After being diagnosed with diabetes more than a decade ago, Armando Alvarez was at a crossroads.
“My number one goal was not to die,” he said. “It was a cascade of issues. What started as diabetes became chronic heart disease, and I was facing a triple bypass heart surgery.”
George Guthrie, an AdventHealth physician who specializes in lifestyle medicine, is determined to help people like Alvarez and reverse the trends around diabetes that are affecting the United States at an alarming rate.
In the U.S., about half of deaths caused by type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease were the result of poor dietary habits, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA).
More than 100 million Americans are living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of the 1 in 3 Americans living with prediabetes don’t even know they have it, meaning they will likely develop type 2 diabetes within five years if their lifestyles go unchanged.
Rather than prescribing medications to manage certain health issues, Guthrie has found success in addressing the underlying cause of the disease, and in some cases, reversing certain chronic diseases.
“In our Winter Park [Florida, United States] practice, over the last three years, we have had 24 individuals diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes who now have normal A1Cs [sugar measure] and no longer need any diabetes medications,” Guthrie said.
“We now have enough evidence and science to understand the body’s miraculous ability to heal itself through whole-person health, which includes proper nutrition that emphasizes plants and whole foods,” he said.
This approach aims to find balance in eight key areas of whole-person health, developed in part by Guthrie himself, as a way to heal the body, mind, and spirit. These principles are Choice, Rest, Environment, Activity, Trust in God, Interpersonal relationships, Outlook, and Nutrition.
One of the lifestyle changes most often prescribed by Guthrie is a whole-food, plant-based diet, an approach that he describes in his new book, Eat Plants. Feel Whole. In the book, he shares scientific evidence coupled with his years of expertise to help people understand what to eat more of and the reasons why.
Guthrie’s prescription of a whole-food, plant-based diet is less restrictive than most expect. “Plant-based” does not always equate to just eating plants, but instead focuses on plants and other whole, unprocessed foods.
“Eating more plants and feeling whole is less about being a vegetarian or vegan and more about finding the motivation within yourself to strike a healthy balance … and spending much more time in the produce section,” Guthrie explains. “This approach offers a diet that is higher in water, fiber, and nutrient density — helping us to avoid certain diseases, age slowly, and live longer and healthier lives.”
Since meeting Guthrie, Alvarez has changed his perspective on health. He has been able to reverse his cardiovascular disease and diabetes through whole-food, plant-based eating and an exercise routine that has revived his love for sports. “It was a team effort, which I think is critical,” Alvarez said. “It is incredibly freeing and liberating to know that there actually is something that can reverse chronic disease.”