4 Ways Naturopathic Medicine Can Help Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain
1. Think of Food as Medicine
The Mediterranean diet has been well studied for a variety of health concerns. When compared to an omnivorous diet in people with RA, the Mediterranean diet showed improvements in “inflammatory activity, an increase in physical function, and improved vitality,” according to a study published in March 2003 inAnnals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
The eating style consists primarily of seasonal plant-based foods from local sources. Whole grains, legumes, and nuts form the bulk of the diet. Healthy fats are encouraged, along with various herbs and spices for flavoring (instead of added salt, for example). Red meat is limited, but fish and poultry can be eaten in moderation. Red wine (1 glass for women, 1 to 2 for men) with dinner is acceptable, as is high-quality dark chocolate (70 percent cacao or more) in moderation for dessert. Some full-fat dairy is okay, and fresh fruit serves as the main source of dessert.
2. Act Like an Optimist (Even if You Aren’t One)
Much of what we feel on an emotional plane is echoed in our physical well-being. The ability to stay optimistic in the face of hardships related to an RA diagnosis leads to reduced perception of physical dysfunction. While you may be thinking that a “fake” smile won’t do a person any good, research shows that even inauthentic optimism primes our body to better handle our pain.
In those suffering from RA and other causes of chronic pain, it's important to uncover and thoroughly explore (under supervision of a qualified licensed mental health professional) the themes of helplessness, negativity, low self-esteem, and rumination on past traumatic life events. Early childhood trauma and trauma later in life can play significant roles in how we perceive both physical and emotional pain.
3. Consider Targeted Therapies to Relieve Pain
Discuss with your doctor or naturopathic physician the value of working to improve your digestive health, reduce intestinal permeability, and modulate bowel flora. In addition, physical therapies such as acupuncture, soft tissue work, massage, topical application of creams and gels, and low-level laser therapy are all viable options for direct pain relief.
4. Move Your Body Every Day
Based on the available research, there is no doubt that exercise is an important component in preventing and treating arthritis, albeit within the context of each individual’s ability to undergo physical activity. In a study of 30,112 women published in March 2015 inArthritis Research &Therapy,therewasa35percentlowerriskfordevelopingRAamongwomeninthehighestcategoryofleisure-timephysicalactivity(median40to 60minutesperday)andexercise(median2to 3hoursperweek)comparedtowomeninthelowestcategory(lessthan20minutesperdayofwalking or bicycling,andlessthan1hourperweekofexercise).
TOPPHOTOCREDIT:GettyImages; iStock.com (2)
BOTTOM PHOTO CREDIT: Chantal Heijnen
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