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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful condition where the lining of the joints becomes inflamed. This inflammation is particularly common in the smaller joints like the hands and feet. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis does not result from prolonged “wear and tear.” Instead it is a result of an improper immune response, which causes the body to attack its own healthy tissue. This auto-immune response causes destruction of cartilage, bone and other adjacent tissues.


Early symptoms may be similar to the flu. Once established, rheumatoid arthritis may produce consistent pain, or have a pattern of “flare-ups” and remission characterised by some of the following symptoms:

  • Pain or tenderness in a joint often bilateral
  • Swelling, heat or redness in a joint
  • Nodules may form on the joint under the skin
  • Morning stiffness
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Eye problems


If left untreated, it can cause severe joint damage. The resulting pain can cause problems with walking and performing everyday tasks. Occasionally, people with rheumatoid arthritis develop inflammation in other parts of the body such as the membranes that surround the heart and lungs or in the tear glands and salivary glands, resulting in dry eye and dry mouth. In rare occasions, rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the blood vessels, in turn affecting the nerves, skin, and other organs.

Contributory factors

Poor diet – Certain foodstuffs (refined food, sugars, alcohol, saturated fats, fizzy drinks, citrus, red meats, yeast and some vegetables) are known to increase the level of inflammation in the body, whereas other foods contain beneficial nutrients which help combat inflammatory processes. Balancing these foods in the diet can make huge differences to the severity of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and greatly improve quality of life. Consulting Smart Nutrition can be invaluable in helping to identify the most important changes for you and helping you to find practical ways to easily incorporate these changes into your daily life.

Nutrient deficiencies – Over the years, medical studies have identified a number of key nutrient deficiencies amongst rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, which are thought to exacerbate their symptoms. One cause of poor nutritional status in this patient population is thought to be the result of the high levels of inflammation causing increased metabolism of nutrients. In addition, many of the drugs for rheumatoid arthritis deplete certain vitamins and minerals which can predispose patients to additional health problems. For each person the picture will be different depending on their diet, lifestyle and medication. For this reason it is recommended to have A Vitamin and Mineral Screen.  which will give you an in-depth picture of your individual nutritional status. Once recognised, nutrient deficiencies can be corrected with diet and supplement guidelines from a nutritional therapist.

Antioxidant status – Inflammatory processes are largely mediated by chemicals called free radicals. These can damage the joint lining and cause swelling and pain. Normally the body has very good mechanisms for mopping up free radicals before they do us any damage. However, in chronic inflammation we are constantly exposed to high levels of free radicals and our body’s defence mechanism can become over whelmed.

Leaky gut – Sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis often have a condition called increased intestinal permeability or ‘leaky gut’. A leaky gut is where tiny gaps start to occur between the cells lining the gut. This results in an increased absorption of large dietary and bacterial molecules into the bloodstream. The immune system recognises these molecules as foreign and produces antibodies to them so they are destroyed. The problem is that some of these molecules are very similar in structure to the molecules that make up our joint tissue. This means antibodies designed to attack the foreign invader also attack the body’s own tissue. Identifying and healing a leaky gut can greatly diminish this immune system stimulus and reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. A Leaky Gut Test is a simple and easy way to identify this condition, which can be addressed with the help of a qualified nutritional therapist.

Food allergy or intolerance – Food Allergies can cause an immune response along the gastro-intestinal tract which can lead to the development of leaky gut. In addition having leaky gut can predispose you to food allergies because it is more likely that undigested food will enter the bloodstream and interact with the immune system. Consequently, numerous studies have demonstrated improvement in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms with identification and removal of allergenic foods. If you think food allergies may be a contributing factor in your condition you may like to have A Food Allergy or Food Intolerance  Test. Smart Nutrition could then give you practical suggestions on how to avoid trigger foods to reduce your symptoms

Gut flora imbalances – Altered bacterial flora and overgrowth are common in people with rheumatoid arthritis and the degree of imbalance is associated with severity of symptoms and disease activity. The toxins released by pathogenic bacteria or immune reactions to the bacteria themselves can exacerbate the inflammatory processes that cause joint pain in rheumatoid arthritis. Changes in friendly bacteria levels and other important digestive functions can be tested using A Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis and Parasitology. Smart Nutrition could  then use the results to help optimise digestion and gut flora to help calm your inflammatory symptoms.

Stress – Chronic stress affects the immune system and is linked to the onset and worsening of rheumatoid arthritis. When we experience stress long term, the adrenal glands which make our stress hormones become exhausted and can no longer make enough hormones to keep us going. Low levels of the stress hormones DHEA and cortisol (a natural anti-inflammatory) are thought to be possible factors in rheumatoid arthritis. If you have a particularly stressful history this could be a major factor in your rheumatoid arthritis.  An Adrenal Stress Test can be a really useful way of pinpointing the critical imbalances in stress hormones, which Smart Nutrition could then work with you to resolve.

Heavy metal toxicity – Heavy metal toxicity with metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead have been associated with rheumatoid arthritis. This is because these metals can interfere with the body’s ability to make collagen, an important joint tissue. Toxic metals can accumulate from pollution, pesticides, mercury fillings and tap water and levels can be tested via  A Hair Mineral Analysis Test. If a toxicity is uncovered Smart Nutrition could design for you a special detoxification protocol to gently remove the metals from your body