After shedding a whopping 70 pounds and four dress sizes, comedian Gina Yashere was finally ready to talk about the diet that had changed her life. Remarkably, the weight loss was an unintentional after effect of a regime meant to help her manage symptoms of Lupus – a difficult to diagnose autoimmune disease that can manifest in many different ways. It is caused by a malfunctioning immune system, which turns against the sufferer’s own body, and currently, there is no medically sanctioned cure.
What is Lupus and how can it affect the body?
Lupus is known as a “great imitator” in medical lingo, because it comes with nonspecific symptoms that make it very easy to be confused with other health problems, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and anemia. Symptoms can vary wildly, from hair loss, headaches, mood swings, fatigue and insomnia; to joint pain, heart inflammation and even organ failure.
In fact, Gina’s early symptoms had led her to believe she was developing arthritis.
“I had been feeling tired for months and my joints were aching, but then I woke one morning to find I couldn’t open my hands. My fingers were like claws and it took me half-an-hour to try to warm them up by wriggling them before they were back to almost normal. I also noticed my eyes were dry and I would wake at night to find my lids stuck together,” she explained.
According to statistical data, Lupus is 4 times more likely to affect people of African, Caribbean or Latin descent, and nine times more likely to occur in women.
The disease follows a somewhat predicable pattern, where symptoms flare up and later enter a remission stage which can last from a few weeks to a few years. Standard treatment depends on the severity of the flares, but usually relies on a class of anti-inflammatory drugs called corticosteroids. Unfortunately, these drugs come with a long list of side effects, some of which can be quite severe: depression, salt retention, insulin resistance, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, as well as vulnerability to infections as a result of a weakened immune system.
Getting a handle on Lupus with raw foods
Gina’s first steroid shot helped her bring her symptoms under control, but she soon experienced a relapse while on trip to the Middle East (exposure to sunlight can exacerbate the symptoms).
It quickly became obvious that shooting up steroids to keep her disease in check wasn’t going to solve anything. She was in desperate need of a better solution.
“I hated the side effects, which meant I put on weight.”
After gaining over 70 pounds and finding that she had difficulty exercising because of incessant joint pain, Gina found out about a cleansing and detox clinic in Thailand, so she took a leap of faith and flew herself over there. One week of colonics and fasting later, she lost 14 pounds and saw her Lupus symptoms improve dramatically. It was easy to see where to go from there.
“When I came back I changed my diet to just raw fruit and vegetables and with my symptoms getting easier, I cut down on my medication. Two years ago I stopped taking pills altogether,” she confessed.
Nowadays, Gina is slimmer, eats healthy, and feels much better. She has eliminated her joint pain almost completely, although she admits that there still are a few Yoga moves she can’t do.
Throughout her career, Gina has appeared in many comedy shows in the UK, including The Lenny Henry Show and Mock of the Week. Since 2010, she has also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, in a sketch comedy series called Madame Yashere: The Surly Psychic.
She has used her vlog to share some of the raw food goodness that has helped her regain control over her health. In late 2011, she was featured on Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me, where she prepared some of the delicious recipes that can be found on her menu: raw marinated mushrooms stuffed with mango and avocado, raw spicy Caribbean balls with cranberry relish, spinach and ginger, and raw orange infused mince pies with cashew cream icing.