“Let thy food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be thy food.”
Hippocrates – the man considered to be the father of modern medicine – first uttered this statement over 2000 years ago. My path to becoming a Naturopathic Doctor has been a journey of finding ways to help patients reconnect with this essential truth from which modern medicine has strayed so far. While my understanding and appreciation of this concept has evolved over the years, my first encounter with it goes back to childhood.
While those who know me now may find it hard to believe, when I was a child I was a bit on the wild side. Attention Deficit Disorder was not in vogue at the time, but had it been I would have been given the diagnosis and quickly prescribed medication to control my behavior. In many ways, I was lucky. Since prescriptions were not available, my mother who worked as a nurse found the work of Dr. Benjamin Feingold. He was a pioneer allergist who discovered that reactions to foods and additives could result in hyperactivity and inattention in children. She decided to try following his dietary recommendations to see what would happen. This meant cutting out all foods containing dyes, preservatives, and naturally occurring salicylates. The strongest memory I have from this time was not being able to have ketchup because tomatoes are high in salicylates. In an attempt to make a substitute, we made a ketchup out of rhubarb. While I would probably like this concoction today, at the time I was not impressed and mustard quickly became my favorite condiment. While I was not thrilled with the dietary changes, they did have a profound impact on my behavior and ultimately my career path, as this connection between health and food were made so vivid for me.
In my late teens, I once again came face to face with the reality of food as medicine. My diet had deteriorated and as a consequence I gained a substantial amount of weight, had migraine headaches, chronic lung congestion, and generally felt unwell. During this time, I stumbled upon a book touting the benefits of a vegan diet. I decided to give it a try and in a matter of months my headaches were gone, my lungs were clear, my weight had decreased and I felt better than I had in years.
Having experienced the real health benefits of dietary changes for myself, I was afforded the opportunity to see the firsthand effect it could have on others. While working at a school for autistic children in New Jersey, I began reading about the benefits that dietary changes could have for children on the autistic spectrum. The father of one of my students sent a note in one day sharing that he was going to try a dairy free diet for his son. The head teacher laughed and thought the idea was ridiculous. Yet, after just a few weeks, we were all stunned by the positive behavior changes in this child from this simple change.
While my journey to this point has been long and winding road in a variety of different fields that has taken me from Eugene to New York to Seattle to finally – Maine, the connection between food and health has been ever present. While today I am no longer a vegan (how can I say no to cheese!?) and am an avid connoisseur of ketchup, I strive to make wise choices about what I consume. More importantly, I have found my true passion is helping others make use of this connection in their everyday lives. It brings me great pride to help patients reduce their dependence on prescription medications, find joy in food and feel generally healthy and well. The concept of food as medicine is the guiding principle of my medical practice and my life (just ask my wife…sometimes I think she’d rather just take a Sudafed!).
For more information about my practice or to schedule a free get acquainted visit, please visit my website: www.drpeterknight.com.