There are nearly 200 forms of arthritis but the most common are Rheumatoid, Osteo and Gout and these are the three I am covering in this short series…
Yesterday I looked at the form of arthritis that is most commonly associated with aging but should not be inevitable as it has a very strong lifestyle and dietary connection. Rheumatoid Arthritis
In this post I am going to cover Osteoarthritis and some of the preventative measures you can take to prevent the diseases from degenerating further.
What is Osteo-Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease is one of the oldest types of arthritis. It is basically wear and tear. It is the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage. Cartilage is the cushion in the joint that prevents the two ends of the bones from rubbing together. When this pad of cushioning is worn away and the fluid that normally lubricates the joint has gone – the two ends grind together causing pain and inflammation.
As you will see later in the post the joint problem is also compromised by the reduction in connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons that surround the joint.
The actual physical process is an increase in water content of the cartilage and a reduction of protein in the tissue as we age. It mainly affects the weight bearing joints such as the feet, ankles, lower back, knees and hips but can also affect the hands. Those most likely to suffer from the condition are middle aged or elderly. In some cases however if a younger person has had a very physically demanding lifestyle the symptoms can set in earlier.
What are the most common causes of this type of arthritis?
You can be affected by being overweight most of your life as I was until my 40s – leading a particularly energetic sporting life – football, rugby or athletics. It is most common as we get into our 40’s and 50’s when a lifetime of activity can catch up with us. People you have suffered accidents in the past with broken bones may find that the damage is worsened as they get older.
There is a school of thought that believes there is a genetic pre-disposition to Osteoarthritis particularly when it develops in the hands. It could be caused by defective cartilage or defects in the way the bones join together.
What are some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
It is purely a disease of the joints. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis it does not affect the organs of the body. The most common symptom is pain in the joint; particularly after a lot of activity. It is usually worse later in the day obviously. Also you may find that your back and hips and knees are painful after sitting for long periods of time and that getting up in the morning is painful and takes some time for you to regain mobility.
Some of the joints will swell especially if you have twisted the joint during activity. Knees are particularly vulnerable to stairs and explains why the sale of stair lifts is on the increase!
It is not uncommon for the symptoms to come and go depending on a number of factors: Weight, heat and activity levels.
What happens if the condition is not treated?
If the pain and the immobility become too severe there are now some surgical options. There are new techniques available that are less extreme than joint replacement but that needs to be assessed on an individual basis. Depending on the type of joint replacement, they will last around the 15 to 17 years. This means that if you have surgery in your 50’s you are probably facing another in your 70’s and 90’s.
Another problem is that the friction between the bone ends causes mobility problems which often lead to more weight gain which is one of the leading causes of the condition in the first place.
Inflammation of the cartilage can sometimes stimulate new bone outgrowths called spurs around the joint, which cause even more discomfort and lack of mobility.
The bottom line is that it is a very painful condition and most sufferers are forced into taking very strong painkillers such as cortisone.
Is there a nutritional approach to the condition?
Collagen needs to be maintained both between the joints and as connective tissue such tendons and ligaments. Normally when we damage connective tissue the body will produce collagen to repair them. However, if you look at connective tissue that is attached to proteins that you are preparing to cook; you will see that they tend to be very pale in colour… This is because there is a poor blood supply to them. This means that the components necessary to heal them completely are unable to reach them effectively.
Collagen is also a component of our skin so as our face begins to wrinkle and loose formation the process is mirrored internally.
To assist the body in producing new collagen for a more youthful looking skin and healthier joint padding, ligaments and tendons that hold that joint in place; you need a diet rich in the following elements.
Vitamin C rich foods are essential. Part of the issue with age related connective tissue damage is that we tend to eat less food as we age. This is not just related to a lack of appetite but the condition of our teeth. How many of you have noticed that you avoid certain fruits such as apples and pears because they are now tough to eat and chew? If this is the case then you need to substitute other softer but high vitamin C vegetables and fruit. You also need to explore options with your dentist to improve your ability to chew all foods as this is a fundamental part of the digestive process.
If you do not have rheumatoid arthritis you can enjoy the nightshade family such as red peppers, tomatoes and potatoes but also berries, watermelon, broccoli and papaya. Citrus fruits such as mandarins which are less acidic are also excellent.
Protein is also a very important component and you should be including sufficient daily including lean meats, oily fish, poultry, eggs, as well as beans and vegetables such as squash.
Vitamins A,B-Complex, C and E are very important anti-oxidants but also have an anti-inflammatory. Whole grains, oily fish, brightly coloured vegetables and fruit
Most people understand that keeping hydrated is very important for the suppleness of our skin and this applies to our internal collagen health as well. Please do not listen to the aqua sceptics! Although you do take in good amounts of fluids from most of the foods that we eat, it is not sufficient to counteract central heating, air conditioning, exercise and the high levels of sugar and salt in our diets.
However….. do not drink fizzy chemical concoctions as they are loaded with additives and sugars that are not naturally found in any of our connective tissues and will only compound the damage.
Aim for eight cups of tea, coffee, herbal teas and pure water per day… The occasional glass of juice is okay as long as it is freshly made and diluted with water. I drink diluted cranberry juice once a day.
Glucosamine in supplements is often used to treat joint pain along with another ingredient, Chondroitin;both naturally occurring in connective tissue. There is research into the effectiveness of taking in supplementary form but do make sure that your research the brands carefully and cheap is not necessarily the best option.
I take Aloe Vera gel daily as it is very nutritional and great for a number of health issues, but it does also contain glucosamine and I find more effective taken in this type of carrier than in tablet form. Aloe Vera also has other minerals that help promote enzyme reactions in the joints which may help them heal faster. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect that helps relieve the pain.
Is there any specific health advice for someone who is suffering from this form of the disease?
Hard though it may seem for someone who suffers from Osteoarthritis- exercise is one of the ways to help improve flexibility and increase muscle strength to support the effected joints.
Obviously sports that require flexing of the joints such as tennis or squash are not a good idea, golf could also be a struggle as you are using your lower back, hips and knees.
Walking and swimming are usually very helpful although you will need to adjust your leg movements for certain swimming styles. I certainly notice a difference when I am swimming daily from May onwards.
On Monday I will be covering Gout and the myths that surround this form of arthritis and also looking at Acupuncture which can be very effective in the treatment of arthritis.
Thank you for stopping by and delighted to answer any questions you might have and would be very grateful if you could share.
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