Hoping for a Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment?

Natural treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis sure sound popular

Natural cure and natural treatment are some of the most searched words with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Everywhere you look there is encouragement to give natural remedies a try. Look at how one eHow page on Rheumatoid Arthritis (previously located at this address: http://www.ehow.com/facts_4827325_joints-affected-rheumatoid-arthritis.html) lists them:

Home remedy treatments may include devices such as canes, crutches, walkers, orthotics, braces, splints, reachers and elevated chair legs. Other remedies may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral modification, acupuncture, massage, electric shock therapy, herbs and dietary supplements or counseling.

Orthotics as a home remedy for Rheumatoid Arthritis? Electric shock therapy?

Why do I feel like I’m the bad guy about natural Rheumatoid Arthritis treatments?

Pills smileThere are some other posts on this blog that deal with the question of what is natural or whether anything at all can cure RA. I have debated with readers who want me to acknowledge natural treatments for RA and even had a doctor guest host on natural treatments.

Is that because I love medicine? No.

Personally, I have an aversion to medicine. I always avoided anything involving needles or pills. In order to avoid hospitals; I delivered five babies at home. None of them were easy births, but I thought at the time that the pain was worth avoiding needless medical interventions or interference with a natural birth. However, if the babies or I would have been sick in any way, we would have been in the hospital in a minute. I’m independent, but not stupid.

No one wishes there was an easier or naturally effective way to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis more than I do.

I’ve walked down the denial road with chronic illness before. I got off at the exit labeled “Last Chance: take your medicine now or you won’t live much longer.” The decision to fight RA with medicine or go natural is not like giving up margarine or letting your hair go gray or burning a bra. Natural is very nice, but it’s even better if we are able to enjoy it. Like many of you, I had a close relative with RA. There is no doubt he died early because of this disease.

It’s not up to me what anyone else does. I wish everyone well. When someone insists that they will not take medicine to treat RA because the medicine is “worse than the disease,” I want to say, “That’s fine, but that’s just not true for my RA.” And I hope for them that it will be a long time before they see that exit sign like the one I saw.

Stay tuned next time for a discussion of an important study by Consumer Reports on natural supplements and vitamins.

Recommended reading:

Kelly Young

Kelly Young is an advocate providing ways for patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. Through her writing, speaking, and use of social media, she is building a more accurate awareness of Rheumatoid disease aka Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creating ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and bringing recognition and visibility to the Rheumatoid patient journey. In 2009, Kelly created Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, a comprehensive website about RA of about 950 pages and writes periodically for other newsletters and websites. Kelly served on the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Advisory Board. There are over 42,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook Fan page. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is the mother of five, a home-schooler, Bible teacher, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She has lived over nine years with unrelenting Rheumatoid disease. See also http://www.rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

18 thoughts on “Hoping for a Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment?

  • September 7, 2010 at 9:37 am
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    My biggest worry about going natural is the incidence of arguement between natural & man made drugs. The interactions can be deadly and they should not be taken lightly. I have such awful pain in my hands, femurs, tibia’s and feet with occasionaly pain in my hips. I’m on two dmards, muscle relaxer, pain pill, supplemental vitamins and vitamins I MUST take for deficiencies and still in awful pain. I can’t imagine a leaf taking that sort of pain out of my body. The other side of this arguement is also food. Every one is on a diet of one kind or another thinking this will combat the destruction of RA. I’m not sold on this topic either. I do believe over time both topics if started early on MIGHT help. But I see no evidence as yet to back it up. JMHO but I would be interested to see what others have to say.

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  • September 7, 2010 at 10:43 am
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    I don’t even know where to start in a response to this blog post. I think that a lot of people equate natural with safe. This is clearly not always the case and as there are numerous natural substances that are pretty deadly (e.g. hemlock, certain mushrooms, etc.) Then again there are a number of natural substances with a human clinical benefit.

    My grandfather had MS and he swore that Knox gelatin made his MS symptoms better and he’d drink a glass of warm water with gelatin dissolved in it every day. Did it actually help, I don’t know. Would it hurt you, no.

    The biggest problem I have with all the advertised natural/homeopathic medicines is that they’re so similar to the patent medicines and snake oil of the past. They have little to no clinical data to back up their claims and they seem to promise the moon.

    My favorite example of this is the product from a few years back called HeadOn. Remember those commercials, “HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead.” Turns out when you look at the ingredients for the product it is something like 99.9% wax.

