I will never forget the moment after my diagnosis, still shocked and horrified that I was crippled with arthritis in my early 20's as I asked my doctor with tears in my eyes,
"Can anything could be done?.......Could I change my diet perhaps?........Was there something I could be doing differently in my lifestyle?"
He replied, "No, diet has nothing to do with what's causing this. No one knows exactly what causes it; but it's likely genetic, which we can't do anything about".
He said it with so much finality, and sighed in exasperation, as if it were a silly question to even be asking.
This made me burst into tears, full on sobbing in public at the realization of the finality, and hopelessness of my disease.
Or so I thought.
Now after 15 years of suffering from crippling RA flareups, steroid shots, multiple medications and surgeries, I'm 100% pain and symptom free with no meds, and no treatments.
I was told I'd be permanently wheelchair-bound by now, but I'm physically able to do anything I want now (even after the loss of cartilage from my joints).
In the past, I couldn't do simple things like wear high-heels, or even bend down without causing a flare-up.
But now I can rock-climb, run, jump, dance, squat, exercise with heavy weights,.....I can do anything I want without fear of injury or inflammation.
Despite every doctor and specialist telling me there's no solution except for "slowing down" the joint damage, I'm completely free of health worries, and live a totally normal life, due to diet & lifestyle changes.
If I didn't tell someone; they'd never even know I had arthritis, or was ever crippled.
So how is it possible that after so much time, money and energy searching for solutions, and all the experts, doctors, and specialists I sought out, no one ever told me about the link between diet and inflammation?
How is it possible they looked me in the eye with with absolute certainty and told me my only options were surgery, bone-destroying cortisone shots, or cancer-causing immunosuppressant medications with side-effects ranging from nausea to death?
I couldn't believe I suffered unnecessarily for so long, without any hope from my doctors.
Why hadn't anyone told me there were other options? Why wasn't this more well-known?!
But as soon as I did some research, it made a LOT more sense.
Come to find out, the average time U.S. medical schools offer nutrition education across FOUR years of medical school is 19.5 hours!
That's not a typo.
Out of thousands of hours of school and study, they spend less than 20 hours on nutrition, on average.
NO WONDER they didn't know about the causal relationship between poor nutrition and disease.
It's not necessarily their fault they don't know.....they aren't getting educated on it in the first place!
If the average doctor spends less than 20 hours on nutrition during school and less than 4 hours in continuing education through out their career, then JUST THIS WEEK I've spent more time on nutrition research then most doctors do in a 4 year, or even 8 year period.
Looking at it from this perspective, it's no surprise that someone like myself (with no degree in pathology or nutrition), discovered the real underlying cause, and found a solution doctors couldn't, or wouldn't provide.
To me, it seems obvious that health care should involve nutrition and diet, but when you dig into the bulk of medical study, you'll see that's not the focus at all.
Medical schools simply aren't oriented around making people healthier, or preventing chronic disease, but rather preventing death, treating symptoms, and "managing" disease progression.
It's really more sick-care, than health-care.
It's eerily similar to the total insanity occurring in our food supply via industrial farming.
Here's what I mean:
Cows are herbivores, so their natural diet is grass; but that's not profitable for industrialized farming.
So instead of grass, they're fed dead cow (yes-REALLY), pesticide-laden lab-made corn, soy and grain byproducts, then imprisoned and unable to move as they soak in their own manure.
Then they're drugged with various prescriptions and antibiotics, and subjected to toxic levels of stress, which raises cortisol, consequently increasing inflammation and disease.
And then when they get sick, instead of the industry realizing it's their environment, industrial farming methods, and diet making them sick, they come up with another drug to treat the illness caused by their diet and environment.
Oh, and when that drug causes it's own set of side-effects?
They just give them another liver-burdening drug to treat the new symptoms of the latest drug.
There is nothing natural, or normal about this....
Instead of making farming into a mammoth manufacturing industry, maybe......just maybe, we should treat cows like sentient living creatures who need real food and fresh air, just like us?
Perhaps, we should let them move, and eat their natural diet like they'd already been doing safely and effectively for thousands of years?
Farms like Polyface Farms have figured this out and there is no toxic methane gas poisoning, no sick animals, no stressed animals, and no deaths from people drowning in manure.
I visited Polyface farms recently, and something I found incredibly impressive was that there was ZERO stink.....absolutely no manure smell across the entire farm due to safe, normal, natural carbon composting.
And even better, the products they produce are so much better tasting, and SO much healthier for humans.
