Elise on Making Medicine and Lifestyle Choices Work Together

by Gena on February 17, 2011

A couple of months ago, I wrote a slightly controversial post about an article I’d read about another blogger who had abandoned the raw diet after a short lived, 100% raw experiment. Her own post was meant to sum up the reasons she explored raw in the first place, and why she believed it wasn’t the right choice for her. My post was meant to address some of the motives I see among the newly raw that I question or wonder about—namely, the idea that raw foods can be a magical cure all.

My friend Elise—hypercool California girl and good friend—had some wonderful comments on that post. I was so impressed that I asked her if she’d consider a guest post for me on the topic of health panaceas, and she said yes. Now, a while later, she and I have finally teemed up to share it.

It goes without saying that I consider Elise a wonderful ambassador of the plant based lifestyle, but I feel particularly lucky to welcome her because she’s also a health care professional. Elise, you’re an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your honest and intelligent thoughts!

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First and foremost, it’s an honor to be writing a guest post for Gena.  She is such an inspiration to me, and I am thrilled to call her a friend.  She’s smart and passionate about raw foodism, yet open-minded and considerate.  Reading each and every one of her posts is a pleasure, and since I’ve met her in real life too, I can assure everyone reading, she’s as personable face to face as she comes across on her blog.  Unfortunately, we are no longer neighbors, as I have left the Upper West Side to return to my native West Coast.

Before I dive right in, allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Elise and I blog about my veganish lifestyle (and other random shenanigans) at Hungry Hungry Hippie.  I am a cardiac nurse, which is why I’m particularly delighted that Gena has decided to join me in the health care realm.  Passionate as I am about food, I’m even more passionate about promoting health.  This passion is meant to be contagious, not offensive, and I want to say outright that my only intent is to generate positive discussion about this topic.

While research based care and scientific studies have led to many advances in the medical field, having professionals with diverse backgrounds is indescribably important.  I can’t stress enough how vital it is to approach patient care with a multi-disciplinary focus.  I know that Gena will be the perfect ambassador for incorporating nutritional health (specifically veganism and raw foodism) into treatment plans due to her non-threatening, knowledgeable, and passionate nature.  If there is one thing I hope to achieve with my blog, it is exactly that:  sharing the veg-friendly lifestyle with others in a non-judgmental way, and showing how beneficial it can be to one’s health.

Notice I said “can be.”  In order to avoid confusion, I want to be very clear now. Eating a plant-based diet is not magic. It’s not going to make you immune to multiple diseases overnight.  I say this half joking, but because there are people who sincerely believe such cure-all answers exist, I am semi-serious.  Case in point: Gena’s post on this article.

I won’t relaunch an entire response of my own because Gena’s eloquent rebuttal (back in October) was damn near perfect (and far nicer than mine would be).  Suffice it to say, I was annoyed that such a ridiculous and poorly researched argument got such face time.  Raw food panacea?  No.  If there were a magic solution to all diseases, I’d be out of business.  I’m not a raw foodist, but I can smell a gimmick a mile away.  And you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that there’s a bit of a difference between the treatment plans for acne and cancer.

However, there are certain parts of that blogger’s post that I want to address as a veg*n and as a health care professional.

I am absolutely in favor of diet as a form of disease prevention.

There have been case studies upon case studies showing the link between atherosclerosis and high cholesterol diets.  It’s fact.  Animal products have cholesterol, plants do not.  So why don’t more people add plant-based foods into their diet?  And why don’t more physicians explain this to patients?  It boggles the mind.  I make it a point to educate each and every patient about what exactly a heart healthy diet is and how it is beneficial in lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the risk of heart disease.  Did you know that cardiac disease is the number one killer in America?  And with a plant based diet it can be largely avoided!!  It is crazy that Americans are not more aware of this.  I treat patients every single day that have NO idea how their food is contributing to their disease process.  That is so sad to me.  Knowledge is power, and I wish I could shout it from the roof top.  The benefits of a veg friendly diet extend beyond cardiac health, too.  Research in diabetes has proven there are ways of stabilizing blood glucose through a plant based diet, thereby reducing and/or eliminating the need for medication. These are just two examples, but when you consider the percentage of the population that it affects, it is inspiring.

