Guest Blogger: Dr. Joel Kahn
Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician of 2400 years ago is quoted as saying “Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food”. Yet we often do not ponder a connection between our food choices and the chronic diseases we suffer from in Western culture such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus, cancer, and arthritis. Indeed, approximately 70% of chronic diseases that drive the high cost of our health care system and cause tremendous disability and death are due to lifestyle behavior choices in terms of food selection and activity patterns. There are better ways.
Vegetarians (avoidance of animal meat) and vegans (avoidance of all animal products including meat, dairy, eggs, cheese) may approach this eating pattern from animal rights, environmental or medical viewpoints. All are worthy of study and support. However, the medical benefits of plant based diets are not always well known. Indeed, many chronic disease states can be prevented, stabilized and reversed by changes in food intake. This usually is safer, less expensive, and less invasive than prescription medications and procedures as are often recommended by the medical industry.
For example, Dr. Dean Ornish, a California preventive cardiologist, studied a plant based diet in patients with advanced heart artery blockage several decades ago (Lifestyle Heart Trial) and showed compared to standard medical treatment, improvements in symptoms, heart blood flow, and adverse events in patients eating plants as their predominant source of protein and calories (Yes, green vegetables have enough protein for humans). More can be learned about this at pmri.org. At the Cleveland Clinic Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn gathered some of the sickest heart patients over 20 years ago and put them on a plant based and very low oil eating plan. He observed drops in cholesterol, reversal of blockages, and improvements in health without surgery. More can be learned about his results at heartattackproof.com. His son Rip Esselstyn applied his fathers eating plan to a group of Austin based firemen and saw amazing drops in weight, cholesterol and blood pressure and his book details the plan (engine2diet.com).
Diabetes mellitus is a dangerous disease for the heart, blood vessels, eyes and nerves and shortens lifespan. The traditional treatment is diet, pills and insulin. However, multiple cases of disease REVERSAL and the ability to slowly remove prescription medication has been documented by medical researchers. The leader in this field is Neal Barnard MD who performed a NIH sponsored trial of a plant based diet versus the standard ADA diet patients usually receive. He wrote his results up in a book and saw cases over and over of weight loss, reduced or elimination doses of medication, improvements in neuropathy, and improvements in blood sugar levels (nealbarnard.org) A similar experience has been reported by Dr. Gabriel Cousens at the Tree of Life center in Arizona (gabrielcousens.com).
Arthritis is an inflammatory disease that causes pain and disability to millions of Americans. The standard approaches are a variety of medications. An alternative are plant based diets which are often classified as anti-inflammatory. Many cases of improvement have been seen on eating plans such as those described by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (drfuhrman.com) and Andrew Weil (drweil.com).
My advice is NOT to stop your medications but to educate yourself and your doctor on the data that comes from careful study of the health benefits of eating plants and lots of them. Careful planning might allow you to prevent, stabilize or even reverse chronic disease. As I like to say, Prevent Not Stent, if you can but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!