Tuesday Health Notes

A Remarkable Osteoarthritis Recovery

Mike lived many years of his life in pain. By the time he was age 36, his back was such a problem for him that he could not sit for very long. For weeks at a time, he had to hire a driver to take him to work each day, so he could lie down in the back seat. He saw a chiropractor three times a week, and went to a rheumatologist for prescriptions for pain medications and muscle relaxants. He traveled to New York City to see specialists -- osteopaths and orthopedic surgeons -- who he thought could help him with his pain. X-rays of his back showed degenerative back disease, and, in addition to his back pain, his knees and hips bothered him, too.

By the time Mike came to see me, he was age 46. He weighed 236 lbs., his cholesterol was 245 mg/dl, and he frequently complained of burning when he urinated, the cause of which no doctor could discern. As you might imagine, he was sick of suffering ill health and disability at such a young age and hoped I could help him.

His was certainly not an unusual case. Many Americans suffer with similar complaints. What makes Mike's case atypical is that he followed my nutritional recommendations and persevered until he achieved a complete recovery. His urinary problems ended after about six weeks. After one year, he weighed 178 lbs. and his cholesterol came down to 190 mg/dl. Unfortunately, his chronic back complaints and joint aches had not yet gone away.

To his credit, Mike did not let the continual back and joint problems dissuade him from his commitment to a healthy lifestyle. He enjoyed the high-nutrient diet and lifestyle I designed for him and was firmly committed to healthful eating for the rest of his life. After two years, he weighed 168, his cholesterol was 175, he no longer had knee and hip complaints, and he had noted a definite improvement with his back problem. Over the next year, his back aches simply faded away. Now, five years after first seeing me as a patient, Mike feels terrific. His total cholesterol is down to 160, he goes to the gym, does abdominal and back exercises, and can drive around in his car without any problems.

This story originally appeared in Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times newsletter.

One Patient's Story: Battling Asthma, Allergies, Psoriasis, and Headaches

One of Dr. Fuhrman's patients sent in the following story a few years ago. It appeared previously in his Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times newsletter.:

As a graduate student in the mid-1980s, I suffered from asthma, headaches, and allergies. I took the oral medication theophylline, plus two inhaled medications for my asthma, Tylenol for my headaches, and Sudafed for my allergies. I developed bronchitis at least once each year, for which I took antibiotics and sometimes codeine. After a while, I developed recurring migraine headaches, for which I tried the standard medication.

My diet had always been fairly mainstream. I had experienced many food allergies throughout my life, and found that raw fruits and vegetables made my tongue, throat, and the inside of my mouth itchy and uncomfortable. As a result, I ate all of my vegetables cooked, except for lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. I avoided fruit altogether, hoping to prevent allergic reactions. As years went by, I became more aware of the importance of healthful eating and improved my diet somewhat. But it wasn't until after my first child was born that I found out about a truly healthful approach to eating.

My son was born in 1994. By the time he was 18 months old, he was on antibiotics and suffering with his fourth ear infection. Fortunately, I was referred to Joel Fuhrman, M.D. After one consultation with Dr. Fuhrman, I changed my son's diet. He has never suffered another ear infection.

After reading a few articles and information sheets about nutrition by Dr. Fuhrman, and attending one of his lectures, I began to make small changes in my diet. For one thing, I began to eat a large salad with my lunch every day, without fail. I felt a little bit healthier, but I still wasn't committed to following all of Dr. Fuhrman's nutritional advice. The real turning point for me came when Dr. Fuhrman helped me through a severe sinus infection. Only then did I realize I had found an expert on whom I could confidently rely for tangible benefits.

I often got a cold early in the winter. My sinuses would clog up, and I would feel uncomfortable for months. Dr Fuhrman gave me a menu plan of nothing but raw fruits and vegetables, and stated that my sinuses likely would clear in three days. I pointed out that this condition had already lasted almost two months, to which he replied it might take as long as ten days. I followed his instructions exactly, and one week later my sinuses were clear. I was hooked; I use this method whenever I catch a cold and have not had bronchitis or sinusitis since. No more antibiotics for me!

