Natural Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis

By Kristina Mancino

                   Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects an estimated 1.5 million people in the United States. More women than men deal with this autoimmune disease that can reduce a person’s quality of life and cause disability or premature death. Before we discuss natural remedies for this disease, we need to first identify what it is and what causes it.  Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease in which the immune system attacks the individual’s own body tissues. Most commonly in small joints like the hands and feet, symptoms can also affect other parts like the lungs. RA creates inflammation which then causes the lining of joints to become thickened. If not checked, damage from inflammation can occur in the cartilage and bones. 

         Causes of RA is unknown but some information can be linked to genetics, environmental, and hormonal factors. Symptoms often begin around middle aged people or older. People commonly encounter inflammation, stiffness, pain, and swelling in the area of the joint. The body as a whole can experience fatigue and weight loss. Symptoms come and go over time and may vary from person to person. Before beginning any new treatment, including natural remedies, speak to a doctor to learn about the options and make appropriate lifestyle changes. If inflammation or symptoms become worse, talk to your doctor. 

          RA can be treated medically or non-medically, it’s not uncommon if both methods are combined. Since RA is a progressive disease, if it’s not treated and it becomes worse, treatment could be aggressive. It’s important to get a diagnosis, within 3 months of using disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) it can help reduce disease activity and prevent the joints from deforming. To help reduce discomfort and improve mobility, people with RA should discuss medical treatments with specialists and simple remedies that can help them.

         Physical therapy may help those who have RA according to clinical guidelines from Orgao Oficial da Sociedade Portugue sa de Reumatologia. Here are some suggested natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis:

Stretching 

          A study published in Health Technology Assessment concluded simple stretches, as well as strengthening programs, of the muscle around the joint could relieve RA symptoms in the hands and wrists. It could be a more effective supplement to traditional care methods. To prevent undue stress, contact your doctor or physical therapist before beginning a stretching regimen. 

Exercise

          Stretching and dynamic low-stress workouts may help. Things like swimming or cycling can help strengthen the muscles around the joins affected by RA, reducing the impact and slowing the progression on joints. 

Heat and Cold

          Many experts have argued the medical evidence of putting heat and cold on the affected areas. It’s possible this method may provide relief to the sore areas on the body. People can use heat packs and ice packs at home. For a deeper level treatment, ultrasound heat and cold spray which can deliver into deep levels of tissue without noticeably changing the temperature of the skin. 

Balanced Rest

          Rest for aching joints is very important. Balancing strengthening exercise with the proper rest period should be closely monitored by a doctor and physical therapist. Note, too much rest can making aching joints worse.

Diet

         Since RA causes inflammation in the joints, maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet can be key in reducing inflammation and other symptoms of RA. Complementary Therapies in Medicine published a study with 600 participants who followed this plant-based diet. The diet was rich in fresh fruits and vegetable, whole grain, legumes, nuts, and seeds. During the study, researchers found a reduction of a specific protein that is know for causing inflammation. Those who followed an anti-inflammatory vegan diet showed a noticeable reduction of systemic inflammation. For overall wellbeing and to reduce pain, people with RA should maintain an anti-inflammatory diet to remain healthy. 

Supplements

          Supplements like fish oil from cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, cod, and herring contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids helps to fight against the inflammatory disease by blocking inflammatory receptors in the body. The Nutrition Society used a study by meta-analysis, that indicated people who used both fish oil and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for an extended time saw a decrease in joint pain. 

          Other supplements like boswellia or frankincense may also relieve symptoms. Researcher found that turmeric showed promise in reducing joint inflammation. Turmeric can be added to spice food up without side effect. *It’s noted that people who use turmeric supplements should use caution. People who are on Warfarin and other blood-thinning medication should not use turmeric. 

          Probiotics can also be beneficial for people with RA, a recent study stated, probiotic, L. casei 01 improved disease activity and inflammation. People can get all the probiotics they need by simply incorporating food such as yogurt, pickles, and cheese.

         Supplements may provide people with RA relief from this progressive disease but it’s important to speak with a doctor before taking any of these supplements because some can cause adverse side effects.. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate herbs and supplements. 

Lifestyle Changes

It’s important to reduce any daily stresses on the body and mind. Things like mindful meditation, Tai chi, yoga, and qi gong can bring balance and relaxation to the body. Introducing these little changes can make a big impact to diminishing joint pain.

*Make sure to speak with you doctor and physical therapist before beginning any of these natural remedies.