This week Indianapolis was the proud host of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine Conference. A 5-day event that attracted over 1,200 lifestyle medicine gurus from all over the world! Picture this: Physicians and researchers who are preventing and treating disease with lifestyle approaches. No big-pharma sponsors. 100% whole-food, plant-based meals and snacks. And a ton of super healthy looking people.
In a world of largely ineffective pills, surgeries and injections, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine goes against the grain to promote lifestyle approaches to health and well-being. What a novel idea? Let’s get to the cause of the problem rather than treating the symptoms!
After hearing from the best in the business, I’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 highlights:
Dr. Campbell, author of the National Bestseller The China Study, set the stage for the event with the simple statement “Nutrition is more powerful than all medications combined.” The research presented throughout the week proved this point again and again.
Dr. Esselstyn shared that “Lifestyle medicine allows patients to impact a disease they thought they had no control of.” He has had phenomenal results when working with heart disease patients. Dr. E. has not only helped patients prevent this #1 killer but even REVERSE it!
His approach involves removing everything from the diet that injures endothelial cells (lining our arteries). This includes oil, fish, fowl, meat, dairy, sugar and eggs. Included in the diet are foods that don’t do damage and, instead, promote healing: veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. For the best endothelial cell health, his patients eat a serving of steamed green veggies drizzled with balsamic vinegar multiple times throughout the day.
What motivates Dr. Esselstyn’s patients?
- They are in control of their own health, diet, disease and mortality.
- The benefits of eating a diet centered around whole foods from plants keeps getting better with time.
- When eating whole foods from plants they don’t have to stress about their morbidity and mortality.
Question: Isn’t a whole-food, plant based diet strict and extreme? Answer: No! This is what over half of the planet eats every day!
Dr. Sean Hashmi, kidney disease expert, confirmed that kidney damage is the result of too much red meat, processed meat, sugar, processed food and artificial sweeteners. He took it a step further sharing that eating whole foods coming from plants gets rid of the need to track individual nutrients for most patients. This eating pattern automatically gets rid of the harmful stuff!
The all-star Alzheimer’s couple, Dr. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, offered a simple outlook on this terrible disease. “Alzheimer’s is a garbage disposal disease, so if you want to avoid it give the body less garbage!” Their “garbage” categories included: sweets, pastries, cheese, meat, dairy and oil. Meat-eats actually have twice the risk when compared to those who avoid meat.
Another fun fact from the Sherzai’s: While many think that dementia is genetic, if 1 spouse has dementia, the other spouse has a 600% INCREASED RISK!!! Spouses don’t share genes (at least not in this country.. I hope..) but they do usually share diets!
I really couldn’t get enough when it came to brain health. So what’s the lifestyle prescription to protect the brain?
- N – nutrition (a wide variety of whole foods from plants)
- E – exercise
- U – unwind (avoid chronic stress)
- R – restorative sleep (7-9 hours/night)
- O – Optimize cognitive activity
Epigenetics is an exciting new area of research! Excellent nutrition and other healthy lifestyle habits during pregnancy sets the baby up for disease resistance decades later. Most growth happens in the womb and as a young child. We end up with either vulnerable organs or disease resistant organs as a result of what our mom eats and the foods given to us as kiddos.
Our great-grandparents slept 1.5-2 hours longer than us each and every night! Sleep is connected to all aspects of health. Not to mention, it’s really stinking hard to eat whole, unprocessed food from plants when we’re sleep deprived because we crave sugar and fat. For better sleep, Dr. Param Dedhia recommends eating more veggies throughout the day and avoiding fatty foods and refined carbohydrates.
There you have it! Without visiting the beautiful city of Indianapolis (or paying a registration fee) you’ve got the latest in lifestyle medicine. And if you’re wanting more, word on the street is that Dr. Dean Ornish is coming out with a new book in January: Undo It!: How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases