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Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Osteoporosis, Rheumatism and Rheumatoid arthritis
Problems through arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis - generally, these all centre around the joints and it's easy to imagine that bones are somewhat inert things, since the ones we normally see on our dinner table, at the butchers or scattered in the countryside, have generally been dead for several weeks or even years. The bones of a moving human or animal, however, are very much alive. They are interlaced with narrow canals which carry nerves and fine blood and lymph vessels, which assist in their healthy maintenance and repair.
Our bones have several functions, they provide a framework and support for the soft parts of the body, which would otherwise collapse; their rigidity also gives protection to the vulnerable vital organs, the skull guarding the brain, the ribs shielding the heart and lungs, while the spinal cord is cleverly threaded through the vertebrae. When acted upon by the muscles, our bones operate as levers to create movement, and the way in which they meet at joints provides the body with great flexibility. They also have nonstructural jobs to do: in the marrow they manufacture red blood corpuscles and the white blood cells of the immune system that defend the body from disease; additionally they act as a mineral store for calcium and phosphorus which can be used by the soft tissues when the need arises.
A new-born baby's bones are still soft, having been formed from membrane and cartilage, allowing it to emerge through the narrow birth passage. Bones consist of flexible, fibrous tissue and hardened crystalline calcium salts, such as calcium phosphate. At first there is twice as much fibrous material as hardened mineral, but in old age the proportions are reversed. This means that an old person's bones are much more rigid and therefore more easily broken, especially if nutrition has been inadequate.
Throughout life, two sets of cells are busily at work in our bones, the ones called osteoblasts form the fibrous structure, while those known as osteoclasts break down and absorb the bone. This means that after about 15 years our bones are entirely new! Another risk of ageing is that more bone is broken down than created, with the result that they can become thin and brittle and so lacking in strength that they may collapse or fracture spontaneously. This condition is referred to as osteoporosis.
Arthritis - Arthritis is a group of conditions involving damage to the joints of the body. Arthritis can be very painful and is the leading cause of disability in people older than fifty-five years.
There are different forms of arthritis and each has a different cause. The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) is a result of trauma to the joint, infection of the joint, or age. Emerging evidence suggests that abnormal anatomy might contribute to the early development of osteoarthritis. Other arthritis forms are rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, autoimmune diseases in which the body attacks itself. Septic arthritis is caused by joint infection. Gouty arthritis is caused by deposition of uric acid crystals in the joint, causing inflammation. There is also an uncommon form of gout caused by the formation of rhomboid crystals of calcium pyrophosphate. This gout is known as pseudogout.
Our joints are ingeniously designed, the ball-and-socket type of the hip and
shoulder allowing movement in any plane, while the hinge joint of the knee and
elbow gives movement in one plane. Then there are pivotal actions that include
sideways motions and also the gliding ability of the ankle and wrist. As a
result, our bodies are both useful and expressive, so that we can do heavy
manual labour, such as digging the garden, or leap and spin with the beauty and
elegance of a gymnast or ballet dancer. Our manual dexterity has been a major
factor in enabling us to evolve into the sophisticated humans that we now are.
Osteoarthritis - Osteoarthritis is usually regarded as a degenerative disease, being
associated with old age and roughened and worn-out cartilage, especially in the
weight-bearing joints such as the hips. As a result, the ends of the bones tend
to thicken and spread out, causing stiffness and pain.
Needless to say, calcium is vital for bone repair in correct ratio to magnesium as described under osteoporosis. If you are under any kind of stress, then calcium will be withdrawn from your bones and must be replaced. This mineral is doubly important because it helps to relieve pain. However, try and find sources, other than dairy products which are high in lactic acid and no good for your joints. If necessary, take a calcium supplement, which would then give you, your needed calcium, but without the lactic acid found in dairy products. Equally, your vitamin E requirements will be increased, so give yourself daily supplies of wheatgerm and vegetable oils. Studies have demonstrated that doses of vitamin E well above the RDA at 400mg are efficacious. Reduce this amount when benefits are noticed. As you raise your intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils, so decrease foods high in saturated fats.
Vitamin A can be obtained as beta-carotene or in the oily form. Many patients have found that fish oils are beneficial, so take cod-liver oil capsules, which are naturally abundant in this vitamin. Do not exceed stated doses, as retinol not immediately required is stored in the liver and can build up to toxic levels. Fish oil is also one of the best sources of vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption. Make sure your intake is good. Interestingly, arthritics are often found to be deficient in this vitamin. Include plenty of fish in your diet, such as mackerel, herrings and salmon (not sardines) - at least two generous portions per week. Meanwhile, maintain liberal amounts of those yellow and orange fruit and vegetables and dark-green leafy plants that will provide you with health-giving carotenoids.
The B vitamins are worth exploring therapeutically. Niacin (vitamin B3) has been given to patients as nicotinamide in doses of up to 4g daily with some success. Pyridoxine (B6) is a useful adjunct to the antioxidants mentioned above and is necessary for the proper metabolism of magnesium. Some anti-arthritis drugs deplete this vitamin. Pantothenic acid (B5) has been useful for pain control: try 500 to 1,000mg per day. Remember, however, that members of the B-complex group work in cooperation with each other and too much of one can cause deficiency in another, so do not take unbalanced doses for too long. As soon as you feel relief, reduce the amount and take a complete B complex supplement alongside or plenty of brewer's yeast. This will help to alleviate the stress that often accompanies arthritis.
Have yourself analysed for trace element and mineral deficiencies, and make sure
you have at least the RDA- of zinc, selenium, manganese, iron and copper. Drugs
may cause depletion of iron in particular, so have a jar of black molasses in
your kitchen cupboard which, if taken daily, at around 3 teaspoons, will fulfil
basic needs. Do not drink tea as the tannin forms insoluble salts with dietary
iron so it cannot be absorbed. If you are totally unable to give it up, at
least buy Luaka tea, which is low in tannin, and drink it weak. Also beware of
other items that hinder mineral absorption, including coffee and wholewheat
bran. Zinc is very important for healing and manganese is involved in the
composition of bone ends.
Another traditional remedy, the copper bracelet, has also been proved to
be of value wherever the arthritis occurs. This is because minute traces of the
mineral, which have a naturally anti-inflammatory action, are absorbed into the
system through the skin. A good food- source is lentils, so make yourself
Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis - The aching of Osteoarthritis usually begins in the late forties, even simple
movements such as turning over in bed can be excruciating. One of the problems
with this disease, is that it cannot be accurately identified until it is
already far advanced. Xrays can only detect the damage after at least 33 per
cent of the bone has already disappeared and at this stage, it is very difficult
(although not impossible) to rectify. Bone scans can detect it earlier. Women
are particularly prone to bone loss during the years following the menopause,
often dropping 8 inches (20 cm) in height due to shrinkage of the skeleton,
sometimes accompanied by a humped back in old age. This occurs because bones
that carry the weight, including the spine, become weakened and deformed. Men,
on the other hand, will shorten by only about 2 inches (5 cm). During
childbearing years it seems that women are protected by female hormones, which
can be continued artificially in later years by HRT (hormone replacement
therapy). However, if you select this option, remember, that it does not replace
correct nutrition. Indeed, it will increase your requirement for B vitamins,
especially pyridoxine. Nevertheless, mothers must relinquish much of their
calcium and other minerals to their offspring, who are hungry for these, during
those vital developmental phases, both before birth and while breast-feeding.
The only real solution is to ensure that intake of calcium is generous and that
it is being properly absorbed.
Do not despair if you already have signs of osteoporosis, because bones can
be encouraged to repair and rebuild themselves, bone-loading exercises with the
use of weights are an important part of a get-well programme, in addition to
nutrition. People with sedentary lifestyles have a significantly increased risk
of osteoporosis. In order to move about on our planet, we need a resisting
medium, that is the earth, when walking or running, or the water when swimming.
At the same time, gravity pulls us down into strong contact with this medium.
Our skeletons need to be very resilient to defy such pressure, and the more we
ask our bodies to do this the more we foster density of bone mass. Indeed, a
major hazard of being an astronaut is calcium loss through weightlessness.
The RDA for calcium of 800mg is now considered by many physicians to be much too low for older women and they would like to see it set at a minimum of 1,200mg daily, preferably 1, 500mg. Smoking and alcohol will increase your risk of osteoporosis and hence your nutritional needs. So how can we acquire this amount in our diet? Hard water can give us about 125mg per halfpint (275-ml) glass, while milk contributes a little over twice that. So 1 pint (570ml) of skimmed milk will make up one-third of your daily requirement, as will 3oz (90g) of cheese - but beware the high fat content here. Low-fat yoghurt provides a healthier alternative. This is fine for people who can tolerate dairy products, but those who cannot, will have to turn to other foodstuffs such as whitebait, whole sardines and salmon that include the bones, while vegans can select from spinach (one portion will give about 500mg, as will tofu), broccoli or spring onions (about 100mg), or perhaps seaweed, rich in minerals, especially arame, hijiki, kelp or kombu with as much as 1g per 3-oz (90-g) portion. Even so, it takes some effort to maintain the daily 1, 500mg. The obvious answer is a calcium supplement, but many of those purchased in health food shops cannot be digested by the hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Check with manufacturers whether proper tests have been carried out in this respect and how long the tablets will take to dissolve.
