Those stiff, aching joints, the swelling, the pain… Often, these symptoms are signs of arthritis, a debilitating disease where inflammation of one or more of your joints is causing you grief.
May 2015 is Arthritis Awareness Month, so we want to get the word out that when it comes to common arthritis in hand, back arthritis, and arthritis knee – there is something you can do about arthritis pain. And you do not want to quit all the activities you enjoy and sit and worry about it. Because your joints are like the hinges of a door – the more you don’t use them, the more rusted they become and the worse your symptoms become.
You want to really embrace a healthy lifestyle, eat well, keep moving and look at a natural treatment for arthritis. That’s where we want to help. But first, a primer on arthritis and how it’s more common than you may realize.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease where joints are inflamed. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions, and people of all ages, sexes and races can be at risk. It is the leading cause of disability in America.
The Arthritis Foundation estimates nearly 53 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis, but it is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older.
Types of Arthritis
While there are many forms of joint pain, the two most common types of arthritis are the following:
Osteoarthritis causes cartilage is the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint – to break down.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that first targets the lining of joints (synovium).
Arthritis: Causes, Signs, and Symptoms
Let’s look further at what’s behind the pain and discomfort you may be feeling. Risk factors for arthritis include the following, according to the Mayo Clinic:
Family history. Some types of arthritis run in families, so you may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings have the disorder. Your genes can make you more susceptible to environmental factors that may trigger arthritis.
Age. The risk of many types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout, increases with age.
Your sex. Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while most of the people who have gout, another type of arthritis, are men.
Previous joint injury. People who have injured a joint, perhaps while playing a sport, are more likely to develop arthritis in that joint.
Obesity. Carrying excess pounds puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine. Obese people have a higher risk of arthritis.
Psoriasis. This skin condition, where red patches of skin topped with silvery scales, can put you at risk for psoriatic arthritis. Most people develop psoriasis first and are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but the joint problems can sometimes begin before skin lesions appear.
When it comes to arthritis symptoms for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, let’s look at the causes, signs and symptoms:
Osteoarthritis: The wear and tear over time cause damage to the joint’s cartilage. Enough damage can lead to bone grinding on bone, which causes pain and restricted movement. This wear and tear can occur over many years, or a joint injury or infection can hasten it.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Here the body’s immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule, a tough membrane that encloses all the joint parts. This lining, known as the synovial membrane, becomes inflamed and swollen. The disease process can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint.
Common Arthritis Symptoms Include:
- Decreased range of motion.
Symptoms may come and go, remaining about the same for years, or progress and worsen over time. As the Arthritis Foundation notes, “Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray.”
Arthritis: Herbal Remedies are Best
You can take several steps for a natural approach to treatment for arthritis and arthritis pain management, including regular exercise, yoga or tai chi, healthy eating, healing therapies like massage and acupuncture, and herbal remedies. You want to do as much as you can without reaching for painkillers which can and do offer immediate relief – but they come with some serious risks.
Even over-the-counter painkillers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, celecoxib, diclofenac, and naproxen can lead to health issues. This class of medication has side effects – increased risk of gastric bleeding, heart attack and stroke – especially for people who have risk factors. Those risk factors include being elderly, having high blood pressure, ulcers, having had a heart attack or taking certain other medications.
Taking two painkillers at the same time, which is a common practice according to a survey by Arthritis UK, just ups the risk of side effects.
Top Herbal Remedies for Arthritis Relief
Capsaicin: Chili peppers, cayenne peppers and Tabasco peppers all contain a fiery compound called capsaicin, a noted pain-reliever found in many topical ointments. Cook with these peppers for a bit of heat in soups, stews and stir-fries.
A study published in the British Journal of Anaethesia reported daily application of low-concentration capsaicin formulations are supported by meta-analyses of numerous studies. Researchers tested a high-concentration capsaicin 8 percent patch (Qutenza™), approved in the EU and U.S. in 2011.
They found a single 60-minute application in patients with neuropathic pain, for people who have experienced shingles, produced effective pain relief for up to 12 weeks. While we are not suggesting this patch for arthritis pain, it shows the power of capsaicin to help manage pain.
Willow bark: Many people refer to willow bark as “Nature’s Aspirin.” Several studies suggest the bark of a two- to three-year-old willow tree helps relieve aching joints and lower back aches. The main chemical responsible is salicin. When your body has salicin, it turns it into salicylic acid, which is the chemical precursor to Aspirin – without any of the harsh side effects of Aspirin.
Black currant oil: Black currant seed oil is obtained from seeds of the black currant. The oil contains 15 to 20 percent gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), and is reported to boost the immune system response in the elderly.
