Joint Health and Beating Inflammation
The colder temperatures and rainy days of fall always bring arthritis to mind for me, as many of my older patients in particular suffer from this condition.
About 50 million North Americans (approximately one in seven!) have some form of arthritis. In another 20 years, as baby boomers grow older and people live longer, close to 70 million people in Canada and the United States will have arthritis.
Arthritis means inflammation. The most common arthritic conditions are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus and fibromyalgia. Inflammation can also contribute to many other conditions such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and digestive disorders (Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis), to name a few. Severity can range from mild to crippling, and may even be life threatening in certain cases.
Usually a family history, the wear and tear of aging, previous joint damage and injury are contributing factors for arthritis and inflammation.
Another factor for inflammation can be the immune system. Food allergies may be a hidden cause of chronic inflammation in a joint, and are often linked to immune system dysfunction. Known food allergens and foods that can be “pro-inflammatory” include red meat, hydrogenated fats, refined sugars, dairy, gluten and caffeine. All of these foods can worsen symptoms and should be eliminated if arthritis is present. Members of the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant) can also aggravate some individuals.
Conventional treatment for arthritis and inflammation usually involves anti-inflammatory medications, most of which have unpleasant side effects. Luckily there are many dietary/lifestyle habits and nutritional supplements to safely assist with inflammatory conditions.
Tips for Fighting Inflammation and Restoring Healthy Joints
- Increase your intake of healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, fish oils, avocados and nuts and seeds as these fats help to reduce pain and inflammation. These foods can assist with arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, bursitis and all other inflammatory conditions.
- Avoid sugar as it increases insulin levels, which serve only to increase inflammation and disease in the body. Consume low glycemic carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, green vegetables, beans and oatmeal while avoiding sweets, candies, pop, pastries and baked goods as often as possible.
- Increase the intake of spices like turmeric, rosemary and hops. These all contain ingredients, which are naturally anti-inflammatory.
Key Supplements to help with Inflammation
EPA and DHA, the active constituents of fish oils, have anti-inflammatory effects. As a result, fish oil is used to help people with various inflammatory conditions.
Glucosamine sulfate, Chondroitin sulphate and MSM
Glucosamine is produced naturally in the body to help maintain and build healthy joint tissue that seems to fade with the aging process. Chondroitin sulfate is vital to the structure and function of cartilage as it provides it with shock absorption properties. MSM holds our basic connective tissues together, forming the elemental structure of proteins, and is required for a number of processes in our bodies.
Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
Extracts from the African plant Devil’s Claw contain harpogasides – active compounds with potent anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-arthritic actions. Devil’s claw has been shown to significantly reduce the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
A brand new joint study has shown that ch-OSA reduces pain and stiffness in men as well as decreases cartilage degradation.
Extracts of the plant Boswellia serrata have been noted for their anti-inflammatory properties and can be useful for pain and stiffness associated with joint problems and rheumatoid arthritis
This spice is a cancer protective, potent antioxidant, supports liver function and is anti-inflammatory.