After being told by my new favorite chiropractor, Dr. Incredible, that the inflammation from the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) combined with the stress and sleeplessness of being a single mom was at a critical point, I knew that I had to do something. I could not just continue watching my health decline, especially since I need to be here for my kids and they need me. I spent the next few days really unsure where to start or even if there was anything I could do. I continued seeing Dr. I for chiropractic adjustments 3 times a week, applying ice to my back, and taking all of my meds.
Gradually, I started to remember seeing mention of foods that can reduce inflammation. I am an avid reader of books, magazines, and web articles, and have seen different suggestions for an RA Diet. The suggestions do not always agree with each other, and I have never seen them all in one place, so I decided my first step was to do a web search for foods that reduce inflammation. (I will post this list soon.) Soon after beginning this project, it became clear that I would need to start a list of foods that cause inflammation as well. My plan was to try to eat as many of the foods off of the anti-inflammatory list as possible, and to try to avoid the foods off the inflammatory list as much as possible. In general, I have avoided taking a lot of supplements, because I figured it is best to get the nutrients through proper nutrition, and also because supplements can be real budget killers.
Over the next week, I began eating more fruits and vegetables, and also taking a fish oil supplement. I began to notice some slight improvement, and decided to ask Dr. C. for his opinion. When I said I was interested in trying to improve my health in this way, he was so excited for me! I told him about my research, and he suggested the site deflame.com. This site has a simple description of an anti-inflammatory (deflaming) diet that is easy to understand. Deflame.com does sell supplements as well, but you can access all of the diet info you need. Dr. C. was so supportive without being pushy that he just made me want to keep going and try even harder. Of course, improvement has not been instant, and there have been setbacks. After only a week, I was feeling significantly better, and made the decision to "take a break" from the diet for a few days. What a big mistake! I immediately had an increase in swelling and pain. I have since done this a few more times, but am seeing that this is much like a "behavior modification diet". This gave me the non-scientific confirmation I needed to continue on this new path to health.
Soon after, I told Dr. C. that I was taking fish oil supplements twice a day. Again, he was so happy and supportive of my attempts to improve my health. I think he may have been surprised that I was willing to make these changes, since he knows the difficult circumstances in my life. I am thankful that he is letting me take the lead and make changes gradually rather than trying to make me change everything at once. I was surprised when he told me that in my case, with the amount of inflammation I have, that I should gradually increase my dose of fish oil to 8-10 capsules a day. This sounded a bit intimidating, but I decided to trust him, and added an extra capsule at lunch and dinner every few days. As the dose increased, I did notice improvement in my pain levels, and was encouraged to keep going. To confirm what I was already finding out, I read an article on WebMD "Can Your Diet Help Relieve Rheumatoid Arthritis?" On the second page, this is what I found:
"According to the American College of Rheumatology, some patients with rheumatoid arthritis report an improvement in pain and joint tenderness when taking marine omega-3 fatty acid supplements. You may not notice any benefit at first from taking a fish oil supplement. It may take weeks or even months to see a decrease in symptoms. But studies do show that some people who have a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids benefit from decreased symptoms and less use of anti-inflammatory drugs."
Wow! That is exactly what I needed to hear! Dr. C's recommendation is to find supplements made from wild caught fish, that are lab tested and guaranteed free of mercury and pollutants. A friend helped me get some at a warehouse store for around $8 for 400, so they're not the budget killer I had originally feared.
Since then, I have found a few other websites and books that explore anti-inflammatory eating, and will share those in later posts. Of course, they don't always agree, but I figure if I am at least making the effort, there should be some margin for error, right? The excitement of felling better, even if it is just a little bit, is enough to drive me forward on this new path. Having a Doctor who is patient with me in my shortcomings, and encourages me to do what I can, is so wonderful. He also keeps me honest, because he can sense even the smallest changes in my body, and has pointed out to me when my joints are stiffer of if my swelling is worse. Best of all, I feel like I am doing something, rather than just sitting around waiting for the worst to happen!
I am fighting back against Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) with natural foods, stress reduction, and by embracing my inner flower child (making everything from scratch, and eating all those yummy natural foods)in addition to my medications. All of this is carefully balanced with my busy life as a homeschooling single mom of 2 boys, the exhaustion that RA brings, and a very limited budget. I would like to share my journey with you, so that it may benefit you as well, or give you a better understanding of what it is to fight this disease.