I was athletic and healthy as a horse growing up. I started taking piano and ballet when I was four. I was on the gymnastics and swim teams all through school, and went horseback riding every Sunday afternoon. I grew up in Pasadena, CA and every Saturday afternoon I would go with my dad to do grocery shopping. Back then meat was purchased at the butcher shop and freshly caught fish was purchased at the fish monger’s. Produce was purchased at the store, gathered from your garden or picked from fruit trees in your yard or a neighbor’s. There was no fear of GMO’s, animals weren’t shot up with antibiotics and hormones, and fish weren’t “farm raised.” I rarely got to eat junk food and fast food was permitted as an occasional treat. I didn’t drink soda.
Then I went to college and entered the work force and the rest is diet demise history. It didn’t happen all at once, but by the time I hit my thirties, my diet was shot. I was still very active so my weight wasn’t a problem. I was rarely ill so I thought everything was fine. What I didn’t realize was that inside, where I couldn’t see, things were happening in my body. It wasn’t until about eight years ago that I started to notice some changes. They were subtle and I hardly noticed, yet they subconsciously nagged at me.
I started noticing that I was having trouble standing for a long period of time. I was a choral music director and teacher, and found myself often pulling up a stool to sit on. Walking a distance was also becoming a problem. The library was seven blocks from where I lived. It used to be an easy walk. Now it was not so easy. I had to bring a stool into the kitchen if I was going to do a lot of cooking or baking because standing the whole time was out of the question. The pain in my back and fatigue became intense. Then came the day when I realized that I could no longer run. That was scary.
Because I was out of work with no insurance, it would be five years later that I would be able to see a doctor. During that time, my mobility decreased at an alarming rate. My new primary physician referred me to a pain doctor in Riverside, CA. I thought I had come for my back pain, but what the doctor discovered during my visit was that my lack of mobility was coming from my right hip, not my back. After several xrays, an MRI and blood work, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis. The Osteoarthritis had completely destroyed my right hip joint. In my shock my only thought was “I won’t take those drugs.” I knew people who had RA and I knew about the horrible drugs that were prescribed to treat it. I knew I didn’t want them. When I got home, I went straight to my computer and started researching natural alternative treatments and nutrition.
I learned about the damage my poor eating habits had done. I read about the foods that cause inflammation in the body and inflammation causes pain. Before I started, I would cry myself to sleep every night because of the pain. I went cold-turkey and eliminated everything – dairy, wheat, gluten, meat, SUGAR. I eventually added a few things back like eggs. In less than a week I finally slept through the night. I lost my craving for sugar, and the pounds started dropping off effortlessly. I had energy.
It hasn’t been easy. Completely changing how and what you eat is a challenge. But, I no longer miss the foods I thought I couldn’t live without. I use coconut oil almost exclusively for cooking. I drink almond or coconut milk. I use organic sugars. There is a healthy and tasty substitution for everything. When I eat beef, it’s only grass-fed and fish is only wild-caught-never farm raised. I buy organic. I eat raw vegetables as much as possible and fresh in-season fruit. It’s all been so worth it.
This past October I had hip replacement surgery on my right hip. After every test in the book, my rheumatologist said the results showed no symptoms of autoimmune disease. I created a group on Facebook, Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis Naturally, which currently has over 200 members.