There are so many definitions of an elimination diet, so let me tell you how I define it. An elimination diet is a list of foods that are taken out for a short period of time, usually about 2-3 months, and slowly reintroduced to see how your body acts or reacts towards a particular food.
As someone with rheumatoid arthritis, I've experienced firsthand the effects that certain food has on my joint pain and swelling, as well as brain fog, quality of sleep and moods, and energy levels. Food is fuel and eating foods that work with your body instead of against it is especially important if you're looking to live a thriving life.
One of the best elimination diets I've seen recently is from Dr. Will Cole, and are customized to your unique style - Core4 and Elimin8. As their names suggest, the first is a shorter and less restrictive plan that is perfect for those new to elimination diets while the latter is for those who are looking for deeper healing.
How can an elimination diet help your RA symptoms? By giving your body a rest from certain foods, and then very carefully adding them back in one at a time, you can discover what (if any) foods aggravate your symptoms.
***Please tread very carefully if you have an eating disorder or a history of restrictive eating. Elimination diets are only meant to be short term and done for the sole purpose of determining what role (if any) certain foods have on your RA symptoms. ***
What benefits will you see on an elimination diet? Here's what people with RA have reported:
- Better and longer sleep. No more waking up due to pain or having less pain
- Longer lasting energy. Instead of spikes and crashes, you'll feel more balanced and energetic
- More focus and less brain fog. Hallelujah to not wondering why I walked into a room or where my keys are
- Decrease inflammation and joint pain. I mean isn't this why we're doing this?
- Less anxiety and depressed moods. This is another huge benefit - who doesn't want to feel better?
- Reduces digestive symptoms such as indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, and constipation/diarrhea.
- Lessen skin rashes and chicken (aka keratosis pilaris). Just remember never to pick at these or you'll get scars.
I'm sure there are more, but those are ones I remember off the top of my head. By now, you might be ready to start an elimination diet and I'm excited for you to find out if this helps you. However, if this is your first go at an elimination diet, please don't do it alone. It can quickly become overwhelming, and you'll give up before you really get started.
Please reach out to me if this is your first time so I can provide you with resources that will help you be successful. No one wants to put a ton of effort into a thing only to fall short of your goal! If this isn't your first time, don't be discouraged if you're doing this again. Our bodies change often as we get older, and you're not alone I promise!
If you decide an elimination diet is right for you, head to this post on my Instagram feed and check in with me so I can cheer you on.
The one thing I see my clients do over and over again is looking for the quick fix that will also magically heal them. Friends, I cannot tell you how much this breaks my heart. The worst part? There are people (and companies) out there that are more than happy to profit from their desperation. And THAT makes me angry.
So how do you stop falling victim to this? Easy, start doing your research. Look for those who take a balanced approach to treatment, who's been where you are, and who understand that outside of a miracle or Jesus, there's no cure for autoimmune disease. That last bit may be hard to hear, but it's so important. I didn't really see much progress until I sat with that and processed through it.
Does that mean that you're doomed to be in pain, have fatigue and brain fog, and feel like the StayPuf marshmallow man the rest of your life? Of course not! What it does mean is that once you've been diagnosed, you now fall into a life of symptoms management. You may very well even go into remission -which is wonderful!
But none of that happens overnight. Are there things that make us feel better quickly? YES! My Celebrex helps me reduce inflammation and joint pain when I wake up so that I can do what I need to do. It doesn't heal my RA or the cause of my inflammation though.
How do you begin the work of going from a quick fix way of thinking to one of endurance and patience? The first step is to recognize or bring awareness to the fact that there is no quick fix. You can't fix what you don't acknowledge, right?
Once you do that, you can start to research ways of getting to the root cause of your symptoms. Healing is not linear, which you find out more and more as you travel this journey. I literally started my search on Google (but maybe Duck Duck Go is better nowadays) and I started looking for people who'd managed their symptoms naturally.
Many of them worked with a chiropractor, naturopath, or a health coach to begin to unpeel the onion layers of root cause work. If you are tired of feeling tired, if you want to improve brain function and your memory recall, if you want to start seeing less inflammation and pain, and you are willing to do what it takes to begin to heal, set up a free discovery session with me. Let's get you some relief and create a plan to help you thrive with chronic pain.
THC? CBD? A little bit of both? Which one works best?
