Alternative Medicine: Can It Cure Childhood Arthritis?

February 7, 2013 · 12 comments

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This Sunday’s New York Times magazine section had a compelling article called The Boy With a Thorn in His Joints, written by the mother of a 3 year old who was diagnosed with Idiopathic Arthritis. She relates how he went from being a typical 3 year old boy, running around and enjoying sports with his twin brother, to a little 3 year old limping around in pain. It was heartbreaking to read how the disease took over his life and affected the whole family. Many of us real foodies have been there and know that diet (and sometimes supplements and other therapies) can change your life in the face of medical skeptics.

Idiopathic Arthritis

Idiopathic Arthritis is a term given to an arthritic condition that doesn’t fit into any diagnostic box. It really means — we haven’t a clue as to why this has happened.

Arthritis, any type of arthritis is typically treated as a joint problem. But how does a 3 year old get a joint problem? There isn’t any wear and tear on the joints. It could be an autoimmune condition that creates inflammation in the joints — but this one didn’t fit into the rheumatoid arthritis box. So, it gets the label — Idiopathic.

Arthritis is From Leaky Gut

In alternative medicine, it is known that arthritis comes from dysbiosis in the gut. Also known as Leaky Gut Syndrome, it occurs when an imbalance of the gut flora leads to inadequate protection of the mucous membrane lining of the intestine. The lining gets damaged and allows large protein particles into the blood  that should not be there. This causes an immune reaction and inflammation follows and causes more damage to the gut lining.

This vicious cycle continues and just gets worse and worse. Conventional medications are very strong and have side effects. If the first level of the more innocuous meds are not effective, then the patient has to graduate to steroids and biologics that are very powerful, but pose even greater dangers and long term effects.

Most of the medicines used for these conditions have not been well studied in children — if at all. Sadly, most medical doctors deny the efficacy of diet on the human body and still do not recognize Leaky Gut Syndrome in spite of the published research in their own medical journals and emerging research on the microbiome and rheumatic diseases as well as evidence of the efficacy of dietary supplements.

According to Susannah Meadows, the mom and the writer of the article,

Pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, lend themselves easily to randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Plus, anti-arthritic drugs are great for business. Together, the top two sellers, Humira and Enbrel, took in more than $8 billion in 2012, not including December, according to IMS Health, a health care technology and information company.

There is No Stopping a Mom on a Mission

When you read this article, you are drawn in to the overwhelming anxiety of this type of situation. Many of us real foodies have been there — faced with little hope from the conventional medical community and very poor treatment choices — we chose to follow a special diet and use alternative medicine. And it has made all the difference.

The mom and dad in the article realized that conventional medicine had nothing more to offer — their son was already on methotrexate — and they followed an alternative treatment along with dietary changes.

The conclusion of the article says it all:

Shepherd has now been weaned off the methotrexate entirely. The guy we think of as “the old Shepherd” is back, the goofball with the high-beam smile. He initiates running races … He improvises what he thinks is karate. He pirouettes… Now Shepherd is taller, and he’s closing the gap in weight. On medication, he got sick twice as often as Beau. That side effect is gone now.

He has had five flare-ups since going into remission a year ago. Two of them followed courses of antibiotics. The other three came on the heels of his accidentally eating gluten. He had a chocolate-chip cookie, a couple of bites of toast, less than a quarter of a sandwich on sourdough. Each time, he felt pain within 24 hours, and it lasted as long as two weeks…

We tried so many things at once for Shepherd that there’s no way to know for sure what worked, or what combination of things had an effect. Dr. Imundo remains unmoved. But Dr. Kahn says he believes the dietary regimen may have contributed to his recovery…

One thing we do know is that there is a link between the gut and inflammation, and we’ve known it for some time… Dr. Kahn told us about a colleague who was researching how the gut and inflammation worked together. When I called José Scher, the director of the Arthritis Clinic at the N.Y.U. Hospital for Joint Diseases, he rattled off four different kinds of arthritis that are connected to inflammatory responses in the gut, including one linked to celiac, a gluten intolerance. He told me he’d also seen some of his autoimmune arthritis patients improve by removing gluten from their diet.

Interestingly, this child had flare-ups that were triggered by antibiotics or by accidentally eating gluten. Clearly there is a gut connection to the problem. These doctors need to be more open to the power of nutrition and dietary changes that can heal the gut. The GAPS nutritional protocol is just such a program.

It is clear that alternative medicine is way ahead of conventional medicine when it comes to chronic degenerative diseases. While this experience was with arthritis, many chronic conditions can be addressed with diet and nutrition.  It takes a special mom and dad that will pursue every avenue and not defer to a “top medical doctor” who says it won’t work.

