I want to share a story of a Teenager with the diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) and how he overcame it.
This is a debilitating type of arthritis that tends to afflict young boys/adolescents and is genetically influenced.
He was 18 and in his first year of college ready to study acting. I remember him being very excited about school, but he was also devastated and worried about the diagnosis.
He and his mother were dismayed at the lack of information that they received from the Rheumatologist about the condition as well as the lack of answers on what to do.
“I remember sitting there thinking and taking it all in as she wrote a prescription for an anti-inflammatory that he would be on until it stopped working and then he would start another stronger one”, the mother told me. “There was no offer of suggestions that we can use at home or with vitamins or natural things that are family was accustomed to.”
The doctor just shook her head and said to come back if this stops working, this is a lifelong disease and he’ll be on lifelong medications. She then stood up since our visit was over and offered us the door.
“I wasn’t sure what to think. All I know is that I looked at my son and I started to become angry at what I had just witnessed. I felt betrayed by the answers or lack of them.”
When I walked into the office I could see the fear on their faces. Although, they were determined and hungry for more information. I found myself listening to their experience, feeling their emotion and tried to fill in the huge gap of the lack of information about the diagnosis.
Ankylosing Spondylitis is a condition within the Autoimmune Disease category that is an inflammation leading to fusion of the large joints. This teenager’s symptoms of stiffness was in his low back (sacroiliac joints) and his shoulders. The disease typically includes the spine, where part or all of the vertebrae will fuse together.
This prognosis was scary enough, but the mother held off on getting the prescription filled until she got more answers.
He was tested for the HLA B27 gene by his Rheumatologist and it came out positive for the predisposition toward Ankylosing Spondylitis. I tried to educate her that just because you have this gene doesn’t mean that you are destined for the disease.
Our genes are like ‘light switches’. You either turn them on or off and you can deactivate them as well. This new science is called, ‘Epigenetics’ and is proving to be quite valuable in our understanding of genetics as it relates to disease.
We did the usual questionnaire to see if there is a system that is malfunctioning. We decided to check him for food sensitivities and also for any heavy metals within his body. The functional blood report from the lab also helped shed some light on the amount of inflammation and an Adrenal Gland dysfunction.
The testing quite clearly showed some food sensitivities which led to him telling his mom and I that he has been eating a lot of those foods while away at college. Tweaking his diet to reduce the amount and then eliminate them was easy to do.
His reduction of the pain in his joints after only 2 weeks off of the offending foods was plenty of motivation for him.
We also added a natural anti-inflammatory supplement as well as joint tissue repair nutrients to his program to help repair the damage.
He did show high levels of Aluminum in his system which can explain some of his issues with concentration, memory and headaches. Especially since aluminum collects mostly in the brain.
After just 3 short months this teenager’s joint pain has vanished. He is performing much better in school and has, in his mother’s words, “Been spared a lifetime of dangerous medication and a bleak future for his health.”
He remains faithful to his new way of eating and his new habit of taking his ‘special’ vitamins, as he calls them.
Learning valuable ways to improve your health and prevent disease at such a young age is quite an accomplishment. He was poisoning himself and didn’t know it.
Thanks for allowing me to share this story with you.
Please pass this story on to someone who has a family member that can benefit by this Functional Medicine approach to disease.