Before I begin this blog, I want to make some statements about weight. This is a difficult topic for many to discuss because of its controversy. At a time when referring to one's own body image issues can be misconstrued or inferred as fat shaming others, I need to state upfront that the dissatisfaction I felt prior to losing weight with the health of my own body has zero to do with how I see other people. We're all at different stages in our life.
My goal isn't to judge others or even point out anything about them. This is about my personal journey.
I also want to say that a large part of why I chose to address my health is that I'm close to the age my mother was when she had a stroke and died. She is my "Why."
Lastly, I want to address the various IF protocols. From 16:8 through one meal a day (OMAD) and every other day fasting, anyone embarking on this journey must find their own sweet spot. To keto or not, to be a carnivore or vegetarian, even vegan, and dirty vs. clean fasting are also up to the individual. The bottom line is that there is no right or wrong way to fast. You do you! 🙂
Health Problems that Contributed to My Decision to Lose Weight
It's been nearly three years since I regained control of my health. One important step to achieving this meant I had to get my weight under control. I knew that many of my health issues stemmed from the fact that I was 30 pounds overweight.
One thing I've heard many times since I started my weight loss journey is that my starting weight of 190 pounds is what many consider a goal weight. I respect this. If someone feels they need to lose 50, 75, 100 or more pounds, my little 30 pounds has frequently been laughed at.
My only comment about this comparison is that we all have our journey. I was physically and emotionally uncomfortable at 190 pounds. It hurt my already problematic knees. It exacerbated my back problems. I disliked bending over and feeling the bulge in my belly. Thanks to menopause, I felt misshapen. I felt like I was no longer attractive to my husband or myself.
To give you more details: my right knee had a torn meniscus and ACL. I chose to "treat it" by losing weight and using a THC salve that I bought from my dispensary. It took nearly a year, but eventually both tears stopped showing up on MRIs.
When I was 18 years old, I had an accident that fractured my back. Refusing to have surgery that fuses multiple discs because of the many complications it can cause, I have lived with lifelong chronic pain, which I have used different modalities for. For years prior to cannabis being legal for medicinal use where I've lived and currently live, I used Vicodin for the sometimes debilitating pain. Today, I consume both hemp-derived CBD and cannabis with THC (what causes the psychoactive effect). Some days the CBD alone is enough, but most days the pain is still considerable, requiring cannabis.
(If you're unsure about the differences between hemp-derived CBD and cannabis with THC and other cannabinoids, please feel free to check out my numerous articles about cannabis. I have written extensively about the many medicinal benefits of this incredible plant.)
I had other issues with my health caused by my excess weight that I wasn't aware of (or in some case was dismissive of) until after I lost the weight. I'll go into those later.
How My Weight Issues Got Out of Control
I have been overweight a few times in my life. I tend toward being a "big girl," which I come by honestly, as my mother used to say. My father, a man of German, Dutch and Irish heritage, was 6 foot 2 inches tall and while not fat, was a man of considerable stature. At his heaviest, I imagine he was probably 225 pounds. My mother, who was Black and Japanese, was 5 feet 7 inches and never weighed more than 140 pounds.
However, despite those few times being overweight, I was able to maintain my weight pretty easily prior to menopause. Menopause was truly a four-letter word for me. More on that later too, as it played a huge role in my my weight gain and body image issues.
I have always been a fairly healthy eater. I love me some fruit and vegetables. I have been mostly vegetarian in my life (I started when I was 12 because I have never been able to digest meat, which I talk about in this article. It killed my gut. It would either take me days to digest (with me in agony) or it would go through my system too fast. Either way, it hurt, so I stopped. I have eaten fish on and off. Right now I'm eating fish again.
So, while I had been able to maintain my weight despite my tendency to take after my father's build (I'm 5 feet 8 inches, by the way), after menopause I lost that battle.
Here are some photos of me prior to menopause, which I started at 42. My metabolism was still relatively high. Hiking and eating healthy kept me at a healthy weight. I'm somewhere between 150 and 160 in these photos.
