I am not a doctor, certified dietitian, holistic practitioner or anything else with a fancy title. I am just someone who has found a measure of healing from chronic health problems. If you want to know how the short answer is a change in my diet. Feel free to stop reading now if you like. 🙂
The strange thing is that I wasn’t searching for answers. They just found me and it has been life changing. So I feel compelled to share even though it is way out of my comfort zone to do so. My heart is that someone might be encouraged. Especially someone who suffers with chronic pain as experienced with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RH). I am always hesitant to share because so many people (okay, mostly doctors and skeptics) have made me feel bad for feeling so good. I also know myself and realize I would be that skeptic if it wasn’t for my own personal experience.
The short version of my story is that I suffered with chronic infections and was diagnosed with arthritis as a child. If you have time and are interested I have gone way out of my comfort zone and posted (almost) the entire health story here: https://brownboxsoil.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/in-the-beginning-part-1/
In my early 20’s I continued to fully trust my medical doctors and the team of specialists that cared for me. I didn’t spend any time looking for other answers. My expectation and understanding was that the doctors and specialists would do all the leg work and then they would present me with every possible option to help me with my conditions. What actually happened is that I was given drugs. So I was medicated on several daily medications for years with the occasional antibiotic or change in prescription as things stopped working or the side effects became to unbearable.
We were introduced to fresh organic food (again part of the long story) and started eating it abundantly. We did this to support the work at our friend’s organic farm not because we expected any health change. About six months later my health had dramatically improved. (more on that in my health story posted online).
SO this change got me looking for answers. I wanted to know why I had suffered for years with many things and given no hope for any improvement only to accidentally stumble upon a diet change that led to healing. Yes, a diet change! How simple, right? What I learned over the past decade from holistic doctors (who I thought must be the opposite of “real” doctors) is that my body was made to work correctly, but something was interfering. I also learned that auto immune disease is caused by a sick immune system.
Since the only change I made at that time was eating an abundant amount of organic produce the holistic doctors have suggested that the chemicals in the food I was eating (conventional produce and processed food/meats) was causing my body to attack itself. They also believe that my chronic infections either caused or were related to my RH. Lastly, they think that my eating lots of healthy produce boosted my immune system and caused me to eat less of other inflammatory foods. A girl can only eat so much, you know. 🙂 By the way I now see that I should have embraced holistic doctors a long time ago since they treat your whole self and I have long believed God made us mind, body spirit.
Awhile later I had very little pain, but still small flare ups once in awhile and no infections or allergy symptoms for over one year. I heard about benefits of fish oil and added that to my diet. I was pregnant at the time and thought it would be good for the baby. I learned later it was actually good for me too and have continued to take it often through the years.
Just a few years ago I learned more about probiotics from a natural practitioner and decided to add some supplements to my diet. I eat a lot of probiotics anyhow, but I take these some of the time. Since I have heard many people with RH that have found probiotics very helpful in their overall health. I have also met lots of people who have similar stories to mine.
So a little bit of fact to go with my story and a few resources in case you are interested:
RH is an autoimmune disease. What is an autoimmune disease?
An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disorders.
Normally the immune system’s white blood cells help protect the body from harmful substances, called antigens. Examples of antigens include bacteria, viruses, toxins, cancer cells, and blood or tissues from another person or species. The immune system produces antibodies that destroy these harmful substances.
In patients with an autoimmune disorder, the immune system can’t tell the difference between healthy body tissue and antigens. The result is an immune response that destroys normal body tissues. This response is a hypersensitivity reaction similar to the response in allergic conditions.
In allergies, the immune system reacts to an outside substance that it normally would ignore. With autoimmune disorders, the immune system reacts to normal body tissues that it would normally ignore.
What causes the immune system to no longer tell the difference between healthy body tissues and antigens is unknown. One theory is that some microorganisms (such as bacteria or viruses) or drugs may trigger some of these changes, especially in people who have genes that make them more likely to get autoimmune disorders.
What medical doctors (western) are saying about RH:
“The initiating cause can occur up to four years before any clinical symptoms appear,” Peyman says.
Continue reading below…
“Everyone should be aware that they can reduce their risk of developing these diseases,” Peyman says. “As with cardiovascular disease and many cancers, inflammation is a major factor in the dysfunction of the immune system with autoimmune diseases. A diet rich in antioxidants and smoking cessation are good places to begin in reducing inflammation, he says.
