A day in a life with rheumatoid Arthritis – Part 5

I’ve got it! I’ve got a plan; a two-part plan and I need your help.

For the last month and a half, I’ve contemplated my goals for living with the effects of the RA disease and medications thereof and I’m ready to try a new experiment. Some of you may know from reading my blog posts over the past year or so that I like to try new things. You know, experiment and dabble with this and that.

Since early August when I ended up in Emerg where an ER doc diagnosed pericarditis and pleural effusions (build-up of fluid around the heart and lungs due to RA) I have diligently taken the pharmaceuticals prescribed. Recovery and medication side effects have had its challenges.

The thought of putting my life solely in the hands of my rheumatologist and the pharmaceutical companies is more than I can bear. Nothing against my rheumy or drug companies though. I know the RA doc works hard to give her patients the best possible treatment and is bound to work within the medical model dictated by the association. And, I know the drug companies work hard to make it financially feasible to keep a humongous amount of people employed earning a decent living to support their families. So, good is happening on both counts. However, my experience as a patient in the medical system has left me wondering who is listening to the concerns of the patients that live with RA.

It seems like having an illness is a double-edged sword. The effects of the disease itself are horrendous and the side-effects of the medications used to treat the disease are horrendous. Patients are jockeyed from one med to another med sometimes trying three and four at a time to “see” if relief from symptoms is accomplished. Actually, I have a great respect for the medical doctor who works in a system like this. I wouldn’t have the patience (pun intended).

So that’s my little rant on frustrations in the medical system.

Now, back to my plan.

On the road again

For several years, I’ve heard how diet has a significant impact not only on RA disease but a host of other conditions like heart disease, diabetes, migraines and obesity to name a few. There is no shortage of testimonials from patients who have resolved their medical condition through a change in diet. Diet is an area I’ve dabbled off and on in for a few years. Sticking to a rigid plan is difficult for me especially when I don’t see immediate results. Yes, I’m the instant gratification type. I am trying to learn a new way though.

Last week, I received an email from Dr. McDougall. The headline read, “18 year-old Cures Juvenile RA with McDougall Diet.” So I read the testimonial. Juliea Baker began experiencing symptoms of RA at age 15. It sounds like she found Dr. McDougall’s diet when she was roughly 16-1/2 yrs. old and began implementing the changes. Within a couple of months Juliea felt 90 percent better. Juliea determined that eggs and dairy do not agree with her system. As long as she doesn’t consume those items she is symptom free. (Click here to see Juliea’s video testimonial.)

Sounds impressive, but I wonder if it will work for me.

Juliea isn’t the only testimonial on Dr. McDougall’s website that claims to be cured from RA through his diet. There are at least 2 others.

Dr. McDougall advocates a starch-based, animal product-free and oil-free diet. Additionally, where there is RA disease, he specifically recommends eliminating eggs, wheat, meat, corn, soy, and dairy. He claims it will take about four months to see the full benefits.

The word rigid is probably an understatement here, at least, that’s what my paradigm tells me. I guess the question I have to ask is how bad do I want freedom from RA symptoms and to potentially get off pharmaceuticals as Juliea and the others did.

So that’s part one of the plan. Try new diet.

On Tuesday I attended week one of an 8-week program called, “Managing Pain Mindfully“.  Thankfully, it’s offered free of charge through my doctor’s medical centre. The course is designed to increase awareness of our body and mind and to invite change in our relationship with pain by learning how to pay attention to what is going on for us in THIS moment. It’s an experiential program that gives the participants ample opportunity for practice at the program as well as at home. Studies show that 65% of participants experience a reduction in pain levels of more than 33% while, 25% show a reduction of more than 50%.

Since I’m all for present moment awareness training, I thought the program would fit nicely in my life right now. Our homework for this week is; breathing exercise twice daily, relaxation exercise once daily, eat at least one meal mindfully, and I’m going to add my own loving-kindness meditation once daily since I feel this is an area that I need to cultivate compassion for self.

So that’s part two of the plan. Mindful awareness and loving-kindness.

I expect I’ll have many issues with the diet part because I know me and my history. It will take me a bit to get organized and fine tune it for my own way of life so I’m not expecting perfection at the get-go. I think I’ll ease into it over the coming weeks.

To help keep myself accountable and track progress or lack thereof, I decided to post a daily update. That way I’ll have a journal of events that I can look back on to see if any patterns develop and hopefully receive inspiration or tips from readers.

As always, thanks for reading and blessings to all.


