What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease fueled by autoimmune dysfunction. This devastating condition affects mainly the joints and adjacent structures. Chronic inflammation is a landmark of this condition and leads to joint and soft tissue disability and decreased function and quality of life as the disease progresses.
Many times, patients are given anti-inflammatories and other immune suppressant drugs so that they feel better and tissues do not get destructed. While all this is good, many times what is not done is a deeper look into the trigger and antecedents to that problem. At Natural Medicine & Rehabilitation, we look to do a functional or process oriented medicine approach where we look at all these factors to do a better job at what all the causative factors are and what we can do to support that person to restore their health and physiology.
The conventional approach addresses the symptoms utilizing non- steroidal anti-inflammatory medications NSAIDS) or immune suppressing agents. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Underlying processes that are driving the autoimmunity are not addressed just by pharmaceutical intervention alone and continue to fuel the condition. Medication may be needed and can improve symptoms and function. Unfortunately, most of these drugs have serious adverse effects long term and do not address the underlying processes that lead to autoimmunity in the first place.
At Natural Medicine & Rehabilitation, we take a functional or process-oriented medicine approach to investigate a wide variety of systemic imbalances that lead to loss of immune regulatory control in an individual. This approach aims to identify, restore immune balance, and decrease systemic inflammation utilizing lifestyle-based medicine.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis treated?
All too common with conventional medicine, many times medications are given to suppress symptoms to have the person feel better which is always nice, but unfortunately, it is not uncommon for symptoms to be suppressed and all the while those mechanisms of disease and dysfunction are left to continue. Our Functional Medicine doctor will look to find out which mechanisms could be causative to the person’s problem to come up with therapeutic options that deal with many of these factors.
Most patients have initial complaints of fatigue and recurrent, painful, and swollen joints in the hands, knees, or feet. The traditional medical model would steer the practitioner to order a blood test for rheumatoid factor and start the person on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).If the NSAID is ineffective or if the blood test is negative, the conventional choice would involve switching to a more potent pharmaceutical agent and order more testing in search for alternate diagnosis – in other words another box to place the person.
A functional medicine practitioner, on the other hand will seek more detailed information about the person’s lifestyle and dietary habits. An extensive history would be taken to look for any events that might have occurred before the symptoms first appeared. Potential exposures to toxins would be explored. A review of all the body systems would be performed with particular attention paid to issues such as gastrointestinal symptoms or reactions to food. The search for previous medical problems might extend as far back as infancy with questions referring to colic, frequent ear infections, heavy use of antibiotics or NSAIDs. It is important to understand that when it comes to the treatment of RA or any other autoimmune disease it is not just the immune system that requires attention, but the entire human organism which is composed by multiple interacting and self-regulating loops that dynamically influence each other to express health or disease.