Can autoimmune diseases (like psoriasis) be treated without drugs?

Autoimmune diseases affect 23.5 million Americans, and that number is rising. Autoimmune diseases are one of the top ten leading causes of death for women under the age of 64.1 In autoimmune diseases, the body undergoes an inappropriate immune response that causes excessive inflammation that becomes destructive to the body. One autoimmune disease in particular, psoriasis, received attention recently after reality TV star Kim Kardashian was diagnosed with the condition.

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition – the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the U.S. affecting about 7.5 million Americans; and it is much more than a cosmetic concern.2

Depending on the severity of psoriasis, it can also cause skin cracking and bleeding, pain, and a significant disruption of quality of life. In addition, psoriasis is associated with increased cardiovascular risk.3-5 Even mild psoriasis may increase the risk of heart attack by up to 29%.6
The chronic inflammation characteristic of psoriasis (and other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus) puts patients at risk.7,8 In addition to cardiovascular disease, psoriasis patients are also more likely to suffer from insulin resistance, depression, cancer, osteoporosis, and liver disease – also likely due to chronic inflammation.9-11

Nutritional intervention should always be tried first, before powerful and potentially dangerous drugs are prescribed.

Conventional treatments for autoimmune diseases suppress the immune system to halt the body’s immune attack on itself. However, this makes the body more susceptible to infections and even cancers – one study found that autoimmune patients with the greatest exposure to immunosuppressive drugs had an almost 5-fold increase in cancer risk.12 The FDA has issued warnings on certain drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases because of increased cancer risk.13 Mild to moderate psoriasis can often be treated with topical medications only – these are safer than systemic medications, but still have significant side effects such as skin thinning, pigmentation changes, bruising easily, stretch marks, redness, and acne. They also may stop working over time.14

Nutrition is a powerful and safe tool for preventing and treating autoimmune diseases.15-20
Although psoriasis has a genetic component (about one-third of patients have a family history2),
it is also influenced by what we eat. Those with a high intake of green vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, and fresh fruits are less likely to develop psoriasis. Oxidative stress, which can be lessened by these antioxidant-rich foods, is thought to contribute to skin inflammation in psoriasis. Furthermore, psoriasis symptoms have been shown to improve using dietary methods in several scientific studies.21

I have been recommending a high-nutrient (nutritarian) diet combined with selected supplements and when needed, and episodic fasting to help the body to calm inflammation and remove cellular toxins. High nutrient plant foods supply substances that support immune system function, allowing the body to have proper defenses against infections and cancers. Supervised water fasting is another important component to autoimmune treatment – I have documented the contribution of fasting to remission of autoimmune disease in published case reports.22 Keep in mind also, that the conditions that psoriasis sufferers are vulnerable to – heart disease in particular – are also those that can be prevented with healthy lifestyle habits. The only side effects of nutritional treatment are positive ones – protective effects against heart disease, diabetes, and cancers. This healthy protocol promotes longevity as it normalizes immune function.

Dietary Intervention for Autoimmune Diseases

Natural methods can help you calm the inflammation in your body and reduce or even eliminate your need for medications. I urge everyone with an autoimmune disease (Kim Kardashian included!) to try these natural methods before resigning themselves to a life of dangerous medications and progressively worsening disease:

1. High-nutrient, vegetable-based diet rich in greens
2. Fresh vegetable juices
3. Fish oil or plant-based EPA and DHA supplements
4. Probiotic supplement
5. Avoidance of salt, wheat, and oils
6. Assuring no micronutrient deficiencies are present.

Using these methods, many of my patients who once suffered from autoimmune diseases have now recovered and are free of illness as well as toxic side effects of the drugs. Some of these recoveries have written me, but I have never met them. All they did was read one of my books and follow the protocols detailed online.

Jodi, who has recovered from psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis is an excellent example:

Jodi“I started experiencing skin rashes and joint pain as a teenager more than 40 years ago. Back then, in the 60’s, I don’t think doctors knew much about autoimmune conditions (perhaps not even now). I was put on various drugs, including steroids, plaquenil, methotrexate and antihistamines, which swelled my body up like a beached whale. I was on medication for almost 20 years and saw different medical specialists including allergists, dermatologists, hematologists, rheumatologists, and endocrinologists.

By the time I turned 50 in 1999, I was covered from head to toe with psoriasis and tested positive for other autoimmune diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s and Sjogren’s. The medications only helped a little and I suffered with joint pain, unable to function normally for over twenty years in spite of taking all the medications prescribed by rheumatologists.

In my quest for improved health, I read Dr. Fuhrman's books and I have I have followed his eating plan since 2001 with much success. I take no medications, and have no symptoms of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.
The body has incredible healing powers if given the proper nutrients and care. I have also lost 20 pounds and breezed through menopause. I consider myself 58 years young.”

