In 1994, I fell down a flight of stairs and I tore ligaments badly in both ankles. The traumatic injuries didn’t heal in a reasonable period of time, so my family doctor sent me to a rheumatologist. He ran several tests and in a somber voice reserved for informing a patient of a terminal disease, said that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. He added that the condition would get progressively worse until I ended up in a wheelchair. This was devastating news to an energetic and independent person like me. He added, “We have no idea what causes RA and there is no known cure. But I can prescribe drugs for the pain.”
I decided to consult with another rheumatologist for a second opinion. He gave me the same diagnosis and dire prognosis. Just to be sure, I got a third and a fourth opinion. Same story (unknown cause and no cure) and same offer of painkillers.
As someone who is reluctant to take even aspirin, the prospect of taking high-powered prescriptions with scary side effects was daunting. As a professional researcher, I decided to investigate more benign alternatives. If there was a cure, I was determined to scour the medical literature to find it. I amassed a home library of health books and, with husband Karl’s help, used the Internet to access credible medical online resources, including the UCLA Medical Library. Rather than let all that in-depth research go to waste, I obtained a doctorate (Health Science) in 1997.
One of the most influential books we found was The Road Back. I was very excited to discuss this discovery with my rheumatologist, and urged him to help me follow Dr. Brown’s antibiotic protocol while he monitored my progress. I brought a sheaf of research papers and a copy of Dr. Brown’s book. My request was met with scorn and arrogance. I was mystified at this attitude. After all, dermatologists prescribe tetracycline to patients with acne. What was so outlandish or dangerous about trying it for RA? And why would he dismiss solid scientific research like the MIRA study, proving the efficacy of the antibiotic protocol? I’m sure all the research papers I left with him made their way to his waste basket, unread.
I convinced my primary care doctor to prescribe doxycycline. He was as dubious as the rheumatologists, but he finally agreed. Within two weeks I had a dramatic reduction in symptoms (joint pain, swelling, inflammation, chronic fatigue). For the first time in two years, I could walk without pain! The doctor was amazed. Eight months (and many Herxheimer reactions) later, I was able to wean myself away from the doxycycline and let my improved immune system take over. The trick has been to keep my immune system robust and in balance through healthy eating, regular (gentle) exercise, stress reduction, and supplements such as CoQ10, MSM, vitamin D3, and high doses of vitamin C.
True remission from RA is impossible because bacterial remnants stay in the body, waiting to be triggered by physical or emotional trauma. In 2001 I had a relapse when my father died suddenly and I experienced a high stress level. I recognized the RA symptoms and returned to Dr. Brown’s antibiotic regimen. This time, “remission” (or what I would more accurately call “stabilization”) took just a few weeks.
This experience with RA convinced me that my mission was to help others discover their own Road Back to recovery. Most doctors, especially rheumatologists, appear to be wedded to expensive and palliative RA drugs that have serious side effects. Doctors rarely explain other options to combat RA, either because they are unaware of Dr. Brown’s antibiotic protocol, or because they believe that any treatments developed before cortisone are old-fashioned and worthless.
It is an honor to serve on the Road Back Foundation Board. Dr. Brown is my hero, and I credit his protocol for giving me back my mobility and independence. The link between infection and rheumatic illness is one of the major scientific breakthroughs of modern medicine. It is a tragedy that Dr. Brown’s treatment for RA (and other autoimmune conditions) is still termed “controversial” by the medical establishment.
I am grateful to Henry Scammell, co-author of The Road Back, for his glowing review of my first book Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Infection Connection. Dr. Harold Clark, a microbiologist and Dr. Brown’s lab manager, wrote the foreword. Profits from my books go to infection research.
Katherine Poehlmann, PhD