Reversed chronic illness using a whole food plant-based diet

Pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, eczema, and irritable bowel syndrome all resolved on a plant-based diet.

My name is Ann Kartini. I am a dentist, and I have a passion for contributing towards the health and wellness of others. The irony is that for many years, I had neglected my own health. I typically ate what was quick and convenient, so that I could either spend more time studying or get back to patient care. Only within the past few years did I finally listen to my body and address my condition. I soon learned that I was struggling with pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and multiple inflammatory diseases, including plaque psoriasis, eczema, and irritable bowel syndrome. I was 34 years old.

My primary health provider encouraged me to adopt a whole-food, plant-based diet. I was convinced that my blood panels would improve if I just “ate better” by continuting to eat the “standard American diet”. However, after three rounds of blood tests over the span of nearly a year, my blood results were not improving enough, and my medical provider gave me an ultimatum. Either I adopt this diet or go on medications to control these diseases. While medications can help control chronic illness and are often absolutely necessary, I knew that I had a choice at this point and could avoid these medications and their negative side effects. While doing my own research, I discovered numerous scientific articles that showed strong evidence that a whole food, plant-based diet can not only prevent disease, but it can also reverse some chronic and inflammatory diseases, such as mine!

As I committed to this plant-based lifestyle, I noticed true healing in my body. I did experience bloating initially while eating this whole food, plant-based diet, but as I continued the diet for several weeks, my digestion and gut health improved significantly. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome had subsided. As my gut health improved, so did my energy levels! I waited about three months after making the change to retake my blood panels. I learned that my HbA1c level (marker of diabetes) was now in the normal range, my total cholesterol decreased by nearly 50 points (mg/dl), and my blood pressure was completely normal. After continuing this lifestyle for a year, the plaque psoriasis had improved significantly and the eczema had completely gone away.

Previously, my diet consisted of highly processed carbohydrates, meat, and a lot of dairy products. I also did not regularly eat fruit or vegetables. Now my diet consists of whole grains, such as brown rice, beans, and whatever fruits and vegetables that are in season. I do substitute rice with a simple pasta, such as rice noodles or quinoa pasta. I eat both cooked and raw vegetables. In the mornings, I eat oatmeal with blueberries and sometimes with walnuts and a banana. When I first adopted a plant-based diet, I used a lot of oil, but then I realized that even plant-based oils can contribute to high cholesterol. Now, I try to limit added oils. I do use a lot of spices, such curry spices, za’atar, various herbs, crushed chili pepper flakes, nutritional yeast and I try to avoid unnecessary salt. I drink mostly only water and use almond milk to substitute for any recipes that call for “milk”.

While now at the age of 39, I wish I had adopted the whole-food, plant-based diet much sooner, I am grateful that I had the choice to change my lifestyle. I am convinced that the right kind of food can be better than medicine and that it has the potential to heal the entire body! I now incorporate whole-food, plant-based nutritional counseling with my dental patients. Everything in our body is connected and directly related to each other. After all, how we nourish or deplete our bodies usually starts with the mouth.

October 2020.

Ann K Nguyen-Chung, DMD; Instagram: @drannkartini

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