One of my favorite parts of our #hopelives movement is this: the amazing people I am blessed to meet and work with each day – there are so many that are leaving incredible footprints in our world, advancing health and nutrition, making a difference, living their passion. Today’s guest contributor, Chris McKee, encapsulates all three of those qualities. She is an incredible woman that I met over two years ago at a professional women’s luncheon, and she inspires me daily to live a healthier, fuller life by paying attention to what I put in my body.
Many of you know that Jake (my husband) and I chose a *mostly* Paleo lifestyle two years ago [I say *mostly* because I undoubtedly crave a Carl’s Junior cheeseburger occasionally – with bun, cheese, special sauce and their on-tap, trademarked “sweet nectar of the universe” – every now and then]. That being said, after consuming *said cheeseburger*, I always pay for it. Swollen and hurting hands, painful wrists, aching feet. And a BIG stomachache, a 2-day stomachache. Every time. Ouch. But sometimes you just need a cheeseburger…
Cheeseburger antics aside, I am a firm believer that what we put in our bodies affects how we feel. And, while I haven’t chosen the fully natural route of treating my RA (please note – my official advocacy stance on RA management is the course of action that you and your rheumatologist, naturopath, primary physician, pain physician, nutritionist and personal trainer decide together), I have hopes that we can mitigate the severity of our symptoms by managing what we consume, what we put into our bodies.
I witnessed a profound improvement in how I felt by eliminating gluten, wheat and dairy from my diet. And I’m fascinated to learn how I can improve my habits further.
With Chris’ guidance and wisdom, I believe that we can learn more about the nutritional component that may help us feel better. We have the ability to make strides in changing what we put into our bodies; I say these things because she has inspired me (and if my cheeseburger-craving butt can do it, so can you). Every patient’s experience is different – I get that, but if there are simple, healthy, nutritional changes we can make that will improve our quality of life, isn’t it worth investigating?
I believe so strongly that this can help us in our journeys. Thank you, Chris, for your contribution today. It means more than you know.
I’d like to introduce you to Chris, an amazing woman and nutritionist:
Chris McKee, CNC, comes to the field of nutrition with over 30 years of experience in whole-food cooking, healthy lifestyle coaching, individual nutritional counseling and speaking to hundreds of people about the role of good nutrition in preventing disease. Her passion is to assist you in finding a natural solution to supporting your body to function at the highest level for a long and vibrant life.
RA and a Nutritional Connection
Currently 2.5 million people suffer with Rheumatoid arthritis, 75 percent of them female. It frequently affects those under forty years of age. As with many auto-immune diseases RA is on the rise. Is there a nutritional connection?
In an observational study 50 RA patients were malnourished as compared to the control group. How can that be in the U.S.? As a nation we are “over-fed and under nourished.” In as USDA study 21,500 people, ages 18-70 years, were asked to complete a three day diet diary. Out of this group not one person met the RDA for 5 essential nutrients, B-6, B-12, Calcium, Magnesium and Iron.
Specifically for RA patient’s nutrient deficiency is frequently found in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’S), fiber, Vitamin A, B6, folic acid, pantothenic acid, B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc and Copper.
Digestive difficulties are a huge problem in the U.S. These difficulties are even more common with rheumatoid arthritis patients. Research suggests that one out of four RA patients suffers with malabsorption and atrophy of the “villi” in the intestinal tract. Hypoacidity (low stomach acid) may also be a contributing factor to food allergy responses that create an immune response in the body.
What about the foods that you eat? Can they contribute to your RA symptoms? The answer to that question is a resounding “YES”! Studies at one clinic found that 1/3 of RA patients could remain well without medication using diet therapy alone for 7.5 years.
In one study 78% improved and 41% had complete remission on a raw food vegan diet. Most likely because this type of diet eliminates common food allergens such as grains, dairy, sugar and meat proteins.
In a controlled trial of fasting and one year on a vegetarian diet 27 patients with RA showed significant improvement in the number of tender joints, swollen joints, pain, morning stiffness, grip strength, C-reactive protein and white blood count. Periodically this group was put on a 7-10 day partial fast of vegetable broth, teas and juices made from potato, parsley, beets, carrots and celery. In between fasting they were on a vegetarian diet that eliminated gluten, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, refined sugar, citrus fruit, coffee, tea, alcohol and strong spices.
Food allergies have repeatedly been shown to cause symptoms of RA. It is the “protein” molecule in the food that you react to. The body develops an immune response to the proteins, yet these proteins are found in your own tissues. The immune system then “attacks” your own tissues. I would highly recommend that all RA patients get an IgE food allergy test done to determine the foods they should avoid.
There is also a large body of evidence that bacterial overgrowth in the digestive tract should be considered likely in RA patients. Clostridium perfrigens has been observed in 88% of the fecal flora of rheumatoid arthritis patients. I would highly recommend a stool study done not only for bacterial overgrowth but parasites. Bacterial overgrowth is one of the ways the body “trains” the immune system to attack its own tissues and joints.
So what is the bottom line? Rheumatoid arthritis, in this author’s opinion, can be controlled with diet and supplementation. It is important to determine if there are food allergies, bacterial over-growth or parasites present before embarking on a nutritional solution. There are some specific nutrient suggestions in the form of supplementation that have been very effective with RA. When deciding to incorporate nutritional supplements in the diet it is important to work with a qualified professional who recommends high quality supplements. Putting together a program with unproven products can actually cause more harm than good.
Compiled by Christine McKee, Certified Nutritionist, Certified Diet Counselor, May 27, 2014. Chris McKee, CNC, comes to the field of nutrition with over 30 years of experience in whole-food cooking, healthy lifestyle coaching, individual nutritional counseling and speaking to hundreds of people about the role of good nutrition in preventing disease. Her passion is to assist you in finding a natural solution to supporting your body to function at the highest level for a long and vibrant life.
Werbach, Melvyn R. M.D., Nutritional Influences on Illness, Keats Publishing, 1988, pg. 380
Marz, Russell B. N.D., Medical Nutrition From Marz 2nd Edition, Omni-Press, 1999, pg 345
Darlington, L.G., Diets for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lancet, 1991, 338:1209pg
McAfee, Jim, CNC, Rheumatoid Arthritis Volume 8: Issue 3, Image Awareness Wellness Institute, March 2012