Saturday, 1 August 2015

LIVING WITH ARTHIRITIS - DRUG FREE

LIVING WITH ARTHRITIS - DRUG-FREE



Just this week on Instagram, I referred to the fact that I don't drink wine or champagne because I suffer from Arthritis.  

A couple of Insta friends  have enquired about this.

I hadn't ever planned on writing about my Arthritis, but perhaps it might be a way of helping others out there who suffer from this debilitating disease.

When I was in my early 30's,  I started suffering severe back pain.  This pain, which usually came on after a couple of hours of going to sleep,  was at its worst late during the night and  first thing in the morning.   The pain was so severe some mornings and indeed  some nights, that the doctor had to be called in as I could not move.  

  I took boxes of anti-inflammatories which helped, of course, but one cannot live on these drugs and I still have stomach problems as a result of taking so many at that time.    I visited Orthopedic Surgeons, Homeopaths, Naturopaths and Osteopaths but couldn't find any answers and certainly no relief.  

As time moved on,  the pain presented in my hips, knees as well as my back.  Eventually,  in desperation some years later,  I visited yet another Orthopedic Surgeon.  This surgeon ordered every test under the sun and the conclusion was that there was nothing wrong with my spine/bones,  but that my problem was inflammatory.  He sent me to a Rheumatologist who diagnosed "Psoriatic Arthropathy"... which slots into the Rheumatoid group or Arthritis.

He diagnosed a lifetime use of  immune suppressant drugs as well as a continued program of anti-inflammatories.  I was devastated!

I decided that I simply could not take  all these drugs.   I began doing research, which back then was not as easy as it is now!  Nonetheless,   I came across information which explained that one's body reacts directly to certain foods/drinks.  This  reaction to certain foods and drinks  could inflame or worsen many Auto-Immune diseases such as Asthma, Arthritis, Migraine and many more.

At this time,  I was taking Anti-inflammatory suppositories every second night and pain killers.  My stomach couldn't tolerate the anti-inflammatory drugs after years of taking them orally.   I had hip pain, my knees were swollen, and I was extremely stiff.  

The pain often  got worse for no apparent reason.  Our son was at school in the UK,  and I noticed that I would experience severe flare-ups whenever we visited London and stayed at our favourite hotel there.  It was only when things began to dawn on me that I realised what the London flare-ups were all about!  Freshly squeezed orange juice was available by the jugful every morning.  Their coffee was delicious and strong.  I would have at least two glasses of orange juice with my coffee on an empty stomach every morning.  After two days of being there,  I would be in agony.  
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Slowly but surely I worked out which  foods and drinks were affecting me negatively    What I  discovered,  is that whatever one puts into one's mouth on an EMPTY stomach,  can have a very significant effect.  So, coffee at breakfast before eating, or a glass of wine before eating,  can have double the negative impact.    These negative effects do NOT appear the next morning as some people believe,  but rather after 30 - 48 hours.  When I experience a flare-up,  I have to think back 48 hours as to what I've drunk or eaten...


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I eventually began my carefully planned food and drink elimination program.  I was very determined and did not eat/drink anything on the banned list. Amazingly, I became PAIN-FREE
after only two weeks,  although I was still incredibly stiff. I was astounded but still nervous that it could all flare-up again.    

I found a personal trainer who specialised in stretching,  and after a month of stretching three times a week,  I felt almost "normal" again.  It was a miracle!  My joints were no longer swollen,  I felt younger than I had felt in years.  I was over-joyed!
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Over the years,  so many people have asked for advice on how to avoid flare-ups or how to alleviate their pain.  It is NOT easy.  It requires huge self-discipline.  I often 'fall off the wagon'  and when I do,  I pay for it.  

My disease has NOT gone away but is controlled by what I choose to avoid.  

I have found that WINE, VINEGAR AND CHEESE are my biggest enemies.  Anything fermented is a no-no for me.  

I  drink a huge amount of water, at least two litres a day.   If I don't - and this is easy to do, especially in winter,  I experience pain and stiffness. 

