Hilde had been plagued with health problems for most of her adult life—stomach ulcers, constipation, kidney stones, hives, urinary tract infections, sciatica—but she had never considered herself as anything other than normal. "Everyone had some sort of ailment, some sort of pain or discomfort," said Hilde, who is from Norway but has a second home in Florida. "I could see that I had more than most, but I was strong, I could handle it."
This diagnosis, however, Hilde could not handle. "I was in shock," she said. "I felt sick to my stomach and lost. What I knew to be my future had been turned upside down."
Hilde had been admitted to a hospital specializing in rheumatic diseases after suffering for years with painful, swollen joints. It started in one foot but soon spread to her fingers, elbows and the rest of her joints, making it increasingly difficult for Hilde to work—as an interior architect in the day, running her own business, and as an aerobics and spinning instructor in the evening.
The hospital confirmed that Hilde had severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune condition in which the body's own immune system attacks the cells that line the joints, causing pain and inflammation. Hilde was informed that she would need to take medication for the rest of her life and would probably end up in a wheelchair.
Hilde was already taking Vioxx (rofecoxib), a potent nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, that has since been withdrawn from the market because it was found to cause heart attacks. But three more drugs were prescribed to treat her condition: the chemotherapy agent methotrexate, the corticosteroid prednisone—both immune system suppressants—and Enbrel (etanercept), a drug designed to block the overproduction of tumor necrosis factor (TNF), an inflammation-regulating protein thought to be behind the symptoms of RA.
At the time, Hilde felt lucky to be on the drugs—especially Enbrel, which she was told was a new, very expensive drug with great results. She believed she was receiving the very best that medicine had to offer.
Hilde had to administer Enbrel via injections to her stomach, which became sore and red around the injection sites and "looked like the world map after a while," she said, but she persisted. And, sure enough, her joint pain started to improve.
"The swelling was going down, and I could move freely again. I was even able to wear my high heels," she recalled—a boon for this self-confessed "shoe-freak."
Hilde resumed her busy work schedule and active lifestyle, enjoying the freedom of having a fully functioning body again. But something wasn't the same.
"I felt like a dark cloud was hanging over me," said Hilde. "And my energy levels had dropped big time."
Hilde found herself depressed and anxious, with an irregular heartbeat. She also suffered from severe stomach pain, had flu-like symptoms, and felt constantly nauseated and dizzy.
She consulted her regular doctor as well as her rheumatologist numerous times about whether her symptoms were side-effects of her medication, but each time her concerns were dismissed.
After two more years on the medication, she had become so sick that she had to give up her business and stop working altogether.
The turning point came when Hilde had a vivid dream in which she was confronted with an enormous barrel filled to the brim with syringes—all the drugs that she had injected into her body. "I woke up with an amazing sense of clarity," said Hilde. "I thought: you're literally killing yourself!"
Hilde made up her mind to stop taking all of her medication and threw all her drugs away, even though her doctors warned that she would die without them. At that point, Hilde discovered that she had only gotten worse, even with the so-called wonder drug. "I went downhill steadily," said Hilde. "Soon I couldn't bend my fingers, elbows or knees, and needed a wheelchair to get around. I was in inflammation hell."
This sudden deterioration scared Hilde, but it also fueled her to find a way to get well. She read for 16 hours a day, researching why she was so sick and how to get better.
What followed was many years of trying out all kinds of alternative treatments and techniques, from elimination diets and liver flushing to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and various electromagnetic and infrared technologies. "I was my own guinea pig," she recalls.
Back to nature
What eventually worked was a back-to-basics approach that didn't center on popping handfuls of vitamin pills every day or using special machines, but instead on trusting nature and enabling the body to heal itself.
A cornerstone of this approach was a fruit-only diet. Hilde had been following a raw-food diet for three years, eliminating cooked foods completely in favor of raw greens, nuts, seeds and plant oils. This helped to some extent, said Hilde, but her body was still inflamed and in pain.
While looking for answers online, Hilde came across the YouTube videos of Robert Morse, a naturopathic doctor and master herbalist who believes that all disease stems from a stagnated lymphatic system—the body's waste-disposal system. He advocates a fruitarian diet to remedy this, as fruits are highest in astringent and antioxidant substances that can get the lymphatic system moving and encourage detoxification. Other more complex foods will simply slow down this all-important process, claims Morse.
While there has been little to no mainstream research into the possible benefits of a fruitarian diet—or even a raw vegan one—Morse believes that fruit is the optimal food for humans because it requires little energy for the body to digest and has a very high water content. According to Morse, water within raw food has added benefits over simply drinking water because it can carry the plant's enzymes, antioxidants and other health-giving molecules directly into cells.
Although medical evidence to support these claims is thin on the ground, there is some compelling research from evolutionary biology and anthropology to suggest that, like our cousins the great apes, we humans have the physiological features (especially the teeth and digestive tract) of an "unspecialized frugivore [fruit-eater], having a flexible diet that includes seeds and meat."1
In other words, we evolved to be nutritional 'opportunists,' with fruit front and center in our diet, accounting for the majority of our calories, while happily gobbling tasty herbs and fat- and protein-rich morsels like nuts, insects and small mammals when the opportunity arose.
Hilde made an appointment to meet with Morse in Florida and followed his advice for gradually transitioning to a fruitarian diet. Out went all the green juices and salads smothered with olive oil, and in came a colorful array of fresh, organic fruits to eat and drink. Morse also prescribed several herbal tinctures to assist with detoxification.
