Changing one's beliefs and eating habits can be a very difficult thing to do, especially living in a modern world where our culture believes "more is better." In order to thrive, we're told we need more protein, more fat, more vitamin supplements and more medical care. Likewise, consuming more rich foods in greater amounts is typically seen in affluent population groups. Such affluence, however, leads to an epidemic of chronic debilitating disease, obesity, and staggering health care costs. For instance, large population studies confirm a direct correlation between the rates of chronic illness and the percent of animal products consumed in the diet of that population. As the percent of animal and processed foods rise, so does illness.
Is More Better?
Despite the fact that the U.S. spends more money on health care than other country, we have the highest rate of degenerative disease. This is no surprise, since the majority of calories consumed by Americans today come from heavily processed/refined foods and high-fat animal products. Calories from whole plant foods are minimal. It's time we reverse the trend. Although the circumstances are complex, the solution to this dilemma is simple and can be found at the end of our forks. This solution will significantly impact the health of Americans and future generations to come. Food is powerful medicine. Our current epidemic of poor health could be reversed if we would only heed the wise words of an ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates. Hippocrates stated over 2,000 years ago "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
Diet Offers Powerful Protection Against Disease
The video below by Dr. Michael Greger explains how making diet and lifestyle changes could prevent most cases of heart disease, diabetes, and many cancers. No other medical intervention comes close to the profound benefits as seen with diet and lifestyle change. Arresting and reversing illness is seen on a regular basis by the small group of physicians who choose to treat their patients using plant-based nutrition. For example, it's very common to see a cessation of disease in multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune conditions, diabetes, heart disease, GI disorders, infertility, erectile dysfunction and food addiction patients. Even some types of cancers respond positively to changes in diet.
It must be remembered though, that the benefits received by using a nutritional approach are directly proportional to the changes that are made. Making only small changes, while continuing to eat injurious foods will not result in any significant reversal. Heart disease is reversed only when an aggressive approach is used and followed correctly.
Disease Management is a Lucrative Business
Still, there are many barriers which impede lifestyle medicine from moving forward. Why don't more physicians use nutrition as their first line of treatment? It's because managing symptoms is very lucrative and preventive medicine is bad for business. The reality is, "Teaching or practicing diet/lifestyle medicine is not profitable since there are no financial incentives for prescribing healthy lifestyle habits, so doctors continue to do what they know how to do: prescribe medication and perform surgery. When the underlying lifestyle causes are addressed, patients often are able to stop taking medication or avoid surgery" Dr. Greger said. Fewer office visits, medications, and surgery would put many out of business. Dr. Greger adds: "Very rarely does coronary bypass surgery prolong anyone's life, yet plant-based diets could wipe out at least 90% of heart disease. Heart disease accounts for more premature deaths than any other illness and is almost completely preventable simply by changing diet and lifestyle. Those same changes can prevent or reverse many other chronic diseases as well."
Doctors Have Little or no Nutritional Training
You may be surprised to find out that most medical schools fail to provide the bare minimum in nutritional training. Less than 25% of medical schools offer a single course in nutrition and some graduating physicians haven't had a single course at all. Out of thousands of clinical instruction hours, some may receive as little as three hours. Due to their lack of training, doctors very rarely counsel patients about lifestyle modification for chronic disease prevention. Unless they have studied nutrition on their own, especially plant-based nutrition, doctors are unaware that a whole-food, plant-based diet can prevent and reverse chronic disease.
Many Patients Want a Quick Fix
Patient apathy is another stumbling block why doctors are hesitant in using lifestyle modification in their medical practice. Unfortunately, our addiction to food forms the foundation for which modern medicine thrives. Instead of devoting the time and effort into making meaningful dietary changes, the majority of patients opt for pills and surgical procedures - so that putting forth any effort on their own is not required. Quite frankly, the doctor's prescription pad allows them to continue to indulge in their bad habits and addictions without having to pay the price. Because modern medicine promises fantastic benefits by giving patients what they want and not what they need, it offers temporary symptomatic relief instead of treating the underlying cause of disease, which is a nutrient-deficient, highly acidic, toxic, low-fiber diet.
Drugs for Dietary-Induced Illness Offer Little Value
Dr. Greger says that the key difference between conventional medicine and lifestyle medicine is that conventional medicine just treats and minimizes the symptoms of disease, instead of treating the underlying cause of disease. By treating the "risk factors" for disease, instead of the cause of the disease, the patient remains on a "lifetime's worth of medications to lower high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and high cholesterol." For example, many people believe that high blood pressure is a disease, and because their medication lowers their numbers, they no longer have high blood pressure. Drugs offer quick fixes for symptomatic relief, they do not cure the illness. High blood pressure is not actually a disease; it's a symptom of diseased and dysfunctional arteries. Prescription drugs lower the pressure artificially, but they do not treat the underlying cause. By disregarding the cause of illness, the illness continues to worsen. It's like trying to mop up a flooded floor without turning off the running faucet... the floor will continue to become flooded.
Medical Error is the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.
Sadly, "medical care and errors" has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. It is estimated that over 400,000 deaths per year are associated with medical error. Examples of this include infections in hospitals, unnecessary surgery, hospital errors, adverse reactions and interactions to prescription drugs, administration of the wrong drug to the wrong patient, and wrong diagnosis. Seventy percent of Americans take prescription drugs and most office visits involve prescription drug therapy. Tens of thousands of patients die every year due to unintentional drug overdose, drug interactions, or from the side effects from these drugs.
A Pill for Every Problem
In his September 2005 Newsletter, Dr. John McDougall emphasizes that the risks of taking these drugs creates serious risks for millions of people... "greater risks than the underlying condition. The treatment, in fact, may make them sick or even kill them." He goes on to say that the pharmaceutical industry "has no morals—they will lie and cheat to make a profit no matter how much it hurts the ones you love." Although there are medications that can be beneficial for many conditions, especially acute illnesses, the solution to every problem doesn't come in the form of a pill. Dr. McDougall believes that aggressive drug therapy will aid in "dying sooner with good looking numbers." These are strong words, but are spoken out of a genuine concern for our health and welfare.
Along with Dr. McDougall, we are not recommending that you stop taking or begin reducing your prescription medications on your own. This can have serious consequences. Please research our website thoroughly and the websites of the other plant-based doctors regarding how dietary excellence can help you discontinue or minimize your need for pharmaceutical drugs that are commonly prescribed for chronic dietary-induced illness. The link above also provides information on how to locate a health care professional near you that's familiar with plant-based nutrition. Work with a qualified healthcare professional!
The Empty Medicine Cabinet
We've highlighted several key points that we hope will raise your awareness regarding disease management vs addressing the cause of disease. If you'd like more information regarding living a life free from chronic illness and prescription medications, we highly recommend The Empty Medicine Cabinet by Dustin Rudolph PharmD. Rudolph does an excellent job of explaining the above concepts in greater detail. Dr. McDougall's book McDougall's Medicine - A Challenging Second Opinion (1985) is also a wonderful resource.
For more information, click on the following links:
Thirty Minute Phone Consult with Dr. Carney
Custom Coaching Consultation sessions with Linda Carney MD are now available.
Due to demand for nutritional advice, Dr. Carney's offers Starch-Smart® System "Dietary Care Extraordinaire" Food Coaching telephone sessions:
Food Coaching sessions are not medical appointments and are not intended to replace your own physician. No tests will be ordered and no prescriptions will be provided.