I’m Jen.  I’m a mom of 2, wife, and special needs teacher.  I have been dealing with an autoimmune flare since the end of 2009.  I am sero-negative which makes getting a solid diagnosis difficult and the official diagnosis seems to vary from appointment to appointment.  It’s easier to just say “RA” instead of saying “my auto-immune disorder that is probably RA but doesn’t lend itself easily to a label.”

Trying to figure out how to deal with all of this has led me to a mostly vegan diet.  While I do occasionally eat non-vegan things, I don’t plan on discussing that here.  This is my space to talk about how RA effects my life and how eating vegan  impacts it.  I live with my husband Mark

and our two children T   & E      .  We all firmly believe that laughter is a big part of how we get through all of life’s challenges!

Those pictures were taken in late December 2010 in the middle of a snow storm!  Since going vegan I have lost between 15 and 30 pounds.  (I don’t own a scale and different doctors’ scales say different things.)  I have gone down about 3 dress sizes.

As of the end of the school year/summer  (2010-2011) this is me:

My swelling is reduced since going vegan and I feel better.  I still deal with the issues my RA produces and some days are better than others.  But we laugh a lot and are enjoying this life!

A local tv station did a short segment on me which you can see here

<center><a title=”RA Info Button” href=”http://rawarrior.com/rheumatoid-arthritis-ra-information/” mce_href=”http://rawarrior.com/rheumatoid-arthritis-ra-information/” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://rawarrior.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/RA-Info-button-125.png” mce_src=”http://rawarrior.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/RA-Info-button-125.png” alt=”RA Info Button” /></a></center>


30 responses to this post.

  1. I’m so fascinated by the concept that adopting a vegan diet has helped your RA symptoms. I’d love to read more about that! Thank you also for featuring my blog on your site. I look forward to following your blog. 🙂


    • Thanks Jesse. I am still figuring out how the vegan diet is helping my RA. I feel better, but it is not always huge differences. And some of it is probably placebo affect, because I feel more in control of my life. But placebo or not, I am feeling better (and my rosacea has gone away!) so I will continue. So glad you will be reading along as I figure a lot of this out!


  2. I discovered your blog from a comment you made on Karina’s facebook page. I too have rheumatoid arthritis, and have found relief through an almost (still eat eggs occasionally) diet. It’s great to find others going through the same thing!

    Hope you are feeling better,


    • Thanks so much, Tina! It’s interesting since food affecting RA is still somewhat controversial, but I have really found that it helps me. The summer heat is helping too, as is less stress since the school year is over. I’m not completely gluten free, but my son is so a lot of what I cook and bake is gf. So nice to meet you!



  3. Hi Jen, I’m so glad you commented on my site yesterday or I may not have found yours. My husband suffers from psoriatic arthritis – very similar to rheumatoid arthritis, but with all of the additional complications of psoriasis thrown in – and he has found some relief through diet modification. He’s cut out all dairy and gluten and occasionally eats eggs, and very rarely eats meat. We’ve tinkered with cutting out nightshades, but psychologically it was difficult for him so I’ve added them back in, but cut back. I’ve observed a lessening of his symptoms (after each diet change/elimination) over time, but it’s never been instantaneous. I *do* believe that it’s helping, though – especially cutting out gluten.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading about your culinary adventures and how they affect your health!



    • Hi Monika! So glad you have found me! For Allyson’s recipe testing my name comes up just as “Jennifer.” I have tried some wonderful recipes and can’t wait to get the book!

      In terms of the pretzels our favorites are the Snyder’s of Hanover Gluten Free sticks. They are cheaper then the Glutinos and we like them more. I have only found them at one store (an hour away) so I stock up whenever we go.

      I’m so sorry your husband has psoriatic arthritis. All of the auto-immune disorders of the arthritis family are difficult; they just each have their own twist. I cannot cut out nightshades either. It was too much. I have found the most response with cutting out dairy. I have not made the jump to being fully gluten-free yet. I think it would help but, emotionally I have had a hard time doing it. This summer I have actually felt quite good and so there was no reason (in my mind) to take out another thing. As the school year is getting ready to begin I am starting to have more problems so I think I need to revisit going gluten free.

      Looking forward to learning and sharing with you!



