Arthritis is a chronic disease that many people inaccurately believe affects people of older ages. Arthritis is a serious illness that can affect anyone of all ages and can cause not only dull aches, excruciating pain, fatigue and / or insomnia, but create permanent physical disabilities.
It is not a single disease either. Arthritis is a collective name that refers to over 100 individual medical conditions that involves joint tissues' swelling or inflammation. It ranges from those that are related to the wear and tear of cartilage to those that are associated with inflammation of the joints. It is the most common chronic illness in America and approximately 350 million people worldwide suffer from it.
So what causes this disease and how do we prevent it or treat it?
Before I explain what causes arthritis, I'll explain what is happening at the skeletal-level. A joint is the part where one bone meets and moves on another bone (ie, where your elbow is). It is held by ligaments which act like rubber bands, allowing your muscles to relax and contract and you to move around. The bones are covered by cartilage which acts like a 'protective casing' and results the bones from rubbing directly against each other and causing pain. These cartilage and ligaments get their nourishment from a fluid called Synovial fluid which is found in the space within the joints. Here, when something goes wrong with the cartilage or the level of synovial fluid or the joints, your joint movements do not work smoothly and effectively, causing pain, movement injury and hence, arthritis.
What causes these issues can however be quite difficult to determine and the type of Arthritis developed is also dependent on different risk factors. For example, the development of Osteoarthritis (the most common form of Arthritis) is strongly correlated to the person's age due to the progressive brittleness and inability of an elderly person's cartilage to repair itself. However, it is generally agreed upon that the following factors can cause or increase the risk of developing this illness:
1) Age – The older you get, the more likely you're to develop arthritis. This is because cartilage becomes more and more brittle and it gets harder for your body to repair any damage.
2) Genetics – Studies have suggest that genetics may contribute to the likelihood of arthritis development.
3) Weight – Excess body weight can increase the pressure on joints and magnify any issues that occur during joint damage. Here is important (if you're overweight) to try and lose a few kilos as you will be decreasing the extra pressure on your weight-bearing joints, decreasing pain and improving the quality of your life and body movements.
4) Injury – Injuries at the joint can cause irregularities in the joint area that may have damaged the cartilage surrounding the joints.
So what preventive measures can you take to reduce your chance of developing arthritis and / or slow the progress of the disease?
If you have a family history of arthritis, it is important to ensure that you have regular medical check-ups as arthritis that is believed to be hereditary are thought to be possibly triggered anytime. However, whether or not you have a family history of this illness, the preventive measures are still the same. One needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle that incorporates a healthy diet, exercise and enough rest to ensure adequate timing for your body to repair itself daily. There are however, certain types of foods that have shown to provide more support to the prevention of this illness.
There are critical nutrients that have shown to provide relief to symptoms of arthritis, slow its progress and prevent the development of the disease:
- Omega-3 Fatty acids – Omega 3 in general, is absolutely essential and important for your total overall day to day health. It helps in the prevention of chronic diseases (ie heart diseases) and cancer. Omega 3 is part of a family of special fats that the human body needs, but is unable to make for itself. But when Omega 3 is consumed, it helps in the formation of substances (leukotrienes) which hinders any body inflammation that could be the cause of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. For patients suffering Rhumatoid arthritis, consuming Omega 3 has shown to reduce its symptoms of joint pain and morning stiffness. However, joint damage still occurs and its important to continue with prescribed medication, treatment and have a healthy diet rich with the nutrients listed below. For people suffering from osteoarthritis, research has reported that patients who had a diet rich in omega 3 experienced reduced joint stiffness and pain and increase strength in their ability to grip. Please note however, people who suffer from gout however, should avoid consumption of fish if they are trying to consume Omega 3 fatty acids as fish containing purines that encourage the production of uric acid which can aggravate the symptoms of the illness.
