When I moved to Hermanus, I was drawn to the town’s potential as a hub for healing. The clean ocean air detoxifies our lungs, the mountains protect us from electromagnetic noise, and the fertile soil encourages the growth of healing organic vegetables. 

So, when I was approached by the owners of the new OK Foods at Gateway Lifestyle Centre to start the ‘Mito Life’ and ‘Shop with Doc’ initiatives, I was overjoyed. As a doctor with a special interest in Functional Medicine, I spend a great deal of my time with each patient, teaching them how to ‘eat themselves to health’. I see it as a challenge to transform a local grocery store into a functional model for health innovation. Imagine doing your monthly grocery shop and purchasing the exact products your doctor endorses to optimise your health!

This approach, I believe, will blossom into a worldwide phenomenon, integrating the fields of healthcare, consumerism and regenerative agriculture. 

Functional Medicine is a holistic approach to chronic ‘disease’ that focuses on finding the cause of the problem. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, lest medicine become thy food”. There is wonderful new evidence that we can prevent and even cure lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, thyroid problems and even cancer by changing our lifestyle in specific, individualised ways. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and patients need to take responsibility for their own health by educating themselves on affordable and easy ways to live healthier lives. I believe that if we all work together, we can make this a reality.

Biology recap (“Growing old isn’t for sissies”)

• The body needs fuel from food in order to produce energy to survive. 

• Every cell in the body contains ‘mitochondria’ which are the powerhouses that manufacture ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate, the energy molecule) from nutrients during cellular respiration.  

• When we are young and healthy, our mitochondria produce lots of energy and we absorb nutrients better, which give us plenty of antioxidants to fight free radical damage.

• As we age, our mitochondria begin to decline in function and we have fewer antioxidants to fight oxidative stress. 

• We have less energy, lower mood, it takes longer to recover from illness or injury, and the visible signs of ageing start to appear. 

The Mito-Life initiative encourages a diet based on ‘whole’ food consumption: organic (pesticide-free), non-GMO and free of harmful preservatives, colourants, emulsifiers, and hidden sugars. Animal products should not include hormones or antibiotics. These toxins accumulate in our bodies and have been proven to increase the incidence of chronic diseases and certain cancers. The adage persists: “You are what you eat.” Choose wisely. 

If you don’t feel like cooking but still want a nutritious healthy meal, check out the warm-food Deli at OK Foods, Gateway, for a daily selection of Mito-Life ready-made meals: Fresh grilled hake with roasted veggies, lentil bobotie with coconut cream custard, Moroccan-veggie curry with brown rice, veggie & lentil lasagne with plant-based cheese – all Mito-Life meals are gluten-free, MSG-free and sugar-free!

Local is lekkerder!

As a society, we are bombarded with advertising that encourages us to eat processed, nutrient hollow, ‘fast foods’. As South Africans raised in a culture of having meat with virtually every main meal and high quantities of starch, like potatoes and mieliemeel, it is a unique challenge to deviate from the mean. However, if one looks a little closer to home, Hermanus has a bustling health-conscious community that creates the most delectable, healthy meals from locally sourced organic and free-range produce.

Recent studies show that changing your lifestyle in any fashion is always easier when done in a group. I believe we can actively combat the destructive fast-food culture by rekindling our passion for cooking and supporting local farmers that grow organic fruit and vegetables, eating pasture-raised meat and dairy and using eco-friendly household cleaning products.

The logic stands that if more people spend a bit more on health-enhancing products, these products will become cheaper and more accessible to lower-income groups over time. Specifically, if we start the conversation with big corporations: “If we can buy certain brands of tinned beans, for example, that don’t contain sugar, preservatives and emulsifiers and still taste as good, then your company can be doing the same.” 

Keep an open mind

The vision of The Green Room (inside Green Ways Health Shop, Gateway Lifestyle Centre) is to create awareness of complementary healing practices (acupuncture, reflexology, psychology, naturopathy, energy medicine) that can often be used to treat acute and chronic conditions as a first-line treatment, instead of automatically turning to pharmaceutical drugs and surgery. Customers also have access to Functional Medicine consultations at The Green Room (on appointment with Dr Julienne Fenwick). 

Organic ovations

When visiting the OK Foods at Gateway, Hermanus, look out for the Mito-Life sticker on the item shelves. This means that these foods and cleaning products have been approved by doc, and will help to support your mitochondrial function! In this way, shoppers can save time on checking labels, assured that the Mito-Life products will serve their health rather than add to their disease. 

The Mito-Life initiative strives to source products locally for several good reasons. Organically farmed produce is better for the environment as it encourages soil sustainability, whereas conventional agriculture strips the land of vital nutrients that take decades to replenish, leaving land barren of vital nutrients for future generations.

Organic produce also does away with harmful insecticide and herbicide chemicals, which are proven to cause health problems and can seep into the underground water supply, harming natural eco-systems far and wide. Plus, according to many, it actually tastes better too! While it may impact your budget in the short-term, spending a few rands more on organic produce can save your health in the long-run, preventing chronic illnesses which cost patients and the national healthcare system millions of rands per year. 

If one starts to see Food as Medicine, this makes a lot of sense indeed.

Join a Shop With Doc tour at OK Foods, Gateway Lifestyle Centre and learn how to shop healthily, affordably and responsibly. Bookings can be made at the manager’s desk at OK Foods, Gateway, Hermanus (R200 per person).

For more information, email Ebeline at  mitolife@webmail.co.za or call OK FOODS  on 028 312 3518. Check out the Facebook page mitolifehermanus@okfoodsgateway
Dr Julienne Fenwick can be reached at info@bestofbothwellness.com

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