Nutritional Support for Rheumatoid Arthritis
By: Dr. Hoon C. Kim, Tao of Medicine and Human Touch Wellness Council Member
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis or RA? According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, RA is a long-term autoimmune disorder that primarily affects and results joints to become warm, swollen and painful. Most commonly, the wrist and hands are involved, but it also affects other parts of the body. This may result in a low red blood cell count, inflammation around the lungs, and inflammation around the heart. Fever and low energy may also be present. Often, symptoms come on gradually over weeks to months.
While the cause of RA is not clear, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The underlying mechanism involves the body's immune system attacking the joints. This results in inflammation and thickening of the joint capsule. It also affects the underlying bone and cartilage.
RA is a common chronic disease that affects about 1% of the world population. The prevalence of RA in the US, based on rates of RA from a 1995 Minnesota study and 2005 Census data, is currently estimated at approximately 1.29 million people or 0.6% of the population. Onset is most frequent during middle age and women are affected 2.5 times as frequently as men.
A class of plant chemicals known as bioflavonoids has been found to dramatically reduce inflammation and improve symptoms associated with autoimmune disorders, including RA.
Here are 6 nutrients to support your immune system, which can also be found in everyday foods:
Carotenoids - A family of plant pigments that include beta-carotene. A lack of carotenoids in the diet is thought to promote inflammation. Good sources of carotenoids include apricots, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, kale, butternut squash, and collard greens.
Prebiotic (water soluble fiber) - A healthy and active colon can decrease food sensitivity, which, in turn, can lighten the burden on your immune system. For maximum autoimmune health, increase the fiber in your diet.
Flavonoids - Found in green and black teas both catechins and theaflavins are beneficial in autoimmune disease.
Ginger - Recent studies show that ginger reduces inflammation by inhibiting prostaglandin and suppresses the immune system's production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, reducing disease severity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Omega-3 - These essential fatty acids found in cold water fish such as salmon or mackerel and flaxseed oil can counter the formation of chemicals that cause inflammation.
Quercetin - Found naturally in certain foods quercetin can reduce allergic reactions and decrease inflammation. Foods rich in quercetin include apples (skin on), berries, red grapes, red onions, capers, and black tea.