by guest blogger Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrative medicine pioneer
Joints work so well, we often take them for granted. These wonderfully engineered structures allow us to walk, reach, grasp, and perform dozens of other crucial activities. Yet we hardly even give them a thought--until a problem arises. Then we can only marvel at how difficult it has become to perform each simple task.
There are numerous conditions that can cause joint dysfunction, but of course the most common is arthritis. Many people suffer from osteoarthritis, which is mostly caused by wear and tear. As we get older, our joints get stiff and painful.
However, other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid, are more closely associated with inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is actually an autoimmune disorder, in which joints, as well as some organs, are slowly destroyed by an overzealous immune response.
While there are some treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, there's still no cure. However, there are steps we can take to control this disease and, in fact, reduce inflammation in general. We just have to make small changes.
Shunning the Inflammatory LifestyleInflammation has become a common by-product of American life: We eat processed foods; lead frenetic, overstressed lives; sit way too much. But it doesn't have to be this way. It's our choice to get off the inflammation treadmill. Here are a few recommendations for reducing it:
- Stand up. On average, we sit around 13 hours a day, which is a dangerous way to live. A number of studies have shown that sitting reduces lifespan. While it's difficult to get around it completely in an office setting, it isn't impossible. Stretch your legs every 30 minutes or so, take a walk around, visit the water cooler. Doing so will make a big difference.
- Avoid inflammatory foods. Red meat, sugar, and processed foods, particularly fast foods, are bad for us. The primary concern is inflammation. While it's okay to have a burger or a cookie from time to time, we tend to overindulge. Stay away from these inflammatory foods, as well as hydrogenated fats, salt, fried foods, and alcohol.
- Embrace anti-inflammatory foods. Shop around the periphery of the grocery store, where all the fresh food lives. Stock up on fruits and vegetables, particularly the brightly colored varieties. These are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation. I also recommend cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, which are rich in sulfur compounds that slow inflammation and support joint health.
- Mindfulness. Chronic stress is highly inflammatory. Meditation is a great way to reduce that pressure. While it's hard for many people to adopt a regular meditative practice--it just feels like doing nothing--it's one of the healthiest things we can do to lower stress and control inflammation.
- Exercise. Cartilage is unique because it gets very little blood flow. Nutrients are brought in and waste discarded through joint motion, so it makes sense to move a lot. I highly recommend moving meditations, such as yoga, qi gong, and tai chi, which revitalize the body and calm the mind.
One way to support joint health is to strengthen the bones. Calcium is a crucial nutrient for bones, but many people have trouble digesting milk. Kale, oranges, almonds, and turnip greens are all rich in calcium.
Still, calcium alone isn't enough; we need other nutrients to maximize bone health. Vitamins D3 and K, as well as magnesium, help bones absorb calcium.
Methysulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic sulfur compound that reduces joint pain and inflammation. Sulfur is a major component in many connective tissues.
Curcumin, found in the spice turmeric, has been shown to regulate inflammatory proteins. Another excellent anti-inflammatory spice is ginger.
One of the principle tenets of holistic medicine is to address the root of a problem. This isn't easy, particularly with complex systemic conditions like arthritis, but there are steps we can take. One of these is to add modified citrus pectin (MCP) to our supplement routine.
Made from the pith in citrus peels, MCP has a special affinity for an inflammatory protein called galectin-3. In large amounts, galectin-3 has been associated with heart disease, cancer, and fibrosis of organs and tissues, including joints.
Because MCP targets galectin-3, it helps mitigate the harmful effects of the protein and, with it, inflammation. In my own practice, MCP does an excellent job of reducing inflammation in many of my arthritis patients. This single ingredient also gently removes harmful heavy metals and toxins from the body, which at elevated levels can contribute to joint pain as well as numerous other conditions.
Living with painful arthritis, whether rheumatoid, osteo-, or another variety, is a difficult road. Unfortunately, there are no ready-made solutions. However, by adopting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, arthritis patients can do much to mitigate their pain and stiffness and even help slow the progression of their disease.
Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrates Western medicine with his extensive knowledge of traditional Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic, homeopathic, and complementary medical systems. With more than 25 years of clinical experience and research, Dr. Eliaz has a unique holistic approach to the relationship between health and disease, immune enhancement, detoxification, and cancer prevention and treatment. For more health and wellness information, visit www.dreliaz.org.
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