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I am in no way trying to advise replacing some of the drugs which are necessary for some people with extreme or advanced Rheumatoid Arthritis.  What I strongly believe, however,   is that one's diet can be directly  responsible for creating flare-ups.

Everyone is different and what might cause a flare-up for me could be different for others.

START A FOOD DIARY

What I have often advised friends to do is to start a food diary.  This is imperative if personal food testing is to work.  To begin with,   I suggest setting aside a two-week detox/ test period when ALL suspicious foods are strictly avoided.   This will have to be planned in advance,  as it is no good if there is a social function to attend etc.  Give yourself these two weeks as it will prove to be invaluable.  Hopefully,  after this period,  you will have a far better understanding of what foods/drinks to avoid.    

One can then re-introduce one food or drink at a time only every TWO days, to ascertain if any one of them has an inflammatory effect.  I usually ask friends what their favourite food/drink is .. what they feel they cannot live without!  This food or drink is usually one of the biggest culprits!


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I couldn't believe the difference in my life when I gave up drinking wine.   I used to love wine - especially with dinner,  but why would I continue drinking it if pain and misery are the outcome.    I now have one whisky most evenings, and perhaps a couple if I am out socially.    I have a small tot,  with lots of ice and lots of sparkling water and even though whisky a fermented product,  it doesn't affect me negatively.   Whisky isn't as delicious as wine,  but it's a drink I've grown to like.  I know there are so many wine lovers out there.  Wine is so woven into our lifestyle.  Giving up wine will, for most people be nigh on impossible.  It is a choice!

I will list the foods/drinks that are MY enemies.  Please be advised, however,  that what works for me might not work for you.  

Firstly, a word about salad dressings.  This is always a problem when going out.  Most restaurants/chefs include vinegar in their salad dressings.  

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Lemons are alkaline forming in the body and create the perfect acidity required for a dressing.  Lemons are the Arthritic's friend.  Hot lemon water upon rising has very beneficial effects.  I use lemons liberally in my cooking and NEVER buy vinegar.

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Coffee is not my best friend,  but as I really love coffee,  I find that limiting myself to one or two small coffees a day is OK.  I drink  a small Nespresso at home and when out,  order a short black with hot milk on the side.  Drinking large coffees is probably not a good idea.

I eat lots and lots of Papaya.  This beautiful fruit is gentle and delicious. I eat papaya most mornings with full cream yogurt and ground seeds and almonds.  I also love quinoa flake porridge with Manuka honey, banana and  nuts.  I have a small coffee with my breakfast,  but ONLY after a few mouthfuls of the fruit.  If you are interested, please ask about the seeds and I will write another post about them.  They are wonderful in keeping one regular and have huge health benefits. 
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I eat ripe bananas and pears.  Unfortunately,  those are the only fruits that I can tolerate as berries, are far too acidic. 

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I eat lots of nuts, particularly almonds.  I add them to salads, Quinoa, couscous and fruit.


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I try to restrict eating meat to twice a week. I eat vegetarian meals at least once or twice a week and fish as often as I can, especially salmon which I adore.  Chicken is also a favourite

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Green leafy vegetables, tossed in my delicious salad dressing or with lemon juice and olive oil are delicious and very well tolerated.  


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Plenty of fresh herbs are perfect. Lots and lots of organic broccoli, capsicum, cucumber and zucchini are part of my diet.   I often roast onions, capsicum, zucchini, butternut, parsnips, sweet potato, asparagus and garlic in Coconut oil and it's delicious!

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The more vegetables the better.




I eat loads of butternut squash and avocados. 

Quinoa with chopped raw vegetables, topped with avocado is delicious.  Bean salads and lots of home-made hummus is always on the go in my home. 
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I try to avoid potatoes as I've heard that they can be acid forming. Onions and garlic are fine.  


Tumeric has fantastic anti-inflammatory properties.  Great the root over salads and sprinkle all foods liberally with the powder.

via Google images

Here are the foods that I avoid.

