Did you know that over 50 million Americans are currently living with doctor-diagnosed arthritis? That’s 22% of the U.S. population or 1-in-5 adults! And that number does not include the millions suffering in silence, nor does it include the additional millions who struggle with arthritis outside the U.S. Here’s what you should know about this often crippling condition and how to keep your joints healthy and comfortable.
Arthritis literally translates to joint inflammation and while there are 100 different forms of the condition, they all boil down to the irritation, discomfort, and often debilitating pain experienced in joint areas. The causes? Increased environmental toxicity, ingestion of processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, and high stress levels of the modern world all contribute to growing arthritis rates.
The good news? Research continues to prove arthritis is largely manageable and even preventable through dietary and lifestyle changes. What can you do to optimize your joint health and comfort?
1. Start with the basics: diet and exercise. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, movement is one of the best weapons against arthritis. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports that both endurance and resistance types of exercise provide considerable benefits by decreasing fatigue, strengthening muscles and bones, increasing flexibility and stamina, and improving your general sense of well-being.
For any of you who’ve listened to Dr. Rodier’s series on TOIL (Toxicity, Oxidation, Inflammation, and Less Than Optimum Mitochondrial Output), you know that diet can make a world of difference for inflammatory conditions. In fact, many cases of rheumatoid arthritis have completely vanished after identifying and eliminating trigger foods. Additionally, incorporating anti-inflammatory plant-based foods and healthy fats can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to maintain a proper inflammatory balance. For a list of commonly irritating and beneficial foods, check out this wonderfully comprehensive article from PCRM.
As usual, fair members, no way of underestimating the basics when it comes to good health! (For more details listen to Part 3 of our recent web radio interview series with Dr. Hugo Rodier on Oxidation and Inflammation.)
2. Drop those extra pounds. Here’s a scary statistic: Every ten pounds of excess weight increases your risk of osteoarthritis in the knees by 30 percent! And knees are only the beginning. Did you know excess weight is linked with osteoarthritis in the hands? Reasons are as yet unclear, but likely stem from ability of fat cells to produce estrogen — a suspected cause of arthritis in excess amounts. Fortunately, the same diet changes (less bad fat, more fiber, more fresh foods) that promote weight loss also reduce estrogen levels.
How to Keep Arthritis in Check
Many adults suffer from osteoarthritis, a painful, age-related degeneration of the joints. Hands are often one of the most affected areas, which just takes the fun out of everyday things. That’s where chondroitin sulfate comes in, as an able ally in bringing the fun back. Of course, our fair members have been in on the secret for a long time. Nevertheless, those painstakingly methodical researchers continue to make “news” on why chondroitin is such a favorite dietary supplement for joint comfort.
Chondroitin Sulfate & Hand Osteoarthritis Study Results
Researchers invited 162 adults with symptoms of hand osteoarthritis (proven through x-rays) to participate in an investigation on how supplemental chondroitin sulfate may affect hand comfort.
Participants were randomly selected to take 800 mg of chondroitin sulfate daily or a placebo pill (that contained no chondroitin) for six months. At the end of six months, study participants completed the questionnaires again and their answers showed that, compared with the placebo group, those who took 800 mg of chondroitin sulfate daily had:
- Less pain
- Better hand function, and
- Less morning stiffness in their hands
Glucosamine and Chondroitin – A Powerful Combo
The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin together has been shown to maintain healthy synovial fluid levels in joints. Synovial fluid is a viscous goo that handily absorbs shock (it actually becomes more viscous under pressure); reduces friction between bones, tendons, and cartilage; and takes the metabolic waste out of your little cartilage cells. So far, so good.
Glucosamine and chondroitin, when paired, can also “jump-start” cartilage production and strengthen your body’s natural repair mechanisms. Even better, especially since these two supplements are so well tolerated by most people.
In addition to these nutrients, there are a few additional things that may help if you suffer from hand osteoarthritis:
- Diet right. Watch out for foods that trigger inflammation and things that calm the fires of inflammation.
- Go hot or cold. Many people find that warm, gentle heat eases joint pain, but others prefer a short time with some ice on their achy joints. Either one is a reasonable remedy for short-term pain relief; pick what feels best to you.
- Try topicals. Topical pain relievers can deliver medicine straight to the joints, bringing faster relief for many. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which is right for you, and check labels to make sure topical ingredients won’t interact with your other medications.