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For being so common, arthritis is frequently misunderstood. Characterized by pain and stiffness around one or more joints, it’s often considered a single condition brought on by wear and tear on the body, an unavoidable part of getting older without many good options for treatment if you’re unfortunate enough to develop it. In fact, there are over 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions, with different root causes. While it is primarily a condition of adults, with approximately 54.4 million adults in the U.S. affected, children can also get arthritis.
Lifestyle factors and overall health make a difference in both the risk of developing arthritis and success in reducing pain and improving mobility for those diagnosed with it.
Arthritis can be caused by either degeneration of the joint or by inflammation in and around the joint. Some common types of arthritis are:
Osteoarthritis: Occurring most often in the hands, hips, and knees, osteoarthritis is caused by the cartilage in the joint breaking down over time. It can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling, and usually develops slowly, getting worse over time. It tends to affect women more often than men, and the risk of developing it increases with age. Joint injuries can also increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis: This is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that attacks the joints, inflaming the lining of the joint and causing damage to the tissue. This damage can cause chronic pain and deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. Like osteoarthritis, it is more frequently seen in older adults and in women. However, it may also be triggered by genetic factors, and the risk of developing it is increased by smoking.
Gout: This form of inflammatory arthritis is caused by hyperuricemia, a condition in which there is too much uric acid in the body. The body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines, which are found in the body and in foods—when there is an excess, it can build up as crystals. In the joints, this causes flare-ups of pain. Gout most frequently affects men, those with health conditions such as diabetes or poor kidney function, and those indulging in alcohol or high-fructose and purine-rich foods.
The lifestyle choices arthritis patients make can positively affect their condition and their quality of life. Among the most important are:
Diet: Food choice can help reduce inflammation. In particular, a diet including fish, nuts and seeds, good raw fats such as olive oil and avocado, and vegetables can provide nutrients beneficial for joint health. Monitoring food choices is particularly important for those suffering from gout, as red meat and seafood can trigger gout flares. Nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers may increase inflammation; testing for these foods as well as others, using Nutrition Response Testing, will help in determining which foods affect you negatively.
Exercise: While it may seem counterintuitive, regular low-impact physical activity helps to reduce arthritis symptoms long-term. Walking, swimming and cycling are examples of ways to stay active without putting undue stress on your joints. Pay careful attention to your symptoms and don’t overdo it.
Healthy weight: Excess weight puts increased pressure on the joints, particularly the hips and knees. If you’re over your recommended weight, even a modest decrease can help reduce pain.
Mindset: It is a Chinese belief (and one that has shown strong ties to health and arthritis over the years) that it is important to let go of anger and anything negative. You must free yourself up of negative thoughts to allow your body to heal itself.
At the Natural Healing Center, we know that proper nutrition is the foundation of wellness. Our personalized treatment plans get to the root cause of your symptoms and enlist your body’s natural healing power to advance you to health. To find out more about our services or to schedule a free initial consultation, contact us here today.