How I Ate Away My RA (rheumatoid arthritis) with the Paleo Diet

We love sharing success stories from our members who have used the Paleo diet to overcome their health issues. They keep us inspired and are a great reminder of why we choose to eat the way we do. If you have a success story that you would like to share, please fill out our form. We can’t wait to hear about how the Paleo diet and Paleo Plan have played a role in your life!

It is with great pleasure that I am able to share my story of how I used the Paleo diet to heal my rheumatoid arthritis. My name is Kinsey, and I’m one of the nutritionists here at Paleo Plan. It’s an interesting story of how I came to be a nutritionist, and it all started when I discovered that the diet I had been eating for the majority of my life was making me sick without my even realizing it.

Before going Paleo, I was a vegetarian for nearly 25 years. Like many people, I was under the impression that whole grains and legumes were healthy foods, and I consumed them copiously along with soy products that were supposekinsey-pre-paleo-300x225.jpgd to look and taste like meat. Throughout my life, my family and friends were always complimenting me about “how healthy I was eating”, so it made no sense whatsoever when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the young age of 30.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of autoimmune disease that causes pain and inflammation in the connective tissues of the body, most often in the joints of the hands and feet. RA can progress to the complete destruction of any and all of the joints in the body, leaving a person physically and psychologically crippled. At the time I was diagnosed, I had been practicing massage therapy for 10 years and thought that the severe pain I was experiencing in my hands was the result of doing too much massage work. When the results of my bloodwork confirmed that I had RA, I was devastated, but also somehow relieved to finally know what was happening to me.

I’ve never been a fan of pharmaceuticals, and after refusing the numerous prescription medications that my rheumatologists told me I needed to survive, I went to see a Naturopathic Doctor who by the luck of the draw, happened to be a Paleo doctor. When she told me I needed to start eating meat and give up grains and legumes, I thought she was off her rocker! I would have laughed in her face, except that would have taken too much energy, and I was too depressed, weak, and scared to do anything but listen to what she had to say. She explained to me that my vegetarian diet was high in antinutrients, chemicals found in grains and legumes that interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food. These antinutrients also irritate the lining of the intestines, causing a condition called leaky gut syndrome.

A leaky gut is basically what it sounds like: your intestines develop tiny holes that allow for the passage of food particles and bacteria from inside of the gut, through the gut lining, and into the bloodstream where they evoke the immune system to create inflammation. If the leaky gut never heals, the inflammatory response can become chronic (long-term). Eventually the liver becomes overwhelmed with all of the foreign invaders in the bloodstream, and the cascade of particles flowing through the gut wall gains access to systemic circulation. The resulting inflammation can wreak havoc on virtually any part of the body, and in my case, it was triggering the expression of rheumatoid arthritis in several of my joints.

kinsey-paleo-300x277.jpgHow do I know for sure that it was my diet (and not something else) that was contributing to my RA? Well, because when I finally heeded the advice of my Naturopathic Doctor, and gave up the grains and legumes (as well as other foods that were agitating my system…like seed oils and nightshades), my symptoms began to go into remission. Within only three days, I was feeling lighter, more energetic, more clear-minded, and happier than I had ever felt, EVER! The pain and swelling in my joints was already starting to subside, and the ache in my hands that I thought was due to my massage work dissipated. Within a few weeks I was able to return to working part-time, pain-free. This was enough evidence for me to decide to keep on with the Paleo diet for at least a month, however I still wasn’t totally sold on the idea of eating meat, and was secretly telling myself that I would go back to vegetarianism after the month was over.

The first month of eating Paleo wasn’t easy, mainly because I didn’t know how to cook or prepare meats, and the act of eating meat completely grossed me out. But I could not deny the fact that I was feeling a little bit better every day I ate this way. It took me about three months before I achieved complete remission of my symptoms. The RA had left my body and I had no signs of inflammation anywhere! I was able to return to my massage work full-time. I was feeling so amazing that I kinda forgot that it was my diet making me feel this way, and I decided to ‘celebrate’ one day and treat myself to a gluten-free pizza. Whoopsies. Within a day, the pain and swelling in my joints had returned, and while I wasn’t back to square one, I was definitely made painfully aware of the fact that the food I had eaten had caused a re-flare of my RA. Over the past 5 years of eating Paleo, I will admit that I have had more than one ‘faileo’, and each time I eat a food I know I shouldn’t, I pay the price by experiencing a return of my RA symptoms. This keeps me highly motivated to be strict on my diet! While some people can get away with the occasional cheat, I personally cannot (unless I want to be in crippling pain).

It is fascinating to me that the longer I go without the foods that I had to give up, the less attractive they become to me. While I used to have dreams about soy burgers and pizza, I now look at these foods and feel absolutely no desire for them (they actually repulse me). The experience of eating my way back to health was beyond inspiring, and I decided to attend graduate school to study the scientific mechanisms behind why the antinutrients from grains and legumes were contributing to my autoimmune disease. I will go into the nitty-gritty details about the connection between leaky gut, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases in a future post, but for now I will just tell you that the science is founded, and that we now have methodical evidence that explains how a leaky gut lies at the root of virtually all autoimmune disorders.

I am now a licensed nutritionist, and specialize in working with people who are also suffering from autoimmunity. It is the most exciting and liberating feeling in the world to watch people overcome their diseases just by changing their diets! I discovered Paleo Plan about a year after I started eating Paleo, and wish that I would have found them sooner. I use the Paleo Plan Quickstart Guide and online meal plans to guide my patients through the process of changing their diets, and these have proven to be absolutely invaluable resources. If you are suffering from an autoimmune disease (or any disease/disorder for that matter), I highly recommend trying the Paleo diet on for size to experience first-hand just how much diet is connected to your symptoms. I didn’t believe it either…that my diet could be causing my RA, but the proof is in the Paleo pudding, and now looking back 5 years later, there is absolutely no question in my mind.

The Paleo diet literally saved my life, and I have yet to meet someone who has not also experienced a significant reduction (if not complete remission) of their autoimmune disorder by eating the diet that nature intended for us to eat all along. I would love to answer any questions you may have about the Paleo diet and how it can help you along your journey to overcoming disease and achieving optimal health. Feel free leave a comment below, and thanks for taking the time to read my story!

In good health,

Kinsey Jackson, MS, CN