“You cannot buy your health; you must earn it through healthy living” - Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Shireen: Dr. Joel Fuhrman is a Board-Certified family physician, seven times New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing. He specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Welcome, Dr. Furman.
Fuhrman: Thank you. Great to be here.
Shireen: So Dr. Fuhrman jumping right in, I'd love to learn a little bit more about your background, what led you to become a physician and then become a nutritional expert?
Fuhrman: Well, when I was younger, I was on the world figure skating team. I was second in the United States and pair skating with my sister in 1973. And then, so we were busy on the international ice skating, circuit competing and training all day long. And we ate very healthily that to try to not get sick and maximize our performance and stamina. My father also was, was sickly and overweight when I was young, and he brought a lot of health and nutrition books into the house and changed his diet, got healthier and lost weight. And so I always was brought up with old knowledge, that nutrition played a large role in people's health. And then through my exposure, then, you know, I realized through reading an interest, even when I was in my late teenage years and early 20s, that people didn't have to get high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes. That the result of nutritional ignorance and nutritional folly. And that, that mostly we can wipe out these diseases through nutritional excellence, and even saw and experienced many, in those days in the 1960s and early 1970s. That there are a lot of people with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and other autoimmune diseases that were getting well by nutritional healers that I studied with him and became interested in their work. And I decided to pursue a career and going to medical school to facilitate that and be a physician who could help people get well because when you have an autoimmune condition, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and you put on drugs that cause cancer, and told you have to take these drugs for the rest of your life, and nobody tells you that you could get well and get completely well, again, I felt it was barbaric. And it's not only inhumane, it's medical malpractice that people aren't giving informed consent, and tell them that the disease or the result of food, and the drugs are not the most effective answer changing the diet is and so I think back then I so back when I was in my mid-20s, I decided to go to medical school, with the specific purpose of being a physician specializing nutritional methods. In, in nine when I graduated medical school in 1988 and finished my residency in 1991, I started out in private practice as a specialist in nutritional medicine, right from the beginning and I trained for that, from the beginning of my nutritional education, my medical education.
Shireen: And then what have you found through your years of being a nutritional expert, then what have you found? Where are there gaps within our diet and our lifestyle, and then the health outcomes that we have?
Fuhrman: Well, the biggest problem I have is that people are given these watered-down methods. And they're so confused about what the ideal pinnacle of nutritional excellence is. See, it's okay with me if people don't want to eat healthy, or if they want to continue to smoke cigarettes, but they shouldn't believe that smoking a couple of cigarettes a day isn't harmful because it is. They should know what's best to quit completely. They shouldn't be told that five cigarettes a day is good for you. It's just 20 that's bad for you. In other words, they have to be given correct information, then they can decide to do what they want to do. But I think that I've furthered the science of food addiction and showing people out how that unless they really abstain from sweets and fried foods and oils, and all I know, for a period of time, they're these they're not really in a position to decide what they what they want to do, because their addictions take over the part of their brain. And because the addiction is these food addictions and concentrated calories, control brain function and behavior, it makes people think they can't change whereas this they would put a period of time of abstinence from these addictive triggers and these foods that are so that drive overeating behavior, they be able to make a clean break, and then choose to eat healthfully and be free of having these diseases for the rest of their life. So I'm suggesting that that not only is medical care killing people with diabetes by giving them drugs and high blood pressure medications which cause irregular heartbeats and an increased risk of cancer. And these medications are enablers, they act as permission. I call the prescription pad a permission slip. They enable people to think they're okay because they're soft endpoints, their blood, their blood sugar looks okay. Now, when a medication looks better on the medication, they're not given a chance to get well, they think they're okay, because the numbers look better, and they're still overweight. They're eating the same foods to cause the problem to begin with, and their disease and their medical problems are perpetuating and causing tremendous human tragedy. I take a completely opposite approach. I'm saying that