We discuss in this interview:
- Kate’s struggle, and success, during 18 years with psoriatic arthritis
- How Kate is now pain free and off medications with a plant-based diet
- How Dr. Shireen Kassam’s published on Kate’s story of Psoriatic Arthritis management with a plant-based diet
- The benefits and implications of single case studies like this
- The side effects of Methotrexate
- Different paths for going off medications
- How social media can become powerful tools
- The importance of support from our partners
Plant-Based Health Professionals UK is a community interest company and membership organisation that provides evidence-based education on plant-based diets. Membership is open to everyone, not just health professionals. Most of our resources however are free, including factsheets and fortnightly webinars
Plant Based Health Online cofounded by Dr Laura Freeman and Dr Shireen Kassam, is the UK’s first regulated, online lifestyle medicine healthcare service where people can book an appointment with a GP, dietitian, nutritionist or health coach to support them in making healthy lifestyle changes, including adopting a plant-based diet. You can book a free inquiry call here.
Clint – Welcome and thank you for joining me today. What a treat we have today for you, we have got two guests on this episode and I am going to explain how they came about in a short story before we hear from them. So the beauties of Instagram, I was browsing through my feed the other day and I follow Plant-based Professionals UK, and it is headed up by Dr. Shireen Kassam, who is one of our guests today. On that feed she posted about a brand new scientific paper that she had published, and I had a look at that because it had the title of plant-based and Psoriatic Arthritis of course, that’s my world. I looked at that and found it’s a case study about a woman called Kate who had severe psoriatic arthritis, was on methotrexate, all the typical symptoms, and is now pain free following a plant based diet and off medication. These are the sort of things that we hear about on this podcast a lot but they don’t end up in the scientific literature. They don’t get published so that the medical community can get their hands on it, hopefully, and also know what we know about the effects of lifestyle changes on Psoriatic Arthritis and other inflammatory arthritic conditions. Here they are today, our two guests, Kate, the feature of this scientific publication, and Dr. Kassam. I’d like to welcome both of you to the call.
Kate – Thank you for inviting us.
Clint – Thank you both. It’s 7 :00 a.m. in the morning there, I know we’ve doing this early with time zone differences. Why don’t we start with how you guys came to meet? Because, Dr. Kassam, you don’t work closely with Psoriatic Arthritis or inflammatory arthritis conditions. So how did this meeting of minds come about?
Dr. Kassam – Thanks, Clint. Thanks again for having us on, it’s an absolute pleasure. As you said, this isn’t my area of specialty. I’m a cancer doctor, I look after people with lymphoma here in the U.K. But back in 2013, I adopted a plant based diet for all the reasons people do health, environment, animals, and I came across the wealth of scientific information supporting a plant based diet for preventing chronic disease and sometimes even treating chronic diseases. Then I kind of looked around the UK and I was thinking, gosh, nobody really is talking about this. There other people like me who’ve been wowed by this information, so I decided to organize the UK’s first medical conference on plant based nutrition, and I’d set a date March 2018 to sort of, out to myself as a plant based health professional. As you said, social media is the most phenomenal tool at times, and somehow Kate came across the advert for the conference and whizzed herself down from all the way from Norfolk to London. In one of the breaks, she came to find me and was like, Shireen, I’ve been using plant based diet for my psoriatic arthritis and I’m off my medications. I thought this is just the reason why I’m doing this, because there’s such inspiring stories Then kind of one thing led to another, we were invited to do a similar conference in Glasgow, and each of the events I’ve done, I’ve always highlighted a patient’s story because, that’s why we’re here as physicians and clinicians to help people heal. Often, it’s the patients that tell you about what’s made them better, it’s not really like reading papers. I invited Kate to tell her story in Glasgow, from there we became friends, and I invited her to be a patient advocate for my community interest company called Plant Based Health Professionals UK. here in the UK.
Clint – Okay, sensational. And then along with that sequence of getting to know each other and building the relationship, at one point you said, why don’t we also put this forward to a scientific paper in a medical journal. Now, I was fortunate enough to co-author a scientific paper when I was 21 with some research that I did on, of all things, copper vapor lasers at the university. I know that it’s a process of trying to get these papers approved. It’s not like, hey, here it is going publish my paper. Can you walk us through the steps involved with getting this published, and also have you got others in the pipeline? And what channels exist for those of us like me who have wonderful stories like Kate’s, who would like to sort of go down this avenue?
The Scientific Paper
Dr. Kassam – I know it’s a great question, and it’s been on my long list to do for a while, and I’m so pleased that we’ve started. I’m following on the shoulders of the greats of people like Dr. Bernard, who really make an effort to inform the health professional community. There’s a lack of sort of lifestyle related publications from the UK, I think. I mean, people aren’t writing these things up. But I guess we have to realize that publishing case reports, a single N=1 is challenging the probably the right reasons because it just shows a story and it’s not the greatest strength of evidence. We want hundreds of people all doing what Kate did and to demonstrate a change or effective treatment for a condition. Having said that, clearly the key thing is to identify a good story and a good case, and luckily, Kate had kept all her blood results or the timings of her medication changes. We’ll hear that it’s such a long story having that from over ten years of story of diagnosis and then healing is quite an unusual situation. I knew I had a good story and I was pleasantly surprised because, as you know, the movement of lifestyle medicine or the specialty of lifestyle medicine has really come into its own in the last five years. As many people like myself around the world and now in the U.K. who are really using lifestyle as a tool in their clinical practice. With that has come journals that really recognize the power of lifestyle medicine and plant based nutrition, and of course, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine is just one of those organizations and this is that journal that we published. We were actually quite pleasantly surprised that they actually recognized the novelty and the usefulness of this story, because there isn’t much out there. When you put into the medical literature search fields psoriatic arthritis and plant based diet, it’s not much comes up at the moment. It was novel, it had a good long story, and the key is choosing a journal that’s sort of sympathetic to the version of the publication.
Clint – Yes. Fascinating. Okay, well, thank you for that. It’s a topic that I’d love to talk with you a bit more about, maybe offline, because there are going to be people watching this that say, I’ve kept all my blood work, I’ve done great things. Maybe my story could not be recognized for any desire for accolades or for recognition. But just to support the case that we are all making, which is this community needs a greater presence within the medical journals.
Dr. Kassam – Agreed, I think that’s the only way we’re going to educate other health professionals, show them the data, have it published in peer reviewed journal, and then there’s just no argument.
Clint – That’s right, and if that’s where the eyeballs are within the medical community, that’s where we need to be seen. Thank you as a team, let’s now hear about what you’ve been through Kate, and, let’s take you back, could you to when this began. I’ve been through the abstract and some of the highlights of my special privileged printed copy of this journal paper. But I’d like you to share with our audience what you were going through, how bad this was, and paint that picture for us.
Kate – OK, thank you, Clint. Yeah. It goes back quite a long way, I can’t believe how long ago it is now. It’ll be 18 years this summer when I first became ill. But actually going back before that I think I might’ve had some rumblings before I had like bad backs and things, but they kind of got better. Like 18 years ago, I was a teacher, I was probably not eating very well, I was very stressed. I remember one day I was running across the field with the kids, we were practicing for sports day, and all of a sudden I felt my back go the lower spine. I thought, oh, I’m getting it backache again, okay, never mind. Over the next few days, it just got worse and it didn’t get better, so I took a few days off, and then my foot kind of went like and the doctor said, oh, you’ve got gout, and I thought gout that’s really odd. Then after that I kind of knelt down to clean the floor, and I felt something in my knees coming just popped. I kind of stood up and looked down and it just swelled up like, like in a cartoon. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced that but it was just freaky. It didn’t hurt, I was just like, what’s going on? And then I was put on some inflammatories and things like that, but for some reason, my disease, it just kind of went into overdrive over the summer. More and more joints started becoming inflamed, I had, like my neck, took my back, my feet, my shoulders, my knees just all became very tender and inflamed. I spent most of the summer in bed and it’s like my heels propped up unable to move. I guess you’ve been there, you’re so sore you can’t even move in bed, you can’t turn over. It was just, agony and, you know, pin stepping to the loo taking ages, it was just horrible.
Kate – By the end of the summer, I was kind of able to walk very slowly and stupidly I don’t know why I did it, but I went back to school on the first morning and my legs were like they were like barrage balloons. I lost so much weight as well, I was I was never large, but I lost weight. I was like this skinny thing with these massive legs, and I was teaching small kids that were sitting on the carpet. I was practically tripping over them because I could hardly walk. By that first break time, I was just an absolute mess, I was in tears, and the secretary said to me, for goodness sake Kate, why don’t you go private? Because my doctor for some unknown reason, had not wanted to send me to a rheumatologist or some sort of specialist. So I did, and I got an appointment the next day I got started on methotrexate and was given steroid injections into my shoulder and knee and all that. I was wheeled out in a wheelchair and went home. That was how it kind of started, and then it kind of took a long time, a long time over a year. The methotrexate worked thank goodness, and I’m so grateful for the medication, really. But over that, the disease kind of calmed down a bit, the exhaustion you get from it you kind of think, oh, I’ll just do this one thing and then, you kind of become so tired and that’s it you’re finished, aren’t you, for the day, you can’t do anything else. That gradually got better. I remember as I got better I was eating things, and I don’t know if it made things a bit worse or something or and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it because sometimes it would be like almost like 20 minutes later after eating something, or it might be a couple of days, I’m just thinking, oh, it’s something that I’m eating, making me feel worse.
Kate – Going back to the doctor. I mentioned this to him and lovely man, he said food has got nothing to do with it, andI thought, I’m not 100% sure, but OK, I’ll just put that on the back of my head. Anyway, I got referred to another doctor and he had a rheumatology nurse, and I saw her one day and I mentioned to her, this is, I don’t know, maybe a year or so later. I said, look, I don’t know if maybe my something I’m eating is is triggering this?And she said to me, well, some people do find that eating peppers or tomatoes or something like that, can make them feel worse. Why don’t you try an elimination diet? So I did, and you go back to, like, just eating apples and rice and things like that, don’t you? And then bringing things in slowly. I found that I could tolerate chicken and fish, but just bear in mind I was on all those drugs so dumping things down. Cheese, eggs, red meats, apricots, various things actually seemed to make my condition worse.
Kate – In the meantime, I started Googling diet and trying to find out was there anything behind this? I didn’t know where to look, to find any inflammation, but I came across (inaudible) new scientist as well, and I came across Karolinska Institute. I don’t know when that happened, but there was at some point I came across this vegan diet and rheumatoid arthritis, looking at several patients. Put them on a vegan diet and some of them found a benefit, and I came across the vegan society and I realized that I didn’t like what I saw about how we treat animals and the impact on the climate, and the planet. So I went vegan, really, for ethical reasons and that was how I stayed for quite some time. But it kind of helped damp down the condition, I managed to drop my medications to about half of what I’ve been on, and mostly I was okay. That’s the beginning of my story really Clint.
Clint – Lot of interesting things that overlap with other people’s experience. Methotrexate gave you great fatigue. I was a walking zombie, just exhausted so much like I was just found it so challenging. Also, you mentioned how you found information by Googling rheumatoid arthritis. Psoriatic Arthritis tends to be a little more overlooked than rheumatoid arthritis. The diagnosis rate is less, the research is less. You went down the path that most people with psoriatic arthritis do and follow clues that are left by rheumatoid arthritis studies, and rheumatoid arthritis recovery examples and so forth. Which by the way, draws me to another point back then, as we spoke about in the few moments before we went live here, there was no podcast where you could listen to success stories each week. I’m on a similar era to you, you were 2003, I’m 2006. We were blind like those of us in that era, and earlier at least, we had the Internet, we had some Internet right to work with. But, at least we didn’t go down into the gold injections and all of that, which I guess you would say the decade prior and earlier than us. We were both going blind, so you went vegan in a year or a couple of years in similar to me through a big kick up the backside from my at that time vegetarian, now vegan girlfriend, now wife. These are smart decisions to make early like you also, I was in a terrible way. I was lit up like a Christmas tree everywhere, all the joints when I eventually went on methotrexate. In my case, I left it too long, I should have gone on the drug much earlier. Methotrexate also like you did not reduce my symptoms entirely. It shaved maybe 50, 60% off, but the rest remained.
Clint – So I’m curious now as we fast forward past the methotrexate introduction, your veganism, how long did it take you and what were the significant interactions that you’ve made or interventions you made to get it to the point where you felt like, hey, I can start tapering this medication?
Kate – While I was vegan, I was still getting the odd flare which I couldn’t really understand. I thought I’m on the perfect diet, but of course.
Clint – When you hear about favorite foods, you feel the world entitles you to every wish that you’ve ever asked for immediately.
Kate – You can still have your cupcakes with (inaudible) on the top, and your deep-fried doughnuts, and pies. I used to be a real pastry person. Plus, being an ethical vegan, I also started doing farmers markets, making vegan food, to kind of promote the loss of, hey, you can be vegan and you can have everything you want and you can be super healthy.
Clint – That stuff will pull you into a conflict of interest where you’re trying to run a little business. But you also feel like I’ve got to sell it, I should eat it myself.
Kate – Yes, I know. Exactly. Of course, sometimes there are a few cakes left over, hey, I better just eat those. Anyway and I was getting the old flares and Shireen knows this, but at one point I went peculiar and I left it a few days, I didn’t know what was the matter with it. And I went and I got stuff for dry eyes, and my husband looked at me. By the way I have to say, my husband’s wonderful. He supported me throughout he has come along with me, amazing. I wish everybody had to have the support like that. My husband said, your eyes looks like a dead fish eye go to the doctor for goodness sake. So I went to the doctor, and the doctor took one look at it and just rang the hospital. And he said, you must see this woman now. I went in and the eye specialist, and he looked at it and he said, well, you’ve got iritis. I’m going to have to give you a steroid injection into your eye, and I’m sorry to say this I don’t know if I can save your sight in that eye. I was like, oh, oh, dear, OK. Thankfully, he did. I don’t know other people must have had that horrible experience, I’m sure. But I don’t wish it on anybody and nobody wants to lose their sight. I had another few episodes of this as well on my other eye, but luckily I knew what was what then, and I was told just to go straight to the hospital, get it dealt with.
Kate – I had this kind of sometimes I’d get an (inaudible) or something on and I wouldn’t know why. I had no idea why I wasn’t drinking alcohol at this point, I’d given that up because I knew that didn’t help there was a definite link there. Over the years, like you I was looking everywhere to find some sort of evidence as to what was going on, and I found that stuff about the gut microbiome as well. Anyway, I think about four years ago, you must have been there we have (inaudible). I went along with my daughter and was having a great time, all this lovely free cheese and stuff. In the meantime just before that I started running just a little bit. I’m very lucky we live by the beach here, very gingerly wearing my like my sandals or Whaley’s with my dog because I was feeling very unfair. I sit in front of the computer all day long now and I just sort of got to do something, but I thought I have to be so careful of my joints, I can’t damage them so I was really careful just a tiny bit, you know. When I first started everything was wrong, all the tendons are wrong and I could not put three steps together in a run. At first, there was a vegan runner stall and I guess I had never heard of them and I thought, oh well that’s not me.
Clint – Vegans can run?
Kate – Yes, I know. And I just said, I never knew vegan runners existed. I wish I could run, but I can’t. I did a tiny little thing in the morning, it’s not really running. And she went, oh, why can’t run? Well, I’ve got this condition, I got psoriatic arthritis and so I have to be very careful. She said well I had got rheumatoid arthritis but I’m now I’ve gone wholefood Feighan and now I run marathons.
Clint – This is the record scratches and go what? Say that again.
Kate – And I said, you’re on all your medications though, and she went, oh no, I stopped taking them 10 years ago. I was just like, I burst into tears, I was just like shocked. She said why don’t you try it? And I thought, yeah, I don’t know what it is.
Clint – disclaimer looks (inaudible). Anyway Look, this is what she told you to do, didn’t she?
Kate – This is what she told me to do.
Clint – What happened?
Kate – I went home and I thought, well, I’ve got to find out what it is, and even then, it was quite hard to find out what whole-food vegan is, what do you eat? What don’t you do? Do you eat salt? Can you have oil? Well, you don’t cook in oil. Everything starts off with fried onions now. It took me like a month or so and I thought, you know, I can’t put my husband through all this, he’s got his repertoire of lovely vegan dishes that he likes to do I can’t put him through this. Then I just thought, I really just got to try this, and I said to him, look, you don’t have to do this with me. But I really must try and see if it works. He said, look, I’ll do it with you. The first couple of weeks, it’s like I didn’t really know what I was doing, and things tastes tasted rather bland. I thought I’m going to keep on it, and things started tasting better. I suppose I kind of got more into it, and then after I don’t know, is it 3 months or so I thought, I just must say that I had the year before I had tried to come off my medication, my rheumatologist had said have a go. I tried chopping my meds, but I suddenly had this massive flare up. My joints, my skin started erupting on the coming really sore, and I got very frightened and thought, oh no, my eyes are going to be next, and I had to rapidly go back on to my medication. Then after that, I went back to see him and he said, that’s probably it, I’m afraid you are going to be on your medication for life more than likely.
Kate – At this point, after having been wholefood vegan for like three months or so, there I try and drop my meds very, very slowly. I think I was probably on about 4 tablets of methotrexate, 2.5 Micrograms each. So like every couple of months I drop the tablet until I was down to one tablet, and then every few weeks I shaved like a quarter of a tablet off like three quarters, then a half, then a quarter again and then that’s it. Today is actually the third year mediversary of being off all my medications for three years. I came off those meds and I was expecting to feel something. I felt nothing and my joints were fine. So that is how I got off my meds.
Clint – Yes, it’s interesting how people get off meds. Everyone’s really leaning in for this moment. Mine, which I haven’t told for years I think on this show, but I was on 15 mg, having come down from 25 to, 22.5 to, 27.5 and, 15 over a period of maybe eight, nine, ten months. And then I left my tablet container in the US by absolute mistake or whatever you want to call it, fate. I came back to Australia realized a week later because I was due. I guess I took it just before we go on the plane and, then I’ve left it out and forgot to bring it. I got back here and that was a week later and I realized. Oh, I’m due and I haven’t got it. Okay, so we phoned and made a phone call to my mother-in-law who was staying with us and she said she’ll send it. So she takes a few days, put it in the mail and it takes three weeks to get here, and then it arrives. And then I think, well, I’ll get on my date as I’ll get on the Monday that I used to be, that’s a month. And I felt nothing or felt no different after a month. And then curiosity kicked in a bit of boldness, I guess I saw my rheumatologist even maybe and said, look, I left it in the States. I can’t remember those details just in there, but I never took it again and felt absolutely nothing except more energy. I felt nothing in my joints. Now again, disclaimer, this is not the classic approach in doing this, that’s just my story and that’s the truth. My plan had been to taper more sensibly and conventionally, but that’s the truth as to what happened in my case. Well, that’s fascinating.
