Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 21 million adults, according to the CDC. Those with arthritis, though, don’t have to be slaves to their genetics or gym injuries; there are several natural arthritis remedies to help heal joint pain and inflammation.
What is arthritis and what causes it?
The two most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid (RA) and osteoarthritis. The latter is often associated with the wearing down and tearing of the cartilage, or simply not having enough cartilage after a while in a particular joint.
RA is an autoimmune disease, in which the body attacks itself. In addition, “-myalgia” diseases like fibro- and poly-, could be considered varieties of arthritis because they both share similar painful symptoms in joints and muscles.
All forms of arthritis have one major root cause in common: inflammation.
One major cause of inflammation: Poor diet
From a natural, holistic perspective, the foods we eat play a significant role in inflammatory responses. David Getoff, vice president of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation and a certified clinical nutritionist, believes that frequent consumption of common food allergens — like wheat or soy, as well as anything loaded with sugar, or anything that quickly converts into sugar (alcohol, most grains) — can promote inflammation, which wreaks havoc on the body’s joints.
“We are living organisms that contain a masterful, self-healing ability,” says Getoff. “If we feed our bodies’ the right foods and additional nutrients, our bodies can begin to heal on their own, perhaps without having to take potentially-harmful drugs.”
Getoff advises eating healthy — meaning free of allergy-promoting foods — for at least two months. According to him, it takes six weeks for wheat to clear out of the system. Perhaps due to its modern, stripped-of-nutrition, hybridized ubiquity, wheat may trigger an auto-immune reaction in many people. Make sure to cut out foods that may seem more innocuous than regular table sugar but that also may promote inflammation, like fruit, honey, molasses and agave.
Supplements for arthritis
A good brand of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate, at the right dose, may help some arthritis sufferers. The same goes for hyaluronic acid, which is used in beauty treatments much for the same reason it may help some with arthritis, due to its hydrating properties. The fatty acid, Cetyl myristoleate, also seems to be an effective joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory. It was isolated in Swiss albino mice, which for some Darwinian wonder, never develop arthritis.
Best forms of exercise for arthritis
The bodybuilding mantra, “No pain, no gain,” may have had cache in hardcore gyms back in the 1980s but these days, if you have arthritis, you want to choose exercises that cause your joints no pain whatsoever. Perhaps the best way for arthritis sufferers to gain strength and cardiovascular endurance with very low risk of further joint wear and tear is aquatic exercise.
Whether it’s a gentle water aerobics class or Olympic-style sprints, swimming can also help burn excess body fat. Pool jogging in waist-high water is also a simple yet highly effective way to burn calories without placing a heavy burden on the joints.
Gentle stretching or yoga is also advised for those with arthritis to help get back some range of motion.
If you prefer cycling, rock climbing, but those activities (or any other) exacerbate your condition, reduce the frequency of the activity.
Ice or heat?
Both ice and heat have their merits when treating arthritis. Like treating an injury, ice seems to be more effective for reducing inflammation and swelling and numbing pain, especially when symptoms appear in the first 24-48 hours. Heat, on the other hand, tends to work best for relaxing muscles and stiff joints by increasing blood flow and flexibility.
Reduce exposure to pollutants and help purge your body of poisons
Even if you eat a wholesome diet loaded with antioxidants, if you are exposed to high levels of environmental pollutants such as mercury, lead, aluminum and inorganic plastic compounds, you may still develop arthritis. Various lab tests can analyze the amount of chemicals in your body. Your cookware can also be a common source of poisons entering your body. High blood levels of a man-made chemical (Teflon) used in non-stick coatings are associated with a raised risk of arthritis.
You need lots of friendly bugs in your gut
The billions and billions of bacteria in our guts are like an army, defending our immune system from constant bombardment. If you’ve taken several doses of antibiotics over the years and haven’t eaten healthy, take a probiotic that contains several billion micro-organisms per capsule to repopulate the gut with good bacteria. Perhaps you’ll keep autoimmune diseases such as RA at bay.
What other natural arthritis remedies can I try?
Holistic options such as acupuncture, chiropractic medicine and rehabilitative therapy may help alleviate joint or muscle pain, even in pets.
Do you have arthritis? Care to suggest any other natural remedies below?
Related natural remedies stories on MNN: