Latest posts by Jessica Peatross, MD (see all)
Autoimmune diseases are rampant in today’s world. I think all of us can name one person, if not ourselves, with diabetes type 1, hypothyroidism (refer to my previous blog post), Chrohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or rheumatoid arthritis. The scope of all of these combined disorders is too broad to be properly covered here, but let’s start with one important autoimmune disease at a time. Today lets discuss rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
What is an autoimmune disorder anyways? This is when the pathways in the body’s endocrine system become dis regulated and the body actually begins to attack and kill its own cells. The immune system is overactive and improperly recognizes parts of its own system as foreign and dangerous. This constant self attack leads to chronic inflammation of joint spaces. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects multiple joints at once and it is almost always symmetrical (Affecting both sides of the body). Fever, joint stiffness, muscular pain, fatigue, loss of appetite and redness are common symptoms. Often, patients state that symptoms are worse in the morning and mildly improve throughout the day. The disease itself is progressive in nature with bouts of exacerbation and remissions. This eventually leads to destruction of the joints, ligaments and tendons causing permanent deformity of the hands and feet. Unfortunately it’s not just the joints that are affected. Inflammation affects every part of the body! Rheumatoid patients have a higher risk of heart disease due to inflammation. They occasionally have inflammatory complications such as pericarditis (thickening of the sac around the heart), Sjögren’s or scleritis (dryness of the salivary and eye glands & irritation/dryness of the sclera respectively), vasculitis (inflammation and decreased blood flow to tissues), pleurisy of the lungs causing inhalational chest pains, increased risk of infections and higher risk of lymphoma.
So how do you avoid rheumatoid arthritis? Many believe it’s genetic due to known gene mutations. Environmental toxins and viral infections are risk factors and prevalent as well. What do you do if you’ve already been diagnosed? Never fear. You can heal or at least improve symptoms holistically over time but remember these processes take A LOT of work, education, dedication and especially, TIME! Your body, if you’re like most normal people, is a ticking time bomb full of toxins, free radicals and inflammation and that takes years to rid your body of fully! In the meantime, you might need western medicines or Chinese herbs to bridge the gap. Make sure you do your own research and involve your healthcare professional.
You can heal or at least improve symptoms holistically over time but remember these processes take A LOT of work, education, dedication and especially, TIME!Dr. J
There is ample evidence to show a significant improvement in RA patients with any aerobic exercise. Yoga, swimming, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are calming, easy on the joints and require mindful patience. They also ease anxiety and depression which can be an issue for many RA patients.
Studies have shown a number of RA patients have emotional or traumatic abuse in childhood. Relaxation techniques, staying mindful and in the moment, being active and working through the pain all show great promise in helping these patients release past repressed memories or trauma which if unresolved, leads to disease. Breathing exercises which are often practiced in meditation/yoga improve circulation which help to relax tense muscles and pain. Stomach breathing in particular can release toxins, decrease stress hormones and improve digestion/appetite. Studies in acupuncture show improved pain in all chronic pain conditions including osteo and rheumatoid arthritis by influencing pain receptors and endorphin release. This helps to imbalance chi, or life energy in the body. Biofeedback and hypnosis therapy also show promise in helping RA patients work through emotional distress as well as control autonomic responses like breathing, pulse and blood pressure. .
ORGANIC NON GMO/GLUTEN/OILS
Tweeking the diet towards true health is paramount in healing the body in any chronic condition. There are many stories of RA patients who drastically improved and achieved full remission after removal of immune activating and inflammation activating dairy products (usually the culprit is casein), gluten or gmo. This includes any most soy, corn and wheat out there. (Please refer to the independent studies of rats who developed stomach tumors after exposure to GMO corn).
Ensure that you have removed all white refined sugar and nearly all sugar if you can. Eat a large portion (70%) of raw, organic, non GMO ingredients, fruits and veggies. Pineapples contain bromelain which is a potent pain killer. Oils can be your friend! Eliminate any partially hydrogenated oils such as canola, corn or vegetable oil. Start experimenting with good fats like coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil, or almond oil. Coconut oil and krill/fish oil especially are great sources of omega 3 fatty acids which help alleviate RA symptoms. It is often helpful to pick up cooking as a hobby so that you can ensure healthy ingredients!
Always eliminate tobacco and cut down on caffeine.
Aspirin and other anti inflammatory meds are great western medicine drugs however they come with a slew of side effects like gastric ulcers and bleeding. Steroids have horrendous side effects not limited to osteoporosis and diabetes. So what can you do? Check out:
- Thunder God vine – recent studies have shown this root to be more effective than sulfasalasine, the mainstay medicine of inflammatory disorders alongside steroids like prednisone. Side effects can include nausea and headaches.
- Feverfew – can replace aspirin for its anti inflammatory effects.
- Ginger and turmeric are beneficial for many ailments and this is no exception. Excellent anti-inflammatories.
- Evening primrose – contains gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which is useful in treating pain and comes as an oral supplement.
Nearly every RA patient is Vitamin D deficient. Your levels should be between 50-65 ng/ml. If you can’t get daily sunlight or a sun lamp, ensure you are taking an organic Vitamin D supplement daily as this is truly connected to the disease.
EASTERN MEDICINE APPROACH
As previously mentioned, there has been success utilizing tai chi, yoga, meditation and counseling in RA. As studies have all shown a connection to emotional and childhood pain, one must consider the bio-energetic dysfunction that occurs in the emotional bodies to create eventual physical disease. Often, RA is strongly connected to a lack of self love & care, anger, neediness, loneliness, inability to fully forgive, fear, possessiveness and poor self esteem. Tai chi and meditation forces one to face their own energies and soul to correct blockages and emotions through slow conscious work. It is quite a journey. I can say that it has successfully cured my anxiety so I know that there is promise for others.
The fourth chakra or heart chakra, displays these negative characteristics when a blockage is present. Chakras are spinning vortices of energy within our bodies that keep energy, prana or kundalini, flowing freely and healthily. Once cleared, a person will be able to show self love and care, say no when they need to take care of themselves instead, forgive themselves and others, feel happiness in being alone and display unconditional love for all.
If you suffer from RA, please refer to my previous blog posts that prove how negative emotions can create disease states. RA is the perfect example. Step out of your comfort zone to heal yourself in loving practice with the alternative options above.