Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Arthritis (osteoarthritis) is the wearing away of joint cartilage.  Osteoarthritis is primarily age related, usually starting in men between age 45 and 55 and women over the age of 55. Osteoarthritis is more common in women than men over the age of 55.  Approximately 27 million Americans have arthritis.

Joint cartilage is the joint's cushion.  Wearing away of this cushion eventually causes pain as the joints rub against each other.  Besides pain, other symptoms include loss of flexibility, inflammation, and sometimes numbing and tingling in affected areas of the body.  

Many conditions can cause arthritis to accelerate or worsen including poor diet, obesity, hormone imbalance, repetitive trauma or injury to joints, chronic inflammation, abnormal joints at birth, and gout.  Traditional remedies include prescription drugs, NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin), and surgery.  These methods can have serious side effects and are costly.

The following are natural ways you can relieve the symptoms of arthritis and slow down its progression.

1.  Lose weight.  For every extra pound of weight you are carrying equates to 4 pounds of pressure on your knees.  Start with strength training.  Building muscles around the joints supports the joints.  Increase in muscle mass also increases the metabolism.  More muscle means more calories burned even at rest.  Add aerobics for heart health and variety. Swimming is the gentlest exercise on the joints.  If you are able to walk or cycle without pain, they are good exercises too.  Change exercises frequently to alleviate boredom.   

2.  Reduce consumption of sugar and other "white" poisons.  Sugar sends your blood sugar high causing an inflammatory response in the body.  Therefore, reducing or eliminating sugar will ease joint pain.  White flours and grains (rice) have the same effect on the body as sugar.  Eliminating them will not only improve symptoms of arthritis but help you lose weight and reverse insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.  When you have a craving for something sweet, make a smoothie with berries and half a banana.  Berries are packed with antioxidants and bananas have potassium (see potassium below).       

3.  Eliminate consumption of red meat and dairy.  Both red meat and diary (milk, cheese, yogurt) have been implemented in higher rates of arthritis.  Eliminate dairy and beef.  Eat chicken, eggs, tofu, nuts, and beans for protein.  Consumption of dairy has also been associated with higher prostate cancer and breast cancer.  Next time you hear "Got Milk", say no thank you.  I have not been diagnosed with arthritis but when I eat dairy, my breasts and joints ache.  So I avoid dairy.  I miss having ice cream and cheese but I don't miss having aches and pains all over my body.  Just not worth it.  Try it for a month and see how you feel.  

4.  Eliminate gluten (wheat, barley, and rye).  I know. I know.  How can you give up wheat?  Wheat is addicting and is a common allergen.  Wheat allergies are more common than most of us want know.  Wheat has changed significantly in the past 50 years to make it easier to grow and harvest.  The gluten (type of protein) content has also increased significantly with these changes.  Our bodies have great difficulty digesting "modern" wheat. You don't need to have celiac disease to benefit from gluten elimination.  Try it for one month.  You will feel better.  After one month, add back products made with spelt flour if you miss wheat and see how you feel.  If you feel fine then you can eat spelt.  Spelt is wheat but has not been modernized and has a lower gluten content.  If you start to have symptoms  (migraines, indigestion, fatigue, allergies, and aches and pains to name a few) even with spelt, then you probably have celiac disease.  You can get tested or just remove all gluten from your diet permanently.  

3.  Add omega 3 fatty acids.   Fish oil, salmon oil, cod liver oil, and flaxseed oil all have omega 3 fatty acids.  Before the introduction of vegetable oils and processed foods, the omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid ratio in the American diet was much higher.  We now get too many omega 6 fatty acids in our body creating an inflammatory condition.  To correct this imbalance, eliminate vegetable oils (including canola oil) and increase consumption of better fats.  Eat fish 2-3 times per week and use olive oil for salads and coconut oil and organic butter for cooking.  If you don't like fish or are a vegetarian, supplementing with a good quality fish oil like Carlson's or flaxseed oil is fine too.      

4.  Take digestive enzymes and probiotics.  Everyone over the age of 40 should take digestive enzymes and probiotics.  As we age, both of these digestive aids decrease. Digestive enzymes help with the breakdown and digestion of food.  Probiotics keep the intestinal tract healthy by providing good bacteria.  If you do not have enough of these important supplements, then you will experience chronic inflammation which shows up as indigestion, acid reflux, burping, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, and eventually nutritional deficiencies. See 3 Most Important Nutritional Supplements posting for further discussion on the importance of digestive enzymes and probiotics. 

