Why I Do This


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For almost 30 years I struggled with severe psoriasis. These 30 years included two months in the Texas Children’s Medical Center in Dallas along with thousands of dollars in drugs and visits to doctors around the world. The financial drain was nothing compared to coping with a severe skin disease and its unreliable treatments with short-term benefits and horrific side effects.

Despite Cum Laude Honors and a Bachelor of Science degree in Scientific Nutrition, successful fulfillment of all academic requirements to apply to American medical schools, many years of work as a Registered Dietitian (RD), and visits to dermatologists around the world, I was never formally taught how food could be my own medicine.

By the year 2000, I had five years of training plus fifteen years of work as an RD. Yet never once did that education show me how my diet could be associated with my psoriasis, allergies, asthmatic bronchitis, rosacea, acne. Never once in two decades did a professor or dietitian view my very visible skin disease and suggest any way to address the disease through diet. Also, during the first fifteen years of my work as an RD, not a single client ever told me that my dietetics work had significantly helped them in any real or lasting way. I grew bored and doubted the value of my training and work as a dietitian. Despite the effort and expense required to garner and maintain an RD certification for 15 years, I relinquished the certification in 2001 and felt sure that I’d never return to the field of nutrition.

In June 2002 my condition worsened and life changed drastically. The tight skin and swollen knuckles on my hands would no longer allow me to pick up a glass of water, wrap my hands around a steering wheel or unscrew a jar. The topical steroids I’d used for decades were inadequate to address my increasing discomfort. Methotrexate, a form of chemotherapy, had been recommended as a treatment option. But unlike those who take methotrexate temporarily for cancer, people with psoriasis often take this chemotherapy indefinitely.

Aware of the terrible side effects and financial drain associated with this powerful drug, I grew desperate and went to Google in search of a safe alternative. Because 20 years of training and work as a Registered Dietitian had never taught me how diet could be related to psoriasis, I was shocked when “diet” began appearing as a healthy treatment option. Through extensive research I was introduced to a dietary approach that has been associated with reducing inflammation and enabling the body to heal itself naturally. Once I understood this way of eating, it was easy to understand why the diet offers positive, rather than negative, side effects.

With nothing to lose but a disease and unwanted weight, I committed myself to this way of eating for 6 months. By December 2002 my hands had cleared almost completely, I lost 20 pounds, experienced drastic allergy improvements, and spent no money on prescription medications. Additionally, I’m no longer dependent upon rounds of prescription medications and inhalers for allergies, sinus infections, rosacea, asthmatic bronchitis, and acne.

Before changing my diet in 2002, terrible allergy problems never allowed me to even pet animals for fear of subsequent wheezing and asthma. Now I’m the lucky guardian of a shedding 80-pound dog, and I kiss his face all day long without any congestion. Improving my diet has worked other wonders, too. My cousin, a plastic surgeon, insists I look younger now than I did ten years ago, with nary a penny spent on Botox.

Because psoriasis can exhibit unpredictable remissions, I waited and studied for two more years before returning to the field of nutrition. Prior to changing my diet, I’d never had a remission extend beyond two months. By 2005 with almost three years of remission, a sense of ethical obligation lead me to return to dietetics to see if what I’d learned about diet and chronic disease might help others, too. In spring of 2005 I approached Whole Foods Market to teach at their headquarters. At that time, educators at Whole Foods Market had to be Registered Dietitians, so I took and passed the test for recertification as a Registered Dietitian.

Several diets are associated with natural healing. And conventional medicine has become far more receptive to them in the past ten years. In fact, many healing diets are now touted by leading medical schools, medical doctors, and internationally recognized researchers. The University of Michigan has a top ten Medical School and their Integrative Medicine Department has published its own “Healing Foods Pyramid”.  Notable scientists include Neal Barnard MD, Caldwell Esselstyn MD, Gabriel Cousens MD, Andrew Weil MD, and Colin Campbell PhD. Even the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which oversees Registered Dietitians, has published research illustrating the value of a plant-based, whole foods diet. Other versions of healing diets include macrobiotics, raw food, veganism, pH balance, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, nutritarian, anti-aging, and antioxidant rich diets.

For the purposes of effective nutrition education and practical application, I’ve looked for common threads of success that run across healing diets. After studying many of them, one thing is obvious. They all emphasize plant-based, fresh and whole foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. They emphasize clean water and unprocessed food. When animal protein, meat or dairy are eaten, it’s on an occasional basis. In many ways a healing diet is simply what humans relied upon for good health throughout human history before refrigeration and food processing. Based upon one’s health history and diagnoses, other specific dietary recommendations may be necessary for sustainable healing. But empirical research performed by the world’s leading researchers makes it clear that a plant-based (though not necessarily vegetarian), whole foods diet offers value to all.

Although I fully respect the potential value of strict adherence, my personal practice taught me that it’s possible to achieve significant healing from a modified version, a “fast food version” per se, that is less time consuming, suits my lifestyle, and facilitates long-term compliance. I spent hundreds of hours reading books, taking cooking classes, and learning the shortcuts of incorporating this diet into my lifestyle at home, in the office, and in restaurants. Diet change can be very challenging, but you can bring the healing power of food and its associated benefits into your life successfully without making seismic shifts in your world.

Please note that whereas the worldwide TV broadcast of “The Incurables” chooses to imply that I “cured” my psoriasis, I am not “cured”. For myself and others, I’ve very often seen diet create significant and sustained reversal of many chronic diseases. But as a clinician I consider the word “cure” to be marketing, not reality. I never use the word “cure” in the context of myself nor my clients.

My intent is to communicate that research now makes clear the potential benefits and lack of risk in a quality diet, and that a quality diet can broaden your options for optimizing health while reducing associated expenses. The choice is yours to decide if you will give food a chance to be your medicine.

 

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Physician Feedback

“My patients have responded with interest and enthusiasm to Deirdre's concise book, lectures, and consultations. One such patient, with a long history of recalcitrant atopic dermatitis, is now beautifully controlled off all prescription and over-the-counter medications. Another has been adhering to the healing foods diet and has experienced a profound improvement in her psoriasis. For the motivated patient, the healing foods diet can provide a safe and effective alternative to pharmacologic therapy.”

– Janet DuBois, M.D.

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Your Healing Diet Feedback

"I recently purchased your book and really feel that it’s the best book of its type. Other books make the prospect of an anti-inflammatory diet seem very daunting, expensive and inflexible... yours is the first that gives real-world, brand-name recommendations for on-the-go meals as well as breaking down what to look for on labels. This really speaks to my lifestyle as I simply don’t have the time to cook three meals a day.”

– Steve in Utah

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