Arthritis

The NorthStar blog on arthritis covers the latest breakthroughs on arthritis and arthritis pain relief, including the best options for natural pain relief from chronic arthritis and joint pain.

  1. Treat Restless Leg Syndrome without drugs

    The FDA recently approved a new drug to treat Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).

    Now, I know this condition tortures many older adults. It often strikes at night, just when you're ready to hit the sheets. You can‘t fall asleep, however, because your legs feel jittery. The only thing that makes you feel better is to get up and move around.

    It's a puzzling condition, without a doubt. But before you resort to a drug that may carry a warning of increased suicide risk, explore your options. There are ways to treat Restless Leg Syndrome with drugs.

    I've had a lot of luck treating RLS with a mix of calcium and magnesium. Magnesium, as you'll recall, is a relaxant. So theoretically, that‘s why it helps lessen the creepy-crawly feeling in your legs.

    Go with a ratio of 2:1 of calcium to magnesium. Start with 1,000 mg of calcium to 500 mg of magnesium for a few days. If this doesn‘t work, double the dosage. If you go too high, you may experience somewhat looser stools and should cut back. Also -- make sure to use capsules. Your body tends to absorb these better than hard tablets.

  2. Why the FDA’s latest move on fluoride is a red herring

    Did you know that for the past 70 years you’ve been drinking fluoride, one of the most toxic chemicals found in nature?

    You can’t smell it…you can’t taste it…and you probably have long-since forgotten that this dangerous substance was ever added to our water supply. But the fact is that the EPA started adding this toxic element to public drinking water in the 1940s. Ironically, the goal was to protect children.

    This stuff is the equivalent of ingestible gasoline. In fact, it’s probably even far worse than petrol. Yet for all these years, it’s been heralded as “good for you.”

    Now, the FDA has finally decided to limit the amount of this “gasoline” they’re putting in our water, because of noticeable side effects.

    Many in the health community will praise this move by the FDA.

    But not me.

    Why? Well, in my book, the FDA’s new move is just a red herring. It distracts us from the real problem…primarily, that this “gasoline” doesn’t belong in our water at all.

    Seriously, gasoline doesn’t belong in our water!

    Of course, I’m talking about fluoride.

    You see, fluoride is a waste product of aluminum mining. In fact, any guesses on who funded the research back in the ’40s that convinced us we all needed fluoride for our teeth?

    Yep, you got it: The aluminum mining industry.

    Those captains of industry weren’t concerned about cavities. They wanted to make a quick penny by selling their aluminum by-products. And 70 years later, we’re all still buying their toxic leftovers.

    Dead rodents with clean teeth…

    Here’s another little-known fact about fluoride: It’s rat poison. Just go to any hardware store and check it out. Most brands of rat poison (the old-fashioned kind with the skull and crossbones on the box) contain sodium fluoride.

    What’s it doing in rat poison? Well, it’s not to prevent the rats from getting cavities…I can tell you that much. Nope, scientists classify fluoride as the most toxic chemical found in nature, second only to arsenic. (See, you would have been better off with gasoline, not fluoride, added to your water!)

    Fortunately, fluoride won’t kill a human being right away. It’s considered an “accumulative poison” that gradually builds up in your system. Dental fluorosis (those discolored patches on your teeth that the FDA is so concerned about) is usually the first sign of toxicity.

    But the side effects become much more serious as your exposure increases. That’s because once inside the body, fluoride tends to collect in areas with lots of calcium, such as your teeth…and your bones.

    In fact, in 1990, the New England Journal of Medicine carried a report that too much fluoride exposure increased “skeletal fragility” and lowered bone density in women with osteoporosis. But even that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

    Excessive fluoride exposure has also been linked to:

    • Neurotoxicity
    • Genetic damage
    • Tumors
    • Atopic dermatitis
    • Eczema
    • Gastro-intestinal problems
    • Headaches
    • Immune system disruptions
    • Loss of collagen (a protein critical to skin, muscle, tissue, ligaments and bone health)
    • Arthritis
    • Learning problems
    • Thyroid disorders

    Fluoride in your water supply is serious stuff, folks. It even affects unborn babies. In fact, two years ago, U.S. researchers looked at rural communities in upstate New York. They discovered that women who live in towns with fluorinated water deliver premature babies much more often than do women who live in towns without fluoride.

