How to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis with Diet

How to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis with Diet

Which foods are good for me?

Even when I was first diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis back in 1993, I suspected that diet had an impact on the levels of inflammation in my body. Could I manage Rheumatoid Arthritis with diet? I was told again and again by my rheumatologists that diet was irrelevant and would make no difference whatsoever. Unfortunately, my skin was erupting in hives all over my body, and my eyes and lips were swelling up on a regular basis. It was clear that the foods I was ingesting certainly were affecting me. I had food intolerance testing and avoided the main culprits, but was never exactly clear on what I needed to avoid. The tests were rather unreliable and my intolerances seemed to change depending on how stressed I was. And so this went on for many years.. until I found a healing foods diet.

Time for a radical change:

 

At the end of 2014, my energy levels had reached an all-time low, and in addition to the joint pain, I was experiencing brain fog which was affecting my daily activities. I had been 95% dairy and gluten-free for decades but now I was at rock bottom and needed a plan of action. I found out that even one accidental (or intentional!) ingestion of gluten can affect the body for months, so it was time to be 100% gluten-free.

Also, when I went 100% lactose-free, my true sensitivity to it became apparent. I started reading up and researching more online. I found a whole wealth of information about various diets that people had been employing to calm the inflammation in their bodies whilst enjoying substantial relief from their chronic illness symptoms. This was a paradigm shift for me as up to then I had been accepting my fate of pain and ever-increasing amounts of medications. Now I could really take responsibility for my health.

Beginning is the hardest part…

 

I started out on a Whole 30 cleanse which is 30 days of clean eating to reset the system. Even though my diet was pretty good already I certainly experienced detox symptoms. Especially on day 3/4 when I could see blue zigzagging lines in my peripheral vision and could barely walk up the drive to the house! Those symptoms soon eased and I started to feel fantastic! I had a huge boost of energy and finished the 30 days feeling motivated and better than I had done in 10 years.

Next, I moved onto the Autoimmune Protocol Diet and I am still on a modified version of the AIP diet 3 years later. There have of course been ups and downs. I have tried reintroducing egg yolks (definite no) and successfully added in almonds (woo hoo!). Early on I had to stop with the coconut (apart from coconut oil) as I realised I couldn’t tolerate it, and yes, I thought I would be eating more foods by now!

It took a while for it to dawn on me that healing my leaky gut and normalising all of my allergic responses was going to take quite a while! However, I have been able to reduce my conventional medication and am feeling better so I know I am on the right track.

A work in progress…

How to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis with Diet:

I have done a Whole 30 every year now, as sugar, wine and dark chocolate keep creeping in and I know they don’t agree with me. I am now under the care of a great Functional Medicine nutritionist. With her help, now that I have eliminated my parasites, we are working towards healing my leaky gut lining, keeping inflammation low, balancing my thyroid, eliminating copper toxicity and working with my peri-menopausal symptoms. I am still on my AIP diet though with a few re-introductions.

My Rheumatoid arthritis is well controlled, my endometriosis is improving and my energy levels are better. Moving house in the summer has really helped with that. I think the black mould in our old house was a big factor in my fatigue whilst living there. I would definitely recommend working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner to help you manage Rheumatoid Arthritis with diet but also to support you in identifying any other pathogens or toxins that may be slowing down your healing. If you don’t have one nearby you may be able to have an online consultation. Check out The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Give it a go!

For anyone who is considering making a life change for the better…I wholeheartedly recommend doing a Whole 30 or similar. Even if it is just for those 30 days, it’s only one month of your life to try a new way of being. My guess is, you will never look back…

It is a great way to get started on adopting the Autoimmune Diet as a longer-term plan. Many people have had success with this as a way to manage their autoimmune conditions and although it is tough and takes a lot of dedication and planning. It is worth it! There many fantastic websites and resources for learning more how to manage Rheumatoid Arthritis with diet and I encourage you to visit them and do your research. Knowledge is power!

