Rheumatoid Arthritis: What’s Safe

What would happen if your body’s own defensive mechanisms thought that a part of you was a transplant or a foreign object? The genes in your immune system would set off a set of triggers which would then cause that system to create antibodies, immune complexes, to attack and kill your own tissue! What would happen if this process worked against the tissues that surround and lubricate the joints? Those lubricating tissues would become inflamed, attacked as they are by the immune complexes, and while they were under attack the production of lubricating internal joint fluid would be curtailed. What would be the result of years of this attack? Pain, lack of full movement, degeneration in the internal portion of the joint from rubbing without lubrication, and eventually a deforming osteoarthritis. All this is what happens in the disease known as Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Why does the body trigger an attack on itself? No one really knows. What things make this attack worse? Cold, damp, humidity, passing storm fronts and overly acid diets. What response does conventional medicine have to the problem? Chemotherapy drugs. Yes the same deadly stuff that kills 60% of cancer patients treated with those drugs every year! When allopathic medicine cannot find an answer to a debilitating disease such as RA or Fibromyalgia they always seem to want to treat those conditions with cancer therapy drugs that further debilitate and weaken the body.

The over the counter or prescription Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are no better, in fact they are worse! Aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, relafin, vioxx, celebrex etc. etc. etc. All of those drugs kill 20,000 Americans a year on the average. In fact, more Americans die each year from aspirin, the other NSAIDs and Tylenol than from HIV / AIDS! For short-term use, a dose or two for a headache or other pain; they are fine. But taken day-in and day-out over the course of weeks, these medications begin to shut down the kidneys, causing kidney damage and eventually kidney failure. To the liver they are toxic, and lastly to the intestines they cause the lining to thin, to the point where your body’s own gastric juices will eat through the bowel,l causing uncontrolled bleeding and death! In England, Tylenol is considered so dangerous it is sold only by the dose. Just enough to treat your headache this minute but not enough to take home. This law was passed after the national health care service noted that hundreds were dying of kidney failure from acetaminophen over use. (When you get sick in England it cost the government money. Here in the US, the system does not make any money unless you get sick. That’s why you haven’t heard any warnings about the toxicity of acetaminophen.)

I know that if you are reading this you’re likely in pain so I’ll cut to the chase. What can an RA patient do to minimize their inflammation and pain, increase their functionality and not kill themselves or any of their vital organs in the process? RA is a multidimensional disease and as I stated in my book “10 Natural Treatments…” multidimensional problems demand a multidimensional solution. First lets look at what switches on pain. Your cells tell your body that you hurt. There are little chemicals that run up and down the chains of our DNA either turning on or shutting off responses. Activation of these DNA to send the pain signal causes the cells to make Cyclo Oxygenase I and II. It is the action of these critters that aspirin and the rest of the NSAIDs family try to control. Those COX I and II nasties activate afferent (sensory) nerve fibers thus sending out a pain signal.

The Cyclo Oxygenase cycle can explain all pain from headaches to a sprained knee. What else is involved in RA that is specific to autoimmune diseases? Circulating Immune Complexes (CIC’s). What are CIC’s? The immune system makes them in response to an irritation, or an attack by germs. These circulating immune complexes are the primary cause of inflammation, and in some measure, the cause of all autoimmune diseases. They are the things your body is making to destroy its own tissue! Somehow, some way, your immune system got the signal that your joint tissue did not belong to you, that it was transplanted from someone else, or that it was a germ!

That signal caused a response the immune system is supposed to have to bad foreign unwanted cells: attack and destroy. Only here it was not a bacteria, virus or fungus it decided to attack – it’s your own joints. What is needed to quell this reaction is immune modulation; something to gear down or otherwise control the production of the CIC’s the body is overproducing. After 40+ years of research we know that drugs won’t do the job. They can permanently turn off the immune system with anti cancer drugs and leave you vulnerable to any infection that comes along. That is not solving the problem!

Research in Columbia University in the 1940’s through 60’s discovered some very interesting facts. The Columbia research was furthered in Europe with scores of medical studies, and now continues in the US and Asia. Proteolytic Enzymes can tone down immune system response without killing the system or turning it off. These same body-wide enzymes can literally eat away at the CIC’s the immune system is creating to destroy the body, and be so specific in their actions that they do not interfere with the CIC’s the body needs to run the kidneys and intestines.

