Healthy Living

Could this Genetic Discovery Lead to Better Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment?

Could this Genetic Discovery Lead to Better Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment?

There have been a number of different treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis that utilize exercising, diets, and antibiotics. Many previously thought that arthritis is a result of natural aging processes and poor fitness habits. However, a new study suggests that this disorder may actually be in part due to poor genetics.

The research study

The study was authored by researchers at St. George's, The University of London. The study began as the first genetic study of bone marrow lesions worldwide. Bone marrow lesions are a bone fixture that has been previously linked to Osteoarthritis (OA). These lesions are often thought to be due to increased joint pressure, and are mainly seen on MRI Scans.

Researchers took a group of 98 patients, 72 of whom had severe Osteoarthritis (that required a knee replacement), 12 with mild Osteoarthritis, and 14 without the disorder as a control group. Participants were questioned on their level of pain and a knee MRI was taken to see the levels of inflammation in their knees. Researchers took tissue samples of each patient and examined each patient's genetic makeup.

The study results: What do they mean?

The pain levels of the severe OA patients were higher than that of the mild OA patients, and the mild OA patients reported more pain then the control group. The study uncovered a number of new genes that had not been previously linked to OA. However, these genes are found in bone marrow lesions and could be causing pain and stiffness in patients.

The genes found by the study are involved in new nerve formation, pain sensitization, bone and cartilage renewal. The discovery linking these genes to OA could give scientists a much better understanding of the causes of OA and other joint pain disorders. Being able to understand the genetic causes of OA could lead to much stronger treatment options and even some preventative measures that could be implemented.

More common RA treatments

Unfortunately, this discovery is relatively newfound, and it will be quite a few years before these new treatment options will come to fruition. However, there are some ways in which you can change your day to day routine in order to relieve your pain.

The main source of pain in RA patients is inflammation and stiffness of the joints. If you can loosen the joints and reduce inflammation, you may able to find significant pain relief.

We're here to give you one of the easiest ways to reduce inflammation in your joints: your diet.

Foods to avoid

The food you eat can have a huge impact on your joints. Eating the wrong foods can directly cause inflammation and cause even more joint pain, while certain foods can reduce inflammation and make you feel better than ever.

Here are a few foods you might want to avoid:

  • Fried and processed foods: Research has linked consumption of fried and processed foods with an increase in joint stiffness and inflammation. This means that you should avoid most pre-packaged foods and other deep-fried dishes. These foods contain toxins called Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs). These toxins are found in foods that are fried, baked, or grilled. If you have joint pain you should try meals that are made by stewing, poaching, or steaming instead.
  • Trans fats: Trans fats are known to cause significantly more inflammation in many patients. This is because the human body does not have a natural mechanism that can break these types of fats down. That means that they will stay in the body and cause stiffness and inflammation. The biggest sources of trans fats tends to be hydrogenated oils, so make sure that the oils you consume are natural and not modified (hydrogenated).
  • Alcohol: Heavy alcohol consumption has been liked to increased joint pain. If you are experiencing pain symptoms it might be best to reduce alcohol consumption. The exception to this rule is a moderate amount of red wine, which we will explain below.
  • White bread and pastas: Eating white bread, pastas, and other refined grain foods can increase the amount of inflammation markers in the body. Substituting these types of grains with whole wheat bread and pasta will help you avoid joint pain and stiffness.
  • White starches: White starches found in flour, sugar, white rice, and mashed potatoes can cause a quick spike in blood pressure that can lead to the release of more AGEs (leading to increased inflammation). Each of these foods has some very easy replacement options, however. Regular flour can be changed to almond flour, soy flour, barley flour, or quinoa flour. White rice can be substituted for brown or jasmine rice. While sugar is harder to substitute, but there are quite a few sugar sources that are offset by being rich in antioxidants. These include honey, molasses, and maple syrup. As for mashed potatoes, the trick is to find an alternative for the dish, such as parsnip or cauliflower.

Foods to eat

On the flip side, there are also certain foods that you should try and incorporate into your diet:

  • Fatty fish: Fatty fishes like salmon and tuna can reduce inflammation. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation in the joints. As an added bonus, omega-3 fatty acids also reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.
  • Beets: This popular vegetable has a lot of anti-inflammatory properties on its own. Beets contain a nutrient called betaine, which reduces inflammation markers in the bloodstream.
  • Vitamin K: Vitamin K is the best anti-inflammatory agent that you can put into your body. Sources of vitamin K include Kale, Spinach, Lettuce, and other leafy greens. Getting more vitamin K can greatly reduce inflammation and relieve joint pain and stiffness.
  • Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are packed with tons of antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins increase the number of anti-inflammatory agents in the bloodstream and reduce inflammation.
  • Red wine: Red wine is different from most other alcoholic drinks. This is because it contains the anti-inflammatory chemical resveratrol. Red wine also is full of other antioxidants, so having a glass of wine or two every few days may help reduce some of your joint pain.
  • Cooked vegetables: Many vegetables become incredibly healthy when cooked due to containing tons of antioxidants and other nutrients. Cooked vegetables specifically contain a nutrient called lycopene which acts as a great anti-inflammatory agent. Try cooking vegetables like peppers, squash, and tomatoes.
  • Nuts: Nuts are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids just like fatty fish. Walnuts, almonds, and other nuts can be good snacks for those suffering from heavy joint pain.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: Olive oils are high in polyphenols and unsaturated fats and can lead to a reduction in inflammatory agents. Olive oils are very versatile and can be used as a replacement for most cooking oils and can even be used with some lemon juice to make a tasty salad dressing.
  • Dark chocolate: Yes, you read that right. Even eating more dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) can greatly increase anti-inflammatory agents in the bloodstream.

Final thoughts

The discovery of new genes being linked to Osteoarthritis bodes very well for those suffering constantly from joint pain and stiffness. These genes will lead to a better understanding of these diseases and could lead to much better treatment options in the future. Until then, small changes to your diet may be just enough to relieve some joint pain and lessen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.