The Link Between Chronic Inflammation and RA
Drug. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, and biological agents can relieve inflammation and pain, and slow joint damage. Your rheumatologist will recommend which medications are best for you.
Food. “Some patients feel that certain foods can trigger inflammation and will religiously avoid those foods,” Koval says. Foods that can cause inflammation include:
- Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and other baked goods
- Fried food
- Sugary drinks
- Red and processed meats
- Margarine, shortening and lard
Meanwhile, certain foods help fight inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet should include:
Exercise. Research shows that when you have arthritis, exercise relieves pain, improves function, and slows disability. Adults with arthritis should try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.
Weightloss. Maintaining a healthy weight can slow the progress of RA. If you are overweight, losing 5% of your body weight can relieve stress on your joints.
Stop smoking. Smoking cigarettes can make RA worse, as well as other health problems. It can also make it more difficult for you to stay active. If you are having trouble quitting on your own, ask your doctor or get help with a quit smoking program.
Less stress. Reducing the stress in your life can have a huge impact on inflammation. Try methods like deep breathing, guided imagery (focused relaxation that harmonizes mind and body), and muscle relaxation.
Supplements. Some research shows that fish oil supplements and evening primrose, borage, and black currant plant oils may reduce the pain and stiffness of RA, but more studies are needed. These supplements can have side effects and interfere with medication, so check with your doctor before taking them.
“Ultimately, the best way to reduce inflammation is to work with your rheumatologist and follow an appropriate treatment and medication plan,” Koval says. When you work with your doctor to find a treatment that works well, RA can go into remission.
In the 20 years since his diagnosis of RA, Wohlfarth, who is now writing a book on living with chronic illness, has made many changes to soothe his inflamed joints. He limits stress, has a less physically demanding job, and avoids dairy products because it seemed to make him feel worse. But he improved his RA symptoms the most by taking his medication regularly, which he admits to having had problems initially.
“I would take medicine, I felt better, then I stopped taking it. But then I would get five times worse, ”he says. “Don’t pretend your disease is gone. Listen to your body and take it seriously. It is something that you have to deal with all your life. “
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