Arthritis is a topic the pops up quite frequently in my chiropractic clinic, the best way to deal with arthritis is to prevent it, so even if you don’t have arthritis it is still important to understand this disorder and start acting now to prevent it in the future. This is where I feel that natural medicine is definitely at the forefront.
Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints surrounding ligaments, tendons or cartilage that can affect any part of the body. Two of the most common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common and is associated with joint pain and restriction in movement. The disease process is slow, progressive cartilage deterioration is followed by “hardening of the joints” due to calcification and bone spur formation. The “joint cushion” deteriorates, which is what leads to pain and limited movement in the joint.
It most commonly presents in the knees, hips, and small hand joints but it can develop in any synovial joint.
Osteoarthritis has certain groups that it is more commonly seen in. There is thought that genetic factors influence the likelihood of you getting the disorder. Other factors include your age (with higher age having higher risk), gender (female’s are at higher risk), obesity, poor diet, hormonal imbalances, ‘leaky gut syndrome’ (caused by NSAID) and increased bone density. Mechanical factors can include joint injury or misalignment.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that primarily affects the synovial tissue (the membranes around the joints that secretes lubricating fluid to allow bones to move easily against each other). Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease in which the body attacks its own tissue and causes the joints to become swollen, tender and possibly deformed. Women are most often affected (3:1 ratio) and the disease begins between 20 and 50 years of age. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any part of the body, including the heart, lungs and eyes and is very debilitating. It is a chronic disease, but does have flare-ups where symptoms are more intense, and then is followed with periods of remission.Causes of rheumatoid arthritis include, genetic susceptibility, food allergies/sensitivities due to leaky gut, poor diet, nutritional imbalance, poor bowel function or dysbiosis, stress that triggers hormonal imbalances, and infectious agents.
However the good news is there are certain things, which have a history of traditional use for preventing or treating various arthritic conditions.
A research conducted at the University of Arizona college of Medicine, in the effects of turmeric with arthritis. The researchers knew that Turmeric had a history of use in Ayurvedic medicine as well as a history of use in the western world for treatment and prevention of arthritis however, they couldn’t find any data conducted around tests designed to evaluate the efficacy of turmeric extracts similar to those used in dietary supplements.
This study set out to actually determine the anti-arthritic efficacy of dietary supplements being promoted for arthritis treatment, as well as to establish the mechanism of action of turmeric on rheumatoid arthritis. The study found that a Turmeric extract with a high percentage concentration of curcuminoids inhibited a transcription factor; NF-KB from being activated in the joint.
The transcription factor is a protein that controls when genes are “switched on or off”. Therefore if this transcription factor is activated it cause inflammatory proteins to be produced which then is destructive to the joint. The curcuminoids in turmeric prevent the destruction of the joint therefore acting as anti-arthritic treatments. The researchers concluded that turmeric could help with rheumatoid arthritis.
In another study the efficiency of Turmeric was evaluated. In this study they concluded that a sample of turmeric containing 94% curcuminoids was “more potent in preventing arthritis” than another essential oil-depleted turmeric faction, and that other compounds found in crude turmeric extract may actually inhibit the protective effect of the curcuminoids. This suggests that supplements made with turmeric extracts are likely to be most effective when they have high curcuminoid content and significantly less effective with lower curcuminoid content.
Ginger is believed to hold anti-inflammatory properties. In the 70’s ginger was shown to share properties with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs of the time. Since then work at RMG Biosciences has discovered that ginger can inhibit the inflammatory response by inhibiting the induction of genes. Ginger modulates biochemical pathways activated in chronic inflammation.
Another study also conducted back at the University of Arizona measured the comparative effects of two ginger extracts, both of which contained gingerols. The study concluded that “Both extracts were efficacious in preventing joint inflammation” and that the results showed “a very significant joint-protective effect of these ginger samples”.
Funk JL, Frye JB, Oyarzo JN, Kuscuoglu N, Wilson J, McCaffrey G, Stafford G, Chen G, Lantz RC, Jolad SD, Solyom AM, Kiela PR, Timmermann BN. Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Nov;54(11):3452-64.
Funk JL, Frye JB, Oyarzo JN, Chen G, Lantz RC, Jolad SD, Solyom AM, Timmermann BN. Turmeric extracts containing curcuminoids prevent experimental rheumatoid arthritis. J Nat Prod. 2006 Mar;69(3):351-5.
Grzanna R, Lindmark L, Frondoza CG. Ginger--an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. J Med Food. 2005 Summer;8(2):125-32.
Funk JL, Frye JB, Oyarzo JN, Timmermann BN. Comparative effects of two gingerol-containing Zingiber officinale extracts on experimental rheumatoid arthritis. J Nat Prod. 2009 Mar 27;72(3):403-7.