Arthritis: Natural Approach
(Vitality Quebec, June 2000)
Aside from cardiovascular diseases, arthritis is probably the disease that affects the greatest number of people who have reached the golden age. In this article, I will focus on one particular type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, because it is, by far, the most frequent form, with a little over two million people in Quebec suffering from it. (27 million in the US).
Any joint activity causes a friction that inevitably leads to some kind of joint degeneration. In other words, whenever I use a joint, there is a wear of joint tissues, and that is normal. By contrast, to remedy this situation, the body usually has the capacity to produce new joint tissues in order to compensate for this wear. In osteoarthritis, however, the production of cartilage, the joint tissue, is insufficient to compensate for it. Therefore, there is erosion and degeneration of the joint, which gradually leads to loss of mobility, inflammation pain and loss of function. All joints can be affected, but it often occurs to the most active ones, the knees, hips and fingers.
The conventional medical approach targets the problem by reducing the pain using analgesics remedies, or by reducing inflammation by using anti-inflammatory drugs, or even simply by replacing the damaged joint. The problem with these approaches, although the first two could be useful in the acute phases, is that they do not solve the cause of the problem, and even if the damaged joint is replaced, the arthritis can relocate elsewhere.
The naturopathic approach is different. Its premise is that the body must have the necessary nutrients for proper tissue repair. It requires an increased intake of nutrients use by the body to maintain the integrity of the joints, as well as the elimination of food or substances that may affect the proper absorption or use of these nutrients. Of course, these should come first and foremost from a healthy and balanced diet. Furthermore, in many cases, some nutritional supplements help achieve excellent results much more quickly.
Amongst the nutrients that may be effective to promote repair among people suffering from osteoarthritis, there are the B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E. Amongst the herbs that have proven useful in osteoarthritis, there is harpagophytum, commonly called devil's claw, and yucca.
It is important to highlight the role of MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) in the treatment of arthritis as well as fibromyalgia pain. This substance, naturally found in foods and in the human body, benefits from multiple studies that demonstrate its safe use and efficiency.
Among the most promising substances for improving the situation of people affected by osteoarthritis, there are the glucosamines. When it comes to the biochemistry of joints, we know that glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and glycoproteins (GP) play a leading role in their integrity. However, Nacetyl glucosamine (NAG) is the most important in regards to the synthesis of GAG and GP. Another glucosamine, glucosamine sulfate (GLS), was proven more effective than ibuprofren in the treatment of osteoarthritis. What is particularly interesting when it comes to using both of these glucosamines together is that, the pain reduction is mainly due to the repair of the joints. Indeed, instead of only offering a relief, the use of glucosamine leads to the repair of the damaged tissues.
Unfortunately, one of the problems associated with the use of these two natural substances, is that they become effective after being used for six to eight weeks. However, a herb may be extremely useful when used together with both glucosamines: the curcuma longa or tumeric. Clinical studies have proven that the active ingredient of curcuma could reduce inflammation four times more efficiently than phenylbutazone, a very well known antiinflammatory. For curcuma to be effective, it should be normalized or standardized to provide at least 90% of its active ingredient, the curcuminoids. The combined use of Nacetyl glucosamine and curcuma is a natural, safe and effectiveway to reduce pain and induce joints repair in individuals affected by osteoarthritis.
In conclusion, let's not minimize the importance of increasing our consumption of vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and reducing our consumption of alcohol, sugars, soft drinks, red meat and caffeine.