Ask the Ayurvedic Expert: Remedies for Autoimmune Disorders?

John Douillard offers advice for Brittany Pryor, 24, a yoga teacher diagnosed with Graves’ disease and RA.
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John Douillard offers advice for Brittany Pryor, 24, a yoga teacher diagnosed with Graves’ disease and RA.
Brittany Pryor

Brittany Pryor, 24, was used to having tons of energy. The Melbourne, Florida, college student was teaching a yoga club at her community college and working on getting her 200-hour certification to teach yoga when she started experiencing fatigue, hair loss and "really bad body aches" in her hips and joints. A few months later, she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an immune system disorder that results in overproduction of thyroid hormones, and rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the joints.

"Both of them run in my family," she tells YogaJournal.com. "My mom has Graves' and my Grandma has RA. I originally went to the doctor because I hadn’t had a period in two years—my thyroid was off, and my pituitary gland wasn’t sending signals to my hormones."

While yoga helps Pryor with the pain in her joints as well as with the anxiety surrounding her conditions, she says it’s been tough. "I’m so young, I’m used to having a lot of energy," she says. "At my yoga level, it’s hard not being able to do as much."

Pryor is currently seeing a rheumatologist and an endocrinologist, but she and her doctors have yet to settle on a treatment option. She reached out to Yoga Journal for help, and we turned to Ayurvedic physician John Douillard to see if he could offer any natural remedies for Pryor. (Note: Douillard does not treat Pryor.)

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"It’s not an uncommon situation," he explains. "When someone has Graves’, which is an autoimmune disorder based in the thyroid, it can trigger other autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis."

Douillard says Pryor’s lymphatic system (the body system that removes waste and the first one Ayurvedic physicians address) could be congested, as both Graves’ Disease and RA are very lymph-specific. "If the lymph system is congested, the immune system can’t get to where it wants to go," he says. Improving lymphatic flow could also help Pryor with her stiff, achy muscles—a result of clogged joints, Douillard says. He suggests improving lymphatic flow by:

1. Alkalizing the diet. At each meal, Douillard recommends Pryor fill half her plate with veggies, a quarter with a healthy starch like starchy veggies and a quarter with protein. "These are good lymphatic movers," he says.

2. Sipping plain hot water every 15-20 minutes for two weeks. ("The lymph moves better when it’s hydrated," he explains.)

3. Researching herbs like Manjistha, a powerful destagnating herb for the lymph, which drains the joints as well. (Speak to your doctor before taking any herbs.)

Douillard also recommends that Pryor get her Vitamin D levels checked if she hasn’t already and take a supplement if necessary. (Speak to your doctor before taking Vitamin D or any other supplement.) After 2-3 months, improved Vitamin D levels could make a significant difference in both of her conditions, even putting her in remission, he says. "With autoimmune diseases, sometimes you see miracles."

We'll report back on Pryor's progress.

—Jennifer D’Angelo Friedman

Disclaimer: Any information contained in this blog does not take the place of professional advice from a health care provider nor is it intended as medical advice. Information is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information only. Approaches and treatments described herein are not offered as cures, prescriptions, or diagnoses. Always check with your medical professional before undertaking treatments. Statements contained have not been evaluated by the FDA.