Sugar
Wine, champagne, sherry, gin, beer and VINEGAR
All fermented foods (especially cheese).
All berries (sadly) This took the longest time to      discover

All citrus EXCEPT lemons
Pineapples, apples, kiwi fruit, grapes.
Bread (I am allergic to the yeast)
Tinned tomatoes (the occasional fresh tomato is 
 OK)

Rich reduced sauces.
Mushrooms   
Dried fruit - I have to pick out the raisins and dried fruit often found in muesli
Curries and Chilli
All bottled sauces and sauces used in Asian cuisine  especially  chutneys, Soy sauce.

Biscuits, cakes, chocolate etc should be kept to a minimum, once the initial two week detox period has finished.

This all sounds very dismal I know but honestly,  there is so much to eat without the list above!  I know that the possibility of eliminating wine and cheese will be disappointing but this is a choice and if it helps then why not?  I find travelling and eating out at restaurants tricky.  There always has to be a conversation about exact ingredients and that can be very tiresome.  Eating at home is obviously easier and it is fortunate that I enjoy cooking!
I've included some pics of salads etc that I have prepared, as inspiration.    


My favourite meal of the day!

Nuts, and vegetables sliced in strips add variation
Roast vegetables are delicious
Kedgeree is one of my favourite meals
Eggs are perfect!  I always order this omelette from Bistro Moncur in Sydney!
Smoked Salmon (in moderation for me)  is always delicious accompanied by loads of chopped vegetables and butter lettuce.

I was forced to have a double hip replacement last year.  This was due to Osteo-Arthritis (I suffer two different types of Arthritis).  But the important thing to understand here,  is that I have managed this awful disease DRUG-FREE for the past 25 years!  

I do hope this helps some of you and please don't hesitate to ask questions.  I will be more than happy to answer them.  Sorry that this is such a long post.  



30 comments:

  1. I am sure this post will be very helpful to many people out there. As I've mentioned before on my blog I suffer from eczema, and have done so all my life. It was only when I went to Gwinganna health retreat around 3 years ago that they told me of the link between food and eczema (leaky gut). After the elimination diet I found that citrus was especially bad for me (except lemon), and gluten as well. I literally start itching in about 30 minutes. It made sense as my eczema was always worse in Winter, which I would put down to cold, wet weather whereas it was intact the orange juice and many mandarins I'd be consuming at that time of year.
    It's interesting that vinegar has such an effect on you though - I was told to have a lot of fermented products to help with the leaky gut situation.
    Also agree with you about the wine situation. While (fortunately!) it doesn't seem to impact on my health, it was an interesting process to go through three months of not drinking while on the diet, and to realise how many social cues we have and what a social lubricant it is in our lives. People would become almost distressed that I was standing with a glass of mineral water at a party etc. It was an interesting exercise to go through…
    Very glad for your sake that you have been able to manage this debilitating condition so well with diet though, any long term drug use is just not good for you (in my case it was topical steroid creams, which I haven't used now for 15 years). xx

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    1. Thanks for the interesting comment Heidi. It is understandable that most people would be devastated at the thought of having to give up wine. You're right .. I often pass on Alchohol and have sparkling water at functions as whisky is not always available, and there are always questions as to why I don't have a glass of wine in my hand! This was a small price to pay for becoming pain-free. xx

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  2. Thank you for this informative and detailed post.
    Linda C.

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    1. It is a pleasure Linda and am so happy to answer questions too!

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  3. This is a great post and lovely of you to share your knowledge. It's fantastic that you were so pro-active and started finding answers for yourself. Medication always has side effects something that many people don't realise.
    I'm having terrible trouble with my back . I can sleep through til about 4.30 am when I wake at that time I'm aware my back is aching. I have to get out of bed and move. Once I get back into bed I can usually sleep until about 6.30 then it's sheer agony.
    We recently bought a new mattress but although not as bad it's still not good. So I have now purchased a mattress pad to go on top of the mattress so will see. My 85 year old father ( who suffers from arthritis ) has suggested to me that I have the start of arthritis a fact I've been pushing to the back of my mind as I sit here aching and creaking. I have also noted that sometimes the aches are worse than others I must take note and see if my wine consumption has any thing to do with it.
    I can emphasize with Heidi my husband doesn't drink because of his medical problems ( he real was only ever a one or two drinks man ) and it really makes people worry. One friend even suggested that he should get a drink and nurse it all night. When I asked why there was no real answer.
    We have such an abundance of beautiful fresh food to eat it really is important we take advantage of it. I too love cooking and often find eating out to be overrated.
    Thank You for giving food for thought. xx

