Causes and Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease, affecting the joints.  RA affects about 1% of the population, favouring women over men 3:1.  It usually strikes between 30 to 60 years of age, but can vary.  If you have RA, your joints may be painful, swollen, and feel warm to touch.  Various medical and blood tests can be run to confirm the RA diagnosis.

What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There has been a tremendous amount of research devoted to uncovering the cause of RA.  As yet, the exact cause remains a medical mystery, with genetic, infectious, environmental and hormonal factors all apparently involved.  However, with recent advancements in research equipment, it has become obvious that a large part of RA progression actually involves microbes, such as viruses and bacteria.  These microbes turn into chronic unresolved infections in the joints, causing the immune system to be driven into chronic attack which eventually results in the body attacking itself.  Some of the microbes implicated in RA are listed below.


  • Parvovirus B19

  • Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

  • Retroviruses HTLV (Human T-lymphotropic virus) 1, 2 and 5


  • Mycobacteria spp.

  • Mycoplasma spp.

  • Proteus mirabilis

  • Escherichia coli

  • Bartonella spp.

As appears to be often the case, there is not a single specific microbe responsible for RA - it is more the combined effect these microbes have on your immune system, combined with a genetic predisposition or weakness, that will generate the disease.

Your gut houses 75% of your immune system.

Any issue to do with your immune system, such as autoimmune conditions can be directly affected by your gut health.

This is an area where naturopathy is very effective.

Geelong Nutritionist Adrian Stone from Living Holistic Health explains more on this.


Rheumatoid Arthritis  Non - Drug Treatment Options


1. Reduce the amount of microbes driving chronic infections

Reducing the overall number of these infectious bugs which drive autoimmune diseases, including RA, is a key consideration.  Unfortunately, many of the bugs inhabiting our bodies have developed resistance to antibiotics, which makes killing them off harder to do.  Some herbs and essential oils, including berberine, lemongrass, oregano oil, and clove oil, have shown promise in fighting these types of bugs.  Even good old freshly crushed garlic can help with this!  Check with your healthcare practitioner for other agents which may be useful in combating these resistant microbes.   


2. support the immune system

One of the major problems associated with RA conventional treatment is that the drugs commonly prescribed act to suppress the immune system, such as methotrexate, in order to stop the body attacking itself, weaken your immune system.  Whilst this may have the desired effect on symptoms in the short term, it does not help reduce any persistent chronic infections, and may actually weaken the immune system to such a point that it renders your body susceptible to even more infections.  

Providing the right type of immune support, alongside medications, is critical, as you do not want the effects of one to negate the other.  Consulting with a healthcare practitioner on the best method to do this is key, however there is one thing you may wish to do first.  And that is to get your Vitamin D levels checked!  If you are deficient, you will need to boost your Vitamin D, as it is a critical component of immune support.  Zinc, a mineral commonly available in supplements, and nuts and seeds, (pepitas are a good source), is another major player in immune support.  Getting enough in your diet is an important part of helping to support your immune system.  Regular moderate exercise is another excellent way to support your immune system also.

Chronic Infections drive autoimmune diseases.

They are hard to get rid of, especially if the person affected is on immune suppressing medications.

In the video, Geelong Nutritionist Adrian Stone from Living Holistic Health explains what can be done which a naturopathic approach to sort this issue.

 3. control inflammation

The drugs commonly prescribed to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, (RA), will hopefully have an anti-inflammatory effect.  Recent clinical studies have also confirmed that a key nutritional supplement, (and food also), has fantastic anti-inflammatory properties which work particularly well in RA sufferers.  High Strength Fish Oil contains Omega 3 Fatty acids, (the active ingredients being EPA and DHA), which are responsible for lowering inflammation, especially in the joints.  Food sources of Omega 3's include oily fish, such as salmon, walnuts and flaxseed oil.  For more information about Omega 3's and fish oil, click here.  

