I didn’t start my current whole-plant based diet for a fad. I didn’t even start it to loose weight or to avoid cancer. In January of 2014 at the age of 54, I ended up in a ambulance with severe chest pains on my way to an emergency room. My grandfather died from a heart attack at age 60, my father had his first heart attack at age 55 and then triple by-pass at 72, and I was told there was nothing I could do about it. I had symptoms of pains shooting up my left arm and tightness in my chest and even though I did not have a heart attack at that time, I wanted to do something about it before it happened. So, one year before my first probable heart-attack on my 55th birthday marking my father’s first attack, and I wasn’t going to let it take me. Not with a young daughter.
I then read and read and read on the subject of diet and heart disease and finally settled on Dr. Esselstyn’s book on how to reverse heart disease. Being a scientist who doesn’t believe in conspiracies, fads, or the supernatural, I decided that I would put my trust into the data backing up this diet.
I would change to this diet cold-turkey and not look back. I followed the diet without fail. My family hated it at first, and then resigned to it. When I make a decision like this, I’m dogged.
Ten months later, I am feeling the most fit in my entire life. Yes, in my entire life including as a young child. Since I can remember, I have had aggravated asthma and any time I exerted myself physically without warming up, my lungs would tightened up and breathing became very labored. Two months into Dr. Esselstyn’s diet, I found something remarkable had happened.
I went to move a very heavy 35 inch Sony flat-screen, 80 pound tube TV which I could always pick up myself with my long arms. A year or so ago, I moved the same TV. Back then, when I let go after having moved it, my hands would be locked in a curve shape for minutes and I have to unbend them from my rheumatoid arthritis. But even more so, I would spend the next 20 minutes recovering from being out of breath and sore everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong. I was a skinny guy all my life and not over weight. I was eating what I thought was healthy including chicken, no red meat, low fat this, vegetables, fruit, etc.
But when I let go of the grinding-stone heavy TV and set it on the ground, something hit me like a ton of bricks. I stood up and waited for the normal reactions: pain in my hands, hands locking up and not opening right away, and out of breath and bracing myself for some tough breathing for next 15 to 20 minutes.
I did feel fatigued, but no shortness of breath and no hands locking. And the fatigue from moving was over in seconds. Yes, seconds. I breathed in deeply which before would always cause a tickling of my lungs followed by an inevitable cough. But this time, I felt no tickling, no symptoms of asthma. None. This was no small thing. This was a life-changing moment. For the first time in my entire life, I felt no lung allergies and no tickling in my lungs and no coughing. And for the first time in about 5 years, my joints felt no pain only seconds after letting go of the TV. I moved my fingers with no pain. I breathed in again. Nothing. I almost hyperventilated testing the theory that my allergies were gone!
Then I remembered from Dr. Esselstyn’s book: how those on this diet had a faster recovery time than others.
From that point on, I was on this diet for life.
But I found other things on the way that I didn’t expect but are now just as important. Being a scientist, I wanted to understand why the diet worked. Why no dairy, no meat, no oil. After ten months, think I now know why.
Meat & Dairy and the Immune System
The problem with meat and dairy is that when we eat it, we are ingesting proteins and molecules from other animals. Although there are many similarities to all animals, our immune systems are different. What works in a cow, doesn’t work in a human and visa versa. I grew up drinking milk almost every day. I’m thinking it was the cause of my aggravated asthma. Here is why.
The biggest and most complex system in our bodies is our immune system. Immune system problems range from arthritis (something I have), aids, diabetes (this may be news to you), lupus, myasthenia gravis which my wife has, etc. The immune system is the most complex battle going on in all living things. It is a battle of molecules where shape, size, length, and bonds fight and mutate constantly creating the most complex system known to modern medicine and the hardest to fight.
Just watch a TV commercial for some new drug. It often spends more time explaining the possible side effects of the new drug. They even accelerate the speech electronically to get it all in. Why? For them, the reason is legal: they don’t want to be sued for the problems the drug may introduce. That is absurd. The drugs on TV today sound scary and risky and they are. But why?
When we ingest meat or dairy, we are introducing a myriad of problems into our immune system. When then add a drug into our system to combat a problem which then interacts with other molecules in our immune system which then causes side effects. It is an incredibly dangerous practice. In fact, it only adds to problems we will never understand given the incredible complexity and that each person is a bit different.
Whole Versus Processed Plants
The same thing holds true for processed wheat and flour. In places where they only eat whole-plants, they had less disease than those eating processed plants. Molecules. Messing with them causes problems.
It is probably due to evolution that we didn’t have machines for millions of years so our bodies adapted for plants. Of course, that is speculation but is food for thought!
The China Study
I knew several people who should have died of cancer and aids. They didn’t. One had cancer even in his brain. I figured as everyone that they were goners. It turns out they both survived and are still living. Being a scientist (not a doctor), I couldn’t figure this out. But after reading Dr. Esselstyn’s book, I think I know why.
