Holidays bring pain, and that means a lot of things to a lot of people. I know holidays bring the pain of loss for those of us who have lost loved ones. But this posting is about a different kind of pain that the holidays bring, the pain that makes you say “ouch.” As you know, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), which is also known as “crippling arthritis” which unfortunately brings pain. Thank God that RA no longer has the crippling effects it once did, as today’s medication has come a long way in the fight against RA. Though the medication controls the inflammation which causes pain, it doesn’t come without its own set of risks. I take Enbrel and Methotrexate, which unfortunately come with a lot of side effects, some that can be deadly.
So, in saying that, I decided to try to figure out a way to lessen my pain without using medication. I researched a lot of information and found a man named Clint Paddison, who had basically cured himself of all the symptoms of RA and has since helped thousands of people. I have a lot of determination and drive in me and I was determined to come off my medication. I purchased the Paddison program and stuck to most of it faithfully. The part that I could not bring myself to do is a daily enema cleanse, as his theory is you have to keep the gut clean. The other thing he promotes, which I wish I had time for is hot yoga. I say that I wish I had time to do it, but I can also tell you I hate to sweat. I will exercise for hours, but as soon as I start to sweat, I am done. I am pretty sure he promotes sweating as it is a detox for your body. Maybe I will give it a little more thought and not be so quick to grimace at a little sweat. It’s not that I completely hate sweating it is I just don’t like to sweat in clothes. I even looked into a home sauna and have not completely ruled that out. I could sweat in the privacy of my home while reading a book, and then go straight to the shower, and not have to get in my car and drive my smelly self, home. I know you are thinking, a lot of gyms and yoga salons have showers, but that is just an excuse I am using, when in fact I know I cannot actually do yoga, like others and would feel completely out of place. I can assure you I cannot get up or down gracefully. So, in reality, it is not that I don’t have time or hate to sweat that bad (though I do), it is the fact that I would be awkward in front of others and even at my age, there are some things that do bother me about being different.
When I first started the Paddison program in May 2017, I did try making my own hot yoga program at home. I cut the heat on in the bathroom, put on sweat clothes, a lot of them, and shut the door. I did a few yoga moves I had seen on YouTube, and I did break a sweat, but I just had a hard time making myself find the time. Or better yet make the time, as we all know if we want to do something bad enough, we make the time.
What part of the plan that I did find easy, was food elimination. Many of you have heard my story about my parents taking me to a specialist in 1981 who specialized in a holistic approach to disease. He was our answer to what was a devastating diagnosis to my parents, I was too young to understand. I now completely understand and would have felt the same way had it been my child. This doctor told me to avoid dairy, flour, red meat (unless it was wild) and nightshade plants (which include but not limited to tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers). He said if it swam or walked on two legs it was okay. Today, this would be an easy lifestyle to follow, but in the 80’s not so much. Going out as a teenager there were no options. McDonald’s did not have grilled chicken on gluten-free buns; heck gluten-free food didn’t even exist. I don’t recall fast foods even having salads back then. So, following this diet was difficult, to say the least. Fast forward to the 1990s when I was at home recovering from a hip replacement and was watching one of the morning shows who had a special on RA. They were interviewing a rheumatologist who said before he started any of his patients on medication, he changed their diet first. My ears definitely perked up on this. Not surprisingly he pretty much said the same thing about foods, no pork, no red meat, no dairy. I don’t recall him saying anything about flour because I specifically remember getting hot dogs without the weenie for years after that. I remember driving from Roxboro where we lived at the time, to the Kroger in Danville to purchase rice milk. But again I did not stick to it whole-heartedly and eventually wasn’t following it at all. It wasn’t until I worked with a hospice and had so many young people who died on our program and having met people who died who had taken Enbrel shots and Methotrexate, did my perspective change. I had always focused on the quality of my life outweighing the quantity, but for the first time the reality was that I wanted to live a very long time, and maybe I needed to try to find a way to get off of my medications.
