps us see rewards, and take action to get them.

So what does this have to do with your cell phone?

Because accomplishing goals like “find food” were so critical, dopamine became a pretty addictive chemical in the brain. We LIKE the feeling of dopamine, and are driven to do what creates the release of it. We’re  easily addicted to things that deliver it.

The problem is that some things that have nothing to do with creating a meaningful life create dopamine for us. Things like alcohol, nicotine, gambling and yes, that delightful little “ding” your cell phone makes when you get a text.

Every time you hear the sound of a new message or see the tiny alerts or badges onscreen, your reward system swings into gear. Almost all of this happens below the level of your awareness. All you know is that you simply can’t resist checking your phone.

How Do You Know if You’re Addicted?

The same brain chemistry that casinos hijack to keep you sitting at a slot machine for hours is being hijacked to keep you staring at a screen. Your phone has been doing a remarkable job of training you. And not just to respond to whistles and signals like a trained seal, but to find it intolerable to suffer even a few moments without stimulation.

Here are some questions to ask yourself?

  • When you wake up in the morning do you check your phone before you go to the bathroom?
  • Do you walk from room to room holding your phone all the time?
  • If you get a text while driving, do you find it impossible to wait the ten minutes until you get home to look at it and respond?
  • Do you regularly respond to texts while reading your kid a bedtime story?
  • Are you unable to leave your phone in the car when you are having dinner out with friends?
  • Are you incapable of sitting quietly for ten minutes without looking at your phone?
  • Do you use your phone while watching TV or eating?

Why is it important to ask ourselves these questions? Here are a few things you might find interesting about high cell phone use. It’s been linked to:

  • Higher anxiety
  • Lower grades
  • Decreased happiness
  • Lower quality sleep
  • Poor posture
  • Lower relationship satisfaction
  • Reduced activity
  • Less time outdoors
  • Less time spent with others

Are those weather alerts and social media updates really that valuable?

What to Do?

Every recovering alcoholic will tell you that the first step to fixing a problem is to admit that you have one in the first place. If you can do that, what do you do next?

  • Turn off your alerts. Those little badges and sounds and flashes are designed to trigger your reward system. You don’t need to get alerts from every app.
  • Use “do not disturb” mode. Most devices will allow you to shut down your phone’s alert systems, while still letting through calls from a specified list of people. That way you can still get a call from your teenager or spouse, for example, but not from anyone else.
  • Set time periods in which you shouldn’t use your phone (i.e., 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.).
  • Designate activities in which your phone is forbidden (e.g., driving, dinner time).
  • Schedule break times to access your phone or social media.
  • Practice being bored. Your phone is gradually eroding your ability to simply be. Try taking longer and longer periods away from it. Reclaim your ability to live without constant digital stimulation.

If you find you can’t do these things, or instinctively push back against them, that might be the most powerful indicator of all that you have a problem.

Are you using your phone, or is it using you?

The 2 Big Reasons We Use IV Vitamins

We have administered over 10,000 IV vitamin/mineral infusions here at StoneTree. That’s a lot!

Why so many? The obvious reason is the results–using IV therapy just works.

For complaints like migraine headaches, colds and flus, muscle cramping, wound healing, allergies, chronic fatigue, and many, many others, it’s a therapy that can get our patients better faster than with diet changes or oral supplements alone. (Read on for a longer list of conditions and complaints that we’ve used IV therapy with.)

But the results don’t tell you why. And the why is important.

There are two main reasons we use IV therapies for our patients:

Reason #1: To ensure nutrients actually get into your cells

When you eat food (or take supplements), you absorb nutrients from your intestines into your blood. At least, that’s the idea, and if all your digestive mechanisms are working right, it’s a great system.

As you age, however, or if you’re sick or things just aren’t working correctly for any number of reasons, you often don’t absorb nutrients as well. Your food and supplements don’t give you the same benefit. When we put vitamins and minerals directly into the blood via IV we bypass the intestines entirely, ensuring that the nutrients are available.

The other place that nutrient absorption happens is at the cellular level. Nutrients from our blood need to get into our cells and this is not a passive process. Your cells have to “actively” transport nutrients inside. Compromised cells don’t do this as effectively as they should.

When we put vitamins and minerals directly into the blood, the concentration in the blood changes so that it’s higher outside the cell than inside. The nutrients can then passively diffuse into the cell. That can allow the cell to get the nutrients it needs to start the active transport system again. Think of it as jumpstarting your cells to give them what they need to continue the process on their own.

