I am hoping that our experience will be an inspiration to others, who are suffering from this disorder. I will explain what we did holistically to fight back to health. Maybe some of the healing techniques that have worked for us, will be beneficial to you, or someone you know, that’s dealing with RA.
John, my son had been a ballet dancer since he was four years old. He danced with the NYC ballet twice and the Canadian National Ballet. John loved to dance and it showed. He practiced a lot, payed attention in ballet class, and his teachers and classmates adored him. We believed he had a promising future in dance, and we were all very proud of him.
During the winter of 2015, when John was at a ballet lesson, the class had a break to grab a water. He came to me and said that his knee was hurting a lot. I asked if he overextended it, or twisted it while he was dancing. He said no. I looked at it and it did look a bit swollen, so we left class early and went home to ice it.
Things progressively got worse from there. As the days and weeks went by, his knee was doubling in size and he started to limp. I took him to an orthopedic doctor, who also happened to be a good family friend of ours. He took an x-ray, drew fluid from his knee (not fun) and ordered blood work, and an MRI to be done. He couldn’t see an issue with his joints or his bones. He thought he might have a torn meniscus, but this was not the case either.
The MRI was one of the worst tests we had to endure, His knee was very sore and swollen, they pressed it down and expected him to be still for what seemed an eternity! Of course, the whole time John is going through these tests, my husband, Foti and I would scour the internet for answers to his symptoms, and of course, we focused on the most dreadful diagnosis out there. Word of advice, don’t surf the web when you’re stressed and think pessimistically!
Our orthopedic doctor called us and advised us to see a rheumatologist. We weren't even sure what Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis was. And things were getting worse, as by this time his other knee had begun to swell. John was currently nine years old, and could no longer dance. He could hardly walk down the stairs.
We met with the rheumatologist, she started him on NSAIDS and scheduled him to get steroid injections in his knees. The NSAIDS didn’t do anything except help with some of the pain. When John was in the hospital for his injections,and the anesthesiologist finished putting him in a deep sleep, I broke down and cried until his procedure was finished. One of the hardest things in life is to see someone you love, especially your child suffer with an illness, you feel helpless and would give anything to take their place, to spare them the agony.
About a week after the injections, the swelling in John’s knees began to go down. We felt hopeful about his recovery, and life was getting back to normal—until two months later. The swelling returned with a vengeance; but this time, not only in his knees, but his elbow, and wrists as well. He was also becoming noticeably depressed. He couldn’t dance, run, climb, or play like a healthy kid should.
Foti and I were falling into despair, but did not show it around the kids, or publicly. We kept the gravity of the situation between us. We always remained hopeful and tried to be optimistic and encouraging around John and the girls. Our worst fear was that the reality of the situation would really take hold, and begin to bring everyone down, and exacerbate the situation.
Feeling defeated and desperate, we reluctantly trudged back to the rheumatologist. She started him on an oral medication called methotrexate. She also wanted to start him on weekly injections (biologics) immediately, (that we would have to administer at home.) As we sat there listening to her describe all of these medications, (which in my gut felt wrong) we asked if there was a more natural protocol that we could use, instead of so many pharmaceuticals. She claimed that natural remedies don’t work and if we don’t use the medications she suggests, that the swelling around his joints will result in permanent damage if the swelling was not reduced.
We started the oral medication and told her we would like to wait on the injections. She wasn’t too happy with our decision.
After John’s first dose of the methotrexate, he was sick, he looked pale and was lethargic. My husband then said, enough of this shit!—no more meds, we are going to solve this problem ourselves! He had a determined tone in his voice, and it was uplifting and encouraged me. He’s right I thought, even though I still had in the back of my mind that the swelling is destroying his joints, and what if it spreads to his eyes and on and on, (thinking the worst.)
We decided to tackle this on our own. I poured over my herbal books and researched everything I could about RA. Herbal medicine has always been there for me and I needed to trust the power it offers.
In my experience, conventional rheumatologists have very little to offer except dangerous drugs that only relieve symptoms and offer NOTHING to address the underlying cause of the disorder. At that last meeting we had with the rheumatologist, we recognized that she was implementing scare tactics, to break our independent spirit and compel us to trust in her unconditionally—it was obvious.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. People that are afflicted have an overactive, but misdirected immune system. It’s doing its job, but in the wrong places—against your own body rather than materials from outside your body that might be a threat to your health.
So, I thought, this is like having allergies, RA is along the same line. With this disorder, you have to find the trigger, that sets off the symptoms. Well we sure as hell were going to find out John’s “triggers.”
