Tag Archives: Arthritis

Better Than Before: Making the Best of Arthritis

arthritisThe Europeans have it all figured out. At the first sign of any aches they don’t take to bed with a bottle of Aleve. No, they head for the thermae of Italy, the baden of Germany, the baths of England, and station thermales of France The treatments at these detox meccas include water (fresh and sea) and mud therapies that promise freedom from pain — not to mention a cleaner liver. And the concept goes back millennia. After all, Spa is not an acronym for Super Place for Aerobics. Rather, it is named after the town in Belgium favored by Peter the Great. (Yes, that Peter the Great!). They are based, instead, on the restorative and healing powers of thermal and mineral springs and imbibing waters that come directly from those sources.

Alas, we in America may be hard pressed to find these types of cures closer to home as there are only a handful of natural hot springs indigenous to this country. And, truth be told, most people don’t even know they exist. Just ask someone in your office to name a liquid that makes you feel really good. I doubt hot, bubbling water would be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, make mine a kale and celery smoothie — and a Dirty Margarita for The Lawyer.

Does this mean, though, that we have to suffer such inflammatory ailments as arthritis in silence? After all, about 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with one of the seven common forms of Arthritis. Yes, I am one of them. But limited space will not allow me to regale you with stories about my recent hip replacement! (Call me!) Curative spas aside, it is important, therefore, for patients and care givers to understand the potential impact of the disease and how best to manage it. It can be a critical part of making the decisions to make good on your intent to live a healthier lifestyle that is Better Than Before.

Let’s start with learning a little more about the illness itself. For this I turned to Phyllis Crockett, a specialty-trained pharmacist in the Accredo Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory Disease TRC.

“Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions,” she says. “Although common belief is that arthritis is a condition affecting the elderly, two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children. Also, arthritis affects people of all ethnicities.”

According to Crockett the vast majority of sufferers, about 27 million Americans, have what I have, Osteoarthritis (OA), which is characterized by a breakdown of joint cartridge. A vast majority of OA patients are elderly. (But it could be genetic, and the result of what sets in after you’ve sustained an injury! Hellooo!!)

The rest of arthritis sufferers have the more severe form: Rheumatoid arthritis. “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is characterized by inflammation of the membranes lining the joint. Although it can strike at any age, women are typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60, while male patients are usually older. There are about 1.5 million affected individuals in the United States. Finally, Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a term used to describe many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can affect children ages 16 and younger.”

The disease takes a heavy toll. “Each year, arthritis accounts for 44 million outpatient visits and over 900,000 hospitalizations. In fact, it’s the leading cause of disability in the United States and is a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. By some estimates, 67 million Americans will have arthritis by 2030.”

So what do we do?

“Managing the disease so that patients can continue to live normal lives is important,” Crockett continues. “Each patient is different and a physician can help determine the best treatment plan, including pain management and managing the symptoms of arthritis.”

She shared with me some tips that she offers her patients, starting with exercise. “It is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis. OA and RA patients particularly can benefit from both endurance and resistance training.”

Maintaining a healthy weight and protecting against joint injury can help prevent OA. “Every pound of weight lost reduces the pressure on each knee by 4 pounds. Even a small weight loss can be a big help in fighting it.”

Apart from lifestyle modifications, there are also many drug therapies available for arthritis patients—and doctors and specialist pharmacists can help identify the best one for you.

For patients who already are on medication to treat the condition, adherence – taking medications as prescribed – is critical to healthier outcomes.

“But do not self-medicate!” she cautions: “Combining over-the-counter medications with prescription medications can be risky, and can cause side effects such as an increase in GI irritation or a GI bleed. And don’t adjust doses or making changes to the medication regimen without checking with your health care team.”

“Watch for drug interactions: Some common medications like acetaminophen can have a drug-drug interaction with arthritis medications. Limit intake and remember that acetaminophen is often a component in common sinus, cough/cold and pain medications.”

Opt for an anti-inflammatory regimen like the Mediterranean diet – you know the drill, easy on the acidic foods like sugar, white flours, and alcohol, and sticking with leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins. “But some foods and beverages can block the effects of arthritis medications,” Crockett concludes. “These include grapefruit, apple and orange juice as well as milk and yogurt. Wait at least four hours after taking medications. Exact times can vary depending on the disease and the treatment. Check with a trained clinician.”

I can assure you from very painful, personal experience that if arthritis does go too far, surgery may be the only option. So if your intent is to help avoid – or at the very least, prolong – this possible outcome, be aware that lifestyle modification and medication may be the answer.

 

8 Amazing Facts About Dilo Oil – The Next Big Thing

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If you’re passionate about health and wellness like we are, then you’ve undoubtedly tried an assortment of cleanses, superfoods, skin care products, supplements, etc. Some work, some don’t. It almost starts to feel like we haven’t left a single stone unturned on this amazing planet of ours.

As it turns out, there may be one product you have yet to incorporate into your healthy lifestyle, and its called dilo oil. Why, you might ask, haven’t you heard of it? There might be a few answers to that.

First of all, dilo is only the idiomatic Fijian term for Calophyllum inophylluma native tree of the Pacific and tropical regions of Africa. The oil extracted from the plant’s seeds is being hailed by wellness product companies as the best thing since coconut oil, and for good reason. The fuss over dilo is nothing new to people of Fiji and other regions throughout the Pacific, and here’s why…

8 Amazing Facts About Dilo Oil:

  1. The long list of ailments people have traditionally treated with dilo oil include wounds, ulcers, ringworm, arthritis, burns, bruises, dry skin, acne, psoriasis, hair loss, and much more.
  2. Dilo oil is particularly effective in treating skin issues, which is why it has been incorporated into many traditional cosmetic products in the Pacific as well as in India.
  3. One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry revealed dilo oil’s  potential to inhibit HIV reverse transcriptase, which could make it a viable ingredient in antiretroviral medication.
  4. Reportedly, the oil may also be a viable biodiesel source and thus an alternative to fossil fuel-based gasoline.
  5. The dilo tree also produces an apricot-sized fruit that tastes somewhat like an apple.
  6. The plant has also been used as timber, dye, ornamentation, mosquito repellant, fragrance, craft wood, boat material, soap, and lamp oil.
  7. The tree can reach up to 65 feet in height, 3 feet in diameter, and can produce up to 40 lbs of oil once fully grown.
  8. Dilo trees were considered sacred to Polynesians before mass-conversion to Christianity. Folklore surrounding the plant spoke of gods hiding in the trees and looking out on human activities.

Are you convinced? If you’ve used dilo oil before or try it out after reading this, let us know your results!

* * *

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The One Diet That Can Cure Most Disease: Part 1

Red, Yellow, GreenIf I told you there was one diet that could cure arthritis, fatigue, irritable bowel, reflux, chronic allergies, eczema, psoriasis, autoimmune disease, diabetes, heart disease, migraines, depression, attention deficit disorder, and occasionally even autism and that it could help you lose weight quickly and easily without cravings, suffering, or deprivation, you might wonder if Dr. Hyman had gone a bit crazy.

But it’s true. And the story goes like this.

Food is medicine. Bad food is bad medicine and will make us sick. Good food is good medicine that can prevent, reverse, and even cure disease. Take away the bad food, put in the good food and magic happens.

The problem with current medical thinking is that it treats diseases individually, requiring specific diagnoses and labels: “you have migraines,” “you have depression,” “you have psoriasis.” And then you get the migraine pill, the antidepressant, and the immune suppressant.

What if you didn’t have to treat diseases specifically or even need to know their names? In fact, I often see patients—like one I saw yesterday—who came with 20 pages of analysis from a dozen doctors from the Mayo Clinic. Her “diagnoses” were “muscle pain, fatigue and insomnia,” and she had been given no recommendations for treatment. Not very helpful!

I recently saw a patient treated at Harvard by multiple specialists. She was on 42 pills a day for severe allergies, asthma, and hives. She even died twice and had to be resuscitated after anaphylactic shock. In just a few short weeks, simply by changing her diet, she got off all her medications, and her allergies, hives, and asthma were gone.

Another patient, who suffered for decades with reflux and irritable bowel and whose symptoms weren’t controlled with acid blockers and “gut relaxers,” got complete relief from his symptoms one week after changing his diet.

What if you could just treat the whole person with dietary changes, upgrading the information given every day to your body through food? Food is information carrying detailed instructions for every gene and every cell in your body, helping them to renew, repair, and heal or to be harmed and debilitated, depending on what you eat. What if you could send messages and instructions to heal your cells and turn on healing genes? And what if, by some simple changes in your diet, you could get rid of most of your chronic symptoms and diseases in just one week (or maybe two!)?

That is entirely possible. Some people call it detox, Some people call it an elimination diet. I call it the inclusion and abundance diet.

I call it UltraSimple!

The best part of this approach is that you don’t have to trust me or any “expert.” You simply have to trust your body. It will tell you very quickly what it likes and doesn’t like.

If you are constantly putting in information that is making your body toxic, sick, and fat—hyper-processed industrial junk food, sugar, flour, chemicals, additives, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, inflammatory foods, or what I call anti-nutrients—it acts like poison in the body. It inflames your gut and your cells leading to whole-body inflammation that you experience as pain, allergies, headaches, fatigue, and depression and that leads to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.

This one diet, The UltraSimple Diet—getting the junk out, getting inflammatory foods out, adding healing, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory foods—has the power to heal in a way that medication can’t and never will be able to.

I have used it for decades with tens of thousands of patients with remarkable results. We are beginning studies at Harvard that will look at how to tackle the toughest diseases with a simple change in diet.

This approach can work faster and better than any medication. The power of this simple diet change—getting rid of the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff—can often reverse the most difficult-to-treat medical problems and give people the experience of profound wellness, even if they don’t have a serious illness. It is something everyone should try just once. Most of my patients say, “Dr. Hyman, I didn’t know I was feeling so bad until I started feeling so good.”

Let me share a story, one that is very common in the world of functional medicine, which is the science of treating the roots causes of disease, the science of creating health.

One patient, a medical school professor and doctor, came to see me after struggling for years with psoriatic arthritis. He was crippled by pain and inflammation, despite taking powerful immune-suppressing drugs, including an ibuprofen-like drug, chemo drugs, and a drug called a TNF alpha-blocker that suppresses the immune response so much that its side effects include overwhelming infection, cancer, and death. Still, he wasn’t better, and at 56 years old, he was planning to quit. He couldn’t operate any longer and could barely walk up the stairs. He had psoriasis all over his skin, and it was destroying his joints. He also had reflux, depression, canker sores, constipation, and trouble with concentration. His liver function tests were abnormal, and he was overweight.