Reason #2: To get a specific biochemical effect

Vitamins and minerals have real biochemical effects in the body. Just like pharmaceutical drugs, if you can get the blood concentrations at high enough levels, you can get the body to respond in specific ways. Vitamin C, for example, has a wonderful anti-allergy effect at high enough blood concentrations.

Because of the absorptive mechanisms in the digestive tract, however, it can be challenging to get the blood concentration high enough to get the biochemical effect you want. (Anyone who has taken lots of Vitamin C will attest to the effect of taking too much: the bowels become overwhelmed, the Vitamin C isn’t absorbed, and you have to run to the toilet with an acute case of diarrhea.)

When Vitamin C is given IV, we bypass the intestines and the side effects of a large oral dose. The blood concentration can easily rise to the level needed for the anti-allergy effect, and the patient gets allergy relief without the drowsy side-effect of anti-histamines.

What We Use IV Therapy For

Those 10,000 IV’s we’ve administered? We’ve used them for many things–here’s a list of some complaints and uses:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Anxiety
  • Autoimmune issues
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Alcohol craving
  • Anemia
  • Asthma
  • Athletic performance
  • Bipolar (mania)
  • CFS
  • Chronic candida
  • Chronic EBV
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Cold/flu
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis
  • Diabetes (Type 2)
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Eating disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches (all types)
  • Hypertension
  • Infections
  • Insomnia
  • Lupus
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Mercury toxicity
  • Mono
  • Muscle cramps
  • Parkinson
  • Peptic Ulcers
  • PID
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica
  • Post-surgical wound healing
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Seasonal Allergy
  • Shingles
  • Sinusitis
  • Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s

And more!

This powerful treatment tool has been very helpful here at StoneTree over the years. Talk to your naturopathic doctor to find out if it’s the right fit for you.

You can book an appointment here, or call 705-444-5331.

Decreasing Heart Attack Risk by Tackling Inflammation

Recent research in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 10,000 patients who had had a heart attack AND a positive hsCRP result. (This is a blood test for inflammation.)

All of the patients received high doses of statins, which is the present standard of care, then they were split into two groups. Half of the patients received an injection every three months of a drug called Canakinumab, the other half received a placebo injection of normal saline. This trial went on for four years.

Canakinumab is a form of anti-inflammatory medication. It’s used predominately in those with rheumatoid arthritis. But according to the research, when you give it to people with heart attack risk you get some interesting results:

  • 15% reduction in risk of a cardiovascular event like a fatal or non-fatal heart attack or stroke
  • 30% reduction in the need for expensive interventional procedures like bypasses or stents
  • No change in death rates in the 2 groups.

You can read some mainstream coverage of the news here, including the impact on cancer rates.

The short story? Reducing inflammation is good for your health, in particular your heart.

What’s the Catch?

All of this sounds like good news, and in theory, it is. But nothing comes for free. The problem with Canakinumab is that it decreases inflammation by suppressing the immune system. That means patients who take it may be more susceptible to infections, require increased healing time if injured.

Enter the Better News

Chronic inflammation is often lifestyle-related. A poor diet, being sedentary, being over-stressed and under-slept, smoking and/or exposures to other toxins—all of these things contribute to your overall inflammatory set point. And the magic of lifestyle issues is that they can often be fixed without medication.

Dealing with inflammation is a big part of what Naturopathic Doctors do. We have written about it often, and dealing with it in some form or another is a common part of our treatment plans.

It stands to reason that dealing with and improving your inflammatory lifestyle challenges would be helpful in decreasing inflammation. If you could reduce your risk without the need for intense anti-inflammatory medicines that suppress your immune system, wouldn’t you want to?

The starting point is easy. Finding out if inflammation is a problem for you is as simple as a quick and inexpensive blood test called hsCRP–the same one used in the study. All you need to do is get started!

For information on hsCRP testing or inflammation reduction, book online or call 705-444-5331.

Is Your Thyroid Medication Working for You?

Often, patients who have had a conventional thyroid test have been told that everything is fine. They know better. The symptoms of low thyroid function seem to be ubiquitously suffered, especially by middle aged women. A week doesn’t go by that we are not asked by one of our patients to look into their thyroid function.

There is another group of patients that come to us for help. They’re the people who are already taking thyroid medication but are convinced it isn’t working for them. Even though their blood tests suggest that it should be working, their bodies are telling them otherwise.

If you’re one of those people, it turns out you might be right.

The Problem with Thyroid Meds

The thyroid, a butterfly shaped gland in our necks, secretes thyroid hormone. This hormone is a big player, acting on almost every cell in your body, and it exists in a few different forms. The most common is T4, or thyroxine. This form of the hormone is not active. Instead, it’s the responsibility of our cells to use iodine and CONVERT this T4 to T3, or triiodothyronine, which is the active form of the hormone.

When patients are diagnosed with low thyroid function, they are given a drug form of T4. Levothyroxine is the most common, also known as Synthroid or Eltroxin. The assumption is that the patient taking this drug will convert it to T3, the cells will be happy, and all will be well.

What this piece of research tells us is that is not always the case. In fact, more than 20% of patients may not be converting to the active form of the hormone effectively.

Looking in All the Wrong Places

The real problem here is less that patients aren’t converting their medication, but that we are not doing the right tests to notice.

When these “non-converting” patients go to the doctor to complain about their thyroid symptoms, a thyroid test is done and it will almost always come back normal. That test, however,  is measuring TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone….which is not a thyroid hormone at all.

The level of TSH in the blood is dependent on the level of T4, NOT on the conversion of T4 to T3. That means that TSH and T4 levels in the blood can appear normal, even in a person who is NOT converting properly.

Remember it is the CONVERSION that allows the symptoms of low thyroid to be corrected by medication. If you’re not converting, the medication may not work.

So how do you know if your thyroid is working? Test the WHOLE picture. Work with a health professional who understands this relationship and can help your medication work better for you!

For information on thyroid and other testing, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book an appointment online.

Reflux Meds: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last month, the medical journal BMJ Open published research linking the use of PPI’s, or proton-pump inhibitors, with increased risk of death.

PPI’s are frequently used to treat serious gastrointestinal issues like ulcers, GI bleeds and reflux, and are one of the most commonly used classes of drugs. They’re a powerful tool, but research continues to show that long-term use is a bad idea.

PPI’s are generally meant to be short-term prescriptions, but people often end up taking them for months or years to control symptoms, especially in the US where they’re available over the counter in various forms.

According to the study, however, the longer the drugs are used, the higher the risk of mortality. Past research has also linked this class of drugs to kidney damage, dementia, and bone fractures.

The moral of the story? Take it when you need it and no more!

But My Digestive Issues are Ruining My Life!

GI issues can be extremely challenging to live with. It’s no wonder people turn to whatever works. But there are other solutions for many sufferers. Issues of the gastrointestinal tract are where naturopathic medicine shines, and there are many ways to treat upper GI complaints without prescription medications.

The place to start, of course, is your diet. That may seem obvious, but astonishingly, this is still frequently discounted in conventional medicine. Despite the fact that your entire GI tract exists to deal with food, we seemed determined to not see food as a GI issue. It is.

Here are a few suggestions from the naturopathic toolkit:

  • Food intolerances and inflammatory foods are real culprits here. Get yourself tested, and avoid reactive foods strictly.
  • Avoid coffee, cigarettes, and booze. They all stimulate acid secretion and an inflammatory response. If you are doing these things and also NOT eating, that makes things worse. You are stimulating the digestive tract and not putting anything in it–a double whammy.
  • Cultivate a healthy flora. Probiotics and foods that support healthy flora, like fermented foods, keep the digestive tract working well and help prevent H.pylori and other imbalances of GI bacteria that can cause trouble.
  • Talk to your chiropractor or osteopath. Sometimes the “valve” that keeps the contents of the stomach in the stomach gets stuck open. This can be made worse by sitting too much. An adjustment can get things back in line.
  • Better still, as always, stay active and maintain a healthy weight for your body type.

Digestive issues are among the most challenging to diagnose, and they often mean difficult lifestyle changes, at least in the short term. But compared to the side-effects of long-term PPI use, the sacrifices are small!

To uncover your food intolerances, or get to the root cause of your digestive troubles, book an appointment with one of our Collingwood naturopathic doctors. 

Vitamin C and Sepsis (& Other Infections!)

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by your body’s response to an infection that has gotten out of control.

Sepsis develops when the chemicals of the immune system that are released into the bloodstream to fight an infection instead cause wide spread inflammation throughout the entire body. When sepsis turns into septic shock things get really serious. Organs start to fail and 30-50% of patients will die.

Dr. Paul Marik MD, a critical care doctor, found something completely by accident: using high doses of vitamin C in septic patients seems to change outcomes quite a bit for the better.

After reading a paper on Vitamin C given to him by a colleague, Dr. Marik came across a patient in the ICU with septic shock who was in critical and not expected to live. Remembering the paper on vitamin C, he gave the women a dose of it–a last-ditch effort that he didn’t expect to work.