Clint – First of all, how does it feel to be able to say that?
Kate – Astounding, It really kind of astounding, probably feels astounding to you. I mean just from the difference, I feel very grateful. Isn’t life strange and amazing, actually? And I feel so grateful that there are wonderful people like Shireen, who are promoting this way of eating that is so helpful and you’re getting all the good things. You’re feeding your microbiome and none of the bad things that probably helped contribute to being sick in the first place. I feel like you and I feel younger, how about you clint? I feel younger than when I was in my 20’s, I was energized, positive, and I’m a woman who’s passed the menopause age. I feel like there are so many possibilities in it.
Clint – Right. But I’m going to ask you a few more details about what you now need in a minute based on what’s in the actual publication. But before I do, I’m going to switch over to Dr. Kassam and I want to ask her, how does it feel to hear Kate’s story? I know it’s not the first time for you, but how does it feel hearing it fresh now again, knowing that you’re in a medical professional role and food has played the biggest part in Kate’s success, despite the very best of the medical offerings. I mean, how does that juxtaposition sit with you and what does it make you feel like on the inside?
Dr. Kassam – It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because, as you say, coming from the conventional background, you talked about the medications. I know all about methotrexate, we use it for cancer as well. I mean, it continues to be inspiring and it’s the reason that we’re here. And I think it makes you humble, doesn’t it? To know that there isn’t just one way. And I think sometimes the way our training is doctors can be so sort of narrow-minded and not open to other possibilities if there aren’t 100 papers supporting it. And I think we forget that all of these hypotheses about whether it is medication or lifestyle interventions always stem from a single case. The single case that has shown that it is possible and it gives hope, doesn’t it? It gives hope that more of these illnesses can be approached through a lifestyle medicine approach, essentially, and we know that’s true. And I think that’s what’s really inspiring and that it’s not just arthritis that we can help, we can also help cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. If people are open to it and doctors are open to using lifestyle as medicine the possibilities are enormous. So I think on one level, it’s hugely inspiring I think it also brings a little bit of sort of frustration and sadness. Because I sit in the medical world and I’m surrounded by my colleagues who don’t think like me and I’m in a specialty where it’s not so relevant. I can’t suggest to my lymphoma patients that your lymphoma will get better if you go on a whole food plant based diet. It’ll help a lot of things, but not not the primary illness per se. But I just think the medical track has got down and the molecular DNA removed in it is just sort of on this one track path that it doesn’t see the whole. It’s like Colin Campbell talks about a reductionist view of nutrition, I think medicines become very reductionist. We are talking and investigating DNA, proteins and, molecules when actually if we looked at the big picture, if we looked at the person in her or his entirety, we would find just by sequencing the DNA we’re not going to really be able to impact chronic illness in the way we hope to. And I like of course, I hope I’m wrong, but that’s just kind of how I feel. I feel like we just become so narrow and it’s really all molecular biology. And it doesn’t it doesn’t help the entire person. It might get rid of that bit of cancer temporarily, but it doesn’t help their heart disease and type two diabetes. And it makes them feel better in the true sense of feeling well and healthy.
Clint – Excellent. And we’ll come back to you in just a second, Kate. But I just want to stay for a moment and say, have there been other case studies like Kate’s with other conditions? Just bullet point for us that have spoken at some of your events with some of the different conditions they may have improved a lot.
Dr. Kassam – Absolutely. And actually, we collect our stories from our members and supporters and they’re on the website. And we’ve got a mixture of classic ones of people reversing their high blood pressure, their high cholesterol, and those are the simple ones, right? We’ve got an orthopedic surgeon, Reggie (inaudible), who reversed his type II diabetes. And we’ve even got my husband to have a lockdown he has lost 2 stones, reduced his blood pressure, and, got (Inaudible) again. Actually, at my very first conference, we actually featured Iida, who’s one of your program graduates and author of, a Kitchen Fairytale.
Clint – What a woman, we love her and she’s become a family friend.
