My Health Experience: ‘I stopped eating the wrong foods and was astonished by the results’

Diet helped me reverse my high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity

Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 01:00

‘I have had reasonable good health for most of my life. I was in a car crash when I was 17 and suffered from back problems in my early 20s when I worked as a driving instructor. In fact, it was the relief I got from Alexander Technique lessons all those years ago that prompted me to train as an Alexander Technique teacher.

I trained and taught the technique in England, Greece and Spain before moving permanently to Galway in 1997. I’ve kept busy with work – running the Alexander Technique school, treating people and writing.

I had been trying to lose weight for 30 years. I tried every single diet and yet I kept gaining weight and couldn’t get rid of it.

The thing is that I’ve been a vegetarian since 1972 and I thought I was eating healthily but I snacked on sweet things. I also went out of my way to get protein in my diet by eating lots of dairy products. I walked or played tennis at the weekend but didn’t get daily exercise.

My blood pressure was slightly elevated at a health check in 1998 and since then I’ve monitored it myself. One day last year, I got a reading of 220/120 and went to have it checked out.

My GP sent me to the Emergency Department and I was kept in for a week. They couldn’t find out what caused the high blood pressure but they did discover that I had diabetes type 2.

I was put on three blood pressure medications, a drug for cholesterol and a drug to control the diabetes.

I continued to take all these medications although I had no energy and people told me I didn’t look well. I started to walk 40 minutes a day to try to get my weight down and I cut out all sugary foods.

I felt terrible and attributed feelings of lethargy and swelling in my ankles to side effects of the medication. I lost about 2kg in three months.

Flashing lights
On November 4th last, I had a stroke. I was flying back from the UK, having visited my adult son and his new baby, when I saw flashing lights. I drove myself home from the airport, went to bed and woke up at 8am, slurring my speech.

My wife, Caroline, had to tell me I’d had a stroke because I didn’t realise it myself. She took me straight to the hospital. I spent the next five days in hospital, having everything monitored.

One of my blood pressure medications was changed (I was taken off beta-blockers and put on ace-inhibitors instead). I felt really confused and didn’t know what to do.

My son researched the China Study diet, which is the diet Bill Clinton is on, and I decided to go on it too. I decided that when on this low-fat, wholefood plant-based diet, I would take myself off all my medications except the ace-inhibitors and the daily aspirin I had been prescribed since my stroke.

I monitored my blood sugar and blood pressure daily. And every two weeks, I was monitored by either my GP or my hospital consultant although I didn’t tell them initially that I had stopped taking my other medications.

Essentially, I stopped eating the wrong foods and started eating pulses, fruit and vegetables. So, for breakfast, I have porridge with fruit and a soya dessert instead of yogurt. For lunch, I have vegetable soup, wholemeal bread and a salad. For dinner, I have rice and vegetables. I cut out all processed foods and dairy.

I didn’t worry about eating too many carbohydrates or too little protein – both of which pre-occupied me for years.

I was astonished by the results. Between November 16th and January 27th, I lost 18kg. My diabetes has been reversed with readings now within the normal range. My cholesterol has reduced from 5.7 to 4.5. And my blood pressure, which was 230/120, is down to 120/70 using minimal medication.

No lasting effect
I have no lasting effect of the stroke. I feel better than I have in ages. My sleeping pattern has changed. I am awake now at 5am or 6am and I feel like getting up. Before, I couldn’t get up in the morning. I go to bed around 10pm and I do half an hour’s walking every day.

I realise that I took a risk and I don’t want people to think that they can come off their medication without expert advice. I consider that I follow the expert advice given by Dr John McDougall, prominent American heart surgeon, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, T Colin Campbell.

I also feel reassured because I monitor my blood sugar and blood pressure every day and I see a doctor every two weeks. I was back at work three weeks after the stroke, pacing myself at first but back at full tilt by January.

It was a wake-up call for me – discovering that I had high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity – especially as I have spent most of my life helping other people deal with their health problems.

So, most of all now, what I want to do is share my experience with others so that they too might be helped as I have been.

In conversation with

The China Study

What is it?

The China Study began as a comprehensive study of diet, lifestyle and disease of rural Chinese people. The research programme lasted for 27 years and subsequently captured the attention of American biochemist, T Colin Campbell. Campbell went on to study the effects of nutrition on long-term health and concluded that many Western diseases – heart disease, cancer and diabetes – could be prevented and reversed by a low-fat, wholefood, plant-based diet.

He published over 300 research papers and co-authored with his son, Dr Thomas M. Campbell, the best selling, The China Study – startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health (Benbella, 2006).

See also .