If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis you know first-hand how important it is to explore all possible remedies. Flares can occur without warning, and seemingly, without a cause. And sometimes prescription drugs aren't as effective as you'd like.

There's growing evidence that environmental factors play a role in autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While doctors and researchers haven't pinpointed the exact cause of RA, they believe that genes and environmental triggers play a role.

According to a paper published in Mædica: A Journal of Clinical Medicine, avoiding environmental triggers such as viruses, bacteria, diet, toxins, radiation, metal, estrogen, and chronic infections may help to prevent autoimmune diseases from getting worse. Going green when you have arthritis is one way to limit your exposure to triggers that can burden your immune system, cause flares and further joint damage.

Here are some green methods that may help your arthritis:

Keep volatile organic compounds (VOCs) out of your home. VOCs are toxic chemicals found in many household and workplace products. Several studies have linked them to autoimmune diseases.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these products are among the most common that contain VOCs:

  • Paints, paint strippers and other solvents;
  • Wood preservatives;
  • Aerosol sprays;
  • Cleansers and disinfectants;
  • Moth repellents and air fresheners;
  • Stored fuels and automotive products;
  • Hobby supplies;
  • Dry-cleaned clothing.

Limit your exposure to these chemicals as much as possible. Choose green cleaners, which are easy to find in many supermarkets. Instead of aerosol sprays, burn essential (not fragrance) oils or open a window. Also, many commercial carpets emit VOCs so choose greener flooring such as reclaimed wood, or sustainable wood such as bamboo finished with eco-friendly stains or varnishes.

Eat more organic foods. Non-organic produce and ingredients used to make commercially prepared foods have been exposed to harmful chemicals in fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides. Organic farmers use natural methods such as companion planting and natural fertilizers and pesticides to protect their crops. They also do not give hormones or chemically contaminated feed to their animals.

Avoid heavy metals. Rheumatoid arthritis has been linked to heavy metal toxicity from metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury. Here are a few ways to avoid them:

  • Have lead paint removed from your home by a professional.
  • Read labels carefully. Lead and other heavy metals are common additives in cosmetics including whitening toothpastes, lipsticks, foundation, mascaras, shampoos and conditioners.
  • Be wary of buying medicines online, including some Ayurvedic remedies, as they may have unacceptably high levels of heavy metals.

Choose eco-friendly technology. The Green Electronics Council, with the support of the EPA, has created a green system for technology known as EPEAT, which stands for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool. Electronics, including computers, that meet the EPEAT criteria have lower levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury, and emit less greenhouse gas — making them better for your health. To select and learn about one of these products, visit EPEAT online.

Choose a greener occupation. Working in businesses such as hair and nail salons that do not use green products, or in automotive shops, increases your exposure to chemicals linked to a greater risk of developing RA, and that can make your condition worse. If switching jobs isn't an option, try to green your workplace. For instance, there are eco-friendly cosmetics you can use in a salon.

Study References:

Journal: Mædica - A Journal of Clinical Medicine, Volume 3 No.2
Study Date: 2008
Study Name: Autoimmune diseases and their environmental triggers
Website: http://www.maedica.ro/articole/nr2_2008/09_Autoimmune.pdf
Authors: Manole Cojocaru, MD, PhD, Inimioara Mihaela Cojocaru, MD, PhD,
Isabela SILOSI, MD, PhD