Arthritis causes health problems and disabilities in nearly 70 million Americans, or about one in every three adults, and the numbers are only on the rise. Arthritis symptoms can vary from mild to severe, sometimes even leading to disability. Approximately 17% of disability cases are caused by arthritis, resulting in enormous costs for the individual, their families, and the state.
Arthritis is not a disease but a group of diseases whose common denominator is inflammation, stiffness, limited movement, pain, and destruction of the joints. Three out of 5 arthritis sufferers are under the age of 65, so arthritis is not just a disease of the elderly.
The most common form is Osteoarthritis, which is also known as wear and tear arthritis". It is commonly thought of as by product of the aging process like gray hair, and wrinkles. Osteoarthritis starts usually in the middle age, long before the first symptoms are noticed. The cartilage that covers the bone starts to deteriorate, allowing bones to rub together. Bone spurs and cysts are common developments. During this degeneration process the muscles, tendons and ligaments may become strained, causing inflammation and pain. The main problem with Osteoarthritis is pain; inflammation is a problem in the later stages of arthritis. Sometimes there is no pain, but the affected joints loose range of motion and become stiff.
Osteoarthritis appears in two general forms, primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is the more common form, is a slow and progressive condition that usually strikes after the age of 45, affecting mostly the weight bearing joints of the knees and hips, as well as the lower back, neck, large toe and finger joints. It develops through placing excessive loads on a joint or when a reasonable load is placed on an inferior joint. The exact cause is yet to be determined, although heredity and obesity are risk factors.
Secondary osteoarthritis appears usually as a result of trauma or injury to the joint (like a football injury or car accident), metabolic imbalances (gout or calcium deposits, iron overload, thyroid disease, or long term use of certain medications), joint infection, or even surgery. It strikes people younger than 45. Trauma appears to be the main reason for developing osteoarthritis. The trauma could be acute (accident) or chronic (recurring over time). Chronic trauma causes cumulative damage to the joint. The onset is usually felt as a little discomfort that becomes severe and debilitating over time. An unstable or loose joint because of a torn ligament would be an example of this. Repetitive impact loading is another form of chronic trauma. This involves a repetitive motion that traumatizes the joint tissue (baseball pitcher, drill operator, ballerina). Repetitive impact loading is one of the main causes of secondary osteoarthritis, especially in joints that are already suffering from abnormal alignment or that are used in ways that they shouldn't be. Not all-high stress activity damages joint tissues, most of them can. Osteoarthritis might also be the cause because of poor bone alignment, improperly formed joints, or they way you walk.
Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis are often confused because of the similarity in their names. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to attack its own tissues. It causes weakness, fatigue, fever, anemia, and other problems, including inflamed joints. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to strikes symmetrically, meaning it strikes both joints (left and right side of the body). It initially strikes between the ages of 25 and 50, versus Osteoarthritis usually after 45. RA often comes and goes without warning; OA develops gradually over several years. OA begins in one joint. RA symptoms are redness, warmth, and swelling, in OA these symptoms are unusual in the early stages. RA affects many or most joints like knees, knuckles, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. OA primarily affects joints of the hands, hips, feet and spine, only occasionally attacks other joints. RA causes an overall feeling of sickness and fatigue, as well as weight loss and fever; OA doesn't cause an overall feeling of sickness.
It is the common consensus that arthritis is incurable, and can only be managed with pain and anti-inflammatory medication. This treatment plan will only mask the symptoms and will not address the underlying causes, so the disease can progress further. Also these drugs have serious side effects. Thousands of people die every year from adverse side effects of anti-inflammatory, acetaminophen, and steroids.
Healthy cartilage needs 3 things; water for lubrication and nourishment, proteoglycans to attract and hold the water, and collagen to keep the proteoglycans in place.
There are alternative treatment plans available to can be of great help to the arthritis sufferer.
Food Link to arthritis, food allergies and intolerances could aggravate and cause arthritis. Keeping your body at an ideal weight, and supplying your body with all the nutrients it needs to rebuild muscle and bone tissue is important. Eating an alkalizing diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates, and cutting back on sugar and bad fats. Arthritis is a disease of an over acidic system. Practicing portion control and developing good eating habits will help you loose weight and maintain it, while feeling better and more energetic. Limit your purine intake, purines are found in organ meats, anchovies, and sardines. Excess purine levels in the blood lead to uric acid, which has been linked to Gout and arthritis. Alcohol increases also increases uric acid production. Intake of refined sugar has a negative impact on blood sugar balance, the immune system, and promotes inflammation. The family of nightshade of vegetables, like tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and peppers are the most common culprits to cause an arthritic condition.
