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Alternative Tips for Tackling Arthritis


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Conventional medicine has little to offer people suffering from arthritis pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs may relieve the symptoms, but they don't slow the rate of joint destruction. Furthermore, these drugs can cause bleeding peptic ulcers and may occasionally cause damage to the liver and kidneys. Fortunately, natural medicine has a number of different effective nutritional treatments to offer.


Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis, and it affects more than 16 million Americans. It becomes more common with advancing age. The joints most often involved are the fingers, knees, hips, and the cervical or lumbar spine.

The cause of osteoarthritis is unknown. Although inflammation is present to some extent, it does not appear to be the main cause of joint damage. Although cartilage damage is one of the hallmarks of osteoarthritis, heavy use of the joints does not necessarily cause problems. In fact, many former long-distance runners have perfectly normal hips and knees, while their more sedentary friends become plagued with degenerating joints.

Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 which can not only decrease arthritis pain but also improve depression and re-activate a lost sense of humor. Although it is unknown exactly how niacinamide works, it is thought to somehow improve the metabolism of joint cartilage. Niacinamide is available from a number of sources, including health-food stores and costs less than $10 a bottle. The effects of taking two 500 milligram niacinamide capsules (two to three times a day) on arthritis pain (and depression) are generally noticeable after about three weeks of regular usage.

In addition to niacinamide, glucosamine is one of the building blocks of joint cartilage and has also been shown to prevent the degeneration of joint tissue. Cod-liver oil, natural vitamin E, and selenium, also have anti-inflammatory effects. Taking these supplements along with the niacinamide, can be a good synergy of nutrients to repair damaged cartilage.

Individuals with osteoarthritis should be tested for food allergies and sensitivities. Although food allergies and sensitivities aren't as important in osteoarthritis as in the rheumatoid type, they can still cause considerable trouble.

Nightshade sensitivity is a special category of food sensitivity which can be extremely important in a minority of osteoarthritis sufferers. Nightshade vegetables are potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tobacco. Presently, there is no test for this sensitivity. It can only be diagnosed if arthritis symptoms lessen or disappear after several weeks of total elimination of nightshade vegetables and tobacco.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease of unknown cause, usually manifesting itself as inflammation of multiple joints. The severity of the disease varies from person-to-person, ranging from minor pain and discomfort to severe pain and inflammation, with joint damage and deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis can also attack other parts of the body, resulting in heart disease, anemia, nerve damage, lung disease, and general debility. This condition is considered an autoimmune disease, since the immune system appears to go awry and attack the body's own tissues. There is a greater amount of inflammation and joint damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis than is caused by osteoarthritis.

The first thing to consider is a basic, healthy diet, free of individually determined allergies and sensitivities. This includes whole, unprocessed foods with no added sugar; no soft drinks or chemical additives, and no flavorings, coloring, preservatives or artificial sweeteners. Only whole grains (if not allergic or sensitive to them) and only small amounts of alcohol. Zero caffeine or nicotine is recommended.

Allergies and sensitivities to food are often big factors in rheumatoid arthritis. There are many ways to identify food sensitivity: Elimination diets, certain types of skin tests, blood tests, muscle testing, and electrodermal testing are all helpful in the identification of food allergies and sensitivities. Not all techniques work for everyone, and food sensitivity testing and evaluation can be just as individual as the food sensitivities themselves.

People with rheumatoid arthritis usually have very poor digestion because the stomach does not produce enough acid and pepsin resulting in a condition called hypochlorhydria. This is not usually caused by (but can be aggravated by) taking aspirin or other drugs. If you suffer from this disease, it's important to have your digestion checked, especially your stomach's production of acid and pepsin. Telltale symptoms of hypochlorhydria include bloating, gas, belching or burning immediately after meals, a feeling that food just sits in the stomach, or an inability to eat more than a small amount of food without feeling full. Many people with hypochlorhydria are constipated, some suffer from diarrhea, yet others have normal bowel function.

Unfortunately, there is no reliable method of getting the stomach to produce more acid and pepsin on its own, so in cases of hypochlorhydria, supplementation with hydrochloric acid accompanied by pepsin is necessary. Treatment with hydrochloric acid can occasionally be dangerous, so it's only used when testing indicates a need, and should be followed up with careful supervision.

Hydrochloric acid should never be used at the same time as aspirin, butazolidin, Motrin (Ibuprofen), prednisone or any other anti-inflammatory medications, except under careful supervision by a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine.

Ginger is a good digestive aid with positive effects on rheumatoid arthritis. A recent study showed that after three months of taking ginger root, patients with rheumatoid arthritis reported pain relief, better joint movement, and less swelling and morning stiffness.

Both niacinamide and cod-liver oil help with rheumatoid arthritis pain along with the natural vitamin E and selenium, previously mentioned. In some cases niacinamide has partially remobilized rheumatoid joints that had been immobile for years.

