Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the synovial membranes of the multiple joints, and may cause joint deformities of the hands and feet. The usual age of onset is 25-50 years old, although it may begin at any age. Two million Americans are afflicted, and approximately one percent of the world’s population has this debilitating disease.
Causes may be due to an auto-immune reaction, genetic or microbial factors. Auto-immune means that your white blood cells are attacking the tissue that aligns your joints. RA may be from large intestine wastes traveling in the small intestine and into the bloodstream for runaway virus inflammation causing auto-immune phagocytes to attack healthy cartilage tissue and the bone. RA may affect the entire body causing swelling and pain in the joints, cartilage scar tissue fusion and crippling stiffness with tiredness, weight loss and fever. Joint stiffness upon awakening that lasts an hour or longer; swelling in specific finger or wrist joints and in the soft tissue around the joints. It can be aggravated by cold and damp conditions. 35% of RA patients have liver trouble.
RA is a chronic, autoimmune disease and extensive “animal” research that supposedly mimics human disease advocates a possible dominance of Th1 (a T-helper cell directly affecting immune system regulation) over Th2 (which has to do with the re-uptake of antibody production to fight off extra-cellular organisms. The theory of immune regulation involves a balance or homeostasis between Th1 and Th2. Dominance of either one may lead to immune system diseases. RA has strong predominant Th1 clones in the blood. The rationale is that human autoimmune diseases often involve Th1 cells reactive against self antigens.
Conventional treatments for RA present a number of problems, in terms of both safety and efficacy. Drugs such as prednisone, methotrexate, antibiotics, COX-2 inhibitors, and imuran have a high degree of side effects. Nutritional supplements, botanicals, and dietary modification have proven to have dramatic effects, and sometimes elicit lasting remission.
Food allergies have been reported to play a role in a number of inflammatory and auto-immune conditions, including RA. It is important to identify possible food allergies, since they may contribute to an increase in inflammation. In one study, nearly 90% of patients suffering with RA had reported specific foods that exacerbated their symptoms. Each patient should utilize the ELIMINATION DIET. This basically means that you eliminate certain foods from your body one at a time for 12 weeks and note the effects.
The most common foods that cause ALLERGIES or SENSITIVITIES per patient were:
- Cow’s milk and dairy
- Wheat gluten and grains, rye
- Bacon, pork
The most common foods that add to an INFLAMMATORY RESPONSE are
- Cow’s milk and dairy
- Wheat and grains
- Citrus fruits
- Nightshades (Potatoes, Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant)
[A report from Good Medicine claimed that a patient with RA who eliminated all dairy products and eggs from his diet for 5 weeks became totally pain-free, with increased grip strength].
SAFE FOODS: herbal teas, cooked green, yellow & orange vegetables, water.
OVERALL DIETARY APPROACH:
- A paleo diet might benefit RA patients the most
- Reduce intake of fatty acids that metabolize inflammation
- Avoid common food allergens
- Consume more anti-inflammatory compounds such as plant enzymes (bromelain, papain)
CURRENT MEDICAL TREATMENT
Traditional treatments consist of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) taken alone or in combination with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Prolonged use of NSAIDs has been linked to numerous side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding and renal malfunctions. Some of the COX-2 inhibitor drugs (i.e., Celebrex) may reduce inflammation, but do not address the underlying cause, and COX-2 drugs have recently been under scrutiny for causing heart diseases. Short or long-term dosing with prednisone can be effective as an anti-inflammatory, but side effects become a problem with extended use. Omega-3 essential fatty acids including ALPHA LINOLENIC ACID (ALA) which includes flaxseed oil, linseed, fish oil, walnut and wheat germ oil are effective natural anti-inflammatory products. Omega-6 essential fatty acids contain GAMMA LINOLENIC ACID (GLA) and include products such as borage oil, evening primrose, and black current oil.
There is a definite heredity component, although with all auto-immune diseases there is a definite diet, lifestyle, and environmental component. There is a cartilage and joint involvement in RA that can be associated with osteoporosis. If food allergies are suspected, try the Elimination Diet. Proteins found in milk and other animal foods can generate an immune reaction that cause immune cells to attack your own tissues (i.e. mild aches, pains, stiffness in joints, runny nose, postnasal drip, asthma, eczema, fluid in middle ears). RA patients also have a problem with digestion. These patients have common symptoms of low pH (not hyperacidity). Symptoms include bloating, belching, flatulence after meals, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation, and nausea after taking supplements, acne, iron deficiency, intestinal parasites and undigested food in stool.
- OMEGA-3 and OMEGA-6 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3 (fish or flaxseed oil) and Omega-6 (primrose or borage oil) act as significant anti-inflammatory agents in the body decreasing both prostaglandin and leukotrienes (inflammatory mediators in the body). Supplementing the diet with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) found in fish oil, has brought about significant improvement in RA sufferers. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) primarily found in Omega-6 fatty acids has been found to suppress acute and chronic inflammation. RA has been shown to especially respond well to borage seed oil. Dosage: 1-6 Gm daily.
- GLUCOSAMINE with CHRONDROITIN
Although RA is not primarily a cartilage problem, glucosamine/chrondrotin supplementation is important for the formation of bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and synovial (joint) fluid. These supplements provide nutritional support for strengthening bone and maintaining cartilage, a major concern in patients suffering with RA. Dosage: 500-1500 mg per day of glusosamine, and 250-750mg of chrondroitin.
- HYALURONIC ACID (HA)
HA is a naturally occurring polymer found in connective tissue in the human body whose function is to cushion and lubricate. Supplemental hyaluronic acid is derived from rooster comb and provides support for a healthy and youthful appearance by hydrating and soothing the skin. It also supports joint function and comfort by promoting healthy synovial fluid composition (a direct problem in RA patients) and joint lubrication. Dosage: 140-420 mg daily.
- MSM (METHYLSULFONYLMETHANE)
MSM is a sulfur-based nutrient, helps bind water to the cartilage matrix, keeping the cartilage between the joints soft and spongy. Dosage: 100mg 2-5 times a day as needed for acute pain.
- COX-2 INHIBITING, ANTI-INFLAMMATORY HERBS
Many have anti-inflammatory action and support joint and bone health. Herbs with COX-2 inhibiting action (that work similar to prescription NSAIDs) include CURCUMIN (TURMERIC), BOSWELLIA, BROMELAIN, GINGER, GREEN TEA, STINGING NETTLES, WHITE WILLOW BARK, DEVIL’S CLAW. Dosage: See specific package.
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