SPECIAL REPORT: Nutrition Missingfrom the Health Care Debate;Make Your Own Health Insurance

by Melissa Diane Smith

(Opinion) – Confused about the health care debate? Or have a strong viewpoint on one side or another? Either way, consider this: The health care debate really is a disease care debate because nutrition, the key factor that affects our health and prevents disease, isn’t part of anything that is being discussed.

Should the United States have a system of providing health care to its citizens like every other developed country does? Absolutely. But the current medical system in the U.S. is dysfunctional. It is not based on teaching people affordable, effective ways that are as non-invasive as possible to take care of themselves and prevent disease. Instead, it centers on high-tech and drug-intensive medicine that is astronomically expensive but doesn’t lead to better health. The per-person costs are more than twice those in other developed nations, yet for the trillions of dollars spent, America rates 37th in health outcomes, right in line with Serbia.

The Need for Food Reform

The vast majority of health problems in the United States (and elsewhere) are lifestyle-related. Diet – the food we feed ourselves every day – is the number one factor. Yet citizens aren’t educated in nutrition information that can help their health. Instead, we’re socialized to get drugs for whatever ails us and whatever nutrition information people receive is misleading and certainly not helpful because it is influenced by industrialized food corporations that are interested in making cheap food-like substances for profit. The food that is readily available is disease-causing food, so people have to go out of their way to avoid all the problematic food-like substances and eat in a way that promotes health.

Real health reform would make major changes in our food supply — how food is produced and which “foods” (such as high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil) are even allowed on the market. As TIME magazine explained in its cover story, “The Real Cost of Cheap Food,” a few weeks ago:

“The idea is that healthy and good-tasting food should be available to everyone,” says Hahn Niman (a former environmental attorney). “The food system should be geared toward that.”

Fighting about who is covered and who pays for medical care (which primarily means who pays for drugs priced by profit-motivated pharmaceutical companies) ignores the central issue that our industrially produced food is making us sick.

Mike Adams, editor of Natural News, explained this concept very well a few years ago in his article, “Where’s the Health in Health Care Reform?”:

Health reform starts with food reform

You see, all this talk about covering the uninsured and saving people money and all these ridiculous distractions. . . are all a shell game. It’s all a show; it’s just theater designed to keep people occupied so that nobody has to talk about the real issues.

The real issues start with the foods – that’s right, the foods. These products are manufactured by big businesses that have a whole lot of influence in Washington, and they don’t want anybody talking about them because their foods are causing these diseases. It’s all that added sugar and white flour, and all those refined carbohydrates. You’ve got hydrogenated oils that function as brain poison and heart poison in the human body. You’ve got sodium nitrate that causes cancer. That’s why people who consume processed meats have a risk of pancreatic cancer that is 67% percent higher than everybody else. You’ve got added salts, artificial colors, all kinds of preservatives and monosodium glutamate (MSG) hidden in foods. It all starts with the foods, so all this talk about who’s going to pay for the disease is all just a distraction so no one has to talk about the foods and the beverages that are causing these diseases in the first place.

The food and beverage companies, of course, would love to keep it that way. They would love for everybody to just keep arguing over who’s paying these sky-high prescription drug prices while ignoring the simple fact that prevention programs and junk food advertising bans could make prescription drugs practically irrelevant.

Bad Therapy is Never Good Economy

“Bad therapy is never good economy.” That was one of many bottom-line statements about medicine made by Noah Praetorius, M.D., a forward-thinking holistic doctor played by Cary Grant in the movie, “People Will Talk,” way back in 1951. Another statement from the movie that seems particularly relevant today is:

[This] is precisely the issue: Whether the practice of medicine should become more and more intimately involved with the human beings it treats… or whether it’s to go on in this present way of becoming more and more a thing of pills, serums and knives…

Andrew Weil, M.D., for one, probably would agree with these statements. The founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine has been making the rounds on TV and radio talk shows and blog posts addressing our ineffective, pharmaceutical-laden, high-tech, expensive health care system and the idea that we must change the content of health care, not just access to it, or we’ll remain among the unhealthiest people in the developed world, and the costs will sink us.

An Incremental Approach to Health Care Reform?

Dr. Weil gives accolades to President Barack Obama for taking on America’s health care problem, which is central to America’s deficit problem. But he says to really take it on effectively, Obama should pledge to foster healthy living throughout our culture in many ways – for example, reversing ill-conceived farm subsidies that make the worst calories in the supermarket the cheapest.

However, the many problems that make up “the health care problem” are probably too big to tackle (in other words, too big to get through Congress) all at once. As Dr. Weil wrote in a recent blog post:

While it frustrates me, I understand the president’s measured approach. Given that every chief executive since Theodore Roosevelt has tried to reform the medical system and none, so far, has succeeded, President Obama’s first major speech on the subject may not have been the time to overreach. If we can just move incrementally toward creating a system that spreads the efficiency, compassion and high-quality outcomes of our current clinical exemplars, we’ll have done something quite profound.

And we’ll have laid the groundwork for future measures that create a truly healthy citizenry.

In the meantime, we can’t wait for Washington. Lawmakers may hopefully get a bill passed that will provide some basic health care that will prevent any of us from going bankrupt from medical costs by an unforeseen, expensive event, such as getting into a serious accident and developing numerous injuries that require immediate medical care. But it bears repeating that most illnesses are diet-related in some way and nutritional guidance based on both on common sense and the most current research will not be part of any reform.

Make Your Own Health Insurance Plan

So, what can you do to create your own “health insurance” right now? Learn how to take care of yourself. As Dr. Weil said in his “Health Care Call to Action,” with the way our health care system is set up, “You can’t afford to get sick, and you can’t depend on the present health care system to keep you well. It’s up to you to protect and maintain your body’s innate capacity for health and healing by making the right choices in how you live.”

My story echoes that of many Americans: I became sick, saw numerous doctors who either did nothing for me or gave me drugs or tests that made me worse, and ran up huge medical costs in the process.

Fortunately, in the early 1990s, I learned that optimal nutrition was the way to pull myself out of the sick health care system. Changing my diet allowed my body to both heal itself and lose weight far better than any combination of drugs ever could and to maintain my health and weight since then. I became such a believer in the power of nutrition that I became a nutritionist and have seen firsthand that food is the best medicine for all of us. But many people don’t know how to change their diet effectively because they get such confusing information from so many food-industry-backed sources.

If you don’t know how to use food to help your health, let me help you. Read my books or contact me for personalized nutrition counseling or nutrition coaching over the phone. I promise you that unlike most politicians and many doctors and dietitians, I am not financially supported or influenced by pharmaceutical companies or food companies, so I can give you information that is right for you, not information that is backed by special interests.

The disease management debate will probably continue for quite some time, but whatever happens in the current debate, food reform and legitimate nutrition counseling and education will not end up in any plan. To keep yourself well, it’s time to buck the unhealthy health care system, embrace the idea of preventive medicine and health promotion, and make your own health insurance plan. That’s what Against the Grain Nutrition is all about.

Copyright © 2009 Melissa Diane Smith

Selected References:

Adams, Mike. “Where’s the Health in Health Care Reform?” NaturalNews.com. October 14, 2005.

Walsh, Bryan. “The Real Cost of Cheap Food.” TIME, August 31, 2009, p. 30-37.

Weil, Andrew. “A Health Care Call to Action.” DrWeil.com.

Weil, Andrew. “Much to Like, More to Come?” Huffington Post, September 10, 2009.

Zanuck, Darryl F. (Producer), & Mankiewicz, Joseph L (Director). (1951). People Will Talk [Motion picture].

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