Dr Monica Aggarwal Explains Reversing RA Personally And Professionally
– Dr Aggarwal explains her journey with RA and how she’s now pain free and running triathlons
– The shortage of good scientific evidence of dietary intervention with RA
– We need more scientific trials to educate the medical community
– Giving up dairy was hard but worth it
– Dr Aggarwal uses a gradual approach unless people are severe enough to change all at once
– RA case study of dietary intervention
– Research collaboration between Dr Aggarawall, myself and other doctors to educate the medical community
– How you can get involved
– Transitioning to plant-based
– Does Rheumatoid Factor matter at all?
– Blood measurements that DO matter
– The major health risks associated with the Paleo Diet
– The ideal diet for human beings
– Staying motivated
This podcast does not constitute medical advice. All changes surrounding medications, diet and exercise, should be me made in consultation with a professional who can assist your unique health circumstances.
Clint: Welcome to the Paddison Program. Today we have a great guest. It’s taken me a while to get her on the show. We both had very busy schedules and with the time zones being tricky, but finally we’ve managed to make this happen. And I’m sure you’ll be glad that we did. Doctor Monica Aggarwal, our guest today has previously suffered from chronic rheumatoid arthritis and she battled that for a long time until she discovered the same thing that I did, which was that a plant based diet is the only way to recover the body completely via healing the microbiome and restoring the health to the gut, and consequently ending up in a situation that she is now, which is pain free, drug free and back to maximum energy. In fact she told us she’s recently done a triathlon, and so she is fighting fit and really has turned her life around.
She’s a cardiologist based out of Baltimore, very, very highly regarded in her field, and is helping people through her clinic to be educated about the best natural ways to protect themselves from cardiovascular disease and also to reverse rheumatoid arthritis naturally. So let’s get started as Monica tells us about her background. Welcome to the podcast Monica.
Dr. Aggarwal: Thank you Clint. So I am a cardiologist, as you mentioned. I was trained in the US and I feel like I have been in school all my life. So I finished my cardiology training back in 2006, so I’ve been a practicing cardiologist since that time. I’m a non invasive cardiologist, so that means that I don’t do the procedures where we put the stents in. Instead we do a lot of the diagnosis, we do the prevention. I do a lot of procedures, I read echoes, I do transesophageal echoes, I read stress tests. I found that over on a day to day basis, we give out a lot of pills. We give a lot of pills to people. There’s a medicine for everything. Cardiologists love trials and we have lots of medicine that we know are effective in treating heart disease. So I would say that the first about six years of my career I did a lot of giving out medications.
It’s been a satisfying career. I felt like I had made a difference. I have three children. After I had my third child, I started experiencing migratory joint pain. Let’s go back a little. I had three children, less than two years apart for each child. Since I was in practice, since I was studying for so long and I wanted to wait till after my training to have children, I was older when I started having children. So I decided to have them sort of rapid fire. And after I had my third child, I started having this pain, first it started out in my hand on the second finger. I started having the pain in one of my joints. It was hot, it was swollen, then it moved to my left hand, it moved to a knee. I remember feeling this feeling of glass in my feet. I just felt like every time I took a step, there was glass cutting my feet.
So being the doctor that I am, I diagnosed myself with Lyme disease, and I started myself on antibiotics. Instead of going to see a physician, I decided that I would take care of myself and so I gave myself antibiotics and I didn’t get better. And so I started getting a little nervous because pain started getting worse. And I remember the day that I really knew I had a problem. I remember it was, I usually was sleeping three or four hours a night. I was back at work after six weeks of delivering my third child. And I felt like I had to do everything. I wanted to nurse and pump, and I was still practicing a fulltime career as a cardiologist, doing all the procedures and all that, and I wanted to also make my baby food, and everything I wanted to do because I thought I could do everything.
So one morning I went, I woke up I remember at five in the morning and I went downstairs, and it was like glass was cutting my feet, I was hobbling down the stairs, and I went to go make the lunches for the older children. Then the baby started crying, and I wanted to get upstairs to get my baby before she woke everyone up, and I couldn’t get up the stairs. It was so bad that I had to crawl up the stairs, and I couldn’t get the baby out of the crib, and that’s when I really knew I had a problem. I went and got my blood work done and I was told that I had a very severe form of rheumatoid arthritis, and that prognostically, overall my numbers were so poor that I wasn’t sure that I would practice again, or practice because I didn’t get on medications quickly because my numbers were so poor.
