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.
This week, we talked with Kate Dunbar, who suffered from Psoriatic Arthritis to the point where she could barely walk. With a simple diet change, Kate went from painful chronic joint pain to completing a half marathon. Here's how she did it.
What prompted your interest in a plant-based diet?
So I actually went vegan first, approximately 14 or so years ago. I had became ill with psoriatic arthritis nearly 18 years ago. I was a very stressed teacher with two young children. I didn’t take much care of my diet, did not sleep enough, or take time to relax.
I developed awful runaway inflammation where many joints and tendons in my body became excruciatingly painful and I spent an entire summer in bed and a year off work, barely able to walk.
I started methotrexate which eventually calmed down my immune system.
I noticed that some foods seemed to make my joints feel worse, even on medication, but didn’t understand why (my rheumatologist said diet had nothing to do with it!) and was advised to try an elimination diet. I found that red meat, cheese and eggs did appear to make my condition worse, plus stone fruits. Gluten was fine.
In the meantime, I had started to investigate food production, and came across the Vegan Society. I realized that I could not longer consume animal related ‘foods’ and became an ethical vegan. That lasted many years during which time I still had flare-ups, including in my eyes. One time I nearly lost the sight in my left eye, the doctor was unsure if he could save it. Thankfully after a steroid injection and treatment, my eye recovered.
I ate some meat, a lot of chicken, and a lot of eggs and dairy. I ate some fruits and vegetables but not much, and mainly white bread. I ate cakes, chocolate, fried food, drank a fair amount of alcohol.
Was there a defining moment that triggered change or did you have a gradual journey?
So I actually met a woman at a vegan fair in London on a Vegan Runner stall. She told me she had reversed her Rheumatoid Arthritis and was completely off all her meds…and running marathons! ….on a whole food vegan diet. I was in shock!
She said that I should try it. I had no idea what that was so had to go home and research it. That was nearly 4 years ago.
It took me a few months to decide to do it, then a few months to learn to eat that way and then wean myself off my medication. I have now been off my meds, and pain free 3 years this February.
How were you able to stick with such a dramatic diet change?
My husband joined me in the diet, as he had with veganism. My now grown-up children became vegan too. WFPBD has helped with my husband's health also. It took just a couple of weeks to get used to it, but then it became easy. I love experimenting with herbs and spices and different ingredients. We love the taste of our food!
What is your life like now?
I feel so well! I completed a Half Marathon yesterday! My legs are not aching at all today, I feel great! I feel empowered in my life to do whatever I want.
But also I love to share my story with other people and try to help them see that they too might also be able to improve their health, even perhaps reverse their chronic disease. I feel so incredibly lucky to have food this way of living, so incredibly grateful.
And I feel so incredibly honored to be a part of PBHPSUK. They are a truly wonderful group of people. I work as a graphic designer, make ceramics, and run art workshops for people which is huge fun.
What is "Plant Based Professionals”?
We are a group of health professionals and non-heath professionals promoting a whole foods plant-based diet for reversal and prevention of disease, a healthy planet and the end of factory farming.
What are you most proud of?
Being a stubborn person who leaves no stone unturned, and have found my way to health even though I must have seemed mad to most of those around me! For years! My husband believed in me though!…..And then meeting Dr. Shireen Kassam at the first ever PBHPSUK conference and realising I had found my tribe! Very proud to be a member of PBHPSUK. And of being a member of Vegan Runners UK!
If you could meet and have lunch with one person (alive or dead) who would it be?
Possibly my mum. She died nearly 10 years ago and lived her life with psoriatic arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and bipolar. She was deeply ashamed of her mental condition, and her hands and feet in particular were very disabled. I would love to tell her all I now know and have the chance to help her. We are only just beginning to understand how all these things, mental and physical are linked to the gut.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.