On October 19th, 2021, Judith Yanacek, New Vitae Wellness and Recovery’s President and CEO, gave a thoughtful presentation titled, “Using Food as Medicine to Enhance Your Overall Wellness” to participants of the Harvest Full of Hope conference.  Yanacek, who is completing her practical work to become certified in Advanced Nutritional and Integrative Medicine for Mental Health Professionals, offered a variety of information related to using food as a means to personal wellness and explored tips for holistic health.

To lead off her presentation, Yanacek first discussed a variety of challenges related to the topic of nutrition.  Yanacek reminded listeners that one’s food choices can be influenced by personal, family, and cultural preferences, but also through a tendency toward comfort eating, a history of trauma, and even financial considerations.  Yanacek used a historical lens, reminding listeners that food manufacturers in the 1950’s had different goals in mind, working to ensure high-calorie content with less nutrition and cheap production methods.  This trend may extend to modern-day factory farming practices and inexpensive processed food choices, resulting in less healthy options for today’s families.  Yanacek also reviewed the link between lower-income areas and food deserts, which undermines the health in those communities and yields a cyclic pattern of low-income and health problems.

Yanacek cautioned that food should not replace prescription medications, but reviewed evidence of nutritional choices that could facilitate better health.  Discussing “recommendations for recovery,” Yanacek identified dietary choices that could promote wellness and balance serotonin in the brain:

  • Consuming complex carbohydrates (e.g. legumes, beans, lentils, peas)
  • Eating root vegetables, like potatoes and carrots
  • Choosing whole grain pastas and breads
  • Considering supplements (e.g. a B complex supplement that includes thiamine, folic acid, and B12; a supplement that includes zinc, magnesium, and calcium)

Yanacek also discussed the problem of inflammation within our bodies as a possible cause of disease.  Inflammation, in combination with physical stressors like alcohol or substance use can result in increased potential for serious illness.  Regardless of specific diagnoses, teaming of medical professionals vs. remaining in silos is critical in full health management.

Yanacek offered the audience a variety of healthy nutrition tips and a handout of recipes to consider for a variety of diagnoses.  Reviewing the most recent information relative to COVID-19 infection and suggestions for dietary options, a suggested diet was discussed with participants.  An overview of holistic health and healing was explored, with the five aspects of holistic health – physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and mental – connected into a fuller explanation of personal wellbeing.  Yanacek discussed ways to examine and improve each of these five areas of wellness, using the lens of personal health and nutrition.  The presentation ended with five nutrition tips as well as an opportunity for questions and discussion.

We invite you to review the full presentation here. Special thanks to everyone who was able to participate in the day’s training and to Harvest Full of Hope’s organizers and sponsors for another incredible conference!