Arthritis is a debilitating condition affecting the joints. Our joints consist of bones, cartilage cushioning, synovial membrane, synovial fluid, ligaments, and muscles. A pathological process, most often inflammation that affects any structural element of the joint with a consequent functional disability, is referred to as arthritis (1).
There is no specific age for arthritis. The disease can affect children though individuals in old age are more prone to it. Arthritis can affect either sex though the disease is more prevalent in women than in men, except for Gout, a type of arthritis that is more common in men. People with a family history have a genetic predisposition for arthritis. Obesity is also a predisposing risk factor for joint ailments.
Arthritis can involve any joint in the body. However, a joint involved in some injury is more likely to develop the debilitating signs and symptoms of arthritis later in life.
Symptoms Of Arthritis
Contrary to layman beliefs, arthritis is not a single disease entity. The term arthritis refers to inflammation of a joint, and depending upon the cause; arthritis can be of many types. All types of arthritis exhibit some common signs and symptoms (2) yet their severity differs depending upon:
- the causative factors for inflammation
- the joint involved
- the inflammatory stage of the disease
The general signs and symptoms of arthritis include:
- swelling and tenderness
- stiffness of the involved joint
- decreased range of mobility
- redness of the adjoining joint area
- fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite accompanies rheumatoid arthritis
Causes Of Arthritis
There are more than 100 types of arthritis, each with a different contributing factor (3). However, some common causes of arthritic symptoms arise due to:
- aging process as in osteoarthritis
- genetic predisposition
- Athletic lifestyle routines that result in excessive wear and tear of the joint structure like in osteoarthritis
- Autoimmunity as in rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus when the defensive body mechanisms attack the normal joint tissues
- Metabolic abnormalities like in Gout when excess uric acid levels cause joint pain
Arthritis Is Reversible
For most patients who have arthritis, it is a downhill ride once the disease is diagnosed. And the main reason behind this is that they are told that the disease state is irreversible. Since arthritis is debilitating, such statements offer little hope for such patients.
For the same reasons of despair associated with the condition, statements like ‘arthritis is reversible’ get many skeptical expressions. Yet, modern research is changing many things about the reversibility of arthritic symptoms (4).
The perception that ‘once damaged, cartilage cannot heal itself’ is no longer as patent as it was a few years ago (5). There is evidence about
- Spontaneous remission of arthritic symptoms.
- Intense physical therapy and medications can stop the degenerative process in chronic juvenile arthritis.
- Redistributing the load on joints and passive joint mobilization can halt the progression of arthritic symptoms.
- Chondrocytes, the cells responsible for the cartilage repair processes, can be stimulated.
It takes a holistic approach to treat, cure, and reverse arthritis, which the conventional therapeutic modules fail to address. Research shows that consumption of chondroprotective nutrients in the diet can initiate the cartilage intrinsic ability to heal itself because cartilage is living tissue and not dead.
Two promising dietary factors in this regard include:
- Antioxidants; vitamin C, E, and plant-based nutrients like curcumin (turmeric)
- Glycosaminoglycans; chondroitin sulfate is the most common GAG, composed of glucuronic acid and N-acetyl galactosamine sulfate
A plant-based diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables, is high in antioxidants. The antioxidants protect the joints via:
- Cutting back free radical damage
- Regulating immune response and keeping a check on auto-immunity
- Reducing the local production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins
- Blocking the action of degenerative enzymes
- Initiating and enhancing the functions of chondrocytes within a joint
Chondroitin Sulfate is available as dietary supplements. The best natural source of chondroitin sulfate is the bovine cartilaginous extract from cows and pigs and fish and bird cartilage. GAG supplements have a direct effect when it comes to safeguarding the joints against arthritis. They do so via:
- Inhibiting the action of degenerative enzymes
- Stimulating the anabolic metabolism of chondrocytes
- Offsetting the side effects of corticosteroid and NSAIDs
At The End Of The Day
Arthritis is reversible. While modern medicine focuses on symptomatic relief, alternative medicine offers ways to prevent, cure, and reverse the arthritic joint’s degenerative responses. Exercise, diet, and lifestyle modifications remain the mainstay of the holistic therapeutic modules. Dietary supplements containing GAG and antioxidants have shown science-backed results that cater to promising health prospects for arthritis patients.