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

71 responses to “Treating Asthma & Eczema with Plant-Based Diets

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  1. Thanks for this interesting video. “Treating Asthma and Eczema With Plant-Based Diets”

    I have my doubts about this placebo effect thing though.
    I understand this effect in the case of a sugar pill: your doctor is giving you the pills so this gives you the positive feeling that it works, which helps to heal better.

    But now in this case people are put on a vegan lifestyle. Were they as positive about vegetables, and cutting out there beloved meats and dairy, as they would have been on taking pills?
    If they were so positive on the vegan approach then why were they not vegans in the first place?

    I suppose that the mind not only effects the healing process positively in a positive state, but allso effects the proces negativly when it is in a negative state.

    Maybe we have to conclude that the vegan experiment worked out very positive DESPITE the placebo effect!

    Martin van Gastel
    Norway

    1. Not quite sure what your point is from first paragraph to the end, Martin. Are we talking about their beloved meat and dairy or your beloved meat and dairy? ;-)

      Since only 1% of the the US population, for example, are vegan, what are the statistical chances that they would be vegan already before the study? Not to mention that already being vegan would be a confounder that would likely disqualify them from participating in the study to begin with.

      Are you attributing the objective variables to placebo?

      1. Somehow you are reading the exact opposite as what I meant. Maybe my bad english is the reason here, but no, i wrote this from a vegan position.

        In my opinion people often try to downplay this kind of research with the placebo argument (the placebo effect is the reason of the improving health effect not the diet). but i think this research had a positive outcome/health improving effect IN SPIDE OFF the possible NEGATIVE placebo effect (healing goes slower) of the probably skeptical participants.

        I presume that the participants were not vegan, if they were vegen they wouldn’t be on this research at all.
        No, They are probably were missing there usual “standard american diet” and with this negatively affecting the research. But still the vegan approach is working!

        Martin

    2. Good point, Martin. (I understood your English just fine.) It would have been good to interview each participant at the start to determine their attitudes toward a vegan diet, including having to do without their beloved animal products, as well as their expectations about how the vegan diet might affect their condition. If the average attitude was negative, that would tend to make one discount the placebo effect being responsible for the average positive outcome.

      In any case, we know that whether the placebo effect is partly to blame for the outcome or not, the therapy worked, and others can also expect it to work. The placebo effect is not a pretend effect. It is a real effect, it just has its roots in something other than the biochemical effect of the therapy one is trying to test. Either way, the therapy worked. If studies show that for most people, when they have a positive expectation that healing will occur as a result of the ingestion of a placebo, the healing takes place, then that is a much better therapy than some side-effect-laden drug, even if there is no scientific reason the placebo in and of itself could have provided the healing.

  2. Subjected to vegan food?” Interesting turn of phrase. I’m subjected to loud noise, rude people, and the dentist. I relish vegan food! :-)

  3. i think i could told my experience… in few words i suffer practically of zero pathologies in my young life (only 23 years old) and sounds great uh ? Nope because since 16-17 years old i start to suffer from atopic dermatitis and i could swear about god that i will never wish this disease to anyone… it is a nightmare that never ends… anyway putting aside the sad part of the story, one day i get interested in human nutrition and step by step i start to get informed and after some reading i chose the plant based diet road… what can i say: it works great… i need some more time because i live in a “toxic” environment (ignorance is the main culprit) but victory is near !!. Wish me good luck !!
    Ps
    i tried both corticosteroids and cyclosporine A (Neoral) and of course they suppress everything (no side effects in my case, thank God) and gave temporary relief but curing your disease with a diet it is one hundred thousand times better… and about the toxic environment, well without it probably my health would have been recovered months ago…

    1. That’s great news Merio. Glad you are seeing. You will inspire others. I agree that ignorance is the worst “toxin” of all :) When you vanquish that you don’t need luck! But i wish you good luck anyway.

      1. Thank you very much !! But the real tragedy is medical ignorance about diet and health (my dermatologist was irritate when i ask if there was some diet connection but at that time i was at my first step about human nutrition)… i really think there is some sort of agenda to make health professionals ignorant about this issue…

        1. My dr is similar. She is very supportive of my weight loss and good chems but becomes uncomfortable when I bring up nutrition…as if she knows she has to support whole plant food eating but her heart just is not in it. She always insists on checking B12 even though i tell her repeatedly that i take a supplement. and then its iron and calcium…

          And always the protein thing comes up.
          “We need protein don’t we?”
          No, I say, we need good nutrition. There is more protein in broccoli than steak and she look at me like “you crazy? you flip your lid?”. Maybe on the space station you need a protein pill and a fat pill and so on. But here on the good Earth every Dr must know by now that people need good food to be healthy.