And the rheumatologist I saw told me to stop nursing the baby and get on medications within a week’s time. So I did, [inaudible 00:06:23] four and a half months post partum, I stopped nursing. I got on steroids and Methotrexate and I was better, but I was worse. I was better because my joints felt better but I was worse because my hair started falling out and I was nauseated all the time, and this metallic taste in my mouth was horrific. But I lost weight quickly, still I was better but I wasn’t better. So I’was taking all these pills, but I was dealing with all these nasty side effects. But I just kept going. I was able to go back to working and about six or nine months after I started taking medications, I met a woman who changed my life. She was a nutritionist, and she came to my office because she wanted to do one of my heart fairs. She wanted to participate in one of my community heart fairs. And I was a little skeptical because I felt like she really wouldn’t have too much to offer my people.
And she said, “Well, why don’t you let me do your profile and see what I can do to help you with it?” Skeptically I was like, “No, I don’t think so.” And she insisted and I said, “Okay, what the hell?” So she did my profile and recommended a whole bunch of changes in my diet, and that’s when it started my really healing. It took me some time to get off my medicines, mostly out of fear and mostly out of the physician’s fear. But I’ve been off all medications for a year now. I did my first triathlon last August, and I run two or three times a week and I feel great.
Clint: That is absolutely awesome.
Dr. Aggarwal: So, it’s clearly a testament that there are other things out there than medicine to heal the body.
Clint: Before we get onto the dietary side of things, what did you do with your medication reduction? Did you reduce your Prednisone first or Methotrexate first? How did that work?
Dr. Aggarwal: I weaned off Prednisone fairly quickly, and before I even started the diet change, I had come off the steroids. So I was only on a high dose of Methotrexate most of my… but all I was on was one high dose of Methotrexate, and that’s when I weaned down over about a two year period. And mostly because I was scared, the doctor was scared to wean it faster. So we would wean by five milligrams once every three months. And the rheumatologist I usually saw told me that I should not do it, and I that I would never get off medicine and there was no cure, and that I should just get used to taking the medicine.
Clint: Which is the most…?
Dr. Aggarwal: And I couldn’t…
Clint: That’s the most common sentence that I think most people with RA here, that’s the sentence that we’ve all heard at some point is that you’ll be on drugs forever and there is nothing you can do and diet doesn’t make a difference.
Dr. Aggarwal: And I think that most doctors believe, being somebody that I think can cross this line I feel like most of us believe that there is a role for diet in treating your body. But most of us don’t know enough about it. And in medical school I would say that I received a few days in nutrition education in four years. And then when you look at it and it’s being objective as a physician, I would say that we are always looking for a trial, and so the clinical trials just aren’t there for diet, for many reasons: because it’s hard to do a trial on diet because there are so many confounding effects, and it’s really to just isolate what exactly is making people better when you are doing a trial format, because there’s so much variability in what people are doing.
Then the second problem is that to do it on a large scale you need a lot of money. Pharmaceutical companies support most of our trials and there is no money in diet. So it’s hard to get a pharmaceutical, there’s nobody to cover the trials. So often these are the struggles we have with diet and nutrition studies in general.
Clint: Fortunately, there’re just enough dietary studies that are being done on very small scales to have given me during my journey some huge amount of hope. When I found ones that had talked about how people with RA, approximately 14 people had gone through a water fast for a week and all their symptoms had disappeared, but of course then when they added food back in, all the symptoms came back. So it’s something like that which was published about a decade ago was something that really caught my attention after I had an experience where I had food poisoning. And after 24 hours of not eating, I found all my pain was completely disappeared. So when I found that scientific study totally overlapped with my experience with not eating, that’s when it really dawned on me that there was a lot more to the dietary side of things.
