Food as Medicine: How vegetables, legumes and fish can help keep our bodies strong

 

Global leaders are imploring us to stay home and stay healthy as a way to slow transmission of coronavirus. Whenever possible, healthcare providers urge us to only seek medical care in a clinic when home remedies can’t help.

It is more important than ever that we give our bodies – and the bodies of those we care for – every opportunity to be as strong and germ-resistant as they can be. Now is the time for us to be intentional about the foods we consume and how they affect our “gut health.”

PyxisCare Nurse Client Advocates think about gut health frequently as they help clients manage chronic conditions, from diabetes or Parkinson’s disease to disabilities. They urge clients to eat diets rich in vegetables, poultry and fish with less meat and dairy.

Research has shown that such foods may help reduce or eliminate symptoms associated with gastrointestinal illness, depression and even autoimmune disorders, such as Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or Crohn’s disease.

The term “gut health,” long understood in Asian medicine, has become increasingly common over the past decade in Western literature as researchers highlighted the negative impacts of highly processed foods loaded with sugar and starch and chemical additives like flavor enhancers and food colorings, according to a March 2011 BMC Medicine article.

Our wish at PyxisCare is to help clients manage chronic conditions through healthy foods, in addition to other physician recommendations, to ensure that beneficial enzymes and microbes get to the gastro-intestinal track. Recent research published in the Feb. 17 journal Gut found that the Mediterranean diet altered the gut microbiome in older people, reducing frailty and improving overall health.

Popularized in the 1960s as a path toward reducing heart disease, the Mediterranean Diet regimen is plant-based, not meat-centered. Its main components, according to the Mayo Clinic, are:

  • Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats
  • Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs
  • Moderate portions of dairy products
  • Limited intake of red meat

The diet also includes healthy fats that are found in olive oil, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, and nuts and seeds. It also allows for red wine in moderation and calls for daily physical activity.

American Psychiatric Association research has established the connection between the Mediterranean Diet and decreased likelihood of depression later in life. That is likely because gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin, which influences both mood and GI activity, the American Psychological Association reported as early as 2012.

Other research highlighted in the January 2020 edition of Medical News Today has focused on the autoimmune protocol diet as a way to reduce inflammation and combat other symptoms such as pain, swelling, skin changes and fever. Advocates describe the AIP diet as one centered on lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.

Shifting our diet toward a focus on gut-friendly foods can be a challenge for anyone in a managed-care environment and for people with limited access to transportation or fresh food.  PyxisCare’s Nurse Client Advocates excel at thinking outside the box and figuring out how clients can access services they need, including healthy meals. Contact us at info@pyxiscare.com to see how we can help.

We help our nation and the world today by staying as healthy as we can. If that means eating a weekly tuna fish sandwich and making sure the people we care for eat more olive oil than butter, that’s an easy switch we can make.