By now, it is rather apparent that I am not alone in my discoveries that diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and many other autoimmune (AI) diseases requiring surgical intervention did not quite occur until people began eating the white man’s foods, that are, sugar, wheat/gluten, dairy, vegetable oils (that are high in Omega-6 fatty acids), processed/canned foods as well as other refined goods. The same discoveries are also shared by many explorers, physicians and researchers who described how traditional people living in remote areas enjoy good health and an absence of chronic illnesses.
As I began to use food as my medicine, I grew convinced that this dietary principles are instrumental in reversing the arthritic affinity of my RA condition. As I recalled my endeavours of trying the many different diets, I realised a common problem that many RA people have faced. While it is not difficult to grasp some understanding of the nutritional principles, finding and implementing a diet that will reverse RA is another story altogether. No one diet has so far made it up the list of diets with confirmed effectiveness.
Some Thoughts about Diets
Through the many experimentation I had made with respect to foods and diets, I did now know the one mistake that is frequently made by people with RA seeking healing through food as medicine, that is, the assumption that one diet is right for everyone. Unfortunately, that is not true. A diet which works well for me for a while may not continue to be right for me indefinitely. It is quite natural to make this error as we become attached to things we like, such as our routine. Changes are difficult. Each and everyone has different needs and is unique biochemically and biologically. For me, it seems that at some point in time, I’ll find myself asking, “Geez, I did great on that diet, but why wouldn’t it work now? Was it the diet or was it something else going on within me?”
Rather than jumping headlong into the conclusion that diet does not work anymore, I figure that the best way to learn about my own body is to experiment with it. I started out with my own case, and did multiple trials and experimentation with diets and nutrition.
And My Little Experiments…
I had gone a long way from the worst of my RA till this moment in time when I am feeling pain-free (on most days) with a general sense of well being and more energy without the needs for painkillers and any RA medications. My recovery from RA is still far from complete. While I experienced a general feeling of wellness overall, the feeling is somewhere between 80% to 90%. And yet, the latest blood work still showed that RA is there. This requires some explanation. Should I really be bothered by the blood work? or since I have felt energized and recovered, I probably should not get worried over it, since we’ve learned to live together for years.
In the sanctuary of my bedroom, I often wonder whether individuals who have recovered from RA (those in natural and clinical remissions) ever have their symptoms recur within month or years later? These are not uncommon and perhaps, the reasons why many prefer to stick to the diets that work for them for as long as they work. It also appears that as long as efforts are concentrated in areas of diet and lifestyle, the diseases activity can be controlled to a certain extent, but it seemingly lurk beneath the surface only to resurface once we let our guards down. I became more intrigued on what the key to a more complete healing might be, one that is at a deeper level and one that is able to eliminate the recurrence of chronic problem.
What could be a better way of knowing and understanding my body than performing some little self experiments? (or so I thought). These were what I’d done over the past 3 weeks:
Experiment #1: A complete removal of dietary restrictions, a return to normal diet without restrictions, continuation of nutritional supplements and other modalities, and stress maintenance as usual.
Observations: Nil changes in morning stiffness, no returns of pain for the first 3 to 4 days until slight painful flares after the 4th day of the experiment. Number of joints affected were restricted around both wrists. Swelling remained non-existent. No difference in range of motion of joints and no pain in joints at rest. Grip strength as usual.
Experiment #2: A complete removal of dietary restrictions, a return to normal diet without restrictions, discontinuation of several nutritional supplements, continuation of other modalities, and stress maintenance as usual.
Observations: Nil changes in morning stiffness, more frequent painful flares up throughout the day, intensity ranging from 2 to 3 on a 1 to 10 intensity scale, more number of painful joints involved – both wrists and occasionally, left elbow, minimal swelling and no noticeable difference in grip strength. Only an instance when pain was noticed at rest, which might also be associated with a stressful occurrence at that instance.
Experiment #3: A complete removal of dietary restrictions, a return to normal diet without restrictions, discontinuation of several nutritional supplements and application of Yuen Energetics on energetic weaknesses on physical, mental, psychological and emotional fronts.
Observations: Nil changes in morning stiffness, improved pain symptoms on all joints even though pain still evident, intensity of 1 to 2. Episodes of flare ups during the day noticeably reduced, while range of motion and grip strength stayed significantly unchanged.
My Realizations on Diets from these Experiments
These observations from my little self experiments had made it clear that my body is not ready yet for a remission, a complete reversal and recovery from RA. There are no doubts that while an increased attention on the mind-body connection aspect of RA had allowed me to feel a ‘shift’ in becoming more positive about myself, my body, my health and about achieving what I’m aiming for, which I believe will pave way for the renewed wellness that I seek.
As I ventured further into literature and early studies on diets, there seems to be clearer evidence that even small amounts of ‘the white man’s foods’ result in sickness. Here are some examples. Native people who eat their native diets were immune to disease but once they began eating lots of white flour and sugar, they got sick. Then, there was Dr Max Gerson who developed the Gerson therapy, which is a dietary treatment for cancer and other chronic illnesses in the 1930s. Gerson’s regime involved raw vegetable juices, fermented raw milk and a strict avoidance of everything not specifically included in his program. Advanced cancer patients had shown to recover from this therapy. The key was with the strict avoidance, because the use of even the slightest amount of forbidden foods would prevent recovery. In another common scenario, a 60-years old woman with painful arthritis remained pain free for weeks until she consumed few cookies during a birthday celebration that set up a flare up so bad that she could not even walk the following day.
These are not coincidences, if you can conceive. Every food eaten has subtle or maybe, obvious effects. In light of these, I am convinced that the optimal diet for healthy people can be a lot different from the far more stringent diet for people with serious medical problems. While many feel better or a lot better in making at least a partial recovery from RA by altering diet, the reason that many limit the extent of their recovery (including myself) is the inability to extend their efforts further in eliminating refined foods and/or failing to consume adequate nutrition.
To put it succinctly, RA often lingers and recurs because even though we consciously alter our diets to alleviate symptoms, we fell short of going that extra miles for longer to completely change our bodies and allow them to release the remnants/imprints/traces of RA. Imagine, after a lifetime abuse of diet and eating the wrong foods for decades – 20 years, 40 years or 60 years, and when we began to rethink our diets and eat the right foods, we can apparently turn our body around, feeling rather substantial improvement within reasonable period of such changes. But, it seems that for a deep, complete and thorough healing and reversal of RA, it is a long process.
In my view, the possibility of even small amounts of poorly chosen or less-than-optimal foods may appear to slow down or derail the whole healing process. So, does this actually get down to the perceptions of individuals with respect to foods and diet and how they attach relative importance to a certain food in their lives? Do individuals see food as entertainment (an end in itself) or do they view food as fuel (a means to an end)? To which end of the continuum do you fall within? How willing will you experiment and make the necessary changes, and to what extent do you tune in to your body and choose between following all dietary rules and throwing all cautions to the wind?
As with everything, life is a constant change, and every experiment and lesson or observation from that experiment lies a discipline – the discipline to conform or to break these rules. Finally, back to myself, I know exactly what I need to do next. Back on my juice fast, I shall be…