Ginger: Ginger has been used medicinally for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine as a natural anti-inflammatory food. A recent study at Odense University in Denmark found patients with arthritic pain showed marked improvements in pain, swelling and morning stiffness by eating ginger daily.
The research also found that ginger was superior to non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Tylenol or Advil. The herb works to block the formation of inflammatory compounds and has antioxidant effects that break down existing inflammation and acidity in the fluid within the joints.
Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU): This natural vegetable extract is made from one-third avocado oil and two-thirds soybean oil. ASU blocks pro-inflammatory chemicals, prevents deterioration of synovial cells (which line the joints) and may help regenerate normal connective tissue.
ASU has been researched extensively and proven as a safe natural alternative for relieving arthritis symptoms. In fact, the French government has tracked ASU’s safety record for more than 15 years and has yet to find any significant problems.
Cat’s claw: Natives of the South American jungles have used this Peruvian vine for thousands of years as a medicine to treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis and joint aches. Modern researchers have discovered that cat’s claw is a rich source of phytochemicals like alkaloids, tannins, flavonoids, and phytosterols that can help fight inflammation. Note, do not use the “cat’s claw” that grows in northern Mexico and southern Texas – it has no known health benefits and may not be safe for consumption.
Try these top herbal remedies for a natural approach to relief from arthritis pain and symptoms. Check with your doctor before you start replacing your medications, of course, but know that they are effective alternatives to drugs.
Foods to Eat and Avoid for Arthritis
Foods to Eat
Dark leafy greens
For many people suffering from arthritis, dark leafy greens may seem like the last thing they want to eat. These greens are an important part of a healthy diet, however, and they can actually help to reduce inflammation and improve joint function. Dark leafy greens are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, which is essential for bone health. They also contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce swelling and joint pain.
In addition, dark leafy greens are a good source of soluble fiber, which can help to protect the joints by absorbing shock and lubricating the tissues. For people with arthritis, dark leafy greens may not be the most appealing food, but they offer significant benefits that make them worth eating on a regular basis.
Broccoli contains a chemical called sulforaphane. This chemical is believed to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, which may be beneficial for people with arthritis. Numerous studies have shown that broccoli can help to reduce inflammation in the joints, and some research suggests that it may even slow the progression of the disease. For these reasons, broccoli is often considered an important part of an arthritis-friendly diet. While more research is needed to confirm the exact role broccoli plays in arthritis, there is no doubt that this nutrient-rich vegetable can positively impact the condition.
A cup of green tea a day may do more than just keep the doctor away – it could also help to relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Green tea is rich in antioxidants, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and joint pain. In addition, green tea helps to promote healthy bones and cartilage. Studies have shown that green tea drinkers are less likely to develop arthritis, and those who do drink green tea tend to experience less severe symptoms. While there is no cure for arthritis, green tea can help to ease the pain and stiffness associated with the condition. So next time you reach for a cup of tea, consider choosing green – it may just help you feel better.
Nuts are an important food for people with arthritis. While there is no cure for arthritis, a healthy diet can help to reduce symptoms and prevent further damage to the joints. Nuts are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, nuts are packed with vitamins and minerals that are essential for joint health. For example, copper and manganese help to build strong connective tissues, while vitamin E helps to protect joints from free radical damage. Including nuts in the diet can help to reduce pain and stiffness and improve joint function.
Garlic has been used throughout time to treat several ailments, including arthritis. Studies have shown that garlic can help to reduce inflammation and pain in people with arthritis. In addition, garlic is a good source of antioxidants, which can help to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Garlic can be consumed fresh, cooked, or in supplement form. For people with arthritis, garlic may be an effective treatment for reducing pain and inflammation.
Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy for various ailments, including nausea, stomachache, and diarrhea. More recently, ginger has also been shown to be effective in treating arthritis thanks to a compound called gingerol, which has anti-inflammatory properties. In a study of people with arthritis, those who took ginger supplements experienced less pain and stiffness than those who did not. In addition, ginger may also help to reduce the swelling associated with arthritis. Overall, ginger is a safe and effective treatment for arthritis.
Berries are an essential part of any diet, but they are especially beneficial for people with arthritis. They are rich in antioxidants, which help to protect the body against inflammation. They also contain a compound called anthocyanin, which has been shown to reduce pain and stiffness in joints. In addition, berries are a good source of vitamin C, which is essential for the formation of collagen. As a result, including berries in your diet can help to reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
When people think about grapes, they often think of wine, not arthritis relief. However, grapes can help to reduce inflammation in all types of arthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties of grapes can help to reduce pain and swelling in the joints and may also help to prevent further damage to the joints. Grapes are a delicious and nutritious way to help manage arthritis.
