It was late 2010 when I was finally diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. Of course, the whispers had been there for a decade or more: back pain, a stiff and inflamed wrist, digestive problems, weight gain, non alcoholic fatty liver with cysts, rosacea, hot flashes—Like many who suffer from autoimmunity conditions, I could go on and on.
So often in this modern world, we are conditioned to think that unless we are at death’s door, we are reasonably healthy, and we get used to these nagging problems, chalking them up to aging or “just one of those things.”We swallow more Ibuprofen, wrecking our guts day by day. By the time I did seek medical help, I was in real trouble. I could hardly walk because both ankles were horribly inflamed and felt like they were full of broken glass; my right knee swelled up like a balloon; and all sorts of skin eruptions broke out that I had never seen before. Add to this brain fog, depression, insomnia, and neurological issues like twitching and spasms that Doctor Google suggested was Lyme disease. I was a real mess.
Even though I always had great faith and a keen interest in natural remedies, even writing about health and fitness in my book Pure Activity and for various magazines over the years, my first reaction was that it would be okay, as the docs would have a pill for it and I’d be all better in a couple of weeks. How wrong I was. Yes, I did try their pills for about six weeks, ending up far worse than I was before, and I soon realized there was no refuge there. As great as modern medicine is for infections, acute cases, and trauma, it has no answers to chronic diseases.
I turned to alternative remedies and spent the next few months trying every herb, Ayurvedic preparation, and supplement I could find. Most mornings saw me in the bathroom, observing my daily routine of enemas, oil massages, skin brushing, and Epsom salt baths, and then it was back to the kitchen for castor oil packing, juicing, and guzzling every vitamin and mineral pill my budget would allow, along with monthly liver flushing and regular water fasts of up to eleven days (which admittedly killed the symptoms until I started eating again). I also became raw vegan. Surely that had to be the purest, most healing diet? These practices certainly had some beneficial effect, probably from giving up grains, but I lost a lot of weight, 70 pounds in all, and my muscle went with it. My left quad was completely wasted away and my leg looked like string. Although the inflammation was reduced somewhat, the effort I was putting in didn’t really equate to the results I had hoped for. I grew even more depressed with my situation.
Then one day I discovered an article on, oddly, a vegetarian site while searching for drawbacks of the vegan diet. It told of how our ancestors likely weren’t vegetarian and that these modern diseases were rare before we ate processed food, bread being one of the first, after we decided to settle down as farmers and reject our hunter-gatherer heritage. This led me to the work of Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, who practiced as a medical doctor in Russia and practices as a nutritionist in the United Kingdom. Her gut and psychology syndrome (GAPS) diet was tremendously effective with everything from autoimmunity to autism. I’m sure a lot of readers will be familiar with her techniques of using bone broths and probiotic foods to heal and rebalance the gut flora, thus stopping the confusion in the immune system.
I steamed ahead with my new project and very soon started to see results. Inflammation died down spectacularly, and I felt I was really getting nourished with the diet as opposed to the raw juices, endless carrots, and quinoa, which just seemed to pass through me and leave me perpetually hungry but frightened to eat enough.
Soon I discovered the gargantuan website of respected neurosurgeon Dr. Jack Kruse, who went a step further, going into all sorts of other disconnects present in the modern world: artificial light, WiFi and other sources of electromagnetic fields (EMFs), grounding and earthing, pollutants, bad water, etc. I took the microwave to the landfill and got rid of my WiFi, plugging laptops into the router via Ethernet cables along with some other tweaks. A pattern started to emerge that convinced me that adding this and that powder or potion, useful as some of them might be for fine-tuning things, was not the secret. We need to hose a muddy car down before we polish it. The secret was to reduce the factors that caused the confusion in the first place on all levels and trust that the body has healing systems in place if you are kind enough to it to let it bring them into play.
And so began a wonderful journey of discovery. I remember the first night I wore orange tinted glasses in the evening to block the blue light from screens and household bulbs, finally allowing my body to produce some melatonin. That evening was also the first time I tried cold thermogenesis (CT) and jumped straight in, immersing myself in a freezing bath until my skinny body started to shiver. I even went to bed shivering, unable to warm up, but to my amazement, it was the first night I had slept properly for months—eleven hours straight actually. Nothing heals without good sleep.