Another mineral supplement that can help is copper. Many people who are taking Advil, aspirin, or other anti-inflammatories find they need much less if they take copper too. However, the type of copper used should be copper sebacate, the type of zinc is zinc picolinate or zinc citrate and boron has also proved helpful in some cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

Herbs that have shown to be helpful to people with rheumatoid arthritis include bromelain, yucca, devil's claw, and cayenne pepper. The stinging nettle leaf or herb has recently shown unique value in the management of arthritis. Studies have shown that it may enhance the antirheumatic effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Individual response to these herbal treatments varies, but you should always follow the dosage recommendations on the label. A good multiple vitamin-mineral to back up the nutrients is also a good idea.


People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis should also be tested for low levels of DHEA. The DHEA test is a blood or urine test, and requires a lab request signed by your doctor. DHEA is an adrenal hormone and an important regulator of the immune system that is useful in autoimmune disease, including rheumatoid arthritis. It normally reaches its highest levels in both sexes between the ages of 25 and 30 and gradually tapers off from there. At this point, it's not known how to reliably restore normal levels of DHEA secretion, so a DHEA supplement is usually prescribed.


Green Lipped Mussel Extract

In over 25 years of laboratory and clinical study, Green Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus) has shown significant anti-inflammatory, gastro-protective and free radical scavenging properties that substantially help joint mobility.  This common gourmet delicacy from New Zealand contains natural proteins, minerals, muco-polysaccharides and Omega 3 fatty acids.


According to Dr. Michael Whitehouse of the University of Queensland, Australia, who has spent his life studying the world's strongest arthritis drugs, this extract "blew them away."  A small dose can shrink arthritic joints by over 90%.  Dr. W.H. Betts of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Australia, called it "a very major breakthrough."  Apparently it blocks the 5-lipoxygenase pathway preventing the chain reaction that causes both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.  Obviously you should not take this extract if you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs without the knowledge and consent of your doctor.

It's important to remember that you should be monitored by a doctor skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional medicine when starting a new supplement program of any kind.

Knotweed Mimics Estrogen

According to Dr. Susan Lark of The Lark Letter, "The healing properties of your own sex hormones can treat arthritis without the toxic side effects of painkillers.  The treatment of arthritis, using Japanese knotweed, which mimics the effect of natural estrogen, has been shown to decrease swelling and pain and increase mobility very dramatically" for women.


She also maintains that aspirin blocks a woman's production of hormones.  So the use of an aspirin a day to promote heart health for men, not only doesn't work for women, it actually aggravates the situation both for heart disease and arthritis.  Aspirin blocks prostaglandins, an important part of stress management for women.  Since stress is a major factor in heart disease, women do much better on enzymes such as bromelain and papain.


Another tidbit about bromelain, the enzyme extracted from the stem of the pineapple, is that it enhances the effectiveness of antibiotics and minimizes their side-effects.  So for women, antibiotics should always be supplemented with bromelain and followed with a course of probiotics.



Foods that can Aggravate Arthritis


Food Group

Usually Fine

Often a Problem


fresh, frozen or canned (unsweetened) fruits, fruit juices (except those specifically prohibited)

all citrus fruits-oranges, grapefruit, lemon, lime


non-gluten grains: brown rice, millet, buckwheat, guinoa, amaranth, tapioca

gluten grains: wheat, corn, oats, barley, spelt, rye


any made from rice, buckwheat, millet, soy, tapioca, arrowroot, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat pasta, rice noodles, rice cereal, millet flakes, rice cakes

All wheat, oat, spelt, rye, barley, or gluten-containing breads and cereals


All fresh fish such as halibut, salmon, cod, sole, trout, wild game, chicken, turkey, lamb

Beef, pork, cold cuts, frankfurters, sausage, canned meats, eggs, shellfish


Beans, peas, lentils; almonds, cashews, walnuts, sesame (tahini), sunflower, and pumpkin seeds; and nut butters made from these

Peanuts, pistachios, peanut butter

Dairy products

Milk substitutes such as rice milk, soy milk, nut milk, cashew cream (blending cashew nuts with water)

Milk, cheese, cottage cheese, cream, yogurt, ice cream, butter, frozen yogurt, non-dairy creamers


Raw, steamed, sautéed, juiced or baked vegetables (except those at right)

Nightshade-family vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes (except yams and sweet potatoes) eggplant; and red, green, and yellow peppers


cold pressed olive, flaxseed, canola, safflower, sunflower, sesame, walnut, pumpkin, almond oils, dressings made from these oils, tahini

margarine, butter, shortening, processed oils, salad dressing not made with included oils


filtered or distilled water, herbal tea, rooibas (red bush) tea, fruit teas

sweetened fizzy drinks, alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, all caffeinated beverages


cinnamon, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

cayenne pepper, paprika, chili


brown rice syrup, fruit sweetener, molasses, dried fruit bars, fresh fruit, small quantities only of dried fruit

white or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, chocolate bars, other confectionery


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