He walked down the road, his shoulders and back straight, with his head up and his gait smooth.
He was a tall man and he took long strides, covering a lot of ground quickly and easily. There was never a hint of that crippling disease, arthritis, and as far as I know, he didn’t suffer from it. That was how I remember my grandfather.
Why do some people get arthritis while others, like my grandfather, remain blissfully free of the degenerative disease?
Fast forward to 35 years later when life is faster; people eat more processed food and there are more toxins and chemicals in everything we eat or use.
People now have to take a more proactive approach to stay healthy and avoid conditions like arthritis, an inflammatory condition that affects the joints.
Arthritis is a broad spectrum disorder which consists of basically two main types – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage in your joints wears down over time.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in your body, though it most commonly affects joints in your hands, hips, knees and spine. Osteoarthritis typically affects just one joint, though in some cases, such as with finger arthritis, several joints can be affected.
Osteoarthritis can also result in inflammation because it affects the surrounding tissue,” according to Darcy O’Toole of Qualicum Medicine Centre.
Osteoarthritis gradually worsens with time. But osteoarthritis treatments can relieve pain and help you remain active.
Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include: pain in a joint during or after use, or after a period of inactivity; tenderness in the joint when you apply light pressure; stiffness in a joint that may be most noticeable when you wake up in the morning or after a period of inactivity. Loss of flexibility may make it difficult to use the joint and swelling also exists in some cases. Unless you’ve been injured or placed unusual stress on a joint, it’s uncommon for osteoarthritis symptoms to affect your jaw, shoulder, elbows, wrists or ankles.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory form of arthritis that causes joint pain and damage. Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the lining of your joints (synovium) causing swelling that can result in aching and throbbing and eventually deformity. Sometimes rheumatoid arthritis symptoms make even the simplest activities — such as opening a jar or taking a walk — difficult to manage.
Rheumatoid arthritis is two to three times more common in women than in men and generally occurs between the ages of 40 and 60. But rheumatoid arthritis can also affect young children and older adults.
Gout and fibromyalgia are two other common types of arthritis.
Gout is a type of arthritis characterized by attacks of sudden, severe pain in body joints, typically starting with the big toe. Fibromyalgia is a condition involving generalized muscle pain, fatigue, and poor sleep. Tender spots (when pressed) on muscles are the hallmark of this condition.
Causes of Arthritis:
The causes of arthritis are many and varied. It could be genetics, age, being overweight, a previous injury, occupational hazards from high stress jobs such as heavy construction, or illness or infection or lifestyle choices.
According to Ron Garner in the book, Conscious Health, the “cause of arthritis is the over-consumption of acid-producing foods over a long period of time, resulting in an excess buildup of toxins and poisons.”
While Nanaimo naturopath Doug Kuramoto acknowledges that it is partly true, research papers also point to a virus as the cause. The Epstein Barr virus is particularly implicated in fibromyalgia. In addition to a virus, the central cause of fibromyalgia is low levels of serotonin. Chronic low levels cause the sensation of pain to be greatly exaggerated.
In gout, high levels of uric acid in the joints are implicated as the cause.
“The uric acids form crystals in the joints and it hurts like hell,” says Dr. Kuramoto.
Gout often affects the big toe, which becomes so sensitive in an attack that the weight from a bed sheet is too much to bear. Gout can also affect knees, ankles, feet, and (less commonly) joints in the arms. More men get gout and they are usually over the age of 30.
Gout is often a result of a rich diet involving high purine foots like organ meats, meat, yeast and poultry, fats, refined carbohydrates as well as alcohol.
If someone is experiencing gout, the first step is to change the diet. Reduce alcohol intake, high purine foods and highly acidic foods. Drinking more water keeps the dilutes urine and helps flush uric acid form the body.
Add in fruits like cherries and blueberries. Just eating a ½ pound of cherries can significantly lower uric acid levels. Also consider hawthorne berries, blueberries and grapes, which have proanthocyanidins, which help prevent collagen destruction.
These proanthocyanidins are good for all types of arthritis.
Adding folic acid to the diet in the form of supplements is reputed to be effective for gout because it inhibits xanthine oxidae, the enzyme that produces uric acid. According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, “research has demonstrated that a derivative of folic acid is an even greater inhibitor of xanthine oxidase than the drug allopurinol – the most widely used drug for gout.
All types of arthritis will benefit from an improved diet that is less acidic – ie, one with red meats, alcohol, coffee, sugar and simple carbohydrates.
Increase the body’s alkalinity with raw foods and the use of greens; salad greens as well as algae, phytoplankton, etc.
Herbs and Spices:
As arthritis is an inflammatory condition, often the first line in treatment is to reduce inflammation, particularly for those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. There are some herbs and spices that are particularly effective for that.
Curcumin, bupleurum root, Boswellian serrata (Indian Frankincense) and ginger all work as anti-oxidants and to reduce inflammation.
Curcumin, the yellow pigment of turmeric extract, is a potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Boswellian serrate contain the anti-inflammatory boswellian acid which helps relieve joint pain.
Bupleurum root – Bupleurum is a detoxifying and anti-microbial herb used in Chinese herbalism. It can be used to relieve spasms, muscle tension, lumps, bleeding due to heat and menstrual irregularity. The essential oil in Bupleurum is responsible for its ability to relieve surface heat.
Ginger reduces pain by lowering prostaglanding levels, providing relief for rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
O’Toole of Qualicum Medicine Centre says niacin, omega 3 fatty acids and ginger are effective healing agents. She said some people use magnets as well.
For rheumatoid arthritis, she said “topical applications are very effective” with products like Traumeel.
St. John’s Wort is helpful for those who suffer from fibromyalgia as it ensures better sleep.
Glucosamine sulfate is an amino sugar, a naturally occurring chemical in the body, which helps stimulate the production of collagen, one of the main components of cartilage.
Chondroitin sulfate is another nutritional supplement which is a major component of the lining of the joints. Glucosamine and chondroitin are often used in tandem for treating osteoarthritis.
Bromelain (which comes from pineapples) is a protein digesting enzyme which displays anti-inflammatory effects so is useful for rheumatoid arthritis.
Essential Fatty Acids – these are the good oils such as hemp, flax and olive oil. They are anti-inflammatory and help ‘grease’ the joints.
“They also work on the synovial membranes. It helps with synovial fluid production,” says Dr. Kuramoto.
The synovial fluid helps to nourish the cartilage and lubricate the joint for free and easy movement.
Using supplements to keep the immune system strong and ensure the kidneys are working well is particularly important for rheumatoid arthritis.
“Oriental medicine considers arthritis a deficiency of the kidneys,” says Dr. Kuramoto.
Magnesium produces good results in treating fibromyalgia.
Certain practices and therapies such as massage, yoga, reflexology and Tai Chi help ensure that joints stay limber. These are also very important in preventing arthritis as well as treating it.
Acupuncture is another therapy that can improve free range of motion.
According to the John Hopkins Medicine, new data suggest that acupuncture can relieve some of fibromyalgia’s uncomfortable symptoms – very good news for everyone affected by this often-debilitating condition.
John Hopkins also says there is evidence that acupuncture helps rheumatoid arthritis as long as the following conditions are met.
Make sure that your physician and acupuncturist is involved in planning the duration and specifics of your treatment. Use acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy in addition to standard arthritis treatments — not in lieu of them.
Marilyn Zink has been publishing The Herbal Collective magazine for more than 17 years. In that time, the magazine has grown and expanded to circulate from Victoria, B.C. on Vancouver Island to as far north as Campbell River, B.C. It is also delivered to locations in Vancouver, B.C. and the Lower Mainland.
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