Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Me: Part One

I am in the best shape of my life. At the gym this morning, I looked in the mirror and a different woman looked back at me. I've had rheumatoid arthritis for over ten years now, and you wouldn't know it from a cursory glance in my direction. It's due to a combination of factors and a good bit of God/blessing/luck.

For years, because of poor or non-existent health care, I haven't had access to the miracle drugs used by patients in the United States. And I thought that would change when I was put on a Brazilian health care plan, only to learn that they don't cover medications, and even the "procedure" medications (infusion drip, etc) aren't available to me because I am "not sick enough." Well.

So my RA management plan consists of the following:
-careful eating

I'll be blogging about these over the next few days, so check back and pass these on to anyone you know who might benefit from my limited experience. Every person is different and what works for me might not do a bit of good for another RA patient, but then again, it might.

I love my massage therapist! She comes once a week and works out the muscle knots , stiff joints and so forth and generally turns me to rubber. I consider her a legitimate medical expense. Too bad the tax guys don't!

We're blessed to have year-round fresh fruits and vegetables in Brazil. Every time I return to the US, I get sick. There can be a lot of reasons for this, but my top culprits would be 1) preservatives and 2) high-fructose corn syrup/sugar in EVERYTHING and 3) falsely "perfect" foods. It's weird, but I actually get a little thrill when I see my eggs still have traces of chicken ick on them. I know they actually came from a bird, weren't bleached or sprayed down with who-knows-what. I can wash the poop off myself, but it's comforting to see that even if they're not organic, these eggs have orange yolks, signs a chicken has been properly fed at the very least. I LIKE seeing apples with bruises and spots, imperfections, having to pick a few bugs out of the broccoli. That's life, and it's an encouraging sign that the food you're eating probably came from local-ish farms, is fresh, and is real. No cardboard taste in exchange for a magazine-perfect specimen here!

I make most of our food, as there aren't a lot of options for prepared items anyhow. Even the restaurants use fresh ingredients; go to a grocery store and you'll see uniformed employees of local eateries dutifully pushing carts of greens and fresh oranges up to the cash registers. Yum!

We have protein at every meal, but in much smaller portions than suggested by my Midwest upbringing. (Smaller plates really help here.) We go through quite a bit of fish, seafood, lean chicken and filet mignon. (It's cheap!) And eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. Other must-keep-in-the-house foods are: kale/collard greens, spinach, garlic, limes, onions and carrots. Zucchini gets a lot of use as well. I'm into fruits that don't take a lot of work, so we mostly eat bananas, papaya and grapefruit. Vinegar and citrus fruits really help on bad days, either in heavy doses on salads or in juice drinks.

I know doctors hate this next one, but recent studies support my experience. Alcohol makes me feel better. Don't stone me! I'm not advocating college frat party drinking! I have to be careful about quantities as some of the medications I use are bad for the liver, but a glass of wine and the occasional whiskey/tequila not only seems to lull the aches into submission but actually allows me semi-peaceful sleep. I have vivid, exotic, terrifying dreams and it's much more pleasant to sleep and be a bystander to the dream instead of an active participant, tossing, turning and gnashing teeth. (I've dreamed like this since childhood; they're great fodder for stories and I don't want them to stop, exactly, but it's nice to feel rested when one wakes, you know?)

Tomorrow, I'll tackle the exercise and rest portion. I'd love to hear your comments, what works for you if you've got RA, or anything readers would like to add!

No comments: