What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Put simply, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition which causes pain and stiffness in the joints. This pain can cause immobility and loss of the use of any affected joints – from the hands and feet, to knees, shoulders, or any other place in the body where a joint exists.
In time, RA can also lead to bone destruction and other serious health issues.
Typical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Stiff joints and muscles
- Pain, especially with changes in the weather
- Swelling and redness around affected joints
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
It is suggested through research that rheumatoid arthritis is a condition of the immune system, caused by chronic inflammation. Many things lead to chronic inflammation, such as our diets, a lack of exercise, exposure to environmental and metabolic toxins, and even a lack of sleep and too much stress. Even some medications contribute to the underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis.
Chronic inflammation is a condition where the immune system starts making cells which attack the body. Normally, these cells attack foreign invaders like a virus or another pathogen, but when the body is chronically inflamed, it builds antibodies which don’t know when to stop attacking. The antibodies then attack your tissues and joints, causing rheumatoid arthritis.
One cannot effectively handle RA symptoms without first addressing chronic inflammation.
Allopathic Cures for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Allopathic cures for rheumatoid arthritis usually look at the symptoms and rarely at the underlying cause. Therefore, medications prescribed most commonly for rheumatoid arthritis only treat the symptoms and therefore cannot be considered cures.
Moreover, many of these medications have serious side effects, including liver damage, bone marrow suppression and severe lung infections.
Though some medications are meant to reduce inflammation, they do nothing to address what is causing the inflammation. Most commonly, these medications are prescribed:
- NSAIDs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Other NSAIDs are available by prescription. Side effects can include ringing in your ears, stomach irritation, heart problems, and liver and kidney damage.
- Steroids. Corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, reduce inflammation and pain and slow joint damage. Side effects may include thinning of bones, weight gain and diabetes. Doctors often prescribe a corticosteroid to relieve acute symptoms, with the goal of gradually tapering off the medication.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These drugs can slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and save the joints and other tissues from permanent damage. Common DMARDs include methotrexate (Trexall, Otrexup, Rasuvo), leflunomide (Arava), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine). However, they also have side effects such as stomach upset, liver damage, diarrhea, and if a pregnant woman takes them, damage to the fetus.
Natural Cures for Rheumatoid Arthritis
As an alternative to RA medications prescribed by doctors and marketed by pharmaceutical companies, there are numerous alternative and natural treatments to cure joint pain, and its underlying cause.
Herbal Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are many herbal remedies which help to lessen inflammation, the autoimmune disease that is thought to be the underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis. Try the following:
- Willow Bark – This herb works in a similar way as over-the-counter aspirin, but without the damaging affects to your organs. The plant contains a compound called salicin, which has been named as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis pain.
- Cinnamon – Cinnamon is an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis because of a compound called 2’hydroxycinnamaldehyde that is extracted from cinnamon bark. This compound inhibits the production of nitric oxide which further inhibits the activation of nuclear factor kappa (NF‒ĸB) which initiates In brief, cinnamon is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
- Ginger – Another powerful anti-inflammatory agent, ginger helps to reduce pain and increase circulation.
- Garlic – Though garlic must be taken daily to be effective, it works to stimulate the immune system and improve circulation and blood flow when the cells have sufficient levels of oxygen which garlic and help to provide through minerals like selenium and other antioxidants within it then chronic inflammation is less likely to occur.
- Turmeric – Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse. It works primarily through a compound called curcumin. This compound has the ability to inhibit the body’s production of pro-inflammatory signaling compounds called eicosanoids.
- Boswellia – Another great supplement for reducing inflammation in the body which leads to rheumatoid arthritis is Boswellia. This versatile supplement is an adaptogen which boosts the immune and keeps chronic inflammation at bay.
Food Supplementation for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Food is also great medicine for RA, just as Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, advised. First, remove pro-inflammatory foods from your diet. These are foods like:
- Refined sugar
- Processed flour, and carbohydrates
- Unhealthy, man-made (trans) fats
- Toxic chemical additives, flavorings, and colors
- Highly processed food
- Red meat or processed meats
- Artificial sweeteners
- Vitamin E
- Royal jelly
- Black soy beans
- Gammalinolenic Acid (GLA)
- Green Tea
- Omega 3, healthy fats in things like coconut, avocado, and olive oil
- Green leafy vegetables
- Fresh, organic fruits
Exercise for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Though it might seem contraindicated by sore joints and muscles, exercise is extremely important for those who suffer from RA. Exercise does the following things which directly inhibit stiff, sore, painful joints and the swelling which accompanies them:
- Reduce the incidence of factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), and C-reactive protein (CRP) all thought to contribute to chronic inflammation.
- Boost mood and relive stress
- Increase blood flow
- Build muscle strength
- Support weak muscles in joint areas by providing strength in other areas
- Provide natural pain relief via endorphins and other hormones created when we do moderate exercise
Stress Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Another important component for reducing symptoms of RA, is the reduction of stress. Researchers have discovered that a bad day here and there won’t cause your immune system to turn against you, but
chronic stress changes the gene activity of immune cells. This happens before they enter the bloodstream so that they’re ready to fight infection or trauma — even when there is no infection or trauma to fight. This then leads to increased inflammation, which can cause RA or make RA symptoms more exaggerated.
Good ways to reduce stress in your life include:
- Qi Gong
- Thai Chi
- Spending time with friends
- Reducing life and work responsibilities
- Spending time in nature
- Gentle exercise
- Take deep breaths
- Share your troubles with others in a support group, or simply with friends
- Try supplemental herbs like Valerian root, Lemon Balm, Ashwaghanda, Kava Kava, or Bacopa Monnieri that help to ease stress and anxiety
- Use essential oils in your bath or in candles or diffusers. Scents like lavender, rose, vetiver, geranium, ylang ylang, and sandalwood are calming to the nervous system
- Slow down on the coffee. Too much caffeine can cause a cortisol boost, which leads to increased inflammation.
- Instead of mulling over your worries all day long, write a list of things you are concerned about, and then “give it” to a Higher Power.
- Live mindfully. Instead of worrying about the future or stressing over the past, try to live in the moment as much as s possible to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Surround yourself with upbeat, positive people.
- Learn to say “no.” Many people are over-committed and over-extended. Feeling better in your joints might amount to setting better boundaries for your time and energy.
- Don’t procrastinate. If there’s something on your to-do list you can get done today, do it. If there’s something you can delegate to someone else – even better. Procrastination leads to stress, which leads to inflammation and inflammatory diseases like RA.
- Get as many cuddles, hugs, and kisses as you can every day. Human touch releases stress-reducing hormones.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Another way to treat the symptoms of RA is to seek treatment for a master of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In Chinese Medicine, rheumatoid arthritis is mainly characterized as bi zheng, or impediment syndrome. Bi zheng types can vary greatly in Chinese Medicine, but all of them can be treated with a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Lifestyle changes and dietary recommendations are also usually recommended by a TCM practitioner.
Though rheumatoid arthritis affects millions of people worldwide, there are many ways to avoid its development, and to manage its symptoms. Though there are pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medications which can be utilized, natural ways of healing RA also exist, which cure the underlying cause – chronic inflammation due to a poor diet, lack of exercise, too much stress, and an a compromised immune system.