Arthritis is the generic term for a number of medical conditions that result in the gradual destruction of joint structures and tissues. There are a number of types, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. The common themes are pain, inflammation, deformity and disability.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, the common wear-and-tear destruction that usually involves the weightbearing joints of the legs and spine. The cause is not completely understood but seems to involve a complex interaction between nutrition, destruction of cartilage from mechanical forces, and inflammation.
Interestingly, there is evidence from animal studies that nutritional status as early as childhood affects the quality and durability of joint cartilage and that poor childhood nutrition can predispose to earlier and more severe large-joint arthritis in adulthood. All you parents, that’s even more reason to see that your kids learn healthy eating and activity habits early!
By far the most destructive mechanical force for the weightbearing joints of the knees, hips and spine is your own body weight! With every step you take, an average of FOUR TIMES your body weight impacts the ground. That impact travels through the feet, ankles, knees, hips and spine. Is it any wonder that obesity is the number one risk factor for osteoarthritis? The most important thing you can do to reduce the effects of osteoarthritis is to get to and stay at a healthy body weight! For more information please see my Obesity page.
The last major influence on arthritis is inflammation. This is the primary mediator of pain. It also is the cause of the deformity seen with rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. There are a number of supplements known to reduce inflammation and pain in arthritis.
Fish oil has long been known to reduce inflammation. It is helpful in arthritis and other inflammatory conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Doses of one to four grams daily are recommended.
Glucosamine is one of the major building blocks of joint cartilage, and is one of the most widely used supplements for arthritis. It has been found that chondroitin, commonly coadministered with glucosamine, actually reduces the absorption of glucosamine, so one should take a preparation WITHOUT chondroitin. Glucosamine can raise blood sugar, so diabetics should watch their sugars and stop taking it if the sugars start to go up.
Boswellia is a very well-researched supplement made from the frankincense tree. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used from time to time or as a daily supplement to reduce pain.