Updated: Mar 5, 2019
Improving health and even reversing disease is possible with a plant-based diet. Plant-based eating reduces inflammation and provides the body vitamins and minerals necessary to function. Plant-based eating is simply eating vegetables every day. A review published in 2018 reports, "plant-based diets were associated with significant improvement in emotional well-being, physical well-being, depression, quality of life, general health, HbA1c levels, weight, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, compared with several diabetic associations’ official guidelines and other comparator diets. Plant-based diets can significantly improve psychological health, quality of life, HbA1c levels and weight and therefore the management of diabetes." The general public and popular media are becoming increasingly aware of the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Everyone who moves toward a plant-based diet will be healthier, need to take fewer pills, improve and possibly reverse the courses of chronic diseases and increase longevity. Plants are fuel for microbes, tiny organisms that live in us and on us. These microbes are vital to our health. If we starve our microbes of fiber, they begin to feed on our gut lining. Without fiber, this causes inflammation.
Science confirms that the root cause to disease is chronic inflammation. Common risk factors that increase inflammation include: excessive food intake, a low intake of vegetables, a high intake of sugar, refined carbs (processed foods), a high intake of animal protein (particularly red meat), charred meats, smoking, psychological stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, infections, dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria caused by antibiotics, sugar, processed food, infection, and stress), cocaine, and alcohol. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, chronic illness is a food borne phenomenon. I agree. If this is true, can food reverse chronic illness? Research says yes, food can be our medicine, by reducing chronic inflammation rather than causing it.
Reducing inflammation is the key to longevity and the prevention of chronic disease development. However, inflammation is not always bad and thank goodness our bodies activate it for healing. Acute inflammation is a useful tool that the body uses whenever it becomes injured. Whenever a person scrapes their knee, in no time, their body heals the scrape and produces new skin. The body is hard wired to heal itself and this is just one mechanism that works to accomplish this. However, when inflammation gets chronically activated inside of arteries, heart disease begins. Heart disease is a silent killer that gradually kills over time due to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, and manganese are antioxidants that can be found in food. Without antioxidants and antioxidant cofactors from a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, the body begins to dysfunction.
In a 2017 study, evidence suggests that plant-based diets may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease events by an estimated 40% and the risk of cerebral vascular disease events by 29%. These diets also reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by 50%. Researchers reported, "Properly planned vegetarian diets are healthful, effective for weight and glycemic control, and provide metabolic and cardiovascular benefits, including reversing atherosclerosis and decreasing blood lipids and blood pressure. The use of plant-based diets as a means of prevention and treatment of cardio-metabolic disease should be promoted through dietary guidelines and recommendations."
The best way to be proactive is to avoid common risk factors and increase the amount of plants in the diet. How is this possible? Add greens in the morning with eggs or in smoothies. Replace bread and wraps with greens. Add greens into soups. Add greens to your dinner. Add greens in sandwiches. Another way to be proactive is through functional lab testing. Tests I recommend to assess health: nutritional testing to assess vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Lacking certain vitamins and minerals, even if your diet is healthy, can cause longterm damage. Some people do not realize that a vitamin deficiency is the root cause to their depression or back pain. You can get nutritional testing through my office or ask your provider to do it for you.
As a naturopathic doctor, I practice functional, integrative, and holistic medicine. This type of medicine teaches people how to heal themselves and improve whole health by addressing root causes of illness. People come in to see me for many different symptoms. My job is to help them remove the root cause of their symptoms. This article highlights a root cause of disease and an evidence-based way to prevent, improve, and maybe reverse it, in some cases. There are many ways to improve health besides what you eat. I recommend moving, breathing, fasting, reducing stress, socializing, and staying hydrated too. Being healthy is a lifestyle, a practice really. A practice of self care and self love. To get an individualized plan to improve your health, contact me to discuss your unique situation at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consultations available at two Chicagoland locations and virtually.
Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer: How are they linked? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990475/pdf/nihms236168.pdf
Effectiveness of Plant Based Diets
Cardio-Metabolic Benefits of Plant-Based Diets
Inflammation, not Cholesterol, Is a Cause of Chronic Disease
Interrelation of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Neurodegenerative Disease: Role of TNF https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2015/610813/abs/
Oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species in endothelial dysfunction associated with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1537189117301131
Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease?: The Lifestyle Heart Trial https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/014067369091656U