Dr. Neal Barnard Visits San Diego

Finally, I met Dr. Neal Barnard in person. Dr. Neal Barnard is one of the vegan doctors who advocates for a 100% whole-foods plant-based diet. I first saw him on the documentary Forks Over Knives. I also saw him on Plant Based News. In addition, I would watch a lot of his videos on Youtube. If it weren’t for Dr. Barnard, I probably would not be vegan and I would not be informed about the health benefits of a vegan diet. When I heard he was coming down to San Diego and that his seminar is free, I was more than excited to go see him. Not only did I learned a lot from his lecture, but I was able to meet him and take a picture with him. I want to thank him for his advocacy and knowledge of a healthy, whole-foods vegan diet. He also had a book signing for his new book Your Body In Balance, which anyone could get on Amazon, the UCSD Bookstore, and Barnes And Noble’s

How A Vegan Diet Reduces Menstrual Cramps

Dr. Neal Barnard started the lecture with a patient who called him, saying she could not get out of bed due to menstrual cramps. Dr. Barnard then said he prescribed a diet with no animal products and with minimal oils. It turned out the patient did not have any menstrual cramps at all. Dr. Barnard went on to talk about a study about menstrual cramps. In the study, the participants were divided between those who ate a whole-foods plant-based diet and those who took a supplement that was a placebo. After two months, the participants switched sides with the participants on the vegan diet switching to the placebo and vice versa. The study was published on a journal called Obstetrics And Gynecology and the results showed that pain intensity and PMS symptoms (bloating, water retention, moodiness) sharply fell for the participants in the vegan diet group compared to the placebo group. Dr. Barnard mentioned that he asked the participants to not take any hormonal medications because he wants to see how food can affect hormonal conditions. He also talked about one participant who said to not worry about her and she does not use any contraceptives at all and that she and her husband were evaluated 5 years ago and that she couldn’t get pregnant due to infertility. That same woman came back and told the doctor that she was leaving the study and that she can have a baby and was able to give birth to three children. Her medical record said she was not fertile and couldn’t have babies. It was shown that the woman’s hormones were out of balance and when she went on the low-fat, vegan diet that Dr. Barnard prescribed in the study, she was no longer infertile and she could be pregnant and have children.

Hormones And A Vegan Diet

Dr. Barnard went on to talk about how hormones work and how foods affect them. He talked about how you can have too much hormones or you can have not enough hormones. Specifically, he talked about how a woman’s ovaries make the hormone estrogen and that estrogen goes to the uterus to participate in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. He talked about how food affects estrogen levels in a woman’s body, explaining that too much estrogen can create heavier menstrual flow and vice versa. He supported this with another case study about a woman who served in the military and returned home. The woman’s family asked what she missed while stationed in Iraq and she said macaroni and cheese. So the family bought and cooked macaroni and cheese for her. Her love of macaroni and cheese resulted in unhealthy consequences, such as weight gain and pain during her menstrual cycle. She went to the doctor who conducted a laparoscopy on her and found that the woman has endometriosis. This condition is when the cells in the endometrium in the inner lining of the uterus escaped into the rest of the abdomen. The cells were in the intestinal tract, ovaries, and the fallopian tubes. The cells were swelling and causing a lot of pain. Dr. Barnard said that endometriosis results in infertility. He also discussed that they tried painkillers, hormonal treatments, etc., and it didn’t work. The woman’s doctor said that she might undergo a hysterectomy and that she is infertile for the rest of her life, even though she is 27 years old and both her husband and her are newly-weds and do not have children yet. However, a friend of hers recommended her to see a nutritionist who put her on a vegan diet. Suddenly, she starts feeling better and her symptoms were gone. When the surgeon conducted the hysterectomy and inserted the laparoscope through the incision, it was discovered her endometriosis is gone. The surgeon was shocked and decided not to go through with the hysterectomy. While she was recovering, the woman’s mother said she went vegan. However, the surgeon thought that food cannot cause endometriosis and a diet change does not make it go away. Dr. Barnard then said that endometriosis is caused by too much estrogens and that this high level of estrogen was caused by food. Later on, this woman went on to have three children. If she had not been on a vegan diet, the surgeon would remove the uterus and she would not be able to have children.

How Animal Foods Lead To Hormonal Conditions

Dr. Barnard went to talk about how animal foods affect hormones, leading to these diseases and conditions such as endometriosis. He said that cheese comes from milk and milk comes from a cow. He further explained that cows produce milk only when they are pregnant. He discussed that on a dairy farm, the farmers inseminate the female cows to make them pregnant in order to for them to not only give birth, but to produce milk to sell it to human consumers. The sad part is they take the baby cow from the mother before it drinks the milk the mother cow produces, severing the mother-baby bond. He also said that if the baby was a male, they would eventually slaughter it. If it was a female, they would isolate the female until she matures so she can give birth and produce milk that the farmers would extract and sell it to consumers. He further mentioned that cows in nature live up to 20 years, but on a dairy farm, they live up to only 4 years. He finally concludes that when cows are pregnant, a chemical called extradiol circulates within a cow’s body. That extradiol goes into the milk and that we are consuming this extradiol while we drink milk. This would mean we are consuming extra hormones while we drink milk and consume dairy and that there is no hormone-free milk. Consuming these hormones from dairy products has resulted in all these hormonal diseases and conditions, such as endometriosis and PMS symptoms.

