Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic auto-immune disease which can cause severe disability in the patients.
It is characterized by pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. About 1.5 million people or about 0.6% of adult population in US is afflicted with this condition.
Usually it occurs in the middle ages but now-a-days its frequency is increasing in older individuals and teenagers as well. Women are at a higher risk of suffering from rheumatoid arthritis than men .
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Common symptoms of this disease include:
- Joint stiffness or pain. Usually the patients suffer from morning stiffness.
- Loss of motion in the joints
- Chest pain when breathing
- Dry mouth and eyes
- Eye burning and itching
- Numbness, burning or tingling in hands and feet
- Sleep disturbances
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder. This means that it occurs when the body’s own cells function against the body and start attacking healthy tissues.
As a result the tissue starts producing inflammation causing chemicals. Normally the movable joints in the body are covered with a special tissue called Synovium which is responsible for production of synovial fluid.
This functions to protect the joints against wear and tear and provides the joints tissue with lubrication and nourishment. However in the case of rheumatoid arthritis Synovium cells start degrading leading to inflammation, redness and pain in the joints.
Factors responsible for causing this condition could be:
Genetic: Certain genes have been found to play a key role in causing rheumatoid arthritis.
Environmental factors: It is believed that certain environmental factors trigger the mutations in the genes that may cause rheumatoid arthritis. However such factors are not yet known.
Other factors: There are some other factors associated with the onset of this condition. These include; smoking, viral infections, Vitamin D deficiency, or hormonal imbalances.
Though the major factors are not yet known but it is certain that rheumatoid arthritis develops due to interaction of a number of factors.
Diagnosis of rheumatoid Arthritis
In initial stages doctors use physical examination as a test to ascertain any changes in joint movement in patients.
However the major lab tests include testing for the presence of Rheumatoid Factor (antibody with special protein produced by the body to fight foreign antigens) or Anti-CCP (antibodies to cyclic citrullinated peptide) in the blood.
A positive result for these tests is a clear indication of Rheumatoid arthritis in the patient. Apart from this X-rays can also be used to determine any deformity or destruction in the joints.
Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Usually patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis are advised to take rest and avoid excessive movement of affected joints. Major classes of medications include:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation
- Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMADRs) to lower the course of the disease. Commonly used DMARDs are methotrexate, leflunomide, hydroxyxhloroquine and sulfasalazine.
15 Super Foods for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Despite having a number of treatments Rheumatoid Arthritis is not a condition which could be reversed completely.
However with proper care and dietary interventions, patients can lead a perfectly normal life. Thus the 15 foods which could work as ‘wonder drugs’ in case of Rheumatoid Arthritis are:
It has been found that Mediterranean diet is well suited to reduce the risk of Rheumatoid arthritis as it uses olive oil for cooking purposes.
Olive oil is a rich source of anti-inflammatory agents, mono-saturated fats and antioxidants. They work just like NSAIDs as they inhibit pro-inflammatory compounds which in turn reduce inflammation and pain.
Scientifically too there have been certain controlled trials which prove that olive oil not only helps to reduce the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis but also lowers the risk of occurrence of the condition . One of the study proves that olive oil when used in combination with fish oil supplements, highly improves the treatment outcome for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
‘An apple a day, keeps the doctor away’
This common saying is a perfect fit for patients suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Apples contain minerals like Boron and Magnesium which are good for the bones. Apples are also rich in antioxidants.
These antioxidants help the body to fight against cell-damaging free radicals and in turn reduce inflammation . In a recent study done on apple peel, it was proven that apple peel carries Ursolic acid which has anti-inflammatory properties.
This proves the beneficial effects of apple for arthritic patients. It must be noted here that apple skin has 8 times more antioxidants than the pulp . Hence it must be consumed along with the skin for maximum benefit.
Turmeric is a famous spice with a number of medicinal roles in Ayurveda. It is considered to be a wonder drug in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis in various parts of India.
Its medicinal properties are attributed to curcuminoids which function to decrease swelling and thus alleviate the symptoms of the disease. In the past, studies done on rat models have proven the anti-arthritic nature of major curcuminoids present in turmeric .
In recent times such studies have been extended to human population to prove the medicinal value of turmeric in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis. Turmeric has shown great promise in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis . With more clinical trials and research it can pave its way to being a potent drug as well.
Fish oils are the most commonly known remedy for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Fish oils are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).
These form the precursor molecules for chemical regulators like prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes which; in turn; have role in major biological functions like inflammation and immune responses .
A natural observation in support of thesignificance of fish oils in alleviating as well as preventing the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, is that people living in cold climates, say, the Eskimos have a lower prevalence of the disease as they consume large amount of fish.
Many research and clinical studies done over the years also support this observation . For instance, a clinical trial performed on a group of 66 patients demonstrated the role of supplementation of fatty oils in the diet in alleviating the disease symptoms .
However it must be added here that dietary intake of fishes like tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring and halibut is more preferred mode of supplementation than consumption of capsules rich in fish oils. It is because excessive intake of these oils might lead to cardiovascular diseases and other complications.
Ginger is an aromatic underground stem that is known for its Ayurvedic significance.
In a small study performed in 1992, 56 patients suffering with Rheumatoid Arthritis were tested for arthritic symptoms after administration of powdered ginger.
It was found that ginger ameliorates the symptoms of arthritis in patients . In the following years the anti-inflammatory effects of ginger have been studied by different group of researchers.
It has been found that ginger carries gingerols which are a potent anti-inflammatory compound. These gingerols have been found to inhibit the production of nitric oxides.
Nitric oxide is a highly reactive molecule which produces damaging free radicals. Inhibition of the production of these nitric oxides thence prevents the cartilage from damage .
Also the ginger extract inhibits the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes which are responsible for causing swelling and inflammation in the joints.
Ginger thus protects the cartilage from destruction . It must be noted though that patients suffering from gall stones must avoid excessive intake of ginger.
Onions are the richest source of anti-oxidant bioflavonoids named Quercetin. Quercetin has major anti-inflammatory function which has been proven by various research as well.
Due to the anti-oxidant activity of onions, it is effective against free radicals within the joints and also reduces the release of protein degrading enzymes.
But not all onions are a rich source of anti-oxidants. A study conducted by Cornell University proved that Shallots, yellow and red onions are a better source of Quercetin than white and sweet onion varieties.
Hence these must be the preferred choices for patients of arthritis. Apart from onions; kale, leek, broccoli and tomatoes also contain Quercetin.
Berries are considered as nature’s painkillers.
These have been found to be extremely effective in reducing pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Blueberries are the richest source of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins help reduce free radicals and in turn protect bones and cartilage against oxidative damage.
In addition to this anthocyanins help in the production of collagen which is the chief connective tissue needed for proper movement of the joints.
Similarly cranberries are a rich source of antioxidants like Quercetin which carries anti-inflammatory effects. Another study conducted by the Harvard University School of Public Health demonstrated the effectiveness of strawberries in treating inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis.
All these berries are rich in anthocyanins which play a chief role in relieving pain and inflammation . According to a report by the Arthritis Research UK, anthocyanidins have been found to be a successful alternate treatment to combat against rheumatoid arthritis.
Research proved a significant reduction in stiffness, pain and sleep disturbances for many patients suffering from the disease . Thus inclusion of berries could be considered to be a safe, tasty and effective method to treat arthritis.
Pineapple is considered to be a useful home remedy for both Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. It is said to carry various protein digesting enzymes that render it analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
One such group of enzymes are called Bromelain. Bromelains have been known to be extremely effective in suppressing the symptoms of arthritis.
A number of research and clinical trials have been performed to prove the significance of these enzymes. In fact use of Bromelains is available in USA and Europe as an alternate therapy for sports injury and acute inflammation. Bromelains present in pineapple work at various levels to relieve from symptoms of arthritis.
Firstly it decreases the bradykinin levels in the body which results in a reduction in vascular permeability thus lowering oedema and pain. Reduction in the levels of prostaglandins and thromboxanes also play a positive role in comforting the patients. Lastly it helps in disease pathogenesis by modulating the activity of certain immune cells.
Brazil Nuts are the topmost source of Selenium in the world.
Selenium has been found to play a major role in causing Rheumatoid arthritis. In a study performed in 1985 it was found that the serum selenium level for patients suffering from acute rheumatism was considerably low in comparison to the normal levels .
Selenium is required for proper functioning of an enzyme name glutathione peroxidase which is of importance in case of Rheumatoid arthritis.
Hence supplementation with selenium was considered to be an obvious way to solve rheumatism in human. There are reports which show that selenium possesses anti-inflammatory role as it facilitates in the production of enzyme glutathione peroxidase and plays an important role to boost the activity of the immune system .
Most importantly there are reports that prove that selenium has a positive effect in reducing pain and swelling in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis .
With more and better clinical trials related to nutritional supplementation of selenium by the consumption of Brazil nuts, the importance of dietary interventions in treating chronic diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis can also be proven.
Pomegranate juice has been found to be effective in reducing pain, swelling, and tenderness of joints in patients of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Pomegranate contains polyphenols, carotenoids, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, anthocyanin and ellagic acid.
