Rheumatoid arthritis is an illness that’s widely misunderstood. I believe this is partly due to the fact that many confuse it with osteoarthritis (OA). This mix-up leads people to believe rheumatoid arthritis is caused by aging.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is in no way “normal” aging and shouldn’t ever occur at any point in a healthy person’s life!
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease – meaning the body’s immune system is attacking itself – in the case of RA the immune system attacks a person’s joints.
Almost 1.5 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis and it’s on the rise. Unfortunately, modern medicine doesn’t have much to offer for reversal of this terrible condition. However, functional medicine and full body integrative and holistic approaches have resulted in full recoveries and promising outcomes.
I am a perfect example of this. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (I was also given many other additional diagnoses – another blog on this later) more than a decade ago. When modern medicine had no answers for me other than prescribing toxic immunosuppressive drugs and steroids, I voluntarily chose not to use those. As a practicing Internal medicine doctor who had a special interest in Rheumatology, I knew all too well, the terrible side effects and long term health consequences of these drugs. I was determined to find other answers!
Against conventional wisdom, I decided to be my own guinea pig and looked for other safer but effective alternatives. I researched and studied the fields of nutrition, and Integrative, Holistic, and Functional Medicine. I trained and became board certified in these, using all that I learnt, first on myself. It was trial and error at that point for me but I eventually healed myself from this crippling disease and from all other diagnoses that conventional medicine had given to my wide range of chronic symptoms!
My health completely recovered, and I no longer carry the clinical or lab diagnosis of RA, nor do I suffer from the pain or the disabling fatigue which is characteristic of this disease. In fact, I feel more energetic and vibrant than I did even in my 20s. I now use the same healing modalities and step-wise approach that worked for me, on my patients to help them in their recovery process.
As with everything else in life, we are all individuals with unique and varied characteristics, so no one size of treatment can fit all. Everyone with RA will have different root cause(s). I help my patients and clients find their particular root causes and then use a very personalized treatment approach that is right for their body.
In an effort to clear the confusion and misunderstanding surrounding rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve compiled 25 facts about rheumatoid arthritis that everyone should know. RA is a condition that can strike any person at any age – and it’s best to know these important facts.
RA is an autoimmune disease while osteoarthritis is caused by erosion of the cartilage and bones due to aging, overuse or obesity. Because these conditions are completely different, so are their treatments and it is important not to confuse the two.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its joints. This attack results in painful inflammation of the hands, feet, knees and other joints. RA can also impact other tissues in the body such as the heart, lungs, mouth, and eyes.
Many articles on RA like to cite the fact that there’s very little evidence RA existed before the 1500’s, however that fact remains uncertain. What we do know, is RA is more prevalent now than ever before and it’s incidence is on the rise. This fact leads many to believe it is a disease caused primarily by environmental factors such as diet and toxins.
It’s possible for children to develop RA -known as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) – because it’s an autoimmune condition, not caused by aging. In fact, children as young as five years old can develop RA, which is a deeply troubling to witness.
Though RA can impact any joint and many tissues in the body, it’s most common in the hands and feet. RA attacks the synovial lining between the bones of a joint, causing it to become inflamed, and ultimately damaging the tissue. Over time, RA can cause deformity to the affected joint.
For reasons that are not fully understood, women are three times more likely to develop RA than men. It is thought that hormones may play a role. Also, the prevalence of RA among women is on the rise.
RA is more common in people who live further from the equator, which suggests that adequate sunshine could help reduce RA risk, which leads me to my next point…
Sufficient vitamin D significantly reduces your risk of developing RA and sunshine is your best source of vitamin D. Vitamin D has been linked to a reduced risk for nearly all autoimmune disease, so it’s a good idea to daily get about 20 minutes of sunshine, before applying sunscreen (without burning of course). If you have the ability to test your vitamin D levels, please do so and take supplemental Vitamin D under supervision. In my practice I use different strengths of Vitamin D based on my patient’s levels.
Surprising to some, physical therapy has been shown to improve symptoms of RA. Decades ago, doctors believed exercise would put unnecessary stress on joints and recommended against it. This belief is not true and proper exercise with rheumatoid arthritis is now encouraged.
Anti-inflammatory diets low in gluten, sugar, processed and fried foods are an integral part of the functional medicine approach to RA. I would recommend working with a Functional medicine doctor and getting detailed food, nutritional and gut assessment so your individual causes for RA can be specifically dealt with.
Rheumatoid arthritis goes hand-in-hand with chronic inflammation. This means you can do yourself a world of good by incorporating anti-inflammatory practices in your life through diet, by reducing the burden of toxins in your body, and by targeted supplementation. The fire needs to be quenched!
