Years ago I read a book called The something-or-other of Nutritional Medicine. I’m not sure where it ended up, probably living out its well-thumbed later years in a quiet library on Sydney’s North Shore, wistfully dreaming of the glory days in years gone by when it was the handbook of a brilliant post-grad medical student!

I loved that book. I found the relationship between food and health really interesting, even though looking after ourselves by eating foods that support or heal us is nothing new. The truth is, we’ve been using food as medicine forever.


These days though, many turn to drugs to look after their health; and in some cases, lots and lots of drugs. Alarmingly, half of people aged over 50 years take five or more drugs or supplements a day, and third of women aged over 75 years, take ten or more different types each day! What’s more, a sobering one in ten of us, take anti-depressants.


Now don’t get me wrong – over the past hundred years these drugs have managed to extend our life expectancy by over 20 years, which is pretty impressive; until we realise that for many, a lot of these years are spent in a nursing home!


Which brings me back to the notion of being your own health practitioner. 


Just as our forbearers did, you too are able to tailor your nutrition and lifestyles so that you can maintain an active role in staying well. 


Now I’m not talking about overriding medical advice from your doctor here. Instead I’m referring to treating the way you live – what you eat, what activities you do, your lifestyle choices – as being a conscious response to maintaining your good health. For example, if you’re travelling overseas your gastrointestinal health will need to be paramount, particularly if you’re heading off to somewhere in the third world. So ramping up the fibre in your diet to keep your gastrointestinal tract clean, and eating plenty of garlic, leeks, asparagus and onions (which are rich in prebiotics that help keep your gut bacteria in good shape) is a smart move. Or if you’re fighting infection finding opportunities to get turmeric, blueberries or mushrooms in your diet is simply looking after yourself, because these are all brilliant immune system boosters that will help speed up your recovery.


Being your own health practitioner is all about proactively taking responsibility for our own health, which in itself, is quite therapeutic. 


Article by Michelle Bridges