Medically reviewed by Dr. Shunmukha Priya, Ph.D. in Food Science and Nutrition
An inflammatory disease, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakes your healthy cells to be invaders and starts destroying them. During this time, the affected part swells; Rheumatoid arthritis is believed to occur mainly in the joints.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder. This disease can affect more than just your joints. In some people, the condition can damage a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.
An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body’s tissues. This particular disease is not just limited to your joints, but it also affects mental and physical health.
The pain and dysfunction that comes with Rheumatoid arthritis can affect a person’s work, mental health and also family life. Depression and anxiety are common to deal with. Usual feelings of helplessness and low self-esteem occur regularly.
Physically Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to deformed, painful and swollen joints; Other symptoms or effects are loss of appetite, fatigue and fever. This particular change can affect your ability to do physical activities and hence leads to weight gain or obesity.
According to a study,
The annual frequency of Rheumatoid arthritis is approximately 3 cases per 10,000 population globally. The prevalence rate of this disease is approximately 1%. This particular disease increases with age and generally between the ages of 35 and 50 years.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the synovium which is the lining of the membranes surrounding the body joints. The inflammation occurred during this attack thickens the synovium. and later destroys the cartilage and bone within the joints.
The joints are held together by the tendons and ligaments; this weakens and starts to stretch. With time, the alignment and the shape of the joints gets misplaced.
Exact cause for this sort of scenario in the body is not known, although a genetic component appears likely.
While your genes do not actually cause rheumatoid arthritis, they can make you more susceptible to environmental factors. Such as infection with certain viruses and bacteria that may trigger the disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Signs and symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis may vary among every individual in terms of severity and they may even come and go. Periods of increased disease activity, called flares, alternate with periods of relative remission when the swelling and pain fade or disappear.
Some of the common Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are:
- Tenderness, warmth in the swollen joints.
- Stiffness in the joints. This is worse in the morning and if you are inactive for a longer period.
- Loss of appetite, and sometimes fatigue and fever.
Over time, this disease causes joints to deform from origin and shift out of place. These flares are common or serious during cold and cloudy weather. Extra precautions have to be taken during this period to avoid serious health damages.
Holistic Solution for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Some of the basic precautions has to be taken to avoid serious complications especially during cold and windy weather:
- Get physically active by exercising more often to keep your joints active and mobile.
- Consume lukewarm water regularly and do not ignore this particular remedy. Because maximum health solutions come with drinking water more often.
- When you have rheumatoid arthritis, the digestive system might get compromised due to side effects of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory); Hence avoid intake of raw food, since raw food can aggravate the symptoms.
- Rheumatoid arthritis patients are sensitive and more susceptible to other infections. Hence, gargling with lukewarm water with some salt and turmeric; warm water steam/inhalers protects from seasonal flu.
- Rheumatoid arthritis patients are prone to joint degeneration and porosity. Therefore, regular supplementation of calcium and Vitamin D is important to the patients.
- Include anti-inflammatory foods and supplements in the diet. This is because the inflammatory process involved in Rheumatoid arthritis can result in complications of heart and lungs; That is to say it might result in hardened arteries, inflammation and scarring of lung tissue.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Body weight
Obesity and being overweight are major risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis. Not only weight gain, sometimes you might as well lose weight and that is not good either.
Weight loss can come as a side effect of Rheumatoid arthritis medication. These medications cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and ultimately weight loss.
A person with Rheumatoid arthritis might lose their appetite as a result of their symptoms; this can also cause unintentional weight loss.
According to the arthritis foundation, an estimated two-thirds of people with rheumatoid arthritis are overweight or have obesity. Rheumatoid arthritis restricts your everyday activities, exercises which leads to weight gain due to a sedentary lifestyle.
Steroids used in the Rx can cause weight gain.
Few studies conducted with relation of RA and obesity:
The BMI distribution of a certain population in Germany was examined. A data source with a representative sample of the German population was used as a comparator. BMI categories of underweight (Less than 18.5 BMI), normal weight (between 18.5 and 25 BMI), overweight (between 25 to 30 BMI) and obese (above 30 BMI) were used.