Olive oil has been used for centuries as a cooking oil and as a cosmetic product. It has also been known to have many health benefits, including improving arthritis symptoms. Studies have shown that olive oil can help to reduce inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the joints. It can also help to protect the cartilage from damage. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, making it an effective treatment for arthritis. If you are considering using olive oil for arthritis, be sure to choose high-quality olive oil.
Foods to Avoid
There are many different types of arthritis, but one common factor is that sugar can worsen the symptoms. That’s because sugar promotes inflammation in the body, which can aggravate the pain and swelling associated with arthritis. In addition, sugar can also interfere with the absorption of medication used to treat arthritis.
So if you’re struggling with arthritis, it’s best to avoid sugary foods and drinks. Instead, focus on eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These nutritious foods will help to reduce inflammation and promote joint health.
People with arthritis often find that their symptoms get worse when they eat gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley and is also found in many processed foods, such as bread, pasta, cereal, and cookies.
When people with arthritis eat gluten, it can trigger inflammation in the gut, which can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. In some cases, it can also lead to diarrhea and constipation. If you have arthritis and want to understand more about how gluten affects your symptoms, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you figure out if gluten is triggering your arthritis symptoms and what other dietary changes you may need to make.
Alcohol consumption is a common trigger for arthritis flare-ups. While alcohol itself doesn’t cause arthritis, it can worsen the symptoms of the condition. It can increase inflammation throughout the body, and for people with arthritis, this can lead to pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. In addition, alcohol can interact with medications used to treat arthritis, making them less effective. For these reasons, people with arthritis need to avoid alcohol or limit their consumption.
If you do choose to drink, be sure to stay hydrated and alternate alcoholic beverages with water. You should also avoid binge drinking, as this can further increase inflammation and put additional stress on your joints.
Inflammatory fats are a type of fat that can increase inflammation in the body. This can be a problem for people with arthritis, as inflammation is a significant symptom of this condition. There are two main types of inflammatory fats: omega-6 fatty acids and trans fats. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils, such as soybean oil and corn oil. Trans fats are created when liquid oils are turned into solid fats, such as margarine or shortening. Both types of fat can contribute to inflammation, so it’s important for people with arthritis to avoid them.
Many healthy alternatives to inflammatory fats include olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. By making the switch to these healthier fats, people with arthritis can help reduce their symptoms and improve their overall health.
Foods high in purines
People with arthritis should avoid foods high in purines. Purines are a natural substance found in some foods and drinks, and they’re also produced when your body breaks down purine-containing substances. When these substances are broken down, uric acid is produced.
Uric acid can build up in your body and form crystals that deposit in your joints, leading to arthritis pain and inflammation. Foods high in purines include red meat, organ meats, seafood, poultry, legumes, and dairy products. While you don’t need to avoid all of these foods, you may want to limit your intake of them to help control your arthritis pain.
There are many different types of arthritis, but one common factor is inflammation. Various factors, including diet, can trigger inflammation. Studies have shown that high-fat dairy can contribute to inflammation, so people with arthritis should avoid foods high in fat.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are high in saturated fat, which can trigger inflammation. In addition, dairy products also contain arachidonic acid, which has been linked to joint pain. While dairy is an important source of calcium and other nutrients, people with arthritis should consume low-fat or non-fat dairy products to help reduce inflammation.
Omega-6 fatty acids
Omega-6 fatty acids are a type of fat that is found in vegetable oils, such as corn oil and sunflower oil. They are also found in nuts, seeds, and certain animal products. Omega-6 fats are essential for human health but can also promote inflammation. For people with arthritis, this can lead to increased pain and stiffness. Omega-6 fatty acids can also interfere with the action of anti-inflammatory medications. For these reasons, people with arthritis need to avoid foods high in omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that has anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, people with arthritis should aim to consume more omega-3 fats, such as those found in fish oil and flaxseed oil.
Candy and dessert
Candy and dessert may seem like an innocent treat, but for people with arthritis, they can pose a serious threat. The sugar in candy and dessert can cause inflammation in the joints, exacerbating pain and making it difficult to move. In addition, candy and desserts often contain high levels of saturated fat, which can lead to weight gain. This extra weight puts additional strain on the joints, further worsening arthritis symptoms. For these reasons, people with arthritis need to avoid candy and desserts.
While it may be difficult to resist temptation, the long-term benefits are worth it. Candy and dessert may taste good at the moment, but they can have serious consequences for people with arthritis.
Processed foods are a common trigger for arthritis flare-ups. These foods contain additives and chemicals that can increase inflammation throughout the body. For people with arthritis, this can lead to increased pain and stiffness. In addition, processed foods are often high in sugar, exacerbating arthritis symptoms.
To keep arthritis under control, it is important to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Instead, focus on eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These minimally processed foods will help to reduce inflammation and keep arthritis symptoms at bay.