For millions of individuals, varying degrees of joint pain, swelling, stiffness, reduced mobility and weakness infringe on their lives, causing discomfort and disability. In arthritis, degenerative changes to joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments cause swelling, joint and bone deterioration, dryness of joints, stiffness and excruciating pain. Although there are over 100 different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common variety of joint disease. Degenerative changes to joint cartilage result in stiffness, pain and roughening or loss of surface. Onset of osteoarthritis is subtle and gradual, usually during middle age. Knees and hands are the most commonly affected sites. Rheumatoid arthritis affects connective tissue. Believed to be an auto-immune disease, where the immune system mistakenly attacks body cells, it can occur at any age.
Food for Thought
Dietary changes can halt arthritis in its tracks and instigate healing. The cornerstone of any healing plan is appropriate wholesome food. The adage "you are what you eat" rings true and is complimented by "you are what you absorb and able to eliminate." Arthritis indicates that the body''s elimination channels are functioning inefficiently. This must be rectified to remove toxins effectively and allow complete nutrient absorption. The scenario is often complicated by metabolic acidity and food allergies. This systemic problem is easily remedied with dietary measures. Reducing animal products (meat, poultry, dairy), refined white flour products, soft drinks, sugars and all processed goods is vital. Replace them with fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, whole grains, beans and legumes, fresh nuts and seeds. Try to obtain chemical free, organic produce where possible. Allergies to citrus fruits, chocolate, coffee, wheat and nightshade vegetables are common. Try the following dietary experiments, one at a time. Do each for two months and observe your symptoms:
- Eliminate milk and all milk products.
- Eliminate all sugar except fresh fruit.
- Eliminate citrus fruit.
- Eliminate all nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, paprika, chilli, tobacco).
- Eliminate refined salt and replace it with highly mineralised organic Celtic salt.
At the end of each trial period add the eliminated items to your diet. One or more category may influence your symptoms.
Use anti-inflammatory and circulation boosting spices such as tumeric, cinnamon and ginger liberally in cooking. Try adding tumeric to stir fries and curries, make ginger and carrot soup and indulge in ginger and cinnamon spiced pears. Delicious and healing!
Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 oils, found abundantly in fatty fish and fresh flaxseed oils are rich in anti-inflammatory properties. They block the effects of harmful inflammatory processes in the body. A great deal of research suggests all inflammatory conditions are connected with faulty essential fatty acid metabolism. Removing harmful, rancid fats found in processed, deep fried foods and margarines is the first step in reversing this process. The addition of healing Essential Fatty Acids (EFA''s) are necessary to heal tissue, produce secretions that lubricate joints. They are also required to build cell membranes, deposit bone material and transport minerals in the body.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins B3, B5, B6, C and E play a role in healthy cartilage metabolism. Minerals such as magnesium and boron improve bone mineralisation. Antioxidant nutrients may reduce the risk of cartilage loss and progression of osteoarthritis.
Mother Nature and You - A Joint Effort
Many herbs are potent anti-inflammatory agents and can provide safe and effective relief. Boswella, (Boswellia serrata), Nettles (Urtica diocia urens folia), Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) and Willow (Salix alba) are some that are commonly used.
Cat''s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
This woody vine with cat''s claw shaped thorns grows wild in the Peruvian Amazon highlands, where the native Asháninka Indians have used it for thousands of years. More recently, scientists found it is a warehouse of beneficial phytochemicals, including quinovic glycosides, which are strongly anti-inflammatory. It is useful for relieving arthritis, rheumatism and bursitis and has a powerful healing effect on digestive and immune function.
Devil''s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
This anti-inflammatory, pain relieving herb is a specific for rheumatism and joint disorders while strengthening immunity.
Yucca (Yucca spp)
This anti-inflammatory herb is excellent for rheumatism and gout.
Aloe Vera (Barbadensis miller)
A powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic, this plant is a specific in the treatment of arthritic conditions. Many people with joint dysfunction have experienced increased mobility and less pain after regularly drinking Aloe Vera Juice. The improvement has been attributed to it being highly nutritive, an excellent detoxifier and healing to the entire digestive tract and liver, resulting in improved detoxification, digestion and reduction in food allergies.
