Wednesday, August 29, 2012

(Updated) Food Sensitivity and the Elimination Diet - How it helped me

Close to the beginning of my arthritis diagnosis I was in so much pain that I could barely walk, even with a cane.  I couldn't put on my own socks or trim my own nails, because my hands had turned into painful claws.  I needed help in an out of the tub, even for a shower.  Pain, intense non-stop pain, had become my life.  Even being allowed to self medicate with Tylenol 3's (T3), regular Tylenol, Ibuprofen and Prednisone  I had little to no relief.  I had trouble getting a good nights sleep, because there were no comfortable positions.  My husband's sleep was also affected because he was afraid to accidentally bump me, and because occasionally I would moan.  I couldn't help the moaning, it just came out.  I was given 3 weeks off work for the medications to start working.  I started keeping a very detailed food and medication journal at this point.

I am fortunate to have a very understanding, caring and supportive husband.  He would help me get dressed, help me in and out of bed, anything that I needed while he was home and until the pain pills kicked in.  He would do anything for me, even though he was working full time.

Eventually, after blood tests confirmed that it was indeed arthritis inflammation, Plaquenil was added into the mix, with advise to stop taking the Ibuprofen.
There were at least 3 to 6 months in this painful life.  I had to suffer until an Arthritis Specialist had an opening to see me.  After starting with the specialist, methotrexate and sulfasalazine were added into the mix.
I'm not going to be doing drug reviews here, that is what the medical industry is for.  If you want more information about arthritis drugs then please visit - Arthtiris Medications Article or do a search.  If I stopped taking anything it was because I had a reaction to it that was unbearable for me.  Everyone's reactions to different drugs is personal to them, with some similarities to each drug family.
In December of 2007 I started my research, after the pain was somewhat decreased.  During a web search I came across the website Conquering Arthritis by Barbara Allen and immediately purchased her book online.  I read the book cover to cover.  This is where I learned about food sensitivity and food intolerance and their affects on arthritis; and the elimination diet. has a great article describing the differences between food sensitivity, food intolerance and food allergies called Food Sensitivity - Do you know the different types of food sensitivity?  I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with these definitions if you have any type of chronic condition, simple diet changes might decrease your symptoms dramatically.

Conquering Arthritis also talks about the Elimination Diet.  Balance Naturopathic has an Elimination Diet article by Lindsay Martens, N.D. that closely matches the one in Conquering Arthritis.  The only major difference between the two recommended diets is that Barbara Allen recommended a very strict diet of Miso Soup to begin with to bring your body out of its constant reactive state if you are eating foods that you are sensitive to.  When I do a full review of her book I will include the recipe.

With these two tools: knowing what food sensitivity was, and knowing what an elimination diet was and how to initiate it; I was able to pinpoint my main food stressors.  I found out that I am highly sensitive to Potatoes, Tomatoes, Turkey, Oranges and Peaches.  These were all of my most favourite foods in the world.  I would regularly have potato hash browns on the weekend smothered in tomato ketchup.  On all the major holidays my mother would save the turkey skin for me and make sure that at least one leg was saved for me because I loved turkey.  Peaches were my favourite canned food snack.  I could eat a whole jar and still be looking for more.  Until I figured out that these were my problem foods, I was putting my body in a state of constant distress.  Making it fight to function with arthritis while also fighting off the negative reactions that these food caused for me.

This diet change is not easy.  It takes a good 2-3 month commitment.  You have to prepare separate meals for yourself and your family, unless they are willing to jump on the boat with you.  You have to meticulously journal all of the foods you take in and when and if you feel a reaction.  You also have to take into consideration the ingredients included in prepared foods like bread, chips…  It is not a diet change for the faint of heart, but in the end, if you can decrease your pain and stiffness even just a bit, it is really worth it.

I was very strict with myself after finding out my food triggers.  I waited 5 years before I tried tomatoes again.  It seems I am able to have small amounts again.  I can enjoy some chips and salsa, but if I over do it, I pay for it, but not to the extent that I used to.  During the elimination diet stage, tomatoes would put me flat on my back for a week.  So eliminating foods doesn't have to be a life long sentence, you might just need to give your body a break from your trigger foods.  Even knowing that though, I still stay away from the major triggers.  I don't need that added pain.

Over the years I've added to my trigger list most alcohol mainly focused on anything containing vodka, I was surprised to find out that vodka was made out of fermented potatoes, I am unable to confirm if that is why I react to it or not with web searches.  Also added to this list is beer.  I cannot pinpoint an ingredient within.

I hope that you find this information useful in your own journey to health.
Update:  (08/30/12) - It occurred to me after hitting post yesterday that maybe you would like the know how much this change in diet affected my pain levels.   
If we gage pain on a sliding scale of 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you've ever felt in your life, then before this diet change I was a 15 to a 20 depending on if the med's were still working.  After this diet change my pain levels were brought down to a more manageable 9-10.   Currently I'm sliding between 0-2 depending on weather, stress and food choices.
My question to you is:  Is a significant reduction in your pain and inflammation worth a couple of months of extra effort?   
Don't forget to discuss major diet changes with your doctor and specialist.  I highly recommend reading "Conquering Arthritis" by Barbara Allen.