Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live Diet
What conditions is this diet best for?
This diet is primarily intended for prevention and reversal of all aspects of cardiovascular disease and to induce weight loss. The author, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, also states that as a medical doctor, he has had many patients with autoimmune diseases make significant recovery following his plan. He lists rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, connective tissue disease, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies and asthma to be among the conditions he has seen dramatically improve on his plan. Although not all patients have a full remission, Dr. Fuhrman says that the majority are able to avoid the use of medications.
What are the main tenets of the diet?
The diet is largely plant-based with little to no animal products. The author prefers veganism, but does concede that there are some people who will need small amounts of animal products. The main tenet of the diet is to eat large quantities of nutrient-rich foods to restore optimal health and avoid foods that drive down the nutrient density of the diet.
Dr. Fuhrman notes specific recommendations for patients with autoimmune diseases:
- A strict lower-protein, plant-based vegan, dairy-free, wheat-free, gluten-free diet.
- High nutrient-per-calorie density diet (i.e., large quantities of plant foods) which restricts calories sufficiently to normalize weight.
- Essential fatty acid supplementation if an essential fatty acid profile is found to be abnormal (he recommends that this be checked). If abnormal, ground flaxseeds, pure plant-derived DHA, or in some cases, high potency fish oil, can be used.
- Therapeutic fasting, which he says can be extremely effective as adjunct to the diet and lifestyle therapy, in order to control the autoimmune response and reset the hyperactive immune system to a lower, more normal level of activity. This is not recommended for those who are dependent on multiple immunosuppressive drugs, such as methotrexate and Imuran. It is not safe to fast while on such medication. Fuhrman insists that therapeutic fasting be supervised by a physician. He recommends reading his book, Fasting and Eating for Health, for those who want more information on this. More information can also be found via DrFuhrman.com, or by contacting his office.
- Doing a comprehensive food elimination diet and food challenge to uncover hidden food sensitivities.
What foods are frequently eaten or given up?
Foods given up: All processed, refined grains, sugars and fats/oils; all animal products, dairy, wheat, gluten, processed juices, alcohol, caffeine, all “enriched” food products.
Foods frequently eaten: All whole, unprocessed and unrefined plant foods, including a wide array of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Three meals per day, with little to no snacking recommended.
Dr. Fuhrman recommends various supplements to his patients on an individual basis and recommends a high quality multivitamin/mineral supplement to most everyone. He recommends essential fatty acid supplementation, if a diet which supplies sufficient quantities of these fats does not correct abnormal blood levels.
Will this diet require shopping at a specialty or organic grocery store, or buying the diet’s pre-packaged food (aka, is this diet going to be very expensive to sustain)?
The author recommends choosing fresh, organic foods and suggests minimizing exposure to foods containing chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, additives, dyes and other toxins. This is especially important for those with any autoimmune disease, since pesticides and other toxins can trigger autoimmunity and autoimmune flares. Dr. Fuhrman does offer his own brand of seasonings, which is optional.
What other autoimmune diets is this diet similar to?
This diet is similar to other autoimmune diets across the board, in that there is an emphasis on large quantities of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods. Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live diet is also similar to Dr. Hyman’s diet, the Hauser Diet and the MRT/LEAP diet recommendations, regarding the necessity of finding hidden food sensitivities.
A note to the reader: If your doctor dismisses diet therapy as an option for treatment, you may want to seek another opinion from a doctor who will support you on your journey to restoring positive vitality. Even a nutrition-focused practitioner, however, may question certain aspects of this particular diet. Particularly, the recommendation for low-protein will be of concern for most physicians as well as nutrition professionals. Careful planning for adequate protein intake is warranted, and small or moderate amounts of animal products may be necessary for some individuals. Certainly a lower animal protein intake is warranted for most people, and makes sense for people with chronic diseases, including autoimmune diseases. A diet high in plant foods and moderate or minimal in animal foods is generally alkalinizing to body tissues, which does help with nutrient assimilation and decreasing inflammation. While Dr. Fuhrman’s philosophy that strict veganism is necessary to achieve this balance may be true for some, that this way of eating is appropriate for most or all, is debatable. The most important advice that Dr. Fuhrman gives, which should not be under-appreciated, is the necessity of consuming large amounts of nutrient-rich plant foods in order to restore optimal health.
Questions for your doctor:
- Will you please assess my essential fatty acid levels and guide me in supplementing, based on the results?
- Would you recommend that I consult with a Registered Dietitian or Certified Clinical Nutritionist for guidance on supplementation and an elimination diet/food challenge program, which is recommended by Dr. Fuhrman? Can you refer me to a nutrition practitioner who is most likely to be experienced in this kind of nutrition therapy, such as a Dietitian in Integrative and Functional Medicine?
- Should I seek help from nutrition professional to assess my candidacy for attempting this diet as well as to ensure that I carry out the diet in a way that provides adequate protein and other nutrients?
- Would you be willing to look into the therapeutic fasting that Dr. Fuhrman recommends and discuss it with me? Are you able to supervise therapeutic fasting for me, should I choose to do this, or would you have me work directly with Dr. Fuhrman or another experienced practitioner?
- Do you recommend any other therapies or lifestyle changes in conjunction with or in place of this diet?
About the Author
Angie King-Nosseir MS, RD is an Integrative and Functional Registered Dietitian, with a passion for walking with people along their path toward health transformation. Angie has a Master’s degree in Nutrition, is a Certified LEAP Therapist, corporate wellness health coach, freelance nutrition and wellness writer, and certified yoga instructor. She is trained in Functional Nutrition and Medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine and in Food as Medicine through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.
This blog post was originally published by AutoimmuneMom.com, written by Angie King-Nosseir MS, RD, and first published on Aug 7, 2012.
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