The effect of Stress on Rheumatoid Arthritis – by Rosemary Wellman
This is my second blog about living naturally with Rheumatoid Arthritis having come to realise that stress plays such an important role in the everyday management of this disease. Being still in remission, I’ve been fortunate in not having any painful flares in the past.
But after a particularly stressful day at home recently, which ended with many of my joints being inflamed and painful making any normal movement excruciating. It was a revelation to realise that stress is a major cause of inflammation, not of course just in the case of RA. So, having experienced my first very unpleasant flare, what could be done? I certainly didn’t want to revert to my previous medication having kept away from it for so long. I immediately took some of the Turmeric supplements (liquid and capsules along, which calm the inflamed joints down. Add to this Richard’s regular exercises the next day and a calming qi gong session, I am active again.
More recently, I have also found CBD gummies are a great help in calming down inflamed joints.
How stress affects Rheumatoid Arthritis
As we know, stress can interfere with your health in many ways, it’s a risk factor for heart disease and especially harmful if you have RA.
The link between stress and Rheumatoid arthritis has been identified in numerous studies. An analysis of many of these studies published in heathline.com/health/rheumatoid arthritis/stress found that stress tends to make RA symptoms worse. Those with post-traumatic stress disorder have a higher risk of developing RA and other auto-immune diseases. A diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as RA points to the possible link between stress and flares and It has been found that stressful events often precede the onset of RA, and I can personally back up that idea as I can probably pinpoint almost exactly the day my RA started 12 years ago, when I tripped and fell in the street on the way to work. I remember being very shaken up and shortly after that trauma, a chain of events led to my diagnosis of full-blown rheumatoid arthritis and a new life coping with a painful, debilitating disease.
I was fortunate to be referred and treated quickly at Charing Cross hospital and have learned by experience how to deal with occasional flares brought on by stress and to stop them in their tracks by practising meditation, Qi qong and regular appropriate exercise with Richard.
Author: Rosemary Wellman – Co-founder The Lifestyle Physiologist
My experience of changing from long-term drug treatment of rheumatoid arthritis to following a more natural approach (2012 – 2021) – by Rosemary Wellman
In 2012, I was unexpectantly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease, at Charing Cross Hospital, which, fortunately for me had an excellent Rheumatology department. I was immediately prescribed the steroid Prednisolone for a couple of months, which really helped control the inflammation and pain effectively. I was also monitored regularly with blood tests. I was able to carry on working and traveling at that stage.
In 2013, the next stage involved being prescribed DMards (disease-modifying anti-immune drugs) i.e Sulfasalazine and Hydroxychloroquine, the latter having become notorious during ex-President Trump’s time. These enabled me to carry on working and traveling for some time.
Diet and fitness with rheumatoid arthritis
I had always had a healthy diet, my weight had been a constant 52 kg, (height 5’7). I’d also been playing badminton and going to Pilates classes every week when I had my diagnosis. With this in mind, in 2012, I had asked the Rheumatologist for her advice on self-help to ease the worst effects of RA. Her immediate response was that I should follow the Mediterranean diet as much as possible, as it’s generally anti-inflammatory.
What is generally referred to as a Mediterranean diet is based mainly around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, eggs, poultry, red meat, fish rich in omega-3, and as much extra virgin olive oil as possible!
After doing some research and from personal experience, I found some foods I should be avoided which can make the inflammation and other symptoms of RA worse, these are white bread, white rice, margarine, cereals, potatoes, polyunsaturated cooking oil, processed and sugary foods.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Remission
In 2016, I was told I was in remission, which was good news, although I was still taking theDMard drugs, which I thought were pretty toxic. I decided maybe it was time to think about winding them down and eventually managing without them. This was not encouraged by my rheumatologist, who carried on prescribing the same drugs more or less to the present day.
Also in 2016, I had a spell in Sussex County hospital after suffering a minor stroke and heart problems. Up until then, I’d kept my fitness and maintained the same weight ever since my diagnosis, I then began cardiac rehab exercises held in the hospital.
After being discharged, I moved on to phase IV cardiac rehab exercise classes (specific to cardiac recovery) run by the qualified trainer and exercise physiologist, Richard Stantiford. I am still following these regular cardiac rehab exercise classes which also help reduce the pain and inflammation from the RA. (see link below), as well as improving my balance and stability following the stroke.
With my aim of coming off the drugs and supporting the ‘food as medicine’ healthy lifestyle, I was pleased when Richard invited me to become a co-founder of the website he founded in 2019 the Lifestyle Physiologist. I have learned a lot from him and have much faith in his methods. It is thanks to Richard’s exercise regime, that I have managed to keep the RA in remission, as shown on my recent blood tests.
By chance, recently, when trying to refill my prescription for Sulfasalazine, I was told none was available and even Pfizer, the manufacturer, had run out. For some time before this, I had been taking Turmeric as a supplement, along with Vitamin D, and on checking with my consultant, have been given the ok to stop taking Sulfasalazine, with the possibility, if I remain well and in remission, that the hydroxychloroquine can go too.
To Sum up briefly, With my ultimate goal of reducing the drugs I’ve been taking for rheumatoid arthritis for so long, although It’s been a long haul, I now feel much better knowing that I am in control of my body and health, rather than any drugs.
footnote: I have worked out, in the ten years I’ve been taking the RA drugs, I’ve taken over 16,000 pills!
Author: Rosemary Wellman – Co-founder The Lifestyle Physiologist