How Animal Foods Affect Sperm In Men

Dr. Barnard switched gears and discussed about how animal foods, such as dairy, also affect men and their sperm concentrations. He cited a study about men in a fertility clinic and said that sperm concentration was lower in men who ate cheese compared to men who did not consume cheese. Dr. Barnard mentioned that the estradiol found in cow’s milk can also affect the sperm of males and detrimentally impact their fertility. He said the extradiol is present in all dairy products, given they all come from cow’s milk. Dr. Barnard then mentioned that these foods also cause erectile dysfunction because they cause atherosclerosis and plaques in the blood vessels of a male’s private parts, blocking blood flow and resulting in erectile dysfunction. He also said that erectile dysfunction is another sign that the guy who has the condition also is more prone to cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack and a stroke. He concluded that it is the animal foods, such as dairy, that are causing low sperm concentrations and erectile dysfunction, and that this erectile dysfunction is a precursor to cardiovascular disease in men.

Fiber And Estrogen Levels

Dr. Barnard moved on to the topic of how fiber affects estrogen levels. He stated that the liver has the ability to remove hormones. The liver takes the estrogen out of the bloodstream and sends it through the bile into the intestinal tracts and out through the excretory system through the anus. He further discussed how fiber plays a role in this process. According to Dr. Barnard, fiber carries the estrogen that is removed and helps flush it out. He then said that there is no fiber in animal foods. He further stated that when we are not getting enough fiber, the estrogen is reabsorbed back into the bloodstream and continue to cycle through the circulation. Finally, he concluded that a low-fat, vegan diet has a lot of fiber as it is present in beans, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. And that animal foods and foods high in fat do not have any fiber. The main point was that a low-fat, vegan diet will remove excess estrogen, decreasing the likelihood of having hormonal diseases and conditions.

Vegan Diet And Breast Cancer

Dr. Neal Barnard moved forward to his next topic: breast cancer. He stated that estrogen goes into the cell and into the nucleus, affecting our DNA and making the cell a cancer cell. He mentioned that having not enough hormones and having too much hormones may contribute to diseases. He showed through data that when we consume dairy foods, we are getting more extradiol in our bodies that increases our breast cancer risk. In addition, he said that not getting enough fiber will contribute to this breast cancer risk. According to Dr. Barnard, eating dairy and other animal foods would increase our risk of breast cancer through excess estrogen and not getting enough fiber.

Vegan Diet And The Thyroid Gland

Dr. Barnard then switches gears and talked about the thyroid gland and briefly explained hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland is not active enough, resulting in depressed moods, weight gain, and fatigue. Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland is overactive and results in excess weight loss, rapid heart rate, difficulty sleeping, and nervousness. Dr. Barnard explained that a hormone called thyroxine or thyroid hormone controls the thyroid gland and that iodine makes up part of the hormone. He further stated that iodine is what the thyroid needs to make thyroxine. Dr. Barnard then talked about how sea vegetables are a great vegan source of iodine. He further stated an example that the nori in sushi has iodine and as long as we eat vegetable sushi, vegans can get enough iodine. He also stated that miso soup has wakame in it and the wakame seaweed has iodine in it. In addition, he stated that arame seaweed is a great vegan source of iodine. Dr. Barnard then discussed autoimmune diseases involving the thyroid gland that cause hypothyroidism and how a vegan diet can reduce the risk of these autoimmune diseases. He cited a Seventh-Day Adventist study that participants on the vegan diet did better compared to even pescetarians and lacto-ovo vegetarians regarding hypothyroidism. The omnivores did not fare well either compared to the vegan group. He explained that the immune system treated the dairy products as foreign proteins and makes antibodies to attack them, damaging the thyroid gland. He also showed bar graphs regarding hyperthyroidism and that the vegans did better compared to the omnivores and even the pescetarians and lacto-ovo vegetarians.

