By Dr. Mercola
Pomegranate extract consumption is known to reduce the incidence and severity of collagen-induced arthritis in mice.
More recently, researchers investigated whether pomegranate can also affect disease activity in human patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and the results were quite positive.
Pomegranate Extract May Reduce Arthritis Symptoms
Published in the Israeli Medical Association Journal, the pilot study included eight patients who were given 10 ml of pomegranate extract per day for 12 weeks.
The participants' joint status and serum oxidative status were assessed at the beginning and end of the study.
The results showed that the extract:
- Reduced the composite Disease Activity Index (DAS28) of arthritis by 17 percent
- Reduced the tender joint count by 62 percent
- Significantly reduced serum oxidative status, indicating a reduction in the inflammatory response
The authors concluded that:
"Dietary supplementation with pomegranates may be a useful complementary strategy to attenuate clinical symptoms in RA patients."
Pomegranate—A Source of Potent Antioxidants
The juice and pulp of pomegranates have previously been studied for their potential heart- and joint health benefits.
The primary source of the fruit's benefits is its antioxidant content, particularly ellagitannin compounds like punicalagins and punicalins, which accounts for about half of the pomegranate's antioxidant ability.
In fact, according to a 2008 study, which compared the potency of 10 different polyphenol-rich beverages, pomegranate juice scored top billing as the most healthful of them all. Its potency was found to be at least 20 percent greater than any of the other beverages tested, beating out concord grape juice, acai, and blueberry juice—three well-known sources of potent antioxidants. It beat them primarily because it contains the most of every type of antioxidant.
Antioxidants are Great, But Beware of Loading up on Fruit Juice…
No doubt about it, these potent phytonutrients can do your body good. Antioxidants are crucial to your health as they appear to influence how fast you age by combating free radicals, which are at the heart of age-related deterioration. They work primarily by mopping up harmful free radicals, which are created in response to environmental toxins, such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, sunlight, cosmic and manmade radiation, and pharmaceutical drugs.
Free radicals are also a key component of chronic inflammation and related ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis.
However, before you get too excited about the possibility of loading up on healthful antioxidants by chugging pomegranate juice (or any other juice for that matter), keep in mind that fruit juices in general also contain hefty amounts of fructose. Depending on the juice, an eight-ounce glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice can contain somewhere in the neighborhood of eight full teaspoons of sugar, and that's not going to help your arthritis…
Despite the fact that fructose from fruit is as natural as it gets, it can still do more harm than good if you consume too much of it, primarily because it will increase your insulin levels.
Chronically elevated insulin levels in turn leads to insulin resistance, which is the root of nearly every disease known to man, including RA. Additionally, we now know that fructose is converted to fat far easier and faster than any other sugar, which is one of the explanations for why so many Americans struggle with their weight.
Fructose is not just in fruit. If you eat processed foods and sweetened drinks, you're getting huge amounts of fructose, primarily in the form of high fructose corn syrup. But it all adds up, and a glass of juice can equate to a very large amount of fruit, so go easy! If you have any of the following problems (which are associated with insulin resistance) you'd be well advised to avoid all fruit juices, and limit your whole fruit intake until your insulin levels have normalized:
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- Yeast Infections
Antioxidant-Rich Alternatives to Fruit Juice
Fortunately, there are alternatives. In fact, most of the vegetables you eat are loaded with potent phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, and high vegetable consumption will not lead to insulin resistance.
The closer the vegetables are to being harvested, the more potent these antioxidants will be—which is why you should consume the majority of your fruits and vegetables RAW and locally harvested. If you eat vegetables that have been harvested weeks before, as is common in most grocery stores, you will not be reaping as much of the benefit the food has to offer you.
Your Diet—A Key Component Against RA and Other Autoimmune Diseases
While pomegranate shows promise against RA joint pain and inflammation, I'd like to remind you of the more basic factors that can have a major impact on this disease. The treatment protocol I use for rheumatoid arthritis has helped thousands of RA patients go into remission, and one of the key factors that dramatically improved the response rate to my protocol was the dietary modification.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of this aspect of the program. It is absolutely an essential component of the RA protocol.
These dietary principles include:
- Eliminating sugar and most grains
- Eating unprocessed, high-quality foods, organic and locally-grown if possible
- Eating your food as close to raw as possible
- Getting plenty high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil
Following these general guidelines alone will go a long way to dramatically reduce your risk of developing any kind of problem with chronic inflammation.
Supplements for Pain- and Inflammation Relief
As for supplements, here are a few to consider that have been helpful in the treatment of RA pain:
- Turmeric in particular has been shown to be effective against both acute and chronic pain. In experiments on rats, turmeric appeared to block inflammatory pathways associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Boswellia, also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense" is another herb I've found to be particularly useful against arthritic inflammation and associated pain.
- Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties and can offer pain relief. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- Astaxanthin has been shown to effectively reduce pain. In one study, RA sufferers experienced a 35 percent improvement in pain levels, as well as a 40 percent improvement in their ability to perform daily activities after receiving astaxanthin for only eight weeks.
Low-Dose Naltrexone for RA
One new addition to my RA protocol is low-dose Naltrexone, which I would encourage anyone with RA to try. It is inexpensive and non-toxic, and I have a number of physician reports documenting incredible efficacy in getting people off of all their dangerous arthritis medications.
The drugs typically used for rheumatoid arthritis are some of the most dangerous drugs used in medicine. High doses of prednisone are common, as well as immunosuppressants and anti-cancer agents to treat the severe pain and swelling.
Low-dose Naltrexone, however, does not fall into this dangerous category.
Naltrexone (generic name) is a pharmacologically active opioid antagonist, conventionally used to treat drug- and alcohol addiction – normally at doses of 50mg to 300mg. As such, it's been an FDA approved drug for over two decades. However, researchers have found that at very low dosages (3 to 4.5 mg), naltrexone has immunomodulating properties that may be able to successfully treat a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's, fibromyalgia, and Crohn's disease, just to name a few.
For a more in-depth review of low-dose Naltrexone and how it can help RA sufferers, please see this previous article.