The aches started in high school. I once thought the pain in my right knee was caused by playing tough defense in basketball or from the impact of the high jumps in cheerleading. When the aches continued and the pains and stiffness spread to my right elbow and right hand, I knew that I had to take another look at what was going on.
It was not until my 28th birthday that I set up an appointment to finally see a rheumatologist who diagnosed the aches in my joints as psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease which confuses my immune system into attacking healthy cells and tissue in my body. This disease not only can deform my joints overtime but it increases my chances of developing dementia, alzheimer’s or parkinson’s later in life. I knew I needed to use nutrition to heal my body and so my psoriatic arthritis diet plan was created.
My Journey with Psoriatic Athritis Began
Hearing a diagnosis for this sometimes debilitating joint pain brought me to tears when I first heard it’s name because I finally felt like I had a something that I could start addressing. To address this disease, my rheumatologist wanted me to start taking an expensive drug (Humira) that would suppress my immune system and increase my chances of infection and cancer. This scared me almost more than the disease. I could not understand why I would want to suppress my immune system to heal my body. I was determined to try every natural path before taking such a powerful drug.
Discovering the Relationship Between Inflammation & Nutrition
When I looked into psoriatic arthritis, I learned that my joint pain is caused from inflammation in my body that is triggered by certain foods that I eat. While no cure has yet been found to cure psoriatic arthritis, I can find ways to eat in a way that keeps the inflammation down, protecting my joints from permanent disability and joint pain. There is not one diet for everyone, yet it is worth investigating which foods are triggering the pain and inflammation in your body. On my journey, and hopefully on yours, you will find healthy solutions and exciting new food journeys that will lead you to a life of health and wellbeing.
OMG…Is Leaky Gut Really a Thing?
My first experiment was to cut out all animal meats. This was pretty easy for me at the time and it seemed to help for a while but I would still get flare ups every now and then. After being a pescatarian for two years, I went to go see an alternative care provider who helped me identify that like most autoimmune diseases, the inflammation I was dealing with in my body that was attacking my joints is closely related to digestive distress and a condition known as leaky gut. Like me, you probably had never heard of leaky gut before but you are going to be glad you did because it is a leading cause of many illnesses in our bodies.
Leaky gut happens in our small intestines, one of the most important places in our gut as it helps with the absorption of the good vitamins and minerals we need from our foods and helps to block out the toxins. What happens with leaky gut is that the particles, that the small intestinal wall’s lining is supposed to be blocking, creep out into your bloodstream, a place they shouldn’t be. This causes your immune system to ramp up into hyperdrive to get rid of them. The issue here is that the immune system is not only attacking the particles that creep out, but they attack the healthy cells as well. To help repair your gut, you need to get rid of the toxins and the foods that are aggravating your digestive track and replenish the good bacteria in your belly.
I Found the Culprits: Dairy, Sugar & Grains
What we found as we looked into my diet is that the meat was not the culprit aggravating my body, it was the dairy, sugar and grains which I consumed on a daily basis that were. The diet she recommended, which I stuck to, was the Paleo diet: void of all grains, dairy, nightshade vegetables, limited sugar and limited red meat intake. You may wonder what is left to eat, right!? At first, I was nervous (as you could imagine)…but I then grabbed a few great Paleo cookbooks and realized that I can still eat many of the things I love (with healthier substitutions). As a result, I have since become a more adventurous cook!
If you are reading this, then you are like me, looking for a way to naturally heal your auto immune condition through food and nutrition. I want to share with you a few diet choices that I recommend…and also some great Shaklee products that are natural, effective and have worked for me…and I hope work for you too! Let’s get started and take the steps needed to feed your body the nutrients it needs to fight inflammation, and repair your gut and immune system.
My Psoriatic Arthritis Diet & Nutrition Plan
Eat lots of colorful antioxidant rich vegetables and fruit with vitamins A and C. It can be a challenge to try and get all the nutrients you need every day unless you have the ability to make green juices multiple times a day. To help cover your bases get on a good multivitamin. Shaklee’s Vita-Lea is a great option as it dissolves quickly in your body and not only covers your vitamin basis but gives you twice the amount of Vitamin D, C, E and beta carotene for increased antioxidant protection.