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  • September 7, 2010 at 11:06 am
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    “Natural” drugs give the illusion of control because they are not prescribed by a doctor. However they are not without risks or side effects. Damage can occur very early in RA and is not reversible, losing that time to unproven remedies seems illogical.

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  • September 7, 2010 at 2:10 pm
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    This is a very interesting subject to me. Some you may have seen me post before that I was studying to be a certified herbalist, the word is WAS as this was before RA! Before I went to the dr for the severe pain I experienced (started exactly one year ago today!) I used my herbs to help with inflammation both internally and externally….thinking my aches were do to get a bug of some sort, I did what all herbalist do, pump up the immune system with Echinacea and elderberry. I hated going to the dr and taking prescription medicine was avoided at all costs! When I was diagnosed last Oct with RA, other than being devastated, I started researching everything I could about RA….”hmmmm” was what I thought, here it is an autoimmune disease and I was adding to a wildly out of control immune system with immune boosting herbs! YIKES! I talked to my dr about the herbs (other herbs for allergies, etc. too) and his first thought was “no echinacea”….well I knew that anyways and altho he had no problem with most of what I was taking, I have slowly given them up as they didn’t seem to make a hill of beans of a difference in the way I am feeling so why spend the money or time making the herbal medicine. Now the only thing I take is Milk Thistle which is a proven liver tonic. I still grow my herbs for culinary use and to make salves, etc. but trying to treat RA with herbs/homeopathy doesn’t work and actually puts you at greater risk for further damage.

    As for the “diets”, yes we could all eat better, I have advice to cut out tomatoes, sugar, gluten, etc etc and you will be “cured”….maybe they work to lessen some symptoms but if that was a cure, we would all be doing it!

    Thanks Joanne for pointing out that the damage of RA can occur early and without detection too…so warriors, take your meds and prescribed and keep on making the public aware of this awful disease and its ramifications.

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  • September 7, 2010 at 2:21 pm
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    I think the BIG confusion with natural vs pharmaceutical drugs is that the natural may help with “symptom control” much like pain medicines, where as the pharmaceuticals are actually modifying the disease and slowing down permanent damage. I think some people simply don’t understand this huge difference or are in denial. Given the minuscule amount of time doctors have to educate patients, I can see why this would happen. If the patient doesn’t carefully research on their own, or even if they do, they can easily be led astray my poor and misleading information. Clearly, patients need better education of their disease before ever leaving the doctor’s office.
    If a patient chooses natural medicine, they should be under the care of a Naturopathic or Homeopathic doctor to ensure their safety. They should not under any circumstances do this on their own or follow an internet site for their care. Just my opinion.

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  • September 7, 2010 at 7:29 pm
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    I am newly diagnosed and arranged a discussion about my needs with my H.R. person at work today. I had to listen to 20 minutes of “why dont you try…?” lists of “organic” and “healthy” tips that work for her mother who “also” has arthritis (osteoarthritis) and every time I thanked her and reminded her that THIS kind of arthritis is different…she just nodded and kept going. I am thankful reading your website has sort of prepared me for this kind of mind-block others have toward understanding the nature of R.A. , or I think I would have cried right there in the H.R. office..

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  • September 24, 2010 at 3:10 am
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    Natural cures may not be enough to tackle the devastating consequences of RA, but are the DMARDs or biologics always effective either? From what I’ve read on this blog and elsewhere, a patient can follow doctor’s orders exactly, try one biologic after another, and still be in a downward spiral of pain and disability for months and years. That’s why I felt it was essential to find what worked for me, and to read about and try the alternatives as well as to stay on methotrexate. What’s working for me, after getting worse on methotrexate alone, is a pure vegan diet with no sugar, dairy, starch or grains of any kind. Only brightly colored vegetables, beans, nuts, olive oil and low glycemic fruits. Also six to eight omega 3 capsules daily of http://www.omegaxl.com or http://www.lyprinol.com. Fish oil is not nearly potent enough. I believe that the Lord lead my husband to see an ad for this omega 3 substance that lead to my healing. My pain, fatigue, and weakness are 90% improved and my spirit has regained hope and joy. Another thing that has helped me is Tai Chi, especially learning to breathe deeply. I think the increase in oxygen leads to healing. Turmeric capsules reduced my inflammation. My RA seems to be highly food sensitive. Five minutes after eating half a banana I can feel a burning sensation across my back. So I am convinced that food plays a big role in controlling my RA. With sincere prayers for relief for each reader of Kelly’s blog.