Dr. Aggarwal: And that’s what it is, there’d be small trials with five, 10, 15 people that have been shown where they have, they’ve taken away things, they eliminated things, and that’s what’s exciting about this area. But from a rheumatologist’s perspective, and I’ve spoken to many, they are going to say well where are the trials, and I think that’s something that we’ll discuss a little bit later. I think you and I, but I think that’s definitely needed. More and more trials are needed on a larger scale so that we can convince physicians. The other thing that I think physicians feel is that they think that most people would rather have a pill than to change their lifestyle. And part of it is probably true, is that we are often looking for, as a society, we are looking for magic pills and that will sort of cure all. And I think that it takes – you have to really step back from your illness and say “Gosh, do I really want to be on these medicines, and what is it?” And one thing I talk to my patients about, I always say, “How much do you hate taking your pills? And if you hate it that much, how much are you willing to change?” And I tell people every single day in my clinic that I’m willing to do near about anything to be healthy. What are you willing to do?
Clint: I love it. The number one reason that people come to us after surveying people about their condition, when they came and started a program like the one that we recommend, is because of the drugs. They said the side effects to the drugs were too great. So it actually exceeds because they are in physical pain as the number one reason. It’s just the drugs are too toxic, it’s ruining their life, they can’t think clearly, or the weight gain or the fattening of the face on the Prednisone or the catching too many other viruses, infections on their biologic drugs, whatever it might be, it’s these side effects. I don’t think it’s the complete picture and I think that’s why I put so much work into trying to educate and inform people about other options.
So let’s talk about one of the big other options people have, which is the dietary changes. You and I share a great passion for plant based diets because of the experience we’ve both had with those. Can you tell us your initial dietary changes and then how that affected your joint pain and then where that has evolved to now?
Dr. Aggarwal: So I think that the key to most dietary changes doesn’t start with adding, but it really starts with elimination. And I think that the key to dietary changes is elimination. And so I think that the fact that most people, we don’t know what it is always that is your trigger. But most of us have common, there are very common things that are inflammatory to most of us. And what we do know is that some of these foods that are inflammatory, we have found the link between the inflammation or the food triggering the inflammation through the leaky gut, and that’s something we should talk about a little bit. So the key to the diet then I think is elimination and I think most of the times those inflammatory foods and classically are meats and dairy. And so I often tell people and do this for myself. I was already vegetarian but I had loads of dairy. So for me I just eliminated my dairy and my eggs.
That was very, very challenging, to cut out the dairy for me. But like you said, it was worth it and I haven’t looked back. I think what’s harder for most people is they say, “Well, what do you mean? Like all of my meat, all the time?” I often do people on a more gradual approach, mostly because I think it’s more palatable to people. If people are sick enough, they are willing to do a full elimination, but people that are less sick, like my cardiac patients or maybe they don’t know how sick they are, they often do better with more of a slower elimination, but we often start with the complete removal of all red meat, and if they can their chicken and I leave their fish for last. And then at the same time I have them eliminate all of their dairy, because I think dairy is extremely inflammatory.
And that’s everything dairy, and that’s hard for people to sort of learn what has milk in it, their butters, the sprinkle of cheese on their salads, inside their cakes, all those things that have butter and dairy in it, most of it to they have to learn and that takes people some time. But I do recommend a full dairy elimination. Then I recommend the eggs, mostly because eggs have PAMO in them and that is bad for building plaque in your heart.
Clint: Now are these patients that you are working with face to face, are these people that you are actually watching the results personally over a period of time?
Dr. Aggarwal: Yeah, I have a huge clinic.
Clint: And how do you observe these people as they eliminate these particular foods with time, their symptoms?
Dr. Aggarwal: Since I’m a cardiologist, I focus on cardiac patients, so I do an elimination diet on most of my cardiac patients. And when they do that, not only do they lose 50, 60, 100 pounds, which is not my goal and that’s a nice side effect, but their blood pressure goes down, their cholesterol goes down. My own cholesterol went down 80 points when I changed my diet and I don’t have a cholesterol problem in the first place. I find that people come say that their asthma is better, that they have less acne. Everybody says how impressed they are, how much their joints feel better. And so I have many rheumatoid patients in my clinic because there are some heart conditions that are associated with rheumatoid. And I work on the elimination diet with them and it’s made really significant wonders.
