The natural treatment of rheumatoid arthritis centred around a whole food plant-based diet is I believe, the only treatment that offers any possibility of permanent remission or cure. Pharmaceutical drugs are very effective at treating the symptoms of RA and they can slow the progression of the disease and provide a great deal of relief. They are often necessary and they can provide the opportunity in terms of time and relief, to understand and remove the causes of the disease and repair the immune system. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical drugs exact a high price in terms of both short-term and long-term health due to the side effects and chronic toxic and pathological effects on the immune system (particularly the gut), liver, kidneys, and many other organs and systems within the body.
I’m convinced that in most cases rheumatoid arthritis and many other inflammatory conditions are caused by poor long-term diet and lifestyle choices i.e. RA is a lifestyle disease. As a result of this, I think it’s necessary to accept that it will take some time to reverse and cure rheumatoid arthritis that has developed over many years and possibly decades of a person’s life. It’s important to acknowledge this when searching for natural treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. In my experience, in most cases (there are a few exceptions), there are no single treatments or quick fixes that will provide a permanent cure or a true reversal of this disease. Instead, I believe it’s necessary and fundamental to change to a health promoting and healing diet and lifestyle before seeking other natural treatments which may be of further benefit in the process of recovery.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated With Health Promoting Lifestyle Habits
Building upon a whole food plant-based diet, there are several other health promoting and healing lifestyle habits that need to be adopted as additional natural treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. From research and experience I would say the next most important of these is sleep; not just an adequate amount of sleep but sleeping at the right time.
Sleep Cycle and Healing
There’s a lot of research and advice available concerning sleep duration and timing, unfortunately a lot of it is nonsense and much of it is contradictory. Over the years I’ve tried to extract the truth from the most compelling anecdotes and from the most consistent science to arrive at the following conclusions.
- If possible bedtime and sleep duration need to be consistent and regular. This is because of our circadian rhythms or internal body clocks.
- Sleeping earlier in the evening (at least before midnight) allows for a longer period of deep sleep which is the best type of sleep for healing. Sleeping very late or in the early hours of the morning tends to lead to lighter sleep which is less healing. I try to aim for 11pm but if it was practical I would prefer to sleep at 10pm.
- Research and collective experience suggests that we need less sleep as we get older but in general once we are past our teens, the data suggests that seven hours per night is the ideal length for longevity, healing, and the prevention of chronic disease.
- Having said all of the above, it’s important to sleep when you feel drowsy and don’t try to sleep if you’re wide awake. Although this point seems obvious, it’s amazing how many of us ignore it including me of course :-) The problem is if you try to sleep when you’re wide awake and your mind is racing you’re probably going to fail, at least for up to 90 minutes or more, in the meantime you create more stress by worrying about all the things you’ve got to do the next day and anything else you can think of. Therefore it’s better since you can’t sleep anyway, to read a book for a while to clear your head and allow yourself time to wind down.
I find that if I sleep really well my arthritis symptoms are much less harsh in the morning and throughout the day and I want to emphasise that the difference is significant, I always feel that genuine healing has taken place.
Adequate Hydration Reduces Pain and Stiffness
Probably the next most important natural treatment or therapy for rheumatoid arthritis after diet and sleep, is hydration. I’ve found that being properly hydrated reduces pain and stiffness and I use a combination of filtered water and vegetable and fruit smoothies for this purpose. This is not just a subjective feeling on my part, it’s a fact that dehydration can reduce immune function, increase pain sensitivity and often causes headaches for example. There are so many benefits to proper hydration including better circulation and waste removal, body temperature control obviously :-) and improvement in mood and energy levels etc. I’m currently experimenting with celery juice both for hydration and to improve my stomach acid production to help with food digestion, I’ll write a post about this shortly in more detail.
Cardiovascular Exercise Improves Immune Function
Next on the list of natural treatments for rheumatoid arthritis would be cardiovascular exercise. This is so important for efficient waste removal, oxygen supply especially to peripheral tissues, lymphatic drainage and joint and spinal lubrication. Moderate cardiovascular exercise is also anti-inflammatory and therefore beneficial for RA sufferers, here is an excellent publication describing this process in detail, it’s a bit heavy going but well worth the read: The anti-inflammatory effects of exercise.
Obviously it’s well known that cardiovascular exercise is excellent for overall health which in turn benefits rheumatoid arthritis sufferers but the problem is how can a person with rheumatoid arthritis, particularly if it’s severe as in my case, perform a useful amount of cardiovascular exercise? Well, the answer is that you have to choose an exercise method that will work within your own limitations. In my case currently, although I’ve stabilised my immune system and am recovering slowly, I have great difficulty walking and need to use crutches, many of my joints are damaged and typical forms of exercise are impossible for me. Despite this I am able to use a recumbent exercise bicycle which is ideal for my particular circumstances. Other beneficial types of cardiovascular exercise include walking at a reasonable pace, swimming, real bicycling, bouncing on a small trampoline (this is excellent for lymph drainage) and rowing for example.
The exercise shouldn’t be exhausting but it shouldn’t be too easy either. It needs to raise your heart rate to some extent and for me at least I prefer to sweat during the exercise to help remove toxins. I currently exercise for between forty and sixty minutes per day, I’m hoping to work up to around ninety minutes in two or three sessions. However, any amount of exercise is better than none and even a few minutes each day can be very beneficial. If you’re not used to exercising or you’re just starting out, then take it slowly and gradually work up to a longer duration perhaps divided into several sessions; just get moving :-) the simple act of moving your joints helps to lubricate them, remove waste products, and allows nutrients to defuse into them. Here’s a great summary on exercise duration: “How much should you exercise?”
Lifestyle Change Is the Best Natural Treatment For Rheumatoid Arthritis
As you can see the natural treatments that I’ve highlighted above for rheumatoid arthritis are actually lifestyle based and are not magic pills or supplements. I’ve read so many posts and articles on other blogs, social media and online magazines offering advice on treatments for rheumatoid arthritis but the majority are reductionist or symptom-based and I wanted to re-emphasise that the most important natural treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are actually lifestyle changes.
There are several other important natural treatments/lifestyle changes that can help to reduce rheumatoid arthritis activity including getting enough sunshine and fresh air, obtaining enough whole food fibre, and eating a substantial amount of raw food (and obtaining adequate B12 and D). I covered these in an earlier post here: Rheumatoid Arthritis – Prioritise Diet and Lifestyle Changes.
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