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Foods and treatment

Watch Janeane talk about the ways food has been used historically across cultures in treating disease and curing illness.
JANEANE DART: Foods have been used historically, across cultures and for centuries in treating disease and curing illness. Over the past 20 years, the evidence has built and we’re able to draw on that now in making recommendations for the public, and certainly in specific diseases and conditions. For example, in the past 20 years, irritable bowel is a syndrome which has grown in prevalence. 20 years ago, we were recommending wheat bran as a strategy for people to try and help manage their irritable bowel. And what we know, from studies that have occurred subsequently, is that made things worse for about 50% of patients. What we know now, and what I’ve used in clinical practice, is linseed. So golden or cracked linseed.
It can be added into water, sprinkled on yogurt, in salads. So, really easy to consume. Anywhere between about a tablespoon to two or three tablespoons a day can have significant benefit improving their symptoms. And there is a modest evidence in supporting people with constipation predominant irritable bowel. In addition, it’s also really high in omega-3. So it’s a really good vegetable source, or plant source of omega-3. Another strategy, or using food to treat an illness, this is a sample here of some foods that are high in fermentable carbohydrates. Or they high FODMAP foods. That’s the term that’s being used.
And so we know from evidence of the past 15 years or so, that reducing someone’s intake of fermentable carbohydrate can offer them really significant benefits to their symptoms of irritable bowel. While they’re very healthy foods generally, for people with irritable bowel they can potentially cause symptomatic problems. So, for about 3/4 of people with irritable bowel, having a diet that removes these foods, temporarily from their diet, can actually reduce symptoms. And then people with IBS can work with a dietitian to tailor how much tolerance, or how much of these things they can re-include back into their diet.
So that’s a really significant thing, where food can be used as treaty in the management of irritable bowel, which is a syndrome which can really have profound and debilitating reductions in quality of life for people who suffer from it. Here are some oats, and a range of different legumes, so some lentils and some chickpeas. While they’re not new, there’s nothing fancy, including these foods regularly into your diet can have, again, significant impacts in reducing blood sugar levels, for people with diabetes. Because they’re rich in fiber– in particular, soluble fiber– they also have a really good role to play in appetite regulation and supporting weight management.
And of course, a healthy weight can actually be a very important management strategy in diseases such as diabetes, More recent research, interestingly, is looking at ginger. And ginger is a root that’s been around for years. It’s been used in Indian and Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and certainly in other Asian cultures. It’s a root. We can grate it into curries, into stir fries, we can use it in tea. But ginger is being studied for it’s anti-nausea properties. So it’s been used in pregnancy and travel sickness for a long time, but it’s now being researched in the context of chemotherapy and cancer treatment.
And there’s some promising evidence that ginger can have a role to play to support chemotherapy treatment and cancer management. Turmeric also is a rhizome. It looks like ginger. And it’s been used in Indian and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. In the West, we’re just beginning to use it more and learn more about it. And it’s actually been isolated into a supplement because the active compound in turmeric is curcumin. It’s an antioxidant and it’s really just beginning to show some benefits, potentially in terms of anti-inflammation, so in managing something such as rheumatoid arthritis, and also my have a role to play in cancer management.
So this is an interesting, quite a small, but an interesting selection of how food can be used in treating illness and disease. And you will have an opportunity, through the course, to do some of your own exploration and research around this.

Watch Janeane talk about the ways food has been used historically across cultures in treating disease and curing illness, and how recent evidence about some foods has helped inform public health recommendations.

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Go to Downloads for more examples of using foods as medicine that you may find useful.

Also consider reading The Effect of a Standardized Ginger Extract on Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea-Related Quality of Life in Patients Undergoing Moderately or Highly Emetogenic Chemotherapy: A Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo Controlled Trial and Ginger—Mechanism of action in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: A review to find out more about research in this area.

These papers and articles are included to help demonstrate some of the research in this area, but we do not expect you to purchase a subscription to read the full paper. Hopefully, just reading the summary provided in the free abstract will be sufficient for those that are wanting to know more about this study.

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Food as Medicine

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