How to Manage Arthritis
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is an umbrella term used to describe a condition that impacts the joints in the body causing pain and stiffness. The pain and stiffness is due to inflammation in the body that accumulates around the joints.
There are hundreds of types ranging from Gout to Fibromyalgia. It is not an ‘old person’ issue but affects all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles. We will consider two of the most common types in this blog post, but the approach is general for all those in suffering.
General signs of arthritis are where joint pain and stiffness lasts longer than a couple of days, with no reason for the pain (i.e. not sporting related) alongside:
Swelling in the joint
Redness and warmth of skin
Tiredness, weight loss or feeling unwell
Weakness and muscle wasting
It is recommended to seek medical consultation who will refer for appropriate scans of the painful joint(s).
In this blog, we will keep the advice general:
Keep a healthy balanced diet
Maintain a healthy weight
Pain management tools (massage, acupuncture and meditations like this one)
What is Inflammatory Arthritis?
This is an immune system response that affects the full body. The immune system begins to attack the body rather than germs, but results in pain in the affected joints. These are also known as autoimmune diseases that attack the body’s tissues which inflame and cause pain. Types of arthritis due to this autoimmune disease are rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis to name a few.
Growing functional medicine arguments point towards dietary causes and stress in modern life as the major contributor to the increase of these diseases amongst younger populations.
What is Non-inflammatory Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is not an inflammatory arthritis as it is due to the wearing away of the cartilage in the joint then results in inflammation and boney spurs (osteophytes) to grow that cause pain.
This type of arthritis is more likely to arise in those over 40 years old due to wear and tear on the affected joint, or may arise in those in very repetitive and severe training from a young age like dancers and gymnasts.
Nutritional Support for Arthritis
Peter Bales, ‘Osteoarthritis Preventing and Healing with Drugs’ recommends the following adaptations to diet that reduce the inflammation in the body, and joint(s) in pain:
Limited intake of refined sugars, soft drinks, candy bars and sweets. Remove non-perishable foods like cake mixes, potato chips/crisps. Eliminate trans fats listed on packaging and reduce saturated fats like red meat.
Increase flaxseed and healthy nuts like almonds. Olive oil and omega-3 (fish oils). Add vitamins and minerals to the diet through whole foods. This helps detoxify the body removing substances takes the energy from the body so it cannot absorb the good stuff.
Maintain a low fasting blood sugar level, low body fat and low body mass index. What does this mean? Lose weight and reduce or eliminate the foods listed in (1).
Take B complex vitamins to help detoxify the body and decrease oxidative stress on the cartilage cells.
Adapt to a traditional Mediterranean diet. This is: coldwater fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines. Nuts of walnuts and almonds. Olive oil. Fruits. Vegetables. Red wine. White meat or vegetable proteins for vegans like olives, beans, soy and nuts. Meat should be at most once per week or special occasions only.
Take glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and turmeric with black pepper in the diet.
The natural spice from curcuma is most known for its use in Chinese and Indian dishes. It is also known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. This means that it is beneficial in preventing and reducing inflammation in osteoarthritis. Issues around turmeric are absorption alone, it is better when combined with black pepper or with omega oils.
We like this Turmeric Tea recipe by Wellness Mama for a daily dose of turmeric with pepper for it’s maximum benefits. It’s simple to make by blending it all and then heating in a pan:
2 cups x nut milk
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp cinnamon powder
Pinch black pepper
¼ tsp ginger powder
1 tsp raw honey or maple syrup
This substance is made in the body and primarily found in the joints with the function to help build cartilage. Often recommended as part of an arthritis management strategy has shown that is has helped reduce pain and improve joint function.
Combined with turmeric could be beneficial long-term to reducing the inflammation in the joint, and therefore, potentially altering the trajectory of the disease in the long-term.
Take as a supplement as advised by your doctor or nutritionist.
Take ibuprofen for the inflammation when it’s painful?
It’s beneficial impact appears to be for about two weeks after the initial commencement and then it plateaus. There is conflicting research on the benefits to take this, but from a nutritional standpoint the side effects of ibuprofen on the organs proper function may suggestion that it is best to limit the use of ibuprofen long-term.
Definitely best not to take ibuprofen alongside turmeric as the combination increases the risk of anticoagulation (clotting blood so bleeds are more common) and liver function. When taking ibuprofen alongside glucosamine there is an improved reduction of pain. However, ibuprofen should not be used if renal issues, liver or asthma.
Nutrition content provided by Dina Hassan (trainee nutritionist)
Movement Support for Arthritis
Overall guidelines agreed are:
Aerobic exercises 3 - 4 days per week.
Strength training 2 - 3 days per week.
Reduce high impact and contact sports if over 40 years old.
(1) Keep Moving - Little and often
It is vital to keep moving the joints in all their ranges of motion to ensure ligaments and muscles stay strong and healthy. The movement brings fresh blood to the joint that also rebuilds news tissues, which combined with the nutritional changes can help manage or reduce inflammation. However, impact and jarring into the joints from high impact movements can aggravate the pain.
Remaining still for too long can make the pain worse, so frequent and regular moves are important. This is a lifestyle adjustment of little and often for movement.
(2) Strengthen the body
It is important to strengthen the muscles around affected joints, especially in osteoarthritis. Where the muscles can help reduce the strain within the joint by ‘pulling’ out the alignment. There may be some angles where the muscles cannot achieve this and supports may be required, e.g. osteoarthritis in the hip from running with a heel stride may require higher heels in shoes when walking to reduce the impact into the worn aspect of the hip joint that is inflamed.
Water-based activities like swimming and water aerobics are great because the buoyancy reduces stress on the joints, but can obtain good cardiovascular training.
Slow and stretching movements through the range of the joint means that mind-body styles like yoga, tai chi and Pilates are frequently recommended.
(3) Mind-body practices
In a 2018 study a group of Pilates participants showed less pain, improved musculoskeletal benefits of overall physical fitness alongside mental wellbeing from the classes. The mind-body connection required and awareness of movement patterns that can help those with pain issues manage their pain more efficiently and independently.
Further, confidence in reading the body’s signals through sensation awareness can lead to management prior to the onset of an inflammatory flare and onset of debilitating pain bursts. The study noted that motivation to keep taking care of wellbeing was important in this change where the participant was curious about self-development through the condition and sought autonomy in managing it.
Lastly, but not least importantly - get sufficient sleep as tiredness is known to increase inflammation in the body, regardless of its cause.
We have not covered the metaphysical background of arthritis here because each one carries a slightly different energy and the area of the body affected is also an indicator in the emotions behind the disease.
However, common to all forms of arthritis is inflammation. This is an energy of fire which is connected to emotions like anger. There may be deep held resentments causing this fire, or endless self-criticism that creates the burning inner rage.
The restriction in movement indicates an inability to move freely in life through all ranges of emotion and experience. There may be a sense of feeling restricted, or held back from being as free as one might choose.
Try to remove limiting language.
Bring encouragement for your good deeds.
Stop doing things for others and then resenting it, act only from feeling so full and flowing that it is impossible to not give - or don’t give at all.
As with the distinction of inflammatory and non-inflammatory arthritis, ayurveda considers a different approach too.
Non-inflammatory arthritis is a vata imbalance of too much air energy that benefits from regular routine and calcium rich food - dhal, kale, turmeric, ginger and cumin. The energy needed is one of more ‘nurturing’.
Inflammatory arthritis is a kapha imbalance as a sticky toxin that the body tries to burn away. Lighter and drier foods ease the symptoms suggesting vegetable soups, nourishing grains, apples with cinnamon and cardamon for breakfast. Avoid anything in packaging.
If you want specific help for your pain, book a free consultation now.
You tell us your needs.
We agree your program of movement, mindfulness & nutrition.
We get you moving pain free.