Nutritional Medicine: Nutraceuticals
Nutraceutical – a combination of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical,” includes foods or food products that can prevent chronic diseases, improve health, delay the aging process, and/or increase life expectancy. “Pharmaceuticals” may be considered as drugs used mainly to treat diseases, while “nutraceuticals” are those that are intended to prevent diseases. Within European Medicines law a nutraceutical can be defined as medicine for two reasons: It can be used for the prevention, treatment or cure of a condition or disease or be administered with a view to restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions in human beings. Products in this category range from isolated nutrients, dietary supplements and specific diets to genetically engineered foods, herbal products, and processed foods such as cereals and beverages.
Nutritional medicine is a holistic approach to the interactions of both nutrition and environment on human health. Nutrients are the building blocks of our physical body. When the body is supplied with the correct balance of foods, vitamins and minerals we remain healthy. All humans are unique in terms of biochemistry, metabolism, anatomy and genetics. Our internal environment differs in gut flora, integrity of the intestinal wall and the immune system. All of these affect our ability to process foods, absorb nutrients and detoxify and expel wastes.
Nutraceuticals may be used to improve health, prevent chronic diseases, postpone the aging process (and in turn increase life expectancy), or just support functions and integrity of the body. They are considered to be healthy sources for prevention of life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, renal and gastrointestinal disorders, as well as different infections.
A wide range of nutraceuticals have been shown to impose crucial roles in immune status and susceptibility to certain disease states. They also exhibit diseases modifying indications related to oxidative stress including allergy, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, eye conditions, Parkinson’s diseases and obesity.
Living an optimally healthy lifestyle provides the best conditions for the body to both prevent and heal from disease states. Improving our diet by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains and drinking plenty of filtered water is a good start. Foods may be depleted in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals as a result of depletion in our soils, green harvesting and cold storage and all too often we consume foods that are highly processed and overcooked or of poor quality and little nutritional value. Our bodies are then affronted daily by excessive production of free radicals caused by our polluted environment and stressful lifestyles. As a result, oxidative stress has now been shown to be the root cause of over 70 chronic degenerative diseases.
Nutrition plays an important role in virtually every medical condition. It follows that correcting nutritional imbalances is fundamental to the prevention and treatment of many common conditions.