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Rheumatoid arthritis, which affects more than 400,000 people in the UK, is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease happens when the body’s natural defence system can’t tell the difference between your own cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells. “In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling,” explains the NHS.
When the joints come under attack from the immune system, it can cause joint pain, swelling and stiffness.
According to the NHS, it may also cause more general symptoms, and inflammation in other parts of the body.
The symptoms can vary in their intensity but you may experience flares when your condition deteriorates and your symptoms become worse, says the health body.
Regular flare-ups can greatly diminish your quality of life, impeding your ability to perform even basic tasks.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but this doesn’t mean you have to live with the symptoms.
Evidence has identified a number of natural solutions that can ameliorate the effects of rheumatoid arthritis.
Borage seed oil, which is extracted from the seeds of the borage plants native to the Mediterranean region, has been supported by two notable studies.
In the first trial, 37 people with rheumatoid arthritis were randomly assigned to receive either borage seed oil containing 1.4 grams of GLA or a placebo of cotton seed oil daily for 24 weeks.
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GLA is an essential fatty acid that is found in borage seed oil.
According to Versus Arthritis, the essential fatty acid is important for maintaining a joint’s cell structure and function.
Compared to the placebo group, who showed no improvement during the trial, participants who received borage seed oil showed an improvement in:
- Joint tenderness
- Number of swollen joints
- Morning stiffness.
In the second trial, 56 participants with rheumatoid arthritis were randomly assigned to take either a daily dose of borage seed capsules containing 2.8 g GLA or placebo capsules of sunflower seed oil for six months.
By the end of the study, 64 percent of those on borage seed oil showed improvement in joint tenderness and morning stiffness, compared to only 21 percent of those on placebo treatment.
There was a significant difference in the treatment outcome of the two patient groups in favour of borage seed oil.
General self-help tips
Engaging in regular exercise can also help to alleviate the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
How? “Exercising regularly can help relieve stress, help keep your joints mobile, and strengthen the muscles supporting your joints,” explains the NHS.
As the health body explains, exercise can also help you lose weight if you’re overweight, which can put extra strain on your joints.
According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis (NRAS), you should talk to a member of your rheumatology team or your GP about what exercise(s) you are considering.
“Think about a goal that exercise may help you to realistically achieve and reward yourself when you achieve your goal,” says the NRAS.
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