Arthritis is a pain
For many people it begins insidiously. A little pain and stiffness, quite often in the knee joints, first thing in the morning, easily relieved by a hot shower and the usual morning dash to get to work. Slowly the stiffness gets more pronounced, making those first few steps in the morning increasingly difficult. Sometimes fingers too are affected, so that turning on a tap becomes a complex exercise requiring the use of both hands. And that brisk lunchtime walk which you have enjoyed each day becomes slower and shorter, the knee joints complaining more and more when you settle back at your desk.
Arthritis entered my daily vocabulary in 1991 when a surgeon said that a ‘routine cartilage operation’ had turned into something more serious and mentioned the words ‘erosion of the bone’ and ‘arthritis’. ‘But I am only 38 – I thought arthritis was something that old people got.’ He smiled knowingly, sending me home with painkillers and an instruction to spend some time with a physiotherapist. Intensive physiotherapy and exercise rid me of the knee support within six weeks and the dependence on a walking stick after three months, but the fact remained – I had arthritis.
What was I to do?
I had no idea, but I knew a man who did – Alfred Vogel – so I picked up my copy of The Nature Doctor and delved deeply.
No, not slimming, although lowering body weight can really help in reducing wear and tear on ‘load bearing’ joints like the knee. By diet I mean everything eaten or drunk.
We know that we should drink good plain water but do we? While we happily down numerous cups of tea or coffee, the very idea of swallowing one and a half litres of water every 24 hours leaves us cold. Nowadays, I feel deprived if I don’t get my daily ration – and it has the additional benefit of flushing the kidneys and keeping the skin hydrated and a lot less prone to ageing.
That’s not to say that I don’t still enjoy an occasional cup of tea, but now it’s herbal tea. There is an extraordinary variety to choose from. My favourite is Jan de Vries Dutch Herbal Tea which contains a wide range of herbs and is amazingly refreshing, taken with neither sugar nor milk.
It is recommended that we eat five portions of fruit and veg each day but there is more to it than that. Delicious options such as pineapple, papaya, mango, banana and many more are now a must for my shopping basket. However, take note that citrus fruits are a bad idea – too acidic and therefore aggravating to arthritic joints. And those cousins of the Deadly Nightshade: tomatoes, peppers and aubergines are also to be avoided.
When it comes to eating, wholefoods are definitely best for you, whether you suffer from arthritis or not—and they are also a lot tastier than the processed alternatives. Along with brown rice, consider leafy green veg, lightly cooked, and some delicious fish full of beneficial oils. It does not mean giving up the steak dinner or the chicken curry if you cannot live without them, just limiting the intake of saturated animal fats.
And if you must nibble, dried apricots or pumpkin seeds are far better than crisps and salted nuts.
Get out into the fresh air
Exercise too is good for you. As my role model was still skiing well into his nineties, I decided my daily regime had to involve a little gentle exercise. After surgery it is all too easy to sit back and fester, feeling sorry for yourself. OK, rough walking around the fields and beaches of my home county had to be tackled with the aid of my discarded walking stick, but it had the added advantage of getting fresh air into my lungs and aided my ever-present battle with the scales, as did the wholefood diet.
The one wonderful thing about Nature’s store is that it contains a vast array of herbs to help arthritic and rheumatic conditions.
Reducing acidity in the body – the uric acid which helps to build crystals in the joints – can be helped by the common Nettle (Urtica). If, like me, you cannot develop a taste for nettle tea, the fresh herb tincture is just the trick.
Devil’s Claw helps to reduce inflammatory pain, while in no way damaging the stomach lining as most conventional anti-inflammatory medications do.
This I couple with Glucosamine Sulphate, which helps to rebuild the cartilage that should be lining the joints, preventing the bones from rubbing against each other. It is the wearing away of this cartilage that contributes to inflammatory pain.
With deposits in the joints – those wonderful cracks and bangs when you move are a sure sign – a complex containing Knotgrass and other supportive herbs - is worth a try. This unique combination of herbs strengthens the soft tissue around the joint while dissolving the deposits and improving mobility. And like all the others, it can be taken long term.
Sadly, nothing can change a genetic tendency to arthritis but much can help it grind to a slow crawl while you go out and enjoy yourself. When I overdo things a little, as when I battled my way to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, there is Arnica.
An externally applied gel containing fresh Arnica is so easy to apply and quick to absorb, so now I use it ahead of time, whether walking, sailing or sight-seeing.