TREATING ARTHRITIS NATURALLY
About 50 million North Americans (approximately one in seven people) have some form of arthritis. In another 20 years, as baby boomers grow older and people live longer, close to 70 million people in Canada and the United States will have arthritis.
Arthritis means inflammation of a joint. The most common conditions are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus and ankylosing spondylitis. Severity can range from mild to crippling and may even be life threatening in certain cases.
A family history of arthritis appears to play a part in the disease, but the exact mechanisms are still a mystery. The wear and tear of aging and previous joint damage or injury is specifically associated with osteoarthritis. Another potential cause of osteoarthritis, and of rheumatoid arthritis, is a deficiency of hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach. Released in digestion, this acid helps us to absorb the minerals we need for healthy bones and joints. Mineral deficiencies can either cause or worsen just about any type of arthritis. Calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, silicon, sulfur, boron, strontium and numerous other lesser-known minerals are involved in bone synthesis, breakdown and repair.
We have all been brainwashed about the importance of fluoride for dental health but studies indicate that fluoride, at levels as low as one part-per-million in drinking water, can cause osteoarthritis by breaking down collagen, the mesh-like protein in bone and other connective tissue. A deficiency of vitamin D may cause loss of cartilage and degenerative bony spur formation, which are linked to increased risk for osteoarthritis progression.
Food allergies may be a hidden cause of chronic inflammation in a joint and are linked with immune system dysfunction like rheumatoid arthritis. Food allergies are also linked to leaky gut syndrome – damage to the gut lining that allows large protein molecules to be absorbed. As the immune system treats the molecules as foreign substances and starts making antibodies, joint inflammation may result. Another source of immune system inflammation is mercury fillings, which leak mercury vapor into the body on a daily basis.
Known food allergies and foods that are "pro-inflammatory", such as red meat, unhealthy fats, sugar, caffeine, and wheat, to name a few, may worsen or cause symptoms and should be eliminated. Members of the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tobacco) might have to be eliminated by some sensitive individuals.
Yeast, fungi and their mycotoxins initiate many autoimmune diseases involving joint inflammation. Parasites and unfriendly bacteria compete with us for nutrients like vitamins, minerals and amino acids and secrete waste products into our gut and bloodstream that are capable of causing various allergic or autoimmune reactions.
THE ARTHRITIS DIET
Pro-inflammatory foods and known food allergies should be eliminated. These most often include beef, pork and fried foods, sugar and refined carbohydrates in any form, coffee, regular tea and alcohol, dairy products, corn, yeast, all citrus and gluten-containing grains, especially wheat, rye, oats and barley. Nightshade foods (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, tobacco) might have to be eliminated by some sensitive individuals. Foods, like fish, flax and hempseed, are anti-inflammatory in that they have the reverse effect. For more detailed information on diet, see my two books on
SUPPLEMENTS (in order of importance)
We are all biochemically unique, and consequently no single regimen will work equally well for one and all. One or some combination of the following nutritional supplements is generally effective for most people afflicted with arthritis.
Long before supplements like glucosamine sulfate became household names for reversing osteoarthritis, millions of people found great relief from joint pain, stiffness and reduced range of motion by swallowing with daily cod liver oil. Cod liver oil works. It continues to help reverse osteoarthritis naturally, and is, I believe, first-line therapy for any inflammatory condition. Cod liver oil, halibut liver oil, krill oil, seal oil, salmon oil and shark liver oil all contain fats that stimulate the body to manufacture anti-inflammatory hormones called prostaglandins. These fats referred to as eicosapentaenoic acid (epa) are found in large amounts in cold water fish (trout, salmon, cod, halibut, mackerel, catfish, shark, etc.), and are highly effective as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Good results can be anticipated in three to six months. When combined with glucosamine sulfate osteoarthritis can be significantly improved within six weeks or less. Typical therapeutic dosages are nine to twelve grams daily of capsules or two to three tablespoons of the oil.
Dosage: 9 to 12 grams daily of capsules, or two to three tablespoons of the oil. An alternative but less potent source of omega-3 oils comes from hempseed, a favorite of the vegan set. Dosage: 2 to 3 tablespoons daily
Glucosamine is the building block of articular cartilage. Numerous double-blind studies done in the 1980s concluded that supplementation reverses osteoarthritis, and other studies show it to be superior in pain relief to ibuprofen and nsaids. Glucosamine is required for the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans, which aid in the repair of the cartilage destroyed by arthritis.
