Rheumatoid Arthritis, (RA), while less common than osteoarthritis, is a serious and painful joint disease. Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 2.1 million people in the U.S., most often women. The condition usually starts between the ages of 20 and 50, although it can begin at any age.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues. This is called an autoimmune response. The disorder affects many organs throughout the body, but is most noted for its significant disability, deformity, and inflammation of the joints and other structures comprised of connective tissue.
RA can lead to crippling. It incapacitates the synovial tissue, which is the membrane that lines joints and secretes the lubricant that normally allows bones to move painlessly against other bones. With this condition, joints (most commonly the small joints of the hand) become tender, swollen, even deformed. Over time, the condition can also spread to other parts of the body.
The onset of RA symptoms can be slow with mild discomfort in the joints, morning stiffness, low-grade fever systemically or in the affected joints, and a gradual increase of symptoms. Or RA can strike quickly, and people can develop the disease seemingly overnight.
Night sweats, depression, lethargy, fatigue, low-grade fever, weakness, joint stiffness, and vague joint pain. These symptoms can lead to the appearance of painful, swollen joints within several weeks. RA may affect only one side of the body, but it is common for RA to strike the same joints on both sides of the body simultaneously – in the elbows, for instance. Later in the development of the disease, the affected joints become thicker and deformed.
Rheumatoid arthritis is classified as an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own tissues. In various combinations and severity, food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, toxicity, abnormal intestinal permeability, and microorganisms cause inflammation in the body. For someone who has rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation (the immune system’s attack on foreign substances) amplifies and becomes a destructive autoimmune response.
Delayed food allergies that disrupt the permeability of the intestinal walls can directly lead to onset of RA. This abnormal permeability allows incompletely digested food particles to pass through the walls of the digestive tract and into the bloodstream where, if not cleared, they are eventually deposited in tissues. This can cause an inflammatory reaction, and the immune system begins to attack the tissues, especially around the joints.
Many scientific studies have documented that there is increased intestinal permeability in over 90% of patients with autoimmune disease and arthritis. The top foods known to trigger rheumatoid symptoms include milk, yeast (both brewers and baker’s), wheat, nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and potatoes), corn, and eggs.
Other causes of rheumatoid arthritis include genetic susceptibility, lifestyle factors, nutritional factors, toxicity, and microorganisms. There may also be an association between rheumatoid arthritis and abnormal bowel function. These underlying causes work in various combinations to trigger inflammation in the body. Smoking and chronic exposure to second-hand smoke can also contribute to rheumatoid arthritis.
It is important to not add further toxicity to your system so try to adhere to the following:
Do not consume any artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, NutraSweet or Aspartame
Do not consume high fructose corn syrup or mono-sodium glutamate.
Do not drink any carbonated beverages.
Avoid all fast food restaurants.
Avoid all canned food.
Eliminate conventional dairy products. The best dairy products are raw, unpasteurised and homogenised dairy from grass fed cows. If this is unavailable, then buy organic dairy.
Avoid conventional beef. The best beef is organic grass fed beef.
The second best is organic meat; this includes beef, veal, lamb, chicken and turkey.
Diet plays an integral part in reducing or preventing the onset of all types of arthritic conditions. A diet that includes excess consumption of fatty meats, hydrogenated fats such as margarine or shortening, and conventionally produced dairy products generates highly acidic conditions in the blood. For healing to occur, these foods should be minimized if not eliminated from the diet. Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and all refined sugars, should be eliminated. Replace processed sugars with alternative natural sweeteners or naturally sweet fruits. An occasional green tea is okay if caffeine is desired, and alcohol should be had in moderation, such as a glass of wine for special events only.
Soft drinks are high in phosphoric acid, which can dangerously elevate phosphorus levels in the blood. The normal ratio of calcium to phosphorus in bones is approximately two to one, although a one-to-one ratio is adequate to maintain skeletal growth. However, in the average American diet, this ratio is extremely skewed, with high amounts of phosphorus relative to calcium. This causes the body to pull calcium from the bones to supplement blood calcium levels, which can exacerbate arthritic conditions.
