Naturopathic approach to Arthritis
Arthritis is caused by inflammation of one or more of the joints, which then results in pain and stiffness in the joint.
There may also be bone growth otherwise known as ‘spurs’, which can exacerbate the problem.
Joint deformity and diminished range of motion can also occur as a result of arthritis.
There are over a hundred variations of arthritis. If left untreated, arthritis can cause irreversible damage to the joint. Depending on the type of arthritis and the underlying condition further complications can also occur.
The main forms of arthritis are:
Degenerative or Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the general wear and tear that occurs over a person’s life and can also be brought on by injury, repetitive strain etc
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system does not recognise specific tissues and attacks the area to rid itself of what it considers to be an antigen (a foreign substance which is a threat to the human body such as bacteria, virus etc)
Rheumatism also covers a range of other diseases including, but not restricted to, Ankylosing Spondylitis and Gout.
Chlamydia has been linked to a form of arthritis called reactive arthritis so if it is worth getting tested to see if this could be a root cause and therefore treatable.
Ensuring calcium is being absorbed correctly is vital to good bone health. If we have too little calcium we can develop osteoporosis, but if calcium is not absorbed properly then it can lead to calcium crystal deposits in the joints which can lead to inflammation. So always ensure you are taking sufficient amounts of Vitamin D, Magnesium and Vitamin K as well as calcium as these assist in calcium absorption and good bone health.
There are a few approaches that should be taken when treating arthritis:
• Alkalinise the diet to reduce the build-up of uric acid, which can deposit in the joints and cause inflammation.
• Use anti-inflammatories and analgesics to reduce the immediate pain.
• Improve the blood circulation, which will also reduce the inflammation.
• Detox – flush any acidic build-up from your system by boosting the channels of elimination through use of bitters (liver/digestion), diuretics (kidneys), alteratives (various elimination channels) and carminatives (digestion).
Bromelian – highly anti–inflammatory properties
Essential Fatty Acids – Omega 3, 6 and 9 – highly anti–inflammatory
Chrondroitin – strengthens joints and ligaments Birch leaf oil – Massage into muscle to relieve aches and reduce inflammation.
To make: clean leaves in almond or olive oil, leave in sunny spot for a month, stirring frequently, strain and keep in a air tight jar in a cool, dark place.
Glucosamine – good for overall muscular and skeletal health
Silica – bone health
Vitamin E – antioxidating
Mineral – Calcium, Magnesium and Copper (should be taken together)
Vitamin D and K – required for calcium absorption
Zinc – excellent healing properties
*Avoid – try to avoid taking iron supplements if possible unless you have been otherwise directed by your doctor.
Bitters – Dandelion full plant tincture, which is a great detox herb, improving digestive, liver and kidney function. Milkthistle and Barberry are other popular bitter herbs.
Circulatory herbs – Rosemary, Ginger, Prickly Ash, and Cayenne – improves circulation, relieves pain and enhances detox function.
Alteratives – Nettle, Burdock root, Celery Seed, Boneset, and Yarrow.
Anti-inflammatories/Analgesics - Devils Claw, Meadowsweet, Olive leaf extract and White Willow.
Carminatives – Fennel, Coriander, Thyme, Rosemary, Black pepper and Bay leaf. These herbs work especially well if a person is very weak and deficient as these are warming herbs.
Rubiefacients – A group of herbs to be used externally to create heat and improve circulation in the affected area, which reduces inflammation and therefore pain. – Cayenne, Peppermint oil, Wintergreen, Horseradish, Rosemary oil.
Also Comfrey – Good for bone healing, tissue repair ( Do not take internally, should be used as externally on unbroken skin)
Ginger – avoid using tincture if on blood thinners.
Pregnancy – avoid Cayenne, Yarrow, Prickly Ash and Fennel essential oil
Breastfeeding – Avoid White willow, and Cayenne
Gastric inflammatory conditions – avoid Prickly Ash, Cayenne,
If you take blood thinners – Avoid taking Ginger tincture
Liver disorders – Avoid Boneset
Allergic to aspirin – Avoid White Willow or Meadowsweet
Epilepsy – Avoid Fennel tincture
Always check with your local herbalist or health shop assistance before taking tinctures making sure in your specific case it is safe.
Sulphur containing foods – Garlic, onion, asparagus, egg, - repair bone and tissue
Alkalinising foods – reduces acidity in body, which causes inflammation: Wholegrains, fresh vegetables, lemons, grapefruit, mushroom, fish, and soy.
Pineapple is a natural source of the anti–inflammatory bromelain.
Take a good natural source of fibre such as oat bran or flaxseed.
Foods to Avoid
Dairy, red meat, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine, shellfish, sugar, pasta, white rice, nightshade family – potato, tomato, aubergine, peppers, cooked spinach, most beans except green and string beans, rhubarb, cranberry, blackberry, prunes, peanuts, pecans, cashew.
- Reflexology and acupuncture are both proven to be very beneficial in the treatment of arthritis.
- Cold gel packs
- Hot and cold shower therapy
- Hot Castor oil pack –
• Heat the oil but don’t boil.
• Saturate a white cotton or flannel cloth in the oil.
• Place the cloth on the affected area and cover with a piece of plastic ( use a plastice bag maybe)
• Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on top of the plastic.
• Leave for 30-45 minutes
- Castor oil stains fabric so clothes and soft furnishings should be protected.
- Moderate exercise will also help – this will strengthen the surrounding tissues and keep circulation moving, which will reduce pain, avoid impact/weight bearing exercises and focus on cycling, yoga, walking and swimming.
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