I “had” rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Ever since I was diagnosed March 1999, I have been like a sponge, soaking up everything I could get my hands on about this disease. I wanted my health back. I knew I was just tenacious enough to not give up finding an intervention that was better than the toxic, symptom suppressing drugs that were being offered me. The literature stated etiology unknown, no cure. I didn’t believe it. After two years on methotrexate and prednisone, my time was running out. While the drugs initially suppressed all my symptoms, over time I started to have inflammation problems with my left wrist, then my left knee. Finally I found the hope I was looking for, a possible road back to good health. The Road Back Foundation offers this hope. I want to shout it to the mountaintop for everyone suffering with a rheumatic disease to hear. Through the foundation’s publications, I learned about Dr. Thomas McPherson Brown, a world-renowned leader in arthritis research and treatment. In 1939 Dr. Brown discovered what he believed to be a link between RA and disease inducing agents later known as mycoplasma. These invading critters are directly affected by the tetracycline family of antibiotics. Developed and used successfully for more than 50 years by Dr. Brown, low-dose antibiotic therapy is treatment aimed at the cause of RA, not just the symptoms. As the antibiotics begin to supress and destroy the mycoplasma, the patient’s own defense system, strengthened by the antibiotics, kicks in and disease activity decreases. Some patients are eventually able to discontinue the medication. Others must continue treatment to maintain remission. Current research has shown low-dose antibiotic therapy to be both safe and effective for RA, validating Dr. Brown’s work. This treatment has proven effective for a number of other forms of arthritic diseases, such as scleroderma, lupus, juvenile RA, Reiter’s syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriatric arthritis and ankylosi spondylitis, to name a few. Dr. Brown dedicated his life to helping people with rheumatic diseases. Before he died in 1989, he treated over 1,000 patients with various rheumatic diseases. They came from all over the country because he offered hope with his low-dose antibiotic protocol (AP). That hope has now been extended to others and me through some of Dr. Brown’s patients who decided to carry on his legacy by founding The Road Back Foundation. Through the website people with rheumatic diseases can have free access to the various studies that have been published in major medical journals, the antibiotic protocol, testimonials and the foundation’s various publications, including the newsletter, The Intercessor and The Physician’s Page. The bulletin board and chat room offer emotional support through question/answer format with people who are seasoned AP patients and those just starting their journey. Before I started my journey I had personally spoken by phone to several people who had been on AP for various years. Their disease, as well as mine,is in remission (although I prefer to call myself cured). Others are not in remission, but have been able to get off the toxic drugs. My rheumatologist, although skeptical of the infectious disease theory, agreed to start me on AP. I had to educate him about the protocol. I was fortunate to have a physician who was willing to work with me as a partner in my journey to wellness. I know of no other physician in St. Louis who has prescribed this treatment. Perhaps I’m the first. I hope not. I started on AP 5/10/01, five days a week, while still on my other meds. My rheumatologist prescribed minocycline (generic) because my insurance company wouldn’t pay for minocin (brand name). I tolerated it well. After about a year, I weaned myself off prednisone and methotrexate. It was a very slow process. My next goal was to gradually cut the 200 mg. of minocycline (100 mg. in the a.m. and 100 mg. in the p.m.) to 100 mg. five days a week and then decrease the 100 mg. to three times a week, to eventually getting off minocycline without any ill effects. After weaning and weaning, on 8/8/03 I stopped taking minocycline and am doing great! I am just as active as I was prior to being diagnosed and continue to rollerblade and cycle. The Arthritis Foundation now endorses low-dose antibiotics as a viable intervention in their literature. This was not the case when I started on AP. When I became ill, I realized I had to take responsibility for my health. That is not to say it was my fault I became ill. It became a “wake up call” for me. I made lots of changes in my lifestyle, in particular my diet. Stop smoking if you do. I do not recommend any alcohol while on any medications. It was my personal decision not to consume alcohol both before I got sick and after I became well. While I always considered myself a health nut, I knew there was room for improvement. I drastically changed my diet. Below is what worked for me. I cut out anything “white”, such as white bread and rice. No processed cane sugar. I incorporated whole grains into my diet, such as stone ground whole wheat and brown rice. I used stevia, an herb, as a sweetner when I needed it. I increased my daily fiber intake to a minimum of 25 grams, preferably a high of 35 grams. There are lots of natural ways to do this, but I did it through high fiber breads/cereals and 6-9 servings of fresh fruits/veggies a day. Remember, one serving is only 1/2 c. I learned to eat fresh veggies by dipping the veggie into salsa. I increased my omega-3 by eating lots of salmon, smoked and grilled. I don’t eat beef or pork, but that was the case before I became ill. It’s just a personal preference. Every morning I took a probiotic, but not at the same time I took the minocycline (usually 1.5-2 hrs. apart). I tried juicing, but it didn’t work for me because I wanted the fiber. I religiously started taking a high-potency multi-vitamin packet twice a day manufacturered by a physician I trusted, whose newsletter I had been reading for years. Vitamins won’t benefit you if you take them intermitantly. Don’t purchase your vitamins at the local Wal-Mart or drug store. Vitamins need to come in gel capsules, not tables, for good assimilation and metabolism. Daily I visualized something similar to pac-man with a big smile on his face eating the mycoplasma critters throughout various places in my body. I cut out all coffee and no nutra-sweet in anything! I drink 3 cups of very concentrated green tea (which I purchase in bulk) every morning with a high-fiber cereal breakfast. Daily I try to drink 1/2 gallon of water. No tap water. I drink reverse osmossis water I get from the store in my own gallon jugs). I try to eat organic fruits/veggies; but it’s expensive, especially in the winter. Read labels! Support your local health food store(s). Educate yourself about your disease so you can educate your physician. He/she probably will not consider being a partner with you unless you present yourself as knowing what you are talking about. You might need to find a new rheumatologist, one who will work with you. It’s not a good idea to jump from physician to physician, so you may want to ask for a consulatation if you are looking for a new doctor. Educate yourself about making life-style and diet changes that will work for you. Take baby steps, if you can’t go cold turkey regarding various changes. Set yourself up for success, not failure. Will all this work for you? I don’t have a clue. However, I do know that for every positive change you make, you will become healthier. Will these changes be expensive? Not as expensive as it will be if you remain ill, and I don’t mean the financial cost. Lastly, remain HOPEFUL! Never give up. My prayer for anyone reading this is that you start on your journey to wellness today. You will succeed! All the best.
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