Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition that arises when immune cells attack the sensitive lining of the joints, causing pain, inflammation, and sometimes fever and deformity. That lining, called the synovium, can become gnarled and swollen over time, making joints lose their flexibility and range of motion.
The joints most commonly affected are those in the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. The illness can also spread, causing the immune system to attack the skin, lungs, blood vessels and the lining of the heart.
Like virtually all chronic diseases, rheumatoid arthritis tends to follow a wave pattern, meaning its symptoms rise and fall over time. There are periods of relative dormancy, when the condition seems to have subsided. These are followed by sudden flare-ups.
Medical doctors will tell you that no one knows what causes arthritis, though they argue that genes may be the ultimate source of the illness. There is no medical cure for arthritis.
Chronic diseases are a goldmine to the pharmaceutical industry and arthritis is no different. Millions of people worldwide suffer from the illness (2.1 million in the U.S. alone) and currently the market is valued at more than $16 billion worldwide. That is expected to grow considerably between now and 2012. Ironically, among the places where rheumatoid arthritis is expected to keep spreading is Japan, where the illness was virtually unheard of only decades ago. Incidence of the illness is rising in both Europe and the U.S., of course.
Current means of treatment include the following:
* Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs. These block the cox-1 and cox-2 pathways (otherwise known as cyclooxygenase-1 and -2, which are enzyme pathways that affect pain). * Steroid treatments, known as corticosteroid drugs.
* Supplements intended to rebuild the joints that have been deformed by the immune attacks.
* Biological treatments designed to reduce inflammation.
* A whole host of new drugs whose purpose is essentially to attack and disable certain parts of the immune system.
The drugs provide only temporary relief, at best, and all of these drugs have side effects.
MEANWHILE, A DIETARY CURE HAS BEEN KNOWN FOR DECADES
As any medical doctor, rheumatologist (a doctor who specializes in arthritis), or medical scientist who has looked at the research knows, there has been an effective dietary approach to rheumatoid arthritis for decades – and very likely centuries.
The dietary solution to this worldwide problem is a plant-based diet.
Back in 1991, Norwegian researchers, led by J. Kjeldsen-Kragh, at the University of Oslo, placed a group of 27 people with proven RA on a health farm, where they did a modified fast on vegetables and juices. This was followed by a vegan diet that was maintained for 3.5 months, after which a vegetarian diet was adopted in which some eggs and dairy products were permitted. The same group was followed for a year.
Within 30 days on the vegan diet, all physical symptoms and biological markers for rheumatoid arthritis were reduced. Moreover, Kjeldsen-Kragh and his colleagues found that these benefits lasted, and were improved upon, throughout the yearlong period on the vegan and vegetarian diets.
The group receiving dietary treatment was compared against another group with proven RA who ate the normal Western diet and got standard medical treatment. These people experienced little or no change in their symptoms or overall condition.
The researchers, who reported their findings in the October 1991 edition of the medical journal, The Lancet (12;338 (8772):899-902), concluded that,” The benefits in the diet group were still present after one year, and evaluation of the whole course showed significant advantages for the diet group in all measured indexes.”
In fact, the scientific evidence to support the conclusion that diet is an effective treatment against RA is abundant, and if there were more funds to support the search for a dietary cause and cure for arthritis, the literature would soon be overwhelming. But let’s have a closer look.
An October 2001 study published in Rheumatology (Oxford; 40 (10):1175-9) reported that “a vegan diet free of gluten improves the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.”
The study was relatively small. The scientists examined 66 patients, all with proven RA (rheumatoid arthritis). Thirty-eight of the patients were placed on a vegan diet, free of foods containing gluten. Twenty-eight were placed on a normal “balanced diet” that contained meat and other animal foods. The two groups were then followed for one year.
The results were that just under half of the people on the vegan diet (40 percent) completely experienced a remission of their disease, along with a reduction in all antibodies from their immune systems. That means that the immune systems cooled and stopped attacking the synovial lining of the joints. The vegan diet changed the way the immune system acted within the body.
Only one person on the normal diet experienced a reduction in symptoms and none of those following the normal diet experienced any change in antibodies.
The researchers concluded that, “The data provide evidence that dietary modification may be of clinical benefit for certain RA patients, and that this benefit may be related to a reduction in immunoreactivity to food antigens eliminated by the change in diet.”
Numerous other studies have shown similar results, including those published in the February 2002 Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (8 (1): 71-5). In that study, done at St. Helena Hospital in Deer Park, California, 24 people with proven RA were placed on a vegan diet and followed for one month. In that single 30 day period, the researchers found that, “All measures of RA symptomatology decreased significantly.” So, too, did weighit and c-reactive protein (a marker for the degree of inflammation throughout the system).
The researchers concluded that, “This study showed that patients with moderate-to-severe RA, who switch to a very low-fat, vegan diet can experience significant reductions in RA symptoms.”
A study published in the January 2003 journal of Rheumatology International (23 (1): 27-36) found that a plant-based diet, supplemented with fish oils, significantly improved all RA symptoms, including all immune markers that form the basis for rheumatoid arthritis. The scientists concluded that, “A diet low in arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid found in certain oils and animal fats) ameliorates clinical signs of inflammation in patients with RA and augments the beneficial effect of fish oil supplementation.”
A study published in the November 2000 edition of the Journal of Toxicology (30; 155 (1-3): 45-53), showed that a vegan diet, rich in antioxidants, showed significant improvement in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and those with another inflammatory joint disorder, known as fibromyalgia. The researchers stated that, “The improvement of rheumatoid arthritis was significantly correlated with the day-to-day fluctuation of subjective symptoms. In conclusion the rheumatoid patients subjectively benefited from the vegan diet rich in antioxidants, lactobacilli and fiber, and this was also seen in objective measures.”
IGNORANCE KEEPS PEOPLE IN PAIN
I wonder how many patients have had some version of the following experience. They go into their doctor’s office and, after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, are informed that they have a choice: Either they can take a drug treatment that will not cure their condition, and will only give them temporary relief from the pain, or they can change their diet completely and rid themselves of the illness entirely? Mind you, the drugs will cost a great deal of money over time, and the chances are very good that the prices of those drugs will go up substantially during the years ahead. Meanwhile, the chances are good that the drugs will have their own debilitating side effects, particularly the steroidal medications, which are likely to affect hormonal balance, and the immune suppressants, which could affect many aspects of health.
On the other hand, you’ve got to eat, so you might as well eat foods that will support your recovery and very likely improve your health overall. That overall improvement, by the way, could reduce your medical bills – not to mention the degree of pain and suffering you are currently experiencing, and will likely experience – for the rest of your life.
Dietary change or drug treatment? On one hand, you can experience elimination of the pain and related symptoms entirely. Or you could choose the chronic pain, related arthritis symptoms, drug treatment for pain management, the side effects, deformity, and the possibility that the illness could affect vital organs, such as the heart and lungs? Hmmmm.
That’s a tough one.
Now it’s true that a lot of people will take the drugs, because they have been brainwashed and because relatively few people know where to go to get good cooking instruction in order to make the food delicious.
YOU CAN HELP. ISN’T IT TIME?
That’s where you come in. You already know a lot and can help a lot of people with your knowledge. You can also show people how to cook healing foods so that they are delicious for anyone’s palate. The world needs you. Let’s start becoming more active at spreading the word.
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