Viewing entries tagged
rheumatoid arthritis


I Finally Went To A Naturopath: Part 1

You guys. I don't know where to start. I finally went to a naturopath after many years of considering it. The fact that insurance doesn't cover it put me off and I thought I was managing things pretty well on my own. But the past few months my RA has been feeling pretty crappy, and even though it always feels bad in the fall I always have a desire to rid myself of all of this completely, from the source, instead of just telling the symptoms to chill til they come back. 

So I went! I found this amazing woman who is literally a block away and part of UPMC, Pittsburgh's largest healthcare group, and she actually agreed to talk to me on the phone for ten minutes before I scheduled my appointment. I wanted to make sure I was seeing someone whose diet plan for me would be on par with my own. There's a bit of a fad happening right now called the Autoimmune Paleo (#AIP) diet and I'm just not into it. I know from research and my own experience that meat is an inflammatory. And the whole point of eating to cure an autoimmune disease is to get the body to stop being inflamed. So that just doesn't add up, does it?

Anyway, my first appointment exceeded my expectations. Her office was more like a lounge than a doctors office. She started by asking me to just tell her my entire medical history and took amazing notes. For the sake of me not rambling on forever with all the details, here are the highlights of what we covered in the two hours she spent with me (yes, seriously, two hours) and $175 I spent on the first session:

  • Goal: First she asked me what my goal for being there was. I told her my conventional medicine (Enbrel) is working but I know deep down it's not a good idea longterm. I know the side effects heighten your chances of lymphoma by 3x and being so young, I know that the longer I continue on the medicine, the higher those chances probably are. I told her my goal was to be well enough that I could lessen my medicine intake over time until I possibly don't need it anymore. She was supportive of this and told me she would never ask me to stop taking a medication without having me talk to my rheumatologist about it first. At this point, I knew I liked her. We agreed to not talk about when or if I'd ever be able to stop taking a conventional medicine but just kept the goal in mind to lesson the amount a bit at first.
  • Medical history: I told her all about my RA, family history, other misc. health problems like allergies, UTIs, frequency of colds, etc.
  • Supplements, vitamins and medicine: She had me bring in everything I was taking so she could evaluate it. She tossed my daily vitamin in the trash right in front of me, saying it was literally the crappiest of crap. I loved her for that!
  • Typical diet: She wrote down what I typically eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In this realm, I think I am a pretty easy patient for her since I'm already gluten and mostly-dairy free. She laughed when I said I made raw beet ravioli with cashew cream cheese for dinner the night before (I'll post on that delicacy soon!).
  • New diet recommendations: I had two options. An elimination diet challenge that would take me months of torture to take about 96 foods out of my diet and slowly add one back in at a time to see if it would cause my symptoms to flare. First of all, NO. Secondly, I told her it would be hard to notice an arthritis flare due to one food because I typically flare for a month and then don't for another. It's not a day-by-day thing. She agreed, so instead, I am going to do option two, a $225 blood test. I will do it at home by pricking a finger until I can fill five circles on a piece of card stock the size of my thumbprint with blood, let it dry and then send the kit back to a lab. The results will come back with 96 foods and graphs for each that measure how much that food causes an immune response in my body. Fabulous. Worth the money. I am waiting until January to do this to spread out the expense and also so I have all the holiday party junk food in my system. My doctor said that in order for the test it work its best I need to "eat all the foods" beforehand. Yes, she really said "eat all the foods." Gluteny-cheesey pasta cheat day, here I come. The test is called the US Biotek Antibody Assessment and you can read about it here
  • Health plan: Two days later she sent me a two page health plan that she typed up and sent to my email directly from her. It had instructions on where to buy the new supplements (I'll do another post on that soon), how to take the blood test, and a summery of the other things we talked about... like how she wants me to eat more fish. 

All in all, I cannot say enough. I ordered my first round of supplements and received them today. They were a bit pricey but I know she's going to get me back on track. I'm most excited about a strong anti-fungal with oil of oregano, garlic and caprylic acid that will rid my body of any bacteria or candida that could be lingering. Bacteria (from UTIs) and candida overgrowth can actually cause autoimmune diseases. I'm starting to think there's a chance that could be what's happening to me. Check out this article I found tonight that talks all about that and how to cure autoimmune diseases by curing the cause instead of putting a band-aid on symptoms. Its author is totally in line with what I'm planning to do with the help of my awesome new naturopath. Updates soon!



Today I'm Sassy As Hell & I'm Going To Tell You Why.

i’m writing this post-afternoon-16oz.-work-beer, so let’s just say life isn’t so bad.

and i keep writing sentences to start this post and then find myself holding down the delete button. i don’t want to complain. i really don’t have a right to. nothing is THAT bad. 

yeah, my foot hurts. yeah, i found out the “mass” or “thing” or whatever in my foot that started this whole crisis isn’t actually a mass at all. it’s just a super upset joint that’s swollen and receiving the brunt of this ra. it’s like the tiniest joint in my body (not really but, honestly, its a knuckle in my foot) that chose to get attacked first. and yeah, it’s probably going to be that way forever (if not worse, because there’s nothing to “get rid of” or “take out” now that we know this). fine. 



The Fear Project

I still keep in touch with one of my college professors. Julie Elman draws peoples fears and this week, she drew mine.

Here’s what she has to say about my fear and fears in general:

The Fear Project :: What’s Ahead WIth Rheumatoid Arthritis

Catherine, 26, was diagnosed with RA last year. She wrote a lot about what it’s been like to live with this disease, but I was only able to include a fraction of what she expressed here. There are so many unknowns for Catherine, a yoga teacher, writes, “I’ve actually come to terms with everything a lot better than I expected.”

About Julie's Fear Project: 


Admit it. You’re afraid. Very afraid. Of something. Spiders, perhaps? Getting a root canal at the dentist? The stranger out there who will kidnap your kids?

I illustrate people’s fears. Working with their words, I just try to visualize what those fears could possibly look like. I work quickly and post my pieces no matter how I feel about them. It’s a good way to get over any fears I have about the creative process.

Fear not, I keep telling myself. Fear not.

— Julie M. Elman

Got fear? Send it: fearproject (at) gmail (dot) com”



A Big Fuck Yeah To Lower Doses of Prednisone

there’s a lot going on and yet nothing going on at the same time but for some reason there is more than enough to say.

when i went off the prednisone completely, symptoms in my right foot (mass/nodule) and right knee came back within 48 hours. i also noticed a bit of swelling in my knuckles in the evenings. enough that i decided to go back on the 5mg prednisone every day. 

when i went in for my check up, dr. d basically told me that meant the plaquenil wasn’t working and i needed to try something else (i questioned this beacuse plaquenil is said to take 3-6 months to kick in and it had only been barely 3). since i am 100% against taking/trying methotrexate (i.e. cancer drug mentioned in previous posts with nasty side effects that you cannot drink while taking), he suggested sulfazalazine. sure. why not.



Prednisone Withdrawl?

so i got permission today from my doctor to come off the prednisone steroid to “see how i do without it.” i’ve been on only 5mg a day for the past almost-three months. i’ve read a lot about how you shouldn’t just stop taking prednisone as your body’s glands go into shock without the help of the steroid and you can experience fatigue and other pretty awful symptoms for awhile… basically predisnone withdrawl.

that said, does anyone have advice on what i should do? doctor says just go right from 5mg to 0 tomorrow, but i’m thinking of cutting down to 2.5mg per day for the next week, and then 0 after that. keep you posted on what and how this changes things. i’ve been symptom free for so long i have no idea if its the prednisone or the plaquenil working, here’s to hoping :)



Yoga, RA & All Its Phases

this month i’ve put a lot of thought and effort into looking at my yoga practice, taking inventory of what poses are making me feel stronger and those that i’ve just been pushing myself through. 