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  • September 26, 2010 at 9:02 pm
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    I was prescribed Methotrexate in September 2006, twenty years after my arthritis was diagnosed. At that time I was having dreadful flare-ups 2-3 times a week making it all but impossible to live a normal life.
    I began on a low tablet dose but from then on I was constantly feeling nauseous.After a month or so, I was advised to stop the tablets and told the nausea would settle down after 3 or 4 weeks at the most.
    Not true for me…it remained for the best part of 6 months!
    I refused all attempts of my specialist to cajole me into trying again and of course I suffered the dreadful consequences. Eventually I agreed to self inject and began again. No nausea this time but a guaranteed flare-up within 24 hours that would last another day or two.
    Then a couple of months later someone asked me if I’d heard of a fruit called mangosteen as it had some powerful anti-inflammatory properties. I did some research, started to get excited by what I read and discussed it with my doctor. His reaction was “Why always one or the other? I have no problem with mangosteen but please don’t stop the methotrexate.” So that’s what I did.
    I felt an improvement quite quickly. The first thing I noticed was my energy level upped a notch and then I realised I didn’t have the 24 hour post injection flare-up. In fact I didn’t have a flare-up for a whole month.
    To cut a long story short, I stopped the methotrexate after 6 months. I’d had maybe two or three minor far-ups during that time so I felt brave enough.
    Jan 2011 will be the 2nd anniversary of being methotrexate free. I still sometimes get the get the odd one but it’s not a patch on what it used to be. I see the Specialist once a year (instead of every six weeks) and I feel I have my life back again.
    It seems from what I see on this site that there are many different types of RA and maybe I am just lucky to have such a positive result. But I believe this fruit really does have something special going for it.
    I would be interested to know if anyone else has tried it and if so, what results they had.

    Reply
  • December 12, 2010 at 6:01 pm
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    Thank you so much for this post! It’s exactly what I wish more people understood. My husband uses a combination of treatments, including Humira and Acupuncture. I wish it was as simple as a cane being a remedy for his psoriatic arthritis.

    Reply
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  • January 30, 2011 at 8:10 am
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    Natural remedies sometimes can hinder what doctors can do. If having surgery you cannot take anything herbal for at least a month before. I have thought about the risks with the meds I take and I came to the decision that I like being able to take care of my children and walk on both feet and take care of myself. To me that is more important than worrying about the risks of the meds. There are risks with every single medicine we take including over the counter meds. I hate this disease and what it has taken from me, but, I am thankful there are meds out there than help me function and be as normal as possible. I would rather trust my doctor and his knowledge, research and experience than use a method that is untried and has no history of research or positive results.

    Reply
    • January 31, 2011 at 9:32 pm
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      Thanks for your thoughts Stephanie. Some good points. I think the hard part is that the natural medicines are indeed potent sometimes, but not easily measured so we can regulate how much active ingredient the patients gets so the risks are not well documented.

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  • January 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm
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    I was dx’d in 1997 at age 39, on metho alone for a while, then added Enbrel. Since I also had type 2 diabetes, I relied on NSAIDS for pain relief, mainly relefen and celebrex.

    This was a lucky break because I’m convinced that corticosteroids, although great for pain relief, contribute to the disease progression. These types of drugs adversely affect blood glucose and insulin levels, and just wreak havoc on the endocrine system. Inflammation of another type.

    In my attempt to control my diabetes, this also seemed to helped my RA symptoms. I would notice mini flares after eating certain foods, usually foods that also spiked my bg.

    I started eating better carbs, more veggies and fruit, eliminating bread, pasta, potatoes and rice. As diabetes control improved, so did RA. I was still in pain and on meds, but flares occurred less often.

    In 2006, I was feeling so good I started training to walk in the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk, a 60 mile walk over a 3 day weekend. Not an easy undertaking considering the 6 months of training walks beforehand added up to at least 500 miles.

    I did this walk for 3 years in a row all the while on my RA meds. While training for the 2007 event, I began to wonder whether I was in remission because I couldn’t remember the last joint pain I had let alone the last flare.

    I started talking to my rheumatologist and he said the only way to know was to stop taking the meds for a few months. Okay, I wasn’t prepared to experiment on myself just yet.

    I finished the 2007 and 2008 walks on meds and at the beginning of 2009, thought it a good time to stop taking meds to see what happens. I chose not to sign up for a fourth walk in case this experiment didn’t work, although I continued a regular exercise program. 2 months went by without pain, then 6 months and a year. It’s been 2 years this month.

