News / USA

US Doctor Prescribes Food as Medicine

Daphne Miller focuses on nutrition to treat modern diseases

Antioxidant-rich cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, tomatoes, broccoli and brussels sprouts, are linked to breast and prostate cancer prevention.
Antioxidant-rich cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, tomatoes, broccoli and brussels sprouts, are linked to breast and prostate cancer prevention.

Multimedia

Audio

When patients go to see Dr. Daphne Miller, they are more likely to leave with a recipe for a wholesome meal than a drug prescription.

In 2000, Ronnie Sampson, 52, was diagnosed with neurosarcoidosis, a disease that tricks the immune system into attacking certain parts of the body.

Sampson’s doctor put him on prednisone, a corticosteroid that helps to suppress the immune system.

But while the drug helped eliminate symptoms of his disease, the self-employed graphic artist started having headaches, gained weight, developed insomnia and even became diabetic.

“The regular physician wasn’t really spending much time with me, so I wanted to get away from my regular physician and find somebody who was more attuned to a combination of western medicine and alternative medicine," Sampson says, "and my acupuncturist recommended Dr. Miller.”

Family physician Daphne Miller believes food - along with exercise and giving up tobacco - should be the first line of defense against modern chronic diseases.
Family physician Daphne Miller believes food - along with exercise and giving up tobacco - should be the first line of defense against modern chronic diseases.

Combination healing approach

Sampson started seeing Miller in late 2001. The family physician combines conventional and alternative healing approaches in her San Francisco medical practice.

After taking an in-depth look at Sampson’s medical history and lifestyle, Miller designed a customized regimen of nutrition and exercise she believed would improve his health and make him less dependent on medication.

Sampson says it's done both. “My regular doctor had been focusing on making sure that I take my medication, and I think that Dr. Miller’s approach of combining medicine and lifestyle is really what turned things around for me.”

Miller originally pursued traditional medical training. She studied at the prestigious Harvard Medical School and did a two-year research fellowship, funded by the National Institutes of Health, at the University of California, San Francisco.

Filling the gaps

But after she finally opened her own practice in 2000, she recognized significant gaps in her training.

“I got into my private practice and suddenly realized that I really did not have the proper training to take care of the most salient issues that I was seeing every day," Miller says, "which were issues related to heart disease and diabetes and cancer, all of which in some way could be traced back to nutrition and lifestyle issues.”

Dr. Miller sampled ndole - a stew made of dried bitterleaf, shrimp, peanuts and spices like ginger and garlic - in Cameroon, which has little incidence of colon cancer.
Dr. Miller sampled ndole - a stew made of dried bitterleaf, shrimp, peanuts and spices like ginger and garlic - in Cameroon, which has little incidence of colon cancer.

Motivated by a desire to offer her patients more holistic medical treatment, Miller set out on a three-year journey around the globe to study the traditional diets of her patients’ ancestors - time-tested food combinations which, in many cases, had demonstrable health benefits.

“I really was surprised to see how different different cultures were in their approach to food," she says. "From Iceland, which really had a fairly high animal product-based diet, to a place like Okinawa in Japan, where it really was a lot of vegetables, to a place like Copper Canyon in Mexico where it was a lot of whole-grain carbohydrates.”

For example, Miller found that Icelanders use their traditional fish diet, rich in omega-3 oils, to fight depression. Impressed by this kind of indigenous medical knowledge, she decided to organize it and use it in her practice. She started modifying traditional recipes with easy-to-find local ingredients to help her patients eat more nutritiously.

The Jungle Effect

She also chronicled her journey in a book called "The Jungle Effect," which serves as both a nutrition cookbook and a personal travelogue.

Daphne Miller's book,
Daphne Miller's book, "The Jungle Effect," chronicles her visits to areas around the world which are still relatively free of modern chronic diseases.

But while Miller uses food for the prevention and treatment of modern illnesses, she believes that drugs can still play an important role in her patients’ lives.  

“In some instances, I feel that diet can absolutely replace medication, and then there are other times where medication is necessary and diet is there to enhance or augment it. And that is the art of medicine.”

According to Miller, many medical studies have shown the important role nutrition plays in overall well-being.

“So, for example, there are studies showing that nutrition, in particular within Japan, has a lot to do with the lower rates of breast cancer amongst the elderly female population, and that nutrition, in particular in western South Africa, has a lot to do with the low rates of colon cancer amongst the rural, traditional African populations.”

Food as medicine

A growing number of physicians agrees with Miller’s approach, including Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and associate professor at Brigham Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School.

Scientists are discovering that a diet rich in omega-3 fats is linked to less depression and other psychiatric problems, including bipolar disease, schizophrenia and aggressive or anti-social behaviors.
Scientists are discovering that a diet rich in omega-3 fats is linked to less depression and other psychiatric problems, including bipolar disease, schizophrenia and aggressive or anti-social behaviors.

“There’s lots of research which has come together to tell us that our focus should be on healthy foods, and those overall healthy, food-based dietary patterns should really be the focus of our priorities in the U.S. and globally,” says Mozaffarian.  

Ronnie Sampson would certainly agree. After a short time on his personalized nutrition and exercise program, the San Francisco native started feeling better. And although his neurosarcoidosis is not cured, Sampson has been able to reduce his reliance on prednisone by half, and has essentially reversed his diabetes.

“I feel better than I’ve felt in many, many years," he says. "At 52, I feel healthier than I did at 40.”

Sampson continues to see Miller about twice a year for checkups. He believes everyone could benefit from her holistic, integrated approach, in which food is often the best medicine.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs