Saturday, January 21, 2012

The ABC's of vitamins for RA

It isn't quite as simple as taking vitamin AB or C but I will divulge what vitamins and herbs I am currently taking, which other ones I have tried and what I am exploring as my next options.

As with all health issues, you should always consult with your doctor should you decide to start any over the counter medicine, vitamin or herb for any chronic condition. Many people wrongly assume that vitamins can't harm you or that an herb, since it is derived from nature, is only good for you. True, most of the vitamins and herbs I have tried and continue to take have improved my ra symptoms to some extent but if taken with the wrong medication or if one takes too many of get were I am going here. Even vitamins and herbs can cause us problems unless we keep a sensible approach to it all.

Back in 1998 when I was officially diagnosed with ra, I adamantly refused to take any medication unless it was "natural".  I will confess that the pain won out in short order and I was taking some heavy duty man made prescriptions but I was also taking several other "natural" treatments proclaimed to fix ra.

First on my trial list was shark cartilage. Yes, you read right, shark cartilage.  For me it didn't do a darned thing but I was at that time in a very bad way with my ra.

Shark Cartilage, according to web md "has been used for cancer. However, this product has not been found to be effective when used for cancer. If you have cancer or think you may have cancer, consult your doctor immediately for more details and for proper treatment of your condition. Using this product alone without proper medical care for your condition may cause serious (possibly fatal) health problems. This product has also been used for arthritis and psoriasis. This product is not recommended for use in children." 

Next on my natural quest to conquer my then ragging ra was something my husband heard about on a radio advertisement while driving to work one day. I can't recollect the exact name of this professed cure for everything but I do know that it was very expensive and it DID NOT work at all. It was made from seaweed or something like that and was to be taken daily. It failed miserably and I am ashamed to say that yes, I was taken by the snake oil salesman.

For years after that, I pretty much ignored the holistic approach to ra all together. I did do some physical therapy, pool exercises and wore splints but I obeyed my doctors orders to the T.  I took so many prescriptions that it was difficult at times to figure out what was working and what might not be working. Then it all imploded. I became allergic to almost every single medication I was taking except Enbrel. I think my body just rebelled and said I can't process this stuff anymore. 

Fast forward about 12 years and this brings me to a more current day story. Since developing these life threatening allergies I was left with very little to treat my ra. Today I am still taking what very few medications I am not allergic to. These include pregnisone, tramadol, and thyroid medication. And that is it for the prescription types.

I felt that there must be more I could do to help my body heal itself and so my quest to discover what might work for me began. As with most things, I first turned to the internet for help. Once I narrowed down the list of vitamins and/or herbs I was willing to try and which I felt might help ra, I brought the list to my NJ doctor to review. She didn't have a problem with any on the list I presented.

So today I am taking:
Vit D3 which was added about 8 months ago by my endocrinologist (I was lacking it) 
Calcium, magnesium and zinc which I was instructed to take due to taking pregnisone which can lead to thinning bones or osteoporosis
Primrose which I added about 6 months ago
Flaxseed Oil which was also added recently
Fish Oil
Collagen Type 2
Turmeric (which I had to stop taking as I am allergic to it)

Interestingly John Hopkins reports "The most commonly observed vitamin and mineral deficiencies in patients with RA, are folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Although, food is always the preferred source for vitamins and minerals, it may be essential to use supplementation to assist in counterbalancing the outlined deficiencies and improving nutritional status for patients with RA. Increased intake of antioxidants such as selenium and vitamin E may decrease free-radical damage to joint linings, which diminish swelling and pain. However, to date, there have been no human clinical trials that convincingly prove or disprove the efficacy of antioxidant use. Supplementation of calcium and vitamin D is also recommended to decrease the risk of osteoporosis that results from nutritional loss of these supplements, from menopause and from concurrent steroid therapy."

I have yet to explore the other vitamins listed above as a possible option to add to my current regimen.  First, my current insurance does not cover vitamins and second, this can get to be expensive. And did you know that currently we can not include a non prescription vitamin as part of our health care costs for taxes? Perhaps one day this will change and we will be able to deduct some of the alternate types of treatments available for both ra and chronic pain that have been approved by a doctor. I can dream can't I?

Interestingly, I have been thinking about adding a protein powder to the mix as after reviewing my daily intake of protein, I am far below the suggested amount.  I am beginning to believe that my recent problems with increased tendon and muscle issues might be exasperated by my lack of protein.  But as with all things, only time will tell if adding this will help at all.

Are you currently taking any vitamins and/or herbs that you believe have improved the symptoms of your ra or chronic illness? Have you gotten a doctors review and what has been your doctor's reception to your suggestions of adding "natural" remedies?