“Within about five days, it felt like about half the amount of pain. The pain just went down right away.”
Jane Hogan had just turned 50 when everything started hurting.
“It just felt like someone had a voodoo doll, sticking pins in,” she says.
First, it was one shoulder, then the other. Then it would be an elbow or foot. Next, the joints on her hands were purple. And one knee was wildly swollen.
She tried orthotics and physical therapy but the pain continued to worsen.
Within months, she was walking with a shuffle and couldn’t form a fist with her hand.
Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis Naturally
During a moment of reflection, which happened to be in the bathtub, Jane made a decision.
“I said, ‘That’s it. I have to figure it out no matter what,’” she recalls.
To travel with her husband, to play with her future grandchildren, she would need to get better.
Jane made an appointment with a rheumatologist, but it was six months out. In the meantime, her primary care doctor suggested that food might improve her condition.
The doctor explained that certain foods can contribute to inflammation in the body, and suggested that Jane cut out gluten and dairy to start.
“I was like, ‘There’s no way food has anything to do with my joints.’ But I was so desperate to try anything,” she recalls.
Per the doctor’s recommendation, Jane eliminated gluten and dairy – cold turkey. Her pain eased surprisingly quickly.
“Within about five days, it felt like about half the amount of pain. The pain just went down right away,” she says.
Meanwhile, Jane began researching causes of her pain. Her symptoms pointed to rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
She preferred to treat rheumatoid arthritis naturally, instead of with medication. Her research led her to several influential resources: Eileen Laird’s Phoenix Helix podcast, Amy Meyers’ book, The Autoimmune Solution: Prevent and Reverse the Full Spectrum of Inflammatory Symptoms and Diseases, and the autoimmune paleo diet.
The autoimmune paleo diet, or AIP, eliminates foods that may contribute to inflammation, including gluten, dairy, grains, processed foods, refined sugars and legumes.
As Jane adjusted her diet, she carefully tracked how she felt, her pain levels and her sleep.
Healing the Gut… Reduces Pain
Jane felt better, but her progress seemed to plateau. The Myers book recommended that, when your health stalls, you get tested for SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
For help, she saw a naturopath via telehealth. Testing uncovered that Jane did, in fact, have a severe case of SIBO.
SIBO happens when bacteria that should only live in the large intestine takes up residence in the small intestine.
These unwanted guests can create a host of symptoms. For some, SIBO manifests as diarrhea. For others, it causes constipation. Or maybe gas and bloating. The dysbiosis ultimately reduces nutrient absorption, leading to fatigue, brain fog and other symptoms.
And yet, Jane seemingly had no SIBO symptoms, except for minor gas – which she thought was normal.
For SIBO, Jane took herbal antimicrobials through her naturopath, instead of the antibiotics typically administered for the condition. She also merged her AIP diet with a low FODMAP diet, which limits foods that can trigger SIBO symptoms.
“It took the better part of a year and a couple of still-positive tests, but I cleared it,” she says.
Jane also learned that she had low stomach acid, which may have contributed to SIBO. If you don’t have enough stomach acid to digest food, then bacteria can build up in your digestive tract.
She started taking betaine HCL as a digestive enzyme. However, when she stopped taking it, SIBO returned. But once again, she healed it.
The Emotional Connection
Over the course of three years, Jane’s pain and energy improved dramatically. The combination of an anti-inflammatory diet, plus healing her gut, extinguished the fire in her joints and allowed her to absorb the nutrients she ate.
Jane recognized that stress had likely helped fuel her health struggles. Prior to the onset of pain, her mother had passed away unexpectedly, creating family stress and requiring Jane to handle the many loose ends.
She had also been in a stressful job as a design engineer and college instructor until joint pain left her nearly disabled.
To destress, she left her job and began new self-care practices such as going to bed earlier, meditating and repeating positive affirmations.
She also worked through the emotions that had come up following her mother’s death.
“I realized how much emotions play into it,” she says. “What had I been thinking my whole life about myself? These feelings that I didn’t belong, that I’m not good enough. I took the time to really look into that and then do some releasing of that.”
For help, she tried the Emotional Freedom Technique, or tapping.
Keeping Pain Away
To keep her pain at bay, Jane remains on the autoimmune paleo diet. Typically, half her plate contains vegetables, with the rest split between protein and healthy fats.
She also fasts intermittently each day, eating only during an eight-hour window.
“I find when I do have inflammation up, it’s fasting that really helps to bring it down,” she says.
Jane’s powerful experience of healing her rheumatoid arthritis naturally led her to become a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach to help others experience the same kind of health transformation. Now, she helps others calm inflammation and joint pain so that they, too, can live more freely.
Jane has an occasional flare, usually after eating out. But she’s normally back on track quickly.
“I hardly have any pain anymore,” she says. “I have to look after myself, get that cleared up and off I go again.”
Jane’s Steps to Easing RA Pain
In short, Jane took these three key steps to treat rheumatoid arthritis pain naturally:
Diet – She removed gluten and dairy and then moved on to the autoimmune paleo diet. During SIBO treatment, she also cut out FODMAP foods.
Gut healing – She addressed SIBO, leaky gut and low stomach acid.
Minding stress and emotions – Jane reduced her stress, and did meditation, tapping, positive affirmations, heart-centered breathing, visualization and journaling.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also like: Health Coach Chooses Food Over Pharmaceuticals to Ease 3 Autoimmune Disorders.
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