How Your Diet can Replace Medications

green leafy vegetables

Food as medicine

Some folks would rather take a pill than change eating or exercise behavior.  For some this is not a conscious choice, but a result of  “someday I’ll” syndrome.  We’ve all fell into this trap.  We continually say to ourselves that someday I will start a walking, jogging, or biking regimen; or start eating differently after the holidays, only to skip it for one reason or another. We’re a busy people.  We all have many responsibilities, priorities, and TV to watch?

Taking A Drug is My Last Resort

It happened to me one summer.  After my annual physical, my doctor was going over the blood chemistries with me.  My cholesterol has always been stellar.  This time, personally I blame the lab…lol, my total cholesterol was borderline.  The doctor went on to tell me that I didn’t have to, but that I may benefit from a drug called statin.  This cholesterol-lowering drug would take me off the fence as far as my total cholesterol.

Why Now?

Now, at this point I return to a question that I never grew out of…why?  Why after years of great check-ups was my cholesterol getting higher.  As to why our cholesterol levels may increase with age is a question for further investigation, but my why for today, is about having to take a medication.  I don’t want to.  If I do nothing, which my doctor said would be fine, I’ve got this annoying nebulous cloud hanging over my head.  Not a storm cloud, but I like to tweak numbers, because I can.  I like really good numbers.  I’m just freaky that way.

What do the “Experts” Say?

The American Heart Association recommends total cholesterol <300 mg/d on average, but a study called the Framingham study that will give you a zero added risk to your total risk for a cholesterol under 160.  Guess where I want to be.  Yep…160 or below.  Now you need cholesterol, so don’t go crazy, thinking you have to or even could eliminate it.

Bio-markers and what's current in scientific papers is a topic for another day.

The Problem with Medications is… well… Medications.

They all come with at least a gazillion side effects.  Medicine treats the symptoms and not the cause.  From a global perspective, they are cost prohibitive for the masses.  Furthermore, food and or supplements, herbs and spices can interact with medications.  Some interactions can cause dangerous reactions.  Some lethal.  Some cause a synergistic or doubling or tripling effect.  Whoot!

Let’s Get Radical

At the time of this disturbing news from my lab results, I was reading a book called, The China Study“.  In it, Dr. T. Colin Campbell with the help of his son Dr. Thomas Campbell lay out the benefits of a plant-based diet.  Knowing the fallibility of research, I immersed myself in inquiry reading another book called “Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy“, Walter C. Willett, MD.  Along with other sources supporting the plant-based diet, I stopped eating all meat for 3 months.

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, Michael Pollan

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan

Guess what happened? All my cholesterol (blood lipids) numbers improved!

Back to The Lab.. See if They Get it Right This Time

The results…50 points drop in my total cholesterol and the rest of my numbers also improved.  Here’s the really startling message about this story.  I was already eating what I know a majority of Americans thought to be a diet for health.  I guess not for me at my stage of life.  The only meat I was eating on a regular basis was chicken and fish.  More chicken than fish because of the mercury issue.  What is the recommendation?  Once or twice a week?  Whichever, the foods that I was eating consisted of plenty of vegetables and small amounts of starches and meat.

Simply avoiding ALL meat had a great effect on my total cholesterol.  No need to consider whether or not to take a medication, thank you very much doctor.  I’m off the hook and you can be also.  You need not except the medications just because it is recommended to you.  Clearly there are alternatives.  This puts the power back in your hands.  One disclaimer I must add here… I also exercise 3-5 times per week.  I did so before and after this cholesterol issue.  Do I eat meat now?  Less.


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