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Tomato Power: Lycopene: The Miracle Nutrient That Can Prevent Aging, Heart Disease and Cancer
by James F. Balch 
James F. Balch (Biography)
by James F. Balch, M.D.
Most of us are born to good health, yet millions of us are afflicted by disease and suffer from premature aging and an early death. Why?
That question nagged at me for years even though I was the one who was supposed to have all of the answers. Here I had followed my beloved father's footsteps into the practice of medicine, going to medical school, completing my four-year residency, and launching a practice that attracted thousands of patients every year, men and women looking to me to diagnose their complaints and treat their illnesses.
Starting as a young physician, I was a true believer in the medical field and the Oath of Hippocrates I had taken. Revolutionary advances in the field, chronicled by eagerly anticipated medical journals, left my colleagues and I believing that there was a pill for everything, or soon would be.
But something happened along the way that changed my whole, carefully constructed world.
Well into my career, my wife and children grew ill. Much to my consternation, nothing I did to treat them really helped. I tracked down some of the leading experts in medicine and we began an expensive series of consultations. But no matter how much -- or what type -- of medication was prescribed, they never got entirely well again.
Still looking for answers, I attended a seminar by the famous naturopath Paavo Airola. An accomplished author of more than 50 books on natural healing, Airola was the first to tell me that we become what we eat and that stress can make us sick. Later, I sought him out for a private conversation.
"Doctor," he said to me, "do you think it may be the food you're eating that is making your family sick?" And then he added, "The correct foods will make them well again."
I had been practicing medicine for decades, seeking knowledge and advice practically every day of my life, and yet no one had ever told me that before. I was stunned!
The first thing my family and I did was to root through the refrigerator. We threw out the ice cream, most of the processed foods, and virtually all of the meat products. By the time we were done, there wasn't much left over.
On the empty shelves we put fresh fruits and vegetables. We didn't become complete vegetarians, but we came pretty close. We made other changes as well as we gingerly delved deeper into natural healing methods. We replaced our corrupted tap water with distilled water. We started taking small amounts of vitamin C and getting in at least 20 minutes of outdoor exercise every day.
This was such a radical departure for me at the time, I practically held my breath at every step! I slowly let it out as we all started feeling much, much better.
In coming years, I went on to spend more and more time researching alternative medicine, a field that was flourishing in Europe but scorned and ignored by the medical community in the United States. Gradually, I began to work the advice into my practice, letting my patients know that if they could make dietary changes, it would make them healthier.
I didn't become an overnight convert, though. For years I went on with a foot in each camp, practicing medicine along with traditional methodology, but working in some advice on diet and nutrition. And yet, I remained highly skeptical of much of what I heard in the natural foods' camp. All those years of medicine weren't so easy to dismiss.
Sixteen years ago we put our growing volume of notes into a notebook, carefully photocopied them, and put them up for sale at a conference for Hoosiers for Health.
All 30 copies were gone in less than an hour!
And so I became an author. I went on to co-author Prescription for Nutritional Healing, which has sold more than 4 million copies. In addition, I have written four other books on natural health, including Ten Natural Remedies That Can Save Your Life and The Super Antioxidants.
I went from a true believer in modern medical remedies to a growing skeptic of modern medicine. Eventually, I grew convinced that the medical community was more interested in making a fortune from the growing ailments that have come to plague us at the dawn of the 21st century than it was in making us healthy.
While once wonder-struck at the advances made by our pharmaceutical industry, I am now more convinced than ever that the pharmaceutical cartel's primary purpose is to empty our pockets. It can never reap huge profits unless we remain sick.
We have created a health care system that has left doctors and patients utterly miserable. Managed care companies now dictate treatments, with an overriding concern for the bottom line. Preventative medicine, never truly popular in my profession, has been relegated to a back seat, and doctors -- the "mechanics" in the machine, called upon for temporary fix-ups -- find it all too easy to prescribe outrageously expensive medications without even a glance at the underlying causes of an illness.
For years, the country's greatest medical journals avoided all mention of alternative medicines. Funded by ads bought by the pharmaceutical giants, the journals instead treated us to a steady diet of news and information on the latest wonder drugs hitting the market. Never mind that the cost of the drugs were soaring into the stratosphere.
Now pharmaceutical companies are going mainstream, spending more than $1.5 billion a year to tout prescription medicine directly to the public. And the hunt for dollars is now the dominant concern in this country's health care industry.
Meanwhile, being superb entrepreneurs, we have made food processing into a multibillion-dollar business. Poisonous pesticides have been pumped into farmland to boost production. Hormones are routinely used to beef up animals.
The final product can be irradiated to prevent rot and disease or cooked and packaged into handy containers. And in the process, we have eliminated much, if not all, of the nutritional value in our foods. Natural sources of enzymes have been stripped from our diets, leaving our bodies working harder to digest "dead" food -- and contributing to illness and early death.
Our diets consist of a destructive course of refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and meat. Our urban world is now littered with the kind of stresses that are contributing to ill health. We get too little sleep, and we get major overdoses of pollutants that stress our bodies. Smoking, either first- or second-hand, is a major contributing factor to poor health.
Increasingly, work environments are sealed from nature, excluding natural air and light, and replacing a window with a glowing computer screen surrounded by four crowded walls. Where once our lifestyles dictated a daily dose of exercise, we now vegetate in front of another glowing screen, the television set, at night.
And it is all making us sick. Diseases once reserved for those rich enough to be lazy and secluded are now at epidemic proportions. Depression now grips millions of Americans. An early death is an all-too-frequent result. Where once we had only anecdotal information to rely on, we know now from a growing body of studies that we carry the seeds of our destruction in our own bodies. Disease-causing free radicals, molecules that can damage cells during energy creation, can run amuck in our system. Left to run its course, these free radicals can age us long before our time. But just as we can encourage free radical activity with a bad diet and stressful lifestyle, we can replace bad food with a diet of fresh foods and supplements that contribute antioxidants -- free radical scavengers.
The real revolution in health care has now hit home. True, good health lies in our own hands. What you'll find here is a detailed look at the kind of dietary changes and supplemental therapies that can and will improve your health, cure disease, and add years of vitality to your life, as it has to mine.
It's been a long journey for me, full of change and exploration.
But one thing hasn't changed over all these years. I believe more than ever in the Hippocratic Oath that I took 40 years ago. That Oath says doctors should be teachers, and that has inspired me to speak in public, write books, and launch this web site.
A lifetime of teaching hasn't softened my commitment to continual learning, either. Every day I receive new books, studies, and e-mail messages full of fresh information on diet and supplemental therapies. And we'll keep adding to this site as we go along with the latest information on complementary medicine.
If you have questions or comments, e-mail me at www.JamesBalchMD.com. I may not get to every submission, but we'll take a few queries every month and post the answers on this site.
You've made the biggest step just by taking it on yourself to search for information on your health. Keep going! No one knows your body better than you do, and you'll see first hand how a healthier lifestyle and diet can invigorate your life and add back years of good living.