There are numerous ways to manage inflammation and today I want to discuss tips for managing rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks soft tissues in joints promoting inflammation. Most people experience pain, swelling, stiffness, and limitations in terms of movements.
Symptoms related to rheumatoid arthritis can come during times of inflammation and stress. This autoimmune condition can lead to significant joint damage, hormonal changes, nerve damage and dangerous inflammation of blood vessels (4). While there isn’t a cure for rheumatoid arthritis, the systems impacted by this disease process can be supported through nutrition and targeted supplementation.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis different?
The main difference between rheumatoid arthritis and pain caused by general inflammation is that pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis tends last for years and promote damage equally on both sides of the body. When someone has rheumatoid arthritis, a person’s immune system attacks his or her own healthy body tissue and causes a loss of cartilage. Because high levels of inflammation are being systemically promoted in someone with rheumatoid arthritis, it can also affect other parts of the body, including vital organs and the endocrine glands.
With Rheumatoid Arthritis, synovial fluid that normally lubricates joints starts to thicken and swell, while at the same time cartilage loss causes increased friction between joints and bones. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are worsened by the progressive loss of cartilage in joints. The inflamed tissue surrounding joints can also cause pain and discomfort. The inflammation of tissue surrounding the joints can cause a tightening of the gap between joints. Eventually, it becomes difficult for joints to move and the buffering space normally between bones becomes smaller, which can limit motion.
How to tell if a flare-up is coming on
Morning stiffness, redness, and fluid retention are indicators that a flare-up might be coming. Flares can mimic the symptoms experienced when we have fevers or infections. Although arthritis flare-ups are somewhat unpredictable, for many people they’re most likely to hit after a very stressful situation since emotional or physical stress is a “trigger” for many people that wears down the immune system (4).
Nutritional steps that you can take
Eat fish, especially Sockeye or wild caught red salmon varieties (not pink) at least 2 times a week. The omega 3’s in fish can occupy the enzymatic pathways necessary to produce proinflammatory cytokines.
Olive Oil and Coconut Oil, these healthy fats can rebalance the gut, stimulate healthy bile production, and promote the release diamine oxidase. As discussed previously, diamine oxidase is the main enzyme your body uses to breakdown histamine.
Cruciferous veggies, garlic, and onions contain sulfuric compounds your body needs to stimulate the growth of collagen and soft tissue repair (6).
Nutrient Dense Berries are high in bioavailable antioxidants that support vascular health, soft tissue, and blood sugar balance. Berries are can sensitize your body to insulin signaling. Berries are also high in bioflavonoids that can have a positive impact on reducing symptoms (6).
Kombucha and Apple Cider Vinegar can support the digestive process in those managing Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is common for those suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis to have low stomach acid, which is why many other “health experts” recommend avoiding red meat (3). It’s not that red meat is bad, it’s that without the correct amount of stomach acid to digest red meat it can promote a flare-up.
Processed vegetable oils: Corn oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, hydrogenated oil, trans fats. These fats are prone to oxidation and high in omega 6 fats, which your body will use to make arachidonic acid (AA). AA is the precursor to a number proinflammatory cytokines that your immune system uses to kill things and create an inflammatory barrier to protect the wound. Aside from the production of AA, which is a healthy natural process gone awry, the damaged fats themselves can have a direct impact on increasing inflammation.
Avoid foods high in rancid omega 6 fats: Processed pastries, fried foods, chips. It’s not enough just to remove unhealthy fats from the kitchen, we also need to remove them from our everyday meals and snacks.
Reduce or eliminate sugars and refined carbohydrates. This is a big deal, especially if you are also struggling with gout. Having elevated blood sugar can cause system-wide oxidative stress and cause inflammation throughout the body. Your body also produces an abundance of uric acid when metabolizing sugars, especially fructose and can cause uric acid crystals to form.
Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol is especially problematic if you are also dealing with gout issues. There are numerous reasons to avoid tobacco and another reason to add to its list is that it can promote Rheumatoid Arthritis. Smoking can promote mutations in the P53 gene, oxidative stress, inflammation, autoantibody formation and epigenetic changes in gene expression (1, 2, 7).
Substantial amounts of red meat, until stomach acid is rebalanced. The idea that red meat and saturated fat are unhealthy is nonsense and the reasoning for why individuals suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis should avoid red meat is also nonsense. The reason why individuals trying to manage Rheumatoid Arthritis should avoid red meat is because a hallmark of the disease process is low production of stomach acid (3). If you manage to balance your stomach acid, have a little red meat and just be aware that you might have trouble digesting it.
