Treating an Autoimmune Headache

  It will be fifteen years ago next month when a patient we’ll call Pat first came to consult with me. A mild mannered, hard-working woman in her mid-sixties, she complained of ongoing weakness, breathlessness and dizziness that had been bothering her for years. She also had unstable blood pressure for which she had already been medicated for over 30 years.

From a homeopathic perspective, her case was fairly clear at the time. The lack of energy, vertigo and the breathlessness that was especially exasperated when climbing the stairs or walking up hill along with her salt of the earth yet timid nature was enough to suggest the remedy Calcarea Carbonica.

Calc carb is made from a form of calcium carbonate that originates from the middle layer of a oyster shell and it is one of mostly commonly used homeopathic medicines. It covers a wide range of pathologies with a special affinity toward the glands, bones and the heart. People needing the remedy have a tendency to put on weight tire easily, become constipated, perspire a lot and not tolerate the cold or milk very well. It is the young child’s remedy par excellence, especially for those whose development – both physical and mental - is on the slow side.

These children can have an obstinate quality that derives from there fundamentally cautious, fearful nature. They don’t want to move too fast or too far from maternal protection lest they be exposed to harm. It is the metaphor of the shell: they like to stay secure within sturdy, protected environs. As adults, they are content as long their world feels stable and organized. As one homeopath noted, they are “slow conscientious workers who steadily plod along (and) are reliable partners”. If they sense that order and security of their lives is being challenged, they will manifest many fears and anxieties.

Pat did very well on the remedy. Her energy returned, the vertigo disappeared and going up the stairs was no longer an ordeal. She kept in regular contact over the next seven or eight years, but as her health was by and large stable, it was more for maintenance than anything else.

Then one day she came for an appointment complaining of a severe relentless headache focused in her temples accompanied by fatigue.   An acute headache remedy only provided temporary relief and her constitutional remedy, the calcarea carbonica, seemed not to act at all. In the meantime, concerned about what the head pain might indicate in light of her long history of hypertension, we both agreed that a diagnostic workup was in order.

At her next visit a few weeks later, it was immediately apparent that something was terribly amiss. Her eyes seemed bugged out, her voice was uncharacteristically shrill and she fidgeted restlessly in her seat. It was hard to follow her conversation because she spoke at a frenetic pace weaving together various thread of content seemingly at random.

As it turned out, the visit to the doctor had been diagnostically fruitful but therapeutically a disaster. She had been diagnosed with temporal arteritis, an inflammation of the arteries that run up the sides of the head. Conventionally speaking, the cause is unknown although it is generally thought to be an autoimmune disorder. Arteritis is also thought to be incurable, though it can be ‘managed’ with steroids and in more advanced cases immunosuppressants.

Her physician had prescribed 60 mg of prednisone to control the inflammation. Unfortunately for Pat, that turned out to be a serious overdose. She hadn’t slept for days but was too hyped up to relax or rest. What I was witnessing was not related to her illness, but the side effects of steroid over-stimulation.

Pat was certainly keen to reduce the steroids and find a better solution for her condition than symptom management. Almost as important, her husband was enthusiastic in his support as well.

Autoimmune conditions present a particular challenge in this regard because the factors that trigger the body to ‘turn on itself’ are generally not well understood nor easily unearthed.   And even if they are discovered, it is most often not a simple matter to reverse or neutralize them.

Pathological diagnosis in hand, I needed to reconsider the treatment options. First, she needed to drastically reduce the dose of prednisone with goal of eventually terminating it altogether. Since there are real concerns that unchecked, the arteritis could lead to an aneurysm, stroke or blindness, a small, well tolerated dose of prednisone could act as a safety net until the underlying condition could be addressed.

The second step was for Pat to make dietary changes that would systemically reduce inflammatory responses. This anti-inflammatory diet, many versions of which are readily accessible on the internet, emphasizes the avoidance of grains - especially those containing gluten or are highly refined, sugars, trans fats and most vegetable oils (save olive) – especially when raised to high temperature, as well as processed foods or artificial ingredients.   It advocates for the diet to consist mostly of fresh (and organic, if possible) vegetables and fruits (whole fruits, not juices), fats in the form of coconut oil, unheated olive oil, butter, and ghee along with moderate amounts grass fed animal foods or fish.

The third step consisted in a re-evaluation of her constitutional remedy. We met again for several hours – just like our first visit many years earlier – in order to get a fresh perspective on what remedy best suited her.

The picture that emerged from this conversation matched the homeopathic remedy Baryta carbonica. On the one hand there is an underlying profound lack of confidence verging on helplessness that leads to challenges when making decisions, this is accompanied by a strong degree of timidity, an avoidance of the strange or unknown.   On the other hand, as a means of compensation, these persons – at least, the adults – become quite conscientious, hard working and responsible toward their family.

The feedback from this prescription was very positive. Pat’s energy was increased and the pain was reduced.   She had also successfully weaned down her dose of prednisone from 60 to 20 mg, so the restlessness and insomnia had abated.

We then proceeded to the fourth step that was to perform a diagnostic technique called Autonomic Response Testing. Developed by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, ART is in essence a hands-on procedure that exposes the autonomic nervous system to a series of very subtle toxic challenges to gauge which ones are affecting the organism as a whole. Based on the results, therapeutic steps can be introduced that address the toxicity.

In Pat’s case, the results of the ART indicated two areas of concern. First and foremost was the presence of heavy metals the major source of which was almost certainly from her dental work. Secondly, she also had pesticide residues in her system. Considering the pervasiveness of pesticide use in agriculture, this finding is not at all unusual.

To remedy these issues, I prescribed a number of detoxifiers such as zeolites, chlorella, glutathione and specific homeopathic chelaters of metals and pesticides. In addition, I referred her to a biological dentist for an evaluation of dental status.

Biological dentists are unfortunately still a relative rare breed of dentist who have studied the relationship of dental health to a person’s overall health, recognized the toxic effects of many dental procedures such as metal fillings and root canals, and who have learned procedures to remediate these procedures.

It is quite common to see in practice that patients are suffering from dental related toxicity, but less common that they proactively proceed to address the situation. This is largely due to the expense and time involved. Sometimes the work needed can be quite extensive, costing thousands of dollars and taking months or even years. For the most part, insurance does not cover this type of dentistry for it is still not conventionally recognized.

It is regrettable that so many persons are unable to or are dissuaded from pursuing biological dental care due to financial reasons because, in the end, the thousands of dollars may be well spent in comparison to the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to care on treating the diseases that arise from the heavy metal poisoning and chronic infections associated with conventional dental care.

But, in this case, Pat did follow through with dental evaluation and extensive remedial dental work that took many visits over a year. Over that time, she continued with homeopathic care and periodic ART evaluations along with supplementation. She successfully weaned totally off the prednisone and her symptoms did not return.

Treatment of autoimmune illness is oftentimes complex and challenging, demanding a multifaceted approach to address its underlying causes.  But, as in Pat’s case, the resolution of ‘incurable’ conditions is indeed possible.