Millions of years ago, when there were no doctors and no drugs to treat certain diseases, people would try out different plant derived herbs and foods to diagnose and treat them. Plants were the only effective way to treat various major and minor diseases.
Even today, even after medicine coming a long way, plants continue to play a pivotal role in our everyday lives, particularly when it comes to preventing or reversing certain health problems.
Plant-based diets are low-cost, low-risk therapies that can not only help to lose weight but can also reduce blood pressure, lower the chances of developing diabetes, mellitus cholesterol levels to name a few.
They can also lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates by reducing the amount of drugs required to treat chronic diseases.
Let’s dive in a bit deeper…
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet excludes all animal products, such as red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products whereas it includes all minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices.
Let us understand the impact of a plant based diet on various diseases and the way forward.
Can a plant-based diet reduce the impact of kidney disorders?
Obese individuals, including those with diabetes and hypertension, are more likely to develop kidney disease.
Being overweight can have a negative impact on your kidneys. Extra weight makes the kidneys work harder and filter wastes at a higher rate than average. This extra work raises the risk of kidney failure over time.
Following are the examples of kidney diseases that can develop as a result of over eating and being over weight :-
- Renal stones
- Chronic Kidney Disease CKD
- Hydronephrosis (due to retention of water)
- End stage renal failure ESRD
- Polycystic kidney disease PKD
- Recurrent Urinary tract infection UTI
Advantages of Plant Based Diet to Maintain Renal Health
Plant nutrients and plant-based diets can help patients with chronic kidney diseases. Plant fats, especially olive oil, have anti-atherogenic properties; plant anions can overcome metabolic acidosis and slow CKD progression and since plant phosphorus has a lower bioavailability than animal phosphorus, plant phosphorus can slow CKD progression and thus have a better control of hyperphospatemia.
Plants are the only source of certain fibers responsible for shifting the microorganisms of the gut to increase the production of various anti-inflammatory compounds and eventually reduce the production of uremic toxins.
“We know that moderate total protein restriction is probably necessary to maintain kidney function in people with CKD, but the impact of protein sources on overall health in people with CKD has not been well studied. Our research suggests that plant-based proteins can play an important role in improving health for people with reduced kidney function.” (Beddhu, 2021)
Impact of Plant Based Diet on Cholesterol
Cholesterol has been every person’s enemy since the evolution of mankind. High Cholesterol levels because of increased Protein and Uric Acid uptake interrupts the normal bodily functions.
Elevation of Cholesterol levels significantly impairs the kidney and liver functions, which in turn affects the normal lifestyle of a person.
Since the saturated fats that increase blood cholesterol are mainly found in animal products, eliminating meat and dairy from your diet is one way to lower your high cholesterol levels. (Chris Iliad’s and Justin Laube, 2020)
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) are the two varieties (LDL). HDL cholesterol is generally regarded as “good,” while LDL cholesterol is regarded as “bad.” This is because HDL transports cholesterol from your bloodstream to your liver, where it can be extracted until it builds up in your arteries.
The low-density lipoproteins are usually elevated as a result of eating lots of proteins and saturated fats, which eventually leads to deposition to plaques in the arteries and clogging them.
Shifting to a plant-based diet not only helps to lower the bad cholesterol but also increase good cholesterol levels.
How Plant-Based Diet lowers the Blood Pressure?
The exact etiology behind high blood pressure is still unknown. However, there are various factors that trigger Blood Pressure such as :-
- Excessive Smoking
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive protein or fat intake
- Old Age
- Alcohol consumption
- Salty foods
- Decreased physical activity
A number of factors have been proved to explain why plant-based diet lowers blood pressure. Improved vasodilation, increased antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory effects, reduced blood viscosity, changes in the renin-angiotensin and sympathetic nervous systems, and changes in the gut microorganisms are only a few of them. (Sarah Alexander, 2017)
Impact of Plant-Based Diet on PCOS and Endometriosis
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome : The disease polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects a woman’s hormone levels. PCOS causes women to generate more male hormones than they should. This hormonal imbalance causes them to miss menstrual cycles, making it difficult for them to conceive.
- Endometriosis : Endometriosis is a painful condition in which tissue that looks like the endometrium that usually lines the inside of your uterus grows outside of it. Endometriosis affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue surrounding your pelvis most commonly.
Decreased insulin resistance, decreased risk of diabetes, decreased cholesterol levels in turn reduce the risk of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Endometriosis in women.
Plant based foods are significantly proved beneficial in balancing the hormones in female body and regulating a regular menstrual cycle.
PCOS are characterized by weight gain, facial hair and alopecia, which can be maintained by opting a Plant-Based food diet which help in weight loss.
How can a Plant-Based Diet help with osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone condition caused by the body losing too much bone, not making enough bone or both. As a result, bones become brittle, fragile and can break as a result of a fall, or small bumps.
