Natural Treatment Options for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Today, I reviewed two natural treatment options for people who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis. First, it’s important to note that Rheumatoid Arthritis differs from the more common type of arthritis that most people suffer from, Osteoarthritis.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-lasting disease where the immune system—the body’s defense against disease—mistakenly attacks itself and causes the joint lining to swell. The inflammation then spreads to the surrounding tissues, where it can damage cartilage and bone. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect joints in any part of the body, but the hands, wrists, and knees are the most common. In more severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis can affect the skin, eyes, nerves, and internal organs.
Natural Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Glucosamine:
Osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative joint disease is a very common condition that our risk of developing increases as we age. Essentially, OA is characterized by ‘wear and tear’ on our joints which occurs as our cartilage begins to wear down. In contrast, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic, autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the joints. Though RA is more common in women, it affects approximately 1% of the population.
Glucosamine is one of the most commonly used dietary supplements used by people who suffer from arthritis. However, its intended use is primarily for people who suffer from osteoarthritis as opposed to rheumatoid arthritis.
The results of a recent study published in the medical journal, Rheumatology International (Nakamura H et al, 2007), suggest that glucosamine supplementation may improve symptomatic pain in patients with RA. However, the study authors noted that glucosamine did not have a specific antirheumatic effect or disease modifying effect.
If you are among the 1% of the population who suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis, it may be worthwhile to try supplementation with glucosamine. The dosage used in this particular study was 1500mg per day.
Cod Liver Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids) for Rheumatoid Arthritis:
The results of a recent trial on cod liver oil (containing omega 3 fatty acids) was published in the journal, Rheumatology (Galarraga B et al, 2008). In this particular study, participants were given either placebo or 10 g of cod liver oil containing 2.2 g of n-3 EFAs. (essential n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids).
Since many patients with rheumatoid arthritis actually take daily NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen) which may have adverse effects on their stomachs (can cause ulcers) or adverse cardiovascular effects, the study was designed to see if supplementation with cod liver oil supplementation could decrease their use of NSAIDS. In medical parlance, this is referred to as “NSAID sparing agent” which essentially means that it reduces the amount of NSAIDS that rheumatoid arthritis patients need to take to manage their arthritis pain.
“RESULTS: Fifty-eight patients (60%) completed the study. Out of 49 patients 19 (39%) in the cod liver oil group and out of 48 patients 5 (10%) in the placebo group were able to reduce their daily NSAID requirement by >30% (P = 0.002, chi-squared test). No differences between the groups were observed in the clinical parameters of RA disease activity or in the side-effects observed.”
[box type="note"]CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that cod liver oil supplements containing n-3 fatty acids can be used as NSAID-sparing agents in rheumatoid arthritis patients.[/box]
For patients who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis and manage their pain with NSAIDS, they should talk to their physician about trying supplementation with cod liver oil.
- Nakamura H, Masuko K, Yudoh K, Kato T, Kamada T, Kawahara T. Effects of glucosamine administration on patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatol Int. 2007 Jan;27(3):213-8. Epub 2006 Sep 5.
- Galarraga B, Ho M, Youssef HM, Hill A, McMahon H, Hall C, Ogston S, Nuki G, Belch JJ. Cod liver oil (n-3 fatty acids) as an non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug sparing agent in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2008 May;47(5):665-9. Epub 2008 Mar 24.