Reducing the pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis


Some ideas that may help reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, and possibly bring the disease into remission.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease where the body attacks itself – specifically the synovial linings of joints causing swelling, pain and inflammation, and also on occasion, various organs of the body.

What causes rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but it has been noticed that many if not most people with RA had some kind of emotional trauma in their past, which may have decreased immune function enough to allow an infection that may precipitate the disease. RA seems to be more prevalent in women, and tends to first affect people between the ages of 20 and 50.

As with all diseases, I feel it is important NOT to treat the disease per se, but rather the person with the disease, by looking at what is going on with the individual. Every person would need a different treatment depending on what is found through functional-medicine testing.

The obvious place to begin the search would be food allergy and food sensitivity testing, as studies have shown that 30-40% of RA sufferers can bring their RA into remission by vigorously eliminating any source of allergies and food sensitivities and staying away from the offending foods.

Some people have even managed to discontinue drug treatment and remain well for over 12 years. We know that fasting will reduce symptoms in almost all RA patients within 3 to 5 days, and that may be because all the sources of food irritations have been completely removed. Elimination diets take up to 20 days to begin working, perhaps because some foods that are pro-inflammatory are still being eaten.

Sorting out what foods one is allergic or sensitive to can take some time, as the various tests (blood tests (IgE, IgG),saliva tests (IgA), scratch tests (IgE) etc.) test for different kinds of antibodies and none catch everything in one fell swoop, except for possibly vega testing, which works on an energetic level.

The most common allergens/sensitivities for RA sufferers are the nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, red, yellow and green peppers), gluten grains and their flour (all grain except for rice, buckwheat, millet and corn), dairy (lactose and casein), soy, and frequently beef, pork, shellfish and eggs. Testing is necessary, because it may be other foods than these listed above that are the source of the problem.

The second part of the diet strategy can be generalized to everyone with or without RA, as these guidelines would improve everyone's health. Eat the highest quality, unprocessed food one can afford, organic and raw if possible.

I've written extensively in the past on increasing the ratio of omega 3 fats to omega 6 fats, in order to reduce whole-body inflammation. Clearly that would be particularly important in inflammatory diseases like RA. Foods to include (assuming no allergies or sensitivities) would be fish, fish oil, flax oil, walnuts, and foods to reduce or eliminate would be omega 6 vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, grape seed, margarines, and vegetable shortenings made from these oils etc.) and grains, which are also high in omega 6 fatty acids.

Tumeric and ginger have anti-inflammatory properties. All forms of sugar should be avoided, as they negatively alter intestinal flora, as well as all processed food as the chemical additives they contain may be
allergenic or toxic.

Caffeine, tobacco and citrus fruits seem to make RA worse, so these foods should be avoided as well.

It would also be highly beneficial to do the metabolic typing test, to learn what foods work best with the metabolism of the individual.

I think it is also important to get a mucosal-barrier test done.

This functional-medicine test looks at the lining of the digestive tract from mouth to anus by looking for a leaky gut among other things, which would explain why food particles are getting into the blood stream causing a full-blown immune response in the body. Lack of good gut flora is linked to RA (taking a good probiotic can remedy this, as can kefir if there is no dairy allergy), and so is a reduced amount of HCL in the stomach.

If your food sits in your stomach for a long time, it takes very little food to feel full, and you have a particularly hard time digesting meats, a lack of HCL may be the problem. Taking an HCL supplement (betaine) with meals can completely remedy this problem.

Since stress is highly associated with RA flare-ups, and is linked to getting the disease in the first place, it may also be worth doing a stress-hormone panel test, so that hormone levels can be brought back into balance appropriately, based on the test results. Dealing with the underlying emotional issues would also be very helpful.

Parasympathetic exercise (exercise that does not activate the body’s stress response) such as walking, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and slow movement with the breath may help a lot by keeping the joints lubricated and mobile, in addition to increasing fitness levels.

Another piece to consider is getting adequate vitamin D, preferably from the sun if possible. Sun screens block out the ability of the body to make vitamin D from the sun’s rays, so it is worth while spending some time in the sun without sunscreen. It is important not to let oneself burn, of course.

If sun exposure is not an option, cod liver oil, liver, lard, eggs and butter provide some vitamin D in the diet. Vitamin D3 supplements are also a possibility.

Although most people with RA (and even in the general population) are very deficient in vitamin D, it is toxic at too high levels, so ask your doctor to monitor your vitamin D levels via the blood test. (It is interesting to note that one can’t get toxic levels of vitamin D from the sun – only from dietary sources.)

Dr. Mercola has used Dr. Brown's Minocin Protocol with great success, although he is moving away from an antibiotic protocol, as he finds it is unnecessary to get good results.

