Woohoo! We’re all moved in! My Ikea handy-dandy man is putting together my clothes cupboard as we speak, and I’m considering whether or not to turn on the incredibly expensive central air conditioning we thought would be so fantastic. Over all, it was a pretty crazy week. We went all over the country, collecting bits and pieces and furniture, and unpacking manically all at the same time. I’m pooped! When it came time to Shabbat, my Challos rose (finally, which they never do and always turn out awful. Really.) and the fresh rosemary that grows like a weed around our apartment was delicious on the chicken. But I still didn’t feel well. I don’t particularly like to complain, so I’ll explain instead.
I have Rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto-immune disease that affects a lot of people, mostly women. It’s only mildly related to what most people see as the “old person” arthritis, osteoarthritis, which comes from just that- old age, over use, etc. etc. RA is when your body attacks itself, for whatever reason. It can make you tired, sick, run down, but in almost all cases, have joint pain in all or many of the joints in your body. You have it for life, and there is no known medical “cure.” I found out that I had RA in my senior year of college, in the midst of writing my thesis on Saul Bellow. I was typing and thought I had broken my wrist all of a sudden one day. Then a week later at home at my parents house, I couldn’t get out of bed. Weird man. Doctors prescribe some heavy duty meds for RA- including ones like Methotrexate, a type of Chemotherapy. Not for me- I don’t even like to take an aspirin let alone my vitamins! I settled for a less strong medication, with hopes that I could figure out an alternative cure for myself over time. And that’s where we come to this week.
I could go on and on with lectures and medical papers and all that jazz, but who really wants to read it? In short, many many many people, homeopaths, naturopaths, doctors, and patients have found a link between food and autoimmune diseases. Many have not only claimed, but proven to be cured of RA or similar diseases by changing their diet. Most had a food “allergy” or intolerance, say to dairy or gluten, that was causing their inflammation levels to rise, and for them to feel sick. One of the best proven ways to find out an allergy or intolerance is the Elimination Diet.
Basically, you get all that bad stuff out of your body by eating a diet of rarely eaten foods that are known to not cause inflammation. Think brown rice, sweet potatoes, olive oil, stone fruits, and honey. And you eliminate all foods you suspect to be hurting you, or in my case, every food substance that one might regularly eat. Dairy, soy, corn, gluten, wheat, yeast, refined sugar, tree nuts, eggs, red meat, potatoes, tomatoes, and other nightshade vegetables, citrus fruits, and the list does seem to go on… I am doing a modified version because I am pregnant and adding salmon, chicken, beans and various nuts to my list of allowed foods. My baby needs protein! After a period of time on the Elimination diet, you switch to the challenge phase, where you introduce foods one at time to see if you have a reaction. All this can take a few weeks, or even months.
So we come to Day two of the diet. I’m starving. I’m exhausted. And I feel pretty awful. But I am learning more about my body than I ever could when it was filled up with bad food. Most experts say that in the first week of eliminating foods you can get a whole slew of bad symptoms- your body purging itself of toxins and getting back to an equilibrium. My question is- when can I have toast with butter again? Cookies? Even Vegan Banana bread?
I broke down after a hard day yesterday and grumpily asked my husband what exactly was so wrong with having some bread? Or sourdough pretzels for that matter? It never really seemed to bother me before. “Maybe you just never knew what it felt like to feel really good,” he said. “And after this you will.”
After all, it’s not forever, right? It’s just for a week or two? Hello? Someone please send muffins.