I continued with the CT that winter and spent a lot of time outdoors in the snow with bare feet and no top on. I became quite obsessed with it, and got quite adapted to the cold. It was heaven to limp into the bathroom and take a cold bath, only to emerge 10 minutes later with the inflammation all but gone. I also lost all the rest of the fat on my body due to the CT, taking the total to 90 pounds lost, despite stuffing myself liberally with rich food containing animal protein and saturated fats, busting another myth. This would have looked great had I any muscle left, but I ended up looking like a skeleton— albeit a far less inflamed one.
Ah, but how is CT a subtraction, you ask? Well, it comes down to feeling the seasons. In winter we are not designed to bathe in central heating, WiFi, and artificial light, so avoid these as much as possible. If we subtract the factors that would not be present at this time of the year, the body, despite momentary discomfort from CT or denying yourself a pizza, is actually far happier. That winter I didn’t get so much as a sniffle of a cold either, and I have not had one since. I believe that people get sick more often in the winter because that’s the time we are more disconnected from the world around us. It just makes sense that we are designed to interact with our environment whether it be through light, temperature, or seasonally available food. The planet knows best.
When summer arrived, I got out in the sun as much as I could, with as few clothes as possible. For years I had avoided the sun because of my fat, inflamed body, but now I couldn’t get enough. As soon as it poked out from behind the clouds, I was out in the garden, bare feet on the ground and lapping up the rays—with no sunscreen, of course. I could feel my body thanking me, and I got closer and closer to good health.
Still, I felt there was something missing. Despite being a long-time meditator, it just wasn’t doing the trick. I needed to look deeper still, and my research into emotional balancing techniques such as emotional freedom technique (EFT) and Byron Katie’s The Work of Byron Katie led me to some amazing discoveries about my personality, beliefs, and emotions. As I began to identify the painful emotions and false beliefs that I had built up through my life and started to disassemble them, individual joints totally healed up while others were still a bit inflamed. It was a miracle to me to have proof that it was indeed true that certain mental and spiritual issues correspond to disturbances in various parts of the body, and what better ailment than arthritis, which can strike anywhere, to illustrate this? I was on a roll. I was learning so much about myself that I never would have learned had I not gotten ill, and I was starting to see my illness as a true blessing, a journey of tremendous discovery. Not only did my body heal, but I also became far happier, and my relationships with my loved ones improved immeasurably.
The next winter, I was healed enough to start weight training again and put back most of the lost muscle. I continued with a very low carb, high fat ketogenic diet, especially in the colder months, and now I am proud and delighted to say that at 54 years old, I am in the best shape of my life. My catalogue of ailments has vanished apart from an occasional slight warning tingle in one knee and one wrist if I don’t eat totally on-plan, which is connected to an emotional issue that I am aware of and working on, and I am thoroughly enjoying the process. I am also back to mountain biking, night fishing, and playing long, energetic gigs as a drummer when once I thought I would never pick up a drumstick again.
Never did I imagine when I was so ill and devouring Dr. Jack Kruse’s website that I would end up having a blog of my own, doing online interviews and public talks, or writing an Amazon Kindle bestseller called Arthritis – The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me with Dr. Kruse, who was kind enough to do the foreword. I also Skype people all over the world with autoimmune issues, and it’s so deeply gratifying to see their spectacular improvements. It’s not my system; I am just passing on information that, when seen, seems pretty intuitive. I have even seen one dedicated chap reverse inflammatory arthritis in six weeks because he went for everything at once without taking the many wrong turns I took.
Is this all an illusion that we were healthy hunter-gatherers and if we just fool our bodies into thinking that we still are, all our ailments will improve? Maybe so—maybe there is a far better template out there to work from, but so far it’s the best I have found, and it brings relief to many courageous individuals who renounce the dangerous immunosuppressant drugs and set out on a healing quest of their own.
Phil Escott is a health writer, personal trainer, novelist, and drummer who has spent many years in the health and fitness industry, running a gym, writing for magazines, and training hundreds of clients. // pureactivity.net