Affecting arthritis with nutrition.

Affecting arthritis with nutrition.

In keeping with the idea that internal inflammation can manifest in different ways and seems to be a culprit behind many chronic diseases, it becomes apparent that nutrition is a key in managing these types of inflammatory disorders, such as arthritis.

It would appear, both from research and from clinical observation, that arthritis is related to gastrointestinal health. Consider for instance that 5-10% of ankylosing spondylitis cases also have a GI disorder such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis. Also a much larger percentage of ankylosing spondylitis patients have subclinical gut inflammation as shown by endoscopic findings.

All this means that arthritis then should be helped by helping the GI system. And in fact, arthritis patients who use the probiotic Lactobacillus casei report better symptom control.

Other supplements to consider for arthritis are vitamin A, vitamin D, and Omega 3 fatty acids. As far as fatty acids are concerned, it is also important to limit the omega 6’s. Look at the list and see which one you get more of.

Omega 3- fish oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil.

Omega 6-borage, cottonseed, grapeseed, peanut, primrose, safflower, sesame, corn oil.

Keep in mind subjects took 3 grams of fish oil for at least 12 weeks before joint swelling and stiffness decreased.

Also useful is vitamin B6, which can lower pro-inflammatory compounds IL-6 and TNF-alpha. 100 mg of B6 for 12 weeks was needed to affect a change on arthritis with B6. (Due to possible neurotoxicity, I would not recommend going over 100 mg of B6, and also lowering to 50 mg after the initial 12 weeks, for a maintenance phase. Individual needs vary and nutrient testing gives best custom info.)

Many arthritis patients will have lower than normal zinc levels. Zinc can reduce internal inflammation by altering histamine release.

And why is it so important to treat arthritis with nutrition instead of just using drugs? Because that is how your body prefers it, and there is just no fooling nature. One potent drug for arthritis is methotrexate. This drug actually raise homocysteine levels, which is a marker of internal inflammation. Corticosteroids, also used for pain, can lower absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and cause a need for higher levels of folate, vitamin D, B6, C and protein.

In finding the best outcomes for chronic problems such as arthritis, an individualized nutrition profile test can be very helpful.

Arthritis and Natural Medicine

Arthritis is a very common health condition that must have been an issue for people as long as we have been around. The term arthritis simply means, “joint inflammation”. There are various types of arthritis and a variety of contributing factors, but we will look at some natural and alternative methods to deal with the joint pain and discomfort of arthritis in general. These methods are acupuncture, nutrition and also a relatively newer but promising method called biopuncture.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, arthritis has traditionally been referred to as bone “bi”, or bone pain. In the Chinese view, environmental factors such as damp, cold, heat and wind “invaded” the body’s joints and caused the pain. Thus chronic joint pain that was made worse with cold damp weather and improved with the application of heat was called “cold damp bi”. Likewise if someone’s pain was made worse with hot damp weather, but relieved with a cold compress it was called “damp heat bi”. There are of course other signs and symptoms that correspond and match the description, such as “damp heat bi” also having redness around the joint and more pronounced swelling. To our modern minds these diagnosis may seem foreign, but today many arthritis sufferers will still agree that factors like dampness and temperature seem to govern their condition. Regardless of how we label the disorder, the methods found back then to treat the joint pain, such as acupuncture, still work today.

Acupuncture is a medical system that has evolved for over two thousand years in Asia, and therefore has a long track record of treating many disorders, including arthritis. Today acupuncture involves inserting very thin, single use, sterile needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of energy, or chi. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, the body has many points on its surface that lie on a network of channels. Our body’s energy, or chi, flows along these channels which also flow through our internal organs. Points on the channels can be manipulated with acupuncture needles and this has several effects such as regulating the neuroendocrine systems of the body and reducing pain. Traditionally it was said that acupuncture “moves qi and blood”, implying that it helps the circulation, and this effect is helpful in all painful conditions including arthritis. Newcomers to acupuncture naturally ask questions like, “Does acupuncture hurt?” The answer is that acupuncture is quite comfortable, and done by a licensed acupuncturist is free from serious risk. It helps to remember that an acupuncture needle is so thin it can easily fit inside a hypodermic needle, making insertion far less of an ordeal than getting a standard injection. Modern medicine gradually confirms acupuncture’s role in pain management, and today it is being utilized and covered by insurance for this purpose. However, acupuncture is only a part of Chinese Medicine. Another ancient method the Chinese used was food therapy.

The Chinese always observed how the inherent qualities of foods affected the human condition, and for arthritis, certain foods were recommended and not recommended. For example, it was recorded that foods like spinach, beet greens, plums, tomato, bell peppers and eggplant could worsen chronic joint pain. Today we know that the former three contain oxalic acid, which aggravates arthritis, and the latter three are nightshades, which are said also to aggravate arthritis. Many people make a conscious effort to eat healthy foods , but may not be utilizing the best options for their condition. For example, in my experience some people with arthritis may tell me that they eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, such as spinach, tomatos and plums. But when they change those fruits and vegetables to cabbage, celery, wheatgrass and cherries, their arthritis begins to alleviate. In my own practice, I feel it is important to give a patient all the possible tools they could need to help themselves along with the treatments in the office. Other foods to avoid in arthritis are chard, rhubarb, cranberries, and of course alcohol, coffee and refined sweeteners. Some foods that are helpful are omega 3 fatty acids from fish oils, flax oil, kelp, chives, grapes, scallions and spirulina. While diet is always an important factor, some people may have deeply seated cases that may require faster acting treatment for relief. One such method to give fast acting results is biopuncture.

Biopuncture is a method that combines homeopathy and acupuncture to provide a potent, natural and effective treatment. In a biopuncture treatment, a small amount of a sterile, homeopathically prepared liquid is injected into an acupuncture point. To treat an arthritic joint, the point chosen would be adjacent to or over the joint. The homeopathic solution injected is a composite containing many ingredients, each designed to help reduce inflammation and benefit the structures of the joint. Some of the more familiar ingedients in the preparation could include the herb arnica montana, and cartilage for example. When ingredients are homeopathically activated, they stimulate the body to heal. The key in homeopathy is not the quantity but the type of substance used. When the homeopathic liquid is injected into an arthritic joint, the benefit of regular acupuncture combines with the benefit of the homeopathic ingredients. Biopuncture has been used safely and effectively in Europe for over two decades, and has the advantages of high patient tolerance and virtually no drug interaction. In my own practice, I have used biopuncture on long standing cases of arthritic pain and seen major reductions in the pain in relatively short periods of time. Between food therapy, Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture and biopuncture, chronic joint pain can usually be handled naturally.

Stephen Dell-Jones is a licensed Acupuncturist and Nationally Board Certified Doctor of Oriental Medicine. He practices in the Tampa Bay, Florida area at Tampa Bay Acu Health and Spine.