If you suspect you are suffering from arthritis, prompt diagnosis will help you to address the condition appropriately.  Firstly a differential diagnosis is required to determine the exact type of Arthritis. Arthritis is a multifactorial complication and needs to be addressed from different aspects. These are diet, lifestyle, liver function, neurotransmitters, inflammatory mediators and medications. Positive results to pain management can improve the outcomes of this chronically degenerative disease when all aspects are considered.

Types of arthritis

Osteo-arthritis (the most common form of arthritis characterised by loss of cartilage) usually found in elderly people. It develops mainly as a result of the continuous wearing away of the cartilage in a joint. Other symptoms are pain and stiffness (especially after exercise), swelling, deformity, and/or a diminished range of motion. Osteoarthritis is generally experienced as a cold sensation, whereas heat sensations are usually experienced with Rheumatoid arthritis (a blood based condition related to autoimmunediseases) causes stiffness (especially in the mornings), swelling, and, often, crippling pain. It may also cause fatigue, anaemia and weight loss. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder: it is a self-attacking-self disease. The body’s immune system improperly identifies the synovial membranes as foreign. Inflammation results which causes damage to cartilage and tissues in and around the joints. Normal spaces within the joints become narrowed and the bones may even fuse together.

Diet tips to reduce inflammation

  • Eat a diet rich in deep sea fish, green leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, cold pressed oils and drink plenty of filtered water
  • Avoid refined, devitalised, and processed foods or those containing an excess of sugar, caffeine, saturated fats and alcohol
  • Avoid nightshade foods such as chilli, potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum and eggplant as these are often associated with an aggravation of arthritic symptoms
  • Eat more sulphur-containing foods such as asparagus, eggs, garlic and onions as these foods can help provide the body with this essential nutrient for improving the integrity of the joint capsules
  • Consume an alkaline diet which concentrates on clean foods, this includes plenty of greens, water, deep sea fish, sprouts, brown rice, vegetables and vegetable juices
  • Make a fresh diluted (water or coconut water) vegetable juice to support liver function, reduce inflammation, provide beneficial nutrients and cleanse the kidneys of inflammatory wastes
  • Avoid trigger foods such as coffee, spices, alcohol and caffeine beverages which exacerbate symptoms
  • Foods to avoid include red meats such as lamb, veal and pork. The ingestion of deep sea/cold water fish and game meats is advisable for meat eaters. In general, vegetarians have a lower incidence of arthritis than meat eaters do. Dairy foods such as margarine (use 2/3 butter blended with 1/3 cold pressed linseed oil or safflower oil), milk (use soy beverage), ice-cream, cheese and processed foods containing dairy products or their derivatives (eg. milk powder, milk solids, etc – always read labels well). There are now many dairy alternatives available. White flour products (in breads, pasta, pastries, etc), sweets, jams, cordials, sugar, etc. Artificial flavour enhancers including MSG (621) and others, artificial stock cubes, cheese flavours, etc. Condiments including turmeric and ginger are recommended

Lifestyle factors to reduce arthritis

  • Exercise is important and has great benefits if possible, without too much pain. Improving muscle strength and maintaining mobility are just as important as avoiding unnecessary trauma and physical stress to affected joints
  • Protecting the joint can include fitting rubber heels to reduce jarring and minimising the risk of slipping, suggesting the use of built up shoes to equalise leg lengths and the provision of a suitable walking stick
  • Encouraging weight loss in obese patients will reduce weight on the hips and knees
  • Some patients do benefit from physiotherapy
  • Hydrotherapy may be useful for patients with OA of the knee associated with pain and muscle spasm
  • Use a topical herbal based anti-inflammatory cream for symptomatic relief
  • Non-weight bearing exercise e.g. swimming is recommended in both the prevention and treatment of arthritis because joints that are less mobile tend to stiffen
  • Weight loss is important if the patient is obese as excess weight may also affect the weight bearing joints, which become irritated and stressed by having to carry too much of a load
  • Correct posture and sensible shoes, as an uneven weight distribution can facilitate wear and tear of the joints

Natural remedies to address arthritis

  • Supplementation of Glucosamine has been shown to have excellent anti-inflammatory and protective benefits as demonstrated in many clinical trials. In addition it provides the raw material for the synthesis of proteoglycans and collagen, thus playing a role in the formation of new cartilaginous tissue and synovial fluid. Glucosamine in combination with Chondroitin may act as a building block for cartilage regeneration and assist in maintaining healthy joints. A combination of chondroitin, glucosamine, manganese and boron may play a role in improving lubrication and nutrition of the joint, and may minimise the risk of osteoarthritis
  • New Zealand green-lipped mussels provide anti-inflammatory action to relieve the symptoms of both rheumatoid and osteo arthritis
  • Turmeric powder added to coconut oil and applied to the affected area provides great pain relief actions while improving circulation to the area
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs may help to provide pain relief and improve circulation and healing to the area. Herbs which have a potent anti-inflammatory effect are Boswellia, White Willow Bark, Ginger, Devils Claw, Turmeric, Cayenne, Jamaican Dogwood, Eucommia and Acanthopanax
  • The Chinese medicine herb Tienchi Ginseng is traditionally used to invigorate the blood and to assist in the dispersal of stagnant blood and the resolution of inflammation, bleeding, trauma, swelling and pain. This herb may be of assistance to decrease inflammation, encourage better circulation and nutrients to the area and improve range of movement
  • Fish oil contains potent anti-inflammatory ingredients to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling and may also increase circulation to the site of damage
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) powder may be of assistance in reducing pain and inflammation and improve the formation of cartilage and reduce wear and tear on the joint
  • Topical application of warming and circulatory stimulant gels or creams may give some pain relief. A cream which contains natural anti-inflammatory herbs and applied at least 3-4 times each day