          Something seems very strange. You are in italy, I am in new zealand. Our North American cousins hear the same line of stuff. so much of the world is in this strangle hold. Who pulls the strings? Why? Can be a bit depressing to think about, questo dolce vita ; )

          1. As a italian oncologist (Franco Berrino) told recently:

            If we get sick the GDP goes up, there is (economic) growth[…]

            We fail to understand that the best hospital is the “closed” hospital… and we forget also of “primum non nocere”… but i’m not afraid, thanks to people like Dr Greger, one day we will win and health would be restored in all the countries…

            1. Unfortunately we cannot close all hospitals because remember that “People can still be hit by a bus or any other means”. Hospitals must just stop treating diseases that are shown and documented to be food or “mouth” related.

  4. Count me in as one of the asthma sufferers who, on a vegan diet, was completely symptom-free. I began the vegan diet because of my husband. He had heart disease and read that a vegan diet is capable of reversing heart problems. So I did too. We both lost about 40 pounds, and I no longer suffer from asthma. I also am no longer on pain medication for arthritis. The only bad part of all this is learning to cook all over again, which isn’t that bad, really.

    1. Marge, I love your story! It reminds me of the early stories that Pritikin published in his Pritikin diet books back in the 1970s. I’d read about bedridden people in their 60s and 70s who were too sick to perform heart surgery on, so diet change was their only other option. With in months they were no longer bedridden and many went on to walk miles every day; some even even “ran” marathon type races, even at their senor ages. And don’t forget the story of Dr. Gregor’s grandmother. I love these stories because they are so hopeful for ourselves and our loved ones, and are essentially without risk. BTW, can you report any test results or symptom improvements for your husband? How long have you been vegans?

      1. We have been on the vegan diet 2 complete years, going on 3 with no plans to change. My husband is monitored regularly and recently underwent a stress test that he aced. He walks up and down hills rapidly daily with our lab, which he wasn’t able to do before. I know all this is anecdotal, but the proof is in the living.

        1. Thank you for sharing your story. Did you and your husband find it hard to change your diet? How did you decide to be “vegan”?

  5. I have completely recovered from a life-time battle with asthma and allergies by adopting a whole foods, plant based diet. For most of my life I went through a ventolin inhaler every two weeks and more flovent and prednisone than you can imagine. No one in health care ever suggested nutritional intervention, until I had the good fortune of having Brenda Davis, R.D. as my nutrition instructor at WCCMT in 1996. It wasn’t until several years later, when my little boy showed signs of asthma that I actually dove in fully to a plant based diet; having already given up meat, dairy was the last to go. Within 3 days my son and I were asthma free.

  6. As asthma is such a common, debilitating, and costly malady, why aren’t there more rigorous studies going on EVERYWHERE to definitively corroborate the findings of this cited study? Wouldn’t you think that science and medicine would be all over possible solutions here?!

    1. the problem is the same with other pathologies: there is not financial benefit to research like this… you can’t patent a diet, but novel compounds… and add the “double blind” concept to the problems because you could not study a diet like a drug…

      1. True that, especially about the impossibility of blinding food. People like Gary Taubes and other low carber/Paleos love playing their tunes in that confounder gap to discount studies like Ornish and Esselstyn.

        1. well, it depends about the study you want to make… for statistical reason you want a good number of patients and follow them properly so you need a lot of money and most important what do you want to find ? I think it is not so easy to design a good study that hit the health community..

  7. Remember rapamycin, the mTOR inhibiting compound with effects partially mimicked by lower-leucine plant based diets? An analogue is approved for eczema. Eczema, like cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, scleroderma, acne (I could go on) appears to be exacerbated by the excessive growth signalling from Western diets.

  8. I also have my story of suffering from astma and dermatitis. When i was 11 years old i decided do not eat butter, sugar, dairy, eggs and to be vegetarian. My health started to be better, i could run and swim, because astma i almost could not breathing during summer time. After i stopped to drink medicine and slowly, slowly, step by step became vegan. Now i am 30 and i am running marathons, swimming and preparing to participate in Iron Man. That is my story….Nobody told me about plants and to be vegetarian, i just tried and trusted my intuition and my body.

    1. Svetlana: it’s wonderful to hear about your success. Congratulations on figuring it out, and the good sense to give what so people won’t. Thanks for sharing your story and best wishes for a lifetime of good health.
      -Mark G.

  9. For those dealing with eczema while totally plant-based, my recent diagnosis might help.

    Turns out I’m sensitive to nickel. Allergist told me to go “nickel-free” with my diet; which for the most part meant doing without my daily habit of a handful (or 2) of walnuts or almonds. Eczema I’ve been dealing with since 2009 has cleared up with that change.

    Supposedly almonds and soy have nickel also. I still have almond milk with my daily breakfast cereal, but it’s still clearing up. But I’m now using mostly corn-based cereals (Natures Path Organic) as supposed to those made of wheat (another nickel source).

    Try reducing nickel in your diet, see if it helps you too.

    1. You are correct that nuts are a source of nickel. It is always rewarding to read about success stories such as yours. Congratulations. It is also nice to read about a physician who informs patients about nutritional approaches to chronic diseases such as eczema.

    2. Lee: Thanks for the tip. I eat walnuts and almonds every day and wheat on most days. I had horrible, bloody, cracked eczema skin on the bank of my knees every day for 20 years until I gave up soy; then within 10 days it was all gone, and 5 years later has never returned. I still have a small patch on my face. I’ll try going wheat and nut free for a few days. I’d hate to give up all nuts, given their heart healthy properties. Do you know if other nuts are lower in nickel?
      -Mark G.

    3. My fiancee and I also ran into this issue. We went plant-based and BOTH developed nickel sensitivity: mine shows up on my right foot, her on her hand. For us, we had to reduce almonds and we had to go easy on the “chocolate ice cream” (pure cocoa powder blended with frozen berries) as cocoa contains a TON of nickel, turns out. After that, we both noticed a clearing up of our skin issues.

  10. this is all such wonderful news! I can’t wait to find out what the results of the trials of vegan on MS are when they come out, as the good doctor told us he is following.

    1. Dr. McDougall’s Foundation funded the study on MS which is being done by Oregon Health and Science in Portland. Dr. Bourdette who is the lead author presented at the McDougall Advanced Study Weekend at the beginning of the study. He felt given the time course of the disease(long) and the short duration of the study ( 1 year) plus the numbers involved it would be unlikely to show a significant result. He hoped the study will lead to a larger study. Another physician involved with the study shared the nonMS results. They were impressive as far as weight reduction, improved fasting glucoses and cholesterols. There are no downsides to the diet even if the effect on MS is small you don’t want to add another chronic disease such as diabetes, obesity or arterial disease on top of it.

      1. Dr. Forrester: re: ” He felt given the time course of the disease(long) and the short
        duration of the study ( 1 year) plus the numbers involved it would be
        unlikely to show a significant result.”

        I’m not sure I understand this. The above sentence sounds like conjecture. ie, “His initial thoughts before the study were that bla bla bla.” But my understanding is that we are a month away from when the results were going to be published. So, I would think we have the results now, even if they have not yet been published. We should be past conjecture. Was he actually saying that the study does not in fact show a significant result? Or he was hinting that that would the be the (disappointing) conclusion? Or am I not understanding something?

        I do understand the last part of your paragraph and think that is a significant point. I’m just wondering if you can clarify what you thought you heard about the effects on MS itself from the small study. :-) Thanks.

        1. Hi Thea, Sorry for the confusion. Let see if this helps. There were I believe 40 patients in the intervention group and 40 controls. The study lasted a year only. The time course of MS is over years. As I understand from the two presentations that I have heard historically it would often take well over 4 years to make a diagnosis due to the infrequent attacks. Given small numbers in the study and long time frame it would be difficult to get statistically significant results. I’m hoping we will see significant results but don’t want folks to get their hopes up too high or if there isn’t a significant result to conclude that diet isn’t a factor. Hope this provides a bit of clarity.

          1. Dr. Forrester: That helps a lot!! Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate it. And it will help me understand the results when they do come out. Thanks!

  11. Sweden still allows smoking in hospitals (nurse whose asthma was aggravated by smoking co-workers).

    I have been vegan for 20 years and still have asthma – refuse to take the everyday medication but have a rescue inhaler – do not use it every day, but I know my breathing is compromised. Your previous post mentioned eating seven servings each day – I think I should start counting – any other suggestions?

