Food as Medicine Symposium celebrates 10 years of promoting health, wellness

NUNM’s Food as Medicine Institute explores the synergy of nutrition, holistic medicine, and mental health with lineup of renowned experts. 

Food as Medicine Symposium 2024 lecture

The 10th annual Food as Medicine Symposium, which took place February 10-11 at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Ore., signified a decade of dedication to promoting health and wellness through the transformative power of food.  

With an overarching theme of “Nutrition for Mental Health,” the symposium delved into the profound impact of dietary choices on mental well-being, emphasizing the pivotal role of nutrition in fostering a comprehensive approach to healthcare. 

More than 120 people attended this year’s symposium, which featured an impressive lineup of renowned speakers with expertise in the intricate relationship between nutrition and mental health.  

“It’s always a fun opportunity to bring together current students, alumni, healthcare professionals and community members who share a passion for supporting health through nutrition,” said Kira Freed, MEd, MScN, Food as Medicine Everyday (FAME) Educator, one of the event organizers. “This year’s topic, Nutrition for Mental Health, is a growing area of interest for integrative healthcare practitioners.  

The event garnered positive feedback from attendees. The 100 healthcare professionals and 25 from the public track expressed gratitude for the valuable insights provided by the speakers, who included: 

  • Deanna Minich, MS, PhD, FACN, CNS, IFMCP, presented “Food & Mood: Scientific Understanding and Clinical Strategies” and explored the connection between food, mood and behavior.  
  • Anna Froman, ND, MScN, addressed “The Physiology and Psychology of Stress Eating,” which included the complex interplay between altered hormones, neurotransmitters and learned behavior and how they all play a role in seeking comfort in food. 
  • Jess Zadra, MS, CNS, discussed “Nutrients for Neurotransmitters – Lifting Mood Through Food” and dove into how daily food choices provide essential nutrients for proper neurotransmitter synthesis, covering specific nutrients supporting catecholamines and serotonin production. 
  • Emily Wolbers, ND, focused on “Anxiety Through a Biopsychosocial Lens,” which considered the roles of inflammation, metabolism, microbiome and nutrition in relation to anxiety, and provided nutritional interventions to support mental health. 
  • Heather Hydzik, ND, shared insights into “The Future of Mental Wellbeing,” emphasizing nutritional strategies beyond conventional pharmaceutical interventions. She highlighted the growing evidence supporting dietary changes, vitamin supplementation, herbal medicines, amino acid therapy and nutraceuticals, in improving mood and mental health.  
  • Jamie Menzel, MScN, CN, tackled “The Use of Elimination Diets for Mental Health: A Critical Exploration,” which emphasized how elimination diets could alleviate symptoms associated with conditions like depression, anxiety, and ADHD. 
  • Ian Rubin, MA, Creator, Coach, Educator, advocated for “Exploring your Food Story” through Food Story Coaching® to improve patient readiness and willingness to implement dietary changes by addressing past history, motivations, attachments and identity with food.  

“The presenters shared both scientific evidence and helpful insights from clinical practice,” Freed said, “and attendees consistently shared how much they appreciated having actionable takeaways from the lectures.” 

As the 10th annual symposium marks a significant milestone, the organizers expressed plans to build on this year’s success, anticipating an even grander event in the future.  

“After a few years of limited in-person events due to COVID-19, we are re-building one event to the next,” Andrew Erlandsen, ND, Food as Medicine Institute (FAMI) Physician, said. “Given the huge success of this year’s Symposium, I expect next year will be even more grand.” 

Noteworthy collaborations with sponsors such as Canxida, Percasso Coffee, Bottled Water Service, LeafsUp, Missionary Chocolates, and Gather Around Nutrition played a pivotal role in making the event a success.  

Food as Medicine Symposium 2024 lunch on Sunday

The symposium’s Cedar-level sponsor for this year’s event was CanXida, a supplement company that empowers individuals to achieve optimal health through high-quality dietary supplements and time-tested solutions for candida and other health concerns.  

Coffee service was donated for the weekend by Percasso Coffee & Water Service, and LeafsUp donated fresh bottles of green juice for in-person attendees during our morning break on Saturday.  

Missionary Chocolates, founded by Melissa Berry, ND, NUNM alumna, donated chocolate truffles and snacks for in-person attendees for our afternoon break on Saturday.  

Gather Around Nutrition, founded by two NUNM Master of Science in Nutrition alumni, Johanna Glaser and Jed Thaggard, catered on both Saturday and Sunday. They provide nutrition-focused meal prep services, postpartum meal care packages and farm-to-table event and retreat catering. 

Founded in 2010, the Food as Medicine Institute provides evidenced-based nutrition education to individuals, families and communities while nourishing healthy relationships with whole foods and educates health care professionals on the use of food as medicine in the prevention and reduction of chronic disease.