Now, to be fair, I realize there are exceptions to this.  Certain people have risk factors that extend far beyond what diet alone can reverse.  But that doesn’t mean diet can’t be a part of the equation in treatment.  It absolutely should be and I truly wish more doctors were in favor of this approach to treatment (in conjunction with whatever else they are prescribing).  So while I’m not disillusioned enough to buy into the fact that eating a raw, vegan diet will keep you free of all diseases, I do think it will keep you out of the hospital as long as possible.  Eating a whole food, plant-based diet is one part of the equation.  Getting in some form of exercise or activity is another part of the equation.  And, in theory, if you can put enough of these parts together, you can eliminate the need for the medication part.  Disease is sometimes unavoidable, but if you act responsibly now, the chances of prevention are definitely greater.  So which form of treatment sounds better, prevention or medication?  It’s a now or never kind of choice, and by not acting, you are in fact choosing the latter.

Things don’t have to be black and white.

Yes, I realize I just posed the question of prevention or medicine as if it was as simple as one or the other.  Hopefully you understand that was to make a point.  In reality, you shouldn’t have to choose either Western medicine or natural remedies.  I am optimistic that adopting parts of both will one day be more main stream, but until then, it’s the responsibility of each and every individual to maintain his/her health (and why not pull from as many philosophies as possible?).  Being proactive now will improve your life in the long run.  And that means using every means possible, whether it’s through a plant-based diet, regular exercise, herbal supplementation, massage therapy, acupuncture or any combination of principles.

In the same vein, dietary choices shouldn’t have to be all or none.  One of the reasons I love Gena’s blog is that she is inclusive in her approach to the raw foods lifestyle.  By promoting the addition of raw food, as opposed to the subtraction of cooked foods, her posts are both encouraging and welcoming.  Diet doesn’t have to be all or none, and I say this as a partial vegan with occasionally high raw phases.  To get the health benefits of plant based foods, you don’t need to go to extreme lengths or adopt an entirely new diet. You just need to know what you are eating.  Like I mentioned earlier, animals have cholesterol and plants do not, but you can make small steps in the veggie direction and still get fantastic results.  And trust me, you will get results.  Anyone who has read The Engine 2 Diet or The China Study can attest to this.  Naturally, there are far more differences between veg*n diets and carnivorous ones than cholesterol alone, but this isn’t a lecture on the nutritional benefits of superfoods like quinoa and kale.  That’s for another time…

Medicine is based on science.

One of the biggest issues I had with the aforementioned blogger’s post, was with her statement that nobody could explain how or why her depression medications functioned.  She made it seem like MDs were simply throwing pills at her without regard to their role in her disease.  I can assure you, there are decades of research and clinical trials that go on before any pharmaceuticals even reach a patient, and they are all based ENTIRELY on physiology and chemistry.  There’s no guesswork about it.  It’s science.  It’s all been proven or else it wouldn’t be used.  The notion that medication would be prescribed for someone without the knowledge of how it works is ridiculous and offends me as a biologist and as a nurse (yes, I have Bachelor’s of Science in both).  This is not how responsible health care providers practice medicine, and it’s not an accurate portrayal of the profession.

[CR note: I, too, tire of everyone getting vitriolic and hysterical about prescription drugs. Sure, I think they’re tossed around by doctors too readily sometimes—for example, I think OBGYNs tend to prescribe birth control without explaining the realities of it, and I think that some doctors prescribe statins before pushing lifestyle change. This is not to be commended. But I also believe that there’s a time and a place for the intervention of pharmaceutical drugs, and favor medical professionals who can negotiate those decisions responsibly.]