Dr. Kassam – We’ve got also stories of multiple sclerosis. And I have to say, I guess spoiler alert, we’re hoping to write up some of the MS cases because I think that is one of the areas that are not really spoken about. Somehow we have got a number of members who are using food to control and heal their multiple sclerosis. So I think I could probably name every illness that comes into a clinic room, to be honest. And the early stages of prostate cancer being stabilized a bit like the Dean Ornish publication. So it’s all out there and I think we’ve just helped to give the UK patients and individuals a little bit of a platform and, by which they can talk about this and not feel sort of ostracized from the health care professional community, essentially.
Clint – Most definitely. And you’ve got some sensational members in your professional network. Gastroenterologist Dr. Alan Desmond was recently on our podcast and what a great guy. I met him actually at the Doctor’s For Nutrition Conference in Australia that I hosted about two years ago. He flew from the U.K. this is pre-pandemic and, he spoke about Crohn’s disease and inflammation of the colon. He totally grabbed my attention because I thought I got to get him on the show to talk about this topic because it’s so integral to autoimmunity, and he was fabulous. Under normal conditions, we were speaking of talking about coming over and giving a presentation and so forth. And when the world returns to normal, perhaps we can do that and I can meet you in person, both of you. And so whilst I have you, you started Plant based Health Professionals UK. You’re also on the International Advisory Council for the Doctors for Nutrition based out of Australia. Your work on building this plant based movement is tremendous. You’ve got this fire in your belly about this. Where’s it coming from? Is it a natural inclination to want to help people or is it frustration with what to you and us seems so obvious that’s being overlooked?
Dr. Kassam – Thank you, Clint, and thanks for the kind words, I think it’s people like yourself and Kate who continue to inspire on a weekly basis. People are reaching out saying, I’ve got better from this, I’ve done this, or can you help me? I can’t find a health professional to see, so it’s that. But it’s also understanding the data, the strength of the scientific data, and thinking, well, in my professional capacity as a doctor, it’s my duty to be telling people about this. Right? If we’re not doing it, who is doing it? And there was that gap and obviously, there are other amazing organizations around the world. The world is so small now that immediately I put out the advert for our conference. Lucy Stagley, who you know well, founded or was a co-founder of the Australian group. She reached out on Facebook and I was like, oh, she was invited to connect. And if you want some help and advice by events, I said yes it’s just like everyone is. So the community is so open and sharing and so we connected worldwide. Now, as you say, people are recognizing what we’re doing in the UK and building the movement globally.
Dr. Kassam – We started with purely education, and that was to bring together people like Dr. Alan Desmond, Dr. Gemma Newman, Laura, and people who are working in isolation or who have discovered this themselves but didn’t really have a community. So that’s kind of what our first conference did, it brought people like Dr. Alan to the stage, and that’s how they got connected with the international community as well. So it brings us together as professionals, educating ourselves and our fellow professionals. Then our second step this year, which has been really exciting, is that myself and my colleague, Dr. Laura Freeman, who’s a GP and a lifestyle medicine physician, have actually launched a lifestyle medicine health care service, which is called Plant based Health Online. And it sort of is what it says on the internet of virtual or like an Internet-based consultation platform. Whereby people can book appointments with a lifestyle medicine physician, or a dietician, or a nutritionist, or a health coach who will support people like Kate, who did not have that support around her to hopefully get to the place where Kate is a little bit quicker. If people are open to using diet and lifestyle, we are there to support them through that journey. And of course, at the moment it is a paid service. And I know that’s a barrier, but we’re set up as a non-profit. So any profit will go back into supporting, or bringing down the price and hopefully offering free appointments to those that can’t manage to pay. And clearly, we want our national health service to recognise the efficacy of it. But the reality is until you provide some UK based data to support what you’re doing, nobody’s really interested. So we just need to get to those next steps. But we’ve launched and we’ve got patients coming through and hopefully, it won’t be long until we’ve just shown the power of lifestyle medicine. So that’s really exciting that you can actually book an appointment with our plant based health professional now.
Clint – Oh, it’s tremendous. We’ve got this leaning forward is pricked kind of situation. There are so many people around the world who don’t have access to any kind of medical professional that they’d like to see who understands the importance of nutrition. And it is going in that direction due to the awesome work of folks like yourself. But generally speaking, a rheumatologist may not have the same level or view of a 360-degree path forward as say, someone who is trained in that area.
Dr. Kassam – I agree, but I think you and Kate also raised really important issues that are worth reiterating and it’s not either-or, it’s usually both. We need the medications when you’re in such an extreme situation and then once you’re in remission, alongside the lifestyle interventions, you may be able to then start reducing medication. So we work alongside primary and secondary care, it’s not like sort of either or saying that one’s wrong or one’s right. So it’s giving people other options, which are heavily based on scientific evidence to support them and achieve the best health they can.
