What is rheumatoid arthritis? It’s not the “wear and tear” disease of aging. Instead, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune systemic disease that affects the joints by causing inflammation.
In addition to conventional drug treatment, some patients also successfully use complementary medicine or alternative natural dietary supplements for pain and symptom relief. Persistent pain is a warning. It should not be ignored.
RA is one of many autoimmune diseases in which, for unknown reasons, the immune system attacks its own body tissues. In RA, the immune system attacks the synovium, which is the tissue that lines the joints, causing inflammation and overgrowth of this tissue.
The common symptoms for those living with RA are inflammatory pain, stiffness, swelling, loss of motion, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and fever. RA sufferers have difficulty walking or even writing or eating.
Much like osteoarthritis, commonly affected RA joints are in a person’s wrists, fingers, knee and feet, but all joints are at risk. Unlike osteoarthritis, sometimes organs, such as the lungs and even the heart, can be affected by RA.
So what is rheumatoid arthritis? Researchers speculate that the inflammation and damage to the joints may be a result of the body’s immune system attacking the joints as if they were foreign bodies. White blood cells, which normally attack bacteria or viruses, move from the bloodstream into the synovium, making it swell and become tender. Excess synovial fluid weeping from inflamed synovium can provide a barrier to distribution of nutrients to cartilage. It’s believed this inflammation causes proteins to be released that gradually make the synovium tissue grow thicker.
These proteins also damage cartilage, bone, tendons, and ligaments. In time, if treatment is not instituted promptly, the joint loses its shape and the bones no longer line up correctly.
The causes of rheumatoid arthritis are unknown. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in rheumatoid arthritis, a person’s immune system (the system in the body responsible for fighting disease) mistakenly attacks the joints. The reasons that cause RA are complex and not fully understood.
According to a number of reliable sources, such as the Cedars Sinai Medical Center, researchers suspect the causes may be triggered by an infection in people who’ve inherited the tendency to develop RA. Other trigger factors being studied include prior exposure to immunizations and drug medications.
Some researchers think hormones may play a role. It is known that women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking is a risk factor for susceptibility and severity. RA can develop at any age but, according Reuters News July 15, 2008, onset occurs most often in adults 30-50.
What is rheumatoid arthritis? If you’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, it’s important to understand that the disease can go into remission at any time. It’s not necessarily a life sentence. While there’s no medical cure, early treatment in particular can be successful in managing its symptoms.
Patients may have long periods (even a lifetime) when RA is quiet, or in remission. Then, suddenly, acute episodes of pain and inflammation, known as flares, show up.
Flares may occur after infections, or after highly stressful situations. More often, however, what triggers flares is not clear.
Some types of complementary treatments for RA include natural dietary supplements, special diets, acupuncture, magnets, hydrotherapy, homeopathy and mind-body techniques. Of these, there is no scientific research to conclusively document the effectiveness of any of these methods.
However, the use of natural dietary supplements is the most common of these therapies, and has been the subject of considerable clinical trials some of which are promising. Discussion in more detail can be found on our webpages, RA Pain Relief and Rheumatoid Arthritis Research.
One caution when considering natural dietary supplements: many are heavily advertised and make attractive claims, often based on personal stories (testimonials). However, it’s important to find out whether any scientific research has been done on the natural therapy you’re considering.
For more information on what is rheumatoid arthritis, please click on the following links:
For additional facts, RA Facts
For children’s arthritis, Juvenile RA
If you consider dietary supplements as an investment in your health, you won't want to waste money on poorly formulated or synthetic supplements containing artificial colors, sweeteners, binders, fillers, etc. that will not be readily absorbed into your bloodstream.
Instead, you'll want a high quality dietary supplement with ingredient purity, potency, and guaranteed efficacy that your body's cells will happily absorb.
To help me find a top-tier manufacturer, I devised a list of 30 questions concerning standards of excellence that led my husband and I to the company referenced in the Landmark Study below. It's the only one that we trust for nutritional and herbal supplementation.
The Shaklee Corporation is the only dietary supplement company that can claim a 20-year clinical landmark study on its consumers. The study confirmed that consumers who used multiple nutritional products from the company for twenty years had blood samples showing its supplement users retained normal levels of blood pressure, HDL, cholesterol, triglycerides, C-reactive protein and homocysteine (all were favorable markers of improved health).
Shaklee is the #1 natural nutrition company in the U.S. They are the only supplement company with a 'beyond organic' manufacturing philosophy that guarantees ingredient and product purity and safety. They also are the only supplement maker that conducts clinical studies on its product to guarantee efficacy (this step is not required by supplement manufacturers).
The 2006 Landmark Study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health comparing one company's supplement users to people who took either no supplements or other brands of multivitamins from different companies. For details, go to:
If you’re considering dietary supplements as alternative treatment for your RA autoimmune disease, please click on 30 questions, a link to help you find the leading company in the dietary supplement industry.
For three supplements designed to alleviate rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, please click on three pain products or click on bold links below to view the featured manufacturer's product/price pages:
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Disclaimer: Health statements on this What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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