Natural Arthritis Remedies: Nutritional and Lifestyle Treatment for Relief and Repair

According to the Arthritis Foundation, rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease affecting nearly three million people in the United States. The typical age of onset is from 25 to 50; symptoms include morning joint stiffness, swelling in joints and surrounding soft tissue, and pain. The disease can stay the same for long periods before progressing. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is a condition caused by deterioration of the cartilage between bones. Usually present in people over the age of 40, some 15.8 million Americans have osteoarthritis, which may also progress to inflammation, pain and deformity.

Living With Arthritis Can Be Tricky

Pain limits mobility, but exercise retards joint deterioration, so movement is essential to slow the progression of arthritis. For morning stiffness, a hot bath brings relief. Afterward, physical therapy or yoga exercises can be performed more easily. Women should not wear high heels because they increase compressive pressure on the knees and can lead to degeneration of those joints.

Supplements May Repair and Rebuild Connective Tissue

Glucosamine sulfate, an amino sugar, is essential in the formation of synovial (joint) fluid and cartilage. While other forms may be effective, the sulfate type was used in studies that showed improvement in knee joints of participants. A supplement guide by, explains that other studies were inconclusive and that research is ongoing. Forms labeled NaCL or KCL are diluted with salt and other minerals; they are less effective. Chondroiton, a mucopolysacharide, may strengthen joints and improve the efficacy of glucosamine when used together.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic form of sulfur, an element crucial to the rebuilding and elasticity of connective tissue. MSM has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, although a few days to a few weeks of regular use may be needed to gain the full effects. Vitamin C and the mineral molybdenum improve absorption. MSM is a derivative of DMSO, a harmless solvent that is a popular topical remedy for arthritis and joint pain. While DMSO use produces a garlicky breath odor, MSM does not. Blood-thinning properties of MSM make it important to consult a physician, however, when taking other anti-coagulant medications. Foods rich in sulfur include asparagus, garlic, and onions.

Anitioxidants protect joints from damage by free radicals. Vitamin E, in the d-alpha-tocopherol form, is a powerful antioxidant. Increasing antioxidant foods in the diet, such as tea, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dark chocolate, may have protective effects. Many arthritis sufferers are depleted of Vitamin E.

Supplement sources of Omega-3 Essential fatty-acids, or EFAs, are important for equalizing the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 EFAs. Diets high in animal sources of fat, such as red meat and dairy products, produce an inflammatory reaction because Omega-6 EFAs stimulate Cox 2 enzymes that are responsible for joint swelling and pain. A ratio of 1:1 Omega-3 to Omega 6 EFAs stops the stimulation of Cox 2 enzymes. Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids are salmon, tuna, spirulina (a blue-green algae), walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds.

Food Intolerance May Impact Arthritis Treatment

Allergies may be responsible for inflammation, especially in rheumatoid arthritis. Gluten, in wheat, barley, and rye, or milk, soy, corn, and peanuts are common allergenic foods. A careful elimination diet is usually the only way to diagnose food intolerances. A knowlegeable naturopathic doctor can help. Avoiding foods in the nightshade family–peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, and tomatoes–might be beneficial, because they contain a substance called solanine, which may interfere with normal muscle enzymes in sensitive persons.

Pain relief and exercise are important for arthritis sufferers. A diet low in saturated fats and high in Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as supplements essential to rebuilding tissue may slow or reverse joint degeneration. Causes of inflammation may be linked to food reactions and enzymes.