"It would have been easier to blame my mom for giving me bad genes, but I know that type 2 diabetes is not genetic. It is rather lifestyle and dietary-related."
My name is Edelita Remegoso-Jamis. My husband and I are both Internal Medicine physicians. We both grew up in the Philippines and obtained our residency training here in the US. We have been practicing primary care physicians for almost 6 years.
Our journey here in the US took a dramatic turn in 2017. While our careers were taking off pretty well, our health turned for the worse. Despite our busy lives, we wanted to make sure that we were still doing our yearly blood tests, and we didn't like what we were seeing. My blood sugar and weight were increasing despite my desperate efforts to exercise. I became diabetic at 38 years old. Diabetes is my most feared disease, second to cancer. I know what this does to people's lives. As a primary care physician, I know how this silent disease is a gateway to other chronic diseases. My mom lived with diabetes for the last 25 years, with poor quality of life, and taking a lot of medications.
My husband had more health issues. He became prediabetic. His bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels were shooting up as high as 150 and 300, respectively. He developed gouty arthritis and had to start allopurinol after the acute inflammation subsided. There were several more attacks of painful gout despite taking allopurinol. I remembered very clearly how frustrating it was for him to take anti-inflammatory pain medication every 4 hours when we flew to the Philippines for a vacation. He didn't even get to enjoy the vacation because he was bed-bound for 5 days. At that time, we felt both lost and confused. We have done serious changes to our diet and practiced everything we know in medicine, but nothing helped.
It would have been so easy to make an excuse that I got the bad genes from my mom. After all, she was diagnosed with diabetes about the same age as I am now. But I know that type 2 diabetes is not genetically passed on. It is rather lifestyle-related.
Incidentally, we stumbled into several documentaries in Netflix that talked about the reversal of chronic diseases with a whole food plant- based diet. We were intrigued because we have never heard about this in medical school or in medical training. But since we felt something was still not right, we were determined to find out what we were doing wrong. We fear that our sons are at a higher risk, and will very likely get the same health issues at an even younger age.
The scope of the lifestyle change that we had to do was enormous. We were caught off guard. Nobody had warned us that this could be "life- changing" indeed. There were a lot of doubts. Is this worth it? If this is the way to better health, why do I feel like I'm the only one doing it, and why was I not taught about this? Why would I allow myself to suffer so much when others chose to enjoy and "live life to the fullest pleasurable way"? The demands from the daily rigors became overwhelming. Family relationships were strained. And oh by the way... I decided to drag our 8-year-old twin boys into this dietary makeover.
To combat all the negative thoughts that started to crowd my mind and question my good intentions, I decided to dive deeper into lifestyle medicine. I thought that facing this challenge head-on may be the best way, as long as I have the right tools to get through it. I looked at our situation in many different ways. I see us going to war, fighting for our lives, and I needed to have the best weapon. I can not afford to lose, otherwise, it would mean physical torment and slow death for me and my family. I also see it as a battle against my bad lifestyle, that I didn't know was damaging my health all this time. To me, the only thing that can be used both as a tool and a weapon is understanding how chronic diseases become byproducts of my wrong food choices and poor lifestyle habits.
My appetite to learn new things became exciting instead of tumultuous. I didn't stop reading and researching. My husband and I attended two International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conferences. We were at awe and surprised at how very little we know about the relationship between food and disease. For the first time in all the conferences that we have attended in our medical career, this conference didn't talk about medications and procedures. Large bodies of scientific evidence supporting lifestyle change as a means of getting healthier left us wondering. Where were all these hidden and why weren't these taught in my 8 years of medical career formation? Feeling the drive to learn more, I took and passed the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine in 2018.
Three months after we gave our 100% effort, we repeated our blood test. This time, not only did we like the results, but we were in disbelief. Our blood sugar and cholesterol went down significantly. My husband's uric acid level normalized, and it remained that way after discontinuing his gout medicine. He has not had a single gout flare since the dietary change. He lost a total of 40 pounds effortlessly. We have so much energy now than we had before. Our sinus allergies went away too, and we no longer needed to use steroid nasal spray and allergy pills. Our health transformation gave us a tremendous amount of hope for what we can share to our patients.
Since then, we did not stop talking about lifestyle change. Over the last year, we infused Lifestyle Medicine to our patients, with particular emphasis on a whole-food plant-based diet, which yielded remarkable results. I convinced my mother to do the same, and she is now off insulin after being on it for 25 years. We managed to cut down all her other medications in half.
Every single success story from my patients drives me to be even more determined to continue my passion. This time though, with a more different but clearer and ambitious goal for my patients. I think that I have found my purpose as a physician and I want to help as many patients who seek to be free from medications and their ailments.
There is HOPE - lifestyle change! And this hope is evidenced-based. By far, it is the only intervention that can potentially reverse chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, allergy, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, obesity and so on. No medication or procedure holds a promise for chronic disease reversal. This one does. I believe that it is worth taking a chance and there is no better time to act than NOW.
" We felt something was still not right. We were determined to find out what we were doing wrong because whatever it is, we fear that our sons are at a higher risk".