[By Starr Tendo] Here are the clues: Faster. than a diving mynah bird, stronger than the jaws of your neighbor's pitbull. She runs an average of 70 races per year, has a Master's degree in Psychology, a PhD in Health Management, holds two world records in fitness, is the author of two books, and is the co-host of a radio show. As if that wasn't enough, she is also an eight-time Senior Olympic gold medalist.
Who in the world are we talking about? None other than Hawaii's own 67-year-old, Ruth Heidrich. Leave no doubt in your mind: this senior can kick your butt.
She actively participates in track events, road races, and triathlons, and is a 20-year survivor of breast cancer. She attributes a great deal of her success to her strict vegan diet. (For those of you carnivores. vegan means no meat. no eggs, no milk...no animal products or by-products ...and yes, fish is considered an animal).
"When I was 47 and working on my PhD, I was diagnosed with breast cancer," said Heidrich in a recent interview with the Maui Weekly. "Of course, I was devastated. I felt betrayed by my body. I mean, here I was, the most physically fit person that I knew (I had been an active runner for about 14 years) and I had cancer. It was unbelievable."
Heidrich underwent surgery to have the malignant lump removed. Unfortunately, further testing showed that the cancer had already spread. "The doctors found hotspots in her bones and also a lesion in her lung.
Heidrich decided to do what was at that time the unthinkable. Instead of receiving even a single dose of chemo or radiation, she put her faith and ultimately her life into the hands of Dr. John McDougall.
At that time, McDougall was researching the effects of a vegan diet on breast cancer. He put Heidrich on a vegan diet and monitored her. To make a long story short, Heidrich has never undergone any type of conventional cancer treatment and has been cancer-free for 20 years.
"My body actually encapsulated the lesion in my lung," she said. "It's great what your body can do with the right type of nutrition."
There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. The decision to go vegan changed Heidrich's life. She has authored the book and video, "A Race For Life' and also wrote "The Race For Life Cookbook", a guide to cooking delicious and healthy food for optimum health and nutrition.
Recently Heidrich came to Maui to talk about reversing the aging process and improving athletic performance. The free event was sponsored by the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii.
Heidrich explained that Americans tend to think they need a lot more protein than they actually do. And according to her, too much protein, primarily animal protein can lead to big trouble. "I've seen people die from the 'all protein'-meat' diet," she said. "People are always talking about their cholesterol. Well, cholesterol is in animal protein. Animal protein can lead to and aggravate arthritis, osteoporosis and of course, heart disease."
For those of you out there who have osteoporosis, you've probably been told by your doctor to eat more protein, like fish, and participate in some sort of exercise that will help to rebuild your bones.
Heidrich said that the recommendation to consume animal protein to help rebuild bone is misinformation. "When you eat four ounces of fish," she explained, "your body goes into an acidic state. Your body cannot function or live in this state so it needs to balance out again."
You know how when you get indigestion, you take a Tums? It's a calcium tablet. Calcium is an alkaline that counteracts the acid to make your tummy feel better again. It works the same way with the Ph levels of your blood. "Your body will actually pull more calcium out of your bones to buffer the protein that you ingested from the fish." she said, the last thing that you need when dealing with osteoporosis is more calcium being pulled from your bones."
Heidrich is a living example that the right diet can make all the difference. Whether you tend to be conservative and traditional in your health views, or unconventional and liberal, it may be a good idea to talk to your physician about how you can benefit from a vegan diet. It's your life, ask questions and don't stop until you get an answer backed by fact.
Heidrich encourages the people of Maui to be healthy and eat to live.