For 12 years, the Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) in Washington, DC, has been educating health professionals on medical nutrition therapy. Each year, its four-day Food As Medicine program combines scientific knowledge, clinical expertise, and practical food know-how to offer health-care professionals essential training. "The course was originally developed as an elective for first-year medical students at Georgetown University School of Medicine," recalls Jo Cooper, director of nutrition programs and marketing at CMBM. "The evaluations were so overwhelmingly positive, the center decided to offer it as an annual course. It's not a conference where people present their latest work – it's an A to Z training, the training that should have been included in the curriculum in the first place."
Now three CMBM faculty members have books coming out, offering practical information for all Townsend Letter readers. These books are remarkably in tune with the theme of the current issue. They are:
- The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook, by Mark Hyman
- The Longevity Kitchen: Science & Flavor Straight to the Plate, by Rebecca Katz
- The Immune System Recovery Plan: the Pathway to Wellness, by Susan Blum
"Mark Hyman, MD, a nationally renowned expert in functional medicine and author of multiple New York Times best-sellers, is a center board member and has been a speaker at Food As Medicine for many years," Cooper says. "Rebecca Katz, MA, is a chef, author, and 'culinary translator,' who designs colorful and healthy menus for Food As Medicine, and works closely with hotel kitchens to deliver the experiential part of the course right on the lunch buffets. Susan Blum, MD, MPH, a longtime faculty member in the Center's Mind-Body Medicine professional training program, has an integrative medical practice including nutrition as a powerful healing component."
Blum is a medical doctor who has focused her life's work on treating the root causes of chronic autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, Crohn's disease, and celiac disease. Years ago, she herself was diagnosed with one of these illnesses. The Immune System Recovery Plan is a well-organized, systematic look at using food as a medicine, the relationship between the immune system and the gut, and how stress affects our health.
"Autoimmune disease is an epidemic that's on the rise, and the conventional approach just treats the symptoms," Blum says. "When you go to the heart of it and treat the cause, people can actually can be cured from immune dysfunction and be healed. People come in to me in despair because they are offered very harsh medications, and they have no hope. They are told they are going to be sick for the rest of their lives. I really want to get the message out that this could actually be reversible, that we can actually treat the root cause."
The book is divided into four sections:
- using food as medicine
- understanding the stress connection
- healing your gut
- supporting your liver
Each section has a chapter about how the immune system is affected by the topic at hand. This is followed by a chapter with a self-assessment workbook, so each reader develops a personalized treatment plan. The third chapter offers recipes showing how to use food as part of treatment.
"Medicine should always be personalized to each individual," Blum says. "The goal is to determine which foods are causing inflammation in the body, and it's different for different people."
However, she suspects that gluten is a key factor in many autoimmune diseases. "There is enough compelling evidence that everybody with an autoimmune disease should at least go off gluten to see whether or not their systems improve. Usually, I suggest testing that for a minimum of three weeks. But in fact, pretty much all of my autoimmune patients are off gluten now, because there is so much evidence connecting gluten with other autoimmune diseases."
Rebecca Katz has been the executive chef at CMBM's Food As Medicine program since 2004. She received her culinary degree from the Natural Gourmet Institute, and her first job was cooking at Deepak Chopra's Center for Well-Being. At the same time, she has a master of science degree in nutrition!
The Longevity Kitchen is a cookbook, and it's a remarkable book. It discusses and utilizes the healing properties of many foods. It analyzes the "flavorprints" of various global cuisines. It discusses how to add "savoriness" to a recipe. And you must look at page 46, which offers quick fixes for those moments when you taste a dish, and it isn't quite right.
"My job is to take all the nutritional science and translate it onto the plate so that people can have this amazing experience with food," Katz says. "Great flavor and great nutrition can't sit at opposite sides of the table. They have to sit together if people are really going to adopt what I call sustainable nourishment."
Katz has written two cancer books. "I feel like I am something of an authority when it comes to really understanding the emotional connection people have with food, especially when they are dealing with a chronic illness. Often they disconnect from food, the very thing that will nourish them, because it becomes emotional issue and you develop a lot of fear around food in that situation."
Her goal is to offer recipes that help people redevelop healthy connection to food. "The best way to do that is through their taste buds," she says. "Let's not say, 'This is a food for IBS.' Ninety-nine percent of the recipes in this book are in fact gluten free, but that's not the main point. The focus of this book is on all the things that you can eat, not what you can't. When we combine science, wisdom, and culinary alchemy, that is what creates the longevity kitchen."
The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook is a follow-up to Hyman's 2012 best-selling book, The Blood Sugar Solution. It builds upon the 6-week program in that book, presenting more than 175 recipes that are free of allergens and harmful foods that tend to promote inflammation. Hyman draws upon his own recipe collection, as well as suggestions from a community of chefs. Typical recipes include spicy chicken stir-fry, Mexican shrimp, Tuscan zucchini soup, and dark chocolate silk pudding.
The Center for Mind-Body Medicine: http://cmbm.org.
Food as Medicine, June 6–9, 2013: http://cmbm.org/2012/07/food-medicine-2013-indianapolis.
The Blum Center for Health: http://www.blumcenterforhealth.com.
Blum S. The Immune System Recovery Plan: A Doctor's 4-Step Program to Treat Autoimmune Disease. Scribner; 2013.
Hyman M. The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. Little, Brown and Co.; 2013.
Katz R, Edelson M. The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying, Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods. Ten Speed Press; 2013.
Elaine Zablocki has been a freelance health-care journalist for more than 20 years. She was the editor of Alternative Medicine Business News and CHRF News Files. She writes regularly for many health-care publications.