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Can a plant based diet really lower cholesterol? My results!

At my yearly phsyicals in 2011 and 2012 a pattern started to emerge with my LDL choloeserol as it was on the rise. Despite the fact that I was following what I thought was a healhty low fat diet all the while exercising, staying active and trying to be healthy. I rarely ate red meat, junk food or anything fried. I only ate low fat dairy and egg whites instead of the whole egg. My doctor said genetics were to blame but not to worry becuase he could prescribe statins for me if it continued to rise. I left that appointment mad and determined to fix it without going on medication. After much research on the internet, reading books and watching documentaries about eating a WFPB (whole foods plant based diet) I took the plunge in the Spring of 2013 and dove head first into converting to a WFPB diet. Hubby Tom was on board to modify his meat centered diet and agreed to eat a plant based diet at home. You can read more about those early days here.

 Health Books

Whole Foods Plant Based Diet Books

 I read these books to begin with as well as watching several documentaries.

Whole Foods Plant Based Diet Books

Whole Foods Plant Based Diet Books

These books have also been very informative.

As you can imagine I was quite eager to see my doctor for this years physical and to discover if the WFPB diet had lowered my LDL cholesterol like I had hoped it would. We made our appointments, did our lab work and were eager to see our primary care physcian. The week before our appointments the doctor’s office called and said they needed to reschedule – it was pushed back a month! Those weeks flew by and again we got another call and are told the appointments needed to be rescheduled. Apparently our doctor is out with an illness. Of course they don’t say what that illness is but they do tell us he is coming back. This time we asked to see one of his associates as the waiting was torture. It’s not all that often that I am excited about going in to see the doctor!

Tami and Tom

Tami and Tom

Drum roll please! The results were outstanding! Our cholosterol numbers are amazing!

This was all accomplished with a whole foods plant based diet and exercise. No drugs!

Tami’s Cholesterol       Tom’s Cholesterol

LDL before 145              LDL before 134

LDL now 98                     LDL now 95

I was dissapointed that I didn’t get to see the look on my regular doctors face when these results were revealed. However the doctor I saw was impressed. I told her that I switched to a whole foods plant based diet. Her response was that she noestly didn’t think she could do what I had done! She made the comment that it must have been so difficult to make the change. I told her it was a challenge at first but we love the food we eat. We couldn’t be happier with the results. Thanks to a whole foods plant based diet I won’t ever have to go on statins for high cholesterol. We have reduced our risk for heart problems and cancer. It feels great to take charge of our health. I would like to point out that hubby Tom has not given up all animal products. He eats a WFPB diet about 70-80% of the time and 20-30% of his diet includes animal products. He usually gets his meat fix when eating out. Even though he is eating some meat he has had amazing results.

Another Hurdle To Overcome.

I just can’t seem to get a break. Also during this doctors appointment I shared some symptoms with the doctor that I had been experiencing for a long time. I had been chalking most of them up to the fact that I have been living with chronic foot pain for nearly two years. Yes, even after having had foot surgery I have had chronic foot pain, nerve issues, swelling and pain daily. It is getting better but recovery is a long road. I figured the stress of living with pain was causing fatigue, lack of sleep, difficulty losing weight and memory issues. The doctor listened intentlly, asked some more questions and then shared that she suspected it was a thyroid issue and sent me for more lab work.

She was right. The results showed that I have hypothyroidism. This is an under active thyroid. My TSH (thyroid stymulating hormone) is elevated and my T4 is low.

There is a long list of symptoms and I seem to have a good many of them. Who knew! The good news is that there is thyroid medication that can correct the problem. The bad news is you have to be on it for life!

Get this – hypothyrodism can cause eleveated cholesterol levels. So even though I have had this condition with the WFPB way of eating I was still able to lower my LDL. Kudos to my way of eating! It can also make it nearly impossible to lose weight. Even though I have been eating a WFPB some extra weight has been so difficult to lose. If I indulge just a little I gain – it’s been so frustrating. Plus people who eat a WFPB diet usually have tons of energy and I found my energy level was slowly going down hill in the past 8 months or so.

I started taking thyroid medication last week. Initially it made me even more tired than I was before. I experienced a little dizziness but in the past couple of days I have started to feel better and more normal. Now I am feeling hopeful that the meds are going to work for me. Another blood test in 6 weeks will reveal what’s happening. Then the meds can be tweaked until we get it right. Yeah! I look forward to feeling better.

Today I am having some down time as I prep for my first colonoscopy. It’s not fun but you have to do what you have to do. It’s just a routine test for my age so I don’t expect them to find anything unusual.

Sorry I haven’t been posting lately. I just haven’t had the energy and the focus to be able to do it all lately. Hopefully as I get this thyroid condition corrected I will be able to function better and get back to a regular posting schedule.

Happy healthy cooking!

Tami

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21 comments

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  1. Amy says:

    Hi Tami!

    Wonderful to hear your results! I too have an underactive thyroid, but rather than taking synthetic medicines, my naturopathic doctor recommend that I take a thyroid supplement that acts more as a vitamin than a drug. I have found that I have had great results in getting my energy back and reducing my other symptoms. Since you are just starting on your medication, I thought I would mention it as another option.

    I use a product from Thorne Research supplements called Thyrocsin: http://www.thorne.com/search/search_product_results.jsp;jsessionid=TslpThqhSdVp2XNBRVy1g9TyvsyhWwWJLysJ2fLTTK5mVh6S5lnf!1129749266

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Amy

    1. Tami says:

      Hi Amy,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I will look at the link you provided. It’s always good to have options.

      Thank you,

      Tami

  2. Jody - Fit at 56 says:

    So sorry about the thyroid Tami!!!!! :( My friend has thyroid issues – in fact a disease that Susan Ito just posted about… I hope you feel better & don’t feel bad about not posting – I know all about that! ;)

    It is so great though the results of your plant based diet – AMAZING!!!!!! AND you love it!!!!

    1. Tami says:

      Hi Jody – yes this was an amazing result of eating healthy! I couldn’t be happier about it. :)

  3. Veronica says:

    Congrats that is awesome! Honestly I didn’t believe it would make a difference so that is very cool to see. I’m sorry to hear about your thyroid but honestly, there are worse things you might have to do for life. I had Graves disease (a type of hyperthyroid) and was trying to cure it naturally b/c I didn’t want to have to take a pill for life and I waited so long on getting my thyroid removed that it shut down my pancreas. Not only do I have to take a thyroid pill for life now, but I have to take insulin shots for life. You are doing the right thing to take the pills! I’m surprised foot pain is related to hypothyroid but I do hope it fixes it – that will be awesome!

    1. Tami says:

      Hi Veronica,
      How interesting that you didn’t think a plant based diet would make a difference in my cholesterol! Food is medicine – but better in this case. Just to clarify my foot issues have nothing to do with my thyroid issues. I had thought the fatigue and insomnia were from the chronic pain from my foot problems but now it looks like they are actually related to the thyroid problem.

      So sorry to learn that your thyroid issue turned into you having diabetes. There are times when medicine is the only way to go.

  4. MiMi says:

    Hi Tami, Kudos to you for lowering your cholesterol without meds, esp after being told your situation is genetic! Have you and your husband ever thought of going to a seminar with Dr. John McDougall or Dr. Joel Fuhrman? You an actually make appointments, have blood work, etc. and find out what their take on your thyroid condition might be. Here is Dr. McD talking about it in a YouTube video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKeZo29Rg6M
    I would like to share you post on my facebook page, is that ok??
    Keep up the great diet!!

    1. Tami says:

      Hi MiMi!

      Thanks for visiting my blog. I have seen the seminars posted where Dr McDougall and Dr Fuhrman hold classes and such and thought about how wonderful it would be to attend. They are quite pricey so it would have to be my vacation money! Maybe one day I can do that. If you want to share this post on your facebook page that would be fine with me! I love how food can be better than medicine.

      To your health,

      Tami

  5. janine says:

    Tami–what amazingly wonderful results! As your thyroid gets adjusted, you’ll feel better and better–amazing what a fine tuned instrument our body can be.

    1. Tami says:

      Hi Janine!

      It’s true that the body is an amazing instrument!

  6. Renee's Kitchen Adventures says:

    Great news on yours and Tom’s cholesterol levels! I started on thyroid meds about a year ago and am feeling so much better for them! Like you, I read the symptoms early on and was astonished that I had almost every single one of them!! My hair has finally stopped falling out in handfuls in the shower and my nails aren’t brittle anymore. I can sleep all the way through the night again too. I never realized how drained I felt at the end of the day before I started taking them either. The changes took some time to happen, but I am feeling a lot better now. I hope you feel better too!

    1. Tami says:

      Hi Renee!

      That is such great news about your thyroid meds working so well! It’s nice to know that there is light a the end of the tunnel. I too think I have felt tired for so long that I have gotten used to it and have forgotten what it feels like to feel good! I am looking forward to having more energy! I was shocked at how many of the symptoms I have too. Here is to our good health!:)

      Have an awesome weekend. :)

  7. Bianca says:

    Hi Tami just saw your post, I have the same issue with the thyroid but found out that my thyroid Issue was caused from a Gluten intolerance that slowly destroyed my Thyroid.
    I had pain in my shoulders, had because of this even a breast reduction and still couldn’t get rid of the pain. Doctors didn’t know what to do anymore and I was stuck. Till one day I met a NP she told me she can explain everything. The Gluten causes Inflammation in my body and it can show anywhere in your body. As long as I eat gluten free i have no pain, If I skip a day the pain will return mostly the second day after I ate gluten and stay for 3 days. I also drink now water with baking soda to even out my PH levels in the body.

    1. Tami says:

      Hi Bianca, Thank you for sharing your experience with a thyroid issue. I am glad you found the problem and have a solution! Living with pain isn’t any fun!

