Reducing medications; with help from Dr. McDougall

How do you explain what you’re doing to your doctor?

Chances are your doctor will be a little skeptical when you start talking about reducing your medication. Hopefully, this post will help.

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.

John McDougall, M.D.

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.

When not promoting the health of his patients, you can usually find Dr. McDougall engaged in his favorite sport.

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.

J. Morris Hicks, where the simple and clear advice will always be the same and summed up in two words: Whole Plants.

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:

The following five books and one DVD can be purchased on Amazon for a grand total of less than $60—and will enable you to understand the overwhelming challenges we face—along with the single most-powerful solution of all.

Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth

  1. Healthy Eating, Healthy WorldThe “big picture” about food (our book)
  2. A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD 
  3. An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
  4. What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
  5. A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
  6. Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unawareby Richard Oppenlander.

Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes 2 or 3 minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, visit our 4Leaf page and also enjoy some great recipes from Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member since 2012; click banner for more info:

Nutrition Certificate

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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2 Responses to Reducing medications; with help from Dr. McDougall

  1. Salvatore Liggieri says:

    Because of my age 86, my wife insists that I maintain a relationship with the medical profession in case of an emergency situation. I don’t agree with her. McDougall’s parting words to me after completing his 10 day program at Santa Rosa, California: “Sal, if you want to live long, in good health, stay away from doctors.” But she is deaf to this.

    For over one year I have been trying to get the three doctors I see to get me off drugs for hypertension. They won’t even think about it even after reading McDougall’s articles that I gave them to read. I got fed up with their refusal, so I stopped the drugs on my own. Just as these doctors are gambling with my life in taking drugs because that’s the way they have always treated hypertension, I will gamble my life with McDougall’s advise. For me, he is the DOCTOR.


    P.S. It’s been one month off drugs, my blood pressure is stable, and I feel fine.

  2. Jim — My email to Dr. McDougall today, after reading your Blog:
    Dr. McDougall —
    “Healthy Eating — Healthy World” —
    Blog today re your May ’12 Newsletter!

    Thanks, Jim Hicks.

    Since I am also sending this to my Healthy Lifestyle contacts, I have included a .pdf of Dr. McD’s guidance to doctors.

    Dr. Hammond and my “Healthy Lifestyle Education” meeting/veg potluck this Thursday night will feature Dr. McD’s new book, and his 75 minute video —
    The Starch Solution on Vimeo =


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