“Let medicine be thy food and let food be thy medicine.” – Hippocrates The Greek physician made his bold claim in the fourth century BCE, proclaiming that diseases was caused naturally, and that environment, diet, and living habits all impacted health.
Since then, modern science has taught us much, but we’re still just scratching the surface of how food compounds interact with the body.
As Mat Edelson wrote for Hopkins Medicine, the rise of corporatism had a big influence on medicine.
Big pharma was scarce with cash, because they can’t patent a food’s natural properties. And from a practical viewpoint, studying food with its thousands of chemicals and nutrients is incredibly complex. By comparison, targeting and studying a single drug for efficacy in a double-blind model was far more straightforward and lucrative to both researchers and industry.
Of course, some pharmaceutical products have improved quality of life for many, but the singular focus on pills and drugs has led to many ignoring the potential of food as medicine.
Dr. David Suskind, a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s, is changing that, and has the first clinical evidence that food can indeed be medicine.
In a first-of-its-kind-study led by Suskind, published today in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, diet alone was shown to bring pediatric patients with active Crohn’s and [ulcerative colitis] into clinical remission…
In the small, prospective study, patients were put on a special diet called the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) for 12 weeks as the sole intervention to treat their Crohn’s or UC. SCD is a nutritionally balanced diet that removes grains, dairy, processed foods and sugars, except for honey. The diet promotes only natural, nutrient-rich foods, which includes vegetables, fruits, meats and nuts.
At the end of the 12 weeks, eight out of the 10 patients who finished the study showed significant improvement and achieved remission from the dietary treatment alone.
“This changes the paradigm for how we may choose to treat children with inflammatory bowel disease,” Suskind added.
More confirmation studies are needed, but this is a big first step for researchers willing to step outside the pharmaceutical model.
Applications outside inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), especially those related to chronic inflammation, are especially promising. For example, charred meat has been linked with prostate inflammation, which can lead to prostate cancer.
Each person’s disease is unique, just as each person is unique. SCD is another tool in our tool belt to help treat these patients. It may not be the best treatment option for everyone, but it is an effective treatment for those who wish to try a dietary therapy.
Suskind’s report highlights the story of Adelynne Kittelson, now eleven, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age eight. Suskind prescribed an SCD diet, and Kittleson’s now been in remission more than two years.
While there was certainly an adjustment period, the natural, nutrient-rich SCD food lifestyle is now second nature for the Kittlesons.
“For decades or longer, medicine has said diet doesn’t matter, that it doesn’t impact disease,” Dr. Suskind said. “Now we know that diet does have an impact, a strong impact. It works, and now there’s evidence.”