He had a horrible diet. He ate oatmeal with milk and sugar for breakfast, tuna with soup and cookies for lunch, and fish or meat with vegetables and potato or pasta for dinner. He snacked on cookies and protein bars. He avoided chocolate and fatty foods. He ate out more than five times per week and craved sweets and caffeine, consuming three to four cups of coffee and one diet soda per day. He drank about 12 alcoholic beverages per week, including wine and the occasional scotch.

So, I put him on The UltraSimple Diet, getting rid of industrial food, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar and adding whole, real foods. I also got rid of the most common food allergens and sensitivities.

At his first follow-up visit, he arrived pain-free and said he hadn’t felt so good in years. He reported an 80% reduction in pain, could climb stairs more quickly, and was no longer limping. All his pain and stiffness were gone. His hands had been swollen and difficult to open, but now, the swelling was gone and he could operate again. And he had quit all his medications after the first visit (even though I told him not to). His reflux and migraines were gone. His mood had improved, and he was less irritable. He was no longer constipated. And he lost 15 pounds.

If there is one thing I could encourage everyone to do, it is to take just one week to see just how powerful a drug food can be. There is nothing to lose but your suffering. It doesn’t take months or years to see change. It happens in days or weeks.

In my next blog, I will explain exactly what this diet is, why it works, and how it heals your body. And I will show you how to get started.

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below—but remember, I can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Santa Reveals His Personal Gout Story

Santa Describes His Gout

The elves are in a tizzy this year. The North Pole headquarters of Santa Clause has issued a release stating Santa is hobbling around with a large, painful, swollen big toe that acted up unexpectedly after eating a large burger and a beer. The poorly times event has made it difficult to get in and out of his sleigh.

Santa reportedly called Dr. Robert Keenan of Duke University’s Gout Clinic to discuss his symptoms. Dr. Keenan told Santa, “You’ve got the classic symptoms of gout, a type of arthritis caused by the breakdown of purine from certain foods. When purine metabolizes, it releases uric acid crystals. These crystals are typically excreted in the kidneys; but not so well in people with gout.”

“It must have been that burger and beer,” Santa responded. “Probably,” said the doctor. “The largest source of purines is in organ meats like liver and kidney. Red meats and shellfish are another source and so is beer and whiskey (wine has a bit less purines). The good news is that if you lose some weight and drink lots of water, it will flush out the uric acid crystals through your kidneys and lower your risk.”

Santa did not appreciate the comment on his weight but said after the holiday he would work on his diet again.

Dr. Keenan went on to tell Santa that, “uric acid crystals stay at high levels in the blood and sprinkle down like sediment into the joints, and that leads to inflammation and pain so bad that even touching the skin with Christmas stocking can be unbearable.”

Santa nodded his head.

Keenan told Santa, “The most common joint that is affected is the one at the base of the big toe; exactly what happened to you. But the ankles and knees are the next most common places.” Santa also found out gout is much more common in men, but after menopause, lower estrogen levels can reduce a women’s ability to clear uric acid crystals from the urine.

Santa made a mental note about this in case Mrs. Claus developed a painful joint and downloaded a FREE menopause ebook.

The pain of gout usually comes on quickly, and after a day or so, it starts to subside. But over time, the crystals, which stay in the joint, can destroy the entire joint.

Santa found out he could be getting symptoms of gout either because his kidneys can’t excrete uric acid well enough or because he eats too many foods that contain purine, especially during the Christmas season; and that overloads his kidneys.

Santa got off the phone and searched the Internet and found out that 8 million Americans have gout and if he doesn’t take action, it could become chronic gout, a type of arthritis, with sore achy joints.

Sometimes the uric acid crystals can even deposit in the soft tissues of the body like the elbows, ears, and finger joints.

Santa decided to fly in early to see the doctor. He found out that to make the diagnosis, the doctor must place a small sterile needle into the inflamed joint and remove a tiny drop of fluid to look at under a microscope to look for uric acid crystals

In the meantime, Dr. Keenan suggested starting daily exercise like going for a walk and helping the elves load the sleigh. He also suggested taking analgesics like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory treatments. If those fail, he’ll get a prescription for colchicine and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.

He also started changing his diet. Now Santa:

  • Limits servings of meat, poultry and fish to 4 to 6 ounces at any one meal since they all contain purine.
  • Eats less fat. The more fat eaten, the harder it is to excrete uric acid.
  • Replaced most of the meats, poultry, fatty fish and shellfish with vegetables, beans and legumes.
  • Steers clear of beer. Alcohol in general makes it harder for kidneys to excrete uric acid, but beer is the biggest offender followed by hard spirits. According to Mayo Clinic, it’s ok to drink one to two 5-ounce servings of wine daily without increasing your risk of an attack.
  • Eats little high-fructose corn syrup. Santa reads the labels. Soft drinks and juice drinks are a real risk for flaring up. Pure fruit juices that are 100% fruit don’t seem to be a problem.
  • Eats complex carbohydrates. Santa says, “It’s not easy eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and skipping the refined sugar, white bread and candy, but it’s worth it!”
  • Drinks lots of water. Eight to 12 glasses of water can flush the crystals through your kidneys and help eliminate the crystals. Some research suggests drinking several cups of coffee daily is a good way for men to lower their gout risk.