there's no such thing as a healthy overweight person. Number one, being overweight, fat cells spew out label kinds and say, okay, they increase your risk of, and they create, and they activate estrogen production, called the aromatase enzymes in the body, increasing risk of breast and prostate cancer. Don't treat your diabetes, don't control it, get rid of it completely. If you have type two diabetes, if you're not becoming nondiabetic, you're not getting proper care. If you're not getting it, your weight’s, not going back to normal. In other words, what I'm seeing right now is that a person who's a nutritarian, follow my advice, you know, gets to their ideal weight, or is on the way they're losing weight at least two pounds a week. If you're not losing weight at two pounds a week and you're overweight, then you're not following in the right diet, and you're not on nutritarian program, because it takes two pounds a week of weight loss to the body to become, to get rid of insulin resistance. So what I'm saying is that, I want to give people the opportunity to realize they can get totally well and recover from autoimmune conditions, like lupus, and, and rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndromes and, and even asthma. And I want to tell people with diabetes, and heart disease and high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, they can get completely normal again, without medications. And I'm not going to give my niche and my goal is not to make people think it's okay to eat the foods they're eating now, and stay sickly and overweight, because they, they're given wrong information. And they think that this is too difficult, or that it's not going to, they're going to enjoy their life sufficiently, or it's too hard to eat this healthily to get these types of results. And I'm also out here to instruct people that, that's those myths are hurting people. This is not difficult to do, you can make it taste great. And once you do this long enough you prefer in this way to your prior diet.
Shireen: So you mentioned the nutritarian diet, you've coined that term. I want to dive a little bit more into what that diet is. What all does it entail? And sort of how do people respond to it? What are some of the success stories out of it?
Fuhrman: Sure. Well, the word nutritarian refers to a diet that's not only have a high amount of micronutrients and of course, micronutrients do not contain calories, they’re vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals and antioxidants. And the American diet is ubiquitously micronutrient efficient, Americans are eating way too many calories and calories are called macronutrients. They're made up of fat, carbohydrate and protein. And what I'm seeing right now is that Americans eat way too much fat, way too much protein and way too much carbohydrate. Americans are consuming almost double the amount of calories humans need maybe or five or 500 calories a day and those extra calories create disease. In other words, it's the calories the extra calories your body doesn't need that feeds your doctor and causes all these medical problems. But it's the micronutrient deficiencies that allow the body to become a calorie consuming monster. You can't control your APA stat when you're not sufficiently fed with sufficient micronutrients. So by tweaking the micronutrient density of the diet by shooting high micronutrient foods, we can get people to desire less calories naturally. So the nutritarian diet is based on eating a diet that's plant rich, a lot of these high nutrient plant foods that also has a lot that have a lot of nutrient high density of phytochemicals and antioxidants. And I use that acronym g bombs and they stand for greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds. So green vegetables we're talking about eating raw green vegetables and salads and cooked green vegetables like Brussel sprouts and broccoli and artichokes and zucchini and string beans and so we're talking about using both types of vegetables and eating you know, onions and scallions and garlic and eating mushrooms and your foods. And you know making soups that have beans and stews with tomato sauce and also having, you know, berries and low sugar fruits which extend human lifespan. And of course, seeds like flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, which have powerful effects which we could talk about the details of any of these foods, we can throw a dart, and discuss the science, but on any food category that has dramatic benefits for human lifespan, and your body becomes virtually immune to the damage from these illnesses. And now we're in this COVID-19 era where the nutritarian diet becomes even more important, because we see that the people that are harmed by these, this virus, or people that are overweight, have diabetes, have heart disease have high blood pressure, conventional medical care is not the answer to what's ailing us. And there's no medical treatment that's effective for COVID-19. Anyway, what we really need is excellent nutrition to protect ourselves against all these diseases. So this is more, you know, this is, this information is so needed by a population.
Shireen: So Dr. Fuhrman, how do we, how do we take this time now that we have sort of this new lifestyle through COVID-19, staying in quarantine, staying indoors longer? How do we take this time to reset and understand that relationship with food?
Fuhrman: Well, my work over the last 30 years has shown that the people who enjoy eating this way, and stick with it long-term eating healthy foods are people who've learned the recipes. They've studied the science; they know what nutrition can do to fix their body. And they've given themselves a long enough period of time for their taste buds to change and acclimate to the news to the new foods and new senses of taste. So don't evaluate whether you like eating this way or not, just do it. Because you're not going to like eating this way as much of your own way. Because you people like what they're used to eating, you're always going to like better when you lose to eating because your tastes going to acclimate to what you chronically been eating for a long time. But once you eat this way, and you learn the recipes, and you know why you're doing it, and you see the miracle, and you drop at least 15 pounds the first month and 10 pounds. The second month, when you drop the 25 pounds in two months, and your diabetes is gone in two months, and your blood pressure on all four blood pressure medications, then you will see that your taste buds will change. And I will promise you, you will love eating this way. If you give it the months it takes to retrain the taste buds to like these foods and to like what you're eating, then you become incredibly grateful for the miraculous healing powers of natural foods, and your tastes get so acclimated and sensitized to those foods that you actually prefer eating this way over your old diet. A lot of people know they should eat less than eat right? They can, they're addicted, but they need the knowledge and the right type of skills to basically overcome that addiction, you need some professional help. And so people but in any case, some people need that professional help. Most people who recover and get well, using my methodology, don't come into our facility, don't mentor we treat San Diego here. They just follow the instructions in the books, and we give them the diets and the menu plans. And they communicate through the website. They talk in groups of people, they get supportive support locally, and they do it. You know, and there's millions of people that are doing this across the country. So what I'm saying is that, it's not that hard. But if some people need extra help, that help is available to them. But I'm what I'm saying is anybody who wants to get well should get well and they shouldn't be complacent in being sick and staying sick with being overweight, have blood pressure problems or have diabetes problems. They should get rid of those problems. They shouldn't accept the fact of being sick because my main message here is you don't have to be sick. You can, your body can enable you to make a complete recovery. And you can love doing that too.
Shireen: So want to briefly talk about your book. But before I do when you're talking about reversing these illnesses, so for diabetes you just mentioned you can do it in about two months. And of course, it's not across the board. But well, how long does it take to sort of get there if you're looking at, excuse me, autoimmune diseases? How long does it take to reverse completely out of that?
Fuhrman: Current autoimmune disease like lupus or arthritis, it could take one to two years to get totally well. You know, sometimes we see it, you know, we use some vegetable juicing to get the levels of nutrients up higher so we can start to see improvements within three months with those people. We usually take three months before we start lowering medications a little bit because we want to get the levels of nutrients very high. And then over a three-to-six-month period, we see tremendous improvement, but some people require longer periods and that's the table taken off medications completely and be free of symptoms. It depends on the severity of the autoimmune condition; the more severe cases and they've been on medications longer. But Multiple Sclerosis reverses pretty quickly to usually within a year. Ms gets well pretty quickly. And they start to see improvements usually in three months. You know doing so let's say three-to-six months, but I've seen a lot of cases that take, you know, over a year to get. Well, some people I've almost given up on, they still got, well, it just took longer. But with a person that is diabetic, they often become nondiabetic, which I'm defining as a person who has a normal blood sugar below 100. And not needing medication at the fasting morning, blood sugar was below 100. And they don't need medication to get it there. Without medications that morning blood sugar's a little 100. And that usually takes three-to-six-months, you know, take it in that area, but they don't have to have all the weight loss off before they're nondiabetic, a lot of times they start to get, and we see some improvement in insulin production from the beta cells. There's some hibernating beta cells there that improve nutritional excellence, it's not just losing weight, it's also actually improving the function and reducing inflammation in the body and enabled the body to come back to normal again.
