“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates
Hippocrates was born in Greece around the year 460 BC and was a physician considered to be one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is also known as the father of medicine and the Hippocratic Oath was, and still remains, an expression of ideal conduct for the physician. Aside from the ever-famous quote above, Hippocrates also contributed the belief that: “The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.” This quote is the essence of veganism.
According to Wikipedia, there are 141 accredited MD-granting institutions in the United States. Little, if any, nutritional education is offered to aspiring doctors in medical schools. But a New York Times article titled Teaching Doctors About Nutrition and Diet stated that “Research has increasingly pointed to a link between the nutritional status of Americans and the chronic diseases that plague them. Between the growing list of diet-related diseases and a burgeoning obesity epidemic, the most important public health measure for any of us to take may well be watching what we eat.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/16/health/16chen.html)
Why aren’t we making the connection?
From the earliest intuitive understanding of Hippocrates, we fast forward to a quote by Dr. Kim Williams, president of the American College of Cardiology. He tells us: “There are two kinds of cardiologists; vegans, and those who haven’t read the data.” Williams recommends a plant-based diet to his patients “to lower their blood pressure, improve their insulin sensitivity and decrease their cholesterol,” (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/advice-from-a-vegan-cardiologist/?_r=0).
And still, the consumption of animals and their secretions continues.
With 1 in every 4 deaths attributed to heart disease, obesity rates inching up to 35% percent and the diabetes rate climbing to unheard of numbers (diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for around $245 billion in medical costs and lost productivity each year) we are at the beginning stages of waking up to the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Slowly, the medical profession is catching up to the realities of how the food we eat affects the health of our bodies. We can avert so much suffering to ourselves and others by leaving animals and their secretions off the menu and off our plates — permanently.
If the professionals with whom we entrust our health don’t teach us, then who will?
It is not easy to find a plant-based physician with the knowledge, understanding and willingness to impart that knowledge. I was fortunate to find two local plant-based doctors right here in our own community.
Dr. Padma Garvey is a gynecologist practicing in Poughkeepsie. After watching her father and several other close family members die from complications of heart disease and diabetes, Garvey resolved to “not die that way.” She stumbled upon the documentary, “Forks Over Knives.” She said that film opened her eyes to how misinformed she was about nutrition and how most physicians need to educate themselves in this regard. She also started to see how little effort physicians make in treating medical problems through lifestyle. After completely relearning nutrition, Garvey was astonished at the connection between eating habits, medical costs, antibiotic resistance, the human microbiome, etc. As she changed her own lifestyle, she noticed that the effects were immediate and dramatic. Her own personal health experience with a plant-based diet motivated her to start her own website with podcasts, cooking videos and recipes (www.drpadmagarvey.com).
Dr. Carol Jellett is a family practice physician with the Institute for Family Health in Hyde Park. As most of us have been, Jellett was raised on the traditional American diet. After much research, she educated herself about the benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet and read numerous studies suggesting that a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat to avoid heart disease, cancer and diabetes. She also understood that it is much more efficient and less environmentally destructive to use land to produce plants for human consumption than to grow food to feed animals and then eat the animal. Working in a traditional medical practice, Jellett said she tends to see mostly patients with a traditional view of medicine and certain expectations regarding their treatment. She mindfully meets her patients where they are in their own personal health journey, as she focuses on preventive medicine, which relies more on diet, exercise and stress reduction more so than on medication. (www.institute2000.org)
The word “doctor” originates from the Latin verb docere (do-ke-re), which means “to teach.” My sincere hope is that more physicians will begin to adopt this lifestyle and become role models and teachers for their patients and the community, so that we may begin to heal our bodies and so we may actually begin to thrive.
Sande Nosonowitz is a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator as well as a certified yoga and meditation teacher. Contact her at her Sundara website; www.sundarajewel.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.