Due to the lack of appetite that accompanies RA, coupled with the misguided but common belief that exercise will make RA worse, many people in the past suffered from muscle atrophy. These issues led to the nickname “wasting disease” because those with RA were often rail-thin and “wasting away.” A typical complaint is difficulty opening jars. Adding a daily protein drink or two to your nutritional supplementation can most certainly help replenish muscle strength. . My favorite protein powders are ones which also help gentle detox of the liver and the body.
Due to inflammation of the gut, many with RA experience a strong loss of appetite, which contributes to weakness and muscle atrophy. The best way to fight this is through healing the gut and reducing inflammation.
A shared epitope (SE) is a genetic variant that increases the likelihood of developing RA when present, in fact some studies suggest that SE is the single most significant genetic risk factor for RA. Though there’s a genetic predisposition for RA, most believe risk is more associated with environmental factors. Remember, genes are loaded guns but environmental exposures hold the trigger!
Having RA significantly increases your risk for developing cardiovascular disease and having a heart attack. This is likely due to the characteristic systemic inflammation present in both conditions.
RA increases the risk of many illnesses, including diabetes, though this could also be caused by the conventional RA treatments, which quite often include intermittent or chronic steroid use. Steroids increase the risk for diabetes. Opting for a functional medicine approach to rheumatoid arthritis could reduce this risk.
There is an increased risk for developing fibromyalgia in patients with RA. Suffering from a combination of these two illnesses can lead to chronic pain, severe depression, fatigue, as well as memory and cognitive issues.
Interstitial lung disease, a serious lung disease can be a frequent complication of RA when the disease activity is not properly controlled, in fact after joints, lungs are the second most common organ to be affected by this disease. Serious respiratory conditions, infections and pneumonia can also occur due to conventional treatments which suppress the immune function; or due to lifestyle habits such as smoking. Any symptom of shortness of breath should be properly investigated.
Pregnancy often improves symptoms of many diseases, including RA. I believe this is because of the elevated anti-inflammatory elements present in the body during pregnancy, such as the DAO enzyme. However, after a person with RA gives birth, they could experience a flare-up and should plan with their doctor accordingly. Postpartum follow up of RA and for that matter any autoimmune condition is crucial.
Though the reason behind this is not fully understood, research has shown that giving birth reduces a woman’s overall risk of developing RA compared with someone who has never given birth.
Smoking cigarettes increases a person’s risk for developing RA. Additionally, smoking cigarettes is a serious trigger for a flare of RA and can worsen symptoms overall.
Studies have been published suggesting some alcohol is both good and bad for people affected by RA. It’s my recommendation that you consume as little as possible because alcohol makes it difficult for your body to work on ridding itself of toxins in your everyday life that could be contributing to your RA.
Pollution is known to cause inflammation in the body, so it’s no surprise that researchers found women who lived within a third of a mile of a major highway had higher prevalence of systemic inflammation and RA.
Stress is one of the factors that may not only cause and but also exacerbate the progression of chronic inflammatory diseases such as RA. Relapses are common under conditions of emotional stress. Treatments based on mindful awareness and acceptance therapies lead to reductions in daily pain-related sense of doom and disability, fatigue, as well as stress-related anxiety in RA patients. A holistic mind-body approach is paramount along with other Functional medicine treatments for RA.
Steroids and NSAIDs (some of the conventional treatments for RA) are not a good long term treatment plan. Not only do they not offer long term solutions, they are harmful to the gut and the immune system! They work against the very systems that need healing.
Instead try a functional medicine approach to RA treatment with your Functional Medicine doctor, which includes:
Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating disease but there are better solutions beyond prescriptions. Reach out to your functional medicine doctor if you or someone you love suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.
Please share this article to help dispel common myths surrounding rheumatoid arthritis.
Please also share how you manage your disease and help others learn from your experiences.
Dr. Manisha Ghei October 3rd, 2017
Tags: Autoimmune, Autoimmune disease, Autoimmune MD, Autoimmunity, Chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, functional medicine, heart health, Inflammation, Joint, nutrition, OA, Osteoarthritis, RA, Rheumatoid Arthritis, supplements, women
Now that most of Hurricane Harvey’s and Irma’s waters have subsided and we are left to assess the damage, an important time presents itself. Hurricane clean-up is more than gathering debris and clearing out the mud that remains, it involves protecting ourselves from current and future threats. This most certainly includes invisible killers released by the toxic mold that creeps into water damaged buildings and wreaks havoc on our health.
When we think of hurricane clean-up, many don’t realize the significance mold has on our health. It’s hard to keep this invisible threat at the forefront of our efforts when there’s so much wreckage in our path, but we must.
Mold remediation is possibly the most important of aspect of hurricane clean up.
If mold remediation is not done properly and regularly checked for over the years, you run the risk of making yourself and your family very, very sick. As a Functional Medicine physician who helps people with serious chronic diseases I see this all too often!