 

Check out these resources:

Phoenix Helix

Autoimmune Wellness

The Paleo Mom

 

How to Eat Out Stress-Free with a Special Diet

How to Eat Out Stress-Free with a Special Diet

I have been on my very restrictive Autoimmune Protocol Diet for over two years now and it has been transformational in reducing inflammation in my body. I am used to it now and am slowly re-introducing foods, and even though it can be boring if I don’t make the effort to make new recipes, I am quite happy with it.
Eating out at restaurants and other people’s houses, however, can be a real challenge. If you, like me, are restricted in this way you will know what it is like. You just want to be able to eat out stress-free when you have a special diet, and not end up feeling like a troublemaker or ending up getting ill due to ingesting some food that is detrimental to you.
I have developed different ways of dealing with these hurdles that can make the whole process easier for you and your friends and family…and the waiter/waitress for that matter! After all, eating out should be a relaxing enjoyable experience for everyone.

Social difficulties of special dietary requirements:

  • Embarrassment and stress due to feeling like you are being difficult.
  • Feeling like you are being an unreasonable or ungrateful dinner guest.
  • Not wanting to put more work onto others.
  • Awkwardness in restaurants.
  • Pressure from family to just be “normal”.
  • Friends and family having difficulty understanding the reasons for your diet.
  • Potluck events can be tricky as there is little or nothing you can eat except your own offering.
  • The temptation to eat something you shouldn’t just to make it easier for others.
eat out stress-free with a special diet

Tools and tricks:

Communicating your needs:

  • Spend some time planning how to explain the reasons for your diet and how it benefits your health. I sometimes like to say that I am on a prescribed diet plan recommended by my nutritionist (which is true!).
  • Practice a short clear explanation of what happens to you in the following days if you break your own diet rules.
  • Ask for exactly what you want in restaurants. eg ask if it is possible to just have fish/meat fried plain in olive oil with some steamed vegetables.  I like to imagine I am a famous actress or pop star and say what they would say..smile often and ask politely of course!

Planning:

  • Advance planning is crucial. Get ahead by checking restaurants online menus, then email them to explain your requirements in advance. This saves a lot of the hassle and the chef will hopefully have a written record of what your requirements are on the day.
  • Aim for restaurants that make lots of fresh salads and simple grilled meats and fish. Identify sides of greens or salad that you can have in advance and swap them in for other disallowed foods.
  • Look on Paleo and Coeliac websites in advance for ideas of 100% gluten-free restaurants.
  • Take your own food contribution to dinner parties if that is helpful. Make it yummy so others will want to share too to make you feel less excluded.
  • Take your own seasonings to restaurants and dinner invitations.
  • Email friends/family some recipes that you can eat if that seems appropriate.
  • Print out allowed/forbidden foods for the family.
  • If it is a work lunch, it may be easier to just take your own food as you may be time-limited.
eat out stress-free with a special diet

Staying on track with special diet:

  • Think about ways of saying ” no thanks” to offers of food that don’t offend the person offering and allow them to eat it happily in front of you. eg. That looks delicious, and I would love to eat it, but my diet doesn’t allow it. You go ahead, I am going to have a herbal tea, fruit salad, or whatever..”
  • Sometimes eating in advance of the event is helpful, nothing worse than going hungry!
  • Be appreciative of any extra effort made by others to accommodate your requests rather than apologising guiltily. There is nothing to be guilty about, you have a medical condition, take care of yourself.
  • Tip well in restaurants for the extra effort made.
  • Stay strong in your convictions and don’t be swayed by others saying ” Just a little won’t harm you!” You know it will!

