Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Health Column – A – Z of Common Conditions – Arthritis – Osteo and Gout


Last week I covered rheumatoid arthritis and today a look at two more of the over 200 forms of the disease.

Osteoarthritis and Gout.

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.

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 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.

A wearing down of the cushion in the joint where the two bones meet. – Pixabay.com

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, or 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 becomes 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 80’s.

The 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.

Also 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.

What about nutrition and osteoarthritis

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.

fruit-and-veg-bannerVitamin 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.

salmonProtein 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 effect on the body which reduces swelling. These can be found in 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.

Supplementation

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 find that 20 minutes on my treadmill excellent but I do wear an elasticated knee brace for additional support.

Gout can effect just the big toe or the whole foot which becomes inflamed and painful – Pixabay.com

What is gout?

Gout, contrary to popular belief, does not just affect old men who drink too much port. The actual condition is caused by crystals of uric acid depositing themselves into the tissues of the body.

When the condition is chronic hard lumps of uric acid are deposited in and around the joints – these lumps can also lodge in the kidneys leading to decreased kidney function and kidney stones.

It can be hereditary – an inherited abnormality in the body’s ability to process uric acid. We all produce Uric acid, which is a by-product of purines, which are present in most of the foods that we eat.

Which part of the body does gout normally affect?

The kidney problems are separate – it becomes gout when one of the joints is affected. It is usually in the foot and particularly the big toe. But other joints can be affected too.

Unlike the other forms of arthritis – this is a more sudden onset of the problem and is usually linked to immediate causes rather than a systemic problem. The reason the joint at the base of the big toe is most affected is that as the uric acid crystals are carried through the system they collect at the lowest point of the body – i.e. the big toe. Some people will also suffer a fever with the outbreak and the attack can last anything from a few hours to weeks or months. It is recurring depending on how acute the condition and largely down to your lifestyle.

It really is prevention rather than cure with this one. And particularly keeping the correct fluid balance. This is essential for your kidneys anyway to ensure that all the toxins that you are taking in are flushed out. If you are dehydrated uric acid will build up and crystallise so that is why taking in sufficient fluid rich foods and liquids each day is important.

It is also important to maintain a healthy weight with less sugar in your diet.  Sugar is acidic and disrupts our natural alkaline/acid balance in the blood which is of course flowing around the body including the joint areas.

What about nutrition and Gout?

For this type of arthritis, Purine rich foods can increase the production of uric acid so some of the foods to avoid are shellfish, liver and kidneys. Funnily enough, dairy intake has been shown to be beneficial in some research.

Protein from vegetable sources such as broccoli does not seem to have the same effect as Purine from animal protein so lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are essential.

Alcohol however does cause increased risk of uric acid output particularly beer and spirits. Wine did not seem to be as much of a problem. Again I think that gout attacks in the past have been more associated with the dehydrating effects of alcohol rather than drinking too much Port. Plus the fact that the usual sufferers tended to be wealthy males who consumed large amounts of meats at every meal.

What else can we do to ease the symptoms of arthritis?

All three of the arthritis strains will benefit from some physical support such as Acupuncture – I had that for a time and it certainly was beneficial in the healing process. Yoga, which involves gentle stretching, is excellent provided you have a good teacher and also the same with Tai Chi.

Exercise is essential both for weight management and to build a strong muscle structure to compensate for the joint weakness. Also endorphins are released during exercise which acts as a natural painkiller.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998- 2018

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

Thank you for dropping in and I look forward to your feedback, experiences with arthritis and questions.. Sally.

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The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Stinging Nettle – Arthritis and Scorpion Stings!


medicine woman

Certainly if you live in the UK you will have come across stinging nettles at some point in your life.. hopefully right next to a convenient patch of dock leaves to alleviate the sting. The common nettle has a long history and not just for causing pain to inattentive hikers.

images

Stinging Nettle or to give it its posh name Urtica Dioica, is found anywhere that is left wild such as meadows and woodlands or by the side of the road beneath hedges. Originally the nettle had an important role to play in daily life in the form of cloth as it was twisted to make fibre.

