Arthritis is characterised by severe pain and inflammation in the joints. It commonly appears in the knee, hip, elbow, neck, fingers, toes and shoulders.
Symptoms of arthritis are pain, swelling, stiffness and deformity of the joints. This can appear suddenly or be a gradual worsening. Sometimes the pain may be very sharp and burning or it may be dull and aching.
There are two forms of arthritis:-
Rheumatoid Arthritis (R.A.) – This usually starts in the small joints such as fingers and toes and then moves into the larger joints. This is a type of arthritis which affects the lubricating mechanism and cushioning of joints. Bone surfaces are destroyed and the bones fuse together creating stiffness, swelling, fatigue and crippling pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterised by hot, swollen and painful joints. It can appear suddenly especially following some other acute illness, or after a period of prolonged stress.
Osteoarthritis – This affects the weight bearing joints like knees, hips and ankles, and tends to be more common in older people. It is due to the destruction of cartilage which cushions the joints and many people think of it as a normal part of the ageing process. Osteoarthritis often builds up after a major transition in life, such as the menopause in women. The smooth surface of the cartilage becomes rough and this results in friction, the joint becomes deformed, painful and stiff and the muscles holding the joint together become weak. There is not usually the same degree of heat
The Naturopathic View of Arthritis and Joint Pain
In most cases there is a lack of hydration which will hinder the body’s ability to cleanse the body tissues. The colon will be affected, with either constipation or infrequent evacuation being common. This will lead to inadequate internal cleansing and an accumulation of toxins, especially in areas such as the joints. The body tissues will become increasingly acidic. At a cellular level there will be mineral imbalances, with excess sodium and deficiency of essential minerals such as Magnesium, Zinc, and Chromium. As a result blood sugar levels will also be affected which has an effect on Calcium metabolism.
Under these acidic conditions and with disturbed calcium metabolism the body is liable to ‘dump’ calcium, often into the joints, or sometimes into the muscles causing hardening and stiffness. This tissue hardening will affect the liver and in time the kidneys thus decreasing the body’s ability to eliminate. Arthritis is seen to be caused by the depositing of the body’s toxic wastes into the joints.
There is a general impression of stagnation both physically and metaphorically and the arthritis sufferer often feels stuck to some degree, either physically or emotionally.
To improve the situation we need to correct the mineral balance, reduce acidity, lubricate the joints and improve the body’s ability to eliminate. Dietary changes will help to improve matters. The degree to which you need to implement these measures will depend upon the severity of your condition.
Animal proteins are acid forming and you need to avoid or minimise these. Therefore exclude Red meat; eat only chicken, turkey or fish. Chicken may be eaten twice weekly and fish two to three times. Eggs may be used – three or four weekly. Dairy foods must be completely eliminated.
At least two days a week should be completely without animal produce.
Plant proteins such as beans, peas, lentils etc. can be used freely.
You need to be careful with grains, so avoid any gluten containing grains such as wheat, rye, and possibly oats, and any products which contain them.
Use plenty of Rice – (short grain brown) and Millet. When these grains are well cooked and well chewed they will have a neutral acidity and act rather like blotting paper to absorb toxins and carry them out of the body.
Do not consume sugar or sugar containing foods (it will deplete the body’s minerals and cause dehydration).
Fruit – can be aggressive in its cleansing action, therefore go carefully. If your condition is severe avoid citrus fruit altogether.
Vegetables – Use plenty of vegetables, especially green ones. They may be cooked or raw but should be seasonal. Fresh vegetables should comprise about 60% of your two main meals.
Fats and Oils:
No hydrogenated or processed fats. Processed fats which have been ‘hydrogenated’ cause the formation of free radicals which can be damaging to joints. Therefore any foods containing hydrogenated fats should be avoided. However, many convenience foods contain hydrogenated fats, so make sure you read the labels and always try to eat fresh, organic produce.
Use cold pressed (clean) oils as dressings. Do not cook with olive oil, use butter ghee or coconut instead.
All stimulant drinks must be excluded, i.e. tea, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, carbonated drinks. Replace these with 2 litres of still filtered water, preferably at body temperature. Introduce these changes slowly over a period of about a week. Herbal teas may also be drunk in addition.
No salt or sodium containing foods (e.g. stock cubes, gravy powder, baking powder, ready made food etc.)
Some people, particularly R.A. sufferers find relief when they eliminate certain foods from their diet. The main culprits are foods from the belladonna family including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and aubergines. These foods contain substances which have been shown to affect joints in some individuals.