Ways I Achieved Pain-Free Living After Being Diagnosed With RA
In November of 2007, I began experiencing levels of pain I had never experienced before. I felt like I had been running a marathon, every day for a month. My joints hurt, with excruciating pain, for four months without me knowing the cause. Health issues had never been a problem for me before. I had no idea what was going on with my body.
Every morning, when I stepped out of bed, I could hardly walk. I felt stiff all over and every step was strenuous and exhausting. My feet hurt, my shoulders hurt, my knees hurt and my joints hurt everywhere. My normal routine of getting ready for work became an overwhelming, painful nightmare.
In the shower, I couldn’t extend my arms into full range to shampoo my hair. My hair never completely dried because using the hair dryer hurt my arms and shoulders. Getting dressed was painful, especially zippers, buttons and lacing or buckling shoes. I felt throbbing pain throughout my joints. I lost full extension in my fingers. What kept me going was that my dedication to my teaching career outweighed my pain. I had a class of 5th graders to educate and prepare for middle school.
I met with my rheumatologist in July of 2008. She had received the blood work from my family doctor. My blood test results showed my rheumatoid markers were extremely high, far above a normal range. I was diagnosed with moderate to severe RA. I began taking five Methotrexate pills, a common medication for RA, every Saturday. In October of 2009, I began to focus on relieving my pain. I asked myself, “What foods do I need to remove from my diet that activate inflammation?” Nutritional health food books became my guides, leading me to foods that could help relieve excruciating pain caused by swelling.
I kept reading about the potential side effects of gluten. Gluten is the most common grain ingredient in food after wheat. Genetically modified wheat has increased gluten content to 90%. The immune system reacts to gluten, producing inflammation in the body.1 Grains containing gluten include wheat, barley and rye. Therefore, bread, cereal, pancakes, pizza, some salad dressings –even candy – usually contain gluten.
I was off on a new adventure, keeping myself busy for hours in grocery stores, reading labels on food products. Products that contained gluten could not go in my shopping cart any longer. Some food chains, such as Trader Joe’s, have an itemized-by-food-categories list of all the gluten-free products in their store. Ask them to print a copy for you. This list makes your shopping time much faster when you are first learning what to eat and what to avoid. Within a few weeks of avoiding gluten, I experienced a significant reduction in swelling. A good indicator was that my rings felt looser on my fingers, and I could wear them again, which was so encouraging.
This is just one story of many stories I’ve written about how I have reduced inflammatory foods in my diet. However, everyone's RA is different and what has worked for me may not work for others. Focusing on removing wheat and replacing it with gluten-free products has helped me achieve pain-free living. If you are living with RA and you have not tried this strategy, I hope you will try it. You can start gradually removing foods containing gluten for two months before you decide if it’s working for you or not. Less inflammation was a source of motivation for me.
During my first year of clean eating, I allowed myself one cheat meal per month to indulge my cravings. An example is pizza. I didn't feel deprived and was better able to stick with my gluten free diet most days. Gradually every year I added an additional cheat meal every two weeks per month.
Year Cheat Meals
2010-2011 1 cheat meal per month
2012 1 cheat meal every 2 weeks
2013 2 cheat meals every 2 weeks
2014 3 cheat meals every 2 weeks
After five years of clean eating, every two weeks I have a cheat breakfast, lunch and dinner within 24 hours.
I wanted to shift from a world of hopelessness, discouragement and depression, to a world of hope. Over the last five years I have maintained a different way of eating. I exercise daily and feel healthier than I have ever felt before.
I would also like to share some specific foods, which shows years of my personal research on the effects of gluten in my diet. I replaced foods containing gluten with foods that reduce my inflammation. Some of my favorite gluten-free foods are:
Breads. All New Cascadia Gluten-Free Breads, Tapioca Loaf, Glutino Gluten-Free English Muffins, Franz Mountain White Bread.
Breakfast Cereal & Bars; Any gluten-free granola by Kind LLC, Organic Crunchy Maple Sunrise Crunch by Nature's Path, Trail Mix Bar by Open Nature, Organic Maple Buckwheat Flakes by Arrowhead Mills.
Noodles & Pasta; Brown Rice Pasta(Lasagna)by Tinkyada, Brown Rice Pasta (Spaghetti Style, Maifun Rice Stick by JFC International (used for salads and salad rolls), Quinoa Pasta (Spaghetti Style).
Toppings & Spreads; Orita Hummus Veggie Dip (Roasted Garlic only) *, Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread, Flaxseed Meal by Bob's Red Mill (1 tbsp. on top of cereal daily), Cucumber Hummus by Eat Well Embrace Life*
*All varieties of Glutino Gluten-free Crackers
When was your last flare?