Once menopause it, I could feel myself losing the battle.
I'm probably around 165, closer to 170 in these photos. I was thicker than I like and my stomach was often camouflaged.
When I'd gotten to 190, I knew I had a problem on my hands and that I had to address it. I hadn't realized that along with menopause, my thyroid wasn't functioning well, which slowed my metabolism.
I went through an ordeal with my thyroid. In 2016, I was diagnosed with nodules. And while nodules aren't necessarily an indication one's thyroid isn't functioning well, it turned out that in my case both were true at the same time.
I had half my thyroid out in October 2019, exactly one year before I started IF and of course three to four months prior to the lockdown.
These photos show you that I wasn't just overweight, but that my body had changed its shape. I was very unhappy and it began affecting my self-esteem.
After we were officially allowed to socialize again, my husband and I had dinner with friends. I hadn't realized my life was about to change.
The wife in the couple has always been on the heavy side. At 5 feet probably 10 inches, she weighed (I believe) about 250 pounds. We have never discussed her starting weight, so I'm guessing. When we saw her we were shocked! She declared, "I lost 40 pounds!" She looked amazing! Of course I had to inquire.
She's about six years older than me, and honestly because we'd never discussed her weight (even when I brought up how unhappy I was with my own), I assumed she was happy with her size. She carried herself with incredible confidence, so I assumed she didn't have any body image issues.
"When we started the lockdown I was fatter than the last time you'd seen us! (Her words, not mine!) My A1c was 12.1 (which, according to the Mayo Clinic equates to about 300 mg/dL). My goal in losing weight wasn't just about how I looked but more about getting my A1c down."
(High A1cs--particularly over 7--can cause problems with the heart, liver, kidneys, glaucoma, cataracts, nerve damage and more.)
When I asked how she lost the weight, my jaw nearly fell on the floor. "I fast 16 hours a day. I only eat between 8 am and 4 pm." She explained. "But keep in mind, half of those fasting hours are spent sleeping. IF is the easiest way for me to lose weight and keep it off."
She emailed me videos from Dr. Jason Fung, arguably one of the most knowledgeable about IF. I watched the ones she sent, but I also read his books and subscribed to his YouTube channel. I am extremely risk averse. And while I don't have type 2 diabetes, I paid particularly close attention to what Dr. Fung had to say about insulin sitting on the liver, not being distributed throughout the body as it should. I also paid close attention what he explained about our body using fat stores as energy when the body is deprived of round-the-clock food.
I spent the entire summer reading studies about the benefits of IF. I joined Facebook groups for women who were trying to lose with IF. Some groups were specific to age and race. Losing weight differs dramatically between the ages of 20 and 50 and beyond. (I'm going to be 57 in December.) And body image is also tied to race. Black, white, Asian and Hispanic women tend to have different goals that are influenced by the way we're raised as well as societal pressures.
Although there are exceptions, Black men like their women thick, and in my experience, white men like their women fairly thin. My white cousins used to call me fat when I was 160 pounds (one even called me obese), whereas Black men would see this as ideal. Many in the Black community will tell you that the BMI scale is inherently biased. I agree. It doesn't take into account racial and ethnic differences, as well as bone structure.
In the photos when I was at my heaviest, I'm with a woman who's 4 feet 11 inches tall. Her bone structure is much smaller than my own. She is weight/height proportioned, in my opinion. If I were to strive for her size (even on my 5 foot 8 inch frame), I'd look emaciated. Even at my thinnest weight as an adult when I was 140 pounds, people often asked if I were ill. My face is gaunt and I don't look healthy.
One thing I knew for certain was that I had zero interest in joining IF groups where men were welcome. This was for two reasons. Men tend to lose weight much faster than women. I didn't want to be demoralized. For another, I'm not out here looking for male approval. I have no interest in showing off my body to strange men.
We're all different and there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to body size and body image.