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    1. Karen it sounds as though you do have arthritis in your back, especially as you say it improves with moving around. Do try and eliminate a few things for two weeks and hopefully some questions will be answered. I'm keen to hear how it all goes! xx

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  4. I got diagnosed as histamine intolerant so I should avoid most of the foods you mentioned. Potatoes tomatoes are the night shades which I love and are my fave veggies- Sod's law! White wine also has so many sulphates I itch like crazy and drink gin instead. Have you tried the enzyme DAO? The Mayr clinic gave me some to deal with histamines. It's hard to get everywhere but it does help. I need to get back on track so this post is a good reminder for me to eat well again! X

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    1. I've never heard of DAO Naomi! One just cannot go wrong with eating lots of vegetables, a few fruits and keeping everything simple! I also avoid Aubergine as it's a night shade vegetable. xx

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  5. Hi Jenny, this is an interesting post. I have been on a 6 week elimination protocol to improve my sleep, gain some extra energy and sort out some rosacea I have been having for about a year. I am 57 and never before in my life had pimples! I had been following a pretty much paleo (but with dairy) for a few years to fix my gut issues. My gut is generally pretty good now and my face is also clear after the elimination. Sleep still not the best. I am at the point now of slowly introducing foods. Trouble is I haven't been feeling great for few weeks now and don't know if each introduction of foods is bringing on the headaches and sore glands or just me fighting off the million winter bugs here in Melbourne at the moment! When socialising I have found sparking water in a champagne glass makes me feel like I am joining in. And interestingly I haven't really missed the drinking.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment Vicki. It's so interesting reading your story. I've also suffered sleep problems over the years - I just put it down to the menopause. Please keep in touch and let me know how it all turns out. Best of luck and well done with the elimination!!

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  6. I dire you discipline J. I'd been thinking about how you recently wrote that you couldn't stand vinegar…I'm sure this will help a lot of people x

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    1. It's easy to have discipline when you know that pain ( extreme pain) will be your reward! I often 'cheat' but NEVER with my worst enemies! This is obviously my experience and it would be wonderful if others found this helpful! xx

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  7. So interesting. Wonderful you've come up with a dietary solution that might work for others with food/health issues too.
    Have also suffered from osteo, from my mother's side (she'd had first knee replacement before my age). I started taking Voltaren but that upset my stomach so GP switched to Celebrex, v different, doesn't affect digestive system, though can increase BP eventually. From father's side inherited a leaky gut - causing acid reflux and ulcerated oesophagus. Now controlled by Losec. Specialist also warned me off many things you've cut out: foods too acid for gut or irritating it, eg citrus incl. lemon juice, though a squeeze on fish OK, pineapple, mint, coffee and alcohol. Since I love coffee I'm allowed a little (at most two a day, with milk - and only with food; and a little alcohol. Wine or maybe a gin and tonic. But not every day. Have also been told to make lunch the main meal rather than dinner.
    In addition I have an allergy to monosodium glutamate, the flavour enhancer. Worst of many bad reactions is escalation of BP, high enough to put at risk of stroke/heart attack, then loss of consciousness. Ambulance/hospital, the full catastrophe! So can relate to having to talk to waiters talking about food ingredients - many restaurants think there's no msg because they haven't added it. But it's in most stock powders and in prepared sauces, mustards, sausages etc. It's a curse - and v difficult to explain in foreign languages. Good restaurants prepare all their own stocks/sauces but this does make for expensive dining when sometimes you'd just like cheap and cheerful. But the cheapies are often the ones that either don't know what's in their food or have used msg in some form.
    Can also relate to comments about people trying to get you to drink at parties. In diplomatic life you're expected to attend frequent receptions. On one posting, it was almost every week night. As these are work I decided not to drink alcohol. It worried people I didn't have a glass in hand so always asked for a soda water no ice (in a tropical developing country, ice was risky and mineral water unavailable). One evening early on, I received the following comment "I'm a bit worried about you. Are you OK? I've counted five gin and tonics." He found it hard to believe all five had been straight soda. Wherever we went waiters all came to know me as the soda water lady - they'd always offer me a glass on arrival.
    Amazing how many people have food allergies/issues. Now when inviting people I always ask up front if they're vegetarian or have any allergies/intolerances. It saves a lot of probs. Pammie