17 thoughts on “A day in a life with rheumatoid Arthritis – Part 5

  1. Good morning, Marianne. I’m so happy to see you posting again. This is very interesting…and timely for me…and I’m going to read more about this plan. The only reason my rheumatologist has not started me on biologicals is that I haven’t been healthy enough (recurring infections), but I know that it is his only remaining option for me. I’ve been reading enough about the side effects that I don’t want to take them…and I’ve been searching for other options to get out this current physical pit I’m in – in need of pain and sleep management – without resorting to stronger medications that are both hard on my liver and dull my mind. I was able to come off all medications for crohns 10 years ago by following a modified carb-specific diet, but over the years, I’ve gradually re-introduced all the foods that I had eliminated and wonder if that didn’t also re-introduce inflammatory responses in my body. Let’s partner together in this…to find healthier ways of managing, if not overcoming, and treating this awful disease.

    • I’m so happy you found the post interesting and timely, Patricia. Thank you for sharing about your crohns experience also. The funny thing is, on the McDougall website there is a testimonial from a patient who had crohns and is symptom free by following his diet as well. Dr. McDougall has a free section where he gives all the information about his diet including meal plans and recipes. The only thing missing is an accountability buddy and since I can’t afford to pay for a coach right now, I’m using the blog as a substitute. Hopefully, it will work. It would be great to have a partner in this endeavor. Thanks for reading, Pat.

      • I think what is challenging, Marianne, is that the carb-specific diet I was on before that was so helpful and healing is almost the total opposite of this diet. I think it shows that there isn’t one best way for every person. I’m probably going to have to adopt the McDougall plan little by little, rather than starting the 12-day program. I simply don’t have the time, energy or resources to toss everything not in the plan and if I did, my family would not be happy. I will need to find a way to introduce this way of eating into what the rest of my family wants and just not eat the foods they want – even though I will have to cook them.

        • I totally understand what you are saying, Patricia. Little by little is likely the way I’ll go also. I don’t have a family that I cook for so in some ways it makes it easier however, the foods that I love to consume are the foods the RA specific diet eliminates (like eggs, dairy, wheat etc.). Although, I have to keep in mind that after four months of elimination I can introduce the foods one at a time to see if symptoms return. It will be interesting to see what happens on this journey. Thanks for the comment.

  2. I understand a bit of your struggle, as I have always felt it was hard to tell sometimes what was worse–the side-effects from psychiatric drugs or the mental illness itself. I will look forward to hearing how this goes for you and will support any way I can. I’m behind you, sister.

    • Thank so much, Kathy. I appreciate your support very much. I enjoy reading the series you have going on your blog as well as the regular posting you’ve done over the year. Keep up the great work and blessings for a wonderful day. 🙂

  3. HI Marianne,
    It’s been awhile (too long). We need to schedule a coffee/tea visit soon! I’m not sure if I told you last time we chatted that my sister has been diagnosed with RA. She has been following a very restricted diet for awhile now – and I do think it’s helping! Currently, her nutritionist has her on a 2 week detox (with anti-inflammatory shakes). She is on day 5 or so. I will let you know how she feels at the end. She’s been having a lot of pain & swelling in her one ankle in particular…and the nutritionist believes this detox could eliminate that issue. (We will see!)

    Glad to know you are still sharing your “gift with words” with the world.
    You are beautiful – inside and out!


    • I’m very sorry to hear about your sister’s diagnosis with RA, Wendy. Has she been able to avoid meds by following the restricted diet? It would be great to hear how she feels after the detox. It would be great to have a visit also. Thanks for the kind works, Wendy. Hugs to you as well.

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  6. I am so excited for you, Marianne! New beginnings. 🙂

    I look forward to seeing how the new plans work for you. I am slowly transitioning to a plant-based diet, easing out the dairy in my life, so I will join you in a sense.

    • Thank you, Robin. As I mentioned a comment to Pat, I must find an answer to this disease and I’ll just have to keep trying. Thanks for reading and commenting, Robin. Have a wonderful day.

      • I meant to mention the book The China Study. The author suggests that a plant-based diet will help with RA and other auto-immune diseases. It’s not a huge part of the book so I don’t know if it would be worth it for you to read it, but I thought of you when I got to that section of the book.

        • Thanks for mentioning the book, Robin. With all the documentation to support the success of the plant-based diet hopefully I’ll have success as well. My downfall is that I’m so addicted to bread, muffins, loafs, cookies, cakes and oils. It’s such a habit. But, I have to do this for at least 4 months to see if it works. I so want to get well.

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