Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition that mainly affects the small joints. The onset of rheumatoid arthritis usually occurs between 30 and 50 years of age. It affects about 1% of the population and occurs twice as often in women as in men. RA is an inflammatory condition and overtime can result in the progressive destruction of the joints. The joints that are most commonly affected include the fingers and toes, wrists and ankles, shoulders, elbows and hips.
|Causes||Genetics, Dietary Factors, Infections, Stress|
|See Also||Musculoskeletal Conditions, Arthritis, Hypochlorhydria, Anemia|
|Books||Books on Muscle, Joint and Bone Conditions|
|Articles||Articles on Musculoskeletal Conditions|
In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. With rheumatoid arthritis the causes are variable and include lifestyle and environmental factors. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing.
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|Check out this book||Natural Treatments for Arthritis|
|Check out this book||Healing Arthritis, Complementary Naturopathic, Orthopedic and Drug Treatments|
|Check out this book||Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Arthritis: Reverse Underlying Causes of Arthritis With Clinically Proven Alternative Therapies|
|Check out this book||The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book: Protect Yourself and Your Family From Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Allergies - and More|
- Food allergies and sensitivities can contribute to the development of this disease. In particular, vegetables in the Solanaceae family (such as tomato, potato, peppers, eggplant), as well as food additives, wheat, corn, dairy, and beef products.
- Decaffeinated coffee intake is associated with RA onset, while tea consumption shows an inverse association with disease onset.
- Mental Emotional Health
- Social stress is strongly correlated with inducing, exacerbating, and effecting the ultimate outcome in RA.
- Anxiety and depression are commonly associated with RA. Those individuals with depression tend to RA that is worse and that progresses more rapidly.
- Psychiatric illness is a relatively common disorder in those with RA, with a frequency higher than that of other general medical conditions.
- Social stress and a lack of support can contribute to RA.
- Protozoal infections associated with RA include: Giardia.
- There is an increased incidence of rheumatoid arthritis in urban as opposed to rural areas.
- Trauma and Overuse
- Trauma and overuse can increase the likelihood of RA in joints affected.
- Prescription Medications
- NSAIDs suppress the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but worsen the intestinal hyper-permeability that can contribute to the disease process.
- Rheumatoid factor is detectable via blood test in two thirds of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It is absent in children with this disease.
- Blood tests indicated to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis include: rheumatoid factor level, histocompatability antigen HLA-DRw4, CRP, ESR, ANA.
- Other tests include:,  X-ray of the joints.
Related Symptoms and Conditions
Conditions associated with RA or that may predispose a person to the disease include:
- Hypochlorhydria. Up to 50% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis do not produce quantities of hydrochloric acid sufficient for proper digestion., 
- Deficiency in pancreatic enzymes which can contribute to incomplete digestion..
- Urinary Tract Infection
- Hormone imbalances, especially when in menopause
- Increased intestinal permeability which allows antigens to pass through the gut wall, leading to the formation of antibody-antigen immune complexes. Some of these are deposited in joint tissue, where they are sought out and destroyed by white blood cells.,  Specifically, CD4+ T cells cause the release of tumour necrosis factor alpha, and interleukin-1 in the area to destroy the antibody complexes. When this destruction occurs, surrounding tissue, in this case the synovium of the joint, is also damaged.
People with rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk of developing:
Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the hands and feet, causing proliferation of the synovial membrane which results in an abnormal layer of fibrovascular tissue, known as a pannus. As this enlarges, it can decrease the joints ability to move and the affected joints usually become enlarged, warm and often deformed. The skin over the joints can become red or purple.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs as a result of the activity of inflammatory cells within the synovium of the joints. These cells secrete interleukins, tumor necrosis factor, leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and metalloproteinases (enzymes that break down cartilage). This process results in the uncontrolled growth of the synovium within the joint.
Symptoms associated with RA include:
- Symmetrical joint pain
- Stiffness of the joints that is typically worse in the morning
- Swollen joints
- Calcification and deformity of the joints may develop
- Fatigue and low grade fever are also commonly present.
The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. This is done by supporting digestion, decreasing/avoiding allergies, decreasing gut permeability, and choosing foods and supplements that work on decreasing inflammation. As rheumatoid arthritis can be a rapidly progressing chronic disease with seriously debilitating outcomes, it is commonly co-managed with a rheumatologist, especially in severe cases.
It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.
Lifestyle recommendations include:
- Dietary recommendations. As dietary factors have been shown to contribute strongly to this disease, diet modification is a main avenue of treatment.
- Identify and control food allergies and food sensitivities.
- Eliminate alcohol, caffeine and sugar.
- Avoid excess consumption of animal products with the exception of cold water fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, halibut etc.). Animal fat contains arachidonic acid, which is converted into inflammatory prostaglandins in the body. The consumption of cold water fish promotes the production of the non-inflammatory series three prostaglandins, which decrease the body’s inflammatory response to allergens.
- Consume a diet that focuses on whole unprocessed food (whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds) as well as plenty of fruit as it contains antioxidants and bioflavonoids.
- Consider the oligoantigenic diet.
- Fasting decreases the absorption of food allergens as well as the levels of inflammatory cytokines. Fasting followed by a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits and vegetables substantially decreases the disease activity in many patients. For best effect, fasting can be done routinely for 1-2 days each week. Fasting should be supervised by a health care provider.
- Ensure you drink adequate water.
- Short periods of gentle, low impact exercises on a daily basis is recommened. A warm swimming pool or an exercise bicycle are helpful at decreasing any excessive stress on the joints.
- Rest and Relaxation are important to prevent the progression of osteoarthritis.
The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.
The naturopathic therapies used to treat osteoarthritis include:
- Other foods such as Royal Jelly
- Clinical Nutritional Supplementation includes
- Vitamins such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B5,, Vitamin D
- Minerals such as Boron, Copper,selenium, zinc, sulfur, Selenium.
- Amino Acids such as Cysteine
- Other supplements such as Flaxseed oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids,, Borage Oil, Quercetin, Bromelain, Glucosamine Sulphate, Methylsulphonylmethane (MSM), Betaine HCL, Chondroitin Sulfate, Cod Liver Oil, Digestive Enzymes, Superoxide Dismutase.
- Herbs such as Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), Centaury (Centaurium erythraea), Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens, Capsicum, Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), Ginger (Zingiber officinale, Juniper (Juniperus communis), Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria, Nettle (Urtica diocica, Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Willow (Salix spp.). Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Celery (Apium graveolens), Crampbark (Viburnam oppulas), Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa)
- Herbs can be used as tinctures, teas, capsules, oils, lotions, creams and salves, and as poultices and compresses for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Gemmotherapies such as Ampelopsis veitchii, Betula alba/pubescens, Betula verrucosa, Buxus sempervirens, Fraxinus excelsior, Juniperus communis, Ligustrum vulgare, Rosa canina, Sambucus nigra, Ulmus campestris
- Classical and complex homeopathics can be very helpful in the management of RA>
, Acupuncture treatment has three aspects; local points for affected joints, distal points for underlying causes, and back transporting points for deficiency and other factors.
- "Swollen joints can be pricked to produce light bleeding. Points such as si feng, LU 5, and PC 3 can be bled to relieve local joint pain and immobility." The most tender points in the tendons and muscles can be needled either by deep tendon insertion into the tendon, or by needling of the tender points in the muscles while the patient moves the limb (if possible)."
|Article||Arthritis: Manipulation and Physical Treatment Perspectives, Vital Link; 2006 Spring/Summer|
- Dr. Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND
- Dr. Raymond Trott, ND
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