Ellagic acid blocks active inflammatory agents which are responsible for cartilage degradation and in turn reduce inflammation.
A pilot study conducted in 2011 showed that consumption of pomegranate juice reduces oxidative stress and disease symptoms for Rheumatoid arthritis .
Hence dietary supplementation of pomegranate could be an effective measure to attenuate the symptoms of this disease.
Tea is the most preferred form of beverage in many parts of the world especially China, India and Japan. One cup of green tea contains around 50-150 milligrams of polyphenols.
These polyphenols in turn possess antioxidant properties and thus help the body against oxidative damage. In a study performed by Case Western Reserve University in 1999, the role of green tea in the prevention of rheumatoid arthritis was first proven.
In this study mice model were used and tested for disease onset with or without supplementation with green tea polyphenols. After successful completion of this study it was found that 56 % of the mice which were fed with green tea polyphenols did not develop rheumatoid arthritis.
After this study, it was stated that green tea polyphenols have a much more potent anti-oxidant activity than Vitamin C and Vitamin E .
In another study performed by the University of Michigan Health System therapeutic benefits of green tea for patients of rheumatoid arthritis was presented.
This study found a compound, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which was found to inhibit the production of inflammatory molecules . Thus this study proved the mechanism of action of green tea in alleviating rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
This might seem as a controversial inclusion in this list as alcohol is considered to be one of the foods that must be avoided in the case of rheumatoid arthritis.
But this is an exception! Red wine is a good source of resveratrol which blocks the release of inflammatory substances and in turn helps to relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
In a study conducted at the University of Glasgow, the effect of resveratrol in modulating the effects of inflammatory arthritis was shown.
This is first of its kind study which included collagen induced arthritic mice model to test the role of resveratrol molecule in treating disease symptom. However with further trials a certain link between the consumption of red wine and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis could be established.
Hot pepper carry phytochemical Capsaicin that provides it with characteristic pungency and fiery taste. Capsaicin has been found to be an inhibitor of Substance P, a neuropeptide associated with swelling and inflammation. Effects of capsaicin in arthritis has been studied from quite a long time.
It has been shown to have a direct role in metabolism of synovial cells. In a study published in 1990, it was found that capsaicin in low doses induced the production of prostaglandins while at higher doses was responsible for the synthesis of collagenase.
This study demonstrated the role of capsaicin in monitoring arthritis . Over the years topical application of capsaicin gels has been recognized as a potent treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
In a double blind trial conducted in 1991, 70 patients with osteoarthritis and 31 with rheumatoid arthritis were given capsaicin for four weeks and disease symptoms were monitored closely.
It was found that both the types of patients experiences reduction in pain and inflammation with a mean reduction being 57% for rheumatoid arthritis and 33% for osteoarthritis . Such findings are encouraging for the future of alternate medicine.
Garlic is known for its medicinal effects all over the world. In Russia it is used for rheumatic disorders quite extensively. It is known to possess anti-inflammatory properties which help in rheumatic diseases.
In middle ages it was recommended to tie a muslin cloth carrying crushed garlic cloves around the area of joint inflammation to relieve pain and swelling. Today as well garlic in combination with ginger is considered to be a perfect remedy for rheumatoid arthritis.
Garlic contains a medicinal compounds known as Allicin that renders it capable for therapeutic function . A recent research done in 2010 aimed to study the effects of Allicin on experimental rheumatoid arthritis. In this study collagen induced arthritic mice were used and injected with Allicin.
Then these models were tested for changes in weight, paw swelling, and arthritic scores. At the end of the experiment significant reduction in weight, paw swelling and arthritic score were observed for the arthritic mice; thus proving the positive effects of garlic (Allicin) in treating rheumatoid arthritis .
Avocado is a fruit which is rich in mono-saturated oils, potassium, essential fatty acids, sito-sterol and Vitamin E.
it is effective in lowering joint inflammation and in stimulation bone and cartilage forming cells thereby leading to cartilage repair. It has been known to be extremely effective for patients with osteoarthritis and is considered to hold some benefits for rheumatism as well.
It is known for its topical use. Avocado/soybean unsaponifiables have been tested for both knee and hip osteoarthritis and have provided with encouraging results. Such studies prove the significance of avocadoes in providing relief from disease symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a severe disorder which may cause lot of pain, discomfort and immobility to the patients. However with early diagnosis and proper treatment it could be monitored.
Nature has provided us with numerous options to lead a healthy life. Thus maintaining a balanced diet and including some of the above given foods in daily diet could show significant improvement in disease symptoms for the patients.
Also the importance of regular exercise must not be underestimated. It is a key to healthy mind and body.
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