Now that you’re safe from the immediate dangers of the storm, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of cleaning up from this hurricane with mold prevention and remediation as priority number one.
Mold has always played a role in human health, however it’s only in the past few decades that we’ve started building houses out of what’s essentially paper. Drywall and wood are ideal hosts for robust mold blooms.
All mold requires moisture to grow and thrive. It’s this combination of perfect host materials and high moisture content due to flooding that makes hurricane damaged building a breeding ground for toxic mold. Unfortunately, the Texas and Florida heat exacerbates this situation.
Mold’s role in nature is that of a decomposer. Mold grows on dead organic matter, such as leaves and trees, breaking it down. Mold reproduces through the release of tiny airborne spores. These spores are invisible and can be toxic.
Mold toxins have been linked to a whole host of medical issues including autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, DNA damage, neurotoxicity, and myelin breakdown which can contribute to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. In fact, Inhalational Alzheimer’s Disease (IAD) is a subtype of Alzheimer’s caused by biotoxins, which has only recently been identified.
The mitochondria of our cells evolved from bacteria, and bacteria’s natural enemy is mold and the toxins mold releases. So, it makes sense that certain molds we encounter would carry the unique ability to damage our mitochondria. It’s how we develop antibiotics (think Penicillin). We use mold to create antibiotics responsible for killing harmful bacteria (and sometimes inadvertently we end up also killing the good bacteria).
Properly cleaning up after a hurricane is critical to preventing damaging mold from growing in your home. It may seem daunting to take the extra steps necessary for killing and preventing future mold growth, but your health and the health of your family depends on it.
Mold can move in surprisingly quick after a flood. In fact, it can already be there when you start the initial work on your house, only a couple of days after the storm.
The symptoms of mold exposure include debilitating fatigue and mood swings, so it could be possible to mistake mold exposure symptoms due to the exhaustion as well as the emotionally taxing situation you’re in, but paying close attention to your new symptoms is the key. The signs and symptoms of mold exposure can include:
The tricky thing about mold is its symptoms present differently for everyone. This is why it is so hard to diagnose early.
To further complicate matters, there’s an actual gene that 25 percent of the population carries which makes them incredibly sensitive to mold. The HLA-DR gene prevents the individual’s body from successfully ridding itself of toxins. Think of the canaries in a coal mine! I should know as I surely am one!
Often, a family doesn’t realize there’s mold in the house until a person with this gene becomes very ill. Whether or not you have the HLA-DR gene, you should thoroughly clean your house using proper mold remediation protocol. Just because you’re not extra sensitive to mold toxins doesn’t mean you aren’t negatively impacted by them, it just might take you longer for you to notice.
Cleaning up after a flood should be taken very seriously. There’s a chance mold has already moved into your home. As you rip out drywall and get your home ready to rebuild, it’s safest to assume mold has already moved in and take necessary precautions.
Also, if you are planning on rebuilding, you should have your home tested by a qualified mold inspector. You’ll need an ERMI test done on your house before any remodeling begins or you run the risk of covering up mold growth.
Remember, you are cleaning up to prevent the growth of a substance that can cause you and your loved ones’ serious long term illnesses, and it takes less than a day for mold to start growing. Be vigilant.
Porous materials, such as wood, are of greater concern when cleaning, but for the sake of simplicity I’m going to recommend you use the same cleaning procedure for all surfaces, and this does NOT include bleach. Bleach won’t kill the mold in porous materials and it will only cause future mold to grow back stronger.
A formula I have used in my home in the past when I’ve had minor leaks:
Fabric should be thrown away when possible. If you must keep something, have it dry cleaned. Photos should be laminated or reprinted.
After you’ve gone through this process and before you begin remodeling, you should have an ERMI test done by a mold professional.
You should also have your home (and yourself) tested for mold allergy as well as mold toxins (known as mycotoxins) over the next year or two – possibly longer, especially if vague and troublesome symptoms persist.
While you’re cleaning up a flood damaged home, you should try to support your immune system as best as you can. Your body is going to be exposed to all kinds of chemicals, toxins, and potentially mold, so it will need any extra support you can offer.
This means a nutrient-dense diet of healthy fats, proteins, and plenty of vegetables.
Avoid sugar and carbs because they promote inflammation and make it harder for your mitochondria and immune system to do their jobs. Instead healthy fats and proteins should be your main source of fuel.
Also, I recommend avoiding alcohol during clean-up because your liver and immune system need to be freed up to detox your body from more important toxins.
Outside of home clean-up, consider other sources of toxins you’d benefit from removing from your life. You can reduce toxin burden by eliminating items such as:
Yes, some of these are for later but I just want you to have a full resource.
