By Dr. Neil Sweigart
When we think of foodborne illnesses, we generally think of infectious diseases caused by viruses (novovirus), bacteria (salmonella) or parasites (pinworms, tape worms etc.) Most of these diseases can be prevented by proper growing, handling and cooking of food.
However, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and director of the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention & Reversal Program claims that cardiovascular disease and stroke are also food borne illnesses. He says, “Heart disease is a toothless tiger and need never exist.” Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of men and women in the western world. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 86 million Americans alone live with some kind of cardiovascular disease.
For 20 years, Esselstyn studied 17 heart patients who adopted a plant-based, oil-free nutrition foundation. His book, “Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure,” outlines this study and promotes this strategy as an aggressive solution. Dr. Esselstyn has been studying and treating patients with cardiovascular disease at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute for 30 years. But he’s not prescribing drugs or surgeries. For his patients, it’s all about the right food.
Among Tarahumara natives of Mexico and the highlanders of Papua New Guinea, coronary heart disease is rare.
“On this entire planet, there are millions of people who will never have heart disease, and the common denominator is that they are largely all plant-based (eaters),” he said.
He also advises staying away from pills and vitamins that supposedly supply the nutrients because they aren’t as beneficial. And for those who want to relegate all this to the juicer, he added that chewing food is better than juicing, because fructose separated from fiber is absorbed too rapidly and is damaging.
When discussing these issues I find that many people believe or at least behave as if heart disease, diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure are just a matter of chance or bad luck. I submit that in addition to cardiovascular disease, most cases of diabetes, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, cancer and even constipation are primarily foodborne illnesses.
Most of us are too quick to accept these diseases and turn to prescription drugs that may improve our blood tests but come with many side effects and don’t always dramatically improve our health. Almost all of these drugs promise improved health “along with diet and exercises.” Since we have to eat right and exercise to benefit from these drugs, why not just eat a little better and exercise a little more and eliminate the cost and side effects of prescription drugs.
Let’s review what we know. Cardiovascular disease is almost nonexistent among populations that eat primarily whole grains, fruits, vegetables and very limited amounts of processed foods, oils and animal products. This diet also drastically reduces cancer risk as foods such as greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds suppress genes that promote cancer.
Type II diabetes is almost always due to obesity brought on by lack of exercise and a diet high in fats, oils and refined sugars. Hyperlipidemia (elevated cholesterol and triglycerides), high blood pressure and even constipation can be improved or even eliminated with a plant-based diet.
What research and population studies clearly demonstrate is that we have choices that dramatically affect our health. Are we going to choose drugs or lifestyle changes? Those that choose drugs often start a gradual downhill slide that eventually leads to more drugs, more expense and no guarantee of good health. Why not choose to eat a more plant-based whole-food diet that is no more expensive than the typical American diet and promises many health benefits.
We have a saying among chiropractors that headaches aren’t caused by aspirin deficiency. I think we can also say that cardiovascular disease is not caused by Lipitor, Lisinopril, ACE inhibitor or blood thinner deficiency.
Let’s take charge of our own health and start eating sensibly, get moderate exercise and reduce our reliance on drugs that state they are effective “along with diet and exercise.”