Clint – Thank you for that clarification. It was a point that I was going to make earlier in it. And another thought took priority, so thank you. And yes, with these conditions that are so challenging, so debilitating, and so destructive. Hitting it from all angles as early as possible, getting your diet right, going on a suitable medication that isn’t counterproductive to gut health, getting an exercise habit, getting sleep and stress reduction sorted, potentially taking some supplements that are supported by the literature, and maybe a good probiotic can be helpful. Things like this, but it is a complete approach for what is an incredibly difficult disease. I’ve had a podcast I did some months ago called Diet Alone is Not Enough. We very much respectful of the absolute need for pharmaceutical accessibility for most cases, in most instances. And with conditions like Kate, where she’s been able to apply years and years of dedication to her health, has been able to get to a point where the inflammation is so subtle that the medication isn’t required. So thank you for making that point.
Clint – I know people are going to want to contact you or your organization to say, I’d like to book a second opinion telehealth or maybe use your services for their primary care. How do they do so?
Dr. Kassam – So in terms of being a member of the Plant Based Health Community, say Plant Based Health Online is a clinical service, and that’s just for a website, plantbasedhealthonline.com And I’m sure you’ll put it in your show notes, we also are all over social media. And then just for information and education, so many of our resources and in fact, made accessible by Kate because I didn’t know she was an awesome graphic designer as well. We’ve got loads of free downloads of information that will get you started at our education site, which is plantbasedhealthprofessionals.com And again, we’re all over social media, so we’ll provide those links then. Book an appointment at plantbasedhealthonline.com, if you think we can help with free inquiry. We’ll be honest if we can or can’t, they’re there to support you.
Clint – That is wonderful. I’d also like to take the opportunity that you did mention a couple of people. You mentioned Dr. Newman and she’s been on our podcast, and actually done a live support Q&A about COVID for our rheumatoid support members. So she’s been tremendously supportive, what a wonderful woman. And of course, she’s got a new book out, I’ll link to that in the show notes as well. And also Dr. Helen, who originally told me about you first, and she heads up the Doctors for Nutrition in Australia. And Dr. Helene is such a wonderful individual with who I really enjoy speaking and working with and she’s also in Australia. What a tremendous community and it’s growing. Follow Plant Based Professional’s UK on Instagram and you’ve got a couple of 20,000 people following you now nearly or something around about that. So you’ve got a great online presence and that’s how I found out about Kate’s story. So let’s switch back to you, Kate, as we head towards the conclusion of this discussion.
Clint – Kate, I’ve noticed from the publication that you’ve got quite a lot of what I call Advanced Foods and these foods are typically high in fat content. So they’re high-calorie density foods and you’ve got some nuts. It says one portion daily of flax seeds, walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. And so my intuition is to interpret that is a portion of those as a combined nut seed mix that might only be, say, a handful or so. How good is my guess?
Kate – You’re absolutely right, Clint. I (inaudible) seeds, what you have that they’re super healthy, but I have to be really careful not to overindulge with meditation helps because I used to be a grazer. I could easily munch my way through a whole pack of nuts if I wanted to. But just like a handful, because otherwise, it does affect my joints. I do start feeling pain and I think, oh, is that all nuts I ate? So you need to be really careful.
Kate – Can I just tell you a really quick little story? When I was still doing my cooking, this is probably the last time I went to the market. I have gone wholefood vegan myself and I was off my meds. But I made some cupcakes and I made the mixture, and it was like chocolates, high fat, and loads of sugar, it was basically stupidly. I took a little taste and before I knew it, I’d eat in about two tablespoons. And I thought, oh, why did I do that? Then I carried on mixing it with the hand mixer and which must have been no more than three minutes or something. And I thought that’s done and when I put the mixer down, I found my fingers were actually locked around the handle. And I had to literally peel them up. I thought, you stupid woman, what are you talking about? I was just amazed it happened that fast and that is refined fat or refined sugar, absolute no. And I find high fat foods like nuts and things, they’re not refined, they don’t react in that way. I’m just guessing that too much fatty stuff isn’t good either. So, from what I’ve heard and what I’ve read, a handful is enough for the day.
Clint – High fat foods directly proportional to the oxidative stress that’s created in the body for everyone, regardless of rheumatoid cirrhotic, you name it. Right? So high caloric intake, or high-fat foods, it’s just linked to more oxidative stress, which with us we are very susceptible to our levels of glutathione catalyze. Our antioxidant defense systems depleted through ongoing autoimmunity, even at a little level. The autoimmune process itself generates more free radical activity, requiring more drains on our resources. And therefore, we just got to be careful if we bump up that. I’ve been through periods where I’ve been as good as gold months on end and eaten tons of nuts. And then at the moment, I’m in a period where I just have a handful a day similar to yourself. I will have Brazil nut with no cashews because I can’t get them oil free at the moment. So I’ll have like a Brazil nut, full of almonds, a couple of pistachio nuts, and a whole bunch of sprouted pumpkin seeds on my oatmeal in the morning. I’m liking that at the moment, but a handful works well if you’re a little bit on the cautious side. When you feel robust and you’re incorporating strategies like a lot of exercise, everything else is good, and I believe that you can tolerate much more.
