We are living in interesting times where everyone seems to blame others for their problems. This is a common theme in medicine as I have not talked to anyone, whether it is a doctor, patient, or even those in administration who does not believe that our healthcare system is broken. While many of the criticisms are perfectly valid, my concern is what to do in the meantime. In other words, how do we make the best of a bad situation.
It may not surprise you that I would like to address the issue of diet. Recently, a study came across my desk that I thought was particularly interesting because it surveyed second year medical students and their comfort level regarding making dietary recommendations to patients. What was fascinating to me is that more than half of these students felt qualified to do so.
I find this very disturbing. Would you want a second year medical student taking out your appendix? Or, if you had a serious medical condition like diabetic ketoacidosis or an infection in your bloodstream, would that same student be okay with you? I’m guessing not. My point is that diet is not taken seriously by the medical community. It is an afterthought and highlights the need for a sincere effort to solve this serious shortcoming.
The problem is this is going to take a long, long time. We are in a time warp. It feels like the 70’s and 80’s when we watched the tobacco lobby hang on for as long as possible before they finally had to admit that smoking was not only detrimental, there was no medical benefit either. So, what to do in the meantime?
Expect more. Acknowledge the fact that this is not a perfect system and never will be as there are too many competing interest for an honest recommendation. But, we can operate on a different level as we educate ourselves. As we do so, see what your provider (MD, DO, DC, ND, PA, NP) knows. Chances are, you may know more about dietary nutrition than they do. Be polite. Is this someone you can work with? Keep an open mind as you may find that your provider really wants to up their game as well. If it's a good fit, stay. If not, vote with your feet.
Where else can we do this? Pretty much everywhere. When you go to a family gathering, don’t get mad, bring your own food. When you go to an event, make mention that you have dietary restrictions, acutely aware that they may fall short, they can also surprise you. Answer the hospital questionnaire and make mention that there were not enough plant based options and question why a hospital insists on serving class 1 carcinogens to their patients. The word is getting out on whole food plant based nutrition. Your family, friends and coworkers that don’t understand, show them compassion rather than contempt as people become afraid when confronted by change no matter how good it is for them. In time, attitudes will change because the economics will drive it that way. The cheapest way to get healthy patients is WFPB.
It is already happening. In the meantime, we expect more from ourselves. We vote with our feet and our palates. We create the demand. Large food companies are gearing up for battle. We have a lot of vegan options. We continue to expect more as we up the game to whole food, vegan options. We educate ourselves. We educate others. And let’s recognize Paul Chatlin for his heroic mission to get whole food, plant based nutrition into the curriculum to medical schools. He needs our help. Donations to the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group are a godsend for him. He has done so much to educate our community and help us in our effects to treat and prevent chronic disease.
Dr. Michael Dangovian, DO FACC
ntegrative Yoga-Based Cardiovascular Specialist