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Stiff hands and feet can be painful. Whether it is a daily occurrence, or just the result of overexertion, the swelling, stiffness and joint pain may not just be a symptom of age, but could be the result of an autoimmune response. While the specific causes are unknown, research shows that inflammation may be associated with your immune system. How? Let’s find out.
According to the Mayo Clinic, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disorder that stems from an autoimmune response and mainly affects your hands and feet. This results in swelling to the lining of your joints causing great pain, erosion of cartilage and bone deformity. The journal Rheumatology indicates that more than 2 million people suffer from the effects of RA, in varying degrees of severity.
An autoimmune response occurs in the body when your brain cannot tell the difference between healthy cells and tissues and instead attacks them like foreign invaders, or germs. This means your body is damaging healthy tissues. RA is one of these autoimmune disorders where your joints are being attacked, even though they are healthy and not infected with germs.
Also, since this is an autoimmune disorder, stress reduction and relaxation training are imperative to calm and balance the immune system and reduce symptoms. Try these techniques to help naturally relieve stress:
- Yoga – engage in relaxing yoga poses and deep breathing, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
- Listen to music – play some of your favorite tunes and relax, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
- Get a massage – this technique may help relieve pain and reduce stress, according to the NCBI.
Detoxification and support of the digestive system are important because poor digestion leads to an accumulation of undigested materials, which microscopically leak through the gut and into the bloodstream. This may be a contributing factor in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Anti-inflammatory foods that help reduce an autoimmune response include:
- Vegetables, both cooked and raw
- Fruits, fresh or frozen
- Beans and legumes
- Healthy oils (mentioned above: extra virgin, coconut, avocado)
- Fish: Alaskan wild salmon, sardines, Alaskan black cod, albacore tuna
- In moderation: eggs, dairy, butter, natural cheeses, yogurt, lean meats, skinless poultry
Foods to Avoid
- Cooking oils: sunflower, canola, safflower, peanut, cottonseed, rapeseed, corn, vegetable, margarine (any butter substitutes) and shortening.
- Processed and packaged foods
- Refined grains
- Processed meats
There are many possible combinations of herbal medicine for RA. One herbal combination that works for many sufferers is a mixture of tinctures of meadowsweet, willow bark, black cohosh, prickly ash, celery seed, nettle, wild yam and valerian, all in equal parts. Check with your local health food store about these helpful herbs and seeds.