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Rheumatoid arthritis is what doctors call an Autoimmune condition. It starts when your immune system, which is supposed to protect you, goes awry and begins to attack your body’s own tissues. It causes inflammation in the lining of your joints (the synovium). As a result, your joints may get red, warm, swollen, and painful.
Now before you go into panic mode, let us tell you that Rheumatoid Arthritis does not need to cripple you.
Here is your ultimate guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis and how Ayurvedic treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis works.
Let us first understand what Rheumatoid Arthritis is exactly before we dive into its Ayurveda treatment.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that most commonly affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. RA can also affect organs and body systems, such as the cardiovascular or respiratory systems, hence it is called a systemic disease. Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. The inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis is what can damage other parts of the body as well.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a progressive disease that initially causes signs and symptoms like joint pain and swelling in the feet and hands. Chronic inflammation of RA can cause permanent joint destruction and deformity. Periods of disease flares and remissions characterize RA.
The thing about RA is it has types and you might just have a few symptoms which can be cured easily so read on to know the types and the Ayurvedic medicine for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is mainly of three types:
Rheumatoid arthritis patients who are classified as seropositive have anti-cyclic citrullinated peptides (anti-CCPs) in their blood test results. These are also referred to as anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs). These are the antibodies that attack the body and produce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Between 60 and 80 % of rheumatoid arthritis patients test positive for the presence of anti-CCPs, meaning it is a reliable indicator for diagnosis. The presence of these antibodies can be detected as early as 5 to 10 years before clinical rheumatoid arthritis symptoms appear.
It’s still possible for patients to develop rheumatoid arthritis without the presence of antibodies in their blood. This is referred to as seronegative type rheumatoid arthritis. Seronegative patients are those who do not test positive for the anti-CCPs or another antibody called rheumatoid factor.
Though seronegative patients lack the antibodies that help doctors diagnose the condition, they can still be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in a number of ways. These include the demonstration of clinical rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, as well as X-ray results indicating patterns of cartilage and bone deterioration. It’s possible for seronegative patients to have milder rheumatoid arthritis symptoms than seropositive patients, this isn’t always the case. It can still depend on a number of factors, including genetics and other underlying conditions as well.
Unfortunately, many seronegative patients may not respond to typical rheumatoid arthritis treatments. This provides further motivation for researchers to identify rheumatoid arthritis sub-types in order to treat those who don’t have any long-term solutions as of now.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is another type that affects patients under the age of 17 years. It is also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It is the most common type of arthritis for this age group and symptoms can be persistent. Swelling, stiffness, and joint pain can last for months. Some patients may experience rheumatoid arthritis symptoms for the rest of their lives.
The effects of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis differ from those seen in adult patients because children and youth can experience growth issues as a result of the disease. Eye and lymph node inflammation is also a concern.
Like adult patients, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed from a series of different blood tests including testing for rheumatoid factor and the presence of anti-CCPs. In some cases, doctors may not be able to detect abnormalities in the blood tests of children and youth who have clinical symptoms. X –rays and scans are also performed in order to assess any other health threats like bone fractures, infections or tumours.
Another type of arthritis is called the Rheumatoid Factor. However, the rheumatoid factor can also appear in patients who have other conditions. This is why the presence of rheumatoid factor isn’t always a firm confirmation of whether or not a patient will develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid factor is another antibody that is used to determine the presence of the autoimmune disorder that causes rheumatoid arthritis. This is in addition to testing positive for anti-CCPs.
Rheumatoid Arthritis may be genetically inherited. It is also suggested that a few environmental factors trigger the immune system in risky individuals. It is said that smoking, obesity and chemical exposures like pollution, insecticide, and some cosmetics may increase the risk for rheumatoid arthritis. Women are more susceptible to Rheumatoid Arthritis and it commonly begins between the ages of 40 and 60 years.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system attacks the synovium — the lining of the membranes that surround your joints. The resulting inflammation thickens the synovium, which can eventually destroy the cartilage and bone within the joint. The tendons and ligaments that hold the joint together weaken and stretch. Gradually, the joint loses its shape and alignment.
Doctors don't know what starts this process, although a genetic component appears likely. While your genes don't 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.
Joints possess a synovial membrane (it covers the joint from inside) and cartilage (see diagram) which covers the articulating surface of the bone and merges at its free edges with the internal synovial membrane lining of the joint cavity. The joint cavity contains a small amount of synovial fluid. The cartilage derives nutrition from the synovial fluid like a sponge. Synovial fluid acts as a shock absorber as it avoids friction between bones. It is also responsible for the nutrition of the joint.
As age progresses the synovial fluid decreases and friction between the bones increases. There is stiffness and loss of function of the joint. This is encountered in osteoarthritis. In addition, there is pain and inflammation.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the rheumatoid factor is found to be positive. Gout is related to high levels of uric acid in the blood. Psoriasis, a skin disorder is also associated with arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis. Pain, inflammation (swelling), fever, loss of function, and morning stiffness are cardinal features of arthritis. Based on the character of pain, the involvement of the joint and laboratory tests, the final diagnosis is arrived at.
Some forms of arthritis involve other organs like the heart and muscles. This is common in rheumatic and rheumatoid arthritis respectively.
According to modern science, the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown and not yet fully understood, although it is known that an abnormal response of the immune system is the main reason causing the inflammation of the joints.