Karen’s severe psoriasis improved after only 3 days:
“In January 2006, I developed psoriasis on my hands…My hands continued to deteriorate. They were very scaly and would split open. In early 2007, the cuts on my hands became infected several times, and my hands were very swollen and painful. I was put on antibiotics to treat the infection. During that time, the dermatologist explained I had a severe case of psoriasis and suggested I start taking a chemotherapy drug. I didn’t want to go down that path… A couple of months ago, I heard Dr. Oz interview Dr. Fuhrman on his radio program. I was fascinated when I heard Dr. Fuhrman comment that diet can improve autoimmune diseases. I picked up Eat To Live and read it cover to cover. I wanted to try the diet, but I was afraid that I would not stick with the plan long enough to see results. Finally, I decided to give it a shot. I switched to Fuhrman’s nutritarian diet and within two days, my hands looked incredible! By the third day, I was off the medication!!”

Gary now has no psoriatic arthritis pain, and reduced his medication:
“In May, you kindly responded to my e-mail asking whether your nutritional treatment for psoriatic arthritis is the same as for psoriasis. I bought your book…and feel like I hit the jackpot. Here's the good news. After 11 weeks on Eat to Live…I have no arthritis pain, reduced the methotrexate from 5 pills per week to 3, lost over 50 pounds, and for six weeks now, quit using tar shampoo for psoriasis (first time since age 13 or 14). Awesome! Thanks so unbelievably much.” I plan on stopping the methotrexate next month completely.

Read more stories of recovery from autoimmune diseases.
Read more about nutritional care of autoimmune diseases.

 

References:
1. American Autoimmune Related Disease Association: Autoimmune Statistics [http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune_statistics.php]
2. About Psoriasis: Statistics.: National Psoriasis Foundation.
3. Gelfand JM, Azfar RS, Mehta NN: Psoriasis and cardiovascular risk: strength in numbers. J Invest Dermatol 2010;130:919-922.
4. Mehta NN, Yu Y, Pinnelas R, et al: Attributable risk estimate of severe psoriasis on major cardiovascular events. Am J Med 2011;124:775 e771-776.
5. Dermatologists urge psoriasis patients to be aware of potential link to other serious diseases. In American Academy of Dermatology 70th Annual Meeting; San Diego, CA. 2012
6. Gelfand JM, Neimann AL, Shin DB, et al: Risk of myocardial infarction in patients with psoriasis. JAMA 2006;296:1735-1741.
7. Pieringer H, Pichler M: Cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: vascular alterations and possible clinical implications. QJM 2011;104:13-26.
8. Alexandroff AB, Pauriah M, Camp RD, et al: More than skin deep: atherosclerosis as a systemic manifestation of psoriasis. Br J Dermatol 2009;161:1-7.
9. Zanni GR: Psoriasis: issues far more serious than cosmetic. Consult Pharm 2012;27:86-88, 90, 93-86.
10. Mehta NN, Azfar RS, Shin DB, et al: Patients with severe psoriasis are at increased risk of cardiovascular mortality: cohort study using the General Practice Research Database. Eur Heart J 2010;31:1000-1006.
11. Davidovici BB, Sattar N, Prinz JC, et al: Psoriasis and systemic inflammatory diseases: potential mechanistic links between skin disease and co-morbid conditions. J Invest Dermatol 2010;130:1785-1796.
12. Asten P, Barrett J, Symmons D: Risk of developing certain malignancies is related to duration of immunosuppressive drug exposure in patients with rheumatic diseases. J Rheumatol 1999;26:1705-1714.
13. Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) Blockers (marketed as Remicade, Enbrel, Humira, Cimzia, and Simponi) August 2009. U.S. Food and Drug Administration; 2009.
14. Topical treatments for psoriasis, including steroids.: National Psoriasis Foundation.
15. Palmblad J, Hafstrom I, Ringertz B: Antirheumatic effects of fasting. Rheum Dis Clin North Am 1991;17:351-362.
16. Kjeldsen-Kragh J, Hvatum M, Haugen M, et al: Antibodies against dietary antigens in rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with fasting and a one-year vegetarian diet. Clin Exp Rheumatol 1995;13:167-172.
17. Hanninen, Kaartinen K, Rauma AL, et al: Antioxidants in vegan diet and rheumatic disorders. Toxicology 2000;155:45-53.
18. Muller H, de Toledo FW, Resch KL: Fasting followed by vegetarian diet in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review. Scand J Rheumatol 2001;30:1-10.
19. McDougall J, Bruce B, Spiller G, et al: Effects of a very low-fat, vegan diet in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis. J Altern Complement Med 2002;8:71-75.
20. Darlington LG, Ramsey NW, Mansfield JR: Placebo-controlled, blind study of dietary manipulation therapy in rheumatoid arthritis. Lancet 1986;1:236-238.
21. Wolters M: Diet and psoriasis: experimental data and clinical evidence. Br J Dermatol 2005;153:706-714.
22. Fuhrman J, Sarter B, Calabro DJ: Brief case reports of medically supervised, water-only fasting associated with remission of autoimmune disease. Altern Ther Health Med 2002;8:112, 110-111.

