There are so many vitamins, minerals, herbs, oils, creams, homeopathic dilutions, plant extracts, animal extracts and other food supplements for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Do they work and if so what are the benefits?
I can only speak from my own experience, but before I try to answer this important question, I just wanted to list a few of the supplements and supplemental treatments available and very briefly mention a little about their intended purpose.
There’s a huge difference between taking individual supplements and remedies such as these, and embarking upon a long-term diet or therapy. Dietary changes and other therapeutic commitments such as exercise, improving sleep quality and reducing stress are far more effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis than any single ‘magic bullet’ or ‘miracle cure’. However, these supplemental treatments can be very useful and may form part of a longer term strategy.
Eye of Newt, Bat’s Wing & Frog Spawn – Surprisingly Not Used to Treat RA ;-)
- Cod liver oil (with omega 3 fish oils) – perhaps one of the most useful supplements it is an excellent source of vitamins A and D and the omega 3 fatty acids (among the ‘essential fatty acid’ group). The long-chain n−3 fatty acids may also help to reduce inflammation.
- Minerals – calcium, magnesium and zinc (in conjunction with vitamins C and D) are necessary for the construction and maintenance of bone and connective tissue. The production and strength of collagen depends upon calcium (and vitamin C) and this is particularly important in the case of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Vitamins – as mentioned, vitamins C and D are very important for joint and muscle strength. Vitamin A (and D) helps to fight infection (essential for a healthy immune response). Vitamin E helps to protect unsaturated fatty acids and the RNA and DNA nucleus in the body’s cells.
- Herbs – often used to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis such as pain, sleeping problems, flu symptoms etc. Feverfew, comfrey, parsley and chamomile are a few of the more well known ones. Herbs can also help digestion, help to protect the stomach, improve liver and kidney function, and help to repair tissue damage (arnica and calendula are often used externally on bruises for example).
- Lotions and potions – these are generally used for pain relief and to reduce stiffness for example. Some help to improve blood supply to an affected area and this may help to ferry in much needed additional nutrients and also help to remove waste products.
- Homeopathic remedies – a subtle treatment which is commonly used to help with allergies and overly excitable immune systems. Often used to treat RA symptoms such as pain, inflammation and fever. Common remedies include arnica, bryonia and calcarea fluorica for example.
- Plant extracts – such as comfrey or borage oil, aloe vera, evening primrose oil and devil’s claw for example, have been used to treat both rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Some extracts are used externally to help reduce pain and stiffness, others are taken internally, for example evening primrose oil which is of particular interest in relation to RA inflammation because of its gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA content.
- Animal extracts – these include shark cartilage and green-lipped mussel extract. Shark cartilage is reported to reduce inflammation and joint damage due to some interesting complex carbohydrates in its makeup. Green-lipped mussel extract is said to inhibit joint inflammation apparently due to its glycogen content and anti-histamine properties.
OK, that was a very brief mention of just a tiny fraction of the many traditional treatments available for rheumatoid arthritis. Certainly for me, the range of potential treatments and supplements has been bewildering and confusing but I did manage to try many of them over the decades in my attempts to find relief and a cure for my arthritis.
I’ve experimented with all the above options and many more over a 25 year period or so and here is my conclusion based on my own experience, experimentation and research.
I found that all the treatments, supplements and ‘cures’ I tried did not have any fundamental effect on my arthritis as such. Many did help with symptom relief, sleep, and energy production for example, but they had no life changing impact on my disease.
I realised many years ago, that the only way I could ‘cure’ my arthritis would be to find the cause and remove it. So that’s the approach I took and it eventually led to the development of a diet which removed all of my arthritis symptoms (rather than suppressing or controlling them).
That said; the above mentioned supplements, treatments (and many more which I did not mention) can have important uses and benefits for RA sufferers, especially in two particular areas…
1) For example; it may be possible to manage pain relief using traditional methods rather than taking typical pain killers such as buprofen and aspirin (which in my case caused serious pain and damage to my gut – one of the many reasons why I chose not to take any oral drugs).
Many herbs have pain relieving qualities, and calcium (if absorbed properly) is also an excellent pain killer (one of the reasons why a glass of warm milk has been recommended to aid sleep at bedtime). Balanced calcium and magnesium supplements are available and I have used them (usually a couple is enough) in the past with a glass of warm soy milk to help me get to sleep. Be careful if you use the ones which also contain zinc, as zinc can build up in the body and become toxic if taken excessively.
Please note; if you are currently being treated by a medical specialist, don’t change any part of your prescribed medication without obtaining their advice first. I discussed my situation with my specialists many times in the past, and we were able to agree that I would only receive treatment in the form of direct injections into affected joints when necessary. The rest of the time I would manage my symptoms using dietary and traditional methods.
2) When you remove the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, the symptoms disappear too, but you have to rebuild your health and repair as much of the damage as possible. Exercise, sleep and a really good diet like my own my RA diet for example are very important but many of the traditional supplements and treatments (and therapies) can also be very helpful during this stage of recovery. For example, in my case I was able to include cod liver oil, vitamin C and milk thistle.
So in summary, in my case I found supplements and traditional treatments to be useful and beneficial in helping to manage my RA symptoms (prior to starting my RA diet development), and also in helping to repair damage and build health after removing the cause of my RA. However, it was essential for me to remove the cause of my RA, in order to obtain a life-changing outcome.
Try to find the cause of your rheumatoid arthritis when you are able and ready, but in the meantime also get the best advice and treatment that you can from a medical specialist. If you want to try traditional treatments, do your research well or consult a health practitioner first, and don’t change any prescription medication without discussing first with your GP or specialist.
Of course by all means try my own solution/diet :-) It is free, it worked for me, and it is perfectly healthy and safe to use for several months (I survived on it for 18 months during its development and testing without any serious negative nutritional implications). Once your symptoms have disappeared and you are feeling well again, you can very gradually introduce more food items (one at a time, ideally with a month in between each new introduction). This is something I am currently working on and I will include the results in a future post here.