Photo provided by Christine Ross

Local doctor promotes plant based diets

The average person over the age of 65 takes eight pills a day, according to Dr. Charles Ross, the developer of a plant-based diet training being taught locally through Umpqua Community Veg Education Group, known as UCVEG.

“And that means some senior is taking 16 pills because I am taking none,” Ross says.

Ross developed the whole food plant-based diet after taking several different statins to lower his cholesterol but finding he wasn’t able to tolerate them. Then one night eight years ago, he and his wife Christine were watching a CNN documentary, The Last Heart Attack.

Compelled by the documentary, Christine wanted to try eating a whole food plant-based diet. Ross agreed, though reluctantly, with the thought that he would do it for one month to support his wife, whose family history was early death from heart disease, and then return to the foods he loved.

After one month, he felt better than ever; Ross says that his cholesterol dropped 92 points, he lost 10 pounds, he was never hungry, and he did not miss the foods he once thought he couldn’t live without.

Wanting to reach more people with his exciting results, he began teaching a series of classes using an established program called CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program). Realizing the cost of the structured CHIP classes were prohibitive for many people, Ross developed his own program and he began offering the classes free of charge, and so THIP (Total Health Improvement Program) was born.

“I said to myself at the time, you know, you need to do something different with your life then treating people in the emergency department,” said Ross, “you need to keep people from falling in the river of disease and do preventive medicine.”

Dr. Heidi Beery of Roseburg, together with UCVEG, voluntarily continued the THIP classes when Ross and his wife moved back to the Westfir/Oakridge area three years ago.

While THIP continues to grow in Roseburg, it is also taking off in other areas of Oregon. A fair number of people have taken the series of classes in Oakridge, and Scott Wagnon, PA, who works for Oregon Medical Group has started a series of classes based on THIP in the Eugene area.

Western University of Health Sciences, an osteopathic medical school now offers a series of classes called Nutrition in Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine. The classes focus on the value of eating WFPB and making healthy lifestyle choices, such as drinking plenty of water, reducing stress and moving more.

Doctors who complete the classes will have learned “results-based wellness and chronic disease intervention,” according to the Western University of Health Science’s website, as well as “reversal tools for type 2 diabetes, cardiac rehabilitation protocols, heart disease prevention, and weight loss/maintenance strategies for obese patients.”

While the classes are currently optional, Ross hopes that one day they will become a mandatory part of the curriculum. 

Diane Smith was one of the first participants in the classes; attending the second CHIP series in 2015, she was already vegetarian, but still ate dairy. “I had always considered myself alcohol and drug free, but that book [Whitewash] allowed me to see that cheese was a drug that was lighting up my brain more than cocaine, only it was legal.” said Smith.

Smith lost 60 pounds through a low-calorie diet prior to switching to WFPB, and she has maintained that loss for five years now, without hunger due to eating a plant-based diet. “This was the best decision I have ever made for my body.”

Smith wants others to also consider eating whole food plant-based diets. “Do it now, today, and give it a month.” says Smith, “Even seven days will change how you feel.”

Ross asked for a volunteer, during a WFPB presentation at the Roseburg YMCA, someone who thought they could last longer than him in the plank position. A healthy looking, young adult volunteered and the plank off began. The young man made a valiant effort but was no match for Ross, who, while performing the plank, attributed his energy, strength and physical fitness at 71 to eating a whole food plant-based diet.

 “It’s not enough to just be vegan, you can be a junk food vegan, eating refined sugar and oil.” said Ross, “[To get the health benefits], you want to be eating whole foods as they’ve grown in nature.”

Some people say they experienced fatigue and weakness after switching to a plant-based diet, “and this is usually because they’re not eating enough calories, you know, they think they can live on lettuce alone,” said Ross.

Ross directs people to Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, to ensure they get an optimum variety of foods and nutrients, and suggests that if they have a smart phone, they download the free Daily Dozen app.

For more information about the free Total Health Improvement Classes or UCVEG, call 541-378-6359, or visit their website

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