Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Personal Experience with an Autoimmune Disease

Greetings wellness lovers!

Today I have a special guest here, Tonya Bonin... the blogger behind Happy Body Happy Life, to share with you a brief overview of autoimmune disorders, as well as her personal experience in terms of discovering foods and lifestyle changes that have helped her manage her autoimmune disease, naturally!

By Tonya Bonin
"An autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system begins attacking cells and destroying healthy tissue. There are more than 80 types of auto-immune diseases. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteo-arthritis are two well known autoimmune diseases. Chronic inflammation plays a large role in both of these types of arthritis and may lead to irreversible damage if not controlled.

Not all inflammation is bad. Bodies need some inflammation to fight viruses, infections and help repair itself. The problem comes when there is too much inflammation leading to pain, swelling, and damage. It is imperative to get the inflammation under control right away to prevent future damage to joints and organs.

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and manage my disease in a couple of ways. I take Plaquenil, which is used to treat some auto-immune diseases. However, this one medication alone does not relieve all my symptoms. Rather than having to add another medication with other side effects, I have been fortunate enough to be able to control inflammation through diet and exercise. Hippocrates said "Let food be your medicine" and I whole heartedly agree. There are many ideas out there as to what type of diet will work to control inflammation. For me, eating an anti-inflammatory diet has been very beneficial in controlling my symptoms. When I eat right, you would never know that I had a crippling disease. When I don't eat right, I cannot do simple daily tasks such as opening the door, walking down the stairs, sleeping. So I have definitely seen an anti-inflammatory diet relieve my symptoms and allow me to function at 100%.

When I talk about eating an anti-inflammatory diet, I mean every meal and every snack every day. Each meal is filled
with foods that calm inflammation in my body. Not every ingredient I use is anti-inflammatory but I do make sure that the
majority are and that the each meal has a strong anti-inflammation factor. What that means is that all foods have IF (Inflammatory Factor) Ratings:

Some food is way off the charts and totally inflammatory. I avoid those foods. (Ex. pretzels, safflower oil, coconut oil, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, white pasta)

Some food is way off the charts the other direction and totally anti-inflammatory. I eat those foods. (Ex. salmon, olive oil, canola oil, olives, garlic, chili powder, avocado, dry roasted almonds)

When foods are slightly inflammatory, I pair them with spices and other foods that bring the meal over to the anti-inflammatory side so that it has a calming effect on the inflammation in my body. Since RA is known to cause an abundance of inflammation I attack it right back with these wonderful foods and that keeps my body running normal.

The Inflammation Free Diet Plan, written by Monica Reinagel, is an excellent resource for finding out the IF Rating on food. It is packed full of recipes and great information to help in maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet. I refer to it constantly.

Exercise is also a key component in keeping inflammation and joint degeneration at bay. Stretching daily or at least several times a week is beneficial in keeping the body limber and mobile. Yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates are all very gentle but effective. Pilates has a stronger focus on building muscle that is needed to protect the joints. A light weight routine is another alternative that can be started and as you get stronger you can add more weight.  Walking, swimming, and cycling are cardio exercises that are not too stressful on swollen joints. It is important to have some type of cardio exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight adds extra stress to already painful joints.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis include:

  • Joint pain
  • Inflammation
  • Redness of the joints
  • Fatigue
  • Flu like symptoms
If you have any of these symptoms or notice other symptoms that signal a problem, make an appointment right away to see your doctor. The sooner you begin to treat an auto-immune disease the better your chances are of stopping damage that may be occurring in your body.

This is a recipe that I love and is an example of eating to calm inflammation. As you can see, life is good eating the anti-inflammatory way. I use whole wheat pasta with added Omega-3's and olive oil to cook chicken and onions. Lemon juice is calming as are garlic and onions. Enjoy!

Lemon Chicken and Penne Pasta
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 10 ounces whole wheat penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
Drizzle oil over the raw chicken breasts and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Rub the
mixture into both sides and cover. Allow to marinate for 1 hour.

While waiting for chicken to marinate, saute diced onion in olive oil until tender. Remove from pan. This is a great time
to cook the pasta as well.
When chicken is done marinating, cut into bite size pieces and saute in olive oil until done. Add the cooked onions and
saute until caramelized. Then add in the white wine and let simmer so that the mixture reduces by half. Add in the
remaining salt, garlic powder, lemon juice, parsley and capers. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the cooked penne
pasta, stir well. Serve with Parmesan cheese sprinkled lightly over the top."

Tonya Bonin s the blogger behind Happy Body Happy Life, and is the wife of an amazing and supportive husband and the mother of two wonderful sons. She has Rheumatoid Arthritis and after having enough of the pain associated with this condition, she decided to do something about it... via optimal nutrition. She eats an anti-inflammatory diet and is passionate about finding and creating recipes to share with others. She is on a quest to find the balance in healthy eating without sacrificing great food and flavor.

 *Disclaimer: This article is not intended to replace professional medical advice.


  1. Food is highly overlooked as a means to health in today's society. I'm glad you have proven uses for certain foods to help you win the battle against R.A.

  2. I agree food is the answer to a lot of our health problems. Sounds like you Tonya have found some right answers to your Arthritis problems, nice of you to share them with others.

  3. Hi There,
    I like your way to explain it, thanks for mention it