Increasing your water intake can be of great help. Many chronic health conditions are caused by chronic dehydration. You can eliminate many problems by just drinking more water.
Supplementations can be of great benefit, if the right dosages and the right product are used. This will determine if the supplementation will be effective. The three most promising supplements for arthritis suffers are Glucosamine, chondroitin, and ASU.
Glucosamine consists of glucose and the amino acid glutamine. It is an important part of the mucopolysaccharides, which provide structure to the bone, cartilage, skin, nails, hair, and other body tissue. Glucosamine is a major building block of the proteogylycans.
The recommended dosage for Glucosamine HCL it is 1500 mg, or 1884 mg for Glucosamine sulfate once daily or twice divided into two equal doses. Glucosamine sulfate is the form used in most research. Glucosamine HCL is somewhat preferred, because Glucosamine sulfate needs to be stabilized with salt or potassium. This could lead to an unwanted rise in blood pressure, depending how much salt or potassium was added.
Chondroitin works similar to the natural occurring chondroitin in the body's cartilage, it protects the old cartilage from premature breakdown and stimulates the synthesis of new cartilage.
The recommended dosage for Chondroitin is 800 to 1200 mg once daily or twice divided into 2 equal doses.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin taking together is preferred, because the work synergistically. They stimulate synthesis of new cartilage, while simultaneously controlling the cartilage destroying enzymes, and keeping the chondrocytes healthy. These supplements treating the disease on a cellular level, helping the body heal itself. While pain medications only mask the symptoms of the disease.
ASU is a natural vegetable extract made from Avocado and Soybean oils. Avocado Soybean Unsaponifables has been a prescription treatment for osteoarthritis in France since the early 1990s. ASU differs from Glucosamine and Chondroitin, because it is a mixture of many different plant substances. ASU comes from the natural avocado and soybean oils; the supplements ratio is one part avocado to 2 parts soybean. The processing of ASU is very complex and expensive. ASU is even more complicated than making Glucosamine and Chondroitin. There are multiple active ingredients in ASU that need very careful handling to be purified and stabilized. Some companies are selling avocado and soy oils, and not the active ASU ingredients. Avocado and Soy oils do not contain the same active components, in the same quantities, as the highly processed, purified, and concentrated ingredients as in the valid products.
Recommended dosage for ASU is 300 mg once daily.
When buying any supplement, you have to make sure that it is of good quality. One way to ensure this is to buy products that adhere to Good Manufacturing Protocols. The box should have GMP stamped on it. The product could be inferior even if the label states that it is "laboratory tested". This could only refer to the raw material, which is really inconclusive, and many things can happen in the process of making a supplement. Only testing of the end product is an acceptable form of assuring accurate readings. Taking inferior products, ones that don't use quality ingredients, or products that are not manufactured with the proper controls, is simply a waste of time and money. Unfortunately this is the case with most products on the market today.
Chondroitin is more expensive to manufacture than Glucosamine. As a result companies are more interest in profit than quality may try to skimp on chondroitin by providing less than is listed on the label; using dosages lower than those supported by research; substituting cheaper, less active, or inactive substances; obtaining chondroitin from companies that don't follow the strictest quality standards in processing.
All three products are general safe. Glucosamine is safe for diabetics; it delivers the same of sugar as a grape. The majority of Glucosamine is manufactured from the shells of lobsters, shrimp and crab. The meat protein that causes the allergic reaction is not found in the shell. People with shellfish allergy should be careful and ask their doctor, or take Regenasure, the vegetarian form. There are no reports on adverse reactions. There is no evidence to support the danger contracting mad cows disease from Chondroitin. The bacteria would be killed during processing.
Be aware of products that claim to be long lasting, time-released or control delivery. Glucosamine, Chondroitin and ASU are long lasting themselves. Also for best results, you want them to be released as quickly as possible.
Double and triple strength products indicate that you need to take fewer tablets to achieve the same results. This basically means larger tablets, which is not a good idea for somebody that has a problem swallowing.
Liquid supplements are usually not as stable as powders or capsules. There is no evidence that liquid absorbs better than capsules, in this particular case. It is possible that absorption is lower in liquid products. Stomach acid is important for proper absorption of glucosamine. The liquid products could dilute the acid, interfering with absorption. There is also a problem with poor taste, and drinking more water to mask it, again diluting the product.
