Part of my Operation Arthritis artillery is food.
Last week I went to see a nutritionist and herbalist at Neals Yard in Manchester, to see if I could improve my diet and whether a herbal concoction would magically spirit away the aching and stiffness in my left hip.
There are no easy answers, as it turns out, but there are answers. It cost me £15 for about 25 minutes of Dalbinder’s time and I learned lots. Well worth the investment, I’d say.
We live in an instant-gratification culture where consumerism teaches us that it’s all there on a shelf waiting for us. All we need is money. Sometimes a lot of it.
Running, of course, teaches us that everything worth having takes time and commitment and you can’t buy fitness anymore than you can buy intelligence or compassion or love.
So, thankfully, I have the right mindset for this, which is just as well as I’ve had to make some radical adjustments to an already healthy eating plan and know I need to do this for at least six months before i can assess whether food changes alone will help me heal. If the food plan isn’t cutting it by then, we’re trying herbal remedies as well.
I am determined I am not going down the route of steroid injections. I want to manage my osteoarthritis though natural remedies.
I was already taking glucosamine and omega 3-6 fish oil supplement. This is now being boosted by a multivitamin and a probiotic capsule.
Now for the tough-love challenges:
* say goodbye to cheese. Apparently the type of fat that’s in cheese completely nutralises the good effects of the omega 3-6 oils. Bad cheese!
To say I love cheese, is a bit of an understatement. In Waitrose last Sunday, I audibly whimpered as we passed the cheese aisle. I used to eat my way through a round of camembert a week, plus cheddar here, goats cheese there… it’s so sad.
But I have noticed I’m considerably less snuffly since I cut it out 10 days ago. I don’t need to blow my nose half as much as I did, I can breathe more clearly – and as any yoga fanatic will tell you, breathing is where it’s at.
* Bye-bye regular red meat, hello oily fish, chicken and turkey. I can live with this, she says gritting her teeth.
* Utter horror – cut back radically on the English breakfast tea and coffee. Two a day is the prescription and then anything more is dehydrating. It’s a wonder I didn’t resemble a prune; 12 cups of tea a day could happen some days, eight minimum. I’m supposed to drink two litres of water a day, which is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Water? Meh.
Hello veg – leafy green and bright colours – and fruit – focusing on the berries. Hello pulses and grains. All easy for me. I genuinely like veg and love puy lentils and chickpeas.
Hello nuts and seeds. Seeds are new for me but I actually quite like them now.
Ginger, cardamon and turmeric have all been flagged up as goodies. I’ve tried grated ginger and hot water as a herbal tea and it’s not the most offensive thing I’ve ever drunk. (Pernod holds that dubious honour).
So far I’ve invented a quickie broccoli soup that is delish and I roast peppers with something bordering on glee.
I’m supposed to eat every three hours and include a protein at every meal.
Quite a lot to take on board, one way or another. But I want the arthritis stiffness and pain to sod off much more than I want the cheese and caffeine.
It’s been a week now since I embarked on this journey and I have to say I do feel well. I haven’t cut out red wine or chocolate completely, or red meat – they are on the treats list.
I thought it would make a big difference to my weekly shopping bill, but not really. Pulses are cheap and tasty and I’ve noticed supermarkets mark down blueberries, cherries etc regularly as the berry fans don’t seem to live near me. Big wins on a pound a box there.
Eating well really doesn’t cost a packet – now there’s a marketing line for you!