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Moments of Truth

Physicians as well as patients have long known that many diseases are caused by life style. Everyone certainly knows that smoking causes lung cancer, a connection which was discovered by English researchers in the 1950s. Most people know that eating foods rich in animal fat elevates the blood cholesterol level, which constitutes a risk factor for heart attacks. Many are aware that excess weight constitutes a risk factor for diabetes and many perhaps also know that the consumption of too much salt correlates with hypertension and the risk for a stroke or a heart attack.

We are aware of all this and yet, generally, when people are young and feel well, it is as if these diseases and risk factors are far away from us  and belong to our parents’ or grandparents’ generation. We are aware, but this awareness does not really affect us during the busy years we are engaged with studies, livelihood, and creating a family. In the little free time we have, we want to enjoy ourselves, to forget and not feel restricted. It may be that taking care of our health doesn’t even appear on our to-do list. Up to a point this may seem to work. But then, at the age of 40 or 50 or 60, “suddenly” a heart attack occurs, or a stroke, or a cardiac catheterization, or “suddenly,” there’s a diagnosis of a chronic disease such as diabetes or pre-diabetes, hypertension or pre-hypertension or fatty liver. “Suddenly,” a health crisis or serious disease occurs in the family or among our peers. Or “suddenly,” there is a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoic arthritis, lupus, colitis or multiple sclerosis, or asthma, psoriasis, eczema, allergies or fibromyalgia.

In instances of hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes, any good family practitioner or internist would take action to treat these risk factors in order to prevent a catastrophe such as a heart attack sooner or later. Any good physician would suggest general changes in the diet and if within a short period of time, these are not enough to remedy the situation, they would suggest treatment with medication. (Sometimes, test levels deviate in an extreme manner, a situation that constitutes immediate danger, in which case medication must be immediately begun.) Routinely, referrals are made to dieticians. However, in their heart of hearts, physicians already assume that ultimately, the situation will require medication, so that it makes sense to write a prescription right away. And to a certain degree, they are right. Why? The official guidelines followed by physicians and dieticians still include animal-based foods, refined fats, and processed, industrial food (full of salt). In short, the recommended menu is broadly similar to what the patient had probably already been eating. The “new” diet contains the same foods that contributed to the occurrence of the disease. Therefore, if the new diet is not very different from the previous diet, one would not expect miracles or major changes in the patient’s health. And in fact, these do not occur. Therefore, physicians honestly believe that a change in diet barely helps, and they provide a prescription for medication that does improve worrisome symptoms or numbers.  Everyone sleeps peacefully and the subject of diet is taken off the table and is forgotten.

Therefore, the subject of nutrition tends to fall by the wayside and to be forgotten by most physicians, but this situation has is a cause of real dissatisfaction among many patients, and rightly so. They ask themselves whether there is another way other than taking medication. They ask whether there is another way to treat contributing factors and not only symptoms or levels. A person might then begin their own search, only to discover that there are hundreds of methods, thousands of books, and millions of websites offering the “exact” solution for a specific health condition. The problem is that each “expert” suggests a different solution and this creates great confusion and even despair. Most people do not have the time or the tools clarify which resource is reliable and which advice will actually help. So what should a person do who is motivated to take responsibility for their own health?

The bottom line is, that the healthiest overall dietary regimen is based on whole plant foods. In important studies 1,2, it was shown that a whole food plant-based diet can reverse atherosclerosis, that is, it can open partially blocked arties and prevent the need for a by-pass operation or cardiac stenting. The same regime may also improve and even cure diabetes in many cases.3 A  whole food plant-based diet can bring about improvement and even remission in autoimmune diseases.4 Recently, it has been shown that men who had been ill with prostate cancer and who changed to a whole food plant-based diet experienced an improvement in their health and less cancer recurrence.5

Therefore, in my clinic, I emphasize the use of a personally-tailored, natural, plant-based diet. Anyone interested in learning more about the subject is invited to explore my website where there is detailed explanation as well as a partial list of reliable books and resources.

Nutrition is a very powerful tool. Understanding how to use this tool can bring hope and confidence. Knowing how to use nutrition empowers patients, allowing them to maximize control over their own health. Many blessings may be had when this is understood, and that is my wish for all.

  1. Ornish, D et al, Can Lifestyle Changes Reverse Coronary Artery Disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. The Lnacet 1990; 336: 129-133
  2. Esselstyn, C. Resolving the Coronary Artery Disease Epidemic Through Plant-Based Nutrition. Preventive Cardiology 2001; 4:171-177
  3. Barnard, N. A Low Fat Vegan diet Improves Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Randomized Clinical Trial in Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes, Diabetes Care 2006 Aug; 29(8): 1777-1783
  4., Featured Articles, Ten Cases of Severe, Mostly Rheumatoid Arthritis Cured…
  5. Ornish, D et al. Intensive Lifestyle Changes May Affect the Progression of Prostate Cancer. The Journal of Urology, Vol 174, 1065-1070 Sept 2005