You Are What You Eat – Let Food Be Thy Medicine

‘’Let thy food be thy medicine, let thy medicine be thy food’’

is a famous ascribed to Hippocrates. He was known as an outstanding figure as the father of modern medicine. In his school of thought, he considered nutrition as one of the tools the doctor can use to maximize healthy beings in humans. Thus, his writing mostly focuses on a healthy lifestyle which includes proper nutrition.

Even though the quote was not found in his writing, the important goal today is to find out the meaning behind it. The quote seems controversial as the two parts have different interpretations. (Before we go further, just as a footnote, “thy” is an old English word, which translates to “yours’’. )

The first part - Let your food be your medicine. 

 If we look after the food that we take, it will take care of our health too. Even though diet or food may cause diseases such as diabetes mellitus type 2, hypertension, obesity and so on, but the diet and food also can reverse or improve the condition. 

This quote comes to acknowledge the importance of healthy eating and how nutrition can provide healing properties to ourselves. I’m sure most of us have heard the term antioxidants rich food, anti-inflammatory, probiotics and many more related terms. But it is not just that, our daily intake of food and snacks, and even plain water will have a major role and effects on our health.

Watching our food intake and keeping it moderate will help us stay healthy in the long run, and thus with the absence of disease, we can stay away from medicine.

But do keep in mind that our food is not magic pills that can give immediate effect. One interesting fact about food is that the result for intervention cannot be seen on the day of consumption.

Let us take the example of orlistat. Orlistat is now an over-the-counter medication that people can easily get to help with losing weight. You can observe an immediate effect such as oily stool around 2 to 3 hours after taking it. But with a weight loss diet, no immediate effect can be seen. It can be only observed with weight loss after a period of time. 

The second part - Let your medicine be your food.

If we don't take care of our diet healthily, in the long run,
medication will be our food.

It brought the same meaning that the medication we took will be as much and as frequent as our daily food intake. It can also show the importance of taking medicine as much as the importance of taking our food in cases where it’s needed. Our life may depend on the medicines that we take.

Let us take an example of a phosphate binder that is commonly prescribed for people undergoing dialysis.

Phosphate binder needs to be crushed and taken together with a meal for its effectiveness. Metformin, a common diabetic drug is to be taken everyday and a set period of time before meals.

Thus is the metaphor of letting your medicine be your food shown.

Do we ever want to take medication as our food? We should decide which one we want.
Let your food be your medicine or let your medicine be your food. The choice is yours. 

Prepared by Nur Fatin Hanani
Final Year Student, 2022
BSc (Hons) Dietetics with Nutrition,
International Medical University (IMU)

Checked by Mohd. Siddeq Azha
Diet Ideas Sdn. Bhd.

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