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Natural ways to vanquish arthritis

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If you or a loved one suffers with arthritis, there are more treatments than prescription drugs to know about. I’ll share what you can do at home for arthritis as well as my stepwise approach using medications. There are also nutrient supplements known to be useful in treating arthritis that I’ll share with you here.

Address the causes of arthritis, not just the pain

Of course, it makes the most sense to first address treatable causes arthritis. And you should focus on sensible options. For example, using antimicrobials to treat infection does little to stop arthritis. However, eliminating unnatural environmental chemicals, tobacco smoke, inflammatory thoughts and emotions, and unhealthy foods can reverse the arthritic disease process.

I remember a patient who came to me with rheumatoid arthritis looking for something better than pain relievers and prednisone. His rheumatoid factor (RF) was more than 900 IU/ml (normal range is below 20); and he was suffering with debilitating hand pain, swelling and stiffness.

Top 10 arthritis mistakes [infographic]His worsening arthritis was ruining his ability to function at work, as well as his golf game. My medical team taught him raw foods nutrition and stress-reduction. After just two months of a new, healthier lifestyle, his arthritis symptoms were dramatically reduced, plus he dropped more than 30 pounds. Soon, his RF level was down around 90 and he was back on the golf course and off of strong pain relievers.

He also healed the stress in his marriage, which had been contributing to his arthritis.

What you can do before taking medications

Aside from using pain-relief medications, if you have arthritis you need to get extra sleep and exercise moderately. Physical therapists can treat you with or without heat therapy, diathermy or ultrasound to further reduce overall pain and improve joint function of arthritic joints. The most powerful therapy you can do at home is to go on a liquid cleanse for three to 10 days. This stops immune hypersensitivity and reverses the disease process and symptoms.

Next, remember the role bowel health plays in the inflammation process. To clean up bowel dysbiosis or “leaky gut,” you can use a blend of digestive enzymes and natural hydrochloric acid (Betaine HCL) with meals. Also, between meals you can take L-glutamine 500 mg to 1,000 mg twice daily and an effective probiotic supplement once daily.

Just as importantly, you should keep your food consumption from whole foods, mostly raw.

In countries like in China, Indonesia and Africa, where the people consume high quantities of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and very little amounts of processed food, the rates of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis are extremely rare.

Yet after migration to the U.S. and adoption of our typical standard American diet (SAD), the rates of degenerative autoimmune conditions in these people greatly increase. [1] Furthermore, a Wayne State University Medical School study also shows this effect. In the study, dairy-free, plant-based diets resulted in complete symptom reversal in most of the subjects. Then when animal food or refined vegetable oils were reintroduced into their diets, all the participants relapsed.

Finally, the effect of emotional health on arthritis cannot be overstated. Nerve pain is directly linked to your sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and the adrenal gland hormone, cortisol. Take an honest look at your relationships and outlook on life. Learn gratitude, spiritual connection and mastery of your thoughts because they create your emotions. If nothing more, get a massage, go to fun movies, make love, laugh often, enjoy a hobby and learn to feel good mentally and emotionally.

Finally, long-term medication use can play a role in treating symptoms while you work on eliminating causes. Remember though, that anti-inflammatory drugs slow healing even while they provide pain relief.

Drugs: Use with caution

If you must use medications, let me give you my stepwise approach to using medications for arthritis. Begin with over-the-counter pain relievers. Motrin is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). It is effective and inexpensive, at only $10 for a month-long supply.

Be aware that over time you may increase your risk for death by stomach bleeding: NSAIDs were the 15th leading cause of reported deaths in the U.S. in directly causing more than 16,000 deaths and 100,000 hospitalizations annually. [2] There are newer NSAID-like drugs for arthritis, called COX-II inhibitors. But they have serious long-term side effects and can be cost-prohibitive (Celebrex is $400 for a month supply [3]). You are safest with acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol®), which is harmless at usual doses, but can affect your liver at high sustained dosing over a period of weeks. [4]

The next step I might recommend for patients are prescription drugs. For example, if a small dose of Methotrexate (a chemotherapy drug at higher doses) or prednisone, relieves arthritis, then this can be used safely for a long time. The prednisone dose often used at first by doctors that is sure to wipe out pain is 20 mg or more daily. But at 1 mg to 3 mg twice daily you will not have the long-term adverse effects we are all afraid of.

Some patients may need to use the powerful immune suppressant drugs that eliminate pain quite well. These immune suppressants drugs such as Remicade® and Imuran both come with a black box warning because they potentially lead to fatal infections and cancer.

But before I would even consider those, I would first use tramadol (Ultram®). Tramadol communicates to your brain at what is called the mu receptor (not the opioid receptor) and tells your brain that you don’t feel pain in your joints. It is quite effective for pain control. Its common side effects are not dangerous (nausea, dizziness, etc.) and its rare but more serious side effects will cause noticeable symptoms so you’ll know to stop taking it. I used tramadol for a month while recovering from my big abdominal surgery at age 33.

As for the even stronger pain relievers, the narcotics (e.g. hydrocodone), I recommend you stay away from any consistent use of them. Only use them minimally for breakthrough pain control if you must. Also, medicinal marijuana is actually a great option without the side effects we see with narcotics. According to a 2006 study in the United Kingdom, out of the nearly 3,000 marijuana users surveyed, the most common medical reason to use it was to treat their arthritis pain (nearly 1 in 4); and of those who were treating rheumatoid arthritis, 72 percent reported that it made their pain “much better” while 28 percent said it was “a little better.” [5]

The first placebo-controlled trial using marijuana for rheumatoid arthritis pain control showed excellent pain reduction in the treatment group with no adverse effects. [6] The long-term ill effects of chronic recreational marijuana use can be decreased cognitive abilities (as you might expect; it makes you high), mild depression and decreased male fertility. But even these are rare.

Nutrient supplements for arthritis

Natural anti-inflammatories do not inhibit healing like the NSAIDs do. Let me list a few here for you:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Derived from herring, trout and salmon; borage oil (1.4 grams daily); cod liver oil (2 Tbsp. daily); or krill oil (1gram daily).
  • Turmeric (curcumin): Protects joints and enhances liver health by inhibiting COX-2 and 5-lipoxegenase inflammation pathways.
  • Boswellia Serrata: Reduces joint swelling, morning stiffness; increases joint mobility.
  • White willow bark: Natural painkiller.
  • Bromelain: A natural enzyme that blocks inflammation. Doses of 200 mg are a good.
  • SAMe (S-Adenosyl methionine): 600 mg twice daily is comparable to Celebrex® 200 mg for pain relief by the second month of treatment.
  • Devil’s claw: 50 mg is comparable in studies for the treatment of low back pain to 12.5 mg Vioxx (now taken off the market for safety concerns), but much safer

These help with healing inflammation:

  • Co Enzyme Q10: (100 mg to 200 mg daily).
  • Avocado and soybean unsaponifiables (ASU).
  • Glucosamine sulfate: 1,500 mg to 3,000 mg daily in divided doses with MSM.
  • Biocell Collagen II®:contains hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate.
  • Serrapeptase: 20,000 to 40,000 units twice daily.
  • Ginger: 500 mg to 1,000 mg daily increases the blood flow to the joints and improves lubrication.
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