In Part 1 of this series we looked at what is rheumatoid arthritis, RA symptoms, causes of RA, and commonly prescribed RA medications.
In part 2 of this article we’ll discuss natural rheumatoid arthritis treatment, including rheumatoid arthritis diet, rheumatoid arthritis supplements, and herbs for rheumatoid arthritis.
I hear from many people with RA who are interested in learning which herbs, foods and supplements are “good for RA”. I often get the impression that they look at the bottles of prescribed drugs on their bathroom counter and think that they will simply substitute those drugs for herbs and get the same results. But that isn’t necessarily how a natural rheumatoid arthritis treatment works best.
As an herbalist I don’t diagnose or treat RA, nor do I prescribe medications for RA. This is the role of western medicine and licensed health care practitioners.
Instead, my role is to evaluate individuals and then share information based on my training and experience. This information generally ranges from dietary changes to lifestyle changes to herbs and supplements.
Of course, if I had a simple silver bullet herb that could heal everyone’s RA I would certainly be handing it out by the handful to whoever wanted it. I know first hand how horrific this disease can be.
However, the best natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is addressing your specific root causes. Because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all natural rheumatoid arthritis treatment.
Here are some general considerations when considering natural therapies for people with RA.
Your diet is one of the most profound ways you can influence your health. Your digestive health and the foods you eat play a major role in your overall health, especially when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis.
A nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory diet is very important (for all of us!). Whole foods, fresh foods, an emphasis on vegetables and berries as well as grass-fed meats and farm fresh eggs are all healthy choices for most people.
Avoiding foods that may be contributing to inflammation and intestinal permeability is of equal importance. Every person is different, but common problematic foods include: wheat, corn, soy and dairy.
Sugar and alcohol should also be avoided.
Eating home-cooked Indian food is a great way to get a lot of powerful anti-inflammatory foods. For easy and delicious recipes I recommendThe Three Sisters Indian Cookbook: Flavours and Spices of India
Many Indian recipes contain lots of powerful anti-inflammatory spices that can benefit people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Nutrition is often best found in whole foods. However, special circumstances may warrant supplementation.
When choosing supplements it is extremely important to get high quality supplements. There are numerous reports of adulteration and toxic substances being found in poor quality supplements. People often tell me they want to buy the cheapest supplement to save money. Oftentimes those cheap supplements are not only useless, but they could also be causing more harm.
Here’s a list of supplements that are often important for people with RA.
A natural hormone made by our skin when exposed to the sun, vitamin D3 is incredibly important for immune system health. Numerous studies have shown beneficial effects for autoimmunity when optimal levels of vitamin D3 are achieved in the body. The best source of Vitamin D3 is appropriate sun exposure. If this isn’t possible then Vitamin D3 supplements may be necessary.
Magnesium deficiency is common in the US due to this nutrient being deficient in our agricultural soils. Magnesium is strongly anti-inflammatory and can also decrease anxiety and promote restful sleep.
Omega 3’s are profoundly anti-inflammatory. The best source of omega 3’s are achieved by eating clean sources of deep water fish (such as salmon and anchovies) a couple times a week. Grass-fed beef, and farm-raised chickens are also healthy choices. If necessary, high quality supplements may be used. Note: Get good quality fish oil. Many of the fish oil supplements on the market are rancid and should be absolutely avoided.
Herbs can have an astounding ability to help people with RA. However, there is truly no “herb for RA”. Instead, herbs and herbal formulas can be carefully chosen for the individual in order to address core health imbalances that are leading to the problems with RA.
Here are the herbal action categories that I often consider when working with people who have RA.
These overlapping herbal categories help to modulate the immune system, support energy levels and reduce the negative effects of stress. While immune stimulants should be avoided in people who have an active autoimmune disease, immunomodulators can balance the immune system.
Carminative herbs for rheumatoid arthritis
Since digestive issues can be at the heart of the problem for people with rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disease, carminative herbs can be an important part of the overall herbal plan. These herbs promote digestion and can be especially helpful for cold and stagnant digestive problems.
Astringent herbs for rheumatoid arthritis
Astringent herbs tighten and tone lax tissues and can be used to help heal the intestines in the case of intestinal permeability.
Anti-Inflammatory herbs for rheumatoid arthritis
Your food is one of the best sources of antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory properties. Using large amounts of anti-inflammatory spices and herbs in your cooking can naturally modulate excessive inflammation and decrease joint pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a scary, painful and potentially debilitating disease. While western medicine drugs can sometimes help to slow the progress of the disease, they often come with harsh side effects and only help for a limited time.
A natural rheumatoid arthritis treatment can help you regain control of your health. The sooner you address the root cause of your problems the sooner you can overcome this disease and avoid the severe symptoms of this disease.
Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and the Education Director for LearningHerbs. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.