We have be be our own advocate and use common sense and intelligence to investigate all the options that are out there. Bravo to the writer, Susannah Meadows, her family and to the editors of the Times for publishing this story.

Do you have a chronic condition? Have you had success with dietary and nutritional interventions? Leave a comment and let me know!

This post is shared at: Simple Lives Thursday, Creative juice Thursday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Fight Back Friday

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 K February 7, 2013 at 2:13 am

This was a really fantastic article; am so glad you wrote about it! It’s true—so many ailments are linked to the gut, which really proves the importance of removing these ‘stressors,’ like gluten, from the diet to reduce inflammation. It’s a shame more MDs don’t get behind this approach, tho it’s nice to see someone at NYU acknowledging it.


2 Jessica February 7, 2013 at 7:42 am

This was timely as I was just trying to decide whether or not to pursue antibiotics to treat my daughter’s PANDAS. We actually have been on the full Gap for a while and maybe that is why her symptoms are on the mild side compared to some of the stories I read online. I wondered if you have any experience with the Body Ecology diet versus the Gaps Diet. Wondering if we can go a step further in helping her out.


3 Jill February 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I do not have personal experience with Body Ecology Diet, but many make greater progress with GAPS Intro after being on full GAPS.


4 Carly February 7, 2013 at 9:35 am

Yes! I have successfully treated inflammatory bowel disease, hypothyroidism, asthma, allergies, and chronic fatigue with diet. I follow a gaps/paleo diet – meat (local, organic, grass fed), select veggies & fruits (gaps), coconut, raw honey, and an occasional egg. If I eat like this 100% unprocessed, I have very few problems. If I eat anything not on this list, I have a flare up of some sort.


5 Mary February 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Excellent article, some very good & timely advice for us all. Thanks for covering this topic.


6 L February 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I was in my late 30’s when I was diagnosed with arthritis in my right hand. When I went to a second doctor (a specialist), he was puzzled and stunned that one, I even had the arthritis given my age and no injuries, and two, how quickly it was progressing based on x-rays. My arthritis worsened to the point of having very little use of my right hand, and it started developing in my other hand and in my hip as well. My arthritis was my most obvious problem, but my overall health was declining too with even greater intestinal issues than I was use to, balance/coordination issues, and thinking/neurological issues (I felt like I was sedated all the time). When I eliminated gluten, dairy, and soy, the first thing I noticed was some immediate relief from my arthritis, and in a couple of days, there was improvement in my thinking as well. I was amazed, relieved and encouraged that I could improve my health so drastically with changing my diet! (I was also frustrated that all the doctors that I had seen over all the years for my various issues NEVER suggested dietary changes!) I also eliminated nightshade foods and spices because they were contributing to my inflammation as well. My health improved a lot, but I believed could be even better so I began the SCD/GAPS plan a year ago, and I’m so thankful I did! I’m finally getting back to my old self, but a better version because I don’t have intestinal issues anymore and I don’t get sick anymore. My thinking is clear and focused, and I’m returning to my former athletic self. My arthritis is almost non-existant now because of my healthly eating habits, supplements (glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM by Jarrow + 10 mg Manganese + Vit. C – see book “The Arthritis Cure” by Dr. Theodosakis, but not his supplements), and strengthening/stretching exercises; my right hand is like my “barometer” and will only ache if I’ve eaten something accidently that I shouldn’t have or if I get stressed/too little rest or if I miss my supplements. I never thought I’d “have my hands back”! I’m convinced that everyone can enjoy greater health by improving their diet, and that people with autoimmune issues or other health issues can see drastic improvement, remission, or complete healing by following the healing eating plans GAPS/SCD. These eating plans WORK when they are strictly followed and the body has time to heal; consistency and time are needed to see results – this is not a “quick fix”, but a natural, sustainable healing. I’m still amazed and thrilled at how many issues I had in the past that have been cured/reversed/eliminated by changing my diet for the better!


7 Jill February 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience and bravo for taking your health into your own hands (pun intended)!


8 annie February 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I was diagnosed with MS in Oct 2008. I had symptoms of numbness, tingling, trouble balancing. I found out about WAP in May 1011 and slowly transitioned into a traditional foods diet. Found out about the GAPS diet early 2012 and started GAPS intro July 2012. At the end of December, I had a full MRI and there were NONE enhanging lesions. My doctor’s own words “this is a surprise to you and me both.” I strongly recommend this healing diet for people suffering from autoimmune diseases. Please youtube Dr Campbell-McBride and listen to her speak.


9 Jill February 9, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Thanks so much for sharing. Diet is so very powerful.


10 dr michael obeng review April 19, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Excellent post! We are linking to this great article
on our website. Keep up the good writing.


11 Mcgaughy November 24, 2013 at 11:55 pm

giant cell arteritis It above my understanding!


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