Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that affects joints. Typically there is pain, redness, swelling and reduced function in one or many joints. There are different types of arthritis and individual programmes can be tailored exactly to these different types. But inflammation is the central and linking factor to all types of arthritis. Conventional treatments are concerned with managing pain and inflammation.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis affecting older people. Over time joints may suffer 'wear and tear'. The large weight-bearing joints of hip and knee may eventually be replaced through surgery. However, preventative lifestyles are preferred to damage and surgery. Dietary sources of foods that are high in absorbable calcium, magnesium and vitamin D will help to maintain healthy bone and joint structures. Maintaining a healthy weight and preventing muscle loss is vital. An older person is best served with an exercise programme that maintains flexibility and strength as well as co-ordination and balance.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects many joints and body systems. It is an autoimmune disease, which means that inflammation is caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking 'self' rather than foreign cells. This condition affects women more than men and an attack may be accompanied by fatigue and fever. The heart, muscles, nervous system and eyes can also be affected. Supporting the immune system without exacerbating symptoms is vital.
Gout is another type of arthritis typically affecting the joints of the toes. The pain severely cripples and limits movement. Dietary changes often bring rapid relief. The focus is on avoiding acid-forming foods and drinks while increasing alkalising and enzyme-rich food.
Foods & herbs for the home
- Many people have a strong or subtle sensitivity to plants in the Solanaceae family. Vegetables such as peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and aubergine may be responsible for an attack of arthritic pain and swelling. Remove these foods entirely for 3 weeks then reintroduce them one food at a time over the next few weeks. Monitor symptoms in a diary so that you obtain a clear picture of your unique food triggers. Many people discover that they can tolerate very modest portions of these foods and do not need a total elimination diet.
- You may also have blood sensitivity to foods high in oxalic acid. These include tea and coffee, wine, spinach, rhubarb, pork and tomatoes. Fruits include gooseberries, oranges, strawberries and black and red currants. Eventually, some of these can be re-included without incurring pain and inflammation. Once again, a trial elimination programme as described above is necessary to discover your unique food sensitivities.
- Turmeric is a cheap and easily available herb that has a respected use as an anti-inflammatory spice. If you live near an Asian supermarket you can buy it fresh. Peel the root and dip it into a little mineral sea salt and eat it several times a day. Otherwise add Organic Turmeric Powder to a salt shaker and add it freely to other foods before serving. Remember that turmeric will temporarily stain skin and clothes.
- Garlic has anti-inflammatory effects. It is especially effective at mopping up free radicals, an excess of which contributes to inflammation. You can download Jill Davies' book on Garlic for free.
- Avoid the most acid-forming foods. These include sugar and soda. Coffee and tea are highly acid-forming, as are all animal products especially pork and pork products and processed meats.
- Increase your consumption of highly alkalising foods and beverages. Avocado, almonds and all green foods plus lemons and seaweeds all have an alkaline effect in the blood.
- You might like to consider a regular day each week or fortnight which you dedicate to highly alkalising and anti-inflammatory juices. Juices such as pineapple are anti-inflammatory and parsley has a flushing action on the kidneys. These combine well together; you can add apples, which are not too high in sugar, and a small amount of juiced greens such as beetroot tops to create a wonderful juice.
- Teas you might like to try include fresh herb teas picked from your garden. Or try Meadowsweet Tea to settle over-acidity in the stomach or Chamomile Herbal Tea for its overall alkalinity.
- Some of the most alkalising plant foods are contained in Superfood Plus. You can also ask us for a free sample. Mix this with pineapple juice as pineapple can also help to reduce inflammation.
- A traditional remedy we like is apple cider vinegar and/or lemon juice added to hot water, drunk on a daily basis. Both drinks are alkalising for the blood. Or try Lemon & Artichoke Concentrate which combines apple cider vinegar and lemon with other beneficial kitchen herbs.
- Avoid dehydration and drink plenty of water in order to ensure 'well-gliding' joint surfaces.
- Essential fatty acids have an excellent reputation as anti-inflammatory agents. For those who are not vegetarian/vegan, a good quality fish oil supplement to provide the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA may be particularly beneficial; ask your health food store to recommend one. For vegetarians and vegans, look for a vegan omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acid supplement that contains GLA from evening primrose or starflower oil. Use a cold-pressed flax seed oil on foods for the extra omega 3 – this is particularly important for those who cannot take fish oil.
- Free radical damage may be reduced by walking barefoot on the ground or grass every day, especially at night if pain keeps you awake. As strange as this may sound, the soles of the feet are especially good at collecting negatively charged free electrons which are abundant in the earth. You will also release positively charged free electrons that cause free radical damage. The earth literally “grounds you”. If this is not possible, you can keep a small tray of earth or sand in your home then put your feet on this for 20 minutes in the evening.
- Epsom salt and sea salt have a similar effect. Epsom salt is also high in magnesium and this has a relaxing effect on muscles as well as deepening sleep. Add a handful of salts to your bathwater at night or to a footbath.
- Natural detox programmes reduce the overall toxicity burden on blood and lymph. The kidneys work all the time to clean the blood and maintain correct levels of acidity and alkalinity. Supporting the kidneys and gentle detox will often have a beneficial effect for some forms of arthritis. You can read how to do this in Dr Richard Schulze’s “5 Day Kidney Detox” book.
- If you are overweight then gently work with a weight loss programme to relieve joint burden.
- Gentle exercise is vitally important. Yoga, pilates and co-ordination programmes will all help you, but build up slowly to any exercise programme.
- Massage may bring relief to painful joints. St John’s Wort Oil is anti-inflammatory and can be gently worked into affected joints several times a day. Alternate a warm massage with an ice-pack or a frozen bag of peas to increase the effect.
Additional help is available by phoning the free product advice line at Herbs Hands Healing between the hours of 9.00am to 1.00pm. Tel: 01379 608201.
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