So if gout has your goat, do what Santa does; follow doctor’s orders.

Based on my recent interview with Dr. Robert Keenan, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Duke University.

For more valuable health information, sign up for my FREE Health Accelerator Three video series. Learn the diagnostic tests and test results you must have to stay well, how to prepare for your annual exam, and 5 tips to jump-start your health today.

Deepak Chopra: Arthritis — When the Knees and Hips Go

By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP

 Arthritis would seem to be a simple mechanical failure of our bodies. Through wear and tear, the cartilage wears out in certain joints – primarily the hip, knee, lower back, neck, and hands – leading to stiffness, pain, and eventually almost total immobility.  The wear-and-tear explanation appeals to common sense. Evidence for it comes from ancient skeletons, since our ancestors became arthritic, too, and among lower mammals. As pet owners know, old dogs become as stiff and pained in their joints as old human beings.

But the body is never so simple that mechanical explanations are entirely convincing. The more you use your muscles, for example, the stronger they become; they do not wear out. Nor do we see that two people leading the same active life develop bad hips or knees at the same time or to equal severity. In fact, it is disuse that leads to muscle weakness and atrophy. (Interestingly, some people who have joint degeneration, as revealed by X-ray imaging, have no symptoms of OA.)

So what explanation for arthritis takes other factors into account besides wear and tear?

 

 

Visualization is courtesy of TheVisualMD.com
The most common arthritis affecting hips and knees, the two joints we will focus on here, is known as degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis (OA). There are many other forms, but in this case the major distinction is with rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease, not connected with wear and tear or aging.  As cartilage wears away, whatever the cause, the bone underlying it degenerates as well. Other parts of the joint—ligaments, meniscus (a fibrous band covering part of the knee), and muscles—become altered as well. Inflammation brings a burning pain. Bone spurs can form. Eventually the joint becomes stiff and even small movements become painful and difficult.

OA is the most common form of arthritis worldwide, and the curve is correlated with age. In Western countries the majority of people have OA by the age of 65. About 80% of people over who are 75 and older are affected. In the US around 27 million adults currently have OA. This number is expected to go up as life expectancy increases, with the first wave of baby boomers already reaching retirement. Typically, symptoms first begin after the age of 40. The disease can also appear at a younger age, within 10 years after an injury. A 15-year-old teenager who injures her knees playing soccer may have her first symptoms of OA at age 25.

Your joints are remarkable pieces of nature’s engineering, moving with almost frictionless ease. In fact, healthy cartilage moves with less friction than a frozen hockey puck over ice. The knee is the largest joint in the body. It connects the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), fibula (outer shin bone), and patella (kneecap). It is a hinge joint, with a limited range of motion but is very complex compared to a ball and socket. An extensive network of muscles, ligaments, and tendons holds it together, with the added function of stabilizing the join and permitting it to move at the same time—one reason the knee joint is so prone to injury.

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint located where the femur meets the pelvic cone. A ball-and-socket construction permits the hip joint a large range of motion, second only to the shoulder. The hip joint needs sturdiness to support your weight while standing, walking, or running.

The ball-shaped head of the femur is the only moving part of the hip joint. Both the femoral ball and the socket it fits into (the acetabulum) are covered in hyaline cartilage. The femoral ball is attached to the rest of the femur by a thin neck region: this is the part of the hip joint that most often fractures in the elderly.

 

Now to the elusive question about cause. There are two types of OA: primary (idiopathic) and secondary. Primary OA has no clear cause, although it is related to changes that occur with age, a vague way of pointing to wear and tear. Secondary OA results from a predisposing cause, usually some sort of physical trauma—knee injuries sustained by professional athletes is a well-publicized example. Causes of secondary OA also include obesity, surgery to the joint structures, defects present at birth, gout, diabetes, alcoholism, the use of corticosteroids, and hormone disorders. The good news is that a good many risks can be prevented.

Primary osteoarthritis was once thought to be simple, but it turns out that complex changes to joint cartilage involving inflammation make the cartilage more vulnerable to damage and actually begin the process of cartilage degeneration. Age remains a major risk factor for these changes, but they are not inevitable. About 20% of people over the age of 65 aren’t affected by OA.

How joints deteriorate

The breakdown of joint cartilage begins long before there are any symptoms. It’s thought that in the earliest stages inflammation occurs as cytokines (substances released by the immune system) and other chemicals reach into the joint. As a result, the normal healthy cartilage matrix begins to degrade. Attempts by cartilage cells to repair this damage can cause the cartilage to swell.

Over time, the cartilage softens and loses elasticity. Microscopic flakes and clefts appear on the surface of the cartilage. Joint space narrows as cartilage is lost. Eventually the underlying bone is exposed, and bone rubs against bone inside the joint. The bone becomes increasingly vascularized (filled with blood vessels), thicker, and denser. Cysts may form in the bone, and bone spurs can develop as the bone cells attempt to compensate for lost material. Connective tissue, ligaments, nerves, muscles, and even the synovial fluid that lubricates your joints are often damaged as a result of these changes and the stress they bring on.

