Get Started Search Icon

Vanessa: Lupus Nephritis

The fundamentals of the McDougall Program are simple yet often difficult to implement. Star McDougallers have either adopted the Program themselves by learning from our website and books or joining one of our programs. For personalized help, learn more about the 12-Day McDougall Program. For questions on whether a change in diet can help your ailment, learn more about our consultations.
Learn more

vanessa02-5589039This is not a story about weight loss but a story about a miracle.  My 17 year old daughter, Vanessa, tried to join the Air Force in October of 2001.  She scored well and passed everything, but the urine test.  She had too much protein in her urine.  We had her drink a lot of water and go back the next week.  The same thing occurred.  We then went to our family doctor who sent her for several tests.  She showed positive signs for lupus.

We were then sent to a pediatric nephrologist, who looked at her records, then looked at her and said, “Vanessa has lupus nephritis and I want to put her in the hospital to do a kidney biopsy tomorrow.”  Although we expected this diagnosis and knew a biopsy was the next step we were shocked to have it confirmed.  When we went to the hospital they started her on 60 mg of prednisone and Norvasc, a high blood pressure medicine.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified kidney tissue disease into 5 categories.  Vanessa’s biopsy was categorized a 4, one category before dialysis.  Once a kidney reaches this point there is little hope for it to get better.  It can be stabilized, but often digresses to a category 5, dialysis, and then a kidney transplant.  She was then required to take Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), a drug used in stronger doses for chemotherapy treatment of cancer patients.  This drug could cause bleeding of the bladder and sterilization, to mention a few side effects.  Vanessa was to go to the hospital once a month to have this drug administered for six months and then another biopsy was to be performed to determine the next plan of action.

My husband had been taking high blood pressure medicine for over a year and was just put on a sugar pill for diabetes.  In January 2002 a friend of mine gave me the book McDougall’s Medicine – a Challenging Second Opinion.

As I read this book I saw that it would not only help my husband, but would also help Vanessa.  As my husband and I did more research we became convinced this was worth a try.  Not only does my husband no longer take any medications, but Vanessa’s second biopsy was between a category 1 and 2.  The doctor has never seen this happen.  We have many people who pray for Vanessa and God has surely shown His love for her with this miracle.  Her doctor is now in the process of reducing the prednisone and has discontinued the Cytoxan completely.  Vanessa works full time at Shoe Carnival and enjoys riding her Yamaha 650 V-Star. We have found that all of the recipes in the Quick and Easy cookbook are wonderful.  I have not found even one we did not like.

–Shirlene Jones (Vanessa’s grateful mother)


Dr. McDougall’s Comments:

The Lupus Foundation of America, Inc. says:

“Fad diets, advocating an excess or an exclusion of certain types of foods, are much more likely to be detrimental than beneficial in any disease, including lupus.”

It is a good thing Vanessa and her mother did not read this first – otherwise she would likely be tied to a dialysis machine for life and heading for a premature, painful, death.

I find it hard to understand what motivates people, like those from the Lupus Foundation, to make such statements, especially when the current scientific information does not support their negative position. Lupus is a disease of people living in Western countries, consuming the American diet. For example, lupus is rare in rural Africa – the first case of lupus was described in Africa in 1960; by contrast, today in the USA, African-Americans have the highest incidence of lupus of any sub-population of people – reflecting the differences in diet in these genetically similar people. Animal studies show diet will cause and cure this disease and there have been case reports of people cured of lupus with a healthy diet (see my web site under “Diet, the only hope for arthritis,” and “Common Diseases, Arthritis” for scientific literature citations).

Lupus (also known as systemic lupus and lupus erythematosus) involves the whole body, including the immune system. In sensitive people food proteins (usually animal proteins) enter the bloodstream through a “leaky gut.” The body makes antibodies to these foods proteins. Unfortunately, the antibodies do two things that cause problems:

  1. antibody-antigen complexes are formed that persist and become stuck in the skin, joints, and/or kidneys, and cause an inflammatory reaction (like slivers of wood stuck under the skin);
  2. antibodies are made to these foreign food proteins that also attack the person’s own tissues (skin, joints, kidneys and other tissues).


By both mechanisms the tissues become inflamed, eventually die, and are replaced by non-functioning scar tissues. People with lupus commonly suffer with a characteristic “butterfly-rash” on their face, severe deforming arthritis, and nephritis of the kidneys. Traditional medical treatments fail to arrest this disease. A healthy, pure-vegetarian, low-fat, diet will dramatically benefit and often cure people of this disease – as in Vanessa’s case. Approximately 1.5 million people in the USA suffer from lupus – you must know someone you can help. The same applies to other forms of inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid, psoriatic, ankylosing spondylitis, etc.)