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

That sounds pessimistic, but it should be common sense.  If you are looking for the simple solution, you are probably tricking yourself into thinking it’s the right way, when really it’s the easy way.  I don’t mean to sound harsh, but chances are you are not going to find wellness this way.  On the contrary, if you are looking for the healthy solution, then you are on the right track.  This path will probably require more work in the beginning, but over the long term, it’s going to end up being the easier route.  And if it’s an economic thing, you should know that the extra $$ for organic fruit and vegetables is far less expensive than what you will be paying for various medications in the future.  A month’s supply of Lipitor is $300 (go ahead and do the math for a year’s supply…and now factor in whatever other meds you may require too).  Instead of lamenting over your expensive grocery budget (which I admit, can be pretty steep), think of it as an investment in your future.  The price of prevention through diet is a fraction of the cost that your health care could end up being.  I can’t emphasize it enough, a well rounded diet based on wholesome, plant-based foods can be your first line of health care defense, preventing you from even stepping foot in the door of a hospital.  And trust me, hospitals are no picnic.  Beware of grandiose magical claims and cure-all solutions.  If it involves little or no effort, that’s a red flag.

Anyway, I hope this post inspires you to have more faith in both health care and veg*nism, and if nothing else, shows you that the two can work in harmony and don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

As you can see, it bothers me when certain people ruin what could potentially be a successful life decision for someone else.

Thank you Gena for giving me the platform to ramble :)  It’s people like you and readers like yours that are going to be the movers and shakers.  Now go forth and spread the news!

Thank you, Elise!

I’ll be back tomorrow from the other side of midterms. I miss you guys!

xo

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth@The Sweet Life February 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I think your comment about things not always being black or white is so spot on. What works for me might very well not work for you. This applies to jobs, relationships, lifestyles, and most certainly food choices. Great post!

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Stephanie February 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Great guest post. I loved all the insight. I’m going to have to go read the article in question to fill myself in!

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VeggieGirl February 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Fabulous guest post, Elise!

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) February 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Two awesome ladies teaming up for a great post…can’t beat it!

Elise I love this part:
“And that means using every means possible, whether it’s through a plant-based diet, regular exercise, herbal supplementation, massage therapy, acupuncture or any combination of principles.”

Yes, indeed! We all have to take charge of our own health, do whatever it takes to stay healthy, be creative, do our own research, and choose what we believe will work the best, for us, in our own particular situation. Eastern, western, whatever it is that will work best.

And I loved the part about all or nothing. Black and white thinking, all or nothing, is always such a turnoff in most ANY aspect of life for me…it’s important usually to not fall into those traps and I echo what you said about it all.

Have a great weekend, ladies :)

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Kathryn February 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm

How timely! My sister just called me yesterday to ask a bit of foodie advice because she’s been diagnosed with diabetes and high cholestrol. I was so happy she turned to me, but her first thing was – I’m not going to be vegetarian. I told her it was all about balance and recommends E2, McDougall, PCRM as some great starts. She has to take drugs right now to get her body to a stable state, but I’m so glad she is open to looking at incoprorating more plants and less meat into her diet.

There is nothing better than seeing the medical community and the plant eaters come together. I just love it. What a great post, thank you both! I also really love the guest blogs, I’ve been turned onto so many great blogs from them!

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Sarah (Flavoropolis) February 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Thanks for the reminder about fresh organic produce being an investment in my future health. I need that reminder every time I’m checking out at the grocery store.

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lisa February 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

I’ll second that!

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bitt February 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I am not really sure if you are insinuating that a raw food diet is a gimmick, perhaps I read into that too much but there can be some real healing that can happen, partly due to the elimination of some foods that are detrimental to the body and the increase in green veggies. There are healing centers devoted to just this premise. Have they healed everyone who’s walked in? Doubtful. But they do have a pretty good track record or they’d be out of business.

I also disagree that doctors know exactly how certain medicines work. I’ve had many doctors tell me that they DON’T know why a certain medicine works for a certain condition, just that it does. I’ve been prescribed a lot of medicines over the years, as someone who has a chronic pain. I also have used off-label medications and it certainly is part mystery why those work. Perhaps in heart medicine it is cut and dried as to how things work, but for more complex things like depression, fibromyaglia, autoimmune conditions, and chronic pain, doctors are certainly confused about how the conditions even manifest let alone how certain medications may or may not help them.

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Gena February 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm

A good point! I think its certainly true that autoimmune disorders and depression and chronic pain are themselves poorly understood (I hope that will soon change!), so its reasonable that the medicines we develop for them aren’t entirely comprehended.

