Tuesday, March 20, 2012

RA Timeline: Symptoms and Treatment

Many of you are coming to this blog in search of answers. Maybe you have an unexplainable pain in your body, maybe you want to start eating healthier, or maybe you have RA and want to know what I did to be mostly pain free now.

For those who think it might be helpful, here's a timeline that shows when my physical pain started, what medical practitioners I visited, how I changed my diet, and any other specifics that might help you along your own journey. Please let me know if you have timeline questions that I don't answer. And remember that everyone's experiences with health and healing are different, so always be in tune with the needs of your body. My experience may be very different from your own, but hopefully you can pull a few gems from my journey that will help you in your own. I've learned there's always hope!

Oct 8–10: Left shoulder frozen for first time. Researched pain and seems to be bursitis. Wearing a sling.
Nov 20-23: Right shoulder frozen for first time. Bursitis. Wearing a sling.
Dec 31–Jan 2: Right shoulder frozen again. Bursitis. Wearing a sling.

Jan 1–2: Right shoulder frozen. Bursitis. Wearing a sling.
Jan 4–6: Right shoulder frozen. Bursitis. Wearing a sling.
Jan 23–26: Right shoulder frozen. Bursitis. Wearing a sling.
Jan 28–29: Severe throat pain. Tender on outside of throat—can't turn head w/o throat in pain. (Ended up being connected to the RA.)
Jan 29: Teeth hurt bad. Left side. (Ended up being connected to the RA.)
Jan 30–Feb 23: Right foot in pain—second toe. (Turns out my toe had a stress fracture from wearing low heels for a few hours! What?)

Feb 17: Left elbow starts hurting for first time. Can't put any weight on it.
Feb 18: Finger joints start hurting for first time. Difficult to use fingers to dress myself, drive, tie shoes, push microwave buttons. You get the idea.
Feb 18–21: Left shoulder frozen. Bursitis. Wearing a sling.
Feb 24–25: Right wrist bone swollen and hurting for first time.
Feb 25: 1st doctor's appointment about joint pain. Anti-CCP test results high. Most likely rheumatoid arthritis, but referred to a rheumatologist for further examination and testing.

Mar 01–03: Jaw frozen for first time. Left side. (Connected to the RA.)
Mar 03–04: Left wrist bone swollen and hurting again.
Mar 03: Dad gives me a priesthood blessing. (In my religion we believe the priesthood is God's power on the earth, so if we are sick we'll often ask a priesthood holder to give us a blessing.)
Mar 08: Right hand first knuckle, on pointer finger. Swollen and painful.
Mar 08: Visit gastrointerologist about colon pain. Diet change #1: No more dairy. Diet changes that followed included no more processed foods, white flour, table sugar, table salt, and meat. Lots of whole grains and whole foods. If it grew out of the ground, I ate it.
Mar 08: 1st visit holistic practitioner about joint pain. Click here for details. Includes light & sound treatment.
Mar 09: Fingers start hurting again and continues nonstop now. Mostly left pointer and middle finger joints, and right pointer knuckle. Can't cut food anymore.
Mar 10: 1st visit with rheumatologist. Lots of X-rays. No joint damage, but stress fracture on toe. More blood work. Doctor gives me prescription for Naproxin.
Mar 11: Start taking Naproxin, but doesn't do anything for the pain. After a few weeks I decide to not take it anymore.
Mar 25: 2nd visit with rheumatologist. Blood work confirms I have RA. Ultrasound on joints show no joint damage. Very frustrated with the doctor. I don't feel heard, and she has nothing to tell me about prevention.
Mar 27–28: First time I feel like I was hit by a truck. Can barely walk or move. Can't drive because legs too weak. I am determined I will not live like this.
Mar 31–Apr 30: Elbow pain severe. Left side. Never quite stops for months, but pain gets fainter depending on the day.

