Part 1: Rheumatoid Arthritis or not, come join me…
Come join me every Monday as I share my RA story and discuss nutritional and exercise tips to help manage RA symptoms and promote a healthy thyroid. Whether or not you also suffer from an autoimmune disease, over the next several weeks you will find great tips to maintain a healthier lifestyle without having to go on any fad diets, buy any supplements or go out and get a gym membership.
Week 1: Introduction - Rheumatoid Arthritis or not, come join me.
Week 2: Let’s Talk Food - Inflammation fighting foods and what to avoid.
Week 3: Get Moving - Low impact exercises and how to stay active during any season of life.
Week 4: Is Christmas so I’ll catch you the following week!
Week 5: Health update and Accountability*
Week 6: Week at a Glance: Meal Plan
Week 7: Week at a Glance: Exercise Plan
Week 8: Recap and Reflection
*The new year is a cliche but great time to really focus on your goals and hold yourself accountable. Easier said than done though, right?! So, over week 5 we’ll discuss accountability and, if there’s enough interest, set up an accountability group on FB to share tips and plans, wins and fails and just be there to celebrate and learn from each other’s attempts at healthier lifestyles.
I’m not a doctor, nor do I have any sort of medical background outside of personally dealing with the conditions mentioned below. The tips, suggestions and opinions mentioned in this and subsequent posts are based on my own experiences and testimonials from others. It is not intended to be medical advice and is not for everyone. Always consult your doctor before making changes to your medications, diet or exercise routines.
Those of you who know me well, know that I’ve dealt with a few autoimmune diseases over the years, most recently, Rheumatoid Arthritis. Prior to RA, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (which, interestingly enough has switched to HYPERthyroidism in recent postpartum months), and before that it was recurring bouts of mono from Epstein-Barr (despite the fact that most people only get it once and then it stays dormant). These autoimmune disorders mostly leave me sore and exhausted, but occasionally cause me to be dizzy/light-headed, have a racing heart/heart palpitations, and, most enjoyably (read my sarcasm), experience hot flashes and chills.
When it was first suggested that I may have RA several years back, the Rheumatologist I saw suggested going on a gluten free and dairy free diet. I LOVE all things gluten and even more, all things dairy - particularly cheese, so when she suggested this, I literally started crying right there in her office. I decided there was no way I could give up cheese and other dairy products, but I’d give going gluten free the good ol’ college try. Luckily for me, I was late to the GF game and by that point there were already several great gluten free options for foods I loved. Unfortunately they were much more expensive than their gluten-filled counterparts but prices seem to be going down as more products saturate the market. To see some of my favorite Gluten Free foods from this season of my life check out our post: 12 Gluten Free Products Worth Loving.
I realized that I could see any number of doctors, and read any number of websites and blogs and would just continue to hear conflicting opinions on this matter, so decided to take everything with a grain of salt.
My family was super supportive in accommodating this new diet which made it a lot easier to stick to it for a while. I noticed an improvement in my joint pain and overall energy and attributed it likely to the void of gluten in my diet and just all around healthier eating and exercising choices. Eventually though, cheat days increased and symptoms returned. I saw a new Rheumatologist who confirmed that I did, in fact, have RA and stated that there is no science to back up that a gluten free diet (or any other food-based solutions) improves RA or other autoimmune symptoms. This sentiment has been echoed by every other doctor I’ve seen since - all of who simply suggest eating a well-rounded, balanced diet and exercising. I realized that I could see any number of doctors, and read any number of websites and blogs and would just continue to hear conflicting opinions on this matter, so decided to take everything with a grain of salt. Needless to say he prescribed Humira as it was the safest option while trying to have a baby. I took a few rounds of it and noticed improvement but went off it when I got pregnant. I had heard that many people saw symptoms disappear with pregnancy so I banked on that, not wanting to have unnecessary drugs impacting Baby W (and really not wanting to give myself a shot every other week - if you know me you know my fear of needles...).
I was thrilled when my symptoms went away during pregnancy and I was able to go back to eating whatever the heck I wanted again! It was particularly great during those early months when all I wanted were bagels, macaroni and cheese and eventually pizza. I was on a gluten spree! I continued housing gluten in all of its glorious forms throughout the entire pregnancy and the first four months of my postpartum life. Just recently now (right before Thanksgiving), my symptoms have started coming back. The knobs on my joints are back, the achiness is back, and the exhaustion is back (on top of what you would normally expect with a newborn). I feel the sore knobs of RA on the joints in my fingers and the bottoms of my feet. My hips and knees feel like those of an elderly woman some days versus a 30 year old who outwardly looks in pretty decent shape.
Last week I saw a thyroid specialist who repeated the “there’s no science to back up the gluten free thing” and suggested I continue to eat normally. He also then prescribed an unnecessary beta blocker, just in case I felt like I needed it to treat heart palpitations from the hyperthyroidism. I called the pharmacy and said I wasn’t planning on coming to pick that up (read - pay for meds I had no intentions of using). So a small part of me can’t help but wonder just how many doctors are in cahoots with the pharmaceutical business and thus keep suggesting that there’s no merit to limiting gluten and doing other things to ensure a healthy gut… but that’s a conspiracy theory for another time.
Knowing full well that some changes were on the horizon, I enjoyed one last gluten spree over Thanksgiving and have since decided to focus on a healthier diet and exercise routine to see if I can push off taking drugs for my RA just a little while longer. There is a lot out there on best and worst foods for fighting inflammation and a lot of people swear by nutritional remedies for autoimmune issues. I’ve experienced first hand the difference limiting gluten made for me and am hopeful I’ll find some help from it again now.
This time around; however, things are going to have to look a little different for now. I’m not just feeding myself, I’ve got an almost 5 month old relying on my breastmilk for most of her nutrition so I’m not down with eliminating all gluten at the moment. I want her to continue to be exposed to it along with all the other foods that are commonly associated with sensitivities and allergies. When she’s eating entirely apart from me, I’ll reconsider the GF thing if needed, but for the time being I’ll just be limiting it and trying to make healthier choices in general.
Next week is all about food - seems fitting as I’m primarily a food blog, right?! Whether or not you suffer from an autoimmune disease, you’re going to find some helpful reminders that are just good general practice! You may also learn a thing or two about why certain foods are good/bad for you, what you really need and how to get it while still eating seriously yummy food.
Be sure to follow us on social (links below) for updates throughout the week and share with your friends who are in need of a health boost this holiday season (so, like pretty much all of us).
If you’d be interested in joining a FREE accountability group, be sure to like and follow us on Facebook so you can show your interest and join the group when the time comes!
Cheers everybody, see you next week!