Katie Newell of Shawnee, Kan., was four when her parents noticed she had swollen knees—a toddler who wouldn’t stoop. Soon, a pediatric rheumatologist diagnosed her with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The autoimmune disease affects 150,000-250,000 children annually, usually before age 16, and twice as many girls as boys. Like adult RA, JRA causes pain, swelling and stiffness in joints.
For years, Newell, now 30, took non- steroidal anti-inflammatories and hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug also used for RA—“whatever the newest thing was,” she says. Still, in college, her pain was so fierce that she took time off. She met her husband, then a chef, and at 25, began fertility treatments.
“That’s when I cracked down: I eliminated processed food, ate more fruits and veggies, got rid of high-fructose corn syrup and stopped drinking diet sodas,” she says. The artificial insemination worked, and by her daughter’s first birthday, Newell was pregnant with her second daughter.
“I got so much relief from eating holistically,” she says. “My doctors are fascinated.”
Newell decided she wanted to share her nutritional success. The result was her cookbook, Feeding Our Families (Kaystar, 2011) and website, Healthnutfoodie.com. Her husband, Darren, helped her develop recipes, and she went to Indian and Chinese friends for instruction. “I wanted to combine ethnic food with comfort food and everyday food, using pure ingredients,” says Newell.
Her favorite snack now: homemade hummus and raw vegetables. And the ex-junk-food eater is working on making a healthy version of Goldfish crackers: “But I haven’t found one yet.”
Try these super-healthy dishes from Katie’s blog.