When Marik arrived back at the hospital the next day he found his patient still very much alive, and in fact improving! This lead him to use the therapy again and again with similar results.

Dr. Marir published his research in the medical journal Chest. The results are astonishing.

  • In the control group (patients managed with the usual sepsis approach), 40.4% of the group died.
  • In the Vitamin C-treated group, only 8.5% of those in the treated group died.

Of course, we all know by now that stats can be deceiving. Here are the real numbers:

  • In the control group,  19 of 47 people died.
  • In the Vitamin C group, 4 out of 47 people died.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Vitamin C. It’s a tool we use all the time. But people should be shouting these results from the rooftops! I don’t know of many treatments that get those kind of success rates.

If you’re interested in digging in more.

The Long History of Vitamin C and Infection

Really, I shouldn’t be surprised by these results. Vitamin C has been a vitamin of interest to treat various infections for decades. Medical Doctors in the 1930’s were using it to treat polio and counter diptheria toxiod

This was important stuff–at the time there were no vaccines for these diseases and very few good treatments.

Andrew Saul, PhD is one of North American’s leading experts in vitamin therapy, and he does a good job of presenting the old and lost research on the value of Vitamin C for various infections and diseases. If you have any interest in the awesome little vitamin, this 53-minute lecture is definitely worth your time.

How to Decide What to Eat

North Americans are obsessed with figuring out what is or isn’t the BEST food or diet.

Reports in the media like this one report on a single food that is magic for a specific health complaint–in this case nuts and colon cancer. No doubt some media outlet will post an article the soon that nuts are bad for you because they are too fattening, too contaminated or likely to cause diverticulitis.

It seems like there is just no knowing what is good for you and what isn’t.

In fact, the International Food Information Council Foundation’s annual Food and Health survey this spring reported that 78% of those surveyed reported they encountered conflicting information about healthy food, and the follow-up questions indicated that 58% of respondents reported that this conflicting info created doubt in the food choices they were making.

We’re confused, in other words, and we don’t know what to do.

How To Decide What To Eat

Knowledge is power…expect when it isn’t. The way that health and nutrition is reported in western media is not making us healthier and more empowered. It’s doing the exact opposite.

The best resource I have found to take the confusion out of healthy food and healthy eating is Michael Pollen’s book, In Defense of Food.  He digs into lots of great detail to support his thesis which is simple, easy and NOT confusing: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

By “food”, Pollan means things your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Whole foods. The more processed a food becomes the less it should be eaten.

  • Strawberries? Yes. Strawberry jam…less so.  “Strawberry” milkshake from McDonalds? No.
  • Non-GMO corn? Yes. GMO, round-up ready corn…less so. Organic corn chips even less so. High fructose corn syrup? No.
  • Sunflower seeds? Yes. Sunflower oil…less so. Commercially produced, low-fat salad dressing with sunflower oil? No.
  • Grass fed beef. Yes. (Assuming you eat meat.) Commercially farmed corn feed beef…less so. Processed beef patties with fake cheese and simulated bacon flavouring? No.

It’s a good rule of thumb. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. If you want to learn more, you can watch the documentary “In Defense of Food” on Netflix.

By they way…Pollan followed up In Defense of Food with Food Rules, a guide to answer the question, “What should I eat?” Guess what the last rule is?

“Break the rules once in a while.”

Worth considering. All these years of study and worry and research and media don’t seem to have made us any healthier!

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

My Experience with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

I wrote about my experience with peri-menopausal symptoms in this tongue-in-cheek article that focused on the lifestyle changes that can very much help with peri- and post-menopausal symptoms.

But what about when the important lifestyle changes aren’t helping, and the symptoms are really getting in the way of your life?

I’m not much of a complainer and I am an awful patient! It could be my pathological optimism, but I always think whatever I am suffering with will just eventually work itself out. If I just keep getting good sleep, good outdoor exercise and great food, whatever is ailing me is sure to just go away.

With peri-menopause….not so much. 🙂

Good sleep? Forget about it! Great food? Sure, if by great food you mean half a bag of Pirate cookies. Exercise? No way, between being too tired, too achy and frankly too cranky, who wants to exercise? Add on weird skin, brain fog and a strange and intolerable anxiety that never existed before and it was time for me to face it: this just was not going to work itself out.

Enter BHRT, or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.

Dr. Harry, MD joined our team at the beginning of 2017 and has been working with our patients who we have not been able to help with our usual naturopathic tools. I sat down with him to discuss what to do about my peri-menopausal plight.

