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Food as Medicine

Did you know that diet is the leading cause of chronic disease and disability? If you eat a standard American diet, you could be seriously harming your body. For many people, this is not new information, but knowing what a healthy diet is can still be difficult.

There is already a lot of buzz about vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Educational material to help people understand how much of this or that chemical their body needs to function properly are plentiful.

But even with all the recommended vitamins in your body, many foods can cause chronic inflammation, which can trigger not only bodily dysfunctions, like alzheimers or cancer, but also mental ones, like depression and alzheimers.

To fully grasp why the Standard American Diet (aptly abbreviated “S.A.D.”) is so harmful, we have to understand inflammation. That’s because, as we know from a tremendous amount of research, inflammation is the cause of much, if not all, chronic disease.

There are actually two kinds of inflammation:

Acute Inflammation

  • Normal and protective

And Meta-Inflammation (chronic)

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Many cancers
  • Cognitive Decline

Meta-inflammation, not acute inflammation, is what we want to combat through dietary changes.

Some of the most common dietary factors that lead to chronic inflammation include:

  • Excessive alcohol
  • Fat: Saturated, Trans-Fats
  • High omega-6 : omega-3 ratio
  • Low fiber intake
  • Fructose / Glucose
  • Meat – especially grain-fed
  • Sugar & Artificially Sweetened Drinks

So if we know what things might be causing inflammation, are there factors that counteract it?

Fortunately, yes, there are several, including:

  • Exercise
  • Healthy Weight
  • No Tobacco Use
  • Healthy Diet including:
    • Vegetables, Fuit, Legumes
      • Fiber
      •  Phytonutrients
    • Whole Grains
    • Lean game & pastured meats
    • Fish high in omega-3 FAs
    • Herbs/Spices (e.g., curcumin)
    • Nuts
    • Tea / Green Tea

Whether by reducing inflammation, or through other means, an improved diet can have a wide range of positive and measurable effects from the reversal of coronary disease to the prevention of diabetes.

So what should you do to improve your diet?

Nutrition can be very complicated, and once we start accounting for inflammation, it becomes even more difficult to know what’s good and what’s bad.

The important part is to keep an open mind, and commit to a lifelong learning process. Read what you can, and pay attention to how your body responds to things. Healthy eating is a lifestyle, not something you should expect to pick up overnight.

And when in doubt, refer to the timeless words of Michael Pollan:

Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.


This blog is an excerpt from a group visit Dr. David Ferriss hosted with patients who are part of our MaxWell Care program. Our group visits (available only to our MaxWell Care patients) are designed to change your life and supercharge your health.

If you have questions about MaxWellCare and how to join please click here to learn more or call us at 615-370-0091. We’d love to help you Maximize your Wellness!

This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog, website or in any linked materials. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or call for emergency medical help on the nearest telephone immediately.

David M. Ferriss, Jr., MD, MPH

David Ferriss, MD is a board-certified preventive medicine physician with a special interest in the role of a healthy lifestyle in the prevention and reversal of chronic disease.