An Epiphany on Healing Our Chronically Ill Society

There is an incredible gap between thinking about drug-based health and food-based health around the world.   Conventional wisdom has failed to show the importance in developing and using nutrition as a concept to maintain health and prevent disease.

 

 plant-based-diet-beginners

 The answer to what ails us has been here since day one

I have had two life-altering experiences that have allowed me to enhance two of the three elements that encompass a holistic lifestyle – Mind, Body, Spirit.  The two that focus on the mind and spirit occurred almost simultaneously as I engrossed myself in academics at a time when my generation in the early 1970‘s was also looking for deeper spiritual realities not associated with institutional religion.

To many, as it was to me in my earlier days, this will come across as hippy, eastern mysticism crapola.   I was raised in the South, – Texas to be specific – and as a conservative Catholic who feared God and hated communist I was a perfect patsy for the anti-liberal crowd that was slowly emerging in my part of the country at the time.  The glory days of FDR were slowing fading into the sunset as Kennedy would be the last progressive president to win the electoral votes of the Lone Star state.

My tour of duty as a Marine in Vietnam opened my eyes to the ugliness of war and gave me a greater appreciation for the life we come face to face with every day.  Death all of sudden was something more real to me than it had been as a carefree adolescent.  There was the short period of time following my discharge from the service and upon entering college that simply served as a period to drink as much alcohol and smoke as much dope as I could and lay with as many women who were also wandering aimlessly in search of some kind of fulfillment.

I’m not sure what drove me to enter college.  I was a mediocre student in high school before I dropped out in my junior year to join the Corps.  But I was sold on the idea that furthering my education would open some doors for me and prevent me from getting stuck in a life where spinning your wheels in a job that led to nowhere was commonplace.

Enriching my understanding of the world outside my small community filled a void that had been there for some time.   My association with more diverse, learned people than the crowd I grew up with introduced me to new themes and perspectives that struck a chord that had been lying inert within me too long.

The works of Emerson and Thoreau tapped a metaphysical nerve and pushed me to challenge traditional notions of religion.  I struggled with this for years but once I got past the barriers that orthodoxy builds in our lives and punishes us with guilt, I found a new freedom that I never new existed.  I became fully cognizant of the scriptural notion of leaving childish things behind.   For me this included the tired old concepts of conventional religion.

Growing mentally and spiritually is supposed to be an ongoing process and entails getting passed established customs and rituals embedded into our psyche at very early ages.  I don’t think we are capable of reaching a final point where we can honestly say, “I’ve made it!  I’m here!” without setting limits for ourself.   If we come to some point where we are asking “Is this all there is”, then I think we have given up rather than reaching the true limits of our being.

 brain-light-bulb

My Eureka moment has finally occurred about the final leg of a holistic life

And yet, the third leg of this holistic approach regarding the body has evaded me until just recently.  Through various sources I have discovered that the health of our body also requires getting past arcane notions.  Keeping in mind my upbringing was in Texas, we were big meat eaters.  In fact the only time we didn’t have meat as a part of the main course for dinner was on Friday’s.

Canon law to this day still requires Catholics to abstain from eating meat on Friday.   It wasn’t until 1983 and the implementation of canon 1251 that some other food “as determined by the Episcopal Conference” could  serve as a substitute for red meat.  It came too late for me however to replace Friday’s fried salmon patties my mom would always mange to over cook in lard.

We have evolved as a consumer of foods that are quick and easy and ever so tasty.  Yet for all of the proclaimed benefits from such a diet we have deprived ourselves of something that literally can prevent illness and disease.  Like sheep led to their slaughter we have bought into the notion that the modern meat-based diet and processed foods fulfill the essential needs for good health and long life.  I have become convinced that nothing could be further from the truth.

There have been a few instances in the near past where I have crossed paths with people in real life and through media sources that have raised the prospects of living purely off of a holistic plant-based diet.  One of the more prominent documentaries I had seen to that point was The Gerson Miracle.   But these sources somehow were unable to penetrate that thick layer of time-honored beliefs that assured me meat and dairy products, at some level, were part of a requisite diet.

Like the ideas planted in my youth that put God, flag and family as the quintessential pattern of thought for my life, the food pyramid that insisted only meat protein and the vital nutrients in dairy products were conducive to a healthy lifestyle were equally ingrained within my knowledge base.  It was believed that being a vegan was for limp-wristed types who wanted to undermine our traditional way of life.