Not all fish oil is created equally, so if you see a bargain basement tub in the supermarket or pharmacy, stay away!  The cheaper brands of fish oil are made cheaply, and may in fact be worse for your health than not having any at all!  

What is the best anti-inflammatory diet?

Controlling your inflammation through diet is a very important part of naturopathy and nutritional medicine.

Listen to Geelong Nutritionist Adrian Stone from Living Holistic Health, explain more on the topic

 4. support gut health

Eating a diet low in refined, processed foods, low in refined sugars and starchy foods, moderate amounts of protein, high in good fats from veges, fish and nuts, and plenty of fresh water, will feed your good gut bugs, and support your gut health.  And your gut health is critical to all autoimmune diseases, including RA, because 70% of your immune system is actually located in your gut!  

Good gut health foods to also consider are natural pot set yoghurts and bone broths.  

To download an excellent bone broth recipe, click below.

Nightshades are a group of vegetables and herbs which can aggravate people with arthritis.

Geelong Nutritionist Adrian Stone from Living Holistic Health tells you what you need to know about them.

 5. Eliminate aggravating foods  

Two of the main culprits we tend to find in our patients when it comes to foods which make rheumatoid arthritis worse are;

1. gluten containing foods, and

2. nightshade vegetables.

There may be others, such as dairy and soy foods, which may be causing you flare ups also, but the above two are the most common.  

As a starting point, eliminate these foods from your diet for a minimum of 4 weeks, and record in a diary how you are feeling.  Then reintroduce them, (gluten first, followed by nightshades), to see how your body responds to them.  You may find that some simple food manipulation can make the world of difference to your signs and symptoms.  

(It is best when trying an elimination/rechallenge diet protocol, to do so with the help of a nutritional professional.)

For a list of gluten containing foods, click below. 

And the picture below, shows a list of the nightshade vegetables to avoid.

list of nightshades.jpg

Further research

The following links are to scientific research papers on nutrition, gut health and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Clinical Benefits of n-3 PUFA and ɤ-Linolenic Acid in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Read More

  • The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Patients With Active Rheumatoid Arthritis Receiving DMARDs Therapy: Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. Read More

  • Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Dietary Interventions. Read More

  • Intestinal Dysbiosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Link between Gut Microbiota and the Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Read More

  • Fcγ and Complement Receptors and Complement Proteins in Neutrophil Activation in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Contribution to Pathogenesis and Progression and Modulation by Natural Products. Read More

  • Microbiota and chronic inflammatory arthritis: an interwoven link. Read More

  • Lipid Extract from Hard-Shelled Mussel (Mytilus coruscus) Improves Clinical Conditions of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Read More

  • Dietary Phytochemicals: Natural Swords Combating Inflammation and Oxidation-Mediated Degenerative Diseases. Read More

  • Bugs & us: The role of the gut in autoimmunity. Read More


As with any health advice from the Internet, (or anywhere else), please make sure you follow the advice of your health care professional primarily. If you would like to try any of the options listed above, please talk to your healthcare practitioner, (including us), about this first.  We have seen many clients come into our clinic, who have tried to self medicate with natural therapies and have gotten into worse problems, or have not received any benefits. There are plenty of cheap, dodgy supplements on the market, so please be wary as cheaper is definitely not better!


You can hopefully get some take away points from this information, but if you need further assistance, then we are here to help you. Seeing a qualified practitioner can take the guess work out of the equation for you, saving you time and money in the long run, and get you feeling better much faster.

You will get the benefit of our skills and expertise to correctly identify the best nutritional treatment options for you. You will be prescribed only the best quality herbs and nutrients, which means that you know that you are taking only the nutrients that you really need, and that they are the best quality available. 

With guidance from us and these simple tips, you can become less inflamed – strengthening your body to become more resilient to the effects of rheumatoid arthritis.

Would you like some further assistance?  Please drop us a line below, and we will be in contact shortly.

Name *