My Journey with RA & autoimmune diseases
Hi, my name is Kristen!
I started this website and blog to help others on healing their Rheumatoid Arthritis naturally, using food, supplements, elimination diet, natural remedies and exercise.
In 2014, I started a Facebook group page in hopes that it would create a safe, non- judgmental place for people looking for ways to heal and manage their disease and decrease inflammation. Whether a person still needs meds or has been able to get off, having a group of people interested in taking control of their disease, and being supportive of each other is the goal. It is healing having a place to vent, but stay positive and know you are not alone in having this disease! I have found being positive is a great way to heal also.
I am not an expert, but after years of researching about Rheumatoid Arthritis, Autoimmune Diseases and healing with diet, supplements, exercise, I hope to share what I have learned as well as learn from others!
My journey (bare with me, it is long!):
My first symptoms occurred 18 years ago when my oldest daughter was about 2 years old. I was a very active Mom, exercised, and worked. At first, I started to get aches and pains throughout my body. It was an all over pain, the ‘hit by a truck kind of feeling’, if someone touched me, I would cry out in pain. It was like having the flu every day, all day.
I went to the doctor and they wrote it off that I was depressed. I was not depressed! They made me feel like I was making up how I was feeling, and wasting their time.
So I started researching trying to find out what was wrong with me. It took a couple years and I was eventually diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Another year passes. I continue to be fatigued, my skin is breaking out in little bumps, not acne, just bumpy. I have extreme anxiety, at times literally thinking I am going crazy. There is a constant lump in my throat, my hair is falling out in clumps. Doctors are no help either. I had one doctor say, ‘you are doing pilates too much, hence the neck lump’ Ummm What???????? I finally found a different doctor who actually listened to me. (This is key: Find a doctor who will listen to you.)
Well that neck lump was a goiter due to untreated hypothyroidism/Autoimmune Hashimotos. Once I started taking a thyroid pill, I began to feel better. Also at this time realized I had Celiac Disease. What I know now, is if Celiac is left untreated, you continue to get more autoimmune diseases. I have six autoimmune diseases now, so finding ways to treat myself naturally is very important to me. It is very common that once you have one autoimmune disease, the likelihood of getting more is high.
My Fibromyalgia went away for a year, after I treated my thyroid, and started a gluten free diet. Yay! Looking back, the Fibromyalgia was my body telling me, something is WRONG with your body!
At this time, I had two little kids and was a busy stay at home Mom. I started to feel sick again. My fibromyalgia came back. I felt like a failure as a Mom. With my daughter, I had so much energy and now with my son, I was constantly exhausted. There were many days while my daughter was in school, I literally laid on the floor and played dinosaurs with my son, or he would drive his little cars over my body on the floor!
When my son was in Kindergarten I started an online business, selling and making therapeutic flaxseed and herbal heat wraps. This business was a godsend for me mentally. It made me feel productive again. I also knew that I would not be able to be in the workforce outside of my home in my current health state. So creating a business that worked for my health worked great both physically and mentally.
By the time my son was in 2nd grade, I was walking with a cane, and now it no longer felt like Fibromyalgia, I could feel it in my joints. My fingers would freeze in place and I hurt...oh it hurt to move. When my kids were busy playing, I would go into the bathroom and cry, so they would not see my tears. I knew something was different too. Went to the doctor again and was referred to a Rheumatologist. My joints were not that swollen and I tested negative for the RA factor, so at first he was not sure it was RA. But he did a full body scan and it showed all the joint damage. I also felt so much better on prednisone too. It was not just Fibromyalgia which does not respond to prednisone. So I started on Meloxicam and Sulfasalazine. It worked for awhile, I never felt completely normal again, but with the meds, I was able to work and function.
Now when my son was in 5th grade, I started to feel really sick again. My thyroid had become destroyed due to the Hashimoto's Disease and I had to have a thyroidectomy, full removal of my thyroid gland. It took a year for me to get my meds working right and to feel somewhat normal again. This was 2009 and I had started the Dr. John McDougall diet, a vegan plant based, no oil diet. I was learning and researching about foods and healing. I lost 30 lbs, and felt good. I also did an elimination diet and learned which foods trigger inflammation. After about 10 months, my Dad, and two of my Uncles passed away within months from each other. Bye bye diet, I needed wine, cheese, sugar and comfort foods to feel better while I grieved.
In 2011 I started getting interested again in what I ate that year. Eating healthy and finding out more on trigger foods. Researching how to get better.
Then in 2012, My Mom, sister and I took an Alaskan Cruise together. On that cruise, my sister who had Lupus, got sick, very sick. Looking back, her organs were shutting down, and she had multiple heart attacks while on the cruise. We never finished the cruise and got off the boat in Alaska and made it back to California. She passed away days later. My sister was my everything, my best friend, my support. We both had autoimmune diseases, so it was common for us to speak daily. Her death was a shock. It felt like a part of me died with her. Like I was now walking around without a part of me. Comfort foods dairy, and sugar helped me grieve again throughout the next year.
