In April 2004, my doctor ordered a brain MRI, because I was having a lot of migraines. The MRI showed lesions in the white matter of the brain, indicative of a demyelinating disease such as multiple sclerosis (MS). She referred me to a neurologist who said that I didn’t have MS. Four days later, I was rear ended in a car accident. I had whiplash and pain in my left shoulder. After a few months of physical therapy, there was no improvement. I then had a MRI of the cervical spine, which showed lesions. And so my journey of discovery began when I was diagnosed with MS in January 2005.
When I was diagnosed with MS I felt relief to know that was the problem. When the first neurologist told me that I didn’t have MS, I didn’t feel that was right. Then a few days later I was in the car accident. I think that Heavenly Father wanted me to be diagnosed with MS. When I was diagnosed, I was thinking, what is going to happen next? Of course, I would have liked to have kept on going with a lot of energy for the next 20 years, like some people do, but that was not to be. I am OK with where I am now because of what I have learned in overcoming my challenges. I remember one person saying, “After 10 years, you will be in a wheelchair.” I am so glad that is not true!
Beginning in 2000, even before I was diagnosed with MS, I started to have gastrointestinal pain nearly daily. In 2003, my doctor ordered a scan that showed that my gallbladder was only functioning at 30% capacity. The surgeon said that my gallbladder needed to be removed, which he did, but I still had pain for years after that.
I also had tingling and numbness in my left foot off and on for years, and I had a tremor. After I was diagnosed, I noticed problems with my balance, making me trip a lot. By August 2006 I had fatigue so bad that I was not able to work anymore.
In August 2006, I got my first book on eating a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet called Original Fast Foods by James and Colleen Simmons. The authors explain all of the benefits of eating a whole food, plant-based diet, like Daniel’s diet in the Old Testament. The information in this book resonated with me. They talked about the Word of Wisdom and quoted many prophets and other Church leaders on the benefits of living the dietary guidelines in the Word of Wisdom.
After reading the book, I made some changes in my diet. I already did not eat much candy, pop, or meat, but now I started eating more fruits and vegetables and less dairy. I used to eat a lot of dairy. I had three or four canker sores nearly all of the time and yogurt and ice cream tasted good. They seemed like the only things I could eat when I had canker sores. I was surprised to see that with this small change of eating less dairy, I was getting fewer canker sores. What I thought was soothing to my sore mouth was actually the cause of the problem!
Even with these positive results, I just felt like I couldn’t go all of the way with changing my diet at that time because the medical professionals I was seeing felt that going vegan was a bad idea. They believed you can’t get the protein you need, etc. Some people can make a big change like this just from reading a book, but at that time, I felt like I needed someone to talk to, and I didn’t know anyone who ate that way in my little world.
I was ready for a mentor in July of 2009 when I found Vicki Talmage, who helped me make the transition to a WFPB diet. She taught me about the importance of deep leafy greens, kale, chard, and collard greens. I love deep leafy green salads! That summer, I decided to go completely whole food, plant-based and go off all medications. I told my neurologist, “I have tried all three of the main medications for MS, and none of them have worked. I want to stop all medications and go on a vegan diet.” He agreed with me and has been pleased that I haven’t had any relapses in the past five years.
When I told someone at church that I was going to go on a vegan diet to improve my health, he said, “You do not need to lose weight.” I reiterated that I was doing this for my health; it is a lifestyle change. I did lose 28 pounds, however. I was surprised that I could get down to what I weighed in high school and even 5 pounds less than that. I now weigh 115. I heard a doctor on the radio say that if you can do just one thing to improve your health and lose weight, that it should be exercise, and then you can diet later. I say that one thing should be a WFPB diet, because some of us have diseases or weight issues that limit us physically. Once we change to a plant-based diet, our bodies are getting the right fuel to help us exercise.
Making this change has been so worth it. It got rid of the gastrointestinal pain that I had for so long. The pain in my foot, neck, and arm is also gone. I no longer have a tremor, my balance has improved, and I can control my fatigue without medications. And as for extras…
I don’t get menstrual cramps like I used to. I don’t worry about getting canker sores when I eat anything with citrus. Cutting out the dairy stopped the inflammation that was causing me to have asthma. I have better mental clarity since I have not been taking the strong medications that are used to treat MS. And I have a clear complexion. After struggling with acne for over 20 years I now get compliments on how good my skin looks. Even my hair looks and feels healthier.
In 2011, I read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live. He does an excellent job of explaining how eating a WFPB diet will help eliminate disease. My roommate and I really like using his recipes. I have also read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. His research shows that we do not need the animal protein that we have been told is so important. There are studies that show when people migrant from an area where they eat a WFPB diet to a more Westernized civilization, and change their diets they acquire the risks of the population that they move to. MS and other autoimmune disorders have the same environmental risks as heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle trumps genetics.
I began this journey for my own health. I am so grateful for the things that I have learned that I am inspiring others to make changes also. My mom is controlling diabetes by eating a WFPB diet. My sister has also begun eating a WFPB diet. I teach classes to people who are interested in learning more about natural healing.
I want people who are contemplating making a change to a WFPB diet to know that it can be done. After you eat fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds for a little while, then you will not crave the dairy and meat that are so much a part of the Standard American Diet. It is important to have a big reason for going on a WFPB diet and to always keep that in mind when people are not supportive of your decisions.
There will always be family members and church members who are not supportive of this lifestyle, but I am grateful that a lot of my family members are supportive. In my singles ward, Church leaders are good at making sure that there are fruits and vegetables at the activities for me and others to eat who are on special diets.
My journey of discovery continues with some health issues that I am working on, and God is continually giving me “wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures” (D&C 89:19) to help with them. I feel we are blessed to have the Word of Wisdom and the scientific studies that confirm the revelation that was given to Joseph Smith over 150 years ago. As I have lived the do’s of the Word of Wisdom more fully I have felt the Spirit more, and God has blessed me with better health.
Vicki Young is 44 years old and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. She got her Bachelors degree in Community Health Education from BYU in 1996. She is an Herbalist and is finishing classes to become a Master Herbalist. She teaches others about healthy living and is starting a blog, raysofhealingut.com. She loves crocheting, going for walks, spending time with family and friends, and tending her one-year-old nephew.