Arthritis is a crippling disease we tend to associate with getting older. However, there is no immunity against contracting this chronic, non-curable disease, and it affects folks of all ages.
There are two forms of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 90% of all arthritis cases fall under the first diagnosis. It may surprise you to know that these two painful afflictions have completely different causes:
Common signs of arthritis include:
- Decreased range of motion
The more common form is osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition caused by mechanical wear and tear on joints. (Think about how a high-mileage car looks and drives as compared to one fresh off the sales lot.)
Osteoarthritis destroys joint cartilage over time and may, additionally, produce inflammatory symptoms.
Repetitive Stress Syndrome (RSS), sports injuries, and older injuries – or those that didn’t heal properly – wear away the hard, slippery cartilage that caps (covers the ends of) the bones in your joints. When bone rubs directly on nerves, the pain is excruciating.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis is a complex autoimmune disease with patient-specific symptoms in which the body’s own immune system attacks the body’s joints. Inflammation and pain come from the synovial membrane that naturally lines joints to protect and lubricate them. RA affects far fewer people than osteoarthritis, and its exact cause is unknown.
Some foods are known to fight Rheumatoid Arthritis:
Olive oil is a natural joint lube. It shares anti-inflammatory properties with fish, greens, and other vegetables, which is good for your whole body.
Anti-oxidants strengthen the body’s immune system – the ability to ward off invader germs, preventing illness – and are abundant in vegetables. If you’ve ever stood in front of a grocery produce stand, you know that veggies come in not only in all shapes and sizes, but all colors. The natural chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their hue are strong antioxidants.
Pasta and breads made from whole grains and whole wheat have selenium, an important antioxidant that is often low, especially in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
You may have heard of omega-3 fatty acids, plentiful in fish, especially salmon (highest, providing as much as 2 grams per 3-ounce serving), herring, sardines, and anchovies. Not only do omega-3s reduce “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride levels, they lessen the risk of heart disease. This is important since having RA increases the chances of cardiovascular problems. A different type of omega-3 fatty acid is found in walnuts, canola oil, and soybeans.
The Mayo Clinic says that arthritis treatments “vary depending on the type of arthritis. The main goals of arthritis treatments are to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.”
Traditional western medicine advises over-the-counter or prescription drugs to reduce arthritis inflammation and pain.
Stem cell injections – are currently in the headlines as a “promising treatment” – but experts are still reviewing patient results, both short- and long-term.
Chiropractic may help some arthritis sufferers. Neurologist (nerve specialist) Scott Haldeman, MD, from Santa Ana, California is Chairman Emeritus of the Research Council for the World Federation of Chiropractic. He believes, “If you have back or neck pain due to osteoarthritis, chiropractic is one of the safest therapies you can use.”
Five other alternative or holistic arthritis remedies include:
- Topical medications – creams, patches, or gels applied to the skin
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – electrical current delivered to painful spots via wired electrodes placed on the skin
- Steroid injection – a direct shot of the hormone cortisol or one of its synthetic versions (cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone)
- Exercise/physical therapy – regular body movement tones the entire body, reduces pain, increases range of motion, and builds the heart and lungs. Easy does it if you are accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle.
- Heat/cold – Some like it hot (heating pads, warm baths, heat patches, warm compresses), others not (cold pack, ice pack or even a frozen vegetable pack)
Diet plays a key role in overall health. Some foods are known to contribute to inflammation. You probably know which ones they are – all the ones we like! All kidding aside, if you have either kind of arthritis, or any other inflammatory condition, you might want to cut back or eliminate from your regime:
- Sugar – ITYS
- Saturated fats – goodbye cheesy pizza
- Trans fats – au revoir deep fried, processed, fast foods…and margarine
- Omega 6 Fatty Acids – you need some of these, but don’t overdo the corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil, and mayonnaise
- Refined carbohydrates – ditch the white flour bread, crackers, and some breakfast cereals (check the label)
- Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) – forget the famous flavor enhancer commonly found in Asian food and soy sauce, fast food, prepared soups, salad dressings and deli meats
- Gluten – bid a fond farewell to wheat, barley and rye
- Casein – moooooove away from the dairy products
If you have arthritis, you are not alone. According to Rheumatoidarthritis.org , an estimated 27 million Americans have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, compared to 1.3 million Americans with rheumatoid arthritis.
As technology and scientific knowledge continue to advance at break-neck speed, our understanding of arthritis grows. New treatments may lie just around the corner, giving hope to anyone dealing with the everyday trials and tribulations of joint pain.