    I do not know whether what worked for me would work for anyone else. I cannot even say for sure that my meds (including lack of corticosteroid use), diet and exercise had anything to do with it, but I suspect so.

    Reply
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  • March 6, 2011 at 8:25 am
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    I think that it’s extremely important that newly diagnosed people realize several things:

    A. Anti-inflammatories (Advil, Mobic, Celebrex, etc) do not help RA. They TREAT SYMPTOMS, but do not alter the course of the disease.

    B. Steroids, like Prednisone, do not alter the course of the disease, it again, treats the symptoms.

    C. Any other natural pain easing medication or supplement does not alter the course of the disease.

    The above are simply ways to reduce inflammation or swelling. The disease still progresses at a normal rate. The antinuclear antibodies in our body are still attacking & destroying our synovial tissues in the joints, & possibly internal organs.

    To look at this in a different way, look at a person with lung cancer. They are experiencing difficulty breathing along with a lot of pain. Treating the disease does not involve pain medications and inhalers to assist in breating. Those are simply ways to enhance quality of life, but the cancer still is progressing at it’s normal rate. You need a drug to treat the cancer itself.

    That is the same with RA. Pain meds, steroids, anti-inflammatories may ease the discomfort but does not treat the disease. To do that, we get to the coare RA meds such as DMARDS (Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs) such as Methotrexate, Plaquenil, Sulfasalazine, gold salts, Arava) and the newer Biologics. (Actemra, Cimzia,Enbrel, Humira, Kineret, Orencia, Remicade, Rituxan)

    The DMARDS & the Biologics is where we see the course of the disease altered and treatment begin. We need to understand that it is an autoimmune problem, and to treat RA, it involves treatment of the antibodies that are attacking ourselves. It involves suppressing the immune system into a state that it no longer has the ability to recognize that the normal tissue is the enemy.

    So you can begin to see how by simply taking pain medications and anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling & inflammation is bad if that is the only thing that is being done. It may give relief, but it fools you into believing that there is no longer active disease occurring. Note that is also possible to have active RA and not have joint pain or swelling. That is why its very important to continually have your labs monitored to check the Rh factor, the Sed rate, ANA, & CCP values. Those give real life indicators of the disease activity which is going on.

    So supplements ??? Take all you want, but I’ve heard repeatedly from doctors, articles, and holistic practicioners, that a DMARD & Biologic are the main attack of treatment for modifying the course of disease in RA. Anything additional is simply additional benefit.

    Reply
    • March 6, 2011 at 11:10 am
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      Well said, Lori. Clarifying the difference between the 2 ideas of symptom treatment and disease treatment was one of the goals of this site from day one. Everyone from well-meaning friends with helpful suggestions to doctors who treat by “step therapy approach” need to realize this – and patients too.

      Reply
  • December 8, 2011 at 3:29 pm
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    My wife has been diagnosed with RA….and so far it has been a downward spiral. We go and see RA specialists and what do they do???? Trial and error….she’s on plaquenil and the normal pain relievers, but it just gets worse and worse and worse

    I had to dress her the other day because the pain in her shoulders and hands/wrists was so bad she couldn’t do anything and had to get ready for work…this is my angel and it kills me to watch her get in a recliner at night and just weep because nothing she does or has been doing for the past year has done ANYTHING to help her.

    We get steroid shots…2 weeks later she can’t move again…so now what????? Doctors want to put her on all kinds of other medications that have definitive HARMFUL side effects. She doesn’t want that. If we don’t figure something out, and I’m thinking quicker rather than later, she’ll end up bed-ridden. And I’m about to stand back and watch that happen without trying EVERYTHING I possibly can to help her. Rely on the RA specialist who talks in circles, has no real idea of what is going on, and hates me (cause I question alot of what he says), and watch her continue to spiral to where she can’t even move limbs??????

    Of course she’s still on her meds…but there HAS GOT TO BE something else for us to try.

    Reply
  • August 27, 2016 at 3:37 pm
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    I tried natural cures for a few years, gluten free – organic – raw and supplements – turmeric, ginger, bromalein – plus all the usual high potency fish oils/vitamins. Eventually my RA developed beyond these efforts and I am currently on Methotrexate /Enbrel. It is good to fuel your body with what it needs but heavy duty medicine is the only way to halt the progression.

    Reply

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