From a California woman who is a former general counsel for a Fortune 500 company: “Lupus is known by doctors as ‘the great imitator.’ The disease hides behind a smokescreen of other possible diagnoses that often leads to frustration over doctors’ inability to diagnose what’s wrong. I was one of those.
“The American College of Rheumatology has established 11 different criteria for the diagnosis of lupus. If you have four of them, you are considered to have the disease. Some are based on physical symptoms, others on blood tests. The bottom line is that lupus is an inflammatory process affecting both joints and internal organs. I personally have had at times both shoulders, both elbows, both wrists, and both knees involved. It was painful to the point that I took aspirin by the handful as well as other painkillers. What I learned is that you don’t get rid of the pain but you do get erosive gastritis and damage the digestive tract.
“My informal relationship with lupus began in 1999 with kidney dysfunction. Suddenly, I was producing very little urine and put on 14 pounds in 5 days. My blood pressure spiked and I had waste products in both my blood and urine. This was the medical system’s first chance to realize something was seriously wrong. Instead, I was patted on the head and told I had idiopathic glomerulonephritis. I wasn’t such an idiot that I swallowed that diagnosis. Idiopathic is doc speak for ‘we don’t know the cause.’ However, with diuretics, the fluid came off and my lab results eventually went back to normal. I didn’t have any hard ammunition to press for a more definitive diagnosis.
“Similar, but less severe, episodes occurred over the next four years. There was no conclusive lab result demonstrating lupus but more and more often I had low complement levels in my blood (complements are part of the immune system.) As time went on, I had frequent joint pain and fatigue. The joints in my hands and feet were at times swollen and red, a sign of inflammatory arthritis.
“The symptoms accumulated to the point that doctors prescribed an anti-malarial drug for me, which is a first-line medication for dealing with lupus. Why an anti-malarial drug? Because malaria is an inflammatory disease. And lupus is an inflammatory disease. This approach worked for me for about 18 months and kept the symptoms under control.
“Lupus, however, has a number of different triggers, and you learn what they are over time. I learned, for instance, that sun exposure could trigger a lupus flare-up. I was volunteering at a nature preserve, and getting a lot of sun. That was my catalyst for starting down a pharmaceutical road to steroids. Fatigue turned to exhaustion. At times I was short of breath – even conversation could be a challenge. When a doctor tried to attribute that symptom to my being “de-conditioned,” I replied that lawyers don’t lose their conditioning for speech!
“Finally, lab tests revealed one of the lupus hallmarks: antinuclear antibodies. My body was creating antibodies to fight the nuclei of its own cells. I had become, literally, auto-immune. At first I could get by with a three-week course of steroids and regain my strength and lower the pain back to tolerable. But then the flare-ups got harder and harder to control. And the dosage of the steroids got higher and higher.
“By now I was on a schedule of visiting my rheumatologist one week, have labs drawn three weeks later to create a current portrait of what was happening in my body and meeting him to discuss the results the following week.
“In December of 2009 I experienced another flare-up. In addition to the pain, I was now experiencing debilitating fatigue. That was the hardest part. I could sleep 10 or even 12 hours a day, but still not have any energy to do any of the things I liked to do. I couldn’t cook. I couldn’t walk the dogs. I couldn’t groom my horse. Along with this came mental fog. It’s not dementia and it’s not psychosis. It’s like the brain doesn’t work at the normal level of RPMs. I was fighting that, and the fatigue, and the pain, and all the while seeing the steroid level ramp up and up. I had gotten up to 35 milligrams of cortisone a day. That’s a pretty high dosage. I was getting quite concerned because long-term usage of cortisone can have very damaging side effects—such as osteoporosis—and I wasn’t really getting relief from it anymore.
“The doctor at this point said he wasn’t willing to raise the cortisone level any higher. He suggested we try something else. So he handed me a prescription for an immune suppressant called CellCept, a drug they give people with lupus when the steroids don’t help anymore. The drug is aimed at reducing inflammation and autoantibody production in patients with autoimmune disorders. This, and other similar drugs, are also given to people who have organ transplants in order to prevent the immune system from rejecting the organ. The medications, however, can weaken your immune system to the point where you become more vulnerable to cancer and other very nasty things. Side effects include high blood pressure, kidney and liver problems, and susceptibility to infection. These are not drugs you take lightly.
