Three years ago, after a particularly bad flare-up of Rheumatoid Arthritis, I decided to take my healthy eating habits a step further. Not too long before that painful episode, I read The Spectrum, a book by Dr. Dean Ornish, which emphasizes the importance of giving up inflammation causing foods in order to reverse heart disease. My problem is Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus, and inflammation is the common link to both diseases.
Although this diet may not for everyone, the thing I liked about the approach in this book is that you can follow the diet as little as you want to in order to notice improvement, or you can follow it very strictly, for more improvement. Dr. Ornish classifies foods on a scale from 1 to 5. Foods classified as 1 are good, and foods classified 5 are bad. Everything else is the spectrum in between.
As I was desperate to feel better, I was ready to significantly reduce or give up many foods that were classified as 3, 4 or 5; which includes, alcohol, sodas, coffee, mayonnaise, shortening, pork, dairy products, beef, deli meats, hotdogs, white bread, white rice, and all products that have added sugar.
I began to include more nuts, tofu, and vegetables, and switched entirely to brown whole grain rice and homemade whole wheat bread. I also concentrated on being regular with my yoga practice, which Dr. Ornish strongly recommends, and 30 minute walks about 5 times a week. I did not exclude some of the level 3 foods like fish, because I am not a vegetarian like Dr. Ornish, and I enjoy eating fish. Other doctors, like Dr. Andrew Weil , and Dr. Christoper P. Cannon (The Idiot’s Guide: the Anti-Inflammation Diet), do recommend fish.
To be honest, I eat anti-inflammation foods about 95% of the time, but once in a while I’ll have a treat like homemade whole-wheat pizza with cheese, or exceptionally a desert that has sugar.
At any rate, the result of these changes has been remarkable! I don’t have think about my weight anymore as it is stable and under control, and more importantly, I feel healthy and energetic. My joints no longer swell up, I’m not stiff in the morning, I don’t need to take daily naps, and my hair has grown back. I have cut medications by fifty percent and I’m slowly working to make further cuts.
The benefits of an anti-inflammation diet are not just for people with heart problems or RA. According to Dr. Cannon, this way of eating is good for people who have just about any disease that ends in “itis”, like appendicitis, bronchitis, hepatitis, etc. It’s also good for those with auto-immune related illnesses like Lupus, or for people who are overweight, or who have type 2 diabetes.
With my Chef training, it wasn’t difficult for me to come up with flavorful anti-inflammation foods that my family and I enjoy eating. It is my hope to help other people to feel healthy and energetic by changing their eating habits.