- Glucosamine – Glucosamine plays a major part in the formation and repair of cartilage, tendons and ligaments which is fundamentally important for the effective functioning of joints. It stimulates the production of 2 essential building blocks of cartilage and prevails the production of enzymes (ie. Phospholipase and chondrocyes) that causes cartilage deterioration. The natural production of Glucosamine in bodies however, reduces with time and aging. Thus, as one ages, the need for supplements to replenish and restore glucosamine balance in our bodies becomes absolutely essential.
- Manganese – Manganese is not only an antioxidant which slows down aging process, it is also an essential mineral for the formation of bone and ligaments. In addition to this, it also plays a role in the building of cartilage which generally contributes to the improvement of arthritis symptoms and prevention of this illness. Lastly, research suggests that manganese promotes bones strength and healthy growth of the skeleton, again reducing the risk of arthritis development
- Ginger extracts – Studies shown that when arthritis patients were given highly purified ginger extracts, there was significant reduction in their arthritis symptoms, including joint stiffness and pain. This is because ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds including a compound called 6-gingerol which inhibits the production of molecules that forms damaging free radicals that have a negative effect on the body.
- Turmeric extracts – This extract is well known in the health industry to be effective in decreasing inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. This is because turmeric extracts contain curcumin, a compound that precedes the protein NF-KB that has been associated with the increased in inflammation of the joints from being activated in the joints.
- Boswellia Serrata – It has anti-inflammatory properties which prevent inflammation at the joints and the whole body. Furthermore, Bowellia Serrata improves the circulation of blood and blood supply to the joints, improving blood circulation and relieving the stiffness and weakness of the joints. Here, the Boswellia Serrata has healing properties that are most effective in healing Rheumatoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis patients.
- Calcium – Calcium deficiency can increase one's risk of osteoporosis and arthritis as your bones become more and more brittle. (It is recommended that one (especially women) should consume at least 1200 mg a day of calcium after age 50. If your body does not get enough calcium from your diet, your body will take it from the bone structure, decreasing your bone mass and strength, increasing its brittleness and increasing your risk of arthritis development.
- Vitamin A – potent antioxidant that reduces any negative effects from free radicals, vitamin A has shown to potentially further reduce the symptoms of Osteoarthritis as it helps promote healthy bone development and healthy bone mass.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is well known to be a superb vitamin for total body health and increased immunity. This vitamin is also essential for the repair and maintenance of our bones and cartilage and is an essential ingredient in the formation of collagen. Collagen is a protein that is used by the body to make cartilage, ligaments and tendons, which are all essential in maintenance and development of healthy bones and joints. Not only that, Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means that it helps reduce any damage to the body caused by free radicals and ensure that the entire body is maintained and healthy.
- Vitamin B3 – Also known as Niacinamide, vitamin B3 helps to maintain health at a cellular level and slow down progression of arthritis. High doses of B3 have been shown to prevent and improve the symptoms of Osteoarthritis including increasing joint mobility
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is known to enhance the body's absorption of calcium. Thus, together with adequate calcium intake, the two nutrients are critical to the maintenance and development of healthy strong bones and reduction in risk of arthritis development
- Vitamin E – Research on adequate intakes of Vitamin E to conclude that consuming enough Vitamin E can help reduce the pain and joint immobility of arthritis patients through the vitamin's antioxidant effects.
- Vitamin K – Vitamin K increases the rate of bone mineralization. This decreases the risk of hip fraction and helps in quicker development of stronger, healthy bones
The adequate consumption of the right nutrition and supplements however is only one part of the solution for arthritis. Having a healthy balance diet is also important in ensuring that you're consuming the right type of foods that will support your body in providing the right type of nutrition to ensure healthy bones, joints and cartilage. Furthermore, it ensures that you're keeping a healthy weight to reduce any weight pressure on your joints which can amplify any joint problems.
Lastly, it is important to follow your doctor's recommendation for arthritis treatment. Altogether with the right treatment, diet and supplements for your body, they should support your body in the reduction of pain, increase in mobility and relief and possibly preventing any development (or any further development) of arthritis.