  4. Posted by Sharon Cummings on October 15, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    Hi Jen,

    I just found your site. I have RA also. I was diagnosed in 2006. I recently went vegan after reading the China Study by T. Collin Campbell and I feel that it has been helpful. I am trying to get off my meds. I fasted for 10 days after watching the documentary, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It has been life changing! I was able to stop Simponi. I have decreased Methotrexate from 8 tabs to 6 tabs. I’m off Prednisone and off Mobic. I’m still on Plaquenil. I really believe that most diseases are food related, i.e. processed, preservatives, pesticides… I had been a vegetarian for 16 years, then returned to eating meat in 2005. Six months later I started with RA symptoms, but I continued eating meat. I didn’t realize the connection until this year. I am a nurse and bought into the whole drug way of dealing with RA. Yesterday, I met a woman who was diagnosed with RA in 1993. She said she was “cured”! She went vegetarian, no dairy,no processed foods, no white flour or sugar, and lots of fruit and veggies! I find that eating vegan, juicing and consuming lots of fruits and veggies has been more helpful than all the drugs I was taking. I hope you find that a vegan diet is helpful, too!

    God Bless!



  5. Wishing all of you a happy Thanksgiving!

    TS Smith & Sons (@tssfarms) has shared a Tweet with you:

    “bayareabites: RT @plantmade: Wrote a Vegan Thanksgiving Guide for @bayareabites showing some love for the turkeys: http://t.co/rI6Dcok9


  6. Hi Jen,

    I’m just about to venture down the vegan path myself, so will be keeping an eye on your blog for inspiration!

    What would you say has been your biggest challenge so far? Mine I think will be giving up dairy.




    • Hi Betty! So glad you have found me. Going vegan has helped me tremendously. It has not cured me, nor has it allowed me to go off meds. But it has given me back a sense of control in all the craziness, and has made me feel better. Maybe not “give up the prednisone and run a marathon” better, but just “better.”

      Dairy and eggs were probably the hardest things, mostly because they lurk in everything. I actually still miss the taste and texture of meat (having gone from eating it all to eating none of it overnight) though not enough to make me eat it. I miss some cheeses but, once again, there are enough subs that I’m really ok.

      It’s such a change in attitude though, and the way you look at food, that it can make things really challenging. Good luck to you on your journey and let me know if there is any way I can help you!


  7. Posted by Sam on January 6, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    Hi I am so glad I found your blog. I was googling RA and vegan and ran into your blog. I am 35 year with RA. I have been seeing falreups recently in my condition and have been going almost vegan (need milk in my coffee twice a day) and have had ups and downs. This is great blog and I feel you write from your heart. I would continue to read. Thanks for the inspiration.


  8. Posted by Dassy Ganz on January 10, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    I am so glad I found your site after it was posted on RA Warriors. I, too have gone vegan (well I cheat with eggs found in bread, occassional cookies, etc) because with already hight cholesterol, I had read that RA brings on a greater chance of heart disease. At first I was eating vegan everyday except my Jewish Sabbath as I couldn’t see myself going completely vegan and my reasons were heart not RA related. But I noticed that each week by Saturday afternoon, I felt swollen and more exhausted than usual. I thought maybe it was that I would be taking my methotrexate the next day and so I was “out of medicine” in my body. A vegan friend suggested I stop the animal protein on Saturday as well and…you know the rest.
    Like you, I don’t see myself going off my methotrexate and plaquenil any time soon but I have gone down 30 points cholesterol-wise and am off my statin and on red yeast rice. I am hoping to go off blood pressure pills, if possible too.
    Meanwhile, I have now developed osteopenia, which I am told is connected to the RA as well as the usual postmenopause, etc. Please send recipes for vegan calcium rich dishes. I exercise and take plenty of Ca+D and magnesium.
    Thank you,


    • Thanks so much for your kind words Dassy. I have been looking at some calcium rich recipes for you and will be posting them soon! I’d definitely eat almonds in you can, though, as they are rich in calcium!


  9. Posted by Fifi on January 19, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    Hi Jen
    I like your site except you put me to shame and wear me out with your cooking and baking :). I am such as neanderthal new vegan. literally a bean and a green and a fruit and a grain and little time left but on the weekend and then something literal from a website 🙂

    I am 50 years old and have two teens that just empty nested me for college simultaneously this september. This experiment started on December 1st when my RA meds had to be stopped due to an infection. So off came the enbrel and the methotrexate of over 2 years and in came veganism. Nothing but narcissim on my part, I simply had this fantasy that I could rigidly try this out while not on meds and get a result that would not be “med” driven.

