The word has been part of my regular vocabulary since January 2017. After my second pregnancy, my life changed forever. I was one of the many people who developed RA during the postpartum period.
Want the full story? Here it is.
Fortunately, my story has turned around and I’ve joyfully been living a mostly pain-free life.
But my heart aches for those who have not YET been able to find control over this awful disease. If this is you, let me tell you: it’s not your fault. The swelling in the early morning has nothing to do with what you have or haven’t done. The middle of the night aches would be there even if you decided to live today differently.
The guilt. Stops. Here.
Do not go one more day thinking that you could have done something or should have done something to prevent or help the RA from continuing.
What I’ve Tried
Is it obvious I have suffered mentally for years thinking I had some sort of fault over my suffering!? Like explained in my full story, I tried every trick in the book to rid myself of the pain:
Diets (no gluten, no dairy, no nightshades, no lectins, minimal sugar, minimal carbs, minimal meat, paleo, anti-inflammatory…) Supplements. Meditation. Tapping. Saunas. Acupuncture. Lymph massage. Ayruvedic tricks. Herbs. Functional medicine. Blood work (lots and lots of it). Elimination diets. Food sensitivity testing. Chinese Tea. Positive thinking. Prayer. Yoga. Stretching. Crying.
I literally tried it all. In the end, I still had it. Because fixing my already healthy diet and lifestyle wasn’t the answer. I’m convinced now that pregnancy hormones just triggered my genetic predisposition.
Without giving you a full medical history, I’ve been able to address some issues that have come up. Like for instance, I was recently blown away that I have PCOS (news to me, the person who has had a regular period each and every time and had no issues conceiving). Actually, the only “symptoms” I had were super heavy periods and acne.
Due to this finding, I am now on medication (the NuvaRing and Spironolactone) to help the PCOS, which in turn has significantly helped my RA improve even more! Amazingly enough, it turns out that spironolactone (a potassium sparing diruetic) has been found to be an effective steroid that blocks effects of the hormone aldosterone and has anti-inflammatory anti-proliferative and anti-oxidant effects“. So much so that it is being prescribed as and adjuvant therapy with the dmards.
So that’s awesome, I’d rather be on a diuretic and some birth control vs. some crazy expensive and damaging RA medication.
Disclosure: Some of the links here may earn this blog a very small income to keep it up and running!
What’s Workin’ To Manage my RA Naturally
On a daily basis, I do a handful of things that help to keep me healthy (and hopefully cancer-free in the future). In other words, I don’t specifically do things differently to address the RA, but I do remain passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.
I eat an abundance of vegetables, limit my meat intake, drink lots of water and am swapping some of my coffee for green tea.
Yes, I drink coffee and yes I drink wine. (IMHO, life’s just not worth living without them!)
Overall, I would say my lifestyle follows along the lines of the Mediterranean diet. In a nutshell, the Med diet is:
- Decent amount of olive oil and fruits, vegetables, and plants foods (like cereals, beans, nuts and seeds).
- Moderate amount of seafood and dairy.
- Lowish/moderate alcohol (specifically red wine).
- Limited meats.
Since the awareness of the Mediterranean diet arose, it has consistently proved to prevent obesity, reduce overall health risk and can actually reduce symptoms in those with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
I try my best to avoid any over the counter meds like Advil due to it’s inherent risks. Despite it being OTC, it is not benign. It’s found to have vascular effects like increased risk of heart attack and stroke. But more than that, it’s found to alter the microbiome. And I’m aiming to keep my gut flora in tip top shape (as much as I can).
So I hopped on the CBD bandwagon and do see why there’s such a following. My most surprising benefit from using it is the health of my stool. (I know…) Typically, I used to struggle with looser stools, but when I consistently take the CBD, my stool is perfect. So of course I researched and found that in one study ulcerative colitis paitents, CBD actually counteracted the inflammatory environment of their colon. Wow.
Our bodies have an endocannabinoid system in gut, and throughout the body. It serves many physiological roles, including the regulation of gastrointestinal function and in the control of gut inflammation.