So back to the Paddison program, I followed the food elimination to a “T.” I was determined to follow the Paddison program perfectly, as far as food went. If we went out to eat and they did not have anything I could safely eat, I simply didn’t eat. I had no desire to eat things that I should not. I could watch others eat hot fudge cake and not even be tempted. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas on the program I did not cheat at all. I was doing so well and having zero pain while on the medication. I thought I could just stop my medication since I was not eating anything I was not supposed to, but unfortunately, it did not go so well. Though I was not cheating at all on the food, I was still having pain and ended up having a bad flare-up. I was so discouraged and cried when I had to go back on all of my medicine, plus steroids to decrease the inflammation. My rheumatologist told me to get my inflammation back under control and then we would choose one of the two medications and try to slowly taper one of them down and see how it goes.
I decided to do more research and found the AIP program, which is an anti-inflammatory food elimination program as well. What I found interesting was though there were similarities in the program, there were also some stark differences. Things one program said you could eat, the other program completely disagreed. I knew there must be some truth to it because though I was not eating anything I shouldn’t, I still could not get through coming off my medication without increased pain. So, I decided that it came down to more about what as an individual I was allergic to. After talking to a friend who had recently been to see a doctor about food allergies, I decided I was going to look into that as well. What I didn’t know is the insurance will only pay for a few food allergy tests. The specialist started with some of the most common foods that people are allergic to and then added a few more at my request. Interestingly some things I knew I was allergic to, did come back positive. I knew every time I ate pistachios sitting at a ballgame, I experience increased pain. I had even quit buying them because I couldn’t resist eating them and wanted to avoid the pain. A couple of things that I did find interesting was I was allergic to brussel sprouts, which I was eating on a regular basis. He said if you are allergic to brussel sprouts, you are most likely allergic to cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. You guessed it; these were a lot of the vegetables I was eating daily. The Paddison program focuses on vegetables, so, trust me, I was eating a lot of these. So maybe that was why even though I thought I was following the program perfectly, I wasn’t paying attention to the changes in my body when I added new foods in and was going onto the next food additions. I was too focused on adding things back into my diet to quickly.
I knew beyond a reasonable doubt that I could control most of my pain through food and by eliminating the foods even after once, I could see a difference. But unfortunately, the more knowledge that I had about doing this the easier it was to allow myself to cheat. I slowly started back eating things that I shouldn’t and allowing myself to cheat when it was convenient. I would say to myself; I will just hurt a day or two and it will be okay. And that is true, for a couple of days, I would have increased pain and then the pain would settle down. I did really well and would only cheat once in a while and for really special times or foods. I still did not eat red meat or pork and for the most part, was pretty good. The key to it I realize is that it was just a treat or a meal, and never more than one day. The problem is the holidays are more than just a day of eating wrong. It started at Thanksgiving and did not stop until the day after Christmas when I woke up to my hands hurting, so badly, I could hardly pull the covers up over me. By being bad, and I mean really bad, for weeks, my gut had no time to recover before I was adding more “salt into the wound” so to speak.
It was then that I decided I must get back on track. I immediately stopped eating all the goodies still left in the house. On the day after Christmas, we still had a lot of goodies, and I mean a lot. Many that were some of my favorites including fudge, a red velvet cake that Bailey made, a lemon cake, blueberry muffins, spinach dip, butter cookies, and the list goes on. I decided to go back to the few basic foods that I knew I could safely eat and am determined to try to be good. I already know I will not be perfect because we have a lot of events that I will participate in over the next week, but what I know I will avoid for sure is red meat, pork, and sugar. Sugar definitely causes me pain and until the holidays I did not consume it hardly ever. I don’t even use Splenda and simply used honey when a sweetener was necessary. I even avoided sugar-free gums and candies for a while, but got off track with that as well, but have not had a piece of gum, candy or even a cough drop in a few days now. Sugar I think is one of my biggest pain contributors, but also my biggest weakness.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed the holidays, the food, the parties, the get-togethers and drinks, I refuse to let food control my pain and instead I choose to control the food I eat. I will let you know how it goes as when I went to my last rheumatology appointment, before the holidays, my doctor told me I could cut back on my Methotrexate if I wasn’t hurting. I, unfortunately, have not been able to cut back on it yet, as I promised I would only cut back on the Methotrexate if I wasn’t hurting and I cannot lie, I have been hurting even though I have not slowed down, but that is another story for another day. My New Year’s goal is to cut my dosage in half, if I can, by my follow-up appointment in six months.