We discuss in this podcast:
- Maree was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2014 and was put on Methotrexate
- She found a doctor who suggested her to switch to a vegan diet
- The importance of drinking water
- How Maree was able to drop Methotrexate completely in two years
- Doing regular exercise
- Revive Cook cookbooks
- Having the right attitude
Clint – Today, we’re going to have some fun, my guest, Maree, is going to share the wonderful, important results of going and changing your diet when you have rheumatoid arthritis. So she has a fantastic doctor that told her right from her very first meeting that she should change her diet, and her diet is a crucial reason that she feels so well today. She has no pain, she is off all the medications that she was put on that she’ll talk about in just a second, and she is fantastic. So thanks, Maree, we look forward to hearing your story here.
Maree – Thank you, Clint.
Clint – Now, you’re just on the outskirts of Melbourne, so to speak, which is in the southern state of Victoria here in Australia. And you would have been pretty surprised to develop symptoms. Tell me, how did this begin for you?
Maree – Well, my husband and I just been on a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands and we’d been home two days. And in the evening, all this dreadful pain came over my body and I thought I’d overdone it at the gym, and so I iced and stretched my muscles, as you do when you overuse muscles and wouldn’t go away. And over two months, luckily, I worked all that time and I had to make myself get out of bed. The pain was so great, I dreaded getting out, and I couldn’t move in bed. I had to wake up and lift my limbs to move it was horrible, I don’t wish it on anybody. Eventually, I went to my doctor, who’s a beautiful lady doctor do you want her name? I tell everybody about Melissa Malkovich and she’s in the Joseph Banks clinic in Endeavour Hills, and she is excellent with people from babies through to us elderly. And she prefers changing diet to drugs, but she will do what her patients’ needs, and she is really good. And she diagnosed the blood test showed that I had severe rheumatoid arthritis, and she was surprised as well because I thought I was healthy.
Clint – Yeah. Had she been your regular practitioner up until that point, so had she’s gotten to know you?
Maree – It had seen me from January of that year. I’ve got a lovely another daughter in law, I’ve got two daughters-in-law and one is a critical care nurse. In fact, she’s in charge of a COVID ward at the moment, not the other one I told you about. And she told me to go and see Melissa just for a general check because she didn’t like the doctors I was going to meet. She said they don’t know what they, you know, help people out, which I did appreciate. And I’ve just been for a general visit and I think only say to the ones that might have been twice because I don’t normally go to the doctor except to say how I’m going.
Clint – And what diet did she suggest?
Maree – She told me and she gave me I called it her epistle, a six page, a change of diet, which was vegan. Apart from good ocean caught fish, at least twice a week, no gluten and no cane sugar. I actually changed straight away and been like that ever since, even when we’ve traveled and gone on cruises, when they had cruises, I found it really easy to follow that way of eating.
Clint – Okay, now tell me what happened next. So she said, go and eat this diet, which I’m sure coming from sort of a little bit of semirural area of Victoria and you’ve thought, hang on, I’ve got to eliminate all of these, meat and dairy products and so forth. You’ve started doing that, but she also sent you to a rheumatologist. You’ve put me in notes.
Maree – She did. I was diagnosed like December 2014, the rheumatologist don’t work during January, so I didn’t have an appointment until early February. And then when I saw that nice young lady, she put me on methotrexate, which I dutifully went on. And my second visit to her, I asked her she had a timeline to get me off the drugs. My medical practitioner had prescribed cortisone and she’d given me a timeline what to do to go off that as my inflammation factors, lowered, which I was doing. But the rheumatologist said that she didn’t have a timeline for me to go off the drugs. And I said, well, I think outside the square because I’m (inaudible). And I told what my doctor who’d sent me to her had told me. And over time, as my inflammation factors did go down because you have regular blood tests, she lowered the methotrexate. And then in December, when was that in 16 on the was actually the 20th of December 2016, last century. She said, would you like to go off the methotrexate? And I said, Yey! So on that date from that date, I haven’t had any drugs whatsoever, but I’ve maintained the diet and I drink lots of water, that’s really important. I love warm water and warm water and lemon and I know it’s not good for me, but most days I do have one coffee, I allow myself a treat.
Clint – But when you’re eating so well, the odd little cheat here and there isn’t catastrophic and it’s not cumulative. So yeah, if you’re eating.
Maree – Junky stuff all the time, I know. And all my friends know me, and when we were allowed out because we’re not allowed out at the moment, when we were allowed at quite a few friends, we’d rotate around our houses and they would always provide gluten free, sugar free vegan, delicious meals for me that they would make. They’re really nice and supportive not bring your own food.
Clint – How important do you think it was that your first doctor that you saw was Melissa?
Maree – I think that was vital. I have always thought that we are what we eat. And another thing which I haven’t mentioned, I heard on the radio that there was a free online course called Food as Medicine from Monash. This was in 16 and I did that for three weeks, and that was fascinating. And they went through the history of foods that were used for medication and how science fused them these days, a lot of very valid. And it was a very interesting course. You had to spend about ten hours each week whenever you wanted to on the computer, Twenty four hours a day because it was an online course, and I’ve still got all the notes for that, and that’s great, but that was excellent. I learned a lot from that, too.
Clint – Hmm. So let me just see what I understood here and then I can get some questions for you. So you diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis on the 5th of December 2014. You’ve gone to see a doctor who said you need to instantly go vegan and you’re allowed to have some fish a few times a week. And you have embraced that and immediately done that. In parallel, you’ve started methotrexate with the rheumatologist and ask them, when can I get off the drug? And they said, no, there’s no plan to get off that drug. But by sticking with the change in diet within two years, in fact, almost exactly two years later, you’re able to then come off the methotrexate and now four years later, you’re pain-free still.
Maree – Yes, I became pain free two hours after taking the cortisone. Yeah, but I didn’t want to have masked problems.
Clint – Yes. Good, good, good. OK, well, now let me bring on some questions here and then I’ll think as our audience will be thinking, I’ll try and dial in that kind of wavelength. I would say, what are you doing in terms of exercise? How are you? How active are you? And do you feel that that’s important?
Maree – It is vital, as they say, use it or lose it, it doesn’t matter what your age is, you need to exercise some vigorous. My husband and I dance, rock and roll, I walk most days.
Clint – Rock and roll?
Maree – Yes, rock and roll. We met at Rock and Roll in a class 25 years ago.
Clint – That’s awesome.
Maree – It was fun, it is still fun. And I still do, and many years ago I did learn karate and I still do sit-ups, and push-ups, and star jumps, and stretches, and they are battle unique, whatever your age doesn’t matter. And I’ve just given two granddaughters, they asked for them sheets of stretchers because one of them has got juvenile arthritis.
Clint – Oh, how old?
Maree – She’s down 19, she was diagnosed by Melissa at 18 months, just watching her walk. She’s an excellent doctor. And you know all about that.
Clint – Yes. A lot of cases that I’ve worked with, unfortunately, a lot of great outcomes. But sounds like, you know, she’s lucky to have also seen Dr. Melissa and being told at least the right stuff around the diet, which is so important.
Maree – Well, that’s the granddaughter whose mom is the critical care nurse and she goes down the drug track and so Isabel is still on methotrexate,
Maree – And that’s not, and I know that you’re treading carefully waters here, but that’s also not a criticism that might be a result of her ongoing persistent inflammation. So she’s probably just fighting on that to find some more improvements in herself in parallel, which is perfectly normal. You know, the JIA case is, gosh, they can be just so heart wrenching and complicated and challenging. So, look, whatever needs to be done needs to be done. And I just hope that she’s got very low symptoms.
Maree – Well, she’s pretty good and she’s got a full-time job. She’s a ward clerk at Dandenong Hospital and it’s been made permanent and she’s a lovely, lovely young lady. But she went to the children’s hospital and she’s now an adult at the minute when she turned 18 for her arthritis. But she may gradually go Nana’s way,
Clint – So she hasn’t yet gone totally plant based?
Maree – She’s not allowed to. She lives, see her mum, doesn’t think the wayI do. She’s beautiful, beautiful and very, very clever. I would like her to nurse me because she knows what she’s doing. She’s a very lovely person, but she just doesn’t think the way I do.
Maree – Well, you know, we’re still in the minority, worldwide I don’t know the statistics, but it’s vastly in favour of Western diet and growing trends, especially in the Middle East, an area for Western foods and stuff where we’re fighting a very, very uphill battle here. Even though consciousness is being raised in this movie’s coming out that we’re all watching like the game changers, to name just one. And it shows that plant-based is ultimately the way we need to go. But as I say, we’re still a minority. So it’s normal for there to be a slow uptake and even amongst our close relatives.
Maree – Yes, we might leave that be.
Clint – Yeah.
