Cured of Relapsing
I and my young family were committed to healthy living. After all,
my husband, Jeff and I had been vegetarians for 10 years, though
we still consumed dairy products. So I was surprised when I developed
a painful, burning redness in my ears.
were puzzled by my symptoms, but finally, I received a diagnosis
- relapsing polychondritis. This rare auto-immune disease, commonly
known as RP, is related to arthritis and lupus. Little is known
about RP, other than the symptoms its victims exhibit namely,
inflammation of cartilage throughout the body. The cartilage of
the ears, nose, throat, ribs and joints can be affected, with redness,
inflammation and a painful burning sensation. In many cases, RP
is debilitating, and life threatening, particularly when it moves
into the respiratory system.
RP is another of the medical community's incurable diseases,
a "disease with unknown cause." Doctors offered me little
hope of relief, other than treating me with prednisone and telling
me to stay out of the sun. In my sunny California climate, staying
out of the sun meant missing out on a lot of family fun, and the
medication offered questionable results and the risks of a whole
host of side effects. I wondered what the rest of my life would
be like, relying on medication and waiting for the next episode
About a year later, while recovering from another painful flare-up,
I began to read one of Dr. McDougall's books, which I'd
been given as a gift. Originally, I thought he would have nothing
new to teach me, as I was a longtime vegetarian. But when I read
about my condition and the links between dairy products and autoimmune
diseases, I took notice. After discussing it with my husband, Jeff,
the Nelsons decided that very day to eliminate eggs and dairy products.
Just one month after adopting the McDougall plan, I went for a
checkup with my doctor. For the first time since my diagnosis, the
anti-nuclear antibodies (known as SED) in my blood, which signal
the degree of RP activity, weren't present. After three months
and three blood tests where my SED rate was normal (sed rate reflects
degree of inflammation like a fever), my doctor declared the RP
"in remission." Today, more than six years later, I have
had no more recurrences of RP.
I don't think I'm just "in remission," but am "cured"
-- as long as I don't eat dairy, eggs, meat, chicken or fish. Switching
to a diet devoid of animal proteins saved my life. Now I lead a
full life independent of medications. For me, the change was a simple
choice. To me it seemed far more inconvenient to live life on dangerous
medications and in pain than to make some changes in my diet. And
trying a dietary change was a lot less radical than many of the
powerful drugs people often must take to get only temporary relief.
I now share my story and the success with a vegan diet with anyone
who will listen. I also share this information I have gathered with
doctors who treat RP across the country, and work with an RP support
group. Helping others find relief from this "incurable"
disease is important for me to help prevent others from the unnecessary
suffering I experienced.
Dr. McDougall's Comments:
Over the past few months I have provided case examples (along
with supporting scientific literature) for two autoimmune diseases,
lupus (Vanessa) and rheumatoid arthritis (Jean Brown) and many
more will follow. Relapsing polychondritis is another disease
from this same family, where the body seems to attack itself.
I have always asked myself, "Why would the body attack itself?
How stupid!" The answer is not simple, but I do now
know this involves immune reactions where proteins (mostly animal
proteins) pass through the gut wall into the blood stream, where
they cause our own bodies to make antibodies against these foreign
invaders. Unfortunately, these antibodies are not just specific
to the food proteins, but attack similar looking proteins in our
tissues like our cartilage, joint tissues, skin, kidneys,
and most other tissues. Doctors name the disease based upon identification
of signs and symptoms that are similar. For example, if the primary
area of attack is the cartilage tissues of the ears, nose, and
ribs, then we call it relapsing polychondritis. If the damaged
organs are primarily kidney tissues, then we call it glomerulonephritis.
If it attacks the joints, then we call it rheumatoid arthritis;
the skin, joints and kidneys, then we call it lupus.
The patient and doctor may feel better
because they now have a name for the disease, but the truth is
there is no real benefit to the patient other than a thinly veiled
peace of mind. Naming the disease does not help a doctor determine
the cause, or cure the disease. Essentially the same armament
of never-curing, sometimes symptom-relieving, side-effect-filled,
expensive, drugs is used (steroids, cancer drugs, immune-suppressants,
and NSAID). The patient stays sick and the disease progresses,
I believe these diseases are caused by
factors in our environment and food is our strongest contact with
our environment. So logically, here is where we in the medical
business should look for cause and cure. But almost no doctors
have this insight, and instead, they are looking for a solution
in the highly profitable businesses of pharmaceuticals
which so far, has not come and likely never will.
Over the past 26 years of medical practice
I have seen hundreds of people greatly benefited, and often cured,
of various autoimmune diseases by a change to a low-fat, plant-based
diet (no animal products, no added oils) and never anyone
harmed by this cost-free, dietary approach. The scientific literature
supports my beliefs (you can look at some of this evidence on
my web site www.drmcdougall.com, under "Diet: Only hope for
arthritis" and under "Common Diseases" section).
I get very little support from my colleagues and I used to care
I wanted to be a respected doctor. I'm too seasoned
(old) to care about their feelings any more. They are wrong and
they must be held accountable for the suffering they are causing
Here is an interesting interchange I had
with a well-intentioned doctor concerning a previous "Star
McDougaller," Vanessa, with lupus and kidney complications,
who was greatly benefited by our diet (you can find this case
on my web site):
Letter to Dr. McDougall: "What a crock.
As a physician, you must have a passing acquaintance with the
scientific method. How can you claim that your carbohydrate-based
diet "cured" her lupus?"
are sort of interesting, but I can't really see them for
the smoke. Until you provide nonanecdotal and scientifically sound
evidence to support your claims, you are a snake oil salesman
in my opinion."
My response to him, and all the rest of
my colleagues, who are unwilling to look at scientific evidence
(beyond what the young, attractive, drug salesladies provide in
their offices daily) was (and will continue to be):
"Show me the evidence that allows
organizations like the Lupus Foundation of America to claim diet
has nothing to do with the cause and cure of Lupus. Show me or
If they (and you) are wrong, how many thousands
of people have they harmed? (If I am wrong, who has been harmed,
and how? Diverted from all those miraculous drug therapies, you
There is a vast difference between recommending
a diet that cuts the food bill of a patient by 40% and cures constipation
every time, and a drug treatment that makes a person's hair fall
out and vomit for years (and sometimes kills) and never cures.
You are obviously another ignorant MD,
bought by the drug companies, that refuses to learn. Have you
bothered to read the few studies I cited to support a diet trial
by patients -- or do you condemn without reading the evidence
like most drug-company-educated doctors who know everything?
I have given you sufficient evidence for
someone to try the harmless approach that I have seen work over
and over again -- an approach supported by available evidence
-- as insufficient as you may see it. No doubt, if there was money
to be made, there would be a ton of evidence.
So either put up your evidence that diet
has nothing to do with Lupus or apologize.
John McDougall, MD
So, I guess you can safely say I am not
politically correct (or tactful). But, I am fed up with people
suffering and dying because most of my colleagues are unwilling
to put their patient's welfare first.
I would be happy to print any comments
you might have about this subject, especially from those who disagree
with my position and are willing to make a scientifically backed
case for not offering a healthy diet as one of the first options
for people with our most common chronic diseases, including autoimmune
diseases, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and intestinal
diseases from indigestion to constipation to name a few
causes of daily suffering.