“Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food!” are the words attributed to Hippocrates,often recognized as a Father of Medicine.
Sounds good ! Who does not like to eat? You are munching on your favorite burger with fries. Slice of juicy tomato, leaf of lettuce, ring of onion and sliced pickles adorn the sandwich and in passing, provide for the feeling of satisfaction, sensory for rejoicing taste buds and intellectual for the mind so pleased that protein, carbs, fat and vegetables are all there.
But is it that easy?
What did Hippocrates really mean? What kind of food did he have in mind?
There is so much confusion about food these days. Millions are struggling with the overwhelming and never ending battle with obesity. It is not that they did not try. It is that nothing worked. For those ‘thy food’ turned into ‘thy disease’.
Eat less, exercise more, is common advice given to those wishing to shed those few extra pounds off. Less calories in, more calories out, simple math formula that does not work on everyone. Where is the problem ? Are all calories created equal? If not, what are we supposed to eat?
Believe me, you have just opened Pandora’s box. You stumbled upon the debate as to what we humans really are: carnivores, herbivores or omnivores.If you are part of vegan or vegetarian tribe you may strike an argument with your paleo fellas. Or you may choose more private approach , researching the comparative anatomy of canine teeth in carnivores and the length of digestive tract in herbivores. Along the way fiber, vitamins, minerals, supplements will likely cross your path of laborious research , while simply trying to find the healthy solution for burrowing hunger and tight belt on new pair of pants.
Wasn’t choosing food supposed to be a breeze? In our modern society the answer seems to be a NO.
Food seems to be much more than a nutrition with assigned caloric value and glycemic index. Macronutrients in the form of proteins, fat and carbohydrates often take central stage and the light sometimes gets shone on the background players calcium, iron, vitamin B 12 and vitamin D. But the crevices of our cellular chemical pathways nevertheless, need myriads of microelements and phytonutrients to keep us going. Oxidative stress, free radicals, ATP, words from the old chemistry textbook start buzzing like free electrons all over your mind. These once boring concepts all of a sudden became curious topics that may hold the key to the answer-what is food and how does it work?
Is food nutritious consolation for emotional deprivation ? Or is food chemical information for the cellular computer? Is there an intermediary entity that communicates with both worlds?
What about the microbiome? Trillions of microorganisms that live within our inner ecology work overtime to break down nutrients to the basic chemical elements that have capacity to carry the information from the external world of diet and nutrition to the intricate intracellular world of genes, cellular membranes, mitochondria and other organelles. Interactions between the host and gut microbiome create complex relationship that allows the food to play both roles in our bodies, that of consolation and that of information.
Today we have just peeped into the world of possibility that microbiome may be the translator, interpreter or mediator between us and the food that we eat. Even though we may eat food for consolation it will still carry the information and influence our path to health or disease. When we go to the library we do not choose just any book, but the one that contains the information we need. Likewise, when we eat food we should be mindful of the information that will enter the biochemical library of our body and choose wisely.