For this last section on arthritis, I will be discussing some supplements and herbs that may be helpful.
Vitamin D deficiency is a source of chronic inflammation. Vitamin D is actually a hormone, not a vitamin, and is very important in many functions of your body. Supplementation is highly recommend since deficiency is very common (and linked to many other health conditions). There is much debate currently on what doses of vitamin D you need, or even what level is normal when you get your vitamin D levels checked. There is also debate on how safe sun exposure is as a source of vitamin D (by the way, not all sunscreens are safe – I will discuss that in the future!). Almost everyone in the northern US or Europe is deficient in vitamin D and this leads to many health issues (depression and MS for example). So although there is currently no consensus on how much vitamin D you need or which source it is safest to get it from, there is consensus that it is important and you need adequate amounts!
Anti-inflammatory herbs to add to cooking include turmeric (also comes in supplement form – use 200 mg twice daily), ginger, and rosemary. Ginger makes a great tea, or adds flavor to water (you can add a squirt of lemon too). Teas in general (white and green tea especially) are rich in antioxidant compounds that can benefit inflammation. Other foods that can contribute to an anti-inflammatory diet include dark chocolate, garlic, and onion (although effects are best seen when these are raw).
Another herb that shows great benefit is boswellia or “Indian frankincense.” Cetyl myristoleate is an oil found in fish and butter which acts as an anti-inflammatory and joint lubricant – it can be taken orally or topically. Another topical agent which can have an effect for arthritis pain is capsaicin cream which comes from hot peppers and works by depleting substance P (which transmits pain signals to the brain). Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is an essential fatty acid that is beneficial. GLA supplements come in the form of evening primrose, black currant oil, and borage oil. A friend of mine recently told me about essential oils, and I will try some for my mom and see how it benefits her. Resveratrol is another helpful compound for inflammation (as well as longevity) – for more information, check out my blog on red foods at http://www.ktipfitclub.com.
Proteolytic enzymes taken between meals are great for inflammation and have been shown to reduce joint degeneration. They work by neutralizing pro-inflammatory substances so that repair and regeneration of tissues can occur. One of these enzymes is bromelain which is also found in pineapple and another is papain which is found in papaya. Products vary widely, so I recommend you follow the labeling instructions for dosing. Pancreatin may interfere with folic acid absorption, so make sure you are supplementing if taking this. My chiropractor recommends the supplement “wobenzyme.”
Glucosamine and chondroitin (as well as MSM) can be beneficial by giving your body what it needs to rebuild the cartilage and synovial fluid in your joints. Another interesting help for arthritis I came across is chicken cartilage. Your body can use this cartilage and collagen to rebuild your own joints. There are cartilage products out there you can buy – I recommend natural free range chickens – no hormones and antibiotics.
The Gerson diet benefits not only cancer, but other chronic, degenerative conditions such as arthritis. This is a pretty intense diet and would require a complete lifestyle change, something my mom is definitely not willing to do – but I will discuss this diet more in the future.
My mom is working with a physical therapist currently to help her range of motion. I think physical therapy as well as chiropractic care is beneficial for osteoarthritis. Another option to consider would be acupuncture.
My mom’s doctors also offered her treatment using prolotherapy. This is a procedure where dextrose is injected into ligaments or tendons causing local inflammation. This inflammation causes the body to respond by increasing blood supply and flow of nutrients to the area, stimulating the body to repair itself. Way to go doctors, I think this treatment makes sense and is much less invasive than a hip replacement! My mom, however, is too scared of the needle being injected into her hip and has been putting this off. Her hip joint is pretty much gone at this point, so she has bone rubbing against bone and this procedure may only have minimal benefit, but I think it’s worth a try.
Now I will share this advice with my mom and see if she abides by any of it! It’s funny, her cat was just diagnosed with diabetes and she has been injecting her with insulin twice a day and doing wonderfully at it. She informed me of what temperature the fridge needs to be at for the insulin and that she got a thermometer to ensure it kept in the correct range; she made a spreadsheet with all the cats blood glucose readings on it, etc. I can’t believe how thorough and knowledgeable she is about diabetes now! If she could only apply that to her own condition! She told me she had a lot of pain today and I asked what she has eaten today – broetchen (bread roll) and cake! She doesn’t seem to want to follow my advice of limiting carbs and sugar! I told her to eat eggs for breakfast tomorrow and a salad with chicken for lunch and see if her joints are as achy. It’s really hard to get this German lady to not eat her broetchen in the morning!
My disclaimer: *Although most natural products are safer than medications and have few or no side effects, if taking multiple agents or taking along with prescription or OTC medications, please consult with your pharmacist – or physician but pharmacists probably know best =) – for potential interactions.