August 27 2021
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that is associated with tightening as well as hardening of the connective tissues present in the body. Connective tissues are made of proteins known as collagen and their main function is to impart elasticity and strength to the various organs that are present in the body. Scleroderma enhances the production of collagen which in turn has a damaging effect on the skin, joints, tendons, and other vital internal organs by adversely affecting their functioning, and hence it is also known as systemic sclerosis.
The major causes of scleroderma are found to be associated with various genetic as well as environmental factors. Scleroderma can be either localized where changes are prominent only in some parts of the skin or muscles or systemic where the connective tissue in many body parts gets affected such as internal organs and blood vessels, muscles as well as joints. Some individuals suffer from limited scleroderma which is also called CREST syndrome which is a combination of disorders like calcinosis, Raynaud phenomenon, esophageal dysfunction, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasia.
Symptoms of scleroderma
Some of the commonly occurring symptoms of scleroderma include:
- Skin - hardening and tightening of patches of skin which also restricts the movement in the affected area.
- Fingers or toes - Raynaud’s phenomenon which causes the blood vessels to contract on exposure to cold conditions.
- Digestive system - heartburn, difficulty in swallowing, bloating, diarrhea, constipation.
- Heart, lungs, kidneys - affects their functioning and may also become life-threatening.
The various complications that are associated with scleroderma include pulmonary impairment leading to conditions such as interstitial lung disease and pulmonary arterial hypertension, gastrointestinal manifestations like gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastroparesis, and malabsorption. The cardiac manifestations of scleroderma are myocardial infarction, arrhythmias, and pericardial disease. Scleroderma may also cause renal impairment and various musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, arthralgia, myalgia, and calcinosis.
Treatment of scleroderma
A balanced diet that has anti-inflammatory properties along with autoimmune eliminating foods is one of the most preferred natural remedies for scleroderma. The autoimmune diet involves the elimination of foods that are known to be the most cause of triggering an inflammatory response. These include sugar, refined carbohydrates, conventionally made meat, and dairy, farm-raised fish, trans fats, monosodium glutamate, processed vegetable, and seed oil, and artificial sweeteners.
The foods that should be included in the autoimmune diet are healthy fats such as coconut, olives, avocados, and seeds like pumpkin, flax, hemp, and chia seeds. Omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids are beneficial in helping the body combat inflammation. Antioxidant and phytonutrients rich fruits and vegetables such as berries, lemons, and grapefruit are helping in fighting inflammation. Herbs such as rosemary, oregano, basil, cilantro, and thyme have been found to contain potent healing properties. Green tea extract and herbs like ginger are excellent autoimmune sources.
The occurrence of Raynaud’s phenomenon in individuals suffering from scleroderma causes the fingers and toes to become cold as well as numb on exposure to extreme conditions of cold and stress. Some of the natural remedies for relieving the symptoms of Raynaud’s disease are anti-inflammatory foods along with acupuncture, use of essential oils, management of stress, and chiropractic care.
Supporting the mitochondria
Mitochondria are essential for carrying out various metabolic activities such as the production of ATP, maintaining the optimal levels of glutathione, protection of DNA, activation of cell reproduction, and cell apoptosis. Scleroderma is associated with impairment in the functioning of mitochondria which can be supported by restricting the intake of calories, restorative sleep, managing stress, and the intake of various nutrients such as alpha-lipoic acid, D- Ribose, Acetyl-L- Carnitine, magnesium, and vitamin B supplements.
Strengthening the gut mucosa
Lining the digestive tract and acting as a protective barrier, the gut mucosa helps in the absorption of nutrients and safeguards the body from various pathogens and toxins that are present in the diet. Nutrients like L glutamine, licorice root, and vitamin C are essential for mucosal support.
Supporting immune health
Providing support to the immune system is an important treatment strategy in scleroderma as it occurs as a result of a dysfunctional immune system. Various immune support nutrients include olive leaf extract because of its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects, beta-glucan which improves the immune coordination by binding to the white blood cells, and vitamin C which is an antioxidant. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with individuals suffering from scleroderma and supplementing with vitamin D supplements is beneficial in the treatment of scleroderma because of its immunomodulatory, cardioprotective, and anti-fibrotic properties.
Moisturize the skin
The skin in scleroderma patients becomes dry, stiff, and thick. Maintaining adequate moisture in the skin is essential for relieving the symptoms of scleroderma by the application of natural moisturizers like coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, and shea butter which act as cooling agents and help in reducing inflammation, itching, and pain.
Obtained from red grapes, resveratrol is a natural polyphenol and it has a wide range of beneficial effects such as anti-aging, immunoregulatory, antioxidant, free radicals scavenging, anti-inflammatory and antitumor properties because of which they protect against oxidative damage, improve skin health, and provides optimal immune system functioning which is necessary for reducing the symptoms of scleroderma.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Intake of omega 3 fatty acid supplements have been found to contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fibrotic properties, and they are known to be beneficial in individuals suffering from scleroderma. Alvizia omega 3 fish oil capsule supplements help in reducing inflammation and improving the symptoms associated with scleroderma.
Turmeric has been associated with many beneficial effects on immune health such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and it provides great improvement in the functioning of the immune system by reducing inflammation.
In individuals who have stiff and painful joints as a result of scleroderma, physical therapy, movement, and chiropractic care have been found to reduce such symptoms. Exercises that are beneficial in improving the range of motion such as stretching the fingers, hands, and wrists are essential for strengthening the body parts that get affected as a result of scleroderma.