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Simple Herbs for Rheumatoid Arthritis - Ottawa Holistic Wellness

Simple Herbs for Rheumatoid Arthritis

It usually comes on quietly. “I thought it was tendonitis from working long hours on the computer.”  One person describes the beginnings of rheumatoid arthritis.

Another tells of not being able to get out of bed in the morning because her ankles were swollen and stiff. “For three months I took ibuprofen for the pain. Then my wrists swelled, and a month later the pain was in my neck.”

These are a description of the onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Attacking our own body

Rheumatoid Arthritis is classed as an auto-immune disease. The human body is fantastically complex; trillions of cells about each other. They feed each other, nurse each other back to health, banish renegade cells with their agenda (cancer) and continually replicate.

This co-existence requires the ability for cells to recognise that they belong to the same community called the human body. Something happens in auto-immune disease which causes this harmonious relationship to go astray and the immune cells to assault the cells of the cartilage, bones and ligaments in joints.

This assault results in inflammation, or in other words, painful, swollen and stiff joints.

Why does it happen?

It is accepted that RA is a genetic disease. However, a useful question to ask is, “why do some people with a history of RA in the family never develop it while others do?”.

The internal environment of the body is the deciding factor by which genes are turned on or off, including genes which trigger chronic disease. Much of the current research in genetic disorders, including other auto-immune conditions and some cancers, suggests that the internal environment of the body is profoundly influenced by the external environment.

Gaining relief with herbs

Each person I have spoken to with RA associates the onset of RA with unusually stressful events in their lives. Stress profoundly affects the internal environment of the body, interfering with sleep, digestion, and hormonal balance.

This is where herbal medicine shines. It eases the effect of stress on the whole body while targeting the specific area under duress.

In relieving RA, herbalists turn to anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric (Curcuma longa), liquorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.) and devil’s claw (Harpophytum procumbens).

In some ways, to call these herbs anti-inflammatory is to misrepresent them. They do not act like over the counter pain medicine or like prescription anti-inflammatories which offer temporary relief for as long as the drug is used. Anti-inflammatory herbs work with the body to resolve inflammation. They may take longer to work, but their effects are longer lasting.

How do they work?

So what do these herbs have to do with stress aggravating RA?

  1. Both turmeric and liquorice moderate the effect stress have on the immune system. Adrenal glands react to stress. These herbs enhance the adrenals’ efficiency in secreting the anti-inflammatory, cortisol.
  2. They interfere with inflammation messengers the body produces when fighting illness, such as arachidonic acid.

By the way, arachidonic acid is higher in those who eat a lot of red meat. For this reason, holistic practitioners recommend decreasing or eliminating red meat from the diet while suffering from chronic inflammation.

  1. Licorice and turmeric are also high in anti-oxidants which negate the effect of free radicals produced by our stressed-out body.
  2. Both are considered herbs that protect the liver and support it in eliminating the debris created by chronic inflammation.

Devils Claw is a plant from the Kalahari desert in South Africa and is used by the Hottentot people to relieve migraine headaches. In 1953, it was imported to Europe and embraced by western herbalists as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory for arthritic conditions, including RA.

There have been several clinical trials using Devil’s Claw in the treatment of RA. Each trial has demonstrated the herb’s active pain-relieving actions. At this time, how the plant reduces inflammation is not known. In holistic medicine, sometimes the search for the specific mechanism in a plant’s medicinal activity is like not seeing the forest for the trees.

The plant works. It also improves digestion and scavenges free radicals.

One final important herb added to an RA formula is the bark of the poplar tree (Poplaris spp.). In the spring, scrapping of the bark of young branches exposes a lovely green powder. This powder is high in salicylic acid, the pain-relieving compound found in over the counter medicine such as aspirin. Although symptomatic in its effect, poplar bark eases pain while the other herbs do their job.

Speak to your herbalist to find out how nature’s medicine can help you with your symptoms.

Disclaimer

This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Now I would like to hear from you. Do you have Osteoarthritis? What have you tried to help their symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

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A Diet for Arthritis - Good and bad foods - Ottawa Holistic Wellness

A Diet for Arthritis: Good and bad foods

When considering what foods are good and bad for arthritis, both rheumatoid (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA), a great place to start it to address those that either create or reduce inflammation in the body.

By reducing the overall level of inflammation arthritic conditions can be improved.

