I, Shannon Nand, was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I attended Graduate school in Buffalo, New York. Currently, I live in Florida where I work as an Occupational Therapist. I have an insatiable thirst for travel, interior design, learning, (especially in the areas of cultural anthropology, world history, marketing, branding, and personal development) and a new found interest in cooking food that is equally tasty and healthy. I hope by sharing my story others will realize the impact lifestyle has on their health and that it may inspire them to be more proactive with their health.
When were you diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis? Did you experience any symptoms or receive any alarming signs leading up to your diagnosis?
I was diagnosed 8 years ago in the summer of 2010. The alarming symptoms I experienced were swollen,painful joints in my hands and feet. In retrospect, I was highly stressed at the time. Before the physical symptoms of the painful and swollen joints began, the most evident symptoms were in regard to my GI system or my gut. I later learned these were symptoms of ‘leaky gut’ meaning unhealthy food was being rushed through my GI tract and not being fully digested resulting in the absorption of toxins that caused the inflammation and pain in my joints.
Were you prescribed conventional medication upon your diagnosis? Did you take any of the prescribed medication? If no, why not?
Initially my MD at the time, said my diagnosis was mild and to just take Tylenol for pain. However, I knew that Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) was progressive and would only get worse if I did not do anything else. Pharmaceuticals were not the route that I wanted to go. I was 23 at the time and I did not want to start taking meds that I would have to take for the rest of my life. According to Western Medicine, the origins of RA are considered to be “unknown” and conventional pharmaceutical treatment was the “only way” to manage and slow down the progression. I knew there had to be more natural methods to treat RA than the conventional methods. That is when I went into research mode.
Does anyone in your family have rheumatoid arthritis?
No. However there is a history of diabetes and thyroid issues in my family, which like RA, are auto-immune conditions. I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism in high-school.
Do you believe that health issues are hereditary?
I believe that we have genetic markers that make one more likely to develop certain conditions and that it is our lifestyle choices including diet, physical activity, and our thoughts/mindset that turn the markers on or off. Just because a health condition may “run in the family” it does not necessarily mean one will inherit it if they practice lifestyle habits that best serve them.
Well said! What lifestyle changes have you made since being diagnosed?
Over the years my diet has been the biggest as well as most challenging change (it still is at times) that I have made. I grew up eating nothing but processed, unhealthy, and greasy food. Now it’s pretty much the opposite. I always strive to eat fresh, whole, nutritious foods that serve my body. I also make sure to stay physically active mainly for joint strength and flexibility. Another important change that I have made is practicing daily meditation, journaling, and overall being more self-aware and in tune with my higher-self.
Do you consume a plant based diet?
I can’t say that I don’t eat dairy and meat at all, yet. I eat a 90% plant-based diet. You won’t find any dairy or meat in my house. However, if eating out, on occasion I will allow myself to have cheese if it’s on a sandwich. The only meat that I will eat occasionally is chicken, turkey, shrimp, and salmon.
What impact have these changes had on your quality of life mentally, physically, and spiritually?
I sometimes wonder if I had never developed RA when I did, if I would have made as many lifestyle changes as I have in such a short time. All of these changes have impacted me physically, mentally and spiritually in such a monumental and positive way. I am so thankful for being lead on this journey because I have grown so much. Now when I have children I will have a lot to teach them in regards to healthy and mindful living.
Do you believe that the body can heal itself? Why or why not?
Most definitely! Our bodies are amazing, organic machines! Every system within it works together in harmony. When an event occurs it has systems in place to address it and initiate the healing process. I think many of us fail to realize this because of the society in which we live. We have been lead to believe that it’s ok to eat (in excess) foods that don’t serve us and as a result external measures are needed to correct the damages when in actuality if we provide the optimal environment for our body it will naturally thrive.
How has being an Occupational Therapist affected your decision making when it comes to seeking alternative methods of healing?
My journey as an Occupational Therapist (OT) definitely affected my decision to seek alternative methods of healing. At the time that I was diagnosed, I was fresh out of OT school. I knew enough to know that RA could have devastating, physical, and deforming effects. In OT school we had been taught that according to Western Medicine, RA (along with many other auto-immune conditions) are classified as being “idiopathic”, meaning it is unknown how it originates in the body. Because of this, Western Medicine only treats the symptoms and never the root cause. Once I did my own research and learned otherwise, it was both mind blowing and empowering. At that point I knew that I could manage RA naturally and that I was in control.
Are your symptoms related to rheumatoid arthritis better since working diligently to heal yourself? If so, how?
Yes, in the beginning I experienced multiple flare-ups of extremely painful, swollen, and sore joints. I was still learning and had not made all of the lifestyle changes that I needed to. Now, I rarely experience that kind of pain or swelling in my joints. If I do, I know that it is directly related to something that I ate or due to not taking my supplements. Although I have made numerous changes since being diagnosed, I still have room for improvement. I don’t think the journey will ever be over. I feel it is more like a never-ending evolution for me.
What advice would you give to anyone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis?
Initially I thought that I could just take supplements and not change anything else. I painfully learned that was not it. I had to do a complete lifestyle change. It was not easy and I don’t know if it ever will be but I do know that every day and every year since has definitely been easier than the last. The benefits far outweigh the quick fix solution pharmaceuticals will ever have.
Thanks Shannon for sharing your story! You’ve inspired me and I’ve learned a lot from taking a peak into your healing journey. May you continue to grow, flourish, heal, and inspire others by shining your light as an example of mindful and healthy living. I pray that others read your story and know too that they too “are in control” of their healing journey as you stated. Shoutout to you queen for demanding your healing!