As I started feeling better mentally, I was invested again to go back to a healthy diet. At this time, I moved my Mom from California to Colorado to be closer to us. This was 2014, and around this time I started getting breathless and had constant chest pains. I would go to the ER, they would take X Rays and then they would say we can’t find anything. This happened twice. The breathlessness got worse until one day, I really had trouble breathing. I also could not put words together, could not even speak. So my husband rushed me to the ER and I passed out at the front door of the ER. I had suffered from a Pulmonary Embolism. There were blood clots all over my lungs. I was told if I had not come in I would be dead. Also told If I had been a smoker, I would be dead. Talk about a wake up call.
Well it took 2 years for my lungs to fully heal, not 100% due to scar tissue, but better. The PE’s also revved up my RA, so I felt that I was in a constant flare. Although very happy to be alive with the lack of exercise, and feeling sorry for myself, I gained weight. Over these past couple of years, I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis and Sjogrens Disease. By this time, I am also suffering from a recurring stomach problem, due to all the NSAIDS, prednisone use and RA drugs. A painful burning stomach. I am finding that the only foods I can eat are plant based. In fact eating vegan after a week, the tummy problems went from everyday to 2-3 times a week.
So, 2017, I think okay, I want to make a change AGAIN, and this time no matter what happens in my life, whether it is deaths, stressors, etc. I am sticking to it.
And here I am now. My first three weeks on this no gluten, no dairy, no meat, no sugar, no added oils diet, I feel better!! I have lost 11 pounds so far, and I am not starving myself, and am enjoying eating plenty of foods. My joints feel better. When I wake up in the morning, rather than taking 2-3 hours for my joints to loosen up, I am up and ready to go. I am not needing to nap either! I have been exercising daily and increasing my workout weekly. I have stopped my RA meds too. So far so good.
Well if you read this far, you deserve a medal! But that is my crazy journey that I have been on.
Thank you for reading!
UPDATE: June 2018
Well over a year has passed since I have been on an elimination diet! I will try to summarize what my results were and what has and has not worked. I started with McDougall, just had to tweak his diet and eliminated all nightshades. I felt great the first two months. One thing I like about his program is he encourages eating as much as you need to. Without added oil, processed foods, you do lose weight, and do not get hungry. It is a plant based diet, he also has a website with recipes and a support forum, all free. I have most of his books and recommend them.
After a couple months I decided to try the Paddison Program, a strict vegan elimination diet, to really see what my food triggers were At a cost of $50-$100. For an e-book, a support forum is extra money. What I found was I got very ill on it. There just is not enough calories or nutrition. Many people have to stay on it longer, hence they lose more weight. With autoimmune diseases, you don’t want to lose too much weight where you are also losing muscle mass. I found that most of the food on his approved list, I reacted to. He also encourages pseudo-grains, which are not grains but seeds (amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and chia). While they are gluten free, they are not completely digested and can pass through the gut barrier intact, causing gut permeability. For some people pseudo grains can cause an immune or inflammatory reaction just like gluten. I was one of those, so this diet diet not work for me.
I no longer let it be promoted in my Facebook support group either, due to so many people contacting me that they became ill from it. Yes some have felt better on this program, but, it seemed in my group, more felt ill, or it did not last long term. There are lots of elimination diets out there that are free and don’t make you sicker. I also don’t like someone promoting their diet in a support group of people who have serious illnesses.
So it took about a month to get better after being off of the Paddison Program. I continued on with a plant based diet, no dairy, junk processed foods. I would feel good for awhile, then flare again. Soon my flares got closer together, fingers swelling and freezing in place. RA was attacking my lungs at times, so had to do a short stint of prednisone. What I found was I reacted to certain grains and beans. A year and half on a plant based diet, I also became very deficient in certain vitamins. It is common for people with autoimmune disease to be deficient in vitamins and minerals.
At the end of May 2018 I started the Plant Paradox, by Dr. Gundry, which eliminates specific lectins, grains, beans, from your diet. After two weeks on it, I have had a full week of no pain or inflammation from Fibromyalgia or RA. Adding good fats and fish back into my diet seemed to help my fatigue, insomnia and pain. The main information I got from his diet plan was that certain lectin foods were making me flare. He has supplements on his website, but I don’t take them and have seen results. I really did not want to give up grains/beans and hoped I could do a vegan diet, but I see now grains and beans were a huge problem. I also did not add the amount of oils to my diet, as too many oils cause inflammation for me.
There are many diets out there geared to help ease symptoms. What I have found is that no one diet will cure or put you in remission. It is very individual and it is wise to start with an elimination diet to find out if certain foods are causing you inflammation. Out of all the diets I have tried, I have found that I have learned something from each one and have been able to tailor a diet that fits my needs.
Thank you for reading!
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