In my experience, its not typically so much that meds themselves aren’t understood as it is that doctors who prescribe them haven’t totally educated themselves about what the drugs do, and how.

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elise February 17, 2011 at 11:58 pm

hey bitt,
thanks for commenting. i appreciate what youre saying, and i want you to know that im definitely not insinuating that raw foodism is a gimmick (far from it)…i was trying to make a point about those who jump to conclusions about a cure-all solutions (the article in question just happened to be one in which the other blogger saw raw foodism was a panacea).

one key place this blogger erred was in doing her own research. she saw raw food as the one-stop answer to every ailment. with such high expectations, raw foodism never stood a chance! and while i certainly dont expect everyone to become a doctor and start self diagnosing, there is a responsibility that goes with taking on a more natural course of action in the treatment of a disease. i whole heartedly think a healthy diet (especially one without animal products) is the way to go, but i also think people have to be accountable for knowing why they are making the decisions they are.

as for the pharmacological and biophysical mechanism of drugs, im sure you are right that there are exceptions. (there always are, right?)
i hate saying things so vaguely though, because im all too well versed in the politically (and legally) correct way to (ambiguously) phrase things to patients so that you can offer them some information without promising the moon and stars.
to be fair, though, meds shouldnt be (and hopefully arent) used by an MD if the rationale isnt backed by science. but if research shows a med has “x” effect on a patient, then it will be used to achieve “x”. if the MD has no idea how this is achieved, though, it doesnt mean the person who discovered it doesnt. in defense of health care professionals, its pretty impossible to recall every single thing you learned in pharm.

anyway, thanks for adding your thoughts!

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Amy February 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm

This was an interesting post to read. I especially liked the comment about things not being black and white. I personally like to think that Eastern and Western medicine working together is the best form of medicine. I think that diet can play a major role in preventing disease and maybe even curing certain forms, depending on how far progressed it is. I, personally am in the process of changing my somewhat unhealthy diet to a more plant based somewhat raw diet. I am having a few set back, but as the days progress, I am finding that i am having more sucesses. I am hopeful that changing my diet will help prevent certain diseases, that run in my family, from passing on to me. Reading these different blogs is helping to educate me on the changes that I need to make. Also, I have a masters degree in social work and once I feel comfortable with my diet changes, I am considering going back to school for nutrition so that I can maybe provide others with the knowledge to help change their diet. Although I am definitely looking for a program that is going to be more than just the standard american diet approach to nutrition!

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Christin@purplebirdblog February 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I definitely consider my eating habits as preventative medicine, which helps me to justify the costs at the cash register and to defend myself when I’m made fun of for spending so much on organic produce and skimping on other financial aspects of my life.

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Sara February 17, 2011 at 8:50 pm

As a vegan who is finishing up an accelerated nursing program, I want to thank you for stating so many of the things I think about daily, both at my table, and at the hospital! I love your well-rounded and realistic approach. Very well written – thank you, Elise!

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Kelsey @ Unmitigated Grub February 17, 2011 at 10:37 pm

It’s great to see two of my favorite blogs collaborate! :) Thanks for this awesome post. It boggles my mind, too, when people don’t make the connection between what they eat and their health. I just don’t get it!! As you point out, no, a plant-based diet is not a magic solution, but introducing more plant-based foods can make a huge difference for one’s health.

I also like your point that it doesn’t have to be black and white. I agree. However you get there, the fact that you’re healing is what’s important.

Your passion for health and nutrition is an inspiration. Thanks for spreading such a great message!

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Randi February 17, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Great post with very helpful information. And I realize my next question contradicts the message of Gena’s posts and yours that you can’t treat issues as black and white, and I realize readers on this board will find it unnecessary to ask, but as someone who holds strongly to her values, I must question…what the heck do you mean you are a ‘partial vegan’? No such thing.

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Gena February 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Hey Randi!

I can’t answer for Elise, but I do want to let the record show that veganism is, actually, pretty black or white for me (you do it or you don’t).

