While the Internet can be a great source of information, it is important that people do not self-diagnose and self-treat, The Food Hospital stresses on The Cooking Channel, as some bad results can actually hurt, not help, a person's health.
Food has the power to change lives. This can be good. However, and importantly, The Food Hospital reminds viewers that self-diagnosis and treatment can be dangerous. People tend to think that because it is “only food,” self-treatments may be harsh and inconvenient, even absurd and annoying, but never dangerous or deadly. Untrue.
Ellie, 42, is suffering from Fish Odour Syndrome, a rare condition in which the body loses the ability to breakdown a compound, and can cause the patient to give off a range of highly unpleasant odors. After 11 years, she finally received a formal diagnosis, but little guidance. Following some online research, Ellie went to extremes, cutting out any and all foods she felt would contribute to her condition, specifically any that included choline. Ellie cut out all meats, shellfish, egg yolks and beans, plus other foods in a "just in case" plan. This, however, put her into a self-described “food prison,” and also crossed the line from potentially helpful to dangerous, as she was now eating very little and was underweight.
“If you don’t eat [protein], your body is going to break down your muscles in order to fuel that need,” dietician Lucy Jones warned her, listing a variety of health risks, including heart damage, cancer risk, osteoporosis, and tooth and gum damage. “You will not have a long life if you continue on the level of dietary restriction you are having at the moment.”
“I had no idea I was causing long-term damage to my internal organs,” Ellie said after her meeting with the dietician. “That was a major shock. Quite a wake-up call. And it’s made me realize that, although I am short-term damaging my symptoms, this is not the way to do it.”
Ellie admitted that her relationship with food had soured, and she was afraid to eat most everything, although she was also constantly hungry. She was surprised—and pleased—to hear that she should be able to put a number of things back into her diet, including cottage cheese, sausages, egg whites, bread, oats, rice and coconut milk. Putting all of these things back into her diet was difficult, as she had been denying herself for so long, she was actually afraid to eat the suggested foods. Fortunately, she was also willing to look at the bigger picture of health, and she began adding the foods back slowly.
Can conditions always be controlled by food? No. However, conditions that can be helped or eliminated by diet can actually be made worse—or one’s health can be adversely affected in other areas—when one chooses to self-diagnose and treat, rather than get help from a trained professional. Food may not be what we technically consider “medicine,” but the food we eat—or do not eat—can have a powerful effect on our overall health.
Success at The Food Hospital
“I’m really enjoying cooking and making food again,” Ellie said after her sessions with The Food Hospital. Some foods she tried worked, and some did not, but the process was working, as she gained weight, increased her nutrition, and began to realize food is not the enemy.
“I had no idea how miserable it was making me,” she said. “I feel like I am getting my life back. I know I am always going to have the condition, but I feel differently about it. It’s like the world is opening up again. … I’ve got so much hope, and it’s just amazing.”
“Like many people, Ellie consulted the Internet to get medical information. And, while that is empowering to an extent, what she lacked was a broader specialist perspective on her problem, and now she’s got that,” host Dr. Giovanni Miletto concluded.
The Food Hospital airs on The Cooking Channel on Monday nights at 9 p.m. E/T.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
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