Initially I lurked. I read posts and kept my mouth shut. I learned from veteran IFers. I offered no opinions. I just soaked it all in.
October 3, 2020: My Intermittent Fasting Journey Begins
I'm nothing if not thorough. Having spent three months delving into IF on a theoretical level, it was time to put up or shut up! I'd seen various experiences with IF. Some people lost weight quickly, while others struggled. I had no expectations which camp I'd end up in. I had a hope (not a goal, because it was too soon to set expectations, which could set me up for feelings of failure) of reaching my goal of 160 pounds by my 20th wedding anniversary in January.
I decided early on to do a 16:8 window. I decided this for a few reasons.
- My friend who got me into this lifestyle saw dramatic results fasting 16 hours a day. (Spoiler alert! She got off three of her five daily insulin pills/injections after losing 40 pounds and after reaching her goal, she's completely off her insulin. I determined that if she could see such dramatic results doing 16:8, I had no reason to believe my results would be much different.)
- I am not a person who's into extremes. I didn't gain this weight overnight and to think I could just eat one meal a day to address this felt odd to me. Again, not judging anyone who concludes they need to fast 20 hours a day or eat just one meal a day.
- To be honest, I love food too much.
I have never once done a clean fast. I consume a THC tincture just before bedtime because I have insomnia. I also put lemon in my water because the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Lemon reduces or eliminates kidney stones. And I also drink herbal tea in my fasting window.
Later in the blog I'll talk about my herbal teas and why I drink exactly what I drink when I drink it.
My thinking about dirty fasting is this: I have to do something that is doable. Look, I already made some significant changes by cutting out sugar and closing my eating window at 4:00 p.m. If putting lemon in my water and drinking herbal tea will keep me from losing my shit, believe me, I'll do it.
I also had to do something that would easily fit into my lifestyle. I'm not trying to restrict myself but rather learn how to have a new relationship with food and my body.
When we got married, I was at what I felt was my perfect weight. I was between 155 and 160. I loved how I looked. And again, "perfect me" may be too fat or too thin for others. At the end of the day, we're individuals with individual family histories, dietary restrictions, ethnicities and races, etc. We're also different and similar to members of our families because while I can tend toward my father's German and my Black grandmother's builds, my brothers, by contrast, tend toward our mother's thin physique. Please keep this in mind as you see my photos.
Beyond who I am that never changes, I had no illusions I'd ever have that youthful face again, but I knew I could be the same size at some point.
Tracking Big and Little Changes in My Body When Doing Intermittent Fasting
I took my body measurements and photos for before and after comparisons.
I was 190 pounds, and my measurements were 43, 35, 45, and I was in a size 16/XL. I took photos nude and with clothes on.
As it turned out, I took to IF well, and lost weight very quickly! Within a week I lost seven pounds. I imagine most of that was inflammation and "water weight." It's not only difficult but unhealthy to lose seven pounds of actual fat in a week.
Within a few days of IF, I ceased all menopausal symptoms. As I'd mentioned earlier, I had a horrible menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats, daily migraines, constant vertigo, frequent tachycardia, low sex drive, vaginal atrophy and a very weirdly shaped body.
I started menopause at aged 42 (I had a complete hysterectomy when I was 34 to address uterine fibroids that I couldn't get rid of on my own), so by the time I started fasting at age 53, I had been in complete misery for 11 years.
Another awesome response I had to IF right away was my blood pressure and resting pulse. My husband and I monitor our blood pressure a few times a month. Prior to IF, my BP was 125/90 and my resting pulse was around 97. Both are very high--for me. While both are still within "normal" ranges, neither of mine had never been that high.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a resting pulse between 60 and 100 is healthy. And my blood pressure, according to numerous sources, was also in healthy ranges.
This is my blood pressure and resting pulse as of this morning, September 17, 2023.