So with great planning ahead, clear compassionate communication and an attitude of gratitude, eating out will be something you can enjoy thoroughly. We certainly deserve a break from the kitchen and missing out socially is not beneficial to our mental health. So I encourage you to do your research but to also to keep a sense of humour as the best-laid plans..and all that…

 

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ― Virginia Woolf Click To Tweet

 

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Food as a Mood Booster

Food as a Mood Booster

I think of local vegetables and fruit as being gifts from nature with the perfect constituents to keep us healthy. In my mind, the way we assimilate these beneficial substances from food is superior to taking a supplement and certainly a conventional medicine. With some careful planning and thought, we can introduce specific food as a mood booster into our diet to ensure that our minds and bodies are working in harmony and health.
Have you ever noticed that when you eat a lot of white bread or greasy chips, for example, you can end up feeling sluggish, bloated and grumpy?
Are you having severe mood swings due to the effects of caffeine and sugar?
 
Could you be deficient in essential minerals and vitamins due to eating a standard western diet that is not optimised for your well-being?
It is becoming more and more apparent that a diet rich in plant-based food is the most healthy for humans at this time. Avoiding processed food and as much sugar as possible is essential to promote health. We were just never meant to eat all those weird unpronounceable substances on the back of the majority of packaged food. Whether you then add in grass-fed meat and safe fish with your vegetables is your choice. However, if you are avoiding grains and pulses to reduce inflammation, then it will most likely be essential to add that protein back in.
I have been following the Autoimmune protocol diet for a couple of years and have enjoyed huge improvements in my health because of that. It is very restrictive and can be difficult in social situations but it is worth it to experience a transformation in your well-being.
Thankfully now there are huge online resources of information and recipes to make it easier. There are even Facebook groups and books written to guide you through the transition to the AIP diet. Essentially the Autoimmune Protocol Diet is the paleo diet with the removal of additional foods, such as nightshades, which are considered to be inflammatory. The aim is to heal a leaky gut membrane and then once that is improved, additional foods can be re-introduced in a careful manner. For more information on the AIP diet see my links page.
All the suggestions below, therefore, are in keeping with the AIP diet (with the exception of the nuts and seeds which could be an early reintroduction).

How can we use food as a mood booster?

One way is to add more protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates into your diet to help to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
When your blood sugar levels drop, you can start to feel stressed and down. The beneficial fats and complex carbohydrates help to make hormones and neurotransmitters in the body that help make you feel better. Also, many people are deficient in essential minerals such as magnesium and calcium due to our depleted soils, so adding these in is also an instant mood booster.

1) Coconut oil

Coconut oil consists of medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat which is turned into energy quickly and efficiently. This type of fat is easily used by the body so it doesn’t tend to be stored as fat deposits. It provides lasting energy and has a whole host of other benefits, such as being antibacterial, antifungal, boosting brain function and reducing cholesterol. Make sure you are buying a good quality organic extra-virgin coconut oil.

2) Bananas

There is hardly a day that goes by in the last few years that I don’t eat a banana. Bananas supply your body with lasting energy. They are rich in potassium and vitamins A, C and B6. The carbohydrates provide your body with a sustained release of energy and maintain blood sugar levels. The fibre helps fill you up and slow down digestion. The potassium assists with fluid movement in the body and consequently helps your muscles work efficiently. Also bananas help with the absorption of Tryptophan and the vitamin B6 is important in the conversion of the Tryptophan to Serotonin.  Serotonin decreases appetite and improves mood and heart health.

3) Raw nuts

Nuts are a fantastic source of long-lasting energy and protein. Almonds, cashews and hazelnuts are all high in magnesium and help convert sugar into energy. Brazil nuts have high levels of selenium which can improve mood and reduce anxiety. Avoid processed, smoked, highly sweetened or salted nuts. Go for the raw plain organic ones. You can always find a healthy recipe for a way to season them. Of course, some people can be highly allergic or intolerant to nuts, so if you are reintroducing them, do it with care and attention.

