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Authors: Pamela A. Popper,Glen Merzer

Food Over Medicine (7 page)

BOOK: Food Over Medicine
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GM:
But you do acknowledge that some people have osteoporosis, meaning some people have very low bone density?

PP:
Right.

GM:
And is the cause related to diet, or is it just genetics?

PP:
First, it’s lifestyle as it relates to exercise, or the lack thereof. It can also be diet related as it pertains to developing a GI disorder, like inflammatory bowel diseases, where you’re not absorbing nutrients. The other cause is a condition called metabolic acidosis, in which you eat animal foods, highly processed foods, or foods with a high sulfur content—animal protein is highly sulfuric—and these sulfur compounds increase the acid load in the body, necessitating the withdrawal of calcium from the bones in order for the body to maintain proper pH.

GM:
And the calcium is eliminated through the process of urination?

PP:
Yes, you literally pee out your calcium. People drink milk because it allegedly builds strong bones due to its calcium, but in fact the high sulfuric protein content of milk winds up costing the body calcium; that’s why the highest rates of osteoporosis are in countries with the highest dairy intake.
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GM:
Have there been any studies that have proved this dynamic of metabolic acidosis?

PP:
Yes, absolutely.
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A meta-analysis of eighteen separate studies published on bone health found that fourteen of them, or about 78 percent, supported the idea that low-acid eating improves bone health.
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So the preponderance of the evidence shows that eating animal foods causes the body to use calcium drawn from the bones to buffer the acid in order for the body to maintain blood pH within a very narrow range. We can measure how much calcium somebody takes in; it’s quantifiable. We can also measure how much you urinate; that’s also quantifiable. If you’re excreting more than you’re taking in, it’s coming from somewhere.

GM:
What brings on acid reflux?

PP:
Diet and lifestyle. It’s related to several things, but one is weight. Overweight people tend to have acid reflux because the sheer force of their weight sometimes weakens the esophageal sphincter, particularly when they are lying down. Overeating is another cause. Eating large meals that expand the stomach way beyond its capacity contributes to it. Constipation also contributes to it because all that straining pushes the diaphragm up and puts pressure on the esophageal sphincter. Certain foods, which would include alcohol, caffeine, and foods high in fat, tend to aggravate acid reflux. What’s amazing is that within a fairly short period of time, there’s generally relief from acid reflux as soon as people stop eating a terrible diet.

GM:
Let’s move on to multiple sclerosis (MS). Genes or diet or something else?

PP:
MS is definitely diet, particularly saturated fat and dairy intake. Lifestyle can also be a factor in terms of stress, which can exacerbate MS, but diet is the primary culprit.

GM:
MS can actually be caused by diet?

PP:
Yes, absolutely.

GM:
Where is the evidence for that?

PP:
Even as far back as the 1940s, there was evidence that diet played a role. For example, in areas of the world where fat consumption was higher (more than one hundred grams per day), the incidence of multiple sclerosis was higher, too. In areas where fat consumption was less than fifty grams per day, the incidence of multiple sclerosis was lower.
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Studies in Norway confirmed this: in areas of the country where fat consumption was higher, the incidence of MS was higher, and saturated fat was the most harmful.
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But I think the most compelling evidence we have comes from Dr. Roy Swank, who developed a theory sixty years ago stating that there were certain causes of multiple sclerosis, one of which was poor diet that eventually compromised the blood/brain barrier and the intestinal barrier. It would take a long time to explain the mechanism of action, but the bottom line for him was to test his theory by placing thirty-four patients on a low-fat diet, very low saturated fat. The results were astounding.
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Some of Dr. Swank’s patients were compliant and others were not. He categorized his patients based on their fat consumption—“good dieters” consumed less than twenty grams per day of saturated fat; “bad dieters” consumed more than twenty grams per day. Patients in the group consuming less than twenty grams of saturated fat per day fared significantly better than the group eating more saturated fat. For those who ate a low-saturated fat diet, “about 95% […] remained only mildly disabled for approximately 30 years.” Eighty percent of the patients who consumed more saturated fat died of MS.
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Dr. Swank published several articles in medical journals documenting his results.
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He duplicated those results on thousands of additional patients and showed that patients on a low-fat diet with a minimal amount of animal foods basically remained asymptomatic. The exacerbation rate—exacerbations are what they call these flare-ups that MS patients experience—went down by 95 percent and stayed that way in compliant patients.

GM:
Dr. McDougall is doing a similar study now.

PP:
He is. His diet—and I learned about diet and MS from Dr. McDougall—is a little bit different from Dr. Swank’s: no animal foods, no low-fat dairy, no oils. According to Dr. McDougall, Dr. Swank acknowledged before he died that the inclusion of oils had no therapeutic value. He thought it might make people more compliant on the diet, but he didn’t attribute his success to the inclusion of oil. So Dr. McDougall’s diet is lower in fat. And the results are even better. It’s amazing, and we see that here, too. It’s complete regression of the disease, so much so that I would call it a reversal of the disease, especially in patients who adopt the diet in the early stages of the disease. People say, “How can you make that claim?” Well, there are two things that are common to MS patients: an intolerance of heat and a lack of stamina or endurance. We have Wellness Forum members with MS who are doing bike rides for three hundred miles, taking hot yoga classes in a 105 degree room. They don’t take any drugs and have absolutely no symptoms. At this point in time we would pronounce them former MS patients.

GM:
So they have no symptoms?

PP:
None.

GM:
Is there any marker for the disease other than its symptoms?

