The patches of white skin, known as vitiligo, started when I was pregnant with my son. Unexpectedly, our landlord was making life extremely difficult for us. Between the usual emotions involved with pregnancy and the enormous pressures being exerted by our landlord, I was feeling an overwhelming amount of stress.
Not wanting to add to my husband’s burdens, I unconsciously internalized the deep levels of pressure, frustration, and anxiety that I was experiencing. Looking back now, I can see how it happened. At the time, I was too emotionally overwrought to recognize the damage I was doing.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body begins attacking part of itself. In the case of vitiligo, the immune system produces antibodies to attack the cells which control pigmentation of the skin, causing white blotches to appear. It started on one side of my mouth and spread across to the other side and then down to my chin.
I remember going to a dinner at a professional conference. At our table were some teachers who we’ve known for a few years, so they asked what was going on with my face. That was rather embarrassing. And when I’d go home to Chile or my family would come visit me, they’d comment on my skin. Mostly, they were worried about me because they had seen this condition in the family before. My 68-year-old aunt has had vitiligo for the past 30 years, and my family didn’t want this fate for me. Unfortunately, before I became a patient of Dr. Carney’s, I couldn’t offer my family any hope that I could stop the progression of this disease.
Although I didn’t like the looks of vitiligo, as a new mom, I generally didn’t take time to worry too much about it. But it was there and slowly spreading. By the time my son turned two, I was concerned enough that I went to see a specialist to get a proper diagnosis. The doctor gave me a thorough exam, checking every inch of my skin for signs of vitiligo. She was amazed that after two years with the disease, I only had one area of my body affected. Usually, she told me, the disease progresses fairly rapidly, removing pigmentation in various places on the body. When I learned how aggressive the disease usually is, I went home and started researching to learn as much as I could about it.
Researching health topics was nothing new for me. When we got married, my husband and I had been lacto-ovo vegetarians, meaning that we ate dairy products and eggs in addition to plant foods, but no meat. We started studying more into healthy lifestyles when I became pregnant. Before our son was born, we adopted a vegan diet in order to give him the best possible chance at a healthy life. I believe that my change to a vegan diet is what kept the vitiligo from spreading during those first two years.
Because of our interest in natural health through lifestyle, my husband and I wanted to find a doctor with the same approach to health that we had. Some friends had told us about Dr. Carney and about how she looks for the cause of the problem rather than being content with merely giving patients pills to address their symptoms. After we attended a seminar she gave at our church, we were convinced that she was a good fit for our family.
At our first visit, we knew that we’d made a good choice. Dr. Carney actually takes time to listen to patients, rather than rush them out of the office in 10 minutes with a prescription in hand. As parents of a young child, we were pleased that she respects our desire not to vaccinate our son at this time. Maybe best of all, Dr. Carney was just as interested as we were in monitoring our progress as we pursued better health through lifestyle.
After the initial consultation, Dr. Carney ordered blood work to determine our current state of health. When the results came back, we were pleased to see that our vegan diet was paying off. But Dr. Carney told us that we could improve our health even more. For example, she showed me that my levels of vitamins D and B12 were on the low side of normal. She recommended supplementation to raise them to optimal levels. But that was the small stuff. Somewhat to our surprise, Dr. Carney recommended that we take our vegan diet to a whole new level.
She explained to us that our biggest meal should be at breakfast time so that our bodies have enough energy for the demands we’ll be putting on them during the day. Further, she told us that the best way to supply that energy was by eating from the four categories of beans, greens, squash, and yams every morning. These foods would give us lots of nutrients plus starch to fuel our day. I’d already been listening to some lectures by John McDougall, MD, and had learned that -- like most people -- I’d been taught the wrong information about starches. Processed starches aren’t good, but natural starches like yams, potatoes, and brown rice are healthy.
However, Dr. Carney’s recommendations didn’t stop with starch. She showed us a video, From Oil to Nuts, by Jeff Novick. This was really eye-opening for me. I had thought I was doing the best for my family’s health by using only “healthy oils,” but once I saw this video and learned more about oil and saw how many calories and how much saturated fat even “healthy oils” had, I was convinced.
To implement Dr. Carney’s suggestions, we removed oil from our kitchen and switched our dinner to breakfast time, making sure to add starches to our meal. Giving up the oil has been an easy change. For one thing, eliminating oil and the products that contain it has lowered our food budget. And cooking without oil has been simple. Plus, the food tastes so good now that the flavor isn’t covered up with oil.
