Health before Wealth

Recently I was talking to my mom about the newest thing I’m thinking of trying. It’s suppose to balance the pH of your water, along with add electrolytes and minerals. (see link) She asked, “How can you afford to take all of these things?”

The truth is, financially I can’t really. I’m stretched as thin as a rubber band, ready to break at any moment. These are hard, economical times.

On the flipside, can I afford to NOT keep trying new therapies in hope that remission will soon be giving me a high five at my doorstep? Sure I’m feeling great in a sense that I’m completely functional with RA. But as long as I’m not in remission, there’s still damage being done. I’m thinking long term. It’s the same as keeping up on your teeth cleaning. If you don’t, you could end up with some serious tooth decay, along with heart conditions and toxins invading your body. What kind of damage is happening to my hands long term? And there’s no guarantee with conventional drugs either that you can skip out on the deformities. Just clue into a recent post and you’ll see that hand deformity is just like the disease itself in that it varies from person to person. So you have to do your best to get inflammation under control no matter what you’re taking. Even if you’re taking DMARD’s and Biologics, you have to consider that eating right and exercising would be a wise, helpful choice since these medications can raise cancer risks, among other things. Our bodies are long term investments.

From time to time expense comes up as a topic in my RA support group. The idea of going organic, buying fresh food vs packaged, and taking supplements that can improve overall health seems too expensive to some. Most people embrace the burden of the extra costs, but a few need encouragement that long term, investing in the right foods and supplements will save money. This is particularly tough when a lot of us, including myself are living paycheck to paycheck. What you pay now at the grocery mart will help determine the costs of your future medical bills. Just like I am spending money on supplements, rather than movies or haircuts, I’m figuring that the money I spend now could make for a less expensive health bill in the future. Not only that, but the better I feel and the more that I can do, the better chance I have at making more money in the future, simply because I’ll be able to keep up a career and hopefully advance in that career.

So my motto is, when you’re trying to decide what to eat for lunch and your choice is a hamburger on the doller menu or that organic salad with grilled, free range chicken that were raised without antibiotics….. choose the latter. Because in my opinion, you’re going to be paying for your health in one way or another.

Trusting Your Doctor

I was speaking with a friend who just got results from her doctor, saying her liver enzymes were raised. The doctor advised her not to drink any alcohol. I immediately asked, “Are you taking Ibuprofen?” I knew her knee had been hurting her, and she wasn’t one to avoid over the counter medications. Her response was, “but my doctor said Ibuprofen would not raise my enzymes like that.”

I feel like I’ve heard this type of story a hundred times. You or a friend go to the doctor and something is wrong, and the doctor never gets to the bottom of it. Why? In many cases, I think the reason is because some doctors fail to listen or ask questions. They’re on a time schedule. They do a quick assessment. They make assumptions.

Though I’ve had some great doctors in my life, I’ve been disappointed just as many or more times. One of these visits was when I was fifteen. I had my wisdom teeth out. They weren’t quite in yet, but because of previous braces,it was suggested to remove the roots of the wisdom teeth before they formed, so my other teeth wouldn’t become crooked again. And despite how many times I went to the orthopedic surgeon to tell him I was in severe pain and something wasn’t right, he disregarded it, handing me heavier pain medications. He gave me codeine. The codeine didn’t help much, the pain was so severe. Finally, on my last visit, the surgeon realized I had an infection.  After a few days of antibiotics, my pain was gone! Had I simply believed the doctor was right and my pain was just a result of recovery, what could have happened if the infection had lasted longer?

For my friend, I knew she had gone in to see the doctor because her knees were bothering her. She’s a dancer and her dancing is very hard on her knees. I asked her how much ibuprofen she was taking each day. Knowing painkillers don’t work that great when you’re having chronic severe pain, I knew it was highly likely she was taking too much. It turned out she was taking over the maximum dosage. If the doctor had taken the time to really listen to his patient and ask questions, he would have figured this out. Instead, a patient with ill advice will continue taking the high dose of ibuprofen, further damaging her liver and her intestinal tract, later to find other chronic diseases up ahead.

I feel like our health system severely lacks preventative care. Without a doctor’s listening ear, problems go on unnoticed and as a result health care rises because ailments continue to spike. And when someone gets an ailment such as damaged intestines due to too much NSAIDs usage, autoimmune diseases like “leaky gut syndrome”, IBS, Crohn’s, Lupus, Fibromialgia and RA might be the result. Then what comes next? More painkillers, steroids and other various drugs that will further damage the body, causing more and more harm.

