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Nurturance and Nourishment

By: Kendra Tolbert

Medicine is defined by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary as something that affects wellbeing; a substance or preparation used in treating disease; the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease. This definition bears great semblance to the definition for food: something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies; material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy. There is an overlap in the role of medicine and food and their affect on the body. The connection between food and medicine is undeniable. Both affect wellbeing, have a physiological effect, and are normally ingested, though external application has been employed for both. Pie in the face anyone?

Some of my earliest and most treasured memories involve my grandmother preparing meals to cheer a downtrodden spirit and strengthen a weakened and sick body. My grandmother seemed to innately know the healing powers of food. At some level it seems we all know the power of food to make us feel better. A scraped knee is not just treated with some hydrogen peroxide and a bandage but with a kiss and cookie. To make a young child forget sharp prick and pain of the needle the nurse offers a lollipop. The flu calls for soup, tea with lemon and honey, and juice. A broken heart calls for a slice of cheesecake or perhaps the whole pie. Food has the ability to warm the soul and bring a smile to the face. And nothing heals like cheerful heart. Medical science has discovered smiling, joy, and an overall cheerful disposition releases endorphins which aid in healing and pain relief. And nothing brings a smile to my face faster than a whiff of chicken noodle soup. Besides making me smile, it is scientifically the most perfect remedy for a cold; with its fat providing fuel and satiety, protein providing the building blocks for bacteria fighting cells and cellular repair, and carbohydrates providing fuel, chicken noodle soup is the perfect medicine for an ill person. And let’s not forget the antioxidants and electrolytes, not to mention the antiviral properties of the garlic and onions.

Every day it seems science is discovering a food component that aids in the prevention or reversal of disease. We do our best to recreate the beneficial components we discover. Usually we find our substitutes don’t work quite like the originals. I believe that is because there is something that lies beyond all the chemical and biological constituents. There is something more that provides food with its almost magical ability to heal and restore. It’s intangible and immeasurable: it’s in the way food gives of itself. Its generosity and sacrifice can only be rivaled by the provision, sustenance, nurturance, and nourishment a mother provides to her children. Food gives us all that it is without requiring or receiving anything in return. Often taken for granted, it freely gives all it has stored up to become a part of us. This can’t be duplicated in a lab, only freely received.

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