One of his main suggestions was DHEA. Short for dehydroepiandrosterone, DHEA is an adrenal hormone. It’s a precursor to the male and female sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. DHEA production peaks in your mid-20’s and then gradually declines with age, therefore, DHEA deficiency is very common.

What are DHEA symptoms? Well they are many and vary from person to person, but the most common ones are ones that I had become all too familiar with:

  • Loss of muscle mass? CHECK
  • Weakness? CHECK
  • Weird fat deposition? CHECK
  • Difficulty losing weight? CHECK
  • Loss of self-confidence? CHECK
  • Problems with memory? CHECK
  • Foggy brain? CHECK
  • Can’t find words? CHECK
  • Anxiety and mood problems? CHECK
  • Decreased sex drive? CHECK

After our visit he suggested I give DHEA a try (along with a few other suggestions). I thought I’d give it a go and see what happened.

After 2 weeks of DHEA on its own, how do I feel? Better, for sure. My body feels stronger, my brain feels clearer and my achiness has decreased. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of his suggestions go!

-TO BE CONTINUED-

Dr. Harry is offering complimentary 15-minute “meet the doctor” visits if you would like to learn more. You can book online, or by phone at 705-444-5331. Please note that Dr. Harry’s services at StoneTree are not covered by OHIP, but are fee-for-service.

Food Matters (And It Only Took 2000 Years!)

Nearly 2500 years ago, a Greek physician named Hippocrates was busy reinventing medicine.

Hippocrates wrote some of the oldest known medical books, and thousands of new physicians are still sworn in each year based on variations of the oath that bears his name. He was the first to describe a number of diseases and conditions and was also the first documented chest surgeon. It’s no exaggeration to say that Hippocrates led the shift that turned medicine into a profession.

What you might not know is that Hippocrates was also the original lifestyle doctor. He believed that diseases were caused by imbalances, not by the gods or spirits, and that lifestyle modifications like diet and exercise were powerful tools in the doctor’s arsenal. Naturopathic philosophy owes much to this ancient Greek doc.

He’s often quoted as having said, “Let food be your medicine,” and a couple of millennia later, it looks like modern medicine might finally be catching up. This week, NPR ran a story about the “Fresh Food Pharmacy” which is blowing the doors off the standard management of type 2 diabetes in the US:

In its new incarnation, it looks more like a grocery, with neatly stocked shelves filled with healthy staples such as whole grain pasta and beans. The refrigerators are full of fresh produce, greens, low-fat dairy, lean meats and fish.

The participants meet one-on-one with a registered dietitian. They’re given recipes and hands-on instruction on how to prepare healthy meals. Then, they go home with a very different kind of prescription: five days’ worth of free, fresh food.

The program was piloted it in a community with a very high incidence of type 2 diabetes, but with a low income, where eating healthy can be harder to do.

The result? Blood sugar, blood pressure and weight all went down in participants. Perhaps more important, their quality of life went up.

But how can they afford to give away fresh food for free? The company spends about $1000 on each Fresh Food Pharmacy patient. But treating diabetic patients conventionally costs many thousands more–costs associated with diabetes in the US now top 240 billion dollars (yes, that’s billion) annually. Plus, as the article points out, about 1 out of every 2 deaths from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes in the U.S. is linked to a poor diet.

The real question, then, is how can you afford not to give away fresh food?

The Cost of Chronic Problems

Among the many things Hippocrates pioneered was categorizing progressive, long-term health conditions as chronic. In his day, I would imagine those conditions were relatively rare. Now, as the CDC points out for the US:

  • Seven of the top 10 causes of death in 2010 were chronic diseases. Two of these chronic diseases—heart disease and cancer—together accounted for nearly 48% of all deaths.
  • Eighty-six percent of all health care spending in 2010 was for people with one or more chronic medical conditions.

Many, many chronic conditions are incredibly responsive to lifestyle interventions–both in prevention and treatment. But while we still have the writings of Hippocrates to remind us of the value of lifestyle medicine, our culture has largely lost touch with the philosophy.

It’s said that Hippocrates lived into his 80’s or 90’s (some even say to 100). I imagine he’d be shocked to know just how chronic, and costly, our health problems have become. But I like to think he’d be cheered by our dawning shift to “food as medicine.” It might have taken a couple of thousand years, but better late than never.

Why Not Create Your Own Fresh Food Pharmacy?

You don’t need a special program to build your own Fresh Food Pharmacy. You just need to get started. Check out these documentaries for inspiration. Many are available on Netflix! If you need help, contact us anytime.

Food Matters

Hungry for Change

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Fed Up