The question of absorption is all-important. Magnesium needs to be present at half the level of calcium, and phosphorus in equal amounts (but we already consume more than enough of this in the West), while silicon encourages the formation of collagen and elastin, two proteins present in bones. Boron seems to be involved in maintaining hormonal balance. Supplements are available which combine these essential minerals in the correct proportions. Acid foods will assist assimilation as will vitamin C, also vital for the formation of connective tissue. In the presence of milk, sugar, or lactose, calcium absorption is rapid with new bone being laid down within two hours. Other sugars, however, have the reverse effect. Vitamin D is indispensable, so make sure you have sufficient sunshine or take fish-liver oil capsules at the RDA. This vitamin is particularly protective against osteoporosis.
Rheumatoid arthritis - What you eat can have a most significant effect on the course of this disease called rheumatoid arthritis. At the least, symptoms can be reduced and at best, the condition can be completely cured. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis often afflicts comparatively young people and is more likely to affect the hands and feet rather than the hips. It is auto-immune in nature. In other words elements of the immune system make the mistake of treating the body's own cells as foreign material and attack them. The result is inflammation and damage to the joints, with accompanying pain and stiffness. No one knows what prompts the immune system to behave in this way, but one theory is that a bacterium triggers the process. Certainly the ailment is associated with stress. Women are twice as likely to be sufferers of this disease than men.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be caused by many things, including stress, but is is usually caused by the acid/alkaline balance in the body being too much in favour of the acid side. If sufferers of osteoarthritis keep strictly to a diet low in acid-forming foods, then the balance could be restored. After about six-eight weeks on low acid diets, osteoarthritis sufferers should notice a lessening of the pain and inflammation as the build-up of uric acid in the joints was dissolved away. Iron-rich meat may in any case be causing problems, as rheumatoid arthritis patients have difficulty in metabolizing this mineral.
Sufferers of osteoarthritis should give up all refined flour and sugar, red meat, dairy products, citrus fruits, salt, chocolate, coffee and tea. Instead eat fish (not the roes), whole grains (except wheat) including brown rice, buckwheat, millet and quinoa, soya products, nuts and seeds and some poultry, also vegetables and gentle fruits such as bananas. Instead of bread she ate rice cakes and pumpernickel. Additionally take 3g of evening primrose oil daily, a 500mg tablet containing vitamin B complex, 1g of calcium ascorbate in divided amounts and 15mg of zinc.
This particular approach may not be right for every rheumatoid arthritis sufferer as different people have individual responses to nutrients. The condition can be triggered by a food intolerance / allergies. Culprits can be any of the following: dairy produce, gluten, the nightshade family (aubergines, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes), citrus fruits and rhubarb; sugary and refined foods. Also try any of the recommendations under osteoarthritis (see previous section), especially those known to have a natural anti-inflammatory effect, including the antioxidants and fish oils. Indeed, studies have demonstrated that oils containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from seeds of the evening primrose and borage plant, or eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from fish oils and linseeds, are just as effective as anti-inflammatory drugs without the side effects. Copper salicylate at 60mg twice daily has also given good results. As for the green-lipped mussel preparation, this showed a 67 per cent success rate among patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Also remember to wear a copper bracelet. For pain relief, take the amino acid DLPA, as described in the above section, for about three weeks, then use the herbs feverfew or devil's claw (don't take devils claw if you're a diabetic) for up to two weeks at a time.
If you suspect that your illness was prompted by stress, then you could
respond very well to supplementation of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) as calcium pantothenate. Take at least 500mg daily in graduated amounts. Its best natural
source is Royal Jelly. Researchers found that improvement was significant if
combined with the amino acid L-cysteine, for patients with osteoarthritis as well as
Carpal tunnel syndrome - Rheumatoid arthritis can occasionally trigger the condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome, although there may be other causes. It is characterized by tingling in the index and middle fingers and pain in the wrist and arm, with increasing weakness in the thumb, as the meridian nerve which runs down the forearm becomes compressed. Supplements of vitamin B6 can be as effective as surgery. Take 100mg daily together with brewer's yeast tablets. You will need to persevere for at least two months.
Gout - Gout immediately conjures up the image of an overweight Victorian gentleman, leg propped up on a footstool, moaning about the pain in his toe joints. His family and friends are unsympathetic, blaming the patient himself for an over-indulgence in good living - wine in particular. The novels in which this character features generally view him as a figure of fun. This is unfortunate, for the pain of gout can be extreme and disabling.
With gout, the excess uric acid forms crystals in the joints, which in turn cause the inflammation and pain. The best way of dissolving these is with cider vinegar which contains malic acid, take one dessertspoonful in a tumbler of hot water sweetened with a little honey three times a day. Malic acid is different from the toxic uric acid and is entirely beneficial. Cucumber is another traditional remedy.
Needless to say, it's essential to follow a healthy wholefood diet (see 'the
Healthy Diet' on the link below) and to cut out all
wines, beers and spirits. Foods high in purines, which are various acids
excreted as uric acid, must be avoided at all costs. These include offal,
sardines, anchovies and fish roes, also yeast and its extract. Spinach,
strawberries and rhubarb, which are known to worsen symptoms, are banned, too.
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