Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Can Oxalates be inflammatory for those with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

As I continue my search for anti-inflammatory food choices, I found an interesting article that backs up my personal experience in the difficulty in pinpointing an inflammatory food culprit, "the role of dietary modifications in Rheumatoid Arthritis is not well understood". Also, there has been no study that links high oxalate consumption to Rheumatoid Arthritis but there is mention of it possibly being an irritant to RA. Calcium supplements bind with oxalates to remove them from your body (everyone naturally has some level of oxalate in their body). But there is risk involved if regularly consuming calcium; Taking calcium supplements without consuming a meal can raise the risk of urine calcium excretion and stone formation! Have you noticed doctors have stopped recommending calcium supplements (remember when that was highly recommended along with Vitamin D)? Now they just recommend taking Vitamin D. I only take calcium if I am having an obvious oxalate problem with a food I just consumed (read about my prior oxalate troubles).

I was experimenting with taking 1000 mg of Vitamin D a day because I read that it might help ease RA symptoms (I have never been low in the vitamin). My hair started falling out and a friend told me that was a symptom of a vitamin D overload! Once I stopped, magically my hair stopped falling out. My point is that you can not take everything you read as face value! Any sort of diet change that worsens symptoms is not a good thing. Listen to your body, it really is in control.

Still off coffee but I did have 1/4 of a cup Sunday, no reaction.
I have learned from my continued research that variety is key. If you eat one food daily, it potentially "could" result as an overload your body in some manner. As previously discussed in my blog, I'll either avoid the super high oxalates or portion control them down to a wisp every now and then. A gluten free diet has been touted as anti-inflammatory. Brown Rice flour and Barley flour are on the super high list for oxalates and often found in gluten free products. If you are sensitive to oxalates, they might be gluten free ingredients to avoid as a test to see if causing inflammation.

Dairy will help neutralize oxalate so it's better to mix the super high oxalate cocoa powder with dairy milk when you're making that hot chocolate as cocoa and carob are high in oxalate. Soy and rice flours are super high in oxalate. Wheat flour is not too far behind so a piece of chocolate cake is much worse than a slice of pie for example.

Grandmother's Pie, yes I will eat a sliver.
Basically any sort of concentration of foods is going to push the oxalate level higher as the natural state of the food is compressed. Some foods are listed as high in oxalate but you would have to consume an abnormal quantity in order for it to be that high. The reverse can also be true, some foods are listed as low but a normal serving would be much higher than the chart lists, pushing up the oxalate level. A tsp of cinnamon is an overload but a sprinkle is fine. Beets, raspberries and many nuts are listed as high oxalate but a sprinkle is ok. Potatoes are on the super high list but if you eat a red potato without the peel, it reduces it. Hummus is low but only 1 tblsp is listed, if you ate an entire container, the level would be much higher. The highest oxalate food I found listed was wheat berries. Cornmeal, Bran flakes, Shredded Wheat, French Fries, Soy beans, Miso, and Yams round out the super high list. The worst offenders, if one were to sit down and eat what would be called a "normal" serving  should be avoided all together: Spinach (cooked or raw), Rhubarb, Buckwheat Groats, Rice Bran, Almonds, and Miso Soup. A Great site: For a full explanation.

I'm a big label reader, coconut milk brands are not alike!
My study of oxalates really have taken some time to digest. There is no scientific study to prove that reducing your oxalate intake will heal your RA but it's certainly something that is not beneficial to your body if you overdo it. I believe it's worth removing the worse offenders to decrease the potential inflammation. Luckily I like most foods so alternatives are not a problem. I'm still off coffee but the good news is it's low in oxalate. I have been using soy creamer which is on the high oxalate list but you would have to drink a cup to get it to the high level, a tablespoon is probably not an irritant due to the low quantity. Something to think about is that almonds, cashews, and soy are high oxalate so artificial milks that concentrate them in quantity would be even higher if you consumed a decent serving. Coconut is on the low oxalate list so hopefully coconut milk is not high (no confirmation on this but it is concentrated so low volume in anything concentrated is the rule.

Next I'll be looking at the Acid Alkaline Diet for any clues as to inflammatory foods that might be aggravating my RA. In the meantime, I'm keeping a daily food log and am trying to eat less chocolate, gluten and sugar. Life is too short to not enjoy a sinful food every now and then, just going to keep it a small portion!

~ Rebecca

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet options and Inflammatory Food Reactions, Are Oxalates or Allergies causing you to Flare.

Moderation is a place to start with diet change.
The mix of online diet choices make it hard to determine how to begin an anti-inflammatory diet. A few of the more popular diet plans that are supposed to help ease the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) are Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, Acid Alkaline, and Low Oxalate. My experience is to not go cold turkey into a diet change but gradually remove or swap out foods. Technically you might not be able to eat "everything" but eating in moderation could help you not have an arthritis flare.

Fresh and organic, second place to start.
Many years ago I grew Swiss Chard in my garden. It was so delicious I cooked it for dinner several nights in a row, adding soy sauce, garlic, and sesame seeds. After a few days I started having constant burning agonizing mystery pain. After searching online for days, I discovered that high oxalate foods are not your friend! Oxalate's can cause kidney stones and we've all heard how painful that is, but it can also cause external pain. Fortunately, Calcium Citrate usually neutralizes oxalate but you will have to avoid loading up on high oxalate foods to prevent a recurrence. Swiss chard and sesame seed are very high in oxalates so I was overloading. In moderation, you can eat even high oxalate foods, but they can be acidic and inflammatory. Bad news for RA. So while I'm searching to avoid inflammatory foods, I have to remove high oxalate foods from any plan. You can neutralize some of the oxalate by adding calcium carbonate to greens that you boil to lower the oxalate content. Interestingly, I've never had any obvious reaction to Spinach or Sweet Potato but have to orange peel which are all very high oxalate foods. But, I've actually never thought of it causing my RA symptoms so this is definitely is on the top of my list to get serious about.