i’ve always been the “super flexible” one that gets cast into the “she can do any yoga pose she tries” category… well, wrong. if you know yoga well, you know that often times the most flexible students are those that have to work the hardest at backing off so we don’t injure ourselves (especially our lower backs). on the other hand, we often have the continuous challenge of finding the sensation in a pose that others feel often and easily. i’ve gotten pretty good at the later, but to be honest, i was never one to pull back, even amid lower back pain… until now.

as a “type a” yogi, this is all easier said than done. since i’ve been diagnosed with ra and the pain in my hands and feet have almost ceased completely, i have made some specific alterations to my practice:



Vacation = Nodules, Fatigue & A Wealth Of Knowledge

it’s been awhile since i’ve written anything about how i’m feeling but a lot has changed. at least a lot for me.

right after i found out my blood type i went to florida for a family wedding. it was an awesome weekend, but emotional for me on the ra level. my cousin (the bride) and i shared a few airport arrival tears upon her finding out about my diagnosis. as one of the females on my dad’s side with multiple autoimmunes, she understood and felt my sadness. basically, these tears officially initiated me into our private female-only family club.

the weekend got a bit more overwhelming when i noticed what was probably nodule on my back right heel/achilles tendon. it was an overwhelming feeling to look down, see one heel looking red and pretty oddly shaped while at lunch with my family on the beach. i will admit, i freaked out a bit and teared up in front of everyone. i’m not used to seeing my body just “deform” overnight. thinking back, that tendon had been bothering me the days prior — i kept circling out my ankle to loosen stiffness i’d been feeling. the nodule went away after a few days as did the stiffness in the tendon… this is just something i need to learn to expect.



Blood Type O+

just found out I’m blood type o+ and based on the beginning of my research this does not make me overly happy, seeing as i really love olives and avocados. i’ve seen multiple lists from different sources though, and can’t wait to talk to my aunt this weekend about her in depth knowledge on eating for your blood type. more to come… 


Type O

Type O is the oldest blood type in human history. Those with type O digest meat better than any other blood type. Unlike type A, type O people produce a lot of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. However, Type Os have a hard time digesting dairy products and food containing gluten. The best diet for a type O is a greater ratio of proteins and less dairy and gluten. It would be best to exclude all dairy and include gluten-free foods in your diet. Foods that will benefit a type O person include sea kelp, cod, bluefish, halibut, mackerel, pike, rainbow trout, red snapper, salmon, sardines, sole, striped bass, sturgeon, swordfish, tilefish, white perch, yellow perch, yellowtail, beef, buffalo, heart, lamb, liver, mutton, veal, venison, kale, spinach and broccoli.

Foods to avoid include wheat gluten, corn, kidney beans, navy beans, lentils, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, mustard greens, sugar, white flout, bacon, goose, ham, pork, barracuda, catfish, caviar, conch, herring, lox, octopus, Brazil nuts, cashews, litchi, peanuts, peanut butter, pistachios, poppy seeds, bulgur wheat flour, couscous flour, durum wheat flour, graham flour, soba noodles, semolina pasta, sprouted wheat flour, white flour, whole wheat flour, avocado, cabbage, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, olives, potatoes and alfalfa sprouts.



Prednisone, Fatigue & Apathy

so today i’m not feeling so hot. yesterday i woke up and the “mass” in my foot was really hurting and bruised again, although not swollen at all. i also took off my ring due to knuckle swelling and took 10mg of prednisone instead of 5.

today, i’m back at work after the long weekend and feeling a bit apathetic / fatigued especially now that it’s the afternoon. dr s asked me if i ever feel fatigued when i met with him on friday and i told him i literally wasn’t sure how to answer that because i honestly don’t know the difference between normal tiredness and fatigue (soooo he put it in my chart anyway). now that i’ve googled the symptoms, i’m thinking this is all prednisone-related mixed with lots of change in the atmosphere at work as of late. definitely interesting to note that i’m not sure what caused me to feel this way today since i had a great weekend and woke up feeling good physically and mentally. not really sure what to think, but i do know i don’t really feel like myself today and it’s bumming me out.