❑ Eat more sulfur-containing foods, such as asparagus, eggs, garlic, and onions. Sulfur is needed for the repair and rebuilding of bone, cartilage, and connective tissue, and it also aids in the absorption of calcium. Other beneficial foods include fresh vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables, which supply vitamin K), nonacidic fresh fruits, whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice, fish, soybean products, and avocados. Be sure to include these foods in your diet. Also, tart red cherries can relieve pain and inflammation. Eat about twenty cherries each day. If you can’t find fresh cherries, the frozen variety is fine. Arthritis Recommendations.
❑ Consume foods containing the amino acid histidine, including rice, wheat, and rye. Histidine is good for removing excess metals from the body. Many people with arthritis have high levels of copper and iron in their bodies.
❑ Eat fresh pineapple frequently. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, is excellent for reducing inflammation. To be effective, the pineapple must be fresh, as freezing and canning destroy enzymes.
❑ Eat some form of fiber, such as ground flaxseeds, oat bran, or rice bran, daily.
❑ Reduce the amount of fat in your diet. Arthritis Recommendations. Do not consume milk, dairy products, or red meat. Also avoid caffeine, citrus fruits, paprika, salt, tobacco, and everything containing sugar.
❑ Avoid the nightshade vegetables (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, white potatoes). These foods contain a substance called solanine, to which some people, particularly those suffering from arthritis, are highly sensitive. Solanine interferes with enzymes in the muscles, and may cause pain and discomfort. Arthritis Recommendations.
❑ If you use ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), avoid sodium (salt), which causes water retention. Spread doses of these medications throughout the day, take them only after eating, and take an antacid an hour after taking the drug. Ask your health care provider about a protective agent to take along with the NSAID, especially if you are over sixty-five or have had previous gastrointestinal bleeding.
❑ Do not take iron supplements, or a multivitamin containing iron. Iron supplementation is suspected of being involved in pain, swelling, and joint destruction. Arthritis Recommendations. Consume iron in foods instead. Good sources include blackstrap molasses, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, fish, lima beam, and peas.
❑ Boron is important as a trace mineral. It can be found naturally in noncitrus fruits such as plums, red grapes, apples, pears, and avocados, as well as in legumes and nuts. It can also be found in red wine and coffee. Dried fruits contain a much higher amount of boron than do fresh fruits. For instance, fresh plums contain 0.45 milligrams per 100 grams, but the same weight in dried prunes (about a dozen) contains 2.15 mg of boron. Arthritis Recommendations. The body’s boron requirements may be as high as 9 to 12 milligrams per day although most people naturally consume only about 1 to 2 milligrams in the diet.
❑ For relief of pain, try using cold gel packs. These retain cold for long periods when frozen. Place them on inflamed joints. Alternate with applications of heat.
❑ Hot tubs and baths may provide relief. Raw lemon rubs and hot castor oil packs are also extremely beneficial. To make a hot castor oil pack: place castor oil in a pan and heat but do not boil it. Dip a piece of cheesecloth or other white cotton material into the oil until the cloth is saturated. Apply the cloth to the affected area and cover it with a piece of plastic that is larger in size than the cotton cloth. Place a heating pad over the plastic and use it to keep the pack warm. Keep the pack in place for one-half to two hours, as needed.
❑ In the morning, take a hot shower or a bath to help relieve morning stiffness.
❑ Take free form amino acids regularly to help repair tissue. Arthritis Recommendations.
❑ Check for possible food allergies. Many sufferers of neck and shoulder pain have found relief when they eliminate certain foods. Allergies trigger inflammation and can aggravate arthritic symptoms, especially those of rheumatoid arthritis.
❑ Consider having a hair analysis to determine the levels of toxic metals in your body. Lead levels have been found to be higher than normal in some arthritis sufferers.
❑ Spend time outdoors for fresh air and sunshine. Exposure to the sun prompts the synthesis of vitamin D3, which is needed for proper bone formation.
