Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic disease that affects between one and three percent of the population. Women are affected about three times more often. Onset is between twenty and forty years old. Many factors are known about the disease, yet it’s exact cause is unknown. Auto-immune, genetics, microorganism infection and diet all have been blamed. Signs and symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis are; fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, loss of weight, and anemia that may be unresponsive to iron. Rheumatoid Arthritis usually effects the joints of the hands and the feet. The last joints in both hands and feet usually aren’t affected. Occasionally larger joints like knees can be affected. The joints are swollen, painful, red and warm. Stiffness is worse in the morning, and nodules can develop around the joints. The chronic inflamed joints lead to deformities in the joints. There is literally digestion of the joints by enzymes produced. Vascularization of the swollen tissue leads to more destruction of the joint. Other organs can also be affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis including the lungs, heart, spine and eyes. Lab work is important in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid factors are found in the blood of eighty-five percent of those with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Usually the higher the concentration, the more severe the sings and symptoms.
Rheumatoid factor is also seen in other connective tissue diseases like Lupus. Five percent is seen in normal people and this increases with age. Up to twenty percent have Rheumatoid factor over the age of sixty. ESR or Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate is a marker for inflammation found in the blood. This is used a lot to measure the response or activity of the disease. Around ten to twenty percent will only have one attack of Rheumatoid Arthritis then it goes away. Others have remissions and relapses. Increased levels of Rheumatoid factor onset before thirty and nodules have a poorer prognosis.
Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually started early. These can be effective in early treatment. If the disease progresses, these usually become ineffective and stronger medications are needed. The problem with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is that they actually inhibit a process of cartilage maintenance. This means, they can promote breakdown – not what you need in rheumatoid arthritis. They can also cause GI problems, especially as chronically high doses which a lot of rheumatoid arthritis patients require for pain relief. Eventually when non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are ineffective, disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs are used. They include gold, and immunosuppressive drugs. They are highly toxic. These drugs can take six months before showing benefits. Corticosteroids are used as a last resort. Corticosteroids can be used orally or injected into the joint. Corticosteroids are very toxic, especially chronic use. Almost all systems are affected negatively by Corticosteroid use. Standard medical care takes a very hard line approach with very powerful anti-inflammatory analgesic and immunosuppressive drugs. These measures need to be taken against a serious disease like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Natural medicines will take the path of eliminating any allergic reactions to foods.
- Nutritional supplementation and diet for anti-inflammatory effects an improved digestion and decreased pain.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Some studies with Rheumatoid Arthritis and fish oil supplements or Omega-Three fatty acids have shown some benefits in joint stiffness and pain. Fish oil has also shown anti-inflammatory effects in other studies. It is likely that some effect is from its anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-Three fatty acids also offers protection against cardiovascular diseases and they are very safe found naturally in some fish. We also recommend that while supplementing with Omega-Three fatty acids or fish oil, the patient also decrease their consumption of Omega-Six oils or vegetable oils. Omega-Six oils tend to favor a pathway of inflammation. If to much Omega-Six oils are in the diet, it appears to reduce the effect of the anti-inflammatory Omega-Three fatty acids.
Flax Seed oil has been suggested by a few natural medicine practitioners as able to accomplish the same effects. However, usually, head to head comparison in other studies show fish oil more effective. Flax oil is about half the cost to a quarter cost of Omega-Three fatty acids and can be used in combination with fish oils.
Elimination of food allergies have shown some benefits in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. The approach taken with Rheumatoid Arthritis is a more aggressive stand usually beginning with a fast. This is done to eliminate allergies rapidly at the start of the elimination diet. I suggest the individual go to the section on food allergies. We also recommend lab work for food allergies with Rheumatoid Arthritis. This tests over ninety different foods and should give us a jump start on what foods could be causing allergic reactions or inflammatory responses.
Antioxidants and minerals indulging Vitamin C, Beta Carotene, Zinc, Selenium, and Vitamin E. All these have significant studies showing benefits in cardiovascular diseases, colds, and cancer preventions. These nutrients also are incredibly safe compared to the standard drug options for rheumatoid arthritis. Some scattered research has shown deficiencies in selenium, sulfur, pantothenic acid, zinc and magnesium in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Some studies also have shown low levels of antioxidants increase chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin C has shown some anti-inflammatory functions in numerous studies. Antioxidants also have shown benefits for preventing cartilage destruction in non-rheumatoid arthritis patients. It is unknown if these nutrients can slow the progression of cartilage destruction in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. Yet, with the other added benefits of antioxidants, we recommend antioxidants especially zinc, selenium, vitamin E, vitamin C, magnesium and pantothenic acid and sulfur
A vegetarian diet has shown some benefits in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Dietary antioxidants in fruits and vegetables should be increased. We don’t recommend a total vegetarian diet. Cold water fish such as salmon, tuna and herring seem to be beneficial with the omega-three fatty acids with their anti-inflammatory effects. Other foods with antioxidants are grapes, blueberries, and cherries that should be incorporated into the diet of Rheumatoid Arthritis patients.
Probiotics or Gut Flora or the normal bacteria in the large intestines. Two studies show benefits with fasting and Rheumatoid Arthritis which benefited some patients. They showed that changing from meat diet to vegetarian diet changed the intestinal flora. They found the changes reflected the improvements in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. Lab studies can be done to access intestinal flora. Changes in diet with probiotics supplementation and fructo-oligosaccharides have shown to increase normal flora and these are recommended.
Curcumin or turmeric is an herb with strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies show the anti-inflammatory effects of curcuma as strong as some drugs. Curcuma can be mixed with bromelain. Bromelain itself has reported effects of anti-inflammatory functions. Ginger at high doses has shown to decrease inflammation. Fresh ginger may offer more therapeutic response then dry. There has been some studies showing the anti-inflammatory effects of ginger showed benefits in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Bupleuri Falcatria or Chinese Thoroughwax has shown to increase the effects of cortisone and have anti-inflammatory effects. We recommend Chinese Thoroughwax for rheumatoid arthritis patients on Cortisone. Licorice and Ginseng are usually added in traditional Chinese herbal medicines. These are thought to enhance the effect of Chinese Thoroughwax.