Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes swelling and pain that can range from mild to excruciating. Although more than two hundred diseases are classiﬁed under the name “arthritis,” most arthritic conditions fall into one of two categories: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is by far the more common, afﬂicting 40 million Americans and 80 percent of people over ﬁfty. The pain and the inﬂammation occur when the cartilage that protects the bones from rubbing against each other wears down. Not surprisingly, the disease usually appears in joints that do most of the body’s hard work: the knees, the hips, the spine, and the hands. Although injury or the normal wear and tear of life often bring on cartilage damage, it can be made much worse by food allergies, poor diet, and mineral deposits in the joints. For some people, the effects of mental and emotional stress aggravate arthritis pain. Changes in the weather—usually, rain and falling barometric pressure—often cause arthritis ﬂare-ups
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is quite another story. Most experts believe it is caused by an inappropriate immune reaction, in which white blood cells attack the cartilage in the joints; it can go on to destroy the bones themselves and even the muscles and the skin. It is often exceedingly painful and can cripple its sufferers. While osteoarthri- tis affects men and women equally, RA appears three times more frequently in women. It affects only 2 to 3 percent of the population and can occur at any age, even in childhood. The course of the disease is difﬁcult to predict. It may disappear a few months after its appearance, or it may grow progressively worse. Experts disagree over the causes of RA, but it seems clear that genes, food allergies, bacterial or viral infec- tion, stress, excess acid in the body, and the presence of certain antibodies in the blood all play a role. Many of the complementary therapies used for osteoarthritis are also effective in reducing the pain and slowing the spread of rheumatoid arthritis.
Underlying factors for both of these conditions may include poor digestive func- tion (intestinal permeability), hormone imbalance, nutritional deﬁciencies, food allergies, and lifestyle factors.
SYMPTOMS OF OSTEOARTHRITIS
Symptoms usually come on gradually, progressing as follows:
• Morning stiffness
• Painful, swollen joints
• Restricted range of motion
• Deformity of joints (in some cases)
SYMPTOMS OF RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
• Inﬂammation, pain, tenderness, and discoloration in the joints, usually the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists, the ﬁngers, the ankles, or the toes
• Morning stiffness
• Lumps under the skin at the site of damaged joints
• Deformity of joints in long-term cases
• Fatigue, weight loss, weakness, and occasionally fever.
• Chronic infections
Canadian researchers examined the associa- tion between synthetic hormone replacement
ROOT CAUSES OF OSTEOARTHRITIS
• Fractures or other injuries, even those that occurred early in life
• Food allergies
• A diet high in fats, animal products, and other foods that promote an internal acidic environment
• Excess of body fat, which places extra stress on joints
• Emotional stress
• Poor digestion heath (increased intestinal permeability, bacteria imbalance)
• Hormone imbalance
• Biomechanical imbalance (e.g., poor posture and abnormal foot arch)
discovered that women who use syn- thetic hormones for ﬁve years or longer were twice as likely as nonusers to develop osteoarthritis. A sepa- rate study examining synthetic estrogen replacement therapy
ROOT CAUSES OF RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
No one is exactly sure what causes RA. It is likely multifactorial.
and arthritis found a 96 percent increased risk among women
• Autoimmune malfunction (presence in the blood of the rheumatoid factor [RF], a set of antibodies in the blood that leads to an attack on the body’s joint tissue) who used it from four to ten years.
• Infection (mycoplasma, bacterial, or viral)
Overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (dysbiosis)
• Food allergies
• Toxic metal accumulation
• Emotional stress
The following tests can give you an assessment of possible metabolic rea- sons for arthritis:
Hormone analysis by saliva, urine, or blood (estrogens, progesterone, DHEA, cortisol, IGF-1, thyroid panel).
Fasting insulin levels—blood
Food allergy/sensitivity testing (including screening for celiac disease or gluten intolerance)
Intestinal permeability—urine test
Stool analysis—bacteria balance, parasites, candida, food breakdown
Vitamin and mineral analysis—blood or urine
Toxic metal test—hair analysis or urine
An effective diet will go a long way toward controlling arthritis for many people.
