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All you need to know about arthritis

Expert advice from Dr Jess Braid on how to avoid arthritis flare-ups

The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most commonly referred-to form of arthritis and is caused by damage to the joint through “wear and tear” and inflammation. Osteoarthritis usually occurs after the age of 40 and creates pain or stiffness and eventually bony spurs and changes in the shape of the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks the linings of your joints causing pain and swelling, eventually leading to joint deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis is more likely in women than men and can affect other organs in your body, not just your joints. There are other types of arthritis often caused by other autoimmune diseases but these are less common.

Low-level inflammation

Arthritis flare-ups (an increase in pain, stiffness and swelling) often occur when our bodies become more inflamed. Low-level inflammation is caused by a number of factors including stress, poor diet, toxins or other infections like dental abscesses. As so much of our immune system, and therefore inflammation, is influenced by our diet and gut health, one of the best ways to reduce inflammation is to reduce sugar, including fruit juices, and processed foods, as much as possible and to increase the number and variety of vegetables that we eat. We can also use probiotics, like kefir or supplements, and prebiotics like ground flax seed to improve our gut health.

A deficiency in many vitamins and minerals including B6, magnesium, folate and vitamin D can be a contributing factor and so a high-quality daily multivitamin is definitely worth considering as well as working with a nutritionist or dietician to optimise nutrients and vitamins in your diet. Overall, our nutrition can make a significant difference to the symptoms of arthritis, according to recent clinical studies.

Natural support

Natural supports for osteoarthritis, which have reasonable scientific evidence supporting their use, include glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate supplements, which are shown to protect the joint cartilage and delay damage. Boswellia serrata (frankincense) has been found to significantly improve arthritis pain when taken for four weeks, published in a recent review of seven clinical trials. Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) also has some promising clinical trial evidence showing that it can reduce pain from osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and whilst the supports above may be helpful, it is important to support the immune system and focus on reducing inflammation through taking omega-3 supplements and reducing sugar in our diets. I support my patients to try four weeks without gluten, which has been shown to have benefits in some clinical trials. Curcumin (from turmeric) is a supplement that may help to reduce rheumatoid arthritis disease activity. It may also be helpful to see a functional medicine practitioner who can work out the best way to support and restore the immune system to health alongside any other medical treatments.

Dr Jess Braid is a qualified medical doctor, functional medicine practitioner, acupuncturist and Chinese and Western herbalist. She is the co-founder of the online health platform Adio, (

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