Apr 06: Get a handicapped parking pass. I ask for a stronger prescription for the pain but never fill it. 
Apr 07: Orthodic insoles made for my shoes at Wasatch Orthodics, $250.
Apr 07: Purchase a Blendtec and start making green smoothies daily!!
Apr 08: Committed to daily walk through the neighborhood even if it hurts and is more like a shuffle.
Apr 24: First massage for RA. Rain drop therapy w/ essential oils. Thanks, Char!

May 06: 2nd visit with holistic practitioner. Includes light and sound treatment. (If you want to know what she told me about the RA and what caused it in me, please comment and I will share more.)
May 15–16: First time both feet are in pain. Saturday I walked a few hours in Seattle until feet hurt too bad, and then Sunday I couldn't walk unless delicately w/ shoes on around the house. Unbearable pain.
May 18: The extreme fatigue is setting in for first time.
May 27: Replace toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, lotion, and all personal care items to all-natural. Coconut oil replaced lotion and eye make-up remover.
May 29: Another Rain Drop massage from Char.

June 01: No more gluten as an experiment.
June 21: Discover Victoria Boutenko and raw food. Check out her books from library. Start experiment to not eat nightshade vegetables.
June 29: 3rd visit w/ holistic practitoner. Includes light and sound treatment.

Jul 12: Cancel appointment w/ gastrointerologist.
Jul 15: Cancel appointment w/ rheumatologist. Never go back to rheumatologist. I tell her I'm seeing progress in my health through diet change and natural & holistic medicine.
Jul 22: Start swimming 2–3 times a week.

Aug 19: 4th visit w/ holistic practioner. It's official—doctor's computer shows my body does not tolerate tomatoes, nightshade veggies, corn, gluten, peanut butter, soy, dairy. All my food eliminations are paying off. Includes light and sound treatment.
Aug 24: Attend raw foods cooking class.
Aug 31: Massage.

Sept 15: First time hip hurt.
Sept 20: Doctor appointment. Lots of abdominal pain, but everything looks okay.

Oct 04: Start water aerobic class. Water too cold for my joints, so I don't go back.
Oct 13: Start using Frankinscense essential oil my dear friend Miriam gives me.
Oct 19: 1st cranial sacral therapy visit. Focus on releasing emotional blockage in chakras to get energy flowing properly throughout the body again. Emotional blocks are often the cause of illness.
Oct 21: 5th visit w/ holistic practioner. Pain steadily dropping with each visit. Includes light and sound treatment.
Oct 26: 2nd cranial sacral therapy visit.

Nov 09: 3rd cranial sacral therapy visit.
Nov 17: Go to Brandon Flowers concert and request a chair. People get riled up that I get a special seat. My first experience w/ public being unaware and me feeling ashamed of RA. Accused of making up the pain just to get a special seat and that felt horrible.

Dec 02: 6th visit w/ holistic practitioner. Pain still dropping steadily.
Dec 11: Rain Drop massage.  
Dec 11: First time making a special exception to eat "regular" food like roast beef, canned corn, mashed potatoes, and a dinner roll. I was invited to a Sunday dinner and felt confident about my health improvements to make a diet exception. I said no to the Jell-O and pie though.

Dec 13: First cranial sacral visit with new practitioner. (I continue my visits about once a month for the first 7 months. Now I go on average every 3 months.)
Dec 16: First time going to chiropractor. I start going 2 times a week for 4 months. I stop going because I now have a good handle on what emotions trigger the physical pains Dr. Robb is adjusting me for chiropractor.

Sept 25: Invited as a guest speaker to a Sunday workshop service to speak about spiritual & physical healing through Christ based on what I'd learned through my RA journey. Amazing experience! (I have a recording, so I think I will upload this in the future.)

Oct 03: First time going to acupuncture. For 10 weeks (Oct-Dec) I went 2 times a week. Then from mid Dec-Feb I went 1 time a week.
Nov 29: Start yoga again. Hooray!

Dec 2: 7th visit w/ holistic practitioner. The RA does not show up in my body anymore, and pain doesn't register on her computer. I cried the whole way home.

