Alternative Treatments for Auto-Immune Disorders in the Absence of Traditional Health Care, by J.F., RN

Many preppers are carefully strategizing the health care needs of themselves and their families. They are doing a great job of planning for a lack of conventional medicine, by stocking up on prescription medication where possible, finding alternate sources for antibiotics, collecting over-the-counter supplies and supplements and stockpiling the necessary items for inevitable wounds, rashes, skin infections and the like.

But what about those folks with chronic illnesses, who rely upon daily medications and/or the newer injectable biologic answers to auto-immune disorders such as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus? What solutions, hopefully temporary, can be offered to those with diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, or thyroid disorders?

This material is offered as a stop-gap for people suffering from auto-immune disorders. And people with auto-immune disorders often have secondary conditions of Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and thyroid disorders. I should know: I am a Registered Nurse and I also have Rheumatoid Arthritis.  That said, I want also to add the disclaimer that I’m NOT a physician but I’ve done my best research on how to manage these chronic conditions in the event that traditional health care is unavailable. I’ve tried some of them now – and found I’ve been able to reduce my prescription medications in half! Let me share with you what I’ve tried myself.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: We know this isn’t the wear-and-tear joint destruction of normal aging, but instead the body makes too much of an immune system response so that it attacks its own joints, vessels, and organs. An easy description appears on the Arthritis Foundation web site:

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a form of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. For reasons no one fully understands, in rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system – which is designed to protect our health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria – instead attacks the body’s own tissues, specifically the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints. As a result of the attack, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain in the joints and inflammation that’s systemic – meaning it can occur throughout the body.

But here’s the good news: People with ‘ramped up’ immune systems are better able to fight infections, which will be a favorable condition in a collapse situation! Before learning about prepping, I was already concerned with the amount of ‘chemicals’ I was putting into my body to treat this condition, so began researching alternative treatments. First of all, I went on a Gluten Free, Low Glycemic Index, Anti Inflammatory Diet. (Sometimes, I cheat…) Diet modification might be difficult to do in a collapse situation and I plan to eat gluten/wheat if need be until such a time as I can return to my usual diet.  Gluten Free and Anti Inflammatory Diets have been in the news for a few years now as solutions for auto-immune diet therapy. So stocking up on Gluten Free pastas, flours and mixes, and steel-cut oats was self explanatory. But in putting aside food stores for a Low-Glycemic Index diet for a collapse situation, I have included dried sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, along with other ‘slow burning carbs’ such as brown rice instead of white rice, steel cut oats instead of flaked oats, quinoa (a grain with a low-glycemic index as well as high protein), and rice pasta, along with dried black beans as opposed to other dried beans due to the low-glycemic index of black beans.

The Low-Glycemic index diet resulted from research conducted at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital in which obesity prevention was the primary focus but study outcomes determined not every calorie is an equivalent calorie. This study found that the Low-Glycemic index diet had similar metabolic benefits to the very low-carb diet without negative effects of stress and inflammation as seen by participants consuming the very low-carb diet. As inflammation is part and parcel of auto-immune disorders, it stands to reason a Low-Glycemic index diet will (1) reduce inflammation, and (2) achieve improved metabolic use of calories in a stressful situation such as a collapse situation. Low-Glycemic index diets are beneficial for diabetics as well, and results of this study can be viewed at the Journal of American Medical Association’s journal site.

Another aspect of the Anti Inflammatory Diet includes adding ¼ teaspoon of Tumeric twice daily in your diet. Tumeric is expensive; start buying it now. You can add it to powdered eggs for a scramble or on rice/grains/beans and some people have been known to put it in a cup of warm water and drink it (though, I find it is better on foods.)  Saffron, also very expensive but get it if you can, when added to rice has been known to reduce inflammation and adds a buttery flavor to rice. Cardamom seeds, 1 teaspoon of crushed seeds per cup of water taken one to four times daily, have been shown to reduce inflammation (and has antibacterial properties.)  According to Dr. Sharol Marie Tilgner in her book, “Herbal Medicine: From the Heart of the Earth,” California Poppy infusion is used for its anti-inflammatory properties, anti-spasmodic properties, and has been used as a substitute for its cousin the Opium Poppy. California Poppy infusion ratio is one heaping fresh tablespoon per cup of water, or 1:1 fresh liquid extract 1-4 times daily. Arnica tablets, taken under the tongue, have been used as an adjunct for pain in hospice patients. All of these remedies are available in herbal specialty stores or online and do not require prescription.  If you happen to live in the Pacific Northwest there is an abundance of wild Feverfew – it’s bitter, no doubt about it, but chew a little leaf for a headache or make an infusion of 1 teaspoon dried leaves per cup of water up to four times daily for its anti-inflammatory properties. Of course, as with all herbal remedies, don’t use if you’re pregnant or might be pregnant. 

