08 May 2013

Lab Rat, Table for One!

It was probably around ten years ago now when I sat in the exam room, meeting with my Rheumatologist, discussing options and the effectiveness of the latest drug I was trying, and I asked 'Are there any recommendations for nutritional therapy?' Brusquely she answered, 'Diet doesn't have any impact on the disease.' I tried to explain that I had noticed a correlation between my symptoms and certain foods, which was quickly dismissed. Not long after this incidence the same doctor told me that I needed to go on to a level 3 drug - a biologic modifier - since I had exhausted all of the options in class 1 and 2 with no significant improvement. Considering I had been on a variety of drugs and experienced minimal, if any, benefit, but most of the side-effects, including the really odd and rare ones, I was not eager to start a new medication (Humira being the one pushed) that a frequent side-effect was leukemia.
So doc, you want to put me on a drug that may help alleviate the symptoms of the rheumatoid arthritis, but I also will have a good chance of developing cancer. Yeah, that sounds like a great plan.
I don't think so.      

I never went back to that doctor. Instead, I started seeing a naturopathic doctor. It has been helpful, but it hasn't solved the problem. While experimenting with different supplements over the past 8 or so years, I have also learned a great deal. One thing I have become convinced of: I can 'cure' myself of the rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease, through nutrition. God made our bodies incredibly intricate, and with an innate ability to heal - if we give it the proper building blocks. Yet, knowing this and implementing it is a different story; it can be very confusing to know exactly what is the proper nutrition for healing. There is a lot of information out there on the interwebs, a lot of conflicting information.  I'm sort of a weirdo in that I really enjoy researching nutrition and health issues. The list of blogs that I regularly read, the books highlighted and lining my shelves, the food based documentaries watched, the podcasts I listen to while commuting should be worthy of a degree in nutrition. Seriously. But all the information can lead to info-paralysis, a state I know all too well.

Two years ago I was stuck in a vicious cycle. The RA raised my systemic inflammation, which told my body to store fat, which raised my inflammation, which aggravated the RA, which raised my systemic inflammation, and around and around it went. Around the time I realized that something had to be done about the excess fat I was carrying if I ever hoped to get the RA under control, several friends were losing weight. Polling each of them about how they were doing it, I got the same answer: Take Shape for Life. So I jumped on the bandwagon. And it worked, for about six months and 50 pounds. Then I went to Honduras for a week, and then Czech Republic for two weeks. It was a huge struggle to get back on track that I couldn't quite master for more than a month at a time, and even during those month sprints the scale wouldn't budge like it had before. Part of this is because I started training hard and exercising too much for the program. Another part was that all of the program's foods contained at least one or multiple ingredients that I knew I reacted to badly. I have my theories about why it didn't bother me at first, but then started being a problem, but I won't bore you that much. And the stress component fought me too.

While thinking of New Year's Resolutions this past January, I asked myself the question - 'If I were at a healthy weight and didn't need to eat weird packaged powdered food-like substances, how would I want to eat for my best health?' From my research, it was pretty easy to describe what seemed to be the best way of eating, but I wanted to drop more weight before starting to eat that way. Making wholesale changes at once is overwhelming, and often not lasting, so I made a plan to adopt one change a month towards my ideal while sticking to the Take Shape program to lose the weight. Good plan, right? And it has been (except the weight loss part-that wasn't happening).

Three weeks ago I was working on my Bible study while eating breakfast before work and my knuckle was so painful and swollen that I could hardly hold a pen to write my answers. That was my breaking point. No more lying to myself, my RA was not under control, the flare-ups were too frequent, a new hot spot had developed in the last six months. In addition, auto-immune begets auto-immune, and the last time I had my thyroid checked the results had some suspicious numbers pointing to the beginnings of Hashimoto's disease, and this last winter I started having symptoms of Reynaud's disease. This is not okay.

It is time to make some changes. Time to make my health - and regaining great health - a priority. Top priority. What does that mean? No more incremental changes. I'm jumping in cannon ball style into the paleo lifestyle pool. But not just any ordinary variation of it, I'm going to follow the auto-immune paleo protocol. And let me tell you, it is going to be TOUGH. My month-by-month resolutions were leading me to a paleo lifestyle already and by March I had almost given up all sugar (my vice is Endangered Species Black Panther 88% dark chocolate bar), ditched all dairy - even cheese which I doubted I could do, and every grain & legume - including soy. And I was feeling much better. Then I went on vacation last week and after the race tossed all my good eating habits out the window - and suffered.  The auto-immune variety of paleo cuts out all nightshade plants and their derivatives: tomatoes, tomato paste, eggplant, peppers, paprika, chili powder, etc. Pretty much all of the main-stays of my cooking. Brutal. Oh, did I mention that it suggests (mandates) avoiding coffee? Shoot me now. Is this going to be the magic bullet? I don't know. This is all experimentation. But if the anecdotal results others have shared can be even partially true for me, it is worth it. Feeling good is better than coffee, right? RIGHT??!!??

I can do it.
I know I can.
Because I am Streger Strong!
We don't quit, we persevere!

But prayers are very much appreciated.
No coffee. {whimper} 

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