❑ Get regular moderate exercise. Exercise is essential for reducing pain and retarding joint deterioration. Regular activity that does not put stress on affected joints, but that strengthens surrounding bones, muscles, and ligaments, is valuable for many types of arthritis. Bicycle riding, walking, and water exercises are good choices. Avoid weight-bearing or impact exercises. Arthritis Recommendations.
❑ If you are overweight, lose the excess pounds. Being overweight can cause and aggravate osteoarthritis.
❑ If the blood is too acidic, the cartilage in the joints may dissolve. The joints lose their normal smooth sliding motion, bones rub together, and the joints become inflamed, causing pain.
❑ Etanercept (Enbrel) is a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It apparently blocks the action of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha, an infection-fighting protein linked to inflammation. However, this drug does affect the immune system and has been tied to a number of cases of serious infection including tuberculosis. The drug’s manufacturer, Amgen, now adds a warning to the packaging label informing doctors about the infections.
❑ Researchers at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia have identified a possible genetic component of osteoarthritis. They found that some individuals have a defect in the gene that instructs cartilage cells to manufacture collagen, an important protein in connective tissue. As a result, the collagen in these individuals’ joints is more prone to wear down, depriving the bones of their protective cushion.
❑ In one study, people with rheumatoid arthritis were found to have lower blood levels of folic acid, protein, and zinc than healthy persons. The researchers concluded that drugs prescribed for arthritis had brought about biochemical changes in the subjects’ bodies, increasing their need for certain nutrients.
❑ Eating deep-sea fish, which are rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), helped relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in a study conducted by Charles Dinarello, M.D., of the Tufts University School of Medicine in the mid-1990s. Albany Medical College researcher Joel M. Kremer conducted a similar study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which people with rheumatoid arthritis were given daily doses of a fish oil concentrate and twenty were given a placebo. After fourteen weeks, the groups were switched. The people taking the fish oil reported only about half as many tender joints as the placebo group. The fish oil also slowed the onset of fatigue.
❑ Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in fish oil may alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by suppressing the immune system reaction that causes joint inflammation. Numerous studies over the past ten years have shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis have fewer tender and swollen joints and less morning stiffness after several months of taking large doses of fish oil supplements (2.5 to 5 grams a day) with meals. Using 3 grams of omega-3s from fish oil combined with 9.6 grams (about 2 teaspoons) of olive oil was more effective than fish oil alone at relieving symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Patients experienced less stiffness in the morning, less joint pain throughout the day, and better right handgrip strength.
❑ Bromelain has been shown to improve recent mild knee pain. Patients had a greater sense of well-being and were more mobile. A dose of 400 milligrams a day of bromelain worked better than a dose of 200 milligrams per day.
❑ Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid, may ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by suppressing the production of prostaglandins that trigger inflammation. Evening primrose oil and borage seed oil contain GLA.
❑ The immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine, which is used in transplant patients to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ, is being used as a treatment for a variety of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. Using the ointment form of cyclosporine apparently lessens the potentially hazardous side effects this drug has when administered by mouth or by injection, such as kidney damage and reduced resistance to infection. It has been found that cyclosporine improves pain and inflammation for many people who use it.
❑ Chlamydia, the organism responsible for many cases of urethritis, has been linked to a form of arthritis that affects young women. In nearly half of the women with unexplained arthritis tested in one study, chlamydia was found in the joints. Seventy-five percent had elevated levels of antibodies to chlamydia in their blood.
❑ Most chiropractors and osteopaths advise women to avoid high-heeled shoes because they place a greater compressive pressure on the knees than flat or low-heeled shoes, which may eventually lead to arthritis of the knees. The higher the heel, the greater the force.
❑ Silicone gel breast implants and other silicone prostheses may cause arthritis-like symptoms, such as swelling of joints, contractures, fever, chronic fatigue, and pain. Silicone has also been known to trigger such severe autoimmune diseases as scleroderma and lupus. Some women have seen arthritic symptoms disappear after having the implants removed but this is not true in all cases.
