Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system – which normally protects health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses – mistakenly attacks the joints. This creates inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints (the synovium) to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints. The synovium makes a fluid that lubricates joints and helps them move smoothly.
If inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage cartilage, as well as the bones. Over time, there is loss of cartilage, and the space between two bones can become smaller. Joints can become loose, unstable, and painful and lose their mobility. Joint damage cannot be reversed, and hence, doctors recommend early diagnosis and aggressive treatment to control RA.
Arthritis most commonly affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles. RA also can affect body systems, such as the cardiovascular or respiratory systems, and hence, called a systemic disease.
RA is not yet fully understood, although doctors do know that an abnormal response of theimmune system plays a leading role in the inflammation and joint damage that occur. There is evidence that genes, hormones and environmental factors are involved.
The blood tests will measure inflammation levels and look for bio-markers such as antibodies (blood proteins) linked with RA.
A high ESR or CRP is not specific to RA, but when combined with other clues, such as antibodies, helps make the RA diagnosis.
Rheumatoid factor (RF) is an antibody found in 80 %percent of people with RA.
Management through Naturopathy
The immediate objective is to stop inflammation, relieve symptoms, prevent joint and organ damage, improve physical function and overall well-being.
The following foods and treatments improve the function of immune system.
A healthy diet is critical for boosting immune system. Increasing your intake of fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains will help reduce inflammation.
Extra-virgin olive oil may also help reduce inflammation, as it contains a compound called oleocanthal that blocks the enzymes that cause inflammation. Avocado and safflower oils have shown cholesterol lowering properties, while walnut oil has 10 times the omega 3 fatty acids than olive oil. Low fat dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese are packed with calcium and vitamin D, both increase bone strength. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, and it boosts immune system.
Anthocyanins found in cherries and other purple fruits like blueberry etc, have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Broccoli is rich in vitamins K & C and contains sulforaphane, which could help prevent or slow the progression of arthritis.
Green tea contains polyphenols, antioxidants believed to reduce inflammation and slow down cartilage destruction.
Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits and limes are rich in vitamins that aid in preventing inflammatory arthritis.
Beans are rich in fiber that helps lower CRP. It is a rich source of protein, which is important for muscle health. Disulphide found in garlic & onion may limit cartilage damaging enzymes inhuman cells.
Fasting: Fasting helps in weight management in arthritic patients. It promotes metabolism & reduces the tissue inflammation, boosting immune system.
Massage Therapy: Regular massage to treatments can help alleviate pain, contribute to weight loss, reduce stiffness and improve range of motion, hand grip strength and overall function of the joints.
Sauna or Steam: A sauna or steam is effective to eliminate toxins from the skin & help alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Other natural treatments are enema or colon hydrotherapy, full mud bath, graduated immersion bath with epsom salt, alternate hot & cold fomentation of joints (hot- 3 minutes & cold -1 minute & 4 – 5 repetitions).
Acupuncture and Herbs: Acupuncture is commonly used in chronic painful musculoskeletal disorders. Acupuncture can curb pain by boosting the amount of natural pain killers of our body called endorphins. It is highly beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis.
Lifestyle changes: will help the patient overcome the sufferings of RA and its symptoms. Exercise regularly, manage stress levels by sharing your burden, seek support from family and friends, and have faith in yourself to stay healthy.