This story appeared in the January 2017 issue of Powell River Living Magazine. We hope to encourage people to attend the pre-screening event of the incredible documentary Eating You Alive through these inspiring local stories! Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/239766856464311/
When Dave Kuntsi went to see his family doctor in October of 2016 his blood pressure was dangerously high, as it had been for a number of months.
“My doctor looked at me and said, ‘Do you want to go on a pill?’” The alternative, which they had discussed previously, was the possibility of a dietary overhaul – to a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) way of eating. “I decided to give it a try and I started that day.”
For two weeks Dave gave up meat, dairy, oils, candy, chips, alcohol and processed foods. He concentrated on eating as many plants as he could, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
“I lost 12 pounds in those two weeks, and when I went back to have my blood pressure tested it had gone down from 156/99 to 116/75 [normal blood pressure ranges between 90-120/60-80]. The only thing I had changed was what I was putting in my mouth – nothing else was different.”
Dave was so encouraged that he continued with the dietary changes, which he describes as a lifestyle change rather than a diet.
“My blood pressure really freaked me out,” he says. “I’m only 54, and I have a wife, kids and grandkids that I want to be around for. And I couldn’t believe the difference in how I felt generally. I used to feel crampy all the time, I’d lose my breath when I went for walks, and I always felt really tired. I had acid reflux – I was taking two Zantac a day. Now I have way more energy, no acid reflux and I’ve lost 19 pounds in two months.”
People all over North America are experiencing the benefits of a WFPB diet, and the significance of the relationship between the food we eat and chronic disease is increasingly recognized by medical professionals and the general public. People are being empowered to take control of their health by learning to cook and eat healthy foods. One of the doctors helping to inspire locals is Danielle Marentette, M.D.
“There are benefits to treating heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, rheumatologic conditions, immunological conditions with a whole-food plant-based diet,” she says. “I’ve seen improvements with all of these conditions in my patients. The concept of using diet as medicine is something people are becoming more aware of, and more interested in. The message is getting out there.”
A turning point for Danielle was attending the International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference in Los Angeles, California in the fall of 2016. “It was very convincing professionally, but it also provided a lot of practical ideas on how to help people. The conference was a big point of change for me personally, as well as professionally, because now I am equipped with more evidence that I can share with my patients.”
Dave Rusnak is another patient of Danielle’s who has decided to try a WFPB diet to help him lose weight and get control of his Type II Diabetes, as well as other health conditions. He started making changes around the beginning of November, and he has already been able to reduce his insulin dosage.
“I’m excited about it because it’s a whole new way of living and eating,” he says. “I’ve noticed my skin improving, I’m losing weight, and my blood sugars are coming down. That’s very encouraging and it keeps me motivated.”
The thing that surprised her most, Danielle says, is how quickly people start to see improvements – often within two weeks of starting. “People who dive into the change see the most benefits, but even those who make small changes notice a difference.”
Elaine Bagan is another Powell Riverite who has experienced better health by eating more plant-based foods, and she has made her changes more gradually. About eight years ago Elaine was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, and six years ago she had a stroke. Since then she has been struggling with the effects of the stroke, as well as chronic pain and inflammation. In April 2016 she came across a TV program featuring Dr. Mark Hymen, who was talking about the connection between diet and disease.
“He said, ‘the medicine is in your food, not the pills,’” Elaine remembers. “I hadn’t been thinking about diet at all at that time, but that got me really interested.” She started doing some research, and began cutting certain things out of her diet – first refined flours and sugars – and adding other things, like turmeric.
“I started to notice gradual changes, and that’s what encouraged me to investigate it further.” Over the course of several months Elaine eliminated meat and most dairy from her diet. As a result she has lost 20 pounds, has drastically reduced her insulin, her cholesterol-lowering medication, and the amount of Botox she receives for muscle pain. She has also noticed a huge improvement in her digestion. “The feeling of well-being is so prominent. It’s nothing but positive.”
While the benefits are so clear to those who have started their journey, some people think eliminating meat, dairy and refined foods is extreme. But Dave, Elaine and Dave, who say they used to be huge lovers of these foods, are finding the transition easier than they anticipated.
“The hardest thing is to change the way you’re thinking,” Elaine says. Her advice? “Think about yourself. Love yourself enough to look into it, and don’t be afraid of ‘what ifs’. Take the journey one day at a time.”
Dave Kuntsi agrees. “I’ve realized, this is up to me. You have to jump in there and try it. If you feel better, what is there to lose?”
Intrigued? Come and get inspired! On February 2 the documentary Eating You Alive is coming to Powell River for a pre-screening at the Max Cameron Theatre. This film features a number of doctors who have been working in the field of nutrition to improve the lives of their patients, and takes a scientific look at how we can use plant-based nutrition to take control of our health. See more on the event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/239766856464311/.