Arthritis is a health condition that can really impact quality of life, whether it is in your knee limiting your mobility, or in your fingers interfering with your ability to complete everyday tasks. It can be really painful to boot. Traditional treatments include medications to ease pain and inflammation. Whether these conventional approaches are leaving something to be desired or you are simply interested in experimenting with natural treatments to maximize control of symptoms, there are several strategies to try.
The foods we eat affect us far beyond providing the nutrients we need to function–our food choices can either improve our health or detract from it and may affect the course of specific health conditions. When it comes to your diet and arthritis, you want to adopt an eating plan that will help fight inflammation, which lies at the root of arthritis pain. The average American diet provokes inflammation and may be responsible at least partly, for the development and/or worsening of symptoms of various conditions.
Inflammatory foods include refined carbohydrates, sugar, trans fats, omega-6 fatty acids (when consumed in large amounts as is the case for many following an American style of eating) and animal fats. Foods that quell inflammation include antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, hemp seed, flax and a variety of nuts and seeds. Cook with anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric and ginger.
Yoga is an excellent tool for achieving both a healthy mind and body. Its focus on breathing is a great way to relieve stress and each of the poses serves some specific health-promoting purpose. If you have arthritis, this form of exercise may seem intimidating but there are many different types of poses and levels of intensity, and the gentler forms are perfect for someone with a condition like arthritis.
A review of studies that was published in 2011 found that yoga may offer benefits for arthritis sufferers in the form of reduced symptoms such as pain, swelling and tenderness, as well as reduced disability stemming from the condition. If you attend yoga classes, be sure to tell the instructor about your condition so she can be sure to offer modified poses when appropriate to accommodate your needs.
The idea of acupuncture seems strange to many because there is really no equivalent type of treatment in the West, where many health care practitioners do not give much credence to the idea of a life force that flows through our body and blockages of this force, or energy. But, according to ancient Eastern medicine, when this life force becomes stagnant through certain meridians (energy paths), it gives rise to health problems in specific areas of the body. By stimulating points on the body linked to these meridians, you unblock the energy and health is restored.
Acupuncture is gaining popularity in the West however, with research finding it to be an effective treatment for a variety of health woes ranging from post-operative nausea to fatigue from cancer treatments. According to WebMD, it may be an effective drug-free treatment to manage arthritis pain. Acupuncturists are knowledgeable about all aspects of Eastern medicine and may be able to offer more information on Chinese medicine for arthritis.
There are several dietary supplements that may help curb arthritis symptoms by promoting joint health and/or reducing inflammation and pain. Besides adding ginger and turmeric to your food, you may benefit from taking in larger amounts through supplementation. Other supplements that fight inflammation include omega-3 fatty acids, GLA–found in evening primrose oil, borage oil or black currant oil, holy basil and huzhang.
When attempting to manage health conditions through natural means, there are two important things to keep in mind–patience and consistency. Since natural treatments aim to get at the root issues causing your health problems, you may not experience relief immediately. You need to give it time; you also need to be consistent with applying these new strategies. If you want to see if your diet makes a difference, you need to make a concerted effort to change how you eat, for example. Relief is possible and you just need to make a firm decision to take control of your health.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness content. She is especially interested in alternative medicine, natural healing, Chinese remedies and other Eastern healing practices.