Continuing the theme of providing clarity to confusing options where there is a TON of information out on the interwebs, I want to chat today about a few things:
1. Which option is better
2. How each may offer pain relief
3. Reasons CBD may not work for you
Which option is better? Unfortunately, there's no definitive answer for everyone. Many doctors and natural healers believe that a combination of the two may provide the best relief for pain. As I often say, talk to your health care team about the legal options available to you and ask for their recommendations. Personally, when I've done one or the other, it didn't seem to move the needle on my pain very much.
How might CBD offer pain relief? Scientists are mixed on the effects of CBD on pain. They believe there is early evidence that CBD has an effect on serotonin levels in the body which ultimately can help ease pain. There is some data that shows the CBD is better at reducing inflammation in the body, which gets to the root cause of chronic pain. More research in this area is needed as the CBD industry is widely varied in results and quality.
How might THC offer pain relief? THC works with different cannabinoid receptors than CBD, one is the nerve cells and the other immune cells. When it activates the nerve cell receptor, it reduces the sensation of pain. The euphoria from the 'high' enhances this effect but doesn't get at the root cause of the pain the way CBD can.
I've tried CBD and it's not working for me. There are literally thousands of brands of CBD on the market now because it's become a buzzword in the health and wellness community.
A couple of reasons the CBD you have isn't working are:
(a) it's not really CBD. Many products contain just a hint of CBD and the rest with unnecessary fillers. So what can you do? Look for brands who independently test their CBD and offer those test results on their website. Shop brands you trust so you know exactly what you're getting.
(b) your body may need a different strain. No 2 cannabis plants are the same, and many CBDs are a combination of strains. Ask CBD suppliers for test results that show the terpene and cannabinoid profiles.
(c) you may need a different type of CBD. There are 3 main types: Full Spectrum, Isolate, and Broad Spectrum.
(i)Full spectrum contains compounds from the entire plant and while it's the most recommended, you'll want to be careful that they are from organic soil as full spectrum pulls the good stuff as well as the bad stuff from the soil.
(ii) Broad spectrum is similar to full spectrum but has the THC removed. This can be a good option for those who live in states where THC is restricted/illegal.
(iii) Isolate is considered the least effective but more research is coming out that it is better tolerated and absorbed by the body for those with leaky gut and chronic inflammation. You'll see this one labeled as, "Pure CBD" and contains 99% CBD.
I know this was a long post, but I want you to be able to make an informed choice when it comes to your natural pain relief options. I have a brand I use and I'm happy to share it if you'd like. I can only talk about what I've used and allow you to decide if that's what works for you.
Almost a decade. I've been on this path for nearly 10 years. That blows me away. It's a blessing and a burden.
How do you encapsulate a journey that spans this much time without writing a tome? Truthfully, not being able to tell my story in a succinct way kept from sharing it for a long time. But with autoimmune conditions on the rise, and the health of most Americans, especially women, on the decline, I figured it was time to try.
I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I'd spent the previous night sleepless, tossing and turning trying to get comfortable. I'd eaten my husband's homemade potato soup and it was so good. But within a few minutes, I had heartburn so bad that I thought I'd never find relief. I popped Tums like candy and went to bed.
After what seemed like seconds, I was up and in the bathroom. If it wasn't coming up, it was coming out. Both felt like lava escaping my body. No one else was sick so I knew it wasn't food poisoning. Then came the joint pain, subtle at first, but then it felt like flames throughout my body and pain that felt like stepping on Legos. OUCH!
I moved to the couch, again trying to find a comfortable position, but nothing worked. My body finally resigned to sleep around 2:30 or 3:00 am and my alarm went off at 5. I was so tired and bone weary, I don't remember fixing the coffee or what I read in my bible. I'd had a few other moments like this over the last few weeks and I was DONE. I knew I needed to see my doctor. So I called into work and made an appointment.
I put water on my body in the shower and struggled against the fire and legos in my joints to get ready. Then I got in the car and drove to the appointment. Again, I don't remember how I got there. Not good, right? I used the automatic doors and the elevator to get to the doctor's office on the second floor. The walk from the car felt a mile long.
I sat in the waiting room and waited for my name to be called. After the nurse put me in the room, I asked her to turn off the lights (they were blinding me at this point). I laid down on the table and went to sleep. Then the doctor came in. She was really worried about me. I remember stumbling over my words and just wanting relief.
