Monday, January 9, 2012

Is Real Food the Best Medicine?



Every time I watch a movie about food and our modern diet, I am both enlightened and challenged.

Food, Inc. has made it impossible for me to buy factory-farmed meat. Learning the dreadful conditions in which it is raised as well as becoming aware of its many health detriments stops me cold every time I pass a case full of steak. Seeing the appalling factory-farm conditions of egg-laying hens had a similar effect.

Fortunately, alternatives to these are available at local farmer's markets - meat and eggs from pastured animals, albeit neither convenient nor cheap.

Now comes "Forks Over Knives" - a documentary film about the revolutionary health benefits of a plant-based diet as studied and touted by two eminent doctors in medicine and science, Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. and T. Colin Campbell, PhD.
 "Forks Over Knives" focuses not only on the research that both of us have been engaged in over the last four decades, whether in China and Cornell or at the Cleveland Clinic; it also traces the journey of several Americans as they move from a lifetime of eating mostly animal-based and processed foods to a whole food plant-based diet, and the extraordinary medical results that follow. It is educational, entertaining, and literally life-saving.

If the science behind their claims were not so over-whelming, I'd simply blow this off as another fad diet soon to be debunked. But when no lesser light than Bill Clinton discusses this scientific basis on CNN, I have to listen.
So I did all his research and I saw that 82 percent of the people since 1986 who have gone on a plant-based, no dairy or meat of any kind, no chicken, turkey—I eat very little fish, once in a while I’ll have a little fish; not often—if you can do it, 82 percent of the people who have done that have begun to heal themselves. Their arterial blockage cleans up, the calcium deposit around their heart breaks up.

Pop-docs Oz and Gupta and many others concur. So the prudence of forks over knives is very hard to dismiss, especially when the effects of poor health choices early in life start showing up in hypertension, overweight and other age and lifestyle-related conditions.

Yes, my doctor says I can treat these with drugs, but as Bill Clinton and millions are learning, even the best medicine cannot overcome a bad diet. Plus I am no fan of pharmaceuticals. So I say "like hell I will take pills," and look to the changes I can make without going to extremes.

It's the extremes of a strictly vegan menu that fires up its detractors:
Dr. Eades has been in full-time practice of nutritional and metabolic medicine since 1986, and like myself, has treated tens of thousands of patients. He and I have never met and do not personally know each other. However, we both started our medical practices about the same time and were both passionate about helping people with nutritional interventions and helping them with alternatives to drugs and surgery.

We had no predisposition to the outcome and were impartial observers to the results of our nutritional interventions. We were both busy clinicians and never had the luxury to take months out of our lives to publish our observations in the medical literature. Nevertheless the lack of publications does not make the observations any less valid.

Interestingly we both observed the same results, namely that large numbers of sick people failed to improve when they implemented vegetarian or vegan diets.

So what's a body to believe? I have to go along with Dr. Mercola on this one.
If your current diet allows you to function at the highest level of energy and fitness and you rarely feel hungry or crave sweets that is a fairly good sign that you are eating food appropriate for your nutritional type.

However if you are struggling with health challenges and have rigidly adhered to a diet that severely limits or avoids animal protein, because you believe you should or you are choosing it for ethical reasons, then I would encourage you to consider changing your diet to include some animal proteins.

Just be honest with yourself and objectively evaluate your body's response. Your body is the most awesome instrument to make this assessment. Ultimately it is the best resource and far superior to anything you read on the Internet or in any published study.

Well, since I have eliminated all but an occasional meal of grass-fed beef, fish or eggs, I'm on my way to reversing any degenerative disease lurking in my arteries and cells. But I will never completely forego butter; I'm French. Still I can become mindful how often I use dairy products. I'm willing to experiment. I can learn, yes?

If it is indeed true that real food is the best medicine, every choice of fresh, natural, organic, fair, clean, whole foods is a step in the right direction.

 
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