Updated May 7, 2013
At 17, I started experiencing pain and stiffness in the joints of my fingers. The doctor diagnosed bursitis and gave me cortisone shots in my fingers. By the time I was in my early 30s I was in constant pain, unable to turn a doorknob, squeeze a toothpaste tube or lift my own legs onto the bed. I decided if this was how I would have to live, then I didn’t want to live. I was put in the hospital and tests revealed I had rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease. I was started on gold shots weekly along with prednisone, Plaquenil, Naprosyn, Synthroid, and Pamelor. Within 12 years I had had 3 surgeries to repair damage to my ankle, finally pinning it to immobilize it. I had a cane, walker and crutches to use depending on my pain and level of mobility that day. I was put on disability about six years ago, but I still had to work part time to live. I decided where to shop by who had an electric cart, because I couldn’t manage to walk around a store, and seldom did I have the energy to do more than one activity a day.
I had heard that animal protein was especially bad for arthritis, but just couldn’t imagine giving up the diet I had always eaten – although I had cut my beef consumption down to 2-3 times a month. As a confirmed carnivore, I just didn’t really believe my diet was important – I didn’t want to believe it. However, over the last couple of years I have noticed I felt worse after eating beef, and it just seemed to lie in my stomach, yuck! This past Memorial Day I ate a big piece of dead cow and just felt terrible – the pain level was more than I could take. I decided to look on the internet for some vegetarian dishes – maybe to just try occasionally. The first place my search took me was Dr. McDougall’s site and there was an article about the effects of animal protein and oil on arthritis. That article spoke to my soul – I became dedicated to the program from that moment.
WOW! What a difference! In the first week I only had to use my crutches 3 times and just for the first five minutes right after getting up. I could walk around a store and work in my yard (this is my first love). Last year I could only drag a chair to a spot in my garden and work right there for a little while. After the first week on the diet, I could work in my garden for two hours and it felt good. The first month I lost 17 pounds. And I was so surprised by how much I was enjoying the food. I still would not tell a soul because I have failed on so many “diets.” I didn’t want to start and just fail again. Now I find out that once I quit dieting and started to LIVE – everything is just getting better.
In two short months I find I can work my half day job, shop at 3 or 4 stores (under my own power) and then work in my garden without tiring, as long as I want. My pain level has become manageable and I have started walking every evening. Last night I walked a half a mile!! My cane is in the trunk of the car and the crutches gathering dust unused. I have lost close to 30 pounds and my blood pressure dropped 20 points the first 2 months (it was 158/94). My children are taking me on a trip in September – 3 days at Disney World and 4 days on a Disney Cruise. I was so frightened before I started Dr. McDougall’s program. How was I going to manage that trip?? But now, I can’t wait to go!!!
I’m now 50 years old and thankful that I have a new chance at life. I know I need to lose a boatload of weight – but for the first time in my life I’m not even worried – I know it will just come off. I was raised in your basic meat and potatoes household. My dad was big on hunting and fishing and we always ate what he brought home. My mom likes to tell the story about how we ate a bear all one winter. Life could be hard and sometimes frightening as I grew up, but whenever there was fun in our family, it always revolved around food. I can remember waking up in the middle of the night to eat perch freshly fried or corn just from the field. Grandma became my cheerleader encouraging me to eat “just one more piece,” until I had eaten half a large pizza.
Not surprisingly, I was fat by the time I entered school. I remember hiding under my desk in the first grade because the teacher was weighing everyone in the front of the class. I was over 100 pounds. Over the years I continued to gain, occasionally dropping a good chunk of weight only to put it back on and more. I tried Atkins, Weight Watchers, Tops, the baby food diet and counted a zillion calories. When I weighted in at 220 lb. at my first OB appointment for my 3rd child, the doctor looked at me and said with disgust, “How did you let yourself get so fat?” Adding another log to the fire of shame that was my constant companion. One time I was asked to assist with a division of the Miss America pageant, but I declined because I didn’t feel I was worthy to be around women so thin and beautiful.
My future has all changed. I’m not hopelessly ill and out of control anymore. The food is great, and so much variety – from quick and simple to gourmet. Even going to a restaurant hasn’t been a problem. The message board is just great and I feel like the people there are my friends. Dr. McDougall’s books have become my daily source of knowledge and encouragement. I would strongly and loudly encourage anyone to try this program. What do you have to lose besides aches pains and dangerous unwanted pounds. Gotta go, time for my walk.
“The truth about diet and arthritis may surprise you. It is simply this: There is NO special diet for arthritis. No specific food has anything to do with causing it. And no special diet will cure it.” Although their intention may have been to keep people away from useless advice, these words, published in the 1970s by the Arthritis Foundation, ultimately condemned millions of people to suffer agonizing pain and the side effects of medications, hundreds of thousands to die prematurely, and billions of dollars spent for ineffective standard medical treatments. To this day, the Arthritis Foundation has done almost nothing to correct this damaging information.
When I first read these words in a brochure published by the Arthritis Foundation, I assumed the research supporting such a definite statement must be monumental – after all, their effects would ultimately stop any patient, and their physician, from looking any further into diet for relief of their disabling condition. On the contrary, my research of the scientific literature in the late 1970s failed to find a single article to support their statement against diet therapy. In fact, I found studies that found the opposite: diet can cause serious arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, and a change in diet usually benefits, and sometimes cures, people with these life-threatening conditions. You can do the same research for free at the National Library of Medicine at www.nlm.nih.gov.
On my home page, (www.drmcdougall.com) you will find an article I wrote titled “Diet: Only hope for arthritis.” This is a scientific discussion on how diet causes many forms of inflammatory arthritis and how a proper diet can often cure these conditions. You will also find 23 studies that show a change in diet can greatly benefit people with inflammatory arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis. Since this article was written, 2 more studies have been published showing similar results:
Hafstrom I. A vegan diet free of gluten improves the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis: the effects on arthritis correlate with a reduction in antibodies to food antigens.
Rheumatology (Oxford). 2001 Oct;40(10):1175-9.
McDougall J. Effects of a very low-fat, vegan diet in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Feb;8(1):71-5.
The failure of the Arthritis Foundation, and almost every rheumatologist (arthritis doctor), to encourage people to try a change in diet first, might be forgiven if there were effective alternatives, like medications. Unfortunately, the most high-tech, modern medications available today never cure arthritis, are relatively ineffective at even moderating the progress of the disease, have serious, and sometimes fatal, side effects, and can cost more than $10,000 a year to take. Compare these facts to the results from a change to a low-fat, pure vegetarian diet, which often cures arthritis with no side effects, reduces food bills by about 40%, and without a doubt, has many other health benefits (less cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and always relieves constipation).
If you are bold enough, next time you have the opportunity, ask an arthritis “specialist” for a single scientific study (not just someone’s opinion) that shows diet fails to help people with arthritis – then compare their response with the evidence I have shown you, and you be the judge. Do your part and tell your suffering friends there is help for people afflicted with most forms of inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid, Lupus, psoriatic, ankylosing spondylitis, and non-specific kinds of joint pains). It is cost-free (and profit free) and a lot easier than spending a miserable life in a wheelchair.
Even though these results do not occur with everyone, they are typical for people who make the diet and lifestyle changes recommended by the McDougall Program.