Are you suffering from autoimmune arthritis?

Are you suffering from autoimmune arthritis?

A 55-year-old woman presented to the clinic. She had had the odd aches and pains, with stiffness in the joints making it more difficult to get out of bed in the mornings, but she recovered quickly once she was moving around and had no problems during the day. This had been recurring over the last couple of years, nothing that concerned her greatly. Then after a severe attack of the flu, in bed for a few days off work, she woke up one morning in so much pain she could barely move. Her joints were swollen, and it felt like every joint in her body was on fire. Her energy had also dropped away to almost nothing.

When she came to see me a few weeks later, after she had been to the doctor and was taking 15mg of prednisone and 100mg of Plaquenil (an antimalarial that can be used to treat autoimmune disease but can have several side effects over time), as they were the only things that enabled her to get up and moving. However, taking these did allow her to stop Voltaren, which she had been taking in high doses daily.

The symptoms she presented with were extreme fatigue — despite sleeping a lot during the day but not as well at night. She reported with significant pain in the mornings on waking, which made it very difficult for her to get out of bed, but which improved when she moved around but was worse for rest. She had also lost her sense of taste and smell. She was so debilitated that she was unable to work and was on sick leave.

Her medical blood tests showed a high level of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation, at 20.5 (the normal level is 0–5), and autoimmune antibodies were detected. Otherwise her standard medical tests were normal. Our blood tests showed a deficiency of glutathione, poor fat digestion, low fatty acids, low adrenal function (high stress), high inflammation (despite the prednisone) and low thyroid function.

Some interesting studies have recently shown that drinking water with a daily dose of bicarbonate of soda in it can reduce pain and inflammation and reduce the symptoms of autoimmune disease.

High CRP can be lowered by omega-3 fatty acids — fish oils or krill oil — but with her poor fat digestion, supplementing with these initially did not help significantly. However, after using hemp oil topically as a moisturiser and supplementing the krill oil with lecithin over several months, her symptoms of pain and her energy levels slowly improved; and while carefully monitoring her symptoms, she started to gradually lower her prednisone dosage down to 5mg per day.

While she did not show the rheumatoid factor in the blood tests, she had a family history of inflammatory arthritis through her uncle.

Autoimmune inflammatory disease is strongly associated with gut symptoms: wind, bloating, reflux and indigestion. The correct microbiome has a significant role to play in the healthy immune system, including in the management of autoimmune disorders.

This woman was a mild smoker, five to 10 cigarettes per day, although she had been trying to give up for years. This can be a contributing factor in autoimmune disease, so she made an excellent effort and stopped completely.
She has also had a long history of recurrent migraines that she has never really managed properly despite various dietary changes in the past, including eliminating wheat, which it is also important to remove if diagnosed with autoimmune conditions. Wheat intolerance causes inflammation of the gut lining, which can translate into systemic chronic inflammation.

She was prescribed a zinc supplement — zinc is an antiviral, improves immune status and assists with the metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids; moreover a deficiency can show up as a loss of taste and smell. Liposomal glutathione, lecithin, iodine for thyroid function and krill oil were also highly indicated, as her blood tests showed deficiencies of these. It was strongly recommended she get a reverse osmosis filter or a rainwater tank installed in her residence to remove the fluoride from the water, since fluoride can displace iodine in the thyroid and adversely affect thyroid function.

There is considerable research on the importance of adequate fatty acids in the management of systemic inflammation, so in her case a high dose was recommended to be taken with lecithin to improve absorption and a zinc supplement to improve metabolism.

A herb mixture was recommended that included cat’s claw, andrographis, turmeric, boswellia, devil’s claw, feverfew and ginger. These herbs are antiviral, anti-inflammatory and digestive, and can also reduce migraines.

Some interesting studies have recently shown that drinking water with a daily dose of bicarbonate of soda in it can reduce pain and inflammation and reduce the symptoms of autoimmune disease. This easy and cheap remedy was therefore suggested, and over several weeks seemed to assist in symptom improvement. Along with a change in diet to one that was more vegetarian (although she was never a big meat eater) but included wild (unfarmed) fish three times a week, all these suggestions helped over time. As a result, she was able to reduce her medication — although very slowly over several months — and her symptoms, including her migraines, gradually improved.

This program is something she will have to follow indefinitely at this stage, and she will need to be monitored every three to six months for some years, until the condition is well under control.

Dr Karen Bridgman

Dr Karen Bridgman

Karen Bridgman is a holistic practitioner at Lotus Health and Lotus Dental in Neutral Bay.

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