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Dr. Andrew Lange

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What to Do About Arthritis, Part 2: Some Things You May Not Know About Treatment

Posted: 06/03/10 09:00 AM ET

Most of the articles you might have read on arthritis try to recommend treatments rather than what you can do to effect your body. Both Orthodox and Alternative treatments have shown success in treating the symptoms of arthritis, that is in the relief of symptoms. It is more important to find how our daily habits can significantly affect the inflammatory processes that contribute to arthritis.

The most common treatments for arthritis are those that affect an inflammatory chemical known as Cyclooxygenase or COX. Pharmacological inhibition of COX can provide relief from the symptoms of inflammation and pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, exert their effects through inhibition of COX.

Unfortunately NSAIDs drugs used for these treatments were also found to have side effects. NSAIDs can make the overall disease process of arthritis worse, by depleting the very nutrients necessary for joint repair, including iron, folic acid and zinc. COX-2 inhibitors have been found to have serious cardiovascular effects, increasing the risk of atherothrombosis even with short-term use. A 2006 analysis of 138 randomized trials and almost 150 000 participants showed that selective COX-2 inhibitors are associated with a moderately increased risk of vascular events, mainly due to a twofold increased risk of myocardial infarction, that is heart attacks, and also that high-dose regimens of some traditional NSAIDs such as diclofenac and ibuprofen are associated with a similar increase in risk of vascular events.

What are the simplest ways to reduce inflammation in the body?

1. Keep moving: even though pain and stiffness can make you feel like skipping your exercise routine, research shows that staying active can help keep arthritis symptoms under control.

2. Diet. The Mediterranean diet consists primarily of fish, fruit, vegetables, cereals, and beans and contains less red meat and dairy products than do Western diets. In a recent study of Rheumatoid arthritis patients, those consuming the Mediterranean diet had a statistically significant 56 percent decrease in disease activity.

3. Omega-3 Oils. The research is solid. We have a preponderance of Omega-6 oils, which we do need, from polyunsaturated oils, such as olive and canola. Saturated fats from meat contribute to inflammation. You can reduce inflammation by reducing or eliminating saturated fats in the diet. By increasing Omega-3 oils from fish or algae sources we can alter the balance of our body's chemistry to reduce inflammation.

4. Repair your Gut. Having healthy intestines makes sure that the primary part of your immune system is working properly. Allergies, antibiotics and a lack of healthy bacteria called probiotics can alter the integrity of the gut lining. A poor gut integrity allows substances, such as allergens and other inflammatory substances to pass through the gut into the blood, which can affect our health systemically. Eating fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and yogurt helps to establish a healthy intestinal environment.

Remember that a lot of underlying conditions can cause arthritis. Help in the differential diagnosis and prognosis of arthritic disorders clarifies what steps you need to take in treatment. To find out more about testing and how you can save on health care go here. It will give you a start in your path to good health.

References:

Rheumatology International (2002;23:27-36).