Arthritis: new hope

By Rebecca Huber


Nothing can age us more quickly or make us feel old before our time like a painful arthritic joint, especially the larger weight bearing joints like knees, hips or ankles. Simple everyday tasks requiring standing, walking, lifting, or carrying all become an exercise in pain tolerance. Unable to walk or exercise sufficiently to maintain proper weight we suddenly find we’re looking in the mirror at an extra 15-20 pounds or more. For some of us that extra weight can lead to high blood pressure, increased cholesterol counts, heart attack and you guessed it more painful joints directly related to lack of movement.

For the most part there is nothing we can do about the everyday day to day wear and tear on our joints that comes from living life fully. Accidents and age happen and can leave our joints arthritic as we age.

So what can we do to keep our joints healthy? Studies show that a lifestyle including a good diet, weight control, and exercise are known to have positive effects on joint health. Healthy joints are less prone to injury and less vulnerable to diseases.

A joint healthy diet should include smaller amounts of animal protein, dairy, and saturated fat. Be sure to include soy products, rich green leafy vegetables, whole grains and a source of monosaturated fat- preferably olive oil, digestive enzymes and plenty of fresh pure water. Avoid highly processed foods, soda pop, chemicals like Aspartame and caffeine.

There are some new and promising drugs on the market for controlling the pain and swelling of a joint. There is no denying these drugs work, unfortunately many of them have side effects that are as undesirable as the pain they relieve. There are several safer natural remedies including herbs and supplements you can use. Many behave chemically the same as the NSAIDs (nonsteriodal anti inflammatories) but without the side effects.

Here are the highlights.

For injury think arnica! The first aid of the herbal kingdom, this herb reduces and prevents swelling and bruising and heals on a very deep level therefore reducing the chances that it may become arthritic later on. Arnica also relieves the aches and pains of muscles and sore overused joints.

White Willow Bark- This herbal contains salicin, which is converted in the intestinal tract to salicylic acid, a chemical relative to aspirin. Willow is just as effective as aspirin.

Nettles- One study comparing the drug Voltaren to a daily dose of 50grams of fresh stewed nettle leaf found that both treatments improved the symptoms of osteoarthritis by 70 percent.

Ginger- This versatile herb, one of my personal favorites displays analgesic effects and alleviates joint swelling in patients suffering from various forms of arthritis. You can take it as a tincture (a liquid) or my favorite is 1/4 — 1/2 cup powdered ginger in a tub of hot water.

Turmeric- Yes, that seldom-used orange colored spice in your kitchen cabinet works well to reduce inflammation without drug side effects. If you suffer with gastric upset choose one of the other herbs listed.

Cayenne- Another one of my personal favorites! Cayenne or capsaicin is used to relieve inflammation and brings healing nutrients to the joint. Capsaicin blocks substance P, a transmitter of nerve pain creating local relief when used as a topical gel.

Fish Oil- The omega-6 fatty acids found in these oils relieves pain, reduces inflammation and keeps your joints young. Don’t wait another day to start this important joint healthy supplement.

Glucosamine Sulfate- This supplement, occurs naturally in young healthy joints and works to keep our joints lubricated and rubbery. Studies published in the Journal of the AMA and The Lancet show this supplement can help repair joints after damage has occurred. Chondrotin often paired with glucosamine draws water into cartilage matrix and stimulates cartilage production.

The Three Ms- Massage, magnets and magnesium all have been shown to relieve the pain of sore stiff joints and muscles. Massage and magnets are non-invasive tools that give lasting results. Magnesium known as the "lubricant of life" eases the stiffness of sore muscles that may be adding to painful joints.

If you are struggling with unresolved joint pain take heart, your answers may be at hand. If you are currently taking medication for pain you might start with the three Ms, the topicals, fish oils or glucosamine sulfate. Mixing high powered herbal medicines and drugs would not be the best choice.

Till next time, Rebecca.