Lessening Inflammation to Reduce Arthritis Pain and Disease
May 28, 2013 11:50PM
By Kristine Bahr
Joint problems and arthritis can affect everyone, from golfers and swimmers, to walkers and triathletes. Rather than mask the pain with drugs, it’s best to use a holistic approach to healing and determine the underlying cause of the affliction, whether it be injury, chronic overuse, diet or lifestyle.
Most people don’t believe that arthritis can be prevented because there is a common misperception that joint cartilage, the cushioning that covers the bones, simply wears away with age. In fact, joint cartilage wears away with inflammation, which is a normal part of the healing process. Problems occur when the inflammatory response does not shut off and becomes chronic. This can affect not only joints, but also blood vessel walls and the cells that line the gut, leading to atherosclerosis, lactose and gluten intolerance, and such illnesses as diabetes, cancer and stroke.
Preventing chronic inflammation can thus prevent joint problems. But even if one already has arthritis, reducing the amount of inflammation in the body will help to relieve symptoms and yield more freedom of movement, sometimes within days or weeks. Highly moveable joints such as wrists, fingers, shoulders, hips and knees are the most likely to be affected by osteoarthritis. These are called “synovial joints” because the bones meeting in this type of joint are bathed in synovial, a clear fluid whose job is to provide lubrication. Sometimes, though, the membrane that secretes the synovial becomes inflamed.
The first step in any program to combat arthritis and joint problems is to stop the inflammation. Doctors can prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, but there are healthier ways to combat inflammation, such as altering one’s diet. Beneficial foods include olive oil, cod, salmon, sardines, kale, ginger, bok choy, mushrooms, avocados, cranberries, apples, cinnamon and almonds. Avoiding sugar, processed foods and polyunsaturated oils that contain very little omega-3’s is also crucial, and some people should additionally omit gluten and dairy from their diet. Hormone-laden meat can also trigger an inflammatory response, as can pesticides and certain chemical ingredients in food.
Stress reduction is probably the biggest factor in any anti-inflammatory program because the chemical reaction that the body creates under stress lowers the immune response and allows inflammation to run unchecked. There are many supplements that can help as well, the most effective of which is curcumin, found in turmeric. It’s also prudent to take a good plant oil combination made from flax, primrose and sunflower oils.
Kristine Bahr, MS, is a nutritionist and the founder of Cutting-Edge Wellness in Brookline. To learn more and schedule a free 15-minute consultation, visit KBahr.co or call 617-360-1929.