Maya Schlesinger began her battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis at 14 years old, having noticed twinges of knee pain in the fall of 2012. After a visit to a pediatric rheumatologist who discovered high inflammatory markers, Maya embarked on a months’ long roller coaster ride of uncovering potential (and frightening) diagnoses and hours of physical therapy that did nothing to ease her mounting pain. Three months after her initial appointment with a pediatric rheumatologist, Maya was officially diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Following a conventional treatment plan, she was given a cortisone shot and put on a regiment of prescription NSAID’s.
Despite her diagnosis and medication, Maya’s pain continued to worsen. The ache in her knees spread to the rest of her body seemingly overnight. “I couldn’t hold a pencil in class to do work, or open doors without feeling like my wrist was going to give out, or sit up to study for exams for more than half an hour without my back making me feel like an old woman,” Maya recalls. Her rheumatologist offered anti-TNF’s to combat the pain, but Maya was hesitant to take additional medication. She continued her regiment of NSAID’s, despite the extreme fatigue they caused, and battled through the pain.
It wasn’t until the spring of 2013 that Maya’s mother, finding mounting evidence online of the effectiveness of an anti-inflammatory diet in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis, decided to take Maya to see a nutritionist. Under the nutritionist’s care, Maya began a gluten and dairy free diet. Within 6 weeks of her dietary overhaul, Maya stopped taking the NSAID’s and experienced a significant reduction in her pain symptoms. After three months of following an anti-inflammatory diet, Maya “cut out major inflammatory foods and commonly genetically modified foods such as gluten, dairy, nightshade vegetables, eggs, corn, and soy. Overtime we learned my four major sensitivities were gluten, dairy, eggs, and yeast.”
Maya’s anti-inflammatory diet, coupled with a regular exercise routine of yoga and weight lifting, keeps the majority of her RA symptoms at bay without the use of any prescription medication.
Now 16, Maya enjoys a typical teenager’s life in spite of her early diagnosis. Maya’s journey to better health has inspired her to share how a gluten, egg, dairy, yeast, and GMO-free diet has transformed her life with RA. She has created and manages a Facebook page dedicated to better GMO labeling across her home state of New Jersey, the United States, and the world.
In her words, “Under the direction of a certified (and wonderful) nutritionist and a few integrative and alternative medicine doctors, I’ve found myself feeling better than ever.”
Written by Kristin Accorsi