Arthritis is the most common disorder affecting the joints of the body. It destroys the production and distribution of the synovial fluid in the joints, which leads to pain, swelling, discomfort and ultimately disfigurement. It is more common in adults than cancer, heart disease, respiratory conditions and spinal cord trauma as far as having a serious impact on quality of life. The medical community tells us that it is synonymous with becoming old, and everyone can expect to develop some form of arthritis in his or her lifetime.
Over four million Canadians alone are statistically identified as having arthritis with the United States reporting eight million. If you consider that arthritis includes up to a hundred different conditions, its toll in human suffering is tremendous. Osteoarthritis is the most common form in adults and often the most recognized. Juvenile Arthritis strikes even children in diapers; therefore, it is not just a disease of the old but also affects the youngest of our population.
Our economy suffers an $81 billion loss annually from the health care costs related to arthritis and from lost workdays due to arthritis and is the leading cause of physical disability. Visits to the doctor are doubled for those with arthritic conditions. Of the more than 40,000 hip and knee replacements done in Canada alone in 2000 and 2001, over 80% had arthritis related diagnosis.
WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?
The body's intelligence ensures that there is a balance between joints, connective tissue and synovial fluid. This translates into smooth movements and range of motion cushioned by fluid that buffers the impact of wear and tear on the joints.
Somewhere along the line the presence of free radicals begins the process of diminishing the efficiency of this system. The cells of the immune system produce antibodies that bind to the cells of the synovial membrane. These bound antibody cells create an alarm system that causes the attack of the immune system resulting in inflammation and pain.
Free radicals damage joints, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments. Long-term presence of free radicals provides the opportunity for injury to occur. Where inflammation exists, infection is often involved. It is likely that viruses, bacteria and fungus are present in tissue and synovial fluid and in such cases are termed infectious arthritis. The most common microorganisms involved are streptococci, staphylococci, gonococci, hemophilus or tubercle bacilli and Candida, all of which may create symptoms such as fever, chills and aches.
The initial symptoms for most forms of arthritis may go unnoticed or be misinterpreted and may come and go for some time before suspicions are raised.
Some joint symptoms are:
- Redness and swelling on one or more joints, of particularly the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, feet or ankles including both sides of the body simultaneously
- Morning stiffness in affected joints
- On-going pain or tenderness with movement
- Nodules or bumps near affected joints and just under the skin
- Deformity of affected joints
- Fatigue and general weakness
- Weight loss
- Low-grade fever
Other reasons for manifesting the presence of arthritic conditions include:
- The undermining of toxins, irritants and poisons introduced into the body
- Tissue malnutrition of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes
- Poor blood circulation resulting in poor delivery of existing vitamins, minerals and enzymes
- Inadequate circulation resulting in inability to remove toxins and waste from cells
- Inflammation of joint tissues
- Accident, trauma, overwork, damage to joint bones and cartilage
- Inflammation of joints
- Calcium crystal deposits
- Degeneration of tissue cells
- Joint deterioration with solidifying of bones
Observing our parents and grandparents over the years has made many of us familiar with the ravishing affects of arthritis from an aesthetic point of view.
Enlarged knuckles and inflamed joints replace smooth supple fingers and pain can accompany weather changes and movement.
Long-term stress of any kind provides the perfect opportunity for arthritic conditions to prevail. Stress diminishes the functioning of the immune system, which compromises digestive ability and enzymatic production. Stress typically invites poor food choices that overload the system leaving undigested proteins to run rampant.
TOP THREE ARTHRITIC CONTENDERS
The three most prominent forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. These account for the majority of the cases of arthritis reported to both the medical profession and alternative health care practitioners.
- OSTEOARTHRITIS is the most common degenerative form of arthritis and destroys the cartilage and synovial fluid, which ultimately leads to the loss of space between the joints. This is a condition that affects the older population but is not exclusive to it. Osteoarthritis affects the larger weight bearing joints such as hips and knees, but can also be found in the spine causing low back pain and neck problems. It can affect the hands, particularly the thumbs and is seen more frequently in the obese because of the excess weight, which increases pressure on the joints.
- RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS is a disabling autoimmune disease that has the potential to cause discomfort and pain. It is a more generalized inflammatory condition affecting 2 – 3% of the population and can affect the entire body, including organs and muscles, skin, eyes, heart and lungs. More women than men are afflicted, and the consequences of this disease can be observed on x-rays as early as three years after the onset of symptoms.
- GOUT results from the buildup of too much uric acid in the body. Uric acid is a waste product that is normally flushed by the kidneys and eliminated in the urine. Excess uric acid deposits in joints such as the ankles, knees, foot, wrist and elbows but most often finds its way to the big toe where it produces inflammation, redness and pain. Men are four times more likely to develop gout than their female counterparts.