What finally got me past this corporate propaganda was a series of documentaries that displayed stunning research in a fashion and language that was easy to comprehend.  For someone like me who was willing to push the envelope on conventional beliefs it was easy to shut out the objections to a purely “vegan” diet and listen to alternatives.  These alternative eating habits were not new but merely something that’s been lost over time and which enabled earlier generations to avoid the health issues we are experiencing today as a society.

Based on research by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D and significant others, meat and dairy products, which contain casein, a carcinogen found in animal based proteins, are strongly tied to high rates of heart disease and most cancers.

WHAT!!!!

It may or may not surprise you to learn that meat and dairy, organic or conventional,

  • contain naturally occurring steroids and hormones, which can promote cancer growth.

  • animal protein, fat, and cholesterol (even nonfat/skim milk contains cholesterol) all contribute to heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and other major chronic disease

What made this an epiphany for me was not so much the obvious health benefits of a holistic plant-based diet but that it was a diet that needn’t include meat and dairy protein.   We have all been raised with the idea that, A) Protein is a vital nutrient,  and B) it’s only found in meat.  Protein is indeed a vital nutrient but what’s not common knowledge is that meat isn’t necessarily a primary source for protein.  The beef industry in this country has a long tradition of promoting this ideal.

beef_1

I could sit here all day and give you all kinds of data to support the hazards of a meat-based diet, which includes dairy products.  But I’d rather you be convinced by the documentary that turned that dormant light on and finally completed the third leg of a holistic life for me – the Body.

It’s called Forks over Knives.   The film and its follow-up documentary, Forks over Knives: The Extended Interviews will blow your mind when you discover that by eating a plant-based diet you cannot only halt the conditions of heart disease and cancer but can actually reverse them.   Both Netflix and Hulu have these in their inventory

Think of that.   The number one and two killers of people in the U.S. – heart disease and cancer – can virtually be eliminated by changing how we eat.  Then there are of course the positive results that such a diet will have on reducing obesity in this country and its serious side effect, diabetes.  One health report even shows that there are significant links between a meat-based diet and high rates of Alzheimer’s.

Leading Causes of Death

(Data are for the U.S. and are final 2010 data; For the most recent preliminary data see Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2011 [PDF – 1.7 MB])

  • Heart disease: 597,689
  • Cancer: 574,743
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 83,494
  • Diabetes: 69,071
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364

Source: Deaths: Final Data for 2010, table 10  [PDF – 3.1 MB] 

Faced with the prospect of deteriorating health as I age alongside the rising costs of health care, I am profoundly disturbed that the health care institutions in this country have not been more supportive of a plant-based diet.   It is one thing to discover how meat and dairy products can contribute significantly to poor health to all populations and another not to act on that in a manner that would reduce and likely eliminate the threat of diseases that plague modern man.  It raises the question that asks, “Who do these people really serve”?

The meat and dairy industry in this country have spent a fortune on marketing and paying to influence the USDA to promote their products.  I cited one example of this in an earlier post of mine – Kowtowing, Cow herders and Cow Paddies.    In his informative piece at HuffPo, Nil Zacharias demonstrates how difficult it will be to overcome the powerful monied interests that represent the meat industry.

Thanks to the blog CountingAnimals.com, we now have hard data to … [show that] the meat industry has the big guns (i.e. more cash) … [to fight a] a propaganda war for the hearts, minds and taste buds of the American public.

The results of their analysis are captured in the graphic below, which helps visualize the scale of the difference between the dollars spent on promoting meat and the dollars spent on advocacy of farm animals. In the figure below, each red circle represents a meat-promoting entity, with the area of the circle being proportional to just the annual advertising or promotional expenses of that entity. Each green circle (you’ll need a magnifying glass to even see most of them) represents an animal advocacy organization engaged in promoting plant-based eating or meat industry reform, with the area of the circle being proportional to the total annual expenses of that organization.

Vegan-Propaganda-Meat-Industry

SOURCE   

There is a culture in this country that is deeply entrenched and ensures that all of us and our children will incur ill-health for decades to come.  This revolutionary and liberating knowledge about plant-based diets will be attacked by this culture because there are billions of dollars and  tens of thousands of jobs that are at stake here.

Yet the well-being of our families and the planet itself demand that we start turning the corner on food sources that shortens our lives, increases our health care costs and destroys our vital resources of water and clean air.

Don’t let the image of a plate full of “rabbit food” substituting a meat and dairy based diet weaken your resolve to change over.  There are many websites where you discover how to make plant-based recipes that resemble those meat-based dishes we have all come to love.   They can be equally satisfying by enhancing them with health beneficial spices and just as filling.

