Tag Archives: inflammation

Parkinson’s Disease – the important role of the food we eat

Parkinson’s Disease is second only to Alzheimer’s as the most common human neurodegenerative disorder in the United States. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system that affects physical movements and over the years causes a progressive disability that can be slowed or even temporarily improved but not halted. So far no therapy has been proven to stop its progression.

Not surprisingly, diet is a major risk factor. The western, meat-centered diet, especially from meat fat, dairy and eggs, increases the risk of getting Parkinson’s, while plant fats do not increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. In fact, consuming plant foods decreases the risk of getting Parkinson’s disease. There are two main processes where plant foods can help.

Inflammation is one part of the disease process. A plant-based diet is known to reduce the level of inflammation which may also affect the progression of Parkinson’s disease. One way plant-based diets do this is due to the amount of fiber consumed, which only comes from plant foods. Fiber helps the so-called good bacteria in our guts thrive. The good bacteria produce a substance called butyrate which is known to help reduce inflammation. Parkinson’s disease patients have, on average, lower levels of butyrate, and there have been some intriguing studies that show a connection between the bacteria in the intestine and Parkinson’s disease.

Another part of the disease process is due to oxidative stress. There are substances in the body, including the brain, known as reactive oxygen species, or ROS for short, that cause what’s known as oxidative stress, which has been shown to be a major part of the disease process. However, plant foods are rich in antioxidants that counter and prevent oxidative stress, thus having a beneficial effect.

For those who already have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, a plant-based diet can make it easier to take anti-Parkinson’s disease medication and make them more easily absorbed. In a case study, one patient was able to make a large reduction in the dose of his medication and a large improvement in his symptoms as well, by following a plant-based diet.

While more research needs to be done, the plant-based diet has a role to play in the prevention and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. We recently wrote a review article for the medical community on the research that is already available on this topic, and we’re delighted that it is being published in the Open Access Journal of Neurology and Neurosurgery. See professional level article.

Vegans breathe easier

Getting COVID 19 makes it hard to breathe but at least it doesn’t affect many children, and a vaccine is being distributed. There’s no vaccine for asthma, but a plant-based diet helps those who suffer from asthma to breathe easier.

Childhood asthma continues to be a major public health problem worldwide. Adults get asthma too. The western, meat-centered diet, may partly explain the “asthma epidemic” in the United States.

What is asthma? Asthma is a disease in which your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus and inflammation. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, a whistling sound (wheezing) when you breathe out and shortness of breath. For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.

Eating meat increases the risk of wheezing, a symptom of asthma, in children. Meat also increases the risk of disturbed sleep from wheezing and the risk of exercise induced wheezing. Inflammatory compounds found in cooked meat have been found to give rise to a heightened risk of childhood wheeze. These compounds, known as advanced glycation end products, or AGEs for short, are by-products of high temperature cooking, such as grilling, frying, or roasting, with cooked meat being a major dietary source.

What if someone already has asthma? One study on people with asthma receiving long term medication, who were placed on a vegan diet for a year, found that in almost all cases medication was able to be withdrawn or drastically reduced. There was a significant decrease in asthma symptoms with 71% of patients reporting improvement at 4 months and 92% after a year.

However, you can reduce your risk of getting asthma in the first place by eating more vegetables and whole grains. A study lowered the risk of getting asthma by 42% for those eating more vegetables and 54% for those eating more whole grains, while consuming dairy increased the risk by 93% and intake of cured meats such as salami, pastrami and bacon, was associated with worsening asthma symptoms by 76%.

This is not surprising since asthma may, in part, be an autoimmune disease. People who follow a plant-based diet have lower levels of inflammation, and lower risks of other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It’s time that every doctor recommended that children avoid animal products and that their asthmatic patients try a plant-based diet.

Osteoarthritis – A plant-based diet can help

Osteoarthritic hip joint

Do your joints hurt? Maybe you have osteoarthritis? The good news is that a plant-based diet may be able to help.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine. Osteoarthritis has often been referred to as a “wear and tear” disease. But besides the breakdown of cartilage, osteoarthritis affects the entire joint. It causes changes in the bone and deterioration of the connective tissues that hold the joint together and attach muscle to bone. It also causes inflammation of the joint lining.

Vegetarians have a lower risk of osteoarthritis. One study showed that even light meat consumption once a week increased the risk of osteoarthritis by 31% in women and 19% in men, compared to vegetarians.

People already diagnosed with arthritis can take steps to improve their diet quality as a possible route to reduce arthritis symptoms and maintain a healthy body weight. In one study, a whole food plant-based diet was associated with a significant reduction in pain compared to an ordinary omnivorous diet, with statistically significant pain reduction seen as early as two weeks after initiation of dietary modification.

The plant-based diet is thought to help in many ways. It helps maintain a healthy weight and lowers the level of inflammation. Plant foods also contain phytonutrients that help reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Phytonutrients are substances, only found in plants, that while not vitamins, minerals or fiber, nevertheless can have a powerful benefit when it comes to health. Certain foods such as green peppers, cabbage, spinach, papaya and kiwi fruit have higher levels of phytonutrients that may help arthritis, while blueberries and strawberries have may also be of special value.

Giving up animal products, such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs, and replacing them with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, may be just what you need to feel limber again!

Crohn’s Disease – a veg diet can help

patient-with-crohnsGood news for those with this hard-to-treat disease. It turns out that a vegetarian diet is especially effective at both preventing and treating Crohn’s Disease.

Crohn’s disease affects as many as 780,000 Americans. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract that usually affects the small and/or large intestine. The intestine becomes inflamed, sometimes resulting in dangerous blockages. It usually begins early in life. People with this disease experience periods of remission only to be followed by relapse. No-one knows what causes the disease, and currently there is no cure. Read more

Preventing Cancer – there’s plenty you can do!

Girl with bag of fresh foodMany people worry about getting cancer, but they don’t realize how much difference their food choices can make in whether they get cancer or not. When it comes to cancer, your diet can make all the difference.

The connection between the food we eat and cancer is anything but new. Scientists have long noticed the association with eating meat and cancer. For instance, Scientific American stated all the way back in January 1892 that “cancer is most frequent among those branches of the human race where carnivorous habits prevail.”

Studies have shown again and again that those following a plant-based diet have a lower risk of several kinds of cancer such as stomach, colon, prostate and pancreatic. Even smokers (and of course smoking is not recommended) can cut their risk of lung cancer by half if they eat a plant-food rich diet. Now, in the 21st century, scientists are discovering many of the ways plant foods help protect us from getting cancer. Read more