An important step in treating arthritis lies in achieving normal body weight, as excess weight puts increased stress on weight-bearing joints affected with arthritis. A diet rich in an abundant selection of fresh vegetables, and a wide variety of sweet and non-sweet fruits, nuts, and whole grains is recommended for maximum nutritional benefit. Whole (unprocessed) foods are rich in the nutrients needed to fight destructive free radicals, promote skin and tissue health, repair bones, muscles, and tendons, and promote bowel regularity. Additionally, eating a whole foods diet will gently and slowly detoxify the system, ultimately leading to higher energy levels and inspiration to eat better, exercise, and follow through with necessary lifestyle changes on your road to health and healing.
Dietary fats are an important consideration for anyone with arthritis. The wrong kind of fats can increase inflammation in joints, while the “good” fats will help reduce inflammation. Hydrogenated fats and trans-fatty acids can directly contribute to inflammation and the destruction of joint tissues. Avoid foods that contain these fats, such as margarine, vegetable shortening, mayonnaise, crackers and chips, cookies, cakes, pastries, packaged breads, candy, and most refined foods. Read all food labels, and do not buy or eat food that contains partially hydrogenated oils, canola oil or any artificial, chemically generated fats.
Whole foods are typically high in healthy fats, including the essential fatty acids (such as Omega-3 and omega-6 oils). Cold-water fish are good sources of essential fatty acids, as are flax and hemp seed oils and seeds. All are valuable for the prevention of arthritis because of their anti-inflammatory characteristics. Arthritis patients showed major clinical improvement when supplementing their diets with cod liver oil, which may also reduce the inflammatory process.
Also strongly recommended for arthritic conditions are the whole or juiced goji and/or acai berries, and Noni juice, which is especially good for counteracting excess inflammation and for strong antioxidant action. Pomegranate fruit extracts have been shown to block enzymes that contribute to cartilage degradation, especially in cases of osteoarthritis.
As mentioned above, arthritis sufferers commonly have high levels of acidity, which increases the potential for developing inflammatory conditions. Reduce your intake of acid-forming foods and increase intake of alkaline-forming foods to decrease acidity. (See our pH section for detailed information, at home testing, and diet protocols.) The most acid-forming foods are sugar, alcohol, vinegar, coffee, meat, trans fats and dairy products. Foods known to increase the alkalinity of the body include all vegetables, especially large amounts of fresh raw leafy salad greens, kale, chard, collards, aloe vera, and green power powder foods, such as chlorella, algae, barley grass, wheat grass, parsley, and alfalfa.
Undergo testing for potential food allergies and sensitivities and avoid those foods to which you test positive. Consider a rotation diet or elimination diet in order to further reduce the likelihood of food allergies.
Nutrition and diet are key players in the healing and elimination of imbalance and disease. For a complete, nutrition packed, whole foods eating plan, read the Whole Foods Diet. You can printout these full articles for easy reference.
The Raw Food Diet – The raw food diet is a food plan that can have great benefits. After a few months of following our recommended basic whole foods diet, one can then transition into a high level raw or 100% raw food diet, as desired. This diet is composed of raw and live foods only, and includes a wide selection of raw fruits, vegetables, soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds and sea vegetables, in a wide variety of creative combinations. If choosing a raw food plan, we highly recommend daily consumption of fresh green juices, made from an array of green vegetables, such as celery, romaine lettuce, spinach, carrot, kale, parsley, with an ever rotating seasonal selection of other organic veggies. Daily salad meals, dehydrated flax crackers, seed and nut pates, blended soups, smoothies and marinated vegetable salads, often mixed with soaked sea vegetables are the base for the raw diet. Since little to no cooked food is consumed, a raw diet has the advantage of instant elimination of many common allergens. No cooked wheat, wheat byproducts or grains (generally) are consumed, and very little, if any, dairy products. Raw foodists may include small quantities of dairy, typically as cultured raw goat or sheep’s milk yogurt or kefir, usually homemade (these products can occasionally be found online or from local sources).