 

Food as a mood booster

 

4) Asparagus

Asparagus is a fantastic plant source of Tryptophan, one of the building blocks of Serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter in the brain. Asparagus is also high in folates which have been shown to be important in reducing depression.*

Food a sa mood booster

5) Avocados

Avocados are an incredibly versatile food that many just swear by for boosting health. I also eat these most days, whether in a smoothie, a delicious salad or a yummy cacao desert!!  Avocados are natural hormone balancers, and that is what you want to keep your brain happy and functioning well.

 6) Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds make a wonderful seasoning and contain tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid which boosts the brain’s dopamine levels. Dopamine is the chemical that allows us to have feelings of bliss and pleasure. When it is deficient, the brain cannot send messages easily. This affects behaviour, mood and cognition adversely. I like Tahini as an alternative to hummus which is not allowed on the AIP diet. Recently I had black roasted sesame seeds for the first time on a delicious meal and I adored the smoky flavour. Black sesame seeds are also an excellent source of magnesium, calcium and vitamin B1, and so are beneficial in a multitude of ways.
 

 7) Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is a revitalising leafy vegetable that is packed with magnesium which is needed for over 300 different chemical processes in the body. To find out more about why Magnesium is beneficial for mood, read this great article in Psychology Today. It is delicious in vegetable broth or stir-fried with garlic and lemon juice. If you aren’t a leaf loving person, you can always stick it in a green smoothie.
Food as a mood booster

8) Foods rich in probiotics

Include water kefir/ kombucha/ raw sauerkraut in your diet for the beneficial effects on your gut microbiome. The number of probiotic cultures in these foods exceeds natural yoghurt by far.  A healthy microbiome can also help a person to stay calm and relaxed.
Food as a mood booster

What we eat and how we feel is obviously intimately interlinked. Also, food intolerance reactions can affect you days after ingestion. If you suspect that you have some food intolerances, I strongly suggest seeing a qualified nutritionist to get some help with your diet.

Food as a mood booster is an easy and wholesome way to increase vitality, positive outlook and energy.

Why not have a look at your diet and see if you can incorporate some of these mood-boosting foods daily.

J Affect Disord. 2000 Nov;60(2):121-30. Enhancement of the antidepressant action of fluoxetine by folic acid: a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Coppen A1, Bailey J.

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Why you need turmeric in your tummy

Why you need turmeric in your tummy

Do you want less pain and a better mood?

How about less brain fog and a better memory?

Last year I met a lady in a hot tub who had been putting turmeric on her face as she had read that it was good for your skin. She hadn’t realised that it stained skin so strongly. Just a warning guys, there is a reason it is used as a fabric dye. The poor lady looked like a mandarin orange and that turmeric glow didn’t look like it was going anywhere for a while!
Turmeric
A couple of years ago when I started my Auto-Immune Protocol diet, I started taking a high quality turmeric supplement (with added Piperine to increase absorption) to help with the inflammation in my joints. I can honestly say, that out of every supplement that I have taken over the years, (and there have been a lot!), this has been by far the most effective at reducing pain and inflammation in my joints and eyes.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a plant from the ginger family and is native to southern Asia. People in ancient India believed that turmeric brought abundance, cleansed the energy body and contained the vibration of the Divine Mother.
The bright yellow spice is made by boiling the rhizomes for 45 minutes and then drying them in hot ovens before grinding. Fresh turmeric is becoming more widely available in the west now and I believe that the benefits of the fresh herb are even more pronounced. The helpful active ingredient of the turmeric is curcumin and so if you take the fresh turmeric, then you are getting the best chance of receiving that constituent, although good quality organic ground turmeric is still useful.
It is important to consume some kind of fat at the same time so as to absorb the curcumin better and the fresh turmeric already has this oil in it, whereas the dried spice will not. The way I see it is that mother nature has provided all these substances for us and we get the most benefit from them if we consume them with all their elements intact physically and energetically. Also, consuming the curcumin with black pepper increases the bioavailability of the curcumin considerably.
Turmeric

What is turmeric good for?

