Farmacologyby Daphne Miller, MD
That’s it. I’m quitting my job and moving to a farm.
Well, I wish.
But really, this book was enthralling. And it makes so much…sense.
Dr. Daphne Miller visited several different farms, each taking a holistic approach to their product. Whether raising cattle, growing vegetables, making wine, or laying eggs, each farm teaches us about how we are all connected to the earth and how many of our maladies can be cured (or at least much improved) with what eventually all goes back to soil.
Miller recognizes that, as a profession, medicine tends to compartmentalize illness and disease, and then when something bad sneaks in (a virus, a tumor, a pain that won’t go away), we like to throw chemicals at it, or cut it out surgically. But then we act surprised when the problem comes back. But we shouldn’t be, because we aren’t addressing the root cause; we too often treat from the top down rather than from the inside out.
So maybe we can learn something about our bodies when we look at farms that take a holistic, synergistic, sustainable approach — call it what you will. But what all these farmers seem to agree on is that if you have healthy soil with good tilth, you will have a healthy crop, or robust cows, or happy chickens.
It turns out that soil is not so different from our bodies. Both have about the same ratio of nitrogen to carbon and a similar range of normal pH. Both rely on microbes to convert “food” into usable chemicals. Not to mention that all the plants we eat, and the plants of the animals we eat, come from…soil.
Miller relates each farm she visits to a patient of hers — for example, the tired, worn-down, constantly sick woman who’s undergone every medical test possible and is taking a litany of meds and supplements but with no answers for her illness(es), is like the farm that was nutrient-deficient and then got assaulted with thousands of pounds of chemicals and minerals with no measurable improvement — until a more natural (specifically, manure) approach was taken. The patient, too, improves after she trades in her diet of microwave meals for farmer’s market produce (among other changes).
Just as we want to nurture the microbial profile of the soil, the same goes for our us. A wider range of gut flora translates to a healthier immune system (including warding off bad bacteria like e. Coli, listeria, and salmonella), better digestion, a healthy weight…really, there’s nothing those little bacteria can’t do!
Or how two types of stress experienced by chickens — the dull but never-ending stresses of a laying hen in a CAFO, wings clipped and beaks trimmed, compared to the free-range, pastured chicken who may face the occasional hawk or fox in an intense burst of stress but overall lives a low-key, easy life. Which hens produce healthier, more nutritious eggs, and have a longer laying lifespan (well, except for those couple that got picked off by a predator)? And guess which people fare better — the ones experiencing the low, ongoing stress that eventually drags you down, or the one with “good” stress that keeps him on his toes when necessary but abates when the job is done?
This book is filled with fascinating anecdotes and scientific explanations about how returning to the soil can help us solve some of our medical crises — and not in a hippie-dippy sort of way. We are starting to see that taking a supplement does not affect our bodies the same way eating the food containing that concentrated ingredient does — and sometimes it can make things worse. We are starting to see that a diet of highly processed foods can take a horrendous toll on our health, but a wholesome diet of real foods can set things right and even reverse some of those wrongs.
“Let food be thy medicine,” Hippocrates said, and it seems like the medical profession is finally starting to listen. Though maybe what he should have said was, “Let soil be thy medicine.”