Smorgasbord Health – A – Z of common conditions – Arthritis – Rheumatoid.

smorgasbord A - Z

I know that many of you who follow the blog will have seen the arthritis posts earlier in the year but it is now six months and for those new to Smorgasbord, I hope you find useful.

There is no doubt that for most people once they are into their 50’s they might experience pain associated with movement. We tend to think only in terms of two types of arthritis. Rheumatoid and Osteo- Arthritis but as you will see that is not the case.

To be specific there are nearly 200 different forms of arthritis but the most common that we suffer from, particularly as we get older are Rheumatoid, Osteo and gout. I will cover Osteo- Arthritis and Gout week. Although my main focus is on the foods to avoid and those to include in your diet I will in the next posts talk about some of the alternative therapies that may help this condition.

First let’s talk about the most common of the arthritis conditions.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an auto immune disease in which the joints, usually those of the hands and feet are inflamed. (Arthritis comes from the Greek word ‘arthron’ which means joints). This results in swelling, pain and often the eventual destruction of the joints interior.

I am sure most of you have heard of James Coburn the actor. It was obvious; as he appeared in films as he got older, that he was suffering from the disease. His hands became very deformed and he suffered from the problem in most of the joints in his body.In fact in his case it was hereditary as his father suffered from the same condition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is the most common inflammatory disease and is suffered world-wide and affects approximately 1% of adults. It is usually accompanied by extreme fatigue, weight loss and in many cases depression. People can suffer from it in a mild form for many years and never reach the crippling stage as in James Coburn’s case; but millions do have to put up with symptoms that can be anything from discomfort to extreme and constant pain.

This is where our normally healthy immune system seems to go into overdrive. For some reason it attacks the tissue that lines and cushions the joints (the technical term for this tissue is glycosaminoglycans)


With this form of arthritis it is not just the bone structure and joints that can be affected. Internally our major organs also affected by the inflammatory properties of the disease.

The Heart. Fluid collects around the heart (pericardial effusion) in some cases of rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms are mild usually but can become severe over time leading to various heart related conditions. The heart muscle, valves and blood vessels can be affected and heart attacks are more common in people suffering from this form of arthritis. To help prevent this, a diet that maintains a healthy LDL/HDL cholesterol balance and regular check-ups is recommended. You will find the posts on cholesterol in the health directory. Smorgasbord Health Directory

Kidneys and Liver. These organs are more likely to be affected by the medication that is prescribed for the condition and along with the digestive system, need to be monitored.

The Lungs Fluid collecting (pleural effusion) around one or both the lungs restricts breathing, not only uncomfortable but also can restrict the uptake of oxygen and the removal of waste products. Chest infections are more common in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers and again a regular check-up is important. Deep breathing exercises just for five minutes a day can help keep the lungs flexible and improve breathing but if you find yourself becoming breathless after mild exertion then do go and see your doctor as it could mean that there is fluid around either the heart or the lungs.


It is not always hereditary. About three times as many women suffer from rheumatoid arthritis as men and whilst there is a school of thought that considers that there may be a link to food intolerances my experience has been that there is a link between Candida Albicans and this form of arthritis. Again you can find all the Candida posts in the directory so that you can check the symptoms and triggers for this condition.Smorgasbord Health Directory

Apart from antibiotics that obviously both men and women take, there are other drugs and hormonal changes that only a woman would be exposed to. HRT and the Pill have been suggested as a link to the onset of Candida. If you look at a woman’s reproductive cycle and if she starts her periods at 12 – goes on the pill for a few years until she is ready to have children – has 4 babies in 10 years and then at age 50 goes on HRT for 10 years then you will see that hormonally she has been very active as well as exposed to artificial hormone replacement. To my mind this may be one of the reasons why women are more prone to Rheumatoid Arthritis.

This is an autoimmune disease where the immune system has lost its ability to tell the difference between friend and enemy hence it is attacking healthy cells in the body. These cells are the carbohydrate molecules in the tissue in the joints. If the patient already has a Candida overgrowth the immune system will be working overtime to protect the body from this parasitic invasion. It makes sense to me that any cells that might resemble this parasite in any form might also get included in the immune systems clean-up operation.

I do know that there has been a marked improvement in some of my clients’ arthritis symptoms when they have been treated for Candida. Another area that is not proven, but I have seen some examples of, are where people living outside of their genetic environment and eating a very different diet to their ancestral one, are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis; showing improvement when they revert back to their cultural diet.

I worked with two South American clients who had moved to Ireland in their 20’s. Once in their late 30’s, both of them developed arthritis. One of the sisters became so bad that she was on steroids and could barely walk down the road. I worked with her and established what sort of diet she would have had if she had been still living in her own country. After reverting back to the food that she ate until she reached the age of 24, in six weeks she was able to walk and eventually come off her medication. With the agreement of course of her doctor.

