Happy and healthy vegan and gluten-free lifestyle in 8 months

Let me begin my story…

In my teens (around fifteen or sixteen), I travelled with my mother to India. During our one month stay there, our accommodation only catered vegetarian food. So for that whole month, we only ate vegetarian food. Vegetarian food, meaning: fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. I was not vegetarian at the time of my travel. But after the trip ended and we came back home, I decided to become vegetarian.

In December 2016, at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). RA is an auto-immune disorder where your body attacks itself – mostly at the joints and hence leading to limited mobility. I was a young mother and could not believe my diagnosis. I was in denial for quite a while but needed to get medical attention as I could not do some daily activities. These day-to-day activities included: changing my daughter’s nappy or pouring water from the kettle. I could not open certain containers as I did not have a good grip as my fingers could not close into a fist.

As part of my formal training as a pharmacist, we were taught to consult the guidelines. I remembered that we always counsel patients on lifestyle modifications first, before initiating medication(s). This is where my journey as a gluten-free vegan began. I would spend hours and hours reading about causes of inflammation and what other RA-diagnosed patients were doing as lifestyle modifications.

I learnt that the three main inflammatory foods were: dairy, gluten and sugar. Meat was also inflammatory but I was not concerned about that since I had been vegetarian since about 15/16 years old. So in 2017, we slowly changed our diet over, from being vegetarian to being vegan. I was vegetarian for about fourteen years before I became vegan. Vegan meaning fruits and vegetables only. No animal products – no dairy, no cheese and no yoghurt. Seeing the benefits, I then proceeded to exclude gluten from my diet.

What were the benefits of changing from vegetarian to a gluten-free vegan lifestyle?

  1. No more sinus congestion.
  2. Goodbye post nasal drip.
  3. No more constipation.
  4. No more fatigue.
  5. No more feeling bloated.
  6. Less joint pains.
  7. More energy.
  8. Lost a lot of weight.
  9. Improved my self-confidence
  10. Improved overall health.

I have been off chronic medications for the management of RA since March 2019. I have gone the homeopathic route regarding the management of my health as well as focusing on my nutrition and mindful living.

March 2021, marked two years being off chronic medications. At the start of 2021, I had an appointment with my specialist for a routine check up. There were no flagged inflammatory markers in the blood work. Since I was pain free, the doctor did an “echo”/sonar of my wrist joints and two fore fingers. These were done to double check that there are no signs of active arthritis. The machine used was apparently very specialised and usually would pick up any defects that x-rays would not have picked up. That was such a delightful moment for me – it was not just in my head that there was no inflammation. There the machine and the blood results proved it! 

One KEY lesson that I have learnt with RA, is that life humbles you when you least expect it. And being diagnosed with RA, changed my life for the better. It was a blessing in disguise as my quality of life is so much better now than before my diagnosis.

My five top tips if you are considering a vegan and gluten-free lifestyle:

  1. Baby steps. Take one thing at a time. Do not try to change too many things at once – that is when everything becomes too overwhelming. And when things are too overwhelming, it seems easier to quit. Pace yourself.
  2. Be clear about why you are changing your lifestyle. Is it for your health? It is important to have that in mind to stay motivated.
  3. Buy convenience food when starting out instead of trying to make everything from scratch. If you are based in Gqeberha and you are unsure of where to buy vegan and gluten-free items and ready-made meals or where to eat out, check this blog post. There are many small business owners who supply convenience foods that cater for gluten-free vegans nowadays. Support them while you are transitioning. Once you feel more confident about this lifestyle, then start experimenting with the cooking and baking.
  4. Tell your family and friends about your new lifestyle. You will be amazed how support makes a big difference in maintaining this lifestyle. I am grateful to my family and friends who are very considerate of this lifestyle from where we meet to eat out, to what they cook when they host us; to looking out for items in the shops for us!
  5. Give yourself grace and be flexible. Celebrate your victories – however small or big they are. Have grace for yourself if you eat something that you feel to eat that does not agree with your new lifestyle! Be flexible! Tomorrow is a new day – you try again tomorrow. Mistakes are okay! It is part of the learning process.

Book here if you require one-on-one vegan and gluten-free lifestyle mentorship.

Left hand side photo: December 2016 – newly diagnosed with RA. Right hand side photo: 8 months of doing a vegan and wheat-free diet (2017). I had lost about 10kgs.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Michelle Coates

    Wow, Anu…this is amazing! I have had similar inflammation issues and also suspected RA. Not being able to close my hand in a fist without extreme swelling and pain. Since then, I have also gone gluten free and started more plant-based living, feeling much healthier these days. This can only be a good thing. All the best with your journey.

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