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    1. It's so interesting reading your comment Pammie and one realises that there are SO many people who suffer in th same way. You are very thoughtful asking your guests about allergies. Mostly, I say nothing but most of my good friends know my issues. I find it easier to say nothing and to "eat my way around" the meal! Thanks so much for your interesting comment xx

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    2. Impossible for me to do that as the additive msg is a hidden ingredient. I have no way of knowing if it's in a meal until too late unless I ask - or raise it beforehand. It's life threatening for me as the allergic reaction is a sudden elevation in blood pressure (my BP is normally fine for my age so I don't take any medication for it) to such an extent that it puts me at risk of a stroke or heart attack. In the hospital they give me some kind of injection (not an epi pen as that would be counter productive) and monitor my heart with an ecg. But I'm usually unconscious for most of this. So you see I have to raise it - I can't delicately eat around the food (I wish I could) as I don't know in what part of the meal it might be (eg perhaps the meat/chicken has been marinaded in something that contains it, or the sauce/gravy might contain it or it could be in a sauce or stuffing in the vegetables or a soup. I need to know. When I tell the person who has invited us for a meal (if they're not an old friend) I always apologise for being such a terrible bore and suggest the option of going to a restaurant instead or having dinner at our home. I feel bad about it - but what else can I do? Pammie xxx

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    3. Gosh, of course your situation is very serious. It must be difficult in countries where English isn't spoken?.. You should never feel bad with your friends as the consequences are very serious. Jenny

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    4. My smart phone has info about the allergy in French, German, Italian and Hungarian. In France I always give a little slip of paper to the waiter with all the info to take to the chef. Even then it can be difficult. Strangely enough it's usually much easier in Asia as they do know what msg is, while in many European countries they often think I'm saying I'm allergic to gluten because it sounds a bit like gluten. But of course they're totally different. In Japanese it's aji nomoto - may not be correct spelling but it's what it sounds like) - and they understand perfectly and can advise accordingly. Often I just have to have grilled fish, steak or chicken, no sauces and steamed vegetables. Fairly healthy but can be boring. A special treat is to go to a Michelin star restaurant where they make everything themselves and I can have a lovely meal. Long time friends all know but it's when I meet someone new to our circle who invites us to dinner that I dread having to go through the awful story. It's when I offer to do something else if they prefer. Pammie

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    5. Hi Pammie. Don't know if you've seen article on 6/8/15 by Esther Han in SMH's Good Food food news titled "Avoiding MSG? Try memorizing the 129 terms food companies prefer to use". Amazed there are 129 other terms used to describe MSG as it triggers migraines in me. so you'll see me reading everything in supermarket.
      Thank you Jenny for this article as I've sent it to a relative who will really appreciate it. Den xxx

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    6. Hi Den, Thanks so much for this added information - and especially for Pammie! I also avoid MSG and had no idea it was described in so many different terms! So pleased this could help your relative too.

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    7. Hi Den and Jenny
      Many thanks! Have just caught up with your message. Haven't seen this particular article but there was something in the Canberra Times in the past week which sounded similar. All these different names are a horrendous problem for people who have serious issues with the food additive msg. Some packaging just says "flavours" so I have to avoid that too because I don't know what it means. A couple of years ago I called Maggie Beer's food processing people to ask what was meant by "flavours" on one of their labels. They said it was not msg but simply some herbs that they didn't want to have to spell out in full. I explained that there are people like me who can't buy food products unless they have clear specific labelling and that "flavour/s" wasn't clear enough. They called me back to say they would change their labelling system as they didn't want to lose customers because they were nervous about contents. Also Jamie Oliver's bottled tomato sauces (eg for pasta or pizza) are usually very good as they don't (at least the ones I've tried) contain msg - just fairly natural simple ingredients that I can eat and actually enjoy.
      But apart from things like this I rarely buy processed food products as it's just too difficult. I also try to avoid smoked goods - not because they always contain msg because many don't - but because I've read that smoked foods are generally not terribly good for you.
      This afternoon made a really wholesome and tasty lentil and vegetable soup - all beautifully fresh vegetables! Pammie xxx