You have to remember that if you live in a particular environment and your ancestry is based in the environment for thousands of years your body will have adapted to a certain dietary and nutrient requirement based on what is available. If you were to take an Eskimo from his environment 20 years ago before fast food reached his home, and introduced him to a western diet he would have become malnourished and probably ill. His system would have been used to processing fat for most of his requirements – no sugar – no vegetables or fruit but he would have been supremely healthy. Give him what we consider to be a healthy diet and he would fall ill. So environment – changes in diet and stress could cause problems such as arthritis.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS? You might start to notice some stiffness in your finger and toe joints – perhaps just in one. It is common for small nodules to appear under the skin close to an affected joint and this might be one of the first indications of the disease externally. You will find that it is a symmetrical disease that affects the same joint on either side of the body.

You might also feel very tired – have skin rashes and some breathing problems as tissue internally becomes affected. As you will have read there are some dangers to your general health if the condition is not corrected. We tend to see the external joint disfiguration but not the internal damage to things like our lungs and heart. Do not regard as a normal sign of aging and dismiss. Go and get it checked out.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE STEPS WE CAN TAKE TO IMPROVE THE CONDITION? Obviously if you are under medication from the doctor for arthritis you must not take yourself off these without consulting them first. Also if you decide that you are going to take some of the alternative treatments available then you must also check with them first to make sure that there will not be an adverse reaction. Most of the remedies that I have used personally have not had any side effects but everyone is different.

First rest is important. Do not try and overdo things, as you will feel tired. Having said that there is some benefit in doing gentle exercise, particularly walking and swimming as the stronger your muscles are the less strain on your joints. Moderate exercise will also help your breathing by keeping your lungs flexible and also your heart by exercising the muscle. Again, do check with your doctor before beginning any exercise programme if you are suffering from any disease.



There are a number of foods that can cause a problem – Mainly the nightshade family such as raw tomatoes and peppers, aubergines and potatoes. However, I think it is important at this point to return to the Candida link and by association the consumption of refined sugars. I am convinced that this is one of the major causes of this disease and so following the anti-Candida regime is probably as healthy a diet you can have. Avoiding sugars including Alcohol on a consistent basis will make a difference. I am not suggesting that you give anything up for life but certainly for at least 6 weeks to two months while you are effectively detoxing your body, you need to remove processed foods and sugars from your diet.

Your body needs as much help as possible so this is where eating a diet comprising all fresh ingredients cooked from scratch is very important. The less industrially produced foods the better.


Anti-oxidants. Lots of fresh vegetables – Plenty of fluids particularly water to make sure that you are properly hydrated. A healthy fat diet rich in fish for the Omega 3 is excellent. Use olive oil for cooking and make sure that your diet is rich in vitamin C.

Lean protein and wholegrains provide you with the B-vitamins including B5 – Pantothenic Acid and if vegetarian then do make sure that you are including mushrooms which are an excellent source of most of them. NB. Many therapists will take you off all mushrooms but recent research has identified that despite being a fungus it is not the food of choice for the fungal Candida.. It prefers sugar!  Eating mushrooms should have no effect on your Candida levels and I eat them very regularly.

One of the Candida posts in the directory has a shopping list which is useful.  It does contain potatoes and tomatoes which may have an effect on arthritis but it is only likely if you are eating every day.. I suggest that you remove  potatoes, raw tomatoes (I have found less of a problem with cooked tomatoes), red peppers and aubergines for the first six weeks and then re-introduce one at a time over the next four weeks and monitor your symptoms. They are also a wonderful source of nutrients and I am very reluctant to lose them from a diet completely. Eaten once or twice a week, should not cause a problem.

 Hope you have found this useful and would be delighted for your feedback.

Thanks for dropping by Sally


Smorgasbord Health – Ancient healing therapies – Reflexology

smorgasbord health

It is a couple of years since I posted a series on some of the Ancient healing therapies that are still being practiced today. I am reluctant to call them Alternative therapies as that is an expression that was coined by the medical profession back in the dark ages…up to the present day…. to describe healing that has been used for thousands of years but is beyond their comprehension.  This is not to say that all treatments today that are offered on the back of ancient healing is effective. Over the last twenty years or so I have come across some practices that I find very difficult to support.

To become an effective healer in any of the ancient practices you need to undergo stringent training and to have a broad knowledge of the human body. You also have to understand that even physical therapies that require a hands on application can have a profound effect on mental and emotional health. For example reflexology in the right hands can produce a release of emotions as well as alleviating pain and soreness in a particular region of the body.

The other aspect that it is interesting to note is that some of the ancient therapies such as acupuncture and reiki, are used on pets and they can prove to be very effective. Since animals to not experience the placebo effect, it does go a long way to prove in my mind that the treatments are genuinely beneficial to humans and animals alike.


Reflexology is a form of complementary medicine that was first practised over 5,000 years in China where it was used to correct energy fields in patients. There is evidence in the form of wall art that the Egyptians and Indians also used this form of healing in the same time period. The Incas are believed to have passed down their skill of reflexology to the North American Red Indians who used it extensively for healing and relaxation.

