One of our greatest health challenges is avoiding the pain associated with arthritis—joint inflammation. Encompassing over 100 conditions, arthritis is prevalent around the globe with around 10 percent of the world’s population affected by its symptoms.
In the USA, approximately fifty million people have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. As many as three hundred thousand of those afflicted are children, so it is a misconception only the elderly have arthritis. It’s a disease that affects both genders of all ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls it “the nation’s most common cause of disability.”
This disabling disease creates pain, stiffness, aching, and swelling in and around the joints of the body. Depending on the type of arthritis and the severity of the symptoms, it can slow a person down or severely limit activities. In any case, it is a disease that can have a largely negative impact on one’s quality of life.
Everyday activities that most people take for granted suddenly become physical challenges. Arthritic pain that limits the ability to walk, climb stairs, or simply bend over also affects normally pain-free, daily activities, such as personal hygiene, cleaning, and cooking. Furthermore, complications from certain rheumatic conditions can impact muscles, bones, or internal organs. In the worst case scenario, arthritis can be life-threatening.
The Different Kinds of Arthritis and How Inflammation Differs
The most common type is osteoarthritis, a disease that wears away the articular cartilage—the synovial joint’s dense, rubbery tissue that provides a covering cushion between the ends of bones. When the cartilage grows thinner, adjacent bones start to rub together creating stiffness and pain.
As the disease progresses, the synovium becomes inflamed, and bone spurs may grow around the joint and create additional painful friction. Although osteoarthritis is usually related to the aging process, sport injuries or obesity can also stimulate the onset of the disease. For all types of arthritis, being overweight intensifies the strain, and therefore the pain, in the weight-bearing joints.
Roughly 1.6 million North Americans of all ages have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an inflammatory, auto-immune disease that specifically attacks the synovium—joint membrane—as well as other body tissues. Women are affected by this crippling form of arthritis three times more often than men.
The many types of arthritis make a long list of conditions, including tennis elbow, back pain, fibromyalgia, gout, and lupus. At the core of all these conditions is inflammation, the underlying factor in most diseases. Chronic joint inflammation affects quality of life by creating continual pain that limits what a person can do physically and, as a serious side effect, greatly affects mental well-being.
With an aging generation of baby boomers who are living longer, diagnoses of arthritis are likely to escalate exponentially. To maintain quality of life, the challenge is how to effectively deal with the disease, whichever type of joint inflammation. Healthy body weight, good nutrition, and regular physical activity naturally help to manage or prevent joint pain. The choice of taking medication for arthritic symptoms or using natural health products to help prevent or alleviate arthritis is an individual one. It’s your decision.
Non-drug approaches to reducing joint inflammation and providing arthritis pain relief
Eat a variety of leafy green foods like spinach and kale, and supplement with natural green juices like green barley juice. These help balance the body’s pH because of their alkaline nature.
Note: Vitamin K is a nutrient found in leafy greens that requires monitoring by your doctor if you take blood thinners. You shouldn’t need to avoid these healthy greens, instead maintain a consistent use.
ESSENTIALLY FATTY ACIDS
Essential fatty acids make compounds called resolvins and protectins. They stop joint inflammation before it can damage tissue too much. Organic flax seeds, salmon or sardines, and supplements like flax seed oil or krill oil are fantastic sources.
In studies, people whose diets are high in fiber show less serious rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms. Why? Fruits, vegetables and other high-fiber foods reduce C-reactive protein in the blood, which means less inflammation. Fiber-rich diets increase the gut’s beneficial bacteria, allowing the body to flush toxins associated with harmful inflammation. Also, fiber lowers body weight, which reduces the torque on joints. Pro tip: chia seeds are high in fiber and high in essentially fatty acids!
Bonus: fruits, veggies, and whole grains have healthy phytonutrients.