I have been asked by many people I meet at work, at the gym, on this blog and other places how I have been able to progress and live fairly normal with this disease. Actually, I must give credit to my excellent Rheumatologist, Dr Paul Howard in Scottsdale, Arizona for persuading me to adhere to the anti-inflammatory food guideline.
It was after 3 years of relapsing, I pleaded to him to help me avoid relapsing again. He looked me square in the eye and said “are you finally ready to do the anti-inflammatory diet, as if your life depends on it?”. I said yes and I was desperate. I would do whatever it takes to avoid the extreme pain, swelling, joint inflammation, sweats and and chills I was living with every time I relapsed. He gave me a general guideline of:
ABSOLUTELY NO WHEAT PRODUCTS!
This was a shock to my normal way of living, because these items were basically what I ate. I used to eat white rice, wheat bread, pizza, cheese, ice-cream, dairy, etc.
So the first thing my husband did was empty the house of the things I should not eat. Since I was so weak, he went shopping for vegetables, chicken, fish, fruits, sunflower seed butter, peanut butter, almond butter, almond milk, many kinds of nuts. This diet was good for me because I had lost so much weight being sick that the nutritious fats helped me gain weight. I began to eat organic eggs, sliced turkey, sardines, bran. Since the methrotrexate blocks folic acid and i began to have severe neuropathy in my feet. My feet would burn like burning needles and I would cry when I walked. We learned that whole bran (All Bran Cereal) provided a super high amount of the folic acid I need to reverse the neuropathy in my feet. And it rates a whopping +109 on the IF Tracker scale!! A high positive number rating on a food is great! A negative number like -300 is BAD! And sugar and wheat rate TERRIBLE! a piece of cake with icing can rate as bad as -700!!! That means, OUCH!!! Joint pain, flares, etc.
I did a lot of searching on the web and found many anti-inflammatory articles. Ultimately, I found that many of the recipes I found were the same for cardiac inflammation. I learned that having constant inflammation in the body leads to disease and very often, many different auto-immune diseases. This made me wonder if I was inflaming my body for years and did not know it? Perhaps I was not really feeling well for years, but I had gotten used to feeling this way so I thought it was normal? I also learned that a person can feel perfectly fine, but have high levels of inflammation. Of course the body does need some inflammatory response to battle viral and bacterial invaders.
Deciding to live with the anti-inflammtory diet was a direct choice I had to embrace. When I acknowledged that this was going to be the way I was going to live, I searched the internet for every bit of information on recipes, food choices, inflammation levels of each food and foods that commonly inflame the body. I eventually stumbled upon an app that I relied on very heavily, until I learned it well. The app I found is called the IF TRACKER. I love the IF Tracker! It gives each food a rating of positive or negative, it also calculates the food depending on the size of the portion and adjust the rating appropriately.
What I learned from the IF Tracker is that, it has many foods in the list that I thought were healthy but were inflaming me. My doctor said it best when he gave me the outline of foods that are most inflammatory the the system.
My food intake was so extremely low when I was ill that I had a hard time getting calories in. My diet has changed to allow a small amount of negative rated foods in my food intake and it does not affect me. But this was trial and error for a few years, and also before my body had adjusted to medication. As I have said before in my blog, I am down to 2 methotrexate pills a week. But I must still watch my stress, fatigue levels, exhaustion and food intake very closely.
I will provide example of my daily diet and food intake. During these past few years I have had to learn to enjoy a new way of eating, and now I actually like it!
A typical day might be something like this:
1 cup coffee, creamer
1/2 bowl blueberries
1/2 cup bran cereal
1 cup almond milk (neutralizes alkaline in body to reduce inflammation)
fat free mayonaise
2 tablespoons relish
When I started the anti-inflamatory diet, I was extremely strict. For the optimum effect, you must start out this way. As, these past 3 years on the diet, I have started to include very small amounts of foods that have some negative rating no lower than -50 (according to the IF Tracker) . I have learned that the ratings are very important to follow, but if your body is beginning to show improvement, then you can experiment a little here and there.
I have also found that if I eat foods at are all rating very high in the positive scale in the +100’s, +200’s and higher as salmon and spinach do, then I know when I can add a lower rating food, such as potatoes or corn, which can rate as low -50, with it and it does not affect me.
There is also a website I use often, since it has the nutritional breakdown for almost every food on the planet. I love this site. I use it to find the inflammation factor of many different foods. It might be useful for you too.
Good Luck, please try the anti-inflammatory diet, whichever way you choose to do it, I believe it can save you from so much pain.
Hugs and sincerely wishing you good health my friends,