I love how our new way of eating has brought our family closer. My husband is eager to help prepare breakfast in the mornings, which is great because it’s not easy to get a meal on with a toddler. The morning meal has turned into a family activity. Even my son is involved. He just turned three and can set the table, help put grapes or carrots in a bowl, and listen and learn while we prepare breakfast. He’s practicing patience and helpfulness, and he’s learning the basics of good nutrition that can last him for a very long lifetime! With "healthy eating" as a family value, he’s fully participating at the family table from the very beginning. He happily eats all his food, and I love watching all those nutrients disappear into his healthy, growing body.
Aside from family togetherness, the best part of our new lifestyle has been the energy we get from starting our day with beans, greens, squash, and yams. Just that change alone has made a huge difference in our lives. Our breakfast is so satisfying and energizing that even my son doesn’t feel hungry until mid afternoon. We usually eat lunch sometime between 2:30 and 4:00. It’s a slightly lighter meal since the day is half over.
Initially, we ate supper, too, but have found that we’re often not hungry for it. Dr. Carney has told us that many people do better on two meals a day. With a little research, we found that others recommend the same thing. So, we tried eating only two meals, and it’s worked for us really well. My husband and I have learned that if we feel hungry in the evenings, it’s often because we’re thirsty. After a couple cups of water, the sensation of hunger usually passes. Most of the time when my son is hungry in the evening, a smoothie, coconut water, or some almond milk is enough for him. We’ll see how his needs change as he grows, but for now he’s thriving.
And we are, too! Not only are we experiencing lots of energy, but my husband and I have easily lost our extra weight. Besides that, we’re sleeping so much better. With little or no supper, our bodies can truly rest at night. Dr. Carney explained to us that our bodies rest best if the work of digestion is done before bedtime. Further, the hours of sleep before midnight are the optimal time for healing. In addition to the good nutrition, I believe that the remission of my autoimmune disease is largely due to the restorative rest I’m now getting.
The white patches from my vitiligo are almost completely gone. This has been very exciting, and so much more than I expected when I first made our appointments with Dr. Carney. I think even she has been happily surprised by how successfully diet and lifestyle have altered my appearance. She had told me this diet could improve autoimmune disorders, but neither of us expected near 100 percent re-pigmentation.
And here’s another little secret. I don’t only look better, I smell better! Before adopting the diet Dr. Carney recommends, I didn’t dare leave the house without deodorant. Now, I don’t need it! And my husband doesn’t complain about my leaving unpleasant bathroom odors. It’s not just our food choices that have made this difference, but also our water intake. For example, we start our day with at least two cups of water to remove the toxins which have built up overnight. Before I did this, Dr. Carney would always find me a little dehydrated at my office visits. Now, I stay fully hydrated and smell sweeter as a result.
This detox lifestyle that Dr. Carney has taught us works wonderfully, as long as we stay with the plan. However, there are occasions we go out to a restaurant with friends in the evening. The next day I can ‘tell by the smell’ that my body is doing a fresh round of detoxing from the change in food and the timing of meals. On those occasions, when I need a little help "deodorizing," I’ve discovered that my mother’s advice of rubbing a slice of fresh lemon under my arms instead of a commercial deodorant is extremely effective. The lemon juice destroys the odor-causing bacteria, keeping me naturally fresh smelling without the use of unnecessary chemicals.
I guess you could say that my emotions have also ‘detoxed’ with this new lifestyle. I find myself happier and more patient with my husband and little boy. In general, I can only describe it as feeling more peaceful. Stress is a recognized factor in the development of vitiligo. I believe that my new diet and lifestyle have increased my ability to manage stress, and this has also contributed to the remission of my disease.
I’m happy to share my story because I want other people to know that they can get better, too. When I was doing my research on vitiligo, I would hear, ‘Oh, this condition is not related to the way you eat.’ But it IS related. When I improved my diet, it changed my energy level, the soundness of my sleep, and my emotional health. The result has been remission of my vitiligo.
I believe that God designed us with natural laws that can protect our health. If we follow those laws, our body can restore itself to health. When we give our body the right food and the right conditions, our body is in the best position to heal, and we can be restored with God’s power.
My story is not one that I should keep to myself. Since this has happened to me, I believe it’s my responsibility to tell people, ‘Yes, you can trust God’s natural laws which he has left for us to be healthier and happier.’ Whenever I get the chance, I tell people about the health we’ve discovered, and say, “See? We’re living proof that this lifestyle works.”