Let Food Be Thy Medicine And Medicine Be Thy Food (Hippocrates)

Dr. Donna CorvetteBY DONNA CORVETTE, M.D.

It was 1984, I was an enthusiastic young woman with a passion for healing, learning and an absolute thirst for knowledge. My dream was to become a physician, and I became an internist in 1991 and a dermatologist in 1997.

Over the years, I began to notice an increase in the numbers of patients diagnosed with cardiovascular/cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, allergies, internal cancers, attention deficit disorders, autoimmune diseases, and Vitamin D deficiency. I questioned this trend and began my search for answers but could not find them in my medical journals or at my medical conferences. At my last dermatology conference, there was a lecture linking Vitamin D deficiency to creating a variety of ills. Silly, I thought; why make Vitamin D deficiency the scapegoat. To me, it had to be the worsening Standard American diet (SAD diet) and our increasing environmental toxins.

I pondered how the human body eventually responds to a sedentary lifestyle filled with processed man-made “foods” with dyes, preservatives, plastics, teflon, unhealthy oils, genetically modified food, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, chronic exposures to cell phones, computers and microwaves, overuse of antibiotics, and hormones. I found that there are those who agree that our toxic exposures are creating “dis-ease” and those who vehemently disagree. “Mercury and aluminum in vaccines is not negatively affecting our health! Preservatives, poisons, and dyes have nothing to do with disease promotion. Genetically modified foods are absolutely safe. Microwaves and cell phones are not harmful! Farm-raised fish and red meats are absolutely safe to eat.” I wonder if I would have believed that Coca-Cola was safe in the 1900’s? At that time, this “safe” drink was packing a heavy load of caffeine and cocaine.

After all, isn’t our food being scrutinized by our governmental agencies? Aren’t we protected? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The food industry is fueled by money. The faster and cheaper food can be made, the better. Generating healthy food for our world is not in the best interests of our fast-food chains, food manufacturers, and the meat and dairy industries. We are all eating genetically modified food and toxins on a daily basis. What are the long-term health ramifications?

I finally found some physicians who discussed these topics at my Integrative/Functional Medicine Conferences. Cardiologist Caldwell Esselstyn stood on stage and announced to his audience of 300 physicians that “Coronary artery disease was a food-borne illness.” Cardiologist, Dean Ornish explained “Our genes are not our fates” and highly recommended we return to the basics by consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet, using meat as a condiment. The messages at most of the these conferences were consistent: The body will respond positively to daily exercise, sufficient sleep, excellent food choices, happy thoughts, powerful healthy relationships, living in the present, and stress reduction. Our bodies are meant to be healthy but often we are creating our own chronic diseases. Nutrition is the answer; inundating our bodies with prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs is not the answer.

Food as medicine

I have almost 26 years in medicine, and I have become an avid student of traditional and alternative medicine. I’m very thankful for my mother, who lived and breathed the words of nutritionist Adele Davis. My mother worked full-time, made all our foods from scratch, and taught us about nutrition and health at a young age. She is now a vibrant 81-year-old woman, who never remains motionless, still plays on her tennis team three days a week, and wins most of her bridge tournaments.

Our health care system has changed significantly over the past several years. It is more important than ever to battle our own chronic diseases and not accept them. As I leave my office tonight, I realize I have not eaten dinner. In my refrigerator, one of my employees has left an appetizing, roasted chicken salad wrap, bought from one of our local “healthy” grocery stores. It is being stored in a BPA (Bisphenol A) containing plastic pouch. I look at the ingredient list on the package and find the following frightening non-foods: white pita bread (devoid of any nutrition), soybean oil, baking powder, sodium aluminum sulfate, sodium phosphate, corn starch, calcium propionate, guar gum, vegetable oil, chicken (I am certain this contains antibiotics, pesticides, and herbicides), vegetable mono and diglycerides, carrageenan (known carcinogen), sulfur dioxide, sugar, citric acid, butter flavor (why not real butter?), natural flavor (red flag!), silicon dioxide, may contain bones and cartilage…I’m going to eat at home tonight!

Dr. Corvette completed an Internal Medicine Residency in 1991 and a Dermatology Residency in 1997. She served 12 years on Active Duty with the US Army on a Health Professional Scholarship Program. She served at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fitzsimons Army Medical Center and completed her residency in Dermatology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She opened the Dermatology Center of Williamsburg in 2004, where she practices today.

This article is featured in the April, 2015 edition of Ford’s Colony “Talk of the Colony” on page 16.