When RA Bites, When the Bee Stings

It seems like there are 101 “cures” for rheumatoid arthritis. It wasn’t long after my diagnosis that people began advising me on how to cure my disease. My grandmother clipped an article on how eating raisins soaked in gin would clear my arthritis right up. My aunt offered to pay for me to go to a fasting clinic where, under medical supervision, patients eat and drink nothing other than water for two full weeks. My cousin had read that receiving bee stings could provide RA relief. The first thought that came into my head was, “I’m already in a ton of pain, and now I have to be stung by bees, too?”

I realize that all of these suggestions were spurred by love and concern for my health. I appreciated the intention behind them, but I was dubious of every single one. The gin-soaked raisin “cure” seemed silly to me, so I didn’t give it a try, as the article suggested eating some on a daily basis. I had no interest in going a fortnight without food, nor did I want to be stung by insects.

There are anecdotes about all of these methods “curing” people with arthritis. A person without a chronic condition might think, “Why not try everything if there’s a chance it could cure you?” My reasoning is this. I have a disease that causes pain and fatigue, and can make just getting through a day challenging. On top of that, I put energy into things that have some scientific evidence of supporting improved health, such as healthy foods, exercise, adequate sleep, and medical management of my disease. All of those things require time and energy. Sometimes I just don’t have enough surplus energy to summon up the enthusiasm needed to take on a new initiative. In addition, sometimes I don’t have enough emotional energy to try something new.

I’ve thought about this, as I have tried some of the “cures.” I read that a vegan diet can be beneficial for RA. I was already a vegetarian, so I decided to try it out, and I went vegan for a couple of months. Admittedly, that may not have been a long enough trial to receive the benefits, but I found the vegan diet extremely challenging (and it was virtually impossible to maintain while eating out). I tried a “no nightshades and no citrus” diet, where I eliminated peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, strawberries, and citrus fruits from my menu. I tried that for about six months, without seeing any improvement. That diet was also difficult, as my diet is largely vegetable-based, given that I’m a vegetarian (and tomatoes seem to be in everything). In addition, I’ve tried a host of alternative therapies, including homeopathy, acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic care, massage, and physical therapy. I even went to a healing touch practitioner. While there were some physical (and sometimes even emotional) benefits from all of those, and while I continue to employ some of them from time to time, none of those is a cure.

Each time that I try something new, putting forth the energy required to do so, I summon up the hope that maybe this new thing will do the trick. Maybe I’ll finally be able to make RA a thing of my past, a memory. Yet, when it doesn’t end up being all that a coworker, relative, friend, or acquaintance said it would be, I feel deflated. It takes a while for me to save up the emotional energy required to invest in the next experiment.

Yet, I haven’t given up hope. I’ve read a number of comments from members of this online community who say they have gone into remission through diet, and that always perks my interest. I also continue to try new medical treatments for RA. I’m striving to incorporate more healthy practices, such as deep breathing, positive affirmations, and exercise, into my daily routine. And if anyone ever shows me double-blind scientific studies indicating that bee venom does work, I would even be willing to give that a sting, er, I mean a shot.

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