For the physician, all relevant research comes into actual practice in the clinic. For the patient, the clinic is where they receive their treatment and interact with their doctor on an ongoing basis. Very often, clinical technique makes the key difference for patient compliance and successful treatment. So the Vegetarian Prescription considers the clinical experience of physicians practicing vegetarian nutritional medicine to be a vital source of knowledge and experience. To make this knowledge more widely available, we are posting a series of interviews with various current practitioners.
Lynn Fioretti, a DO, practices Family Medicine in the south Puget Sound area. She makes extensive use of vegetarian nutritional medicine.
How did you become interested in vegetarian nutritional medicine?
Years ago, my initial interest in vegetarian diets evolved out of an increased awareness of the suffering by farm animals used for human food consumption. I decided to take a personal stand against this by becoming a vegetarian. Secondly, I learned about the negative environmental impact that these huge farms have on the earth, which was another good reason to maintain my vegetarian diet and lifestyle. Thirdly, my work in the medical field reinforced the positive impact of a vegetarian diet in overall health and disease prevention.
What diseases do you most commonly prevent and treat by prescribing a vegetarian diet?
The most common medical conditions for which I prescribe a vegetarian diet includes hyperlipidemia, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer prevention.
What are the advantages of vegetarian nutritional medicine over other treatments?
Vegetarian diets are natural and healthy, very tasty and growing in popularity. We all know the effects of treatment by medications such as side effects and cost, and other traditional medical treatments.
How do you explain the concept and treatment to your patients?
I keep brochures in my desk, put together by Vegetarians of Washington, and I find this very helpful and a great resource for the patient. This includes brochures on defeating diabetes with a vegetarian diet, lowering your cholesterol with a vegetarian diet, and others.
What obstacles do you commonly encounter when practicing vegetarian nutritional medicine and how do you handle them?
Patients are initially shocked by the idea of transforming their lifestyle into a meat-free diet. Once the initial shock subsides, I encourage them to consider it, and be open to trying it, and to make gradual changes. I always direct them to the Vegetarians of WA website for information including recipes to try, and also the yearly Vegfest in Seattle as a way to experience different food options. There is still the thought that the vegetarian diet is nothing more than beans, rice, and salads. I then emphasize the health benefits. I always find it amazing that some people would rather take a pill, than do something proactive and modify their lifestyle. They can be hard to reach and educate.
What do you think it will take before prescribing veg medicine becomes more widespread?
It will take widespread education of doctors. Nutritional medicine has to become a part of the required curriculum in health professional training. It should also be a regular elective in all colleges, and some education should be offered in the high school and grade school levels also, since that’s often where the health problems and poor choices arise.
Why do you think it is important to be taught vegetarian nutritional medicine in medical school?
Unfortunately many health professionals are poorly trained in nutritional medicine. There is a huge emphasis on pharmaceuticals in managing medical problems. This is great for the drug companies, but a poor choice for the patients.