Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks joints, bones, organs, and more.  RA drugs have terrible side effects and aren’t very effective. 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects more than 1.3 million American adults. It’s characterized by chronic inflammation and targets the bones, cartilage, and connective tissues of the joints.

Inflammation from RA results when the immune system mistakes joints for a hostile invader.  It attacks the joints causing cartilage, tissues, and bone to be destroyed.  The result is a crippling loss of mobility and function.

But RA can also attack outside the joints.  It’s estimated that about 15 to 25 percent of RA patients have this “extra-articular” form of rheumatoid arthritis.[i] This form of RA can manifest as pericarditis, pleuritis, inflammation of blood vessels, eye conditions, and kidney infections.  Eventually it can lead to death.

Standard medical treatment for RA includes painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs to suppress symptoms.  Drug treatments target the inflammatory process by turning down the body’s inflammation reaction.  In some cases steroids, and even chemotherapy drugs like methotrexate are used. And even with drug therapy, a significant number of patients still have persistent, low-level disease activity.

Fortunately a wealth of natural therapies are safe and effective in the treatment of RA.  Here are just 10 of the proven ways to relieve rheumatoid arthritis.

1. Probiotics

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have distinctive changes in their gut and oral microbiome.  One Chinese study took fecal, dental, and salivary samples from RA patients and healthy controls.  The researchers found specific differences in the microbiomes of the RA patients compared to the controls.  For example, RA patients’ levels of the bacteria Haemophilus spp were low while Lactobacillus salivariuswas high. They also found that the microbiome of RA patients had an altered ability to metabolize iron, sulfur, zinc and arginine.

And a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-design, clinical pilot trial showed that probiotics can help RA patients.  For six weeks, researchers gave 45 RA patients a lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB) probiotic, or a placebo, in addition to their regular medications.  The probiotic used was Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086, an LAB strain that can withstand the low pH of stomach acid.

Patients receiving the probiotic were able to walk two miles, reach, and participate in daily activities. Compared to the placebo, they had improved pain scores, less disability, and reduced C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein that’s produced by the liver. CRP levels in the blood rise in response to inflammation and fall when inflammation wanes.

2. Essential oils

In a Korean study of 40 RA patients researchers provided patients with a mix of essential oils.  The blend consisted of lavender, marjoram, eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint in proportions of 2:1:2:1:1.  They were mixed with a carrier oil composed of almond (45 percent), apricot (45 percent), and jojoba (10 percent) oils diluted to 1.5 percent after blending.

The essential oil blend significantly decreased both the pain score and the depression score of the oils group compared with the control group.

Another randomized, double-blind study of 49 RA patients tested whether evening primrose oil (EPO) could replace NSAID drugs for pain and inflammation.  Patients received either a capsule containing EPO, or EPO plus fish oil, or a placebo. After 12 months the groups receiving evening primrose oil alone or with the fish oil had significant subjective improvement in their condition. They also significantly reduced their use of NSAIDs.

And a combination of lemon verbena and omega 3 fats was shown to reduce measures of joint dysfunction and pain by 53 percent and 78 percent.

3. Vitamin D

A deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis.  In one Polish study of 97 RA patients, 76.3 percent were found to be deficient in vitamin D.  Researchers also linked vitamin D deficiency to higher RA disease activity and worse quality of life.

But supplementing with vitamin D can improve RA.  In a study from India, 73 RA patients with low vitamin D levels (below 20 ng/mL) were given 60,000 IU per week of vitamin D for six weeks followed by 60,000 IU per month for a total of three months.  On average serum vitamin D levels for the group improved from about 10 ng/mL to about 57. The researchers found that supplementing with vitamin D contributed to significant improvement in disease activity within a short period of time.

And vitamin D can lower the recurrence rate for RA.  In a study of 377 RA patients those with low levels were randomly assigned to receive vitamin D or not. After 24 months the vitamin D supplement group had a recurrence rate of only 19 percent compared to 29.5 percent for the group not taking vitamin D.

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