“I told my doctor I wanted to consider this option carefully. I also told him I was considering an extremely rigorous nutritional approach. I was desperate. I had already consulted with a nationally-known nutritional expert who had recommended two months of an intense diet and nutrient supplementation program followed by a period of fasting. When I told this to my rheumatologist, he wanted to take back the prescription.
“‘You can’t do both,’ he said. I told him I wanted to keep the prescription but wouldn’t take the drug if I decided to follow the nutritional approach. I was confused and not sure what to do.
“Luckily, nature intervened in two ways and resolved my dilemma. First, because of long-term use of pain relievers, I was taking Kapidex, a stomach acid suppressant, which was interacting with the cortisone and creating constant intestinal discomfort. Diarrhea to be precise. Eating a heavily cruciferous diet of broccoli and cabbage, a main feature of the remedial diet, would be quite literally impossible.
“Around this time, a friend suggested Earthing could help me. He strongly urged me to get grounded. I followed his advice and immediately obtained an Earthing sheet. I was willing to try most anything at this point. So I started sleeping grounded not knowing what would happen. I had the CellCept prescription if needed, but I wasn’t willing yet to play that drastic card.
“As the days went by I noticed that I started feeling better, having more energy, and thinking more clearly. This went on for a few weeks and then it was time for my regular monthly visit to the rheumatologist.
“This time when I walked into his office, he asked me how I was feeling. I said, ‘It’s really strange but I honestly feel I have more energy and I’m starting to feel like my old self again.’ He told me that this was the first time in the five years I had been seeing him that my bloodwork was normal. None of the hallmark factors for lupus were present, including the primary test for lupus—the antinuclear antibody test. In my case, the test had been positive for ten years.
“Six months after I started grounding, I was almost taking my good health and abundant energy for granted. I was walking my dogs twice a day, taking tai chi classes, studying photography, and participating in two weekly strength training classes to prevent osteoporosis. Unfortunately, the years of steroids seriously weakened my bones. But every night I continued to sleep on my grounding sheet. The prospect that I might slip back into the pain, fatigue, and fog of lupus is truly frightening. I only wish I had started grounding sooner and not ‘lost’ so much time to lupus.
“In April 2011 I was retested during a routine examination by my internist. They tested my blood for anti-nuclear antibodies, the hallmark of autoimmune disease. My blood levels were normal: no antinuclear antibodies or other markers of inflammation!
“A few weeks later, however, I was experiencing returning symptoms, including achy inflamed joints, knuckles, and blood vessels. I was sleeping grounded routinely, but now stepped up my Earthing exposure to ground as much as I could during the day.
“I started using a mat under my forearms that grounded me during hours of writing each day and then put on an Earthing wrist band that I plugged into a ground while I read or watched television, I was grounded almost 24/7.
“Within a few days I was feeling better and with less pain. After three weeks of intense grounding I was feeling much, much better. My energy and vitality levels returned to even above what they were before my ‘wobble/relapse.’ An elevated red rash from inflamed blood vessels had also disappeared. And by the way, I lost 25 pounds in a year. One of the biggest factors is my increased energy level which allowed me to exercise and walk my dogs daily — sometimes both in the same day! Also, my long term dosage of steroids had caused weight gain which gradually reversed itself when I discontinued the drugs.
“I was soon feeling vibrant and energetic. I even went through a cross-country move and was able to handle the stress and physical challenges involved. A mutual friend perhaps put it best at the time when he said: ‘Katie is doing so well she is shell-shocked with wellness!’
“In March 2013, the results of routine blood and urine tests suggested my lupus might be staging a comeback. Shocked by the news, I checked my Earthing sheet. It was connected to a lead that snaked through a crack in a window to a stake in the ground outside. Somehow the stake had disappeared over the winter. After eight weeks of intense 24/7 grounding, my lab results returned once again normal. My energy has remained robust, and I have added square dancing to my slate of activities.
