It's a new year, which means making resolutions for a new and better year. One thing I am contemplating trying this year is a juice fast.
The idea of a juice fast is not only to promote weight loss, but also to detoxify the body. Further there are those who believe that, if juice fasting cannot cure disease, it can at least improve overall health.
This idea came about because I recently watched the documentary, "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead." It is about Joe Cross, a man from Australia, who was 100 pounds overweight and was on high dose Prednisone due to the autoimmune disease chronic urticaria. For 60 days, he drank fruit and vegetable juices, and nothing else. Along the way, he met a truck driver who had the same rare autoimmune disease as him, and was on Methotrexate and many other medications that are common to patients being treated for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I have to admit, I was pretty amazed with the results. But what was most striking was the fact that both men were not only able to lower the doses of their medications, but they were able to get off of them altogether.
However, what I gathered from the film, (and I could be wrong here), is that the autoimmune disease that both men had was partially due to their obesity. But getting rid of excess weight is always something that is pointed to in reducing RA symptoms.
In theory, this could be really huge for those of us who are on these types of medications and are desperate to find a way to get off of them. However, while buying the fruits and vegetables may rival the cost of standard groceries, the juicing machines are fairly expensive.
As a graduate student, I can't afford to invest in one of these. If someone came and made my juices for me and I just had to drink them and nothing else, I think it's totally doable, other than the no coffee part.
I did several searches for scholarly articles on PubMed, but didn't find any, either related to juice fasts and autoimmune diseases or juice fasts and RA specifically. This is somewhat disappointing, as it would be nice to have concrete evidence that this is something that has been tried and may work for those of us with RA. While there weren't any articles that looked specifically at juice fasting, there were two articles that did look at actual fasting and RA.
The first article suggests: "Unfortunately, studies that attempt to associate dietary interventions with changes in the microflora and disease outcomes are virtually nonexistent. Nevertheless, alterations in the fecal flora are increasingly believed to be contributing factors to many chronic inflammatory diseases and have attracted growing interest in the field of Complementary
and Alternative Medicine"First clinical evidence for the health-promoting effects of probiotic drugs or diets was derived from studies on inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)"" (Michalsen, et al. 2005: np).
According to the other article: "Most general practitioners and rheumatologists have encountered patients with rheumatoid arthritis who claim that their symptoms are alleviated by a special diet or by simple elimination of certain items from the usual diet. Such reports tend to be viewed with s[k]epticism" Fasting, however, does reduce objective as well as subjective indices of disease activity in most patients with rheumatoid arthritis" (Kjeldsen-Kragh, et al. 1991: 899).
Further, they suggest: "Although most patients with rheumatoid arthritis benefit from a short period of fasting, nearly all relapse on reintroduction of food. We have now shown that the improvement can be sustained by an individually adjusted dietary regimen" (Kjeldsen-Kragh, et al. 1991: 902).
I have my own, non-scientific theory about this. When I first got sick, my doctor at the time thought I might have Celiac Disease, so I went gluten-free for two weeks. The first week, I felt great. I had little pain and more energy. But the second week was back to the way I had been feeling. I think anytime you do something like this, an elimination diet of any kind, you are going to feel better, at least in the short run.
I read a lot of chronic illness blogs, and there are definitely the fair share of those who preach "-free everything" diets." Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, alcohol-free. I'm not judging. But can you really be a happy person with so little in your diet?
I guess my point is that I'm not suggesting doing something that extreme, and ultimately, I might take smaller steps than a week-long juice fast right off the bat.
So what are your resolutions for 2013? Do they include dietary changes? I'd love for those of you with RA who have tried alternative diet therapies to share your experiences.
It goes without saying that fasting, juice fasting, or any other significant dietary changes should be discussed with your doctor before starting, whether you have RA or not.
Kjeldsen-Kragh, J., C. Borchgrevink, E. Laerum, M. Haugen, M. Eek, O. Forre, P. Mowinkel, K. Hovi. 1991. "Controlled Trial of Fasting and One-Year Vegetarian Diet in Rheumatoid Arthritis." The Lancet 338 (8772): 899-902.
Michalsen, A., M. Rigert, R. Ludtke, M. Backeri, J. Langhorsti, M. Schwickert, and G. Dobos. 2005. "Mediterranean Diet or Extended Fasting's Influence on Changing the Intestinal Microflora, Immunoglobulin A Secretion and Clinical Outcome in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia: An Observational Study." BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 5 (22): np_._