    1. I would suggest that you try to limit/avoid seeds and grains and see if it helps. Most tubers(potatoes/sweet potatoes), squashes, fruits(except citrus), salads and most vegetables could be safe.

      For more information on a diet that worked for one person I recommend the blog of Burgess Laughlin: http://anti-itisdiet.blogspot.no/

    2. Get off all gluten-grains immediately, and don’t even ingest these in minute amounts. Also consider corn and barley avoidance. If you like grains, eat white rice, brown rice. But please, avoid gluten grains! Give it time. Be patient.

      Also, consider avoiding all spices. They are not “foods” that can provide for life. In some cases maybe they are “healing”, but seem to aggravate a lot of humans.

      1. What?!? Avoid soy? Why? I don’t believe there is scientific basis for this recommendation…. search for “soy” within Dr. Greger’s site and you’ll see how beneficial soy is

  12. And of course it depends on which medical standpoint we’re looking from: if their standpoint is to watch their patients get better then yes a vegan diet is the best way to practice.
    If, however, their standpoint is to make a lot of money then the vegan option would be the worst one; because if they don’t have a sick patient they will NOT have a patient in their office and they won’t be able to afford to buy their meat they so love. It’s the American way.
    Nice research paper find!

    1. Yup, the Sickness Industry thrives! I was sent to dermatologist who had no interest in any of my ideas of food sensitivities or parasites, just writing scripts for cort.cream.
      I’ve been doing my own research/food eliminations for 2 years and the elimination list became very long. I’ve been going the vegan route for quite some time and had fairly good results. BUT I am dangerously underweight. Any ideas how I can regain weight?

      1. Maybe lots of nut butters Toothin??? Great nutritional density AND calorie density…almond butter comes to mind..oh my…I need to NOT buy it! LOL!

      2. toothin: Good for you for figure out your own health path!

        I
        know that lots of people want to lose weight, but being dangerously
        underweight is also a serious problem. I hope you are able to figure it out.

        To expand a bit on val’s idea:
        The way to gain weight is to eat more calorie dense foods. It sounds
        like you have eliminated a lot of foods, but hopefully some of these
        will work for you: nut and seed butters, avocados, dried fruits, and olives are all quite calorie-dense. You can make some really delicious nut “cheeses” that would be calorie dense and a pleasure to eat.

        While
        you may not be a teen and/or an athlete, I think the following page
        from the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) has some great ideas and might
        be of help to you:

        http://www.vrg.org/teen/veg_athlete_weight_gain.php

        Hope that helps and good luck to you!

        1. Adding to Thea’s excellent suggestions you want to make sure you are consuming adequate calories which on a vegetable and fruit based diet is a difficult. Adding in enough complex carbs and not doing too much raw will help as well. Cooking our foods increases caloric absorption by aiding digestion. If you are very active and exercise alot it can be a challenge. Alot of my patients who think they are too thin are actually too thin compared to standard americans. Best wishes.

  13. Hello Dr. Greger. Do you have any info on gingko? My parents want to use it, but have read that the actual leaves contain harmful components and that extracts are better in this instance. Surprisingly, I could not find anything on your site. Did I miss something or is this a good idea for new videos? :-)

  14. Why mention placebo effect if the patients had been on several medications in the past and could have also easily have improved through the placebo effect (although they didn’t). Results are what matters and to have 92% of people show improvement, many getting off medication, is amazing.

  15. I have noticed that my eczema which can get out of control (even on a 100% plant based diet) is controlled when I drink nettle tea. I have also noticed my seasonal allergies are also mitigated by consuming nettle tea. What can you tell me about nettle tea along these lines?

  16. I think I may have developed some eczema since becoming vegan. What’s up with that? Since Aug 15, 2014 I have not knowingly eaten more than a smidgen of anything not plant-based (a roll here, a piece of bread there – really very little). Since March of this year I have been on a low oil (occasional dinners out – I do not cook with oil at all) diet as well. Yet I developed a strange looking rash that got scaly like the picture above. Is my body driving out all the mean toxins or something? Also, my reactions to the bad air at work is more severe now rather than less. This seems to fly in the face of the evidence provided above. Not that I am going back to animal products, but I am wondering why…

    1. I got my eczema on the backs of my hands following treatment of a cat claw infection/ringworm. I am also a vegan for some years. Like many others, my eczema disappears in the summer and reappears in the winter. A product recommended by my dermatologist and made by Mayo Clinic personnel(?) seems to help: Vaniply. Vanicream, made by the same company, does not seem to be as helpful. They also make a soap which I do use.