SOME OTHER ARTHRITIC CONDITIONS INCLUDE:
- ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS – affects the spine
- CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME – the median nerve becomes compressed typically in the wrist
- CHILDHOOD OR JUVENILE ARTHRITIS – continuous inflammation of one or more joints lasting a minimum of six weeks for which no explanation can be found, affects 1 in 1000 children
- IDIOPATHIC SKELETAL HYPEROSTOSIS – excessive bone growth along the sides of the spine, often including bone spurs and calcification. Affects up to 12% of the population, especially women.
- FIBROMYALGIA – widespread pain in muscles, ligaments and tendons affecting mostly women
- LUPUS – an autoimmune disease where the system that typically protects the body begins to attack itself. Produces a large variety of symptoms that persist.
- LYME DISEASE – a systemic condition that originates from the bite of an infected tick resulting in chronic inflammation affecting joints, skin, heart and nervous system.
- PAGET’S DISEASE – normal repair of wear and tear on bones malfunctions producing soft and porous bone replacement
- POLYMYALGIA RHEUMATICA – severe pain muscle stiffness of neck, shoulders, hips, thighs, and low back with no weakness of corresponding muscles. This is inflammation of the blood vessels in targeted areas.
- POLYMYOSITIS AND DERMATOMYOSITIS – muscles become weak and skin is affected, including inflammation and tenderness
- RAYNAUD’S DISEASE - constriction of blood vessels making circulation to fingers and toes particularly difficult.
CAUSES OF ARTHRITIS
As with any health complication, a genetic predisposition sets the stage for opportunist conditions to take hold. The good news is that diet alone is identified as being a significant contributor. If the inner terrain is inefficient, undigested proteins will not be properly broken down therefore confusing the immune system, which begins to attack these free floating particles causing inflammation.
Simple dietary changes and properly chosen natural supplementation reduces this inflammation, encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and ultimately reduces the symptoms and devastating effects of arthritis.
The most common conventional treatment for such ailments is over the counter or prescription drugs for pain, inflammation and sleep. Long-term use of these types of aids can lead to other complications and can in fact exacerbate the existing symptoms of arthritis. Some prescription medications can even cause bleeding of the stomach, which alone can be quite serious.
Taking steps to alleviate the discomfort and pain of any form of arthritis using natural medicine is the safest approach. Although alternative health supplementation may not completely eradicate the problem, it will promise to alleviate a large portion of the symptoms. This approach alone will serve to greatly ease the inflammation and pain.
More specifically, diets high in saturated fats, meat, dairy, and omega-6 fatty acids are detrimental to a healthy immune system and contribute to the development of arthritis. Omega-6 foods include animal products, refined vegetable oils and grains. Grains alone are being targeted as significant contributors to both systemic and isolated inflammatory responses, and the gluten in grains is identified also in dairy proteins.
Other contributors to the inflammatory aspect are nightshade plants, including peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes although cayenne pepper is excluded from this avoid list as it has been shown to aid in the relief of pain when taken internally or applied as a poultice. Nightshade plants contain a substance called solanine that interferes with enzymes in the muscles.
Highly recommended are such foods as alfalfa, asparagus, celery seed, wheat grass, barley grass and fresh vegetables. Amino acids found in clean therapeutic protein powder such as BodyFlex are excellent, as is fresh pineapple, which contains bromelain. Fiber is necessary along with digestive enzymes that benefit the breakdown of foods.
Incorporate the following foods in your diet to improve arthritic conditions.
- Cold-water fish
- Vitamin D-rich foods – sunflower seeds, eggs, fish
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Olive oil, pure extra virgin – helps the body produce prostacyclin, a powerful anti-inflammatory substance
- Yogurt, kefir – live culture bacteria that helps eradicate the toxin-producing bacteria found with arthritis
Systemic cleansing of the body, including bowel, lymph, parasite, kidney and liver, along with creating a systemic enzyme balance within the body will lead to significant improvement of symptoms. Years of implementing such an approach with patients has proven time and time again that diligent attention to cleansing the entire body systems one by one is truly a critical first step for those who suffer the wrath of arthritis.
BASIC SUPPLEMENTATION THAT HELPS
Numbers of natural supplements have offered relief to those who suffer from arthritic conditions. It is the diligent application of dietary changes in conjunction with exercise, cleansing and supplementation that pull together the entire picture necessary for improvement of symptoms. Some of the basics include:
- Omega-3 Fish Oils
- Zinc, Copper,Calcium
- Vitamin D3
Consider the following specific natural alternatives to prescription treatments for arthritic conditions:
Brown TMcP: The rheumatic crossroads. Postgrad Med 19:399-402, 1956.
De Vries, Jan. Arthritis, Rheumatism and Psoriasis, 1986.
Pietroni, Patrick. Alternative Health Care, 1995, page 124 – 125.
Pincus T: Rheumatoid arthritis: disappointing long-term outcomes despite successful short-term clinical trials.
J Clin Epidemiol 41:1037-41, 1988.
Wishing you the best in health,
The Wolfe Clinic