The second way that I took healing into my own hands was that I changed my diet. I eliminated all processed foods, went gluten-free and dairy-free, 75% raw and ate only lupus friendly and kidney friendly foods. This was a HUGE adjustment for me but I was willing to do everything and anything that was going to help me get better. The most challenging part of all of this was researching the information and then trying to correlate it into an easy to follow meal plan while being highly medicated!
So, why did I decide to eliminate gluten from my diet? While researching, I came across several articles about Dr. Christopher Reading and the studies he did that eliminated the signs and symptoms of lupus from his patients. Dr. Reading had the participants totally eliminate all gluten, milk and dairy products, as well as any other foods to which they were found to be allergic, from their diet. Dr. Reading also had his participants include vitamins and minerals supplements in their diets. Although there were other articles which claim that eliminating gluten and dairy did not significantly affect lupus symptoms, I decided to give it a go. After all, what did I have to lose? You can find additional information about Dr Christopher Reading's study as well as Dr Jonathan V. Wright's article The Root Cause of Your Autoimmune Disease here:
I know that it seems trendy to go gluten-free but after reading about Dr. Reading and knowing that a large portion of people with Celiac disease also have lupus, I thought that the correlation between gluten and lupus was too great to ignore. Luckily, because going gluten free is the 'in thing' these days, there are lots of gluten free options in both restaurants and grocery stores. One of the first things that I noticed when I cut gluten out of my diet was that I wasn't as tired as I normally was and that my hands and feet didn't seem as swollen.
There are numerous articles and testimonials from people who swear that eliminating products made from cow's milk have increased their health and overall well being. They cite such things as improved sleep, more energy, less bloating, fewer headaches and a reduction in sinus congestion. Again, given the state of utter despair that I was in, I was open to any and all suggestions to make me feel better. Visit Go Dairy Free and Dr. Mark Hyman's sites for the reasons why they recommend you go dairy-free.
Some parts of going dairy-free where easy due to substituting almond milk for cows milk. However like all change, will power was required. I now drink my coffee black, take my meds with almond milk and avoid yogurt and cheese. Eliminating cheese from my diet was a major challenge for me because whether it is on nachos, a burger or simply munching on cheese and crackers, I LOVE my cheese!!! I've tried dairy-free cheeses but I’ve yet to find one that tastes good.
After a few weeks of being both gluten and dairy-free I decided to try to go 75% raw. Yes, I was in full self-healing mode at this point!! I actually did the Go Raw for a Day Challenge and felt great the next day however going completely raw wasn't for me so I choose to strive for a 75% raw lifestyle. Check out Karen Knowler's site (www.TheRawFoodCoach.com) for more information. Karen provides simple, easy to follow instructions and recipes for going raw and encourages you to go as raw as feels comfortable for you. Of course I had to make sure that the raw foods I was consuming were lupus & kidney friendly/anti-inflammatory foods (avoiding alfalfa sprouts and nightshade vegetables). Because I had Stage IV Lupus Nephritis I also had to eat foods that were gentle to my kidneys. That meant monitoring my potassium, phosphate, and sodium intake. I have a great PDF from VCU Health Systems for people on dialysis that provided me with a very easy to understand instructions on how to eat healthy when you have kidney damage (send me an email if you'd like a copy: email@example.com). You can also get lots of recipe books that are specific to creating anti-inflammatory meals.
The biggest challenge of this new diet regime was sticking to it while my boys continued to eat their normal diets - ugh! I wish I could tell you some tips and tricks that I did to make it easier to follow, but I don't have any. I just stuck to my guns with the thought of being healthy again until I got to a point where I no longer had cravings for my former favourite foods. The benefits I reaped were well worth it. I felt lighter, happier/more positive and had much more energy than I normally did. I wasn't able to notice any substantial change in my lupus symptoms as the doctors had me on such an aggressive medical treatment plan that I was unable to tell which was truly elevating my symptoms.
Since my kidneys have returned to their normal function I have eased up on my diet restrictions however I am still mindful of what I put in my body and when I do 'cheat' a little during the holidays or celebrations, I notice that the next day that I am more fatigued, achy and swollen.
P.S. If anyone knows of a 'good' gluten-free beer please tell me!!
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