Check out the recipes at the No. 2 Engine Diet website for plant-based meatloaf, lasagna and burgers, to cite just a few examples of what they offer.

enchilada dish

Here’s an enchilada dish you’ll find on the Engine #2 Diet website.  It has all the protein you’ll need and there’s not an ounce of meat in it

Eat to livedon’t live to eat.” ― Epicurus

 

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25 responses to “An Epiphany on Healing Our Chronically Ill Society

  1. Interesting food for thought. Most of the “natural causes” of death in the top 10 list can also be caused by drinking water. We also have to be aware of all the ferts and pesticides sprayed on the vegis. My main concern is knowing where my food comes from. I eat a rabbitt I raised, I know what it ate.

    There is much debate as to what is the best diet when it comes to the environment. Although, I think it’s safe to say the traditional American beef and hog market is not best to say the least. Tofu has turned out to be harsh in many aspects. Much of it has to do with simply eating what is available locally.

    Really enjoyed the background information at the first of your piece.

    • Hey Don! Good hearing from you.

      “We also have to be aware of all the ferts and pesticides sprayed on the vegis. My main concern is knowing where my food comes from. “

      I couldn’t agree more. This is where buying locally, especially from organic farmers, comes in to play. Even better, raising and growing your own.

      But the thing with meat and dairy having chemicals hazardous to you body is more of problem and harder to detect than vegetables and fruits grown. Most pesticides are usually on the outside of plants and a good cleaning before eating can remove the larger threat here. This isn’t the case so much with meat and dairy.

      The other factor I barely touched on here too is that by eating less meat we also reduce the amount of grain necessary to feed them that gets removed from the food supply for people, especially those in poorer countries. There is also the waste factor. Manure from the CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) where most of our meat comes from is a serious health risk because much of it makes its way into the water systems of a region and eventually works it way down stream to larger populated areas.

      Thanks for commenting and hope you stay in touch. If you haven’t yet and get a chance, please view the two Forks Over Knives videos I recommended. If you do I’d appreciate it if you could get back with me and tell me if it changed any part of your perspective on diets

      • I don’t think I disagree with any of that LB. I was involved in a debate concerning CAFO’s in a college environmental law class. I am certainly with you on them just being, well…no good. You make a good point about the contaminants being harder to detect in meats also.
        There was some testing done on the wastes of a hog CAFO around here and if the results are any indication of what is in the meat that’s not good either. The wastes from CAFO’s really do get everywhere. The liners they put in the retaining tanks do not prevent seepage and then you get the unfortunate situation of the whole thing breaking. I will check out the “Forks Over Knives” videos soon/

  2. I am big into the holistic approach to nutrition but I have to say, I still go back to everything in moderation. I could give up fast food completely but then that total deprivation for the occasional whopper Jr or Dunkin Donut would probably lead me to kill someone so i have to balance it: a few carcinogens or risk of Type II Diabetes for me vs. murder. I go with the carcinogens and Diabetes.

    • “I am big into the holistic approach to nutrition but I have to say, I still go back to everything in moderation”

      I couldn’t agree more Donna. This isn’t an over night action for me but I am surprised how much more willing I am than I have been in the past to make this work. I still throw a piece of pepper-jack cheese on my veggie burger and still have my sausage, two eggs and hash browns every Sunday morning. But 95% of the time the meals I eat are 100% plant-based and I am seeing and feeling good changes in just the 3 short weeks I have been at it.

  3. Larry, a great post. I am old and since I can remember a meal has been meat, veggie and a starch of some sort….old fashion….. I know but old habits die hard.

    • I can promise you Dr. Chuq that anyone who views the videos I recommended and has a serious interests in good health will be impacted by what you hear and see.

      I am not unlike those who think they could never make such a paradigm shift with their eating habits but trust me, if you are aware of your own deteriorating health and the medical costs to fight them, you will be motivated to make a change in your life that promises to avoid the doctor’s office and the trips to the pharmacy.

      • Larry, I do eat smaller portions of meat and I grow most of the veggies I consume…..as far as the doctor goes…..I will forever have to visit my local quack….a crushed leg prevents me from going to long with medical input……I just cannot say NO to a good cheeseburger….my downfall I know…..but at least it will be a tasty death….LOL

  4. I agree with most of what you have to say with regard to agribusiness and the food industry. One of the problems we face is that of language. We blithely use the word “meat: assuming it means the same thing to all people. The “meat” we evalved to eat was lean and in relatively small quantity. I suggest that evolutionarily, that a similar diet will not harm us. Unfortunately our meat is no longer lean, nor is it in small quantities.

    Make no mistake about it, a simple analysis of all of the great apes shows that we are not vegetarians. We do not have the equipment to be such although we do have the technology, so it is a choice.

