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Health Solutions: Protect your joints.

Summary: The other day, I had a reunion with old friends. Some of us did not see each other for as long as ten years. It was so nice to see beautiful Randa, again!We kissed, hugged, and looked at each other after years of separation.Randa still looked good and retained much of her beauty.


After the excitement subsided, we sat and ordered tea and drinks. As we chatted trying to catch up with all that we had missed during the past years, I noticed Randa frowning and holding her hands tight in pain. What happened to her beautiful hands and long smooth fingers? She noticed me looking at them and tried to hide them, but I insisted to see them. What I saw was gnarled joints and distorted fingers. She shrugged her shoulders and explained that she recently developed arthritis. She tried to express how painful her stiff joints feel in the morning. She continued saying that she consulted many doctors, but to no available. To relieve pain and inflammation, she has been taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). She stopped and stared at me helplessly. She caught me by surprise. I had to think fast.

As usual the first thing that came to my mind is a healthy diet, but not any diet. What is required for her condition is an anti-inflammatory diet to reduce the inflammation in her joints. This means consuming good amounts of red and purple berries, sour cherries, red grapes, pineapple, pomegranate, or their juices without sugar. Sulfur-containing foods like cruciferous family, asparagus, eggs, garlic, and onions help repair and rebuild bone, cartilage, and connective tissue and direct the absorption of calcium to the bones rather than to joints and connective tissue. Fresh organic dark leafy greens offer magnesium and vitamin K for bone health. Whole grains and legumes are important, too. Deep sea fish, nuts, flax seeds, and their oils supply essential fatty acids that fight and suppress inflammation.

The nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplants, and sweet peppers should be excluded during the healing period. They contain a chemical called solanine, which disrupts the work of enzymes, thus increasing inflammation.

Certain herbs can help with the cure. Boswellia gum, (luban shihri, or thakr), or its supplement, is very effective in detoxifying the body as well as lowering inflammation and healing blood vessels and connective tissue. Soak the gum in a little water until the liquid becomes milky. It should be taken on an empty stomach two to three times daily for ten or 15 days. Boswellia or Arnica cream eases the pain. Hot peppers (cayenne) have a compound (capsaicin) that is a pain suppressant. It is absorbed by the skin when mixed with massage oils or made in a poultice if you can sustain the burning sensation that accompanies it.

Turmeric, curcumin, produces anti-inflammatory and pain-soothing effects. It can be taken as an herb, spice in food, or supplement. An Indian remedy recommends mixing a teaspoon of turmeric powder with milk or yogurt for fractured bones, sprains, bruises, and inflammation.

Willow bark decreases inflammation and pain. It is the plant base of aspirin; aspirin is a drug. Other helpful herbs are infusions of parsley, nettle, cat's claw, and burdock root, which assist in easing the condition. Several cups a day of cherry stem infusion also relieve joint pain.

Before antibiotics, the Mediterraneans used olive leaf extract for inflammations and infections (arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis). The active ingredient in the herb is oleuropein; it destroys bacteria and counteracts inflammation, leaving no side effects. It is available in supplement form and also treats other medical conditions.

Due to their richness in minerals, alfalfa, wheat and barley grasses, dandelion, Aloe, and kelp are powerful detoxifiers and healers for inflammation, infection, and thyroid dysfunction. They can be taken green, dried, as juice, or in supplement form.

Bones and joints need daily exposure to direct sunlight for 15 minutes after 10 am in order for the skin to synthesize vitamin D, a much needed nutrient for building bone mass, protecting joints, and bolstering immunity. Without D, calcium gets deposited in soft tissues such as the joints instead of the bones.

Exercise is another practice that helps make bones; prevent cartilage damage; strengthen and stretch muscles, tendons, and ligaments; boost stamina and make the brain secrete endorphins to enhance well being and mood and alleviate pain. Swimming, walking, cycling, and light muscle-building exercises are recommended to improve the condition. Any moderate activity and movement help inflamed joints and reduce pain. Exercise also keeps weight under control in order to relieve the spine, knees, or hips of the extra load.

Keep fat and salt intake low and avoid red meat, dairy products, citrus fruits, sugar, additives, preservative, sugar substitutes (aspartame), and smoking. Such foods and substances cause inflammation in the body as well as increase toxins and acidic conditions (yeast infections) that aggravate the disease.

Vitamin and mineral supplements are essential to protect the bones, joints, connective tissue, and cartilage and prevent deficiencies. According to Phyllis Bach's book "Prescription for Health," vitamins B, D, A, E, K, and C with bioflavonoids and minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, boron, and silica are needed for bone and joint health. Iron supplements may increase pain, swelling, and joint damage, but it can be taken through dietary supplements. Enzymes like bromelain, multi-enzyme complex, and grape seed extract lower inflammation. Essential fatty acids (omega fatty 3-6-9, EFA, DHA) and hyaluronic acid along with glucosamine and chondroitin supplements help build cartilage and synovial fluid in the joints to lubricate and reduce friction. Shark cartilage helps repair joints and bones, too.

Individuals who use NSAIDs should decrease salt intake to prevent water retention. The drug should also be taken with meals to minimize gastrointestinal irritation and bleeding.

Joint and other inflammations can be triggered by harsh chemicals through the use of detergents and toxic materials as well as heavy metals (lead). Hair analysis can reveal a toxic overload in the body.

An imbalance in thyroid functions can induce joint swelling, inflammation, and cartilage destruction. Check your thyroids and correct the condition before damage occurs permanently.

My friend, Randa, started the cleansing diet I recommended above. She believes that Boswellia helped quell the inflammation and pain. It takes time for a holistic therapy to work effectively, but it will come before long, inshallah. Health damage occurs easily and fast, whereas regaining health requires will, perseverance and patience. Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) suggested the following supplication: "God, bestow upon us forgiveness (pardon) and health." Without health, life can become a misery and lose its luster. Hold on to health; it is very precious!

-- N.B. Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they decide to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.

Copyright: Arab News 2009 All rights reserved.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Nov 3, 2010
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