Symptoms of OA include pain that gets worse as the day goes on, stiffness and decreased motion, swelling in the joint, sounds (like clicking or crunching noises) when moving the affected joint, and visible deformity of the joint.

Controlling the risks

The risk factors that you can modify include:

  • Obesity
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Muscle weakness
  • Repetitive mechanical stress
  • Joint infections
  • Diabetes

The risk factors that cannot be modified include advancing age, genetics, female gender, and congenital disorders.

Obesity and OA

Being obese greatly increases the risk of developing OA, especially of the knee. Carrying extra weight increases stress on the joints. A force of 3 to 6 times total body weight is exerted across your knee when you walk. Being just 10 lbs. overweight increases the force on your knee by 30-60 lbs. with each step. The force exerted across your hip is up to 3 times your body weight.

Overweight people who lose weight gain relief from OA symptoms, such as stiffness and pain.

The Framingham Osteoarthritis Study found that if obese men lost sufficient weight to be classified as overweight rather than obese, or if overweight men lost enough weight to drop into the normal weight range, the rate of knee OA decreased by over 20%. When obese women dropped into the overweight category or when overweight women fell into the normal range, rates of knee OA decreased by even more: 33%.

Physical therapy and yoga

OA often creates a vicious circle: a painful joint causes you to restrict your movement, and the lack of movement makes your muscles both weak and tight. If you are experiencing pain and stiffness because of OA, probably the last thing you are thinking about is moving more. But physical therapy (PT) and yoga can be extremely helpful in getting you back to a point where you can perform everyday activities without pain or difficulty.

Physical therapy provides stretching, range-of-motion, and strengthening exercises. Strengthening muscles surrounding the arthritic joint helps to stabilize it, increase range of motion, and lessen pain. A physical therapist can also show you movement and pain-relief techniques, suggest helpful devices (such as shower stools and long-handled shoe horns), and provide you with a diet plan for weight loss.

Manual therapy, in which therapists employ a variety of hands-on techniques, should be combined with exercise therapy. Combining the two has been shown to dramatically improve results over exercise-based therapy alone.

Yoga can be very beneficial for people with OA because it takes a whole-body approach to joint problems. There is an emphasis on realigning bones and on overall posture, which can relieve stress on the joint and prevent further damage. This can make movement easier and also help to lessen pain.

Diet

Eating certain foods and drinking plenty of fluids can help to relieve inflammation, aid flexibility, and possibly even prevent further damage.

Inflammation may well play a major role in joint cartilage deterioration, so it makes sense to eat a diet rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients and low in foods that make inflammation worse. These nutrients can fight the inflammation that adds to pain, swelling, and further damage to the cartilage.

Foods that are rich in inflammation-fighting free radicals include green tea, berries, fatty fish, extra-virgin olive oil, red grapes and apples, garlic, onions, orange/yellow fruits and vegetables, and turmeric and ginger.

Avoid eating foods containing trans fats and also avoid corn oil and peanut oil. They contain arachidonic acid, which may promote inflammation.

Heat and cold

Heating pads and cold packs can ease inflammation, swelling, and discomfort. Talk to your healthcare practitioner or physical therapist about the most effective methods of using them.

Topical medications

Topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, can be applied to the skin in gels, creams, sprays, or patches. They deliver high doses of the medication directly to the joint but keep blood concentrations low, theoretically avoiding adverse side effects (like gastrointestinal problems). Among natural remedies, Capsaicin (derived from pepper plants), applied topically as a cream, seems to be effective in relieving joint pain.

Supplements

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been found, in some studies, to be as effective in relieving pain as acetaminophen and NSAIDs, with significantly fewer adverse effects. The recommended dose is 1,200-1,500 mg daily.

Injections

Injections into the affected joint of corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid (for knee osteoarthritis) may work to ease pain for some people with OA, but over the medium and long run, you must consider the major side effects associated with any steroid treatment – to begin with, you are compromising and sometimes shutting down your body’s own production of endocrine hormones.

Looking at the whole picture, we have to concede that aging, wear and tear, and injury to the joints still play a big part in why our knees and hips give out.  For prevention, OA can be lumped in with all the other reasons not to become part of America’s obesity epidemic. But risks are not the same as causes, and the fact that complex changes occur in cartilage years before any symptoms appear gives an opening for alternative models of the disease.

There is no reason to assume that arthritis is exempt from the body’s intelligence, and that disruption in that intelligence somehow plays a part in the early stages.  No firm, precise connection has been made, in part because mainstream medicine still lags in accepting the mind-body connection. But even without a specific connection, your best plan for preventing arthritis is to learn about your body’s intelligence, and how the healing system works.

For more information go to www.deepakchopra.com

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Swimming, the all-round exercise

The best physical exercise that one could undertake is to go swimming. It refreshes the whole body and a perfect way to get cardio workout as it makes strong your heart muscles thereby increasing the oxygen delivery to the muscles. It is also a useful relaxation technique. It develops the overall strength of a person as while swimming the entire body muscles come in the picture, it is also the best way to improve one’s stamina. However it is a myth that swimming increases the bone density; it does not. Bone density requires intense weight training. And this is the only factors in which swimming lags behind from a regular work out in a gym.

