It started a few months ago, and it was just a small nuisance at first. I would wake up in the morning noticing that my ring finger on my right hand was slightly stiff. I noticed a little soreness during the day. Eventually ‘slightly stiff’ became so stiff I can’t bend it at all when I first wake up and the ‘little soreness’ gave way to all-out pain.
One silly little finger. I’m experiencing stiffness, pain, and joint swelling in one finger. It’s getting progressively worse each week and not showing signs of slowing down or getting better. When I wake up in the morning, I can hardly use it at all for a good ten minutes. It is stiff, swollen, and very painful. I have to use my other hand to try to bend it and get it working. When I’m making my breakfast and coffee I tend to drop things because I can’t form a grip to hold on to whatever I need. Not good when I have sleeping kids upstairs. Throughout the day I feel pain when I’m trying to do simple, everyday tasks like twist the tops off of jars, get Luke dressed, and make beds.
I asked a doctor friend to look at it. While he isn’t a hand specialist, he is an orthopedic guy and I thought his opinion might help me figure out what was going on before taking the plunge and going to my own doctor. (We only have coverage for well visits, so we have to pay full price for office visits.) He basically said it was inflammation, possibly arthritis that was coming out early in one finger that was injured when I was younger. I did play basketball from a young age and jammed my fingers a lot, so his explanation is plausible.
When he recommended I go and see a hand specialist, I asked what he thought that type of doctor would do. Tim chimed in that the doctor would probably tell me to take ibuprofen. Our doctor friend agreed that yes, that’s probably what I’d be told at first. Eh, I think I’ll skip that visit.
So here I am, with symptoms of arthritis. Taking ibuprofen might help my finger feel better, but I’m not interested in putting a band-aid on my issue. Also, you all probably know me well enough by now to know that I’m not really an over-the-counter medicine kind of girl. I like to keep it natural. I will be trying my darndest to fight this early arthritis (or whatever it is, clearly caused by inflammation) naturally, through diet.
Deciding to go on a strict anti-inflammation diet was a hard one for me. I’m not a diet person, so even using that term is tough for me. I like the mantra ‘everything in moderation’ when it comes to food, and it was really tough for me to accept that perhaps my already-pretty-healthy diet was contributing to this inflammation and pain.
I’m not willing to let this go and see what happens, though. Whether this is the beginning of arthritis or some other auto-immune disease, I really don’t want to find out. I will do everything in my power to not let whatever is happening develop any more.
Researching the anti-inflammatory diet was frustrating. As with everything in nutrition, there’s tons of contradictory information out there. I don’t know which side is right. Nobody does, for sure. I mapped out my plan based on what I read over a variety of sources. Here’s an overview of the major changes I’ll be making:
- Cut out all sugar, including natural sugars like honey and maple syrup.
- Cut out all processed foods. (I don’t eat a lot of them, but I wasn’t 100% processed food free, either)
- Cut out most flour.
- Cut out gluten.
- Drastically reduce the amount of animal products I’m eating, except eggs.
- Increase fatty fish consumption.
- Decrease use of all oils. Cut out grape seed oil. Only use extra-virgin olive oil in strict moderation, and not for cooking to avoid hitting its smoke point (too hard for me to control, so I’d just rather not cook with it for now.)
- Decrease coffee consumption and increase green tea consumption.
- Eat foods and herbs that are anti-inflammatory everyday, including ginger and turmeric.
Yes, this is a drastic thing. There are a few occasions I already know I won’t be following it 100% (Easter brunch, for example), but other than that I plan to follow this strict anti-inflammation diet for eight weeks. My goal right now is to get rid of the pain in my finger through diet. If it works, I will have to reevaluate how I eat and decide where to go from there.
I plan to keep you updated after a month and at the end of the eight weeks. Is there anything else you’d like to hear about? Meal plans or anything like that? Let me know! Also, if any of you or your loved ones have fought arthritis or other ailments caused by inflammation through diet, I’d love to hear your stories. Thanks!