But IF wasn't all butterflies and rainbows either. I had intestinal distress. No matter what I ate, I couldn't prevent it from moving through my body like a lightning bolt. I was plagued with what I call The Big D for days. After four days, I eliminated sugar from my diet and The Big D disappeared.
Doing IF caused me to look at what processed sugar does to our bodies. According to Harvard Health, sugar causes inflammation all over the body, including the brain, heart, liver and gut.
More specifically, sugar exposes us to cardiovascular disease, can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, expose us to Alzheimer's and other abnormalities in the brain, as well as mess up our gut flora.
So it made sense that eliminating sugar would clear up my Big D. But how had I known that sugar was so toxic to our bodies?
I hadn't. I started with the only non-healthy thing I was eating and started eliminating. Fortunately, I hit on the culprit right away.
As my body went into ketosis, I went through another phase of discomfort. My breath was horrific. It had a metallic taste I couldn't shake. That, thankfully, was temporary. It lasted about 10 days, more or less.
Being Hungry and Being Satiated vs. Tracking Calories
Like most new IFers, I downloaded an app to help me track my caloric intake, but then I asked myself why I was doing that. If I were doing Weight Watchers, tracking my calories using their point system makes sense. But there's no need to track calories and do time-restricted eating. Choose one, my friends.
I have always aimed to consume between 1500 and 2000 calories. Now whether I was able to get all of them was another story. I ate until I was satiated, which is what Dr. Fung recommends. My diet has changed since I started doing of IF, but that's not because I was eating poorly. It's because I got a diagnosis in 2022 that caused me to rethink my entire diet. I'll explain that later.
I ultimately only tracked my calories for a couple of months. I stopped because I eat mostly the same food every day, so what was I really tracking or had I been allowing myself to obsess?
Let me say something here about being hungry. One of the biggest reasons many fall off IF early on is because they're hungry, which triggers all sorts of feelings, even insecurities, that likely tap into why we became heavy to begin with. It's important all people who are trying to change their body image hear this:
Unless you have disordered eating, have food insecurity or have had to skip meals to save money, hunger is a state of being, not unlike being cold, thirsty, angry, sad, happy, etc. There is nothing wrong with being hungry unless you fall into those three categories above. If you eat until you're satiated, it's normal that in a few hours after your body has digested that food that it will trigger hunger.
Please also keep in mind that until maybe the 1980s, most humans practiced some form of intermittent fasting (again, assuming they're not restricting meals because of lack of access to it). This shift from eating within an 8-hour window to eating until bedtime also coincides with when chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease started spiking.
Once I realized that being hungry is as normal as being annoyed or happy or cold, I stopped obsessing over it. And once I stopped obsessing, I stopped noticing it.
And Yes, I Consume Cannabis and Don't Give Into the Munchies.
It's About the Little Wins!
After about a month of IF, I tried on my size 16 pants and realized I needed a belt! I was elated! I didn't want to buy new clothes right away because there was still a part of me that wasn't entirely convinced I wouldn't bounce back. So I bought some used jeans on eBay that were sized 14 and 12. I was fitting into a 14, but hopeful that I would be able to climb into a 12 soon. I didn't, however, buy new or used blouses. I just kept wearing my size 16 blouses and used a belt to make them "fit" better.
I had friends come visit for several days before Thanksgiving. I was pleased to show off my new body. By then I'd lost 15 pounds (so down to 175). And I felt very different. I had less of a tire around my belly and I didn't feel so sluggish all the time. My body's shape was just returning to normal. I had more energy and I wasn't so disgusted looking at myself in the mirror.
Less than a month later, I was at 165 pounds. It felt very possible that I'd make my goal of 160 by my wedding anniversary.
But then I stalled.
Between December 15th and January 15th, it wasn't looking like I'd make that goal. I was still 165 a month later and had resigned myself that this is where my body was going to stay.
Despite not reaching my goal, I was very happy with the result! The results were pretty dramatic!
A Note About Soda and Artificial Sweeteners
Sodas can cause lots of complications such as:
- Heart disease
- Weight gain
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Belly fat
- Insulin resistance and metabolic disorders
But don't think that diet drinks are any better.
