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Arthritis

Medical Treatment versus Natural Treatment

No one is exempt from arthritis. As long as we age, it will continue to affect us, only some of us are more affected than others.The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis.  These are little patches of deteriorating tissue at the edge of the bones.  If you ever had an X-ray you can see these little patches quite clearly.  As the bone wears away, the separation between the bones gets larger and the cartilage also begins to deteriorate.  The more active you are in your life and the more sports you have played, the more likely you are to have osteoarthritis starting at an early age.  If you are still very active and exercise regularly, you may feel a little pain but not enough to stop you from doing whatever you want in your life.  For people that do not exercise and due to injury, illness or obesity are very immobile, the pain and stiffness can be excruciating.

Most people go to their physician when the pain becomes more disturbing.  They are prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs such as Celebrex, Vioxx, Naprosyn or Voltaren.  They reduce inflammation and take away pain.  Sounds good until you notice that pain in your stomach or blood in the stool caused by your new stomach ulcer.  Even if you do not get the side effects, eventually the pain relievers do not work any more and the doctor either stops or escalates to more powerful addicting drugs with even greater side effects and risks.

Rheumatoid arthritis is much more severe than osteoarthritis and unlike the osteo form which starts very gradually and progresses slowly over the years, it seems to come suddenly out of no where and the pain is much more severe.  This is a very strange disease in which your immune system thinks it detects invading organisms around your joints.  It dispatches hordes of white cells to surround the infection and isolate it from spreading into other parts of your body and sends millions of killer T cells to destroy the infection.  The only problem is that there is no infection and once your immune system is turned on in this abnormal manor it will not turn off.  You get swelling in your joints, a great amount of pain and even disfiguration especially around the fingers of your hand.  When the anti-inflammatory from your family physician does not work, he sends you to an orthopedic specialist who prescribes drugs like methotrexate, which was originally a drug, used to treat leukemia, plaquenil, an anti-malarial drug and finally prednisone, which totally stops your immune system response.  Once you take this drug, you have sold your soul to the devil.  Most of your symptoms disappear and you feel terrific, but as the years go by the side effects of the drug can be lethal.  An associate, who, by the way, owns a health food store, was convinced by his physician to take prednisone for his arthritis.  Before the age of sixty, he had to have both hips replaced because of the damage to his bones caused by the prednisone.  This drug can eventually destroy your kidneys, give you bleeding ulcers and leave you open to all kinds of bacterial infections such as pneumonia which can very easily lead to a premature death.

Fortunately, for most of us, osteoarthritis is the most common form that affects us, and there are natural compounds that not only take away the pain, but also slow down the progression of the disease.  As the arthritis wears away the edges of the bone, the cartilage material shrinks.  Cartilage is a sponge-like material that contains synovial fluid. When the joints separate, the sponge fills up with liquid and when the joints come together the liquid is squeezed out of the cartilage to lubricate the joint.  Glucosamine is actually a natural substance in your body that begins the process to produce cartilage in your joints.

Your body is constantly making new things as the old ones die off. When your red blood cells reach maturity at 6 to 8 weeks, your bone marrow produces new fresh red blood cells to replace the old ones.  Your body is in a constant mode of rejuvenation.  Your body produces glucosamine from a glucose molecule and amino acids extracted from protein molecules.  It then converts the glucosamine to another compound called chondroitin and then the chondroitin is converted to cartilage.  As we age, our bodies do not work as efficiently as they did when we were twenty and sometime we need to add a few supplements to help the healing process.  In the March/April Issue of menopause magazine, two studies, one done at University of Western Ontario and other done at McMaster University here in Hamilton, showed that not only did glucosamine alleviate the pain and inflammation of the arthritis, but it also slowed the progression of the disease.  All participants had their bones X-rayed before they started and three years later when the study was completed.  The group that took the placebo drug not only suffered twice as much pain, but their arthritis had measurably progressed over the three-year period.  The glucosamine group had 50% less pain and stiffness and their X-rays showed almost zero progression of the disease.  Although they were all three years older, their arthritis was the same as it was when they started.

In the June issue of Clinical Drug Investigations, a double blind study conducted at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad had some very interesting results.  118 patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis were treated 3 times daily with either 500 mg of glucosamine, 500 mg of MSM (methysulfonylmethane, a combination of both or a placebo. In the glucosamine alone group, pain was reduced by 65%.  In the MSM group pain was also reduced by about 50%. However, in the combination group, most people reported an almost 80% decrease in pain.  The study concluded that the combination of MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) with glucosamine provides better and more rapid improvement in patients with osteoarthritis.

The health food store sells many products that contain glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM in combinations or separately.  In some cases, tumeric, bromelain and devils’s claw are added to give extra anti-inflammatory action.  These products are very safe but should be taken with food as a precaution.  In spite of what your doctor says, glucosamine is converted to chondroitin in your body and is NOT a sugar.  It is therefore safe for diabetics and will not elevate their blood sugar.  The highest quality MSM is made by a company called Lignisulâ and look for this name on the bottle of MSM that you buy because it is the most effective.

You can buy MSM in combination with glucosamine in a capsule form made by Trophic or you can buy MSM separately and take it with your glucosamine. It is also available in liquid form with devil’s claw, tumeric and bromelain in a product called Nutraflex.

Once you experience relief from your pain, you must get into a routine of as much movement as possible.  Walking or biking for 35 to 40 minutes a day would be excellent.  Even when you are sitting down, watching TV or at the computer, keep on getting up and moving around.  As soon as you stop moving, pain and stiffness will set in.  Usually you are at your worst when you first wake up in the morning.  This is the ideal time to do some minor stretches and move your limbs and other parts of your body before you even get out of bed.  If you ever had a dog or a cat, you know that the first thing they do when they wake up is stretch.  This is extremely important to your well-being.

Even if your pain completely goes away, remember the studies. Glucosamine and Glucosamine/MSM combinations actually stop the progression of osteoarthritis.  Do your exercise, keep your body in motion and keep on taking your supplements.  By doing this, you will age naturally with an enhanced quality of life that will not be affected by the pain of arthritis.