In July of 2014 my rheumatologist prescribed a moderately high daily dosage of 35 milligrams of Prednisone to relieve my chronic inflammation and joint pain caused by the autoimmune disorder — sarcoidosis.
The morning after taking my first dosage I felt awful. Like frat party hung over awful. Nausea, headache, hot flashes, exhaustion.
Then, 48 hours later, while vacationing at the New Jersey shore I felt like Superman. Tossing the football around with my sons, swimming in the ocean, riding waves like I had never been sick.
Prednisone will relieve pain and inflammation. But nestled inside those little white pills is a real danger. Long term exposure to Prednisone can lead to a weakened immune system and cause weight gain, depression, diabetes, osteoporosis and a cavalcade of other fine ailments.
Prednisone is not a cure. It’s a mask. A contradiction. It reduces inflammation and it improves the immediate quality of life while silently and slowly destroying bones and organs.
For the last 3 years I have struggled to reduce my dependency on Prednisone. Following my rheumatologist’s instructions I began slowly weening off the drug— 5 milligrams at a time. I worked down to 10 milligrams a day but every time I dropped below 10 the pain and inflammation would return and intensify.
My rheumatologist explained that I should prepare to for a life sentence with Prednisone.
While on Prednisone, I gained about 20 pounds. When I broke a bone in my foot, it took nearly 5 months to heal — tripling the amount of time it should have taken to heal. And though I was never diagnosed with depression, I did endure long bouts helplessness and loneliness which I believe was triggered on my dependency on a drug that was murdering months of my life away.
Over Labor Day weekend, my good friend Casey challenged me to a two-week vegan challenge.
At first I balked.
How could I, a life long carnivore, give up t-bones and hot wings? It wasn’t me. I wasn’t a vegan. I don’t wear sandals. I don’t hug trees.
I sent him a text saying I would think about it.
And I did.
I sent another text explaining that I would try to slowly ween off meat and dairy — one meal at a time.
Then I thought about it more. I thought about my future-self bloated, ripe with diabetes, brittle-boned and blind. I thought about my children. About playing football on the beach again. I thought about how helpless I felt. And I thought about dying young.
So in a flicker of bravery I said fuck it. Two weeks of no dairy, no meat. Cold turkey. Let’s do this.
Casey also told me to watch the documentary, “What the Health“, an unflinching look at how the meat and dairy industries are sleeping with the government and how meat and dairy foods trigger so many autoimmune and inflammation issues.
So I watched it. At first I was skeptical and even a bit naive. Why would my government, the one I Pledge Allegiance to every morning, lie about the importance of milk? Humans need milk. Milk does a body good. Right?
Understand, I’m not a doctor. I’m just a guy with a blog and autoimmune disorder who’s trying to live his best life. But if you’re struggling with inflammation or an autoimmune illness I would recommend looking at your diet. You may realize the food you’re fueling your body with is actually the stoking the fire of your illness.
In his article , “How Does Meat Cause Inflammation?”, Dr. Michael Greger explains how a single meal of meat, dairy, and eggs triggers an inflammatory reaction inside the body within hours of consumption.
After smashing through the two weeks, feasting on only plant based foods, something happened.
I felt good. Like really good. Like how I felt during the first few weeks on Prednisone. I was feeling so good I decided to abstain from Prednisone for one day to see what would happen. I did. And I felt great. Then one day without medication turned into two. Then a week without Prednisone passed. Then another week. And suddenly I was living a Prednisone-free life.
When I decided to forego my medication I did not consult my doctor. I made a simple, conscious decision to improve my own health.
I’m learning that the most unsatisfying thing is to be a spectator to your own life.
I’ve been vegan for 8 weeks. I’ve been Prednisone-free for almost 6 weeks. I wish I could tell you that it’s been a hard lifestyle change but it really hasn’t. Sure I miss bacon and cheeseburgers and bacon cheeseburgers but don’t miss the pain. I don’t miss the dependency. I don’t miss being a spectator.
I’ve lost 10 pounds in 6 weeks. My inflammation and joint pain have completely disappeared. And most importantly I no longer feel helpless. I have gained control over my health. I’m now in the ring, proactive in my fight, which is the most crucial step for anyone living with a chronic illness.
I’m not symptom free. Sarcoidosis caused irreversible brain damage that effect my balance and vision but since converting to veganism I’ve found a fighting spirit I thought I had lost.
I just think if you can find a reason to fight — and there’s always reason to fight — if you can make changes, if you can find the courage to roll up your sleeves and trade punches with your illness you’ll learn you’re a hell of a lot tougher then you ever thought you were.
And you may realize that you were the champion your life so desperately needed all along.
Be well (Eat well),
I want to thank my friend Casey for challenging me. I owe you brother. I guess some times we all need a push to find our better selves.