The main argument for factory, or industrial farming is that it makes large quantities of food at a cheaper price.
This is a complete fallacy, because the actual physical farm is only a small iota of the bigger picture.
The cost of factory farming is actually much, MUCH higher than small family farms, when you account for fuel costs, liability costs, regulation costs, drug costs, economic costs, and most importantly; health care costs.
It would save us trillions of dollars in health care, if we backed up the focus, and spent more time on understanding what causes disease in the first place, instead of just treating symptoms.
The reason I mention farming is because humans are being treated with the same backwards thinking, symptom-first mentality as we see in industrial farming.
We're treating the symptoms; but never asking unbiased questions about the possible dietary/environmental causes of the problem in the first place.
In hospitals, or doctors offices, when the issue of diet is brought up, the main line of thought is that doctors will refer people to dietitians, or nutritionists.
But, in most cases......they simply don't.
Mainly, because they don't consider it a valid alternative to drug treatments.......more like a last resort for the desperate, or a formality for patients who want other options.
And even worse, in my experience nutritionists and dietitians often give awful outdated advice like "avoid saturated fats" based on organizations like the American Heart Association who've been taking hand-outs from both the drug industry and big farming for years.
The lack of nutrition education is a big problem but it's dwarfed by a another problem, which is this:
Doctors, teaching hospitals, and universities are continually FUNDED, EDUCATED and PAID directly by the 950 billion dollar pharmaceutical industry.
This leaves only a tiny sliver of the pie for research on food & nutrition because research costs money, and you can't charge $10,000 for a diet plan; but you can for drugs.
After all, people are in pain; and they'll pay any price to stop it.... I should know.
So when your doctor is learning how to treat disease, much of what he, or she learns comes directly from the pharmaceutical industry.
Starting in med school, students are exposed to pharmaceutical advertising, free meals/events, gifts, funding, books and drug samples.
The constant exposure to the drug industry, drug research, and drug treatments causes an inevitable blur between doctor and drug industry at an early age.
This works to reduced skepticism or awareness of the obvious conflict of interest when the drug companies fund research, or pay research hospitals.
The drug companies know that getting physicians on-board early, means they're more likely to be lifelong drug dealers (albeit legal) for the industry.
Once students reach clinical training, nearly 72% of them are being actively marketed to by the drug industry.
At Propublica, they've complied lists for the sake of public awareness of the massive conflicts of interest in the medical industry.
And not a surprise, they discovered that in 2015 alone, drug companies paid physicians $24.9 million dollars for the rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira.....the one my doctor prescribed me.
They also paid out $14.7 million for the thyroid drug Synthroid, and 11.9 million for diabetes drug Victoza.
At projects.propublica.org/docdollars, you can search your doctor's name and see what "gifts" he, or she has been given by the drug industry.
Or if you're on a particular medication, you can see if your doctor is taking payments directly from that specific company.
I found out my small town doctor gets several thousand annually from the industry.
This doesn't mean he's automatically corrupt, but if you truely want to avoid all possibility of being influenced, shouldn't you reject money, or "gifts" from the industry?
It's not rocket science, it's basic human nature. When someone gives you money, it influences you.
And doctors are humans; not saints.
We can't pretend they're immune from influence just because we don't like the alternative (of course, we shouldn't assume they're corrupt, either).
But normally, when a company funds, teaches and pays people to do certain things, they're considered an employer.
Yet, this is exactly what's happening in medicals schools, teaching hospitals, and local doctor's offices in the U.S.
Millions of doctors we trust our lives with, are indirectly doing public relations work for the drug companies.
Do they do it intentionally? Probably not.
Do they mean well? Yes...usually.
I have friends in medicine, and they're good people, but they've only been educated in one line of thinking.
I believe most of them think they're doing the right thing (although some are absolutely corrupt), but they're stuck in a system much bigger than them, which pushes them in only one direction.
And because their whole careers are funded and established by that very same system, few will question, or stand up to the drug-medicine culture.
Doctors who do, are often vilified and punished for disagreeing with the mainstream medical dogma.
Dr. Mcdougall is an MD who advocates for a whole food plant-based diet and has dealt with all kinds of blocks trying to implement natural dietary programs in major hospitals.
I don't even use his diet, but I admire his principles, and the good work he's done in the world.
On his website, he explains his disturbing experience when trying to reason with the industry for safe, cheaper, natural solutions.
