Name: Judy Temkin
Diagnosis: Osteopenia (lower-than-normal bone-mineral density)
Prognosis: Progressively worse until full blown osteoporosis
Year Diagnosed: 2009
What was your life like before your diagnosis?
I am tall and rather on the thin side (5’7” about 129 pounds). A bit of history: my mother was an avid milk drinker and consumer of all things dairy. She genuinely believed that by drinking these massive quantities of milk, she was doing her body, mainly her bones, good. She suffered a broken hip in 2009, another broken hip in 2011, and passed away eight months after the second broken hip very frail and sad. I had suffered a severely sprained ankle, but no broken bones.
How did you find out about your diagnosis?
After seeing what my mother went through, and after I had my first bone-density test that showed osteopenia, I vowed I would never go through what mom did.
What was your treatment plan laid out by your doctor?
She really didn’t lay one out. She did not to put me on a biphosphonate drug due to some potential side effects of the drugs. I don’t think she had much confidence in them.
How did you find out about a vegan diet?
I researched healthy bones and ways to avoid osteoporosis. What kept coming up was the alkaline-acid balance in the diet: how an overly acidic diet, which is the way most Americans eat, actually leaches calcium out of the bones to reach the balance necessary in our blood. A way to avoid this is to eat a more alkaline diet, and the best alkaline diet is a healthful vegan diet.
When did you decide to give it a try?
I switched to a full-fledged vegan diet in the summer of 2010 when I realized it was best for bone health—and really overall health.
What was it like to transition to a vegan diet?
It was easier for me than I thought. It required a complete shift in the way I think about food, but once I knew I was doing the right thing, no way did I want to turn back.
What was a normal day of eating like before you started eating vegan?
A normal day of eating would have been cold breakfast cereal with dairy milk and coffee with milk. Lunch would be a turkey or tuna sandwich, and dinner would of course would have been chicken, fish, or occasionally beef as the centerpiece with a starch and a vegetable. Ice cream was a usual treat.
What is a day of eating like now?
Steel-cut oatmeal or quinoa with cinnamon, chia seeds, hemp seeds, wild blueberries, and banana is my favorite breakfast—with my one small cup of coffee and coconut milk creamer. Lunch could be a hummus wrap, snacks could be fresh fruits such as apples or pears and nuts such as almonds or pistachios, and dinner could be greens and beans, a sweet potato, a hearty lentil soup, or a big salad.
When did you start to see results? What did your doctor think?
My last bone-density test was several months ago. My doc was amazed. She said that she had never seen a bone-density score improve as much as mine had in all of her years of practice. She actually brought me into her office to ask me what I was doing.
How are you doing today?
I continue to eat this way, and I will never turn back. I dedicate this story to my mother in the hopes that other women can learn that a plant-based diet can save their bones, and thus their lives!