Artificial sweeteners can cause:
- Weight gain (countering any effects of your IF)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
It's Important to Be Active
Losing weight and making better food choices aren't the only goals I strove for. If you're doing IF, you should also be doing some form of exercise. I like yoga and hiking. I live on a farm in the mountains, so hiking is a given. Yoga is something I do in the morning while still fasting. It's more for my back and to remain flexible than anything else.
Well, it's also a time to bond with one of my dogs.
Happy Anniversary, Honey!
I woke up the morning of our 20th wedding anniversary (now January 2021) and I was 160 pounds! I had stopped weighing myself maybe 10 days earlier and hadn't realized I reached my goal. I'm not sure when it happened. I will say that my weight loss goals were achieved after three months and 26 days because I don't know when I reached them.
But I wasn't satisfied. Now having reached my goal, there were two things I wanted to address that were nagging at me:
- My menopausal belly
- My slower-than-molasses-going-uphill-in-February metabolism
I'd read that it could take an additional year to lose the belly, so I settled in for a lesson in patience.
I continued fasting daily but started slacking on the weekends. This is actually fine. Why? If I fasted 16:8 seven days a week and lost weight, it would stand to reason that if I continued fasting with the same schedule that I'd presumably continue losing. I didn't see any reason to lose any more weight, so I would either fast for just 12 or 14 hours or not fast all seven days.
First Blood Test and Eye Exam Post-Weight Loss
Shortly after I reached my goal, I went to see my primary care doctor and my eye doctor for my annual exams. Some very cool things were observed.
My A1c and cholesterol were slightly lower but prior to IF, both had been in healthy ranges. Before IF my A1c was 5.1 and my cholesterol was 150. Four months after starting IF and reaching my 160-pound goal they were 4.7 and 145 respectively. They've been that way for decades. My HDL and LDL were "ideal," according to my doctor, but they did improve with IF.
(If your cholesterol was initially high after staring IF, don't panic! This is NORMAL! It will drop back down after a couple of months. In fact, it's very possible mine rose initially but I didn't do blood work until after I'd reached my goal.)
What I'm about to share isn't meant to sound judgmental of those whose philosophies around treating illness differ from my own. I worked in Big Pharma for years and have a different perspective than most people do. What I believe is what I believe, and it's in no way meant to judge you if you believe differently from me. I also ask that you respect my views on opting for nature to address my issues. Thank you!
My TSH, which measures thyroid function, prior to IF showed slightly elevated levels. My doctor had been on me for a couple of years post partial thyroidectomy in 2019 to get on thyroid meds. I refused, as I do with all meds. I personally believe that of the 28,000 medicinal plants in the world, one of them or a combination of them could help me better than anything that comes from Big Pharma.
Intermittent fasting alone brought my TSH within healthy ranges--at least enough to get my doctor off my back. 🙂 And with improved thyroid function, it explained why my metabolism was faster than prior to IF.
But the biggest shift that I hadn't anticipated came after my annual eye doctor appointment. I have quite a history with my eyes. Until I had LASIK in 1999, I was 20/1050. If 20/20 is considered perfect and 20/200 legally blind, I'm not sure there's a term for 20/1050. When the doctor would ask me to stand 20 feet from the eye chart and ask me to read the first letter I saw, my response would always be, "Where's the eye chart?" I used to wear contacts and glasses to see well enough to drive. After having LASIK, I remember being able to discern where the clouds ended and the leaves of trees began. I remember being able to see road signs without help for the first time since I started driving.
The only two downsides of getting LASIK that I experienced was more frequent migraines and requiring reading glasses right away. Once I got LASIK, I was 20/20 and required +1.50 reading glasses. By the time I was in my early 50s, my vision was 20/140 and I needed +3.00 reading glasses.
