Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease (when a person’s immune system mistakenly develops antibodies against self and attacks body’s healthy cells) which causes inflammation majorly of the joints(like knees, hands, etc) and joint-lining tissue but is known to affect other organs too.
The distinguishing feature of RA is that it occurs in joints on both sides i.e. both hands, both knees. There is no age distinction, though generally common between ages 35 and 60 years, but can occur in children too.
The potential trigger for the onset of rheumatoid arthritis is still unknown but theories suggest a combination of genetic predisposition (eg inheriting genes PTPN22 and PADI4), environmental (eg smoking), and hormones as the cause.
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For this chronic disease associated with progressive deterioration of joint structures, the only treatment is impeding deterioration rate. According to the American College of Rheumatology, arthritis treatment includes the following:
- Medication: There are two type of drugs specifically used: (1) Analgesics such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Reduce pain and stiffness, and (2) Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs): Primary treatment for RA, these improve symptoms, decrease joint damage and improve overall functional abilities.
- Non-pharmacologic therapies like– physical therapy, joint assistive aids, patient awareness, weight management.
But studies have shown there are so many natural ways too which can help.
How can apple benefit in Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Patients across the globe spend a lot of money on these drugs and other treatment methods, but there are many alternative methods which are not only much cheaper but easily accessible to us. If one was to inculcate these in his day-to-day diet, he could really benefit in his treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
One such food item being researched for its curative properties is APPLE. Millions of people worldwide consume apples on a daily basis. Apples are known for their great nutritional qualities. Let’s delve further into the details which make apple an appropriate option to treat rheumatoid arthritis:
Apples being a very rich source of vitamin A and vitamin C and other antioxidants, have the ability to protect body’s cells from the adverse effects of free radicals and other harmful molecules produced when the body breaks down complex foods or is exposed to active or passive smoking along with contributing to a healthy skin and repair of body tissues.
Some studies suggest that some types of apples maybe better over others in respect to the polyphenol levels present. Polyphenols are a source of antioxidants and these polyphenols are more prevalent in red apples especially in their skin. These antioxidants help reduce inflammation. Christen S. Wooten, a registered dietician of Lake Norman Nutri Associates in Davidson claims- “Eating apples with dark red skin has the added benefit of more antioxidants, but including a variety of apples in your diet is beneficial.”
Studies indicate that rheumatoid arthritis maybe associated with risk of cardiovascular disease. In this study conducted on women, rate of incidence of myocardial infarction and stroke were observed in subjects with and without rheumatoid arthritis. Conclusion drawn suggests that participants diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis had higher risk of myocardial infarction not stroke than those without rheumatoid arthritis.
Thereby, outlining the need for aggressive heart disease prevention strategies. Antioxidants present in apples scavenge the free radicals responsible for onset of cardiovascular diseases and also to some extent wards of cancer.
In a study on 160 women, it was observed with consumption of apples, in about 6 months, the bad cholesterol level went down by about 23% and also CRP (C-reactive protein) level decreased. According to Bahram H Arjmandi, PhD, chair of Florida State University, lower CRP is better for people with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
In a recent study, it has also been suggested that the phytonutrients present in apples and in apple juice could have the ability to prevent plaque build-up in the arteries and also avoid cell damage that could contribute to memory loss with age.
In another report issued by John Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore on the subject of nutrition and rheumatoid arthritis, it is outlined that patients suffering from the disease are at a nutritional risk for various reasons. One cause could be weight loss occurring due to the chemicals formed due to the inflammation in the body.
Report suggests that rheumatoid arthritis patients are likely to lack adequate amounts of essential minerals and vitamins, which include folic acid or folate which helps make red blood cells in the body, vitamins C, D, E, B6 and B12, calcium especially if you take corticosteroids like prednisone which leads to bone loss, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Doctors suggest multivitamin supplements, but we know apples are a rich source of most of these essential nutrients(per 1gm)- calcium(7mg), magnesium(6mg), zinc(12mg), selenium(1-6µg), folic acid(7µg), vitamin C(12mg), vitamin E(490 µg), vitamin B(45µg).
Another important mineral present in apples is the trace element- boron. Boron is known to maintain high energy levels in a human body and also it restricts the loss of calcium from the body which would otherwise cause bone thinning in the body.
There is this one more issue that needs to be watched in a rheumatoid arthritis patient- weight. Over weight can pose serious problems to an arthritis patient.
Weight issue can also lead to onset of rheumatoid arthritis sooner than it would otherwise be. Weight loss but still keeping a healthy diet can be an effective way to reduce joint pains, because when you walk on a level ground, load on your knees increases by almost 4 times of your actual body weight, and downhill, even more so- compressive force reaches approximately 8 times your body weight.
Thereby, apple consumption is favorable in that respect as the apple is said to contain pectin (a soluble fiber known to gel in the gastrointestinal tract). Hence studies have shown pectin to display appetite curbing properties. A word of caution- over-ripeness can break the pectin down. Therefore it is best to consume it before it over ripens. Also, the fruit contains a good amount of fiber reaching an approximate of about 2.3grams per 100 grams . Fiber helps in digestion, therefore, helping in avoiding any weight gain.
How many apples are sufficient apples?
As we have seen, the benefits of apple consumption are numerous, so the next question arises is the amount to be consumed (dosage). At about 80 calories per serving, we can conclude that apples are a full packet of with nutrition, even and especially for arthritis patients.
Thereby, an apple a day (one serving being about a medium apple of a size of a tennis ball) could show health benefits which numerous tablets put together could not. Therefore, to incorporate apples in a person’s diet:
- Carry slices to nibble throughout the day in a sandwich bag.
- Try and go for fruit salads instead of fried foods.
- Using diced apples as toppings on frozen yoghurt.
- Maybe make an apple dip/apple sauce
- Baking these apples into pies, grating and adding to pancakes, waffles or muffins.
- Including apple in smoothies is another option.
- Crunching on whole apples during snack times or any time.
Points of concern
With consumption of apples, there are these following small precautions that need to be observed so as to make the intake actually beneficial.
- Wash the apple before use especially if it is to be consumed with its peel on. The outer covering layer could contain adversely affecting chemicals due to growing or storage techniques.
- Another issue that arises with over consumption of apples is the downside to the teeth. Thereby, ideally one should only rinse his mouth with water and wait for atleast 45 minutes before brushing his teeth so that the saliva in the mouth has the time to act on the acid in the fruit and protect the tooth enamel. Otherwise due to low saliva levels, tooth enamel can be damaged.
Apples consumption is good for health for a person in any case, and according to this study, for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis even more so. The anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants, effect on heart, body weight and so many other nutritional benefits are derived from apples.
The consumption of apples is fairly easy and can be included in the daily diet. Thereby in conclusion it can be said that apples can be eaten to maintain a good health and they also help considerably in rheumatoid arthritis treatment.