My inspiration for today’s blog topic was something I experienced while running in this morning before work, and that something is what a lot of us are familiar with this time of year…its called joint pain. Thankfully it’s probably nothing serious and it quickly went away with a little “lubrication” stimulated by the exercise. However, I realized that this is something that probably a lot of us are experience right now due to the ever changing weather conditions and the damp fall air. Why this happens is not entirely clear, and in many cases it is just a harmless and temporary occurrence while we adapt to the colder weather.
However, in many cases joint pain can be attributed to arthritis and this is a medical condition that needs more attention. Arthritic conditions actually encompass a whole separate specialty in medicine. There are four main types of arthritis. The most common one is Osteoarthritis (due to damage to the joint either by excessive usage, infection, or age). The other types are Autoimmune Arthritis (where the immune system makes a mistake and recognizes joint tissue as something foreign and therefore mounts an attack on the joint tissue), Septic Arthritis (which is due to an infection of the joint), and Gout (which is due to the deposition of Uric Acid and which in many cases can be prevented by a diet low in red meat and alcohol). Although they are all different, there are two things that are common to all of these types of arthritic conditions and these are inflammation and damage to joint tissue.
The standard medical approach to treat these conditions is to prescribe anti-inflammatory medications such as Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (in short NSAIDS) to decrease inflammation and the pain. But as mentioned in my previous blog on prescription medications these medications have serious negative side effects when taken for a prolonged period of time. The second group of medications frequently prescribed are the immune modulating medications, meaning medications that weaken the immune response. These medications have even more serious side effects and they also make us more predisposed to opportunistic infections. The third line of treatment, in the most severe cases, is surgical joint replacement. A real hassle! Of course, like mentioned before, I am not here to discredit these treatments but to simply emphasize that they should be our last line of treatment; not the first!
So what can we try instead? What’s a more natural approach that’s friendlier to our bodies and joints that we can at least give a try? Well since most of these conditions have inflammation as the underlying cause of damage we can try natural compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. These can be in the form of fish oils (that contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids), nuts, hemp seed oil, flax seed oil (or the seeds that contain these oils, which also gives us the benefit of high fiber consumption; something that is very healthy for our digestive tract), as well as Turmeric and Ginger. Compounds with anti-oxidant properties are also very useful (since inflammation causes the production of free radicals, which perpetuate the inflammatory process, and which can be neutralized by anti-oxidants). Good sources of such compounds are berries, pomegranate fruit or juice without sugar, vitamin C and vitamin E, to name a few. On the other hand, to provide the body with the components to rebuild damaged joint tissue, we can supplement with good protein sources (such as fish, organic chicken and “clean” whey protein isolates) and well as with glucosaminoglycans. These are the structural components of cartilage found in joins.
The last important thing to keep in mind is to keep our body weight in the optimal range. Osteoarthritis in many cases has excess weight as the underlying cause, since the excess weight puts lots of pressure on the joint, which in the long run cases damage to the joint tissue. Thus regular cardiovascular exercise which burns calories is quite important for the joints as well as for our heart and arteries. Connected to all this is a healthy diet, rich in vegetables, protein and good fats, that is not too excessive in calories.
I know. It all sounds quite complicated. But if you apply it to your daily life as a routine it’s actually not, and in the long run it will certainly make you feel better, make your joints thank you, and maybe even possibly prevent you from taking serious medications which may have serious side effects. Let’s stick with natural compounds first along with a healthy diet and exercise. Let’s start tomorrow with a beautiful and healthy morning walk under the fall colored trees!