Friday, December 14, 2012

Notes on Foods and RA reactions

Several decades ago, when I was a young, newly single gal in my 30's, dieting to keep looking sexy as I looked for Mr. Right, I discovered that Strawberries are the perfect diet food. They have virtually no calories and no carbs. And living in California, the state that produces 80% of the strawberry crop for the United States, we get lots of luscious strawberries during the Spring and Summer months.

I have never had a food allergy. Ate all foods and never had a rash or anything. Peanuts, no problem. Shellfish, love it. The only allergies I had ever had were to pollen, dust, and animal dander. And penicillin. But I grew out of those environmental allergies by the time I reached 30.

Anyhow, I was eating strawberries morning noon and nite.  After about a MONTH of that, I started to get a rash on my inner arms. So I stopped eating strawberries, and the rash went away. A week later, I ate a dish of strawberries, and several hours later there was that rash again. Hmmmm. Seems I had developed an allergy, maybe by overloading on strawberries.

I had to resist strawberries for several years. After 4 or 5 years I was again able to eat strawberries with no reaction. But I have always been careful not to "overdo" it.

Fast Forward.  Now I have RA. And SOME foods definitely will trigger flares, moreso than other foods. Before I started my antibiotics regimen, which has kept me mostly in remission for six years, I started logging in every morsel I ate and separating all different foods by at least 3 hours so I could see if there was any reaction. (this takes a couple weeks, to get thru most of the foods you eat, but once you have eaten something that creates no reaction, you can add that in later, knowing it is not causative.) I was able to narrow the trigger foods down to a relatively short list: all niteshade products (tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.), pork, popcorn (but not cooked corn), peanuts, sunflower seeds, eggs.  Avoiding those foods lessened the intensity and frequency of the flare-ups. (If you go back to the beginning, you will see that my RA is directly linked to a "leaky gut", which was caused by a year long infestation with Giardia. Which makes it easy to see why certain foods may have a stronger effect on the RA).

ANYHOW, once in remission, I was able to eat ALL the "trigger" foods in MODERATION and with no problems. (I love munching on sunflower seeds, and occasionally find myself overdoing that, so have to back off...).

Fast forward to the past month. I love Thanksgiving and TURKEY. Our local supermarket offers a terrific price for a large turkey during the holiday season, and I always buy one just for myself. I cook it, and then put it into many ziplock bags in the freezer for later consumption.  But I wind up eating turkey for dinner nearly every day, sometimes for weeks on end. I did that again this year. After two weeks of having turkey roughly 10 times, I noticed a flare up of my left hand an hour or so after eating dinner. I realized immediately that I had overdone the eating turkey thing.  So I did not eat any more turkey for 5 days, then I ate some more (had that large ziploc bag filled with turkey in my refrigerator, defrosted). No problem. Waited two more days, had another turkey dinner. No problem. Waited two more days, then finished off the turkey before it went bad. PROBLEM. Within an hour my left arm started to ache. All the muscles and tendons in the entire left arm. I knew it was not a heart attack, I knew it was the turkey. Went to bed, the arm hurting so badly that I could barely hold it up. Took two aspirin.  All nite long, the pain in my arm kept me from sleeping comfortably or well. When I woke up yesterday morning, the ache had diminished. I took more aspirin, then got ready to go out and call on customers, hoping the arm would go back to normal. It did, by noon the pain was totally gone.

Anyhow, lesson learned AGAIN. If you love a food, eat it in MODERATION. Repeatedly and frequently eating the same food can create an allergic reaction. If you have RA, that will come in the form of flare ups. 

I hope this alert helps you to lessen those flare ups.

Have a peaceful and hopefully flare- free holiday.