Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your body's immune system attacks its own joints. This causes pain and swelling.
According to BBC News:
"Previous studies have found a link between cigarette smoking and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with the development of the condition."
Based on the extrapolated numbers from this study, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) now affects 1.5 million Americans. The majority of them are women, and the prevalence in women appears to be rising.
According to this latest study, published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, the number of diagnosed RA cases rose 2.5 percent between 1995 and 2007, and now affect just over 53 women per 100,000, and nearly 28 men per 100,000.
These statistics reflect a sudden increase in RA for women, whereas the incidence in men actually fell by 0.5 percent within the same timeframe.
As with any inflammatory disease, it's important to understand what might cause or exacerbate chronic inflammation in your body, because that's the key to avoiding the problem it in the first place.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – When Your Body Mistakes Itself as the Enemy
Whereas osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, primarily caused by "wear-and-tear" on your joints, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that activates your immune system to attack your joints, causing them to break down.
It tends to be bilateral and symmetrical, meaning it affects both sides of your body to a more or less equal degree. It also tends to affect your middle joints, especially your hands and fingers, which causes the joint deformities that are a hallmark of this disease.
RA can be both crippling and lethal, so it's definitely not something you should ignore.
I have personally treated over 3,000 patients with rheumatoid arthritis over my career as a physician, which is probably more than 10 times the amount a typical family physician would treat in their entire lifetime, so I have a fair amount of experience with this condition.
Toxins that May Trigger RA
Toxic environmental factors that can trigger rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases include:
- Certain medications, such as birth control pills
- Second-hand smoke
- Food chemicals
- Air pollution
- Jet fuel fumes
- Chemicals in personal care products such as lipstick and hairspray
Most likely, you're exposed to countless substances that could trigger this illness on a daily basis. For one person, it could be lipstick; for another it could be living near an airport, or eating chemicals in processed food…
Narrowing it down to a list of chemicals where there's a proven direct cause and effect would be nearly impossible, considering the tens of thousands of chemicals on the market and all the individual sensitivities and predispositions.
This underscores the importance of living your life as purely as possible, avoiding as many toxic chemical exposures as you can on a daily basis, no matter where you are. You can read more about how to avoid some of the most common environmental toxins here.
In addition to avoiding toxins, integrating a few simple lifestyle changes can dramatically lower your risk of developing RA as well.
Emotional Health Matters – Especially when it Comes to Rheumatoid Arthritis
One important underlying cause of RA, which is nearly universally present in most all autoimmune diseases, is some kind of severe, traumatic emotional insult. The emotional trauma often occurs before the age the conscious mind is formed, which is typically around the age of 5 or 6, though it can occur at any point in your life.
If that specific emotional insult is not addressed with an effective treatment modality, then the underlying emotional trigger will not be removed, allowing the destructive process to proceed.
In some cases, RA appears to be caused by an infection, and it is my experience that this infection is usually acquired when you have a stressful event that causes a disruption in your bioelectrical circuits, which then leads to an impairment in your immune system.
This impairment predisposes you to developing the initial infection and also contributes to your relative inability to effectively defeat the infection.
Therefore, it's very important to have an effective tool to address these underlying emotional traumas. In my clinic, the most common form of treatment used is called the Meridian Tapping Technique/Emotional Freedom Technique (MTT/EFT).
If you already have RA, the emotional trauma is best treated by a professional.
The Importance of Vitamin D
As mentioned in the BBC News article above, vitamin D deficiency is also associated with the development of RA. Vitamin D is intricately tied to the functioning of your immune system, so this makes perfect sense. And yes, in the thousands of RA patients I saw, vitamin D deficiency was more the norm than the exception.
Results from the Iowa Women's Health Study, published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism in 2004, found that vitamin D intake is inversely associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The results showed that postmenopausal women who consumed at least 400 IU of supplemental vitamin D daily had a 34 percent reduction of risk, and that's just taking a measly 400 IU's!
More recent research indicates most people need FAR more vitamin D than that. Based on the available data, the current recommendation by most experts is 35 units per pound per day, or 5,000-10,000 IUs for most adults.
In my opinion it is virtually criminal malpractice to treat a person with RA and not regularly monitor their vitamin D levels to confirm that they are in a therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml.
Your Diet -- Another Key Component Against RA and Other Autoimmune Diseases
As I mentioned earlier, 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.
Your unique biochemistry and genetics influence the ratio of fat, protein and carbohydrates your body needs to thrive, and eating for your nutritional type ensures that you get the optimal macronutrient ratio out of your diet.
There are some general dietary principles, however, that seem to hold true for ALL nutritional types and these 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.
Drug-Free Pain Relief
As most of you may know by now, sometimes taking supplements is as bad as taking "drugs," in the sense that many of them are temporary band-aids that do not address the underlying cause. However, herbal- and other natural supplements are definitely FAR safer than most drugs, so particularly for pain relief, they're clearly a safer option.
For the treatment of RA, 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.
The "New" Kid on the Block -- Low-Dose Naltrexone
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.