Flaxseeds and cold-water f ish are high in essential fatty acids and have anti- inﬂammatory properties. Salmon and mackerel are good examples.
Eat lots of ﬁber in the form of raw vegetables and whole grains. It will help sweep away mineral and acid build-up and keep your digestive system free of harmful bac- teria. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower also have anti- inﬂammatory properties.
Foods high in sulfur will help repair cartilage and bone. Try eating some aspara- gus, cabbage, garlic, or onion every day.
To keep cartilage lubricated and healthy, drink a glass of clean water every two wak- ing hours. Dehydration has been linked to arthritis pain.
Raw pineapple, whether whole or juiced, has an enzyme called bromelain, which has been shown to reduce inﬂammation.
Food to Avoid
Too much acid in the body causes inﬂammation, which leads to pain. Avoid acid- promoting foods such as red meat, eggs, saturated fats, oils, fried foods, sugar, dairy products, reﬁned carbohydrates, foods high in gluten (such as breads, pasta, and pas- tries), alcohol, and caffeine. Although this list is long, allergy sufferers who eliminate these foods often experience great relief. Food allergy or sensitivity testing helps to narrow down the group of offending foods (see the Food Allergies chapter).
Animal products generally worsen inﬂammation in the joints. Avoid all eggs, dairy, and meat, with the exception of ﬁsh, which contains anti-inﬂammatory oils.
Use the list on page 252 to determine whether you have food allergies. Allergies cause inﬂammation, and for people with RA, they also do further damage to the immune system and may increase the intestinal tract’s vulnerability to bacteria.
The nightshade vegetables—tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers—contain a substance called solanine, which can trigger allergic responses and pain in some allergy sufferers. Eliminate these foods from your diet for a period of six weeks to see if there is improvement.
A vegetable juice or water fast is helpful to reduce joint pain. Work with a nutrition- oriented doctor.
Lemon and grapefruit juices are especially supportive of an arthritis fast.
Mix 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey into a glass of clean water, and drink it every day of your fast. This concoction will help alkalinize your body.
Green drinks are excellent for detoxiﬁcation.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Arthritis
Super Prescription #1 Glucosamine sulfate
Take 1,500 mg daily. Many formulas combine it with 600 to 1,200 mg of chondroitin sulfate, a related compound that also reduces joint pain and rebuilds cartilage. Beneﬁts are usually noticed within four to eight weeks.
Note: Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are specif ic remedies only for osteoarthritis.
Super Prescription #2 Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
Take 2,000 to 8,000 mg daily. MSM has natural anti-inﬂammatory beneﬁts and con- tains the mineral sulfur, an integral component of cartilage. Reduce the dosage if diarrhea occurs.
Super Prescription #3 Fish oil
Take a daily dosage of at least 1.8 mg of DHA and 1.2 mg of EPA. Fish oil contains a direct source of the omega-3 fatty acids that reduce joint inﬂammation and promote joint lubrication. This makes it a better choice than ﬂaxseed oil, although ﬂaxseeds are an option for vegetarians. Improvement may take up to twelve weeks of use.
Super Prescription #4 High-potency multivitamin
Take a formula that is rich in a blend of antioxidants, which will prevent joint tis- sue destruction. Take as directed on the container.
Super Prescription #5 Betaine HCL or bitter herb digestion formula
Take betaine HCL or a bitter herb digestion formula. These supplements increase stomach acid and improve digestion. Take as directed on the container with each meal.
Super Prescription #6 Bromelain
Take 500 mg three times daily between meals. Look for products standardized to
2,000 M.C.U. (milk-clotting units) per 1,000 mg or 1,200 G.D.U. (gelatin- dissolving units) per 1,000 mg. Bromelain has a natural anti-inﬂammatory effect. Protease enzyme products also have this beneﬁt.
any studies have conﬁrmed the efﬁcacy of glucosamine sulfate for relieving osteo- arthritis symptoms.
