Danielle Arnold and her husband, Kevin, thought they were doing just about everything possible to live healthier lives. Both were athletes and had committed to a vegan diet for about eight years.
“We were kind of novices when we first went vegan,” Danielle recalls. “I had been an athlete and basically ate whatever I wanted. When we switched from junk food to a vegan diet and continued to exercise, we felt great. Then, one day, my husband said he couldn’t see out of his left eye.”
Danielle took Kevin to the hospital and started going from doctor to doctor. An optometrist suspected he was suffering from optic neuritis, a condition marked by inflammation of the optic nerve that often causes vision loss. Optic neuritis is also associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks nerve fibers.
An appointment with a neurologist and an MRI confirmed the optic neuritis and MS diagnoses. Kevin had lost about 80 percent of the vision in his left eye. At one point, he was heat intolerant and relied on wearing a cooling vest and taking ice baths to get through summer days in New Mexico.
Danielle and Kevin both went back to school to better understand physiology, biochemistry, and nutrition. They wanted to learn how lifestyle change and nutritional interventions could promote healing.
They decided to follow the Wahls Protocol, a nutritional approach developed by Dr. Terry Wahls, a physician who developed the protocol to manage her own MS symptoms and famously “ate her way out of a wheelchair.”
Similar to the paleo diet, the Wahls Protocol emphasizes nutrient-rich whole foods, supplements, and the elimination of processed foods, gluten, dairy, sugar, and other products that could trigger inflammation or autoimmune reactions.
“I was reading up on this and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they want us to eat organ meats and fish,’” Danielle said. “But we did our research and followed a diet centered on the Wahls Protocol, and Kevin started to get better.”
They were seeing a neurologist at the time for MS treatment. They grew frustrated that the neurologist was strongly recommending prescription medication but couldn’t explain the mechanisms of how it would help Kevin’s condition.
“The neurologist basically said, ‘I’m a medical doctor. If you don’t take this medication, you’re no longer my patient and you’ll end up in a wheelchair,’” Danielle said. “He was basically trying to scare my husband into taking medication.”
Kevin decided to continue with the nutritional protocol and never took the medication. Six years later, his eyesight is back to normal and he’s feeling great.
Danielle realized that a strictly vegan diet isn’t always best. She became immersed in functional medicine and earned her master’s degree in Human Clinical Nutrition and Integrative Health from Maryland University of Integrative Health.
“While I was in school, I was living with a friend who had a newborn and was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Danielle said. “I was helping with meals and taking care of the baby so she could get through treatments. The experiences with my friend and my husband really inspired me to help people with cancer and autoimmunity.”
Another major influence while studying for her master’s degree was one of her professors – Dr. Oscar Coetzee, PhD, DCN, Director of Clinical Nutrition at Natural Healthcare Center.
“I learned that there’s more to nutrition than nourishing through food,” Danielle said. “There’s nourishing through movement, and nourishing through relationships. It’s all part of the integrative approach to a healthy lifestyle. And Dr. Coetzee didn’t play softball. I remember him telling me exactly what protocol would work and why it would work, period. I really appreciate and respect his approach and mindset.”
While learning from Dr. Coetzee, Danielle discovered Natural Healthcare Center. She was amazed by the scope of services under one roof and loved the integrative, functional medicine-based approach to care. She knew she wanted to part of the team one day.
Danielle joined Natural Healthcare Center in the summer of 2023 as a clinical nutritionist.
She still has a passion for helping people with autoimmune disorders and cancer, focusing on gut microbiome health. She also specializes in treating people with Lyme disease, mold-related conditions, long Covid, and hormonal imbalances.
“Dr. Proodian is so passionate and you see it in our patients,” Danielle said. “They take their health seriously and commit 100 percent to the nutritional protocols we recommend. I love seeing people improve their quality of life and tell everyone they know to come see us. This is how healthcare should work. It’s very rewarding.”