 

Diet soda depletes calcium and may increase heart attack risk

Diet soda. Flickr: Dawn Huczek

The average American drinks 216 liters of soda each year.1 Soda drinking has previously been associated with lower bone mineral density in women and children,2,3 and one study in particular has focused specifically on the effects of diet soda on bone health.  The authors commented that this research was sparked by the observation that diet soda drinking behaviors are often different than regular soda drinking behaviors – women often use diet sodas in an effort to avoid weight gain – either to stave off hunger between meals or as a replacement for calorie-containing beverages.  Many women drink over 20 diet sodas per week.4

These researchers discovered that parathyroid hormone (PTH) concentrations rise strongly following diet soda consumption.  PTH functions to increase blood calcium concentrations by stimulating bone breakdown, and as a result release calcium from bone.

In the study, women aged 18-40 were given 24 ounces of either diet cola or water on two consecutive days, and urinary calcium content was measured for three hours. 

Women who drank diet cola excreted more calcium in their urine compared to women who drank water.  

The authors concluded that this calcium loss may underlie the observed connection between soda drinking and low bone mineral density.5

Although caffeine is known to increase calcium excretion and promote bone loss,6 caffeine is likely not the only bone-harming ingredient in sodas.  A 2006 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found consistent associations between low bone mineral density and caffeinated and non-caffeinated cola (both regular and diet), but not other carbonated beverages.7 One major difference between the two is the phosphoric acid in colas, absent from most other carbonated beverages. 

In the Western diet, phosphorus is commonly consumed in excess – at about 3 times the recommended levels, whereas dietary calcium often low.  Although phosphorus is an important component of bone mineral, a high dietary ratio of phosphorus to calcium can increase parathyroid hormone secretion, which is known to increase bone breakdown.   Studies in which women were given increasing quantities of dietary phosphorus found increases in markers of bone breakdown and decreases in markers of bone formation.8,9 Therefore it is likely that the phosphorus content of colas  triggers calcium loss.

There is nothing healthy about diet soda.  It is simply water with artificial sweeteners and other chemical additives, such as phosphoric acid. 

The safety of artificial sweeteners is questionable, and they provoke the release of insulin and other hormones that regulate blood glucose; their intense sweetness confuses the body, which naturally associates sweet taste with calories – over time, these mixed signals can lead to increased appetite and weight gain.10 

Diet sodas don’t just weaken our bones, they are linked to kidney dysfunction and promote obesity.

Furthermore, in a recent study, older adults who drank diet soda daily had a 43% increased risk of heart attack or stroke compared to those that never drank diet soda.11

References:

1. Nation Master.  Statistics: soft drinks. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/foo_sof_dri_con-food-soft-drink-consumption

2. McGartland C, Robson PJ, Murray L, et al. Carbonated soft drink consumption and bone mineral density in adolescence: the Northern Ireland Young Hearts project. J Bone Miner Res. 2003 Sep;18(9):1563-9.

Mahmood M, Saleh A, Al-Alawi F, Ahmed F. Health effects of soda drinking in adolescent girls in the United Arab Emirates. J Crit Care. 2008 Sep;23(3):434-40.

3. Tucker KL, Morita K, Qiao N, Hannan MT, Cupples LA, Kiel DP. Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Oct;84(4):936-42

4. Frieden J. ENDO: Diet Soft Drinks Deplete Urinary Calcium. Medpage Today. http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/ENDO/20831

5. NS Larson, et al "Effect of Diet Cola on urine calcium excretion" ENDO 2010; Abstract P2-198.

http://www.endojournals.org/abstracts/P2-1_to_P2-500.pdf

6. Vondracek SF, Hansen LB, McDermott MT. Osteoporosis risk in premenopausal women. Pharmacotherapy. 2009 Mar;29(3):305-17.

Massey LK, Whiting SJ. Caffeine, urinary cal- cium, calcium metabolism and bone. J. Nutr. 19923 Sep;123 (9): 1611-14

7. Tucker KL, Morita K, Qiao N, et al. Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Oct;84(4):936-42.

8. Kemi VE, Kärkkäinen MU, Karp HJ, et al. Increased calcium intake does not completely counteract the effects of increased phosphorus intake on bone: an acute dose-response study in healthy females. Br J Nutr. 2008 Apr;99(4):832-9.

9. Kemi VE, Kärkkäinen MU, Lamberg-Allardt CJ. High phosphorus intakes acutely and negatively affect Ca and bone metabolism in a dose-dependent manner in healthy young females. Br J Nutr. 2006 Sep;96(3):545-52.

10. Swithers SE, Martin AA, Davidson TL. High-intensity sweeteners and energy balance. Physiol Behav. 2010 Apr 26;100(1):55-62.

Ma J, Bellon M, Wishart JM, et al. Effect of the artificial sweetener, sucralose, on gastric emptying and incretin hormone release in healthy subjects. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2009 Apr;296(4):G735-9.

Liang Y, Steinbach G, Maier V, Pfeiffer EF. The effect of artificial sweetener on insulin secretion. 1. The effect of acesulfame K on insulin secretion in the rat (studies in vivo). Horm Metab Res. 1987 Jun;19(6):233-8.

