One summer, my family and I took our yearly summer vacation to my grandparent’s house in Petit-Saguenay, Quebec. My grandparents had a farm and it was time to slaughter one of the cows (Good news: it was 100% grass-fed. OK, OK, now is not the time for jokes). I begged my father to take me to see the slaughter of one of the cows on the farm, which he did. A group of us gathered around the barn waiting while the cow was being pulled out of the barn by a rope around its neck. To this day, I remember how scared the cow looked. Then, the cow was killed. I don’t remember what my reaction was, but it did impact me because I ended up being so traumatized by what I saw that I stopped eating meat. Well, except for hotdogs (thank goodness I didn’t see a pig get slaughtered!). At that young age (age 5), I became a Lacto-ovo vegetarian (a vegetarian who eats eggs and dairy). There was no family discussion of it, I didn’t know I was doing it, I just stopped eating meat.
Struggled with body image issues. By this point, I was a semi-vegetarian (one whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish).
I embrace veganism (a strict vegetarian who consumes no food that comes from animals and also abstains from using animal products). There’s always a caveat – I did wear leather shoes, owned leather bags, ate honey and wore lipstick.
I got married and gave birth to my darling little baby girl named Noa. Soon after, I started having pain in my pinkie toes. I had a hard time walking because of the swelling, tenderness and pain. I spent a couple of years going from doctor to doctor and seeing specialists who couldn’t quite figure out what caused my symptoms. Finally and sadly, I was diagnosed with a vicious and debilitating auto-immune disease; the dreaded Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system – which normally protects its health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses – mistakenly attacks the joints. This creates inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints. RA most commonly affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles. The joint effect is usually symmetrical. That means if one knee or hand is affected, usually the other one is, too. If the inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage cartilage, as well as the bones themselves. Joints can become loose, unstable, and painful and lose their mobility. Joint deformity also can occur. Joint damage cannot be reversed.
Because RA also can affect body systems, such as the cardiovascular or respiratory systems, it is called a systemic disease. Systemic means “entire body.” The inflammation can also affect other organs, such as the nerves, eyes, skin, lungs or heart.
Who is Affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis?
About one out of every 100 adult Canadians has RA and about 1.5 million people in the United States have it. Nearly three times as many women have the disease as men. There is no cure for RA. However, people who are diagnosed and treated early can avoid pain and damage to their joints, and lead active and productive lives.
I have had some very dark days. There were days when I couldn’t give my then young daughter a bath because the grip strength in my hands was too weak to turn on the taps to run water. There were days when I limped to my daughter’s school bus stop (100 feet away from my house) and propped open a fold-up chair to wait for the bus to pull up. After limping the short distance, I didn’t have the stamina to stand and wait for the bus to come; I had to sit. There were days where neighbours stared. There were days when the pain was unbearable. There were days where people doubted my level of pain. There were years (and tears!) where literally every Tuesday morning was spent with my head over a toilet bowl, throwing up. Those were the years where I was taking Methotrexate (for my RA) in pill form. On Mondays, I would take my Methotrexate medication and on Tuesdays, I was vomiting. At the time, my daughter was young and she had to live through ‘hearing’ mommy be “sick” (every Tuesday morning). At 6 feet, 1 inch, I weighed 113 pounds. I was gaunt and skeletal. That year, in particular, I hardly got off the couch. I had low to no energy and lethargy set in. My very lowest period came one particular year when my daughter kept asking my husband if mommy was going to die. My emotional pain was crushing. My daughter thought that I was going to die!
My experience with Rheumatoid Arthritis it’s ups and it’s downs. “Up” is a misnomer, it only means that I am medicated with weekly Methotrexate injections in the subcutaneous part of my stomach (ouch!) and that my pain and joint swelling is manageable. The injection usually makes me feel quite nauseous and the anxiety that I get on injection morning verges on experiencing trypanophobia. “Down” is when I have flare-ups, experience exhaustion beyond the normal “busy person tired” and where my strength and range of motion is limited and my joints swell and ache.
Over the years, I have tried to manage my RA both with and without medication. I have tried all kinds of diet programs, including various anti-inflammatory diets, sugar-free diets, gluten-free diets, candida diets, countless nutritional programs, detoxes, vegetarianism, veganism, most of which helped. To keep relatively fit, I mountain bike, kayak, swim, do Pilates and yoga, hike (I am hiking the Bruce Trail with my best friend), deep breathe, meditate and use a sauna when I can. I try to live a healthful and active life.
2018 – Hold the Lectin! That’s exactly what I did; I held off on eating lectin and wonderful things started happening. My friend Cathy told me about The Plant Paradox book. She knows my back-story and thought that this lectin-free thing would interest me. It sure did! Thank you, Cathy! As a result of following a lectin-free program, I have way more energy & stamina, less brain fog, no cravings, less inflammation and the list goes on. All in all, I feel significantly and noticeably better, have a healthy weight for my height and am enjoying some of my favourite new foods like patacones, dates, 72% chocolate, cassava, Eby Manor “A2” milk and pasture-raised chicken.
It is an incredible time in my life and I attribute it to living lectin-free! Make this year your healthiest year yet, by going lectin-free.
I invite you to experience lectin-freedom when you Hold the Lectin!