Feb 23: I got re-evaluated today at acupuncture, and I've made so much progress I will be going only once a month now. This is huge! I was jumping for joy.

Today: I still primarily eat a gluten-free vegan/pescatarian diet. Lots of whole foods and little sugar. I eat peanut butter again and nightshade veggies, but everything in moderation. Still no soy, which I think is a good idea for most people—as little processed foods as possible makes a huge difference. If you're saying, "Please pass the green!" you're sure to be on the best path for your all-around health.

The Banana & Nut Butter Skinny Muffin

Can you tell I'm enjoying the Skinny Muffin concept? I was in a peanut butter mood this morning and thought, "Hey! Why not make a peanut butter muffin?" I think most of my enjoyment in eating something I've created is in knowing that I was the artist of my food. It's so fun! Have you come up with any new food combos lately? I'd love to hear.

Serves one

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon all-natural nut butter (almond, peanut, etc.)
2 tablespoons mashed banana
1 cage-free egg
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 packet stevia

1. Put coconut oil and nut butter in a coffee mug and pop in the microwave for about 15 seconds, or till coconut oil is melted.
2. Add banana and egg to mug and beat. 
3. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. 
4. Microwave 70 seconds. 
5. Remove mug from microwave and turn upside down over a plate to let muffin fall out. And, literally, it slips right out! This muffin is a beautiful golden brown.
6. Cut muffin in half and take a bite! Prepare to be amazed.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cantaloupe-Blueberry Smoothie w/ Flax Seed

1 cup water
1 tablespoon ground flax seed (or flax seed meal)
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup purple grapes
1 cup small squares cantaloupe
2 handfuls kale or chard

Protein powder
Stevia to taste
Agave to taste
Xylitol to taste

Blend it all up in your trusty old power blender. Remember, the more frozen fruits going into your smoothie, the more water you want to add so your blender doesn't jam. Sweeten to taste with protein powder, stevia, agave, or xylitol.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Friday Muffin

So it being Friday and all I was craving more of a "party" muffin. You know, like a muffin to let me start my Friday off with a little thrill and excitement. And that's when the perfect idea came to me. This Skinny Muffin I've been eating all week long for breakfast needed some chocolatey goodness!! Who's with me?

I looked in my fridge and what did I behold but a mason jar filled with Homemade Vegan Hot Chocolate I'd made the night before. (Basically when this hot chocolate recipe says it's "vegan," it means it's dairy free. I don't know any hot chocolate recipes to date that call for meat.)

Over night the hot chocolate I'd made had solidified a little, making it resemble a runny chocolate pudding. Perfect! So I added 2 tablespoons to the Skinny Muffin recipe and then spread a little more hot chocolate pudding on top with some coconut oil. So perfect for getting Friday started off right in a healthy-yet-chocolatey sort of way! Move over donuts. We've found The Friday Muffin.

Serves one

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon mashed banana
1 cage-free egg
2 tablespoons cold Homemade Vegan Hot Chocolate
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Put coconut oil in a coffee mug and pop in the microwave for about 15 seconds, or till coconut oil is melted. 
2. Add banana and egg to mug and beat. 
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. 
4. Microwave 60 seconds. 
5. Remove mug from microwave and turn upside down over a plate to let muffin fall out. And, literally, it slips right out! 
6. Cut muffin in half and spread coconut oil and more hot chocolate pudding over top. 

Happy Friday to you!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Skinny Muffin—as seen on Dr. Oz

If you're looking for a fast, easy, and healthy breakfast, here's Jorge's Skinny Muffin as part of his "lose 80 pounds belly fat" diet. This muffin is gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian, and it's oh-so good. Who knew flax seed would make such an amazing flour! This muffin is light and fluffy, unlike any gluten-free recipe I've tried.

The recipe you see below is after a little tweaking on my part. My first attempt at the recipe created a muffin that was too bland and too dry for my liking, so I experimented with adding apple sauce and then some banana, along with some more stevia. See what you think about my changes and feel free to do your own tweaking.

