Vegan Diet Is Helping My Knees – Maybe

2010 has been a year of dealing with health problems for me.  I’m turning 59 next month, and this year I started feeling like I was really getting old.  For the past two years I’ve been on and off Zocor and Pravachol because my doctor wants to get my cholesterol down.  Concurrent with that I’ve been having back and leg trouble because of spinal stenosis.  I used to walk 2-3 miles a day for exercise, but now walking and standing compresses my spinal cord and makes my legs go numb.  So I’ve essentially stopped getting any good exercise except that do a lot of walking and stair climbing as part of my job – but even then, if I get too active at work my back and leg suffer.

I’ve tried the statins three times in the past two years, with each time me giving up because they make me feel like I’m sick all the time.  Plus they give me weird circulation problems that make my arms and legs go to sleep easily.  I was trying the statins again this summer because my doctor says I’m at high risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Even more of a bummer, this summer my knees started going out.  It really felt like I was getting old.  I could barely climb stairs going between floors at work, and I had to be very careful because it felt like my right knee was going to blow out on me.  I just assume this was part of getting old, maybe arthritis, because so many of my friends have bad knees.

By September 1st I had given up on the statins again.  I started reading about diets that might help with cholesterol and decided to try a vegan diet.  I’ve been a vegetarian for over forty years, so going vegan is like a health diet for vegetarians.  My doctor said if I lost weight my cholesterol numbers would go down.  So what the hell, I figure I would give it a try.

Now here’s the odd thing.  My knees have been getting better – much better.  The vegan diet can, if you choose the right foods, be an anti-inflammation diet.  Because I also quit the statins I don’t know they could have been making my knees go bad.  Two weeks after I stopped taking the drug I started feeling better in general, but I still had knee problems, and now almost four weeks after starting the vegan diet my knees feel much younger.

Can giving up eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt really have helped my knees?  I can’t say conclusively.  I’ve also been able to stop taking my diclofenac sodium anti-inflammation pills too, which is another clue that my diet is anti-inflammatory.  But I also have to consider that I’ve stopped eating so many sweets, and that might be anti-inflammatory too.

So as 2010 rushes to a close, I’m now feeling more like I did in 2008, which is reasonable good except for the spinal stenosis.  But that’s a physical problem, but one I can deal with by doing daily physical therapy exercises.

My doctor insisted I do a full checkup this week, and all the blood tests said I was doing great except for 161 LDL and 30 HDL.  I was particularly proud of my 117/68 blood pressure, which was 132/90 at my last checkup.  My doctor finally accepted I couldn’t handle statins and I told her I started the vegan diet.  Our goal is for me to get down to weighing 199 pounds in six months.  I’m at 229, down 5 pounds since I started the vegan diet about a month ago.

I already feel younger, like I’ve reversed a downhill slump in health.  That’s making me feel very positive about the diet.  Maybe if I can get down to 199 I’ll even feel younger still.  I’ll let you know.

What I’d like to know is how many things do I eat that makes me feel bad?  I have several friends that had horrible health problems until they discovered they were gluten intolerant and now they are dramatically better on a gluten free diet.  I remember back in my early 40s having painful prostrate problem that I eventually figured out was caused by the orange juice.  Decades ago I gave up caffeine because it was causing too many headaches.  And I know that wine and chocolate inflame my rosacea.  People talk all the time about good foods that make you healthy, but what are the good foods that make you unhealthy? 

JWH – 10/9/10

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