Let food be thy medicine has never seemed so appropriate.
Following the natural food trend, New Jersey doctor Robert Weiss sold his 25-year-old medical practice to take his medical expertise to the farmlands.
He teamed up with Nora Pugliese, an organic farmer with over 20 years of experience, to take over a 348-acre, 18th-century farm in Long Valley. Together, they’ve launched New Jersey’s first organic farm & practice, where patients are treated through a holistic nutrition-based treatment (1).
Why He Did It
Weiss, an assistant professor at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, explained that fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that prevent inflammation, which is believed to be the cause of many chronic diseases.
“There are so many naturally occurring drugs on this plate,” Weiss told NJ. “Plant-based whole foods are the most powerful disease-modifying tools available to practitioners — more powerful than any drugs or surgeries.”
“I am not saying if you fall down and break your ankle, I can fix it by putting a salve of mugwort on it. You need someone to fix your fracture,” he said. “I am talking about treating and preventing chronic disease — the heart attacks, the strokes, the cardiovascular disease, the cancers … the illnesses that are taking our economy and our nation down.”
In fact, Dr. Weiss treats patients without pharmaceuticals or surgery, and he’s had incredible results.
Dr. Weiss, an emergency room physician at the time, first approached nutrition when his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live. Weiss quit his Los Angeles position to set up a private practice in New Jersey, where his father lived (2).
A former botany major, he then started treating his father through a plant-based diet. Within a few months, Weiss’s father’s tumor had shrunk. He was even healthy enough to go back to work as a lawyer and lived, healthy and energetic, for another 18 months.
Another patient, Robert Ungar sought Dr. Weiss’s help after a rare eye tumor grew back after being surgically removed. Knowing he would likely lose his sight Ungar feared that he was not healthy enough to undergo surgery again.
“I looked for an alternative plan,” Ungar, 51, told Healthline. “And that’s when I turned to nutrition. Finding Dr. Weiss was a godsend.”
Ungar followed a personalized “30-day challenge” of greens, fruit, some spices, pomegranates, and black, red or brown rice.
By the end of the challenge, his cholesterol dropped 70 points. Although the tumor did not stop growing, he felt strong enough to undergo surgery and has been healthy since. Best of all, he did not lose his vision.
An Organic Miracle
Most remarkably, Dr. Weiss’s success stories also include 90-year-old Angelina Rotella of West New York, who was wheelchair-bound and suffered from congestive heart failure.
“I asked her, ‘Do you want me to call 911 and admit you to Palisades General? Or will you let me feed you sweet potatoes and kale?’ Amazingly enough, with the help of her daughter, she chose this,” Weiss said. “She doesn’t have diabetes anymore and chronic heart failure. She is cooking, sewing and walking around town. I’m not saying it;s easy, but she seized the opportunity and she is transformed.”
Mrs. Rotella’s daughter, Angie Rotella-Suarez, carefully prepared her mother’s meals. Her strict diet includes whole grains, complex carbs (including sweet potatoes), steamed greens (including kale and spinach), fruit, and plenty of water.
Within two weeks, Mrs. Rotella no longer needed her blood pressure medication.
“Eight months later, she is down 40 pounds. My mother is out of the wheelchair. My mother does the dishes again,” Rotella-Suarez said, starting to cry. “She hasn’t done the dishes in seven years, easy.”
After witnessing their mother’s miraculous recovery, Rotella-Suarez and her sister both adopted the vegan diet and each lost 40 pounds. Better yet, they are both no longer pre-diabetic.
“It sounds like a hoax, but Dr. Weiss is absolutely thorough. He is the best of what the medical profession has to offer,” she said. “He is not living in a make-believe world.”
The Organic Farm
Dr. Wiess’s community-supported agriculture project, Ethos Health, currently supplies fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs for 90 families, who pay a membership fee and volunteer at the farm. This is said to improve their relationship to food and help participants stick to their diet.
“Human health is directly related to the health of the environment, the production of food and how it is grown,” said Weiss. “I see this farm as an opportunity for me to take everything I’ve done all my life, all the biology and chemistry of plants I have studied, and link them to the human biological system.”
Ethos offers its patients with fresh food, tailored diets, cooking classes, medical evaluations, and coaching. They even teach them how to shop at the grocery store and how to make healthy choices when eating out (3).
Crops currently include 40 different vegetable and fruits, including multiple types of cabbage, chard, kale, radishes, turnips, escarole, squash, herbs, and 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.
Plus, the organization is even doing good for the community. In fact, nutrition lectures are frequently held Brookside Community Center in Mendham, where participants are educated and given real-life tips and tricks. They also have the opportunity to ask questions and find out how to apply their new knowledge.
The combination of these support systems is key to the success of Dr. Weiss’s program.
“You come out a different person,” the doctor said. “It changes your taste buds. It’s the opening portal through which they enter. It makes your transformation more sustainable because it changes your brain chemistry.”
“For sustainability, it’s necessary to rewire your brain and your taste buds…You are better able to appreciate simple tastes.”