Improving my Gut Health helped reverse Rheumatoid Arthritis

Water Kefir is full of good bacteria and very beneficial to your gut health

Improving my gut health, to restore my overall heath

 I’d like to introduce to one of many pets – water kefir – it needs feeding, nurturing, and in this case, burping, on a regular basis. Here, I’ve added elderflower and ginger for its second ferment which makes it quite delicious. Other times of the year it will get various fruits as they are in season, and lemon (or orange) & ginger through the winter months.

Just take my advice and don’t put cucumber in – the flavour was nice, but an overall slimyness was hard to stomach!

What is Kefir?

“Kefir” literally translates to “feel good”. It has been popular for centuries for its health benefits, as it is is alive with beneficial bacteria, probiotics, yeasts, organic acids, and enzymes. CO2 and trace amounts of alcohol are also produced.

The Kefir grains are a living mother culture I feed with fresh water and sugar every four or five days – depending on the warmth of the weather (longer in winter).  The grains metabolize the sugar, and after say, five days, I remove the liquid (and set aside), and re-feed the grains with sugar and new water.

I put the set aside liquid into bottles (see pic above) and add fruit/ginger etc to cause a double ferment within the bottle. This makes the kefir liquid much drier and fizzier. When it is very fizzy (you must burp it occasionally – let the pressure out – or the bottle will explode!

After say about four days, when it has reached maximum fizziness, it is ready and I put it in the fridge to stop the fermentation. Now the final drink is a light, slightly fizzy drink, a bit like a gentle dry apple cider or ginger ale – delicious.

Water kefir is similar to milk kefir, but if dairy causes you a problem, as it does for me, it is a good option.

My love of fermented foods – kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sourdough – is part of a longer journey to improve my gut, and turn around my health from a serious autoimmune condition.

My Story and road back to health

About seven years ago I got swelling & pain in my joints. My grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis (an inflammation of the joints that you can get at any age, and in any joint – different to osteoarthritis which is due to wear and tear). So, along with inflammatory indicators in my blood, it was clear to doctors that was what I had.

Autoimmune Diseases

Rheumatoid Arthritis is classed as an autoimmune disease. There are still a lot of unknowns about autoimmune diseases, and doctors in the UK wanted to put me on strong drugs that suppress the immune system and that I would take for life.

My world turned very black for a while as I grieved for how I perceived my future to be. I love playing sport, but mostly it now hurt too much. And my hands hurt after a day holding a camera – I wondered if I would have to give up my career.

I remember at this time going to the Pink Lady Photographer Awards and winning with my Cricketer’s Apple photograph. Winning – how fabulous – and yet the following day I couldn’t wear shoes as my feet were swollen, and my hands hurt so badly. I cried a lot – what use were awards if I couldn’t hold a camera.

It was a very bleak time. However, I also spent a huge amount of time reading about this disease. In doing so, came across people who had recovered their health by concentrating on their diet, removing a lot of things from it, and improving their gut health.

Slowly I began to see a way forward for me based on positive things rather than accepting the doctors’ more fatalistic approach, that there was nothing that I could do.

The Foods I Ate to Improve My Health

It wasn’t an easy road – I removed dairy, gluten, sugar, meat, all deadly nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, chillies etc), all processed foods, and alcohol from my diet. At first I thought I couldn’t do it, but the alternative – a life of medication – wasn’t appealing either.

A fabulous, more alternative (though I wish they were mainstream) doctor encouraged me to try two weeks at first – and the joy of feeling a bit better after two weeks was so overwhelming, I knew I could do more.

I didn’t keep to it all the time – especially if out with friends – but I kept to it mostly, and slowly, slowly I got better. Over two years, I went from a lot of a pain randomly around my body, and giving up all sports except for swimming which still hurt, to playing tennis competitively and feeling really well again.

Not a Cure

There is no such thing as a cure – I live with my RA, it’s just lucky that I have found a way to keep it in remission. See the paragraph below – it is there in the background if I don’t look after myself.

And as a disclaimer, that all diseases are different. And our bodies react to different treatments in oh so many ways. I, along with many others, are very lucky that my body responded so well to diet. I know from talking to others, and reading, that it is not be the same for everyone.

My Health Now

Seven years on, I am really well. I am still careful about my diet, and can have gluten & dairy in huge moderation, don’t eat meat (for many reasons!), and avoid sugar as much as possible. If I break my diet a lot over a week, say if on holiday, I will feel the effects with some pain and swelling in my hands. It helps me not break my diet. And if the swelling is there, I ensure I am ultra strict for a week, and swelling goes away.

Links & Resources that Helped


Type into a search engine ‘How I ‘cured’ my autoimmune through diet’. Lot of positive stories appear – read them all! I know what it is like contemplating radically changing your diet – it’s bloody hard. I reread many of these stories many times.

Ted Talks

Also listen to Ted Talks – one by Clive Pattison comes to mind. There he was on stage, walking around and talking about how healthy he was, and showing pics of how disabled he had been by Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Reversing MS – Going from A Wheel Chair to Walking – by Dr Terry Wahls is amazing. A different disease, and a different diet to the one I chose, but very uplifting to listen to


There are many uplifting books of how people have reversed their autoimmune.
The New Arthritis Breakthrough by Henry Scammel (includes the original book by Dr Thomas McPherson Brown, The Road Back). This is about how a doctor used a very low dose of antibiotics to reverse autoimmune conditions. It’s very interesting and a lot of people combine this with diet.


Go to – you can ask anything, and people will respond with help, advice and love. Truly saved me in those early days. It is based around the use of the low dose of antibiotics, and has lots of advice on this, but advice will be given on anything. The admin helpers will also direct you to a doctor in your country who you can talk to about the use of antibiotics, and diet. Certainly in the UK, such doctors are not mainstream and I would not have found them without the help of this website.

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Experienced photographer with many years photographing people and families, as well as shooting and styling food.