That day a few months ago when the specialist told me I had Rheumatoid Arthritis spun me into a whirlwind of disbelief. I couldn’t have it, I had Ross River Fever and that was bad enough, the swollen joints, dragging fatigue, aches and sharp pains were only going to be temporary. But no, the blood work showed I had it, and that was that. Given a cocktail of drugs to take (one of them a drug used for chemotherapy) I was in a state of shock as I drove home. You see I had a ghost in my family, my oldest sister is crippled with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and seeing her intense pain and immobility, it was one of the diseases I did not want to get. Much later, at home, as I told my family the sober news, and tried to absorb it, I went to my old friend Dr Google and had a good look.
My illness began at least a year ago I can see retrospectively with odd and inexplicable pains in my hands and joints. Being unable to grip the door handle or use a can opener for example. On a trip to New Zealand for a family wedding, the cold weather had me hobbling around on ankles that ached, and my wrists, knees, hands and shoulders were very painful. When I returned to my warmer climate, it eased a bit, but I had trouble lifting the grandkids, doing housework, driving the car and carrying shopping. What was wrong with me? Initially diagnosed with Ross River Fever, I thought well at least that diagnoses have an end date.
Good old Doctor Google, amongst the numerous horror stories, were some positive ones, of people who had done a completely plant based diet and gone into remission or, at least managed their symptoms. I have always loved research, and already being a fan of a healthy diet I studied more and from what a lot of what was written, realised that RA is caused by inflammation, and as many doctors would also say a leaky gut. Having lived off antibiotics for chest infections in previous years, and also eaten an acid forming diet (coffee, sugar, red meat, fat, et.c.) plus lots of stress, then I was a sitting duck for an autoimmune disease.
I am not a medical professional but like to be informed, so continued my research, and one name kept coming up – the Padidson program. An Australian man with a university background Clint Paddison had got his own chronic RA into remission and was now living a healthy life – his web page had helpful podcasts and information, as well as glowing testimonials. I felt new hope. I was going to do this. By now, my drugs had kicked in, and I was managing to live mostly pain-free but did not want the drugs to become my only option. So, I bit the bullet, got the program and became a vegan, and it WAS HARD. Did I mention it was hard?
The first two days were cucumber and celery juice with loads of green salad. I was tired of salad, and by the time the quinoa, buckwheat, bok choy and sweet potato arrived, I felt a bit better about it all. More foods were added, but my old faithful friend the flat white was off the menu, so plenty of water instead. It’s not quite the same. Apparently coffee is acidic, and milk is dairy, and so is cheese, and they are inflammatory. I do miss cheese, and the wine that went with it, and chocolate. Oh dear. However, after a few days, I started to feel really good and discovered that my blood pressure was now normal, so the doctor took me off my medication (which I had been on for years) as I had also lost some much-needed weight. Woo hoo.
Now I don’t know if I will stay a vegan forever, but if doing it only for a short time has helped with so many of my ailments, what is it doing towards lowering my risk for type two diabetes, heart disease and cancer. What I believe it has done is that it is healing my gut and my microbiome is flourishing again with good bacteria, in other words, going back to basics has given me a good start at re-introducing better food choices into my diet. Also, I had always felt concerned about the welfare and treatment of many farm animals, so being vegan has made me more aware of what intensive factory farming is doing to our planet, our bellies and health, and also the poor animals themselves.
It won’t be for everyone, but for now, I feel I am on the right road for my health restoration. Whether or not I go into remission is not known, but I just wanted to clear the decks and give my body a fighting chance. I look forward to hopefully one day the doctor saying “you’re in remission”.
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