11. Gardener H, Rundek T, Markert M, et al. Diet Soft Drink Consumption is Associated with an Increased Risk of Vascular Events in the Northern Manhattan Study. J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Jan 27. [Epub ahead of print]

Interview with a Nutritarian: Helen

A year ago this month I received a phone call from my sister informing me that my mom had experienced a stroke and was en-route to the ER via an ambulance. Living five minutes from the hospital I made a mad dash there only to discover my mother intensely suffering in a triage unit. The next day would be her 86th birthday, but at that moment her future looked grim. 

Having older parents who have faithfully put their trust in their doctors’ instructions over the years, I’ve been with them through their heart attacks, bypass and stent surgeries, and ongoing maladies and procedures. I’ve witnessed the negative side effects of their multiple (and astronomically expensive) pharmaceuticals that filled their kitchen counter top. I’ve seen first hand the results of conventional disease management, yet this episode was different. As my mom lied there on the gurney, writhing in excruciating pain from a leg spasm, paralyzed on one side of her body, unable to speak clearly, and crying; I could tell that this was the ultimate nightmare that she didn’t want to be experiencing. However, thankfully my mom discovered that it’s never too late to improve one’s health by eating to live.

 

What was your life like before following Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian eating-style?

I was tired all the time, but I thought it was due to old age; not wrong food choices. Because my mother had diabetes, suffered a stroke at age 66, and my siblings and I cared for her in my parents' living room for two years before her death, I made a conscious decision to carefully follow everything that my doctors told me to do over the years; not knowing that it would lead me down a dangerous path. Plus, other women my age were also being instructed to do the same so I thought I was doing the right thing. There was no different way at the time. 

Around age 60 I developed diabetes and was put on an oral diabetes medication for a couple of years, and then the doctor put me on insulin. I followed the recommended meal plan, insulin calculations and dosages; and when my blood sugars kept rising I complied with increasing the units of insulin. I even carried a glucose meter and injections in my purse so I would never miss a shot. 

I also ate animal protein at every meal; it was a part of the food plan that the diabetic educators instructed me to follow: eggs with breakfast, lean meats with lunch and dinner, and a peanut butter sandwich before bed. Every endocrinologist that I went to said the sandwich before bed was important to prevent dangerously low blood sugars in the night. Even with carefully following instructions, my blood sugars were either too high or too low. I lived in fear of the lows, especially when I was out in public or during the night. I even took a sandwich and juice to bed with me, just in case. 

Then my blood pressure also climbed higher with each passing year so blood pressure medications were added to my growing list of medications. However, even with four medications, my cardiologist could never get it below 199/99.  I had two heart attacks and multiple stents put into my body over the years: four stents in my kidneys, seven in my legs, and four in my heart, but I never got well. By the time of my stroke, I also had congestive heart failure and weighed 215 lbs. (5'8") 

Even though you [Emily] improved your health through Eat to Live, I was too dependent upon my doctors’ instructions to feel safe to make such radical changes at my age. Plus, a part of me thought it was too late to change; what’s the use.

 

What changed your mind?

Having the stroke changed my mind.  I was paralyzed on the entire right side of my body. My leg went into an intense spasm that wouldn’t let up, even with medication to try to relax it. I couldn’t speak so that others could understand me. I couldn’t swallow my food. I couldn’t even swallow a drink of water without a special ingredient to thicken it. My hand was clutched tight and I couldn’t open it. I couldn’t use the toilet without help. I wore adult diapers.  I was suddenly trapped in a body that was immobile which required 24/7 nursing care; totally dependent upon others for everything. 

After being discharged from the hospital, I was transferred to a nursing home for ongoing care and therapy. The night staff neglected to clip my call button onto my gown for me to reach it. I’d accidently wet myself during the night and couldn’t call anyone for help. I was totally at the mercy of someone discovering my situation early the next morning. Needless to say, my family transferred me to a stroke rehab facility that following day; but even with the best care, the total loss of independence was enough to change my mind. I was ready to do anything to get better if/when I would be discharged; no matter if my doctors approved it or not. * 

 

When did you start following Eat to Live?

After spending five weeks eating pureed meat and processed institutional foods, totally void of color, I was delighted to watch Dr. Fuhrman’s 3 Steps to Incredible Health that aired on our local PBS station the weekend after I returned home. Something “clicked” that day; plus I liked watching TV versus reading a book as my eyesight hadn't been good for the past couple of years. I totally understood what Dr. Fuhrman was talking about in his presentation. I began eating for health from that moment onward, and I’ve never looked back!

What’s happened since then?

I’ve been off insulin for over six months now, and after giving myself four shots a day for over twenty years it’s been wonderful to be totally free from them!  Also, with eating this way I don’t experience low blood sugars anymore so that all-consuming fear is gone.

I’ve lost about 65 lbs so far, and my blood pressure is never higher than 115/65. I’m down to just ½ dose of a blood pressure medication now, compared to four medications and continual, dangerously high blood pressures before following Eat to Live.

I’m more alert, I don’t tire so easily, and I even have the stamina to ride a stationary bike for 2 ½ miles/day; plus, I lift weights and do various exercises to continue to strengthen my arms, legs, back, and facial muscles. I noticed this past winter when I got a cold and cough that it only lasted for a couple of days. The same thing happened with a sore and infected toe; it healed quickly, when it used to take a long time for a wound to heal.   