Shireen: So with that, I want to dive into your new book, it's called eat for life. And in this, you teach us how to eliminate toxic foods, how to really create a healthy way of eating. Can you tell us a little bit more about the book?
Fuhrman: We eat for life is my latest book. And I've written 12 books. My intention is that this is my last book. Because, you know, I put the most, I wanted to make it very comprehensive, especially comprehensive in the research support for the book. So people would see that there's an overwhelming amount of scientific support, that this is not a hypothesis, it's been thoroughly vetted and investigated. And scientific studies have shown to be effective and to radically prolong human life, and to show people that cancer is not inevitable, you know, it's that we can win the war on cancer right now, with excellent nutrition. So I think that this book gives people therapeutically the information, but also overwhelmingly is convincing scientifically to let people know they can support it wholeheartedly. So that scientists, physicians, nutritional educators, and you know, and colleges can use this book, as a resource to show, to see what nutrition can do when applied properly. And it did become a Best New York Times bestseller when it was out the first few weeks, because I think it gives people because there's, it gives people a great place to start. Because with the right information. And once you have this information in your brain, you can't extract it out, it's in your brain already. And it's very hard to know this information and the power of what nutritional excellence can do. And then not to want to incorporate that in your life to a degree because it's just too magnificent. And I think it can make us feel more grateful. Not scared, not fearful, but more grateful of the aesthetic beauty and miraculous ingenuity of the natural world that inside of food, real food is the ability to keep ourselves well. And we don't have to be fearful of getting COVID-19. If we're in good health, we don't have to be fearful of having a heart attack. And we can keep physically active, we don't have to be fearful of getting dementia. So I think this book is so important. Because it puts, it gives you the path to take when you're sick with confidence and predictability. And there's so many cases of case studies of people in the book and how they've gotten well from multiple sclerosis, lupus, asthma, ulcerative colitis, testicular cancer, breast cancer, there's all these cases in the book to show how the how the people had incorporated this, how they learned about it, and then what happened to reinforce and give people the support that they need in this time today.
Shireen: So with that, Dr. Furman, we're toward the end of the episode, I'd like to close with learning, sort of learning more about your work, how can people connect with you? Where can they go, website, email, to learn more about your work. And then also, what are quick things that they can do that they can jumpstart their health with today, as they're listening to this?
Fuhrman: Thank you. Well, my website is Dr. furman.com, which is D o F u h, or ma n.com. And then get more information about my work and get like a, you know, the starting program to reverse diabetes. They're either 10 and 20, quick side diabetes reversal guide, for example, that tells people to 21 days of menus and meal plans to reverse the diabetes things like that they can get my the place to start is to read my book eat for life that we were discussing right now but then get more information about my retreat in my programs on my online programs, they can ask me questions through the website, you know, and things like that. The place to start right now as a result of this. Recording would be to start eating, changing their diet right now. They consume at least one big raw salad a day with a lot of chopped greens in it and onions with the dressing. The dressing is particularly important made by blending nuts and seeds now by using oil, but by using the whole nother sea to blend with, you know, tomato sauce or an orange or you know or to add vinegar to that. In other words, we have these great salad dressings. I have more than 1500 recipes on my website but in any case, we can use a healthy dressing on a salad every day and then make a big bowl a big pot of vegetable bean soup with mushrooms and onions in it with greens and veggies and mushrooms and onions and have that salad and big and vegetable bean soup and a piece of fruit for lunch. In other words, the place to start is a nice hearty lunch and their lunch should be a big chart salad with lots of greens in it. A bowl of vegetable bean soup that can make on the weekend, eat the same soup for five days straight and a piece of fruit for dessert. If everybody in America started by changing their lunch to salad or soup, bean soup and a piece of fruit we'd have we'd see a tremendous reduction in deaths immediately because we need those nutrients in our bodies for immune system to function normally.
Shireen: Great with that. Thank you so much for your time Dr. Farmer It was a pleasure having you on.
Fuhrman: My pleasure. Best of health to you and of course, all your listeners.