Over the last six months or so I’ve come to the realisation that adopting a fully whole food plant-based diet is for me, the most effective and genuinely healing thing I can do to treat my disease. This is not just my opinion, although I do believe sincerely that it’s true, it’s also based on science – a great deal of science developed over a very long period of time, significantly over the last hundred years or so, but aspects of it go back thousands of years.
Hippocrates (fifth century BCE) is misquoted as saying “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” or “let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food”. Historically despite these misquotes, based on my own humble research it does appear that food played a major part in his teachings and his treatment of patients, along with the medicines of the time.
Over the last hundred years or so food/dietary modifications have been increasingly used to prevent, treat, and reverse chronic disease with great practical success. Over the last few decades, and more recently, the science has caught up and has demonstrated both correlative and causative evidence that it’s the consumption of animal foods (also trans-fats, added oils, and highly processed junk foods) that cause many of the most common UK (and worldwide) chronic (and often fatal) diseases. It has also demonstrated that most of these chronic diseases can be prevented, treated, and some can even be reversed using a whole food plant-based diet with low added salt oil and sugar.
Today, in my mind, there’s no doubt that animal ‘foods’ and highly processed foods (including vegetable oils and fats), play the largest causative and facilitative role in the development of our chronic diseases. I also have no doubt that the only way to successfully prevent, treat, and reverse most of our chronic diseases; is to adopt a whole food plant-based diet with low added oil, salt, and sugar.
The most important thing we have to do in order to achieve health and prevent chronic illness is to make the wisest diet and lifestyle choices based on the scientific evidence, our own experience, and that of previous and current pioneering doctors, scientists and practitioners. To name just a few; Dr Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner, Walter Kempner MD, Nathan Pritikin, Dean Ornish MD, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr T Colin Campbell, Dr John McDougall, Dr Michael Gregor, Dr Michael Klaper, Dr Doug Lisle, Dr Joel Fuhrman, Dr Neal Barnard, Dr Alan Goldhammer and so many more. Reading what these doctors have to say and watching their videos on YouTube is a wise use of time, whether you currently have a chronic disease or want to avoid developing one or more of them in the future.
All of these doctors spanning over a hundred years of clinical practice, scientific research, and evidence-based medicine, are in agreement that diet plays the largest role in the development of chronic disease and also in its prevention and reversal. All of them promote a largely whole food plant-based diet, and most of them recommend an entirely whole food plant-based diet. Some recommend a higher raw food intake, some recommend a cooked starch base, and there are variations in macronutrient recommendations; fat protein and carbohydrate. Regardless of these variations, all have used, or are currently using food/dietary (predominantly a whole food plant-based diet) changes to treat chronic disease. It’s clear to me that a whole food plant-based diet is the healthiest diet for human beings, it’s far superior to any other diet or lifestyle I’ve tried in the last 40 years.
I believe, and the evidence supports this, that many of the causative processes that led to my own disease – rheumatoid arthritis, are also common to many other, if not all other chronic diseases – especially inflammatory diseases. The consumption of animal products, trans-fats, processed oils and junk food damages our organs, our arteries, our guts and many other organs and systems leading to a degeneration in our health. For example, processed oils (including olive oil) damage the endothelial cells in our arteries, caseins in milk can trigger an autoimmune attack on the pancreas leading to type I diabetes, animal proteins raise IGF-1 levels and can promote the spread and invasion of cancer – and the list goes on…
For anyone trying to halt or reverse rheumatoid arthritis or any related inflammatory disease, it makes sense to do everything we can to protect the health of our arteries, pancreas, gut etc., even though these are not the usual targets for treatment. Yes, our joints are inflamed, painful, and damaged, and we want to find ways of relieving the symptoms and reducing or reversing the damage. However, think about it, if we have poor circulation to our knees for example, then how can the necessary nutrients and oxygen reach those joint tissues effectively and how can the waste products from those joint tissues be removed efficiently?
I know from experience and research, that one of the most important controllers of disease activity i.e. whether you experience a flare-up or a partial remission or relief, is the balance between the speed of healing and the speed of the destruction caused by the disease. This is one of the reasons why my own rheumatoid arthritis became more aggressive later in my life because my overall health and my ability to heal declined. My ability to absorb nutrients and distribute them throughout my body quickly and effectively, declined. The amount of oxygen absorbed through my lungs and delivered via my red blood cells to all the tissues in my body declined. The efficiency of my organs and my overall ability to remove waste products declined; partly due to my age but mostly due to a few persistently poor diet/lifestyle choices (and massive emotional stress) and a reduction in physical activity (largely due to the pain and restriction caused by my rheumatoid arthritis).
Whilst I’m doing everything I can to heal my gut and to calm my immune system, it’s obvious to me that I need to reverse the damage that I’ve done to my arteries, veins, and in particular the smaller capillaries that surround my joints. This will allow vital nutrients to more effectively permeate my joints and will also allow for the faster and more effective removal of waste products. This in turn should help to halt and partly heal the damage to my joints. I’m also doing significant cardiovascular exercise to help with this process. This type of exercise also helps with the general removal of waste products via the lungs, skin and kidneys.
One of the reasons I’ve removed added oils and fats from my diet is to help increase my insulin sensitivity and to improve my glucose uptake, since this in turn reduces overall inflammation and increases the energy to my muscles. By taking care of my organs and other systems in my body, I am in turn supporting my immune system and creating an environment which is more likely to lead to the remission of my rheumatoid arthritis.
Our dietary and lifestyle choices are in our hands, they provide us with the most powerful tools we have to prevent, treat, and in many cases reverse our chronic diseases. I believe that all chronic diseases, as I mentioned above, have a chronic and common cause which progresses over many years, starting in our childhood or perhaps even before we were born. This chronic cause is brought about by the choice of foods and drinks that we put into our mouths (or previously, those of our parents), the amount of external toxins that we expose ourselves to during our everyday lives, and other lifestyle choices that we make including the amount of exercise that we take and the amount of sleep that we are able to obtain.
It’s important for me to treat my rheumatoid arthritis directly of course, by trying to reduce inflammation and by healing my leaky gut, however, I don’t believe I would ever succeed in achieving another remission without improving the health of my whole body. I think this is true of all chronic diseases. Whether you have heart disease or diabetes for example; improving circulation, oxygenation of blood, more efficient removal of waste products, better absorption of nutrients from food and so on, will improve your chances of overcoming your disease. All of this can be better achieved by adopting a whole food plant-based diet free from animal derived foods, and low in added salt, oil, and sugar.
The common (and most powerful) determining factor in whether we suffer from, or prevent and reverse all of our chronic diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, is our diet and lifestyle. Fortunately, it’s something that we have almost full control over and with the right knowledge we can make choices that will help to prevent, treat and often reverse these diseases (depending upon where we are in our lives and our current disease status). Probably, we all have our unique trigger or triggers that bring about the first symptoms of our chronic diseases, for example genetics, trauma, stress, infectious diseases etc., but I believe that if we ate a whole food plant-based diet and made other health promoting lifestyle choices, these triggers would no longer be enough to tip us into a symptom producing disease state. In other words, I believe we would be able to quickly recover from these additional stresses or triggers if our lifestyle was a health promoting one.
“Standard UK (SUK) diet” composite images x 5 are public domain