Arthritis is a condition that causes pain, swelling and limited movement in joints, muscles and tendons throughout the body. Specific causes for most forms of arthritis are not yet known and the disease process varies depending on the type of arthritic condition you have.
The three most common forms are osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage that covers the ends of bones in the joint deteriorates, causing pain and loss of movement as bone begins to rub against bone. In fibromyalgia, widespread pain affects the muscles and attachments to the bone. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease in which the joint lining becomes inflamed as part of the body’s immune system activity. The chronic inflammation causes deterioration of the joint and pain with limited movement.
Other less prevalent forms of arthritis include, gout, ankylosing spondylitis and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus). In addition, the term juvenile arthritis is a general term for all types of arthritis that occur in children. Children may develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or childhood forms of lupus, ankylosing spondylitis or other types of arthritis.
Conventional treatment for arthritis is usually in the form of non-steroidal anti- inflammatories (NSAID’s), such as Feldene and Brufen, steroids and pain-killers. Although these can help to relieve the symptoms of arthritis research shows that they actually accelerate the degeneration of the joint. Therefore, NSAIDs generally need to be taken on a regular basis to be effective – sometimes for months or even years at a time. These drugs may cause side effects in many people including gastric pain or diarrhea, caused by irritation of the stomach. New research has shown that these drugs carry an increased risk of heart problems.
There are many factors that are thought to lead to the development of arthritis (especially with respect to osteo and rheumatoid arthritis) including:
- Poor lubrication of the joints. In between your joints is a substance called synovial fluid. Good nutrition is required to make sure that the synovial fluid stays fluid and is thus able to lubricate. Cartilage and synovial fluid contain mucopolysaccharides, which can be provided by certain foods including fruit and vegetables.
- Hormonal imbalance. Hormones control the calcium balance in the body. If the calcium balance is out of control the bones and joints can become porous and subject to wear and tear, and calcium can be deposited in the wrong place, resulting in arthritic ‘spurs’. The fault is not so much calcium intake, but loss of calcium balance in the body.
- A lack of exercise, too much tea, coffee, alcohol or chocolate, exposure to toxic metals like lead, excessive stress or underlying blood sugar or thyroid imbalances can all upset calcium control. While calcium control can be worse after the menopause, possibly due to the loss of oestrogen, too much oestrogen also makes arthritis worse. Balance is the key.
- Another hormone, insulin, stimulates the synthesis of mucopolysaccharides from which cartilage is made, hence diabetic people may be at greater risk of developing arthritis. Those people with an under active thyroid are also more likely to suffer from arthritis.
- Allergies and sensitivities. Many people suffering both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis have food and chemical allergies or sensitivities causing symptoms to flare up. The most common food allergens are wheat and dairy whilst chemical and environmental sensitivities can include exhaust fumes, house dust mites, moulds and cigarette smoke.
- Free radicals. In all inflamed joints a battle is taking place, with the body trying to deal with the damage. If the immune system is not working properly, as in rheumatoid arthritis, it will produce too many free radicals, which can damage tissue around the joint. An increased intake of anti oxidants in supplement form will help remove the free radicals.
- Infections. Any infection, be it viral or bacterial, weakens the immune system which controls inflammation. But some viruses and bacteria particularly affect the joints by lodging in them and recurring when immune defences are low. Often the immune system can harm surrounding tissues in an attempt to fight infection. Building up the immune system is important.
- Bone strain and deformities. Any damage or strain, often caused by bad posture, increases the risk of developing arthritis. Regular exercise helps to increase joint suppleness and strength.
- Poor diet. Too much refined sugar, too many stimulants, too much fat, and too much protein are all strongly associated with arthritic conditions. A lack of any of a large number of vital vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids can lead to joint problems.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Celadrin||Enhances the health of cell membranes, inhibits inflammatory compounds.||500-2000mg daily|
|Glucosamine||Provides the raw materials for building the components of cartilage needed to cushion joints.||1500mg daily|
|Chondroitin||One of the major structural components of cartilage, tendons and bones.||1 – 2000mg daily|
|MSM||Required for the synthesis of collagen which is the fibrous protein that forms the basis of cartilage.||500-3000mg daily|
|Anti-oxidants||To help protect the cartilage from free radical damage.||As directed|
|Green Lipped Mussel||Anti inflammatory and pain releiving, can be used topically in cream or gel form.||As directed|
|Boswellia||Powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic herb.||As directed|
|Devils Claw||Anti-inflammatory and pain relieving.||As directed|
|Black Cohosh||Anti-inflammatory and pain relieving.||As directed|
|Meadowsweet||It is anti-inflammatory, mild analgaesic.||As directed|
|Ginger||Pain relieving and anti-inflammatory.||As directed|
|Willow||The natural form of aspirin, pain relieving and anti-inflammatory.||As directed|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
Many things can be done to reduce the impact of arthritis on everyday life. Self help measures should include changing your diet where needed taking into account any food sensitivity, exercise and weight control.