There are three relevant facts to remember:

1. Anti-inflammatory diets are not a one-size-fits-all solution. We are all unique in our make up so what works for one will not work for another, so it will take some trial and error to find what works for each individual.

2. When seeking natural ways to improve your condition, it is not a quick, short-term fix; it is a lifestyle change that will need to be maintained long term if you wish to continue to experience the benefits.

3. Diet is only a part of the process, and many also find that moderate exercise will increase the positive effect of diet on arthritis pain.

Toxins in food

It is well known that pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilisers are harmful to us. They interfere with our gut health, and in turn affect our immune system and overall well-being.

Also, foods that are heated, grilled, fried, or pasteurised will contain toxins called “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs).

These toxins damage specific proteins in the body. To address these AGEs, the body recruits cytokines which are in themselves, inflammatory messengers.

http://icahn.mssm.edu/about-us/news-and-events/study-shows-that-reducing-processed-and-fried-food-intake-lowers-related-health-risks-and-restores-bodys-defenses

High amounts of sugar in the form of processed grains (white flour, white rice, many breakfast cereals), candies, soda etc. will also increase the number of AGEs in the body. If you like sweet snacks try to use natural, fibre rich fruits such as dates and figs.

Oils, the good and the bad

Omega 6

This is found in corn, peanut, sunflower, safflower, and soy oils, and is healthy in small amounts. However, excessive consumption is detrimental as it is converted into pro-inflammatory leukotrienes and prostaglandins.

It is essential to be aware that many baked goods, commercial snacks and foods contain corn oil and other sources high in omega 6.

Omega 3

Omega 3 has been shown by many studies to be beneficial in reducing inflammation in manysome ways. It inhibits the production of other inflammatory molecules and also triggers the production of anti-inflammatory chemicals.

In particular, olive oil contains oleocanthal, which has properties similar to non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs.

Omega 3 can be found in fish, flax, hemp, chia.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are altered by the addition of a hydrogen molecule to increase stability and shelf life.

They are believed to impact inflammation, heart disease, and cause other health problems.

The dangers are becoming better known, and they have been removed from many products but can still be found in some baked goods, fast-food items, processed snack foods, and many kinds of margarine.

Antioxidants

Free radicals will cause oxidative stress in our bodies when their number exceeds our ability to process them.

Creation of these radicals is a normal part of metabolism, but production is increased by some activities such as smoking and consuming certain foods including alcohol, fats that have been heated to high temperature (including fat in meats) and chlorinated water (let your tap water stand for a while before drinking).

High oxidative stress is linked with arthritic conditions, both RA and OA.

The good news is that there are various antioxidants found in foods, these include those below (just a note that chocolate should always be at least 75% cocoa):

• Allium sulphur compounds: Leeks, onions, garlic

• Anthocyanins: Red and purple fruits – Eggplant, grapes, berries

• Beta-carotene: Pumpkin, butternut squash, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, parsley, cantaloupe, sweet potato, carrots, kale,

• Catechins: Tea, dark chocolate

• Copper: Seafood, lean meat, nuts, legumes

Cryptoxanthins: Red peppers, pumpkin, mangoes, papaya

Flavonoids: Tea, green tea, dark chocolate, onion, apples

• Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower

• Lignins: Sesame seeds, bran, whole grains, vegetables

• Lutein: Leafy greens – includes spinach, kale, chard

• Lycopene: Watermelon

• Manganese: Seafood, lean meat, nuts

• Polyphenols: Thyme, oregano

• Selenium: Seafood, offal, lean meat, whole grains

• Vitamin C: Berries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, peppers

• Vitamin E: Cold pressed vegetable oils, nuts, avocados, seeds, whole grains

• Zinc: Seafood, lean meat, nuts

• Zoochemicals: Red meat, offal, fish

An anti-inflammatory diet cuts down or eliminates foods suspected of causing oxidative stress and encourages the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants.

Disclaimer

This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Now I would like to hear from you. Do you have Osteoarthritis? What have you tried to help their symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

Like what you’ve read? Sign up for FREE updates delivered to your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are granting: Ottawa Holistic Wellness, 356 MacLaren Street, Ottawa, ON, K2P 0M6, permission to email you. You may unsubscribe via the link found at the bottom of every email. (See our Email Privacy Policy (http://constantcontact.com/legal/privacy-statement) for details.) Emails are serviced by Constant Contact.