When I moved to Thailand, a little more than a year ago, I was a vegetarian. When I arrived, I was roughly 109 pounds, but it was not because I decided not to eat meat. Lupus caused me to lose massive amounts of weight almost overnight. I went to a place where walking and talking were difficult and I spent months on my sofa.
During those times, I had no energy for cooking. I could barely get off the sofa to the bathroom, let alone stand to prepare meals. I actually lived in a high-rise with a grocery store on the bottom floor (thank goodness for little miracles). The store would deliver, and I would get fresh fruits and veggies, not because I was a huge fan of them, but because they were easy to eat. After a while, my energy levels started to pick back up. I then started seriously researching what was in the foods we consume, and it was scary to me. Scary to the point where I started becoming paranoid about what was available for me to eat without making my health worse.
When I got the energy to go to the store myself, it would be an ordeal. I would try to go to the farmers markets and those outings would zap my energy for at least three days. But I didn’t hurt quite as much as I did before. Over time, I started gaining more energy. I still had a lot of pain, but my energy got better and better. I’m not saying this lifestyle is for everyone; I’m simply telling my story.
Shopping on the outer edges
Eventually, I went back to eating meat, but I was quite particular about the meats I would eat. I’d never been much of a pork eater, and I would only consider free-range chicken and grass-fed beef — until I learned that grass-fed could simply mean they allowed the cattle to eat grass the last week or two of their lives, which is a cheat. So I stopped eating beef. The pain diminished and my energy again picked up. I started watching documentaries and what I saw disturbed me greatly as a consumer of meats and some processed foods.
I would stand in the aisles of the grocery stores with my apps and Google, learning what was truly in my food before I would load up my basket. I know I annoyed people by being in the way on more than one occasion, but I didn’t care. I cared more about learning about the actual hazmat that was being used in foods, about the high potential of cancers. (I will never eat microwave popcorn again. Ever.) The more I saw, the more afraid I was to eat anything in a bag or a box. So many ingredients that are approved for food in the United States are illegal in other countries. That left me at the outer edges of my markets and casting a suspicious eye at everything prepackaged or too pretty. (GMO tomatoes are gorgeous!) I was fine shopping the outer edges, I just wanted to be the healthiest I could be while battling this painful disease.
More good days than bad
Others would send me information about this person or that who has lupus and manages to live a normal life, and I took the time to reach out to all of them. What I found when I contacted them was they were living a modified normal life and the ones who were doing the best had become either vegans or vegetarians. They did not eat out at many restaurants and they packed their own food no matter what. I found that information comforting since that was a path I was already on.
When I arrived in Thailand, I went to a doctor in Bangkok and asked what I must do if I wanted to gain weight. He told me that animal protein would be required. I know that meats here in Thailand are not processed the same as the meats in America, so I started eating chicken. After a while, my energy levels tanked. My pain increased and, though I did gain some weight, I decided that having a few extra pounds was not worth the extra pain.
I still have pain, I still have flares, but I have more good days than bad. And my bad days are usually brought on by stress or by doing way too much. At one time, I would take three to four naps a day. Now, I naturally rise at about 6 a.m., I am awake all day, and I go to bed about 11 p.m. I attribute much of that to finally getting the proper medications and to what I put in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I will eat things I have no business eating (white sugar, white potatoes), but my diet primarily consists of plant-based items. It’s not the easiest to maintain, but I feel it’s the best for me.
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