More than 6000 peer-reviewed articles have been carried out on the benefits of curcumin and the evidence is unequivocal. I am not going to reference all the articles here but Turmeric for Health has excellent information on all the health benefits with references cited.

Positives include:

Anti-inflammatory comparable in power to pharmaceutical medicines. ( In fact this study* showed it to be more effective at reducing pain and safer than a NSAID)
Anti-coagulant
Anti-depressant (In fact a study showed it to be superior in action to Prozac)*
Decreases tumour size and kills cancer cells.
Helpful for diabetics as reduces blood sugar.
Painkiller analgesic.
Inhibits auto-antibodies. (Great news for Auto-immune condition sufferers)**
Blood purifier
Broad spectrum anti-microbial agent
Protects the heart and brain from diseases
Improves cognitive function
Helps inflammatory bowel disease.
Supports healthy gut flora.
Helps prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.
Turmeric

Precautions as this is a powerful substance:

Consume responsibly as this substance is potent. (Normal amounts used in cooking are not an issue.)
It can interact with other drugs such as blood-thinning medication and drugs to reduce stomach acid so take medical advice and research well.
Avoid if you have active gallstones.
Use caution in pregnancy.

Recipes:

 

The Turmeric for Health website gives great information on the best suppliers of high quality organic turmeric and black pepper in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.

Golden Milk (Turmeric Latte) 

Golden milk has been a traditional health drink in India for a long time, now trendy people are calling it Turmeric Latte! Funny! I like this recipe from Wellness mama:

Turmeric Tea Golden Milk Recipe

Prep time Cook time Total time 
Author: Wellness Mama
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 cups of milk of choice (almond, pecan, coconut and dairy all work in this recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric or Turmeric Spice Mix
  • ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey or maple syrup or to taste (optional)
  • Pinch of black pepper (increases absorption)
  • Tiny piece of fresh, peeled ginger root or ¼ tsp ginger powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Instructions
  1. First, blend all ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth.
  2. Then, Pour into a small sauce pan and heat for 3-5 minutes over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
  3. Drink immediately

I would advise to avoid the dairy milk and omit the Cayenne Pepper if you have an Autoimmune disease as it is a nightshade.

Turmeric

The recipe below is my version of Turmeric Honey and it is a great resource for when you are a bit under the weather. You can add it to smoothies and juices or just make a tea with it.

Turmeric Honey Alchemy

Ingredients:

1 cup of  Raw organic or Manuka honey

2 tbsp organic ground Turmeric

1 tbsp Organic Coconut Oil

1 tsp Organic Apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp Finely ground black pepper

1/4 tsp ground ginger

Melt the coconut oil to a liquid and then mix with the spices and the apple cider vinegar. This can then be mixed into the honey stirring it well. Cover and store in the fridge. This will keep for two weeks.

Turmeric

I believe that Turmeric (Curcumin) is a gift that we should be using to its full advantage. After all, its ability to reduce inflammation alone is reason enough to be consuming it regularly. I found this photo of Turmeric flowers too and was amazed at how pretty they are. I love this plant!!

* Chandran, B. and Goel, A. (2012), A Randomized, Pilot Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Patients with Active Rheumatoid Arthritis. Phytother. Res., 26: 1719–1725. doi:10.1002/ptr.4639
** Jayesh Sanmukhani, Vimal Satodia, Jaladhi Trivedi, Tejas Patel, Deepak Tiwari, Bharat Panchal, Ajay Goel, Chandra Bhanu Tripathi. Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytother Res. 2013 Jul 6. Epub 2013 Jul 6.
***Kurien, Biji T., Anil D’Souza, and R. Hal Scofield. “Heat-Solubilized Curry Spice Curcumin Inhibits Antibody-Antigen Interaction in in Vitro Studies: A Possible Therapy to Alleviate Autoimmune Disorders.” Molecular nutrition & food research 54.8 (2010): 1202–1209. PMC. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

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