Rheumatoid Arthritis: Natural Treatments and Diet
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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease of unknown cause. It not only can affect your joints, but also can affect a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, and heart. Autoimmune refers to the fact that RA is spurred by your immune system mistakenly attacking your own body’s tissues — in this case, your joints. Symptoms of RA may include tender and swollen joints, joint stiffness (typically worse in the morning and after inactivity), fatigue, and fever.
This article will share insight into natural treatments and diet for those suffering from RA.
What are some natural treatments that may help RA?
1. Cold Treatments
Cold treatments, also known as cryotherapy, have been shown to decrease joint swelling and inflammation. These treatments can traditionally be applied at home as cold compresses for no more than 15 minutes at a time. It is recommended to wrap your ice compress in a towel first, as you should never put ice directly on the skin.
Recently, these treatments have come to be applied in a state-of-the-art cryosauna tank, which exposes your body to temperatures of below –200 ºF for two to three minutes.
2. Heat Treatments
Heat treatments relax the tense muscles surrounding aching joints as well as increase the blood flow to joints. They can be simply applied at home as microwaveable hot packs. You should apply heat treatments for no more than 15 minutes and not too hot, as you do not want to cause a burn/thermal injury.
Recently, innovative heat treatments such as infrared light therapy and LED light therapy have been used in patients with RA.
Acupuncture, a traditional form of Chinese medicine, is being utilized in Western medicine treatment plans for patients with RA.
During an acupuncture session, a practitioner inserts very thin needles into certain points on the body. The needles stimulate energy along pathways in your body called “meridians” in an effort to correct imbalances of energy (“chi”).
Studies have shown that acupuncture lowers levels of substances responsible for inflammation.
Exercise can combat the swelling in your joints caused by RA, which can ease your pain. Strength training can keep the muscles around your joints strong and even less stressful forms of exercise, such as walking, swimming, or biking, can be beneficial. Don’t forget to stretch before exercising, as simple stretches can help alleviate symptoms of RA in the hands and wrists.
If it’s been a while or if you are wanting to start a new exercise regimen, asking your doctor for a referral to a physical therapist is a wonderful beginning.
5. Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is another natural treatment for RA. There are many different types of massage therapy, like hot stone, trigger point, and deep tissue, that can be provided in a variety of settings (be it a spa setting, at a physical therapist’s office, or at a chiropractic clinic).
Many patients with RA find massage therapy helps with their symptoms and make it an integral part of their RA self-care.
What are some foods that may help RA?
1. Whole Grains
Whole grains help lower inflammation. They also contain antioxidants, another class of inflammation-fighting substances.
Wheat, corn, brown rice, oats, barley, millet, and sorghum are examples of whole grains.
Beans have high levels of fiber, which can decrease inflammation. In addition, they are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, iron, and potassium, that can provide a boost to your immune system.
Examples of beans include kidney, black, and pinto beans.
Fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which lower inflammation. Eating fish — baked or grilled as opposed to fried — no more than twice a week is recommended.
Salmon, sardines, and anchovies are great sources of omega-3s.
4. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet. There are three major types of olive oil: refined, virgin, and extra virgin. You should use extra virgin olive oil since it has the highest content of inflammation-fighting molecules.
Various fruits can provide agents that stave off the inflammation of RA.
Cherries, raspberries, and blueberries contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins. Citrus fruits, including lemons, limes, and oranges, are great sources of vitamin C, which can provide a boost to your immune system.
What are some foods to avoid if I have RA?
1. Red Meat
Red meat contains high levels of saturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which contribute to inflammation. Therefore, you should choose lean cuts of meat labeled as organic and grass-fed. Also, try to reduce your intake of red meat by swapping it for fish twice a week instead.
Sugar triggers inflammation when digested. So make sure to check food labeling for words that end in “-ose” (e.g., fructose or sucrose), as well as artificial sugars (e.g., aspartame), in order to avoid ingesting it.
Sugar is also hidden in refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and white rice.
Gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley, may cause an allergic and inflammatory reaction when ingested.
This reaction can be greater in individuals with autoimmune disorders such as RA. Therefore, a gluten-free diet is recommended for some patients with RA.
Excessive alcohol can increase inflammation. It also does not interact well with some medications used to treat your RA.
If you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen and mix them with alcohol, you are at increased risk for stomach ulcers that can bleed.
5. Fried or Grilled Food
Fried foods may contain high levels of hydrogenated oils, saturated fats, or trans fats, all of which increase inflammation. Also, grilled foods may contain high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can contribute to inflammation.
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