When Miriam was a freshman in college, she became acutely ill at the end of the first semester and landed in the school infirmary for a week. Although there was no diagnosis and no antibiotic treatment, in retrospect the symptoms indicated it was probably strep throat. Miriam did get over it and went back to school.
Her illness had actually been the culmination of a turbulent year. As a senior in high school, she had developed full body hives that were treated with prednisone. Then, the summer before college, her boyfriend was paralyzed after breaking his neck. Even though she was soon off to college, Miriam was dedicated to helping him through the tragedy. She 'poured everything into giving him a lift' that first year away.
Some nine months after her infirmary stay, Miriam, now in the fall semester of her sophomore year, started getting joint pains, then her knees began to swell and that was followed by incredible stiffness in the morning. With her hands, wrists, knees and feet all affected, she barely could move and eventually landed in the office of a rheumatologist who diagnosed her with rheumatoid arthritis and began drug therapy.
Perhaps the most common and best known autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis is twice as common in women as men and affects nearly 2 million people in the United States. Like most other autoimmune conditions, conventional medicine offers no curative treatment. Suppressive drugs are prescribed to keep the symptoms at bay and, in severe cases, as the disease progresses, the treatment usually becomes more aggressive. Patients can end up on a cocktail of medications that often include chemotherapeutic agents to suppress the immune system. In addition, surgery is performed to correct or replace damaged tissue.
Miriam's case was definitely severe and in those early years she was prescribed many medications. After marriage, when her life became more stable her condition calmed down so that she could reduce the amount of prescriptions. When pregnant, her symptoms ameliorated tremendously, but on the other hand, there would be flare-ups when her life as a young mother became stressful. She was also still subject to attacks of hives. At one pointed after a strong flu, Miriam had an arthritic flare that lasted for years.
Some 25 years later, Miriam now in her mid-forties, began a new type of treatment with the antibiotic minocycline. Controversial at the time,the strategy was based on the idea that the disease - and other autoimmune illnesses as well - were actually undiagnosed and untreated infections by the microorganism mycoplasma. In Miriam's case, she may have well been affected by the mycoplasma, but her strep titers were definitely very high. In any case, the treatment, which lasted for about 18 months, was extremely effective for her.
A few years later, with her children now much older and her symptoms in remissions, she embarked on a new life and opened up a retail shop.
But after a decade passed in relative health, Miriam experienced another downturn. Interestingly, it was again precipitated by her ministrations to an ill person - this time her own father whose health was declining and lived quite a distance away. There were other changes in her life related to her now thriving business and her grown children going out on their own. Another round of the minocycline was helpful, but then another bout with the flu aggravated all her symptoms.
So, three years since her latest flare-up, nearing the age of sixty and living with the disease for some forty years, Miriam began homeopathic treatment with me.
The first thing that struck me when meeting her was a remarkable cheerfulness. Quick to laugh, with a continual smile, Miriam spoke with a bubbly enthusiasm that belied the severity of her condition and the pain she had suffered throughout her life.
As is usual, we spoke for several hours during which time I noted the characteristic aspects of her disease – the history, the type of pain, what made it better or worse, and the characteristic aspects of her nature. Based on her cheerful sympathetic personality, her worries about family, food craving as well as the tightness she felt throughout her body, she was prescribed the remedy Causticum in a daily dose. An oft used medicine in homeopathy, Causticum is a potassium salt that Hahnemann that created by distilling a mixture of slaked lime and a solution of potassium sulphate. It has an especially curative affinity for disorders of the nerves and the muscles. The latter often feel stiff, become contracted and can end up causing deformities - as was the case with Miriam.
One month later, Miriam reported feeling better. Her pains were much reduced and she had been able to begin reducing her analgesic medications. Over the course of the next year and a half, she continued with daily doses of Causticum in various potencies.
PART II At that point, she underwent a hip replacement because the damage done over the decades had caused severe degeneration of the joint. The surgery itself went well, but afterward there was a severe flare-up of the arthritis again. This also coincided with great emotional turmoil – sympathy and concern - over firing an incompetent employee.
