Monday, July 9, 2007

Health Issues

I have an immune system disorder called Reactive Arthritis. I was diagnosed in 1996, but apparently I've had it since 1976, and the diagnosis explained a series of seemingly unrelated health problems I had experienced over those 20 years- achilles tendonitis that appeared out of nowhere, several bouts of iritis, and other periodic arthritis symptoms. I had a particularly bad episode in '96 &'97 when I could barely climb stairs and lost the use of my right thumb for 6 months or more. My children were 7, 9 and 12. It was tough.

This condition was originally called Reiter's Syndrome, but apparently Dr. Reiter was a Nazi sympathiser and so they took his syndrome away. It is generally considered to have one major episode and then go into long term remission. I have had numerous minor episodes and 3 major episodes lasting for 18 months to 3 years.

It has really been kicking my butt for the last few years. Well, more than my butt - it moves around. This past 18 months or so, I've been dealing primarily with chronic neck and shoulder stiffness and pain, along with muscle spasms in my back and wandering hip and leg pain.

I have worked with a rheumotologist, but I prefer not to take drugs, especially type X drugs where they ask the serious questions, like if I am planning to have any more children anytime soon. I have worked with accupuncture, energy healing, massage and I have studied taijiquan for over 10 years. All of these things help, and sometimes help a lot, but I think for me that diet is the primary key.

When I am good, I am very, very good, and I don't consume wheat, oats, rye, barley, dairy, chocolate, coffee, white sugar, white flour, pork, beef, peanuts, fried food, alcohol... I think that's the whole list.

I have been very, very good since March 9th. I have lost about 15 pounds, and I hope to slowly continue to lose the 35-40 lbs I gained when I went on a drug called Arava a few years ago. But one of the problems with taking away allergens in your diet is that it tends to stir up inflammation before it helps, so I've been in as much or more pain for the first 3 months of this diet.

In the last week or two, I finally feel like I'm getting Better. I'm experiencing less pain, I can stand up straighter and walk more easily and I'm sleeping better. It's such a great corner to turn, and to feel that I'm well enough and strong enough to take on more things that will help me continue to heal. I haven't been going to taiji class for most of this last year because it hurt to participate in class, but I'm going to start back again. And I'm going to start exercising regularly soon.

OK - that's all I have to say about that today. I'd be happy to correspond with anyone who has questions about researching food allergies and alternative therapies. And next post, I'll tell you what I've been knitting!


Joanne said...

Wow, Melissa, that is a tough diet to follow! However, if it makes you feel better, it must be right for you? I wish you healing and renewed strength.

Stephen Giauque said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
annmarie said...

I'm sorry to read of your health problems, Melissa. You've certainly had some weighty matters to contend with and you seem to have done it with remarkable grace and humor.

Paula said...

Hi Melissa

I don't suffer from Reiters (my story is long and boring!), but I do share your journey of food restrictions - its fascintating what foods make things worse and what make things better (and how much organic stuff costs!) - but sometimes, despite good progress, I feel that all I am left with is the boring stuff! I have just discovered coconut flour (who's ever heard of coconut flour!)and am giving that a go. looks interesting!