Clint: So that’s absolutely sensational. I’m sure people listening to this will be excited to learn more about how they might be able to come and meet with you even if they are outside of the challenges with their heart. Is that possible? Do you actually work with people who just have rheumatoid, who aren’t having any heart troubles?
Dr. Aggarwal: Yes, I have many patients that just have rheumatoid, and they come to me for screening purposes, because unfortunately with most inflammatory diseases including autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid, there’s a lot of heart disease. So a lot of people will come in for pre-screening and get education on that. I had a patient I can tell you about I just saw three days ago who came in [inaudible 00:19:16] rheumatoid and she was miserable on her multiple medications including biologics. And she was a small girl; she’s overweight and had a poor diet. I’ve known her now for about a year, and she’s came back to show me, three to four days ago, how good she looked. She’d lost 50 pounds on a plant based diet. She’d stopped smoking, her joint pain was almost completely resolved and she was weaning herself off all her medication, and she was like a new person. She came, just gave me a big hug and she said, “I just need to give you a hug so you know how much impact the diet has made on me.”
Clint: Isn’t that awesome?
Dr. Aggarwal: Amazing.
Clint: That’s the next step that we want to talk about, is how do we share those kinds of stories with more people and people in the medical community who are the trusted authority and the trusted guide for people with RA, who go to see their doctors and want their doctors to have the sort of information that can help them not just with pharmaceutical recommendations but also potentially dietary and other lifestyle recommendations if those doctors are aware of studies that you and I would like to see out in the medical field a lot more. So we’ve spoken in the past about a project that you are working on. So what can you share with our listeners about the research project that you and I have talked about in the past?
Dr. Aggarwal: Sure, because this is an area of frustration that as you pointed out that a lot of patients are looking for doctors who are open to alternative options besides medication. I’ve put together with a group including yourself, you’ve been super helpful Clint, you’ve really given us a lot of great information, but what we’ve done is, what I’m putting together currently is I’m putting together a group of people who have inflammatory arthritis and are using a plant based diet, and want to show that people’s inflammatory markers have decreased by just change of diet. And the process is long and it will take some time to sort of get all the approvals and get all the data collected. And that’s going to be exciting because we are going to show the medical community, hopefully through a peer reviewed physician journal that the diet made a significant impact and a clear marker. That’s what people are often saying, “Well this is subjective, this is that, this is don’t know, it’s a little bit arbitrary,” these are sort of the criticisms that I would get. But if somebody can see the clear change in the inflammatory marker, a quantitative number, that is powerful.
Clint: So as you said, I have been helping here with this, and I’m really excited about this. I got such a huge buzz when I was only about, I think I was 23-years-old when I was able to publish a scientific journal paper, and it’s in the physics field. It was actually in a journal called “Electronics Letters.” And it was called the simultaneous multiple fabrication of fiber bragg grating using frequency doubled copper vapor lasers. So it was quite a different thing than what you are looking at right now.
Dr. Aggarwal: It’s true.
Clint: But the feeling that I had participated in something that would help to bring more collective awareness to a particular area of research felt really, really good. So when you came across and asked me if had some people who would fit the bill for this particular research project, I looked at the requirements and the requirements were that someone had used a plant based diet to improve their rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory arthritis or inflammatory joint disease and that we had before and after figures of their C-reactive protein or sed rate or ESR, and ways in which as you said we could quantify their improvement. And so I was able to collect probably 20 or 30 cases who then filled out a short questionnaire, which would have only taken them five minutes and send back their results, and then I forwarded those on to you.
And so if anyone is listening to this and wants to be part of this and help us to help sort of change the way that, although it’s only a small step, help move towards changing the way that the disease is treated from a medical point of view, to incorporate some more suggestions with regards to dietary and lifestyle changes from doctors, then you can certainly be in contact with myself or with Monica and provide, you’ll just basically put up your hand and we’ll send you the questionnaire and you can participate in this. Because the more people we get, the bigger the sort of impact that this will have and then more people will pay attention.
Dr. Aggarwal: Absolutely, any help we can get and the bigger we can make this, the better and more powerful it will be.
Clint: And where are you up to, you are currently working with your hospital in finding out just some details with regards to…?
Dr. Aggarwal: Yeah, I think there’s just some legalities that need to be fine tuned, but yeah, I can talk about sort of offline, but there are some details we just have to get through in terms of internal review board kind of things that are required of us which are just small steps we have to take that are just going to slow us down but are important steps to make sure everybody is comfortable with what we are doing here. And so it’s just going to take us some time but we should hopefully get something really great out there shortly.
Clint: Now before we get on to a couple of other things with regards to how people can interact and work with you more closely, did you have any struggles when you shifted across from your standard western diet to the plant based diet that you are now on? And what sort of hurdles that you had to overcome that you’d like to just highlight in case people are struggling with the transition?
Dr. Aggarwal: I think the transition is definitely a challenge when you give up the things, some of the things that you’ve used your whole life, and you think, “God, there’s no way that I can do this.” I tell people all the time that you absolutely can, because change is hard but change is important. And we see that you have to remember that the reason that we think that people have inflammatory diseases like autoimmune disease, a lot of the gut diseases, we’re seeing more and more type 1 diabetes, we’re seeing more allergy and more asthma, we’re seeing other autoimmune type of diseases, because these inflammatory diseases then trigger something called a leaky gut which is basically an abnormal gut flora that you have that is more prone to opening up and allowing a lot of these foods to come into the blood stream and creating an inflammatory reaction. So the key then is to change that gut flora and making it stronger, and so part of elimination with do that.
And then adding that, sort of the healthier foods will restore the gut flora and adding back a lot of the natural probiotics such as kimchi and sauerkraut and adding those things back is certainly nourishing that gut is super important. When you do that, at first the gut is… I always remind people, when you first do this, it’s going to feel a little uncomfortable. You are going to start feeling that gassy feeling; your stool is going to be different. You are going to sort of feel like, “Oh my God, what is happening down there?” But that’s normal because that’s the healing of the gut and will take time to restore that gut flora. And when I do tell people that really, you need to go and give it a good solid three months of a good elimination and add back to really start seeing that kind of impact.
Truthfully you will see impact within just a week or two, but I think you really need a good three months to sort of eliminate and to see really just sort of really significant improvement where you are going to go, “Wow, this is why I’m doing this.” And have faith, it will get better. It all gets better when you find the inflammatory food that you are triggering and nourishing your gut so that you heal.
Clint: I completely agree, and one thing that you and I talked about, a quite personal thing that we both exchanged is that what we both found is that even though we’ve both been able to eliminate all symptoms of the disease, my rheumatoid factor is still elevated. And last time we spoke, you said yours was also. I haven’t actually had mine tested for about two and a half or three years because I have had no symptoms and I have no interest in going and spending another $160 to the rheumatologist to then get a blood test referral and so on and so forth, because I feel fine. How’s your rheumatoid factor at the moment? Have you had it tested recently?
Dr. Aggarwal: Yeah, I play around with it, I have the benefit of being able to sort of check this fairly regularly at the hospital. And so I check it because I’m curious and I haven’t checked it in a few months. but although I do follow it, the rheumatoid factor is an interesting factor and it’s something that overall has probably been elevated most of our lives because we do have genetic predisposition to this illness, and so that’s what the concept is, is that a rheumatoid factor and your CCP antibody will probably be elevated. However, over time if you hear the doctor, there are a lot of prominent gastroenterologists, one being Alesio Fasano of Mass General, which is Harvard, who believes that overtime you should be able to switch off those triggers that you’ve activated your genes. And so overtime, those genes should somewhat be suppressed and we should be able to feel markers go down, but it’s not going to happen acutely. The inflammatory markers go down but you are not going to see those sort of genes, sort of markers go down for some time.
I don’t think you should be discouraged by those numbers. They will be elevated for some time, so I try not to get discouraged when I see them, because overall rheumatoid is a clinical diagnosis and if you don’t have clinical symptoms, I think that that’s extremely reassuring, and if your inflammatory markers aren’t elevated, that is the most important thing. And so those markers are interesting and that’s why I follow them and I do expect that overtime they will go down. But it’s not clear of how long that will take, will that be years, will that a decade or it will be just a few years or a few months? Well it’s definitely not a few months because I’ve been following them, but they are trending downward.
Clint: Well that’s what I’ve found with mine, it has come down. I think I’ve only actually had my rheumatoid factor measured twice, once upon diagnosis. And then as I said, two and a half, three years ago or something, and I haven’t seen my rheumatologist since. And so I probably will go and have it checked, perhaps just by a local blood collecting place and just find out how that looks, but it’s certainly not something I worry about. But people who contact me and ask questions of me and who I consult with are sometimes concerned because their inflammatory markers are down and yet their rheumatologist is still very pro drugs because their rheumatoid factor or CCP is still elevated. And so I wanted to get your thoughts on that, and I think that my stance on that so far seems in line with yours, which is to say, “Look, it’s up to you and your rheumatologist about your drugs.”
But generally, as my rheumatologist told me, the CCP and the rheumatoid factor are way, way down on our priority list and what we should be paying attention to, compared to C-reactive Protein and sed rate, and a physical exam of how your joints feel and look to the naked eye.
Dr. Aggarwal: Actually absolutely. I think that my initial rheumatologist, and I said that is one of the best of the best, and he says there’s no point in checking it. Don’t check your rheumatoid factor and your CCP antibody because they are always going to be high. And so, well I don’t know if I believe that completely but I do believe that they will be elevated for some time. And so he wasn’t somebody who checked it, I just checked it because I wanted to just see now that I’ve been on my diet and I’ve been in remission for some time has the number improved? But I think that it is, we should not be treating a number, we should be treating clinically how a person is doing. If the joints by X-rays are doing well, and if the inflammatory markers are nonexistent, that’s extremely important. I would also say though that I am not somebody who would say that you should do all the stuff on your own. I still have my rheumatologist; I think that we should still keep in touch with our physicians.
And I know that sometimes that’s startling and hard to do because we feel that our physicians let us down or that they are not in line with how we feel. And these are important points, not to be ignored for sure, but then finding somebody that matches you is something that I think that should be done. Because I think at the end of the day there just needs to be sort of follow through just to make sure that we are not getting some of those more significant [inaudible 00:33:29] of rheumatoid which are real and I’ve seen them, and people need to be monitored for that. Go ahead.
Clint: That’s such a very, very good point. I’m glad you just added that. Throughout my whole journey, every single dietary change that I made, always kept my rheumatologist in the loop. He sometimes watched me as if I was some kind of crazy guy, but at other times his jaw was on the ground with disbelief with the progress that I was making. So I always encourage, no one should be changing medications without their consultation with their doctors, unless the doctor has given permission to lower Prednisone at a certain rate as per a plan that they’ve laid out or if it’s over the counter drug that the patient has discretion to take more or less depending on day to day pain. But that’s about the limit of it; everything else needs to be done in consultation with the doctor.
Dr. Aggarwal: Absolutely. It’s just I think that we can, when people come to be often and say, “My doctor is frustrating me,” these are important points, finding somebody that works with you. But they are out there, they are the minority but they are around and you just have to sort of find out, find somebody who can work in line with you. And I know many rheumatologists in the country that are willing to work with a plant based diet and work on weaning, but in the country that’s a handful, so it’s hard to find them but they are there.
Clint: What I’m going to do is ask you after we are done to just email me through a list of those doctors, because I’d like to put them in the show notes so that people can track them down if they’d like to maybe do a Skype consultation if they are not in their local area, but be able to access someone who’s thinking along the same lines that we do.
Dr. Aggarwal: Okay, sounds good.
Clint: Yeah, that would be great. So, do you think there’s one diet for everyone? I certainly do and it can be controversial where there’s people who are having partial success with something like the paleo movement is so popular right now, it’s become almost like a cult following and ties in with certain exercise regimes and so forth. And some people claim they’ve had great success with that and I’m sure they have, because as soon as you eliminate dairy and oils, you are going to feel a whole lot better. But what I see with the paleo diet is that people come to me after about 12 months, tends to be about the average mark at which people start to find that they are just not making any more progress and that’s because it’s pretty hard to have the perfect microbiome when you are consuming a large amount of meat on a daily basis.
And so I feel that regardless of your health condition and especially if it’s one that gives you direct feedback like an inflammatory disease where you get inflammation pretty quick, maybe four to six hours after eating an inflammatory food, then I feel that there is one diet for the human body and it is a broad spectrum, diverse plant based diet. Do you feel the same way or are there situations where you feel people should be including meat and dairy? Or is it just something that we are biased towards or do you feel that it’s an approach that really everyone should take?
Dr. Aggarwal: This question comes to me a lot. And so I do think, we can talk a little bit about paleo. I think overall that a diet that includes meat is difficult to heal, and you could argue that there are so many people that don’t get sick. Well that’s not totally true. There’s many people in my clinic that have been on the Atkin’s side [note – the Atkins Diet which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates], and they come in, which is a high meat diet, and they come in and they say, “I’ve lost all this weight, I feel so good.” and then I check their cholesterol, it’s through the roof. Or they have plaque in their heart and they need stents. And so I don’t think a meat diet. We don’t live in the caves; we don’t run and walk for eight hours a day. We should not be eating the type of meat that people are eating on these high meat diets. So I think meat overall is something that should be eliminated in all diets.
So there are certain parts of the diet I think that apply to everyone. You eliminating fish, does everyone need to eliminate fish? I don’t think so. I think fish is probably the only animal product that has enough benefits and doesn’t have enough negatives for me to say that everyone needs to eliminate fish. With that in mind, the caveat on that is that fish now is so complicated because half of it is toxic and it’s full of pollutants and then the other half is farm raised and they are using colorings that are inflammatory just to make your salmon look salmon. I think that in this context, fish is probably the least toxic or least dangerous for our systems. But with that in mind, there are just so many issues with fish these days. So cow’s milk is extremely inflammatory for most people, and I think that if you eliminate cow’s milk you will see a significant improvement.
So overall I do think that there is one diet in terms of primarily being a plant based diet that suits everyone, but there are nuances. There will be certain people will do worse with night shades, there will be certain people that feel like they need, they have a gluten issue because there are other things that aren’t inflammatory for certain people. And sometimes they will eliminate dairy, I find but they’ll still have a difficulty and will need to remove gluten as well, although it will be, because there’s always shades. And so Dr. Fasano, remember I told you he’s from MassGeneral [Hospital], he’ll say that most foods trigger the leaky gut a little bit, and that’s normal and that’s good because that’s the train to your immune system, but it’s what makes your gut leak for hours and hours at end that triggers that inflammatory reaction.
And so some people will have an inflammatory reaction for longer with more certain foods. And so I think that overall a plant based diet is for everyone, but there are some nuances that can be adjusted on a patient to patient basis, depending on how they are doing.
Clint: I love it, wonderful. Okay, that’s awesome. Well, I’ve just got a couple of last questions and then we’ll let you go, I know it’s getting late there. And so one question that I get a little bit is how can I stay motivated? I’m in pain, I’m making some progress, but I’m still on quite high medications and I’m finding giving up some of my favorite foods to be a challenge. My work requires me to still exert a lot of energy and I’m stressed a lot. And so a lot of people are living their lives while trying to heal from this disease, and you with three children, a very, very senior position with a very, very highly regarded career, how were you able to get through this? What are some motivational tips or some strategies or mindset that enabled you to push through and get to where you are now?
Dr. Aggarwal: I think that it’s tough, there’s no question. I think that one thing I say to myself often is accept what your body has to give, because every day your body will not give you everything that you want. Allowing and learning who you are and what your body has in you, learning humility I think are super important. And one thing I did not have, I would say I was not a humble person three or four years ago when I was diagnosed. I always tell people that I used to blame my daughter, my third daughter, my third child, for giving me my disease. But it was actually years later that I realized that she was actually who saved me. And you really need to accept that the body takes time and it will heal over time and have faith in that, but also to accept that maybe today you are not at your best and to allow yourself that time to heal. And I told myself and tell other people all the time what I said to you earlier, which is, “What are you willing to give to get better?”
And I truly I’m willing to do almost anything to feel good because I do have three kids, and I want those small children of mine to see a mother who isn’t on medications and isn’t miserable from side effects, and who can be involved on a day to day basis and be present, and so those are my motivations. But is it a challenge? Absolutely. Every single day when you are going through the changes and working on your diet, there’re moments where you feel, “What I’m I doing? Am I crazy? This isn’t working.” And you’ll have those moments, but you have to stay part of support groups and communities and what you are doing for your group. There are so many websites out there now. I have a website, I have a new book coming out actually, just to sort of motivate people to find that balance and feel better over time.
Clint: Awesome. Well you’ve been really generous with your time and I really appreciate it. it’s just so great to hear all of that stuff and I’m sure listeners got a lot out of this talk. So how can people contact you if they either want to come to your clinic or is there a way that they can learn more without sort of having to disclose your personal…?
Dr. Aggarwal: Travel to Baltimore, Maryland?
Dr. Aggarwal: Yes, absolutely. So it’s interesting, I have people that contact me from London and I have people that talk to me from all over the world, which it’s been neat and to see what people are hearing and questions people have. Questions like, “What about my calcium and what about my protein?” People contact me. I have a website, its www.drmonicaaggarwal.com and I know it’s a difficult one, so it’s A-G-G-A-R-W-A-L, so www.monicaaggarwal.com. And there’s an email address on there, you can email me there. Or I have a Facebook page which is where a lot of people like to contact me including my patients, which is just Dr. Monica Aggarwal. And if you like the page, you can always private message me. I’m pretty good about responding within a few days’ time. So those are good ways. And I do have a book coming out in the fall, called “Finding Balance,” and it will be available on all the Internet websites hopefully by September or October.
Clint: Well that’s awesome. I’ll definitely be getting a copy of your book because I love what you are doing. I’ll also recommend it and place links to it from inside our paddison program community and also one of my website. I’ll put the links to drmonicaaggarwal.com on the bottom of the show notes and also link to your Facebook page which I’m a fan of. So I’ll do everything to help people be able to find you and connect with more of your work and get help from you because what you are doing is outstanding and I’m really, really pleased that we are able to do this recording.
Dr. Aggarwal: That’s nice Clint, I just want to say one last thing is that, at the end of day I think you should also be commended, you are doing such an amazing thing. You are not even a medical person and you have created, you have such an interest and a passion and you are doing a great service to so many people who are suffering from such a difficult disease, and should be proud of yourself for that.
Clint: Thank you very much. There’s certainly a lot more to be done, so I think we can continue to put information out that can help people, and then when the time is right for people, the information will resonate with them and they can take as much action as they wish.
Dr. Aggarwal: Absolutely.
Clint: Now I’d love to in the future do some seminars with you at any time. So if you’d ever like me to be part of or help out with anything down the track when I’m in the US, which I am frequently because my wife is from Florida, please don’t hesitate, I’d love to.
Dr. Aggarwal: That’s a great idea, every May and we do a big event in Baltimore, but I’ve been involved with a lot more events lately around the country, and so I think that there will be definitely room for us to bring you in so you can share your story.
Clint: Absolutely, that will be great. Okay, well I’ll let you go now, I know it’s late. Thank you once again and I’ll be in touch again soon.
Dr. Aggarwal: All right, good talking to you.
Clint: So that was the chat that I had with Dr. Monica Aggarwal. As you heard in that episode, we are working on a study that we want to publish so that the medical community can learn more about how powerful a plant based diet can be for reversing rheumatoid arthritis. So if you have followed the Paddison Program or your friend has or you know someone who’s been on a plant based diet and has improved their rheumatoid arthritis, quantitative figures or inflammation, C-reactive protein or sed rate, then we’d love to hear from you. Just email me, email@example.com and let us know that you’d like to be part of this study because it’s just a simple questionnaire that you have to fill out and your contribution could help us tremendously in raising more awareness so that the medical community can become more educated about how to balance the treatment for someone, not just from a pharmaceutical point of view but also from a natural point of view.
So that would be great if you could do that. If you are interested we’d love to hear from you, firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’ve got any other questions, shoot me an email. Thanks for listening and happy healing.