If “food is medicine”, why not prescribe it?

Slide1

Published in e-hospice online on the 13th of December (click here)

People with a terminal illness often look for ways to help themselves. Dr Philip Lee, a consultant physician, who passed away in 2011 was treating people with metabolic diseases, many of who needed to make significant changes in their diets in order to survive. Following his diagnosis of metastatic lung cancer and knowing the therapeutic power of food, he changed his diet. See his video on the Help the Hospices website.

Dr Lee was an advocate of the consensus statement on nutritional care for palliative patients, now endorsed by many healthcare professional bodies to improve the training of staff in nutritional care.

Palliative care patients may also suffer from nutritional problems due to late consequences of cancer treatment, such as: anorexia-cachexia, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain and other digestive problems.  A recent conference at the Royal Marsden Hospital considered dietary changes to help these problems, along with other interventions, e.g. antibiotic treatment of small bowel bacterial overgrowth, a major cause of diarrhoea or sometimes constipation. The wife of a patient related how after admission to a hospice her husband’s low fat diet for fat malabsorption was ignored. The sausages and other fatty food he ate worsened his symptoms of diarrhoea and abdominal pain. She could not forget his experience.

Recently, a hospice patient disclosed that she drank her own rice milk because of her allergy to dairy products. When told this ‘special milk’ could be provided by the hospice, she was astonished. She hadn’t thought her dietary needs would be considered part of her care. Other patients in the hospice told us how wonderful they find desserts in small shot cups. With their reduced appetite, they could now manage these portions and no longer felt guilty leaving food uneaten.

Over 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates said: ‘Food is medicine’. Even now research into illness rarely considers food as a factor in our health or recovery. However, there is a greater awareness and evidence:

  • The ‘China Study’ by Dr Colin Campbell showed that diet plays a major role in our health.
  • Michal Pollen in his book In Defense of Food says “don’t eat something your grandmother would not recognise”.
  • Even President Clinton has become a vegan after 2 major heart operations (watch video).

Food is overlooked, taken for granted and people say, without checking, that there is no evidence for food as medicine.  As scientists, our duty is to resist any prejudgement, to delve deeper and ask the question: can nutritious food be prescribed as medicine? After all, this is what patients want.

Dr Eleni Tsiompanou, MSc Nutritional Medicine

 

Vegan truffles on prescription: “Jewelled Date & Walnut Truffles”

I made this recipe today with two of the ladies who attended the Ladies Lunch Group at Princess Alice Hospice. These are ladies with metastatic breast cancer, who attend our monthly social-get-together-and-have-lunch event that the social work team at the hospice organise. One of them told us that she never cooks, the other one is a highly accomplished cook who wanted to learn how to take the seeds of a pomegranate. They stood side by side and prepared with me this very easy recipe, giggling with excitement and enjoying every bit of it. This was for me another proof how cooking recipes and a cooking demonstration from a doctor can not only educate, connect and give nice food-is-your-medicine to patients, but can also help to lift the spirits and bring a smile to peoples’ face.

And it tastes delicious!!

Jewelled Date & Walnut Truffles

Date paste
Walnuts
Desiccated coconut
Pomegranate seeds

Method:
Use 2 tsps of the paste for each truffle. Add half a walnut in the mixture and shape into a ball.
Roll balls in coconut to coat.
Decorate with pomegranate seeds.
Keep in the fridge until you serve

POFTĂ BUNĂ! (Enjoy your meal, in Romanian)

IMG_2564

Sardines on prescription: “Sardine & Watercress Pâté”

At the Ladies Lunch Group at Princess Alice Hospice today, ladies with metastatic breast cancer met to have lunch and listen to my presentation on

‘Cooking on Prescription from the Doctor’.

I made this pâté in front of them to demonstrate how easy it is to prepare a healthy meal with readily available ingredients. Perhaps the most exotic ingredient in it is turmeric, which is however very easy to find and is one of the most important spices for health. A number of studies have demonstrated its’ antioxidant/anti-inflammatory properties. More research is underway to investigate its’ potential against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, diabetes and other illnesses.

So, another straightforward recipe to make in your kitchen. You will need a food processor for this one, which will do most of the hard work for you. The combination of the ingredients in this recipe make it a most healthy food to have as a snack or main meal with a side salad or some cooked vegetables. Full of omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and hundreds of other micronutrients that work together to help your body and mind function well.

Sardine & Watercress Pâté

Tinned sardines in springwater or brine
One small baked sweet potato
A handful of watercress leaves or cabbage
Parsley and chives (optional)
1 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsps mustard
Lime juice
Pepper

Method
Add all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth
Serve on rye or wholemeal bread with a side salad of tomatoes and watercress.

Καλή όρεξη (enjoy your meal, in Greek)

IMG_3665 IMG_3668

Green soup on prescription: “Watercress & Broccoli Soup”

A wonderful, tasty soup that is full of healthy ingredients. It won’t take you more than 20 minutes to prepare it. Just make sure you don’t overcook the greens. Add some parsley also if you have it. Eat it with some white fish and you have everything you need for a whole meal, full of nutrients that your body and mind need to function well.

Watercress & Broccoli Soup

Broccoli cut into small pieces
A handful of watercress leaves
A handful of spinach leaves
1 small sliced onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into small pieces
Olive oil
Thai fish sauce
Lime juice
Salt and pepper

Method
Gently sweat the onions, garlic, ginger, fish sauce and tamari sauce in a little water.
Add the broccoli and enough water to cover and bring to the boil. Simmer until the broccoli is just tender.
Add the watercress and spinach and leave to boil for another minute.
Blend the soup in a food processor until smooth and thick.
Add oil, some lime juice, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Bon appétit (enjoy your meal, in French)

IMG_3662 IMG_3663

Cooking on prescription

Doctors teaching cooking? Why not. More and more physicians turn to this simple measure to inspire people to get back to their kitchen. This is a place where a treatment for any illness can start, a cure can be found and a sense of community and connection can begin to heal the mind and soul of every person.