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  8. I can suggest a way to foil people who "worry" when you are not drinking alcohol! I did not want to drink in college at the University of Southern California in the late '60s. I drank "tonic with ice and a lime"; and pretended it was a "gin and tonic"! (it was none of anyone else's business!!). No one could figure out why I (who was dancing on the tables until late in the evening) did not have a hangover in the morning!

    Why not? It is truly no one's business! Keep it quiet!

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    1. I had to smile reading your comment Penelope! It is really interesting observing the different ways people interact with or without a drink!! Thanks so much for commenting.

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  9. This is an amazing post and thank you so much for it - I am sure it took quite some time to prepare and write! I have been reading more and more about the relation between food and illness. My friend Ellie at Have Some Decorum has been using food to slow the reaction of her ALS and to boost her immune system to great effect.
    I am sure that many of us are eating plenty of things that are simply not good for us and we just have no idea! For example, I read in the NY Times not too long ago that one third of the population in France (especially the lower regions) is lactose intolerant - this in the land of cheese!
    I don't know if this would be appropriate for you with your stomach issues but I have been reading quite a lot about the benefits of olive leaf extract as a very powerful natural anti-inflamatory. It might be worth checking into?
    Merci encore,
    Heather
    PS. I was glad to see Naomi's comment as I thought of her while reading this post!

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    1. Hi Heather, I'm so interested in the Olive Leaf Extract! I shall look into it. It's like the fairly recent interest in Tumeric ... who would have known about this 10 years ago! Thanks so much for dropping by and continue to enjoy the Summer!

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  10. This post will indeed be helpful to those suffering from arthritis. It's amazing that you are already 25 years ‘drug-free’. I guess it just takes discipline to be healthy and stay fit even with illness. Thanks for these tips, Jenny! Take care!


    Jacqueline Hodges @ Dr Koziol

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    1. Thanks so much Jacqueline! As I said, I do 'fall off the wagon' ... or mistakenly ingest what I shouldnt eat, and then I have a flare-up which usually lasts two days. I take Paracetamol in those instances, or if the pain is severe, I take anti-inflammatories. Thanks for stopping by

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  11. Thanks so much for such a great article. I haven't been diagnosed with arthritis but do have stiff knees and your advice about lots of water and the lemon water first thing in the morning are things I try to do, though some more discipline on my part is really needed. Very interesting too about drinking coffee before anything else, yes I do this too.

    As for kedgeree I love it too, my mother used to use smoked cod in hers , comfort food of the highest order.

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    1. Hi smr - thanks so much for the comment. I have also managed to persuade my daughter not to drink coffee on an empty stomach! I might just make some kedgeree for the weekend!

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  12. Hello Jenny, I have been following your blog for awhile now, just love your gorgeous homes in France and Australia. It was interesting reading your arthritis journey, I can relate on so many levels as there were times I could not get up in the mornings. Diagnosed with RA in 2011 I was fortunate to get on a clinical trial and at the same time we decided to change to organic veg/fruit, fish, chicken and minimal red meat. We juice most mornings using a lot of dark green leafy veg, knob of fresh ginger and turmeric, whole lemon including skin besides beetroot, carrots and have had amazing results. Since adjusting our diet and lifestyle, preparing our own food, the RA has been suppressed, only odd flareup if I eat tomatoes.

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    1. Hello Noreen! I cannot tell you how happy reading your comment has made me!!! It is really a miracle how one's diet can 'heal' our auto-immune illnesses! You have inspired me to start juicing too! So thrilled for you and thanks so much for stopping by. xx

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