Celery Seed (Apium graveolens)
Many studies and anecdotal evidence supports its use as an anti-inflammatory.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
The anti-inflammatory effects of ginger, which acts as a prostaglandin and leukotriene inhibitor, are so potent that it has been touted as herbal aspirin. Four grams of ginger equal 200mg of aspirin as an anti-inflammatory. People taking Warfarin should seek professional advice before consuming large amounts of ginger.
Soothing Essential Oils
The Fragrant Pharmacy by Valerie Ann Worwood contains detailed protocols for treating various forms of arthritis using therapeutic essential oils and adjunctive therapies. For rheumatoid arthritis, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, Roman and German chamomile, geranium, rosemary, lemon, thyme are recommended. Ginger, basil, eucalyptus, thyme, coriander, marjoram, lemon are suggested for osteoarthritis.
This well established approach works with the body''s own healing system. It can be very effective in dealing with symptomatic and underlying causes of arthritis. It is safe, effective and can be used with any other form of therapy. See a homeopath or try over the counter preparations, including oral and topical applications.
Chlorella, and Spirulina, (micro-algae), wheat grass and barley grass powders and tablets provide powerful anti-inflammatory effects. They are also highly alkalising, an important factor to remedy the systemic acidity often underlying arthritis. They are vital in a wholistic program to turn around the underlying condition.
Many scientific studies suggest supplementing with glucosamine is effective in relieving osteoarthritic pain and inflammation. In scientific trials glucosamine produced consistent benefits, including gradual and progressive reduction in joint pain and tenderness, improved range of motion and protection of joints from further damage. In some cases it equalled or surpassed effects of anti-inflammatory medication. Glucosamine is actually made in the body in small amounts and is required to form glycosaminoglycans, key structural proteins in cartilage. Glucosamine also stimulates cells that produce these proteins, normalises cartilage metabolism and helps the body repair damaged or eroded cartilage. Research indicates that glucosamine sulphate is the most beneficial form for this purpose. No significant side effect have been reported in any scientific study.
This food supplement, made from the powdered cartilage of sharks helps reduce joint inflammation and swelling and improves mobility. Rich in calcium and phosphorus, amino acids, and a natural source of glucosamine. It also contains chondroitin sulphate, an anti-inflammatory protecting cartilage from breaking down and attracting fluids into molecules called proteoglycans that give tissue shock absorbing qualities. It should not be taken by pregnant women, people with cardiovascular problems, those recovering from surgery or still growing as it inhibits cellular angiogenesis - the ability to generate new blood vessels.
Containing green lipped mussel extract, which naturally contains glucosamine, Seatone has 25 years of research and anecdotal support as a highly beneficial anti-inflammatory treatment of arthritis. Its gastro-protective properties are important for those at risk of digestive side effects from pharmaceutical painkillers.
Dealing with Medication
Non steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAI) such as aspirin, as well as cortisone treatment are often used to provide relief from debilitating pain. Side effects, include severe digestive complaints and damage. While finding relief with their natural counterparts many people find herbal digestive remedies to be very effective at reversing the damage. Aloe Vera Juice, Slippery Elm powder, Marshmallow (Althaea offinalis) and Liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) as well as barley grass powder and Spirulina are the remedies of choice. A course of probiotics such as acidophilous, bifidus and other friendly bacteria can be highly beneficial.
Many people find relief through heat treatment, massage, shiatsu, naturopathy, magnet therapy, fasting (under supervision), meditation, visualisation, yoga, acupuncture, acupressure and Chinese herbal therapy. A macrobiotic diet and lifestyle has also been shown to restore joint flexibility and shrink spurs.
With so many choices from Mother Nature''s pharmacy, professional advice can be helpful when selecting the products that would most benefit you. Arthritis is a complex scenario and although certain herbs and nutriceaticals can provide temporary relief, a wholistic program is needed to remedy the underlying causes. Talk to a healthcare professional, who can suggest a specific program to provide short term relief and facilitate deeper healing for you.
The contents of this publication are intended to inspire, encourage and support individuals with healthcare choices. They are not intended to replace the personal advice of a qualified health practitioner.