I loved this post. Can you clarify how much extra virgin olive oil you considered a maximum during your 8 week diet, and if you are able to consume it in larger amounts now? I come from a big olive oil loving family (eating the freshest, highest anti-oxidant oils, not supermarket stuff) and generally see inflammation decrease with eating a great olive oil, but also can see how decreasing it (hopefully temporarily) could help initially. Any thoughts on this from your experience???
I would like your meal plans please!
Jenny Ao says
Hi Maryea, I found this post from your turmeric milk post and am curious to find out how things are going for you two years on. My father has a swollen finger similar to the condition you describe in this post and I am wondering if you still drink the turmeric daily and if your finger has returned to normal size? He’s had his condition for about a year now and I’m trying to convince him to take a more natural and diet based approach to healing. He is open but very skeptical so any follow up you can provide to help me sway him would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Yes, my finger did return to normal and I keep the pain minimized through eating anti-inflammation foods. Yes, I drink the turmeric tea and I am eating other anti-inflammatory foods daily. I hope you’re able to convince your father to at least try it! I was shocked at how quickly my finger got better when I was very strict with my diet. Now I can tell when I am eating too much wheat or sugar as the pain and stiffness returns.
This post came at perfect timing for me, thank you. God is so good!
Can you share more on the oils? You said you eat coconuts, does that mean the oil too? Is coconut oil ok? Which oils did you cut out?
Also would you be able to share a list of foods that are anti inflammatory?
Thank you and i pray you feel 100% better asap!
Coconut oil is okay, you just have to be careful about how high of heat you’re using and if you are using refined or unrefined. Refined has a higher smoke point, so I use organic, refined coconut oil for cooking things like eggs or roasting vegetables. I cut out grape seed oil, but other oils that I’ve read are inflammatory (that I wasn’t using anyway) are vegetable oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and soy oil. Although I found a lot of conflicting info. on canola oil. Some say it’s good, some say it’s bad. I have started using avocado oil also. In general, I’m trying to use less oil overall and have my fats come from more whole foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, etc.
Here are a few good sources for a list of anti-inflammatory foods. Like I said in the post, there is a lot of contradictory information out there, so I had to sort that a bit.
Good luck to you!
I was reading your post and reached the “I don’t like to put a band aid on the problem” part. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory as well as a painkiller. Arthritis is caused (essentially) by long term inflammation, which causes damage to you over time. I understand and respect your decision to avoid over-the-counter drugs (I’m reluctant to reach for them myself), but in this case, you wouldn’t be just covering up the problem with a painkiller, but potentially slowing the process of damage from the inflammation. You clearly do your homework, so I thought I’d add this snippet to your research 🙂
Good luck with your new diet, I very much hope your finger gets better!
Hi Julietta! Thanks for your thoughts. I should have also added that I’m reluctant to take over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, especially over a long period of time, because of its side effects. From what I understand, long term use can cause severe intestinal damage as well as damage to the liver and kidneys. So I’m hoping to reduce inflammation in a more natural way.
Mila [email protected] says
I read several of your posts and felt that I share your approach to healthy living (eating, exercising, etc.). I am passionate about simple, wholesome nutrition and being persistent, though realistic, with workouts. However this post really surprised me. You chose not to see a doctor and have testing done on the assumption that they won’t take you seriously? And instead experiment with rather drastic nutritional changes, basically in the dark? I agree that some doctors may shrug a patient off, but there are plenty of competent doctors out there. Once you are certain about your condition, dietary changes can be beneficial…
No, I wouldn’t say my assumption is they won’t take me seriously. My assumption is that I won’t get a specific diagnosis and that the answer will be to manage the pain rather than get to the root of the problem. Perhaps that isn’t a valid assumption, but it’s been my experience with mainstream doctors. I will definitely see a doctor if these changes don’t take the pain away completely. After just over one week, however, I’ve already seen an improvement. I have more range of motion and less overall pain. I will have to see if the improvement continues or plateaus. If I don’t see it continue, then I’ll go to a doctor and hope for a better experience than I’ve had in the past.