As a side note, candida overgrowth in your body increases your toxic burden too. I often get asked if candida or yeast overgrowth is because of mold, so clarifying here:
If you have symptoms of candida overgrowth, it is not due to inhaling it in your home air. You may have toxic mold in your house but the air in your home does not typically contain much Candida albicans. However, exposure to mold can seriously weaken the immune system making our body more prone to candida flares within our digestive system (candida is present in small amounts in all of our gastrointestinal systems), which when severe can lead to systemic and widespread symptoms in the body.
In addition, mold exposure can make one more sensitive to all kinds of fungi (candida is a fungus) and mold. Developing an allergy to mold leads to hypersensitivity to candida and starts a viscous cycle of inflammation and immune system dysfunction with far reaching consequences.
As a free gift please access my Candida Control Foods & Remedies Guide. My hope is that in it you will find some useful strategies to prevent, and get rid of candida overgrowth and the chronic symptoms it can cause. Supporting your body with these strategies will help in re-balancing your immune system while you deal with the effects of water damage.
Immune system boosting supplements include:
I added links to supplements I’ve formulated over the years because I know they are of the highest-quality, but honestly please buy these from any source your know to be trustworthy and professional grade as well as GMP certified. It really doesn’t matter where you get these from, so long as you’re getting them!
It’s so important to take care of yourself right now!
You are going through one of the most emotional and physically taxing times of your life right now.
It’s important for your health that you manage stress levels and take care of your emotional wellbeing. It may seem like there’s not enough time for these practices but your long-term health will thank you. Try and make time for:
An immune boosting diet, reducing toxin burden, supplementation, and self-care are all critical to your overall wellbeing right now.
If you’re working in a water-damaged home or moving back into a water-damaged home, you need to be more vigilant than you’ve ever been before about your health. The problem with mold is it’s can be almost impossible to see, so paying careful attention to your health is your best barometer for mold toxin impact.
I recommend making an appointment with a functional medicine doctor who specializes in chronic disease management, autoimmune disease(s) and mold toxin exposure. Tell your doctor, you and your home (or work) have been impacted by a flood and you want to pay close attention to your mycotoxin levels and any preliminary symptoms of impending autoimmune disease.
Your functional medicine doctor can test you for mycotoxins and help you develop a preventative plan for mold exposure. Even if your home is cleared for mold and your initial tests come back clean, I recommend checking everything again 3, 6, 9 months and a year later.
After the initial year of checks, I recommend health and home checks every six months to once a year at least after that if your home has been flooded. The reason I recommend such frequent checks is because the earlier you catch mold, the more efficiently and effectively it can be dealt with.
Remember, we’re talking about a substance capable of causing autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hashimoto’s thyroiditis, DNA damage, neurotoxicity, Alzheimer’s, and other neuro-degenerative diseases.
Mold is not to be taken lightly.
It’s personal for me!
My neighborhood was flooded during Hurricane Harvey. My family and I had a very close call. Although we don’t live in a flood zone, we were suddenly placed under mandatory evacuation orders on the second day of the storm. To evacuate or to stay put was one of the hardest decisions that my husband and I had to make for our family’s safety and well-being.
After a lot of contemplation we decided to move everyone to the second floor of the house along with essential supplies. The reason for this decision was the ill health of my mother who is physically disabled, with early dementia and lives with us. We couldn’t attempt to evacuate in a car with her and risk getting stuck enroute due to road and highway flooding and closures. That would have been worse! So we stayed…
The water came all the way up to the very edge of our home but we did not have any flooding; unfortunately many of our neighbors weren’t as fortunate. Hurricane Harvey has taken a physical and emotional toll on our community. I myself felt like I was dealing with anxiety, sleep issues, and some form of PTSD for many weeks after. I cannot fathom how those who lost everything must feel.
While I continue to send thoughts and prayers their way, and have continued to collect and donate food and supplies to shelters and individual families in need, I do also hope to spread the word about flood clean up and mold toxin exposure so we prevent future illnesses.
Mold clean up and prevention should be at the forefront of our concerns during the recovery process from the devastation that a hurricane leaves behind.
While I write this, my thoughts and prayers are with all those who are still facing the flash flooding and devastation from Hurricane Maria.
Please share this article with your loved ones who’ve been affected by the recent hurricanes.
My prayers continue to go out to all those affected by the recent hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and others in the past.
The information offered by this blog is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this blog. © Praana Integrative Medicine & Holistic Health Center, LLC. All rights reserved
Dr. Manisha Ghei September 26th, 2017
Tags: Autoimmune disease, borax, candida, candida overgrowth, detox, diet, encapsulants, flood, flooding, floodwaters, Florida, Harvey, Houston, Hurricane, Hurricane clean up, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, Hurricanes, immune system, Irma, Maria, mold, mold clean up, mold exposure, mold growth, mycotoxin, Puerto Rico, toxic mold, toxins, yeast overgrowth