What are proteolytic enzymes? They are involved in thousands of life sustaining processes throughout the body. Without enzymes we would all be dead in very short order. Most of us think of enzymes just in terms of digestion but that is one of the last things these protein-cutting enzymes do! Enzymes are lock and key mechanisms they are specifically programmed to cut just certain proteins, carbohydrates or fats. Proteolytic enzymes are specific for proteins, and there are certain enzymes that are specific for proteins that are not part of the body (i.e. food, germs, viruses etc). The CIC’s created by the body to attack itself, ironically enough, are read by the enzymes as foreign to the body, and in need of being eaten up! The CIC’s that run normal functions, however, are seen as belonging to the body.

Aspirin and the newer COX II inhibitors of Vioxx and Celebrex work by keeping COX I and II from doing its work. They also keep the CIC’s that are needed by the kidney and bowel from doing their work. See the difference between enzymes and drugs? But what if there were a natural and completely nontoxic way of switching off the receptors at the DNA sites before they are ever turned on: turning them off before they can activate the COX I and II, and before the COX I and II can turn on the C-nerve fibers to send the pain signal?

That way was found in the Amazon jungle, in the vine known as Uncaria Tomentosa, or cat’s claw. While this much lauded and derided supplement has been in the US for most of the ’90’s, it took Dr. Mark Miller (professor of Pediatrics and Cardiovascular medicine at NYU Albany State Medical College in New York) to do definitive research and bring a series of products based on the herb to a needy market. Dr. Miller found that the pain switching off properties of the cat’s claw related to its effects on limiting the production of an immune complex known as TGF alpha. This particular variety of cats claw, when its active properties were extracted and concentrated, was found to be ideal for anti-inflammatory work without having the toxicity that other varieties of cats claw tended to have. (1,2,3,4,5).

Cat’s claw works splendidly on the triggers that bring about the pain in RA. While the usual dose given on the bottle says 2 capsules a day, most hard-core patients have tended to think that they need 3 capsules 3 times a day to do the job. Okay, what do we do next? Next we modulate the immune system, slowing it down and we eat away at the circulating immune complexes (CIC’s) that the body is making to attack itself. We do that with Europe’s favorite natural RA treatment: Enzymes. (3). Zymitol or other systemic proteolytic enzymes are natural enzyme preparations that have several beneficial actions and no negative reactions:

  • Anti-inflammatory, removing CIC’s. (4).
  • Fights fibrosis in cysts, scar tissue, internal organs and blood vessels. (5).
  • Modulates Immune function up or down as needed by the body. (6).
  • Cleanses the blood of necrotic (dead) debris and excessive fibrin. (7).
  • Slowly and safely eats away at arteriosclerosis, opening up blood vessels. (8)

All of these actions are done without side effect or harm to the body.

So if we switch off the pain signal starters within the cells, then down modulate the immune system and reduce the level of attacking CIC’s, what else is there to do? Plenty. We need to reduce spasm, reduce tissue acidity, and then make up for the stiffness and weakness RA patients have due to lack of exercise. First, to the spasm. Muscles go into spasm due to a chemical imbalance. Calcium is responsible for muscular contraction and magnesium for muscular relaxation. They each have their channels in contractile tissue (muscles). When there is too much calcium and not enough magnesium present, then calcium gets into the magnesium channels and instead of a contract / relax signal the muscles get a contract / contract signal. In other words, a spasm. This same mechanism is found in heartbeat irregularities. Doctors prescribe calcium channel blockers to keep the calcium in its place and away from where the magnesium is supposed to live in the muscle. Why do we get low on magnesium? Because magnesium is the most important and most widely used mineral in the body.

Magnesium regulates so many things (2600 enzymes, muscular relaxation, proper heart contraction, and on and on) that without it we would be dead. 2600 enzymes, muscular relaxation, proper heart contraction, and on and on. Years ago it was thought that we only needed some 800mg of magnesium a day to balance off the 1200mg of calcium we need in our bones. Those were only the ratios needed for bone and did not take into consideration all of the other functions of magnesium.

For all of you who can tarnish gold jewelry- you need to lower your acidity levels. The body is supposed to be mildly alkaline. All byproducts and waste products of human life are acid. When we are in a traumatized or injured state we become acid. When patients are taken from a serious injury, what is the first thing that gets injected in the their veins? An IV of sodium bicarbonate to lower acid levels, maintain normal pH, and keep the patient from lapsing off into shock. In people with highly acidic insides, you are not getting rid of your metabolic wastes as well as you should. Liver and bowel cleansing would be appropriate for you to allow the body to clean itself out better. One trick that is used by highly acid chronic fatigue patients is useful here – sodium bicarbonate, plain old baking soda. Taken several times a day in water, this solution greatly helps neutralize the acid and return the body to a more alkaline state.

