Tea for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritic conditions have become very common problem around the world. Arthritis can be of many types but the most common type is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body starts to attack its own cells and tissues.

The immune system starts building antibodies against its own cells and releases them into the blood. This leads to inflammation around the affected region which is most commonly the joints in case of rheumatoid arthritis. This condition is known to affect both the children and the adults equally.

Rheumatoid arthritis can result in destruction of the bone, cartilage and ligaments in the body which can lead to deformation of the joints. The symptoms of this condition include stiffness, soreness, pain and redness around the affected joint . 

Tea for Rheumatoid arthritis    

Tea is among the most popular hot beverages around the world. It first originated in the country of China but it slowly entered the other neigh boring regions. It became very popular with time and now it is enjoyed in numerous forms and flavors. The tea powder used to brew tea is obtained from tea leaves obtained from the Camellia sinensis shrub. This plant is usually grown in cooler regions with higher elevation. In India tea is grown in the regions of Darjeeling and Kerala. The leaves obtained from the shrub are dried and processed to form tea powder. 

The tea has now become very diverse and is now available in various forms like green, black, white tea, etc. Tea contains high amounts of healthy flavonoids which contain beneficial medicinal properties. Tea influences the nervous system and spreads a feeling of exhilaration and comfort in the body . Tea is also known to possess anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties and it has been reported in numerous studies as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. 

One study reported the polyphenols’ compound obtained from green tea and their effect on animal models artificially induced with rheumatoid arthritis. The study was carried out on rat models which were induced with adjuvants which is a similar model to rheumatoid arthritis in humans.

The polyphenols’ found in the green tea extract included epigallocatechin (ECG), epicatechin (EC), epicatechin-3-O-gallate (ECG) and epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG). These flavonoids are antioxidants are known to have anti-inflammatory properties.  The study showed that these polylphenolics were effective against the condition and provided protection to the cells and tissues. The condition of rheumatoid arthritis is associated with numerous immune cells like T-lymphocytes (white blood cells), interleukins (group of cytokines expressed in cells) and cytokines (signaling inflammatory proteins). All these impart the inflammatory response to the arthritic condition and lead to swelling in the affected tissues . 

These T lymphocytes are known to secrete various inflammatory cytokines. On administration of tea extract there was a significant reduction in the cytokine production and antibody response.  

The detailed study found of the rat models found that the EGCG polyphenol in the tea was observed to suppress the expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP-responsible for degradation of the matrix) which is induced by interleukin-1b (IL-1b). In addition to this, EGCG was also able to alter the expression of another gene known as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a).  This gene further acts on NF-kB (activation factor for uncontrolled growth of cells) or nuclear factor kappa factor pathway . 

The EGCG suppresses the interleukins which stops the cartilage and collagen from degrading. Subsequently there is an increase in the activity of anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 and suppression of the proinflamamtory cytokines (cells which lead to systematic inflammation) and antibodies . 

Another study investigated the effect of green tea extracts on rheumatic arthritic models. They described that this arthritic condition leads to the formation of cytokines from the macrophages. This in turn leads to production of chemokines (undirected movement of molecules due to an external stimulus) in the synovial fibroblasts (cells which synthesis Tea for Rheumatoid arthritiscollagen in the synovial fluid) of the joints. The activity of all these factors results in neovascularization and inflammation in the joints.  

The chemokines are mainly involved in transporting the leukocytes (white blood cells) to the inflamed cells and tissues

The researchers speculated that suppressing these chemokines might slow down the progression of the disease. The study used the green tea extract on rat models artificially induced with rheumatoid arthritis.

 Thus, when these affected rat models were give green tea extract, it was able to regulate the synthesis of chemokines and their interaction with the chemokine receptors in the synovial fibroblast of the joint tissues.  It was reported that a certain class of chemokines were up regulated in the arthritic condition which tend to attract lymphocytes and monocytes to the site of inflammation.  The interleukins tend to up regulate the activity of these chemokines in the joints.  

On feeding the rat models with the tea extract there was a significant decrease in the expression of interleukins which consequently suppressed the activity of the chemokines in the affected region.  The decreased amount of chemokines makes it difficult for them to attach themselves to the receptors. This suppresses the migration of the neutrophils to the site of inflammation and slows down the progression of the disease . 

Another study investigated the positive effect of green tea on artificially induced arthritic condition in animal models. In this current study, the animal models were artificially stimulated with collagen-induced arthritis. This artificially induced condition bears a close resemblance to the rheumatoid arthritis condition in humans.

The inflammatory response and the pathways involved are almost similar in the artificially induced condition since collagen is an important part of the cartilage protein in the joints.  The group of researchers added the green tea extract to the drinking water and fed this mixture to the animal models artificially induced with the condition.  They observed that there was a prominent decrease in the development of the arthritis and disease slowed down in progression .