I noticed that after I started fasting I would get headaches if I were on the computer for longer than 45 minutes at a time. I had worried that I had a serious problem and talked with my doctor about it. She said it was probably nothing more than eye strain, despite wearing glasses with anti-reflective coating.
What I hadn't considered is that my eyesight had improved. After four months of IF, my eyesight was 20/100 and my reading was +1.50 again! I was elated! My eye doctor, whom I've been seeing maybe six years, said he'd only seen this a few times in his career. He's also in his 50s, so he's been at this a while. I mentioned it to my now retired optometrist and he said it was highly unusual to improve one's eyesight.
But with the Good Sometimes Comes the Unwanted
Between menopause, my thyroid and perhaps even fasting, one thing that I was very unhappy with was hair loss. Something I've loved about my appearance was my hair. I have always had thick and curly hair. Even when it was short, it was thick, but no longer.
This is me in my early 40s before menopause.
This was me after starting IF. While it's true there's a dramatic difference in the face because of the lost weight, my hair was so thin. I would cry.
I resigned myself to believing I could never get my hair to be as thick as it had been.
Status Quo for a Year
Everything was going well for a year. I was continuing to fast 16 hours a day four days a week or only 12-14 hours seven days a week. I switched things up. I was maintaining my weight perfectly until I met a natural healer.
I saw my eye doctor again for my annual exam and remember how my eyesight had improved from 20/140 and reading of +3.00 to 20/100 and a reading of +1.50? Well a year later I was 20/40 without the need for reading glasses! Now when I work on the computer, I use clear lenses with anti-reflective coating. I only wear corrective lenses when I drive, but otherwise I don't.
I have been plagued with allergic rhinitis my whole life. I have been on a daily decongestant since I was 18 years old. Without one I'd have a sinus headache the next day and if I somehow went two days without one, I'd have a sinus infection. I learned to take my decongestant daily. However, along with removing half my thyroid, I also had two of my four parathyroids out because I'd had parathyroid tumors. I had to stay in the hospital two days longer than normal because my calcium levels wouldn't return to normal. I listened intently as the doctors discussed my case in front of me. Rightly or wrongly, I determined there's a correlation between parathyroid tumors and excess calcium.
Given my concerns over cardiovascular disease, because my mother died of a stroke at 61, I started looking at all the ways I could reduce my risk of stroke and heart attack. Yes, my BP and resting pulse continued to be low, I wasn't satisfied.
Despite my doctor's urging to continue taking calcium to avoid osteoporosis, I was skeptical. I couldn't get the entire link, but I feared that all this excess calcium was exposing me to heart attack and/or stroke. It turns out that science is coming around to my thinking. And if heart attack is the number one cause of death in women, I knew I had to lay off the calcium. I had reduced my calcium after having two parathyroids out in 2019, but eliminated it in supplement form about 18 months later, around the time I reached my weightless goals.
But it was still nagging at me. My daily decongestant was the only Big Pharma medicine I was on (no acetaminophen or ibuprofen), so I did some research and was appalled. The package tells us not to take more than one whole pill in a day. Why? It increases the risk of heart attack. So if that's the case, maybe one isn't even a good idea.
Again, science agreed with me, so I decided to get off my daily decongestant, but I had no idea how to control my allergic rhinitis. I met this natural healer one day at the grocery store. (I do meet people in the oddest places.) This was in January 2022, a year after reaching my goals.
We became friends. She provided me with some invaluable advice. The first of which was to get off my daily decongestant, which I'd already decided to do but had no idea what alternative was out there. "Stinging nettles," she told me.
What is stinging nettles? It's an ancient plant that helps with allergies, arthritis, urinary problems (prostate problems in men) and allergic rhinitis. Within a week of being on stinging nettles I was off my daily decongestant.
Now mind you, I'd already cut my hair off because I'd rather see my thinning hair short than long. I missed my hair but I had to admit it looked better.
This photo was taken in October 2021.
What I hadn't expected being on stinging nettles is that my hair would grow in thicker and faster. I also hadn't expected to see a dramatic difference with respect to inflammation.