      Wishing you all the best that health can provide!

  8. Poppy says:

    Fabulous results Tami!!

    1. Tami says:

      Thank you Poppy! I was super excited to see our results and couldn’t be happier! :)

  9. Matt Jager says:

    Amazing results Tami. So nice when the science confirms what we intuitively know is the right path. I do know of a doctor that might have a different approach to helping your thyroid issue. He is unconventional to say the least and follows a plant-based whole foods diet. I can send the info if you’d like. Best wishes!

  10. Debbie says:

    Hi Tami,

    Love your blog and IG photos!!! You have a beautiful family.

    I was curious if you still track WW points? I am considering joining WW for additional accountability and portion control but in the past would quit especially when they would espouse things at meetings that conflict with a plant-strong way of eating.

    What is your opinion on combining WW and eating plant strong?

    I am holding on to about 20-25 extra pounds not due to what I eat so much as how much I eat – which is way too much – I struggle with emotional eating.

    Just curious of your opinion.

    Thank you,
    Debbie

    1. Tami says:

      Hi Debbie,

      Thank you for the kind comments regarding the blog, IG photos and my family.

      The short answer is – I don’t track WW points anymore. I gave that up a few years ago when I decided to rid my diet of artificial ingredients, sugar substitutes and started moving towards a more healthy food plan. I don’t miss having to track all of my food and figure out the points for it – it becomes tedious! When following a whole foods plant based diet you are eating healthy food for all your meals. The theory is that if you are eating highly nutritional food and only eating when truly hungry and stopping when you are satisfied you don’t need to log your food intake or keep track of calories. Now I can tell you that if you are an emotional eater – which I also struggle with – then you have to work on that issue no matter what food plan you are following. If you over eat even on the good stuff – you can stall your weight loss or even gain weight.

      Having said all that I can also tell you that eating a whole foods plant based diet makes cravings for junk food disappear. When you are eating highly nutritional food your body is so happy – and so is your brain! It makes it so much easier to eat a normal amount of food because your body isn’t craving more food in an attempt to meet your nutritional needs.

      I have found that I like the guidelines that Dr Fuhrman has listed in his book “The End of Dieting.”

      He says to remember that “Salad is the main dish” at least for one meal a day. Make one meal a huge salad with an oil free dressing – pack every fresh vegetable you can into it and try to eat one pound of raw veggies a day. You will be amazed at how easy that is.

      Vegetables raw and or cooked should be 30- 60 % of your daily calorie intake. Eat one large double size serving of lightly steamed green veggies a day in addition to your big salad.

      Eat mushrooms and onions every day – they contain powerful anticancer benefits.

      Eat at least a half cup but preferably close to 1 cup of beans a day. This can be plain beans, a bean burger, a bean based loaf or in a veggie bean based soup.

      Have no more than 1 ounce of nuts or seeds a day and make half of that amount either walnuts,hemp seeds, chia seeeds, flax seeds or sesame seeds.

      Eat three fresh fruits a day.

      I have read several of Dr Fuhrman’s books and they contain fantastic information regarding healthy eating.

      For me personally attending WW meetings wouldn’t be a good fit. They will be talking about the latest food finds at the grocery store that are low in points but include ingredients I no longer eat like artificial sweeteners and highly processed foods. I would find it upsetting. But that is a personal choice – if you feel the need for the weekly weigh in and accountability it might be helpful for you in that regard. Just know that the people there aren’t going to be eating the way you do.

      It isn’t easy to adopt this lifestyle alone – if you are surrounded by family and friends who are eating the SAD – standard American diet – you feel like the lone ranger! But it’s so worth the effort.

      I have found good support for eating this way on IG and Dr Fhuhrmans message board – you do have to pay for a membership to be a part of the message board though. It’s nice to have contact with like minded people who eat the same way you choose to eat.There is also an Engine 2 blog/message board memebership. I tried a 3 month membership but prefer the Fuhrman board for some reason.

      The emotional eating on the other hand is a beast of it’s own! We might need some additional outside help to overcome it! I am thinking about that myself.

      Bottom line is if you think the WW meetings will help you – go for it. I am all for whatever works and that is going to be different for all of us.

      Feel free to keep in touch – we can support one another with our healthy food plans!

      Blessings,

      Tami

  11. Debbie says:

    Hi Tami, thank you so much for the thorough response. I think it helped me realize that although I may be eating vegan I am not eating nutritarian enough to affect my cravings. I agree that attending the WW meetings will just frustrate me – I think I need to focus on eating more nutritarian before going that route. My family does insist on keeping SAD foods in the house but my husband will basically eat whatever I prepare so although I am the lone ranger in my eating plan in my world I understand if it is important to me I will find a way. I may look into the Fuhrman board for support as you suggested.

    Thank you again!!!!

    1. Tami says:

      Sounds like you have a plan!

  1. Farmer’s Market & Food Finds » Nutmeg Notebook says:

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