My experience of changing from long-term drug treatment of rheumatoid arthritis to following a more natural approach (2012 – 2021) – by Rosemary Wellman
In 2012, I was unexpectantly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease, at Charing Cross Hospital, which, fortunately for me had an excellent Rheumatology department. I was immediately prescribed the steroid Prednisolone for a couple of months, which really helped control the inflammation and pain effectively. I was also monitored regularly with blood tests. I was able to carry on working and traveling at that stage.
In 2013, the next stage involved being prescribed DMards (disease-modifying anti-immune drugs) i.e Sulfasalazine and Hydroxychloroquine, the latter having become notorious during ex-President Trump’s time. These enabled me to carry on working and traveling for some time.
Diet and fitness with rheumatoid arthritis
I had always had a healthy diet, my weight had been a constant 52 kg, (height 5’7). I’d also been playing badminton and going to Pilates classes every week when I had my diagnosis. With this in mind, in 2012, I had asked the Rheumatologist for her advice on self-help to ease the worst effects of RA. Her immediate response was that I should follow the Mediterranean diet as much as possible, as it’s generally anti-inflammatory.
What is generally referred to as a Mediterranean diet is based mainly around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, eggs, poultry, red meat, fish rich in omega-3, and as much extra virgin olive oil as possible!
After doing some research and from personal experience, I found some foods I should be avoided which can make the inflammation and other symptoms of RA worse, these are white bread, white rice, margarine, cereals, potatoes, polyunsaturated cooking oil, processed and sugary foods.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Remission
In 2016, I was told I was in remission, which was good news, although I was still taking theDMard drugs, which I thought were pretty toxic. I decided maybe it was time to think about winding them down and eventually managing without them. This was not encouraged by my rheumatologist, who carried on prescribing the same drugs more or less to the present day.
Also in 2016, I had a spell in Sussex County hospital after suffering a minor stroke and heart problems. Up until then, I’d kept my fitness and maintained the same weight ever since my diagnosis, I then began cardiac rehab exercises held in the hospital.
After being discharged, I moved on to phase IV cardiac rehab exercise classes (specific to cardiac recovery) run by the qualified trainer and exercise physiologist, Richard Stantiford. I am still following these regular cardiac rehab exercise classes which also help reduce the pain and inflammation from the RA. (see link below), as well as improving my balance and stability following the stroke.
With my aim of coming off the drugs and supporting the ‘food as medicine’ healthy lifestyle, I was pleased when Richard invited me to become a co-founder of the website he founded in 2019 the Lifestyle Physiologist. I have learned a lot from him and have much faith in his methods. It is thanks to Richard’s exercise regime, that I have managed to keep the RA in remission, as shown on my recent blood tests.
By chance, recently, when trying to refill my prescription for Sulfasalazine, I was told none was available and even Pfizer, the manufacturer, had run out. For some time before this, I had been taking Turmeric as a supplement, along with Vitamin D, and on checking with my consultant, have been given the ok to stop taking Sulfasalazine, with the possibility, if I remain well and in remission, that the hydroxychloroquine can go too.
To Sum up briefly, With my ultimate goal of reducing the drugs I’ve been taking for rheumatoid arthritis for so long, although It’s been a long haul, I now feel much better knowing that I am in control of my body and health, rather than any drugs.
footnote: I have worked out, in the ten years I’ve been taking the RA drugs, I’ve taken over 16,000 pills!
Author: Rosemary Wellman – Co-founder The Lifestyle Physiologist