Transcript: Treating Asthma and Eczema With Plant-Based Diets
Twenty patients with allergic eczema were placed on a vegetarian diet for two months, and their disease scores, covering both objective and subjective signs and symptoms, were cut in half, similar to what you see using one of our most powerful drugs. The drug worked much quicker, within about two weeks, but since side effects may include kidney failure and cancer, the drug is considered a class 1 carcinogen, the dietary option may be preferable, but this was no ordinary vegetarian diet. This was an in-patient study using an extremely calorically restricted diet—they were practically half fasting, so we don't know which component was responsible for the therapeutic effect.
What about using a more conventional plant-based diet against a different allergic disease, asthma?
Evidently in Sweden, there was an active health movement that claimed that a vegan diet could improve or cure asthma. Bold claim, so in order to test this, a skeptical group of orthopedic surgeons at the University Hospital followed a series of patients who were treated with a vegan regimen for one year. Participants had to be willing to go completely plant-based and they had to have physician-verified asthma of at least a year's duration that wasn't getting better or even getting worse despite the best medical therapies available.
They found quite a sick group to follow. Thirty-five patients with long-established hospital-verified bronchial asthma, for an average duration of a dozen years. Of the 35 patients, 20 had been admitted to the hospital for acute asthmatic attacks during the last two years. Of these, one patient had received acute infusion therapy a total of 23 times during this period (which is like an emergency intravenous) and another patient claimed he had been to the hospital 100 times during his disease and on every occasion had evidently required such treatments. One patient even had a cardiac arrest during an asthma attack and had been brought back to life on a ventilator, so we're talking some pretty serious cases.
They were on up to eight different asthma medicines when they started. They were each on an average of four and a half drugs and still not getting better. Twenty of the 35 were constantly using cortisone, which is a powerful steroid used in serious cases. So basically fairly advanced cases of the disease, more severe than the vegan practitioners were used to. Still, how'd they do?
Eleven couldn't stick to the diet for a year, but of the 24 that did, 71% reported improvement at four months and 92% at one year, and these were folks that had not improved at all over the previous year. Concurrently with this improvement, the patients greatly reduced their consumption of medicine. Four had completely given up their medication altogether, and only two weren't able to at least drop their dose. They went from four and a half drugs down to 1.2, and some were able to get off cortisone.
Some said that their improvement was so considerable that they felt like ”they had a new life.” One nurse had difficulty at work because most of her co-workers were smokers, but after the year she could withstand the secondhand smoke without getting an attack, as well as tolerating other asthma triggers. Others reported the same thing. Where previously they could only live in a clean environment and then felt more or less isolated in their homes, they could now stay out without getting asthmatic attacks.
And it wasn't just subjective improvements. There was a significant improvement in a number of clinical variables, including most importantly, measures of lung function, vital capacity, forced expiratory volume, physical working capacity, as well as a significant drop in sed rate, and IgE, which are allergy associated antibodies.
Bottom line, they started out with 35 patients who had suffered from serious asthma for an average of 12 years, all receiving long-term medication, 20 including cortisone, were subjected to vegan food for a year, and in almost all cases, medication was withdrawn or drastically reduced, and there was a significant decrease in asthma symptoms.
Despite the improved lung function tests and lab values, the placebo effect obviously can't be discounted since there was no blinded control group, but the nice thing about a healthy diet is that there are only good side effects. Their cholesterol significantly improved, their blood pressures got better, they lost 18 pounds, so from a medical standpoint, I figure why not give it a try?
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.
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