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As healthcare professionals, are we knowing or doing enough?


Healthcare professionals are respected by their patients and society at large, and are relied upon for evidence-based advice, care and guidance, regarding matters of health. If a patient were to ask us about nutrition, do we possess enough knowledge on the topic to share the facts with them. Or do we revert to opinion and share what we were taught in high school or university? A perfect example is calcium. Many patients worry that they are not getting enough of it, and that it may be affecting their teeth and bones. How can we best address nutritional concerns such as these?



Fundamentally, all nutrients originate in soil, water and air, and are assimilated in plant foods. Calcium, for example, is a mineral found in soil, which is absorbed into plants via their roots. This is how cows obtain their calcium, and how humans obtain their calcium through the various plant foods we normally eat. It makes perfect sense if we think about it, and yet we are led to believe from a very early age that dairy is the only optimal source of calcium – a belief, confused as fact, that we share readily with our patients and colleagues.

What is also strange is the fact that our species is the only one that carries on ingesting milk into adulthood, and that too from someone else’s mother. Yet, we put these bizarre realisations aside because we feel that we need it for our health. However, did you know that there is no scientific evidence showing that dairy consumption improves bone health or prevents osteoporosis? In fact, it has been discovered that countries consuming the most amount of cow’s milk have the highest rates of bone fractures(1), as a result of the other non-beneficial components that make up dairy.




Contrastingly, it is the combination of weighted exercise, adequate Vitamin D, and calcium from fruits and vegetables, that has been shown to enhance bone health.(2) Specifically, low-oxalate green leafy vegetables, legumes, calcium-set tofu, nuts and seeds.1 The bio-availability of calcium from low-oxalate green vegetables like bok choy, kale and broccoli, is even higher than that from dairy. Conveniently, most plant-milks are fortified with calcium and health-promoting nutrients.





So, this is the kind of nutritional information we should be providing to concerned patients and misguided colleagues. More often than not, however, it is personal experience that usually prompts the questioning of ingrained beliefs. I stopped consuming dairy products when I discovered what happens to mothers and babies on dairy farms. Even on the most ‘humane’, family-owned, and ‘organic’ farms, the process remains the same – the young females are forcibly impregnated, their babies are killed or sold soon after birth, and their milk is drained from them and sold to us. The repeated cycles of pregnancy, trauma and loss for these mothers, end at the slaughterhouse, when most of them are no longer able to stand.




Remarkably, the bloating that I experienced every time after drinking cow’s milk, disappeared overnight, and my cystic acne cleared up within a few weeks, after years of psychological torment. I later discovered that more than 70% of the world’s population have lactose malabsorption, and dairy is linked to the development of eczema and asthma in both children and adults. Shockingly, the most common cause of fatal anaphylaxis in school-aged children in the UK, is cow’s milk allergy.(3)





On an equally serious note, is the looming antibiotic resistance crisis. It has been predicted by the UN that nearly 10 million people will die annually by 2050, as a result of antimicrobial resistance. Can you imagine a small cut or a dental abscess causing the death of loved ones? And yet, we as a society are wasting away our most powerful defence drug – on ‘farmed’ animals that we are exploiting for dairy, meat and seafood. They are routinely given low-dose antibiotics in their feed and water, to promote growth and to reduce the illness caused by crowding thousands of them in prisons, filled with their faecal matter and devoid of adequate space or sunlight. The bacteria that become resistant as a result, spread through their secretions (dairy), their flesh (meat) and through the community (workers).




As healthcare professionals, it is therefore our duty to educate ourselves on the countless benefits of shifting away from disease-promoting animal-based foods, to health-promoting plant-based foods. As a final consideration, the raising and killing of over 80 billion animals on land, and 2-3 trillion aquatic beings every single year, is rapidly depleting our remaining freshwater and fertile land, wasting around 90% of the food we grow, polluting the biosphere, destroying our planet’s remaining rainforests and ecosystems, killing the rivers and oceans, massacring wildlife and causing the extinction of millions of species, and is the biggest driver of global warming and climate breakdown. When our planet is dying, how can we ever fulfil our roles as healthcare professionals and our oath to those under our care?



But we must hold on to hope. And there is reason to do so too. Besides educating ourselves on platforms such as www.plantbasedhealthprofessionals.com, we can become active in our own communities and the world – the guidance for this is provided on www.climatehealers.org.


Of course, this is the perfect time and reminder to start your own vegan journey – go to www.veganuary.com and change the course of our collective runaway train headed for the broken bridge.

 

References

1.       Kassam S, Kassam Z – Eating Plant-Based – Scientific Answers to your Nutrition Questions

2.       Brondani JE, Comim FV, Flores LM et al. – Fruit and vegetable intake and bones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One 2019

3.       Baseggio CA et al. Food anaphylaxis in the United Kingdom: Analysis of National data, 1998-2018. Br Med J 2021; 372




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