This month we feature a book that presents information about common digestive problems and offers dietary solutions instead of medication.
Dr. McDougall's Digestive Tune-Up
By Dr. John A. McDougall, MD.
Illustrations by Howard Bartner
Healthy Living Publications, 2006
It takes guts to write a book about guts. It takes even more guts to publish one that is unlikely to be ensconced on the New York Times bestseller list for weeks or become a mass-market phenomenon. Too bad! Millions of overacidic people who suck on Rolaids or Tums or swallow Prilosec, Nexium, or Prevacid need to digest the message in Dr. McDougall's Digestive Tune-Up instead of ingesting the pills that may bring temporary relief instead of a cure.
The essence of this book is summed up in the introduction where McDougall says, "And here is the truth--the food you put into your body is the single most powerful factor that determines your health and well-being."
McDougall is willing to share his own story of how he survived a major stroke at 18. In his early twenties he was obese and had severe stomach pains that led to stomach surgery. None of his doctors bothered to ask him about his diet that included three chili dogs he ate each evening before bedtime. At 27 he changed his diet and lifestyle to a program similar to one he now advocates for his patients. His personal result is a healthy grandfather who now has the stamina to windsurf and hike in the mountains.
Along with his own story, he tells of two of his patients, Larry and Louise Borton, who came to him with many ailments and found their health restored, not by medications, but by dietary changes. Using the Bortons and their many digestive problems, McDougall is able to present his medical facts in a dialog with his patients in layman's language. Larry's bad breath, for example, results from bacteria breaking down proteins in the mouth and large intestine. Louise learns how to keep her gallbladder by changing her diet instead of having it surgically removed to solve her health problem.
Not only do the Bortons suffer from these ailments, but they are victims of colitis, diverticulosis, constipation, ulcers, and hemorrhoids, all brought on by their style of eating. McDougall devotes sections to each of these ailments and offers advice on how to alleviate these conditions.
An entire chapter covers what he refers to as the "F-WORD." In this case the "F-WORD" is not what you think. It's flatulence, a subject you're not likely to find in many books. Readers quickly learn that "stinky gas (the kind that smells like rotten eggs) is caused by sulfur-producing foods." Meat and dairy products are the leading sulfur producers in the standard American diet.
Quite often people tell us that their doctors advised them to eat a healthy diet, but they received few specifics about which foods are included in a healthy diet. In the final chapter of this book, Shopping, Cooking, and Comfort Foods Galore, Dr. McDougall simplifies the process by listing the foods to enjoy: whole grains, squashes, roots and tubers, beans and other legumes, leafy green vegetables, green, yellow, and red vegetables, and fruits. Specific items are presented in each of those categories.
The doctor advises the elimination of all dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, mayonnaise, vegetable oils, white rice, white flour, refined and sugar-coated cereals, chocolate, coffee, black tea, and colas and other soft drinks. He suggests substitutes for these foods. In addition he provides clues for Healthful Shopping Habits and itemizes The Well-Stocked Pantry.
Dr. McDougall's Digestive Tune-Up is not a massive tome but a compact little volume of 211 pages loaded with invaluable information. Of those pages, 45 are filled with references to support the statements in the book and reflect McDougall's extensive research.
The whimsical cartoon-like drawings by Howard Bartner combined with an attractive layout design with numerous colored sidebars make the book an attractively appealing package. Bartner, McDougall's patient and collaborator, retired in 2000 as Chief of Medical Illustration at the National Institutes of Health.
Reading the pages of Dr. McDougall's Digestive Tune-Up, we keep thinking about family and friends who suffer from constipation, acid reflux, diverticulitis, and Crohn's disease, who could benefit from carefully chewing on the information presented. Both Dr. McDougall and Healthy Living Publications are to be commended for taking readers into the bowels of this problem that confronts so many people and presenting them with a simple solution--change their diets.
Reviewed January 2007