There are many syndromes that come under the umbrella of arthritis, which you can read about at Arthritis Research UK, but the two main types are mechanical ( as in osteoarthritis) and inflammatory ( as in rheumatoid and juvenile arthritis, which are also auto-immune.)
In my exploration, I have found the most convincing evidence about diet to point towards a plant-based whole food diet. There’s a fantastic paper rounding up the clincial research in rheumatoid arthritis
The results of the largest study of human nutrition ever carried out, has been summarised in a book called ‘The China Study’
This 20 year study of the health and dietary habits in 65 counties in China found that ‘western’ diseases correlated to the levels of blood cholesterol, and that blood cholesterol levels correlated to diet, particularly animal protein. They found that plants protected against most disease. Significantly for inflammatory arthritis (RA), they found that auto-immune diseases correlated with high consumption of animal products, particularly dairy milk, and showed the disruptive factor that dairy has on vitamin D function, which is necessary to regulate the immune system. The results from the study recommend a whole food plant-based diet as the best for long-term health.
This also correlates with the works of Dean Ornish, who found inflammation to be a key feature of heart disease, and Prof.George Jelinek in the auto-immune disease Multiple sclerosis who, based on research, both advocate a plant -based, whole-food diet.
Supplements: Vitamin D and Flax/Linseed oil
it’s really important to be aware of the need for vitamin D – even Australians can be deficient! Vitamin D is powerfully anti-inflammatory, and helps to regulate the immune system. Deficiency of vitamin D is related to a higher likelihood of getting many different diseases, and in some auto-immune diseases, a higher frequency of flare-ups. It is made in our bodies by the action of sunlight on the skin, but you need to allow as much skin as possible to be exposed, in your first 10 or 15 minutes outside, without sunscreen, for the ‘minimal erythmal dose’ -or just before you start to go pink. This varies depending on the strength of the sun and the darkness of your skin. When you can’t get strong enough sun ( for at least half the year in the UK), consider supplementing with a high dose of D3. The Vitamin D council recommend 5000 IU for adults daily, which is a little higher than most individual countries standard medical advice.
Another powerful anti-inflammatory is omega 3 fatty acids. These are present in fish oil, but the highest source of omega 3 is cold pressed flaxseed oil, also known as linseed oil. There has been debate about whether your body can process the beneficial plant based fatty acid ALA as well as it can process the fish oils, EPA and DHA, but research into Fatty acid intake and relapses in MS showed a clear benefit in those taking fish oil, but was beaten by a reduction of 60% in relapses in those taking flaxseed oil. Make sure it’s fresh – when it’s fresh it’s nice, when it tastes bad, it means it’s rancid. I get it from www.flaxfarm.co.uk and keep it chilled, use cold only, 2 dessert spoons ( 20g) a day, on food or as salad dressing, dip, or in smoothies.
Other herbal or nutritional supplements with known anti-inflammatory effects are: curcumin ( turmeric), green tea extract, quercetin, ginger, white willow bark and boswelia.
There’s a growing body of evidence that fasting can be used to help ‘flip a switch’ to reset the immune system and reduce auto-immune behaviour. http://wp.me/p2wLSb-64
I recommend looking at the research on fasting, which is growing, but was well compiled in the book ‘the Fast diet’ by Michael Mosley, and considering doing perhaps one long fast and then some intermittent fasting.
Look at the theory of leaky gut, and how it can trigger auto-immune behaviour. The theory is that at some point, the gut wall stops providing a tight enough ‘sieve’, and some undigested food molecules get through into the blood stream. The body launches an immune attack on them, as they shouldn’t be there. However, later on, the body looks around, and spots similar molecules – actually your own body’s healthy tissue – and gets confused, recognising them as the previous undigested food molecules, and sets up an auto-immune reaction to its own tissues. Casein in milk, and gluten are very common suspects, and another reason why people with RA might do a lot better without dairy products.
To identify whether you have specific problems with specific foods, you can either do an IgG blood test ( it’s possible to get false positives and negatives apparently, but a lot of people find them very helpful) or an exclusion diet. See http://avivaromm.com/elimination-diet for a good guide to doing this.
Exercise and relaxation
Mental and emotional stress cause a powerful inflammatory cascade in the body, making us more susceptible to genetic pre-dispositions to diseases, and acting as triggers for flare-ups in existing inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Meditation has been shown in many clinical studies to make people more resilient to stress, and to decrease inflammation at a cellular level – and so has exercise. To get the results, you need to do them as part of your regular routine. fro exercise, 3-5 times a week, as vigorously as is possible for you, and for meditation, preferably daily.
Assisting your body to remove inflammation
Inflammation is designed to protect us from immune invaders ( germs etc) after injury. Once the risk of infection has passed, however, the immune system should move into its anti-inflammatory stage, pain and swelling should disappear, and healing take place.
However, sometimes, the body has not been able to heal the area completely, and these multiple failed attempts at healing, with multiple inflammatory cycles, move from being acute, to chronic. At this stage, immune cells that should long ago have left the area ( macrophages), are still found in large numbers, and scarring or fibrosis can occur. The area is congested by the products of inflammation, and it’s harder for the body’s electrical signals, or action potentials, to pass along the cells, causing a vicious circle of chronic inflammation.
Using a micro-current device (electricity delivered at millionths of an amp), can help the electrical signal to pass through the tissue properly again, stimulating release of waste products into the lymph for clearing. APS (Action Potential Simulation) Therapy machines, use a current of the same wave-form and frequency as the body’s action potentials, and can be very effective; stimulating the body’s own healing mechanisms by enhancing production of ATP, and reducing or alleviating joint pain.
Using all these measures together gives you a powerful set of tools to address arthritis and find your way towards being well again.