I told what had been happening and she told me I probably had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), acid reflux, and chronic fatigue. She told me that this was totally normal for a "woman of my age".Being just 38, I couldn't imagine that what I'd been through was normal but I didn't question her. She gave me a referral to a gastroenterologist, a prescription for Celebrex, and encouraged me to "work on my stress".
I was raising 5 teenagers at the time and my marriage was in trouble. I was in a faith crisis and hated the work I did. Exactly how was working on my stress going to help? But I didn't question her. She was the doctor and I was not. She knew best, right?
After the gastroenterologist wanted to put me on even more medications, I asked what role diet could play in my health. He looked me dead in the eye and said it had no bearing on my condition unless I had celiac disease. So I asked for time to think about it and he agreed. I went home and took the rest of the next several days to research my conditions.
Do you know what I found? HOPE. Hope that I could heal without medication. Hope that I could reverse all my symptoms on my own. So that's what I started doing nearly a decade ago.
If you're wondering where my RA diagnosis came in, while I had the symptoms that day at the office, it took 6 years to get a diagnosis from a rheumatologist. All my doctors and specialists kept telling me my symptoms were normal "for my age".
Y'all, I was 38 years old at my first appointment. What I was experiencing was not normal for someone in their late 30s, but they had no other answers. So I went looking for those who did.
I found a health care team that believes that less is more when it comes to medication, that diet and lifestyle absolutely play a role in healing and that remission is possible. It's a team effort, but I know I'm going to beat this.
What am I doing? Here is a high level summary of what I do each and every day.
-Eating an AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) diet
-Drinking filtered water that removes fluoride without removing minerals
-Get at least 15 minutes in the sun each day and supplementing with Vitamin D3 on the days I can't.
-Do gentle stretches and light strength training at least 5 times a week
-Use essential oils, deep breathing, prayer, and bible study, and walks by the lake to reduce stress.
-Removed all toxic personal care and cleaners from my home. Found nontoxic cleaners instead.
-Made a commitment to reach out to friends and family on a regular basis to keep from feeling isolated.
-Taking clean supplements that fill in the gaps created by digestive issues.
-Use natural, nontoxic pain relievers, heating pads, and frozen veggie packs for icing down my joints
-Take my medications as prescribed and keep my appointment
-Continue to research the latest in natural healing for autoimmune conditions
If you're still reading this, God bless you. I pray that you find what works for you. It can be such a confusing and lonely journey. If you would like a guide to help you on your journey, reach out to me. I love helping others find their path!
*NOTE: I am reader supported. When you buy links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission. I appreciate your support.
Most of us have seasons in our lives when we are tired. Chronic fatigue from autoimmune symptoms is a whole other animal. I convinced myself for a LONG time that my fatigue was because I was in the middle of raising 5 teenagers, working a full time job, being active in church and managing our household and the finances. While that IS a lot, it wasn't the real reason I was so exhausted.
My first diagnosis was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome back in 2012. When I asked my doctor what that was he said, "it's what we give you when your body is exhausted but we don't know why". He told me to get more sleep and manage my stress. Okay then. During this time, my sleep was ALL messed up, I was wide awake when I should be sleeping and falling asleep at work. This is not a joke, that's exactly what I was doing. Until our vending machine started carrying those yummy Starbucks drinks.
I needed those drinks to function, or so I thought. Those wonky sleep patterns were my body's cry for help, but I didn't know I was supposed to be listening.
I thought it was perfectly normal to slug down caffeine at all hours of the day because that's what everyone around me was doing. It wasn't until I started going to a chiropractor who did a functional assessment of my sleep patterns that I realized I was in trouble. She told me Chronic Fatigue was the body's first warning sign that my body wasn't working right and needed some support. She ordered some food intolerances tests, did some bloodwork, and asked me to journal all my symptoms over the next week. Secretly, I knew I was in trouble but I told all my friends that I was just fine. But I wasn't, I was miserable.
When I returned to my chiropractor for my test results, I was AMAZED at what she told me - multiple food sensitivities, off the charts cortisol levels (the hormone responsible for allowing you to manage stress well), and something called SIBO. SIBO stands for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth and it was why I wasn't sleeping, my stress levels were so high and the source of my food intolerances. She gave me hundreds of dollars in supplements and something called an Anti-Candida diet to follow for the next 21 days. While she meant well, I was more stressed and tired than ever. It was a LOT to manage and I just wasn't sure I'd be able to handle adding anything to my already packed schedule.