Recent research is uncovering a complex interplay between the hormonal, nervous, and immune systems in rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers are also trying to learn why rheumatoid arthritis often improves during pregnancy. One study suggests that certain proteins passed between the mother and unborn child may be responsible for the improvement. These are proteins that help the immune system tell the difference between the body’s own cells and foreign ones. This exchange of proteins may change the mother’s immune system during pregnancy in some way.
Both genetics and environmental factors combined appear to be the main triggers of RA.
Genetics. Those at risk for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis inherit certain types of human leukocyte antigens (HLAs). These are white blood cell proteins that cause the white blood cells to overreact. This genetic difference puts related family members at an increased risk for one or more autoimmune diseases.
Researchers are collecting information from families to gain even greater insights into genetic links. They have identified several genetic regions that increase the susceptibility for rheumatoid arthritis in animal models. Recent studies have found several novel genes associated with the disease.
Environmental factors. An original insult from an infection or other factor in the environment can lead to chronic arthritis years later.
A similar process can happen with an infection. In people with genetic susceptibility, a minor localized infection in the mouth, for example, can trick the immune system into looking other places for modified proteins. This can lead to a “smoldering additional inflammation” in the body, which chronically attacks the joints, Peyman says.
Current Research on RH: http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2013/11/gut-bacteria-may-cause-rheumatoid-arthritis
What Holistic Doctors say about RH:
With the vast majority of the patients I treated, some type of emotional trauma occurred early in their life, before the age their conscious mind was formed, which is typically around the age of 5 or 6. However, a trauma can occur at any age, and has a profoundly negative impact.
If that specific emotional insult is not addressed with an effective treatment modality then the underlying emotional trigger will continue to fester, allowing the destructive process to proceed, which can predispose you to severe autoimmune diseases like RA later in life.
In some cases, RA appears to be caused by an infection, and it is my experience that this infection is usually acquired when you have a stressful event that causes a disruption in your bioelectrical circuits, which then impairs your immune system.
This early emotional trauma predisposes you to developing the initial infection, and also contributes to your relative inability to effectively defeat the infection.
Natural Treatment Information: (There are LOTS of other things out there, but these are the things I personally did that changed my health.)
Avoid: Adverse food reactions may also play a big role in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Some patients find that eating specific foods can cause a flare-up of their condition. Researchers have even found that many patients are actually allergic to certain proteins. The proteins found in wheat and cow’s milk are included in this group of proteins. By eliminating or greatly reducing intake of these foods, individuals may significantly reduce their levels of inflammation.
Eat More: Fruits and Vegetables
Steamed, baked, stir-fried, roasted, grilled, or even shish-kabob, vegetables can be a colorful and flavorful part of any healthy diet plan. Fruits make sweet desserts and between-meal snacks, or can be added to cooked meals for a delightful change of pace.
Fresh fruits and vegetables contain important anti-inflammatory antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E, as well as fiber. The fiber found in fruits and vegetables can help to restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, thereby reducing the general inflammation in the body.
Studies have shown that many rheumatoid arthritis patients who start following a produce-rich vegetarian diet find their symptoms improve or even disappear completely. They’re often able to reduce or stop their use of pain-killers. Spending time in the produce section of the grocery store may reduce the amount of time and money you have to spend in the pain-medicine section.
2. Fish oil
Fish oil can ease pain and inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Fish-oil capsules may, in fact, be as effective for relieving pain and inflammation as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen and naproxen), according to Dr. Kolasinski.
RA patients in the studies that found fish oil helpful took high doses, typically 4 grams a day or four standard fish-oil capsules. Most people consuming fish oil for overall health take one or two capsules daily.
But there’s no strong evidence that other dietary supplements or herbs, such as glucosamine or evening primrose oil, have any benefit in RA patients. “The herbals are really not where it’s at,” Dr. Kolasinski says.
Probiotics are live microorganisms found in certain yogurts and yeasts. They can help the body’s immune and digestive systems. Probiotics, which means “for life,” have been used for centuries as natural components in health-promoting foods.
Probiotics can be helpful for people who suffer from autoimmune disease because they support the immune system.