Some of the very important benefits of swimming are:

1. It maintains the blood pressure and cholesterol

2. It reduces the risk of stroke, cardiac arrest and diabetes.

3. Enhances weight loss, flexibility of joints, and increases stamina

4. Good for pregnant women

5. Minimizes the injuries from work out.

6. It helps build the endurance, muscle toughness

Some basic precautions to be taken before swimming
Pregnant women or those suffering from chronic back problems, arthritis, cardiovascular ailments and ear troubles should seek their doctor’s opinion before jumping in the pool. While swimming if you get tired, stop, never overdo it as you are doing it to free yourself of stress and not to drain the energy, also too much time in the pool can result in swimmer’ ear.

For people who swim in pools, certain precautions should be taken. Even in oceans and rivers care should be taken as these are full of microbes and certain disease causing microorganisms. Water from chlorinated pools can cause ear infections if not protected. It can also lead to eye infections, skin problems and maybe even diarrhea. Wearing certain gear would certainly aid prevent these infections.

More Than Just A Weed: Drink Nettle Juice For Health

Nettles  (Urtica dioica, U. urens) is a member of the Urticaceae (Nettle) Family. The name "Nettles" is said to be derived from the Anglo Saxon word "noedl," meaning "needle," which may refer to nettle’s use as a fiber/textile plant or to its  sharp prickles.  Other sources believe that “nettles” is from the Latin nassa, meaning “net” as its strong stems were woven into fishing nets, or that Urtica is from the Latin meaning "I burn."  The species name dioica means "two dwellings" in reference to nettles having either male or female flowers on different plants.

Milarepa, the Tibetan yogi is said to have existed upon nettles for years and his skin took on a greenish hue. He eventually developed legendary physical and psychic abilities. During the nineteenth century, Nettles was recommended for people that are "constitutionally weak. " Rudolph Steiner called Nettles the” Heart of the World" because it radiates healing energy to people and the plants around it.

Nettles improve the body’s resistance to pollens, molds and environmental pollutants. Nettles stabilize the mast cell walls, which stops the cycle of mucus membrane hyperactivity. Nettles leaf and root tone and firm tissue, muscles, arteries, and skin. It decreases uric acid build when taken internally and increases circulation to the skin’s surface. It nourishes and tones the veins, improves their elasticity, and reduces inflammation. Since nettles are energizing they helps in the motivation to stay on a healthy diet.

Getting stung by fresh nettle, a process called urtication is helpful in treatment for arthritis, cold feet, gout, lumbago, muscular weakness, multiple sclerosis, neuritis, palsy, paralysis, rheumatism, sciatica, and chronic tendonitis. Direct the sting to the area needed. It greatly increases a rush of blood to the contacted area, producing a counter-irritation and thereby reduces inflammation and gives temporary pain relief. Some people keep a few nettles in pots as houseplant so they enjoy arthritis relief even in the winter.

Nettles were once cultivated in Europe to make sailcloth, fishing nets, lace, canvas, and fine linen. Nettle as a dye plant produces a variety of colors. In Siberia, nettle has been used to make paper.  In Egypt, the seeds were once pressed for their oil content.

 Use Nettle tea to water other plants in the garden to stimulate their growth and makes them more resistant to bugs. Plants growing close to Nettles tend to be stronger in their volatile oils.   When added to the compost pile, it hastens its breakdown.

Animals fed nettles produce more milk and chickens more eggs. Chopped dried nettles gives a gloss to both feather and fur and a sparkle of health to the eyes of animals that eat them.

Nettles lose their sting if pureed, dried or cooked.  Nettles surpass spinach in nutritional content yet can be substituted for any recipe using cooked spinach, as well as beet greens, chard, or turnip greens.  Young tender shoots are edible cooked as a potherb, steamed, in soups. Pink underground stems are edible. Nettle beer, wine and vinegar are wonderful. Drink fresh nettle juice.  The juice was once used to curdle milk. Hang a bunch of nettles in the kitchen to deter flies. The dried leaves can be sprinkled on salads, soup and vegetable for their mineral rich salty flavor

Nettles are slightly bitter, salty, cool, and dry. It contains protein, beta-carotene and xanthophylls), vitamin B, C, E K, flavonoids (quercitin, rutin, kaempferol, rhamnetin), calcium, chromium, iron, silica, formic acid (which causes stinging), betaine, mucilage, tannin, chromium, silica, chlorophyll, albuminoids, agglutinin, amines  (histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, 5-hydroxy- aliphatic acid), hydroxycoumarins, mucilage, saponins  (lignin and  sitosterol), glycosides, and tannin

Nettles, a Eurasian native is common in waste places, gardens, grassland, moist woods and along roadsides. They can grow to a height of three to ten feet. Nettles are a perennial herb with erect stems that are somewhat branched. The coarsely toothed, veined opposite leaves are heart shaped at the base, deeply serrated darker on the top than underneath and covered with thousands of stiff stinging hairs. The leaf tips are pointed. Tiny green nettle flowers are minute and inconspicuous.

All fifty species of Urtica can be used in the same way, but stick with North American or European species unless you have consulted with local herb authorities on the safety of their local varieties. Touching the fresh plant can cause a burning rash. Wearing gloves when collecting can help prevent this, but hairs in large plants may still pierce through.  A nettle sting can be soothed with a poultice of yellow dock, plantain or nettle juice. Avoid eating the raw plant (unless totally pureed) unless it is very young and you are very brave. Eating raw nettles can cause digestive disturbances, mouth and lip irritation and cause urinary problems. When used appropriately nettles are considered safe, even over an extended period of time.  Only the young tops should be used, as older plants can be irritating to the kidneys and may cause digestive disturbances.

