Food is my Medicine: Rx- Real, Whole Foods

by: Jackie Caldwell

As someone who recovered from an autoimmune disease by drastically changing my diet, the words “Food is Medicine” have taken on a new and very important meaning.  I recovered from severe ulcerative colitis by eliminating the foods that I couldn’t digest and allowing my body to heal. This healing and remission came after 18 months of “standard protocol treatment” that did nothing but make my symptoms worse. During this time, I had countless encounters with providers who insisted that food had nothing to do with my digestive disease. With more drugs and surgery being the only options, I decided to try changing my diet, throwing away the drugs, and giving my body a chance to heal naturally. Within a year I was pretty healthy and in 18 months I was in remission.  I will not tell you this was easy; it wasn’t.  I had to work really hard to learn to cook and bake differently and figure out how to feed my family. The silver lining of my illness is that my whole family eats so much healthier now. I believe that real, whole food can restore our health one bite at a time.

If we look at the state of our health in the United States, I don’t think we would get a very good report card.  Take a glance around you at the people you see at a restaurant, soccer game, or PTA meeting.  You can see the state of our health looking right at you and unfortunately it’s not very good.

So why is it then that our health has fallen into such disarray?  It’s my belief that many of our health issues can be directly attributed to what we are putting into our mouths.   We have become a society of quick fixes and not getting to the root cause of illness.  Many doctors are quick to prescribe and patients are looking for a quick turn around time to feeling better, so drugs seem like the answer. When you are in ill health, you should examine your nutrition and lifestyle along with any diagnosis you might receive from your physician.

It’s almost assumed that in our forties and fifties we will gain weight, never lose that weight, and our health will slowly decline.  This doesn’t have to happen and we should remain vital and healthy for many more years than most Americans expect. It’s not only adults who have been affected by our standard American diet; many children in the U.S. are overweight and in ill health at very young ages.

As parents we need to be role models for our children and help them on a healthier journey to adulthood. You have to get your own health in order first before you can help your children.  By eliminating processed foods, making your diet predominantly single ingredient foods, and adding movement into your life, amazing things can happen.

Many times it takes a health crisis for us to wake up and realize we need to make significant changes to our diet and lifestyle.  If I can offer any advice, it’s don’t wait!  Start today and think about what you are eating on a daily basis. Is the food you are eating providing the best nutrition over the long haul for your body?  I have found the body to be pretty miraculous at healing once we start ingesting the right kinds of food.

Some basic tips to follow:

  • Start with real, whole, single ingredient foods.
  • Learn how to use spices effectively to make all of your food taste great.
  • If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, don’t eat it!
  • Choose organic when possible.
  • Stay away from all processed food.

Start getting in touch with your body again.  Eat when you are hungry, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and stop when you are full.  I think we have become out of touch with our bodies, we don’t know when we are actually hungry.

Become an advocate for your own health care.  This is your body and your life and you have a say.  Find doctors and health practitioners you are comfortable working with and who listen to you.   Do your research and trust your instincts.  You know your own body better than anyone else, so don’t be afraid to ask if there are any other options besides drugs or surgery.

The diet that I have followed for the past 10 years is grain-free, Paleo, and mostly organic.  I’m not saying this diet is for all of you. Nutrition is very personal and individual.  There were many foods that I simply couldn’t digest, so those had to be eliminated first. Then I realized how many different types of food I could still eat.  I don’t eat processed food at all and never will.

If you have ever lost your health for an extended period of time, you will certainly put a lot of value on having and keeping good health. It means a lot to wake up and feel vibrant and have energy.  I don’t ever want to go back to the sick person that I was 10 years ago.  I realize now I only get a few choices every day about what foods I’m going to put in my mouth. I make those choices based on what is nutritionally best for me and what will keep my illness at bay.  People ask me all the time if I will ever be able to eat “normal” again.   For me, this way of eating is totally normal and I would suffer a significant relapse if I decided to eat as I used to.  I chose instead to live a healthful, energetic, and vibrant life by making food my medicine.


Jackie Caldwell is a holistic health coach and self-taught chef.  Jackie works with clients who suffer from autoimmune disorders such as ulcerative colitis, celiac, Crohn’s disease, IBD, and anyone who needs to improve their digestive health. Learn more at and contact Jackie at or 913-980-5605.