Glucosamine supplementation has produced a 95 percent response rate in patients compared to 72 percent in patients taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Glucosamine sulfate has been the drug of choice for treatment of osteoarthritis in Portugal, Spain and Italy since the early 1980s. Shark, cow and chicken cartilage are other sources of glycosaminoglycans but may be more expensive than glucosamine sulfate therapy.
"There is such a treatment that inhibits the degradation and actually starts rebuilding the cartilage, costs less, does not require a prescription, does not make the osteoarthritis worse by further destroying the cartilage, and does not have all of the extremely dangerous side effects of nsaids [e.g. ibuprofen and other drugs which can cause nausea and even hemorrhaging] This substance is glucosamine sulfate."
Sherry A. Rogers, M.D., Health Counselor, "Osteoarthritis is Repairable" v8, no3, p55-6, 1997.
“We spend billions each year treating joint pain with steroids and analgesics, but those drugs don't repair the damage, and their side effects can be deadly. The new regimen won't work for everyone, and it's sure to fail in people with advanced disease, since they lack cartilage to restore. But if half the people now lining up for the stuff respond to it, arthritis treatment will never be the same.”
Newsweek, The Arthritis Cure? February 17, 1997, p54*
Glucosamine helps bind water in the cartilage matrix and has been shown to help produce more collagen. It normalizes cartilage metabolism, the substance that helps to keep the cartilage from breaking down. Glucosamine can also improve joint function and help reduce the pain of those suffering from osteoarthritis. Double-blind studies show that glucosamine sulfate helps symptoms such as joint tenderness, pain on standing, pain on walking and joint swelling.
Numerous double-blind studies done in the 1980s concluded that supplementation with glucosamine sulfate reverses osteoarthritis. Glucosamine may speed healing of recurrent joint injuries such as chondromalacia patella and thus prevent the development of osteoarthritis.
Dosage: 500 mgs 3 times daily.
MSM is a natural form of organic sulfur, a critical component of the amino acids methionine, cysteine and cystine contained in the cellular proteins of all living organisms. Next to salt and water, msm is the third largest ingredient found in the body. Sulfur is needed for the proteins of hair, nails and skin as well as glutathione, one of the body's most important antioxidants. msm is present in raw fruits, vegetables and some grains but is commonly lost during cooking, food processing and storage.
msm is an odorless and stable metabolite of dmso, a compound used in conventional medicine to treat scleroderma and chronic urinary bladder inflammation (interstitial cystitis). dmso was a short-lived fad treatment for arthritis and other sports related injuries (tendinitis, sprains, strains and non-specific musculoskeletal pain). The drawback to dmso therapy was that it gave users a powerful garlic breath odor. When dmso was applied to the skin, it rapidly absorbed into the circulation and provided pain relief to the affected areas. The garlic odor problem, however, made its use unpopular to all but the most motivated to take this unusual remedy. msm is as powerful in its effects as dmso but there is no offensive odor.
A deficiency of msm can result in fatigue and an increased susceptibility to arthritis. Long used in veterinary medicine as a supplement to control arthritic pain, msm also has proven therapeutic benefits in humans. MSM is also effective in controlling symptoms from allergies and is a natural anti-parasitic nutrient. It can also help the body offset the harmful effects of toxic heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic. Dosage: 6 to 12 grams daily
This hormone like nutrient comes primarily through the effects of sunshine on the skin and plays an essential role in calcium metabolism. It is strongly anti-inflammatory. Thus, daily intake of vitamin D is an effective treatment for all types of arthritis.
Dosage: 5,000 IU daily from May to October; 10,000 IU daily from October to May; dosages need to be adjusted downwards for those living closer to the equator and exposed to more sunlight.
The yellow pigment of the herb turmeric is called curcumin. In some studies it has been reported to be equally effective as cortisone without any of the associated side effects. Curcumin also has powerful anti-cancer effects and protects the liver from damage from various toxins from the environment.
Dosage: 500 – 1000 mgs. 3 times daily
Boswellia is an herb native to India with well proven anti-arthritic effects through the inhibition of inflammatory mediators, prevention of decreased cartilage formation and improved blood supply to the joints. Boswellia contains boswellic acids, which have been shown to be responsible for the tissue-protective actions, the inhibition of leukotrienes, a class of mediators of the body’s inflammatory response.
Dosage: 400 mgs. 3 times daily
Devil’s Claw (Harpagagophytum procumbens)
Devil’s claw root is a South African plant observed to have an action comparable to that of an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) in several European studies.
Dosage: 500 mgs. 3 times daily with meals
This is an important lubricating component of synovial fluid found in all joints. Deficiency can lead to a loss of cushioning needed to prevent pain and inflammation.
Dosage: 50 mg daily
Vitamin C has been proven to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Dosage: 6,000 mgs or more daily to bowel tolerance.