  17. I was diagnosed with hyperkeratotic fissured hand and foot eczema. Also a life long history of ear infections and bronchitis. Tried to get it under control for years. Only option for the eczema: steroid creams (=stress hormone) for the rest of your life. It’s genetic they said. Learn to live with it. I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years but based on this video I quit using dairy products. All my symptoms are gone COMPLETELY. My GP was at a loss for words and had no explanation. I do now! No dairy.

    1. Maarteen,

      Nice work, glad you took your health into your own hands.

      Your experience is one that I have seen in numerous patients. Our profession needs to recognize that a bodies response, such as eczema, is well known to be connected to our intake and/or response to external triggers.

      Finding them can be as straight forward as an elimination diet, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elimination_diet) first proposed in 1926….. but it takes some time and dedication….as an fyi Thorne research has an excellent booklet for this purpose. The second issue is that in medicine there are competing means of chemically determining allergies with none being 100% accurate. Some practitioners continue to use the 1950’s scratch testing vs the much more accurate blood-based, of which there are many methods. Again let me state, none are able to detect all of your allergies. Dr. Alan Kadish NF moderator

  18. Hi, I am a lifelong vegetarian (no egg, no meat or fish), and now mostly off dairy. I have been suffering an underarm itch which has now evolved into eczema or psoriasis. There is redness, itching and burning .. the skin is leathery. I have had it for several years now and tried applying apple cider vinegar, oregano oil and coconut oil for relief. At times it feels better and then the itch returns. It feels much better after I exercise and sweat. Last month, I noticed a similar itch at the nape of the neck/scalp. There is a similar redness and itch there.

    Can anyone suggest what I should do to target the cause of this? I feel afraid of applying cortisone creams because I feel that will not address the underlying cause. Do you think that there is an allergic reaction? Should I eliminate wheat? all dairy? Please advise.

    1. Hello there – I would advise being evaluated by your primary care provider or a dermatologist first. There’s no need to start an elimination diet if you don’t know what you’re dealing with yet. The problem may not even be diet related – it could be due to soaps, lotions, deodorant, laundry soap, or other environmental triggers. Best of luck!

  19. Hi Dr. Greger & Nutritionfacts.org! I am a committed member of nutritionfacts.org community and I believe in this foundation and appreciate everyone who contributes to getting the truth out about our food, lifestyle choices, and health! Up to date, I have given over 40 copies of Doctor Greger “How Not to Die” book to various people who have gone on to change their lives! Like getting off of all medications, stopping cancer in its track kind of changes!!!! So before I ask this very important question, I wanted to first say THANK YOU so very much for all that ALL of you do! THANK YOU!
    I have been a Vegetarian/Vegan for close to 15 years not for any other reason except that plant-based eating is actually the food I love and prefer to eat. I have always been thankful that the foods recommended by Dr. Greger just happen to be my favorite foods anyways….. chickpeas, lentils, dates, spinach and nuts! Just recently I am learning through my dermatologist that I have an extreme nickel allergy that is starting to come out through my hands as dyshidrotic eczema. I am working with my dermatologist now and he has recommended for me to go through a desensitization process that could take up to two years. As a vegan himself, his exact words to me were that it would be impossible to remain a vegan without going through this process. The saddest part of this whole story is that when you look up a low nickel diet it literally goes against everything recommended here by Dr. Greger. I am absolutely heartbroken and not sure what to do as I’ve always been a firm believer natural foods and whole plant and fruits are the answers to all medical concerns. I’ve also done some research that states those who are not able to handle nickel should increase their iron and vitamin C intake. When researching fruits and veggies that are high in iron and vitamin C most of them also happen to be the same fruit and veggies that are listed as high and nickel. I have searched through this entire site and have not found one topic about nickel allergies. I would love any help support or advice! Thank you so very much for your time!

  20. DR MICHAEL GREGER, YOU ARE MY HERO. THANKS TO YOU I AM ASTHMA FREE!

    http://butterflylullaby.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/dr-michael-greger-cured-my-asthma-hero.html

    I cannot thank you enough. And would love to help other people.

