Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is chronic inflammatory condition that affects the connective tissue and starts in the joints. Most people associate this condition primarily with the joints due the fact that the main symptom is joint pain, however, it can affect multiple other organs and tissues in the body such as the heart, eyes, nerves, kidneys, skin, circulatory system and lungs. RA is an autoimmune condition, which means the body’s own immune system begins to attack healthy tissue. In this case, the synovium – the lining of the joints.
It is a common disorder that typically occurs in middle age. It tends to affect women more than men and having a family history of RA tends to increase one’s risk of developing the condition.
– Joint Pain, which usually starts in the fingers, feet, and wrist.
– Stiffness in the of the joints, especially in the morning
– Swelling and tenderness of the joints
– Pain in back and/or muscles
– Joint deformities (after long periods of having the conditions)
– Joints may feel warm to touch
There may also be fatigue, loss of appetite, and in some cases a low-grade fever.
As the condition progresses, it may begin to start affecting other organs other than the joints. This may result in symptoms such as:
– Dryness, pain, and inflammation of the eyes.
– Damage to cardiac muscle
– reduced blood cell count
– Inflammation and damage to the lung tissue resulting in trouble breathing
– Dryness of the mouth
– Damage to arteries including those that supply blood to the nerves, resulting in nerve damage
– Lumps under the skin on body areas of the body, known as Rheumatoid nodules
The exact cause of RA is unknown (according to allopathic medicine). There are studies that suggest that certain infections are linked to the development of autoimmune conditions. Specifically, E. Coli, Klebsiella Pneumonia, and Proteus Mirabilis are associated with the presence of Rheumatoid factor. Stress, nutrient deficiencies, and issues with gut permeability also appear to be related, however, nothing has been conclusive as yet. You can learn about this in my article “The Truth About Autoimmunity“.
What is known is how autoimmune disease tends to affect the body. For some reason, the body starts to develop anti-bodies that target healthy tissue. In the case of RA, it targets the tissue lining of the joints. The immune system then attacks that tissue, resulting in localized inflammation. This results in pain, swelling, and stiffness which makes it difficult to move the joint. As time goes by the immune system starts to destroy the tissue resulting in joint deformities.
How is RA diagnosed
When a patient presents with the above-mentioned symptoms, a doctor may request certain blood tests such as:
1. Erythrocyte Sedmientation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP). These are known as inflammatory markers. When they are elevated, it can indicate the presence of inflammation within the body.
2. Antibodies specific to RA such as Rheumatoid Factor (RF) and Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide (CCP). These indicate that the immune system is actively targeting the connective tissue resulting in the symptoms of RA.
3. Imaging tests such as x-rays, ultrasounds, or MRIs may be done to look for erosion as well – however, erosion is seen more so in advanced cases.
Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis include the use of anti-inflammatories and pain-relieving herbs and nutrients
Curcumin is the bioactive phytochemical found in the east Indian spice and Ayurvedic medicine known as Turmeric. Turmeric has been used for centuries to treat a wide-range of inflammatory conditions as well as metabolic diseases. In recent times, Curcumin has been found to be highly effective in controlling inflammation and inflammatory disorders such as Lupus, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis, and Crohn’s disease. Curcumin supplementation in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis resulted in significant improvement in RA symptoms and actually did better than the drug Diclofenac Sodium (see study)
Black Seed (Nigella Sativa)
Black seed, much like Curcumin, has a very long list of benefits for multiple conditions including many inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and Osteoarthritis. It also has the ability to reduce blood sugar, blood cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. It is believed that the potent medicinal benefits of Black seed are due to the presence of an anti-inflammatory compound known as Thymoquinone.
In multiple clinical trials, Black Seed was found to be highly effective in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with RA (see study). It significantly reduced disease activity and reduced key symptoms such as pain, swelling, and morning stiffness (see study).
Boswellia Serrata is an Ayurvedic herb that is currently classified as a phytopharmaceutical in Europe. It is used for inflammatory conditions such as Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s disease, and Brain swelling as well as Asthma and age-damaged skin. Boswellia is often combined with Curcumin and other herbs to reduce pain and swelling. In clinical studies, a special extract of the gum resin from Boswellia known as H15 was found to be highly effective for reducing pain, swelling, ESR, and stiffness in 260 patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (see study).
In the case of most autoimmune conditions, it is important to consume foods that have anti-inflammatory properties and a considerable amount of antioxidants. Foods such as Salmon and Mackerel contains Omega 3 fatty acids and are typically the source of Fish oil. Salmon also has a powerful antioxidant known as astaxanthin and is highly nutritious.
In RA, the connective tissue becomes damaged, therefore, it is crucial to support the regeneration of connective tissue. Rebuilding healthy connective tissue is dependent on collagen. Collagen is formed from protein, vitamin C, and trace minerals. One can get most of these nutrients by consuming nutrient-dense foods such as kale, dark chocolate, salmon, sardine, mackerel, avocado, etc. Vitamin C can easily be acquired from strawberries, Indian Gooseberries, oranges, etc. Supplementing with collagen has been found to be highly beneficial in RA (see study), however, with a good diet and healthy digestive function one can produce more collagen.
Even though it is a nutrient-dense food, it is best to avoid too much red meat. However, an occasional serving of grass-fed beef cooked with multiple anti-inflammatory spices may be of use. Anti-inflammatory spices include Turmeric, Ginger, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Long Pepper, etc.
Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts drastically increase glutathione (the body’s master antioxidant) in the body. This helps to control oxidation and improve liver function.
Foods such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, gooseberries, and brazil nuts offer a powerful punch of antioxidants as well. These can help with preventing DNA damage and reducing oxidation.
Speak to a holistic doctor of Ayurvedic doctor about how to include these foods in your diet and how to time their use.
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(Always use medicinal herbs under the supervision of a doctor)
by Dr. Nishal R.
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