Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than one million people in the United States alone. It is a chronic condition that causes pain and swelling of the joints. While RA affects all of the joints in the body, it predominantly attacks the smaller joints in the hands and feet. People suffering with rheumatoid arthritis know too well the crippling pain, and loss of mobility, that accompanies the disorder. Conventional medical treatments for RA rely heavily on anti-inflammatory medications that can have a number of unwanted side effects. Many people suffering with rheumatoid arthritis are looking for alternatives to these prescriptions, and are turning to all natural therapies for relief.
Causes and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The primary cause of rheumatoid arthritis remains unclear, though heredity does appear to play a part. Individuals who develop RA tend to have had family members with a history of the disorder. The most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are aching and stiffness in the joints, decreased muscle strength, loss of motion and fatigue. In some extreme cases joints may become deformed, and rheumatoid nodules may develop around the areas of the affected joints. While there is no recognized cure, there are natural proactive measures patients can take to reduce the effects of RA, and find some much needed relief from the often chronic and debilitating pain.
Nutrition and Supplements
Many RA sufferers find that keeping a food journal helps to pinpoint certain foods and eating habits that trigger painful flare-ups. By cross referencing painful episodes with daily eating habits, patients can identify foods that tend to exacerbate their RA symptoms. They can then begin limiting these foods in their diet, or in many cases can eliminate them altogether. Dairy, gluten, eggs, coffee and foods with high levels of refined sugars and processed polyunsaturated fats are typical triggers for RA symptoms.
Recent studies have indicated a link between rheumatoid arthritis and the immune system. RA sufferers should limit their intake of red meat, and meat byproducts, while slowly adopting a vegetarian based diet. Organic fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts and avocados help to maintain a strong and healthy immune system and should be the nutritional foundation for anyone suffering with rheumatoid arthritis.
Certain supplements can be taken to help alleviate the symptoms of RA. Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by decreasing the production of inflammatory cells. Recent studies have shown that regular doses of Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce morning stiffness in RA sufferers. The best source for Omega-3 acids is through a diet rich in flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. For those RA patients who find it difficult to get the necessary Omega-s through diet, over the counter supplements can be taken.
Curcumin, an herbal supplement, can be taken as a natural anti-inflammatory. It has been used for centuries in the treatment of inflammation and arthritis, and recent blind studies have shown it to be equally as effective as prescription anti-inflammatory medication. Boswellia is another all natural herbal supplement that can be taken as an anti-inflammatory. It has been shown to greatly reduce joint swelling and pain in patients with RA, and without the stomach irritation that often accompanies prescription medications.
Exercise and Relaxation
Regular exercise can offer not only relief from the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, but it can help to increase and maintain mobility in the affected joints. Many RA patients understandably find exercise difficult, but even light routines can help to ease joint stiffness and increase mobility. Swimming is particularly beneficial for RA patients. It is a low impact exercise like gentle rebounding lymphatic exercise that encourages regular fluid motion throughout the body without putting undue strain on specific joints or muscle groups. Many RA patients also find swimming to be a soothing activity that promotes both physical and emotional relaxation.
Pain management is critical to those suffering with rheumatoid arthritis, and deep breathing exercises can help many cope with the recurring pain associated with their condition. Our holistic clinicians can instruct patients in proper breathing techniques that will help them manage their chronic pain. Regular meditation can also provide extended relief from RA pain. Patients who meditate on the Word of God, and focus on His grace and love, can find a center of stillness within themselves that is free of pain and anxiety. Finding this Calm in the midst of the storm helps RA sufferers to escape their chronic pain and fatigue, and find the daily strength to enjoy life to its fullest.