To Your Health
November, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 11)
Living With Arthritis Without Resorting to Drugs or Surgery
By Bill Reddy
Many arthritis sufferers are completely unaware of their treatment options beyond medication and surgery. Because of the recent controversies involving prescription drugs such as Vioxx and Bextra, both of which were pulled from the market a few years ago due to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, other options are desperately needed. This article will briefly introduce the various types of arthritis and what the latest research indicates for improving the condition.
A Primer on Arthritis
Arthritis is one of the oldest known afflictions and can affect virtually every part of the body, from the feet to the knees, back, shoulders and fingers. More than 50 million (about one in six) Americans suffer from arthritis. The most common types are rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA) and gouty arthritis (GA).
Rheumatoid arthritis is three times more common in women than men, begins between the ages of 20 and 60, with peak activity between the ages of 35 and 45, and is considered an autoimmune disorder. The most common symptoms are small-joint discomfort, warmth, swelling and redness, limited range of motion, distortion and morning stiffness. RA is bilateral, meaning both left and right sides of the body are affected, and typically gets worse over time.
Osteoarthritis, in contrast, affects the larger weight-bearing joints asymmetrically. Symptoms include local tenderness, joint cracking/grinding and dysfunction, and pain increasing with activity. Fifty percent of people over 50 years old suffer from OA. Osteophytes, or bone spurs, occur in the late stages of OA.
Gouty arthritis or "gout" is the formation of uric acid crystals in the small joints of the feet and hands, especially the big toe. Ninety percent of gout sufferers are overweight men who indulge in rich foods and alcohol.
What You Can Do
According to James Balch, MD, and Phyllis Balch, CNC, authors of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, dairy products, caffeine, citrus fruits, paprika, salt, tobacco and sugar should be reduced or eliminated from your diet, as these particular foods may increase joint inflammation. Additionally, nightshades (e.g., red, green and yellow bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, white flesh potatoes) should be avoided because they have a tendency to intensify arthritic symptoms. Foods containing sulfur, such as asparagus, eggs, garlic and onions, are important for the repair and rebuilding of bone, cartilage and connective tissue, and also aid in the absorption of calcium.
Other good foods include green, leafy vegetables (which supply vitamin K), fresh vegetables, non-acidic fresh fruits, whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice and fish. Fresh pineapple contains bromelain, a powerful natural anti-inflammatory agent, which works by stimulating the body's production of prostaglandins.
One of the most overlooked approaches to improve the discomfort associated with arthritis is hydration. In Your Body's Many Cries for Water, Dr. Batmanghelidj asserts that dehydration is responsible for the majority of joint pain in this country, and merely increasing water consumption will relieve the symptoms within two to three weeks. Depending on your level of activity, a good rule of thumb is to drink half of your weight in ounces. Thus, if you weigh 180 pounds, you should consume 90 ounces of pure, filtered water per day.