Now, in mid-2016, my health continues to be good, although I am dealing, as many people do, with arthritic knees. But no recurrence of the lupus
“I will be forever grateful to Earthing for restoring my health and vitality. I don’t consider myself to be cured. But I do consider myself to be in remission. Earthing has given me a second chance at life.”
• From an Australian artist in 2011: “In 2009 a kidney biopsy showed class 5 lupus. The inflammation of my kidneys was to the extent that I was losing several grams of protein a day. I had the lowest level of protein in my blood ever recorded at the renal ward in the hospital where I received treatment. I was given intravenous Rituximab in August 09, a chemotherapy drug developed to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It wipes out the B cells of the immune system. I was also out on Cellcept, and Cyclosporine, both severe immune suppressants. Also: 50 mg of prednisone a day was also taken.
“Naturally I was not happy about taking all of these drugs, however they did put the fire out of the lupus and gave me back enough energy to put in to place a healing regime. I researched everything I could and came up with a plan. Firstly, I went totally vegan. There are many people around the world controlling lupus with a vegan diet.
“The immune system, in my case, reacts to animal proteins, which due to leaky gut, pass through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. My immune system sees these proteins in the blood as foreign, they end up being filtered and lodged in the kidneys and the immune cells attack them there causing chronic inflammation. If I eat meat, dairy or eggs, within several hours my kidneys flare up. It’s unreal, like clockwork! I truly believe that if I hadn’t found this out, I wouldn’t be here. The western treatments put the fire out but they don’t stop the problem. The war rages on and lupus is smoldering its way through the body.
“I also went gluten free, which helped with my candida and addressed leaky gut. No more bloating etc. I had slippery elm powder morning and night. I had probiotics also. I take 3 mouthfuls of liquid Olive leaf a day to control candida, which was systemic, for years before the lupus symptoms showed up. I gave up coffee, and took Vit C, B, Zinc, Magnesium and a herbal women’s multi vitamin. The western drugs were tapered down to Cellcept and 5mg of prednisone a day.
“As my energy returned I added walking each day when I felt up to it.
While much better I still felt symptoms. My knees were hurting, I was tired and my urine was frothy on and off during the day (sign of protein in the urine). One day I found myself having difficulty breathing and a complete feeling of exhaustion came over me. I could barely walk upstairs. This panicked me and that night I prayed for direction to something that would help me. The next morning in my inbox was a recommendation for a new book called ‘Earthing.’ I did my research and started Earthing each day by walking barefooted in my back lane. After walking barefoot for a few weeks I decided to invest in an Earthing sheet for my bed.
“Within three weeks my hands and feet were warm. I haven’t had warm hands and feet since I was a teenager. I’m 35. This astounded people around me who were so use to my cold hands. This in itself was enough for me to be ecstatic. My knees stopped hurting. My joints were clicking less. Somedays not at all. Energy was improved. Mental fog totally lifted. I felt sharp, more energized and alive again! Went I go away I yearn for my earthing sheet. The only downside is that I want to stay in bed Earthing for as long as I can, I go to bed early and read just to get some extra Earthing time.
“Last week I went to get my results from the renal specialist. My kidney function is TOTALLY NORMAL!! 100% IN THE NORMAL RANGE ON ALL MARKERS. The specialist said that he would have bet his house that I would NEVER get normal renal function again. My disease and damage was too severe. Slowly, the drugs I am on will be tapered down and the aim is to be treatment free. Something that is unheard of for a case like mine.
“I have been through hell and now have made a huge leap in my recovery. Perhaps my story will inspire and help someone else.”
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Our observations: Autoimmune disorders are unpredictable. Flare-ups and return of symptoms can occur because of various types of stress, including emotional stress, seasonal allergies, and overwork. In such situations, individuals who have been routinely sleeping grounded often benefit by maximizing their hours of grounding.