Arthritis – Natural approaches to helping arthritis

6th September 2016 | Written by Louise Blanchfield

Being a physiotherapist means that I see people with arthritis all the time and I regularly get asked about whether any supplements actually work because people don’t want to have to keep taking pain medication that may cause stomach ulcers like NSAIDs. Of course there is plenty that you can do to help arthritis, both from a dietary and exercise perspective. So, let’s look at both.

If you have osteoarthritis you’ve got actual joint wear and tear so we need to be looking at how we supply all of the nutrients that we need to help the body repair it itself, how to take the pressure off the joint and how we reduce the inflammation caused by the wear and tear.

Firstly, whatever joint it is you can exercise within pain limits to take the pressure off the joints. Strong muscles mean more support and less irritation to the joints. We use what’s called isometric exercises – they work the muscles but don’t irritate the joint itself and are done within pain limits. The problem with arthritis is that you get into a vicious cycle, wear and tear causes pain, pain inhibits the muscles which means more pressure through the joint, so pain gets worse, so the muscles switch off even more. Basically your joint gets weaker and weaker putting more pressure through it thus increasing the wear resulting in more pain. So, these exercises will help to break the cycle. Now, unfortunately I can’t list them all here because the specific exercises depend on the joint involved and how severe the problem is, so if you’re interested call me to arrange an appointment and I can give you the specific exercises that you need. Video conferencing is fine if you’re not near me as I can easily show you.

Secondly, eat an anti-inflammatory diet:

  • Have 2 portions of fruit a day – try berries, pears, apples, kiwi
  • Have 8 portions of vegetables – try sweet potatoes, squash, asparagus, peppers, spinach – think colours of the rainbow to get a good mix of nutrients
  • Avoid pork or pork related products – salami, chorizo, prosciutto – they are inflammatory
  • Cut out high fat – crisps, chocolate and desserts
  • Avoid fried, BBQ food
  • Include turmeric, ginger, garlic in cooking – they are naturally anti-inflammatory
  • Decrease processed foods
  • Cut out vegetable oils – use olive oil, flaxseed oil on salads, cook with coconut oil
  • Eat 4 brazil nuts daily – they help to regulate inflammation
  • Have hot lemon water in morning – it’s very alkalising so helps put out the inflammatory fire
  • Eat magnesium rich foods – nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables to help relax muscles
  • Eat fermented foods – sauerkraut, kefir to boost your good bacteria
  • Increase oily fish in diet – salmon, mackerel, sardine and herring – they contain omega 3s that are very anti-inflammatory
  • Look into possible food intolerances such as dairy or gluten- they can irritate the gut and cause inflammation – the best thing would be to speak to a professional, don’t just remove food groups without some help or advice as you need to ensure you replace any lost nutrients from removing the group.

And finally, you can try some supplements. The most common one I am asked about is Glucosamine Sulphate. It has been clinically proven to be as effective as NSAIDs, however it can take up to 6 weeks to become effective AND has to be taken at the right dosage. Warning though – all supplements that you think about taking must be checked against any medication that you take to make sure that they do not interact. Some supplements can make medications ineffective, some can make your medication work twice as well, so please always consult with a professional.

Other great supplements are turmeric or ginger. They are a natural anti-inflammatories. Again care must be taken though as turmeric also boosts liver function and ginger is an anti-coagulant so if you’re on blood thinners you shouldn’t take it. Plus all supplements are not made equal, if it’s cheap to buy it’s probably a poorer quality and hence more difficult for the body to absorb. If you are interested at all in supplements please contact the Food Physio, we are more than happy to help you with this and exercise advice to help you manage arthritis. Book your session now!

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