We are surrounded by arthritis but are generally unaware of its full impact. This chronic disease affects all race groups and ages, leaving physical, emotional and economic devastation in its wake. Learn to recognize and treat arthritis early for as positive an outcome as possible.
In January this year rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and associated complications claimed the life of one of America’s greatest musicians – Glenn Frey, founder of the immensely popular 70s rock band The Eagles.
Glenn, like millions of other RA sufferers around the world, lived with the agony of a disease for which there is as yet no cure.
Frey’s death highlights the enormity of how far-reaching the effects of arthritis can be and begs answers to the challenges of treatment and management of a potentially highly debilitating disease.
Different forms of ARTHRITIS
Many people are not aware that there are, in fact, over 100 identified different types of arthritis of which RA, osteoarthritis (OA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), fibromyalgia and gout are the most common.1 Of these RA and OA are more prevalent and OA is the type that affects most people. Both RA and OA can be linked to death.
Who gets it?
It’s another bitter pill to swallow with regard to aging, but unfortunately, the likelihood of developing those knobbly, rickety, aching joints increases along with the number of birthdays you celebrate. And the pain can set in before you reach 70.
It is a shocking fact to consider that almost two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than 65.2 Unluckily for the ladies arthritis seems to affect more women than men although OA is a health burden for about 90% of all people before they reach the age of 80.
Sadly arthritis sometimes occurs in children as well. This is known as juvenile arthritis; usually an autoimmune disorder, and often the causes remain unknown although the distress is just as intense, perhaps even more so, as it seems desperately unfair that children, who simply want to run and play should be afflicted with a debilitating ‘old person’s’ disease.
Heredity, age and lifestyle can all play a role in the onset of arthritis. The direct causes of arthritis depend very much on the type of arthritis the patient is suffering from.
RA, for example, is triggered by one’s own immune system and is classified as an autoimmune disease.
OA is largely associated with age as it is related to the wear and tear of joint cartilage. OA can, however, also be caused by trauma, in the form of injury, to a joint.
Gout is caused by an uncontrolled metabolic disorder known as hyperuricemia (too much uric acid in the blood) leading to deposits of uric acid crystals in tissues and fluids within the body. Some medications, alcohol and foods are known to contribute to the condition.
PsA arthritis, like RA, occurs when your body’s immune system misguidedly attacks healthy cells and tissue. In this case, the abnormal immune response causes an overproduction of skin cells as well as joint inflammation.
Fibromyalgia is not a true form of arthritis although it is defined as a rheumatic condition because it affects joints and tissues causing chronic pain.
The causes for this disorder are unknown but many associates its development with physical or emotional stress, illness or repeated injuries. In some cases, fibromyalgia appears to simply occur spontaneously.
Our joints need to be well oiled and buffered for us to move freely and efficiently. Arthritis is the enemy of freedom of movement and can be the harbinger of great frustration, agony, depression, and, in some cases, even death.
Generally speaking, arthritis symptoms include joint pain, redness, heat and stiffness. The pain can be so debilitating that limited movement occurs.
In the case of RA, a thickening and inflammation of the synovial membrane, which lines the joint capsule, leads to a buildup of synovial fluid, causing pain and inflammation. RA, however, because it is a rheumatic disease, is far more than a debilitating joint condition: It can also affect various other organs in the body (especially the heart, lungs and eyes) with serious outcomes including decreased life expectancy.
If you experience unexplained weight loss, fever, muscle pain, and changes in the appearance of your skin and nails as well as joint pain swelling, you may have RA.
OA, the wear-and-tear form of arthritis that arrives with those advancing years (and which leaves only a lucky few untouched), is also known as degenerative joint disease and occurs when the cartilage or ‘cushion’ that covers the tops of bones either degenerates or wears down and the bones rub against each other.
Sometimes you may even hear your bones creaking and cracking!
This can be very alarming, not to mention painful.
PsA symptoms can be similar to those of RA as both conditions result in painful, swollen , and hot joints. But PsA is more likely to cause: swollen fingers and toes, foot pain and lower back pain (spondylitis – an inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of your spine and in the joints between your spine and pelvis – sacroiliitis).
You know you have acute gout if you suffer from very red, hot, and swollen joints with excruciating pain. The big toe is often affected.
Recurring flare-ups of acute gout lead to a degenerative form of chronic arthritis called gouty arthritis.
More men than women suffer from gout.
Fibromyalgia symptoms include muscle pain and spasm, fatigue, brain fog and depression, bloating, nausea, IBS, sensation of swelling in the hands and feet.
As with any medical condition, the sooner a diagnosis is made, the better so that treatment can be initiated as soon as possible.
According to Cape Town naturopath Dr. Sandi Nye, medications can help, but this all depends on the type of arthritis you are dealing with and the severity of the affliction. In Dr. Nye’s experience, nutrition and lifestyle are primary choices.
There is no dietary cure for arthritis, this much must be made clear, but there are certain foods and supportive complementary products that fight inflammation strengthen bones, and boost the immune system: important soldiers you need in the battle against arthritis.
The American Arthritis Foundation recommends anti-inflammatory and arthritis-friendly foods such as:
- Fish packed to the gills with inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Choose amongst the following twice a week: salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring.
- Extra virgin olive oil, loaded with heart-healthy fats and oleocanthal, which has properties similar to non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Avocado and safflower oils have shown cholesterol-lowering properties and walnut oil has 10 times the omega-3s that olive oil has.
- Anthocyanins (a type of flavonoid) found in cherries that have an anti-inflammatory effect. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are also good sources of anthocyanins.
- Red beans, kidney beans and pinto beans to strengthen the heart and immune system.
- Garlic contains the compound diallyl disulfide which may limit cartilage damage.
- Nuts such as almonds, pine nuts and walnuts: all rich in protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, and immune-boosting alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Good for the heart and weight loss.
- Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, and whole-grain cereals to lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood, an inflammation marker associated with heart disease, diabetes and RA.
Glucosamine sulfate is often used to benefit those with OA. It is derived from the shells of shellfish or some vegetables and is a major component of bone cartilage. It may slow down the deterioration of cartilage, improve joint mobility and thereby relieve OA. The recommended dosage is 1 500 mg per day.
Chondroitin occurs naturally in the body’s connective tissues and is an important component of cartilage. Supplementing with chondroitin sulfate, which is largely derived from beef cartilage, may prove beneficial for OA by stimulating the repair of damaged cartilage. The recommended dosage is 800 to 2 000 mg, either in a single dose or two or three divided doses daily, for up to three years.
Sometimes chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate are used in combination to treat arthritis but, according to the American College of Rheumatology, chondroitin, and glucosamine
supplements on their own or in combination may not work for everyone with OA.
Another effective source of sulfur is MSM.
The recommended dosages are:
- 1 000 to 3 000 mg of glucosamine sulfate
- 600 to 2 000 mg of MSM daily.
The lower doses will support joints and prevent degeneration, while the higher doses will maximize recovery.
Post by John Michael
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