A Joint Effort
By Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.
Are you one of the nearly 46 million adults living with arthritis? Do you suspect that you might have the disease but are afraid to find out? Arthritis is a serious chronic health problem and the nations leading cause of disability among Americans over the age of 15, yet with a proper diagnosis and an aggressive treatment plan, arthritis can be managed and pain and damage can be minimized. As a matter of fact, there are many simple and effective steps that you can take on your own right now to improve the quality of your life, even with a diagnosis of arthritis.
Last year nearly one in five adults were living with arthritis and 300,000 children were afflicted with a juvenile form of the disease. Arthritis is an umbrella term that encompasses over 100 different conditions that affect the muscles and bones. Translated literally, arthritis means joint inflammation, and includes the two most common conditions, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as some of the less common conditions such as fibromyalgia, lupus, gout, bursitis and tendonitis. While the common thread between arthritic conditions is that they all affect the muscoskeletal system and primarily the joints, many forms of arthritis can be systemic, causing damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels and skin.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and affects approximately 21 million adults. OA usually comes on slowly, beginning with achiness in the joints due to inflammation after physical work or exercise. Over time, the achiness can develop into pain, and stiffness may result after a period of rest or inactivity. Swelling or tenderness may appear and a crunching sound could occur when the affected joint is used.
The culprit in OA is a loss of joint cartilage, the tissue that cushions the ends of bones within the joint. While the cause is unknown, in people with OA the cartilage begins to fray and may eventually wear away completely causing the debilitating joint pain and stiffness. When these less common joints become affected, it can typically be traced back to an injury or unusual stress (such as a work-related, repetitive action).
OA can occur in children but usually affects adults. In men, OA occurs mostly before the age of 45, however in women the disease occurs mostly after the age of 45. Risk factors for OA include obesity, improper joint alignment and certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Root causes may also include food allergies, a diet high in fats or eating the foods that promote an acidic environment, poor digestion, and hormone imbalances.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the second most common form of arthritis, affecting roughly 2.1 million adults in the US. RA is considered an autoimmune disease because the body’s immune system attacks the healthy joint tissue causing joint damage and inflammation. The exact cause of RA is unknown, but researchers have found that the disease can be triggered by an infection in people who have an inherited tendency for the disease.
The major differences between OA and RA lie in the way that the disease presents itself. As with OA, RA causes joint tenderness and inflammation as well as pain and stiffness. Unlike OA, however, RA presents itself in a “symmetrical pattern”, meaning that the symptoms occur in both sides of the body at the same time. For example, both knees will be concurrently inflamed. RA can also be accompanied by a fever and a general sense of not feeling well. Perhaps the greatest difference between the two conditions is the fact that RA has periods of remission while OA will not go away.
RA is caused by an inflammation in the joint lining and in some people, the infection can lead to inflammation of the tear glands, salivary glands, the lining of the heart and lungs and the lungs themselves. The inflammation associated with RA most often affects the joints of the hands and feet however no joints are immune. RA is 2-3 times more common in women than in men.
The Arthritis Foundation’s, “Principles of Arthritis Management”, proclaims the following:
1. There is no best treatment for everyone who has a particular type of arthritis, as each individual may respond differently to different treatments.
2. Something can always be done to improve the situation for a person with arthritis.
The main goals of arthritis treatment are to minimize the damage resulting from the disease and to manage pain effectively. Getting an early diagnosis is vital to your treatment plan as the earlier you are able to begin treatments the better your results may be. Treatment plans can consist of medication, weight management, exercise, use of heat or cold, and methods to protect joints from further damage.
Making some alterations to your eating plan can have a significant affect on the symptoms of arthritis. Foods high in saturated fats and refined sugars promote an inflammatory response within the body. The worst offenders include fatty cuts of red meat, fried foods, snacks containing partially hydrogenated oils, margarine, butter, high sugar foods and foods containing refined flour. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants (such as green peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, sweet and white potatoes and cantaloupe) and healthy fats from cold-water fish (salmon and mackerel, for example), flax-seed, olive oil, avocados and nuts can help reduce the inflammatory process. Eating fiber-packed foods such as raw vegetables and whole grains help to sweep away mineral and acid build-up while sulfur-rich foods, including asparagus, cabbage, garlic and onions, can help to repair cartilage and bone. Since dehydration has been linked to arthritis pain, it is also a good idea to drink a glass of water every two hours that you are awake to keep cartilage lubricated and healthy.
One protocol that I recommend while living with arthritis or joint pain:
- perfectlyhealthy Osteo Plus™ with nutrient rich calcium and K2 (menaquinone-7)
- perfectlyhealthy pH Plus™ with Cesium and Rubidium & Potassium Citrate to help absorption
- perfectlyhealthy Mega Greens™ with MSM, which has natural anti-inflammatory benefits and contains sulfur, an integral component of cartilage
- Carlsons™ Super 2 Daily- Fish Oil Multi-vitamin™ – Fish Oil Multi Vitamin (EPA & DHA)
- Sun Ten Arthroplex with glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin to help rebuild cartilage tissue, assist in proper joint function and relieve joint pain and swelling
If you experience joint pain, stiffness and/or swelling for more than 2 weeks, you may have arthritis. Contact your physician today to discuss your symptoms and testing options. The earlier that arthritis is diagnosed the earlier treatments can begin. Don’t be one of the millions limited by this severely debilitating disease. Take action today!
Dr. Connealy is the medical director of South Coast Medical Center for New Medicine in Irvine, California. The center strives to look at the whole person and explore the effects and relationships among nutrition, psychological and social factors, environmental effects and personal attunement. Visit them online at http://www.scmedicalcenter.com. For more information on the supplements mentioned, please visit http://www.perfectlyhealthy.net.