Take action on arthritis

Leyla El Moudden takes a look at some natural ways to relieve arthritis

Arthritis affects nearly 9 million people in the United Kingdom. Arthritis – a term meaning inflammation of the joints (arth – joints; itis – inflammation), is a type of inflammation that is experienced as localised pain in various joints, most commonly in the hands, spine, knees and hips. Often, clients report that the joint pain is more severe upon waking, relieved by movement (which can feel painful). Muscles associated with arthritic joints tend to weaken and shrink over time, reducing mobility further. Pain and weakness combined can leave sufferers on a downward spiral of immobility, often unable to perform basic tasks such as walking, writing and opening jars.

As arthritis is a problem of inflammation and immobility, a naturopathic approach would be to increase intake of anti-inflammatory foods and restrict pro-inflammatory foods. Gentle exercises can help maintain muscle strength and joint mobility, while supplements can facilitate the natural reduction of inflammation and the promotion of tissue repair.

A tailored approach is best. However, overall, the focus would be to patiently build healthy and sustained dietary and lifestyle habits that promote healing.

Dietary tips

Foods we regularly consume can encourage inflammation. Inflammatory foods include white bread, pasta, sugar, cakes, ice cream and/or gluten-rich foods. Highly processed, fried, salty, and/or intensively farmed meats and dairy products, trans fats, as well as vegetables from the nightshade family can all contribute to inflammation.

An anti-inflammatory diet is one that contains high volumes of wholefood green leafy vegetables, foods rich in antioxidants such as berries and grapes, omega-3 fatty acids such as fatty fish and flax seeds, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, beverages such as green tea and healthy oils. If anti-inflammatory foods are new for you, a good place to begin is with a daily juice or smoothie that includes potent anti-inflammatory ingredients.

Natural anti-inflammatories

Nature has some potent anti-inflammatories that can work well either as a supplement or mixed into a smoothie. Bromelain (found in the juice of pineapples), aloe vera juice, turmeric, frankincense, devil’s claw, ginger and cayenne pepper are all potent anti-inflammatories. Adding these elements to your diet can start to reduce inflammation gradually.

Gentle exercise

Arthritis is exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle, and there is no greater motivation to be still than experiencing pain when moving! In spite of this, one of the most important things a person with arthritis can do is to find an exercise that is gentle and encourages movement such as pilates, yoga or t’ai chi. Exercise is also vital for slowing the muscle atrophy associated with painful joints.

Topical solutions

A ‘contrast bath’ may help with localised pain. This involves placing the inflamed joint in a bowl of very cold water for 30 seconds, then very hot water for 30 seconds and back again for five minutes. This has the effect of contracting and dilating the blood vessels that surround the joint, allowing blood and immune cells to reach the area and clear inflammation.

A massage with olive oil (or any oil you like) with drops of ginger and black pepper essential oil makes for a beautiful topical rub for an inflamed joint, stimulating blood flow and relieving pain.

Leyla El Moudden, Dip Herb Dip Nat, is a qualified herbalist and naturopath working with the Really Healthy Company. Visit www.healthy.co.uk to book a free 10-minute Really Healthy Consultation or email nutri@healthy.co.uk

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