Food As Medicine

To what extent should we be using food to maintain our health and heal our body? According to nutritionist John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, “Food—not supplements—should be where you get 98 percent of your nutrients.”

The founder and director of the Centre for Mind-Body Medicine, Dr. James S. Gordon, MD helped create the Food As Medicine approach 20 years ago.  This program is presented to medical students at Georgetown University.  He is of the opinion that whilst certain foods do have therapeutic qualities, it is vital to address the underlying issue of stress in order to cure many chronic health imbalances and ailments.

 “Changing the diet along with dealing with stress is often far more powerful than medication,” he says. “And there are no side effects.”

James believes that Western doctors turn to medication too quickly. While he says that some advanced conditions require drugs, he’s seen excellent results over 40 years of working with food therapeutically.

“All you have to do is look at doctors like Dr. Dean Ornish, who has helped fight heart disease with simple changes to the diet along with yoga and stress management tools,” he says.  Certain foods can be especially helpful for specific health conditions.  

For example:

Low or high blood sugar

Cinnamon, as little as half a teaspoon daily, can help balance your blood sugar while reducing cravings. Add cinnamon to food along with a spoonful of vinegar to slow down the absorption of carbs and further balance blood sugar.


Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that influence our state of mind, and research indicates that to give our mood a lift, fermented foods are important. The bacteria in our gut (microbiota) thrives on probiotic-rich foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and fermented veggies.  We prefer goat/sheep yogurt or kefir.

Acne/skin damage

EGCG from green tea is protective against sun damage and is a powerful anti-oxidant.  Sensitive skin-types should avoid dairy and soy.  Use instead dairy alternatives such as coconut-, hemp-, and almond-based milks, yogurts and cheeses.

Chronic pain/fibromyalgia

Try buckwheat, (not a grain but a member of the rhubarb family) is rich in magnesium and malic acid – for those suffering from fibromyalgia or aching muscles.  For pain and inflammation from sore muscles and joints try turmeric and ginger.

Indigestion/irritable bowel syndrome

Using natural digestive enzymes from either pineapple (bromelain) or papaya (papain) to help with digestion, or peppermint to calm an irritable bowel.  Additionally, pineapple contains glutathione an antioxidant that is known to aid gut healing. 

Alzheimer’s disease

A handful of sunflower seeds daily which is rich in vitamin e compounds (healthier than vitamin E supplements which have risks), helps to maintain brain health.  A recent article in the journal Neurobiology of Aging on dietary and lifestyle guidelines for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease indicates that food truly is our best medicine.

Food as Medicine

How is this possible you might ask?  Well, our forefathers certainly discovered that they could live off the land centuries before agriculture began!  Today, herbaceous plants are included in many of our meals.  Indigenous peoples across the world have a long history of using indigenous or native plants from a wide variety of medicinal purposes. These plants and their applications are as diverse as the tribes that use them.

Beyond their medicinal benefits, indigenous plants were a staple of the indigenous people’s diets and are today central to efforts to improve dietary health for current generations – especially in countries such as Hawai’i.   In Hawai‘i, the “Waianae Diet” and “Pre-Captain Cook Diet” aim to reduce empty calories, fat, and additives and promote a healthier, more balanced diet by restoring the role of indigenous foods. Alaska Natives and various Native Indian tribes have similar projects emphasizing traditional foods. In this very real sense, food is medicine.

The Indigenous Americans are taught to respect their foods, honour them and pray for their return.  “Plants or animals, these foods feed the body and the spirit, providing a powerful connection to the land and a sense of self”, states the Native Food Systems Resource Centre.

Bangladesh has a rich traditional plant-medicine use, drawing on Ayurveda and Unami medicine.  These practices are translated in different ways into people’s homes. What is consumed as a food and/or a medicine also varies between individuals, generations and families, age, education and availability of both plants and biomedicine.

A cornerstone of the DBM Natural Health Practices is that food is the best medicine.  Many medical conditions can be treated more effectively with foods than by other means, with fewer complications and side effects. 


Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Common Diseases with Diet.


Graphics used with permission:  


The purpose of these pages is not to suggest that you select ONLY these foods to supplement your deficiency, but to show you that if you are eating a healthy balanced diet, eating from the rainbow, and excluding toxic foods, restore your gut-health, then your body will automatically receive the nutrients it needs.  Whilst the list of foods that we recommend you exclude from your diet is currently on our Daily Nutrition – it is vital that in order to gain good health, you begin this exclusion process as soon as possible.

The Whole Food Plant based plate gives a good indication of the “The Four Food Groups”.  For a balanced diet follow the recommended daily servings as indicated.  Use this as a guide to get you started whilst eating the foods you enjoy, until you are familiar and comfortable with the quantities and volumes you need to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

The DBM Food Pyramid gives a good indication of types and volumes foods that we recommend to all DBM Patients / Clients.  Please remember, you may only eat the goat cheese and other goat products as indicated on that pyramid, on the advice of your DBM Physician / Practitioner.

Ensure that when selecting fruits and vegetables you Eat from The Rainbow. Whole grains and legumes form an important part of this natural, balanced lifestyle. 

By eating whole foods, a wide variety of fruit and veggies (eating from the rainbow) you will get all the nutrients your body needs.  To show you how wonderful fruits and veggies are – look at the graphics on the Eat From The Rainbow page and you will clearly see that a wide range of fruit and veggies will more than provide for your needs.


Please be aware that external lists or websites we link to might include fish, meat, soya, or other foods that are restricted on all DBM programs.  The links are retained as a requirement of copyright.  The publishing of this list is intended as educational and certain foods that this article might be listed or linked to do not support DBMs philosophies or practices.

At all times, ensure that the foods you select are permitted by your DBM Physician for your health imbalance. Select only NON-GMO sources that are organic and/or sundried.


We are obliged to notify you that the information on this website is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Doctors Across Borders NPO t/as Doctors Beyond Medicine, the author(s) nor publisher(s) take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.