Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive autoimmune condition which not only causes joint pain and deformity, it also triggers a systemic inflammatory response. Consequently, during a rheumatoid flare, you may experience body-wide aches and pain, fever, malaise, and even blurred vision. While prescription medication can help decrease swelling and pain, they can cause side effects such as stomach upset, constipation, urinary retention and fluid retention. If you are looking for natural ways to augment your current rheumatology treatment plan, talk to your doctor about the following dietary supplements:
Fish oil supplements are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties. While eating fresh, fatty fish such as mackerel also helps dampen inflammation, you would have to eat large amounts to equal the amount of omega-3s found in a fish oil supplement.
MedPage Today explains, "fish oil would provide benefits in RA is biologically plausible because of the ability of the omega-3 fatty acids to inhibit the release of inflammatory mediators and peptides, including prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4, as well as tumor necrosis factor alpha -- all of which are targets of current treatments."
Fish oil supplements also have anti-coagulant properties, meaning that they reduce the clotting ability of your blood platelets. It is for this reason that they should not be taken in combination with aspirin or prescription anticoagulants because this can lead to abnormal bleeding.
Every cell in your body depends upon magnesium. It also supports muscle and nerve health, and can help decrease inflammation, pain and the systemic effects of rheumatoid arthritis. There is a link between an increased intake of dietary magnesium and lower levels of an inflammatory marker known as C-reactive protein, or CRP, according to a study published on Life Extension.
The study explained that people whose intake of magnesium was lowest in comparison to those with higher magnesium intakes were more likely to have elevated CRP levels, hence more systemic inflammation. This study adds strength to the fact that magnesium supplements may provide an anti-inflammatory benefit for those with rheumatoid arthritis.
Before taking magnesium supplements, check with your physician because like fish oil supplements, magnesium can contribute to abnormal bleeding, especially if taken with other anticoagulants.
Also, if you take medications known as beta blockers to control an abnormal heart beat, lower your blood pressure or relieve migraines, taking magnesium supplements may lead to a dangerous rise in serum potassium levels, known as hyperkalemia. This condition can cause your heart to beat abnormally, and if not treated, may lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, immune function and joint health. This important nutrient is not a vitamin, but a hormone that your body manufacturers when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D can help decrease joint inflammation and pain, while boosting your immune function.
Because rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, many sufferers have immune system deficits that can raise the risk for infection and certain health conditions. If you don't get enough sun exposure or if you don't consume enough foods rich in vitamin D, you may become deficient.
A simple blood test can determine your levels, and if your doctor determines that you have a deficiency, supplements may be recommended. Avoid taking vitamin D supplements without talking to your health care provider because doing so can lead to high levels of calcium in your blood known as hypercalcemia, which can cause problems with your heart and calcifications in your arteries.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking any of the above dietary supplements. While these supplements may help improve your symptoms, they are not meant to be substitutions for your prescription medications recommended by your physician.