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Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that can cause chronic inflammation in the joints and other parts of the body. It affects the lining of the joints, which can cause painful swelling and can eventually lead to joint distortion and bone erosion.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects people of all ages, but it mostly begins after the age of 40 and has been found to be more prevalent in women. There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, and treatment primarily focuses on controlling the symptoms and preventing further joint damage.
Numerous treatments such as medication and surgery can help a great deal, and for some patients, natural treatments have produced favorable results. It is best to consult your doctor if you’re planning to take on any kind of treatment to avoid further complication. Here are several alternative and natural treatments for rheumatoid arthritis:
Green tea has active ingredients called polyphenols, which are effective in treating both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, because of its boosting effects on the immune system. Green tea also has an anti-inflammatory substance called EGCG, which slows the development of arthritis.
Ginger root has been widely used as a traditional medicine in treating rheumatoid arthritis. It contains gingerols, which is a potent anti-inflammatory compound that is believed to decrease the pain and swelling for arthritic patients. Ginger extract has been found to inhibit arachidonic acid metabolism, which induces anti-inflammatory action. It is one of the most benign alternative treatment for rheumatoid arthritis because it is relatively safe and has no adverse side effects.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, which can be helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric extracts contain curcuminoids, which are found to be effective even before the onset of inflammation. Another active ingredient found in turmeric is curcumin, which has anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory properties, effective independently or combined with NSAIDs.
Bromelain is an enzyme that can be found in the stem and the fruit of the pineapple plant. It can be used in easing pain and swelling caused by arthritis. Bromelain also helps in reducing inflammation and improving joint function. Consult your doctor before taking bromelain supplements since it can interact with other drugs and supplements.
Fish oil is a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and has been proven to be effective in easing rheumatoid arthritis. It is found to be as effective as some non-steroidal drugs, like ibuprofen and naproxen. Omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, help block inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins that are then converted to anti-inflammatory chemicals known as resolvins. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids includes salmon, herring, mackerel and tuna. Fish oil supplements are also available, and here are a few:
– Zinc – Zinc has been found culpable in inhibiting the inflammatory response, and much research has been conducted with zinc as a possible treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Based on a double-blind study, 24 patients were given zinc supplements, and their symptoms were reduced significantly. However, there are also several studies out there where zinc did not provide any significant improvement. The possible explanation for this might have to do with the fact that zinc supplementation is effective for only mild and moderately severe rheumatoid arthritis.
– Copper – Copper is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Copper complexes of NSAIDs are believed to be more potent and less toxic than their parent compounds. However, the use of these has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Long-term safety of copper complexes of NSAIDs have also not yet been studied in humans.
– Selenium – Selenium is a trace mineral that can be found in certain foods, or it can be taken as a supplement. It is known to have anti-inflammatory effects that are proven effective in reducing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese treatment that is said to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis. This process is done by stimulating acupuncture points with the use of heat from a burning cone or stick. However, research on its effectivity are still vague, and there is not sufficient evidence to support its definitive use in treating rheumatoid arthritis.
Tai chi is an ancient practice that has proven to reduce pain and improve mobility of those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. This practice involves breathing and relaxation techniques with gentle and slow movements, while maintaining good posture. Those who practice tai chi experience significant improvement in their range of motion, especially on the joints of the legs and ankles. Evidence of its effectiveness is still limited, but results are promising.
Ayurveda is one of the oldest systems of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent, and a form of alternative medicine used in treating medical problems. This technique uses herbs, massage, oils, diet changes and detoxification routines in treating illnesses. For rheumatoid arthritis, fasting and purification of the body are the basic guidelines of the Ayurveda treatment. This can also be combined with traditional medication. However, there are still insufficient research and evidence to prove its effectivity.
David Novak is an internationally syndicated columnist, covering lifestyle and health matters. His byline has appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. He’s an avid health enthusiast, and frequently is featured in regional and national health publications, discussing health, wellness, diet and fitness. He is also a weekly writer for Healthline.