I have tried a few brands of CBD, but have consistently ordered from JustCBD due to the value of the 1500mg full spectrum tincture that I order. I like that there is only 2 ingredients: MCT oil and CBD. I take a half of a dropper under my tongue twice daily. And no, there is no mind alteration… only assisted patience with the kids because it does take my stress level down.
Over the past few years, I’ve overdone it on supplements, hoping for a miracle. Well, I’ve certainly given up on that dream. I’m back to my original stance: food first. But that’s not to say I don’t supplement myself occasionally.
I rarely buy supplements on Amazon. There’s minimal quality control or safety measures to ensure you’re getting what is labeled. So I try to only purchase from Emmerson Ecologics, Wellevate. And most importantly, with my practitioner discount that I share with everyone, it’s cheaper too! But for you die hard Amazon lovers, I’ve linked the supplements to Amazon below. But remember they are available on Wellevate, likely for a cheaper price.
I like OsteoForce Supreme by the brand Designs for Health. It contains bone-supportive nutrients with vitamin K2 and vitamin D. Taking Calcium alone in hopes for bone health won’t get you anywhere. What really matters is the interplay between all the bone building minerals and vitamins.
Vitamin B Complex
I always have a B complex on hand to pop when I don’t feel as if I’ve been on my best nutritional behavior. I never deviate from Pure Encapsulations B-Complex Plus. It is super important you pay attention to the form of nutrient in your B vitamin. This one includes activated forms, including pyridoxal-5-phosphate, riboflavin-5-phosphate, and folate as 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).
Evening Primrose Oil
I only take Body Bio’s oils. Their Evening Primrose is none less. Evening Primrose oil contains essential fatty acids that have been confirmed by many studies to aid in women health, helping significantly with PMS symptoms (why I originally began!) and hot flashes. Results have only been found when used regularly up to 4 or 6 months, so this is one I take daily. It’s also known to be effective at reducing inflammation specifically in RA.
My Huge Flare
This past Christmas season, I noticed I was fighting what felt like a cold/flu. I had the typical body aches and a mild fever. But then I went to bed and life flipped upside down for the next week. I began shaking uncontrollably for hours and couldn’t get warmed. I finally fell asleep and awoke to my nightmare. I was back to where I was years back when I first was suffering, but this time it was worse. I didn’t think it could even be worse. But it was. Every joint was so swollen I couldn’t move. I felt my thumb nearly pop when I put pressure on it to press my girl’s car seat button.
After so much drama and pain, I quickly got a prescription for a short, moderate dose of Prednisone. Just hours in, I was doing better. After 5 days, I was back to normal and my inflammation/pain level is actually better than ever.
Why I’m sharing this part of my story is that, although I’ve been against medication on a daily basis to treat this awful disease, sometimes medication is your only answer. So don’t beat yourself up if you are taking something. Working toward a healthy lifestyle is the best you can do.
Hopefully some of these things that I’ve adopted will help you too! I wish you the best in your journey of health and healing.
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Jessa, I came across your article while researching postpartum RA. I couldn’t help but notice you use a Nuva Ring…I know you have seen relief from PCOS symptoms from it (me too, in my 20’s before starting a family), but I URGE you to research estrogen and artificial hormone based birth control. Estrogen is considered a class 1 carcinogen, and has been linked to breast cancer. Not to mention it can cause stroke and other clotting disorders. I have two friends who have suffered pulmonary embolism and DVT, and one battling breast cancer…all were linked to previous “hormone therapy” i.e. birth control from their 20’s. For all of the healthy stuff you’re putting in your body it would stand to reason that synthetic hormones should also have no place there. I was prescribed low dose Naltrexone, which has good data on RA, gynecological diseases (PCOS and endometriosis) and IBS. Look into it! You take it at night, it drops your endorphins…after a few hours it wears off and your body’s endorphins surge. It’s this surge that promotes healing. In a sense it’s a natural treatment because it allows the body to heal itself. Best of luck!!