The Arthritis NewsletterWinter 2017
A Natural Solution: Restoring Autoimmune Health with NutritionBy Katie LeBlanc, PhD and Holistic Nutritionist
My journey towards using nutrition to manage my ankylosing spondylitis (inflammatory arthritis) began just over three years ago when I started to research the connection between nutrition and autoimmune disease. I’ve lived with inflammatory arthritis for over a decade and I was always curious about why my immune system was attacking my joints.
Through visits to countless alternative medical practitioners, I began to realize that finding the best “diet” for me wasn’t going to be straightforward. The research on nutrition and arthritis is limited, and access to knowledge and current research is often difficult to obtain as a patient. But, I was able to use my academic background to filter through the research that is currently available and decipher the best way to move forward. I was determined to find nutritional options that would help me feel better and keep my symptoms under control.
I quickly realized that changing the way I consumed and thought about food was going to be one of the biggest challenges of my life. Our society is filled with temptation, especially in social situations, and staying on track is often less than easy. I was motivated to change my habits and relationship with food because I wanted a future where medication wasn’t my only option. My journey became about the nutrients and the future I was gaining, and not about the processed foods I was giving up. It was also important to build a support network around me. My family and friends were instrumental in helping me stay on track and remain focused.
By gradually transitioning to a whole food anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, I was able to see improvements in my energy, mood, and joint pain. These improvements gave me the motivation to continue. Three years later, I can now identify and understand foods that have the potential to bring back symptoms and those that reverse the inflammation. I’m currently in remission without medication because I’ve learned how to listen to my body and make small adjustments when needed.
The entire experience led me to change careers and become a holistic nutritionist so that I can help others with autoimmune disease to navigate the world of nutrition in order to feel better and restore their health. Making nutrition part of my treatment plan was difficult because there are so many anti-inflammatory ‘diets’ and ‘cure-all’ options that can be Googled, which can be very confusing.
I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge and helping others develop individualized plans that will work best for them, and provide a supportive space to undertake this journey. As I move ahead with developing my online nutritional consulting business I am mindful always of one of the biggest lessons I learned along the way: that everyone has different circumstances and because of that, there is no one-size-fits-all nutritional plan that works for everyone.
It is also very encouraging to know that Sharan Rai, former member of Arthritis Research Canada’s Arthritis Patient Advisory Board and Arthritis Research Canada Research Coordinator and Master’s level trainee, has been accepted to the prestigious Harvard University School of Public Health PhD program.
Working alongside Arthritis Research Canada scientist Dr. Hyon Choi, Sharan has been inspired to specialize in the area of nutrition, as she too identified this as a topic of much interest but with little reliable information. Arthritis Research Canada is excited for the contributions that this area of study will bring to arthritis research in Canada now and in the future.