Raw food generates rapid results because of its ability to thoroughly detoxify and liberate your body’s previously untapped energy. Dr. Gabriel Cousins, at the Tree of Life Center in Patagonia Arizona, endorses the raw food plan as the ultimate healing diet, and offers delicious 100% raw food meals at both the café and all of the healing retreats he offers.
We recommend the raw food diet for long term cleansing and detoxification. Eating primarily raw food for three to twelve months can be an incredible experience to help increase energy, detoxify your body, support you in letting go of long time food addictions, and throughout your diet you will naturally be a major sponsor for organic produce. Most of us eat a variety of addictive foods, from sugar to pasta. The addictive nature of these foods is often overlooked, even in the healthiest of food plans. When eating raw, these items are automatically eliminated, hence freeing up energy the body can use to heal.
What is important to note when choosing a raw food diet is the issue of trade-offs. You might miss cooked foods, though you will not miss your disease, and more times than not the raw food diet is an incredible tool that can be used to help shift serious health challenges into greater health and well being.
Many researchers believe a proper balance of vitamins and minerals is essential in the treatment of arthritis. Large quantities of vitamin C are often recommended. Acting both as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, vitamin C helps repair and maintain healthy connective tissue. It is essential for collagen production and the maintenance of joint lining, helps tissue repair, and reduces the bruising and swelling often associated with arthritis.
Vitamins A, B1, B6, E, and niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) have also proven effective in treating and preventing arthritis. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, considered to be both a vitamin and a hormone. It controls the absorption of calcium and phosphorus used in bone formation.
Other dietary supplements that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects important for arthritis prevention and treatment include boron, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, pantothenic acid, and sulfur. Bee pollen, royal jelly (another bee product rich in pantothenic acid), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and evening primrose oil are also beneficial in alleviating arthritis symptoms, especially among rheumatoid arthritics. All these supplements, though, should be taken only under supervision by a qualified health professional.
Manganese has many functions in the body, including normal growth and metabolism. It helps to activate enzymes, is used for normal bone development, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are usually significantly deficient in manganese and supplementation is recommended.
Cetyl myristoleate, a rare anti-arthritis substance now created synthetically, acts as a lubricant for joints and muscles, modulates immune system function, and has anti-inflammatory effects. Cetyl myristoleate is usually given orally for one-month period, at a 10-15g dosage. It is also available as a cream. This fatty substance should be taken in conjunction with 100mg of lipase, an enzyme that digests fat.
Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO)* is a source of sulfur (derived from wood pulp, garlic oil, or as a byproduct of petroleum) and is thought to be a free-radical scavenger with anti-inflammatory properties. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a sister compound of DMSO derived from food sources. MSM is naturally produced in the body, but levels decrease with age and in degenerative illnesses such as arthritis. These supplements can reduce inflammation and scar tissue, relieve pain, and increase blood flow for improved exchange of nutrients. Of special relevance in rheumatoid arthritis, MSM can help normalize the immune system and reduce the autoimmune response.
*Caution: When applying DMSO on the body use thoroughly clean hands and clean cotton swabs. Take care to be impeccable because whatever substance comes in contact with DMSO gel is absorbed quickly and driven deeply into the body. Avoid contact with dirt until the area is completely dry.
Shark cartilage in capsule form is now being used to combat the pain of arthritis. Shark cartilage contains large amounts of mucopolysaccharides (carbohydrates that form chemical bonds with water), which stimulate the immune system and reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Shark cartilage is orally administered at least 30 minutes before meals. Enzymes, especially Wobenzyme, a pancreatic enzyme formula, are also important for helping to reduce symptoms of inflammation.
- Take Vitamin D3 50,000-100,000 International Units a day nc.vitaminstrength.com for periods of 4 weeks at a time.
- Wholefood supplements are the best way of ensuring your nutritional needs are met.
- Take an Omega 3 supplement
For treating rheumatoid arthritis, the following are recommended: Detoxify with cypress, fennel, and lemon. Massage affected joints with rosemary, benzoin, chamomile, camphor, juniper, or lavender.
To ensure positive results, always check that the essential oil is a 100% pure plant distillation and that it comes from a reputable source.
