Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) isn’t a disease one can ignore. It is something that can cause the person who’s been diagnosed, to look deeper into their health and what is causing their symptoms. RA is an autoimmune disease, where the body begins to attack the individuals joints, leaving the joints inflamed, stiff and painful, as it believes the cells are foreign invaders. The attack causes a further immune response causing fluid to build up around the joints, which creates the pain and inflammation.
The current conventional treatment of RA mostly involves medication only, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), followed by steroids. to suppress or modulate the immune system. Unfortunately all these medications have harmful side-effects, so it is crucial to find the underlying ‘root cause’ of the diagnosis if possible, and to strongly consider addressing this e ‘root cause’. Making changes to your diet can help.
Tips to improve RA symptoms:
- Remove gluten! This includes wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt. Someone with RA may actually have coeliac disease, and their symptoms are being shown as RA and not so much the generic symptoms of coeliac disease. This tells us that gluten must be removed if someone is showing symptoms of RA. Start with removing the modern gluten as this triggers leaky gut, and fires up your immune system and therefore creates more inflammation.
- Remove other inflammatory foods that trigger your immune system. Other inflammatory foods include corn, vegetable oils, sugar, soy (excluding organic fermented soy like tamari or tempeh), as well as foods containing artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. You might also want to consider eliminating other inflammatory foods such as nightshade vegetables which include tomatoes, egg plants, white potatoes, capsicum family (chilli peppers, bell peppers, red capsicum, jalapeno, cayenne) and goji berries. It is best to consider doing an elimination protocol to find what foods your body reacts to such as the Hunter Gatherer Protocol or the 4 Phase Fat Elimination Protocol.
- Underlying infections have shown to play a huge part in those with RA. Gut microbes have been shown to be altered and certainly considered when treating RA. A stool test is a great way to discover what probiotics you may require, or what herbs you may need to reduce an infection. For example, the bacteria Prevotella copri has been associated with a diagnosis of RA, which results in a lower number of bacteroides. Therefore, it is advised that patients with RA get a comprehensive stool test to find what their individual microbiome requires.
- Consider learning to adapt to life’s stresses, or reduce the stress you’re putting on yourself. Stress makes you vulnerable to infections, lowers your immune system and increases inflammation within your body. We live in a very fast paced world, so give yourself time to unwind away from ‘modern technology’, time to breath, to stop and do the things that matter to you the most. Deep breathing into your belly, walks on the beach or in nature, taking an Epsom salt bath and guided meditations are a few examples of what you could consider and incorporate into each day. Aim for at least 10 minutes a day to be dedicated to relax – time just for you!
- Consider heavy metal toxicity. If you have amalgam fillings, it may be worth getting them removed as heavy metal toxicity such as mercury can wreak havoc on your immune system, potentially contribute to autoimmune illness and can show up differently within each person. Look for other sources of heavy metal toxicity, such as unfiltered water, cookware or cosmetic products like deodorants, toothpastes and make-up. You may consider getting tested via a holistic practitioner.
As you can see, it is crucial to take a holistic approach when treating rheumatoid arthritis. Of course it is important to not overwhelm yourself and instead to focus one step at a time. You may be able to at least slow the progression of the RA if you consider these factors.
Here are other blogs that may also be helpful:
- What is leaky gut and what to do about it
- Gluten free breads, buns and wraps
- Inflammation explained: what exactly is it?
These are steps that you can take to investigate what is causing RA, and what to consider to improve the symptoms.
What experiences have you or a family member had with RA? What has worked or not worked for you? We would love to hear from you.
Happy changing habits
Nutritionist & GAPS Practitioner
I have had RA for 18 months now. The doctors told me I had to be medicated otherwise I would get joint damage. So 5 drugs later I’m still not right and being told i would have to inject myself I took matters into my own hands. I went gluten free and found it helped a little. I had acupuncture every week. But I was still not achieving the results I wanted. Then I read about the Paddison Program for RA. This is where i have had the most success. It is an elimination diet, I am now vegan, gluten free, no oils, no dairy, no sugar, i keep away from preservatives and additives. I have started reducing my meds and have 1mg of prednisolone to go starting at 50 when i was first diagnosed. I have recently seen an amazing naturopath who is helping heal my gut which is what the diet I started is all about. He tells me when I see him next he will give me a course of natural tablets that will help my RA so much i will feel better in 2 weeks. I am so glad I said no to the Doctors and have taken the natural road I have had far better results.
I’ve basically followed these steps for my Lupus. I have an over growth of Clostridium and have been advised to take antibiotics to get rid of them followed by probiotics and gut healing steps. Do you know if there’s a way to clean out the gut without antibiotics?
Hi Fiona, we recommend you speak to your chosen health care practitioner or try searching for a holistic practitioner that will be able to help support and guide you with a more natural route to take care of your Clostridium overgrowth 🙂
Clostridium difficile is very hard to get rid of. The most effective means is a fecal transplant. While it is more effective and less expensive (generally) than traditional antibiotic regimens, it is hard to get and hard to get covered. Certainly worth looking into. Hoping time and experience improve the process.
I found dairy was the trigger for mine.
I did a full cleanse for a week or so (colon, kidney, liver, blood), followed by three weeks or so of raw vegan and then sloooowly segued into strict paleo. It took a year for my gut to heal, but can now eat bread occasionally with no ill effects. But dairy is completely out. Forever. I miss cheese. But don’t miss the pain.
It was recommended that I eliminate dairy too. But, I can have goat dairy. It has different enzymes from cow. I find it is easier on my system. It took me a few times before I adjusted to the taste.
I was diagnosed with RA about 12 months ago. The doctors told me I’d be on medication for the rest of my life and kept increasing it and adding others to it. But it was ruining my gut and my digestion was severely impacted.
After a bit of research and talking to my naturopath, I have removed gluten and have found that wheat is a no go zone, as with dairy. These steps have been hard to implement and its difficult to eat out or socialise over a meal – but its a sacrifice that I have to make-because it has undoubtly reduced my pain levels and inflammation. And my digestion has improved 10 fold.
I think that medical practitioners need to have a better awareness of the positive impact that changing your diet can have on your body. Because I’ve changed specialists now 2 and both of them have told me that diet change will play no role in assisting RA. Its a real bug bear of mine because I think so many people could benefit from this!
I’m not saying its going to cure it and that medicines don’t have their place, but I’m saying that it can definitely assist symptoms and help the longevity of the body (especially the liver) by not having to take so many drugs.
I have had a recurrence of RA (after 7 years symptom free!) beginning October 2016. This time I saw a functional medicine doctor to get my gut in order and after months of this with no relief, I went to a western rheumatologist. She started me on four medications including an injectable and after five months I am weaning off all of it, thankfully. I have started “the Plant Paradox” diet by Steven Gundry MD after eating mostly a paleo diet for seven months with no relief. My goal is to be med-free and pain free, eating healthy i.e. no grains, lots of plants and healthy fats and minimal protein daily. Fortunately, I swim daily, paddle my kayak and have a thriving yoga practice. Gotta keep moving!!
Does anyone know of a fuctional doctor in Mexico City?
Where would l look to get a stool sample test?
Hi there Mary, you can get a stool test referral from a good naturopath, nutritionist, integrative doctor or another health practitioner, but just make sure they are informed on these types of tests and know how to interpret them 🙂
I got one for free through ubiome
Changing my diet has made a tremendous difference for me. I’ve been avoiding sugar and other processed carbs and concentrating more on raw food. Thanks.