Maree – Yeah, and I encourage everyone that will listen, and I’ve got lots of friends who listen to be plant-based and but I find it very, very hard not to have sugar and not to have gluten, and I don’t find it a problem at all. Are you familiar with these?
Clint – Big pancakes?
Maree – No, no, no. With the Revive Cook cookbooks from the Revive Cafe in Auckland.
Clint – No.
Maree – They’re plant-based, beautiful food. Do a Google search, Jeremy Dixon, I was told about them by vegetarian friends once I was diagnosed, and I’ve got every one of his cookbooks. His first few cookbooks were vegetarian, the latest ones are all vegan. And yeah, and he’s two cafes in Auckland, a vegan.
Clint – Absolutely great.
Maree – Just walk up the hill from the ship. He started his cafes because he thought the workers needed good food for their lunch and he got so busy had to open two cafes.
Clint – Hmm. Yeah. I probably have walked right past it, because when I used to be performing on the cruise ships doing stand up comedy, I. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. 20 years I’ve been doing stand up, although it’s been nearly a year since I’ve performed because of the whole you know, no one’s allowed to gather in groups at comedy clubs. Yeah, but I used to do the South Pacific Trek all the time and you’d go out to New Caledonia and Vanuatu and all the Pacific islands and then we’d end up in Auckland and so you’d get off the boat in Auckland and sure enough.
Maree – Yeah, in a side street. It was round the back.
Clint – Yeah, I’ll have to check out Jeremy’s work and maybe if he’s got some great books, maybe interview him,
Maree – He’d love that. He’s actually been a few years ago we went to America because he wants us to do a quick plant based meals. And he’s got two books which are already also bought on plant based meals put American television.
Clint – Yeah, because so many people are always asking for more recipes because when the food, we just want to make the food taste as great as possible. Why not turn it into delicious.
Maree – Eat it.
Clint – So let me pick your brain for a couple more tips. Do you have any other words of wisdom that you’d like to impart on family members about getting healthy, or are there things that you think beyond the diet and beyond the exercise? What else would you say is really important to regain health?
Maree – Attitude, and not worrying about others picking at you because you’re different and that’s sometimes hard because if your friends are like that, they’re not your friends, they need to support you in what you’re trying to do, in my humble opinion. But it is very important what you put in your mouth and eat. But planning is also vital, you need to plan out and make sure you have in the cupboard only the things you should have. I do keep sugar for the few friends who have to have sugar in their tea and coffee. But I just have things that I should have, but my husband still likes meat occasionally, but he will eat whatever I give him. He’s very good.
Clint – Something that jumps out is having a good, having an optimism or a lightness, you have such a light and optimistic and just chirpy kind of personality. Have you found that just, looking on the bright side of life sort of thing is also important?
Maree – I think it’s vital, because if you’re always poor me, and we all have our poor me moments, but it’s how you handle them. And not take them to heart and move on from them. And I taught school for 57 years and when I said I wasn’t going to come anymore. One little boy said to me, why not? You’re so nice. That was really flattering.
Clint – Isn’t that beautiful? That the little.
Maree – Thought of it, it’s a little boy.
Clint – But why not? You’re so nice. Oh, that’s beautiful.
Clint – Yeah, isn’t it funny the sort of things that really stick with us? I mean, so you’re talking about one. I mean, think of the vast tens of thousands of things that kids would have said to you over the years. And the big take away is when you said you’re leaving a little fellow saying, yeah, but you’re so nice. I mean, isn’t that just wonderful?
Maree – (inaudible) yeah. Well, as you can tell, I talk a lot, but I like to explain why to the students and reasons to do things. You know, one, we done this and they need to know why, and I like to know why.
Clint – Right. So what did you say when they said, why are you leaving it so nice? What did you say?
Maree – I just sort of I just thanked him for his nice comment, I didn’t elaborate. I told them that I was well, I’d actually. And one son had asked me to do school runs and I was doing school runs and also working, and I was getting a little tired because that’s a bit much. So I just went down to school runs. But as I said, I’ve been working for fifty-seven years.
Clint – You deserve to have a few days off, that’s for sure.
Maree – Yeah. When you get sick of doing nothing. Yeah.
Clint – Yeah, Okay. Wonderful. So we’ve got to have the right attitude. You’ve got to plan the meals so that you’re organized so you don’t get caught up.
Maree – Shop appropriately. Yeah. You must do that.
