Talking to followers of this blog, I have heard that lots of you are struggling with Arthritis, so here we will look at clinically proven, natural methods for improving your arthritis symptoms and pain.
There are 2 types of arthritis - osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Repeated use, injuries and contributing lifestyle factors can lead to chronic inflammation that degenerates and changes joints within the body, commonly known as osteoarthritis (OA).
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic condition that triggers arthritic symptoms throughout the body via an autoimmune response, when a faulty system mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissues.
Arthritis can be very painful and debilitating for the sufferer, affecting both mental and physical health, as well as day to day activities and relationships. To improve your wellbeing, reduce pain, slow degeneration and manage your condition, it is important to focus on an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Time to read: 6 minutes
- Actionable natural methods to provide pain relief and reduce the symptoms of arthritis
- Allergies, diet, supplements, weight management, exercise.
- Fully scientifically supported & referenced
Part 1: Arthritis can be very painful and debilitating for the sufferer. To improve your wellbeing, reduce pain, slow degeneration and manage your condition, it is important to focus on an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Allergies, Diet, Supplements
Addressing and improving your diet, reducing allergic reactions and supplementing important anti-inflammatory nutrients, can offer one of the most effective treatments for improving arthritis and its pain.
One of the most common causes of Inflammation in the body is that you are suffering from an allergy. When suffering from any inflammation based medical condition, seeking effective allergy testing can be an important step to identifying and addressing a changeable factor that could be contributing to your inflammation. Studies show that there are significant associations between allergic diseases such as asthma and allergic rhinitis and arthritis, particularly RA, supporting a theory that they share a similar underlying pathway of related inflammatory responses (1).
Food allergies are also found to be linked to the development of arthritis (2). The most common food allergies are wheat, gluten, lactose, eggs, soy and nut products. Alternatively to testing, it can be useful to conduct a food elimination experiment on yourself, eliminating these food products in a series of 3 week intervals and recording any noticeable improvements before removing any negative effecting foods accordingly.
Increasing your omega-3 intake is an important dietary step as the omegas reduce pain and inflammation by counteracting with the inflammatory chemicals in the body. There is a body of research showing it's benefits in reducing inflammation in arthritis sufferers as well as joint stiffness. It has also been found that increasing your intake of omega-3 oils is so effective, arthritis sufferers could reduce their painkiller drug use (3). The Institute of Optimum Nutrition recommends 1000mg of the omega nutrient EPA a day plus eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines 3 times a week and omega-3 rich seeds most days
Other food extracts are thought to be particularly useful in reducing inflammation. Olive extract is found to be a natural painkiller, as are polyphenols found in olives, red grapes, red onions and green tea. Turmeric, the bright yellow spice found traditionally in Indian cuisine, contains the active compound curcumin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory, with studies showing it can work as effectively as anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects. It has also been shown to prevent RA flares and prevent RA degeneration (4).The Institute of Optimum Nutrition recommends 1 teaspoon a day to be effective.
Vitamin D is the final important nutritional component in managing arthritis. The richest dietary source is oily fish, with 10-15mg recommended as a supplement. To gain vitamin D naturally, it is suggested you need 35% skin surface area to be directly in the suns rays for approximately 13 minutes of UK midday sun (5). People with darker skin (6) or exposing during the morning or afternoon sun (7), may need longer (8). This is best without sun protection cream as it has been found it can block up to 98% of vitamin D production (9).
It is recommended that sufferers reduce their meat and milk intake as these are found to increase inflammatory mediators within the body. Overall, a diet rich in coloured fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, olives, turmeric, red onions, green tea and oily fish, is highly endorsed as a good foundation.
We recommend that it is best practise to work with a qualified nutritionist or dietician on dietary changes.
Weight management is important to arthritis sufferers as any excess will contribute to the strain and pressure on your sore joints. Reducing the stress on your joints has been shown to improve mobility, decrease pain and prevent future degeneration. A 2018 study found that participants who lost more than 20% of their body weight had significantly less inflammation than people who only lost 5%. The 20% group also reported lower pain, increased joint function and higher levels of activity capability (10).
Exercise is an important part of arthritis management and it can help you to manage your weight, keep your joints flexible and strengthen your muscles, that in turn, will offer more support to your suffering joints. The debilitating nature of arthritis though, often puts many sufferers off from exercising, with 57% of participants in a recent study saying they now exercise less (11). This in turn though, can lead to a vicious cycle of inactivity, increased weakening and pain.
Low impact exercises that maintain fluid movement are recommended. These are walking, cycling, yoga, tai chi, swimming and Zumba. It is worth noting that high impact exercises such as running and tennis can make arthritis worse.
Tai chi and yoga in particular have both been found to improve motion, joint function, balance, confidence in activity, pain perception and feelings of wellbeing in practisers, and there are special arthritis suitable workouts available (12, 13, 14). Tai chi and yoga have also been found to have immune boosting effects, that can be particularly beneficial for those with immune sensitive RA (15, 16).
Zumba is ideal for aerobically exercising with joint problems. Zumba offers higher intensity training that is good for cardiovascular health, improves stamina and core strength, all without jarring your joints. Exercises are found to improve flexibility in limbs that are affected by arthritis and improve the walking abilities of those with more severe functional disabilities. Studies have also found that by following a 12 week Zumba program, participants reported a decrease in chronic pain severity and interference, and associated feelings of fatigue, depression and anxiety (17).
With exercise, the body produces natural feel good, pain reliving (18) and anti-inflammatory endorphins (19), increasing the powerful support offered by exercise.
Please stay tuned for the next instalment in the arthritis relief blog in the next weeks. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave comments below or get in touch.Part 2: Natural Arthritis Pain Relief, Management & Treatment Expand For References Association of Rheumatoid Arthritis With Allergic Diseases: A Nationwide Population-Based Cohort Study, Lai, Tsai, Koo, Lu, 2015. The Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis is Associated with Milk or Egg Allergy, Li, Yan, Chen, Ji, Huang, Yang, Lui, Yang, 2016. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Meta-analysis, Lee, Bae, Song, 2012. Turmeric Extracts Containing Curcuminoids Prevent Experimental Rheumatoid Arthritis, Funk, Oyarzo, Frye, Chen, Lantz, Jolad, Solyom, Timmermann, 2008. Recommended summer sunlight exposure levels can produce sufficient levels at UK latitudes, 2010, Rhodes, Webb, Fraser, Kift, Durkin, Allan, O'Brien, Vail, Berry. Ultraviolet Radiations: Skin Defense-Damage Mechanism, 2017, Mohania, Chandel, Kumar, Verma, Digvijay, Tripathi, Choudhury, Mitten, Shah. Sunlight & Vitamin D, 2013, Wacker, Holick Vitamin D: Biology, Actions, and Clinical Implications, 2013, Feldman, Krishnan, Swami. Vitamin D deficiency, 2007, Holick Intentional Weight Loss for Overweight and Obese Knee Osteoarthritis Patients: Is More Better? Messier, Resnik, Beavers, Mihalko, Miller, Nicklas, DeVita, Hunter, Lyles, Eckstein, Guermazi, Loese, 2018. Arthritis Survey 2020: living life to the full, Future You Cambridge, 2020. Iyengar Yoga for Treating Symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the Knees: A Pilot Study, Kolasinski, Garfinkel, Tsai, Matz, Van Dyke, and Ralph Schumacher, 2005. The benefits of yoga for rheumatoid arthritis: results of a preliminary, structured 8-week program, Badsha, Chhabra, Leibman, Mofti, Kong, 2009. Exploring Tai Chi in rheumatoid arthritis: a quantitative and qualitative study, Uhlig, Fongen, Steen, Christie, Odegard, 2010. Effects of a Behavioral Intervention, Tai Chi Chih, on Varicella-Zoster Virus Specific Immunity and Health Functioning in Older Adults, Irwin, Pike, Cole, and Oxman, 2003. Effect of integrated yoga practices on immune responses in examination stress – A preliminary study, Gopal, Mondal, Gandhi, Arora, Bjattacharjee, 2011. Dance-based Exercise Therapy for People with Arthritis: An Update and Commentary, Marks, 2016. Understanding Endorphins and Their Importance in Pain Management, 2010, Sprouse-Blum, Smith, Sugai, Don Parsa Beta-Endorphins: Anti-inflammatory activity in holistic treatment of diseases, Shrihari, 2018.