Owing to the principles behind homeopathy it is essential you see a licensed practitioner to receive your own personalised prescription.
Here are some remedies that your practitioner may suggest:
- Apis Mellifica – when the joints swell and are painful
- Arnica Montana – when the joints feel bruised
- Bryonia Alba – when there appears to be no relief from pain
- Colchicum – good for inflammation
- Ledum – good for stiffness
- Kali Sulphuricum – particularly good for cold hands and feet, arthritic pains
- Pulsatilla – when the pain shifts from joint to joint
- Ruta Graveolens – when the limbs feel tender and sore
- Urtica Urens – a well-known remedy for arthritis
Many anti-inflammatory herbs help in alleviating the symptoms of all three types of arthritis. Of the many possible combinations, this is a safe mixture that can be taken over a long period of time: combine the tinctures of meadowsweet, willow bark, black cohosh, prickly ash, celery seed, and nettle in equal parts, and take one teaspoon of this mixture three times a day. In cases of rheumatoid arthritis, add wild yam and valerian to the mixture (one teaspoon, three times a day).
Yucca and devil’s claw possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. The use of the yucca plant has proven highly successful as a nonspecific immune stimulator that reduces infection and inflammation. Yucca extract is made from the yucca plant found in deserts in the southwestern U.S. and in Mexico. Yucca extract is safe enough to take for long periods of time to prevent any recurrence of symptoms and can be purchased without a prescription.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) contains bioflavonoids called catechins, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis by neutralizing free radicals that act on synovial membranes.
Lignum vitae (Guiacum officinale and Guiacum sanctum) is a tree native to South Florida, the Caribbean, and South America. The gum of this tree, guaia-gum, contains therapeutic resins and oils used as a pain reliever for osteoarthritis, rheumatism, and gout.
Other recommended herbs include licorice and alfalfa. Feverfew has also been found to be effective in inhibiting the synthesis of pro-inflammatory compounds and decreasing the body’s inflammatory response. Herbal remedies that have proven effective for rheumatoid arthritis include turmeric, ginger, skullcap, bupleurum, and ginseng.
Environmental Medicine: Allergy and allergy-like sensitivities are often factors that contribute to the painful symptoms in arthritic patients. Theron G. Randolph, M.D., and the founder of environmental medicine, discovered the link between arthritis and allergic reactions to environmental chemicals and foods. His research with over 1,000 arthritis patients found commonly eaten foods, especially nightshade vegetables, as well as chemical substances (ranging from natural gas, auto exhaust, paints, perfume, and hair spray to insecticides, tobacco, and tobacco smoke) caused many of his patients’ symptoms.
Additional research has found that foods, chemicals, grasses, pollen, molds, and other airborne substances caused allergic reactions in the joints of nearly 85% of the arthritics in one study. Food additives, as well as foreign invaders like protozoa, bacteria, yeast, and fungus, can also trigger or aggravate arthritic symptoms.
Although any food can theoretically trigger an allergic reaction in an individual, this list includes the most common food allergens of arthritis patients: dairy products, beef, wheat, yeast (both baker’s and brewers), eggs, chocolate, oranges, sugar, nuts (especially peanuts), corn, green or yellow wax beans, and nightshade vegetables (eggplants, Irish potatoes, green and red peppers, paprika, tomatoes and tobacco).
All arthritis patients should be tested for food allergies. Once you have identified the foods you are allergic to, the next step is to eliminate them from your diet. Initially, you should completely refrain from eating all allergenic foods for 60-90 days. After this period, you can begin to slowly reintroduce them into your diet. You should also vary the foods that you eat on a daily basis to avoid developing new allergies.
Physical Therapy: Isometric exercises, stretching, can help ease arthritis pain.
Juice Therapy: For treating rheumatoid arthritis, the following juices are recommended: carrot, celery, and cabbage juice, with added parsley; the juice of half a lemon before every meal and before going to bed; carrot, beet, and cucumber; celery juice; and radish and garlic juice.
Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers should avoid tomato juice, as tomato is a nightshade vegetable.