The Daily Beet

07 Aug Finding a Doctor

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Last week Jeff Novick, MS, RD and Dr. Esselstyn wrote an article about finding a Doctor. It is one of the most common questions we get asked at Engine 2.

My husband and I have been on the road for almost 4 years now. We’ve lived in a lot of different cities between 1 and 3 months at a time. Because of this we have seen our fair share of doctors.

Here are some things I’ve learned about finding a doctor and how to get the best care:

1. Your doctor does not have to be a plant-based doctor. This is not always the best indication for finding a good doctor. In fact there have been a few times in which a doctor has advertised as being “plant-based” but was not a good choice for us. In one case we went to a doctor who advertised as being plant-based but ended up pushing tons of supplements, protein  powders and oils.

You want a kind doctor who listens, it does not have to be someone who advertises themselves as being plant-based.

2. Your doctor is not your nutritionist, you don’t have to report to them on what you are eating. Let your test results speak for themselves. This one always surprises me that people complain that their doctor does not aprove of their diet. I rarely tell doctors what I eat, unless they specifically ask, and even then I generally say “I’ve been eating healthier, lots of vegetables, beans, no junk food” and that is usually all they need to know. They see my numbers and my progress and are happy with the way things are going. My husband tells doctors that he eats no cholesterol and eats a well planned diet.

3. If they start questioning you about your diet, tell them that you have done your research. Tell them  you feel confident in your dietary decisions, you are getting plenty of fat, protein and calcium and you will keep monitoring how things are going. I once had a doctor ask me if I was getting enough protein. I told him, “My last blood test showed I am, I am careful and make sure I get what I need.” That was all they needed to know, and again, my blood tests spoke for themselves. Same goes for our vitamin levels.

4. If your doctor turns out to be particularly hostile toward your diet, find a new doctor. It is ok to look for a new doctor if the one you are going to is not supportive of you.

5. Be a good example. If you want to show your doctor that plant-strong works, show them. Your blood work won’t lie.

6. Follow up with your doctor to see how you are doing. If you are starting and have heart disease, type 2 diabetes or any other condition that should be monitored by a doctor, do not skip out on going to the doctor. It is important that you see your doctor to check how your numbers are doing.

7. Help your doctor. If you are a diabetic check your sugar and write down your numbers every day. If you have high blood pressure, pick up an electronic blood pressure monitor and check your blood pressure in the morning before you start your day. Having an accurate picture of what is going on with your health day to day is important.

8. Don’t assume everything is caused by your plant-strong life or from ‘detox’. I made this mistake a few times when I started and it almost got me in trouble. Even if you are plant-strong you are still susceptible to illness and other things that should be checked out by a doctor. There is not really a ‘detox’ that people go through, beyond some slight adjusting when you start. We have heard from people that ignored pretty serious symptoms because they thought it was ‘detox’. Point being, if there is something that doesn’t seem right, ask yourself if you would have gone to the doctor in your pre-plant-strong days.

9. Generally, doctors are good people. We’re pretty hard on the medical community. However, in all of my traveling I’ve met some pretty fantastic doctors with a lot of respect and a great level of care. It is important to remember that even if they are not plant-based it does not mean they are not good at their job or that they are not educated. They might not be educated in plant-based nutrition. Hopefully this will change over time, the more patients they see that go plant-based.

10. Be sure to read Jeff and Dr. Esselstyn’s article for resources and their advice when it comes to finding a great doctor.

Natala Constantine

A few years ago Natala was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She decided to take her life back by adopting a plant-based diet, and has since lost over 200 pounds and no longer needs medication. Natala became passionate about nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, and now works with Rip Esselstyn and The Engine 2 Diet team.
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Engine 2 Team
Engine 2 Team

The Engine 2 Team is dedicated to helping you become plant-strong! Each of us are on the plant-strong journey right along side of you!

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 18:17h, 07 August

    I think the main thing is to find a Dr. that is open to your willingness to change your lifestyle. I know from experience that our Dr’s didn’t believe us when we said we were going to eat a plant strong diet. But, they were open to it. We also provided them with information, websites and copies of videos. Over time and watching our health improve they realized we were serious! The proof is in the cabbage!! LOL!

    After I had a heart attack my cardiologist in the hospital told me I would do well to eat a vegan diet as I was eating a vegetarian diet already. He also told me to get way more exercise than I was getting. I knew he was going to be the perfect Dr for me by those comments!!

    One more thing – You might call your local CHIPS chapter and ask them if they know of any Dr.’s or you may want to try to find a Seventh Day Adventist Dr. Most all of them are vegetarian, if not vegan. I’m not sure how you would find out that information except to find out where they went to medical school. If they went to Loma Linda chances are they are Adventist. That’s not 100% but close.

    Good luck to you!!

    • Christlna
      Posted at 09:28h, 06 August

      What is a CHIPS chapter? The internet didn’t bring me any answers that make sense here…

  • Julie Slivinsky
    Posted at 22:40h, 08 August

    Also, consider looking for a nurse practitioner (NP) to be your health care provider. I am an NP. We are known for providing holistic care (treating the “whole person”), and taking time to listen to patients. We do exams, order labs, prescribe medications, etc. In my state (Arizona), an NP can be your primary care provider. I work in endocrinology and I discuss plant-based diets with my patients on a daily basis. Not all NPs will be plant-based, of course, but most are happy to talk to patients about healthy lifestyles and are open to learning about what works for you.

  • Kate
    Posted at 12:14h, 30 May

    I am trying to find a doctor in the Boulder, CO area and I thought it would be easier. I started with Naturopaths, but am a little discouraged. Just got this response “I have some patients who are (or were) vegan. I do not necessarily
    believe that it is the healthiest diet choice around, so if you are
    looking for someone who themselves are vegan, that would not be me. But
    I do have some vegan patients and work to be as supportive as possible
    to life choices.” I’ll keep looking.

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