    I also urge you to be suspect of dietary research (I am a chemist by background). Many of the papers I have read have been deplorably badly done. If you would like a good read regarding this, try “Good Calories, Bad Calories” written several years ago. You will see that many of the conclusions of research studies regarding the diet have more to do with politics than they do with science.

    • Thanks for your input Stephen. I’ll check out the source you provided. If you would do likewise for me and view the two documentaries I suggested, Forks Over Knives, and tell me if you see anything that contradicts what you think a good healthy diet should consist of. All of the specialist interviewed in this documentary are leaders in their fields. And their research and case studies seem pretty solid.

  5. Great post! I must say I do like my beef but i have cut down on it over the years. The Brazilian diet is pretty well rounded: lots of beans and rice supplemented with smaller portions of meat.

    • “I must say I do like my beef but i have cut down on it over the years.”</i.

      I'm sure if I stay with this plant-based diet I will have those dreams for months about chomping down on a tender piece of red meat. Much like I had dreams about lighting up after I quit smoking years ago.

  6. It has been a long process to wean myself from a meat, potatoes and processed food diet. We now get fresh fruits and veggies from a CSA. I buy local chicken and fish (live at the shore with local fish markets) and still eat beef occasionally. Changing American eating habits is a very long process, but there is hope with younger generations being aware of the issues. The generations that grew up on the wonders of processed food got hooked and it is difficult to de-tox.

    • It’s really not just about beef Mercyn. Meat of any kind, including chicken and fish is a muscle and has the same capabilities of storing carcinogens and cholesterol as beef does. Both chicken and fish are leaner and in the case of fish, have the good Omega3 fatty acids. But the point the authors of Forks Over Knives are trying to make is that any meat product can ultimately pose health risks for you while simultaneously providing certain nutrients.

      The question we need to ask ourselves is do we want such a trade off when a plant-based diet can give us the best of both worlds. Please, view the videos I’ve provided links to then consider your views on a meatless diet.

      I know its unthinkable to consider a totally meatless diet when that’s all you’ve known your entire life. It still is difficult for me and I’m sure consuming animal food will continue for a while for me, albeit more sparingly.

      Also, no need to avoid potatoes. Starches won’t hurt you unless of course you load them down with fatty oils and butter. Its hard to over eat potatoes because they will fill you up quickly.

      Check out some of the plant-based recipes at the Engine #2 Diet website I cited. Hash browns are used in several recipes.

  7. It’s essentially the same message at the China Study, which alludes to Forks as a great documentary and they have a good cookbook as well. I can’t give up meat, and especially dairy, but I have cut way back. I use almond milk instead of milk for any recipe that won’t be thrown by the sweet taste. I also develop more combo veggie dishes. What I am not ready to do is go try to buy all these substitutes for ground beef and so forth. I’m just dont want to relearn cooking. Lazy I guess. But I totally agree about the casein thing. It’s a racket, the food industry. Like any other business, the well-being of the customer is the LAST thing they care about.

    • When you watch the film you’ll see Dr. Colin Campbell in it discuss his research from the China study

      “What I am not ready to do is go try to buy all these substitutes for ground beef and so forth. I’m just dont want to relearn cooking. Lazy I guess”

      It’s a big change no doubt. You do have to start getting used to the substitutes. Brown lintels for the meat loaf texture and crushed flax seed for eggs and your servings of Omega3 fatty oils. Time ultimately will make these things common as what we used to cook with today. At least I’m hoping that will be the case.

    • Don’t ever cut yourself short Christo. There’s too many other people in this world that will do that for you. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you around.

      • “Who is that confused lad on John’s page? A regular opponent of yours?”

        Who, Leroy? No not really. He’s a worthy adversary. I understand where he’s coming from but just simply don’t buy into it. At least not anymore

  8. Seriously? Casein is a carcinogen? Baloney. Sorry, but you fell for the pseudoscientific woo. Casein is the a predominant protein in milk, and that includes human milk. It is not “carcinogenic.”

    • I would hardly call it pseudoscience Norbrook.

      This information comes from Dr. T. Colin Campbell who has been at the forefront of nutrition research. According to his bio, Campbell’s legacy, “the China Project, is the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted.  Dr. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. He has more than seventy grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding and authored more than 300 research papers…”

      “We clearly showed that of all the chemical carcinogens tested in the government’s chemical carcinogenesis testing program–and using the traditional criteria to decide what is a carcinogen–casein (and very likely most other animal based proteins) was the most relevant. This is not a debatable subject and the implications of this conclusion are staggering in so many ways.” SOURCE

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