Had I not followed high-nutrient eating this past year, there’s no way that my weakened muscles from the stroke could’ve supported the obese weight. It would be very difficult for me to get around with sixty-five extra pounds on my body. I use a walker for stability, but I can now walk in grocery stores, go to the mall with assistance, attend church and family events, and see my friends. I know that I would be completely homebound without following Eat to Live

 

Do you have any success tips to share?

 

  • Yes, keep it simple. You [Emily] had knee surgery at the same time that I started eating high-nutrient foods so I had to find an easy way to make it work on my own. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way. I kept the meals simple. I steamed enough vegetables to have on hand for several meals. I made a pot of lentils once a week. I made sure to include cooked mushrooms and chopped onions daily. Bob [her husband of sixty-five years and my dad] has always grown a big garden, and he helped me prepare the vegetables, but I haven’t made fancy recipes yet; that may come this next year.

 

  • However, the most important tip is that one’s health should come first above all other priorities. Health first; everything else second! That’s got to be the mindset or other things will crowd it out. My main occupation now is making time for my food preparation, daily exercises, and adequate rest.  If you are young, don’t wait until you are old to change your eating habits. If you are old, it’s never too late to change and get health restored. Don’t cheat yourself out of the best health that’s possible.

 

Congratulations Mom ~ I’m truly proud of you for overcoming a myriad of obstacles to contend for your health, no matter what. And happy eighty-seventh birthday this year!

[By the way, the top picture was taken the day after the stroke, on her 86th birthday.  She had a smile on her face only because the grandchildren were in the room with balloons and cards to celebrate her birthday.] 

 

  

* Helen has been medically supervised, via phone consultations, by Jay Benson, D.O. Dr. Benson is board certified in family medicine, specializing in nutritional medicine, and sees patients at Dr. Fuhrman’s Medical Associates in Flemington, New Jersey. 

Interview with a Nutritarian: Augie

It’s not everyday that one is introduced to a legend, but today you are about to meet one. His name is Augie, and when he was celebrating his eightieth birthday two years ago, he was glad that he'd made the conscious decision, more than a decade earlier, to make health and fitness a goal for his retirement years.  Augie ran his first marathon two days after turning 70, and ended up running twenty-nine marathons by his eightieth birthday; including running in the Boston Marathon three times. It was during that time that he also started researching nutrition in earnest, and started following Dr. Fuhrman’s recommendations as outlined in Eat to Live. Just two weeks ago, at the age of 82, Augie finished his first 50K run (31 miles) in Florida! Welcome to Disease Proof, Augie.

 

Tell us about your recent 50K.

The 50K was a heat endurance event, because it was a sunny, 83 degree day in Florida. The aid stations were about 4 to 5 miles apart, and I drank a bottle of water between each one. By the 9.5 mile mark I was feeling the beginning symptoms of heat exhaustion so I put six ice cubes in a zip lock bag and placed it on top of my head; holding it in place with my cap. I refilled these ice bags at each station. 

I was doing a 1:1 run/walk pace pretty much all the way to the 26 mile aid station, the marathon distance. (Strangely, at this point I felt like I was at mile 20 of a marathon.) From there I went to 30-40 second running surges interspersed with 90 second walks to the finish line. My time was 7:33:22; and there were only 59 of us at the start. 

Now I can say that I’ve completed a total of 40 marathons and beyond, (eleven marathons since age 80); plus, twenty-two, half marathons and many 5K’s to 20K’s. Hopefully I’ll still be in good condition to run a 50K again next year.

 

Do most know your age at these events?

 Ha, that question makes me chuckle. The 70+ age division runners are very competitive. Many times, before, and even during a race, a runner will come up along side me and ask my age. When I tell them, they are relieved, because I’m not in their age group for awards. Most times I’m 1st place out of one entrant in the 80+ age group.

 

How far do you run/walk daily to train?

My goal is to average 18 miles per week, and I’ve done this for the past twelve years. I run no more than 3 to 4 days per week, because longer distances provide better training than frequent, shorter ones; plus, rest days are just as important as running days.

 

Tell us about your nutritarian journey.

My dad died at age 84 from colon cancer, and I watched him slowly fade away for two years. He was a heavy steak and potato eater, and I was following the same path. I knew that eating beef was his problem, although I didn’t do anything to change my own eating habits for several more years. However, it planted the seed to change, because deep within I knew there was a better way. It wasn’t until I retired that I decided to make health and fitness, instead of golf, my retirement hobby. I researched several books before discovering Eat to Live seven years ago, and I was convinced that it was the best of the best. I’ve read it at least ten times since.

I’m 5’ 6.5”, and my weight at age 70 was 166 lbs. (I’ve never had any health issues or taken any medications.) I dropped to 150 lbs by age 75; and then after I started following Eat to Live, I lost another ten pounds over a two year period of time. Today, at age 82, I’ve maintained 140 lbs for the past five years. 