    So while it’s great that the FDA wants to limit the gasoline -- er, fluoride -- in your water…I wouldn’t start drinking straight from the tap any time soon.

    So how do you get rid of it?

    There are two ways to get rid of the fluoride in your drinking water. And neither one is very simple, I’m afraid.

    Your first option is to buy bottled water from the grocery store. But you have to be careful. Obviously, you want to avoid any brand that contains nothing more than bottled tap water. That’s because it probably contains as much fluoride as water straight from your tap…only it’s more expensive. If you’re really curious, you can contact the manufacturer to find out exactly how much fluoride your bottled water contains.

    Secondly, skip anything that calls itself “pure” water. You see, pure H20 is not normal in nature. All natural sources of water contain some “impurities.” Spring water contains natural minerals and electrolytes that your body needs.

    But when you distill or completely purify water, you remove these natural elements. I call this “soft” water or mineral-free water. And your body has a heck of a time processing this kind of water. In fact, there is significant evidence that drinking “soft” water increases your risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke. I remember, as a child, seeing warnings on bottles of distilled water for steam irons: “Not for internal use.”

    The only kind of bottled water I consider safe is high-quality spring water, drawn from a deep natural spring. Check the bottle’s label to see how many minerals the spring water contains. Pick the brand with the most magnesium. That’s your best bet…though it won’t be cheap.

    Your second option is to install a high-quality water filter. Lots of companies will dazzle you with a long list of chemicals their filters remove. But ask them if their filter removes fluoride.That’s the million-dollar question. If it does, you’ve got a winner on your hands.

    Lastly, aside from your drinking water, make sure to use fluoride-free toothpaste and mouthwashes. They are widely available now, even at big-name stores. Also, skip the fluoride rinse at your next visit to the dentist.

  3. Studies suggest a link between vitamin C and bone mass

    Vitamin C Helps Prevent Bone Loss in Men We all know that vitamin C is perhaps the world‘s greatest multi-tasker. It defends us against a slew of proven enemies: from the common cold, to cancer (intravenously), to heart disease. Now there‘s new evidence that vitamin C can even help prevent loss of bone mass in men. Over a four-year period, researchers at Tufts University studied the bone density of men and women 75 years and older who take anywhere from no vitamin C to 520 milligrams daily. They found that men with the highest levels of vitamin C maintained their bone density. While men with lowest levels of vitamin C experienced bone density loss. (Interestingly, high vitamin C intake seemed to provide some protection for women, but it wasn‘t ‘statistically significant.‘ Maybe more research here is needed.) The RDA of vitamin C is laughable (and surely negligent) at 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg for women. In my opinion, everyone over the age of 10 should get at least 1,000 mg of vitamin C twice a day. Natural sources include: citrus fruits, broccoli - red peppers, brussel sprouts, parsley, and strawberries. Very few ‘multi‘ vitamins contain enough of it, however. Your best bet is to find 1,000 mg capsules and take one twice a day at a minimum. Don‘t take them all at once. And stay away from any so-called ‘time release‘ capsules. Vitamin C only stays in your system for a few hours, so ‘time release‘ is really a waste. (There are some rare exceptions, so check with your health provider to make sure this is a safe quantity for you.)
  4. Natural arthritis relief options

