My 30-Year Journey: Healing from Rheumatoid Arthritis

"I came to see RA as a ladder to a greater version of myself..."

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Here is today’s story from one of our subscribers in my “How To Heal From Autoimmune Diseases Without Meds,” Summit Series. Thank you to those who continue to share their stories of healing.

I grew up in Tahoe and was so fortunate to have a youth filled with outdoor activities and sports. If I wasn’t on a mountain bike, I was on a skateboard or a snowboard. Soccer, swim team, and martial arts were my passions as well. I had built most of my identity around my physical ability and was very attached to it. 

At the age of 14, in a period of only a few weeks, nearly every joint in my body began to swell, limiting my range of motion, and of course causing a lot of pain. It wasn’t long before I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and told I would spend the rest of my life with the disease and I’d be lucky if I wasn’t in a wheel chair by the age of 20. 

The descent into years of pain and limitation was pretty much a nightmare for someone whose identity had been wrapped up in physical activity. About three years into the journey, I had some success with the immunosuppressive medications and returned to some sports, though limited and requiring a fair amount of anti-inflammatories, I was able to live a somewhat normal life into my early twenties. 

I always had an intuitive sense about health, never had much of a sweet tooth, bought a Jack LaLanne juicer when I was 16, and was pretty zealous about vitamins and getting as much activity as I could handle. I juggled different medications, mostly though I was on methotrexate, a powerful immunosuppressant used in cancer to keep my symptoms under control. By the age of 25 though it wasn’t working and I had increasing side effects including severe fatigue, liver pain, hair loss, and I always seemed to be fighting a cold of some kind. 

This compelled me to dive into research on our healing potential and as the Internet was evolving I began collecting as much data as I could find. I took it into my rheumatologist hoping he would consider some of it. One theory was infection as a cause to autoimmune and Dr. Thomas McPherson Brown had pioneered RA antibiotic therapy. His work had shown dramatic improvement, which led to the MIRA trial.  A double blind study on minocycline used for RA. Despite solid results it still wasn’t being accepted among mainstream rheumatologists and of course mine didn’t want to hear anything about it and certainly wasn’t interested in what I’d dug up on diet or leaky gut or environmental toxicity. 

He offered me more steroids for the pain, so I limped out of the office, past the line of sheep waiting for their meds at the pharmacy and was determined never to return. I ditched the methotrexate, started a juice fast, and eventually went gluten-free. I found an osteopath who did metabolic typing for diet, prescribed some natural thyroid replacement, which was necessary after the years of medications, and we started the low dose antibiotic protocol as well as some herbs to try out the infection approach. 

The next six months were brutal, my immune system surged from all the years of suppression and I could hardly get out of bed, but by month 7 the side effects of the medications disappeared and I was feeling improvement in my swelling. By month 9, I was jogging to the gym and lifting weights. I had a complete recovery. 

I continued with the protocol and this remission lasted for nearly a year. When the swelling returned it was only in the knees and usually only in one at a time. Despite the frustration of that, I knew I had done something remarkable, as the rest of my joints, fingers, feet, wrists, elbows, remained healthy. 

The next ten years were a roller coaster of two steps forward and back as I explored a variety of modalities. I also maintained my work as a documentary filmmaker even though I often had to have a cane in one hand and my camera in the other. 

I’ve tried the following with mixed results.

Various diets – vegan – fasting – Paleo: The Vegan diet, after several months resulted in poor hormone production, fatigue, and muscle loss. Fasting works well for a cleanse. My ideal diet is a version of Keto and Paleo. 

Ozone injections into the joints: No effect. 

Antimicrobial herbs/supplements/probiotics and enzymes: Samento is the most effective herb for me as well as high dose Liposomal Vitamin C. Probiotics (human strain only) and systemic enzymes I believe are all helpful. 

IV antibiotics: No positive effect. 

Acupuncture: Always makes me flare up. 

Chiropractic: Good for treating the consequences such as low back pain and misalignment due to other joint difficulty. Did not have any sustained effect on the disease itself. 

Energy healing: Reiki and Reconnective healing. Noticeable sensations and temporary healing responses from these but not sustained results. 

Micro-current therapy: Mitigated symptoms significantly but only when maintained daily. 

Earthing and grounding mats: Temporary relief. 

And finally… Biological medicine, meditation, and Somatic healing – The key to true healing for me. Biological medicine, NOT immunosuppresive drugs that have taken the name “biologics.” This is healing based on maximizing all systems of your biology. We treated all systems on a broad scale. Pulsed Electro Magnetic Field therapy – Lymphatic drainage – Hyperthermia – Colonics – IV Ozone – Zeel injections – Valkion – Sound Bed – homeopathic injections. I visited the American Center for Biological Medicine in Scottsdale Arizona, every three months for one week for a total of five visits, as well as doing homeopathic remedies and certain protocols from home, sometimes causing herxheimer reactions and fevers, but eventually breaking my plateau.

Somatic Healing founded by Peter Levine has been essential in working on the nervous system to boost the parasympathetic side allowing for faster and efficient healing. I believe Biological medicine/meditation and Somatic work provided my immune system with additional resources and power, allowing it to finally heal the gut, to infiltrate the tissues of the knees, and heal the infection triggering the immune response. I’m now two years into having a remarkable recovery. 

During this journey I have filmed others on this path, one woman who had been diagnosed with RA but later found out it was Lyme disease, and this began the inclusion of Lyme into the film. It is my goal to use the insights I’ve gained along the way and to gather the additional healing stories of others on this path and share it through not just the documentary, but also an extended version with full interviews of a variety of physicians, practitioners, and patients who share their most successful protocols. 

This knowledge needs to be edited and condensed into simple easy to follow protocols so the average person can implement them without feeling intimidated by the daunting challenge of navigating the maze of healing. Finding the light in the dark is the best choice you can make to begin to heal and accept yourself and love yourself no matter your state of health or circumstances. Twenty years ago I would have said there is nothing positive about this pain and limitation. I was in total resistance to it. It was nothing but an obstacle in my way. Reluctantly and stubbornly I came to see it as a ladder to a greater version of myself and I believe others can find a better path to a greater version of themselves than suffering an autoimmune disease. 

Gabe Golden / Southern California

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