I Healed Chronic Joint Pain with a Vegan Diet!

I Healed Chronic Joint Pain with a Vegan Diet!

I’m Rebecca Gilbert, the founder of Yummy Plants and the author of It’s Easy to Start Eating Vegan.  I healed my chronic joint pain by switching to a plant-based diet. If you know anyone who is suffering from chronic joint pain, please send them this story. Before I had knee surgery, I wish someone had told me about the health benefits of a vegan diet!

rebecca gilbert vegan skating

I had my first experience with a plant-based diet, or vegan diet, back in 1998.  I had been a very serious competitive figure skater, able to do the fancy jumps and spins you see on TV. (Yes, it really is that cool to fly through the air!) And when I was in college, I had a mysterious knee injury that left me unable to walk very well, let alone to skate.  I hadn’t fallen, yet my knees were very swollen and unbelievably painful.

I tried all of the solutions that western medicine had to offer: surgery, physical therapy, cortisone, electrical stimulation… everything. But nothing worked. It was so frustrating!

I was searching for anything that might help me.  After typing in “chronic joint pain” on an internet search, I found a Scandinavian study which concluded that a vegan diet could reduce chronic joint pain.  It was so long ago now, and the details are a bit fuzzy, but I remember that the experimental group ate a completely vegan diet for six months and reported a significant decrease in their knee pain. I had no idea if a vegan diet would work for me, but I really wanted to skate again and I was willing to try. The next day, I gave all of my meat and dairy food to a neighbor and stocked my home with soy milk, rice cheese, grains, beans and veggies.  Holding my dreams in my heart, with a vision of leaping once again on a glassy sheet of ice, I embraced a plant-based diet and started eating vegan!

As with any new venture, the beginning was challenging… but not impossible.  I navigated new ways of cooking and learned to make delicious meals as I began to learn what vegans eat. After several weeks, I noticed that I was moving around more more easily. The pain steadily lessened.  I was amazed! After about a month I could handle stairs again and begin to get back on the ice!

At the end of the six-month experiment, I was amazed that I could not only easily handle stairs and high heels, but that I could also skate and dance again… pain-free! Changing my diet absolutely changed my health.

ice skating split jump

Why did they heal? Many years after my knee pain disappeared, I spoke with Dr. Neil Barnard of PCRM who explained that casein, the protein in dairy products, may cause an inflammatory response in some people, and that can show up as chronic joint pain. (Wheat can actually do this as well!)

I’m NOT a physician. I’m sharing my experience about how my body healed from chronic joint pain on a vegan diet. If you are suffering from chronic joint pain, you may to consult your physician and consider trying a vegan diet before you have surgery or cortisone shots. Dr. Barnard said it takes 21 days to see if eliminating casein will make any difference for you. My fingers are crossed for you and I hope you feel fabulous!

I have two short videos that were made after I switched to a vegan diet.  It was such a gift to get back on the ice and skate again. I never thought I would be able to enjoy that part of my life again, and I give thanks each and every time that I skate. Skating fills me with such gratitude and joy!

Note: I came to a vegan diet originally for the health benefits.  I’ve stayed vegan all of these years as a compassionate choice.  Until I stopped eating animals and participating in the big agribusiness channel of egg and dairy production, I didn’t even think about what I was eating or doing.  Once I stopped eating animals for health reasons, I became passionate about not eating them for emotional reasons as well.  I believe animals are friends, not food. I’m grateful to be able to share my story and hope it can help others.