Healing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Natural Medicine
People living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) compare the pain and inflammation to a fire raging out of control. RA is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease causing swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints. It can result in joint deformity and damage to other organs, including the nerves, heart, and lungs.
Approximately 1.5 million Americans have Rheumatoid Arthritis: most are adults over age 40; about 12,000 children under age 16 have juvenile-onset RA.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (aggravated by stress and lack of sleep)
- Swollen, painful, hot and disfigured joints on both sides of the body
- Pain, stiffness and limited movement making daily activities difficult
- Fatigue, muscle aches, and fevers
The prevailing, conventional theory is that inflammation results from an “over-reaction” of the immune system that may include genetic factors. Doctors of natural medicine believe there is a deeper, root cause for this haywire immune system response. They theorize immune dysregulation originates in imbalances that involve a person’s genetics, lifestyle choices, nutritional status, gut health, stress, environmental triggers and emotional wellbeing.
Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Conventional treatment includes physical therapy and prescription medicines (steroids, painkillers, and immune suppressors) to treat pain and swelling. While these drugs may be necessary for some people, they have side effects including hair loss, liver damage, stress on the kidneys and heart, and risk for addiction, without correcting the underlying imbalance.
Natural medicine emphasizes identification and treatment of root causes. Holistic doctors use safe, natural therapies and interventions that stimulate the restoration of health without side effects. Here’s a sampling of holistic interventions that Dr. Fenske uses that can make a huge impact in healing the root causes of RA.
An Anti-inflammatory Diet. Commit to a diet that includes: organic fruits and veggies; healthy fats such as olive, avocado, and coconut oils; whole grains; bone broth; wild-caught fish; and nuts/seeds. These foods provide natural antioxidants – cellular superheroes that gobble up the free radical cells that contribute to development of RA. There are many foods that are considered healthy in general, but may cause inflammation for some people, leading to immune dysregulation. Dr. Fenske will test for food sensitivities, such as gluten, dairy, egg, or others, and work with a patient to create a diet with healthy alternatives when needed.
Keep Moving. Movement is important for managing symptoms (including pain) and enhancing psychological wellbeing. Low impact exercise, such as cycling, walking, water aerobics and Tai Chi, are ideal. Symptoms can improve with strength training.
R & R: Rest, Relaxation & Pain Reduction. Massage therapy, acupuncture or acupressure, reflexology, yoga, deep breathing, and guided imagery provide protection against painful bouts of Rheumatoid Arthritis by helping improve body awareness, reduce muscle tension, enhance sleep, and decrease stress hormones.
Manage Symptoms, Naturally. Nutritional and herbal supplements can help reduce pain and inflammation. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with RA, so supplementing can be important. Extracts of ginger and turmeric, Omega-3 fish oil and digestive enzymes are some nutrients that help tame the fire of inflammation.
A natural medicine approach to healing RA will be unique to each person. Consult with Dr. Fenske for interventions that will work best for you.
Fight Joint Inflammation with Turmeric
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is the golden-orange spice that gives curried foods pizzazz. In Traditional Chinese and Indian Medicine, turmeric is used to treat allergies, digestive ailments, and pain. The active chemical component of turmeric is curcumin, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Today, research is focused on the role curcumin plays in diseases where the underlying factor is inflammation, such as in heart disease and arthritis.
Studies show that curcumin blocks inflammation at the cellular level. Some studies indicate that curcumin’s role in preventing joint inflammation surpasses its ability to reduce active joint inflammation. In clinical trials, standardized curcumin supplements helped improve pain and swelling in patients with RA. These promising results are being further investigated in long-term studies.
Including turmeric in your diet is easy to do and flavorful. Add turmeric to soups and dressings; sprinkle over meats, veggies, and scrambled eggs; add it to plain yogurt or a smoothie.
While adding turmeric spice to your meals is a great first step, the amounts used in cooking do not provide the therapeutic levels needed to achieve its robust health effects. When considering the addition of turmeric to your health plan, work with Dr. Fenske to determine if this is a good choice and which curcumin supplement is best for you. She can recommend the right form (capsule or liquid) that will have the best bioavailability – meaning it’s easy for your body to process through the digestive tract – for your specific health needs.