Cooking can change lives, can even save lives. This is why in my hospice we have started giving cooking demonstrations for patients and bereaved relatives. And they are such fun, both for staff and for patients and relatives! To paraphrase Andrew Boorde from his 1547 medical book ‘Breviary of Health’: ‘A Good Physician Is Half A Cook’.

As a doctor with specialisation in nutritional medicine I am delighted to be putting on my apron at work and taking part in the new revolution in medicine and healthcare which starts from real food in our kitchens!

PAH Bereaved relatives Nov 2013 copy     Ladies lunch group colour version IMG_3673

Recipes to improve your health, boost your energy and lift your spirits

Once again, I am returning to the mental health charity Stuart Low Trust with a selection of recipes and information on how cooking can save your life.

I believe that a good physician is half a cook. Of course, science and experience are important. I will bring all these elements into my presentation trying to persuade you that your efforts to improve your health start in your kitchen.

I hope to see you there:

Friday 27 Sept 2013 6:30 – 9.00 pm. Refreshments provided at 6:30, presentation begins at 7:30

St Mary’s Community Centre, Upper Str, Islington N1 2TX. FREE EVENT

Slide1

Olympic Gold Diet

My latest article and recipe in the Help the Hospices Information Bulletin

In Ancient Greece it was forbidden to export figs (called ‘syco’ in Greek). Furthermore, people were encouraged to expose those who secretly exported figs for profit. Some used this as an opportunity to falsely accuse others of this crime, to take personal revenge. This is where the modern word sycophant comes from.

Eleni’s article-Hosp Info Bul Jan 2012

A Good Physician Is Half a Cook (and vice versa)

A Good Physician Is Half A Cook. This is a paraphrase from Andrew Boorde’s 1547 medical book ‘Breviary of Health’ in which he writes: “a good cook is halfe a physycyon”.

 2000 years earlier, Hippocrates wrote in The Art (of Medicine) that highly skilled physicians treat their patients, using not only drugs, but also the right diet and lifestyle, to assist the human body in the healing process: ‘The physicians of greatest repute obviously cure by regimen and other substances…’  

 

In my thesis for an MSc in Nutritional Medicine I wrote about ‘Food asMedicine: Exploring Nutritional Knowledge in the Hippocratic Corpus’. I examined a number of books in the Corpus, in which Hippocrates emphasises the importance of physicians’  knowledge of nutrition and dietetics.

In Ancient Medicine, he talks about the required fields of study for physicians. A good physician, he says, should have knowledge of the properties of each food, of their differences according to variety, conditions of growth and processing and of their uses for restoration of health and healing of the sick. He, however, should learn much more than a list of foods and their effect on the body. He must also have an understanding of the particular characteristics of individuals and, of the mechanisms by which each food affects different people:

 

Required Fields of Study for a Physician,  according to Hippocrates

·      Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Body

·      Properties of foods and drinks, in their natural form and after processing and cooking

·      Natural and artificial exercises

·      Laws of the Universe – Astronomy

 

As more and more evidence emerges on the importance of food and lifestyle for our health, many modern doctors choose to get more knowledge and education on Nutrition. At the same time, the best medical journals around the world, increasingly publish studies that research dietary influences on health and disease.

A shift in the focus of healthcare is apparent. Food is becoming again an essential therapeutic tool, a medicine!

Hippocrates005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JEWELLED PORRIDGE – AN ANCIENT RECIPE MADE NEW

Img_2368

Porridge is a traditional Scottish food. I took this nutritious dish and added a Mediterranean twist to it with some extra beneficial, fragrant and colourful ingredients.  

Saffron is a precious spice with numerous health benefits, including anti-tumour activity and anti-depressive effects, which are currently being researched. You can find good quality saffron in a Persian or Middle Eastern shop where it is often cheaper than the high-street supermarkets.

The ingredients in this recipe go back to Antiquity, although perhaps Hippocrates would have used barley instead of oats. If you choose the Hippocratic version, then soak the barley overnight and follow the steps below:

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

2 cups milk (goat’s, soya or rice) or 1 cup milk and 1 water

3 green cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

1/3 tsp ground saffron (or a small pinch of saffron threads roughly cut with your fingers). Alternatively, make ‘saffron water’ the previous day by adding 1 cup boiling water to the saffron threads and leave overnight.

1 tbsp raisins

1 tbsp goji berries or other dried fruit

For the sprinkling on top:

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tbsp freshly ground mix of poppy, flax and sunflower seeds

1 tbsp pumpkin and sesame seeds

fresh berries or pomegranate seeds, when in season

1-2 tbsp good quality, cold-pressed honey (avoid heated honey as the process of heating destroys its healing nutrients)

Directions: 

Bring the milk and water (or saffron water) to a boil in a non-stick pan.

Add the oats, raisins and goji berries and mix well.

Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and ground saffron.

Cook slowly on low heat.

Simmer until the mixture reaches a creamy consistency.

Spoon the porridge into individual serving bowls.

Sprinkle the ground seeds, cinnamon powder and berries.

Serve hot with milk and honey.

Enjoy the smell and the colours.

Taste it and appreciate the textures.

It will give you energy to start your day.