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Condition - Living with Osteoarthritis

By Debbie Paddington Dip ION

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, causes the breakdown of the cartilage in joints. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that covers the end of bones and permits nearly frictionless joint motion. If the smooth surface of the cartilage becomes rough, frays, or wears away, it causes bones to grind against each other. As a result, the joint becomes irritated and inflamed. Sometimes the irritation causes abnormal bone growths, called spurs, which increase swelling. The disease normally affects the weight bearing joints such as the feet, knees, lower back, hips, and fingers.

Possible contributing factors

Long-term repetitive joint use: Repetitive trauma to joints caused by accidents, surgery, sports injuries, poor posture, or work-related activities, may increase the risk of arthritis. Therefore, athletes and people with jobs that require repetitive, and particularly heavy motion have been found to be at greater risk.

Ageing: The body’s ability to repair cartilage deteriorates with age. As chondrocytes (the cells that make up cartilage) age, they lose their ability to aid repairs and produce more cartilage.

Genetics: Osteoarthritis tends to run in families. Genetic factors may be involved in about half of osteoarthritis cases in the hands and hips, and in a somewhat lower percentage of cases, in the knee.

Excess weight: Increased body weight causes more stress on weight-bearing joints and the spine. Your knees, which carry the brunt of your weight, are particularly at risk.

Associated diseases: The presence of other associated diseases, infections, diabetes, and various other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout are associated with an increase risk of osteoarthritis.

Symptoms

Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include, pain, tenderness, swelling, loss of flexibility and stiffness in the joints.

Dietary considerations

Increase anti-inflammatory foods, including garlic, turmeric, ginger, onions, watercress, oily fish, nuts, seeds.

Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. They are a good source of nutrients and fibre. Try to eat at least five portions a day. Berries and other fruits with a purple/blue colour such as black grapes, bilberries, blackcurrants and blueberries are especially rich in a types of flavonoid called anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins. These phytonutrients are very powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.

Balance blood sugar levels to help maintain a healthy weight. Instead of refined, sugary foods such as white bread, pasta, biscuits and cakes, switch to wholegrains like oats, brown rice, vegetables and fruits and add some good quality protein, e.g. lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds and soy to every meal. Avoid sugar and stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola and alcohol. Try herbal teas instead, such as cat’s claw or green tea.

Include foods high in omega 3 essential fatty acids. Foods such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, nuts and seeds are ideal.

Use healthy cooking oils, such as coconut butter or olive oil.

Reduce or eliminate trans-fatty acids, found in commercially baked goods such as biscuits, crackers, cakes, chips, crisps, onion rings, processed foods, and margarine. These types of fats have been linked to obesity.

Drink six to eight glasses of filtered water daily.

Identify any possible food intolerances. Some people find that certain foods such as wheat or dairy aggravate their osteoarthritis symptoms. The nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers (except black pepper), and aubergine, may need to be avoided in some sensitive individuals. These vegetables contain a toxin called solanine to which some people, particularly those suffering arthritis, can be highly sensitive. In such sensitive individuals, this toxin will interfere with the enzymes in the muscles causing pain and discomfort.

Eliminating the offending food from the diet for a month and then re-introducing it back into your diet while monitoring your symptoms can help to identify any possible food intolerances. Alternatively a blood test can be done.

Supplements

Collagen - may help to support joint function and the production of healthy joint tissue.

Fish oil - The omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil, EPA and DHA, support inflamation.

Devil’s Claw - may help the relief of backache, rheumatic or muscular pain, and general aches and pains in the muscles and joints. Devil’s claw contains chemicals called harpagosides that may help to support normal anti-inflammatory processes.

Bromelain - has anti-inflammatory properties

Vitamin D - Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine hydrochloride helps with the production of a molecule called glycosaminoglycan, a key component of joint cartilage.

MSM - helps to support healthy joints.

Garlic - research has shown that a high intake of garlic is associated with lower levels of osteoarthritis in the hip joint.

Ginger - contains substances called gingerols which may help support normal anti-inflammatory processes.

Cetylated Fatty Acids - applied as a balm may help to keep joints supple and healthy.

Cooling Balms - may be helpful to help manage inflammation and swelling.

Cat’s Claw - has anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful antioxidant.

Vitamin C - is important in the development of normal cartilage.

Calcium and Magnesium - are important for bone health.

Lifestyle

Exercise - can increase your endurance and strengthen the muscles around your joint, making the joint more stable. Stick to gentle exercises, such as walking, or swimming. If you feel new joint pain, stop. New pain that lasts for hours after you exercise probably means you’ve overdone it.

Lose weight - being overweight increases the stress on your weight-bearing joints. Even a small amount of weight loss can be very beneficial. Talk to a Nutritionist about healthy ways to lose weight. Most people combine changes in their diet with increased exercise. 


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