Interview with Dr. Keith Hanson, Family Medicine

For the physician, all relevant research comes into actual practice in the clinic.  For the patient, the clinic is where they receive their treatment and interact with their doctor on an ongoing basis. Very often, clinical technique makes the key difference for patient compliance and successful treatment. So the Vegetarian Prescription considers the clinical experience of physicians practicing vegetarian nutritional medicine to be a vital source of knowledge and experience. To make this knowledge more widely available, we are posting a series of interviews with various current practitioners. 

Interview with Keith Hanson MD. practicing Family Medicine, in Eastern Washington.

How did you become interested in vegetarian nutritional medicine?

I became interested in vegetarian medicine in 1985 when I attended an in-patient lifestyle center as a professional observer. I was amazed at how effective it was in terms of reversing diseases such as diabetes and diabetic neuropathy, hypertension, heart disease and high cholesterol.

What diseases do you mostly commonly prevent and treat by prescribing a vegetarian diet?

Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, angina pectoris, obesity.

What are the advantages of vegetarian nutritional medicine over other treatments?

There are less side effects from vegetarian nutritional medicine, and the side effects are good –  the most common being feeling better, and having more energy.  Also patients are often able to get off medications they were taking.

How do you explain the concept and treatment to your patients?

It takes time.  I challenge them to try it for a short period of time, sometimes having them just think about it and to do some of their own research, giving them some web sites to look at, DVDs to watch, and books they could borrow or buy to watch.  Then it requires follow up and repeat labs to show how much difference it can make.

What obstacles do you commonly encounter when practicing vegetarian nutritional medicine and how do you handle them?

Most find it so different from what they are currently eating, and from what their family is doing, that they find it hard to try.  I continue to encourage them to try and eventually several will try.

What do you think it will take before prescribing veg medicine becomes more widespread? 

The testimonies of those who have tried it is what is most convincing.  Being able to run an outpatient seminar is also very convincing but more expensive and time consuming.

How do you integrate vegetarian nutritional medicine with the patient’s other treatments?

I have them try it, and as they adopt it I start reducing their medication.

Why do you think it is important to be taught vegetarian nutritional medicine in medical school? 

It is as effective as drugs and has less side effects. We get very little education on nutrition in medical school and if it could be shown to be as effective (as it is) then many more doctors would recommend it. They would also be more willing to try it themselves, and hence recommend it to their patients. It would provide a much more effective way for patients to take charge of their own health, and to reduce the most common killers in our society, and reduce the costs of healthcare.