As the population of Australia continues to age, the rate of diagnosis of arthritis continues to rise. It is estimated that by 2050, 7 million Australians will suffer from arthritis. It affects people of all ages, and 2.4 million people of those suffering are of working age.
Embodying several different medical conditions, there are more than 100 forms of arthritis. This can include everything from pain and stiffness to inflammation and damage to joints, cartilage, ends of bones and surrounding structures.
Without proper care and attention, the disease can be debilitating, getting progressively worse with time. This turn of event may result in increased inflammation and limiting movement for the affected individual. While it is not yet curable, the condition is manageable. Depending on the type of arthritis you suffer from, there are options to help you live a comfortable life.
What is arthritis?
The medical definition of arthritis, as described by the Mayo Clinic, is “inflammation of one or more joints, causing pain and stiffness that can worsen with age.” Essentially the body produces inflammation within the joints, which leads to a limitation in joint mobility. The inflammation and attempts to do movement lead to pain and discomfort for the affected individual.
While it is often genetic, it has many different causes and affects more than just the elderly population. At the root of the disease is something that has caused the joint to become inflamed. This could be an injury, such as a sports injury, or an overuse injury. As in the case of older individuals, can simply be from wear and tear, whereby the joint is wearing down and becoming inflamed as a result.
There is also increasing evidence to support that arthritis comes from dietary choices and allergies. Sometimes, when an individual has an intolerance or an allergy to a food or substance, and particles of the allergen get into the bloodstream. The result can be that the particles are deposited in the joints, leading to joint inflammation and setting the early stages for arthritis. Regardless of the cause, it can appear as many different symptoms. Eventually, this manifestation can have a big impact on functionality and well-being of affected individuals
Types and Causes
There are several different types of arthritis, which are caused by everything from genetics, and wear and tear, to allergies to infection to underlying or pre-existing diseases. There is no cure for arthritis, simple methods of management, and prevention. But understanding the different types and how they develop is the first step in helping reduce their effects.
The three of the most common types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Psoriatic Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the wear and tear arthritis that we most often associate with old age and overuse. It usually occurs as a product of age, but it can also occur due to injuries or obesity, which put extra stress on the joints. As such, the joints most commonly affected are the weight-bearing joints, such as the knees, ankles, hips, and feet.
This type of arthritis often appears gradually and worsens with time, yielding pain in the affected joints, but minimal other symptoms. Osteo, meaning bone, is significant, as this type of arthritis yields pain due to reduced cushioning between the bones.
As we get older, due to repetitive use, or when there is an increased amount of weight on the joint, the cartilage gradually breaks down. Cartilage is the slippery material that covers the ends of the bones and protects them Where two bones meet and pivot is where a joint is. When this protective material is gone, the bones can rub together. As a result, the joint is no longer cushioned, and inflammation ensues, creating osteoarthritis.
2. Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, whereby the immune system attacks parts of the body, especially the joints. An immune attack automatically elicits inflammation. It’s just like when you have a virus, and get a swollen throat or glands. This inflammation, due to immune attack can eventually cause severe joint damage and impair joint function. In later stages, this type of arthritis reveals lumps of skin over joints, called rheumatoid nodules, which inhibit, or severely limit joint motion.
The causes of rheumatoid arthritis are much less well understood than those of osteoarthritis, as the former is the body attacking itself. According to a current research, scientists believe the body may become confused after an infection or virus, and mistake the joints or certain chemicals within the body for foreign invaders, and then attack the joints as a result. Given this, the onset of the disease may be gradual, or quite suddenly, and is often more severe and painful than that of osteoarthritis. It can also affect multiple joints and is not limited to simply weight-bearing joints.
3. Psoriatic arthritis
Arthritis is a condition that occurs in people who have inflammation of the skin (psoriasis). When this inflammation occurs, it often happens over the joints, in areas such as the elbows, knuckles or behind the knees, and inflammation in these areas can progress to arthritis.
How can I reduce my risk of developing arthritis?
Decreasing your arthritis risk requires conscious work from a young age, and being mindful and attentive to your health and well being. While it can be genetic, it is often as a result of a series of compounding issues, such as poor dietary choices, inadequate calcium in the diet, poor immune support and not looking after your skin and lymphatic systems adequately.
In essence, there are several systems of the body that play a role in the development or absence of arthritis. And looking after all of these is important in helping reduce your risk.
Whole Foods Diet
Firstly, it is important to eat a whole foods diet, rich in plants, whole grains and containing lots of fruit and vegetables. Research has shown that individuals who consume a lot of red meat are at an increased risk of developing arthritis. The digestion of red meat which causes the release of nitrogen byproducts in the body is the reason behind arthritis. Such byproduct is a toxin which can get released into the blood-stream and can accumulate itself in the joints.
Maintaining an active lifestyle also goes a long way in helping reduce arthritis risk, as regular use and movement of joints help fight inflammation. Engage in physical activity regularly and focus on reducing sedentary behavior. Getting up and moving around every hour are necessary as well.
Take Measures to Reduce Inflammation
If you have inflammation within the body, due to injury, or infection, take the measures to reduce it. Ensure that such inflammation does not become long lasting and chronic, regular precursors to the development of arthritis.
How can I help my arthritis once I am diagnosed?
If you are suffering from arthritis, while it is incurable, it is possible to manage the condition and reduce the inflammation within the body. First and foremost, it is important to adopt dietary changes, which promote a reduction of inflammation in the body. For many people this means eliminating meat and dairy, cutting out processed foods and removing refined sugar. Eating anti-inflammatory foods, such as turmeric, leafy greens and cherries is a healthy option. Hydration by drinking lots of water is important as well.
Inflammation within the body can be very taxing on the liver, as the liver is responsible for metabolizing everything we consume. It becomes harder for the liver to deal with when there is inflammation hindering this process. Therefore, supporting the liver by eating bitter foods like endive, and consuming dandelion root tea, are great options for further support.
We can reduce inflammation with the consumption of healthy fats, like those found in avocado and coconut oil. That includes essential fats from flax and fish such as salmon. These healthy fats are also critical for healthy skin and of extra importance for those with psoriatic arthritis.
How to deal with rheumatoid arthritis?
For people with rheumatoid arthritis, it is important to pay extra attention to immune system health. Via diet, this involves consuming vitamin C rich foods. Examples of these foods are citrus, kiwi, capsicum, kale, and broccoli.
Healthy Lifestyle is Essential
Regular exercise and fresh air boost immunity. In addition to that, it is important to maintain healthy gut flora by consuming fermented foods, natural yogurt, and kombucha. The exercise component is also important for those with osteoarthritis. Placing weight on the weight-bearing joints forces them to maintain strength and stability, and continue to develop, and repair themselves, and thereby erode less, or less quickly.
Bone is actually developed via use, as we wear the current bone away. This scenarion forces the body to make new bone via ossification. Without bearing weight on the joints and bones, the body is not signaled to repair the bone that is being used.
Finally, calcium is an important mineral for those who are experiencing arthritis. While our body absorbs most of its calcium at a young age, consuming accessible sources of calcium is still important at any age. We can source calcium from broccoli, organic tofu, and sesame seeds.
It may sound daunting to hear about arthritis, it’s debilitating effects on the body and no evidence of a cure. However, with proper care and preventative measures, it is still possible to drastically reduce your risk or symptoms if applicable.
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