Even though these results do not occur with everyone, they are typical for people who make the diet and lifestyle changes of the McDougall Program.

-John McDougall MD


vanessa01-7082116The last time I wrote about Vanessa she had been diagnosed with lupus. Her first kidney biopsy classified her kidney function at a category four, one category before having a transplant or dialyses. Her doctor told us it would take 2-3 years of drug treatment to get her into remission. She was having a cytoxin treatment once a month, taking 60 mg. of prednisone which made her face very full, and medication for high blood pressure. Two months after her diagnosis we learned about the McDougall diet for health. We had nothing to lose. We began immediately. Four months later her second biopsy showed her kidney had improved to be between a category one and two. Her doctor had not seen this happen so dramatically. It had improved so much her doctor stopped the cytoxin immediately and began the process of weaning her from the prednisone after only 6 months. She continued coming off the prednisone a little at a time. Her doctor was still skeptical but willing to work with us. Around October of the following year, one year after her diagnosis, she was taken off the blood pressure medicine. She was working full time and people from work would bring cookies and candies and all sorts of holiday goodies. When she got the next set of labs the numbers went the other way. Her doctor thought it might be because of taking her off the blood pressure medicine and considered putting her back on it. I said “NO,” give us one more month to straighten this out. I was quite sure it might be because of our slack eating habits over the holiday. We immediately went back to square one. This was not a “one-time splurge” it was a “slow nibble,” a little bit here and a little bit there. The following month when her lab results came back they were better than they had ever been. She is now off all medication. She has been for about 4 months. She will never eat anything other than low-fat vegan the rest of her life. She is afraid it will literally kill her. It is well worth the life change in diet to not take the drugs she had to take. She is now going to college, working and having a great time with no signs of lupus. She has also entered a beauty pageant. This is an incredible feat. One year ago she felt so fat and ugly from the drugs she hated having her picture taken. I thank God for leading me to find the McDougall plan. It has saved my daughters life. She is now living in CA with her brother and enjoying her life near the beach.

Graduation Picture, moon-face from Steriods
Vanessa in Spring 2002 on Steroids

Dr. McDougall’s Comments:

Millions of people suffer from autoimmune diseases and their future is hopeless because they are not told about the curative benefits of a low-fat, animal product-free, plant-based diet — and the medications prescribed by well-meaning doctors never cure the disease and have serious side-effects. If you know someone with one of these diseases please tell them to give one month of their life to this cost-free, side effect-free, highly-effective potential cure. (Unfortunately, once the tissues are destroyed they are usually lost forever. Further inflammation can be expected to stop and progression of the disease processes can be halted with a change in diet.)

Common Autoimmune Diseases

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Psoriatic Arthritis
Ankylosing Spondylitis
Inflammatory Arthritis
Relapsing Polychondritis
Multiple Sclerosis
Crohn’s Disease
Ulcerative Colitis
Myasthenia Gravis
Type-1 Diabetes
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
Nephrotic Syndrome
Other common problems


Autoimmune diseases are said to be due to “the body attacking itself” – these self-destructive reactions are usually food-induced, but can be from other environmental sources, like microbes and chemicals.

People with autoimmune diseases have everything to gain and nothing to lose from this approach – this is the same diet that cures heart disease, high blood pressure, adult-type diabetes, high-cholesterol, indigestion, constipation, arthritis, and obesity. Reduction in food bills can easily be 40% or more with this new diet. Savings on medications are astronomical. The diet used is the McDougall diet (based on common starchy plant-foods, with the addition of fresh or frozen fruits, and green and yellow vegetables. Absolutely no animal products of any kind and no added vegetable oils). Further refinements of the treatment can be made for those few individuals who do not respond well to this initial approach by following the elimination diet described under “Common Diseases, Allergic Diseases” on my web site,

Further information is available at my web site, see: “Diet: Only Hope for Arthritis,” “McDougall Interview – Roy Swank (Multiple Sclerosis)” and “Star McDougallers – Jean Brown, Sabrina Nelson, and Cheryl Lambert.” Also the following Newsletters: July 2002 (Type-1 diabetes), September 2002 (thyroid), November 2002 (Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis), and May 2003 (Many common autoimmune problems caused by Dairy Products).