Like so many others, my journey into the world of plants began with a health crisis. In mid-2007, I started developing odd symptoms, tingling sensations in my feet and legs, which got progressively worse until I ended up in a hospital unable to walk. I was treated successfully but my doctors could only guess as to what had brought on the symptoms. I was eventually diagnosed with “post-viral” symptom, which I have a feeling is the technical term for “we have no idea.”
Although their prognosis was that it was a one-time event, in the months following my release from hospital I started developing other symptoms, none as acute as my first but all, like the first, neurological in nature and affecting my legs. Now, it could be that it was simply my body recovering from whatever had just happened, but the fear was that it was something far more sinister. Something more along the lines of an autoimmune disease.
Anyone who’s witnessed their body starting to slowly malfunction knows the toll it takes on your mental state. I was so young to be breaking down! I had my whole life in front of me. I had always thought of myself as a generally healthy person from a generally healthy family, and besides, don’t weird untreatable diseases always happen to other people? Clearly dealing with inexplicable health issues in my early thirties was not something I was prepared for.
Timing is everything. My husband and I didn’t know where this was headed. We were searching for answers and guidance, and our minds were open to possibilities. It was around this time when we had the good fortune to cross paths with two amazing people who had dramatically turned their health profiles around by going vegan. Had we met them at any other point in our lives I doubt they would have affected us so profoundly. But we needed to hear their message right then, and it hit home.
After listening to their stories and doing some research of our own, we concluded that the diet we had been raised on was not in fact as healthy as we had been led to believe, and that adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet might be just what our bodies needed. We were both equally excited about what we were learning, and together made the leap.
And amazingly, as soon as I started replacing animal products with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and their like, my neurological symptoms, which up to that time had been worsening, stopped worsening. At first they just stabilized but after a few months they started improving, and after about a year I found myself completely symptom-free.
Please note that I was never officially diagnosed with anything more frightening than a virus to explain my symptoms, so please don’t take my story as medical advice. Maybe I got better just because I was going to get better anyway. I’ll never know. All I know for sure is that the timing of the series of events that brought me to health has convinced me of the remarkable ability of plants to heal our bodies.
The other thing I know for sure is that my body has responded in many other ways to my new diet. I’ve seen dramatic positive changes, and many of the issues I’ve struggled with my whole life (most notably, and to my immense relief, acne) have miraculously and effortlessly resolved themselves.
I’ve also heard so many similar stories from other people who have improved their health by doing nothing more than replacing dairy and meat with whole plant foods, that I have become a true believer. There is no doubt in my mind that the answer to a great many of the health crises that our society is struggling with, lies on our plates.
I only regret that it so often takes a health crisis to open a person’s eyes. I now consider myself lucky to have gotten sick, and skated so close to disability. It turned me around and changed my life. It very likely saved my life. It’s entirely possible – dare I say probable? – that had I not gotten sick then, I would have gotten sick later, and worse.
Of course, the path to health should not need to originate in sickness. It’s such an unnecessary tragedy to have to lose your health before gaining it. If we were raised in a culture that was better informed about what constitutes healthy eating and encouraged healthy eating habits as a matter of course, we wouldn’t have to hit bottom before seeing the light. We could take our health for granted and move on, think about other things and accomplish other things. Unfortunately, that’s not how our world is today. The common sense thinking is wrong, and we are suffering because of it.
When I regained my health, I felt like I had uncovered a great truth. I wanted to shout it from the mountaintops. I still feel that way. And I see others who feel the same way. I see it starting to enter the mainstream consciousness and it gives me hope that the common sense thinking is starting to change for the better.
I am excited to be part of this time and of this conversation. I am optimistic about the future for my son. I like to think he will be better informed than I was growing up and will be better off for it, and I’m committed to doing everything in my power to make that happen.