If you’re over the age of 40, you’re at an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. An autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis affects small joints like the ones found in your fingers and toes. Inflammation occurs between the joints, often causing pain and swelling.
Because rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease it differs from regular arthritis. With rheumatoid arthritis, the body is attacking itself, so there is no definite cause as to why this occurs.
Wear and tear can occur with rheumatoid arthritis, which can ultimately lead to bone erosion. But rheumatoid arthritis isn’t just limited to the joints. It can affect organs, such as the skin, lungs, eyes and even the heart.
Rheumatoid arthritis increases heart attack risk: Study
Research from the National Medical Centre in Mexico City, presented at an international cardiology conference this May, revealed that rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk of heart attack. But how does a disease that affects joints trigger a heart attack?
For the study, 91 participants with rheumatoid arthritis and factors of cardiovascular illness, but no symptoms of heart disease were examined. Nuclear cardiology was used to assess the existence of ischaemia and infarction – supply of blood to the heart and tissue death by lack of oxygen.
Researchers found that a quarter of those with rheumatoid arthritis had no symptoms of heart disease but they did have an increased risk of heart attack because of the presence of ischaemia and infarction – in large part due to the inflammation caused by the rheumatoid arthritis.
This study goes to show how one illness can greatly impact another. Even though someone with rheumatoid arthritis may be symptomless of heart disease, it doesn’t reduce their risk nor should they avoid getting regular check-ups for their heart.
Foods to avoid for rheumatoid arthritis
Now that we see the effects of rheumatoid arthritis on the body, eating well can be the difference between proper and improper management of the disease. Here are some foods you should avoid if you have rheumatoid arthritis. These foods can promote further inflammation which, in turn, can cause more discomfort and pain.
- Fried and processed foods
- Sugars and refined carbohydrates
- Dairy products
- Alcohol and tobacco
- Salt and preservatives
By limiting these items in your diet you can have better management of your rheumatoid arthritis, helping to relieve pain, stiffness and swelling.
Foods and herbs that help your rheumatoid arthritis and your heart
Now that we know what to steer clear of for rheumatoid arthritis, here are some herbs and spices that are natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis:
1. Ginger: Not just useful for easing nausea, ginger is also a natural remedy for rheumatoid arthritis. The same compounds that provide ginger with its strong flavor also give it anti-inflammatory properties. Try steeping some ginger in tea or hot water and enjoy its warmth.
2. Garlic: The fresher the better when it comes to using garlic as a natural remedy for rheumatoid arthritis. Food and Chemical Toxicology reported that garlic helps block the production of cytokines – a pro-inflammatory substance. Basically, garlic is useful in preventing further inflammation.
3. Black pepper: The substance which gives heat to peppers – capsaicin – is used in many creams and treatments for arthritis pain. Capsaicin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Black pepper is just one example of a spice you can include in your diet that helps rheumatoid arthritis, but you can incorporate other spicy peppers as well. Jalapenos, anyone?
4. Cat’s claw: No cats were harmed in the usage of cat’s claw, and that’s because it’s actually an herb! Stemming from a tropical plant, cat’s claw was shown in studies by the University of Maryland Medical Center to relieve pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
5. Thunder god vine: It sounds powerful and it very much can be when it comes to being a natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Apply this herb topically for best results.
6. Aloe vera: Aloe is a go-to when it comes to soothing sunburns, but it can also offer relief from pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Alternative remedies for managing rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease
We’ve listed just some of the herbs and spices you can incorporate into your daily life for managing rheumatoid arthritis. But natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t stop at just herbs and spices. Here are some other rheumatoid arthritis natural remedies that are complementary to your own treatment:
Exercise: You may not feel like exercising much when your joints hurt, but exercise is the key to overall healthy living. Exercise can help maintain muscle mass, keeping you strong and increasing your range of motion, which may be limited by rheumatoid arthritis. But bear in mind that only specific exercises should be performed; avoid activities like running on pavement and instead opt for gentler exercises, such as swimming, stretching and water aerobics. These offer less stress and wear on the joints.
If you’re unsure of what kind of exercises you should perform, seek the help of a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. They can help ease you into motion.
Heat and cold: Treating rheumatoid arthritis can be quite similar to treating an injury. Utilizing a cold and hot pack can help ease tight muscles and bring down inflammation.
Magnets: We’re not necessarily talking about the magnets that you stick on your refrigerator, but rather necklaces or bracelets with a magnetic charge. Magnets may help alleviate pain.
Rest and relaxation: Getting good quality sleep is an important natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. If you didn’t sleep properly overnight, try taking a nap during the day to offset the effects. Also, practicing relaxation techniques like breathing exercises can not only reduce stress and clear your mind, but help you escape the pain.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese therapy where needles are inserted into the skin to promote the movement of energy. This has been shown to help alleviate pain and increase blood flow. Acupuncture may very well be a viable alternative option in treating rheumatoid arthritis.
Massage: Massages are great in so many ways. Not only can they boost circulation, but they can also promote relaxation and ease muscle tension. If you’re not in too much pain, opt for a rubdown but listen to your body. If your muscles are feeling too tense, it can end up feeling worse rather than better.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious disease that affects the joints in the body, but don’t think you can overlook other parts of your body as well. Continuing to monitor your heart health is also vital when you are living with rheumatoid arthritis.
Some of the herbs, spices and alternative treatments for rheumatoid arthritis may also be quite beneficial to help manage your rheumatoid arthritis. Easing pain and inflammation as much as possible is the difference between a good day and heading out, or a bad day where you don’t even want to get out of bed.