Out Of The Desert – a story of Arthritis recovery

This piece was written by a client of mine who has seen her health transformed from a hopeless place to one of empowerment. It is particularly interesting to see how pivotal diet has been in her recovery:

I began having lower back pain 10 years ago. 2 years after the first symptoms it became difficult to even sit in chairs. This began to have an impact on work, travel and general social activity, things I had previously taken for granted such as going to the cinema, were now loaded with inner dialogues about how to manage the pain. My GP referred me to physiotherapy and various x-rays. No one was able to tell me what the cause of the pain was. Gradually I developed pain and stiffness in other joints especially in the knees and shoulders. I was sent for various tests which all revealed nothing. I then spent the next few years seeing numerous physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths and at least 7 different GP’s. I managed the pain with massage, hot water bottles and general avoidance of things that involved sitting. It was like being in a desert where my voice became more and more silent. Then I had a baby and 6 months after the birth my symptoms became so bad I pushed for an appointment with Rheumatology. After sending me home twice with inconclusive results they finally diagnosed me with Unspecified Spondylitis in February 2012. When I asked what treatments were available the rheumatologist said NSAIDS, I asked about diet I was told it would not make a huge difference.


I first saw George in March 2012 after deciding to explore alternative treatment. He told me I had Bi-Syndrome and I remember him talking about blockage and stagnation. He told me I was depleted in strength especially since having a baby. I needed to address sleep, emotion and diet. Until that day I believed I had a healthy diet but what I learned was that it was not the right diet for me. I changed my diet overnight and introduced a lot more meat and protein to my diet. I cut out muesli and learned to make chicken stock, began a weekly treatment of acupuncture and also began taking herbs. After 5 months I began to notice less pain in my back and after a year I noticed significant improvements. Gradually over the last 2 years I have learnt how to manage my condition through knowledge and ongoing dialogue with George and I can now sit without pain. Going to the cinema is now an inner dialogue about which film to see not how to use a hot water bottle and negotiate a front row seat for the space to shift.


The lifestyle change has not always been easy. Making stock, shopping, planning and cooking all meals from scratch as well as incorporating the practice of Qi-Gong has at times been challenging but pain is a great motivator. The impact on my family has also been significant. My partner, who is diabetic has also benefitted from a low sugar diet. In terms of carbohydrates we mostly eat barley and rice grain and rarely eat bread. When we do it is spelt or rye. We did not seek to cut down on milk, cheese and sugar but by introducing alternative foods this has been relatively easy and the grocery budget has not changed, it is just more wisely spent. My son is now nearly 3 years old and I believe benefits hugely from the food I cook. Even though like all toddlers he has faddy moments he eats almost everything we eat and especially delights in fish soups, chicken stew and beef noodles with stock. He shows no interest in sweets but ravishes stewed cinnamon apples.


The hardest part for me today is negotiating my diet (and my son’s) with the rest of the world. There is such a huge amount of emphasis upon nutrition and diets which cut out major food groups so it is inevitable that people assume I embrace a kind of fad diet. This assumption in itself is not a problem but it is becoming increasingly hard to encourage nurseries and wider family members to avoid sugary snacks, chips, toast and crisps. Its seems to me that the social expectations and culture of food in this country still has a long way to go when it comes to feeding our children. I do however hold a strong faith that good food tastes good and even better when it makes you feel good. When I first met George I was deepened with cynicism, and when he told me I was no longer in the desert I was doubtful, but 2 years on and I can safely say he was right.