In the beginning I had severe withdrawal symptoms from comfort foods and salt, and that detox time was like going through boot camp. However, the discomfort was short lived, and now I'm thoroughly enjoying my 80’s. My priorities, as always, are family, travel and fitness. (This coming June I will celebrate 56 years of marriage to my dear wife, Josie.) I hope you all don't mind me tooting my own horn, but I think Eat to Live has been a big part in being able to do what I've done. It’s never too late to start eating for health!

 

What do you eat the day before and the day of a race?

In my early marathons I was brainwashed into needing a pasta dinner the day before. As the years went by, and now with the experience of 40 marathons and beyond, I find that my normal meals are sufficient; although I eat a larger portion, eat earlier, and go to bed earlier the evening before. For me, the breakfast that morning is far more important and lasting into the marathon: a bowl of rolled oats that soaked overnight in pomegranate juice with a handful of frozen blueberries and a banana. It’s very filling and lasting. 

During a marathon I’ve experimented with everything. I’ve finally settled on Medjool dates, pitted and individually wrapped in wax paper. I wear a fanny pack with a water bottle holder, my supply of dates, a cell phone, napkins, and band aids for emergencies. I’ve found 8 to 10 dates to be plenty, and I drink plenty of water.

 

What are your success tips for nutritarian eating?

To be successful, you must have a deep passion, reason or goal to be healthy; and a firm belief that you will see results to get through the initial detox stage. If you follow Eat to Live, you’ll be guaranteed to see results. Today, to maintain the nutritarian eating-style, I continually remind myself, “I don’t want the health problems that my friends have who eat the standard American diet.”

 

What advice do you have to become more physically active?

When I started running I had no idea where it would lead; I only knew that aerobic training was necessary. I started running at age 68 and gradually worked up to running three miles at a time. I had a dream goal to run a marathon to celebrate my 70th birthday. (I’ve read that we are all capable of achieving seemingly unattainable goals.) When I achieved that goal, and experienced the thrill of accomplishing something that I didn’t think I could do, it moved me to set other goals. 

  1. Find a passion.

  2. Set a dream goal that stretches your limits.

  3. Push and challenge yourself to successfully achieve that goal.

  4. Go for it!

     

 Thank you Augie for setting a high standard of “senior achievement” for all of us to aspire to ~ what a great inspiration you are for our retirement years ahead!

Refined carbohydrates and excess fats may drive the insulin gene in colon cells to promote cancer

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer type, and the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.1 These cancers are the ones most closely linked to lifestyle; the good news is, that means that colon and rectal cancers are also highly preventable by following healthful lifestyle habits – including avoiding disease-causing foods.

Scientists believe that elevated insulin levels contribute to cancer development; insulin in high concentrations may promote growth and division of cancer cells, and cancerous cells often have elevated levels of insulin receptors.2 Foods with a high glycemic load (GL) such as white bread, white rice, sugar, and white potatoes, produce dangerous spikes in blood glucose, and consequently insulin levels. Diets including large quantities of high GL foods increase the risk of several chronic diseases, and a recent meta-analysis of several studies found a 26% increase in colorectal cancer risk in people who consumed the most high glycemic load foods in their diets.3,4

Examples of high, medium and low GL carbohydrate sources:5,6

High GL (20 or higher)  
White potato (1 medium baked) 29
White rice (1 cup cooked) 26
Medium GL (11-19)  

Black rice (1 cup cooked)

14
Low GL (1-10)  
Butternut squash (1 cup cooked) 8
Kidney beans (1 cup cooked) 7

DNA. Flickr: ynse

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, there is suggestive evidence that cheese and foods containing animal fats increase the risk of colon and rectal cancers. Cheese, the fattiest food in the American diet, is particularly high in saturated fat, which is known to impair insulin sensitivity.7,8

New research suggests that over time, these dietary factors – excess, low-nutrient carbohydrate and fat – may disturb carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the colon by altering DNA methylation in colon cells.

DNA methylation acts essentially as an on/off switch for a gene, usually decreasing (but sometimes increasing) the amount of protein made from that genetic code. Dietary factors are known to affect DNA methylation, and too much or too little methylation can contribute to the development of cancer.9

A recent study compared methylation patterns of thousands of genes in the colon mucosa of control subjects without colon cancer to normal mucosa of colon cancer patients; the researchers found hundreds of genes whose methylation patterns differed in the two sets of subjects. When they looked at those genes with the greatest differences in methylation, they made an interesting observation: a common theme among many of these genes was that they are involved in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism – one of these was the insulin gene. In short, “normal” colon cells in colon cancer patients were making more insulin than normal colon cells from healthy subjects – and we know that excess insulin promotes cancer.

The authors hypothesize that an unhealthy diet full of refined carbohydrate and excess fat may cause this metabolic change – and once excess insulin is being produced by colon cells, it then feeds the growth of cancerous cells.10

Though the research may be complex, the message is simple: refined foods like sugar and white bread, and low-nutrient fats like oils and cheeses are harmful to the health of your colon. Colon cancer is a preventable disease – whole, natural foods provide the fiber, resistant starch, and phytochemicals that will keep the cells of the colon healthy and expressing the proper genes in the proper amounts.

