Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disorder that typically affects small joints, like those in the hands and feet, is an inflammatory condition caused by an autoimmune reaction, in which the lining of the joint is attacked by the body’s immune system causing pain and swelling. It is not curable, but there are several treatments available to treat the symptoms. Some supplements, like flaxseed oil, are said to help relieve symptoms as well and should be reviewed with a health care professional.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, approximately 1.3 million individuals in America are living with rheumatoid arthritis, or RA. Women make up the majority of sufferers — 70 percent of individuals with RA are women. The Arthritis Foundation states that the condition is typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50.
RA develops along a continuum of three stages. The first stage consists of the swelling of the synovial lining of the joint, causing inflammation, warmth and joint pain, the Arthritis Foundation says. The second stage occurs when the cells in the lining of the joint divide rapidly, causing the joint lining to thicken. Lastly, in the third stage, these cells release an enzyme that may break down bone and cartilage, causing more joint pain, loss of movement and misshapen joints, according to the Arthritis Foundation
There are various treatments for RA, depending on the symptoms and severity. The Mayo Clinic website lists some of the available drug treatments, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; steroids; disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs such as methotrexate, immunosuppressants and TNF-alpha inhibitors. Occupational therapy may be beneficial to increase joint mobility, assistive devices can help relieve stresses on joints, and in severe cases of RA, surgery may be necessary to correct joints that have been damaged by RA.
Flaxseed Oil Benefits
Some individuals find that supplements help relieve symptoms of RA, and flaxseed oil is one such supplement. According to Arthritis Today, flaxseed contains an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and may help relieve the swelling and inflammation associated with RA, although study results are mixed. More studies need to be done to explore the definitive benefits of flaxseed oil for RA.
Flaxseed oil may interfere with other medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as cancer or high cholesterol, need to be careful when taking this supplement as well. Prior to starting supplementation with flaxseed oil, it is best to talk with a health care professional to avoid any adverse medication interactions or side effects related to a medical condition.