As an independent pharmacist with over 30 years experience, Steve Gavrilos became more and more disenchanted as the years went by with the fact that regardless of the drug therapy that patients received for their chronic conditions, patients were never “cured” of their medical ailments. These conditions were called “lifelong”, and the patients had to live with them for their entire lives with no possible cure offered by traditional health care.
Instead, the patient’s conditions were simply “managed” with ongoing refills of oftentimes exorbitantly high-priced prescription drugs and also, when necessary, surgical medical interventions. Just like the coals in your fireplace that still burn long after the fire has gone down, these conditions would continue to brew underneath as time went on while they were “managed” quite well with drug therapy and medical care. Yet eventually, and sometimes suddenly, the disease would erupt with serious and untimely life-threatening complications, as the disease (the fire) ultimately got out of control.
Being physically active for all his life, Steve enjoyed playing basketball, walking, biking, swimming and working out. In Jan 2017, at 5’11” with a weight of almost 200lbs, Steve started to notice that he was getting light-headed or dizzy spells at times. During walks, he noticed that after a few hundred metres, the dizzy spells got worse, and he was experiencing tiredness and shortness of breath, forcing him to stop and catch his breath. Attributing it to being out of shape, he continued his various exercises as much as possible while eating a combination of the North American Diet (Standard American Diet S.A.D.) (pizza, burgers, chicken wings, fries, etc.) and the Mediterranean Diet (meat-based with lots of vegetables and olive oil in almost everything).
It wasn’t until a few months later, during his weekly Thursday night pick-up basketball game that he experienced considerable shortness of breath and palpitations. “Now I know what it feels like when people say, I felt like my heart was pumping out of my chest”, he said to some of his basketball buddies. That was the sign that told him “this is not just being out of shape, there is something more serious going on”, and with that, he saw his physician, who immediately put him on a statin drug along with ASA 81 mg and sent him for a stress test in May 2017 at the Met Campus of Windsor Regional Hospital.
Just a few minutes after the stress test started, the attending physician suddenly stopped the test. Although Steve felt pretty good, the physician said, “I stopped the test because your blood pressure went down instead of going up, which is what is expected during a normal stress test. This means that you are not getting sufficient blood supply to your heart. You must see your family doctor and have an Angiogram done “ASAP” because you have Heart Disease” (also known as Cardiovascular or Coronary Artery Disease), and you could have a cardiac event at any time.
Hearing that, Steve realized that it seemed that there was only one possible option - to begin taking the same medications his patients have been taking and potentially undergo the same medical interventions (angiogram with possible angioplasty and stent(s) or even cardiac bypass) that may be necessary to treat coronary artery disease. Seeing what patients go through in these situations and being faced with the same possible complications of both drug treatment and/or surgical interventions as well as the potential fate of the disease itself, Steve wanted to avoid this process, if at all possible. This led him to search for possible alternatives to the standard therapy offered by traditional medical healthcare.
Searching through the internet, Steve quickly became aware of a physician in the United States who specialized in the treatment of Heart Disease and soon after, attended a seminar at the Cleveland Clinic presented by none other than Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., the author of “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” and one of the medical doctors in the movies “Forks Over Knives”, “What the Health” and most recently “The Game Changers”. Dr. Esselstyn had done a number of landmark studies on patients with Heart Disease, where he demonstrated that the key to not only prevention but also a cure was nutritional intervention using a Whole Food Plant-Based (WFPB) Diet. Steve immediately adopted a WFPB Diet, which is the foundation of Dr. Esselstyn’s therapeutic protocol to halt and reverse heart disease.
Within a few short months and after dropping 40 lbs with the WFPB diet as well as daily walking, Steve had a repeat stress echo test, which showed that his coronary artery disease had essentially been arrested and regressed.. indicating disease reversal!
With this powerful awareness now in his “pharmacist’s bag of tools”, Steve began an odyssey of gaining as much information and knowledge as possible about the effects of adopting a whole food plant-based diet on our health. He attended various health seminars on nutritional science in Michigan and becoming certified in the Diet and Lifestyle Intervention Course from Dr. Pamela Popper’s Wellness Forum Health in Worthington, Ohio. He has also completed Dr. T Colin Campbell’s Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program (June 2020) at e-Cornell University.
As a result of his professional work and unique life experiences, Steve not only offers the traditional pharmacy/pharmacist services at his Eastown Pharmacy but also provides diet and lifestyle counselling/coaching to his patients. He believes that the combination of being able to assist patients with both the drug therapy component as well as the nutritional counselling/coaching component, that is necessary to potentially halt and reverse common diseases, makes all the difference in the world for him to truly be able to help patients suffering from Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, on other illnesses.
It was always Steve’s goal, as a pharmacist, not only to help patients manage their conditions but also to help patients potentially cure them in order for them to, believe it or not, get off of as many medications as possible and also avoid the potentially morbid complications that can follow. With a passion for spreading the good news and being a reliable resource and educator adopting a Whole Food Plant-Based Lifestyle along combining this lifestyle with the traditional medical care that may be necessary, Steve strongly believes that this approach will help patients achieve their optimal health and well being in order to live healthfully into their 80’s, 90’s and beyond..... without having to be sick or confined to a nursing home bed during the “Golden Years” of their lives.
To truly understand the impact of the WFPB lifestyle, all you have to do is look at the excellent health and longevity enjoyed by people living in what are called the “Blue Zones” throughout the world. These are peoples who live healthfully into their Golden years with very little Heart Disease, Diabetes and Cancer. People living in the Blue Zones accomplish this by following a predominantly Plant-Based Diet where approximately 95% of the food they eat is from Whole Plant Foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts seeds, with very little animal products or processed foods, such as oils and processed carbs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Zone
Steve’s passion for incorporating a whole food plant-based lifestyle is heavily supported through the research and findings from numerous nutritional science studies conducted by the leading nutritional experts in the world, including Dr. Esselstyn Jr., Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr.Kim Williams, Dr. Pamela Popper, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Michael Klaper, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Garth Davis, Dr. Alan Goldhamer, Dr. Doug Lisle, Dr. Robert Osfeld, Dr. Cyrus Khambatta, and many more.
Last year in January 2019, Health Canada also unveiled the new Canada Food Guide, which puts plant-based nutrition at the forefront by recommending plant-based proteins (legumes-peas, beans, lentils) over animal-based proteins, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/
As the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, known as the “Father of Medicine”, said to his students almost 2500 years ago - “Let thy food be the medicine, and thy medicine be thy food”.
The rest is history as Steve Gavrilos, Windsor’s Plant-Based Pharmacist now utilizes and promotes the power of Whole Food Plant-Based Nutrition to all his interested patients who may benefit from such an important intervention in order to help treat and potentially reverse common medical conditions such as Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and many others.
Most recently, Steve is excited to announce that he has founded the Plant-Based Wellness Forum or PBWF, where he will be hosting bi-monthly group meetings at Eastown Pharmacy beginning in January 2020, for those in the community who may be interested in learning about Whole Food Plant-Based Nutrition and its powerful and beneficial effects on our health, well-being and longevity.
-written by Steve Gavrilos (Stavros Gavrilidis, B.Sc. Pharm, R.Ph.) Wayne State University (1987)