Clint – Yeah. Shop appropriately. Make sure the cupboards are only stocked with things that are healthy because it’s all too easy when you’re hunger is louder than the brain.
Maree – And my lovely Melissa told me to have my hands full because everybody’s body’s different size of good nuts like Brazil almond Walnut and macadamia it’s not too bad. Yeah, but a handful of good nuts a day as a snack and that’s good. And then a few dates occasionally.
Clint – Yeah, the dates. Yeah. Okay. Well, she sounds like a good doctor, and it’s such a blessing that you saw her first as we talked about any other words of wisdom for us before we close it up?
Maree – No diet, exercise, altitude, and making sure that it even if you don’t feel like exercise and diet and whatever, just make sure you do it, because once you do, you’re so placed (inaudible).
Clint – Yeah.
Clint – And you’ve done fantastically with your history as well, I’ve read all your history, and I was given people at church and my niece in Brisbane both sent me your article in the new idea many years ago when it came out. That’s how I learned about your travels and your struggles. And I have also bought all of your information, which I use. And I must read it all again because you forget. (inaudible) I forget some of the because a lot of it’s based on scientific evidence and sometimes I forget how that came about. I’m like, I’m going to find which study that came from. And then I have to look at it and there it’s there. So but you know, we do forget. Yeah, yeah.
Maree – It’s a normal for most of us. Some people seem to remember everything.
Clint – Well, frankly, I think, you know, I think we’ve we’ve really we’ve succinctly captured what’s important to all of us, and it’s to have a great attitude and it’s to move our bodies and it’s to eat the right food and not just good food, but the right food. Because when we’re immunocompromised, we can’t be taken on, you know, hard to digest foods, inflammatory foods, allergenic foods, acid-forming foods. And we’ve got to we need a healing diet. And that is a simple plant-based diet.
Maree – Mainly alkaline forming foods in the body.
Clint – That’s right. That’s right.
Maree – That’s another area.
Clint – And another subtle message that I’ve picked up from you and I just want to highlight, you also didn’t go on any counterproductive drugs because your prednisone or prednisolone, I think you had tapered was for only a six month period, which is still a long period to be on the steroid. But the plan was from the start to get off it. Right? And so and then you went on methotrexate, which is a well trodden path without counterproductive gut issues, long term, at least as far as I’ve been able to tell over the years and in my own experience. And so, you know, there’s a subtlety here I wanted to capture as well. You didn’t get on to something that prevented your body from responding positively, and that’s crucial. So the prednisone wasn’t four year upon year. Six months, as I say, is still a quite long time. And it will make me feel a little uncomfortable. But you got off it and that was crucial. The fact that you changed your diet at the same time probably negated a lot of the negative effects. So it was a great, great overall rolling out of a plan.
Maree – Very lucky. But I’ve always believed you are what you eat and I also know that everybody’s body is different and how we handle different foods, people are different in that way as well. So all sorts of reasons. And my husband’s now for about 10 years he’s celiac because he ate too much pizza, pasta and beer as a young man. And his body said, how do I like all this? That so I was used to being gluten free and sugar free. That was other things, apparently.
Clint – Well, you’ve worked it out and keep up all the wonderful things that you’re doing, because, once we have this predisposition to develop inflammation, we got to be super careful because it’s like a little more than if we throw petrol on it we can fire up really quickly. So we want to go to keep doing what you’re doing, never get too complacent and always, keep being disciplined.
Maree – Yes, and you’ve done fantastically to may I praise you as well, and you’ve helped so many people and I think that needs to be applauded.
Clint – Oh, thank you, Maree. That’s very kind of you. And thank you for sharing today. I’m going to wrap it up there and say congratulations once again. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up and hopefully, I’ll see you one day when all these restrictions across the world are lifted and I get back out on the road again and put on some presentations and be able to meet you. We’re in Sydney at the moment. We moved back from Florida once the pandemic went into crazy proportions in Florida.
Clint – Yeah, because I thought you that you went to Hawaii one stage to where we never lived there, but we’ve spent some time there and we’re not sure what about our future plans? Because we’re all, you know, US, you know, residents or whatever. So we’re trying to work out if and when we’ll be able to get back there and so on.
Maree – I’ve got a nephew living in Houston. He’s a pilot that they’ve been there for nearly three years, and he and his wife and their twin boys. That would be American now.
Clint – All right. I’m going to let you go, Maree. Thank you so much once again, and keep up the wonderful work.
Maree – And you too. All the best.