About six seven years ago, I ended up with two shoulder surgeries. The first time they went in, they had to repair couple of tears caused by an accident and the second time the surgeon went in, he had to patch me up some more, and clean up scar tissues. The doctor explained something at the follow up appointment which left me wondering. My surgeon said, that because of inflammation and autoimmune problems, my body created more scar tissues than normal. It was only six months between the two surgeries, and yet the scar tissue was really thick. He told me that the only way I could control the pain and stop creating more scar tissues, was to eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
What is anti-inflammatory diet? I asked him. He explained kindly that, this recommendation was slightly off the record, and that I should do my personal research regarding the matter. I left his office that day, feeling a bit frustrated and unfortunately still in pain, even after two surgeries. I tried to ask around anybody who may have had experience in the same matter, but no one seemed to have any idea of what I was referring to. My only option left was to go online and to do some research. 6-7 years ago, there was not much information out there. And when I did find few suggestions, they were not very clear. So I ended up giving up and accepting things as they were.
As life kept happening and my health challenges got worse, I ended up with a functional medicine doctor. I spend over six months going to him for help with my autoimmune problems. This doctor’s approach was a little different. He helped me to figure out the underlying problems which were causing my symptoms. He gave me some supplements to kick start what I call, a total diet and lifestyle “makeover”. Now this came as a surprise to many of my friends and family, because I was already eating pretty clean, with minimum processed food. Thru series of blood work, we discovered what my body was fighting against. I decided that traditional western medicine approach with medication alone, wouldn’t help me in the long run, I needed functional medicine as well. I needed the two approaches to be integrated. Traditional diagnosis with functional or alternative(to medication) solution.
Suddenly it all made sense. Not only did this doctor teach me how to eat and manage physical stress, but he also helped me to understand my body better. He helped me to make sense of what was going on. Once I understood, change become the only way. Unfortunately change is not easy, and this was not any different. It was so hard to cut out pretty much everything I loved to eat. But as the weeks and then the months started progressing, I started feeling better and better. My doctor never gave me the impression at any time that this approach would cure me or fix me a hundred percent. Actually, he honestly explained to me that if I tried my best, I would most likely have about 22-25 decent days a month and 5-8 rough days. Within a month or two, the change in my chronic pain in my body changed so much, that after that I was okay with those odds. Nobody else had given me better options.
It’s been over four years now, since I changed my diet and lifestyle. It has been hard, frustrating and at times even questioned if it was doing anything, but I have seen the results. Sure enough as my doctor told me, I have about three decent weeks and about one bad week of the month. I now know pretty clear what makes my body hurt more or less. I am aware of my symptoms and know how to handle them as well as possible. Exercise and stress management has been just as hard to adjust as the diet.
Change in Diet
The first thing I started doing was to look at ingredients labels. I was surprised at how many foods that I considered healthy, actually were full of sugar, soy and other ingredients. I used this anti-inflammatory diet as instructed by my doctor. Initially I stayed on it for 60 days, but once my body started healing,I was able to introduce few things back. Now I only revert back to it when my symptoms flare up.
I eliminated every product that my body was reacting to ( blood work and what is called food provocation testing) and foods that promote inflammation in our bodies.
Foods to avoid
Gluten (including wheat, rye, oats), dairy, sugar, soy, eggs, (tomatoes – potentially), rice, corn, potatoes, corn, dehydrated fruit, black tea, coffee, alcohol (- which I did not drink anyway), beef, pork ( including bacon, ham, hot dogs, cold cuts),
shellfish, fruit juices, soda, table salt, and peanut.
Foods To Eat
Fish, moderate amounts of chicken, turkey and lamb, quinoa, sweet potato, vegetables, fruits, raw nuts, beans, coconut and olive oil, herbal tea, sea salt, unsweetened coconut and almond milk.
Now, before you ask me how I survived, I am happy to inform you, that as long as our family ate at home and we cooked every meal, I did awesome!. The tricky part was eating out, whether at friend’s house or a restaurant. I have learned to adjust and figure out alternatives. Sometimes I pack my own food when we are eating with friends or family and other times, I just have to eat a salad and ask for olive oil at restaurants. It has been challenging but I feel better and I have no desire to feel miserable, only for a moment of satisfaction. Having swollen joint and muscle ache, migraines, stomach pain and flu like symptoms makes you loose appetite real fast. I now enjoy every bite of food I get. I’ll occasionally still have these symptoms as I mentioned, but not as frequent.
My cooking has become more creative, and I have learned to eat fresh, locally grown foods. Eating from scratch every meal, eating out of our garden or from farmers market, no processed food (only to the kids and grand kids at special occasions) has actually lowered our food bill. I now have to plan our meals. I don’t have many choices, so I buy in bulk, because I know we can consume it while fresh. It has really changed my view of food. I still feel that food is very important part as a social tool. But I also understand that thru my personal choices it can either heal my body or cause pain.
Once again, it has not been easy for me at all!! I still drool when I walk past a bakery or when I serve feta cheese for my kids, but I can’t have it. But, I know if I don’t eat it, I can at least play with my grand kids for an hour, and that is worth the exchange!!!!
Today my shoulder pain is under control. But I have during recent years been diagnosed with additional degenerative conditions. I realize that I can never be free from all my symptoms and conditions. None of us can change their DNA. I can hope that science in the near future figures out better solutions. Until then, I know thru simple steps in diet, exercise, and stress management I can still live a productive and rewarding life. I have come to accept that as I take two or three steps forward in life, it is okay that I end up having to back track one step. After all, this is the only way I have come to face my adversities with grace and still keep moving forward.