Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview
Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of the most common autoimmune conditions. It affects 1.5 million people in the United States and 1% of the world population. Although RA can occur at any age, RA typically affects women 4:1 during the ages of 50 to 751. This condition can be a difficult to manage on a daily basis, as it leads to a decrease in quality of life. Many people with rheumatoid arthritis can find it hard to maintain their career and work productivity, take care of their children or manage their household chores. A diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis may be a lifelong challenge for some patients and can lead to problems with their marriage. A diminished quality of life can also lead to mental emotional problems, exacerbating their condition. These struggles in quality of life can be devastating for those affected with rheumatoid arthritis. Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis treatments can be a good alternative and/or complement to medications for rheumatoid arthritis to improve quality of life, diminish symptoms and reduce any potential side effects from medications.
What are the causes or contributing factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Although the cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is not known; the contributing factors that influence the incidence of RA are multi-factorial. Causes and triggers can be different depending on the person and their particular history. Our Naturopathic Medical Doctor in our Chandler, AZ office can help discern the trigger and possible causes specific to your case. Some causes and contributing factors can include3:
- Hormone Imbalance
- Peri/menopausal state
- Low Testosterone (in men)
- Birth control use
- Cigarette smoking history
- Family history
- Environmental terrain
- Exposure to environmental toxins such as plastics, heavy metals, etc
- Infections: bacterial, viral
- Heavy coffee drinking
Generally, genetics contributes 30% of the risk in the development of an autoimmune condition. Studies and research have identified certain genes associated with rheumatoid arthritis. However, the largest contributing factor is epigenetics. Epigenetics is the interplay of your specific genes with your environmental terrain. The environmental terrain consists of water quality and intake, air quality, exposure to environmental toxicities, exposure to infectious microbes, efficiency in elimination, hormone balance, stress level, quality of thought patterns, and quality in relationships. Genes are the blueprint or the instruction manual for how the body functions and what the body produces. The environmental terrain is similar to a light switch. The quality in environmental terrain will either turn genes on or off that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor in the development of rheumatoid arthritis and typically increases the disease severity3. Men who developed rheumatoid arthritis also commonly have a history of cigarette smoking3. Additionally, the duration of cigarette use rather than the number of cigarettes smoked was a higher indicator of increased risk3.
Hormone balance is a very critical contributing factor in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Estrogen in particular is known to modulate T-helper 2 (Th2) cells, which explains the incidence of RA with the ages 50-75 and onset occurring during peri-menopausal states4. In general, sex hormones contribute to the balance the Th1 and Th2 immune balance4. Specifically, rheumatoid arthritis is associated with a Th1 dominant immune state. Th1/2 immune balance is also affected by environmental terrain and this terrain may either lead to the promotion of balance or imbalance in Th1/Th2 immune balance. Our naturopathic autoimmune specialist can determine the specific factors contributing to your environmental terrain to help improve your quality of life.
What are the possible symptoms associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis?
At the onset of the condition, Rheumatoid Arthritis may only affect the musculoskeletal system, and if left untreated can lead to erosion and destruction of the joints. However, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can eventually affect all organ systems; at least 40% of patients with RA have extra-articular involvement2. Typically, the involvement of other organ systems in RA is associated with increased disease severity and increased risk of premature mortality2. Symptoms may include5:
- Symmetric Joint aching, pain and/or swelling
- Joint deformity
- Morning stiffness lasting greater than 1 hour
- Fatigue, fever, weight loss
- Muscle weakness and/or pain
Why is it important to work with our Naturopathic Autoimmune Specialist?
In the conventional medical model, it can take up 4-5 years for an autoimmune condition to be properly diagnosed and for the initiation of treatment. While the degree of lab testing may vary between physicians, our Naturopathic Autoimmune Specialist ensures all the proper lab testing is completed not simply screening labs. Screening labs can be helpful in some cases; however, this may contribute to the prolonged period of time between symptom onset to diagnosis and treatment. Early treatment is important to prevent tissue destruction and the establishment of tissue pathology. Our approach works to uncover the true contributing factors leading to your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Our specialist provides treatments that will promote balance in the Th1/Th2 immune pattern. In contrast, a rheumatologist may only provide pharmaceutical intervention to suppress the immune system rather than correct the underlying imbalance in Th1/Th2 immune pattern. Conventional treatments typically involve harsh medications such as methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine. These medications typically have side effects and can affect quality of life. While medications may be necessary depending on the severity of your case; our natural autoimmune specialist works in collaboration with your rheumatologist’s medical treatment to promote the best possible outcome.
What can I expect in my first visit?
- Comprehensive case history
- Family medical history review
- Physical Exam
- Detailed and comprehensive lab review
- Individualized Treatment Plans
Why should I choose Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis treatments versus only medications?
A medication-only approach leads to the suppression of the immune system. That approach leads to unnecessary side effects from medications, it does not treat the Th1/Th2 immune pattern imbalance, and does not address the contributing factors leading to rheumatoid arthritis. Naturopathic treatment corrects the underlying factors and causes leading to a resolution of symptoms without harsh side effects. Functional Doctors believe that individualized treatment plans are essential in helping patients reach their health goals, as each person is unique with their own set of contributing factors. Treatments can include:
- Comprehensive evaluation and diagnostic testing
- Medical Nutrition
- Medical-grade vitamins and mineral supplementation
- Herbal formulations
- Lymphatic therapy
- Management of side effects from medications
- Collaborative care approach with your Rheumatologist, if necessary
Dr. Michelle Barraza, our Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis Specialist, has treated hundreds of patients with great success; for more information about Naturopathic Medicine or our doctors, please call 480-648-1534 or message us below. Start living the life you intended, today!
1 Hunter, TM et al. Prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis in the United States adult population in healthcare claims databases, 2004-2014. Rheumatol Int. 2017 Sep;37(9):1551-1557. doi: 10.1007/s00296-017-3726-1. Epub 2017 Apr 28.
2 Romain, PL. Overview of the systemic and nonarticular manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis. Uptodate. 2018 May.
3 Gabriel, SE., Crowson, CS. Epidemiology of, risk factors for, and possible causes of rheumatoid arthritis. Uptodate. 2018 May.
4 Salem ML. Estrogen, a double-edged sword: modulation of TH1- and TH2-mediated inflammations by differential regulation of TH1/TH2 cytokine production. Curr Drug Targets Inflamm Allergy. 2004 Mar;3(1):97-104.
5 Matteson, EL et al. Overview of the systemic and nonarticular manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis. Uptodate 2018 May.