Natural ways to treat arthritis.

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This week our contributing writer Doctor Gifford-Jones talks about avoiding prescription medication with natural alternatives.

“Why are you taking drugs when you haven’t tried natural ways to ease the pain of arthritis?” Thus I remind patients they’re not taking M and M candy, but powerful drugs that can cause major complications. Moreover, they forget that many natural drugs can be used to not only treat, but also prevent wear-and-tear arthritis (osteoarthritis) that comes with age.

Vitamin C is the most overlooked natural remedy. Osteoarthritis is chiefly an impairment of cartilage and when it’s diminished with age bones grind against one another causing pain. The secret is to keep cartilage healthy. A prime way, is adequate amounts of vitamin C, which is needed to manufacture collagen, an important ingredient of cartilage.

Researchers at Boston University Medical Center studied the vitamin C intake of 640 people. They discovered that those with a higher intake of vitamin C were protected against progression of osteoarthritis of the knee. It also slowed development of knee pain.

How much C is needed? Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel prize winner reported that, unlike animals, humans do not manufacture vitamin C. Most people are therefore deficient in this vitamin. . Pauling took 20,000 milligrams (mg) daily. The recommended daily dose is 75 mg. But if you decide to take more of this vitamin discuss this matter with your physician. Large amounts can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

If you don’t use your joints you lose them. Exercise is the pumping mechanism that pushes nutrients into joints providing the means to nourish cartilage. I’m convinced that under-use, not over-use, along with inadequate amounts of vitamin C, is the reason why so many people need hip and knee replacements.

Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are building blocks of cartilage and both occur naturally in the human body. These supplements have been used for years in Europe to prevent and treat arthritis. Glucosamine gives cartilage its structure. Chondroitin works with glucosamine to attract and hold water, providing cartilage with its cushioning effect. So make certain you consume either a few glasses of water or other liquids daily to keep cartilage well hydrated.

Several reports show that patients taking 1,500 mg of glucosamine and 1,200 mg of chondroitin daily with meals had less pain and increased mobility compared to those treated with a placebo. A Belgium study also showed that cartilage loss either stopped or slowed down when patients took these supplements. And in another study the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin continued, after they were stopped, proving that they provide more than temporary relief.

Since glucosamine is made from shellfish shells people with shellfish allergy should avoid it. Those with diabetes should watch their blood sugar levels as animal studies show these supplements may worsen insulin resistance. And chondroitin can cause bleeding in people who take blood thinners. Some authorities suggest taking 12 grams of shark cartilage daily in divided doses, decreasing it to 3 grams daily as improvement occurs.

Today we also hear more about the importance of a healthy diet. It’s powerful therapy for any condition and arthritis is no exception. Studies show that a mostly vegetarian diet has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect in improving joint pain.Patients with arthritis should concentrate on complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits. These foods also contain antioxidant-rich vitamins, minerals and compounds called phytochemicals that provide many benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids are high in EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and are present in fish oils. They help to ease arthritis pain by decreasing the production of prostaglandins that cause pain and inflammation. Flaxseed oil is a good source of essential fatty acids. Or you can take two 360 mg capsules of EPA twice a day with meals.

A report from the Mayo Clinic claims that SAM-e, a nutritional supplement, has been shown to reduce pain. And that Ayurvedic a bend of ginger, tumeric, krankincense and ashwaganandia may provide sustained pain relief.

To my knowledge this natural approach to treating arthritis hasn’t killed anyone. But in Canada every year 2,000 people die from gastro-intestinal bleeding due to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It seems reasonable to try the non-lethal approach first.