 In this experiment the mice models which were not given the tea extract showed rapid progress of the disease and showed hindrance in walking about. The paws of the mice showed edema (swelling caused due to retention of fluid) and inflammation in the paws.  These mice were found to suffer from erosion of the cartilage and the bone followed by infiltration of the fibroblasts .. 

Another set of mice with the arthritic condition were fed the water containing green tea extract for approximately 37 to 39 days. The results showed that these animals showed comparatively lesser inflammation and were able to walk around easily.  In addition to this, there was a down regulation in the level of infiltrating cells and there was hardly any erosion was observed in the cartilage and the bone cells. The progression of the disease was significantly slowed down with very less inflammation and swelling in the joints .. 

They also assessed the level of TNF-a which are produced from the cells which cause inflammation. The mice which were not fed with the green tea extract showed very high level of TNF-a in the serum. However, in the mice models fed with the tea extract, there was hardly a trace of this factor in the serum. In addition to measuring the level of TNF-a in the serum levels, the scientists also measured the amount of IFN-g (interferon gamma) in the cells.

Interferons are specific proteins which are released by the cells when attacked by bacteria or immune cells. Activation of these interferons further activates the macrophages which are known to trigger the production of proinflammatory cytokines. The mice which were give oral dosages of the tea extract showed lower amount of IFN-g in the serum while the others showed high level of the IFN-g in the serum . 

It has been reported in various studies that rheumatoid arthritis may lead to cardiovascular problems in the body. The inflammation caused in the synovial fluid spreads in the neighboring cells and tissues. This activates the cytokines which further increase the production of acute reactive proteins (ARP) which include C-reactive protein (CRP-protein found in blood plasma which is produced in response to inflammation).

This protein suggests that there is a link between the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular. The green tea extract containing EGCG has been reported in various studies as a potential component for treating the arthritic condition. Many researchers suggest that it could possibly be an equally significant treatment for cardiovascular diseases associated with rheumatoid arthritis as the tea extract is known to suppress the activation of the cytokines . 

How to include tea in diet

Tea is amongst the most popular beverages in the world. It is usually taken as a hot beverage but can also be taken as a cold beverage. While taking any form of tea one must be careful to take a decaffeinated tea or herbal tea as it is healthier and does not have any harmful side-effects. Nowadays many types of teas have come up with different flavors and ingredients added to enhance the flavor and nutritional benefit to this drink. 

In India, the most common form of tea is the masala tea in which people add spices like ginger, cardamoms, cinnamon, etc. for both flavoring and nutrition. Other types of tea which are equally healthy include green tea. Green tea is considered very healthy and it does not have any adverse side-effects.  

Other popular teas include oolong tea, black tea, mate tea, blooming tea, etc. The tea varies according to the leaves which are used to make the tea leaf powder. For instance, the rooibos tea is made from the leaves of the red bush. Herbal tea is made up of pure herbs, fruits and flowers and it is considered highly nutritious . 

There is dried powdered form of green tea available in the market in the form of capsules which can be taken on a doctor’s advice. Another form in which green tea is available is in the form of liquid extract which is obtained from the leaves and buds . 

Dosage

Tea can be taken as hot beverage on regular basis by everyone. However, when used for medical purpose, it is advised to consult a doctor before taking it in any form. Since there are no studies about the recommended dosage in children of tea, there is no recommended dosage for children.

For adults, approximately 2 to 3 cups of healthy tea like green tea or herbal tea is considered beneficial. It is always advised to take the decaffeinated form of tea. In case of dried extract of green tea, one should take approximately 100 to 750mg per day or as advised by the doctor . 

Precautions

Although there have been no reports of any ill-effects suffered from the long term consumption of decaffeinated teas, it is advised to maintain certain precautions while taking tea.

Tea is generally not advised for people suffering from kidney disease, stomach ulcers, liver problems and anxiety. It is also not recommended for pregnant women to take tea. In addition to this, if a person is taking certain medications for a medical problem, he/she should consult their doctor before taking tea as it can interfere with the mechanism and action of certain drugs.

 For instance, tea can enhance the effects of blood thinning medicines, if combined with these medications . 

Conclusion

Many of us drink tea very regularly, however, most of us are aware of the benefits it has on various medical condition. The decaffeinated form of teas like green tea and herbal tea are highly nutritious and these tea forms can treat numerous medical condition including rheumatoid arthritis. T

he flavonoids found in tea are known to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties which can treat the inflammation and swelling in the joints.

By just taking a few cups of tea in a week, one can relieve themselves from the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and slow down the progression of the disease.