Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the lining of the joints, resulting in inflammation and pain. It can often get progressively worse over a number of years and can sometimes cause bony spurs to develop on the joints. It is frequently associated with old age, but it can also occur earlier in life when it often follows a sporting injury or joint damage from an accident. Osteoarthritis may lead to stiffness, restricted movement, or in severe cases a complete ‘locking’ of the affected joint. Weight bearing joints such as your hips, feet and spine are those that are most commonly affected; however, Osteoarthritis can also affect your fingers, the base of your thumbs, elbows and shoulders. Because weight bearing joints are usually hit worst, it stands to reason that reducing your body weight if you are overweight will reduce your risk of developing Osteoarthritis or slow its progression if you already have it, and this has been demonstrated in scientific studies (2),(3). Keeping the affected joints moving is also important to reduce pain and improve joint function so start a gentle programme of walking and strengthening exercises. In terms of diet, it may be worth avoiding or reducing your consumption of tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers (except black pepper), and aubergine, which contain solanine, a substance that may antagonize symptoms. A famous arthritis diet developed in the 1950s by Dr. Max Warmbrand involves completely cutting out meat, poultry, dairy, chemicals, sugar, eggs, and processed foods. This is hard for most people to achieve, and is not proven to work, but most nutritionists agree that it is best to reduce your intake of dairy products, processed foods and refined sugar.
Glucosamine & Chondroitin
Glucosamine Sulphate is a nutrient that is involved in the maintenance and repair of joint cartilage. It is an amino sugar that is present in the bones of animals, in bone marrow, in seashells and in fungi. Glucosamine is one of the most widely used supplements for Osteoarthritis, and is also one of the most extensively researched. Although there have been some less positive studies, particularly with relation to lower back pain, most scientific trials have found it to be effective at reducing joint pain and other symptoms when used in doses of 1,500mg per day (4), (5). Continued use is required for continued benefit so it is not a cure for Osteoarthritis, but Glucosamine Sulphate is free from side effects so it is well worth trying and can be safely used long term. It is normally sourced from shellfish, so don’t use it if you have an allergy. Chondroitin Sulphate is also an important component of cartilage and as a result it is often combined with Glucosamine in supplements. Try Viridian Glucosamine Chondroitin, which also contains Vitamin C for increased benefit.
Most of us have heard of the use of cod liver oil to ease the pain of arthritis. Contrary to popular belief, it does not ‘oil’ your joints at all, but it does help to reduce inflammation by providing two important Essential Fats – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are Omega 3 fatty acids that are used by the body to make various anti-inflammatory compounds. Most practitioners now recommend fish body oils as a more concentrated and cleaner source of these same fats. Unfortunately, few studies have been done on the use of fish oil supplementation for the treatment of Osteoarthritis, but in a 24-week controlled but preliminary trial sufferers taking EPA had “strikingly lower” pain scores than people who took placebo (6). The fact that such a short period of time produced positive results, and the fact that there are many other health benefits to taking fish oils too, means that they are well worth trying. Sustainability is now a major issue with the sourcing of fish for fish oil products, so if this bothers you, Wiley’s Finest Alaskan Fish Oil is a great choice. The company is committed to minimizing ‘bycatch’ and is stringent in other sustainability targets. If you are vegetarian or vegan, then you can try other Omega 3 oil supplements such as Linseed (Flaxseed), which provide a fat that is converted into EPA and DHA in your body, or even better, there are now many EPA and DHA supplements that use algae instead of fish oil, such as the excellent Wiley’s Finest CatchFree Omega.
Methylsulphonylmethane (MSM) is an organic sulphur compound that is found in plants. A precursor of MSM is formed by ocean plankton which is released into the atmosphere where it interacts with ozone and sunlight before returning to earth as MSM in rainfall. Plants absorb it and incorporate it into their structure, and it is found in many foods including onions, garlic, cruciferous vegetables and in protein-containing foods including nuts, seeds, milk and eggs, but no measurement of the MSM content of all foods has been done and there is no recognised daily requirement. Some scientists have suggested that it is crucial to life, and that human deficiencies can impact on a number of health problems, but little is really known about its real significance. Some scientific studies, however, have shown that it can reduce Osteoarthritis pain (7). Try Terra Nova Joint Support Complex which contains MSM as part of a comprehensive formula alongside Glucosamine Sulphate and various anti-inflammatory herbs and trace minerals.
There are many topical gels, balms and ointments that may help to ease the discomfort of osteoarthritis in the knees or hands. One of the most popular of these is A. Vogel Atrogel. Based on a traditional herbal remedy to relieve achy muscles and joints, Atrogel contains fresh Arnica flowers and really helps to relieve stiff, sore joints as well as inflammation caused from strains, sprains and pains. Simply apply to the affected joints 2-4 times per day.