I practically witnessed the death of my parents. My mother died of severe rheumatoid arthritis complications and heart failure due to chronic hypertension and my father perished after a long — over six-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, my hope was that God would remember me when I turned 60 years old. My Mom was an experienced outpatient nurse, but before she turned 55 her own health started to gradually decline. As the years passed, she experienced severe pain in her hands and knee joints coupled with bulges, memories of which have been imprinted in my mind ever since. My mother did not like to visit traditional physicians, so I would take her to naturopathic practitioners who prescribed different drops, but no one ever mentioned the link between diet and her chronic conditions. She consumed a typical Colombian diet that contained an abundance of meats. She loved steak with visible grease on it and she would always have coffee with milk and cheese for dinner. In my case, I loved sausages, but when I ate them, my bunion would get red, swollen, and it would hurt. In 2007, when I turned 51 years old, I started to experience symptoms. I could not kneel to pray because if I did, it felt like 1,000 needles were pressing against my skin. I went to see one of the most renowned rheumatologists in Bogotá who diagnosed me with rheumatoid arthritis with Sjogren syndrome (he mentioned that this condition is related to lupus). The doctor prescribed anti-inflammatory and rheumatoid arthritis medication and warned me not to kneel down to pray. In spite of taking the medication, I could not walk because I felt like I had 100,000 pins poking the soles of my feet, so I had to buy gel insoles. Climbing up and down stairs was always a slow process since I had to use the arm rail to support myself due to the pain. I felt intense burning on top of my right hip, so much that I felt I could fry an egg on it and had to apply a bag of ice every night. The eye dryness was noticeable, but never as bothersome as the joint pain.
Eight days after quitting dairy, my pain started to diminish, and because the change in how I felt was so noticeable, I committed myself to making a complete change in my diet.
I got lucky a few months after because my daughter, Dr. Adriana Cortés de Waterman, started to study nutrition in Australia. In addition, she began learning about all the benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets from her future husband and from online resources. Via Skype she shared with me some of the testimonials of patients who had successfully treated their arthritis with these diets. It was difficult for me to accept all this information because I was hesitant to renounce my daily dinner of coffee with milk and cheese. At that time, I was not taking medication because I had suffered many adverse reactions such as worsening of gastritis, so my physicians prescribed Omeprazole. I would simply tolerate the pain. I remember the day I went furniture shopping with my husband and I would have to sit every three steps due to the pain I was experiencing. By then, I had been living more than four months with joint pain. One day, I decided to buy soy milk, but because I am very frugal, I bought the cheapest and tasteless of all and the taste was very unpleasant. I told my daughter and she recommended a non-dairy milk that tasted much better. I started to use this milk for my coffee and had it together with whole grain bread. By then, I had already stopped eating meat since I was never a big fan of it. The last thing I needed to give up was a dairy products. Eight days after quitting dairy, my pain started to diminish, and because the change in how I felt was so noticeable, I committed myself to making a complete change in my diet. I quit consuming all animal products and my pain continued to diminish, then, by the next week I was surprised by the fact that I had no joint pain at all. I was able to regain my health by following a vegan diet. Once in a while, about two or three times a year, I would have some chicken or fish to satisfy a craving. Frequently, I would consume a cappuccino with lactose-free milk outside my home, but the next day I would start to experience pain, enough to convince me that I had made a bad choice.
Shortly after, in 2015, my daughter completed the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate, where she learned the difference between a vegan diet and a whole foods, plant-based diet. The changes were simple, but significant. We eliminated oil and other processed foods from our diet. After I made all these changes, I have felt much better and completely healed. After my diagnosis and changes in my diet, my grandchildren were born. I was able to be present at their birth and involved in their upbringing (with all the health, strength, and fuel that I have needed to be a star grandmother). This experience was a blessing and an incredible motivation for me. During a year after the birth of my youngest grandchild, I traveled round trip between Australia and Colombia six times by myself. I celebrated my 60th birthday together with my family on a cruise around the Australian coast and even went scuba diving for the first time at the Great Barrier Reef.
Mentally and emotionally, I feel great because I can care for my grandchildren. I would have never been able to enjoy my life as I do now with all the arthritis complications, and the decline in health I would have experienced if I hadn’t changed my diet 10 years ago. Every time I go to my annual health check-up, I feel encouraged by the fact that my physicians ask me what I do to keep myself so healthy and they get very curious about my diet.
And as a last testimonial of how strong my bones are, recently, I suffered a bad fall on a cemented parking lot due to careless walking and not seeing the bumps on the ground. This kind of fall for a 61 year old person generally results in grave health consequences. I fell over my nose, scraped a great part of my face (facial trauma), left hand, and right knee. After a few x-rays, the orthopedic doctor congratulated me for my bone density because I did not suffer any fractures. I strongly recommend that anyone who is reading this testimonial and is currently suffering from this painful ailment, to love themselves enough to make immediate changes in their eating habits without thinking it twice. The results are excellent! Plant-based foods are not harmful, on the contrary, animal based foods with their added hormones, antibiotics, and the stress the animals suffer before they are killed are not good for our health. I encourage you to educate yourself on the internet in regards to the livestock conditions and the consequences on our health.
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