If you lived in ancient Greece and were unlucky enough to get poisoned with hemlock, receive a Scorpion sting, or get bitten by a snake, you would be dosed with nettle. There is an old expression ‘to grasp the nettle’, meaning to get on with a job however difficult, and it orginated from the belief that by grasping nettles with your bare hands and pulling them out of the earth they would cure a fever.

Even today nettles are used in herbal medicine and there is some evidence to suggest that the plant can reduce blood sugar levels and high blood pressure but as always I have to remind you not to stop any medication that you have been prescribed for these conditions without consulting your doctor.

  • Having said that I use nettle infusion with some other herbs when I am on a gentle detox as an aid to purifying the blood and reducing water retention.
  • There is evidence to suggest that nettle’s properties that help urinary tract infections and water retention might also be helpful for men with an enlarged prostate. Also that when used in conjuction with another excellent herb for men, Saw Palmetto, it might help prevent the spread of prostate cancer cells.
  • Nettle has been used to treat internal bleeding, excessive menstrual bleeding and nosebleeds.
  • Despite having a vicious sting, the nettle when infused as a tea and as a lotion can improve skin conditions such as allergic reactions or eczema.
  • The same can be said for osteoarthritis which benefits from the anti-inflammatory properties of the herb taken internally and used as a cream.
  • There is some cosmetic uses for the herb too especially if you are suffering from thinning hair or over oily hair.

The sting of the mature nettle comes from the formic acid in the leaves that raises blisters on the skin. But, you can eat the leaves of the young plant, before it develops the formic acid, in salads and they contain a similar range of nutrients to spinach.

The leaves are high in Iron and contain potassium and calcium.. You will also get a healthy boost of Vitamins A and K.  Here is a brief look at what these nutrients mean to the body and might perhaps change you view about this plant that appears to be out to get you!

VITAMIN A: RETINOL; Essential for healthy sight especially at night. It helps cells re-produce normally. It is needed for healthy skin, mucous membranes of the respiratory system, digestive and urinary tracts also bones and tissues. In reproduction it is required for the normal growth and development of the embryo and foetus. It has been shown to influence the function and development of sperm, ovaries and the placenta. As an Anti-oxidant it boosts the Immune System

VITAMIN K: PHYLLOQUINONE; Necessary for proper bone formation and blood clotting.

IRON: The main function of iron is in haemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying component of blood. When someone is iron deficient they suffer extreme fatigue because they are being starved of oxygen. Iron is also part of myoglobin which helps muscle cells store oxygen and it is also essential for the formation of ATP

CALCIUM: The most abundant and essential mineral in the body. There are approximately two to three pounds mainly found in the teeth and bones. Apart from its role in the formation of teeth and bones it is also required for blood clotting, transmission of signals in nerve cells and muscle contractions. There is some indication that higher calcium intake protects against cardiovascular disease particularly in women. If you are at risk of kidney stones consult your doctor before taking in additional calcium supplements. This also applies if you are suffering from prostate cancer where there may be a link between increased levels of dietary calcium in dairy products and this form of cancer. It is thought it is thought that excess calcium causes lower levels of Vitamin D, which helps protect against prostate cancer.

POTASSIUM: This is the main cation (positively charged electrolyte). It reacts with sodium and chloride to maintain a perfect working environment in and around each cell. It allows the transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain the correct fluid balance in the body. It also regulates levels of acidity and alkalinity in the body. It is also required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It is connected to normal heart rhythms.

When not to use Nettle.

Nettles can cause contractions so must not be used if you are pregnant. In fact you must not take any herbal medicine when pregnant without consulting a qualified herbalist.

You should also be careful if on prescription drugs that contain lithium as nettle acts as a diuretic can could effect the body’s ability to excrete excess lithium which can lead to serious side effects.

Also should not be taken if you are taking medication for diabetes as it could drive your blood sugar too low. Similarly if you are on medication for blood pressure as this could lower the pressure too far.

If you are on blood thinners designed to prevent clotting, taking nettle with its high levels of Vitamin K which aids clotting, could result in the wafarin or other drug becoming ineffective.

You can find a number of products containing nettle such as teas and tinctures in health food shops along with lotions and hair products.

I hope you have found the post interesting and as always welcome your feedback.  Sally

Smorgasbord Health – A-Z of common conditions – Arthritis – Osteoarthritis and Gout


smorgasbord A - Z

Last week I covered rheumatoid arthritis and today a look at two more of the over 200 forms of the disease. Osteoarthritis and Gout.

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.

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 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 or 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 becomes 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 80’s.

The 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.

Also 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.

What about nutrition and osteoporosis

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.

fruit-and-veg-bannerVitamin 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.

salmon

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 find that 20 minutes on my treadmill excellent but I do wear an elasticated knee brace for additional support.

What is gout?

Gout, contrary to popular belief, does not just affect old men who drink too much port. The actual condition is caused by crystals of uric acid depositing themselves into the tissues of the body.

When the condition is chronic hard lumps of uric acid are deposited in and around the joints – these lumps can also lodge in the kidneys leading to decreased kidney function and kidney stones.

It can be hereditary – an inherited abnormality in the body’s ability to process uric acid. We all produce Uric acid, which is a by-product of purines, which are present in most of the foods that we eat.

Which part of the body does gout normally affect?

The kidney problems are separate – it becomes gout when one of the joints is affected. It is usually in the foot and particularly the big toe. But other joints can be affected too.

Unlike the other forms of arthritis – this is a more sudden onset of the problem and is usually linked to immediate causes rather than a systemic problem. The reason the joint at the base of the big toe is most affected is that as the uric acid crystals are carried through the system they collect at the lowest point of the body – i.e. the big toe. Some people will also suffer a fever with the outbreak and the attack can last anything from a few hours to weeks or months. It is recurring depending on how acute the condition and largely down to your lifestyle.

It really is prevention rather than cure with this one. And particularly keeping the correct fluid balance. This is essential for your kidneys anyway to ensure that all the toxins that you are taking in are flushed out. If you are dehydrated uric acid will build up and crystallise so that is why taking in sufficient fluid rich foods and liquids each day is important.

It is also important to maintain a healthy weight with less sugar in your diet.  Sugar is acidic and disrupts our natural alkaline/acid balance in the blood which is of course flowing around the body including the joint areas.

What about nutrition and Gout?

For this type of arthritis, Purine rich foods can increase the production of uric acid so some of the foods to avoid are shellfish, liver and kidneys. Funnily enough, dairy intake has been shown to be beneficial in some research.

Protein from vegetable sources such as broccoli does not seem to have the same effect as Purine from animal protein so lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are essential.

Alcohol however does cause increased risk of uric acid output particularly beer and spirits. Wine did not seem to be as much of a problem. Again I think that gout attacks in the past have been more associated with the dehydrating effects of alcohol rather than drinking too much Port. Plus the fact that the usual sufferers tended to be wealthy males who consumed large amounts of meats at every meal.

What else can we do to ease the symptoms of arthritis?

All three of the arthritis strains will benefit from some physical support such as Acupuncture – I had that for a time and it certainly was beneficial in the healing process. Yoga, which involves gentle stretching, is excellent provided you have a good teacher and also the same with Tai Chi. Exercise is essential both for weight management and to build a strong muscle structure to compensate for the joint weakness. Also endorphins are released during exercise which acts as a natural painkiller.

I hope you have found the post helpful and please feel free to share.  Next time Asthma.. a condition that not only impacts the general health of the sufferer but places a huge commitment on all the family.

Last week’s post on rheumatoid arthritis.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/smorgasbord-health-a-z-of-common-conditionsarthritis-rheumatoid/