Nettle tea has a strong pleasant flavor that tastes mineral rich.

Rather than considering weeds something to spray, learn to use them for better health!

Brigitte Mars, a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild, is a nutritional consultant who has been working with Natural Medicine for over forty years. She teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University, Hollyhock Retreat Center, Boulder College of Massage, and Bauman Holistic College of Nutrition and has a private practice. Brigitte is the author of twelve books, including The Sexual Herbal, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, Beauty by Nature, Addiction Free Naturally, Healing Herbal Teas, and Rawsome!. Click here for more healthy living articles, raw food recipes, videos, workshops, books, and more at brigittemars.com.

 Check out her international model yogini daughter, Rainbeau at www.rainbeaumars.com

Photo (cc): Flickr / slworking2

12 Steps to Alleviate Arthritis–Part 1

The severe side-effects and deaths linked to some medications leaves many arthritis sufferers looking for safe, natural, and effective alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs.  Fortunately Mother Nature has a massive apothecary of safe and powerful remedies in the form of herbs, foods, and nutritional supplements.

Here’s the approach I take with my clients:

 
1)      Find and eliminate food allergens. Most arthritics suffer from food allergies. Instead of the sniffles and runny nose, the result is inflamed joints (even 2 to 3 days after eating a particular food). Research shows that the most common allergens among arthritics include: corn, wheat, pork, oranges, milk, oats, rye, eggs, beef, and coffee. In some studies, researchers are even able to produce inflammation comparable to arthritis in the joints of animals simply by switching their water to milk. Milk does the body good? Not for people who are sensitive to it or are experiencing arthritis or other inflammatory disorder.
 
2)      Eliminate foods that cause or aggravate inflammation in the body. Many common foods in our Western diet cause inflammation in people who are prone to arthritis. Here are some examples:
-Processed, packaged, or fast foods;
-Hydrogenated fats (margarine, shortening, lard or products made with them such as cookies, pies, packaged foods, buns, etc.);
-Meat (not fish);
-Fried foods (French fries, onion rings, potato chips, nachos, hamburgers, etc.);
-White sugar and sweets, including soft drinks and sweetened juices;
-Synthetic sweeteners (Nutrasweet, saccharin, aspartame, etc.);
-Salt (use Celtic sea salt instead);
-Food additives: colours, flavour enhancers, stabilizers, preservatives, etc. Some of the main ones include sulfites, benzoates, and colours named FD&C #”X.”  For example, FD&C #5.
-Dairy products (yogourt, ice cream, cottage cheese, butter, cheese, etc.);
-Wheat products;
-Alcohol.
 
3)      Balance the body’s pH. People with arthritis have acidic blood. Avoiding foods that create acidity in the body can help lessen pain and inflammation. Foods that create acidity in the body include: meat, dairy, hydrogenated fats, overheated fats, wheat and sugar. Foods that help restore balance include: fruit (when eaten on an empty stomach), vegetables, and legumes. 
 
4)      Rehydrate the body. Chronic dehydration worsens pain and prevents the body from properly handling inflammation. Drink at least 8 cups of pure water daily.
 
5)      Balance hormones, including blood sugar levels through a high fibre diet and healthy snacking between meals. 
 
6)      Heal a leaky gut. In my experience arthritis and leaky gut syndrome seem to be linked. Recent research shows that the intestines are not just digestive organs; they are the site of approximately 67% of the body’s immune system and can determine an overactive immune system, which has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
 
7)      Eliminate infections. Some parasitic bacteria that can become overgrown in the body can produce caustic chemicals that alter the immune response, thereby activating the body’s alarm mechanisms and creating a state of chronic inflammation. Taking a good quality probiotic supplement on an empty stomach, as well as oil of oregano (taken at least 3 hours away from probiotics) can be helpful.
 
8)      Start stress management exercises like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and stating positive affirmations. Stress hormones can worsen pain and inflammation so it is important to practice some form of stress management to reduce stress in your life. Of course, a positive attitude incorporating affirmations can be helpful.
 
9)      Balance the body on an energetic level through energy medicines like homeopathy. The most commonly used homeopathic remedies for arthritis include: rhus tox, bryonia, apis, and belladonna. Rhus tox is best suited for people who experience symptom improvement from moving but tend to get stiff from rest. Bryonia is best for people whose symptoms worsen from movement, apis is suitable for people with hot, burning, stinging pain and swelling. Belladonna is best suited for people who experience a rapid and violent onset of throbbing arthritic pain and red, hot, and swollen joints.

 

Part 2 will share important foods that fight pain, more lifestyle suggestions, and powerful herbs that lessen or alleviate the pain of arthritis while promoting healing.  It will appear next week on Intent.com.





Adapted with permission of the author from Healing Injuries the Natural Way by Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, RNCP, ROHP, DAc, DNM.

Michelle Schoffro Cook, RNCP, ROHP, DAc, DNM, is a best-selling and six-time book author and doctor of natural medicine, whose works include: The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, and The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan.  Learn more at: www.TheLifeForceDiet.com.

Let’s Treat Ourselves as Well as We Treat Our Pets

Ask yourself this question: "Do I treat myself as well as I treat my pet?"

I’ve occasionally thought about this when dealing with my dog. When I go into the kitchen, Shaka comes in as well, looking at me with his soft brown eyes, trying to convince me he’s starving (even if he’s just eaten). Sometimes I give in, but usually I remind myself that it’s not the best thing. Maybe I would indulge him more if he didn’t have elbow dysplasia but since he does, I have to think about his health and not overfeed him just because he entreats me with a pitiful look.

There’s a parallel between my dog and myself. It might be a good idea, I’ve thought, to treat myself like I treat my dog. This has become even more important ever since I had surgery for arthritis. Although I learned that extra pounds put undue pressure on knees, I’ve almost defiantly added more weight because I wanted to appease my own puppy eyes rather than look at the big picture and eat accordingly.

So now I think, What’s more important? Giving in to my every food craving or taking my health into account when I eat? Like my dog, just because I want to eat something doesn’t mean I have to, particularly if I’m not even hungry. I might not want to work out, but if I want my knees to function properly, I have to do some kind of movement.

You can apply this to your own life as well. Strive to treat yourself as well as you treat your pet.

  • Make sure to get enough sleep each night.
  • Move your body so you don’t become physically or mentally stir crazy.
  • Ensure that you spend time around other people, but also carve out quiet time for yourself.
  • Realize that, just as your pet shouldn’t eat everything he sees, you probably shouldn’t either.

The last thing I’m suggesting, though, is to go on a diet. Diets suck. Just as you wouldn’t starve your pet, there’s no reason to starve yourself. Maybe, though, when instinctively reaching for a second desert, you say, "Nah, I think I’ve already had enough". Perhaps when debating whether to buy a food product that only contains unnatural ingredients, you decide to pass on it. Maybe instead of mindlessly consuming everything you see, you really consider what you’d like to eat and then enjoy it.

In essence, let’s consider our own welfare as we do our pets and treat ourselves at least as well as we treat them.
  

  • If you treat yourself as well as you treat your pet, what would that entail?

  • What things would you do differently?

  • Most importantly: are you up for the challenge?

Under Our Skin: The Story of Chronic Lyme Disease

 Do you or any family members have unexplained headaches, fatigue, aches and pains? A diagnosis of autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis or psychiatric problems? Maybe it’s Lyme!

 Once limited geographically to areas around Lyme, CT, this masquerader is estimated to now be affecting over 300,000 people in all 50 states and on every continent except Antarctica. And contrary to popular belief, only about half of affected individuals experience the tell-tale bull’s eye rash. Furthermore, the standard of care two-week treatment with strong antibiotics is often unable to “cure” this nasty disease. 
 
If you suspect that you or someone you love has Lyme, RUN, don’t walk to a local movie theatre and see the newly released award-winning documentary Under Our Skin. A gripping tale of microbes, medicine & money, this eye-opening film investigates the untold story of Lyme disease, an emerging epidemic larger than AIDS.
 
I was fortunate to participate in the kick-off of the Under Our Skin Awareness Tour at IFC in New York City last week. In attendance were producer, director,Andy Abrahams Wilson and Lyme patient, Mandy. After seeing the movie and listening to their stories, I’m not sure I will ever be able to walk in the woods again.
 
Under Our Skin takes viewers on a journey beneath the surface of one of the misunderstood medical issues of our times. Like autism, Lyme is a “mystery” to traditional medicine, and even its very existence is questioned because standard laboratory tests are unreliable. Through dramatic stories of both patients affected by the disease and doctors who risk their livelihoods and licenses by treating them, Wilson beautifully demonstrates how the controversies surrounding diagnosis and treatment leave patients abandoned by mainstream medicine.  
 
You will be brought to tears by what happens when Lyme disease goes undiagnosed or untreated. Symptoms can flare up weeks, months and even years after infection. Treatments can send patients to the Emergency Room as their bodies experience healing crises called Herxheimer reactions. One of my heroes, Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD is in the movie, and his big heart and loving bedside manner are very visible.
 
Under Our Skin was supported by Turn the Corner Foundation, founded in 2002 by Staci and Rich Grodin to address unmet needs for research and funding. Since then, it has dedicated itself to support of research, education, awareness and innovative treatments for those with Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. 
 
Turn the Corner is also providing a Physicians Training Program to assure that more people get proper treatment. This ground-breaking program provides medical practitioners the opportunity to study with a Lyme-literate health care professional and develop the skills to properly diagnose and treat Lyme patients. 
You can help turn this movie into a movement. Thousands of people have watched Under Our Skin in hundreds of community screenings since its premiere at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, creating an unprecedented grass-roots campaign. However, this success spells uncertainty for theater managers who fear too many people have already seen the film and won’t come out to theaters. We need to prove them wrong. Here’s what you can do: 
  • Go right now to www.underourskin.com and see if the movie is coming to your area. 
  • If not, be proactive and arrange a community screening using online promotional materials. Contact your local art house or independent theater and convince them to show UNDER OUR SKIN. Have them contact the movie’s distributor, or  producer by emailing them.
  • Buy blocks of tickets or entire shows, turning a theatrical screening into a community educational event; then organize with others to get a speaker, solicit press and fill seats.
 
 
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