By Melissa Coats, ND
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic systemic disease that causes inflammatory changes primarily in peripheral joints (wrists, hands, elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles) that lead to destruction of cartilage and adjacent bone. Typically the joints on both sides of the body become inflamed, leading to progressive destruction of the joints. The result is pain, stiffness, swelling, and ultimately loss of function and deformities of the affected joints. The disease occurs more commonly in women than men, and onset typically occurs between ages 35 to 50. The exact causes of RA are unknown, although it is most likely triggered by a combination of factors, including an abnormal autoimmune response, genetic susceptibility, and some environmental or biologic trigger, such as a viral infection or hormonal changes. Unfortunately, as the disease progresses, most people suffer a reduction in their ability to perform the activities of daily living, and many people are unable to continue to work.
Some of the signs and symptoms of RA include general fatigue, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, morning joint stiffness and muscle aches and weakness, as well as joint pain, warmth, and/or swelling and stiffness in the joints after inactivity. RA is conventionally treated with medications, but natural therapies, when started early, can also be quite effective.
Some great natural therapies include exercise, hydrotherapy (alternating hot and cold to the joints and body), rice bucket therapy, orthotics, massage and rest. Implementing an antiinflammatory diet can also be a huge help. This would include avoiding gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, peanuts, sugar, and artificial sweeteners, eliminating caffeine, increasing your intake of olive oil and maintaining a healthy weight. You’ll also want to increase your intake of antioxidants such as vitamins C, A, and E, and make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of selenium and essential fatty acids.
RA can be very complicated, but if lifestyle modifications are made, progression of the disease can be slowed. If you haven’t seen a naturopathic physician before, visit www.naturopathic. org to find a licensed naturopathic doctor near you with whom to discuss options for RA, or consult with your physician.
Sources and references available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Melissa Coats is a licensed naturopathic physician in Scottsdale, AZ at Naturopathic Specialists, LLC (www.listenandcare.com). If you have a question for Dr. Coats, email her at email@example.com.