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Rheumatoid arthritis almost paralysed this woman – here’s how she beat it

Rheumatoid arthritis affects young people as well as old – in 2015 Iidamaria van der Byl-Knoefel was diagnosed with a form of it in her 30s.  This is how she reversed its devastating effects 

The emotional new Versus Arthritis advert shows a young woman unable to get out of bed and get to the teaching job she loves due to her crippling condition – arthritis.

The moving advert has affected many viewers including Goggleboxs’ Jenny Newby and other members of the cast who are seen reacting to the advert on the November 16th episode.

There are different types of arthritis, and it doesn’t just affect the elderly. 36 year old, Iidamaria van der Byl-Knoefel was diagnosed with a form of inflammatory arthritis similar to rheumatoid arthritis as a young woman. Iida works with antique jewleery, is a full time mum and author of A Kitchen Fairytale. Here is her story…

‘It all started in August 2014, when my left knee suddenly started getting swollen and painful during a run. The doctor told me to rest for a month, but my knee got worse, and after a few weeks it was so swollen I couldn’t bend it enough to walk down the stairs. For a year I walked downstairs with my left foot first and I couldn’t stand up for more than a few minutes before the swelling and pain set in.

‘I visited doctors, homeopaths, osteopaths, acupuncturists and physiotherapists, but none were able to help with the pain, or tell me what was wrong. It was only six months after the onset that I was referred to a rheumatologist who diagnosed me with ANA Positive Oligoarthritis, a type of inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis which is an auto-immune condition. I was told that no one knows why we get it and that I would have to be on medication for the rest of my life.

I couldn’t stand up for more than a few minutes before the swelling and pain set in

‘Since my husband and I were getting married and hoping to start a family, I was given two different drugs that were deemed safe while pregnant. I was also told that I would be under the care of a special department throughout any pregnancies.

‘In August 2015, after our wedding, I started taking the prescribed drug Sulfasalazine. However, I had a strong allergic reaction within two weeks and ended up in the emergency room, where they took me off the drug.

‘At that point, I decided I had had enough. I knew there was nothing wrong with me and that I must be doing something to cause this imbalance in my body and I wanted to try to fix it myself.

‘I initially implemented steps one to two in the list below and a couple of weeks later I saw the rheumatologist again, who ran some tests and told me that my results were back to normal. She encouraged me to keep doing ‘whatever I was doing’ and said she wasn’t going to prescribe me any more drugs.

‘Hearing this so quickly was beyond amazing, however, I knew that there was still some inflammation in my body because I could feel it, and so I continued my online research and implemented steps three to seven, through which I was able to resolve the remaining inflammation.

‘One of the most amazing things about having reversed the symptoms naturally is that I was able to have a drug and pain-free, plant-based pregnancy, under no special care of any rheumatology department.

‘In fact, in January 2017 when I told my rheumatologist I was expecting, she just said to keep an eye on my vitamin D levels. This response would have been unthinkable even just a year before that. I had our baby boy in August 2017 and I have been able to breastfeed him throughout, since I am not on any medication.

7 steps that reversed my rheumatoid arthritis

Iidamaria van der Byl-Knoefel explains the specific lifestyle measures that led to her being dry- and pain-free today

1. Eliminating dairy, gluten and refined sugars

As a first step, I did a lot of research on how to treat arthritis naturally and what I noticed was that every time someone mentioned that they had been able to get well from a similar condition, there was a mention of a change of diet.

I initially cut out dairy, gluten and refined sugars, because of their inflammatory effects on the body, and the pain started decreasing immediately; something that was confirmed by the rheumatologist when she looked at my test results just a couple of weeks after I had implemented the changes.

2. Yoga

I also started doing yoga every morning and evening, because some very simple yoga stretches that I found online immediately improved the range of motion in my knee and helped reduce the pain and swelling.

rheumatoid arthritis, 7-ways-I-controlled-my-arthritis-yoga

Getting onto my yoga mat and checking in with my body twice a day also gave me a whole new awareness of my body. I used to rush from one place to another but now I found myself stopping for a while and just enjoying the stretches and poses that strengthened my body.

I started my yoga routine in the Autumn and I would practice at home with a lit candle by my mat, which was such a great way of bringing some peace and beauty to the practice in a similar way to meditation, which is known to help with healing and overall wellbeing.

3. Joining The Paddison Program for Rheumatoid Arthritis

My online research continued to figure out the last bits of the puzzle and soon I found the Paddison Program. Clint Paddison has established why we get various types of arthritis and how to reverse the symptoms naturally.

One of the things he highlighted was the role a dysfunctional digestive system plays and reading his book made me understand why I got sick in the first place, which then helped me understand why and how I could get well again. I couldn’t have put together all that research myself, so I am really grateful to Clint for having done the work for us and for putting the program in motion, which has changed so many people’s lives – including mine.

4. Elimination diet

I went through the specifically designed elimination diet on the Paddison Program, which required cutting out all animal products and oils. In addition to this, I initially also had to cut out a wide range of plant-based foods in order to allow the body to heal naturally.

It was incredibly hard to suddenly change my way of eating, but pain is a great motivator and I decided that I would rather make the sacrifice now, and then be able to look back a year later and say that all the hard work had been worth it!

5. Re-introduction of foods

Next I was able to move onto the reintroduction phase of the program and reintroduce one food at the time over the next year to see how my body reacted to each food.

This was a very slow and sometimes frustrating process, but it was also very interesting because it taught me to listen to my body and to understand why it reacted the way it did. I was soon able to identify any bit of inflammation that appeared and attribute that to a recent food or exercise that I had undertaken.

6. Keeping a diary, trouble shooting and remaining plant-based

One of the most important steps in the healing journey for me was to keep a diary on the Paddison Program forum. I would document my progress and any challenges I encountered, and Clint Paddison and other people on the forum who were going through the same process, would give support, advice and encouragement.

rheumatoid arthritis 7-ways-I-controlled-my-arthritis-food-journal

Being able to share and then have others relate to my experiences were crucial in getting well. It also helped to maintain my motivation, because there is nothing more worrying than to think you are the only person going through something tough.

The next step was to remain plant-based and avoid any added oils in my diet. This included the exclusion of olive oil or coconut oil, which in my eyes should not be labelled as health foods.

7. Reading up about a plant-based diet

I submerged myself in books, documentaries, interviews and videos about a plant-based lifestyle once I started seeing improvements. I found that it was incredibly important for me to know where I would find my iron, calcium and various other nutrients, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about missing out on anything vital.

I learnt that by following a plant-based diet I would cover all the essential elements, with the exception of vitamin B12, which I supplement, and vitamin D, which I make sure to get through responsible exposure to sunlight.

To me this was such a revelation and gave me the confidence to happily leave all animal products behind – and in the same go leave the fear of this condition behind.

A Kitchen Fairytale Book Cover

The recipes and tips I developed, discovered and enjoyed throughout this period of transformation have been recorded in my new book, A Kitchen Fairytale.

Recipes are broken down into breakfasts, mains, side dishes, desserts and drinks, along with shopping lists and tips for travelling. For more information visit:

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