One of my greatest frustrations after diagnosis was the constant nagging of my aunts that I should watch what I eat. I admit that I had a pretty reckless diet before I was diagnosed, but I don’t think that had anything to do with me having RA.
As a graduate of physical therapy, I knew for a fact that food is not a cause for RA. Neither is any kind of diet or food supplement for that matter. But I heeded their advice and changed my diet. In general it meant less junk food, and more fruits and vegetables. I also started drinking lemon juice in the morning and taking turmeric capsules after meals. I figured I might as well try everything, after all, RA has no cure. I went as far as swallowing tiny chili pieces after meals, they were supposedly natural painkillers. But I think the turning point in this edible crusade was when I decided to take a food intolerance test.
I stumbled upon the idea of taking a food intolerance test after doing some research about foods that can cause RA. It was a tragic disappointment for me as a health care professional to even consider this, but I had to try. I needed to see what Google had to say regarding ‘food’ and ‘RA’, and I found some noteworthy case studies about the relationship of the gut with autoimmune diseases. In summary, western medicine is right that food is not directly contributing to RA, but, the gut has been considered as a major part of the immune system, and therefore is an integral area to consider when studying the causes of autoimmune diseases. This sounds geeky but it makes a lot of sense.
And so I read more about the gut and malabsorption and food intolerances and I concluded that I should look for a local laboratory that provides food intolerance tests. With all the blogs out there, it wasn’t hard to find a decent one, but man was it expensive!
Eventually, I decided to go with it. I think it was more of curiosity rather than health consciousness that pushed me to save up money for this test. It was an easy process, I just filled out some forms and let them take some blood, and I come back several days later for the results.
I was dumbfounded when I got the results. I was confused as to why I’d taken the expensive test because now I don’t know if I want to follow the nutritionist’s advice. (the test comes with a free consultation with a nutritionist/dietician)
It is a comprehensive list. You can get lost in all the different names of foods you probably never heard of. I asked the nutritionist if my red list was extra long and she said that it’s not uncommon to see a long list, and given that I have an autoimmune condition at a young age, it’s not surprising. Ultimately, she told me to at least try avoiding my food intolerances and see the difference for myself.
She was right. Whenever I consume food on the red list, I could notice bloating or uneasiness the day after. And when I avoid them, I would feel lighter and more energetic. It was nice for a while, but eventually I got tired of avoiding the red list. The hardest things for me to avoid were eggs and potatoes.
My takeaway from all this is that I have an alternative explanation for having rheumatoid arthritis. I get some kind of peace of mind that somehow I am in control of my body again. Truly, knowledge is power. I try not to focus on the food intolerances, instead I keep a list of the food alternatives in my phone, so that on bad days, or when I have a flare up, I get to help myself by eating food that can make me feel a little better.