Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful condition where the lining of the joints becomes inflamed. It’s particularly common in the smaller joints like the hands and feet. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis does not result from prolonged wear and tear, but is a faulty immune system 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 the following symptoms:
- Pain or tenderness in a joint (often bilateral)
- Swelling, heat or redness in a joint
- Nodules on the joint under the skin
- Morning stiffness
- Low energy or fatigue
- Eye problems
Untreated rheumatoid arthritis can cause severe joint damage. The resulting pain can cause problems with walking and performing everyday tasks.
Occasionally, rheumatoid arthritis causes 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. On rare occasions, it causes inflammation of the blood vessels, in turn affecting the nerves, skin and other organs.
Poor diet: certain foods – sugars, alcohol, saturated fats, fizzy drinks, refined foods, 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 a huge difference to the severity of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and greatly improve quality of life.
Smart Nutrition can help to identify the most important changes for you, and find practical ways to easily incorporate these changes into your daily life.
Nutrient deficiencies: medical studies have identified several common nutrient deficiencies amongst rheumatoid arthritis sufferers which are thought to exacerbate symptoms. High levels of inflammation cause increased metabolism of nutrients. In addition, many of the drugs prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis deplete certain vitamins and minerals which can predispose patients to additional health problems.
Everyone’s health picture is different depending on diet, lifestyle and medication. For this reason we recommend the NutrEval Test: it’s the most comprehensive test for giving an in-depth picture of your individual nutritional status. NutrEval assesses your levels of B vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids, as well looking at oxidative stress and how your genetic makeup might be influencing nutrient levels.
Once recognised, nutrient deficiencies can be corrected with diet and supplement guidelines from a nutritional therapist.
Antioxidant status (oxidative stress): inflammatory processes are largely mediated by chemicals called free radicals. These can damage the joint linings, causing 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 overwhelmed.
An Oxidative Stress Test can give you vital information about your antioxidant status.
Leaky gut: rheumatoid arthritis patients often have a condition called increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. Tiny gaps start to occur between the cells lining the gut, causing increased absorption of large dietary and bacterial molecules into the bloodstream. The immune system recognises these molecules as foreign, produces antibodies and destroys them. But some of these molecules are very similar in structure to the molecules that make up our joint tissue. This leads antibodies designed to attack the foreign invader to 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. A leaky gut can also predispose you to food allergies as the undigested food enters the bloodstream and interacts with the immune system. Numerous studies demonstrate 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, a Food Allergy or Food Intolerance Test can identify these. Smart Nutrition can give you practical suggestions on how to avoid trigger foods to reduce your symptoms.
Heavy metal toxicity: toxicity from metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead have been associated with rheumatoid arthritis, as they can interfere with the body’s ability to make collagen, an important joint tissue.
Toxic metals accumulated from pollution, pesticides, mercury fillings and tap water and levels can be tested by a Hair Mineral Analysis Test. If a toxicity is present, Smart Nutrition can design a special detoxification protocol to gently remove the metals from your body.
Gut flora imbalances: bacterial flora alterations and overgrowth are common in people with rheumatoid arthritis, and the degree of imbalance correlates with severity of symptoms and disease activity.
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 bacteria levels and other important digestive functions can be tested using a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis. Smart Nutrition can use the results to help optimise digestion and gut flora, helping to 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 over a sustained period, 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.
Elevated stress levels can be a major factor in rheumatoid arthritis. An Adrenal Stress Test can pinpoint the critical imbalances in stress hormones, and Smart Nutrition can work with you to resolve these.