According to the Centers for Disease Control in 2007, an estimated 1.5 million adults suffered from rheumatoid arthritis1.This painful disease can cause debilitating symptoms that alter the professional and personal lives of its victims. How can an individual prevent the development of rheumatoid arthritis? To begin the process, it is critical to understand the inner workings of RA and gain insight into the role that inflammation plays. Then, alternative therapies can be applied to prevent rheumatoid arthritis at the root of the problem.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that having this disease is evidence your body has targeted itself as an invader. The human immune system is vigilant in attacking an invader through on-site destruction of cells as well as elevating the body’s temperature set point. This is why sufferers feel fatigued and feverish when experiencing a rheumatoid arthritis flare up. Obviously, the body will not immediately succeed in destroying this invader since this invader is itself and not a simple virus or bacterial infection, so the battle will wage on. The core problem when suffering from RA does not lie in where you feel pain, but rather in your immune system’s heightened activity.
What causes an individual’s immune system to develop rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. It is agreed upon within the medical community that the disease is initiated by an interaction between the immune system’s CD4+ T cells and an unknown antigen. The cascade of events that proceeds after that is a result of the immune system being activated. Alternative therapies for preventing the development of RA act to decrease the immune system’s response and alleviate bodily inflammation.
Inflammation is the cause of the telltale symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. According to John’s Hopkins Arthritis Center, there are two leading theories as to how the inflammation in RA sufferers continues, but some critical pieces of information are still unknown2. Therefore, current medicines prescribed for treating rheumatoid arthritis are chosen because they seem to help, however, it is unknown why they help. The same alternative therapies used in the prevention of RA can also be proposed as a treatment method for individuals diagnosed with RA as these therapies aim to reduce bodily inflammation.
A myriad of alternative therapies exist for reducing inflammation of the body. Some alternative therapies are better suited to certain individuals or are more tangible than others, but the type of therapy is inconsequential as long as it yields the desired result-decreased inflammation. Five alternative therapies for preventing rheumatoid arthritis by reducing inflammation of the body include reducing dietary sugar, increasing omega-3 supplementation, exercise, massage, and meditation.
Dr. Perricone from iVillage says ” a rapid rise in blood sugar causes an insulin response in the body, which then causes an inflammatory response3.” Reducing your intake of dietary sugar and starch will decrease your body’s inflammation and aide in preventing the development of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Avoid eating sweets of all kinds and limit your intake of potatoes, corn, and bananas.
Omega-3 oil supplementation decreases the activity of the immune system, which is overactive in people with autoimmune disorders. Keeping the immune system at bay is critical in preventing RA. In addition, a clinical study showed reduced pain in RA sufferers who took an omega-3 supplement of at least 2.7g per day4.
Exercise decreases inflammation directly by reducing the amount of water in the blood and causing a physical movement of water from the tissue in the body. Less pressure in the tissue means less inflammation and less pain in the joints. Exercise also increases the amount of synovial fluid in the joints, which provides lubrication for joint movement and nourishment of the joint5.
Routinely using massage to loosen tissue and decrease inflammation is a very effective way to prevent and treat a variety of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. A recent study has shown that massage decreases the stress hormone cortisol in the body6. Massage offers physical benefits as well as psychological benefits, which are an important factor in health maintenance.
Meditation is the least expensive, most, tangible, and greatest tool in preventing and treating rheumatoid arthritis. A study presented at the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine found that long-term meditation practice reduces stress and body inflammation, which greatly benefit those suffering from RA7.
These five alternative therapies for reducing inflammation in order to prevent and possibly treat rheumatoid arthritis are only a select few. Many other alternative therapies exist, but reducing dietary sugar, increasing omega-3 supplementation, exercise, massage, and meditation have received the most research.
Preventing and treating rheumatoid arthritis depend on an individual’s dedication to understanding this autoimmune disease and opening themselves to trying alternative methods.