Recently, I was excited to have the opportunity to chat with Laura Rellihan, Registered Dietician and Licensed Nutritionist of Back to Balance, Inc. Laura is a long time friend, Lupus patient and one of my personal heroes. Autoimmunity aside, Laura competes in triathlons, is a wife and mother, and counsels her patients on nutrition for better health. Just keeping up with her activities inspires this City Girl to shake it off and do more!
CGF: How important is it that a potential dietitian understand autoimmunity?
LR: As dietitians we each have specialties. It is important that we focus on our own specialty and interest and learn more about that field of nutrition. Some registered dietitians focus is on sports, while others may be clinical, diabetes, cancer, gastroenterology, geriatrics, and immune function. I have practiced in most of these areas, and a majority of my clientelle suffers from autoimmune disease, so it is important that I focus my energy and education on learning more about the immune system and how nutrition plays a role on the immune system and affects those of us struggling with an autoimmune disease.
CGF: What are some specific questions an autoimmune patient should ask of a potential dietician to help determine if (s)he is the right professional for the patient?
LR: Ask the dietitian if they have any experience working with patients in autoimmune disease and consider asking them for a bio. I have a bio on my website and services listed on my website @ www.backtobalancejax.com.
CGF: According to research, 25% of autoimmune patients are gluten intolerant, have an allergy or celiac disease. Would you recommend all autoimmune patients avoid gluten? Why or why not?
LR: No. This depends on the patient. I do not recommend for everyone. There is not adequate research supporting this. However, if my client is interested in trying to eliminate gluten from their diet, I highly recommend they are tested and seek a health care professional before making this diagnosis as a food allergy. You could be eliminating a good source of fiber if you don't know what whole grains to replace wheat/rye/barley with (these contain gluten). Whole grains add a good amount of insoluble fiber to our diets. Some whole grains that do not contain gluten are wild rice, millet, arrowroot, buckwheat, gluten free oats, and quinoa. Furthermore, it is important to stay away from processed/refined carbohydrates.
CGF: Nutrition is a hot topic in the news. How can an autoimmune patient know which is best: Nutritarian, Paleo, gluten free, vegetarian or vegan?
LR: It important to make sure that they are getting are the adequate nutrients and balance of nutrients in their diet (carbohydrates / fat / protein / vitamins / minerals / water). The best way to determine this is to seek out a health care professional that specializing in nutrition, specially a registered dietitian.
CGF: How much impact (in percentage) do you think diet has to do with autoimmune remission?
LR: I am unable to answer this question properly, due to limited research. Personally speaking, I have only been in remission once and specifically follow an anti-inflammatory diet.
CGF: Do you work out on days you are feeling fatigued or in pain?
LR: It depends. With autoimmune disease, it is very important to listen to your body. Sometimes the movement of swimming or going for a walk helps to remove the stiff pain from my joints. I haven't dealt with joint pain since 2006 or earlier, though. I do have days of fatigue and on those days I take my dog for a walk or swim.
CGF: How similar are lupus and psoriatic arthritis?
LR: They have very similar symptoms (joint pain & fatigue) and in doing more research they share a similar gene. You can read about it on this site http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=25217. With lupus, there are two differed forms: discoid and systemic lupus. Discord lupus affects the skin. Systemic lupus, when flared, can cause the patient’s immune system to attack one of its own organs. In my case, when I have a lupus flare the lupus attacks my kidneys and this is called Lupus Nephritis. My sister has a form of lupus which attacks her lungs and is called Lupus Pneumonitis. When her condition flares she can have difficulty breathing. She is well controlled and has not currently had any issues with this, thank God!
CGF: If readers are interested in engaging your services, do you work with patients who live too far to come to your office in Jacksonville? If not, would you feel comfortable making referrals in the reader's local area?
LR: Yes, I can communicate with clients via Skype, FaceTime, or teleconference if needed.
I hope you have learned something new and feel inspired. Feel free to contact Laura at her website for additional questions and information.