A Kitchen Fairytale: Iida Van Der Byl-Knoefel Reveals How She Healed Herself With A Plant-Based Diet

Aged 32, a previously fit and healthy Iida began to suffer from a painful condition that was eventually diagnosed as inflammatory arthritis. Experiencing severe side effects from the medication she was prescribed, which even saw her end up in A&E on one occasion, the jewellery blogger decided to start her own research on how to heal herself.

After coming across The Paddison Program For Rheumatoid Arthritis and radically overhauling her diet in favour of plant-based dishes, Iida is almost completely symptom-free and well on the way to curing her body. Having discovered a myriad of new ways to prepare food, she has now released her first cookbook A Kitchen Fairytale: Healing With Food to share her knowledge and the delicious recipes she has created. Here, Iida talks about her incredible journey and how eating plant-based has totally changed her life.

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A passionate cook, Iida is compiling her plant-based recipes to share with others.

When did your condition first flare up?
In August 2014. I was out running and suddenly felt a very strange discomfort on the back of my left leg, behind the knee. I had to slow down and walk home. The knee kept getting more and more swollen over the next few months and no osteopaths, homeopaths, physiotherapist or GO could tell me what was wrong.

How long did it take to be diagnosed correctly?
Seven months of going back and forth to unsuccessful physio, x-rays and doctors appointments.

What symptoms did you have?
It was all focused in my left knee, with constant swelling and pain. Some days I could barely walk to the food shop, which was only a four-minute walk from my flat, and limping down the stairs on the London tube was always a great experience. I couldn’t bend my left leg because of the swelling, which led to my muscles diminishing greatly and my whole body just feeling super imbalanced.

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The ‘healing blueberry pancakes’ dish is one of Iida’s creations.

What was the doctor’s prognosis?
The doctor told me that they do not know why people get arthritis and that I would have to be on medication for the rest of my life. Their treatment plan didn’t help at all; I was only put on medication five months after the diagnosis as I wanted to rule out Lyme Disease and wait until after my wedding. They prescribed me two medicines: Sulfasalazine, which I started taking and became allergic to within two weeks, and another medication which I never started taking as I went for a diet change instead. I kept the unopened packet in a drawer for a year as a reminder of how awesome my own treatment plan was!

Did you think you would ever get back to full health?
I always thought I would somehow get back to health because I am a very positive person, but every time that I saw a doctor and heard their thoughts and prognosis I would plunge into despair! I don’t think that they ever see anyone get well from this disease, so naturally they don’t have any positive news.

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The food and health blogger looks like she is literally glowing with health.

How did you discover the Paddison Program?
I was researching natural ways of healing rheumatoid arthritis online and thank goodness, it came up among the first hits on Google. I was so worried that it would turn out to be a scam and I remember thinking how devastated I would be if that turned out to be the case, so I did a lot of research on them and read through the reviews on Facebook. In the end I decided that it seemed genuine enough to give it a go – and it was the best thing I ever did. It took me onto my beloved plant-based diet and back to my old self again – just much healthier, stronger and more grateful.

Did you know much about nutrition before?
I thought I did! I knew that carbs should be avoided and that white meat and fish, eggs, coconut oil and olive oil were all parts of a healthy diet. Boy, have I had to relearn everything! There is a whole science behind a plant-based diet that just makes so much sense and I am now learning as much as I can so that I can include some basic information in my cookbook.

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Did you cook a lot before you changed your diet?
I have always loved cooking, ever since I was seven and started making spaghetti and tomato sauce for my whole family!

How did you find the experience of learning so much new information and recipes?
The hardest part has been learning to cook without oils. This is essential in getting well, since oils interfere with the digestive system that is essentially broken in someone with inflammatory arthritis. But once you have done it a couple of times it is no problem at all. My body responded so quickly to this new diet that I just had to stick with it, and in a very short amount of time I fell in love this way of cooking and wanted to learn as much as I could. I have a YouTube video on how to cook without oils that you can check out here.

How soon did you notice a difference?
My test results came back normal within a couple of weeks of ditching the dairy and I noticed the improvement from one day to the next, then more improvements the next day and so on! I started by cutting out dairy, sugars and gluten, which brought my results back to normal. A month later I found the PP and also stopped having meat and oils.

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Through her own research, Iida learned how to overhaul her diet completely.

How long will it take to completely heal yourself?
My stomach is still healing itself – I suspect that it will take a few more years for it to be completely back to normal. I had a drug and pain-free pregnancy and I am still breastfeeding my little one, who is now 15 months, so I have introduced more advanced foods than I would have done otherwise. I will leave the rest of the healing to when I am no longer breastfeeding. However, my test results are perfect these days and show that the inflammation has left my body. The way I know that there is still some work left to do is that I can still get a slight reaction to certain foods – a small swelling in my right hand or left knee that goes away within the hour. It diminishes every month, which shows that the stomach is healing well. I have rebuilt the muscles in my left leg with some great work on the cross-trainer and yoga. Exercise is at least 30% of the healing process but fortunately, once you get into exercising it gets addictive in the most wonderful way and you just want to do more!

Do you ever feel you are missing out because of your new diet?
I used to miss croissants, but hose cravings have gone as I have replaced my old favourites with new, plant-based ones. I am such a foodie and I refused to accept that I would have to miss out on delicious foods, so I started working on the best recipes ever and it turned out to be such fun and so rewarding that I just kept on going! I have been feeding my non-plant-based friends and family the food as well, and they have been so blown away by how delicious such humble and healing food can be, that pretty much all of them have started improving their own diets. They tell me about the amazing improvements in health that they have been experiencing.

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Yoga helped the blogger regain strength.

Did that spark the idea to create your own cookbook?
I have been wanting to write a cookbook with delicious yet healthy recipes for years, so I suspect that this happened to me so that I would be able to write the most healing cookbook and spread the knowledge of a plant-based diet. Plant-based doctors around the world are preventing, halting and reversing all kinds of ‘chronic’ diseases these days – including diabetes type 2, obesity, heart disease and certain types of cancer. This is obviously huge and I am grateful that I can do my part.

Have you got a favourite recipe?
My oven-roasted courgette boats with an insane veggie topping, served with rice or brown rice pasta! I can’t wait to get the recipe out there and get your thoughts on them! My family enjoy my new way of cooking, too. My husband keeps asking for my chocolate shakes, my mother-in-law loves the dahls and my parents want me to make all the different porridges whenever they visit from Sweden.

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Follow Iida on Instagram at @AKitchenFairytale for lots of recipe inspiration.

What has been the biggest challenge of changing your diet so radically?
Definitely eating out – mainly because of the no-oil approach. But restaurants have been so accommodating, especially when they hear that it is a medical diet. Only once have I had to walk out of a restaurant because they just wouldn’t make any changes to their dishes – that was on holiday in Israel and quite a disappointing experience. But one out of so many is not too bad!

Is it difficult to find all the ingredients?
Finding the right ingredients is super easy, it just takes some planning ahead. I can have all veggies, fruits, grains and nuts, and these are obviously readily available all over. Whole Foods is the most amazing place as they always have everything I need – from Tamari sauce to Brown Rice Miso Paste and fresh papaya.

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A foodie at heart, Iida says it’s not difficult to find the right ingredients when you know where to look.

You can order A Kitchen Fairytale: Healing With Food through the links below. Follow Iida on Instagram at @AKitchenFairytale.

UK & Europe

US & Canada

Australia from Book Depository

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