    I am sero positive, but my numbers are low. The methotrexate has always been disabling. I am a prednisone refuser (it makes me sicker on rebound, never trips me out of a flare and is my own personal heroin: the comeback trip after it makes me want to die, so since I never make any progress on it, I refuse it). I also refuse all nsaids and narcotics. So taking away the enbrel and the methotrexate for yet the healing of another chest cold and adding vegan was not so easy since I take nothing else.

    here is what happened. My energy came back at 105 percent. I literally have the energy of a 12 year old, make that 10 year old. Of course that is allowing also that after 2 and 1/2 years on the poison of methotrexat, I am free of it. The rheumatologist dismissed the energy, saying methotrexate of some amount stays in your body for up to 6 months, and I should have residual benefits…don’t know just feel great

    swelling and pain are down 65 percent. enbrel off table. awaiting permission for humira. rheum does not seem to want me to go naked with vegan only, I would prefer to try. hand swelling and elbow swelling both equal and morning stiffness remains.

    on the vegan front, I trudge through the valley of sameness. i am intersted in that banana almond pudding thing you made, is the recipe posted somewhere?

    I feel protein lacking sometime and I barely like and do not love beans at all. the 21 vegan kickstart menuss were monotnous look alikes that were too rabid in their no’s to plant oils and much the same. your stuff is better. I do not use meat substitute taste or look alikes. too much soy for me does not make me feel good. i tend to more clean stuff. I don’t eat susbtitute or beans, so I am a challenge chick. because of that if I feel protein crappo, then I will a free range chicken egg (what kind of vegan am I?)

    I have to hand it to you unloading your pantry and experimenting. I work one full time job and one part time job and one other very part time job and have a 2 hour round trip commute on the primary. i love to cook and bake but am doing 20 percent of the creativeness that you are.

    I am very happy I found your blog. I am pining for that banana almond thing pudding whatever if you could tell me quickly how to do it. it was visually appealing also since i have cocoa nibs and don’t knwo what the hell to do with them :).

    I feel completely different on this 8 weeks of strict vegan than I ever did from any RA med, and I mean any(methotrexate, plaquenil, avara, sulfasazaline, enbrel, tramadol, nsaids, yadda yadda)

    The proof is that I am doing aerobic and weightlifting by 7 days and it is making me feel even better. I do not nee any other proof

    figure i was one of those unlucky leaky gut persons until i found the “guts” to do elimination which i can keeping permanent for now sense it has become my remission of sorts

    thanks for your work here



    • Fifi! So nice of you to comment! And I’m so impressed with how you are doing! The almond banana thing is frozen bananas, some almond butter (a tbsp or 2), and some almond milk all whirled together in the blender until it is like softserve. Then put the cacao nibs on the top. It’s lovely!

      I look forward to sharing more with you in the future! And I know you will figure out some good recipes 🙂


  10. Posted by Fifi on January 24, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    I dont’ know Jen…i made a farro and butternut squash recipe that was like chewing wood particles Saturday night! I am not pleased with how the soy milk changed the carrot and red papper soup taste so I swtiched to simply more water and veg broth to liquify if I needed. and I did not have enough bananas to make your beauty above so it came our like a milk shake froth….help…:). i realize that the challenge part of this is I am preventing myself from buying ANY swap outs or packaged food except for veggie burgers, therefore I am 100 percent scratch. i think I am getting mentally grumpy. the RA? it continues at about 70 percent remission with no fatigue and joint pain only in wrists and hands. morning stiffness at 15 percent of what it was prior to total elimination. i am the LEAST predicted candidate for doing this and i feel so powerful that I did something for myself that the doctors did not do to me. total amount of meds in my mouth for two months: zero. your blog is part of my arsenal of support. thanks.



    • Oh Fifi, sorry you are having trouble! It’s not always an easy transition. And you’re right, having to make everything from scratch makes me grumpy too! If you don’t like the way soy milk changes the taste of things I’d recommend rice milk. It’s taste is more bland. Find some things you really enjoy and make those a few times. Have you tried the lentil and brown rice casserole? It’s a favorite vegan food of the others in my family who are not vegans. I’m actually working on a post series about vegan foods for non vegans that I hope will help. So glad you are feeling some relief, though. Email me at TheRAVegan @ gmail dot com (no spaces) if you want to talk!


