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Saturday, May 14, 2011

How do weather, diet and genetics effect RA if at all?

     First of all, I want to provide a bit of a disclaimer here as to any medical or otherwise "expert" advice or opinions you read on my blog.  I am not a medical expert about RA nor should you assume anything here is gospel for anyone but me.  I encourage you to question it by doing your own research.  My advice, opinions and reflections are mine alone, based on 15 years of personal experience with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  That said, lets go on to today's blog.
     Does weather effect RA?  Not for me unless you consider that really extreme temperatures are just uncomfortable generally and so when my body is trying to get cool in the summer or stay warm in the winter it does create some discomfort and can make the pain of RA worse.  RA is autoimmune and so is not subject to the same responses that effect osteoarthritis (OA), the more traditional "wear and tear" arthritis.   So when someone says that their knees are acting up so rain must be coming - likely they have OA not RA.
     Genetics seems to play a role according to the latest studies out there.  How?  Well, a number of studies have shown a genetic predisposition to acquiring RA and they actually have isolated 5 genes to date that are considered "susceptibility" genes.  The hope is that through not only research on RA but also autoimmune disorders in general a vaccine might be created to prevent RA in people predisposed to developing it.  For me when I look back on my family the only one who I know had any type of arthritis is my maternal grandmother and I am not sure what kind she had.  She did have to stop sewing when she was in her late fifties due to arthritis so perhaps she had RA. I don't know and my mother has passed as well so I have  no one to check with.  There is much research ongoing so we can hope that it will be helpful to future generations if not to those of us who currently have RA.
     Diet is a very interesting and controversial topic when it comes to its effect on RA.  I have seen all the ads and get lots of spam claiming to be able to "relieve RA with new diet and nutritional breakthroughs!" but I think it is largely untrue and even dangerous if it prompts folks to stop taking medications that are controlling the disease.  Some claims revolve around certain food groups, for instance night shade vegetables, and how they may influence flares.  I have tried to see if any of these work for me, more out of curiosity than anything else, and have found that they have ZERO impact on my RA.  
     That does not mean that good nutrition is not important in the management of RA because it is very important!  Healthy, wholesome foods and good eating habits, including proper weight management, are actually vital to successful disease management.  The more excess weight you carry the harder it is on your joints...period.  Taking off the weight is not easy, however and I do not make light of the constant struggle that so many RA patients, myself included, have to deal with constantly...particularly if you are on corticosteroids like prednisone, for inflammation.  I have also found that too much salt is harmful as you tend to retain even more fluid than normal and it is not good for your blood pressure.  Otherwise, eliminating entire food groups just has not been shown to make much of a difference.  Frankly, RA makes you feel a sense of loss to begin with so I am just not about to give up food I enjoy...I just try to indulge moderately and with an eye to weight management.
     So, go forth and read up on all of these topics and see what you think and then please post comments here!  I love to hear from others.  

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