Published in the October 2014 edition of ‘The Bay’ Magazine.
As the cooler, damp weather sets in, many people find that their joints begin to ache and arthritis symptoms are aggravated. In this seasonal special we begin to take a look at what could be causing these symptoms of inflammation and what can be done to reverse the process.
The many different forms of arthritis can be divided into two categories – inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis and degenerative or mechanical arthritis, such as osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of this type of arthritis often feel worse in the morning, following periods of inactivity and better later in the day. It is classified as an autoimmune disease as it is as a result of the body’s own immune activity that inflammation and damage to the joints occur.
A central function of the immune system is to recognise toxic, invasive and ‘non self’ cells and bind with them to form an immune complex which can be safely disposed of. In the case of inflammatory arthritis, these immune complexes collect in the joints and trigger an ongoing inflammatory response which damages the joints and surrounding tissue.
This is generally understood as ‘wear and tear’ arthritis. The degeneration of cartilage surrounding joints results in inflammation and pain. It may occur as a result of inflammatory arthritis, following an injury or repeated strain to a joint. Symptoms often feel better in the morning and worse as the day progresses.
The causes of arthritis are not fully understood by medical science and medication focuses on reducing the inflammation with anti-inflammatory drugs. Natural medicines that are effective in the treatment of disease work closely to restore health to the digestive system, suggesting a strong link between arthritis and impaired digestion.
Proper diet and healthy digestion are fundamental to health. An imbalance in this area can lead to the production of toxins; partially digested foods begin to putrefy and the microflora of the gut begins to colonise less beneficial strains of bacteria. Subtle though these changes are initially, they can cause long-term havoc and chronic disease.
Psychologically an element of rigidity can be involved in a case of arthritis. When a person is in a state of tension they can become inflexible, both mentally and physically, holding the joints taut and thereby creating blood stagnation in this area. Joints that are not fed with oxygen and nutrients are susceptible to more wear and tear as well as a failure to clear toxins.
A New Line of Research
Researchers have begun to examine the theory that the microflora of the gut is associated with rheumatoid arthritis. “Studies in rodent models have clearly shown that the intestinal microbiota contribute significantly to the causation of systemic autoimmune diseases,” says Dan R. Littman, MD, PhD, the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Professor of Pathology and Microbiology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
There is a frequent occurrence of arthritis in patients with digestive tract disease. Between 9 and 53 percent of patients with inflammatory bowel disease,such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, develop inflammatory arthritis1.
One recent study in humans found that the growth of a specific bacterium, Prevotella copri, correlated significantly with an enhanced susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis2.
At The Herbal Clinic we have recorded a clear link between the remission of arthritis and improvement of digestive strength. The sooner the case is tackled the better, as the reduction in inflammation prevents joint destruction. Acupuncture alongside herbal medication brings about effective results.
Diet – A diet consisting of 70% alkaline forming foods (this includes most fruits and vegetables) and 30% acid forming foods (grains, dairy and meats) is a good place to start. Each person has a unique constitution, so will benefit most from a diet tailored to their specific needs.
Exercise – Low impact exercise such as swimming and walking improve the flow of blood and fluid surrounding the joints, bringing a fresh supply of oxygen and nutrients essential for repair and healing.
Healing From the Home
This tea can be made at home to help reduce inflammation, improve the digestion and the digestive microflora.
3 inches fresh ginger root grated
3 teaspoons good quality turmeric powder
3 teaspoons of chopped dried liquorice root
Combine the ingredients in a teapot and pour on 1¾ pints of boiling water. Cover and allow to infuse for 20 minutes. Drink freely throughout the day.
Herbs may interact with other medicines, always consult your practitioner before self medicating.
2. Expansion of intestinal Prevotella copri correlates with enhanced susceptibility to arthritis. Elife. 2013 Nov 5;2(0). pii: e01202. doi: 10.7554/eLife.01202. PMID: 24192039
The Herbal Clinic in Swansea provides natural healthcare with the use of organic herbs, acupuncture and iridology.