The symptoms of the disease may come and go, and people with RA, who closely follow an effective treatment plan, can experience periods of remission (low to no disease activity). However, there is no cure for RA, so the disease requires ongoing monitoring and treatment as you engage in healthy lifestyle habits. According to Ayurveda, Ama is defined as the toxins produced in the body due to an imbalance in body metabolism. These toxins circulate in the whole body and accumulate in the weaker joints, triggering the immune system and leading to joint inflammation.
Rheumatoid arthritis accounts for 15 percent of the total rheumatic disorders. The disease is more prevalent in cold and damp conditions. One can use Ayurvedic medicines to cure this disease. There are some effective Ayurvedic medicine for rheumatoid arthritis.
Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:
Early rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect your smaller joints first — particularly the joints that attach your fingers to your hands and your toes to your feet.
As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders. In most cases, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of your body.
About 40 percent of the people who have rheumatoid arthritis also experience signs and symptoms that don't involve the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect many non-joint structures, including:
Typically, Painkillers and Corticosteroid medicines are used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Recently disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs have been used to cure this disease. All the three classes of drugs provide instant relief, however, they have unpleasant side effects in the long term. Common side effects with corticosteroids include cataract, diabetes, bone thinning and weight gain.
Ayurveda is a traditional Indian practice involving a natural, holistic approach to treating medical conditions. Ayurvedic practitioners call rheumatoid arthritis (RA), “Ama Vata.” Ayurvedic treatment can include supplements, dietary changes, and exercise.
Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle practices, Ayurvedic herbs, supplements and yoga, may be beneficial for people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Doctors at AIIMS have said that Ashwagandha, specifically, has anti-inflammatory, anti-stress and immuno-modulatory properties which can improve the symptoms in 3-4 weeks in RA patients.
Let us understand how these work in detail.
Ayurvedic practitioners believe the following dietary habits may cause or worsen the symptoms of RA:
Some Ayurvedic practitioners also recommend soups that contain barley and rice, as these are thought to add lightness to the body. Sometimes, a practitioner may recommend a castor oil fast. This is when a person consumes castor oil, a natural laxative, to encourage intestinal purification. Over several days, certain foods can be reintroduced and one can ultimately progress to a healthy routine diet.
Ayurvedic practitioners recommend positive lifestyle habits that support RA treatment. They believe that a sedentary lifestyle leads to the formation of “Ama,” which causes inflammation and disease.
Practising yoga, an essential part of Ayurvedic medicine, can help a person with RA be more active and also reduce stiffness and pain. Ayurvedic practitioners also recommend the following for people with RA:
While Ayurvedic physicians do believe that physical activity can help relieve some conditions, they recommend that people with RA avoid excess walking.
The Ayurvedic diet is typically based on the three doshas:
A dosha is a primary element, or energy, that exists in the body. The recommended diet for those living with RA is connected to the Ayurvedic condition Ama Vata. Ama Vata refers to a disease of the joints and causes similar symptoms to RA. As for Ama Vata, Ayurveda recommends a diet that pacifies, or balances out, the Vata.
Examples of foods to eat for Rheumatoid arthritis include:
In general, foods like fruits and vegetables should be stewed or cooked before you eat them. Look for sweet fruits and vegetables like:
Limit hard-to-digest fruits and vegetables like raw apples, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Spices are an important part of Ayurveda, but none of your dishes should be fiery hot. Limit spices like cayenne pepper and chili powder, which pack a punch of heat. Replace them with warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric.
Also, skip cold water in favor of room temperature water, and venture into nut milk, like almond. For an extra treat, try it warm with a spoonful of honey.
Recommended Ayurvedic exercises usually include gentle movements like Yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, and walking. Deep breathing and daily meditation are also recommended. Yoga may be especially beneficial for RA. One study found that yoga for arthritis:
If you live with RA, it is important to discuss with your doctor whether it’s safe to exercise before starting a new routine. They can determine how often you should exercise based on your symptoms and talk with you about modifying exercises, such as yoga poses.
An Ayurvedic lifestyle can help with sleep if symptoms like pain and stiffness keep you awake at night. Recommended changes to improve sleep include:
You can also consult our specialist for Ayurvedic medicine for Rheumatoid Arthritis. They can recommend lifestyle practices and remedies that can help ease your symptoms.
Note: Never try anything new without consulting your primary doctor. Studies are limited on the efficacy of these practices. And if you take medication for RA symptoms, some of these practices may interfere with your daily intake. Your doctor can help determine what’s safe for you.
Ayurveda encourages gentle exercises like yoga and Tai chi. Avoid jarring and high-impact movements, such as running. Also avoid drinking alcohol, except for the occasional glass of wine. It is important not to use Ayurvedic practices in place of your usual medication or replace conventional care. Talk to your doctor about how an Ayurvedic lifestyle can fit into your usual RA treatment plan and improve your symptoms. A combination of holistic and conventional Western treatments may work best for you.
Ayurvedic Medicine for Rheumatoid Arthritis
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With a doctor’s supervision, many of the dietary and exercise-related changes recommended by Ayurveda can be very beneficial. It can help in reducing inflammation and prevent damage to the joints which can occur without effective treatment.
Currently, there is no licensing program for Ayurvedic practitioners in the United States, nor is there an official training or certification process. This is different from Ayurvedic training in India, which has many regulations. Anyone considering Ayurvedic treatment should speak to their regular doctor and be sure to ask about an Ayurvedic practitioner’s training and safety practices.
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