There were more benefits to come. I had my second child in 1999, and during the pregnancy I developed psoriasis. I consulted with a dermatologist who put me on a strong steroidal ointment. When I told Dr. Fuhrman about it, he increased my intake of omega-3 by adding a tablespoon of ground flaxseed and a handful of walnuts each day, increased the amount of vegetables, and had me totally eliminate milk products. The outbreaks came less frequently, which was good, but they didn't go away completely. By the time 2002 rolled around, I was totally fed up with the psoriasis (and using steroid creams). So I went back to Dr. Fuhrman again and asked how I could really fix it. He put me on what I call my "green diet," which is essentially the same as the diet he recommends in his book Eat To Live.

These days, I eat a pound of raw veggies (mostly leafy greens) and a pound of cooked green veggies each day, with unlimited fruits and beans, and eat only a small amount of starchy vegetables and grains. I consume no extracted oils, about one half an avocado, and only a small amount of raw, unsalted nuts and seeds in addition to my flaxseed and walnuts. I include eggs and fish in my diet about once each week.

On this plan, my psoriasis has mostly disappeared, reoccurring only when I deviate from my diet and include too many starches. Even then, it is much milder. I can use the ointment for a few days and the psoriasis won't reappear for months. I feel good. Headaches, asthma, bronchitis, and severe allergies are in the past. I take no medications and breathe easily. Although I did not switch all at once to Dr. Fuhrman's recommended diet, each step I took was permanent. I have made steady improvements in my health over the course of sixteen years. This step-by-step approach has worked wonders for me.

Children, ADHD, and Nutrition

The diagnosis and treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has skyrocketed in recent years, with a tremendous increase in the percentage of our elementary school children who are taking amphetamines and stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Cyclert, and others. These medications, with their reported adverse effects and potential dangers, were simply unnecessary for so many children whom I have seen as patients. I have witnessed consistently positive results when these children followed a comprehensive program of nutritional excellence.

One such success story involves George Grant, age eleven, the nicest and most polite boy you would ever meet. Although his parents reported an improvement in his concentration and behavior since beginning Ritalin two years prior to his appointment with me, they were unsatisfied. George had frequent headaches and stomachaches from the medication, and he had tried the other stimulant medications and found that the same problems occurred.

I enjoyed meeting George and talking to him; he was surprisingly mature and interested in his school performance, and did not want his grades to suffer. I told them that it would take about three to six months to really evaluate whether nutritional intervention would work as effectively as the Ritalin, but there was one thing I could promise them: George would feel better, sleep better, have a better appetite, and his headaches and stomachaches would go away within a few weeks with high-nutrient eating.

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Asthma Can Often Be Controlled With Proper Nutrition

Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the lungs that has skyrocketed in incidence and mortality worldwide in recent years, doubling within the last 30 years in children. Suffering and deaths continue to rise in spite of declines in air pollution. An amazing 16 percent of children develop asthma, according to a 2001 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I've written before about the dramatic effect a nutritional diet can have on a child's asthma. Jonathan, another patient of mine, serves as another example.

Jonathan is an eight-year-old third grader who had developed asthma when he started first grade two years earlier. He was seen by his pediatrician and given a nebulizer, and later inhaled steroids, to deal with recurrent episodes of wheezing and the inability to exercise without fatigue and breathing difficulties.

Jonathan was an excellent student and was keenly interested in learning how what he ate affected his health and his breathing problem. At the initial visit to my office, Jonathan was instructed on using a spacer with an inhaler and was taken off his three times a day nebulizer treatments. I told him his recovery hinged on the amount of green vegetables he was capable of eating. He was more than cooperative. This eight-year-old said to me, "I will eat dirt if you can fix my breathing." So I said, "How about if I give you great-tasting real food to fix your asthma. You can be a lot better within a year." Jonathan is now in fourth grade. It took about eight months until he no longer required any medication. He is now the picture of health and uses no inhalers or other asthma medications.

This anecdotal case is not the same thing as a double-blind study, but when you consider the overwhelming evidence in the scientific literature and then apply that knowledge to real kids with medical difficulties, you see lots of great kids who have made impressive recoveries from their allergies and asthma after a year or two of nutritional intervention.

The story of Jonathan (not his real name) is from Disease-Proof Your Child.