Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. It is a chronic disease that leaves the patient handicapped. Most people have some degree of osteoarthritis in their body by the time they are middle-aged. Stress and strain impose wear and tear on the joints. Nutrition also plays an important part. There are many types of arthritis; the main ones being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is said to be a result of the combination of lack of nutrition and intolerance to certain foods. Osteoarthritis is the form of arthritis that is most responsible for incapacity and general disability. It affects mainly the hips, knees, spine and fingers. Its development is not usually accompanied by systemic changes in the blood or in the body as a whole.
The symptoms of arthritis are usually pain and stiffness in the joint. A joint is an area of the body where two different bones meet. The joint helps to move the body parts connected by its bones. The functioning of the joints is affected, due to inflammation, which is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, redness, and tenderness. Some other forms of arthritis can cause fever, fatigue, weight loss, and swelling in the glands.
The causes of arthritis depend on the type. They include injury, metabolic abnormalities, hereditary factors, the direct and indirect effect of bacterial or viral infections, and a dysfunctional immune system with autoimmunity. The causes also include degenerative changes in the body due to aging and cancerous growths nearby.
Health benefits of a good diet in arthritis
It has been found that a low-fat diet is able to arrest the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in some people. This is not to say that diet can cure all types of arthritis, but it does help to give relief from pain and increased joint movement. There have been reports of food sensitivities causing arthritis. It was found in a study in England that when patients followed a diet that excluded certain foods that they were allergic to, most found that their rheumatoid arthritis had improved.
There are a number of nutrients that, when in short supply, influence arthritis. There is food that helps overcome the disease and some which aggravate it (acidic food and those that one is allergic to). The idea is to take food that is anti-inflammatory and so one should reduce animal fat and have low-fat dairy products. Fish oil is good as its anti-inflammatory. Minerals like calcium, manganese, magnesium, and zinc are required for healthy bones and joints. zinc is the most important mineral linked with the healing of irritated tissues. It also metabolizes calcium. The vitamins that are necessary are vitamin B complex. Vitamin B3 and B5 are said to help patients with arthritis. Vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of collagen, a protein fibre that is found throughout the body’s tissue. Vitamin D is necessary for the utilization of calcium. Clinical data is now available to show that glucosamine supplementation is extremely useful in the treatment of several disorders involving tissue injuries and joint inflammation. Foods that should be avoided are salt and salted food; meat; dairy produce (soy milk, soy curd, and tofu can be had instead); white flour and white rice produce; sugar, tea, coffee, chocolate and cola drinks; processed, pickled, smoked, preserved and tinned foods; frozen food and acidic fruits.
Whole grains lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood, which is a marker of inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Foods like oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain cereals are excellent whole grains. Beans like white beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans are high in protein which is necessary for muscle strength. They are also rich in folic acid, magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium which benefit the immune system. Omega-3 rich food like fish and fish oil or soybean and edamame should be included. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are packed with calcium and vitamin D. Both are very necessary for bone strength. Vitamin D is absolutely essential for calcium absorption.
Vegetables like broccoli, kale, and spinach are high in calcium. Figs and almonds are also rich in calcium and can be added to the diet. Green tea reduces inflammation. Research shows that getting the right amount of vitamin C aids in preventing inflammatory arthritis and maintaining healthy joints. Hence, consuming citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and lime are very important. Researchers believe the compound diallyl disulfide found in garlic may limit cartilage-damaging enzymes in human cells. Including food from the allium family like onions leeks and garlic will reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.
Even though moving the joint produces much pain in arthritis, exercise is a must and can improve the problem by keeping the joints from locking up. When a joint is not used over a long period of time, they tend to lock up and aggravate the problem. One should start exercising at the early stage of the disease with every joint, and it should be taken through all possible ranges of motion. However, it should not be done to the point where it causes pain.
Home remedies for arthritis
- Beetroot is good home remedy for arthritis. Beets are said to have immunity enhancing properties which are beneficial for arthritis of immune disorder. Beetroots are rich in potassium and have an alkalizing effect. Beetroot juice or a cupful of raw beetroot is recommended.
- An active ingredient called bromelain is found in pineapple which is anti-inflammatory and hence is good for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. A cup full of pineapple juice once a day is beneficial.
- Apple-cider vinegar is a home remedy for non specific arthritis. It has a substance called mallic which helps remove inorganic salt deposits on articular surfaces. A tsp of apple-cider vinegar should be taken with a tsp of honey in a glass of warm water first thing in the morning.
- Half a cup of wheatgrass juice taken daily, strengthens the immune system and is good for arthritis due to autoimmune dysfunction like rheumatoid arthritis.
- The juice of carrot, celery, beetroot and cucumber taken separately is said to be very good for arthritis.
- Turmeric is very effective and a powerful home remedy for arthritis. It is believed to have a general joint rebuilding capability. It is used both internally and as a pack on joints as it is greatly anti-inflammatory.
- Parsley juice is cooling and detoxifying, and can be drunk throughout the day.
For relief from joint pain
- Castor leaves warmed on a griddle smeared with warm castor oil, and placed on a painful joint, soothes the pain and relieves swelling.
- The warm pulp of aloe leaf soothes joint pain.
- Massage with warm neem oil 2-3 times a week for rheumatoid pains.
- Pound mustard seeds and fry them in mustard oil. Place it in a muslin cloth and use it on the affected joint.