Rheumatoid Arthritis – Fighting It or Learning from It?

There’s a lot of “noise” when it comes to rheumatoid disease.  I call it “noise” because there’s all of this stuff going on in your body and in your life that you learn to adapt to. Like the furnace running or the hum of the computer, we learn to adapt to many things and tune them out.  For the most part, this is a good thing.  Imagine all of the sights, sounds, smells, and textures that could drive you crazy if you didn’t adapt to them!  What happens though, if you start tuning out stuff that is your body’s way of warning you?  Hmmm.

In my attempts to “combat” my rheumatoid, I’ve thought of Enbrel, methotrexate, ibuprofen, prednisone, etc… as going in and doing a combative effort to grab hold of my body, fight my immune system, shrink my inflammation, and gosh darn it, make this RA go away.  I no longer think of this as the best way to control my RA.  Instead of fighting, I’m now trying to listen… harder.

In all fairness, I think I’ve always tried to listen to my body.  I think my ability to listen was compromised though.  Instead of trying to tune out the furnace and the computer, I was trying to tune out the radio, tv, fan running, son crying, dog barking, big itchy tag in the back of my shirt, and the stinky fish in the trash can.  When I was first diagnosed, I kept a diary of what I ate, the weather, my sleep, etc…  It never showed me anything meaningful.  If I did the same thing now though, I think it might show me what’s been there all along.  There was just too much background noise to see it.

What I now know:

  • I can’t eat grains.
  • I can’t eat white potatoes.
  • I can’t eat tomatoes.
  • I can’t eat most dairy.
  • I need to sleep well all the time.
  • I need to keep my stress level down all the time.
  • I need to exercise all the time.
  • I need to feel generally happy and have a positive outlook.
  • I need to keep my vitamin D level up and my thyroid level in check.
  • I need to wear really flat shoes.

How did I learn these things?  Well, I followed some advice of some folks smarter than me, who were finding success in more natural ways to treat their autoimmune disease.  This brought me to Paleo, and the understanding that the fuel I’m putting in my body does make a difference.  And so does everything else.

Wow, put those first 4 rules of mine in the context of the standard American diet, and there’s no wonder I couldn’t hear it.  I was eating those things pretty much every day.  Stress and sleep?  I used to work at 4:00 AM when diagnosed.  That was probably a big problem.  You can’t see all of those things individually when you’re doing them all the time.  At some point, you have to break it down, get away from it all, and see what happens.  How did I do it?

I started a few years before going Paleo.  I was seeing a psychologist to help me in coping with some stress in my life, including trying to get my RA better.  At a certain point, I wrote a list of things that I thought might help my RA (getting my sleep better, physical therapy, cutting out processed foods, etc…) and I started into them.  First it was physical therapy, then an exercise program, then my diet, and then do you know what happened?  All of that background noise decreased, and I was able to see my rheumatoid much more clearly.  My body IS trying to tell me something.  I AM doing some things wrong, and I NEED to stop.  My immune system IS trying to help me, but I’m NOT helping it in return.  Do I know it all yet?  No.  There is still some background noise.  Am I making progress?  Yes, enormous progress, and I will keep trying to listen until I figure it out.

Here’s the other thing.  This isn’t anything special.  This isn’t anything you can’t do.  It may be a change in the conveniences you’re used to, but it really isn’t very hard.  Make a list of things you think your body might be trying to tell you, and change your life so you can listen if that’s really what it’s saying.  I think if you get your food list really simple for a while (like EAT REAL FOOD, something that grows and you eat whole or something that has a face).  I think the Paleo or Primal diets are an excellent way to cut down the background noise to help you listen.  Can YOU do this?  Yes YOU can.

Things that helped me:

 

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