At dosages of 800 iu daily, vitamin E may be a prostaglandin inhibitor similar to nsaids, but without the side effects.
Dosage: 800 iu daily
This amino acid supplement helps repair leaky gut syndrome, a phenomenon associated with most autoimmune forms of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Dosage: 500–15,000 mg daily.
Boron is essential to the body’s synthesis of steroid hormones and vitamin D, both of which are vital for normal bone growth and repair.
Dosage: 6 to 9 mgs daily
Daily supplementation with selenium helps elevate levels of glutathione peroxidase, a selenium-containing antioxidant enzyme that is a potent free radical scavenger.
Dosage: 200 to 600 mcg daily
Levels of these minerals are often low in those suffering from osteoarthritis.
Dosage: zinc – 30 mg. Daily; copper – 4 mg. daily
Manganese is an important component of articular cartilage, and is, therefore, helpful in treating osteoarthritis.
Dosage: 15 to 30 mgs daily.
Although very poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, chondroitin sulfate
taken orally appears to have a beneficial effect. The body also manufactures it directly from glucosamine sulfate, provided there is enough of it on hand.
Dosage: 500 mgs 3 times daily with food
This is a naturally-occurring bioflavonoid which has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
Dosage: 500 mg. 3 times daily
This B vitamin (a synthetic form of niacin) may enhance glucocorticoid secretion, a naturally produced anti-inflammatory adrenal hormone.
Dosage: 500 mgs six times daily
Plant-based digestive enzymes (bromelain, papain) and pancreatin enzymes (animal based) work as a powerful anti-inflammatory agents, reducing pain, swelling and infection while improving joint flexibility. The proteolytic enzymes trypsin and chymotrypsin, usually considered as enzymes that break down dietary protein in the gastrointestinal tract, also have been shown to promote the healing of many exercise damaged tissues. Bromelain (from pineapple stalks) and papain (from papayas) have been reported to have similar beneficial effects.
Dosage: 5 capsules 3 times daily on an empty stomach
Regular supplementation for 3 months or longer can reduce pain, swelling an inflammation in osteoarthritis in 75% of people.
Dosage: 1000 mgs. or more 4 times daily
A saponin extract of the desert yucca plant has been demonstrated to help reverse osteoarthritis within 3 months of use without side effects.
Dosage: 500 mgs 4 times daily
Velvet elk antler
Velvet elk antler is said to prevent aging, boost energy and enhance immunity. It has started to become a popular supplement in Canada and the US owing to its anti-arthritis effects.
Dosage: 500 to 1,000 mgs daily
Oil of oregano has been used successfully as an anti-arthritis, anti-inflammatory remedy by millions.
Dosage: 2 or 3 drops (mixed with some olive oil to improve palatability) under the tongue several times daily, or applied topically
This supplement has been used extensively in Europe for the treatment of osteoarthritis. It stimulates the synthesis of proteoglycans, which provide essential nutrition for cartilage cells.
Dosage: 200 to 400 mgs 3 times daily
Some studies indicate that supplementing vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) improves osteoarthritis pain and mobility by enhancing the adrenal gland secretion of glucocorticoids, hormones with an anti-inflammatory effect.
Dosage: 500 – 1000 mgs. 3 times daily
Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid
One double-blind study indicates that high doses of vitamin B12 and folic acid works as well as NSAIDS for pain control.
Dosage: vitamin B12 – 1000 mcgs. daily; folic acid – 5 mgs. daily
Molybdenum deficiency worsens osteoathritis and that supplementation clears osteoarthritis symptoms within a month.
Dosage: 1 mg. daily
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Stinging nettle has long been recognized as an effective treatment for arthritis and gout. It can stimulate the body to excrete uric acid, a substance that can form stones and arthritic joints.
Dosage: 500 mg. 3 times daily
Cat's Claw (Una de gato)
Cat’s claw comes from the Peruvian rainforest. Six oxindole alkaloids have been isolated in the inner bark of the plant and have been proven to provide a general boost to the immune system. Other alkaloids and phytochemicals (glycosides) present in Cat's Claw have been isolated and have been proven to provide pronounced natural anti-inflammatory benefits. Health care providers are now using it successfully with their arthritic patients for its anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating properties in both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
The treatment approach taken to any form of arthritis depends on many different factors and is best individualized for the patient by a natural health care practitioner.
Rona, Zoltan. Osteoarthritis. Alive Natural Health Guides #16. Vancouver:Alive Books, 2000
Rona, Zoltan. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alive Natural Health Guides#26. Vancouver:Alive Books, 2000
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