    Could you do some videos on wild foods. Such as Japanese Knotweed, Nettles, Dandelions, Sea Beat etc:
    http://butterflylullaby.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/japanese-knotweed-mind-map-debate.html

    Best wishes,
    Sharon

    P.S. I know you could help little Charlie Gard. He needs a Wet Nurse on a Plant Based Diet. With your guidance, this little baby could be saved.
    http://butterflylullaby.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/baby-charlie-gard-plant-based-diet.html

  21. Hi there!

    I love nutritionfacts.org and think Dr. Greger is an amazing example as a Doctor. Thank you all for what you do!

    I suddenly developed eczema last March. I never experienced anything like it as a child. It progressively got worse as the year went on, covering my arms and legs until it looked like I had on pants and sleeves. It was so inflamed, itchy and red…I couldn’t get any sleep at night because that’s when the itching was the worst. I’m not a fan of conventional doctors, but I was so desperate for help that I went to doctor after doctor… allergists, dermatologists (even had a biopsy), general practice doctors, none of whom was really interested in the root cause of my issue. They wanted me to take antibiotics, steroids, use ointments, take these new injections that JUST came out… NONE of them wanted to think that it might be something in my diet. When I would mention it, they would say… “Well, in my experience, that’s never the cause.”. Nevermind that my Mom has Celiac Disease and that Dermatitis Herpetiformis is a manifestation of wheat sensitivity, which I kept mentioning to them. No one would test me for that, so I just took matters into my own hands and changed up my diet. I omitted gluten, (dairy I had omitted about 7 years ago due to migraines…that’s a whole other story similar to this one), any type of refined sugar, and most meat. After a few months, I started seeing amazing results! The rash just started going away. No doctor I had seen was willing to steer me in the right direction and just squashed my ideas on it being related to diet. I’m a fitness instructor with a passion for nutrition related to health, so I have always felt like diet is the root cause of many problems. They all kept telling me… Well, sometimes this “just happens” and we have to treat the symptoms the best way we can.

    After watching several documentaries: What the Health, Eating You Alive and Forks Over Knives, and reading Dr. Greger’s book, me, my husband and my parents all decided to go on a whole food plant based diet. We had already cut ourselves way back on animal protein, so we figured we should just go all the way. None of us miss animal protein, and we enjoy eating the way we have been. The only thing though, is that my Mom has had a really bad flare of psoriasis on her eyebrows, and I have had some scary flares of my eczema since changing our diets. My fingers are crossed that it’s just a “healing crisis” of our bodies purging toxins. Has anyone else had a similar experience? We are centering our meals on healthy gluten-free whole grains, with lots of veggies (a mixture of cooked and raw) and fruit as snacks, so, we aren’t eating junk. I have no intentions of going back to animal protein, but I was just hoping to have someone ease my mind and confirm my suspicions of a healing crisis! :)

    Have a blessed day!

    Cheers & Namaste!
    Casey in Texas

    1. Hello Casey, I am still in the thread for the conversation you started. Since I responded to you last year, I have been seeing a patient with psoriasis. Here are some NutritionFacts video I came up with, which might help your mother.

      1) https://nutritionfacts.org/video/sodium-and-autoimmune-disease-rubbing-salt-in-the-wound/ This is about how high levels of sodium in the diet is bad for various autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis. Dr. G presents a study showing that sodium over-activates one particular type of immune cell, which is bad for psoriasis.
      2) https://nutritionfacts.org/video/which-spices-fight-inflammation/ This is about the benefits of turmeric and other spices to “significantly stifle the inflammatory response.” 3) https://nutritionfacts.org/video/potassium-and-autoimmune-disease/ This is about how potassium rich foods boost natural anti-inflammatory hormones in the body.

      The best sources of potassium are: tomato products (including canned, and tomato paste – LOW sodium variety), oranges, greens (best are beet greens), beans (white beans especially), and dates.

      Also, the so-called “leaky gut syndrome” has been mentioned as a possible contributing cause of psoriasis. There is a urine test your mother could do to check for leaky gut called the “Intestinal Permeability Test”, offered by Genova Diagnostics Lab. It has to be ordered by a doctor (or NP or PA). Good luck. Dr.Jon.

      Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  22. Casey,
    Thank you for your inspiring story (also is a little depressing, to hear how badly our medical system is failing you). I am a family doctor with a private practice in lifestyle medicine, and a volunteer moderator for this website. I will try to answer, or at least give a response to, your question.

    If you and your family have only started eating a plant-based diet in the past 3-6 months, you could very well be correct that your bodies are still in the process of healing themselves. Actually, to tell the truth, I am not at all sure what the time frame really is for the adjustment process. 3-6 months has been my experience; I will see if Dr. Greger can give a better answer.