Yellow tom are less acidic than red!
Another easy rule is to avoid acidic, sour, and spicy foods all of which are known to be inflammatory. Of course some study is required to figure out what foods qualify as acidic. Low oxalate foods can be non-acidic so a list of how much oxalate in food is very helpful. This list is a little more sensible as far as food portions but oxalate levels can vary depending if the food is fresh, canned, raw or cooked. Also different manufacturer brands of the same food can have different oxalate levels and acidity. The Acid Alkaline Diet promotes alkaline balancing foods and maps out what to eat and not eat.

Pain diversion -- flowers and butterflies!
I experienced another weird food reaction when I volunteered to pour beer for the SPCA at a downtown music event. After pouring in the hot sun, we were given the opportunity to sample all the craft beers we were serving. I don't ever drink fresh locally crafted beer. The next day, half of my lip was swollen! This again happened when I ate a certain brand of bread. After googling, I figured out that I was having an allergic reaction to Barley Malt. If you start looking at bread labels, you will find it in just about every loaf on the shelf! I avoid barley malt especially if it is listed near the beginning on package labeling.

Glad we have lots of frogs, one of our fat Fowler Toads.
Most recently I picked up what I thought were chigger bites on my ankles while weeding very tall grass that was surrounding a few newly planted trees. I've never had such horrible itching, the only thing that made it somewhat tolerable was a homemade paste of baking soda and water. Even worse,  the very next weekend I ate Pork Barbecue. I generally am a vegetarian so I had not eaten any meat the week prior. I broke out in hives everywhere except for on my face and was deathly ill. I thought it was food poisoning and was so sick that I called the health department the next day! Six months later I again ate meat (a hamburger) and became deathly ill. Luckily on both occasions I took an antihistamine which I think kept me from going to the Emergency Room! After googling, I stumbled upon a tick borne meat allergy Alpha Gal, and my experience fit the mold perfectly. So I have to add no red meat to my plan, which is easy for me.

None of this for me, great place in Bristol, TN
These added complications have kept me from taking diet alteration seriously. It just became overwhelming. I also hate being restricted when I go out to eat. I refuse to make demands on the kitchen and be rigid for one meal out of my life! So for now, I'll be eating from home trying to figure out this inflammatory madness.

Just picking a plan when you have health complications and food allergies can be tricky. So for now I'm honing in on vegetarian, alkaline, and low oxalate food choices.


Friday, October 4, 2019

Reducing RA and Sjogrens symptoms with diet changes, swapping out inflammatory foods, Autoimmune Drugs

One of the hardest things you'll ever do is change your diet especially if it's FOREVER. Grocery stores have unlimited choices of deliciousness. It's so simple to rip a bag open of fluffy goodness, carve into a gallon of ice cream or pop a ready made dinner into the microwave. Add on the ease of driving up to a window and ordering a quick lunch and you basically are eating everything you shouldn't. May be you eat a few healthy things during the day, but top it off with sugar, caffeine, and salt to get a burst of happiness. I've whittled down to an afternoon cup of coffee and dessert to get my daily fix. I feel like I've come a long way but still am searching for that trigger that keeps my body inflamed!

A pot of health at the end of the rainbow.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis for 20 years has become second nature. It's not something I've been fortunate to kill off but I have controlled it by taking various drugs. Not taking drugs is not an option for the level of disease activity that I have. I also suffer from another auto-immune disease, Sjogrens, which actually is worse than RA. An absolutely annoying disease that requires you have water and eye drops on hand 24 x 7. My optometrist asked me If I had to use eye drops once or twice a DAY! I really didn't think she was serious, in a DAY, the question should have been once or twice every 30 minutes! I absolutely panic if I don't have both of these objects on hand. A royal pain in the A**. Superstar tennis player Venus Williams has Sjogrens. You may have noticed how she has trimmed down and is back on the court. Her vegan diet has reduced all symptoms! Amazing! Proof in the pudding that diet most certainly can play a role.

A little taste of my gardens on Forsythia Hill.
When I first developed my autoimmune diseases, diet was mentioned but not as accepted of a treatment like it is today. If you can not figure out your diet trigger I highly recommend you not wait too long to get on some sort of drug. I applaud anyone that is lucky enough to be able to control this disease without drugs and initially I tried the grape diet (read my first blog on this topic) and all sorts of recommended herbal concoctions. Never finding anything that could stop the pain like drugs. You can say it's just a way for the drug manufacturers to make money and a host of other conspiracy theories but the truth of the matter is that without drugs I have zero quality of life, I can not move, garden, hike, lift, or do anything that brings me joy (other than eat). I take drugs to have a quality of life. Long term your joints will become permanently twisted due to the inflammation. To protect joints drugs stop the inflammation but my goal has always been to get off the drugs. It's my own fault for not taking diet change seriously. I've toyed with it for years. For me, diet change is one of the hardest things but in retrospect, what I've changed so far as not been as horrible as what I imagined.

Raspberries, lower in sugar and easy to grow!
If you have a busy schedule, it's not going to be easy to just go cold turkey. Pick something you can easy swap out and DO IT TODAY! I started with dairy. I'm not 100% on the dairy removal front but my biggest consumption was milk and yogurt. I don't miss either. Yogurt was really hard but I ended up substituting just a little of my neighbors beehive honey on my oatmeal instead of the yogurt. Done, gone, don't miss it. Flavored yogurts are your enemy - Dairy + Sugar = Highly inflammatory. Honey is a sugar so tread lightly and support a local hive!

~ Rebecca

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