Be cautious of the word complex in Glucosamine/Chondroitin products. It generally means that other substances have been added, like manganese or
Vitamin C. It could also mean that the product was diluted with N-acetylglucosamine. This could lead to a reduced effectiveness of the potency. Chondroitin complex usually means that inferior products are used, like MSM, hydrolyzed collagen, chicken cartilage, and related substances that are not Chondroitin. This reduces cost and brings more profit for the manufacturer, but hurts the consumer by providing them with an ineffective product.
Avoid topical forms. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are completely useless if applied topically.
Use caution if there is a money back guarantee. Most manufacturers make their money with shipping alone.
Be cautious if something claims to be better than Glucosamine and Chondroitin, with the exception of ASU, there is nothing to support this claim scientifically.
Avoid store brands. The FDA does not strictly regulate dietary supplements. There is no such thing as a "generic" supplement - there are only good or poor supplements. You are probably not getting the active ingredients you need in a store brand.
Product quality remains as the most important barrier in using glucosamine/chondroitin and ASU supplements. When buying these products make sure to buy from a company that follows good manufacturing practices; buy products that have also been tested and recommended by independent laboratories.
Other supplements that are beneficial include Vitamin C, Vitamin B 6, Vitamin E, Magnesium, Omega 3s, Selenium, Calcium and Boron.
Exercise and Rest: You have to move to stay healthy. Exercise helps with circulation, venous and lymph return, waste elimination, tones your muscles and internal organs, and your joints. The cartilage in your joints has no blood supply, and depends on moving them to nourish them and remove waste products. Weight bearing exercise helps to keep your bones strong, and to prevent Osteoporosis. Yoga and stretching improves flexibility and lengthen muscles. Cardio exercises improve circulation and waste elimination. Exercise in itself releases feel good hormones in the body, and is beneficial for depression and mental well-being.
It is important to get proper rest at night, so the body has a chance to recharge itself. Not giving your body a chance to rejuvenate will leave you feeling empty and depleted.
Meditation and Relaxation: There is a link between stress and chronic health conditions. The more you focus on something, the bigger it will become. If you are in constant pain, you will focus on it and it will become your state of mind. This is understandable, but it will only bring you more pain. Learning relaxation methods like meditation, biofeedback, visualization among others, will help you release negative stress, and feel better.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine: see health not only as an absence of disease, but as a harmonious state of body, mind and spirit. In Chinese medicine your health is determined by your ability to balance your yin and yang, the two opposing forces that make up everything in the universe. The vital energy of the body or qi is interrupted when yin and yang are out of balance, resulting in pain and disease. Establishing balance and harmony in the body will result in health.
Ayurvedic: Ayurveda means "knowledge of life." It represents a complete philosophy of life and living. The client is guided on how to develop self-knowledge and learn how to correct imbalances to obtain health. The client will work on strengthening their prana (life force) by harmonizing their dosha or constitutional type. The treatments involve diet and nutrition, herbs, yoga exercises, meditation, massage, and breathing exercises.
Chiropractic and Osteopathy: both modalities aim to bring the body back into alignment by adjusting the bones of the body. The nervous system is brought back into proper working order by restoring proper balance to the spinal column and joints, allowing nerve impulses to travel freely from the brain via the spinal column to all body parts. Impeded blood and nerve flow results in pain and disease, if not corrected.
Herbs: Herb medicine and aromatherapy use plants, herbs and other natural substances to stimulate the body to return to the state of health. Though herbs are medicines, they tend to be much safer than chemical drugs for many reasons; they are less potent, more recognizable to the body, and usually used in combinations and potencies that minimize harmful side effects.
Homeopathy: is based on the concept that "Likes cure likes." This means that medication should not be used to counteract symptoms, but to stimulate the body's own healing forces.
Massage and Bodywork: are extremely beneficial for arthritis sufferers. Massage will improve circulation, lymph flow, waste elimination, provide relaxation for sore muscles and joints, and reduce stress and anxiety levels in the body.
There are many different approaches to all things in life; learning to listen to your own intuition will help you find a treatment plan that is right for you. Practicing self-awareness and developing your intuition will guide you on your road back to well being. It usually takes years of wrong living to become ill, it will take some time to become healthy. A Turkish proverb says," No matter how long you have traveled down the wrong road, it is never too late to turn back."