As we age it is not considered unusual for our joints to become painful and stiff. This situation is often referred to as arthritis. There are several types of arthritis which include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and infectious arthritis.
Different Types of Arthritis
- Osteoarthritis. Pain and stiffness during the course or normal activities may indicate the onset of osteoarthritis.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis. Pain with swelling, inflammation and stiffness in the joints bilaterally especially upon awakening is a sign of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Gout usually presents with abrupt onset of pain, often severe, in the toes (especially the big toe).
- Infectious arthritis is accompanied by fever, inflammation and tenderness. It is generally associated with another illness or injury.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is due to the general “wear and tear” on the body over time. There is a smooth, glassy, substance between the bones at a joint, called cartilage. As we age the cartilage is not regenerated as quickly resulting in a “wearing effect” that culminates in “bone on bone” contact.
Certain compounds called glucosaminoglycans (GAGs) are used as building blocks by the body to produce and maintain the cartilage of the joint. Studies have shown that two important GAGs, glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, are indispensable in helping to stabilize the joint and improve symptoms associated with arthritis.
It is not uncommon for individuals to handle the increased pain and stiffness of arthritis by limiting movement; however, this is one of the worst options for osteoarthritis sufferers. Lack of motion only further stiffens joints and makes for increased pain on movement. Mild to moderate exercise will improve many factors that contribute to the problems associated with arthritis.
Synovial fluid is the lubricating material within the joint space; its two main roles are to lubricate and deliver nutrients. Two factors can determine the quantity and quality of the synovial fluid within the joint space; hydration status and the amount of a viscous compound called hyaluronic acid (HA). Even mild dehydration can cause the joints to dry up; thus, it is very important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. The HA is produced by the body and is found in high concentrations in the skin, joints and eyes. Babies have very high concentrations of HA when they are born, this high concentration of HA gives babies their characteristic soft skin. As we age, the concentrations of HA decrease which can promote dry and wrinkled skin and arthritis. In recent years, supplements containing HA have come to market and been shown to help lubricate the joints and skin.
As the arthritis continues to develop, the body senses the damage and inflammation begins to rear its ugly head. When inflammation is prolonged, it can actually increase the rate at which the cartilage of the joint degrades. Controlling inflammation is an important factor for stabilizing and improving arthritis.
Methods for improving the health of the joints:
- Keep well hydrated. Drinking water can help moisten joints, providing greater ease of movement. Most of the beverages the average American consumes actually promote dehydration. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, which can dry up joints and promote joint problems. Drink a minimum of 8-12 glasses of water daily, add a bit of lemon or lime for flavor if you prefer.
- Quell Inflammation. As well as being a major culprit in joint pain, it is a known promoter of many other diseases. There are several ways to decrease inflammation in the body. First, Omega 3 fatty acids are very beneficial. Fish oils are great sources of omega 3s and will contribute to overall joint health. The recommended dose is 1800 mg EPA and 1200 mg of DHA per day. In addition, an herbal anti-inflammatory, such as Zyflamend, will reduce inflammation and swelling that contribute to both pain and stiffness. The recommended dose is 2 capsules twice daily.
- Provide the Building Blocks. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are two very important materials for healthy cartilage. As we age, our cells decrease their capacity to produce these important building blocks. Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements have proven useful in numerous studies, with some studies actually suggesting that glucosamine and chondroitin may actually stop the progression of the disease in its tracks. The recommended dose of glucosamine sulfate is 1500 mg per day along with 1200 mg of chondroitin sulfate. NOTE: If you are overweight, it is recommended that you add 500 mg more of glucosamine and 400 mg more of chondroitin.
- Enhance the Lubrication. As we mentioned, hyaluronic acid is available as a nutritional supplement and can be an indispensable supplement for those afflicted with osteoarthritis. The recommended dose is 200 mg per day for one month, followed by 100 mg per day thereafter.
by Dr. Ray Hinish, Pharm.D., C.N., CPT and Hunter Thompson, M.Ac., L.Ac.