A three-year, double- blind, placebo- controlled trial involv- ing 212 people with knee osteoarthritis found that 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate taken daily signiﬁ- cantly reduced symp- toms. In addition, diagnostic images found that people supplementing glu- cosamine had no sig- niﬁcant joint space loss, while those on placebo had joint deterioration.
Super Prescription #7 Cayenne (Capsicum annuum) cream
Apply the cream to the affected area two to four times daily for symptomatic relief. Choose a cream standardized to between 0.025 and 0.075 percent capsaicin. Capsaicin depletes the nerves of substance P, a neurotransmitter that transmits pain messages.
Many excellent herbs reduce inflammation. Devil’s claw root (Harpagophytum procumbens), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), and yucca root (Yucca schidigera) capsules are among the best. Give these herbs at least two months to take effect. Recommended dosages are as follows:
Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) should not be taken if you have a his- tory of gallstones, heartburn, or ulcers. Take 1,500 to 2,500 mg of the standardized powdered herb in capsule or tablet form daily, or use 1 to 2 ml of a tincture three times a day.
White willow (Salix alba) products that are standardized to contain 240 mg of salicin daily or 5 ml of the tincture form should be taken three times daily.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) comes in the form of capsules or tablets made from dried alfalfa leaves. Take 500 to 1,000 mg daily, or take 1 to 2 ml of a tincture three times daily.
Yucca root (Yucca schidigera) in the capsule form is taken in 1,000-mg doses twice daily.
Ginger (Zingiber ofﬁcinale) is a popular choice for relief of both inﬂammation and pain. Pour boiling water over the grated root and drink the tea, or try adding ginger fresh to your meals. If you want something stronger, take 1 to 2 grams of dried pow- der in a capsule two or three times daily, or use 1 to 2 ml of a tincture three times daily.
Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) is taken in doses of 1,200 to 1,500 mg of standard- ized extract, containing 60 to 65 percent boswellic acids, two to three times daily.
Plant sterols and sterolin is more speciﬁcally used for rheumatoid arthritis, to calm down an overactive immune system. Take as directed on the container, between meals, three times daily.
DHEA: If your levels are low, work with a holistic doctor and start with 10 to 25 mg daily.
SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is an excellent supplement to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Take 600 to 1,200 mg for two months and then 400 to 800 mg as a maintenance dosage.
Evening primrose oil, black currant, or borage oil contain the essential fatty acid
GLA, which reduces joint inﬂammation. Take up to 2.8 grams of GLA daily.
Cetyl myristoleate (CMO) is shown in preliminary studies to be helpful for arthri- tis. Take 540 mg daily.
Vitamin E is preferably taken via a vitamin E-complex with additional tocotrienols. If you are on blood-thinning medication, use a lower amount under your doctor’s supervision. Take 800 to 1,200 IU daily.
Vitamin C: Take 1,000 two to three times daily. Boron: Take 1 mg per day.
Niacinamide: Take 500 mg four times daily.
Plant enzymes: Take as directed on the container to improve food absorption. Chlorella or spirulina are super green foods high in antioxidants and aid detoxiﬁcation. Take as directed on the container.
DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) is a topical substance used for pain relief. Work with a doctor to use this substance.
Protease enzymes reduce inﬂammation. Take 1 to 2 capsules twice daily between meals.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms. Take 2 pellets of 30C potency twice daily. Should ﬁve days pass without any sign of improvement, you’re probably taking the wrong remedy. Stop using the current one, and switch to something else. After you ﬁrst notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms begin to return.
Apis (Apis melliﬁca) is for joints that are swollen and hot and having stinging pain that feels better with cool applications. It is more commonly used with rheumatoid arthritis.
Arnica (Arnica montana) is for bruising pain, especially for osteoarthritis arising from injuries.
Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) works on joints that are hot, red, and burning and that feel worse with motion. Pain and swelling may come on suddenly.
Bryonia (Bryonia alba) is for stitching pains and swollen, hot joints that are worse with any movement. People who beneﬁt from Bryonia tend to be irritable from the pain.
Calcarea Carbonica is for joint pains made worse from dampness and coldness. The person usually is overweight and chilly.
