Even though I was an active person, by the time I was well into my 30’s, I suffered from an early onslaught of osteoarthritis (family history on both sides), necessitating the daily use of Naprasin (an “NSAID,” Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug in the same family as aspirin), prescribed by a doctor when I was 36. The doctor never bothered informing me of the possible kidney damage that can result from continued use of this drug (and other NSAIDs); therefore, within 18 months, I developed chronic kidney pain and had to discontinue taking all anti-inflammatory medications.
By the time I was in my 40s, my condition had worsened. I tried not to imagine what life would be like in 20 years (if I were still alive). My first few steps each morning involved pain mixed with a crackling, crunching sounds in my feet, ankles, and knees. Only after a couple hours could I straighten up and walk without stooping, shuffling, and limping. The simple action of looking downward at my feet in the mornings brought flashes of light with excruciating pain that ran up and down my spine. It had become difficult to drive a car, because my neck was too stiff to turn far enough to safely watch for cars when proceeding through intersections or switching lanes on the highway.
After having arthroscopic knee surgery in 1997, I was advised by the orthopedic surgeon that it would only be a matter of time before I would be undergoing knee replacement surgery. I learned to hate shopping because of the back pain spurred from both standing and slow-paced walking for more than 15 minutes.
At home, after watching a movie video in the lower level of our home, I was sometimes unable to walk back upstairs as a result of pain and stiffness from having remained still for the duration of the movie, and thus, had to crawl up the staircase.
As if that were not enough, another physical problem crept into my life. Over the years, my cholesterol continued to climb, gradually and surely. Prior to this time, none of my cholesterol tests ever showed a decrease, only increases. So in 2004, at the age of 50, I contacted my sister, an RN in Illinois, to ask her if there was anything I could do. She suggested a plant-based diet, (also called a “vegan” diet) which is completely free of cholesterol. As a board-certified medical professional, my sister was not allowed to recommend a plant-based diet to her patients, even though it could save their lives. Fortunately, I was not a patient of hers, and thus she was able to provide me with her best recommendation for my health problem.
A plant-based diet sounded frightening. My head swirled with fears. Would I lose bone density from lack of calcium (no milk)? Would I become sickly from lack of protein (no animal-based meats)? Would my hair fall out? How would I shop and cook? I trusted my sister’s expertise in the medical field, and she wholeheartedly assured me that a plant-based diet would provide plenty of nutrition, provided that I ate daily adequate amounts of green, leafy vegetables (including an assortment of other vegetables), fruits, almonds (which are packed with calcium), and legumes for added protein. She advised me to avoid refined and processed foods and oils.
For ideas on meal planning, my sister pointed me to a vegan web site owned and operated by a medical doctor, John McDougall, MD (www.DrMcDougall.com). I found tremendous comfort in reading page after page of testimonials of followers of a plant-based diet who had been cured of a variety of conditions previously labeled “incurable” by modern medicine.
On September 30, 2004, I started on the vegan diet. My sister was very encouraging, and we emailed each other daily for support, ideas, and recipe swapping. We found vegan recipes using ingredients commonly found in grocery stores. At first, my “meat & potatoes” husband was annoyed with my “eccentricity.” But after my arthritis, kidney pain, and high cholesterol disappeared, he began to believe that this diet offered advantages. Two months later (end of November, 2004) I had a fasting cholesterol test at the University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Shockingly, my cholesterol had plummeted down to 124 in only 60 days on the plant-based diet. I was speechless.
And to my utter amazement, my arthritis was gone. I no longer suffered from daily arthritis pain or stiffness. Each morning upon awakening, I could move without my bones crackling and crunching. For the first time in years, I was able to get out of bed and walk like a normal person, without hobbling around. I no longer felt unsafe driving a car, because my neck turned easily to watch for traffic, just like it did when I was much younger. I found that I could stand in one position for a normal length of time without having to sit down in pain. After finishing a video in our downstairs, I could rise, walk, and ascend up our stairs with ease and comfort. I cried tears of joy, feeling as if my life had been returned to me.
My mind was burning with curiosity. Why did the plant-based diet cure my arthritis? I found a September 8, 1917 article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association citing a relationship between arthritis and foreign protein in the blood. Modern science confirms this, and also indicates that this foreign protein actually triggers an “allergic” response (inflammation, autoimmune diseases), hence the arthritis in my case, and some other type of autoimmune diseases in others.
This led me to another question, “How did this foreign protein get into my bloodstream?” Further research revealed that many of us have what is referred to as a “leaky gut,” where partially-digested animal-based proteins actually seep out into the bloodstream through a semi-permeable intestinal wall, causing the body to attack this foreign protein, resulting in an allergic response, commonly known as autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, lupus, diabetes, arteritis, pernicious anemia, MS, myasthenia gravis, Graves’, Hashimoto disease, and others. This same allergic response does not occur with plant-based proteins, only animal-based. And according to Dr. Colin Campbell in his 2005 book “The China Study,” dairy protein (casein), is twice as likely as other animal-based proteins to cause these conditions.
I was troubled with the questions, “Why did no one tell me of this plant-based diet years ago? Why are our valued medical professionals silenced from recommending this natural and inexpensive, life-changing diet? Why was this miraculous diet being hushed like a clandestine secret?”
In search of the answer, I learned that “Medical News Today” reports that in 2003, two cholesterol-lowering drugs (Lipitor and Zocor) cost Americans and their insurance plans $20.6 billion. Additionally, that same year, the cost of arthritis to the United States economy was $128 billion. These are staggering dollar amounts, paid to pharmaceutical companies and the medical community. Then it hit me. My heart raced as I mulled over the question, “Is it possible that these wealthy organizations may not want the public to know about a natural and inexpensive cure for their health problems?” After all, people can grow their own fruits and vegetables. Pondering these issues caused me to feel betrayed by our country’s authorities who could have alerted me to a cure, but didn’t.
But rather than expending my energy on anger, I chose to be very thankful for my new, healthy life, and to let others know who might be suffering from the same conditions.