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I Have 4 Autoimmune Disorders. I Changed My Diet and My Doctor Was Astounded

Written by Ali Donahue
I Have 4 Autoimmune Disorders. I Changed My Diet and My Doctor Was Astounded

As we at MamaSezz well know, changing to a plant-based diet can change your life in ways you never expected. In this series, we talk with some of the world’s most soulful, dedicated (and often funny) individuals. We get to hear their stories of suffering, transformation, and service — and we learn how food is an essential part of their journey.

In this edition of Transformation Tuesday, we talked with Carolyn DiNicola, who's been living with four different auto-immune disorders for decades: lyme, colitis, lupus, and hypothyroidism. But now, thanks to the power of plant-based eating, Carolyn's not on any medications for the first time in 40 years. 

What prompted your interest in a plant-based diet?

Life goes up and down and I was definitely in a down. I was in the process of a divorce from a marriage of 40 years. I was also trying to recover from Lyme disease that I had been struggling with for over six years. If that was not enough I was also coping with the autoimmune diseases of lupus, colitis and hypothyroidism while trying to keep myself centered as I tried to find a permanent place in which to live. To add just a bit more insult to injury, I was dealing with the demands of helping an elderly parent, one unwell sibling, and an elderly brother with Down Syndrome, all three residing three states away.

I expected that some of the challenges would resolve themselves with time but I assumed that my health issues would be with me and be active for the rest of my life. Restless legs, muscle spasms during sleep, and inflammation were my “norm,” and I had begun to get used to it.

I am one to acknowledge the reality of life having its ups and downs and during the downs I am always trying to look for the silver lining. What seemed to be the perfect time in my life for a way to be guided through some of these challenges, I was introduced to plant-based eating and MamaSezz.

I had always been a believer in food as medicine, but I thought a dinner consisting of meat with a yummy sauce, a starch with butter and a veggie with cheese and herbs, topped off with a brownie slathered with peanut butter for dessert was the epitome of healthy eating.

Realizing then that it might not be, I thought, “Why not give this plant based lifestyle a try?” After all, ten years earlier I had eliminated eggs, an allergen which was causing chronic migraines, and I had partially eliminated dairy which had been causing gastro issues. These were not difficult to avoid in that I had spent my childhood gagging back raw eggs blended with milk for breakfast, made by my well-intentioned mother.

What happened?

As I slowly became educated on both humane and healthy vegan diet choices, I started to learn to cook in a different way. I found that food can be very tasty yet not necessarily leave one feeling sluggish and tired and ready for a good nap afterwards. I am a person who was gifted with not having to worry about calories, yet I found myself losing weight and feeling better once I made healthier choices.

The big indicator was the walk up the hilly driveway to the house from the dirt road below at one of my housesitting ventures.  Previously having had a national ranking in tennis and still playing tennis consistently, I considered myself to be in relatively good shape. However, by the time that I reached the top of the driveway my muscles were fatigued and I was feeling a bit winded…perfectly normal, right? As it turns out...not necessarily normal.

Within a few weeks of eating a plant based diet and enjoying MamaSezz (to jumpstart my meal or to serve as a foundation to my recipes or to eat alone) I did that same walk and did not feel the muscle fatigue or windedness that I had previously felt.

I was very curious.

I then began to notice less joint pain. My inflammation had decreased so much that my shoe size went down a full size. My friends were commenting on how good I looked (during a divorce…really?). They noted that the whites of my eyes were brighter, my cheeks were full of color, and that I looked less inflamed. I noticed that while playing pickle ball and tennis with my regular group of fellow athletes that I was one of the last to feel fatigued and rarely felt soreness after long sessions of play.   

What happened next gave me solid evidence that a plant-based diet was improving my health. After a year of eating plant based, I was at my rheumatologist’s office. He walked in and said, “You have been under care in this office for over 15 years and I have never seen blood work as good as this from you.  What are you doing differently? Whatever it is, keep doing it."

I told him that I was eating a plant based diet and that I had eliminated gluten from my diet. He said that the stats were just published that there is a correlation between eating plant based and the improvement in health with rheumatologic diseases and conditions.

Next, my cardiologist remarked how my annual heart tests results actually had improved from previous years and, once again, I was told to keep doing what I had been doing.

How were you able to stick with such a dramatic diet change?

It is not that tempting to go back to eating animals once one experiences how good one can feel both physically and emotionally without eating animal products.

It is comforting to realize that one is eliminating much animal suffering and is truly making a big impact on helping to heal and save this fragile, precious environment. I have been given a special gift of a lifetime, one filled with energy, good sleep, and hopefully additional years to enjoy this planet and my loved ones.

What is your life like now?

Autoimmune diseases are for life but among the four autoimmune conditions that I have, I have had only one relapse since going plant-based, and it occurred upon the dying and death of my father (autoimmune disease symptoms can be triggered by stress). 

I am presently off of my lupus, colitis, and thyroid medications. In actuality, I am not taking any medication at this point after being on some of the meds for more than 40 years.

Hot flashes, belly cramping, and headaches are nearly a thing of the past.  My new approach to eating is not always easy and I do once in a great while deviate a touch...and yes, it still tastes good. But a tiny bit of it is enough and I am back to my healthy ways.

What is your favorite MamaSezz food/dish?

Aunt Mary's Chick'n Salad!



Have Your Own Plant-Based Transformation?!

Tell us all about it! We'd love to know how a plant-based diet changed your life and health. Send us an email at to share your story.

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