I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say what’s best. And because everyone’s chemistry is different, it’s hard to say how some people will react. But I do think that other choices are out there before you hit the drugs. Exhausting those choices first, in my opinion, is your best bet. For my friend, I can think of a few options off the top of my head that could help. Strengthening the muscles around the knee offer as a natural knee brace. I would suggest that she stops the painful movements in her dance class for a while and instead, works on reinforcing the muscles surrounding her knee. I would make this physical therapy a top priority and a continuous effort. Next, I would use a cream that’s great for the knees and will help bring down the inflammation. And when she’s resting at home and in pain, I would recommend that she elevates her leg and wraps an ace bandage around her knee to help push the swelling out.

Beyond that, of course there’s supplements that will reduce the swelling in her knee instead of using painkillers. For her liver, I would suggest considering three supplements that help the liver function. That I know of, those are milk thistle, N-acetylcysteine and SAM-e. SAM-e is particularly great because it would help her knee and her liver. N-acetylcysteine is a little more complicated because it pulls out toxic metals and requires additional vitamin C. Taking a supplement like Ultra Antioxidant from pro-health would cover the basics of what’s involved with this supplement in particular.

In the end, it’s important that you trust your doctor. If your doctor is not listening and not asking questions, life is too short…find one who will!

The Ripple Effect

Getting older is tough enough.  Watching your body change as you get older is a gradual process.  A gray hair here, a gray hair there.  A wrinkle here, a wrinkle there.  As the days move forward, at least you know everyone else is in the same boat.

But getting older with an autoimmune disease, in my opinion, is far more difficult.  You plunge head first into a scary world, and you imagine this must be what it feels like to be 90.  Losing abilities, taking pills daily, watching your body change at a very fast rate can be not only frustrating and painful, but detrimental to your mental health.  Each day is different.  You might notice new rashes on your skin, new bumps or bruises, or another task left uncompleted because of lost ability or weakness.  I remember clumps of hair falling out in the shower.  I felt sort of like a cancer patient.  The kinds of things you go through are just not meant for daily conversations.  So you feel alone and trapped in your own skin.

Luckily however, I have been able to get my Rheumatoid Arthritis under control with alternative medications that don’t have side effects.  My hair no longer falls out in clumps.  I rarely get new bumps or rashes.  And I am able and agile enough to once again live a full and productive life.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post.  This post is about the unknown and that gripping fear that although everything seems ok at the moment, the likelihood that more problems are in your future, especially as you grow older, is likely to occur.  And don’t say that I’m living life with a glass half-empty.  I am optimistic that whatever arises, I’ll be able to handle and possibly even get control of by taking more supplements.  But my point is, is that it is likely that if you get one autoimmune disease, there may be more to follow.

My first autoimmune disease was a skin disease.  It’s located on my shins and called Necrobiosis Lipoidica.  At first I was told it was Granuloma Annulare and the doctor showed me a picture of a woman with it all over her body.  This conclusion of course, was horrifying to me because for the next five years, I worried I’d be covered with shiny, scaly scars.  Fortunately, the doctor was wrong and instead, I was diagnosed later with Necrobiosis Lipoidica, which is a skin disease that only affects the shins.  Both skin diseases usually accompany diabetes, so the doctor was confused why not only did I not have diabetes, but it did not run in my family.  Later, in my research of Rheumatoid Arthritis, I learned that Necrobiosis Lipoidica sometimes is associated with RA.  Around those same years that I developed this, I also got pleurisy, which is a painful inflammation of the lining between your lungs and your ribs.  Antibiotics seemed to clear it up and it was probably a result of living in such polluted air.  Pleurisy, however,  is a frequent symptom of Lupus and it sometimes accompanies RA.  Fast forward four years and I’m diagnosed with Hypothyroidism.  My gynecologist caught it, otherwise this would have probably gone on for years without me realizing.  Then seven years later I was diagnosed with RA.

The reality is, most people with an autoimmune disease like RA or Lupus, usually have many more autoimmune diseases.  It can be a ripple effect.  Whether it’s the diseases themselves, the lifestyles that accompany the diseases, or the medications, more and more seem to pile up.  I’m glad to be on alternative medications because I know I’m taking things that might just possibly reverse the disease process.  But there’s always that side of me, that terrified side, like a voice in the back of my head that says, “What’s next?”  This time at least, I know that I’m doing all that I can do.  I’m armed with knowledge.  I’m taking supplements that improve my health.  I’m eating better, sleeping more and consuming fewer toxins.  There’s nothing more that we can do besides enjoy every day for what it is, knowing life is uncertain, so whatever each day may bring, let it be the best that it can be.

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