Calcarea Fluorica is for arthritis with enlarged joints or bone spurs, as well as for hypermobile joints.
Calcarea Phosphorica is for joint and bone pains that are made worse from cold and drafts of cold air. It’s useful for arthritis that occurs from bone spurs, especially in the neck region.
Dulcamara is for arthritis that ﬂares up from cold, damp weather.
Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) is helpful if your pain wanders from joint to joint and if your symptoms improve in fresh, cool air or with cool applications.
Rhus Toxicodendron relieves arthritis that is worse in the cold and the damp or dur- ing long periods of inactivity. Stiffness is the main symptom, which improves with some movement and warmth.
Sulphur is for arthritis characterized by burning pains. Symptoms are better with cold applications.
Acupressure can be quite helpful in reducing or even eliminating arthritis pain. Because the suggested points may be very tender, be sure to press them ﬁrmly instead of massaging them. You may need to work the appropriate points two or three times a day for up to six months before you see complete results; afterward, reduce your practice to once daily. For more information about pressure points and administering treatment, see pages 668–675.
• To relieve arthritis in the hands, the wrists, the elbows, the shoulders, or the neck, use Large Intestine 4.
• Large Intestine 11 reduces pain and swelling in the elbow and the shoulder.
• For ankle pain, try Spleen 5 and Kidney 3.
• Stomach 36 supports the entire body, including the joints. In addition, it pro-
motes the sense of well-being that arthritis sufferers sometimes lack.
A light drainage massage of the areas surrounding an arthritic joint will reduce the build-up of lymphatic ﬂuid.
Stress and tension can trigger painful episodes, especially for sufferers of RA. Reg- ular massage will relax the body and the mind. It will also loosen muscles that have tightened in reaction to pain.
See pages 686–687 for information about reﬂexology areas and how to work them.
Massage of the entire foot is best for relief of arthritis pain, with special attention to the region that corresponds to the painful area (i.e., shoulder, hands, or back).
Soak in a hot bath with Epsom salts or mineral salts for at least twenty minutes. You’ll eliminate toxins through sweat, and the salts will help replenish the body’s mineral stores. Constitutional hydrotherapy is excellent (see the Hydrotherapy section for directions).
A number of different oils will reduce stress, so you should try several to see which ones work best for you. Some good choices are chamomile, jasmine, lavender, and rose.
To assist in cleansing the joints of mineral and acid deposits, use juniper or lemon balm in a hot bath.
Chamomile, lavender, and rosemary all have anti-inﬂammatory properties. Use them in a bath, or combine them with a base oil and apply gently to the painful area. Lavender is an especially good choice for people with rheumatic pain.
Black pepper, ginger, and eucalyptus all stimulate blood ﬂow around the joints and are invigorating in a bath.
Many doctors and other experts have noted that emotional stress and an inability to accept criticism seem to appear frequently in arthritis sufferers. In addition, arthritis itself can cause great tension, both muscular and emotional, and even depression.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Yoga works wonders for some people, as may tai chi or Pilates. Take a class with a qualiﬁed instructor, preferably one who has experience with arthritic clients.
Thermal biofeedback has produced good results for many arthritis sufferers. It teaches you to open up your blood vessels and stimulates warmth and nourishment to your hands and joints.
Bach Flower Remedies
Consult the chart on pages 648–650 if the following suggestions do not apply to your particular needs. Once you have selected the right remedy, place 10 drops under your tongue. Hold them in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
If you are inﬂexible and critical of yourself and others, try Rock Water.
To relieve fatigue and exhaustion brought on by pain, use Hornbeam or Olive.
If you are sensitive to weather changes, use a combination of Aspen, Olive, Elm, and Holly.
• Vitamin D from sunshine is crucial to bone health. Don’t let arthritis pain keep you from getting out in the early morning sun every day.
• Arthritis sufferers often cut back on activity, but studies show that moderate exercise actually reduces pain and swelling. While you must avoid joint- pounding workouts like jogging or tennis, low- or no-impact exercises like swimming, aqua-aerobics, cycling, and walking are excellent choices.