It really only came to prominence in the Western world in the last century when various physicians discovered that reflexology points when stimulated acted as a form of anaesthetic. A doctor in the U.S called Dr. William Fitzgerald developed these first points into vertical zones and connected them to specific organs and parts of the body. He wrote a book on Zone Therapy in the early 1900’s and was the forerunner of modern day reflexology therapy.

Later doctors added additional horizontal zones to the upper and underside of the feet and then to the hands. Other parts of the body such as the face and ears were explored as the connection between massaging certain points on the body and acupuncture became more apparent.

In the 1920’s a therapist called Eunice Ingham completed the chart of the feet and developed the method that today we call reflexology.


As in acupuncture that I  will cover next week,there are a number of places on the body where pressure can be applied to benefit individual organs, systems and the structure of the body. This includes the hands and the ears but today I am going to focus on the feet which are the most common area of the body to be massaged.

In the feet there are reflex areas that correspond to all parts of the body and these areas are arranged in the form of a map on each foot. The right foot mainly corresponds to the right side of the body and the left foot to the left side with shared zones for central areas of the body. This enables therapists to be very specific about areas and conditions that require treatment. The important thing to remember with all natural therapies is that they work from the inside of the body to the outside of the body whereas conventional treatment tends to work from the outside in. In most cases this leads to the symptoms being treated and not the cause. Reflexology can treat the whole body internally and externally just by manipulating these specific pressure points.

Reflexology points

If you imagine the image of the foot from above with the toes facing away from you can get a clearer picture of the reflexology map.

There are horizontal zones running across the centre line of the toes and these pressure points relate to the face, sinus, teeth, gums and jaw on the left foot and the neck and brain stem on the right foot. Above the zone in the nail bed of the big toe is the zone for the head and brain and under the zone at the base of the toe is the zone for the neck.

Another horizontal band runs across the foot just slightly below the toes and this relates to the tops of the shoulders. Half way up the foot is a zone that can be massaged to relieve upper back problems and the zone around the base of the ankle controls the lymph glands, fallopian tubes and the groin area.

Along each side of the foot are smaller zones with specific roles in therapy. Along the outside edge of the left foot are the zones for the arm, lungs, chest and breast areas, elbow, waistline, knee and leg and lower back. Along the inside edge of the left and right feet are zones for the spine and the bladder.

On the bottom of the feet.

On the bottom of both feet you will find specific zones of varying sizes that are massaged to provide therapy for other parts and organs. On the underside of the left foot are the zones for shoulder, lungs, upper chest and back, diaphragm, gall bladder, ascending colon. Just under the last two toes is the zone for the inner ear. The big toe has a zone for the head and brain as well as one for the pituitary gland.

The underside of the right foot contains zones for the thyroid gland, eye, sinus, neck, ear, arm, stomach, spleen, transverse and descending colon and the small intestine.

Both feet share zones on the inside edge and centre which relate to the heart, solar plexus, liver, adrenal gland, pancreas, kidneys, spine, bladder, sciatic nerve and the lower back.

As in acupuncture the gentle manipulation of certain pressure points on the feet releases blocked channels in the body allowing healing to take place.


Your therapist should take a full medical history before beginning to treat you. You will then sit in a comfortable position with bare feet.

All the zones on the feet will be massaged usually using the side and end of the thumb to apply firm pressure. If there is a particular part of the body that is affected by pain or discomfort this will often be reflected in the specific zone for that area on the foot. A feeling of tenderness will be experienced that can ease with continued massage. The process should not be in any way uncomfortable and in fact many people find it very relaxing.


As with any alternative therapy, despite often having thousands of years of history, you have to be very careful about claiming that it works as a cure. Many patients find relief from stress, depression, fatigue, spinal problems, indigestion, Irritable bowel syndrome, hormone imbalance and sinusitis. It is also used for specific muscle and joint pain in conjunction with other complementary therapies.


This largely depends on the extent of the original problem but there may be slight detox side effects such as mild headaches, diarrhoea, and possible congestion as the body tries to rid itself of toxins that have been released. It is a good idea to combine reflexology with a detox programme along the lines of last month’s plan combined with additional fluids. You might also experience some emotional side-effects and certainly if you have been under stress you might find yourself feeling either a little weepy.  You should certainly feel relaxed.

Reflexology and pets.

Sam enjoyed both reflexology and reiki healing which I will cover in another post. He would actively ask for a massage, not just on his tummy as many dogs do but he would come and sit with his back to me until he was touching my knees… I would then massage the edges of his ears (like in humans probably relating to certain parts of his body ) and then his neck gently and then down across the tops of his front legs and then down his spine… He would occasionally lift his paw and I would massage the pads of his foot and lightly inbetween..He would sit perfectly still for 10 minutes or so before getting up, stretching and moving off to go to sleep.

For those of you who are interested here is the link to Pet massage from last week. Good for them and good for you.

Next time a look at Acupuncture which is a healing therapy that I have found to be very beneficial several times in my life.

©sallycronin Just Food for health 2007