Obviously, there are so many nuances involved in how we weigh our decisions as vegans (for example, I’ve had to debate whether or not to toss leather items that predate my veganism: do I set an example of not using them, or do I risk adding waste to suffering?). And I think that it’s also fair to say that every vegan has an unintentional slip up once in a while, and eats a touch of honey, or dairy they didn’t know was in something, or whatever.

BUT. I agree: it’s pretty all or nothing. If you think it’s wrong to harm animals and take their milk and eggs and skin and fur and so on, you simply do not do it. You can’t think it’s a little wrong. So while I’m all about gray areas in nutrition and health, I’m pretty black and white about the choice to be a vegan.

G

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Laura C February 17, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Elise, this is a great post, and I agree with you about almost everything. However, since I’m an academic, I’ll take issue with one statement you made: “It’s all been proven or else it wouldn’t be used.” Sure, doctors are doing there based to provide evidence-based medicine, prescribing medicines developed based on their (largely) known pharmacological mechanisms and clinical trials of their efficacy. However, there is also a lot of meta-analysis being done on medical research recently suggesting that the majority of medical findings, including the best-known and most well-regarded- are wrong, due to a combination of errors in methods, bias, replication failures, etc. (unfortunately these problems plague my field- experimental psychology- just as much) Here’s the article link: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/8269/2/

here’s a killer quote:
“in recent years large studies or growing consensuses of researchers concluded that mammograms, colonoscopies, and PSA tests are far less useful cancer-detection tools than we had been told; or when widely prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil were revealed to be no more effective than a placebo for most cases of depression; or when we learned that staying out of the sun entirely can actually increase cancer risks; or when we were told that the advice to drink lots of water during intense exercise was potentially fatal; or when, last April, we were informed that taking fish oil, exercising, and doing puzzles doesn’t really help fend off Alzheimer’s disease, as long claimed. Peer-reviewed studies have come to opposite conclusions on whether using cell phones can cause brain cancer, whether sleeping more than eight hours a night is healthful or dangerous, whether taking aspirin every day is more likely to save your life or cut it short, and whether routine angioplasty works better than pills to unclog heart arteries”

Not to suggest that medicine is futile… by a LONG shot. Just that figuring out what we “know” about something in health is a very vexing question.

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Gena February 17, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Killer indeed. Yikes.

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elise February 18, 2011 at 12:13 am

thanks for this link. what an interesting (and scary) article. lets just hope these are the exceptions, not the norms. its so annoying that there are equally as many studies FOR something as AGAINST it. ugh. makes you wonder if its all about who is funding the studies. grrr.
i will say that ive seen (first hand) the positive sides of many of those treatments they mentioned. but still. as gena said. yikes.

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Brooke February 18, 2011 at 10:25 am

Thank you for posting the link to that article about the medical studies! I just read that a couple weeks ago and was blown away. I’m already aware of the scandals and controversies that go on at the FDA and Big Pharma, but that article took it to another level. I certainly don’t believe that all doctors know what they are doing. I actually believe that a high percentage just do what they are taught and don’t think outside the box too much – this is just from my recent experiences watching my best friend’s dad get drug through the cancer system and the doctor that my sister was going to. Even my doctor doesn’t know what she is saying sometimes, but I go to a mainstream doctor because there are no natural/holistic doctors in Illinois outside of Chicago. Anyways, being healthy is important, but having the freedom to be healthy is more important. I absolutely LOVED this post by Elise, but I think there is another level to all this and that is to defend our food choices against the big food lobbies that are passing horrible legislation. Genetically modified alfalfa just got deregulated as well as corn. GM sugar beets just got partially deregulated because the sugar lobby said there was going to be a severe shortage of sugar this year if they weren’t allowed to plant GM seeds. Small, local farms are being pushed out of the marketplace by burdensome regulations imposed on them by the federal government. I guess if more people took Elise’s advice then more people would put their money towards local, organic food, which in turn, would change the lobbies in Washington.

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Laura C February 20, 2011 at 12:49 am

sheesh, I can be so aphasic (“Sure, doctors are doing there based”). embarrassing. Glad this was interesting to you guys… to clarify, these problems are not limited to the studies in the quote- and not at all to medicine either. Research just has a lot of limitations in subjects as complex as human bodies, and a lot of replication is needed to show clear effects. When journals publish primarily positive findings and not null ones, there can be the appearance of strong effects that in fact have failed to replicate. I hope it isn’t as big a problem in medicine as in psych, but… it’s so important in medicine where lives are at stake.