In the midst of this flare-up, Causticum no longer seemed to be effective. Her symptoms indicated the remedy Rhus toxicodendron, derived from poison ivy, which is well known for not only its curative action on the skin but also on the musculoskeletal system.
The Rhus-tox brought about immediate relief of much of the pain as well as the general discomfort and restlessness that bothered her since the operation. Ongoing treatment was continued with daily doses. Over the next several months, Miriam’s condition stabilized. Her overall pain was less, her mobility and sense of wellbeing had improved. But what was becoming apparent was the fact that the disease process itself was still present, albeit with much diminished aggressiveness and impact.
Miriam was agreeable to a session of Autonomic Response Testing, during which causative factors contributing to her condition were explored. The results indicated a number of toxic influences on her system. The two most dominant ones were heavy metals from her dental fillings. In addition, there were environmental toxins such as pesticides, bacterial infections including the Lyme co-infection Babesia. Mycoplasma was also still present. Based on these results, supplementation to cleanse the body of the heavy metals and anti-microbials was initiated. Treatment with daily doses of her original remedy, Causticum, was also restarted. In addition, I strongly encouraged Miriam to have her metal fillings removed by a biological dentist.
After several months on this regimen, Miriam reported feeling increased stiffness, which was soon resolved by returning to the Rhus Toxicodendron. Her symptoms diminished and her sense of wellbeing was improved to the extent that she was now ready for another surgery, a year after the first, to replace another joint that had become severely damaged over the years, her left knee.
Keeping in mind how her immune system reacted to the first surgery, her protocol of homeopathy and supplements was increased and Miriam was able to get through the knee replacement without a rheumatoid flare-up. For a period of a year, Miriam was quite stable. As she recovered and now had the use two new joints, she was more mobile and relatively pain free. But what was troubling was, although in a much better place, the underlying rheumatoid process that had begun 40 years earlier was still present. It was quiescent but not gone. With this in mind, in the summer of 2013, I re-evaluated Miriam’s case to see what more could be done. After reviewing her history and my case notes, I decided on a different approach focusing on the etiology or causal origins of her disease.
It had appeared at a stressful time in her life when she had both left home and poured herself into the caring of her paralyzed boyfriend. But more proximal to the onset of the illness was the flu, after which she first experienced rheumatoid symptoms. Undiagnosed at the time, it was later identified with great certitude as a streptococcal infection.
With that in mind, I investigated into a remedy not very familiar to me, Streptococcinum. One of a class of homeopathic remedies known as ‘nosodes’, that is a medicine created from disease substances, it is prepared from the streptococcus bacteria and has been used as a homeopathic medicine dating back to the early twentieth century.
What I found in the literature was very relevant. The renowned British homeopath Douglas Foubister wrote the following: “We may consider the prescription of Streptococcin in chronic disease where there is a history of acute streptococcal infection very probably including severe infection in the mother during pregnancy...” “(It is indicated) when there is unsatisfactory response to reasonably well-chosen medicines; when there is a tendency to relapse, or when there is only partial improvement. (Or) where streptococcal infection immediately precedes chronic illness…” “The relationship between streptococcal infection and chronic rheumatism including fibrositis and rheumatoid arthritis is generally recognized, and clinical experience has confirmed the value of Streptococcin in treatment. Streptococcin has certain rheumatic symptoms indistinguishable from those of Rhus tox…”
A month after taking a dose of Streptococcin, Miriam reported a significant improvement. Her joints were less painful and her energy had increased. This improvement has continued for the last six months. Her mobility is better, the joint swelling is much less and the need for analgesics has all but disappeared.
Not only does she feels as if her rheumatoid condition is lifting but her outlook has become more hopeful and positive. At her most recent visit, she reported that the latest blood work showed dramatic improvements in both of the major inflammation markers, the SED rate and the CRP value. Although it remains to be seen how far her improvement will progress and whether the rheumatic condition itself will truly be cured, there is little doubt concerning the benefits of this remedy.