Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic debilitating disease affecting more than 1 million Americans today. Arthritic symptoms can be sporadic, or they could be more constant, and the way they affect each person is very different. Most commonly the joints of the body are affected most. The joints tend to become swollen, inflamed, and can be very painful. As the disease progresses, the inflamed cells release enzymes which can digest the bone and cartilage, which causes the involved joint to lose its shape. This leads to more severe pain and loss of mobility. Since RA is a systemic disease, it can affect organs in the body such as the lungs, heart, liver and kidneys. Chances of developing atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke are greatly increased. RA can also affect the atlas-axis, the first two vertebrae of the spine, causing one to slip over the other.
At first, this can cause general clumsiness, however if not stabilized, it can lead to quadriplegia. If you suspect that you may have RA, the earlier you detect and treats RA, the better your chance of keeping it under control and preventing its devastating effects from advancing.
Medications most commonly used for RA are:
Gold injections- to slow down the progression of the disease. This can be taken orally as well and the side effects are minimal.
Penicillamine: helps reduce inflammatory symptoms associated with RA. Its side effects include mucous membrane problems and needs careful monitoring of the blood laboratory levels since it can cause blood and kidney problems.
Corticosteroids: Even though these are very potent anti-inflammatory agents, they can be very toxic and may only have a short term palliative effect.
Methotrexate: This has become a very popular medication in the treatment of RA. It can be very effective however it needs periodic monitoring for liver and kidney toxicity.
The FDA issued a warning that certain medications that treat RA and Chrohn’s can lead to cancer in children and adolescents after 30 months of administration. So, if one were to take any of these drugs, a program of less than 30 months would be prudent. A sample list of these medications are: Cimzia, Enbrel and Remicade. The drugs inhibit a protein called tumor necrosis factor. Since tumor necrosis factor (TNF) effects cell death, it could also lead to uncontrolled cell growth, as in cancer cell proliferation.
Since Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, treatment is difficult as in most autoimmune diseases. Exercise seems to be beneficial in improving joint mobility. Depending on the severity of the disease, exercise might be very difficult, so go slowly. Do gentle stretching before exercise and after your session, deep breathing exercises can prove to be very beneficial as well.
Can Diet Help Prevent the Development of RA?
There seems to be a consensus of the factors that seem to have an effect on RA.
Overweight-puts stress on the joints and increases the body’s inflammation.
Eating a large amount of red meat seems to lead to an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Drinking tea and avoiding coffee seems to lower the risk of developing RA.
Certain vitamins seem to have a beneficial effect on RA. Since certain drugs can deplete vitamin stores of folic acid, it would be beneficial to take folic acid supplements if you are on RA medications. Supplementing with anti-oxidants such as vitamin C, Vitamin E and selenium may also provide benefits.
There are supplements that are beneficial to healthy joints and help reduce inflammation as well. Omega 3 fish oils as well as plant based oils such as olive oil, flaxseed oil, borage oil, and evening primrose oil or any combination of natural plant oils to obtain a blend of the omega 3,6,and 9 essential fatty acid can provide basic anti-inflammatory components. Glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin have shown to improve joint health and have anti-inflammatory properties as well.
Actually, everyone can benefit from an anti-inflammatory healthy diet plan. Minimize red meat, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits daily, supplement with antioxidants, and drink plenty of water. Autoimmune disease such as RA may be hard to heal, but they can certainly be contained, and even improved to the point of normal pain-free functioning. Put together a natural lifestyle of diet and exercise and stick to it.