    Dr.Jon
    PhysicianAssistedWellness.com
    Volunteer moderator for NutritionFacts.org

    1. Good afternoon Dr. Jon,

      I appreciate your reply so much, and thank you for donating your time and expertise to such a good cause. Nutritionfacts.org is such an amazing, informative resource for those who really want to take charge of their health!

      I’m sure my story is not that uncommon… I bet you hear about similar experiences all the time! What’s the most unfortunate about it all is how health insurance won’t cover alternative treatments (even if it means it will be less costly to them!).

      Many years ago, I had debilitating migraines. The kind that put you in the bed and made you throw up. I suffered with them for quite a long time. I don’t even remember how many doctors I went to…most just wanted to give me narcotics. I ended up at a neurologist who put me on blood pressure medicine, Cozaar. Now, I have always been tiny (I have to lift weights to stay above 100lbs) and my blood pressure has always run about 95/65. The issue was not my blood pressure of course, however; she thought that if it would keep my blood vessels from narrowing, then it would prevent my migraines. As you can imagine, several days of taking this against my better judgement, my blood pressure became so low that I couldn’t even get out of bed. I even tried taking my BP a couple of times and couldn’t get a reading, so, I discontinued use and decided that I would go it alone and try to figure it out myself. After a lot of research, I stumbled upon studies about dairy and migraines. I eliminated all dairy and after several months, my migraines disappeared. When you stumble upon a cure for yourself, it’s a bit bittersweet. You think of all the years you suffered and all along it was such a simple answer, yet no one ever guided you in that direction.

      That experience really opened my eyes to the power of food vs. illness. Which is why from almost the beginning, I really felt that the eczema I developed had to be either from something that I was eating, or a disrupted digestive system. Initially, before it got bad, I thought it was an allergy to external factors. After insisting on allergy testing, it was found that I really don’t have an allergy to much of anything. A couple of mild responses, but so faint that they could hardly see it. After ruling out external factors, that’s when I started suspecting diet. My husband and I started reducing animal protein in March of this year, however; we are only about 5-weeks in on the total plant based diet. My parents started the plant based diet the same time we did. My dad recently had surgery for colon cancer, so we really didn’t give him the option! (Of course his previous diet was full of animal protein and processed foods, which was most likely the cause of it.)

      After seeing my eczema fade away and only come back when we went completely vegan, my mind immediately went to “Herxheimer Reaction”! I really do feel like that’s what my mom and I are experiencing, but, it’s always nice to have someone else agree with you and set your mind at ease! :)

      Again, thank you for your kindness and willingness to help others!

      Have a blessed day!

      Cheers and Namaste,
      Casey

      1. Hello again, Casey, Thank you for sharing more details of your experiences, both with migraines and with eczema. I am still learning about the many amazing ways that plant-based nutrition (and getting off of meat, dairy, and eggs) can impact people’s health. So stories like yours really help me learn.

        If I understand correctly what you said about your eczema, it faded away when you first got off of most animal products, but then reappeared after you went completely vegan? If so, there are at least 3 possible causes: 1) A reaction of your body as it gradually clears out toxins – which could include getting rid of some of the harmful colonic bacteria. I don’t know that I’d call it a classic Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, because that is a reaction to endotoxin-like products released by the death of harmful microorganisms within the body – usually during antibiotic treatment. [It was originally associated with penicillin treatment of syphilis]. The other reason I don’t think it’s a usual type of Herxheimer reaction, is that those usually only last a few hours to days. However, you could be experiencing something similar to a Herxheimer reaction.
        2) Your vegan diet is missing some important vitamin(s) or nutrients. The only things that come to mind are vitamin B12, and folate. You should be getting enough folate if you eat lots of green leafy veggies, legumes, and whole grains. But you might be deficient in B12. I recommend that you get your methylmalonic acid level checked (is high in B12 deficiency).
        3) There is something you added to your diet when you went completely vegan to which you’re allergic. I’m not sure what that would be. You would have to eliminate one thing at a time.

        Hope this helps. Dr.Jon.

        Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  23. I would look at the connection between GERD and asthma. A diet change could affect that. Lifelong asthmatic here. Reducing GERD by quitting soda halved my symptoms, but still on 3 drugs( veg for many years and getting closer to exclusive wfpb every day.)

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