Healing Arthritis NaturallySep 06, 2011 01:26PM ● By Henry Sobo, MD
Arthritis, inflammation of the joint, can cause symptoms such as pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited range of motion, which impact lifestyle and well-being. The two most widespread types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of disability in people over age 60, and by age 50 most people have some degree of this condition. The source of pain and limited mobility in millions, it is one of the most common ailments for which people seek treatment. There are myriad medications available, some resulting in side effects which may undermine their benefits. A variety of non-toxic, natural healing options may also be considered, which can help to avoid side effects, as well as expense of, some medications.
Before impulsively jumping in and trying any variety of remedies that can impact your health, it is important to seek the advice of a competent health care provider and have an awareness of some of the different types of arthritis. As with any healing modality, the approach may be different depending on the individual and what type of arthritis is responsible for the most common symptom, joint pain.
The more common osteoarthritis is associated with aging, the “wear and tear” of living, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-inflammatory condition which primarily occurs between the ages of 20 to 40. While osteoarthritis tends to result in local symptoms, such as stiff and painful joints, sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis will often exhibit other signs of illness, such as fatigue and low grade fever with swollen glands. Their joints may become more acutely inflamed and painful than with the slower onset of discomfort associated with osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can be reliably revealed by a blood test called the Rheumatoid factor which should be taken if that disease is suspected.
Among other types of arthritis are gout and infectious arthritis, as occurs with Lyme disease. Although gout should only be diagnosed by a doctor, it can be clearly distinguished by its leading characteristic of affecting just one joint at any particular time. (e.g.: if there is no other known cause and all that hurts is a swollen big toe). An attack of gout can occur in many areas of the body, including an elbow or knee, but will appear in just one joint, not on both sides of the body. With Lyme disease, a person will likely feel unwell in other ways, rather than simply suffering from joint pain. Headaches, fatigue and rashes may signify the possibility of Lyme, which often occurs in Connecticut (where it was first named) and other northeastern states. It is essential that anyone suspecting they may have Lyme disease seek a medical evaluation since delaying treatment can be devastating to health.
NATURAL TREATMENTS FOR ARTHRITIS
Inflammation is the common denominator for all types of arthritis, so following practices that are anti-inflammatory is good for all of the above conditions. Since inflammation underlies many other health problems, as well, such treatments can be beneficial to overall health.
1. Avoid eating too many acid-forming foods. Diets high in foods that cause acidity, such as meats, dairy products, sugars and baked goods, tend to promote inflammation. Diets high in items like fruits and vegetables, olives and olive oil, can have the opposite effect. Such a diet is the basis for obtaining more alkaline body chemistry, resulting in an effect which can counter the arthritic inflammation and its subsequent pain.
2. Gain Awareness of Food Sensitivities. Even though arthritis is not an allergy problem, per se, when a person eats food to which they have an underlying sensitivity they will have a generalized body inflammatory response resulting in worsened arthritic pain.
3. Avoid nightshades. A class of food called nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and potatoes) may worsen some individuals’ arthritic symptoms. It may be worth a one-month trial to limit intake of these foods and notice if there is a beneficial effect.
There are many herbal compounds that have been used for millennia…well before modern medications. A track record of safety exists that allows these to be purchased over the counter by consumers, though you should always ask a knowledgeable health professional’s advice before trying new healing remedies, especially if you have any other health conditions requiring medication. Among the remedies backed by scientific research, and the testimony of health practitioners and their patients, are: boswella; willow bark; curcumin; ginger; cat’s claw; nettle leaf; vitamins C, A, E, B3, B5 and B6; minerals, zinc, copper and boron; glucosamine; and, chondroitin.
Vitamin shops carry any number of arthritis relief supplements containing some of those items listed above. A reasonable trial of a particular remedy should be done by taking the remedy as suggested for a month at the full daily dose. If the first attempt didn’t do the trick, rather than simply switching remedies try adding a second remedy from among the elements listed above. Give this combination another full month trial and notice if there is any improvement.
For many patients some sort of physical therapy/exercise is an essential part of arthritis treatment. A good exercise plan can reduce joint pain and stiffness while improving muscle strength, joint flexibility, balance, coordination, and endurance. What is an appropriate exercise? One that that takes into account the physical limitations of the patient and aims for gradual improvements. A physical therapist can teach a range of motion and strengthening exercises, as well as appropriate aerobic activities.
And finally, as with almost any condition for which there is no complete cure, stress reduction (e.g.: through meditation) is always helpful in coping with the discomfort of living with arthritis.
Dr. Sobo is a medical doctor practicing holistic/nutritional medicine in Stamford, CT. For information about his practice, call 203.348.8805 or visit DrSobo.com. Note: the information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your physician or health care provider. Statements made have not been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.