His program has PROVEN it could save heart patients at a fraction of the cost of bypass surgery (only $4,000 instead of $100,000), but instead of jumping all over an opportunity to save lives for less money......... they were completely uninterested.
He couldn't believe it.
After some contesting he finally got the real answer as to why they weren't interested in his diet program.
They said, “McDougall you just don’t get it.....as an insurance company we take a piece of the pie, and the bigger the pie the more we get.”
There's just not enough profit to be made in food programs.
The economics of the insurance industry (and medicaid, or medicare for that matter) only work to scale if medicals bills are SO high that you need to have insurance to go to the doctor.
And the only way they can make sure you NEED to have insurance is if the treatments are something you can't use, make, provide, or do on your own.
The current drug-medical infrastructure necessitates solutions that are both expensive and unattainable for the average person, so that their profit margins are large enough to make it worth their while.
To be clear, I don't begrudge the industry the ability to make a profit from their products or services.
We need profitable industries to supply products, job and services. The give-and-take of free-market trade makes the world go round.
But let's not be naive about it...... as if anyone in a white lab coat is the same as nun who took an oath of poverty to give their life and time to others.
The medical industry is a business; plain and simple.
And it's BY FAR, one of the most profitable and powerful industries in the world, with demand constantly far-outreaching supply.
And the drug industry is the giant overseeing it all.
To put in perspective just how mammoth they are; in the US alone, pharmaceutical industry revenues far exceed the GDP of the top 10 countries in the world COMBINED!
When a friend of mine was in the hospital with leukemia, I asked the oncologist about trying Vitamin B3, because of a study on how Niacinamide safely extended lifespan and lowered lactic acid (which is elevated in cancer metabolism).
The doctor replied that he'd never heard of it, but was honest about his options.
He said; "That could possibly work, but because I haven't studied it, I can only prescribe things I've studied."
So even when an MD is informed of a safer, well-studied and documented solution, he/she can't usually apply it because they are wary of falling outside the "standard of care".
If a particular therapy, or treatment isn't in common use, or isn't already a recommended protocol amongst medical professionals, doctors can be exposed to professional liability and medical malpractice for free-thinking and not stepping in line with what's considered common practice.
In other words, the standard of care isn't established by what is the safest, and best for the patient, nor by clear evidence and long-term safety, but by majority vote, "professional opinion" and whatever practice the predominant medical culture is currently practicing.
Gerald Massey's quote comes to mind:
This is clearly dangerous because either a treatment works, or it doesn't.
It's popularity should not be a determining factor on it's use, and has no actual bearing on it's success rate, or effectiveness.
Yet many illogical treatments are continued on the basis of the "standard of care", and alternate ways of thinking are dismissed.
Not because they don't work, but because they're not common practice.
It's the equivalent of saying "we do it this way, because everyone does it this way".
So, the "standard of care" ends up being a very low bar for real, lasting, healthy solutions, and people are literally paying for it with their lives.
This whole situation IS slowly getting better, because society as a whole is waking up to the link between health and diet and demanding more reasonable medicine.
Recently, dietary choices have even supplanted smoking as the biggest risk factor for disease and death, in the United States.
And according to the CDC, 7 out of 10 deaths are caused by chronic health issues, which can be treated by simply making different food and lifestyle choices.
But sadly, we aren't being educated very well on what those choices should be.
This is causing the rise of a slightly better form of medicine called "functional medicine" which acknowledges the direct effect of diet on ALL types of disease.
Modern medicine is great for emergency situations, acute infections and traumas requiring surgery, but for chronic health issues, they just don't have safe, or effective solutions.
And the truth is, a standard doctor appointment is less than 20 minutes long, so even if they had some pertinent nutrition information, they don't have enough time to delve deep into a patients' specific dietary needs.
There are macro-nutrient & micro-nutrient decisions to make, over 10,000 food additives to watch out for, exercise that has to be individualized, and countless lifestyle decisions that need to be made on a daily basis; all which affect a person's health.
So in theory, even if the whole system was reorganized around nutrition and lifestyle changes; a 20 minute appointment just wouldn't cut it for most people's situations.
Even though I was initially very upset at the medical community for misleading me, I've come to realize that it was only 1 part of the problem.
The other part was not understanding how much control I actually had, and how many decisions I was making on a daily basis that affected my health.
Being a critical thinker, learning to actually think for myself, and taking full responsibility for my health was the other big missing link.
Solving my health issues required my 100% involvement....it's not something I could pass off to someone else and just blindly follow their diet or health recommendations, because I had to be consistently aware of how my body responds to everything.