The first thing my husband said to do on the road to John’s recovery was to go on a fast. But not just John, this was one for all and all for one! If John has to do it, we would all do it with him as a family. All five of us went on a water/juice fast for four days. We all felt better after the fast, John had more energy, and he was in better spirits. Day five we slowly introduced food. Only whole foods, no processed foods, sugar, or gluten. We kept this strict diet going relentlessly.
We also began bringing John to an acupuncturist, and chiropractor. There were small improvements, we would measure his swollen knees, and wrists to judge. I ordered more blood work to be done. I checked for gluten intolerance, vitamin D deficiency, and Lyme. He didn’t have a gluten intolerance and he tested negative for Lyme, but his Vitamin D levels were extremely low. We got a prescription for a high dose of Vit.D.
We then brought him to an allergist. I wanted to know his triggers and he certainly had some. He is extremely allergic to dust mites, pet dander, and certain types of pollen, He is also very sensitive to food additives, sulfates, and nitrites. Now we had something to work with. We figured his triggers are mainly environmental.
We scrubbed the house. Steam cleaned the carpets, ripped out carpets, changed his mattress. Used special dust mite proof mattress and pillow case covers. I bought organic cotton sheets (kept up on cleaning his linens.)
Herbally I started him on a strict regimen. His Diet was super clean, mainly whole foods, low on sugars. When there is an autoimmune disorder, there is a leaky gut. I had him taking supplements also.
During this time his rheumatologist would phone and pressure us with the biologic route. Again we said, no thank you. I asked her, What about damage to his kidneys, or liver from the drugs? What about the high risk of cancer with these drugs? All we really got from her were programmed responses and condescension. We saw through it, and remained steadfast and determined to cure John on our own.
It took about 4 months to get his swelling all the way down. He has been free from RA for four years now. He swims, runs, climbs trees, plays piano, and has started to think about going back to dance class (he dances at home all the time.)
Here are some of the herbs, supplements, and holistic healing remedies we incorporated in his road to recovery:
Goldenrod Tincture :(Solidago Canadensis) is a powerful anti inflammatory, and she calms the immune, when it wants to go out of control. I recommend this herb for anyone who has issues with autoimmune disorders and seasonal allergies.
Elderberry: (sambucus nigra) The tea, syrup and tincture. We use all three. She boosts the immunity to help fight off pathogens and keeps the heart and blood flow strong.
Nettle Leaf: (Urtica dioica ) Nettle is a energy booster, she helps tackle the energy drain you feel when your immune is going overboard.
Ashwagandha: ( Withania somnifera ) I mix this herb with local raw honey and coconut oil. John loves it, and it helps balance his mood and fights inflammation. The raw honey helps with local pollen tolerance.
Turmeric, Black Pepper, and Cherry Bark: John would only tolerate a small amount of this herb, he didn’t like the flavor one bit. But it helped with bringing down the inflammation in his body.
Skullcap Tea: ( Scutellaria ) This helped him sleep at night. Skullcap is a nervine and she helps with pain and stress.
White Willow Bark Tea: ( Salix alba ) This helped with pain and inflammation.
Green Tea: This is something we all drink everyday. Green tea helps with energy levels, inflammation in the body, and a healthy metabolism.
Medicinal Mushroom Teas & Tinctures: John has taken this everyday, either chaga, reishi and/or shiitake
We made sure that we nourished his gut microbiome, with fatty fish and fish oil supplements everyday ( we use Nordic Naturals ) Whole milk yogurt (plain), Bone broth (grass fed beef and from the farmers’ market meats.) Fermented Foods, Kombucha, and Miso.
Vitamins: Vit. D, Vit. E , Vit. C and B complex
Lemons: John loves raw lemons ( he gets that from his Dad) but it is a natural healer with an abundant of Vit. C.
Pure Live Spring Water and Mineral Waters from the ground. -No tap water or bottled water.
Massage: I would massage him with an oil I made with calendula and frankincense. Circulation is so important, and acupuncture is very helpful too.
Baths with epsom salts, and herbal bath teas.
Long Walks in the forest, Swimming, Yoga, & Limited Stress, ( no violent or overly dramatic television shows, movies, or video games)
This is what we did and it worked. If you find your triggers, you can heal with Mother Nature's help. Change your lifestyle, Eat real whole food, Exercise, Sleep Well, and Be Happy.
. Always consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any prescription medications.
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