What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory joint condition which affects over 1.3 million individuals in the United States.
RA is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, meaning this condition causes the immune system to attack its own cells in an effort to protect the body.
What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
There is no known cure for RA, due in part to the lack of a single definite cause for the condition.
Symptoms of RA include:
- stiffness to joints in the body
Unlike other types of arthritis, RA targets smaller joints in the body such as the hand, wrist, and multiple small joints which make up each finger.
The visible joint inflammation also causes more systemic symptoms, including:
- continual fatigue
- symptoms of depression
- mild fever and weight loss
How to Diagnose RA?
Many individuals diagnosed with RA experience periods of remission during which their symptoms improve along with their ability to function.
During these periods of remission, individuals with RA are less likely to seek out or comply with rehabilitative treatments for arthritis. These treatments focus on pain management while increasing range of motion and strength.
Many rehabilitative practitioners such as physical and occupational therapists recommend individuals with RA adopt certain practices to improve their symptoms, quality-of-life, and function throughout the entire course of their condition.
One of these practices which is growing in popularity is the use of cranberry juice.
Potential Benefits of Cranberry Juice for RA
While there are many fruits that are beneficial for improving symptoms of RA, cranberries are particularly effective due to their chemical makeup.
Cranberries contain large amounts of phytochemicals. These phytochemicals are food molecules that serve to reduce the body’s risk of developing many diseases, including:
- heart disease
- other conditions with an inflammatory source.
Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections
Cranberries and cranberry juice have long been looked to as an effective at-home remedy for the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections.
This is attributed to the berry’s ability to kill bacteria while staving off future growth. There are a growing number of studies stating the presence of a certain strain of bacteria called ‘Proteus Mirabilis’ may be to blame for symptoms of RA.
Recent research has shown that the bacteria which cause repeated urinary tract infections is linked to the growth of the bacteria which causes RA to develop. The correlation between these two types of bacteria is such that it can be predicted that the growth of one bacteria causes the growth of the other bacteria.
Since cranberry juice is known to be effective in not only killing the bacteria which cause urinary tract infections but also playing a role in preventing future infections, it can be surmised that cranberry juice is effective at preventing the progression of RA symptoms when used early in the diagnosis.
Cranberry Juice and Rheumatoid Arthritis – The Medical Research
There has been further research into the mechanism of action cranberry juice causes. Studies have shown when individuals with RA take cranberry juice, the levels of peptide antibodies decrease. These antibodies are a large contributing cause for the inflammation caused by RA.
Results have also shown that cranberry juice changes the inflammatory and biochemical markers that genetically place someone at risk for developing RA.
Individuals who were part of this study also reported fewer symptoms of RA and a lower score on a standardized test called the Disease Activity Score.
The Disease Activity Score is intended to measure an individual’s health status, with a lower score indicating less disease and disease symptoms and a higher score indicating more disease and disease symptoms.
Studies yielded these results after participants were instructed to add just 500 mL of low-calorie cranberry juice to their diet.
Yet, there have been additional benefits attributed to the consumption of high doses of cranberry juice. It can be predicted that individuals will experience a further decrease in RA symptoms upon consistently adding high doses of cranberry juice to their diet.
Is Cranberry Juice Good for Osteoarthritis?
While most studies surrounding the use of cranberry juice for arthritis have focused on its link to RA, this high antioxidant fruit juice can also have a positive impact on osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) does not have the same cause as rheumatoid arthritis and the inflammation individuals with OA experience is due to the interactions between bones with little to no cartilage between them. However, the acid in cranberry juice is effective at addressing instances of inflammation for any reason.
Therefore, cranberry juice is helpful in some degree for individuals with a diagnosis of OA.
Signs That You Have Inflammation
Some individuals may have a difficult time pinpointing whether or not they have inflammation. Important signs that you have inflammation resulting from your arthritis are:
- The presence of pain in joints or elsewhere in the body
- Joints which feel warm to the touch.
- Joints which are red and swollen.
- Joints which are unable to move or function as they typically would.
These are all major indications that inflammation is present in the body. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or you have concerns regarding your ability to function on a daily basis and provide care for yourself, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.
This will assist your doctor in providing the best care for your condition and maximizing your ability to live life to the fullest.
It is important to mention that the use of cranberry juice is not intended to replace pharmaceutical intervention for the treatment of any form of arthritis, nor is it an effective means for addressing mid-to late-stage rheumatoid arthritis.
However, some researchers are learning that cranberry juice is an effective way to address early symptoms of inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. This intervention may serve to lower a person’s risk for developing larger systemic symptoms such as weight loss, fever, and chronic fatigue.
As a relatively effective at-home remedy, cranberry juice should still be used with caution in some individuals, as its acidity can cause interactions with certain prescriptions and medical conditions.
The acid in cranberry juice acts as a natural blood thinner, which may be harmful to individuals already taking prescription blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin).
Cranberry juice should also be used with caution by individuals who take regular doses of aspirin to prevent strokes and heart disease. If these individuals take high doses of cranberry juice, they may experience an allergic reaction.
Individuals who currently or have previously had kidney stones should use cranberry juice with caution, as the acid may increase someone’s risk for developing or worsening already existing kidney stones.
 Nutrition. 2019 Apr;60:112-117. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2018.10.010. Epub 2018 Oct 10. Research Laboratory in Applied Immunology, University of Londrina, Londrina, Paraná, Brazil; Department of Pathology, Clinical Analysis and Toxicology, University of Londrina, Londrina, Paraná, Brazil.