    If you‘ve got arthritis and take 1200 mg of ibuprofen every day, I have some safe and effective options for you to consider. You see, NSAIDs are rife with problems. Take one for too long and you‘re setting yourself up for gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, liver problems, kidney disorders, or even heart attack and stroke. In fact, widespread use of NSAIDs results in 107,000 hospitalizations (mostly due to bleeding in the GI tract) and 16,500 deaths in arthritis patients each year. But there are safe, effective options you can try so you don‘t wind up taking an NSAID for the rest of your life. First off, a new small study found that a natural plant extract might help relieve your pain as well as ibuprofen. Passion fruit peel extract is not exactly well-known in nutritional circles to treat arthritis, but previous studies show that it does reduce overall inflammation in the body. And that‘s probably why it appears to work against joint pain as well. For the recent study, scientists recruited 33 men and women with osteoarthritis in the knee and gave them a test to assess the severity of their arthritis symptoms. Then, the researchers randomly divided the volunteers into two groups. One group received 150 mg of passion fruit peel extract each day for two months. The other group received a placebo. At the end of two months, researchers checked back in the volunteers and again assessed the severity of their symptoms. The researchers found that the passion fruit group improved their overall arthritis scores by 20 percent. Plus, their pain, stiffness, and physical function scores also rose by about 20 percent. On the other hand, the group taking the placebo reported no improvements. According to the researchers, "The passion fruit peel extract supplementation should help patients to reduce their reliance upon NSAIDs that may have undesirable side effects in the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms." Now, based on this small study, I‘m not convinced that passion fruit peel extract will magically make your joint pain completely disappear. But it may help...and you may be able to back off your other meds. Plus, over the years, I treated arthritis pain a number of different ways...

    Ease joint pain and stiffness without drugs

    First off, if you are lucky, you may respond to a short trial of either B3 or B6. I say you‘re "lucky" because there are types of arthritis that will respond to this kind of vitamin treatment within a mere week or two. First I‘d try 250 mg of B3 (or niacin) two to three times a day. Taking B3 at this dose can cause flushing of the skin, so look for inositol hexanicotinate. It is considered a ‘no-flush‘ type of niacin. If that doesn‘t work after two weeks of steady supplementation, try 100-200 mg of B6. (Don‘t go higher than 400 mg per day. Some nutritionists worry about neuropathy at B6 levels higher than 400 mg, but I personally think it‘s very rare. Also, magnesium helps with B6 absorption. So make sure to get 400-500 mg per day of that as well. Secondly, I‘d definitely look for a supplement that contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help support the growth of cartilage in your joints. But worn cartilage isn‘t the cause of all types of joint pain. And if that‘s your story, I have another suggestion. You see, there is a sticky, thick substance called synovial fluid that oils and lubes your joints. But when you don‘t have enough, your hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows ache, throb, and grind. And most of us over 50 don‘t have enough synovial fluid. But you can improve your synovial fluid with hyaluronic acid (HA). You see, HA is the main building block of synovial fluid. In fact, the more HA you have, the richer your synovial fluid. HA is naturally found in miso, beans, and radishes. You can also get it by injection. And recently, a few companies now offer it as a supplement. But make sure to do your homework. A lot of companies offer a synthetic form of HA that uses bacteria fermentation. Natural HA, on the other hand, is the way to go as it‘s stronger. Lastly, I‘d take a look at a substance called CMO (Cetyl-Myristoleate). It‘s a substance produced by certain animals that do not get (and cannot be induced to get) arthritis. This is harder to find and more expensive, so I only recommend it when all else fails. I‘ve gotten a lot of feed back about CMO...and it seems to either work wonders for you or not a wink. There‘s no grey area.

    One last word about arthritis pain...

