How I Healed Myself From Rheumatoid ArthritisMar 06, 2019
Healing from rheumatoid arthritis is challenging and requires nutrition and lifestyle changes. While naturally treating myself for rheumatoid arthritis was not easy, since the temptation to make unhealthy choices is all around, I successfully reduced the pain and inflammation, so I know it is possible.
Please note that when I say I healed myself from rheumatoid arthritis, I do not mean that I no longer have rheumatoid arthritis. What I mean is that I generally live symptom-free and have energy and physical ability to do the things I want to do. As long as I stay committed to my nutrition and lifestyle protocol, I have little to no pain and can live a full and vibrant life.
Many doctors will say that there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. The conventional medicine approach to manage symptoms is to use steroids, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics, in that order. These come with harsh side-effects and generally must be taken for the rest of your life.
For a large number of people, these medications stop working after a while and do not necessarily stop disease progression. These medications also do not address root causes, and it is my theory that this is precisely the reason why people with one autoimmune disease are three times more likely to develop another.
It was only because of my family doctor that I did not go down the road of taking pharmaceutical drugs. Before diagnosis, and while I was nearly crippled from joint pain, my doctor suggested trying food eliminations to see if it would help alleviate the pain. I thought this was a crazy idea but decided to try it because I was in so much pain and had nothing to lose.
What happened once I eliminated these foods seemed miraculous! Within 5 days of eliminating three inflammatory foods from my diet, the joint pain was SIGNIFICANTLY reduced! This opened up a whole new world of food as medicine and natural healing.
I learned that it IS possible to heal from rheumatoid arthritis!
Changing what I ate was a starting point, but it wasn’t all I did. Below is a list of 11 things I did as I healed myself from rheumatoid arthritis.
11 Things I Did to Heal Myself From Rheumatoid Arthritis
1. Cultivate a Healing Mindset
Making food and lifestyle changes isn’t easy. In fact, it’s very hard. It takes time, preparation, and dedication to focus on the goal of becoming pain-free and BELIEVING it can happen. I followed stories of people who had walked this path before me and knew that it was possible. This helped motivate me on the hard days.
I also tried to reframe the illness by seeing the symptoms as information my body was giving me. I used it like a compass to guide me in the direction that reduced pain and inflammation.
The mind is a powerful tool that can be harnessed to help heal. I used healing visualizations and affirmations and expressed gratitude each day for the evidence of healing in my body. As the expression goes: “what you focus on expands.” I wanted my body to heal so that, rather than the pain, was my focus.
2. Become Educated in Natural Healing
I read everything I could find to learn about healing from rheumatoid arthritis naturally. There are plenty of books, podcasts, and websites dedicated to healing autoimmune diseases. I watched documentaries on health and healing. I even enrolled in a functional medicine health coaching program to I could really immerse myself in the science!
See the list of resources at the end of this blog for books and podcasts I found especially useful. I joined Facebook groups and followed people on Instagram who were involved with functional medicine. I also gathered information on Pinterest boards for future reference.
3. Eat a Clean Diet and Monitor Symptoms
By “clean” I mean REAL food, grown organically and sustainably. Not packaged, not GMO, and not factory-farmed. Everybody is different, and what works for some people doesn’t work for others. Some of the food plans that have been successful for different people include the autoimmune paleo (AIP) protocol, low FODMAP diet, keto diet, plant-based diet, raw food diet, the Wahl’s Protocol, the Plant Paradox diet, a carnivore diet (!) and more.
Common foods that can trigger inflammation are grains (including gluten), dairy, sugar, processed vegetable oils, processed foods, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables in the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant), alcohol, and food additives. Most of the food plans mentioned above eliminate those foods.
4. Boost Nutrition with Supplements
Many people will say that if you are eating a healthy diet, you don’t need to supplement. However, if you have an autoimmune condition, you need some extra help. Besides, even the best organic vegetables may be grown in soil that has been depleted of some key nutrients.
One of the good things about rheumatoid arthritis is that it is a well-studied disease and the efficacy, or usefulness of some common vitamins and supplements have been studied in clinical trials. Still, discuss your need for supplements with your health practitioner.
Here are the ones that I personally have used:
Curcumin (a compound in turmeric)
Omega 3 Fish Oil
Vitamin B Complex
I have used other supplements for periods of time along my journey based on the recommendation of my functional medicine practitioner.
When it comes to supplements, you get what you pay for. Cheaper brands are likely just a waste of money, so it’s best to buy from a reputable supplier.
Although I did take a probiotic at first, this probably was not helpful for me and may even have made my situation worse because I had a bacterial overgrowth in my gut of which I was unaware. My practitioner advised it is probably better to get probiotics through fermented foods (like sauerkraut, kimchi, or kombucha) rather than supplementation.
