Life without Sugar is No Piece of Cake

chocolate cake

As I wait to start feeling the results of Orencia infusions on my Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), I thought I’d do whatever else I can to help east the pain and stiffness.  While reading about autoimmune disease and food that may contribute to inflammation, I decided to eliminate certain foods from my diet.

I’m already careful to avoid meat and poultry that might have been raised with antibiotics or hormones.  It simply makes sense.  So I decided I would try eliminating a few more elements from my diet.  I’ve taken excerpts from the Paleo diet focused on those inflammation producing foods like sugar, artificial sweeteners, and gluten – also avoiding any pesticides on fruits and vegetables.

This has become quite a challenge.  I began by cutting out the sugars, corn syrups, and artificial sweeteners of any kind.  This leaves me with honey and maple syrup. Both need to be pure and free from additives. And since artificial sweeteners have been linked to inflammation, I’ve decided to eliminate them.  Doesn’t leave much sweetness in my life, does it?

I am in week two of this adventure, and wondering how long I can maintain this new way of eating.  I think the answer is “As long as I feel it makes a difference.”  So the first thing I need to determine is how much better I feel – or if I do feel better at all.  Too early to draw that conclusion.  And since I’ve also started a new treatment for the RA, it might require a bit more experimentation to determine where any benefits lie.

Watch out, gluten.  You’re next!


Lourdes, Lily Pads, and RA


For hours at a time, I would sit across the river from the shrine in Lourdes, enjoying the shade trees and listening to the flow of the water.

You know those sudden moments of clarity when something pops back into your awareness and you realize you’ve drifted off course?

A counselor by profession, I’ve been trained in meditation, guided imagery, and relaxation techniques. And I’ve failed to apply those very techniques to my own struggle with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

I’ve recently begun Orencia (Abatacept) infusions, still seeking relief from severe RA symptoms. Methotrexate and Humira failed me after a somewhat bumpy course of treatment.  Onward to another type of biologic, Orencia.

Because the Orencia acts on a different type of cell, in a different part of the inflammation process, I have become hopeful once again that my inflammation will be eased – along with my joint pain and stiffness.

lily pad

All my relaxation techniques seem to involve water in some way!

Back to the guided imagery  It involves much more than the mind. It engages the mind, body, emotions, and all the senses.  During my grad school years, there was a professor who would capture our attention with short, pithy sayings he called DERT (Dave’s Eternal Rules of Therapy).  One of his favorite DERTs  (yes, his name was Dave) was “Everything’s connected to everything else.”

Back then I practiced all kinds of visualization and relaxation techniques. Mostly just to manage everything I needed to do to get through graduate school.  But those techniques were helpful. I suddenly realized that those same techniques would be valuable right now.  And so, my moment of clarity.

Of course, not all of the pain and exhaustion experienced by those of use with chronic illness are directly related to the amount of stress in our lives.  But if everything is connected to everything else – and I think it is – then imagery will help to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and give us the energy we need to bear the pain and move on with what we need to do.

I’m attempting to recapture the feeling of peace and safety that I found while on a vacation to Lourdes, France.  It was my mental go-to place for my guided imagery ten years ago. Wondering if it’s still possible to feel that connection again. I hope so.

I’m interested in hearing how helpful relaxation techniques of any kind have been to others who suffer from chronic illness.