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Katie T February 17, 2011 at 11:58 pm

This post is fantastic. As a vegan medical student, I agree wholeheartedly with everything Elise so eloquently stated. There is a HUGE lack of focus on prevention in healthcare, especially where lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise are concerned. I’m currently studying cardiology, and learned today that 95% (!!!) of hypertension is due to modifiable risk factors like diet, exercise, and smoking. That’s just one example – there’s also the obesity epidemic, type II diabetes, osteoporosis….I could go on and on. But I love Elise’s perspective that Western Medicine CAN incorporate preventative, lifestyle-focused interventions. I agree that there are absolutely times when eating more kale and going for a run just aren’t going to cut it, and modern medicine has made some miraculous advances in both surgery and pharmacology that enables us to cure or treat diseases that, even 20 years ago, were fatal. But I think that in a huge majority of cases, we need to put a great deal more energy into preventative medicine. I fully intend to make this message a major part of my future career, and I’m sure Gena feels the same. So thank you, again, for this wonderful post.
And Gena – I hope all the school is going well. Trust me, the years of physics/organic chemistry/biochemistry (I think that one was the worst) are all worth is once you start learning about the actual medicine.

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elise February 18, 2011 at 12:14 am

PRECISELY. well said.

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Candace February 18, 2011 at 12:15 am

Thanks for commenting on my post again. Again, I recognize that my post was titled a bit polemically and probably influenced the way the message was read, and especially when a person reads the review here first.

If you do read it carefully, however, the point that I was trying to make is that there is a TON of misinformation out there about the raw diet. The easiest sites to access on google (and thus presumably those with the most hits) are the ones propagating the exact description of the diet that I provided on my post. I only discovered it when trying to research the causal mechanisms underlying the symptoms I experienced… except that was very difficult because the meat of the issue (no pun intended) is clouded by a lot of shameless propaganda. What’s more, this propaganda is really off-putting to someone with a science background, and I thought it useful to point out that the raw food “panacea” that is being popularized needs a second look. I’m glad that you are elaborating on this point.

I would also like to clarify my point about prescription medication as that was also broadly overstated here. Just because medicine is based on “Science” doesn’t make it right or explanatory. Plenty of people (bonafide “scientists”, I might add) publish CRAP and each study requires careful evaluation of the methods and design. “Science” is a process and a method, and the gold standard in pharmaceutical research is the double-blind, placebo controlled-study. In fact, this method is currently the best way we have of distinguishing whether a drug has an effect or not. It does *nothing* for explaining the mechanism underlying the effect. We suspect, for example, that depression results from a deficit in serotonin, which is why Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed. However, there are several arguments arguing just the opposite because the truth is we *just don’t know yet*. What’s more, while clinical trials for treatments of depression may show *efficacy* (an effect in a controlled laboratory setting), the *effectiveness* (an effect in a natural setting) and the relapse rates are quite dismal.

And, since we’re throwing around our qualifications, I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Research in Psychology, and am a doctoral candidate in Psychology Research. My dissertation includes depression as a factor, although I prefer not to elaborate on the specifics, and addresses treatment issues. I would be happy to provide citations and further information on anything I have said here.

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elise February 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm

hi candace, thank you for responding.
i wish you had written this on that initial post because knowing these details and seeing your background really does make a world of difference.

i think that as bloggers we sometimes forget that other people actually read what we write (at least i forget that) and so when others read your post out of context (and without the explanation you just offered) its easy to rule out raw foodism due to your review. the link you provided, while perhaps not the one you got your information from initially, is still the site that people would click on to see what you were talking about, therefore linking your review to it. obviously you are entitled to your opinion, but giving the whole story is key and i just wish you had shared everything for people to see it from a fair angle.

that said, i agree with you about the use of SSRIs. psycho drugs are the wild card in medicine (well, that and cancer) as the mechanism is not well understood. the research on these drugs is continuously changing and (hopefully) progressing.

anyway, i really do appreciate you sharing more details here.