PP:
In the early stages, no. That’s what makes diagnosis really difficult. Most patients start with what we call “relapsing-remitting MS,” which means that they get symptoms and then they go away. Then a few weeks later they get symptoms and then they go away and the symptoms change. The doctors will say, “I can’t find anything wrong with you,” and sometimes send them to a psychiatrist. They’ll even take spinal taps; nothing shows anything so “maybe you’ve got a mental problem,” they are told. Doctors send them to a psychiatrist instead of telling them to improve their diet. They can go for a really long time without a firm diagnosis. Eventually you can see, through proper imaging, what looks like plaques or lesions in different areas of the central nervous system. There are some tests, a flicker fusion vision test, and some various tests you can do to test reflexes that sometimes give you a pretty definitive diagnosis, but in the early stages, there is no definitive diagnosis.

GM:
What about influenza? Does it have any cause other than contagion?

PP:
Well, it is contagious, but whether or not you get it, and how severe it is, depends upon your health status. About five years ago, one of the most virulent strains of flu ran through Columbus, Ohio, that I can remember in my entire life. It was heinous. I belong to a lot of groups, and people were missing work for three weeks at a time; we were having meetings with half of the people there. One school closed for a couple days because there were so many kids sick. It was bad. And at first, none of us got sick here at The Wellness Forum, even though we’re exposed to sick people every day in this office. Then one day I woke up around four in the morning (I’m an early riser), and I was as sick as a dog. I was sick for maybe four or five hours, and then it went away. I was just tired, so I took a nice nap and came into the office around one or two and made it a short day. By the next day, I was back to normal.

Well, sure enough, the next day Gary, our general manager, woke up with the flu. He had it for about four or five hours, came in later in the afternoon, and was fine afterward. One by one, it cycled through the office. We all actually got it, but nobody missed more than a half a day of work because of it. I think many times I don’t get what’s going around because I’m a very uninviting host for disease. And if I do get it, or somebody around here gets something, it’s usually a nonevent. Nobody here misses work much for anything, and we’re exposed to more sickness than most people.

GM:
My old man died of Parkinson’s. Is it genetic?

PP:
Even if there are some genetic predispositions to it, and there may well be, I think that definitely diet and lifestyle play a significant role. Chemical exposure may be involved as well; we just don’t know. The sad part is that by the time somebody has full-blown Parkinson’s, we don’t usually see diet and lifestyle reversing it. What we do see is that it’ll stop or slow its progression, which can be a blessing for the person who has Parkinson’s and anybody caring for that person, but we don’t normally see the regression that you see in MS and some of these other conditions.

GM:
Have you been able to slow or stop its progression?

PP:
Both, depending on how bad our clients are when they become members and start eating a plant-based diet. Sometimes we get people in such late stages that all we can do is slow it. Again, it’s not the way I wish it were, but it’s better than nothing. As these people degenerate, they lose their ability to communicate, or to do anything for themselves; they become tremendous burdens on their families, so even a minor reduction in the rate of its progression can make a big difference.

GM:
Rheumatoid arthritis?

PP:
It’s almost always diet and lifestyle related, and is particularly related to the consumption of animal foods.

GM:
And that’s not commonly accepted wisdom, either?

PP:
Oh, no. The conventional wisdom is wrong, but as I said, it’s not easy to change the conventional wisdom of people in this country, including health professionals.

GM:
Does genetics play a role in rheumatoid arthritis?

PP:
Yes. Genetics can make you predisposed. I am positive I am predisposed. I am positive I could make myself have it in a very short time, particularly at my current age. But I don’t eat like my mother, my grandmother, or the other members of my family who have this dreadful disease.

GM:
What are the causes of asthma?

PP:
Well, there are a lot of things that can cause asthma. There are environmental triggers and dietary triggers for sure, dairy being one of the most common.
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Dehydration is a factor;
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a lot of kids are not very good water drinkers, so that has an impact. Poor GI health contributes; people who have screwed-up GI tracts often have respiratory disorders, including allergies and asthma. We see a lot of asthma in children, which is related to many factors, including poor gut ecology due to constipation; treatment with antibiotics; and, in some situations, even vaccinations. Their guts are not very healthy and their immune systems are overstimulated. The overuse of antibiotics due to chronic infection compromises the health of their GI tracts and contributes to it as well. Respiratory toxins aggravate the situation.

Asthma tends to get better in kids if you take the dairy out of the diet, get the kid drinking enough water, put him or her on a program of dietary excellence (a whole foods, plant-based diet), and add some probiotic supplements. Generally speaking, it improves to the point where they often don’t even have to use an inhaler for exercise. In older people who’ve had it for a long time, it takes longer to get better, but they follow the same protocol with the addition of supplements like quercetin. I recommend sea salt as a natural antihistamine. I don’t recommend against salt consumption for most people, as you know, so we recommend sea salt as an antihistamine, more so in adults than kids.

GM:
So how does the salt work—how much do people have to consume?

PP:
We use it therapeutically; how it is used and the dose depend on the age of the individual.

Even in those cases where asthma or environmental allergies don’t entirely go away, with a change in diet, people can become a lot more comfortable and reduce their dependence on antihistamines and medications.

GM:
It isn’t very intuitive that the GI tract would have something to do with a respiratory disease.

PP:
There are a number of connections between asthma and GI function, including reflux and beneficial bacteria in the GI tract. Reflux contributes to asthma, because the acid is inhaled through the back of the throat, burns the bronchial tubes, and causes symptoms of asthma.
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BOOK: Food Over Medicine
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