    Even though I‘m a nutritionist, there‘s one last thing I need to tell you about arthritis: Get moving and you‘ll feel better! Sure, the last thing you feel like doing if you‘ve got arthritis in both hips is to exercise, but it‘s exactly what your body needs. In fact, the less you use the joint that‘s stiff and painful, the worse it becomes. Exercise is critical. First and foremost, it stimulates your circulatory system. This distributes healing nutrients to the joint that‘s causing you problems. Plus, remember the synovial fluid found in all your joints? When you don‘t exercise, that fluid gets thick and gunky. But when you exercise, your synovial fluid thins out and lubricates your joints properly. Plus, exercise keeps your cartilage healthy. You see, when you work out, the cartilage between your joints takes a pounding. But with each pounding, it also absorbs the nutrient-rich synovial fluid like a sponge and actually gets stronger. So what‘s the best exercise for you? For someone with arthritis, I always recommend walking, swimming, or bouncing on a trampoline. All three are gentle forms of exercise. You don‘t even need to break a sweat (though that‘s always good too). Just get going enough to raise your pulse and get the blood flowing throughout the body. Sure, tackling arthritis is not a quick-fix. You didn‘t get it in a week and you‘re not going to get rid of it that fast either. But there are steps you can take--without resorting to drugs--that can help you feel a little better each and every day.
  5. Resveratrol benefits… could it be the “fountain of youth”?

    I'm a research junkie. I'll admit it. So I just about jumped out of my seat when I read that someone had finally tested resveratrol--the antioxidant superstar found in red wine and grapes--on actual human beings! Yes, nutritionists have known about resveratrol for decades. It helps tame inflammation and prevent oxidative stress. This is significant because unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress can lead to heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. Even the mainstream press picked up on resveratrol a few years back when scientists proved it could extend the lifespan of mice by 20 percent! They dubbed it the "fountain of youth." But until last month, there was one giant problem with this antioxidant phenom: Zero clinical proof actually existed that it works on humans. (And I mean, ZERO.) There was plenty of data showing that it can increase the lifespan of roundworms, fruit flies, mice, and yeast. But nothing on humans...until last month. Will the antioxidant superstar work on humans? You may be wondering, why all the fuss? If resveratrol is found in red wine...doesn't everyone know that drinking a glass of red wine is good for your health? And yes, that's true. But this study digs much deeper. In fact, it's the first- ever study showing why resveratrol may be a legit "fountain of youth" for humans after all. Specifically, scientists from the University of Buffalo wanted to see if resveratrol could decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in healthy men and women. So the scientists recruited 20 healthy men and women and took samples of their blood. Then, they split the participants into two groups. One group received 40 mg of resveratrol each day for six weeks. And the other group received a placebo. And here's what they found...

    Anti-aging extract scores off the charts!

    Resveratrol performed just as we all had hoped. First off, it blocked the formation of free radicals (reactive oxygen species or ROS). These harmful, unstable molecules cause damage to healthy cells. Over time, widespread free radical damage can harm your DNA and lead to a disease like cancer. But the participants who took resveratrol for six weeks significantly lowered their ROS levels. Secondly, the resveratrol group also lowered their TNF levels. TNF (or tumor necrosis factor) is a harmful protein that creates inflammation throughout the body. A few weeks ago, we talked about this harmful protein and the role it plays in rheumatoid arthritis. But TNF doesn't just harm rheumatoid arthritis patients. It causes widespread inflammation that can affect your blood vessels, your organs, your skin, and even your brain. It also messes with your body's insulin production. In fact, endocrinologists believe that lowering TNF levels will improve insulin resistance in diabetics.

    Small study, big impact

    Now, unfortunately this study is terribly small in scope with just 20 participants. Nevertheless, I think that it will have a big impact in the years to come. First off, it proves that resveratrol can help control inflammation in humans. And that's huge! Inflammation is the underlying, biological cause of so many different uncured diseases -- from rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer's disease. Plus, it just builds more momentum for this superstar antioxidant. It will be interesting to see if one day scientists prove that resveratrol can extend your lifespan, as they proved with mice a few years back. So if you're not already taking something with resveratrol, now's definitely the time start! (Especially if you're over 50 or have an inflammatory disease.) And yes, you'll find resveratrol in red wine and grapes. But you'd have to drink gallons of wine (or eat bushels of grapes) to get 100 mg of resveratrol. That's the amount you'll find in any quality resveratrol supplement. Most of these are derived from the Japanese knotweed herb. So take action now to keep feeling and looking young.

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