Fruits and vegetables high in nutrients, as well as exercise, can help develop and sustain strong bones. When you eat vegetables, the body absorbs calcium at a faster rate than if you drank cow’s milk. Leafy green vegetables with high absorption rates, such as cooked
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, beans and fortified plant milks are excellent sources that reduces the impact of osteoporosis and are derived from a plant based diet.
Vegan supplements too are available and equally as useful as fortified cereals, grains, bread, and soy or almond milk as dietary sources of vitamin D.
Potassium slows the loss of calcium and speeds up the formation of new bones. Potassium is abundant in oranges, bananas, potatoes, and a variety of other fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Can a Plant-Based Diet help treat Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is characterized as a persistent inability to achieve and maintain a proper erection for sexual activity.
- Heart Diseases
- High Cholesterol
- Overweight and Obesity
- Increased Blood Pressure
- Genital anomalies
Plant-Based Diet has shown to give some added benefit of improving the intimate life by preventing the occurrence of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and obesity.
Various studies have been conducted to prove the positive impact of plant-based diet in male sexual health. Some men have shown positive results after being shifted to a plant-based diet.
Impact of Plant- Based diet on The Gut Health
Gastrointestinal disorders have become more common in the last two decades because of more and more consumption of fast food and processed food. There are multiple diseases linked to our stomach. Some of them are less severe while most of them are lethal and life threatening.
Our Gut health greatly depends upon the type of food we eat. As we know, excess of everything is bad, so having a high protein and fat diet can lead to multiple Gastrointestinal Disorders such as GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease) and a more severe one, i.e. ulcerative colitis.
- GERD : Gastro esophageal reflux disease, is a digestive condition that affects the muscle ring that connects the esophagus and stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter is the name for this ring (LES). You can experience heartburn or acid indigestion if you have it.
A plant-based diet can help with GERD, which is the medical term for acid reflux. Plant-based diets, such as vegetarian or vegan diets, as well as the plant-centric Mediterranean diet, have been shown to minimize the risk of laryngopharyngeal reflux, or acid reflux.
- Ulcerative colitis : Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers in the colon and rectum. Abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea are the most common signs of active disease. Weight loss, fever, and anemia are also possible side effects.
A plant-based diet can reduce the risk of ulcerative colitis by adding more fiber and combating constipation.
Foods that decrease the risk of UC are Ginger, Turmeric, kale and spinach.
Can a Plant-Based diet cure Diabetes and Heart Diseases?
And the answer to this question is, Yes. We can certainly get a hold of our Sugar levels and Heart Health.
Increased sugar uptake is prohibited in People with Diabetes Mellitus who are undergoing the treatment either with oral hypoglycemic drugs or injectable insulin therapy.
Following are the plants, which can be eaten to prevent Diabetes and Heart Diseases :-
- Bitter gourd
- Apple gourd
When compared to a diet that includes a lot more meat, consuming mostly or exclusively fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, and meat substitutes like soy may reduce your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. (Beckerman, 2020)
Plant based diet has proved to show tremendous results when treating certain diseases involving kidneys, lungs, Lliver and other systems.
A plant-based diet is a way of life that is personalized to each person rather than an all-or-nothing approach. Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid disorders, and cardiovascular disease are all conditions that can benefit from it. In comparison to non-plant-based diets, there is at least moderate-quality evidence from the literature that plant-based diets are associated with substantial weight loss and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. These findings indicate that plant-based diets may be a viable option for preventing and treating chronic diseases. (Perm J, 2013)
Every fruit and vegetable is enriched with multiple nutrients and essential vitamins to keep the body in a healthy state.
So, why not give a plant based diet a try ?
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Carrero, J.J., González-Ortiz, A., Avesani, C.M. et al. Plant-based diets to manage the risks and complications of chronic kidney disease. Nat Rev Nephrol 16, 525–542 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41581-020-0297-2
Beddhu, S., 2021. Plant Protein May Be Associated with Reduced Mortality in CKD Patients. [online] National Kidney Foundation. Available at: <https://www.kidney.org/news/plant-protein-reduces-mortality-chronic-kidney-disease-patients> [Accessed 11 April 2021].
Chris Iliades, M. and Justin Laube, M., 2020. How to Eat Vegetarian When You Have High Cholesterol | Everyday Health. [online] EverydayHealth.com. Available at: <https://www.everydayhealth.com/high-cholesterol/diet/benefits-of-vegetarian-diet/> [Accessed 11 April 2021].
Sarah Alexander, K., 2017. A plant-based diet and hypertension. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466938/> [Accessed 11 April 2021].
Beckerman, J., 2020. Plant-Based Diet: Benefits for Heart Health. [online] WebMD. Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/plant-based-diet-for-heart-health> [Accessed 11 April 2021].
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