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elise February 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm

*psych* drugs that is :)

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Sara February 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm

In your defense, when I read the part in your post about the anti-depression med you used when quitting smoking, I knew exactly which drug you were referring to. My sister has depression and it took so long to find the right medication (which happens to be the drug you were referring to) for her body. As you mentioned, we don’t know why it works to relieve depression. We have theories, but we’re not 100% sure about its mechanisms of action, as is stated in my 2010 nursing pharmacology book: “The mechanism by which it relieves depression is unclear, but may be related to blockade of dopamine uptake.” Just wanted to defend you that yes, we don’t always know the mechanisms of action, even for drugs that have been around for quite awhile and are considered safe and approved for certain conditions (despite us not knowing why they work).

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Laura C February 20, 2011 at 12:59 am

I actually liked your post a lot. Of course we’re trying to rebut any perceived damage to the raw world’s reputation since we believe strongly in many of its principles. But your discussion was intelligent and honest, so I hope you don’t feel unwelcome here. I love your analysis as a fellow experimental psych grad! Raw propaganda drives me nuts too especially when it makes claims that are completely untestable or un-falsifiable :) But if you do the work to pull apart the sound, balanced advice from the magic-speak, many people really do improve their health and energy.

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Saba @ Less is More (Fun) February 18, 2011 at 8:21 am

Thanks for the post Elise! I do want to comment on one particular statement – “And if it’s an economic thing, you should know that the extra $$ for organic fruit and vegetables is far less expensive than what you will be paying for various medications in the future.” I completely agree that investing in quality food is essential. However, I think it is also important to recognize and acknowledge that the information and economic power to buy organic veggies and other nutrient dense food is unfortunately a privilege that is not afforded to all. Hopefully that will not always be the case. I do believe the more of us who use our dollars to ‘vote’ for excellent food are helping to reshape the standards of food production.

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Kathleen February 18, 2011 at 10:50 am

Elise & Gena – This is definitely my favorite guest post. It frustrates me that so many people use the excuse “it’s genetic” to explain away certain medical issues. Perhaps that makes me sound like I have no compassion for the ill (I do!!), but with credible statistics, such as the one related to hypertension provided by Katie T, showing that prevention is key, I think people assume a no fault attitude. Not everyone can fall into that other 5%. Again, I know this sounds harsh.

As far as prescription drugs go, I use them when needed and recognize their importance. However, I do think we need to be steadfast in researching side effects and and possible dangers. There are many drugs that have been deemed safe only to later be pulled from the shelves. (Celebrex and Vioxx come to mind.)

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Christine (The Raw Project) February 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Wonderful guest post, thanks Elise! I’m not a nurse, but my mom and sister are, so I was constantly exposed how devastating health problems could be. And probably why I went into computers instead! :-) But I Have a ton of respect for anyone in the health industry. One of my favorite raw instructors is a nurse who became passionate about teaching a high-raw vegan diet just because of what she saw and frustrations about doctors not stressing diet changes enough. She’ll always say doctors are not nutritionists and should never be considered so.

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Ela February 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Thanks for this interesting and inspiring post–and all the comments that it’s engendered for someone coming late to the game to peruse as well! As someone who used to be a ’100% raw zealot’ and is enjoying better health as a result of a more inclusive approach, I’m glad for the balanced message. And as a person who knows a bunch of ‘healthy-food-phobes,’ I welcome the recommendation to ‘add’ healthy things, not just subtract things (which is also what David Wolfe recommends with success).

I’m working on a post myself right now (for a day or two hence) on what’s the big deal about raw anyway and the beneficial aspects of certain cooked foods. And I’ll definitely go read the original post you’re referencing.

I agree that shunning conventional medicine can be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. However, research, and its interpretation, is a _minefield_ and one that isn’t always scrupulously negotiated, on either side of the ‘mainstream’/’alternative’ camps. And I agree with some other commenters that some of the best healers are those that concede that sometimes there is an element of mystery about why things work or do not work. The more we try to know everything, the more things there are to know, and I think that’s actually one of the wonderful things about being humans!

Thanks again
love
Ela

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