  11. Posted by andrea on January 25, 2012 at 5:40 AM

    Wow. Thank you for your blog. I am intrigued by the possibilities of a vegan diet. Of course, I am also frightened as hell! I love meat. I really do. However, I have made big diet changes, and I think you may have inspired me to try again. This will be the hardest one yet. I gave up all dairy over 15 years ago (milk, cheese, ice cream, all lactose containing foods) because I couldn’t digest it. Then, I gave up gluten for a whole year not too long after my RA diagnosis in 2005 and went into remission for several months. However, I started incorporating gluten into my diet and within a few months, my RA flared. So, I thought that was proof but a blood test with a GI doctor indicated otherwise. Either way, I figured I’d go gluten-again and I did for a whole year, but with no improvement. Then in 2010, I started taking Enbrel and went into remission for 6 months. That medicine stopped working and I went on Humira for almost a year, but that never worked as well as Enbrel, so I started using anti-inflammatories regularly to take the edge off the pain. Now I am on Cimzia and my swelling is down somewhat but the pain is constant. Apparently my elbow is severely damaged at this point. So, I am wanting to keep trying whatever I can. I don’t want my other joints to become affected and that’s very possible if I don’t get this under better control. So, I am going to try this! Thank you for this site.


    • Thanks Andrea. It’s a tough road, isn’t it? And something that works for you at one point may not always work. I haven’t gotten myself into remission unfortunately, but I have gotten myself to a better point which makes it worth it for me. Please continue to join the conversation and I hope things improve for you!!


  12. Posted by Fifi on February 5, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    I am going to second Jen. the way my joints feel from the RA on my treating food as medicine is 80 percent better than how they felt on prednisone, methotrexate, anti tumor necrosing factor medicine biologic enbrel, sulfasazline, plaquenil, avara…et al. all the mind wants in the mind couldn’t lead me to a bowl of something that will have my joints back to the way they were before. 100 percent would be better, and I am sero positive with joint damage on x rays so I realize this is not nirvana but I am taking my 80 percent increased functionality.
    on my ra support groups i read that food does not make ra better or worse. that food was just a necessary neutral thing. it has not worked that way for me. food is not neutral to my body, which I guess makes me lucky? since I can evoke most of the change I want?



  13. Posted by Fifi on February 16, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    OK Jen
    Need your help. I made a vegan carrot cake yesterday that was delightful in its long prep (grating carrots forever, in this little teeny 20 year old single serve food processor) and fresh grated ginger, cutting fresh pineapple. yadda yadda. used apple sauce, and plant oil. used egg replacement and great spices. However the darn rice milk changed the overall taste of the carrot cake to something I would have liked to gross. This happens all the time with plant milk, that is why I refuse to use any of them: hemp, rice, soy, almond, variations with vanilla, on anything other than a straight up glass of plant milk or with cereal. What can i swap out for that 1/2 cup of plant milk in this carrot cake recipe? more apple sauce? how about apple cider would that work? Trial and error for my taste buds and olefactory. when I make red pepper soups or any soups I can NEVER thin them with plant milks as their strong plant milk or even mild plant milk flavors change the destination flavor for me. I am getting bored of thinning with water and veg broth though in soups.

    your brain needed



    • OK Fifi. Let’s start with what it is about nut milks you don’t like. Because, in small quantities especially in baked goods, I can’t taste them. I think I’d go with juice in baked goods if you really don’t like the taste of nut milk. Carrot juice or apple juice or even pineapple juice might be good in a carrot cake.

      I’m really interested in what it is about nut milks that you don’t like so I can come up with other things to replace them. I’ve been brainstorming and here are some thoughts for different liquids to use in different situations:
      veggie broth
      mushroom broth
      fruit juice
      tea (green tea can be good)

      OK. I’m still thinking…..What nut milks have you tried?


  14. Posted by Dassy on February 16, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Well, it’s not a natural product but Rich’s Coffee Rich is 100% dairy free and before soy milk was around for regular folks (not just health nuts) that is what we kosher consumers used for all our dairy free baking.
    In general, if a product is labeled kosher (various certifications) and PAREVE that means it is dairy free down to the chemical level.


