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Food As Medicine: Energy, Materials and Signals

by Dr. Michael Cheikin, MD

Nutrients are things that we need to grow, repair and thrive. While food, water and air are clearly essential, additional needs include love, touch, movement, ritual, music, dance, laughter and justice. We have been taught that food provides energy and material. Recently the signaling quality of food has been recognized. There is a complex interaction between all three roles of food.

Food as Energy (To Burn)

Like a furnace, our metabolism requires fuel to burn, primarily in the form of carbs and fats. Until 100 years ago, it was common to starve during the winter. Evolution developed a means to store energy when in excess, usually during the summer and spring, primarily as fat. This fat then was burned during the hungry winter months. Today, ingesting too much energy contributes to the global obesity epidemic. Additives such as fructose add to the story3. Attempts to lose fat by decreasing input and increasing output of energy—i.e. diet and exercise -- often fails long-term because food is also material and signal.

Food as Material (To Build)

Protein, fat, carbohydrate, water and oxygen are called "macro" nutrients because they are needed in the most quantity, usually grams or pounds. “Micro” nutrients are needed in smaller amounts (milli-grams or micro-grams) but are absolutely essential for life. These include vitamins, minerals, and certain plant-based substances that we cannot manufacture.

“Deficiency” diseases are those in which a critical nutrient is missing from the diet. Scurvy, which caused frequent death in sea travelers, was cured by carrying vitamin C in the form of lemons. Similar deficiency diseases include rickets (Vitamin D), pernicious anemia (B12), pellagra (B3) and others.

There can also be “insufficiency”, when levels are adequate for some functioning but not optimally, such as missing 50% of the lubricant needed for the shock absorbers in your car. While surviving, the organism does not thrive. There are known global insufficiencies of certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

For example, the RDA for Vitamin D (400 IU) might prevent rickets, but as much as 10-20x more is needed for D’s other functions, such as preventing osteoporosis, certain cancers and other diseases. Other related insufficiencies include Vitamins A & E, iodine, magnesium and probably boron and strontium.

Amino acids from proteins are needed to build structural and functional molecules, such as collagen, enzymes, and neuro-transmitters. Insufficiency can be a root cause of depression, anxiety, hair loss, infertility and immune dysfunction as examples.

Fats such as omega-3 oils ("fish oils") are essential and must come from food. They compose every cell membrane, where receptor molecules for hormones such as insulin and thyroid function. Altered responses contribute to pain, diabetes, depression, dementia, diabetes, sexual dysfunction and heart disease.

Food as Signal (To Influence)

The word “signal” refers to information and how it travels in a packet. This message is received by a receptor, whether it’s a visual image, a sound bite, a touch or a molecule.

The body closely monitors the molecules that enter through the mouth, nose, skin, lungs and mucosa. Probiotic bacteria make compounds within our intestines (including certain B vitamins) that inform deep genetic and epigenetic4 expression. The biorhythm or timing of food is also an important signal. What foods are eaten when, and the spaces between meals can have powerful effects. In certain cases, such as allergy, a single molecule can act as a switch or trigger, turning on or off a process that might then be difficult to reverse.

Synthetic molecules, such as trans fats and aspartame and and those altered by genetic modification, microwaves or heat (including pasteurization) can modify their effect. The “cocktail effect” refers to the unknown effect of accumulating hundreds of natural and synthetic molecules within our bodies some inherited from our ancestors. The responses to these signals might manifest within seconds, years or generations4.

The subtle “energetics” and vibrational freuenceis of food and other molecules is considered in esoteric traditions. Such signaling qualities can explain modalities such as homeopathy and allergy.

These altered processes can intiate adrenal stress responses that are sometimes hard to turn off.

Traditional Cuisines

Most cultures have evolved methods of food growing and processing over millennia. Fermentation, heating, sprouting, and specific combinations of herbs, spices and foods (such as rice and beans) demonstrate such accumulated wisdom. The quest to understand and integrate traditional methods with recent scientific discovery will continue to yield new and exciting ways to utilize food as medicine.


1. This educational material may not be used to influence medical care without supervision by a licensed practitioner.

2. These contents are ©2013-19 by Michael Cheikin MD and may not be reproduced in any form without express written permission.

3. Dr. Cheikin's website has references and related articles on “Weight Loss Resistance”, “FrankenFoods” and others.

4. Epigenes are the software of the genes and modulate gene expression based on lifestyle and experience of the grandparents and parents.

Michael Cheikin MD is a holistic physician, Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation ("Physiatry"), Pain Management, Spinal Cord Medicine and Electrodiagnostic Medicine and licensed in Medical Acupuncture. Dr. Cheikin has extensively studied yoga, diet and metabolism, Ayurvedic, Chinese and energy medicine and other alternative modalities for over 30 years. He specializes in obscure, chronic and severe problems that have not responded satisfactorily to other methods of healing. 610-239-9901 or www.cohlife.org
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