One of the things we who are affected fear most is passing Rheumatoid Arthritis on to our children and grandchildren. So, exactly how frightened should we be?
I’ve told my daughter to quit worrying about her health inheritance for several reasons.
She’s seen me deal with the condition every day since she was 10, 17 years ago. She saw the early pain, swollen joints and fatigue. She attended doctors’ appointments with me when I was getting cortisone injections in my hands. She’s seen the worst but that was so long ago I don’t think she remembers much of it now. What she clearly remembers is the way I live today: taking care daily about what I eat and the fatigue that sets in if I cut too many corners.
She was an eye witness to the miraculous change in my life after I learned once and for all that Rheumatoid Arthritis was effectively a food allergy disease and very controllable.
She has been there as I worked (and played) every day. She and I have traveled extensively. She knows that, after the initial trauma of the diagnosis and despite the continuing upkeep, there has been no change whatever in my daily routine. And she knows deep down that she can handle her life, too.
In the ‘My Story’ articles posted here, I document my early ups and downs, my lack of confidence in the beginning for the solution I had found, and how I finally began living the right answer: diet modification.
Although the medical establishment says that the immediate trigger for RA is unknown, I’ve never met a doctor who did not insist that food allergies could not possibly give rise to the condition. In other words, they don’t know the cause but they know it can’t be food…. Does that seem like a contradiction to you?
Anyway, my daughter has the answer that I spent years pursuing. If she ever were to be affected with RA, she knows how to handle it from the get-go. Her life will change no more than mine has, and she’ll spend much less time than I did sorting it out. No matter what the future brings, her good health will not depend on life-sapping drugs.
Which brings me to my second point.
It’s widely understood by those affected that RA seems to run in families. Well, now medical researchers have isolated several genes that play a role in determining who may get RA. Those genes only make a person ‘susceptible’ to illness. They don’t dictate that the person will get sick. Please read those last two sentences again.
Will you pass on the potentially devastating disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, to those you love? If there is one thing I would like every reader to understand it’s that the unequivocal answer to that question is ‘NOT NECESSARILY.’ Having the gene for almost any disease, including breast cancer, does not mean that that gene will be ‘expressed’ as disease. It all depends on what else is going on in a person’s life. After all your worrying, the disorder may never show up in your kids and grandkids.
What medical researchers don’t know, and never will for as long as they believe that the mind is something separate from the body, is why so many people who carry the genetic components for RA do not get it.
The first RA showed up in my family with my mother. She had 4 brothers and sisters as well as umpteen aunts, uncles and cousins, who were never affected. I have RA and a brother and sister, aunts, uncles and cousins who don’t.
It is highly unlikely that all of those in my family who did not get RA lacked the genes for it. Many of those who did not get the disease had (statistically) the same genes that my mother and I carried.
So something else is going on that wreaks havoc in susceptible people, and much of the time it is probably stress. Sometimes stress is created by outside events and sometimes by internal biologic changes. It is widely recognized as a nasty precursor of many forms of ill health.
Stress can come in sudden, supersized packages, or it can be a constant, low level presence, or it can show up as anything in between. Each of us reacts to stressors in a different way. No one would ever mistake me, for example, for a laid back, devil-may-care, sort. If I had learned to handle stress early in my life, I feel certain that I wouldn’t have had to learn how to handle the instantaneous onset of severe RA later on.
On the other hand, I know people who live daily with relentless, lower levels of stress who have mild or slowly developing cases of RA.
I become more convinced every day that the answer is the same regardless of the original cause and regardless of severity: RA, and maybe every autoimmune condition, is a food allergy disease often brought on by our inability to successfully deal with the stress in our lives. **
The best defense against stress is to learn relaxing techniques, such as meditation, visualization and controlled breathing.
And that is the message that I give my daughter. If life comes with a guarantee, it is that everything is not going to be perfect all the time. Develop the skills to deal with the fall out before you need to use them.
Most important, learn to believe that you can mentally and emotionally handle whatever comes your way. If you can’t convince yourself of your own resilience, it may be time to make changes in your life.
For as long as you believe that you are in control, your life will be much more predictable. And much healthier.
The question in the title of this post is “Will We Pass On Our RA?”
The answer is this: If you have the genes for RA and your spouse does not, the possibility that your children will inherit your susceptibility is about 50-50. If they get the disease, they will have to take care about their diet and be inconvenienced like you and me.
There you have it. Now can we move on?
** A known exception is Reactive Arthritis (Reiter’s Syndome), a rheumatic condition that mimics RA but is apparently caused by a bacterial infection in the urinary or elimination tract. It generally affects only the lower body and has the highest ‘cure’ rate of any form of arthritis.