  15. […] About « My…Almond and Banana Milkshake/Smoothie/Ice Cream/Yumminess […]


  16. Posted by Elle on May 2, 2012 at 3:46 AM

    Hey, I think what you are doing is great. I’ve had RA since 1998. I went Vegan two years ago. My cholesterol dropped twenty points, I got off all the pain pills. I have a lot more energy. The RA is still persisting. I’m not giving up! I don’t have inflammation and I do get swollen fingers, two or three on the left hand and two on the right hand. RA is such a royal pain! I’m on methotrexate still, 5 pills a week. Anyway, keep up the good work. I think we are on the right track. I try to keep the fat low. I’m 58 and a Grammy.



    • Thanks Elle! So glad that going vegan has helped your RA. I agree that it hasn’t cured it, but is helping. I love your comment “We’re on the right track.” Because that sounds like the way I feel about it. I’m moving in the right direction in treating my RA. My biggest issues right now are fatigue and the fact that I just cannot push myself like I used to. Over the summer I’m hoping to clean up my diet some more and take some more of the pain pills/anti-inflammatories away.


  17. Posted by Elle on May 2, 2012 at 7:41 PM

    Hey, you’re welcome. I do rest on the weekends. I lie down on the bed for two hours reading Saturday and I do the same thing Sunday. I rest six hours a week. Rest means lying down. I have been doing this for over ten years. I retired from superior court five years ago. And yes, I’m working on cutting the fat more. I follow Dr. Neal Barnard’s food program and I try to keep the fat low. I learned a few days ago from the Engine2 diet online to keep snacks at 2.5 grams of fat per 100 calories. It is hard to do. I like cookies and have finally decided to limit them more. I loved the Fabe’s cookies. I liked the vegan sour cream and cream cheese. I seem to have a problem with soy sometimes. I don’t feel as good if I eat it too much. I meditate everyday at least 15 minutes of calm abiding meditation. It helps a lot. I got off all the pain pills awhile ago and I’m never ever taking prednisone again. I do still have pain in my feet and elbows sometimes. I try to cut back or ask my husband for help when the pain is bugging me. I really appreciate the fact that you have a blog and I can relate to you all since I’ve had this disease so long. I’m glad to be able to check in with you. I tried to make a blog a few years ago and gave up. Anyway, keep up the good work! I’ll do the same. Since diabetes and heart disease can be reversed or stopped with a vegan diet I figure RA can be eliminated, too. I’m not giving up! All my best, Elle


  18. Posted by onestrangelifeblog on July 30, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    Hey there! It’s me Going Vegan on my other blog. I’m just still figuring out how to use things over here at WordPress but I like it better than Blogger. Glad I found you to follow over here (finding anyone on Blogger is impossible). Lovely site you have, having fun going thru it all xo


  19. Hi there! I found your blog via your recipe for squash chips at “Curly Haired Chica’s Health Quest” I am RA positive for 12 years now and am totally symptom free through my diet. I found out when my youngest was 9 months old and I was 31. I thought I had Lyme disease since my hips and knees hurt so much. I was also told it might be an effect of my hips moving after my pregnancy. Well, good news was it wasn’t Lyme, bad news was that the doctor said the only remedy was going on steroids. Since I was nursing, that wasn’t an option and visited a naturopath. She recommended avoiding the nightshades (Eggplant, Potatoes, Peppers, and Tomatoes) It was August and our garden was overflowing when I was diagnosed. I realized I was having tomatoes with breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as peppers in all the salsa I was making! I have not attempted going vegan, as this has worked out well for me. (Well, it is tough when all the tomatoes come in–I choose to suffer a bit and enjoy them!) If I ever have french fries and ketchup, I feel it the next day, without question!

    Good luck to all my fellow RA’ers and try avoiding the nightshades and see what happens.


  20. Posted by Anne on November 7, 2012 at 2:04 AM

    I have seronegative RA and I found eating a mostly vegan raw fruit veg. diet relieves sooo much swelling and pain. I can’t eat grains or nightshades, but at least I have some hope now.My labs got better with my diet and my pain went down a few notches too, what I like best is there is no nasty side effects.
    I hope you get better.
    Have a nice day,


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