I started regrowing my hair in April 2022. The photo on the right was taken in February 2022 and the right was in April 2022, following a month of consuming stinging nettles.
I take 500 mg a day of the root with meals.
But something I hadn't realized until May (now two months after starting on stinging nettles) was the reduction of inflammation in my body. And my eyes were clearer and brighter.
Something else happened that was extremely unexpected.
After just three months of taking stinging nettles, not only had my hair started to grow fast (nearly an inch a month) and come in thicker, I was losing weight again.
It turns out that stinging nettles can promote weight loss by speeding up the metabolism. Within two months of being on it, I had lost an additional 15 pounds! This wasn't expected and it wasn't necessarily wanted. Now at 145 pounds, I wasn't particularly happy. I had to figure out how to fast in a way that wouldn't result in more weight loss. I have since adjusted things a lot.
I only fast 16 hours a day twice a week. I fast 12 hours a day the other days. Some weeks I can't fast 16 hours even three days. I play around with it all the time. This seems to keep my weight between 145 and 150. I prefer to be 150.
Around this same time I got a diagnosis that rocked my world: Rheumatoid Arthritis! If you're unfamiliar with RA, I'll say this, it's not your mother or grandmother's osteoarthritis. It's an autoimmune disease and like all AI disorders, the body begins to attack itself.
RA is characterized by damage to the joints, but that's not the worst of its onslaught. It can damage organs, including the heart, skin and lungs. RA can be extremely painful in the tailbone and jaw as well. It attacks women much more than men (as do most AI disorders) and causes extreme fatigue. It can also increase the odds of heart attack and costochondritis (often mistaken for a heart attack), which is what happens when inflammation builds up around the sternum.
There are many ways to avoid costochondritis. I use a back pod. I lie on daily for 10 minutes prior to yoga. It along with reducing my inflammation have prevented costochondritis since I started getting it in October 2022.
RA and IF: One Hand Washes the Other
I already mentioned that I'm not someone who does pharmaceuticals. I'm just not into them. Between the side effects (like weight gain, rashes, mouth sores, internal bleeding and others) and the exposure to more complex illnesses like cancers (malignant melanoma and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma are the most common), I'm just not a fan. So when I was diagnosed with RA, against my doctor's orders, I opted not to get on any of the common meds for it.
She's kind of used to me by now. She suggests I take something and then I go home and research it and return and say no but promise to find a supplement to address the issue. (The following is a conversation I had with my endocrinologist about having hypothyroidism. It illustrates one reason why I dislike many doctors and Big Pharma meds.)
My position on meds doesn't mean I can't address RA. I'm not reckless. After my diagnosis, my doctor and the rheumatologist she referred me told me they knew I wouldn't fill any prescription they gave me without spending considerable time researching them. They were right. I did, however, take a doctor's advice.
I read an article on Dr. Mercola's website about the use of Quercetin for RA. He said it could stop the progression (further damage) and address symptoms. I looked for studies to either confirm or refute the claims. I found several that confirmed his position.
Quercetin is a flavonoid found in a variety of plant-based foods, including berries, broccoli, cherries, citrus fruits, grapes and onions. It is recognized for its ability to combat inflammation and protect the nervous system. By defending the body against damaging free radicals, it can help prevent cellular damage and potentially guard against serious health issues such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease and hypertension.
I started taking 500 mg of Quercetin initially. After three months I increased to 1000 mg. Because I do stinging nettles, which reduces inflammation in my body, along with adhering to the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), I feel confident I'm doing a good job of reducing inflammation, which exacerbates RA. I also added salmon to my diet. I have been a vegetarian since I was 12, but feel the omega-3 fatty acids are worth it. I do, however, eat gluten. I found that gluten doesn't affect my inflammation at all. I eliminated dairy as well.
Since adhering to the AIP, continuing with the stinging nettles and adding Quercetin, my doctor says that all my diagnostic testing reveals that I am putting my RA into remission after just one year.
