When a Patient Transforms a Doctor, Wonderful Things Happen
Jan 09, 2019
“Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food.”
“Make a habit of two things: to help; or at least to do no harm.” - Hippocrates
As a 10-year-old I loved the smell of hospitals. Yes, I know, what an odd thing. Why would a child even have the opportunity to notice they like the fragrance from a place that is not typically noted for lovely odors?
I witnessed how a doctor transformed a sickly fever ridden preschooler into an energetic rambunctious child. It was in a hospital where the magical metamorphosis happened. I became enthralled with the people in white coats and how they were capable of such an amazing feats. Whenever I entered a hospital and the antiseptic aromas would waft past my nose I had instant feelings of euphoria, joy and possibility. Those feelings carried me through the pressures of medical school when I was a wife and mom of three small children. Those memories pushed me through sleep deprived years of a family medicine residency, four years of active duty in the United States Air Force and then as a civilian physician in a busy rural Colorado practice.
Intense emotions continue to fill my being whenever I walk through the hallways of a hospital, but now those feelings are one of a seasoned physician who understands we live in a society of sick care and not one of healthcare. Now I see modern medicine through a different set of lenses but how did that happen? How does a doctor suddenly have a paradigm shift in her career and her personal life?
In early 2012 I happened to recommend to a patient to stop eating meat and dairy when she told me that they upset her stomach. I had never recommended that combination before, and it did not dawn on me that she was basically eating a plant-based diet until she returned one month later. My patient's daughter, who was 16 at the time, had joined her mother and did not eat meat or dairy products for one month. During those 30 days this teenager stopped two ADHD medications on her own accord. Now, that got my attention and when I began to research the plant-based diet I was astounded at the science and the number years this information had been available to me and every other American physician. I was first elated at the power of a whole foods plant based diet but then dismayed when I realized just how ill equipped I was at discussing basic nutrition with my patients. How could I have graduated medical school without being exposed to even an ounce of the science I was now compelled to read at every opportunity? Unfortunately, this is the case for the vast majority of physicians trained in the United States.
During the first month of my "discovery" another patient with SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) kindly volunteered to eat a whole foods plant based diet after discussing the science I had recently uncovered. When she had a significant improvement in symptoms in 14 days including a decrease in c-reactive protein from three times the high normal to near normal, an eight pound weight loss and improvement in migraines I was hooked. I went home that day, cleaned out the refrigerator and my family, including my husband and three teenagers, went on the whole foods plant based diet and haven't looked back. My husband went on to lose over 50 pounds and all my chronic allergies, which I had suffered for over 30 years magically cleared within months. (On a side note, we had a quarter of a grass fed beef in a freezer in the garage that I was trying to figure out what to do with. I couldn’t give it away to people because I saw it as detrimental to human health, but two days after converting our diet the freezer broke. Let’s just say the smell of putrefying carcass and bloody fluids running down the garage floor cured any desire to ever eat meat again. Can you say a sign from God?)
Thus, I began to enthusiastically discuss nutrition with every patient, friend, co-worker, family member, Facebook acquaintance, and person who would listen. I have searched out the gurus of this movement for advice, mentorship and ultimately friendship. Over the years I refined how I presented the whole foods plant based diets to patients. I learned to nudge people to take the leap of faith that could radically change their health. Many did trust me and we walked the journey together, learning many valuable lessons along the way.
I quickly found out that the first year I would get asked the same questions…
“How do I do this?”
“Where do you get your protein?”
“What about my family who will not do this with me?”
“You want me to just eat lettuce and carrots?”
“It is too expensive.”
“I don’t like vegetables.”
“My kids won’t eat vegetables.”
“I need meat.”
“How do you cook without meat or dairy?”
Answering the same questions over and over again, spurred me to begin to document their questions and my answers which over time actually became “our” answers as patients would often present me with solutions. Those questions, answers, shopping guides, and more became a 30-page hand out that I would provide to interested patients on a daily basis. It was refined over the years, given to patients, colleagues, friends and family and at times emailed around the world to physicians in places like Australia and Israel.
That handout was the basis of the material found on this website along with expert interviews inspired by my podcast. I am passionate about obliterating obstacles and objections because I truly believe the whole foods plant based diet is more powerful than my prescription pad for many of the chronic diseases plaguing Americans. I hope you find the our information, courses, support group, interviews and insights a helpful tool in your health journey!
Your friend in health!
Laurie Marbas, MD, MBA
Co-founder, Healthy Human Revolution