Michael Greger MD

Michael Greger MD

Posted December 3, 2011

Published in Health

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Ask the Doctor: Q&A with Michael Greger, M.D. (Week 11)

Read More: acid reflux, anemia, antioxidants, apples, bananas, Barret's esophagus, beans, blueberries, chai, cloves, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Dr. Michael Klaper, greens, iron, oatmeal, probiotics, smoothies, spinach, yogurt

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This is another sampling of the more than 700 comments and questions I’ve responded to on Please feel free to leave any follow-up questions here or on any of the hundreds of videos on the more than a thousand topics covered on And remember, there’s a new video posted every weekday, so to make sure you don’t miss any:

Heidi Woodruff asked on Best fruit juiceWhat about green smoothies? I blend apples, bananas, blueberries and spinach. Is it better to have the whole fruit instead of the juice?

I’m a huge green smoothie fan! You’re taking the healthiest thing on the planet (dark green leafy vegetables) and releasing all that nutrition (you could never really chew that well). In fact I just wrote the foreword for the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Smoothies, which will be out May 2012.

yummy commented on The Healthiest Beverage: To make your morning oatmeal even “yummier”, use chai tea instead of water when making it.

What a fantastic idea! I’m always trying to think of ways to sneak more of those antioxidant-packed spices into my daily diet (that was the inspiration for my Healthy Pumpkin Pie recipe). If anyone else has creative (or at least palatable! :) ways to sneak cloves into one’s diet please do share. Like my new Pink Juice with Green Foam video, this site is all about trying to translate these new findings into practical ways to incorporate the best available science on nutrition into our day-to-day lives.

2RHealth asked on Gut Flora & ObesityFor vegans who don’t eat yogurt, what is a good source for probiotics? Probably not Kimchi, as you noted its harmful effects in another video!

Commercial yogurt of any kind (soy, rice, cow, or coconut) is an insufficient source of the level of probiotic bacteria found effective in treating diarrheal illnesses, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. A plant-based diet appears to naturally modulate one’s gut flora, but if you need to bring out the big guns for therapeutic usage or to repopulate your gut after a round of antibiotics, allow me to refer you to the advice of one of my medical mentors, Dr. Michael Klaper, who has some great probiotic tips and insight.

Karen Hyde asked on Beans, Beans, Good for Your HeartGreat except for the anti-social side effect :-D

I just wrote a new piece Beans and Gas: Clearing the Air that, amidst the terrible puns, profiles a new study that suggests that people's concerns about the gassiness of beans may be exaggerated.

Tom Deuley asked on Ask the Doctor: Week 8Very recently I was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, would you have any recommendations as to nutrition with this problem?

So sorry to hear that Tom! For those unfamiliar with the condition, it’s a precancerous condition thought to arise from chronic reflux of acid up from the stomach. In terms of dietary interventions, though avoiding meat and maximizing fiber (whole plant food) intake is associated with significantly lower esophageal cancer risk overall (especially beans and greens), adding more fruits and veggies in general to the diets of those already stricken with Barrett’s does not appear to slow the progression of the disease. According to the latest review there are ongoing trials on the use of green tea and black raspberries to prevent progression to cancer, but data isn’t expected from these trials for at least a year. I’ll definitely let you know when I see something though!

For those with acid reflux (“heartburn”), before considering proton pump inhibitor drugs I ask my patients to first try decreasing their consumption of dietary components thought to contribute to reflux by decreasing the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter and increasing the number of relaxations of this sphincter, including fat, chocolate, peppermint, onions, and coffee. Obesity, overeating, and straining associated with constipation may also compromise the sphincter’s ability to keep the acid where it belongs in the stomach. Finally, drinking lots of water throughout the day will help keep things going in the right direction, and at night, raising the head of your bed by four to six inches by placing bricks or wood blocks under the head posts can employ gravity to help keep the acid from creeping up.

pachitorex666 asked on Constructing a cognitive portfolioWe recently changed to a vegan diet. We have a daughter who is 8 years old who had been feeling dizzy as well as headaches. So we decided to take her to the doctor where they did blood and urine analysis. The diagnosis was anemia. The doctor told us that animal products are necessary because they have aminoacids and other nutrients that non-animal sources do not have. The doctor gave us vitamins and we are still following our vegan diet. We have also added extra portions of iron-rich foods (beans, lentils, soy, and nuts) for my daughter. I would like to know what is your opinion?

Sounds like your doctor needs a refresher in basic nutrition. You may want to share the official American Dietetic Association position statement, stating that vegetarian and vegan diets are suitable for all ages (i.e. animal products are unnecessary). In fact the most esteemed pediatrician of all time, Dr. Benjamin Spock, recommended in his final edition of Baby and Child Care that children be raised without exposure to meat and dairy. I talk about Dr. Spock in my video Doctors' Nutritional Ignorance.

In terms of anemia, the iron status of vegetarian children is comparable to that of omnivore children. I am concerned that your physician may have jumped on the dietary explanation out of ignorance without considering other causes. There are multiple reasons for anemia. Is she not making enough blood? Is she losing blood? (At age 8 I wouldn’t expect her to be.) Are her blood cells not living long enough? Are her kidneys not making enough blood-boosting hormone? Your physician can test for all these possibilities. I would be happy to review her lab results and offer a second opinion (can email them directly to me at if you don’t want them public).

-Michael Greger, M.D.