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Old Fri, Aug-10-18, 01:22
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Default Iowa cancer doctor fights disease, sugar and food industry with a fistful of veggies

Alarmed by health trends, Iowa cancer doctor fights disease, sugar and food industry with a fistful of veggies

The medical director of John Stoddard Cancer Center in Des Moines saw his treatments for tumors go from 400 to 1,000 a year in the past couple of decades and began to ask why people were getting sicker.

Dr. Andrew Nish became so convinced from his research that changes are needed in what we eat, how we live and in treating what ails us that he recently gave up his interventional radiology practice of 28 years to finish his study of integrated medicine that uses holistic techniques to care, such as proper nutrition, meditation and mind-body therapy.

He has led a series of lectures for health care professionals at UnityPoint-Des Moines on nutrition, and his integrated medicine studies have led to changes at Stoddard starting this month that will incorporate better nutritional offerings and add guided imagery and massage for patients.

“Our health care system is going to collapse. We can’t afford to take care of all that sickness,” he said.

Six years ago, he read more than 30 books on nutrition, and the first thing the avid cyclist did was change his own diet. He dropped breads, pastas and sugars from his diet and focused on eating vegetables, nuts and small servings of meat.

Although he’s always been slim, he dropped 15 pounds. His thinking was clearer and he had more energy and endurance. He was convinced and furthered his study.

What he found was frightening. The rate of people with diabetes had increased five-fold since 1970, so 30.4 million Americans have it, he said. The more he studied, the angrier he got.

“The politics of food is despicable, in my opinion,” he said.

Nish said that the problem started with an all-out war on heart disease in the 1950s, which led to a questionable study that exaggerated the links between saturated fat and heart disease. The low-fat diet push was born.

The food industry began to replace fat with added sugar and refined carbohydrates. Americans' sugar consumption jumped, with most people consuming more added sugar than is recommended.

He began a lecture series for health professionals during a successful effort to remove soda machines from the floors of Iowa Methodist Medical Center.
The lecture was taped and widely circulated. Nish paced and questioned, his voice rising at a question and answering in a raspy Clint Eastwood-like whisper.

“What do we subsidize in this country?” he asked. “Wheat, corn, soy. Why wouldn’t the government want to promote what it subsidizes?”

People responded, and some asked for personal advice.

“That’s the real trouble with nutrition. Everybody’s got a gimmick. I have no gimmick. Mine is eat real food. If it didn’t have dirt on it, it’s not real food,” he said.

He said he didn’t set out to take on the food industry because he would be inviting trouble. Yet, he does say this: “God, or a higher power, gave us everything we need to live. We don’t need Kraft or Nestle. A thousand years ago we didn’t have processed food.”

Asked why we live longer today than in prior decades, he says it’s simple. We did a good job in America of improving sanitation, vaccinations and antibiotics. One of our top causes of death, infection, drastically decreased. Now we must work on what we eat.

“Food is medicine. Hippocrates said this a thousand years ago. ‘Let food be thy medicine.’ Guess what? He’s right.”

So instead of always reaching for a pill via a health care industry that he says is “pharmaceutical-driven,” Nish has nine ways to prevent illness or help overcome it, based on his years of research.

Five ways to eat right

No added sugar. Overconsumption of sugar is linked to numerous health problems, Nish said. The World Health Organization recommends six teaspoons of sugar or less every day. There are 19 teaspoons in a 20-ounce bottle of one variety of soda, Nish said. Parents think they are giving their kids a healthy breakfast by feeding them granola, yogurt and a glass of juice for breakfast. The granola alone can have 18 grams of sugar, and the juice “is just sugar,” he said. He said 80 percent of processed foods include added sugar. And sugar substitutes are even worse because of the metabolic response in your body.

No refined grains. That means no white or wheat flour. Chips? Gone. Processed food? Gone.

Eat vegetables and fruits. Nish recommends seven servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day. Exclude potatoes and sweet corn because they are “just starch.”

Eat nuts. Plain, unadulterated nuts give you a high-quality fat. Fats are vital for brain development. He also includes small 3- to 4-ounce servings of meat, a food that “has got a bad rap.” He said he eats meat from a local farmer that doesn’t include the hormones or antibiotics present in many large-scale meat manufacturers.

Get rid of all vegetable oils. Extra virgin olive oil is good and butter is safe, he said. Get rid of vegetable oil. He recommends your kitchen include only one cupboard and perhaps two refrigerators for all the fresh foods you should be eating. He shops exclusively at farmers' markets in the warm months and buys local and organic in the winter at stores that stock it or from the Iowa Food Cooperative.

Four more ways to live healthy, beyond your diet

Exercise. Try to get exercise every day, at minimum five times a week, preferably 30 minutes outside to get the added health benefits of nature, he said. Exercise, to Americans, is often about going faster and harder as a fix for weight loss, when diet should be the key. Yet exercise provides all kinds of benefits, such as gaining muscle and improving cardiovascular, respiratory and brain health.

Sleep. Get eight hours of sleep a night. Don’t look at screens for up to 90 minutes before bedtime, and limit caffeine after noon or exercise for up to two to four hours before. Dim the lights as the evening progresses and sleep in a cool, dark room without TVs or even LED lights that limit the release of melatonin.

Stress management. Slow down. Do breathing exercises or meditation for 15, 20 minutes a day. He also recommends staying away from negative news. “You can change your life if you change your reality,” he said. “But you can’t change other people; you can only change your reaction to them.”

Socialization. Isolated people have higher rates of illness. Find good friends who aren’t toxic. “We are so caught up in our society with things that make people happy. We know it’s not a new car or phone,” Nish said. “It’s really stable, loving relationships.”

For more information on Nish’s presentations, contact him at
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