Believe in the Food and Nature

Reaching Carter Falls, Mount Rainier, May, 2014.
Reaching Carter Falls, Mount Rainier, May, 2014.

Hello! It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged and, since Dr. McDougall is featuring me again as one of the success stories in his newsletter, I wanted to put up a new post for those just coming to my site for the first time. Welcome. I hope if you are suffering from the debilitating effects of RA that you will find inspiration in my blog. I also want to show I am proof positive that dietary changes work if you have an inflammatory/autoimmune disease. As Dr. McDougall likes to say: “It’s the food.” I would also emphasize it is nature. Both are powerful in healing.

My husband, Jim and I love to hike. We often to go Mount Rainier and decide what trail to take based on the time of year. Late spring, early summer means the lower trails. Late July and August through the end of season opens up the upper trails, where you can hike up beyond cloud level in some spots. So last weekend we hiked from Longmire to Carter Falls. Round trip, our hike was 3 miles. You go up and go down.

I have RA and that is not a hike that is a simple walk in the park for someone like me. But I strapped on a knee brace and did it. If I don’t hike, I give up, and atrophy can soon set in. Muscles go weak at the drop of a hat with this condition, so it is important to exercise and keep exercising. Am I Superwoman? No. My legs hurt from muscle fatigue (out of shape) and this being one of my first major hikes of the season — plus I’ve been in an inflammatory cycle lately with my knees from pushing too hard trying to keep a strict routine with exercise.

So where’s the inspiration in all that? Let me show you what brings me back to being pain-free:

Raw, organic ginger.
Raw, organic ginger.

This ugly root that looks like a gnarled, worst-case scenario RA-riddled hand is ginger. And it is a miracle worker when it comes to inflammation. I chop off a 2-inch chunk and juice it with carrots, apples, lemons, or do a green juice with kale, celery, cucumber, apples and give it time. No, it doesn’t work in 30 minutes like Prednisone, but it does work,  at least for me and others. This, along with an anti-inflammatory diet, has kept me going. If I add it daily to a juice blend that I make with our juicer, the cumulative effect is very potent for me, which means being pain free.

If you go with a plant-based diet for your autoimmune disorder, don’t get discouraged with setbacks. Things typically kick back into gear quickly if you stick to the plan, even if you enter a pain cycle. My challenge is balancing feeling good and wanting to climb to the top of Mount Rainier, and not overdoing it and sending myself into an autoimmune pain flare. Pay attention to the food you eat and learn about elimination diets to explore what might be triggering your latest flare. (Dr. McDougall offers one on his site.) Keeping my diet as anti-inflammatory as possible, with support from herbs such as ginger, goes a long way to keeping my RA in a dormant state. Like a volcano, though, if I cheat and go off plan, the pain will come back with a vengeance. The food matters. A lot. I cannot stress that enough. Speaking of stress, that matters, too. As does lack of sleep. All of these can make you ache, even if your way of eating is perfect. I use meditation podcasts to help fall asleep and even to listen to in the car during my daily commute. You may not realize all the moments you are tense, but those do add up and your body responds. Pay attention to your stress level and the amount of rest you get each day. With autoimmune disorders, the body seemingly is always on high alert, and that makes rest all that much more important.

Finding things that work for you can be trial and error. For me, ginger is very good. So is turmeric, both as a powder and in capsule form. I don’t take ibuprofen or any over-the-counter pain analgesic — I haven’t since I started this in February, 2013.

For more insight on the back-and-forth trial and error aspect of this, read Nicole O’Shea’s story, also included in the May McDougall newsletter. And, you can always read the story that was my initial inspiration for doing this, that of Phyllis Heaphy.  These women walk the talk and are an inspiration to me.

In the meantime, I am getting ready for my next hike.

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