Serves one

1 teaspoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons mashed banana
1 cage-free egg
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 packets stevia (I'd avoid the Steviva brand. I personally am repulsed by the taste.)
2 tablespoons blueberries

1. Put coconut oil and banana in a coffee mug and pop in the microwave for about 15 seconds, or till coconut oil is melted. 
2. Add egg to mug and beat. 
3. Add the rest of the ingredients except the blueberries. Stir well. 
4. Now add blueberries, mixing without crushing the berries. 
5. Microwave 60 seconds. 
6. Remove mug from microwave and turn upside down over a plate to let muffin fall out. And, literally, it slips right out! 
7. Cut muffin in half and spread coconut oil over top. Add honey if you'd like it a little sweeter. ¡Buen provecho!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Food Replacement Ideas

(Coconut Oil. I spread it on like butter, and call me crazy, 
but I sometimes even eat it by the spoonful.)

Maybe, just maybe, you've noticed that once we get comfortable with a certain something in life—a route to work, a favorite snack, a way of managing our business—it's a real struggle to try something new. Why hassle? If it ain't broke, why fix it? . . . Well, maybe it is broke—maybe your body is finally physically broke—and you're still doing the same things you're always done. Well, here are a few simple replacement foods that may start to make a noticeable improvement in your health. Small steps often lead to huge morale boosts and even bigger health improvements.

Butter: Any recipe that calls for butter or vegetable oil I replace with wondrous coconut oil. Much, MUCH healthier. Coming from a person who detested coconut anything, I can say that the coconut taste is faint and the more you eat it, the more the flavor fades. Almost two years ago I experimented with scrambling eggs in coconut oil but thought the coconut oil taste was too strong. I tried it ago a few months later, after getting more used to eating coconut oil in other foods, and I didn't notice the taste like I had the first time. I don't think twice about cooking my eggs in coconut oil now, and I especially now love the hint of coconut in my green smoothies and my chocolate chip cookies!

Mayo: Rather than spreading mayonnaise on your tuna sandwich, try using homemade hummus or avocado instead. I usually mash up the avocado and then spread it on like you would the hummus. Delicious and much better for your body!

Bread: One of my favorite bread replacements is lettuce. Instead of making a sandwich with two slices of bread, make your own lettuce wrap. You can also use Eziekiel tortillas to make a little pita/taco-like sandwich.

Another long-time favorite of mine is harina P.A.N. for making arepas, a staple food in Venezuela and Colombia made from corn meal. To make an arepa you mix the corn meal with some water and a little salt until you get a great dough going on. Then with your hands you form the dough into a ball, flatten it out like a hamburger patty, and bake or cook in a frying pan. When it's cooked, slice the arepa as you would a hamburger bun, but don't cut all the way through so that you form a pocket. You can then fill the sandwich pocket with whatever goodness you'd like. I usually create a tuna mixture with chopped onions, cilantro, and chopped tomatoes. If you have any questions feel free to ask, but I will plan to do a post about making arepas.

Sugar: We are so lucky that in this day in age we have plenty of sugar replacements whether we are aware of them or not. Stevia is one, an all-natural sweetener that comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant usually found in South America. Xylitol is also a natural sweetener but is found in most fruits and vegetables. It is equally matched with sugar in sweetness, but far exceeds sugar in health benefits such as having less calories and leading to less cavities. Xylitol is also absorbed slower by the body, so it is a better option for people with diabetes. Some other natural sugar replacements are figs, dates, raisins, applesauce, and carob. These options may not work for all recipes, but they definitely can retrain a sweet tooth.

I would say that sugar is one of the most significant replacement areas. By replacing processed sugar with natural sugars, you will notice the most energy return to your body. Some people experience sugar withdrawals in the form of a headache or even a rash or acne, as their body is detoxing, but some people don't have much of a side effect. All I can say is the withdrawals are worth getting that energy back, even if it's little by little.

This list is just to get you started, but there are plenty more replacement ideas than this! Feel free to share your favorite replacements.