Every year, 41 out of 100,000 people in the US get diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and at this moment, approximately 1.3 million people across the nation suffer from this painful condition. This autoimmune disease is a crippling condition and sufferers will have to deal with chronic joint pain, swelling, bone erosion, and even joint deformity.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks synovial tissues mostly found near joints because it mistakes it for foreign invaders such as viruses or bacteria. This confused immune system causes the body to attack itself, leading to inflammation and an array of other issues.
RA usually affects the joints of your wrists, hands, elbows, knees, ankles, and feet, and the inflammation is usually symmetrical, which means that if you have it in one knee, you’ll most likely have it in the other one as well. The disease is also systemic, meaning it that is not limited to just joints and can attack the entire body including organs in your respiratory or cardiovascular systems like your heart or lungs.
There is no scientifically-proven cause of RA, though studies have shown that risk factors include it being hereditary and impacted by your environment and lifestyle, for example smoking.
Some of the more common symptoms at the onset of RA are warm, stiff, or swollen fingers, toes, or other small joints. The symptoms appear sporadically and can last for a few days to a few months before disappearing again. Over time, you’ll begin to feel it in larger joints such as your knees, hips, or shoulders and the length of time between one episode and the next will shorten.
Though symptoms can vary from person to person, some of the more common symptoms may include weight loss, fatigue, anemia, low-grade fevers, and rheumatoid nodules, or firm bumps, that can be felt just beneath the skin.
Though scientific advances are being made every single day, there is currently no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. That being said, there are many treatment options which can successfully relieve symptoms while also preventing long-term damage.
Along with suggested lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or biologic response modifiers depending on your symptoms, but what if we were to tell you that something as simple and delicious as chocolate may help alleviate your RA symptoms. Of course, you should always discuss your course of medication with your doctor, but recent studies have shown that chocolate may be highly beneficial to RA sufferers.
- Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, contains anti-inflammatory properties and can significantly reduce inflammation throughout your body. Properties of cocoa have shown to decrease COX-2 enzymes which cause inflammation and can drastically lower your level of pain.
- Cocoa is a wonderful source of phytochemicals and that means that it is a great antioxidant. As a matter of fact, cocoa has more antioxidants than most foods and this has proven to help with RA as well as brain function, cardiovascular health, and cancer prevention.
- Suffering from RA can have a devastating impact on your life and is often linked with mood changes, anxiety, and depression. Eating chocolate has shown to trigger the release of serotonin in your brain. Popularly known as “the happiness chemical”, serotonin can lift your mood, release happiness, and change your mindset, even if just for a moment.
Of course, the key to any well-balanced diet is moderation and adding just the right amount of chocolate to your daily intake can make a substantial dent in your effort to control the inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Remember, the next time you’re in pain, you may just be a chocolate bar away from soothing your symptoms.