Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic systemic inflammatory autoimmune disease. RA is a symmetrical, destructive and deforming polyarthritis affecting small and large peripheral joints with associated systemic disturbance, a variety of extra-articular features and the presence of circulating antiglobulin antibodies (rheumatoid factors).

Symptom severity and disease progression vary widely between individuals. Onset may be rapid or insidious. Approximately 20% of cases have an intermittent course with periods of partial to complete remission.

Flare-ups may involve more joints than were initially affected, but remission periods often last longer than flare-ups. The majority of cases however are progressive: the rate of progression can be slow or rapid.

Risk Factors

  • Major causative factors and risk factors that can contribute to the incidence of RA include:
  • Environmental factors, which may include bacterial or viral infection and hormonal status
  • Psychological stress
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Female gender – affects women in a 3:1 ratio to men
  • Typically ages 30 to 60, although RA occurs at all ages
  • High systemic toxic load due to leaky gut syndrome, heavy metal toxicity, and environmental exposure.
  • Digestive, absorptive and eliminative ability

Common signs and symptoms of RA include:

  • Malaise, low-grade fever and weight loss
  • Stiffness in and about joints following inactivity
  • Morning stiffness lasts for more than one hour in active disease
  • Arthritis of more than three joints – specifically in the fingers, wrist, elbow, knee, ankle, and foot/toe joints
  • Joint stiffness, tenderness, and pain; the affected joints are swollen and may be warm to the touch
  • Finger deformities include Boutonniere deformity, swan-neck deformity and ulnar deviation.
  • Systemic symptoms such as rheumatoid nodules, pleural effusion, pericarditis, lymphadenopathy, splenomegaly with leukopenia, vasculitis, anaemia, etc
  • Synovitis with pannus formation (i.e., thickening of synovium)
  • Cartilage breakdown and/or bone erosion

Naturopathic treatment

As can be seen from the risk factors, and similar to many conditions, the symptoms and aggravating factors for this arthritic condition is unique to the individual.

The food that you eat and your body’s response to that food, and certain lifestyle choices, appear to play a role in inflammation and the arthritic conditions. Whilst there is no known cure for rheumatoid disease as it is now called, good dietary and lifestyle management may make a large difference to the experience and prognosis.

The treatment will address not only what you are eating but also, and very importantly, how you are eating. How you eat has a large influence on your immune system; its reaction to what you eat will also relate to how you have eaten it.

Initially the treatment will aim to reduce this immune mediated inflammation with nutritional support and appropriate supplementation, whilst simultaneously introducing and encouraging lifestyle changes.

The treatment will then focus on the drivers of RA and the approach will depend on the individual and the stage of the arthritic condition.

Treatment is likely to include a balance between elimination/challenge diets, and improving your gut’s digestive and eliminative ability. In some cases a program of detoxification may be of benefit.

The lifestyle changes introduced early on will be further developed during the course of treatments, enabling the individual to manage their condition as independently as possible in the future.

will also to be considered and may well be able to help with the rheumatic and arthritic pain along with the general joint aches and pains.