One friend was a vegetarian and he went really strict during his ordeal. The other tried EVERYTHING possible and even returned to Brazil to get whatever treatment he could: from voodoo, to drugs, to potions, to lotions, and diet. I didn’t ask this second guy about diet but I am certain that he changed his diet drastically along with everything else.
The most amazing things come with this diet including protection from cancer. You may say that diet and cancer have some relationship but until you understand the China Study, you will not fully understand the relationship.
First, we don’t really understand the mechanics of why diet affects cancer. But in truth, it doesn’t matter. Millions of people and their relationship to over 9000 diseases from the China study clearly show that cancer is directly related to diet. Read Dr. Esselstyn’s book for more on that.
This was a great bonus for me: someone looking to reverse their heart disease.
Oil was also shown in the China Study to cause adverse effects. But for myself, it showed up like for many on this diet: while cleaning my plate.
What goes into your mouth ends up in the body and the blood stream, even in small amounts. When I wash my plate or a container from my food today, it washes out with water. There is a multi-billion dollar industry that exists on the fact that it is very hard to remove oil from our plates, from wildlife during oil spills – its a real hard problem. If this oil is so hard to move from your plate, can clog up your pipes in your house if you throw it down the drain, then it certainly must be wreaking havoc in your body and your blood stream as well as intestines. I have seen many people writing about this diet coming to the same conclusions.
Also, oil is expensive to clean, but also expensive to produce. It takes a lot of energy to make oil. In the culinary world, it isn’t naturally occurring. And the two or three cultures in the world who by nature are on Dr. Esselstyn’s diet, don’t have oil or meat or dairy because all those things are very expensive to produce. They simply can’t afford it. Yet, those cultures have not heart disease, no cancer, no diabetes etc. Read Dr. Esselstyn and his colleagues books for details.
Oil is also 100% fat. That is calories. You don’t get fat because of magic. You get fat from eating lots of calories. Oil, even the best is full of calories.
Oil is 100% fat, expensive to produce, and very hard to get rid of. This is one of the things you don’t want to ingest and have especially in your bloodstream. The home experiment: clean oil of a plate or container and imagine how your body is going to get that out of its system.
In 2014, a new study early in 2014 on diabetes came out with an unexpected conclusion for those doing the study: diabetes was related to the consumption of meat, any meat including fish and chicken. Knowing this diet and Dr. Esselstyn’s book, this is no surprise. Here is the conclusion from the report:
Meat consumption is consistently associated with diabetes risk. Dietary habits are readily modifiable, but individuals and clinicians will consider dietary changes only if they are aware of the potential benefits of doing so. The foregoing review indicates that the identification of meat consumption as a risk factor for diabetes provides helpful guidance for clinicians and at-risk individuals, and sets the stage for beneficial behavioral changes.
Now the fad (unfortunately a fad) is to do an Esselstyn-type diet to lower the symptoms of diabetes, but they are promoting it as a 30-day cure. It is a cure if you continue the diet the rest of your life. It will be interesting to see what people do.
Ok, I never was obese. But I was chubby at times in my life. I’m six foot three and weighed between 159 pounds (1988) and 215 pounds but I’m from skinny stock. Today, I don’t exercise as much as I need to because I’m a computer programmer and sit in front of a computer constantly. But if you look at me, I must have almost zero body fat and my cholesterol has dropped into the 100s from 220.
For the first time in a very long time (since 1988), I have no problem taking off my shirt and swimming with my 9 year-old-daughter. On her recent birthday party all the younger parents were sitting along side the pool while I threw, played horsey and surf board (very aerobic activities) for 30 to 40 minutes never tiring much. Not bad for a guy born in the 1950s!
The TV Set: Where is it Now?
When we moved from Long Beach to Boca Raton Florida, I finally put our TV set out on the curb knowing someone would pick it up. After hauling it out there by myself with my new found body, I heard a group of guys across the street yell: “Hey, you giving that away?” I said “Yea! Take it, it’s yours!” They crossed the street and one of them tried to pick it up. They were pretty big guys and turned to me and said: “You carried this yourself?” They looked at my skinny frame and marveled. I said, “Yea, whole-plant power”. They shook their heads and two of them (who were not in the best of shape I may add) struggled, picked it up, and took it away.
I walked to my house and by the time I was there, I was 100% recovered and with a smile on my face knowing I had a long and healthy life ahead at the young age of 54 and I would live to see my daughter marry, and maybe even have a grandchild.
Thanks Dr. Esselstyn: I owe you my life!
Look for my next blog article on diet when I discuss how to practically do this diet cheaply, and with the least amount of family and friend inconvenience like “Now I can’t go out to dinner with you any more!”