Expect this program to take up to six weeks to fully kick in. You may get diarrhea as a cleansing reaction for the first 3 weeks of so but that’s all right! You’re only losing the unwanted material your body doesn’t need. Stretching exercises are meant to help reduce the spasm and soreness present in RA patients. Take stretching exercises to their first point of pain and hold there for 20 seconds. As you improve that first point of pain will occur later and later until the stretch and movement will be easier, demonstrating that you have reduces the spasm and broken through the binding scar tissue that forms when we do not fully move a muscle or joint. Do the stretches daily. As for the weight training exercises these are essential to improve strength, circulation, bone density and better enable us to freely perform our activities of daily living (ADL’s). We don’t ever want to be dependent on anyone else to get us out of bed or wipe our backsides. That’s why strength training is so essential.

Table 1 Supplements:

  • Cat’s Claw, 2 capsules 3 times a day.
  • Zymitol 3 times a day in-between meals.
  • Magnesium 400mg with each meal and an additional 400 before bed.
    (If you get night cramps or have muscle tension and fasciculation keeping you awake take 800mg before bed). Magnesium Oil or Gel topically, 600 mg per teaspoon
  • Baking Soda – teaspoon in a half a glass of water 4 times a day.

Table 2 Stretching Exercises:

  • Side Neck Stretch: 3 times 20 seconds hold each side. Keeping your nose, eyes and chin straight ahead tilt your head so that your ear reaches towards the shoulder on that side. Do not hike up the shoulder to meet the ear! Hold for 20 seconds and do the other side.
  • Beggars Stretch: 3 times 20 second hold on each side. Extend an arm out ahead of you with the palm facing the ceiling and the elbow straight. Now grasp your elbow with the opposite hand and draw the arm to the opposite shoulder without bending the elbow or turning the palm on the side that is stretching.
  • Seated Front Toe Reach: 3 times 20 seconds hold. Sit on a bed or floor with your legs straight ahead of you. Now place your hands on your knees and walk your fingers down your legs as far as you can go without bending the knee. Hold, rest and repeat.
  • Hip Roll Stretch: 3 times 20 second hold on each side. Follow the picture in this stretch, remember to keep the shoulders flat on the sofa, bench or bed and dangle the hanging foot down towards the floor. The pain from this stretch will be felt in the buttocks, hip or thigh.
  • Single Knee to Chest Stretch: 3 times 20 second hold on each side. Draw the knee up towards the chest as far as you can to reach the first point of pain. Allow the bottom extremity to fully dangle to get the most out of this stretch.

Strengthening Exercises

  • Leg Press 3 sets of 5 to 7 repetitions. Knees and feet turned out about 40 degrees and just wider than shoulder width stance.
  • Front Pull Down 3 sets of 5 to 7 repetitions. Palms facing you, hands shoulder width apart. Doing this exercise with the palms facing away from you and elbows out to the side as the bodybuilders do, will eventually destroy the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder and only work half as many fibers in the upper body muscles as the exercise done this way.
  • Upright Dumbbell Rowing 3 sets of 5 to 7 repetitions.
  • Abdominal Machine 3 sets of 5 to 7 repetitions.


  1. Miller M.J.S., et al; Inhibition of neurogenic inflammation by the amazonian medicinal herb, sangre de grado. J. Investigative Dermatology. 2001 (in press).
  2. Miller M.J.S., et al; Treatment of gastric ulcers and diarrhea with the amazonian sangre de grado. Am J of Gastrointest Liver Physio., 279:192-200,2000.
  3. Miehlke K.; Enzzymtherapie bei rheumatoider Arthritis. (Enzyme therapy of rheumatoid arthritis). Natur- und Ganzheitsmedizin 1 (1988), 1305.
  4. von Kameke E.: Die Entzundung und ihre Kausaltherapie mit hydrolytischen Enzymen und Rutin. (Inflammation and its casual therapy using hydrolytic enzymes and rutin). Forum d. Prakt. Arztes 9 (1981).
  5. Scheef W.; Gutartige Veranderungen der weiblichen Brust. (Treatment of fibrocystic disease of the breast in women). Therapiewoche (1985), 5090.
  6. Menzel J., Runge SS.; Enzyme als Immunomodulatoren. (Enzymes as immunomodulators) Allgemeinmedizin 19 (1990), 140
  7. Ernst E., Matrai A.: Orale Therapie mit proteolytischen Enzymen modifizziert die Blutrheologie. (Oral therapy with proteolytic enzymes for modifying blood rehology). Klin. Wschr. 65 (1987), 994.
  8. Brewer Science Library 1999
Author: Dr William Wong