❑ Women who breast-feed are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than women who don’t. Dr. Elizabeth Wood Karlson of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston used data from the Nurses’ Health Study to explore the contribution of hormonal factors on subsequent development of arthritis. Women who breast-fed for a total of twelve to twenty-three months during their lifetime had a 30 percent risk reduction. Those who breast-fed for at least twenty-four months had a 50 percent risk reduction.
❑ In one laboratory study, injections of a protein called anti-TGF-B banished painful joint swelling in 75 percent of the subjects, according to Dr. David Pisetsky of the National Arthritis Foundation. This protein destroys TGF-B, a chemical produced by the body in response to infection that causes inflammation and triggers swelling in the hands and feet.
❑ Cosamin from Nutramax Laboratories may help the joints and ligaments.
❑ Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), a by-product of wood processing, is a liquid that can be applied topically to relieve pain, reduce swelling, and promote healing.
Caution: Only pure DMSO from a health food store should be used for the treatment of arthritis. Commercial-grade DMSO such as that found in hardware stores is not suitable for healing purposes. Any contaminants on the skin or in the product can be taken into the tissues by action of the DMSO.
Note: The use of DMSO may result in a garlicky body odor. This is temporary, and is not a cause for concern.
❑ Arthritic pain and inflammation may respond to treatment with honeybee venom. The venom contains a powerful anti-inflammatory substance and also acts as an immune system stimulant. It is administered by injection.
Caution: You should not use this product if you are allergic to bee stings.
❑ Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (found in Advil, Nuprin, and numerous other products), indomethacin (Indocin), and piroxicam (Feldene) are commonly prescribed for relief of arthritis pain. Unfortunately, these drugs also can have side effects. Arthritis Recommendations. About 1 percent of people who take NSAIDs on a regular basis develop stomach ulcers or experience severe gastrointestinal bleeding. As many as 200,000 cases of gastrointestinal bleeding, including 10,000 to 20,000 deaths, could be occurring each year in the United States as a result of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed for arthritis. These drugs can also cause kidney or liver damage when used in large doses and when used long-term.
❑ Misoprostol (Cytotec) and ulcer drugs like ranitidine (Zantac) and sucralfate (Carafate) might help prevent the development of ulcers associated with NSAIDs.
❑ Diclofenac sodium (Voltaren), a drug often prescribed for arthritis, has many serious potential side effects and may cause liver problems in some cases. People who take it should be monitored very closely. If this medication is prescribed, the physician should perform a blood liver enzyme study.
❑ For some forms of arthritis, drugs such as hydroxyl-chloroquine (Plaquenil) and gold compounds (Ridaura) may be prescribed.
❑ For some individuals, the ulcer drug sucralfate (Carafate) may give the same relief as aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs without damaging the stomach lining.
❑ Acetaminophen (sold as Tylenol, Datril, and others) may be a better medication for osteoarthritis than ibuprofen. Acetaminophen is relatively safe and inexpensive, although if it is taken in excessive amounts or in combination with alcohol, this drug can cause liver damage. Arthritis Recommendations.
❑ Kawasaki syndrome is an infectious disease that can cause symptoms of arthritis in children, accompanied by conjunctivitis; fever; a red rash on the body; a swollen, red tongue; and/or red or purplish red discoloration and swelling of the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. The cause of this disorder is not known. It primarily affects children under five years of age. Most children recover, but some, unfortunately, suffer permanent heart damage.
❑ Lyme disease can mimic arthritis, causing many of the same symptoms.
❑ Another autoimmune disease that often manifests itself as arthritis is systemic lupus erythematosus (Lupus). For reasons unknown, the body produces antibodies that act against its own tissues.
❑ In its early stages, ulcerative colitis can cause symptoms like those of arthritis. Because this may occur before there are any abdominal symptoms, it can lead to misdiagnosis and delayed treatment. Arthritis Recommendations.