This is the most recent photo of me. My hair is as thick as it used to be. It's longer now, like to my shoulder blades. Considering where it was in April 2022, it does seem like it's still growing about one inch a month.
Today I have to say my health is pretty optimal. I eat the same food every day. Before I share what I eat, you should know that we're all different. I don't respond well to meat. I have always had difficulty digesting beef, chicken and pork, so I just abstain. I respond well to a vegetarian diet but as I age and because I have RA, I have re-added fish to my diet.
But we're all very different, which is illustrated well in this TEDx talk with Professor Eran Segal. What works extremely well for me may be terrible for you. Our family's medical history, along with our own gut flora and uniqueness means that no people are alike.
I'm not necessarily a fan of his views on Artificial Intelligence, but his position on how different each of our bodies is, in my opinion, is spot on.
What I Eat and Drink All Day
I start my day with a tea of fresh ginger, turmeric, stinging nettles (leaf) and lemon. I sip it while I do yoga. After I'm done, which is usually around 8:00 am, I open my eating window with a plain bagel, vegan cream cheese (I like Violife) on one side and peanut butter (no commercial brand, only organic and non-GMO and one that requires stirring and has no oil) on the other half of the bagel. Over the cream cheese I add black, grey or white lava salt or pink Himalayan salt. On the peanut butter, I add cinnamon, which reduces inflammation. I have a cup of Earl Grey tea with honey.
If I haven't finished my first herbal tea, I continue drinking it, although ginger and turmeric are best on an empty stomach.
I start drinking my water with lemon.
Around noon I have a mid-morning snack of maybe a salad consisting of spinach, kale, cucumbers, carrots and vegan parmesan (again, I love Violife). I drink more water.
Around 2:00 p.m., I start cooking dinner for my husband and me. A typical dinner is pasta, sautéed veggies (usually spinach) and salmon. On the pasta we use vegan parmesan, cayenne pepper (reduces inflammation) and over the salmon, which I generally bake, I'll add garlic (not AIP-friendly!), lemon, black salt and pepper. We drink more water with our dinner.
Around 6:00 p.m. I make another tea of:
- Licorice (helps aid in digestion, helps ease menopausal symptoms, and it's a natural anti fungal, but in some people it can increase blood pressure, so be careful!)
- Pao D'Arco (can lower risk or cancer and even help ameliorate in patients already diagnosed with cancer). You should not take Pao D'Arco if you're on anticoagulants.
- Eucalyptus (helps reduce congestion and inflammation in the nose and mouth)
- Echinacea (antioxidant and flavonoids, helps reduce inflammation and can reduce the risk of cancer, chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease)
- Red Clover (reduces menopausal symptoms, lowers cholesterol, gout, asthma and osteoporosis)
- Ashwagandha (reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood sugar and fat, may increase muscle strength)
- Chamomile (reduces allergic rhinitis, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation and rheumatic pain)
- Peppermint (aids in digestion)
I usually let it steep for about two hours before my husband and I drink it.
I think that's it. Oh! My belly fat did take about a year, but I have a flat stomach now. 🙂
I would like to thank two groups I frequent regularly. One is the Intermittent Fasting for Women Over 50 Support Group. The collective knowledge is astounding. It's also the most supportive IF group I know.
The other is the Rheumatoid Diseases ~ RA ~ Autoimmune ~ Natural Healing Support & Resources. Again the collective knowledge is astounding. The information provided, the support given and the people are awesome. And the admins are amazing, particularly Susu.
If I've helped you in any way, please feel free to share my blog.
I am not a natural healer, a doctor or anything more than an observant person who happens to be a writer. This blog and all of my writing isn't intended to provide advice to anyone. These are my experiences. Before considering an approach to weight loss, treating an autoimmune disorder or anything in between, please check with your medical professional. These are things that have worked for me, but you have to do what works for you. 🙂