Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that many people suffer from. Conventional medicine is not the only way to successfully manage the condition – there are several natural therapies that can help. Read on to learn more.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- pain and swelling of the joints
- aching or stiffness of the joints, especially after sleep or rest
- loss of motion in the affected joints
- decreased strength in the muscles attached to the affected joints
- low grade fever
- joint deformity over time
- small lumps, called rheumatoid nodules, that form under the skin
It is interesting to note that rheumatoid arthritis almost always follows a symmetrical pattern, meaning that the same joints on opposite sides of the body are affected. This is important as it helps to distinguish the condition from other forms of arthritis.
Nutrition and Dietary Supplements for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Generally speaking, it is important for the sufferer to eat a nutritious, balanced diet with plenty of whole foods, especially foods that are rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium. It may help to switch from a typical Western diet that is high in animal proteins and simple sugars to a diet that contains lots of berries, fruits, vegetables, nuts, roots, seeds, and sprouts. Elimination diets are helpful to identify any potential food allergies, as food allergies aggravate and suppress the body’s immune system. These diets take certain foods out of the diet and reintroduce them one at a time. While they are useful, elimination diets should only be carried out under the guidance of a medical professional.
The following supplements may be helpful for you:
- Bromelain – is found in pineapples and is a mixture of enzymes with anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to relieve the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Copper – this can reduce the development and progression of arthritis.
- Manganese – people with rheumatoid arthritis tend to have low levels of MnSOD, an antioxidant that helps to protect the joints from damage during inflammation. Manganese supplementation is thought to increase MnSOD activity.
- Omega 3 fatty acids – these reduce inflammation and help prevent arthritis. It decreases tenderness in joints, reduces morning stiffness, and allows for a reduction in the amount of medication that people need.
- Omega 6 fatty acids – gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), may diminish joint pain, swelling, and morning stiffness, and may allow for lower amounts of pain medication.
- Quercetin – is a flavenoid and antioxidant that is found in many fruits, berries, and vegetables. It has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Selenium – is an essential mineral and antioxidant, and low levels of selenium in the blood may be associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Sulfur – sulfur baths can improve strength, decrease morning stiffness, reduce inflammation and swelling, and diminish pain.
- Vitamin D – is necessary to maintain healthy cartilage.
Herbal Medicine and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Herbs that have been traditionally used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- pau d’arco
- stinging nettle
- wild yam
The herbalist may recommend that you take a single herb or a combination of herbs depending on your symptoms. No matter what herbs you take, it is important that you work closely with an herbalist to ensure that the herbs are both safe and effective. Other herbs that may be helpful include:
- Black Cohosh – may help to reduce inflammation
- Capsaicin – applied topically, it is believed to deplete stores of a chemical that contributes to the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
- Cat’s claw – can result in reduced joint pain and swelling
- Devil’s claw – appears to decrease pain, improve joint function, and reduce the amount of medication needed.
- Feverfew – is anti-inflammatory.
- Ginger – has long been used in traditional medicine to decrease inflammation.
- Willow bark – can decrease pain and reduce inflammation.
Acupuncture and Rheumatoid Arthritis
People with rheumatoid arthritis are treated on their individual excesses and deficiencies of qi located in the various meridians. Qi deficiency is usually located in the kidney and/or spleen meridians. Moxibustion may be used to strengthen the whole energy system. Localised acupuncture to the painful areas and related points may be utilised.
Chiropractic and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Chiropractors will not treat red, swollen joints and high velocity chiropractic manipulation is considered to be inappropriate in the areas of the body affected by rheumatoid arthritis. However, spinal manipulation in between flare-ups of the disease can decrease pain and improve joint mobility.
Massage and Physical Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The goal of exercise is to maintain the range of motion, increase strength, endurance and mobility, and improve general health. However, you will need to maintain a balance between rest and exercise. Rest relieves inflammation while exercise relieves stiffness and weakness. It is best to listen to your body when you are exercising. If you feel sharp pain, always stop immediately.
Hydrotherapy is an old therapy used to relieve pain in arthritis sufferers. Hydrotherapy is used to improve the range of motion, increase muscle strength, eliminate muscle spasm, enhance functional mobility, and ease pain.
Orthoses may be helpful for supporting and protecting joints. They are made from lightweight metal leather, foam, elastic, or plastic, and they allow some movement in the joint without restricting nearby joints. Examples of orthoses include braces, splints, and shock-absorbing soles.
Homoeopathy and Rheumatoid Arthritis Homoeopathic remedies that may be useful for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers include:
- A topical homoeopathic gel containing comfrey, poison ivy, and marsh-tea
- A combination homoeopathic preparation containing poison ivy, arnica, climbing nightshade, bloodroot, and sulphur
- A liquid homoeopathic preparation containing poison ivy, potassium hydrate, and cow’s milk