Insulin’s Role

Dr. Barnard moved on to the next topic in his lecture: insulin. After briefly talking about insulin and how it lets glucose into the cell, he went on to discuss a randomized clinical trial about type 2 diabetes. The participants were divided among those on a plant-based diet and those on a conventional diet. The latter is the regular diet most people go on and they cut calories, cut refined sugars, and count calories. The researchers measured blood sugar control using hemoglobin A1C. Hemoglobin A1C levels should be below 7. The researchers started around 8, which is a higher level. The results from the study showed that those on the conventional diet had a decreased A1C level, but those on the vegan diet had a bigger decrease in their A1C levels. He further mentioned a case study involving a patient with Type 2 diabetes. This patient was randomly assigned to the vegan group in the same study. The patient said that the vegan diet was easy, even though many people think a vegan diet is hard. He stated that every diet he has done requires eating a certain number of calories, count the grams of carbohydrates, and keep track of the exact number of nutrients and calories consumed. The patient said that the vegan diet is easier because he thought all you do is switch out one food for another, such as switching out beef chili for bean chili and switching alfredo sauce with tomato sauce. He thought those switches were easy to do. Dr. Barnard said that the patient’s A1C level went from a 9.5 to a 5.3. A 9.5 is considered high and a 5.3 is considered healthy. He shared that the patient’s Type 2 diabetes was gone when he switched to a vegan diet, debunking the “once you’re diabetic, you’ll always be a diabetic” myth. Dr. Barnard then revealed that it is fat causing Type 2 diabetes and not the carbohydrates. The fat (or intramyocellular lipids) is the one gumming up the cell so insulin cannot let glucose into the cell. Finally, Dr. Barnard concluded that when the patient when on a low-fat, vegan diet, the fat preventing the insulin from letting glucose in vanished and the insulin can let the glucose into the cell. He supported this by stating that the researchers used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to detect what goes on inside the cells and discovered that there was no fat in the cells of Type 2 diabetic individuals on a vegan diet and that their insulin has started working again.

Doctors Need To Know About This

Dr. Neal Barnard said that a lot of doctors do not know about the healthy benefits of a whole-foods vegan diet and that they only learned about prescribing medications, drugs, surgeries, and procedures. Although there is a role for these treatments, he said we must be aware of the root cause of diseases and how to prevent it, such as through a healthy, 100% plant-based diet. He used an analogy on how the body can heal itself and that band-aids and casts just provide support. This shows our body can heal itself and that it is encoded in our DNA. Furthermore, he stated that plaques in our blood vessels can heal if early interventions were made and if we change our diets and lifestyles. He finally concluded that animal foods keep the body from naturally healing itself and that a healthy vegan diet can help the body heal itself.

What We Can Do About It

Dr. Neal Barnard ended his lecture by saying that a low-fat vegan diet has the ability to control one’s hormones, which could reduce our risks for all these chronic diseases. He also said that the people who need this information the most are 12-year-old preteen adolescents who are eating chicken nuggets and unhealthy foods at school during lunch breaks and when they go home after a typical school day. In addition, Dr. Barnard said that food advertisements are influencing them to eat the unhealthy foods advertised. He mentioned that the advertisements about drugs and medications shows our broken our healthcare system is, and uses further evidence on how doctors do nothing about menstrual cramps and just says, “Welcome to adulthood!” or the couple who are dealing with infertility and spend tons of money on treatments. Dr. Barnard stated that even though there is a genetic factor in all these diseases and conditions, we can change our lifestyle to reduce our risks for these diseases. He advised that we can change the world by not being quiet and connecting with family, coworkers, friends, and people in our community. He also advised us to share the information about a whole-foods plant-based diet, such as through social media. In addition, he advised that we can eventually win the battle against the animal industry and the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Barnard also stated that most other doctors need this information and I can understand given doctors do not get enough nutrition training in medical schools. Finally, he said that we can change laws and policies regarding diet and lifestyle. Dr. Barnard concluded that everyone needs to know about this information and we need to act now.

Conclusion

I learned a lot from Dr. Neal Barnard’s lecture, especially on the other diseases and conditions that a complete, whole-foods plant-based diet can reduce. It was great seeing him discuss the whole-foods vegan diet in person and being able to meet and take a picture with him. In his appearances in documentaries, Youtube videos, and Plant Based News, he talked about how a healthy, 100% plant-based diet reduces the risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer. In this seminar, he became more specific and talked more about menstrual cramps, erectile dysfunction, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and hormones. He did talked about breast cancer and diabetes, but he only mentioned cardiovascular disease briefly. This made sense because he talks a lot about cardiovascular disease in the documentaries, Plant Based News, and Youtube videos. Dr. Barnard stated that doctors need to know about this information regarding a low-fat vegan diet and its health benefits. Finally, he concluded that we need to share the information to family, friends, and people in our community and communicate this information through social media. I’m pretty sure we should communicate it in a way that’s more tactful opposed to the blunt nature of a lot of vegan activists. I myself will start sharing this information about the health benefits of a vegan diet as well as the impact it has on animals and our environment, but I will share it in a more discreet way to prevent being seen as off-putting by a lot of people. I want to thank Dr. Neal Barnard for speaking about a low-fat vegan diet and its health benefits here at UCSD in San Diego. I hope to see him again if he ever comes back down again. I will check out his book Your Body In Balance.

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