 

References:

1. American Cancer Society. What are the key statistics about colorectal cancer? [http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/ColonandRectumCancer/DetailedGuide/colorectal-cancer-key-statistics ]
2. Vigneri P, Frasca F, Sciacca L, et al: Diabetes and cancer. Endocr Relat Cancer 2009;16:1103-1123.
3. Gnagnarella P, Gandini S, La Vecchia C, et al: Glycemic index, glycemic load, and cancer risk: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:1793-1801.
4. Barclay AW, Petocz P, McMillan-Price J, et al: Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk--a meta-analysis of observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:627-637.
5. Carbohydrates and the Glycemic Load. Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/carbohydrates-and-the-glycemic-load/. 
6. Atkinson FS, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller JC: International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care 2008;31:2281-2283.
7. WCRF/AICR Expert Report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective.: World Cancer Research Fund; 2007.
8. Vessby B, Uusitupa M, Hermansen K, et al: Substituting dietary saturated for monounsaturated fat impairs insulin sensitivity in healthy men and women: The KANWU Study. Diab tologia 2001;44:312-319.
9. Kulis M, Esteller M: DNA methylation and cancer. Adv Genet 2010;70:27-56.
10. Study shows how high-fat diets increase colon cancer risk. 2012. EurekAlert! http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-03/tu-ssh030712.php. Accessed March 28, 2012.


 

 

Eudaimonia: Uncovering the secret to true happiness

Happiness is something we all want and is just as important to our health as our diets.  That’s why I found this subject just as blog worthy as a report on the latest scientific findings on nutrition.  Obviously, happiness is a universal human desire, no matter what age we are or where we come from- we all seek as much happiness as possible.  However as much as we all crave it, how to obtain the most happiness out of life is elusive to most people.  Many people assume happiness can be found in experiences, like enjoying a heaping cup of ice cream, watching a movie or getting a massage.  The assumption is that pleasure increases positive emotions and will provide us with the many smiles we seek. 

Smile. Flickr: kieran1388

However, as anyone who has attempted to overcome sadness with a pedicure or box of dark chocolates will tell you (cough, cough), feeling good doesn’t come from pleasurable, yet fleeting sensations.  They might make us feel good while we are experiencing them, but afterwards we are left feeling no happier than we did prior to the experience. Even if we sought a continuous, hedonic treadmill of one pleasurable experience after another, we are still not likely to attain lasting happiness in our hearts or our souls. 

Lucky for us, the path to true, authentic happiness, the type of happiness that really sticks with us day after day, can be found simply and actually makes so much sense when understood.  Psychologists in the emerging field of positive psychology, have been studying the concept of happiness for some time now and have adopted Aristotle’s term “Eudaimonia” or the Good Life, to mean a life in which you employ your strengths and efforts towards a goal or passion that you believe is larger than yourself.  Now this is a type of happiness worth talking about.  Eudaimonic motives include pursuing personal growth, development of your potential, achieving personal excellence and contributing to the lives of others. Psychologists have found in multiple studies that these types of Eudaimonic activities were the ones that lead to the most happiness, rewarding experiences and life satisfaction over time.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t need research to tell me that helping other people feels good.  Naturally, pleasurable, comforting and enjoyable activities have their place, yet they are no match for having a strong life purpose and using our abilities to enhance the lives of others. 

As a lover of shopping and a nutritarian-friendly gourmet meal, I don’t plan on giving up pleasurable activities any time soon, yet the next time I feel down in the dumps, I might just drive to my local animal shelter or use my cooking skills to prepare healthy meals for my friends instead of drowning myself in coconut milk, butter pecan ice cream (well, maybe I just might do both).  Seriously, I have noticed that moments of gloominess really do drop significantly the more we perform selfless acts and practice reaching our potential with meaningful activities.  I hope by writing this blog article I accomplish increasing my own Eudomonic happiness by pushing you to seek your own Eudomonic activities of choice. 

I wish you moments of great joy and authentic happiness each and every day!          

More white rice, more diabetes risk

Over 20 million people in the United States (about 8% of the population) have type 2 diabetes.1 Worldwide prevalence of diabetes in adults is about 6%, and Asian countries have somewhat higher rates (9% in China and Korea, and 11% in Japan).2,3 This is interesting to consider. In spite of considerably more overweight and obesity in the USA and our dangerous diet, there is considerably more diabetes in China, Korea and Japan. This is mostly because of white rice.

White rice. Flickr: Calgary Reviews

Type 2 diabetes arises out of insulin resistance, a state in which the body’s cells cannot respond properly to insulin – a hormone that allows for the transport of glucose into the body’s cells and storage of the energy contained in that glucose. Carrying excess fat and eating high glycemic load (GL) foods contribute to the development of insulin resistance (and of course, eating high glycemic foods contributes to weight gain).

Refined carbohydrates like white rice, devoid of fiber to slow down absorption of sugars, raise blood glucose more and faster than their intact, unprocessed counterparts. The effect of a food on blood glucose is indicated by its glycemic index (GI) – a 1-100 measure of the blood glucose response per gram of carbohydrate. Glycemic load (GL), a related indicator, takes into account both the GI and the carbohydrate content of a typical portion size.

