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…
SarahAugust 28, 2013 at 5:58 pm (10 years ago)
I too turned to an elimination diet in a desperate effort to reduce my RA pain and inflammation, and I had a very similar result to you. Initially I was very strict, following a sugar and gluten free vegan diet and within three months I no longer needed to take pain relief medication and had zero rheumatoid factor present in my blood. However after my three children’s birthday parties I gradually slipped back into having sugar and gluten here and there, resulting in the pain returning. I agree it’s a continual daily effort to stay on track with my diet but it’s certainly worth it.
EllSeptember 18, 2013 at 5:37 am (10 years ago)
I live in Australia and I can honestly say we are so lucky to have certain foods readily and freshly available. My diet at home consists of gluten free, high green leafy vegetables,low dairy and low sugar intake. As a fighter of RA I occasionally had the random flare ups, however I had not realised that my diet was saving me much more than I had thought. I have been Travelling overseas for over 3 weeks now Hiking through Spain and village areas my diet had altered as some of the villages I was staying in didn’t have a supermarket only a cafe. My diet wasn’t terrible but it was different re-introducing wheat, diary products etc I had flare ups and my main concern was that I discovered I believe I have food allergies. I got to England for more travel and I had to go to hospital due to the abdominal pain was uncomfortable and painful, suffering from constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, high weight gain in a short period of time. A abdo X-ray displayed my whole bowel was distended, I have had to cut my travel time short due to the pain and ill-health I have been in. It has been an unfortunate experience but now I know that next time it’s important for people with ra, or whom suffer from food intolerances/ allergies to keep to countries that accommodate your needs as I was unaware that it would be so difficult to come by high anti inflammatory foods. Thanku for making this site 🙂 I am eager for you to add to the travel category of your website
dianaOctober 9, 2013 at 9:21 am (9 years ago)
Ell, sorry to hear about your misadventure. You’ve pointed out the exact problems many people with RA are facing with travel. Since my RA diagnosis and its effect on my wrists, I have not been willing to travel alone until recently; and any travel plans are restricted to countries that I’m familiar with unless I’ve company, but will still avoid any activities or places where foreseeable risks may follow due to limited range of motion with my wrists. We’re on the same thoughts re how diet is actually saving us more than we had thought and apparently, from these many experiments over extended weeks, I’m convinced that when I return to normal diet (without restrictions) OVER TIME, the flare ups return. It only goes to show that the gut has not been healing enough and the re-introduction of foods that trigger excess inflammation may be a reason that hinders the progress of the healing. I have had plan to add to the travel category but with little time for blogging now due to my return to full time employment, I suppose this has to be delayed for now…
ValerieOctober 16, 2013 at 4:01 am (9 years ago)
I bought a book called “Conquering Arthritis: What Doctors Don’t Tell You Because They Don’t Know” and it’s all about diet. The author, who suffers from reactive arthritis which is similar to RA, found that when she discovered which foods she was sensitive to and eliminated them, it put her in permanent (so far) remission. The tough part is finding out your sensitivities, not necessarily full blown “allergies.” She advocated either fasting or an elimination diet, which should alleviate symptoms, then adding in a new food one at a time to build up a group of okay foods. Very hard to do (it would take a week or so just to test out all the ingredients in my “arthritis smoothie”), but some people seem to have success with this. Getting the ALCAT testing for food sensitivities done first seems to speed the process. Has anyone tried these diet methods and found success?
Bunny RabbitNovember 4, 2013 at 8:45 am (9 years ago)
Diana, are you avoiding gluten, dairy, nightshade vegetables, egg whites and other food allergens that typically affect RA sufferers? What, if any, do you avoid now and have you seen any improvement when you eliminate such allergens?
Vanessa CameronFebruary 20, 2015 at 1:19 pm (8 years ago)
Thank you for sharing your story. Two years ago I was diagnosed with RA. My entire body hurt, I couldn’t walk up and down stairs, I was always tired. I decided to go the natural, long path to healing and completely changed my diet, started doing acupuncture, taking recommended supplements etc. I did this, against my doctors advise– but two years later, I have no symptoms. I am still true to my diet, no dairy, low sugar and low alcohol. But I have my life back and no side effects. I have more energy than I’ve ever had and have never felt or looked better.
Thank you for spreading the good word, people need to know there are options. There’s highly effective alternative treatments out there. There’s hope.
TonjaAugust 15, 2015 at 5:55 am (8 years ago)
I was diagnosed with Juvenile RA at age 2 1/2. While I don’t remember it, my mother was overwhelmed with thoughts of me in a wheelchair, etc. I had surgery on my knee at age 3 to remove whatever it is that builds up in ones joints. I had flare ups through early high school, but never had it terribly bad. They said I would eventually outgrow flareups, and only sometimes does it continue on to adulthood. I’ve had only minor limited range of motion in one elbow since then. So all in all, I escaped very easily. Until June, when my elbow started swelling and hurting and is now very stiff. I found your blog just today after searching for ‘does acidic body chemistry affect RA’. Here’s why: I have never been a coffee drinker AT ALL, but had been introduced to some coffee drinks that I love. I think it was in late spring (Mayish) that there was a period of several weeks where I was drinking some variety of those coffee drinks every day. Very shortly after that is when this activity started in my elbow. At the time I wondered if if was connected, but I brushed it off as merely coincidental. After reading just two of your posts, I am changing my thinking, and will definitely be doing more research on this matter. Thanks for your blog!
KylieNovember 4, 2017 at 5:22 pm (5 years ago)
I’ve had RA for 6 years now. It was aggressive in the beginning but I slowed it down with an elimination diet. I still ate the occasional food that caused me problems and would get flares. I would fast when this happened and the flare would settle within a couple of days. I’ve only recently starting cooking everything at home so I know 100% what goes into my body and I’ve had a big turnaround in my health.
I had also found I still had flares just following the recommended auto-immune diets. I have recently come to learn that things like starchy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and oxalates are causing problems also along with all the other usual no no’s like gluten, dairy, grains.
I can feel my body healing now after only a few weeks of this. Also I’ve put in a lot of leafy green vegetables. I read somewhere that RA patients are low in phosphorous.
Thank you for your webpage. It is a fantastic resource and congrats on gaining some control over this destructive disease.