Rheumatoid arthritis is a potentially debilitating autoimmune condition, generally affecting the hands, feet and wrists causing pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. It is caused when the immune system attacks the synovium (cell lining inside the joint) and can cause permanent damage to the joint, cartilage and bone. Flare ups can happen without warning leaving the sufferer feeling fatigued and generally unwell.
Rheumatoid arthritis generally first occurs between the ages of 40-70 and is three times more common in women than men. There is evidence to suggest that oestrogen may be involved in the development and progression of the diet although this has not been conclusively proven.
Although there is no known cure orthodox medicine can relieve symptoms or slow the progress of the disease through medication. Joint surgery is sometimes offered to correct joint deformities where appropriate. However there are many natural methods you can try. A supplementation programme using herbs that help stem inflammation and aid the body to detox, along with a natural anti-inflammatory diet, should see some relief in this condition. It is a good idea to keep a journal to record the foods you eat to monitor the severity of your symptoms.
Below are some initial recommendations you can try but by no means an exhaustive list. Please feel free to email me if you would like further advice.
An anti-inflammatory diet is recommended comprising of healthy and wholesome foods. Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, flaxseed, hempseed and walnuts are a great source of anti-inflammatory Omega 3s. In addition, other anti-inflammatory fats include extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil and walnut oil.
Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants are important. Onions, garlic, peppers and dark leafy greens, blueberries and strawberries contain inflammation-fighting carotenoids, vitamin K and vitamin E.
Refined carbohydrates are pro-inflammatory. Refined flour, sugar and foods high on the glycaemic index exacerbate inflammatory conditions. Omega-6 fats are inflammatory because they are metabolised into hormone-like compounds that actually promote inflammation and are found in corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut and soybean oils. Keep foods as natural and unprocessed as possible.
Add ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, garlic and onions to everyday meals to fight inflammation. Pineapple contains bromelain a chemical which prohibits swelling. Celery contains over 25 anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as providing massive amounts of potassium. Try celery seeds either raw or cooked.
The mind/body are interlinked and any prolonged negative emotional state can cause physical symptoms and aggravate existing conditions. Eating well will help balance blood sugar and hormone levels which in turn will help to keep your moods stable. Daily meditation can halt any negative mental chatter, lift mood, calm the pain experiencing areas of the brain and boost the coping areas.
Turmeric – A great natural pain reliever as well as being anti-inflammatory. Turmeric contains Curcumin and Curcuminoids which act in the same way as prescribed NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Turmeric needs to be supplemented to reap the full benefits but can also be used topically and added to food.
Nettles – I use Nettles A LOT, both personally and in clinic. Nettles amazingly contain boron, magnesium, calcium iron, phosphorus, beta-carotene, vitamins A, B, C and D, protein and silicon. Nature really knew what she was doing when she created this humble plant.
Omega 3s – Vitally important for a strong immune system and fighting inflammation. There are vegan options available (such as flax) especially important if you are sensitive to animal fats.
Burdock Root – Burdock contains anti-inflammatory fatty oils and is great as a natural pain reliever.
Aloe Vera – Aloe Vera boosts the immune system and energy levels, providing the body with the right agents to restore and repair itself.
Omit food intolerances
There are foods that are known to trigger inflammation such as animal fats, dairy, wheat, red meat, alcohol and fried foods. However before embarking on an elimination diet, I recommend having a food sensitivity test, either through a qualified Kinesiologist or a saliva test can be carried out via post.
Fancy a Cuppa?
Many teas contain bioflavonoids and polyphenols that reduce inflammation and limit free radical production and are a natural pain relieving sedative. Try Fennel, Hop, Ginger, Rosemary, Alfalfa and Green Tea.
Gentle stretching within your limits (try a Yoga class with a qualified instructor who can guide you) opens the joints and aids the distribution of synovial fluid which lubricates the joints.
Holistic healthcare cannot cure arthritis. It can, however, in certain cases, relieve the symptoms and promote overall health and wellbeing. Always check any therapist is fully qualified and insured and ask whether they have experience in your condition. Most credible therapists will be happy to answer any questions you may have and refer you on if they feel you would be better trying a different modality.
The above is not intended to replace medical advice.
Louise Jensen is an award winning Kinesiologist and is certified in many therapies, including the Mind Detox Method (as featured on Discovery Health) where she graduated from the Mind Detox Academy in record time. A regular writer, Louise has overcome living with a disability and has 12 years’ experience in helping others to heal. In 2012 Louise co-created The Happy Starfish, an online community dedicated to celebrating health, happiness and peaceful living.