The prevalence of obesity was higher among people with rheumatoid arthritis when compared to that of people without arthritis. The dominance of obesity in females and the different behaviour of disease activity markers in relation to the BMI in females indicate that additional parameters need to be considered when analysing the impact of obesity on inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Home remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Here are some of the easiest and quickest rheumatoid arthritis home remedies:
1. Ginger & Turmeric Drink:
Boil 1 spoon of turmeric + 1 spoon dried ginger powder + 1-2 roots of castor oil plant in 500 ml of water. Boil till the water reduces to half i.e. 250 ml. Filter this decoction and take it twice a day after meals.
2. Castor Oil Drink:
Add 1 tsp of castor oil to 1 cup of lukewarm water and take it at bedtime. Castor oil works wonders in rheumatoid arthritis cases.
3. Pain relief oil massage:
Apply warm pain relief oils on affected joints and massage gently.
4. Hot fomentation with sand Pottali/ sandbag on affected joints.
Herbs for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Shunthi or ginger has been known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties. Hence it helps boost your overall immunity. These benefits help in the recovery of people with arthritis.
2. Rasna or Alpinia galanga:
Rasna reduces inflammation and joint pain as it contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Hence finds it beneficial in arthritis treatments.
3. Eranda (castor oil plant):
Eranda plants’ impressive anti-inflammatory effects can help people with arthritis recover faster.
Guduchi commonly known as giloy contains anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties. These properties help treat arthritis and its several symptoms. For joint pain especially, boil milk with a spoon of giloy stem powder and consume.
Trikatu is one of the strong anti-inflammatory agents that can suppress the inflammation and production of inflammatory compounds. It alleviates the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Triphala (the three fruits) is an Ayurvedic, polyherbal preparation comprising three fruit ingredients – bibhitaki, amalaki, and haritaki. The anti-inflammatory properties present in triphala will help treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Products/Possible herbs beneficial for Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Gluten free atta
- Red rice poha
- Seeds cocktail
- Seeds and nuts muesli
- Pumpkin cranberry seeds cocktail
- Amla drink
- Moringa soup
- Shatavari curcuma
- Guggulu trikatu
- Mighty millet idli
Some of the best exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Practicing yoga regularly can help people with arthritis get relief from joint pain. This particular exercise also improves joint flexibility and function. Yoga is predominantly known to lower the stress and tension to promote better sleep.
2. Water exercises
That lightness of the body in water makes moving in it easier on the joints. If you are arthritic and your joints are affected, it is easier to perform movement in water than on land. This helps improve strength and flexibility in that joint.
3. Tai chi
Tai Chi is one such exercise that gently moves all the joints, muscles and tendons. This forms a full body workout. Scientific studies have also shown that Tai Chi can significantly increase flexibility and help provide relief to arthritis patients. 
When you have arthritis, having a physiotherapist is a must. A physiotherapist will assess your muscle strength and the range of movement in your joints. They will advise on techniques and exercises so you can keep your joints working as better as possible.
Walking has been proven to be most effective for arthritic people. In Fact it is one of the important exercises for them. It helps you lose weight and also maintain the proper body weight.
This reduces stress on joints and regulates arthritis symptoms. One good thing about walking is it is free, simple and everyone can do it.
6. Occupational therapy:
An occupational therapy is nothing but having a therapist who helps arthritic patients. They will help you with your injuries, maximize your ability to participate in physical activities safely and also to enhance your life quality.
Arthritis cannot be resolved overnight. It requires constant guidance and hence a having therapist is most helpful.
About 1% of India suffers from Rheumatoid arthritis today. It is one of the worst diseases and it is so because it is your own body that is the enemy here killing itself day by day.
Some of the basic lifestyle changes, that are healthier, is a beforehand precaution for rheumatoid arthritis. Neglecting this would lead to serious health complications, including the effect on body movement.
Hence, get healthier and live stronger!