A year ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called rheumatoid arthritis. A few months ago, I began to use food as medicine to manage my disease and begin to heal my body.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA, or “Toidis” as I like to call it) is not osteoarthritis, like what elderly people get. As I said, RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning that your body begins to attack its own healthy tissue. Multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, and Systemic lupus erythematosus are also autoimmune diseases.
In RA, the healthy body parts that get attacked are your joints. This leads to pain, swelling, stiffness, and eventually permanent joint damage. Other effects of the disease include fatigue, dry eyes, and a host of other ailments. Add the side effects from the multitude of medications it takes to manage this condition, and you’re looking at one big, scary diagnosis.
The doctors help by telling you that you’ll be sick and in pain for the rest of your days, followed up by a list of scary-sounding medications to try. I was given very little information about the disease itself, my prognosis, or anything I could proactively do to help myself.
I discovered the idea of managing inflammation with food from my mom, who had taken a class that empowered people to go gluten- and dairy- free to improve a range of health issues. I was reluctant at first – the idea of cutting out entire food groups, not drinking beer any more, and changing my eating habits seemed too overwhelming. But I made the decision to give it a try.
Over the past year, I went from loosely avoiding gluten and dairy to dabbling in the Paleo diet to strictly adhering to the Paleo “Autoimmune Protocol” (AIP) for the past three months. The past year also saw me trying a couple of medications in a variety of combinations that landed me with horrible withdrawal that I am still struggling with (prednisone) and diminished kidney function (sulfasalazine).
I start this blog still very much a work in progress. It is a challenge to see the daily ups and downs as an overall healing process. The very idea of healing autoimmune disease is brushed aside by the medical community, but after just a few months of focusing my energy on healing through food, sleep, stress management, and light exercise (and not being perfect or very consistent with any of these aspects!) I am happily on one remaining medication and managing some residual joint inflammation in my hands. There are a ton of great resources on the web and in my local library that have helped me start and continue on this journey.
A lot of people doing Paleo diets take up blogging. I think it’s because you spend so much time cooking, eating, and cleaning up after those activities that it makes sense to document it all in the hope that someone else will benefit from what you learn.