Here is my story of recovery from Relapsing Polychondritis (RP). I hope it will help you too to put Relapsing Polychondritis into Remission.
How my RP journey began…
In September 2013, something very strange happened to me — Relapsing Polychondritis. At that time, though, I had no idea what I was dealing with.
My left ear swelled up in excruciating pain. The ear was so extremely sensitive to touch that even one single hair or light current of air would almost make me scream in pain. Sleep, of course, was impossible.
And so, I decided it was time to visit the doctor. I wasn’t happy about it since every time I had gone to seen him with some weird symptom I had suffered with in the previous years (like not being able to breath fully…), he’d prescribe an allergy medicine that did not do a thing.
As “luck” would have it, my regular doctor, who happened to be a rheumatologist, was on vacation at the time, so I went to see an “ear” doctor. I figured ears are his specialty so it should be an easy visit — I come, the doc prescribes an ointment and I’d be out of there in no time. Case closed, right? Well, not so fast…
The ear specialist had never seen anything like it. A swollen red ear lobe without any sign of trauma or insect bite intrigued him but he used the time-honored approach of “when a hammer is the only tool you have, everything seems like a nail.” For no particular reason, he prescribed me antibiotics. They did nothing.
In a couple of weeks, despite the useless antibiotics, my ear went back to normal on its own. Great. My microbiome had suffered some damage due to the useless antibiotics, but I was back in business. Or so I thought…
A couple of weeks after that my right ear swelled up. Again, no insect bite, no trauma. This time I went to see my primary physician and was “lucky” to hear my diagnosis. Apparently, even though RP is extremely rare – only 1-3 people out of a million have it – I was his third patient with this disease. Hmm, perhaps it isn’t as rare as they think, unless of course, my doctor had seen millions of patients in his medical career, which I doubt. Anyhow…
What is the cause of relapsing polychondritis and how do I reverse it?
I asked my doctor. Surely, he would know everything about the disease and have a treatment plan in place, having had RP patients before and all.
I was wrong again. The answer I received was less than satisfactory: “We don’t know what causes it, it’s incurable, therefore you can’t reverse it. We can only manage it with drugs. The drugs will most likely eventually stop working but once that happens, we will try some stronger drugs. Here is some prednisone, take it but be careful about salt intake because it might make you gain weight. Also, it might alter your personality.”
My jaw dropped. That’s it? Well, he was right about one thing. It did alter my personality. It made me extremely angry, furious even that he knew nothing about the autoimmune disease and diet connection. It also made me extremely angry the way he smirked when I told him at my next visit, “Please take me off the prednisone, I will cure my RP by going vegan. More accurately, whole-food, plant-based.”
I also feel that I suffered quite a number of side effects prednisone has to “offer”. One of them was suicidal ideation. I still remember how I searched the internet for euthanasia clinics only to discover that I’d have to fly to the Netherlands or Switzerland. Well, I didn’t have enough energy in me to walk down the stairs, so that was out of the question. So instead, I cleaned my drawers, got rid of most of my clothes and planned how to kill myself “elegantly” enough so that my husband and kids won’t suffer permanent psychological damage when they find me.
Luckily, those thoughts were gone as soon as I stopped taking prednisone and cleaned up my diet.
Note: Please do not stop taking your medication without first consulting your doctor. Steroid medication such as prednisone require slow tapering off and you can start changing your diet while you are taking your meds.
Well, that was some 10 years ago (I’m writing this in 2023), and I haven’t been back to see my doc since my diagnosis back in 2013. I had no need. I am in excellent health, take no drugs and have no reason to get drawn into the medical mill. I will go see a doctor when I need it.
I did, however, educate myself about the WFPD diet and lifestyle and how it can not only prevent but also reverse not only heart disease, diabetes and other chronic, “food-born” diseases but also autoimmune disorders.
If you would like to put your Polychondritis into Remission, you will need to make changes to your diet and lifestyle as well. You can do it on your own just like I did, or I can help you every step of the way.
Where did I get the idea that a WFPB diet could help me heal from RP?
Not from reading research studies. They only describe cases of extremely sick people who get sicker and sicker despite the drugs and surgeries modern medicine has to offer. Not in RP support groups either. I find the atmosphere in such groups extremely negative. They dragged me down and only made me depressed. Autoimmune sufferers in such disease-specific support groups tend to be resigned to taking drugs and undergoing surgeries because nobody offers them hope.
In order to heal, you need to believe that you can heal, and you have to be motivated. You have to want to get better and be willing to do whatever it takes. You have to change your diet and lifestyle and you have to have people in your life who will support you on your journey. And it is a long journey on which you will have to figure out by trial and error what works for you. Some autoimmune patients get better within a few short weeks, for some it might take several months, even years.
As for me I was lucky because when I Googled “How to reverse RP,” I came across the story of Sabrina Nelson who was able to reverse RP with a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet. You can read her story here or here.
