It all started when I was 35. I went for a run and mid-way through my foot started killing me, with pain right in the toe and metatarsals. I stretched it, rubbed in some pain lotion and moved on, or so I thought.
Question: What was causing my foot so much pain?
I went to my doctor and he gave me a cortisone injection directly into my foot. It did feel much better for the short term and thought that I was on my way, but I was wrong. My foot continued to be in so much pain that I had to go back to the doctor; he sent me for blood tests to test for arthritis.
It was great news to find out that I didn’t have arthritis at all when my blood test came back negative — but what was causing all the pain? I still hadn’t been able to find out the root cause of the pain.
I went back to the doctor again and took another blood test which came up negative again. Keep in mind this was about 20 years ago and the tests have evolved quite a bit since then. My blood also had a rare factor which doesn’t show up on some blood tests.
Meanwhile, I kept going but had mounting pain in my feet, fingers, and body. It was hard to even get out of bed sometimes because I was in so much pain. My friend drove by me walking on the street and pulled over to ask me if I was okay because I looked like a “zombie” walking down the sidewalk.
As if this wasn’t enough, it all came to a head when my finger swelled up so much that it landed me in the hospital. They feared I had a bad infection in my finger and that I may need amputation.
I went into surgery. They opened my hand and peeked inside only to immediately close it back up. They figured it out – I had psoriatic arthritis. This is a type of arthritis that affects a percentage of people who sometimes also have skin psoriasis. It causes asymmetric pain mostly in fingers, toes, and small bones of the body. The doctors could tell by the colour of my tendon when they opened my hand.
I was then referred to a rheumatologist who ran more complex blood tests to confirm that it was indeed psoriatic arthritis. She put me on a regimen of more non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pills and sulfasalazine. It worked, so to speak: I got better over time but had to take heavy horse-sized pills every day at a relatively young age. These medications reduce your immune response and I knew I couldn’t sustain this for the rest of my life.
I kept on the regimen anyway for a year or more and then slowly tapered off the medications, with no ill effects for a few years or more. But then it was like an old friend came knocking on the door asking for me – the pain started to come back. I call “pain” my old friend because I feel it has helped me on my journey.
This time I turned to a naturopath who immediately got me off all dairy. Wow! This was a huge breakthrough – I saw immediate improvements with my digestion, bowel movements, skin, and feeling of well-being.
Could this be the magic bullet I was looking for?
No, it wasn’t. Cutting out dairy got me closer to my destination of living pain and inflammation free, but I would soon find out that it would take so much more. I would learn that the things I would need to change ran deep.
I always loved cooking and we would create what we thought were healthy gourmet meals. You know the usual – grass-fed beef fillet barbequed to perfection, loaded baked potatoes and a Caesar salad that could peel the paint from car it had so much garlic and parmesan cheese in it. I also used to do some serious chicken and fish cooking too. I loved it!
But my pain continued, getting worse even without the milk. I got a new type of blood test called CRP that revealed that my inflammation was way above normal (a score of 55 when it should be well below 8). Now, the arthritis moved into my eye (iritis) and I had a hard time seeing anything at all out of that eye. Things weren’t good and my family and friends could tell.
In 2016, my daughter went vegan and suggested that I eat more plant-based foods to help reduce inflammation. “No way,” I told her. I explained to her that my pain had nothing to do with my partial meat diet as we ate only quality healthy ingredients.
When she came back home from university on vacation, I wasn’t going to give in to serving only plant foods — or vegan. One night I made a meat dish with only limited veggie options to see if she would break and she didn’t budge.
I asked myself, how could she be so selfish? It turned out she wasn’t being selfish – I was.
I felt bad afterwards and decided to cook her a special plant-based meal. I love my daughter and would do anything for her. I found a plant-based dish in a magazine and made it for her.
Even though I didn’t agree with her choice to be vegan, I decided to support somebody that I love deeply. Of course, I ate some of the meal too. It tasted good. I felt good too. And a hat trick — my digestion was great!
One meal led to the next and I was having more and more plant-based meals. My inflammation and pain started to feel better overall.
Had I finally found the answer I was looking for?
No, I hadn’t but I was close. I continued eating plant-based meals and continued my journey to live pain free naturally. I took another blood test and my CRP marker had come down into the 30’s – a substantial reduction but nothing close to normal.
The doctors wanted me to go on a heavy drug called Methotrexate, and others. I know these drugs help a lot of people and can be very useful, but I felt like I had already been down this path and didn’t want to go back.
I started to do more research about my disease, diet changes, and possible advice. I was getting scared. I felt less pain overall but sometimes I would have a few bad few days of pain and inflammation, even on the 100% plant-based diet.
One night, in desperation I was researching something on the internet and found this guy Clint Paddison. He was addressing rheumatoid arthritis with a program that he used to help reduce pain, inflammation, and the whole kitchen sink.
So, I tried it and BAM! It worked. The slowly introduced plant-based foods and eliminated other foods like coffee, high-fat foods and more. I learned about the foods that affect inflammation for RA and found specific foods that affect my inflammation individually.
The epic news! I recently had a blood test and my CRP inflammation factor is now normal! I have been living basically pain free for a couple of years or more without taking any medications or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pills!
Most importantly I have learned a couple of lessons along the way.
Never give up. Be open. Enjoy the journey – the good and the bad.
I will be writing more about my journey so stay tuned.
Discover More: Check out this great article on curious things about walking.
Max Brennan is a passionate wellness seeker on a journey to learn and share the secrets of living well. He is also the CEO at Hum@n Media, the publisher of SILVER Magazine.