Don’t forget to put aside Sea Salt for your diet rather than regular table salt – it contains less sodium so reduces the ‘water retention’ properties of inflammatory conditions as well as fluid retention in high blood pressure conditions. Vitamin C, 1000mg daily, has been shown to reduce inflammation in blood vessels – something that occurs in auto-immune disorders and cardiovascular disease. Put some good, old Ibuprofen in your kit: My rheumatologist has me taking 600mg up to three times daily, which is a safe ‘prescription dose’ if you do not have abnormal liver lab values or liver disease. Of course, 325mg of aspirin daily helps prevent blood clotting that can cause heart attack but use caution if you are taking a prescription blood thinner or using herbal alternatives that thin the blood (such as Feverfew.)  I wish I had a distinct reference for this but this is just knowledge I’ve acquired in my career over the past 20 years and carry the knowledge with me!

People with auto-immune disorders often have secondary endocrine conditions. I have not acquired these secondary conditions yet, but my home apothecary for use in a collapse situation contains herbal medicines, and I’ve initiated some of them to stave off developing high blood pressure or Type II diabetes as described in the next paragraph.

First off: Exercise. I mean it! Keep moving, it helps level blood sugar, lower blood pressure, forestall cardiovascular disease and keeps you fit for unfortunate situations. Secondly, a cup of Green Tea steeped at least three minutes, taken at least twice a day has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels up by up to 40 points. Cinnamon, either in capsules made from the bark or in liquid extract form, has been shown to stave off Type II Diabetes. I use the capsules made of bark as my reading on Cinnamon tells me to use caution with infusions as it is easy to overdose. My herbalist friends insist it’s an alternative treatment, but my endocrinologist friends tell me it won’t work, so my philosophy on this particular item is to give it a try because in a collapse situation you may not have an alternative.

According to my herbalist friends, Hibiscus Tea, one cup steeped three to five minutes twice daily has been shown to reduce blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, Niacin or Flush-Free Niacin or Niacinamide, available over the counter, has been shown to increase High Density Lipids (good cholesterol) and may help reduce cholesterol, along with a low fat diet. I suggest also taking Omega-3 Fish Oil capsules to further assist in lowering cholesterol. Many of the medications prescribed for Rheumatoid Arthritis can cause high cholesterol (it’s all about homocysteine converting to cholesterol in the liver, a pathophysiology lesson best given another day) but what we don’t know is this: If you stop taking your Rheumatoid Arthritis medication because of a collapse situation, will your cholesterol come back down? Because this isn’t known and I can’t find it in my research anywhere, I’ve stocked up on Hibiscus Tea and Omega-3 Fish Oil in the event I can no longer get my Pravastatin!

This leaves the topic of thyroid disease, typically low thyroid. It leaves you with a slowed metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, and you feel like a blob.  I don’t have thyroid disease and can’t speak to actual alternative therapies, but in my local herbal supplement/infusion shop I find infusions and capsules that are said to increase thyroid function. From a pathophysiologic standpoint, I do not understand how you resurrect a nonfunctioning gland, but I plan to add the herbal remedy to my current apothecary as I am the household medic and you never know – it can’t hurt, and it might help. If you have a thyroid disorder, do your best to stock up on prescription medication.

As with traditional, currently available medicine, people with auto-immune disorders need to balance rest with activity, and avoid stress. I do not need to remind you a collapse situation will be a stressful situation and in order to take care of others you must take care of yourself.  It is my hope these suggestions help you find ways to take care of yourself – and others –  in an unfortunate situation. Until then, take your prescription medications as directed and save the alternatives for such a time as prescription medication is unavailable. God bless!



  1. What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Accessed August 23, 2012.

2. Ebbeling, C., Swain, J., Feldman, H., Wong, W., Hatchey, D., Garcia-Lago, E., and Ludwig, D. Effects of Dietary Composition on Energy Expenditure During Weight Loss Maintenance. JAMA 2012; 307(24)2627-2634. Retrieved August 23, 2012 from JAMA.

3. Niacin to Boost your HDL, ‘Good,’ Cholesterol. Retrieved August 23, 2012.

4.  Tilgner, S., Herbal Medicine: From the Heart of the Earth, Second Edition; Wise Acres, Copyright 2009.