5. Work with a Health Coach
When I began my healing journey, I didn’t know about health coaching. If I did, my path to vitality would have been so much quicker! Food and lifestyle changes aren’t easy, and that is where a health coach helps. She can help identify goals to work on, help with motivation to stay on track and identify blind spots and approaches to healing that you may not have considered.
Knowing the importance of having a health coach when making major food and lifestyle changes is what motivated me to become one!
6. Prioritize Sleep
Getting enough sleep was critical in my healing journey. Energy is needed to heal, and sleep is needed for energy. Getting enough sleep for me meant going to bed no later than 9:30 pm.
When I started tracking my health, I could see that when I didn’t get enough sleep, my pain and inflammation would increase. Often, I had to choose between socializing or getting adequate sleep. One late night could mean several days of increased inflammation, but some special occasions were worth it.
7. Schedule Time for Self-Care
It sounds so cliche, but self-care is critical when trying to heal. It was a way of telling myself that my healing was what mattered most, and I was worth it!
I began each day with a self-care morning routine, which took priority over everything else. I also ended most days with a relaxing bath with epsom salts and essential oils. At least biweekly, I scheduled an appointment with one of my healthcare professionals for massage, reiki, acupuncture, or chiropractic services.
8. Keep Moving
In the early days of having rheumatoid arthritis, it was hard to move … everything hurt and I had no energy! But, moving is necessary to prevent tendons and muscles around inflamed joints from tightening up, creating even more restrictive movement. Moving is also needed to help lymphatic fluid circulate in the body.
In the beginning I would just try to move any way I could. As the pain and inflammation reduced, I could do more.
Sometimes I would do too much and had to scale things back a bit. It was a balance between being physically active and being careful to not cause inflammation. Walking, yoga, and light exercise routines worked well for me as I started to heal.
9. Make Time for Deep Relaxation
This is similar to self-care, but the goal was to really focus on getting the mind relaxed so that the nervous system could be in the ’rest-and-digest’ mode rather than the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode.
I used deep breathing or meditation to get into a relaxed state. When in this state, I would feel no pain, so I tried to do this many times during the day, increasing the length of time where I experienced no pain. I especially liked to listen to guided healing meditations and imagining the healing that was happening in my body.
10. Spend Time with People Who Support You
I felt best when I was with people who cared about me, so I did more of that. I also tried to connect with other people who had rheumatoid arthritis.
When I couldn’t find a local rheumatoid arthritis support group, I started one. Being connected to a community of people who understood what I was going through really helped. It removed those feelings of isolation and self-pity that can sabotage healing.
11. Release Stressful Emotions, Situations and People
Some of the literature associates underlying emotional issues with physical disease. The emotion often associated with rheumatoid arthritis is resentment or feeling like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Some practitioners go as far as saying that physical healing won’t happen until underlying emotional issues have been dealt with!
I found meditation, journalling, and emotional freedom technique (EFT tapping) to be very helpful in releasing emotions.
Making the decision to release situations and people who caused stress in my life wasn’t easy, but it was necessary in my healing journey. I had to make some hard decisions along the way to keep my stress low, and over time, I could see the resulting reduction in inflammation.
I have used past tense throughout this article, but the truth is that I continue to use all these practices in my life. My healing journey really helped me reevaluate what is important in my life. Putting myself first so I could heal was a gift to myself and to those who love me, not an act of selfishness.
To summarize, 11 things I did to heal myself from rheumatoid arthritis are:
Cultivate a healing mindset
Become educated in natural healing
Eat a clean diet and monitor your symptoms
Boost nutrition with supplements
Work with a health coach
Schedule time for self-care
Make time for deep relaxation
Spend time with people who support you
Release stressful emotions, situations, and people
In sharing my steps on how I healed myself from rheumatoid arthritis, my desire was to give you hope. Healing requires dedication a lot of self-love and it requires you to make your healing a priority … but it IS possible!
I hope that hearing about my journey of how I healed myself from rheumatoid arthritis encourages you in your own healing journey.
Have you followed a similar journey? Have you tried any of these strategies? What is your biggest challenge?
Would you like my free 10 Thought Swaps to Calm Your Mind and Help Relieve Pain and Inflammation (so that You Can Stop Hurting and Start Healing)? Click here or on the image below.
Here are resources I have found particularly helpful for how I healed myself from rheumatoid arthritis:
The Autoimmune Solution, Amy Myers, MD
The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body, Sarah Ballantyne, PHD
The Wahls Protocol, Terry Wahls, MD
The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, Mickey Trescott, NTP & Angie Alt, NTC, CHC
The Plant Paradox, Stephen Gundry, MD
The Functional Medicine Radio Show by Dr. Carri Drzyzga, ND