Clint – However, I think that your spoonful of cake mix or muffin mix may have had vegan butter in it or something, which is vegetable oils. I figure it’s not the sugar, it’s not healthy but it’s the vegetable oils.
Kate – Yeah. I’m not going there again for good.
Clint – Have you got any final words of encouragement, wisdom, or some suggestions to others who are on a path towards where you got to or where you currently are?
Kate – Firstly, I’m sorry you’re in this situation it sucks but have courage. I want to say that just because it’s in your genes doesn’t mean that’s your life. I mean, my mom had this disease and she didn’t even have it as bad as mine. I can’t say that because the poor woman, you can’t say mine’s worse than yours. But her hands were very badly twisted and her feet were bad, so she ended up in a wheelchair. And I thought that was my life’s trajectory, but if only I’d known what I know now could have helped her. She also had depression and irritable bowel syndrome. And I think we’re now beginning to see that these things can be linked to the gut and all that kind of thing. Your genes don’t mean you’ve got to have this. You’re doing this for you and I’m like that lovely woman. Just try it and it’s so helpful it’s not going to hurt you. I’m kind of 99 percent sure that it’s going to make you feel better, it’s going to make you feel more energized, and it will help down your pain. I mean, nobody can say 100 percent, but everyone’s going to get off all their meds or anything like that, it’s just a joyful way to live.
Kate – I don’t know about you Clint and Shireen, when you get together with other people who eat like you, you talk about food, don’t you? And all the great things you’ve been eating. And some of the amazing whole food recipes, some of the amazing whole food cooks out there. We’ve got people in our group, haven’t we, Shireen? Doctors as well, who are amazing whole food cooks your taste buds will change and it becomes easier. It starts off you thinking, oh, this is hard, but actually it’s just how you eat now, it’s just food. And I personally regard the other stuff, I don’t regard it as food anymore it’s just not food to me. So eat the rainbow that’s a good one, isn’t it? Eat as many different plants as you can and in the whole food for the whole form. If you’ve got a little space, even if it’s just a few flower pots, try and grow a little bit of your own food. Just even if it’s just herbs or learn to kind of pick wild plants that you can eat and bring them into your diet. It’s all about taking back the power because when you’re sick, you have to hand all your power over to other people who are helping you. But I mean, giving you medication and you feel totally powerless. It’s all about taking back a little bit of power into your life and taking control of your life, and it may take a while. Sometimes you feel like you’re not getting anywhere and not making a difference it’s a slow progress, isn’t it? Sometimes I think of turning like a massive oil tanker. Perhaps have courage, keep on the path and it will get easier. You will learn to love the food and you’ll also find a support network. I mean, Clint, what you do is amazing and I wish I’d found your program. I wish you’d been around then, sadly not. If you have a supportive family, that’s great. If you don’t, find people on social media, people to follow, get involved, find the Public Health Professionals UK, all the wonderful people there, and all the health professionals you’ve got there. We’re all here rooting for you. We all want you to feel better that there are people there to help you. you’re not alone. So that’s why I’d say you’re not alone because it’s beautiful, what a great summary.
Clint – I think you’ve done a good job is sort of pulling this together for us with some shout-outs to where people can go next. And as you said, we do have an opportunity for people to follow our program if they wish. And we also do have a support network called rheumatoidsupport.com. And over there, we’ve got over 500 members and most of us log in daily and help each other share ideas. There are templates for all the different joint improvement strategies and all of the diets and (inaudible). So that’s available for people if they want to sort of operate at that level. And I think it’s been a wonderful discussion. I want to thank both of you for doing so much good. Kate, I know you would have done all this and did do this without any future objective other than just to feel better. But your personal efforts have led to something that is another drop in the ocean, contributing to the future treatment and hopefully improve the lives of people with inflammatory arthritis, so thank you so much.
Clint – Thank you, Dr. Kassam. I know this is a long period of a precious part of your morning where you’re very productive. So I hope you feel the use of time has been very valuable. It’s been a pleasure to meet you and I’ve been wanting to speak with you for probably a year or two now, I’ve been aware of you online. And so what a great opportunity to come on for something that’s so useful and relevant to my audience.
Dr. Kassam – And thank you, Clint. It has been an absolute pleasure.
Clint – Well, thank you both. We’ll leave it there and keep up the wonderful work, both of you.
Kate – Thanks very much