functional medicine for rheumatoid arthritis

Root Member Story: Ashna


Ashna came to Root after struggling with an autoimmune condition, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), for years. Her main symptom of joint pain had been somewhat controlled with an IV infusion every 6 weeks, but other symptoms that she felt may be related started popping up: fatigue, brain fog, weight gain/water retention, and dry skin. 

She wanted to get to the root cause so she asked her Rheumatologist about this. He replied, “I treat symptoms, not root causes.” At that moment, she knew that she needed to work with a doctor in a completely different mindset and model of care to complement her conventional team. The nutrition first approach at Root was what initially drew her to our practice, especially since she was given no helpful or personalized nutrition guidance with respect to RA in the conventional system.

Enter Root:

Month 1: 

In her first doctor’s visit, Ashna learned more about her body and her condition than she had in years. Things started to make so much sense. The body is connected and inflammation that starts in the gut does not stay there. Her organs work together, not in separate silos. Foods can contribute to or improve her symptoms (something she had already thought based on experience, but had never had validated).

In her first dietitian visit, her dietitian did a thorough intake and they decided together on next steps. No one had told her about the gluten connection to auto-immunity as well as the heightened risk of celiac in people with autoimmune disease. She and her dietitian decided together to start with a celiac blood test and an additional food sensitivity test called MRT due to the strong connection of her symptoms to foods and the fact that she preferred a very spelled out and personalized diet plan that could also address her brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, and water retention. 

She had a lot of blood drawn in the first month (her choice):

  • Root wellness panel
  • Celiac Screen with genetics
  • MRT food sensitivity test

Month 2-4

Her doctor and dietitian reviewed her blood work with her in detail. She had some important nutrient deficiencies that we began to replace right away:
  • Omega 3s : important for anti-inflammatory, joint lubrication and joint pain, dry skin, weight loss
  • Vitamin D: important for energy, autoimmune modulation, healing

Her dietitian began to guide her on a customized diet based on her testing results. She would eliminate the most inflammatory foods for her and gradually reintroduce them in stages over the next three months. Her celiac screen was negative for celiac disease, but her genetics were positive for risk of developing celiac. She and her dietitian decided it would be best for her long-term health to remain gluten free.

Month 4

Within the first 2 weeks of MRT, she was feeling like a different person. Her joint pain, energy, brain fog, and skin had all improved and she lost 5 pounds. She wanted to continue to feel this way forever. To help her be successful with food introduction, her team recommended stool microbiome testing to guide her next steps in gut healing.

Month 5-8

Ashna went through a personalized gut healing protocol to gently rebalance the microbiome and repair intestinal permeability. Interestingly, her wheat antibodies were still positive 3 months after eliminating gluten/wheat. Her dietitian helped her pinpoint potential sources of gluten. One of the foods she was eating, a healthier version of kettle chips, had barley listed down on the ingredient list (who would have thought barley would be on a potato chip?). Barley is a source of gluten. Unfortunately, since gluten is not listed as an allergen on nutrition labels (only wheat), this one snuck past her. It’s not uncommon for us to uncover sources like this in people who have thought they were gluten free for years. Working with a dietitian skilled with helping those with celiac and other autoimmune disease is a vastly different experience for our members.

Month 8-12

She continued to learn valuable tools to help her naturally calm her autoimmune condition while optimizing her health. The medication she had been taking works by blocking TNF-alpha (produced in the body with inflammation). She was surprised to learn of foods that can also block TNF-alpha as well as the vagus nerve being involved in the production of TNF-alpha. She did Root’s limbic system retaining and she’s never felt like a more calm, confident person.

Month 12+

Ashna knows how important it is to monitor her biomarkers including gut and microbiome health and she’s remaining a Root member. Her visits to her Rheumatologist have spaced out, saving her thousands of dollars a year. 

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