Women change careers after seeing benefits of a vegan diet

Getting a disease and taking good care of it can be the key to good health. And that‘‍s what three women did when they adopted a whole-plant-food vegan diet to achieve good health. 

They not only adopted Hippocrates‘‍ philosophy -- “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” -- but also expanded their mission. All three quit professional careers to heal themselves, which inspired them to start businesses focused on helping others to heal themselves through diet and lifestyle. 

Janet McKee, 49, of Franklin Park, is a holistic health counselor who speaks nationwide on plant-based nutrition and healing. Her company, Sanaview, recently purchased a 52-acre farm near Seven Springs to grow organic plant foods and serve as an educational center.

She learned her skills the hard way.

With an MBA, Ms. McKee had a high-stress position with a software company, but then she developed ulcerative colitis -- an autoimmune disease that landed her in the hospital with internal bleeding, a failing liver and severe pain. Doctors told her the condition was chronic and would require a lifetime of medications, with a chance she’‍d have to have part of her intestines removed. She also faced a 15 percent chance of colon cancer.

But Ms. McKee would have none of it. She spent two years studying holistic medicine and the healing powers of a strict whole-plant-food diet that includes a large percentage of raw foods. With the lifestyle, she no longer has any symptoms of colitis. That success convinced her to quit her job and start Sanaview. She says there are no guarantees before citing a list of patients she‘‍s helped with breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers, along with patients who have had success with a long list of other diseases. 

“It‘‍s all a neat story, but we have medical proof that whole plant foods contain everything to fight illness,” Ms. McKee said. Among her many projects, she produced the movie, “Bethany’‍s Story,” about a paralyzed young girl who used a whole-plant-food diet to recover full function. Ms. McKee‘‍s website is www.sanaview.com.

“What drives me is that so many people are suffering and don‘‍t know there’‍s a better way,” she said. “We‘‍re not selling some crazy concoction. It’‍s common sense.”

Tracey Eakin, 48, of Peters, was trained as an MBA with a career in corporate finance. Then she developed an autoimmune disease that destroyed platelets in the blood and hindered blood clotting. Her options included having a doctor monitor her condition, but it was likely going to lead to transfusions and removal of her spleen. 

She chose none of the above. After exhaustive research, she, too, adopted a whole-food vegan diet and eventually became certified through noted nutrition programs. She concluded that her autoimmune disease was caused by consumption of animal-based foods.

On the vegan diet, Ms. Eakin lost 55 pounds with total cholesterol dropping well within the normal range. She also reduced osteoarthritic knee pain to a point where she‘‍s no longer considering knee replacement surgery. Her personal experiences led to her decision to quit her job and start her own business as a plant-based nutrition counselor.

Her website -- www.traceyeakin.com -- includes summaries of research along with an e-book on the health advantages of the vegan diet.   

“You have to embrace it because the evidence is too compelling,” Ms. Eakin said.

Caroline Graettinger, 53, of Chartiers, Washington County, was an electrical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University‘‍s Software Engineering Institute when a doctor‘‍s appointment revealed she had high cholesterol. Reluctant to take statin drugs, she opted to enroll in the McDougall Wellness Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., which persuaded her to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

Her new diet caused her cholesterol to drop within the normal range. She also no longer has acne and experiences increased energy levels. Her husband, Tim, also lowered his cholesterol levels while losing 35 pounds.

Their success led to her decision to leave CMU and begin her online business, www.GardenDish.com, where subscribers receive 20 “delicious, colorful and vibrant” vegan recipes a month, along with shopping lists and other features. Her philosophy involves making the lifestyle practical.

“It’‍s been quite a ride for us. We‘‍d never go back to meat or dairy,” Ms. Graettinger said. ”This is a journey for every single person. We all start at different points. Where we go and how we get there is important for this community, and we do a disservice if we don’‍t come together.”

David Templeton: dtempleton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1578.

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