What happened next "was like being on a rollercoaster," Hilde said. "I'd start feeling better, then suddenly my fingers would swell up to twice their size. I'd feel better again, then something else would swell up."
Hilde believes this was all part of the healing process. Indeed, as time went on, she began to notice consistent changes. She was ecstatic the first time she could walk down the stairs unaided and even more thrilled when she discovered she could swim in the ocean again. "It was a very slow, subtle process," said Hilde. "Getting sick happens over years. Healing is the same."
Mind over matter
In addition to switching to a fruitarian diet, Hilde also consciously changed her mindset, which she believed was just as important in her healing process as nutrition. She'd grown interested in the work of the late Louise Hay, the bestselling self-help author who wrote numerous books on the transformative power of thoughts, and started saying 'affirmations'—positive self-talk—daily, such as 'I am feeling better and better every day,' 'I am healthier now than in a very long time,' and 'I am worthy of health.'
"An affirmation is simply words that are used to generate a feeling," Hilde explains. "I could believe those words, and they lifted me."
To bolster this positive state of mind and combat stress, she also turned to meditation and visualization techniques.
This simple, natural approach of eating fruit and thinking positively is what Hilde credits with getting her better—as well as 'earthing' or 'grounding,' which involves walking barefoot outdoors in direct
contact with the earth. A growing body of research has shown that earthing has quantifiable effects on inflammation, sleep and pain reduction.2
The theory behind this popular therapy is that the earth is a natural source of electrical and magnetic fields considered essential for the proper functioning of physiological processes in the human body, including circulation and biorhythms.
As her symptoms improved, Hilde found she could get outdoors and reconnect with nature more and more.
Coming to fruition
Today, five years after starting her own body-mind regime, Hilde is a picture of health, with no symptoms to speak of. Now a health and mindset coach, she is on a mission to inspire others to take control of their own health, even though she has inevitably received a fair amount of criticism from friends and doctors alike.
"I had a serious accident a few years ago which nearly tore off my foot. Five different doctors and nurses came to my bedside to lecture me on how I wouldn't heal on my current fruit-only diet. But my body handled it beautifully. One doctor told me he'd never seen such rapid healing."
Hilde also gets compliments from her dentist, who always remarks on her healthy, white teeth. In fact, all that acidic fruit doesn't appear to have had a detrimental effect at all on her dental enamel, possibly because Hilde practices 'oil pulling' daily, a technique in which natural oils are swished around the mouth to clean the teeth and gums. She also makes sure she rinses her mouth out with water after eating or drinking.
A fruit-only diet may not be for everyone, but Hilde has hit on a holistic approach that appears to work for her—and it certainly comes with fewer side-effects than the cocktail of drugs that her doctors wanted her to take for the rest of her life.
Hilde is happy, healthy and pain-free—and who can argue with that?
Fruit for life
Hilde's daily diet consists of organic fruit and nothing else—no nuts, seeds, vegetables, meat or fish—as she says fruits are the most cleansing and natural foods for the body. However, many fruitarians do include some vegetables, pulses, and/or nuts and seeds in their diet as well. As a fruit supplying all important fats, avocados are also a staple of many fruitarian diets.
Hilde will typically eat all kinds of fruit daily, including watermelon, berries, grapes, dates, mangoes and plenty of orange juice, but there are certain rules about which types of fruits go together, as Hilde explains in her book Know the Truth and Get Healthy (iUniverse, 2016):
Eat acidic fruits alone or with sub-acidic fruits.
These mainly include the citrus fruits, such as orange, lemon and lime, as well as pineapple. The acidic fruits are the most astringent and aggressively detoxing fruits.
Sub-acidic fruits can be paired with acidic fruits and sweet fruits. The sub-acidic fruits include apples, pears, grapes, mangoes, kiwis, berries and peaches. These are the medium-astringent fruits.
Sweet fruits can be eaten together with the sub-acidic fruits, but not with acidic fruits. The sweet fruits include bananas, dates, papayas and figs, and are considered the least detoxifying.
Melons have a separate set of rules. Eat them alone or leave them alone. They do not digest well with other fruits.
The power of positive thoughts
Hilde believes that positive thinking and visualization played a crucial role in her recovery from crippling rheumatoid arthritis—and there's mounting evidence to show that good thoughts can have powerful effects on all kinds of illness.
Researchers led by cardiologist Daniel B. Mark from Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina found that how we perceive our own health can be as important to medical outcomes as how doctors measure it.
The team studied 2,885 men and women who underwent cardiac catheterization, a procedure used to diagnose and treat some heart conditions, and found that the patients who described their health as poor were almost three times more likely to die from any cause, and over three-and-a-half times more likely to die of heart disease, than patients with the same disease severity and risk factors but who were most optimistic about their health, describing it as 'very good.'1
According to American psychologist Martin Seligman, the brain registers optimism and makes changes via chemical and neural pathways that affect cellular function throughout all the body's systems. In fact, a positive attitude is associated with stronger immunity and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.2
In cancer patients, visualization, or guided imagery, the technique of using positive mental images to create a desired physical outcome, has been found to improve stress, anxiety and depression, as well as some of the side-effects of chemotherapy.3
Some studies even suggest that guided imagery can directly affect the immune system. Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland found that breast cancer patients who practiced guided imagery for eight weeks increased their levels of natural killer cells—specialized immune cells that play a major role in tumor rejection.
However, this increase was not maintained three months after the treatment ended, suggesting that the technique needs to be practiced long term to have lasting positive results.4
Research also shows that a person's ability to generate mental images and become absorbed in them as if they were real is a useful predictor of success with guided imagery.5