A new meta-analysis has explored the link between white rice and diabetes
An analysis of four prospective studies on white rice consumption and diabetes has recently been published – it included 2 studies in Asian populations and 2 in Western populations. In Asian countries, where white rice is a staple food, the average intake of white rice was 3-4 servings per day, and in Western countries the average was 1-2 servings per week. A comparison of the highest vs. lowest white rice intake groups yielded a 55% increase in diabetes risk in Asians, and a 12% increase in Westerners. Overall, the researchers found that each daily serving of white rice increased the risk of diabetes by 11%.4


This new research serves to remind us: High-glycemic, nutrient-depleted, refined carbohydrates (like white rice) are more than just empty calories – they are disease-causing foods.

Westerners on average ate less than one daily serving white rice – but what about the other high-GL foods that Americans eat daily? White pasta, white potato, and white bread are also high in GL and therefore likely to be just as dangerous. It’s no wonder that U.S. diabetes rates have tripled in the past 30 years, and are expected to double or even triple by 2050.2
 

Food

Glycemic Load

(High = 20 and above; Low = 1-10)

White potato (1 medium baked) 29
White rice (1 cup cooked) 26
White bread (1 bagel, 3.5 in. diameter) 24
White pasta (1 cup cooked) 21
Chocolate cake (1/10 box cake mix + 2T frosting) 20
Black rice (1 cup cooked) 14
Butternut squash (1 cup cooked) 8
Green peas (1 cup cooked) 8
Lentils (1 cup cooked) 8
Black beans (1 cup cooked)5 6

 

Indeed, more and more research is demonstrating potato consumption is associated with diabetes, and this association was found to be most likely due to glycemic load (not due to preparation or added fats). Substituting 1 serving of whole grains per day with potatoes was estimated to increase diabetes risk by 30%.6 Also, in a 6-year study of 65,000 women, those with diets high in refined carbohydrates from white bread, white rice, and pasta were 2.5 times as likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate lower-GL foods such as intact whole grains and whole wheat bread.7  

Not just diabetes – cancer too
High GL foods have dangers that reach beyond diabetes. Diets including large quantities of high GL foods increase the risk of several chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and cancers.8 Let’s make it clear: white rice, white flour products, and white potatoes are foods that should not be central in our diets. Low-nutrient, high glycemic foods are not only unfavorable from the perspective of weight gain and diabetes, but could also contribute significantly to cancer by causing excessive insulin secretion. High insulin levels in the blood can promote the growth of cancer cells, in part by interacting with the receptor for insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).9 A recent study of Korean women found that each daily serving of white rice increased breast cancer risk by 19%.10 Similarly, a recent U.S. study found a link between starch consumption and breast cancer recurrence.11 Diabetics are 30% more likely to develop colorectal cancer, 20% more likely to develop breast cancer, and 82% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than non-diabetics. This increased risk of cancer observed in diabetics is thought to be due in part to cancer-promoting effects of insulin therapy.12,13

In the past, white rice was looked upon as a healthful, low fat staple in a vegetarian diet. We have progressed in knowledge and science and it is clear that white rice can no longer be considered healthful, or even neutral – it is a disease-causing food. The damaging effects of high-GL foods have been brought to light, and we now know that the most healthful carbohydrate sources are those that minimize glycemic effects – beans, peas, intact whole grains, and starchy vegetables.
 

References:
1. American Diabetes Association: Diabetes statistics [http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/]
2. World Health Organization. Diabetes Fact Sheet. [http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/ ]
3. IDF Diabetes Atlas: Fifth Edition. International Diabetes Federation; 2011.
4. Hu EA, Pan A, Malik V, et al: White rice consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis and systematic review. BMJ 2012;344:e1454.
5. Atkinson FS, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller JC: International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care 2008;31:2281-2283.
6. Halton TL, Willett WC, Liu S, et al: Potato and french fry consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:284-290.
7. Salmeron J, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, et al: Dietary fiber, glycemic load, and risk of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in women. JAMA 1997;277:472-477.
8. Barclay AW, Petocz P, McMillan-Price J, et al: Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk--a meta-analysis of observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:627-637.
9. Gallagher EJ, LeRoith D: The proliferating role of insulin and insulin-like growth factors in cancer. Trends Endocrinol Metab 2010;21:610-618.
10. Yun SH, Kim K, Nam SJ, et al: The association of carbohydrate intake, glycemic load, glycemic index, and selected rice foods with breast cancer risk: a case-control study in South Korea. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2010;19:383-392.
11. Emond JA, Patterson RE, Pierce JP: Change in Carbohydrate Intake and Breast Cancer Prognosis. In San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, vol. Presentation #P3-09-01; 2011.
12. Pollak M, Russell-Jones D: Insulin analogues and cancer risk: cause for concern or cause celebre? Int J Clin Pract 2010;64:628-636.
13. Experts call for further research into the relationship between insulin therapy and cancer. 2010. EurekAlert! http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/w-ecf030210.php. Accessed October 20, 2011.


 

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