5.  Take antioxidants along with quercitin.  Antioxidants help reduce inflammation, so eat plenty of fruit (especially berries) and vegetables or take an antioxidant supplement (or both).  In a study of over 25,000 people, a low intake of antioxidants significantly increased the risk of arthritis. Quercitin is one of the most abundant antioxidants found in broccoli, citrus foods, onions, red grapes, and squash.  It works with vitamins C and E to protect against free-radical damage.  Quercitin also has an anti-inflammatory effect by inhibiting the release of histamine.  In a study using quercitin, those using the antioxidant reported reduced stiffness.
6.  Take potassium supplements or eat foods high in potassium.   Low potassium levels have been associated with arthritis among other conditions such as restless leg syndrome.  A high sodium fast food diet will upset the sodium-potassium ratio requirements of the body.  Too much sodium increases risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Decreasing foods high in sodium and increasing foods high in potassium will improve health. Foods high in potassium include banana, avocado, baked potatoes (with skin), salmon, mushrooms, and leafy greens.  Potassium also comes in supplement form. 

7.  Add the spices cayenne pepper, ginger, and turmeric to foods.  These spices all cool inflammation in the body and help with digestion.  They are great on meats and brown rice. If you don't like the taste of one or more of these spices, you can get it in supplement form.

8.  Balance your hormones.  Insulin, estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, vitamin D, and cortisol levels are all critical to health.   There is a connection between diabetes and arthritis. Risk of developing arthritis is much higher if you have diabetes.  Get your blood sugar levels checked, lose weight, and follow all the above suggestions.  Get sex hormones and vitamin D levels checked.  If sex hormones are too low or too high, they will cause a crap load of symptoms including weight gain and depression.  do not take hormone pills.  Use only creams.  They are safer with less side effects.  If vitamin D levels are low, take high levels of D3 (2,000 - 5,000 per day) based on your doctor's recommendation. 

9.  Try the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin.  Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are components of normal cartilage.  They appear to stimulate the body to make more cartilage.  According to Jason Theodosakis, M.D. (author of The Arthritis Cure), neither of these supplements should be used alone.  In a trial by Dr. Theodosakis, about 80% of the people with arthritis experienced decreased pain, increased range of motion, and reduced swelling.  Also, taking vitamin C and manganese increases the effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin.  Dr. Theodosakis has also analyzed many of the glucosamine/chondroitin on the market.  Unfortunately they vary greatly in effectiveness and quality. His recommendations based on his studies are Osteo Bi-Flex (Sundown), MaxiLife Glucosamine & Chondroitin Sulfate (Twin Labs), and Gluco-Pro 900 (Thompson). You should wait about 3 months before seeing noticeable results. 

10. Try herbal remedies. Herbs that help reduce inflammation can be helpful in reducing swelling and pain related to arthritis. These include borage oil boswellia, cat's claw, chamomile, devil's claw, Pau d'Arco, Chinese foxglove, rosemary, and white willow bark. See www.healthline.com for more detailed information.      

11.  Try acupuncture, massage, and or chiropractic.  All these techniques have shown to help symptoms of arthritis.  Acupuncture works by stimulating energy flow.  Massage works by increasing blood circulation and lymph flow.  Chiropractic works by correcting misalignments of the spine.  Misalignments of the spine can occur at one or several points along the spine. Once corrected, normal motion of the affected joints can be restored. This in turn improves nerve function, relaxes muscles, and reopens the natural flow of nutrients, nerve supply, and endorphins (the body's natural pain killers) preventing, hopefully, further joint degeneration.  Visiting the chiropractor at least one to four times per year may be a good preventative measure.  I always put off going to my chiropractor but when I do, I feel great afterwords.  

The Arthritis Cure by Jason Theodosakis, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.M.
Natural Medicine for Arthritis by Glen S. Rothfeld, M.D.
"Image courtesy of Maggie Smith/FreeDigitalPhotos.net"


Aaron Surin said...

I prefer precaution than the supplements for weight control. It is not necessary that every supplements are good for health.

Aaron |
Float Tank Massage

Donna said...

Thanks for the comment. This article is mainly about natural methods for those that ALREADY have arthritis. I believe adding supplements is very important for those with any chronic disease. I'm not sure what you mean by precaution. If you mean preventative, then always a healthy diet is more important than supplements. However, we cannot always get high quality food due to poor soil conditions and herbicide use even if it is organic. If you grow your own food and meat (if you eat meat) and compost, you probably don't need supplements. However, that is not the reality of most people. Good quality supplements help fill in the gaps we may have in our diet. Donna