WHEN traditional medicine fails to provide real solutions to some of our most debilitating diseases, it is not unusual for patients to look outside the box for help.
Even health professionals who have been entrenched in the rigid philosophies of medical science have been known to look to alternative therapies when medicine has failed to provide answers for their own ailments.
That's certainly the case for former psychologist turned health consultant, Angela Zagoren, who advocates a "clean eating" approach to overcoming disease. In her final stages of her PhD at CQUniversity in 2010, Angela suffered an acute attack on her lower limbs which put her in a wheelchair for months.
After a second attack, and numerous doctor's visits and tests, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Separate MRIs found two lesions, signalling the autoimmune condition and confirming Angela's worst fears.
"I felt angry, frustrated and powerless at the prospect of having a chronic disease … The penny dropped that all the energy I had spent on fighting the diagnosis would be needed in cultivating acceptance and hope for the future."
Despite being ready to throw the towel in on her studies, Angela was encouraged to complete her thesis by her supervisor Associate Professor Matthew Rockloff.
"I was grappling with fear about my career prospects, questioning whether anyone would want to employ a psychologist with MS. Thankfully, my supervisor was incredibly supportive."
With her thesis submitted and her second baby on the way, Angela turned her attention and energy to fighting her disease.
Disillusioned with the limited solutions provided to her by doctors, Angela focused on psychological strategies such as 'mindfulness' to cope with her pain, reconnect with her body, and tend to its needs.
With her wealth of research skills, Angela began reviewing medical journals, online research databases and library books, and was surprised to discover the sheer volume of alternative treatments for MS. She began experimenting on herself by increasing her vitamin D levels, exercising and strengthening her muscles, and changing the fats in her diet.
Angela credits her discovery of the powerful role of food in preventing and combating disease to an inspiring book by Perth-based emergency doctor Professor George Jenlinek, Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis.
"Here was a man who prevailed over his disease despite tragically losing his mother to MS before his own diagnosis at the peak of his career. I immediately connected with his dedication to research and his search for alternative treatments. I was overjoyed to learn his diet and lifestyle changes had kept him relapse-free for over a decade. I'd never heard of such a thing!"
It was Jelinek's story that gave Angela the confidence to trust her instincts that "clean food" was the answer to healing her body.
She has since proven that "sunshine, an exclusively wholefood plant-based diet, mindfulness and exercise" can make huge changes in health and well-being.
And in her case, help to prevent a recurrence of her MS symptoms.
Ten months into her new food and lifestyle program, a routine MRI of her brain and spinal cord showed no sign of any new or old lesions - a completely normal scan.
Angela is now symptom free and out of the wheelchair. She's a busy mum of two young boys dedicated to sharing her story in the hope it will help others in their quest for health solutions.
Angela has developed her own website www.cooking formyspirit.com.au to share her knowledge about plant-based nutrition and how to claim your life back from disease.
Although Angela knows that diet overhauls are rarely a one-size-fits-all remedy, she says it's important to listen to your own body when it comes to deciphering foods that cause harm or health.
Angela is currently in negotiations with publishers for commercial books that will merge established academic, evidence-based research with her own practical applications and has plans in place for a plant-based cookbook, due to be completed by the end of 2014.
She also conducts consultations for people seeking personalised health interventions.
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