The Wisdom of Dr M

 

I want to share an article I originally published two years ago. This piece is dedicated to an amazing healer named Dr. Armando Moreano. Dr. M taught me what true healing is all about…

Years ago I worked for a very wise doctor. He was a petite little man with a hot Latino temper. I learned a whole slew of Spanish cuss words from Dr. M. He’s been dead for more than 15 years, but he’s still one of the most amazing healers I have ever known.

Dr. M grew up in Ecuador; a tiny country in South America that is certainly not known for being at the forefront of medicine. But he learned much about the true essence of healing from watching his physician father treat patients with access to only the most basic equipment and medicines. And even after years of U.S. medical training and experience, he managed to maintain an intuitive sense of how to help his patients heal; simple yet profound treatments were the rule. Nothing very complicated; not much in the way of whiz bang technology; just the basics delivered with love and compassion. His patients adored him – they sensed they were in good hands.

My boss knew all about his patients and their families; he would quiz them about their love lives, their jobs, their mothers – no question was off limits. I sometimes found his questions bizarre and intrusive. I was young and did not yet understand that he asked those questions because he sensed that his patients emotional and spiritual health directly affected their physical health.

I wish Dr. M were still here with us training this generation of doctors. How wonderful to have a doctor who remembers me and asks me about my love life and my family! All those nosey questions that used to embarrass me now seem crucial to quality health care. How can a doctor care for you adequately if she doesn’t know anything about you except a few facts listed in your chart? But that’s another subject entirely.

Dr. M was opinionated and not at all shy about expressing himself. He would go on and on about how preservatives in food were at the root of many health problems; he blamed everything from cancer and diabetes to arthritis and heart disease on artificial chemicals in our food. He liked to deliver his dire pronouncement about American food and health while standing in his office smoking a cigarette and drinking a diet Coke. This made his argument seem especially poignant.

My boss was a great example of the old adage that the most difficult patient for any healer to heal is himself. His father had died suddenly when Dr. M was still young. He never got to say good-bye to his dad and it obviously still grieved him deeply 20 years later. Add to that being caught in the middle of constant arguments between his wife and mother and Dr. M’s smoking made perfect sense. But back then I just thought he was weak for not being able to quit smoking. That was decades before terms such as emotional eating, stress related illness and PTSD became mainstream. Today the research on the link between emotional upset and illness grows every day. And as I try to give up my own chai habit, I realize first hand just how emotionally loaded our food and drug choices can be!

When Dr. M would jump on his bandwagon and lament the sorry state of American food, I would roll my eyes and try to change the subject. I was a know-it-all twenty something, fresh out of college; I really loved my candy and junk food; my boss just seemed like an eccentric old man to me. He actually reminded me of a college chemistry professor I had who would go on and on about the dangers of fluoride in tap water. Now I realize just how wise both of them were…Today, years later I am the one lamenting the sorry state of American food.

Our food has not improved in 20 years. If anything it has gotten worse. The grocery store has aisle after aisle of food, kept “fresh” with preservatives such as BHA, BHT and MSG. Europeans want nothing to do with our mi lk and cheese because we continue to feed our cows bovine growth hormones. How can we give growing school children milk laced with those hormones?!

The ingredients labels on many foods read like a chemistry experiment. It actually is a big chemistry experiment; put preservatives in our food to increase the shelf-life and assure us that all those chemicals are “fine”; they won’t do us any harm. Wait 20 years and see what happens. Sounds a bit like the instructions for instant soup; just add hot water and wait a bit. Only this time the results can be way more serious than soggy noodles!

This crotchety old nurse has gotten a bandwagon of her own and it is called Avoid Artificial Dyes and Preservatives. Twenty years after Dr. M tried to tell me and anyone else who would listen, I am now trying to tell you. My wise old doctor boss was absolutely right – what you eat can either nourish you or kill you; choose wisely. Do not assume that just because they sell it in a grocery store that it is good for you!

Those of you who have known me a while have heard all of this before. My husband calls it Nancy’s rant #1A. And yes, I actually do get red in the face and rant about this on occasion just like my wild Latino boss used to. Dr. M has passed his baton to me. : -)) I rant and I push my opinions about food. And I will continue to rant because your health is worth it.

What You Can Do:
1. READ LABELS; know what is in the food that you feed yourself and your family.
2. AVOID ARTIFICIAL PRESERVATIVES & DYES; Artificial chemicals are NOT food and they CAN hurt you. It may take 20-30 years, but these chemicals can make you sick and even kill you. And watch out for preservatives and dyes in lotions, makeup and hair-care products as well.
3. AVOID FOOD THAT HAS BEEN PROCESSED OR MANIPULATED TO MAKE IT LAST LONGER. Long shelf life does not mean high quality. In general, the more processed a food is, the less nutritious it is. For example, avoid oils that have been refined with chemicals and heat. Buy cold pressed oils instead.
4. BUY THE FRESHEST FOOD YOU CAN AFFORD. Cheap food can cost you your health. It is NOT worth it.

I hope you will take a cue from Dr. M; please protect your body from chemicals that can hurt you.

“We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us”

Pogo Earth Day Poster by Walt Kelly 1971

I sit here sipping my favorite Chai and surfing through a pile of news from the last few days. And I come across a CNN report on a research study the links ADHD in children to common pesticides:
http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/05/17/pesticides.adhd/index.html

I take another sip of Chai and think about the pesticide that was sprayed all over the CORN that created the high fructose corn syrup base of my favorite Chai. Darn it! This Chai does taste good even when I know it is horrible for me. I keep waiting for a third arm to sprout out of my shoulder like one of those frogs that gets exposed to these pesticides. But I was happy to see that I still had only two arms this morning when I woke up… so far, so good…

But if the human consequences of sucking down mass quantities of food sweetened with corn syrup were that obvious, I would be freaked out enough to stop eating it immediately. And I would NEVER let my kids have it. Unfortunately the real consequence takes years to develop and we humans have VERY short attention spans (from pesticide exposure!).

The consequences of putting corn syrup in everything are way more subtle than growing an extra limb. It’s problems like ADHD or decreased fertility or increased breast and prostate cancer. And need I mention that the corn growers’ lobby will tell you that “there is no definitive research linking corn syrup ingestion to cancer”? Yeah and by the time the definitive research is done, all our kids might be sterile. Did anybody else wonder if they were seeing their kids’ future in the movie “Children of Men” or am I alone in my mommy paranoia?!

At the same time, I must admit that I’ve known for years that high fructose corn syrup is toxic crap, and yet I still WANT MY CHAI EVERY DAY! Do you think high fructose corn syrup could be both toxic AND addicting??? I’m just asking.

I’m old enough to have read Pogo comics as a kid. (I was still in diapers at the time, but I loved Pogo – LOL)
And the 1971 Earth Day Pogo comic says it so well;

We have met the enemy and he is us.

We humans are gloriously inconsistent creatures. We can create something as amazing as the Taj Mahal in Agra, India or the Apple iPhone on my desk, but we will probably end up killing off the entire human race in our quest for ever more yummy snack food.