How do you explain what you’re doing to your doctor?
For most of us who’ve been eating mostly whole plants for a few years, we take zero medications and very few supplements. But what about the transition?
- What if you’re on three or four medications?
- What if your medical doctor doesn’t understand what you’re doing?
- How do you know when to reduce, or eliminate, those prescriptions?
These are all very good questions and we now have something that you can share with your doctor. To be clear, your medications were prescribed by a doctor and we don’t recommend changing them without consulting with a doctor.
Good News. Dr. John McDougall has published some very handy information in his May 2012 newsletter (See link below) on this topic. His target audience is the other members of the medical community who have not yet been enlightened with regards to the power of plant-based nutrition.
In the newsletter, he talks a lot about the “starch-based” diet that is featured in his new book, The Starch Solution. I am reading that book now and will be writing a review soon.
In the meantime, I want to tell you that the instructions regarding medications that you might want to share with your doctor—are the same for any version of the whole foods, plant-based diet style that you might choose.
Whether you’re following the advice of Fuhrman, Barnard, Esselstyn, Ornish or McDougall—they all promote the maximization of whole, plant-based foods in your diet. And they all have thousands of patients who have successfully reduced or eliminated their prescriptions after they shifted to the health-promoting diet.
But Dr. McDougall is the only one that has shared this kind of information with the public—in a format that makes it easy to share with your own physician. He begins with a few comments about medications in general:
How a patient feels about his/her medications is important: Many want off of them and others are afraid to stop them. The patient’s expectations must be considered seriously when the physician makes a decision. If unsure of the need for continued use of a medication, it is generally better to stop or reduce it (maybe slowly) and to observe the response.
He then goes on to say how he deals with his own patients when they are about to begin a major shift to a whole foods, plant-based diet. For your convenience, I have posted a portion of Dr. McDougall’s comments on five of the more common ailments. I encourage you to refer to his complete newsletter article at the link near the end of this post.
1. Hypertension: Typically, I ask patients to stop all medications that are used to treat hypertension on the first day they start the diet. I may recommend a more gradual reduction if the patient’s initial blood pressure in the office is very high (for example 170/110 mmHg or greater) or the patient is on several different brands of medications. Either finding suggests the patient is more severely ill.
2. Type-2 Diabetes: Generally I stop all oral medications (pills) on the first day. If the patient is clearly type-2, I also stop all of his/her insulin on day one….If I am unsure about the patient’s insulin needs (in other words, significant insulin insufficiency may exist), then I am more conservative and cut their insulin dosage by one-half to two-thirds the first day. Type-1 diabetics will always need to take insulin, however, I usually reduce their insulin dosage by one-third with the initiation of the diet.
3. Cholesterol: Taking statins can result in greatly reduced cholesterol numbers. If these medications (statins) are stopped the first day when a patient starts the diet, then he/she will often be disappointed if their cholesterol goes up on the next test. For this reason I often leave them on their current dosage until after the second blood test. Then after the second blood test, they can see the extra cholesterol-lowering benefits of their new diet, and I will stop these medications (especially in otherwise healthy people). However, if they are not healthy—they have a history of serious heart disease, stroke, or other artery disease—I will continue the statins with a goal of lowering their cholesterol number below 150 mg/dl.
4. Indigestion: I usually stop the regular use of antacids on day one. I ask patients to take an antacid only as needed, and then to switch to the milder over-the-counter brands like Zantac or TUMS.
5. Laxatives: Generally these can be stopped and used only as needed. However, it is not unusual for patients to have hard stools from their previous eating habits when they begin their new diet.
What about supplements? I follow the simple advice of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and take a little B12 about twice a week and a little Vitamin D in the winter. That’s it.
The Bottom Line. If you switch to a whole foods, plant-based diet, you’re going to soon be saying goodbye to most, if not all, of your current medications. This blog and the McDougall newsletter referenced below should help your current doctor understand what you’re doing.
If you’d rather deal directly with a medical doctor that “gets it” when it comes to plant-based nutrition, you might want to contact Dr. Michael Klaper—and tell him J. Morris Hicks sent you:
- Meet Dr. Michael Klaper: Available for phone and/or Skype consultations
- Share with your doctor: McDougall Newsletter: May 2012 – A Word to My Profession
- Change is happening; my earlier blog about the doctors of the future. Hundreds of medical doctors learning plant-based nutrition
- The Starch Solution. Order Dr. McDougall’s new book from Amazon
Handy 3-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Our book: Healthy Eating, Healthy World by yours truly & son
- An essential nutrition resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation