Arthritis is inflammation of a joint which causes pain and stiffness. The two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but there are actually over a hundred different types classified into four groups.
Types of Arthritis
1. Degenerative Arthritis – Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a type of degenerative arthritis and is the most common type effecting millions of people. It occurs when the cartilage, which is the connective tissue that cushions bones, wears down and one bone begins to rub against another bone causing pain, stiffness and swelling.
Common Causes of Osteoarthritis
- Age – Osteoarthritis occurs over time from the “wear and tear of joints”.
- Being overweight – Extra weight can cause undue stress, particularly on weight bearing joints like hips and knees.
- Sex – Women have a greater chance of developing osteoarthritis
- Injuries – Injuries, even old ones, can increase the chances of this type of arthritis
2. Inflammatory – Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. If the immune system is thrown out of balance, it can malfunction and will begin to attack the body damaging its own tissues.
Healthy joints are surrounded by a membrane called the synovium, which produces synovial fluid, a thick liquid that lubricates the joints and allows them to glide smoothly over one another. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body attacks the synovium causing the synovial fluid to thicken which results in swelling of the joint. Over time this inflammation can cause erosion of tendons, ligaments and bones, and the joint can eventually lose proper alignment and become misshapen.
Rheumatoid arthritis will usually affect both sides of the body, so if it affects the right knee it will also probably affect the left knee, too.
3. Metabolic Arthritis
Metabolic Arthritis (Gout), occurs when there is an excess of uric acid in the body, usually because the kidneys are not able to eliminate it efficiently. The excess uric acid forms sharp needle-like crystals in and around joints which can cause sudden and intense pain and swelling.
Gout can be caused by genetic factors or kidney disease, and could be aggravated by immune suppressing drugs, diuretics, low doses of aspirin, or foods rich in purines, some of which include certain types of fish, organ and game meats, or too much alcohol.
4. Infectious Arthritis
Infectious Arthritis is an infection of one of the joints. It occurs when a virus, bacteria or fungus enters the body and travels through the bloodstream to the joint, or the synovial membrane around the joint, and infects it. This type of arthritis usually affects only one joint, and is curable if treated properly.
Natural treatments & supplements
Foods that reduce inflammation
A healthy diet can go a long way in reducing inflammation. There’s no surprise here…the same foods that you should be eating for countless other reasons are also the foods that help reduce inflammation.
Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods include whole unprocessed foods such as:
- leafy greens
- green tea
- cocoa/dark chocolate
- olive oil
- whole grains
- fatty fish
- spices like turmeric and ginger.
Foods that cause inflammation
Try to limit the following types of foods:
- high in trans fats
- white sugar
- high fructose corn syrup
- high in sodium
Even though curcumin has poor bioavailability, meaning it is not very easily absorbed by the body, there are few tricks to help it absorb better:
- Black pepper contains a compound called peperine, that can enhance curcumin absorbtion by 2,000%. You don’t need much – even just a couple of grinds of black pepper are enough.
- Boiling turmeric for 10 minutes has been shown to increase absorbtion of curcumin 12-fold.
- Because curcumin is fat soluble it is much better absorbed by the body if taken with a bit of fat.
You can certainly add turmeric to your food, but turmeric contains only about 4% curcumin, (the active compound), so supplements might be needed to get the necessary amount.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, “High doses of turmeric can act as a blood thinner and cause stomach upset. Avoid turmeric/curcumin if you take blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), are about to have surgery, are pregnant or have gallbladder disease.”
Ginger root, belongs to the same family as turmeric. Ginger has also been used for thousands of years to alleviate a number of symptoms from nausea to inflammation. Ginger has been shown in recent studies to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen.
As with turmeric you can add ginger to your meals, but a supplement might make it easier to get the recommended amount for arthritis relief. Just like turmeric, ginger can also act as a blood thinner in high doses.
A delicious way to get a dose of anti-inflammatory turmeric is in a warm, spicy cup of Golden Milk, (or turmeric tea). Golden Milk also contains black pepper which greatly enhances the absorption of curcumin by the body, as well as ginger another great anti-inflammatory.
When the body sustains an injury (or gets an infection), the immune system responds by releasing chemicals to the affected site. This causes inflammation which is your body’s natural way of protecting, defending, and healing the injury. If the immune system is not functioning properly, the inflammation persists and can become chronic causing problems like arthritis.
Find out more about How CBD Works.
The body also has two endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. These produce enzymes called endocannabinoids that help to regulate all the major organs in the system. The majority of CB2 receptors are located in the immune system and the gastrointestinal system. If the system is thrown out of balance, and is not able to produce enough endocannabinoids on its own, problems can begin to develop in the body.
Plants also produce cannabinoids, called phytocannabinoids that work in the same way as the ones that our bodies produce. In cases where the body is not producing enough cannabinoids on its own, phytocannabinoids can be used as a supplement.
The cannabinoid CBD attaches primarily to the CB2 receptors located in the immune system and can help to bring it back into balance. For this reason, CBD has shown to be very effective in treating conditions like inflammation.
SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) is a molecule produced by our bodies which helps to regulate hormones, controls neurotransmitters, and helps maintain nerve cell membranes.
SAM-e’s effectiveness for osteoarthritis was actually discovered by accident. Because SAM-e controls serotonin levels which affect mood, it is often used to treat depression and anxiety. During one study being conducted on depression, scientists discovered that SAM-e also provided pain relief in patients participating that also been diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
SAM-e has been shown to be extremely effective for pain relief, has anti-inflammatory properties, and may even stimulate cartilage growth. As a matter of fact, SAM-e has been shown to be as effective as NSAIDs for arthritis, although it takes longer to take effect. One double blind study on knee osteoarthritis, concluded that while during the first month SAM-e seemed less effective than the drug Celebrex, by the second month SAM-e was just as effective.
Cat’s Claw is a woody vine that gets it’s name from it’s claw shaped thorns. It grows wild in tropical parts of South and Central America. Cat’s Claw has many medicinal qualities and is used to treat Alzheimer’s, diverticulitis, colitis, cancer, viral infections, chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma and more. It’s anti-inflammatory properties have been very effective in treating symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
If you have a pet with arthritis, the above supplements are fantastic for relieving their pain and inflammation as well.
A great way to add beneficial turmeric to your dog’s diet is with this homemade Golden Paste from Dogs Naturally, that you can just add to your dog’s food.
The compound that determines the level of heat in peppers is called capsaicin. Capsaisin cream can help block pain messages to your nerves when topically applied to the skin.
When capsaicin is applied to the skin as a cream, it causes a burning or stinging censation in the area, which eventually causes the nerve receptors to become “confused” and lose their ability to transmit pain.
As with capsaicin, a CBD salve is applied directly to the affected area and blocks the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. CBD creams are often blended with other herbs and essential oils, and can provide quick targeted relief from pain and inflammation.
More ways to relieve arthritis pain
High impact exercises like running and HIIT, that will stress the joints, should be avoided, but you should not stop exercising altogether. Low impact exercises can actually help with stiffness and pain from arthritis. Some exercises to consider are:
- elliptical machine
Acupuncture is a branch of Chinese medicine that is thousands of years old. Special needles are applied to specific pressure points on the body which can help relieve blockages that are causing an imbalance in the system. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be very effective for chronic pain such as arthritis.
* The fact that all of the above remedies are all natural does not mean that they can’t have some side effects. Some herbal supplements can interact with medications which you might be taking, for example, so please always check with your doctor before adding new supplements to your diet.