What Would Hippocrates Think of Our Standard American Diet?

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by Anjali Sareen on March 14, 2012

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates

Spoken centuries ago, these words seem more poignant now than ever before.

Although he is often referred to as “the father of western medicine“, it is also said that we know little to nothing of what Hippocrates actually thought about many concepts in medicine.

One thing seems clear, however: Hippocrates was a firm believer in the idea that the body is fully capable of healing itself, given the right environment and the right nourishment. He believed that medicine must treat the body as a whole, connected entity, rather than a series of parts. His best and most oft-given advice to patients was eat food, not too much, and exercise moderately. Sound familiar?

Ironic, then, isn’t it, that we thoroughly ignore the most important advice of the man we hail as the creator of our modern system of medicine? Rather than treating the body as a whole, letting “medicine by thy food”, and believing that we are capable of healing ourselves, Western medicine is riddled with idiocies like dealing with symptoms alone, ignoring the patient, and prescribing pills for everything.

Unfortunately, we can’t blame Western physicians alone or the field of medicine, in general. We, the patients, are the worst culprits. We choose to continually ignore the advice about what’s bad for our bodies and minds: eating whatever, doing whatever, and hoping that a tiny, concentrated dose of chemicals every day (or for some, multiple doses a day) will be enough to lead us to better health, more happiness, and a longer life.

A study was recently released linking red meat consumption to pre-mature death. People within the plant-based community are raising their hands up in success, happy to point to even more concrete evidence that a vegan diet is healthier. People not yet living the plant-based lifestyle, however, seem to be shocked. But is the surprise real or fake?

It can’t be truly startling to us, in 2012, that eating a dead animal chock-full of antibiotics and artificial hormones is bad for our health. It’s just what we’ve chosen not to see.

Many people, unfortunately, still believe that a diet completely free of all animal products is “extreme”. To that, I would reference a favorite quote of mine by renowned surgen Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn“Some people think the ‘plant-based, whole foods diet’ is extreme. This year, over a half a million people in the US will have to have the front half of their body divided and their heart exposed [...] their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery.  Some people would call that extreme.”

When the answer – the easy answer – is so clearly in front of us, with the evidence undeniable, there’s no excuse for the amount of suffering we force our bodies to endure from our awful diet, physically and mentally.

The answer – the easy answer – is a whole foods, plant-based diet.

That’s all. No pills, no surgeries.

Just eat plants.

Once we make this much needed change, we can finally heed Hippocrates wise words and let food, truly, be our medicine.

Anjali Sareen

Anjali is the creator and Editor-in-Chief of Intellectualyst, as well as a vegan and lawyer in NYC. Read about her life adventures on her blog, Anjalism.com. She loves trying new vegan recipes and meeting new people! Email her at anjali@intellectualyst.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter today!
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Terri Schmitt March 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Thank you for linking back to my posting about western medicine. Your post was excellent, full of information, and easy to read. Yes, we should try to heal ourselves and recognize that care of our own bodies is the most powerful of medicine. Thank you again!


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