Arthritis Self Help

Arthritis refers to more than a hundred diseases that cause inflammation of the joints. The old-fashioned term for arthritis is rheumatism, and today physicians who specialize in arthritis are called rheumatologists. Arthritis affects forty million Americans and accounts for forty-six million medical visits per year.

It affects about 15 percent of our population and 3 percent of those severely, but it is severe in 11 percent of people age sixty-five and older. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Other common types include psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, Lyme disease, and Sjögren’s syndrome.

Each of these diseases has its own characteristics, but they all share the symptoms of pain and inflammation in joints. There are many causes for arthritis: genetics, infections, physical injury, nutritional deficiencies, allergies, metabolic and immune disorders, stress, and environmental pollutants and toxins.

Several types of arthritis have well-documented associations with faulty digestive function, and osteoarthritis responds well to dietary changes. Rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, and Reiter’s syndrome may be caused by a combination of genetics, dysbiosis, food or environmental sensitivities, and leaky gut syndrome.

The current drugs of choice for arthritis pain are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). However, NSAIDs block the production of prostaglandins, which stimulate repair of the digestive lining. This causes increased leaky gut syndrome.

Use of NSAIDs in children with rheumatoid arthritis showed that 75 percent had gastrointestinal problems caused by the drugs. And the more NSAIDs people take, the leakier the gut wall becomes, the more pain and inflammation follows, which sets up a continuously escalating problem.

To make matters worse, many NSAIDs also have a negative effect on the ability of cartilage to repair itself. They block our body’s ability to regenerate cartilage tissue by lowering the amounts of healing prostaglandins, glycosaminoglycans, and hyaluronan, and by raising leukotriene levels.

Other drugs commonly used to ameliorate the symptoms of arthritis also have well-known adverse effects. Natural therapies for arthritis reduce the need for such medications and their accompanying side effects. These natural therapies can be astonishingly effective.

The dietary connection between rheumatoid arthritis and food sensitivities was first noted by Michael Zeller in 1949 in Annals of Allergy. He found a direct cause and effect by adding and eliminating foods from the diet. He joined forces with Drs. Herbert Rinkel and Theron Randolph to publish a book called Food Allergy in 1951.

Theron Randolph, M.D., is the father of a field of medicine called clinical ecology, which studies how our environment affects health. He found that people with rheumatoid arthritis who were not reacting to foods had at least one sensitivity to an environmental chemical.

Randolph sent questionnaires to more than two hundred of his patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis to assess how well treatments were working. Their responses showed that when they avoided food and environmental allergens, there was a significant reduction in arthritic symptoms.

Randolph also felt that other types of arthritis, including Reiter’s syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis, have an ecological basis. Since then, other studies have been done on the relationship between food sensitivities and arthritis.

In a study of forty-three people with arthritis of the hands, a water fast of three days brought improvement in tenderness, swelling, strength of grip, pain, joint circumference, function, and SED rate (a simple blood test that determines a breakdown of tissue somewhere in the body).

When some of these people were tested with single foods, symptoms reoccurred in twenty-two out of twenty-seven people. In other studies, the foods most likely to provoke symptoms after an elimination diet were, in order of most to least: corn, wheat, bacon or pork, oranges, milk, oats, rye, eggs, beef, coffee, malt, cheese, grapefruit, tomato, peanuts, sugar, butter, lamb, lemon, and soy.

Cereals were the most common food, with wheat and corn causing problems in more than 50 percent of the people. In another study, it was found that forty-four out of ninetythree people with rheumatoid arthritis had elevated levels of IgG to gliadin. Among these forty-four people, 86 percent had positive RA factors.

In yet another study, fifteen out of twenty-four people had raised levels of IgA, rheumatoid factor, and wheat protein IgG with a biopsy of the jejunum. Six of the wheat-positive people and one of the wheat-negative people had damage to the brush borders of their intestines.

The researchers felt that the intestines play an important role in the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Increased intestinal permeability allows more food particles to cross the intestinal mucosa, which triggers a greater sensitivity response.

The concept of food sensitivity and increased intestinal permeability is gaining acceptance as more physicians see the clinical changes in their patients when they use this approach. Testing for food and environmental sensitivities, parasites, toxic metals, candidiasis, and intestinal permeability and a comprehensive digestive stool analysis often provide an understanding of an underlying cause of the disease.

Candidiasis frequently plays a role in arthritis and is a possible aggravator in rheumatoid arthritis. Yeast in the gastrointestinal system may be the result of antibiotics, oral contraceptives, steroid medications, increased use of alcohol or sugar, or a stressed immune system.

Treatment of candida infections in the digestive system has improved rheumatoid symptoms in many cases. To find out if it complicates your symptoms, do the self-test in this book as well as a blood or stool test. Infection can trigger arthritis and joint inflammation.

Why they move to the joints or cause joint pain is unknown at this time. But the phenomenon is well documented. If candida, Lyme disease, chlamydia, klebsiella, salmonella, or another infection is present, your physician can recommend a variety of therapeutics, including both natural and pharmaceutical remedies.

If you have increased intestinal permeability, nutrients such as glutamine, quercetin, gamma oryzanol, and beneficial flora can help heal the leaky cells. An elimination diet or fasting can significantly reduce joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness and increase mobility.

By careful addition of foods over the course of three months, you can see which foods cause symptoms to recur. Blood testing can significantly aid in this process because you have a much clearer idea of which foods you are sensitive to. No blood test is 100 percent accurate, so you still need to go through the dietary regimen.

After a period of four to six months of avoiding a particular food, you will be able to tolerate most of the troublesome foods. Repeat blood testing at that time is advised. After that, many people will be pain-free, while others may still have some arthritic symptoms.

There is documentation in the literature about arthritis and deficiencies of nearly every known nutrient. When the needed nutrients are supplied, the body can begin to balance itself. Though many additional nutritional and herbal products help arthritis sufferers, no one thing works for everyone, so persist until you find the therapies that work best for you.

Give each one at least a three-month trial before giving up on it. I remember Abraham Hoffer, M.D., telling about a patient at a conference many years ago. He had recommended the man take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily for his arthritis. The man took the vitamin C faithfully each day without any improvement.

After a whole year, he suddenly became pain-free. People with arthritis are often too acidic. To buffer this acidity, the body pulls alkaline minerals out of the bones. These minerals are sometimes deposited in joints throughout the body. Use of litmus paper to test the first morning urine can determine whether an acid-alkaline imbalance is contributing to arthritis.

Exercise and stretching are useful for all types of arthritic conditions. Yoga has been found to help with range of motion, pain, stiffness, and joint tenderness. Walking, swimming, physical therapy, and massage therapy may all play a role in reduction of symptoms. Movement is not optional. Even small amounts can give great relief.