However if you have RA and are sceptical that it is possible to reduce RA symptoms without drugs, you can discuss this form of treatment with your physician.

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Related tips
Food sensitivities, digestive problems and joint pain
Essential fats: omega 3 to omega 6 ratio
Vegetable oils: friend or foe?
The sunshine vitamin and cancer
Dealing with inflammation and inflammatory conditions
Exercise intensity and over-training
Bacteria, the soil, the gut, and detoxification

Podas T et al. Is rheumatoid arthritis a disease that starts in the intestine? A pilot study comparing an elemental diet with oral prednisolone. Postgrad Med J. 2007 Feb;83(976):128-31.

Karatay S et al. General or personal diet: the individualized model for diet challenges in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatol Int. 2006 Apr;26(6):556-60. Epub 2005 Jul 16.

Karatay S et al. The effect of individualized diet challenges consisting of allergenic foods on TNF-alpha and IL-1beta levels in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2004 Nov;43(11):1429-33. Epub 2004 Aug 10.

Cleland LG A biomarker of n-3 compliance in patients taking fish oil for rheumatoid arthritis. Lipids. 2003 Apr;38(4):419-24.

Kremer JM. n-3 fatty acid supplements in rheumatoid arthritis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71(1 Suppl):349S-51S.

Kremer JM et al. Effects of high-dose fish oil on rheumatoid arthritis after stopping nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. Clinical and immune correlates. Arthritis Rheum. 1995 Aug;38(8):1107-14.

Hvatum M et al. The gut-joint axis: cross reactive food antibodies in rheumatoid arthritis. Gut. 2006 Sep;55(9):1240-7. Epub 2006 Feb 16.

Koot VC et al. Elevated level of IgA gliadin antibodies in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 1989 Nov-Dec;7(6):623-6.

O’Farrelly C et al. Association between villous atrophy in rheumatoid arthritis and a rheumatoid factor and gliadin-specific IgG. Lancet. 1988 Oct 8;2(8615):819-22.

O’Farrelly C et al. IgA rheumatoid factor and IgG dietary protein antibodies are associated in rheumatoid arthritis. Immunol Invest. 1989 Jul;18(6):753-64.

Merlino LA et al. Vitamin D intake is inversely associated with rheumatoid arthritis: results from the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Arthritis Rheum. 2004 Jan;50(1):72-7.

M Heliövaaraa et al.  Aroma Coffee consumption, rheumatoid factor, and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis Ann Rheum Dis
2000;59:631-635 August

Copyright 2008 Vreni Gurd

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  1. Sharon Hoehner said,

    August 24, 2008 @ 11:33 am

    You may also want to check out what David Wolfe has to say about the nanobacteria that build up kind of like coral. This needs to be dissolved. He uses zeolites, garlic, MSM, raw food to name a few. His new book which will be coming out soon will outline the whole protocol but there are numerous mentions on it on youtube. I’ve been using Natural Cellular Defense (NCD) zeolite myself and many of my clients with arthritis/fibromyalgia have success using nothing but that. It removes toxic metal buildup safely which is one cause of inflammation. Feel free to contact me for more information about the NCD. It’s the most amazing thing that I’ve ever come across in all my years of working with alternative medicine.

  2. Vreni said,

    August 24, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

    Hi Sharon,

    You’ve just told them! 🙂 Thanks for this. You are right – I did not mention environmental toxins at all, and they too can play a roll!

  3. Penny Zeeff said,

    November 17, 2008 @ 9:56 am

    Hi Vreni,
    Thank you so much for the article about high fructose corn syrup. I never knew that it was in so many of our foods until a friend mentioned it to me who is trying to loose weight. Now, when I go to the grocery store I am looking at every label to see if it has hfcs. Most of the time it is listed. It is taking me longer to shop but it is so worth it. I am amazed at how poor the American diet really is. I have a long way to go but at least I am educating myself.
    Thanks again for your “wellness tips” blog. It’s great and I have learned so much.

  4. Vreni said,

    November 17, 2008 @ 11:03 am

    You are very welcome – and congratulations on taking the wellness journey! 🙂

  5. Pete said,

    November 22, 2008 @ 11:03 am

    HFCS causes the build UP of uric acid that eats away at Yoyr joint structure. Also HFCS cannot be processed by the body so is passed to the liver that cannot process nor burn as simple sugars so is stored as fat which leads to obesity, heart disease & diabetes. Have reoccurring bouts with gout, feel stiff & acky-r3emove all foods, fluids with HFCS & lose over 30 lbs. HFCS also causes behavioral trouble in kids-anger, frustration, ADD

  6. Clint said,

    November 20, 2012 @ 8:20 pm

    Wonderful post Vreni – and I enjoyed reading some of your scientific references that I had not seen before also. Keep up the great work!

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