- Take a good quality fish oil and omega 3’s from fatty fish to help fight inflammation. Shaklee’s OmegaGuard is safe, easy to take and does not have the gross fish aftertaste. OmegaGuard has seven pharmaceutical-grade omega-3 essential fatty acid and has more EDC and DHA than other brands. This fish oil is safer than most as it does not have the mercury, PCBs and other toxic metals that leading brands have in them.
- Keep a healthy weight to keep the pressure off of your joints. A Paleo lifestyle is a great way to help lose extra weight but if you need a jumpstart, the Shaklee 180 Turnaround Kit is a clinically tested weight loss kit that helps you lose weight and not muscle. I really like the products in this kit as they are gluten free and have a low glycemic index. The kit comes with two healthy meals, snack, Energizing Tea, Metabolic Boost, online support, online workouts and chances for great prizes when you share your transformation story. My husband also jumped on the Paleo diet with me and in one month managed to lose 12 pounds!
Below is a picture of me on the left in 2012 before the diet where my joints were making it difficult to hike and I was easily exhausted from the pain. In the picture on the right, I am down 10 pounds in 2014 and feeling so much better and managed to hike all weekend with my friends with better mobility and endurance.
- Stay active and move those joints. I know this can be a challenge, especially on those days when it hurt to even get up or open a jar but those days are most important so that you can keep your mobility. Try light aerobic exercise like swimming, walking, yoga and stretching.
- Avoid sugar, which is one of the main sources of inflammation in our bodies (and so prevalent in the American diet).
- Opt for lean meats such as turkey, chicken or bison and stay away from having too much red meat like steak and ground beef.
- Take a quality probiotic to restore your gut. To help repair your digestive track and counteract the negative effects that the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have had on your body, it is important to get on a good quality probiotic to repair the good bacteria in your gut. This is a must to getting the leaky gut back under control. Shaklee’s Optiflora is a great option that works quickly to get your digestive system in balance.
- Avoid nightshade vegetables. White potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, peppers, cayenne pepper and paprika can further aggravate joints. These foods release alkaloids which impact our joints, muscles and digestion. I know this one can be tough, especially if your love french fries and salsa as much as I do but when I think of the aches and pains that these foods have on my body, I turn to other options like sweet potatoes or tomato-free guacamole.
- Toxins in our environment can trigger inflammation and weaken our immune system. It is important to avoid harsh chemical cleaning and hygiene products. Shaklee’s Get Clean products really transformed my families life. The first thing I noticed when I used them is that they do not have that harsh toxic smell many products have or leave my hands feeling dry. Basic H2, one of the most popular of Shaklee’s cleaning products, can be used on so many things and lasts in our house for many months as it is a concentrated formula that you dilute with water.
- Alfalfa is a wonder plant whose roots can reach up to 20 feet below the surface, pulling up nutrients from the earth into the plant, making this a superfood. For those who suffer from allergies or arthritis, alfalfa helps aid the pain and stiffness in joints. Often times alfalfa comes in pill or capsule form but one of my favorite ways to get my alfalfa is to make a tea out of it by putting it in my tea cup and just pouring hot water on top. It tastes very similar to green tea and a great after breakfast drink. The Alfalfa Complex from Shaklee is an easy addition to your new health plan.
- Avoid caffeine. One thing that many with arthritis have to deal with is chronic fatigue. This can be a real drain on our energy, willingness to get up and move around like we should and stamina to stand up in the kitchen to make those delicious Paleo dishes. Drinking sodas and coffee seem like a good pick me up but they are really bad for you and your body. What I like to use instead is the Shaklee 180 Energizing Teas because they are easy to carry in your purse for quick pick me ups, taste great, loaded in antioxidants and provide a natural energy boost.
I know that making these changes for may seems intimidating, especially since it is so far from what we know. A good way to try these different food changes out is to start with eliminating each one for at least a month and slowly add each one back in to see which one is a trigger for you. What I found and I hope you find on your journey is a new culinary experiences that excite the palate, fills the belly and heals your body.
What about you? What has been your experience with psoriatic arthritis, your diet plan and nutrition?