I complied because I didn't want to upset her (Umm, WHAT?!?) and it was the worst 21 days ever. I felt MORE tired and slept even less. Not to mention with the new diet and added stress, I was a grumpy monster, to say the least. I went back and had tests redone and wasn't surprised to learn that all my symptoms were worse. Good grief!
I went home and did some research on my own. At this point, I wasn't sleeping well, I was bloated all the time, I was only going poo once or twice a week and my moods were all over the place. Something had to change and had to change quickly. My research brought me to a bunch of blogs who ate this ancestral diet called Paleo. Eat like a caveman? Why?
They showed person after person who had healed from what I was dealing with and much worse just by adopting this lifestyle. I thought, Great!, this is the answer! So I bought all the books and listened to all the podcasts, liked all the Facebook pages, pinned all the pins on Pinterest, and dove headfirst into this new lifestyle. And it worked great! I lost 40 pounds, my husband and I both got off all our medications and I felt mostly normal again. I still had my digestion issues but was told I needed more gut support. I mentioned this to my chiropractor who ordered some HCL for me as well as telling me to drink aloe juice and eat LOTS of fat. And it mostly worked for awhile.
Flash forward a few years and all my symptoms started returning. I couldn't understand it because I was now on what's called the Paleo AIP diet. It's a highly restrictive diet that eliminates nearly all foods people are sensitive to and some that specifically cause joint pain. I didn't have my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis yet, but I was dealing with joint pain as well as still dealing with digestive issues. I went to California on vacation in December 2017 and had periods of extreme exhaustion and incredible pain in my feet. I powered through and then called my doctor when I returned.
On the day of the appointment, my middle finger on my right hand was so swollen, I thought it might be broken. When I showed her, she ordered an Xray and some bloodwork. She sent me home with a prescription for Celebrex and told me to rest and reduce my stress. Sound familiar? She called me a couple of days later and told me I tested positive for rheumatoid arthritis and set me up with an appointment with a rheumatologist in a couple of months. At this point, my joint pain was so bad it was keeping me up at night and made it nearly impossible to do my job (I worked at a computer typing all day long).
I met with my rheumatologist who confirmed my diagnosis and added Anemia of Chronic Disease. No wonder I'd been tired, my iron levels were in the toilet and I officially had an autoimmune diagnosis. He put me on prescription after prescription, but my body either rejected them with an allergic reaction or they flat out didn't work. I was SUPER frustrated.
At this point, I'd spent the last 7 years eliminating toxins, trying to eat well and exercise, took all manner of supplements, but nothing seemed to work. A friend referred me to a naturopathic doctor she'd been working with and I set up an appointment. We went over my medical history and what I was doing to support my body. She agreed that I was doing everything right and wanted to order some tests for Epstein Barr Virus or EBV. She called me the next day and asked how in the world I was even managing to function. She told me I had what's known as Chronic Epstein Barr Virus or CEBV and was currently in the middle of an active EBV episode. She gave me some herbal antivirals and suggested I do some reading on EBV diets and lifestyle changes. I had already done most of the lifestyle switches.
My research on EBV protocols led me to a man named Anthony Williams or the Medical Medium. I had a source for the supplements he suggested but I have to say his food protocols were unlike any I'd ever seen! Many people finding success with his plan come over from the Paleo, AIP, and Keto diets. Just like me. I started drinking 16 oz. of celery juice, followed my fresh lemon juice each morning. I ate lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and reduced my fats until lunchtime. Dinner was a small amount of animal protein and TONS of veggies and fruit. I started noticing that my energy was returning and my joint pain was diminishing too. Just the other day I got a full, uninterrupted 8 hour of deep sleep. I was so HAPPY!
If you've read this far, THANK YOU! If you talk to most people with chronic sleep issues, they'll tell you it didn't happen overnight and it doesn't always happen just to people who aren't taking care of themselves. If you'd like to learn more, click here and I'll send you my FREE guide to feeling more energetic! Thank you and be blessed.
This is part 1 in my series, "Living with RA". I wrote about pain and stress. Check them out and let me know what you think!