This is a great product that many of my clients have found success with. It contains nutrients specific for nerve health and inflammation in general. Of the compounds present in this mixture, I especially like benfotiamine (fat-soluble B-1), alpha lipoic acid, Boswellia, and a B-complex formulated to support nerve health.
Berberine has the potential to inhibit the production of proinflammatory cytokines from immune cells, it has also been found to support the balance between T-regulatory immune cells and T-Helper cells. Essentially, T-helper cells attack and T-reg cells are the peacemakers (9).
This is one of the most important minerals everyone should be taking. Magnesium plays a critical role in maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, utilization of vitamin D, supporting a normal heart rhythm, neuromuscular conduction, muscular contraction, normal blood pressure, bone integrity, and insulin sensitivity (8). Our bones are 50% magnesium and if we are deficient in magnesium our body has mechanisms for tapping into this magnesium reserve, resulting in bone loss. Considering how fortified our foods are with calcium and how widespread magnesium deficiency is, I usually recommend magnesium.
Vitamin D3 Is also essential to maintaining nerve health, hormone balance, and proper gene expression. Essentially, vitamin D3 helps to regulate the activity of P53, a gene that acts as a spell checker for our genetic code (2, 7). When the P53 gene finds damage in our genetic code it signals apoptosis or programmed cellular death. Overactivity of this gene process can promote abnormal apoptosis and cellular damage. Overactivity of P53 in joint synovial fluid has been associated found in those struggling with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Boron is an essential trace mineral that helps to maintain hormone balance, bone health and can support joint health (5). Researchers have found that boron improved symptoms in formaldehyde-induced arthritis in rats and in one trial 50% of individuals taking 6mg indicated improvement in their arthritic symptoms compared to 10% in the placebo group.
Betaine HCL can be taken with meals to support healthy stomach acid levels when digesting meals high in protein and fat. It can also be taken with meals not containing these essential nutrients since research has demonstrated that low stomach acid production can contribute to Rheumatoid Arthritis (3).
A good first step would be to go through your cupard and fridge to make sure you are doing everything possible to support your health and remove possible trigger foods. If you are still not feeling better, you can try including nutritional supplements, just make sure that there are no interactions with your current medications. Don’t feel like you need to or shuld try everything on this list at once, it’s up to you to determine what is right for your health.
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- Albano, S. A., Santana-Sahagun, E., & Weisman, M. H. (2001, December). Cigarette smoking and rheumatoid arthritis. In Seminars in arthritis and rheumatism (Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 146-159). WB Saunders.
- Firestein, G. S., Nguyen, K., Aupperle, K. R., Yeo, M., Boyle, D. L., & Zvaifler, N. J. (1996). Apoptosis in rheumatoid arthritis: p53 overexpression in rheumatoid arthritis synovium. The American journal of pathology, 149(6), 2143.
- Henriksson, K., Uvnäs-Moberg, K., Nord, C. E., Johansson, C., & Gullberg, R. (1986). Gastrin, gastric acid secretion, and gastric microflora in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 45(6), 475-483.
- Huyser, B., & Parker, J. C. (1998). Stress and rheumatoid arthritis: An integrative review. Arthritis Care & Research.
- Newnham, R. E. (1994). Essentiality of boron for healthy bones and joints. Environmental health perspectives, 102(suppl 7), 83-85.
- Ostrakhovitch, E. A., & Afanas’ev, I. B. (2001). Oxidative stress in rheumatoid arthritis leukocytes: suppression by rutin and other antioxidants and chelators. Biochemical pharmacology, 62(6), 743-746.
- Tak, P. P., Zvaifler, N. J., Green, D. R., & Firestein, G. S. (2000). Rheumatoid arthritis and p53: how oxidative stress might alter the course of inflammatory diseases. Immunology today, 21(2), 78-82.
- Volpe, S. L. (2013). Magnesium in disease prevention and overall health. Advances in nutrition, 4(3), 378S-383S.
- Wang, X., He, X., Zhang, C. F., Guo, C. R., Wang, C. Z., & Yuan, C. S. (2017). Anti-arthritic effect of berberine on adjuvant-induced rheumatoid arthritis in rats. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 89, 887-893.