A whole food plant-based diet is an anti-inflammatory diet, a healing diet and a chronic disease prevention diet. I wish I’d fully understood the benefits of this diet many years ago when I was still eating fish, eggs and dairy. I spent years trying to heal myself with many of the wrong foods along with vitamins, minerals, herbs and other supplements but none of these worked because I was still injuring myself every single day by continuing to eat various animal products and processed vegetable oils.
As I mentioned in my post on tooth and gum infection being a cause or a contributor to rheumatoid arthritis, removing the causes of rheumatoid arthritis is the most powerful way to heal. No amount of external treatments of any kind including drugs, will produce a cure or long term remission. Only the removal of the causes of the disease combined with providing the best possible nutritional support for the body and its immune system will work, and if those causes are reintroduced later the disease will return.
I’ve been vegetarian most of my life, sometimes including fish and eggs. I’ve always avoided junk foods and processed foods, I’ve always tried to eat plenty of veg and fruits, I tried to buy organic whenever possible and when I ate dairy I always tried to obtain raw goat’s milk products. I always thought I was being very healthy and I did manage to put my arthritis into remission for several years during this time. Unfortunately despite this achievement and the progress that I’d made towards what I thought was the best possible diet and lifestyle, I didn’t realise how much damage I was still causing to my body and my immune system.
I believe, in fact I know, that if I’d started a whole food plant-based diet/lifestyle five years ago, I would now be free of rheumatoid arthritis and I would have saved most of my joints from further damage. However, I’m extremely grateful to have finally discovered the most effective diet/lifestyle for healing and reversing rheumatoid arthritis and in fact many, if not most other inflammatory chronic diseases.
I still have a long way to go, I don’t have all the answers. At the moment I’ve managed to prevent further damage and stop the progress of the disease. I also have days when symptoms improve but only if I stick to my diet and avoid known flare-up trigger foods. I have been whole food plant-based for the last six months, and became SOS-free about three months ago. SOS stands for salt oil and sugar. I gave up oil first including coconut and olive oil, then ‘added’ sugar, and then ‘added’ salt – apart from what’s already contained in foods such as miso.
Even on this excellent diet/lifestyle, I still need to do more. For example, I still need to identify and remove more of the foods which are triggering an immune response and eat a larger quantity of the safe foods. Also, I’m currently transitioning from solely cardiovascular exercise to strength building exercises.
If you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or another chronic inflammatory disease, I would urge you to study the whole food plant-based diet online and consider adopting it for a period of time (at least one month), along with avoiding your own known trigger foods to see if your symptoms calm down and if your blood work returns towards normal. I’ll place links at the bottom of this post to what I consider to be the best resources to get you started.
It’s taken me nearly forty years to get to this stage in my fight against this horrible disease, the stage where I’m close to finding a permanent solution and saving my life. Based on that experience I’ve summarised below, in order of priority, the steps to take if you would like to transition to a whole food plant-based diet. If you can do at least some (though preferably all) of the following, you will have a very good chance of at least calming your rheumatoid arthritis and potentially halting or reversing it.
Although I believe the diet and lifestyle suggestions I make below are the most beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, and they work for me, you must make up your own minds based on your own circumstances and work with your own healthcare practitioner/doctor. If you are taking any medications, it’s essential that you speak with your doctor before switching to a whole food plant-based diet as it can lower blood pressure and increase insulin sensitivity, so medications may need to be adjusted accordingly. Of course, lowering blood pressure, increasing insulin sensitivity, and losing weight etc., are generally good things :-) and are some of the many benefits of a whole food plant-based diet.
- Remove all highly processed foods (junk, fast, TV dinner, microwave meals, restaurant and cafe foods) from your diet.
- Remove all dairy products.
- Remove meat and all other animal products.
- Remove wheat and all other gluten-containing foods.
- Ideally, eliminate or reduce significantly; added salt, oil, and sugar.
- Adopt a whole food plant-based diet initially consisting of green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, root vegetables such as sweet potato and yams, and fruits (especially berries such as blueberries and strawberries). Try this for at least a month before adding further whole foods such as nuts, seeds and non-gluten whole grains. Try to eat a lot of the leafy greens (including some kale) raw by making smoothies and adding some fruit to make it more palatable. (I’ll write more about this diet/lifestyle in a future post and I’ll include recipes and photos.)
- Have your vitamin D and B12 levels checked, and it may be worth taking a vegan algae-based DHA supplement (around 300 mg per day) while you are trialling this diet (don’t take DHA if you are on blood thinning medications or are haemophiliac, speak with your doctor or healthcare practitioner first).
- Try to get some sunshine (don’t burn or damage your skin of course but around 15 or 20 minutes should be enough unless you live near the equator), and if possible, try to do some cardiovascular exercise such as cycling, walking or bouncing on a trampoline (gently); 20 minutes would be beneficial but more would be better up to as much as 90 minutes per day. This should be fairly gentle and continuous, not strenuous or painful.
- If you are on medications for rheumatoid arthritis, then as your symptoms hopefully improve you should work with your doctor to see if it’s possible to reduce the strength of your medications based on your bloodwork.
Whole Food Plant-Based Resources
- An Introduction to a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet – a presentation by Dr. Lim
- Is a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet an Answer to Chronic Disease?
- Michael Greger, MD
- Plant-based Diets
- Hope for Arthritis Sufferers
- How I Overcame Crippling Arthritis and Returned to Elite-Level Fitness