Case Study #3 - Rheumatoid Arthritis

Meet Brenda - She has Rheumatoid Arthritis and is looking for a way to manager her symptoms without the side effects of her medications

This is the third in a series of case study reports that share the experiences my clients have had while working with me. These case studies are designed to give you a little perspective on the types of people I see and what outcomes they experience. Each case study in this series will start with a description of the person’s condition and any relevant details they brought with them to their Health Assessment call. Next is a summary of key items on their Healing Strategy that brought them the most relief – and how long it took to get that relief. Each case study closes with a summary of the outcome and how their lifestyle updates have worked to continue their healthy, energetic life. I’ve changed any personally identifiable information to protect my clients’ privacy and security.

Meet Brenda - She has Rheumatoid Arthritis and is looking for a way to manage her symptoms without the side effects of her medications. Brenda is a 28 year old woman diagnosed by her physician five years ago with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She started having bilateral pain in the small joints of her hands. The pain seemed to be exacerbated by her work, when she had to do a lot of typing. Her primary care physician initially suggested that she be evaluated for carpal tunnel syndrome, and ordered a series of RA labs at the same time. When her lab results came back, she was positive for RF and had a high levels of CCP antibodies.

During Brenda’s Health Assessment call, we discussed her health history and lifestyle. She had been doing well with her medical approach, with limited impacts to her daily life. She was taking etanercept and methotrexate to manage her symptoms. Recently, Brenda was reading more about the side effects of these two medications and wanted to find some alternative strategies to manage her symptoms. Brenda was willing to try dietary changes as well as herbal supplements to see if she could better manage her symptoms without medication.

I suggested that Brenda try a dairy and gluten free diet for 3 weeks. I encouraged her to not jump to the ‘gluten free’ bread and ‘dairy free’ options that are loaded with starch and carbs. Those products can not only cause you to gain weight, they can upset the sugar/insulin balance, and we didn’t want to create a new problem while we were solving another. Besides, it was only 3 weeks and she had no major activities or events planned during that time that would interrupt her progress.

While she was on this diet, we kept a close record of her joint pain severity and watched to see if the diet made any impact. She did not change her medications during this time. Over the three weeks, Brenda noticed that not only had she reduced her pain, she had reduced the bloating and discomfort she felt after her meals. She felt like her clothes fit much better and she was not having the same amount of alternating constipation and diarrhea that she had in the past.

I encouraged Brenda to try and reintroduce gluten and dairy one at a time by having a serving at each meal for three days. She waited three days between each trial. During the reintroduction, Brenda kept detailed logs again, to track what impact the gluten and dairy had on her symptoms.

Brenda noticed that eating gluten brought back her digestive symptoms of constipation and diarrhea, and eating dairy brought back her joint pain. She agreed that eating those foods did not help her achieve her goal of better managing her symptoms without medication.

With her diet trial complete and the new plan in place, I started working with Brenda on healing her digestive tract, knowing that years of eating gluten had probably taken its toll. I created a soothing herbal tea blend, and encouraged her to drink it daily, on an empty stomach. I also encouraged her to eat more greens, especially organic ones grown locally to supplement her mineral intake. An herbal infusion of lemon balm, nettles, and marshmallow leaf added to her micronutrient stores.

I suggested she add magnesium, selenium, and chromium to her supplements list and that she get checked for vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels. I also encouraged her to add more organ meats to her diet. If eating them isn’t palatable, a desiccated liver capsule is a good alternative.

We added burdock root and mushrooms both as a food and as a supplement. We added the burdock to support her liver function and the mushrooms as an immune modulator, hoping to help bring her immune system into a more moderate function. The medications she’s taking suppress the immune system, so we wanted to be able to bring it back into good function as she weaned off the meds.

At this point, Brenda hasn’t changed her medications, but she is noticing that she is feeling significantly less pain and that her digestive problems and headaches happen much less frequently. She’s working with her doctor to reduce her medications with a measured reduction in dose to see where she feels the best. Her doctor feels that she may be able to even switch to a steroid during flares, given the significant changes in her RF and CCP labs. We continue to work together to manage her symptoms and adjust her diet and supplements to meet her needs.

Does this case sound like you? Do you see some similarities to what is happening in your life? I’d love to talk with you and see what we might be able to do to improve your health and find your way back to doing the things that are more important to you. Send me a note and let me know what’s going on for you, and we’ll take it from there.

This case study is intended to demonstrate the types of recommendations I make when working with a client and show the potential results. Every case is different, and results are not guaranteed. While these case studies are helpful and educational, they’re not medical advice and not a substitute for the guidance of a licensed medical professional.