Things to include:
Phytonutrients. Eat plenty of fresh fruit. Berries and other fruits with a purple/blue colour such as black grapes, bilberries, cranberries, blackcurrants and blueberries are especially rich in a type of flavonoid called anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins. These phytonutrients are very powerful antioxidants and anti- inflammatory agents. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, rhubarb and plums are acidic fruits and should be avoided.
Essential Fatty Acids. Include seeds such as sunflower, linseed, pumpkin, hemp and nuts. Seeds and nuts are good sources of essential fatty acids, vitamin B, zinc and the minerals calcium, magnesium and selenium.
Fluids. Drink herbal teas, dandelion coffee, and at least 1½ litres of mineral water daily and non citrus fruit juices. If you have a juicer, try the following mix each day to re-alkalize your system: carrot, celery, cabbage, and a tiny piece of chopped fresh root ginger, which is highly anti-inflammatory.
Green Vegetables. Include lots of organic green vegetables especially cabbage, broccoli and kale in your daily diet. Sea vegetables are also abundant in minerals. Kelp, hijiki, dulse and arame are especially high in calcium. Shitake mushrooms are also rich in calcium and phosphorous as well as being one of the few vegetable sources of vitamin D, an important nutrient required by the body to enhance the absorption of calcium from the diet.
Sprouted beans and seeds. Try sprouting your seeds. As a seed germinates, its vitamin and mineral content may double or even triple. Live sprouts, especially millet and quinoa together, are alkalisers. They mop up acid in your body and are packed full of live enzymes.
Use extra virgin olive oil or hemp oil for salad dressings. Try a non-hydrogenated, vegetable spread such as Vitaquell. Use sunflower oil for roasting or stir frying. Reduce the cooking temperature. Steam, grill or stir- fry foods. Increase the consumption of oily fish e.g. herrings, mackerel, kippers, tuna, sardines. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have been found to have an anti-inflammatory role within the body.
Use alternative vegetable protein sources such as organic chicken, quorn, tofu (provided an allergy to soya is not apparent) or quinoa in place of meat. Quinoa contains significantly more protein than any other grain, with a quality of protein better than meat. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals, enabling it to exhibit alkaline properties.
Things to avoid:
Sugar is found to neutralise calcium in the blood stream reducing the amount of calcium available for uptake by the bone.
Stimulants such as coffee, tea, alcohol, and cola based drinks and ‘junk food’ can have an adverse affect on mineral balance.
Acid fruits e.g. rhubarb, plums, tomatoes plus the citrus fruits oranges, lemons, grapefruit.
Pickled, smoked and preserved foods.
Meat (e.g. pork, beef, ham, bacon, and sausages ). Foods high in animal proteins are acid-forming. Too much acid in your body means that there is an excess of hydrogen ions which combine with oxygen to form water. Depletion of oxygen causes cells to break down and die, creating acidosis. As your system becomes more acid, your body leaches calcium from your bones to try and normalise the acid-alkaline balance of your blood. Replace meat products with oily fish, chicken, tofu, quorn or quinoa.
A diet low in salt is helpful in the treatment of all forms of arthritis.
Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, cakes, biscuits contribute to a generalised acid condition within the body, especially when accompanied by a diet low in fresh vegetables.
Dairy products are high in animal fat, protein and lactic acid, once again contributing to a generalised acid condition within the body. In addition to this dairy products are the number one food allergen for arthritis sufferers. Try alternatives to dairy produce including sheep’s and goats milk, Rice Dream and Oat milk, goats or sheep’s cheese and yogurts. While soya milk is also a dairy alternative, it may present as an allergen in some arthritic people.
Some people think that milk products are a necessary part of the diet because they alone ensure adequate quantities of calcium. This is a fallacy. Although the body requires adequate calcium for the healthy formation of bones, it is not the only important nutrient for building strong bones. Magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D are, among others, also significant. Milk and dairy products are poorly absorbed and they are poor sources of magnesium. Calcium is used best by the body with a good balance of magnesium. Both these minerals are found naturally together in green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds and they are in a form that the body can absorb.
Fried and processed foods are high in acid and are of little nutritional value. Wheat is the number two food allergen for arthritic sufferers and many people would do better to avoid it.
Proper exercises performed on a regular basis can help to decrease fatigue, strengthen muscles and bones, increase flexibility and stamina, and improve the general sense of well-being. Gentle stretching such as yoga can be helpful and “armchair exercises” can be done by people with limited movement. Recreational exercise, depending on the degree of movement, may include walking, cycling, swimming, exercise classes or light weight training.
Weight control is an important concern for people with arthritis. Keeping close to your ideal weight helps decrease the pressure on the knees and hips, which bear much of the weight of the body. In addition. research has now confirmed that overweight, middle-aged and older women can significantly lower their risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knee by losing weight.
Homoeopathic Remedies which may help. (Refer to the individual remedy for guidance on the one that is most appropriate for you.)
- Aconitum napellus
- Actaea racemosa
- Apis mellifica
- Calcarea carbonica
- Calcarea phosphorica
- Calcarea fluorica
- Ledum palustre
- Rhus toxicodendron
- Ruta graveolens
Suggested further reading:
- Preventing Arthritis
- Exercises for arthritis
- Video 2
- Video 3
- Video 4