Treating Asthma & Eczema with Plant-Based Diets

Treating Asthma & Eczema with Plant-Based Diets
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Pilot studies on treating allergic eczema and severe asthma with dietary interventions have shown remarkable results.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 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?

“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 2 years. Of these, one patient had received acute infusion therapy a total of 23 times during [the] period [which is like an emergency intravenous]. [A]nother patient [claimed to have been brought to the] hospital 100 times during his disease and on every occasion…had [evidently] required [such] treatment[s]. One patient [even] had a cardiac arrest during an [asthma] attack, and had to be 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 one of our most powerful steroids, 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 could not stick to the diet for a year, but of the 24 that did, “71% reported improvement at 4 months and 92% at [one year].” And, these were folks that had not improved at all over the previous year before changing their diet. “Concurrently with this improvement, the patients greatly reduced their consumption of medicine. …[F]our…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, 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[as] previously [they] could only live in a clean environment and…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,” as well as “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 “[t]hirty-five patients who had suffered from [severe] asthma for an average of 12 [years], all receiving long-term medication, 20 including cortisone, were subject[ed] to…vegan food for [a year].” And, “[i]n almost all cases, medication was withdrawn or drastically reduced. [And,] [t]here 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?

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Niels_Olson via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 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?

“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 2 years. Of these, one patient had received acute infusion therapy a total of 23 times during [the] period [which is like an emergency intravenous]. [A]nother patient [claimed to have been brought to the] hospital 100 times during his disease and on every occasion…had [evidently] required [such] treatment[s]. One patient [even] had a cardiac arrest during an [asthma] attack, and had to be 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 one of our most powerful steroids, 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 could not stick to the diet for a year, but of the 24 that did, “71% reported improvement at 4 months and 92% at [one year].” And, these were folks that had not improved at all over the previous year before changing their diet. “Concurrently with this improvement, the patients greatly reduced their consumption of medicine. …[F]our…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, 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[as] previously [they] could only live in a clean environment and…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,” as well as “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 “[t]hirty-five patients who had suffered from [severe] asthma for an average of 12 [years], all receiving long-term medication, 20 including cortisone, were subject[ed] to…vegan food for [a year].” And, “[i]n almost all cases, medication was withdrawn or drastically reduced. [And,] [t]here 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?

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Niels_Olson via flickr

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