Catholic Treasures Books


Food Shall Be Thy Medicine

John Drew & Jean Drew, C. N. C. Certified Nutritional Counselor

"Food shall be thy medicine and medicine shall be thy food." A wise statement indeed. Very ancient and ostensibly the traditional basis for all modem health care. In todayís world we seem to have departed from this very sound and traditional doctrine: you are what you eat. Our diet has become increasingly processed, chemicalized and synthetic. Our modem lifestyles have lead to the use of toxic substances to produce goods, to clean, to disinfect, as medicineóour air, water, land and our bodies have become the depositories of these poisonous substances.

"Over seventy years ago, famed alternative-treatment pioneer Max Gerson M. D. (1881-1959), observed that cancer, arthritis and other degenerative diseases were rampant in industrialized societies. He proposed that such conditions are brought on by a combination of factors including a toxic environment and poor diet and lifestyle choices," according to James Gormley, editor of Better Nutrition Magazine.

Dr. Alexis Carrel, in Man the Unknown, writes: "...Medicine (the modern kind) is far from having decreased human sufferings as much as is generally believed. . . deaths from degenerative diseases have increased, and the sickness consequent of these diseases is longer and more painful . . . Although modem hygiene has considerably prolonged the average length of life, it is very far from having done away with diseases. . . The organism has become more susceptible to degenerative diseases. . . The ordinary staple foods do not contain the same nutritive substances as in former times. Mass production and commercial processing have modified the composition of wheat, eggs, milk, fruit and butter, although these articles have retained their familiar appearance..." This quotation of Dr. Carrel comes from Fr. Dennis Fahey in The Church and Farming; Father goes on to say that "the remedy obviously demanded by common sense is the reorganization of our methods of dealing with food and the reeducation of our people." Well said, Fr. Fahey!

In this column we intend to investigate the traditional practices of maintaining health and preventing disease. We want to re-educate ourselves concerning our rich Catholic heritage and knowledge of food and health. It is mainly common sense, but in our present-day environment, so far from Godís intended order, not so easy to accomplish. Did God intend non-food (i.e., fastí, canned, boxed, and enrichedí food) to be our fare, or, as it says in Gen. 1:11, "Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as many seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done." and more explicitly in Gen. 1:29-30, "And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind to be your meat. And to all the beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon. And it was so done." It does seem obvious, as Rev. Fahey points out so thoroughly, that God intended to provide man with all that he needed directly from the earth He created for us. We intend to investigate how we modems have gone contrary to Godís invention. We have science to tell us that we need "five servings of fruits and vegetables" per day, but when that same science/technology is used to provide us with said food it fails miserably. Again, as Father Fahey points out, modern scientific agriculture doesnít provide food of the same values in nutrition as did the more traditional, albeit more labor intensive methods of our ancestors.

The same can be said for medical science. "For decades, the bulk of our research dollars has been directed toward the development of new drugs," writes journalist Cooper Bergen, "but if you take a closer look at what weíve actually accomplished youíll discover that the majority of drugs are designed to suppress disease symptoms, not treat them." It seems that money is driving our modem "health care" and agriculture systems as businesses for profit. Of course, business should be run for profit, but we must beware. Should our God-intended health be meted out to us by corporate interests so out of touch with what our true needs and true health are? Rev. Fahey points out again and again that Godís invented order included a rational method of maintaining oneís health so that the real end of man, his eternal destiny, could be realized efficiently.

Fortunately, or unfortunately for us, this rational method does not necessarily lend itself to producing the massive profitability that our modern economy of health care has engendered. In fact, as Cooper points out, "a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that approximately 50% of patients are now seeking more natural. . . forms of health care.. Nutrition for optimal health is the focus, rather than drugs for disease treatment." Even the pharmaceutical corporations spoken for by the Journal of American Medicine are recognizing that people donít believe in this modem technological version of health care anymore. We contend that adherence to the natural order that God created is the only sensible, rational and spiritually profitable course to follow.

We traditional Catholics have as our heritage a perfect society bequeathed to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ, along with our Holy Mother the Church, who prays during the Canon "for the salvation of their souls and the health and welfare they hope for..." The Church, through Christ intends to provide us with spiritual and bodily health. We beseech our Lord God at the end of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary to "grant us.. at all times, to enjoy health of soul and health of body..." It is a truth of our faith that God always provides for us what we need to accomplish the ends He has set before us.

As St. Thomas More said that he would not be a martyr unless God made him one, that he would look for every possible way to use his God-given intelligence and remain aliveóso we concur that health is our right and we must align ourselves with the proper principles that God has set before us. If God wishes us to suffer from disease then it should not be from our negligence or misuse of the natural gift of our bodily capacity to be healthy.

Let us look together then at the traditional practices and ways of life concerning the food we eat that is part of our heritage as Catholics. In coming issues we will pass on healing arts, dietary techniques and recipes, tips for growing our own food even in urban environments, traditional remedies for when sickness cannot be avoided and much more. We look forward to suggestions and comments, and to creating a fuller, more traditional Catholic life.

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Related materials available from Catholic Treasures:

The Church and Farming

Catholic Treasures - Traditional Catholic Books on Saints, Prayers, and the Roman Catholic Church