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Ashlynne: Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

The fundamentals of the McDougall Program are simple yet often difficult to implement. Star McDougallers have either adopted the Program themselves by learning from our website and books or joining one of our programs. For personalized help, learn more about the 12-Day McDougall Program. For questions on whether a change in diet can help your ailment, learn more about our consultations.
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This little girl is my daughter, Ashlynne, and she has been my running buddy since age 3. She ran her first 5k a week or two after she turned 4, and has run several since. A few weeks before her 5th birthday we ran another 5k. She was super fast and absolutely loved it. However, she complained of knee pain after the race. Concerned, and thinking she might have overdone it with training and racing, I decided to give her a week or so to rest. 

When she was still complaining a couple of days later, I went to rub something on her knees to give her some relief. I put some on her aching left knee and then saw that her other knee was hugely swollen. I asked her if it hurt, but she said no. Thinking that was strange, I waited a few days for the swelling to lessen. When it didn’t, I took her to see her pediatrician. He immediately suspected arthritis and ordered her x-rays and an MRI, and referred us to a rheumatologist.

After a blood test that was negative for Lyme disease and positive for rheumatoid factor, the rheumatologist concurred. She had Ashlynne try steroid shots in the knee to lessen the swelling. They worked, but they lasted for less than a month, which was considered a failure. They then prescribed a low dose of methotrexate (a chemotherapy drug), as well as twice-daily doses of sodium naproxen for any pain she was experiencing.

The methotrexate worked, and the doctor said that she was allowed to exercise and run as she always had. We felt extremely grateful for a pediatrician who was able to recognize the signs of juvenile arthritis, a rheumatologist who was knowledgeable and helpful, as well as finding a treatment that worked relatively quickly. Ashlynne had blood tests, urine tests, and check-ups every 3 months to check her swelling, general health, and to see whether the chemo was hurting her liver.

After Ashlynne had spent a year and a half on methotrexate – a year with no symptoms – the doctors weaned her off, hoping her symptoms would not come back. Off the methotrexate, her symptoms returned. They placed her on a higher dose of methotrexate, hoping that would alleviate the swelling once again. Only 30% of arthritis patients have symptoms that will not go away if they are put back on methotrexate after being weaned. Unfortunately, Ashlynne was among the 30%.

So, they said our next step was to add biologics. These are shots of a synthetic antibody that are given at home every two weeks. These antibodies weaken the immune system, and must be taken with methotrexate or the body will create its own antibodies to destroy the biologics’ antibodies. The biologics had side-effects that we found very scary – like the body not being able to have a fever when it was sick.

The day we were given the news about the biologics, I gave my mother a phone call to talk it through with her. She asked me what I was feeding Ashlynne. At first, I was a little offended, because I have tried very hard to feed my children a healthy diet. But she followed the question telling me about Dr. John McDougall and his website. She also sent me a link to a video of one of his lectures about arthritis. After watching the video and hearing his guarantee of his diet working to rid people of arthritis every time, as well as doing some research of my own, I was willing to try it. Dr. McDougall and people who have had success curing arthritis on his diet said to give it about 4 months, so that was what we were determined to do.

We cleared our house of all non-compliant food, and started her eating 100% according to Dr. McDougall’s guidelines. We made a few mistakes with things that we accidentally bought that had oil in them, but we tried very hard to keep her 100% on plan. I and the rest of our children changed our eating to his plan as well.

After 2 months, she had another check-up – this time with a new specialist who was filling in for her regular one. Her swelling was gone! What medicine had been unable to cure for 6 months her diet had cleared up in 2! We decided to take her off of methotrexate at that point, and see if she continued to be swelling-free.

3 months later, we drove to my daughter’s specialist that morning with knotted stomachs and prayers in our hearts. The words out of my daughter’s specialist’s mouth as she checked her joints: “Wow! Her knee looks great!” 

We were over the moon! My daughter’s arthritis was GONE – as confirmed by two specialists.


Ashlynne is nearly 10-years-old now and has been arthritis free for 14 months. We are so grateful for Dr. McDougall and the people and journey that led us to him and his way of eating.

No more blood-tests.

No more urine tests.

No more frantic runs to the doctor when she spikes a fever.

And no more swelling.

Thank you, Dr. McDougall!