Sabrina’s story made me realize that perhaps my consuming animal products is what caused my flare-ups. And sure enough, in retrospect, I was able to link my flare-ups with me “treating myself”. What do I mean by that? Every time my cartilage started acting up, it coincided with some kind of celebration. On special occasions, I would always make myself a special treat – plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and plenty of whipped cream. Oof, now when I think back to what I was doing to myself by eating dairy, and also meat, fish and eggs, I feel terrible.
Even though being diagnosed with an “incurable” disease was a huge shock to me at the beginning, now I consider myself “lucky.” Not only that I immediately cleaned up my own diet and got rid of my painful flare-ups, but my family is now healthier, too.
My husband no longer needs to take statin meds for his “genetically” high cholesterol and my kids no longer suffer from all those “mysterious” rashes that they had been given corticosteroid ointments for that never helped anyway. How could they, they didn’t treat the CAUSE.
Hardly, just clean eating, a little bit of exercise, staying away from toxic environmental triggers, learning how to deal with stress, more socializing and more sleep. That’s all it takes. Sounds too simple? Well, it is simple but by no means easy. But the threat of a killer disease hanging over you and the possibility of reversing it are excellent motivators.
Are Sabrina and I just two outliers, two lucky ladies whose RP just decided to go into spontaneous remission? No way. We worked hard for it, and it paid off, but we are definitely not the only two success stories. There are many, many more cases of people recovering from autoimmune disease, including relapsing polychondritis.
Just go to dr. McDougall’s website or forksoverknives.com or make yourself familiar with dr. Brooke Goldner’s story who cured herself from lupus or dr. Stancic’s story who reversed her multiple sclerosis. Here you will see that reversing autoimmunity is not only possible, but you will also learn how it can be achieved. The cool part about the two above mentioned ladies is that they are both medical doctors. The sad part is that neither of them was taught in medical school that a whole-food, plant-based diet has the power to reverse autoimmune diseases such as lupus or MS, as well as a long list of other chronic diseases.
Am I cured? Is my relapsing polychondritis gone forever?
“Cured” is a strong word. I have healed. I am in remission and my plan is to stay in remission as long as possible.
And just so you know, even though my RP is in check now, I did encounter some setbacks along the way. That’s why I am reluctant to say that I’m cured. I have, however, learned what to do in order to not bring it back or to put it back into remission in case it rears its ugly head again.
Can trauma or stress trigger flare-ups? Yes, they can.
In fact, both, physical and emotional trauma are huge triggers and the hardest to control. I found out the hard way that stress/trauma can be a huge factor in triggering my flare-ups. There was a time when I was going through some tough times and I also happened to accidentally run into our heavy dining room table with my knee. Within a few hours, this is what happened.
My knee swelled up and I was in pain. At that point it was clear to me that if I don’t do something, in a couple of weeks my other knee will get swollen or some other body part containing cartilage. That’s how I figured that diet alone won’t fix me. And so, I tried various de-stressing strategies varying from deep breathing exercises, meditating, tapping, yoga, tapping, CBT, listening to relaxing music, watching funny animal videos etc. Not all of them worked for me but I found some that do.
At another time, I managed to drop a heavy pizza stone on my instep. At first it did not look bad but a few hours later, a terrible pain woke me up at 2 am and it was impossible to fall back asleep. Curiously enough, my ankle was not yet swollen at that time. It swelled up the following morning and the swelling continued for four weeks! Lesson learned – I must stop being so clumsy and try to stress less!
Can dietary indiscretions trigger flare-ups? Yes, they can.
I have also become very aware that not adhering to my diet will give me flares. Not that I would willfully steer from it but sometimes people like to cook for you, and you don’t want to offend them, or you need to eat out. Be careful, though! You never know what might be hiding in the food you are being served.
Here is an example. At one point, my mother, who knows that I only eat vegan whole foods, prepared a hearty vegetable soup for me. I happily gobbled it up because it is rare that someone else cooks for me and because my mom is an excellent cook.
Unfortunately, about 20 minutes later I could feel that familiar “weird” feeling in my left ear. Immediately, I investigated what went into that soup.
Most ingredients seemed fine, a few not so much and one stood up as a probable culprit. What seemed like a harmless mixture of dried vegetables also contained MSG, some mysterious “aroma,” vegetable oil and whey! Although I am not sure exactly which one of these ingredients triggered my reaction, I suspect that the cow protein whey was the most problematic. Needless to say, I am not going to repeat that mistake again.
Anyhow, since I have figured out what my body needs in order to function optimally, I have been doing really great! And I think that for a 55-year-old woman with an incurable disease I am doing pretty well. ;o)
You can find more info about Relapsing Polychondritis and diet in my article "Relapsing polychondritis, causes, diagnosis, and treatments." You can also read my story on T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies in an article titled “Fighting My Autoimmune Disease Through Plant-Based Nutrition“. To read the article, click here or on the picture below.
If you are currently trying to put your autoimmune condition into remission and feel like you could use some help, I will be happy to guide you on your way to recovery. The only condition I have is that you must be willing to change your diet and lifestyle. ;o)
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