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Understanding Rheumatological Disorders

Updated: Jul 2



Rheumatological disorders can be quite a mystery, and dealing with them can be tough. But don't worry, we're here to break it down for you. In this guide, we’ll explain what these disorders are, go over some common types, and show you how functional medicine can help manage them in a holistic way.


What Are Rheumatological Diseases?

Rheumatological diseases, often called rheumatic diseases, are conditions that mess with your joints, muscles, and bones. Imagine waking up with painful, swollen joints that make it hard to move—that's what many people with these conditions experience daily. These diseases are usually caused by the immune system going haywire and attacking the body’s own tissues. They can cause chronic pain, inflammation, and sometimes lead to joint damage.


But why does this happen? Well, the exact reasons aren't always clear. It’s often a mix of genetic factors, environmental triggers (like infections or toxins), and even hormonal changes. Some people might be more susceptible because of their genes, while others might develop these conditions after being exposed to certain environmental factors.


Common Types of Rheumatological Diseases

There are over 100 different rheumatological conditions, but some of the most common include:


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA):

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain. Over time, RA can lead to joint damage and deformity.


Osteoarthritis (OA):

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. This leads to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility, primarily affecting the knees, hips, and hands.


Lupus:

Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, and lungs. Symptoms vary widely but often include joint pain, fatigue, and skin rashes.


Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS):

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, leading to severe, chronic pain and stiffness. Over time, AS can cause the vertebrae to fuse, resulting in a rigid spine.


Psoriatic Arthritis:

Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that affects some people with psoriasis, a skin condition. It causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, which can affect any part of the body.



Gout:

Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. It leads to sudden and severe episodes of pain, often starting in the big toe.


Chronic Infections and Their Role

Chronic infections can play a significant role in triggering or worsening rheumatological disorders. Here are some notable ones:


Lyme Disease: Caused by bacteria transmitted through tick bites, Lyme disease can lead to chronic joint inflammation and pain if not treated promptly.


Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV): EBV, the virus that causes mononucleosis, can remain dormant in the body and has been linked to various autoimmune conditions, including those affecting the joints.


Long Covid: Some people experience lingering symptoms long after recovering from COVID-19, known as Long Covid. This can include joint pain, fatigue, and other symptoms that overlap with rheumatological disorders.


These infections can burden the immune system, making it more likely to overreact and attack the body’s own tissues, leading to or exacerbating rheumatological conditions.


Functional Medicine’s Approach to Rheumatological Disorders


Functional Medicine offers a personalized and integrative approach to treating rheumatological disorders. Instead of merely addressing symptoms, Functional Medicine seeks to identify and address the root causes of these conditions, considering the whole person and their unique biochemical makeup.


Personalized Assessment:

Functional medicine practitioners take a detailed history and perform comprehensive assessments to understand the patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors. This helps in identifying potential triggers and underlying causes of the rheumatological disorder.


Nutrition and Diet:

Diet plays a crucial role in managing inflammation and autoimmune responses. Functional medicine often emphasizes anti-inflammatory diets rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Specific dietary plans, such as the Mediterranean diet or elimination diets, may be recommended to reduce symptoms and improve overall health.


Movement and Exercise:

Regular, gentle exercise is encouraged to maintain joint flexibility, muscle strength, and overall mobility. Functional medicine practitioners often work with patients to develop personalized exercise plans that are safe and effective.



Gut Health:

A significant focus is placed on gut health, as imbalances in the gut microbiome can contribute to inflammation and autoimmune reactions. Probiotics, prebiotics, and dietary changes are often used to support gut health and reduce inflammation.


Stress Management:

Chronic stress can exacerbate rheumatological conditions. Functional medicine incorporates stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and other relaxation practices to help reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being.


Environmental Factors:

Functional medicine looks at environmental exposures, such as toxins, that might contribute to the onset and progression of rheumatological diseases. Detoxification strategies and lifestyle changes are often implemented to reduce toxic load.


Supplements and Botanicals:

Targeted supplements and herbal remedies may be used to support immune function, reduce inflammation, and improve joint health. Commonly used supplements include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, curcumin, and glucosamine.


Rheumatological disorders can significantly impact one’s life, but understanding these conditions and exploring holistic treatment options can make a difference. Functional Medicine provides a comprehensive, patient-centered approach that addresses the root causes and promotes overall wellness. 


By focusing on personalized care, nutrition, stress management, and environmental factors, Functional Medicine aims to improve the quality of life for those suffering from rheumatological diseases. If you or a loved one is dealing with a rheumatological condition, consider scheduling a Discovery Call with Dr. Hazzah to explore these integrative treatment options.


Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It is important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding any questions or concerns you may have about your health or treatment options.


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