And I'm the ONLY one who can do that; it's not something that can ever be outsourced.
There are just too many variables that no one else could be ever possibly be aware of, or keep track of for me.
And it's the same for all of us.
No doctor will ever be able to care for you, like you care for you.......even if they wanted to.
They're not going to stay up until 1am reading research for your sake, or help you clean out your fridge and carefully test each item in your diet, or be there to make sure you make good choices.
Moral of the story:
In the long run, life is so much better when you choose to take full responsibility for your health.......and really, it's the only good option we have, anyway.
Of course it's a good idea to get advice from doctors, professionals, biologists, and experts, but always test things for yourself.
Always get a 2nd, 3rd, or (in my case) 122 other opinions!
For the most part, there's usually 2 polarizing sides in the natural vs. drug debate, where each side completely demonizes the other as being totally immoral, stupid, reckless, or even evil.
Clearly, I have some strong criticisms for mainstream medicine, but it's not helpful or productive to make it a good vs evil, or us vs them scenario.
It's not about that...... it's simply about what works, what's true, and what ACTUALLY provides a better quality of life, regardless of popularity.
And the main problem with the industry is not the use of drugs, but that they are OVERUSED, so chronic health problems get treated the same way as acute, one-off problems.
Prescription drugs are live-savers for acute pain, life-threatening infections/viruses, emergencies and trauma situations. If I got a bad infection, I'd be happy to take antibiotics for a week.
But not for life.
These drugs do NOT cure or heal chronic illness, nor are they a safe or logical treatment to be taken for life as a way to "manage" a disease.
Nothing can be completely generalized and every scenario requires context, so the key is to be a critical thinker, without bias dictating your decisions.
So, experiment, observe the results, and adjust your diet, meds and lifestyle accordingly.
That's real science.
The conflicting headlines, studies, experts, diet fads, and prescriptions are all a lot less confusing when you listen to your body.
Your body doesn't lie.
So, if you're in pain, and what you're doing isn't working......just keep experimenting!
Mine showed me I could permanently eliminate crippling pain, fatigue, and anxiety with very reasonable diet and lifestyle changes.
But every mainstream medical source says that's impossible.
So, don't blindly believe whatever you hear, but also don't unthinkingly reject it.
Do your research, and follow the evidence. The evidence doesn't lie.
If your reality doesn't match what the expert is telling you, then don't be afraid to ask questions.
YES, it will be a lot more work then following standardized health advice, but daaaayum is it worth it, girl!
Kinda like camping outside Ryan Gosling's movie premier so you can see him up close.......and then your eyes connect, and he smiles a little, and you melt inside.......THAT kinda worth it!!!
Hey girl........look at you in stilettos, like you don't even have arthritis.
Ooops....got a little sidetracked there.
Whatever YOUR "worth it" is, I'm telling you; it's SO, SO worth it!
Having knowledge and control of your health empowers you, frees you, and makes you feel much more independent and secure.
And this makes sense, because ALL epic life-changing endeavors have that principle:
It's not easy, but it IS possible.
And that's the silver lining.
Maybe those who say you can't get better, DON'T know it all.
And maybe.........just maybe, that's a really great thing.
Learning we haven't been told the whole picture, doesn't have to be negative.
At least the unknown leaves room for hope, and potential solutions!
Personally, I'd much rather find out I had wrong info, than settle for certainty that forecasts a future of pain, surgery and pressure to take the meds (while asking me to "march for a cure").
And for me, the definitive diagnosis and dark fateful verdict from my doctor caused the most damaging symptoms, BY FAR.
The emotional burden of being diagnosed with an "incurable disease" was more painful than the worst physical pain; even when it felt like shards of glass were piercing my joints.
The self-image issues brought on by wheelchairs, doctors, risky medications, and constant surgeries, caused a torrent of harmful feelings.
I was self-conscious, felt like a burden, scared, stressed, and always worried that I'd miss out on life.
One thing I know: nothing kills a person faster than hopelessness, so don't ever lose hope.
Even the smallest glimmer of hope can help you surmount the toughest personal battles.
Whether you want to climb mount Everest, win Olympic gold, or end chronic pain, these monumental feats require persistence, patience, and getting up again each time you fall.
Otherwise they wouldn't be great feats.
They'd just be the norm, and everyone would be doing it.
You're not like everybody........you can totally do it.
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Selye H. Stress in health and disease. Reading, MA: Butterworth, 1976.