Are you looking for a more natural way to deal with your rheumatoid arthritis pain? Some prescription medicines may make you feel foggy, cause stomach ulcers, or cause weight gain. However, recent studies have shown that more natural antioxidants may help reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain without so many side effects.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder affecting the joints and other body tissues. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system wrongly attacks the body. Therefore, damage can be caused in the skin, eyes, lung, heart, and blood vessels. Also, damage to the joint lining causes deformity in the joints, such as in the hands. Because of this damage, daily tasks and simple movement can become more difficult and painful.
RA tends to affect smaller joints first such as those in the fingers and toes. Some symptoms of the condition include:
- Tender, swollen joints
- Joint stiffness
- Weight loss
Larger joints such as those in hips and knees may be affected as the disease progresses. However, nearly 40-percent of those affected by the condition have non-joint symptoms. The eyes, salivary glands, blood vessels, and nerve tissues are just some of the other body tissues that can be affected by RA.
Current RA Treatments
The most common treatment to arthritis pain are NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs reduce pain and inflammation. Lower strength forms of NSAIDs can be purchased over-the-counter. However, long-term use of such medicines can cause symptoms such as:
- ringing in your ears
- stomach pain and ulcers
- heart problems
- liver and kidney damage
Other treatments for RA include steroids and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS). Long term use of steroid though can thin bones and cause weight gain. DMARDS such as methotrexate can slow progress of the disease. A newer class of DMARDs called biologic agents, which include Humira and Xeljanz, work to reduce inflammation. However, these medicines may have side effects such as liver damage and increased risk of infections.
Antioxidants and RA Pain
A journal article in the Frontiers in Nutrition suggested that fiber-rich and antioxidant-rich foods may decrease inflammation in those with RA. Furthermore, it was suggested to get such benefits from some of the following foods and drinks.
- dried plums
- whole grains
- olive oil
- green tea
Other recent research has confirmed that antioxidant treatment may be helpful to those with RA. For example, a 2003 study talked about how the antioxidant defense system is weakened in RA patients. Therefore, researchers suggested therapy including standard drugs along with antioxidants to help reduce tissue damage in such patients.
In addition to these studies, more recent research has also shown potential for antioxidant treatment of RA. For example, a 2008 study found that antioxidant therapy combined with lower doses of standard drugs may help reduce tissue damage. Due to these lower doses of prescribed drugs, such treatments may help reduce harmful side effects.
Other Ways to Reduce Inflammation
- Stop smoking since this activity can constrict blood vessels and cause inflammation in the body and its tissues.
- Limit alcohol consumption: If you do decide to have an alcoholic drink, choose phytonutrient-rich red wine that contains polyphenols such as resveratrol. Also, be sure to limit consumption to no more than 1 standard drink a day for women or 2 standard drinks a day for men. For example, a standard drink of wine is equal to 5 ounces.
- Take probiotics through fermented food such as yogurt or through a supplement such as Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences. Biovia 30 contains 30 million strains of diverse good bacteria that helps to strengthen your immune system. Probiotics can help restore good bacteria in your gut. When your body has more good bacteria, it makes it easier to fight off bad bacteria that may be damaging your immune system. Therefore, a stronger immune system can help fight off inflammation in the body.
Furthermore, recent research shows a link between deficits in the intestinal microbiome and autoimmune disease. Although more studies need to be done, it is suggested that treatment of gut microbiota may be the key to improving effective treatments for such conditions as RA.
-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN
Horta-Baas, G., Romero-Figueroa, M. del S., Montiel-Jarquín, A. J., Pizano-Zárate, M. L., García-Mena, J., & Ramírez-Durán, N. (2017). Intestinal Dysbiosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Link between Gut Microbiota and the Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Journal of Immunology Research, 2017, 4835189. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4835189
Jaswal, S., et al. (December 2003) “Antioxidant Status in Rheumatoid Arthritis and role of Antioxidant Therapy.” Clinica Chimica Acta, 338(1-2): 123-129.
Mayo Clinic (August 9, 2017) “Rheumatoid Arthritis.”
Medline Plus (November 8, 2017) “These Foods May Help Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain.”
Van Vugt, R. M., Rijken, P. J., Rietveld, A. G., van Vugt, A. C., & Dijkmans, B. A. C. (2008). Antioxidant intervention in rheumatoid arthritis: results of an open pilot study. Clinical Rheumatology, 27(6), 771–775. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-008-0848-6