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Better Nutrition (1989-90)

Arthritics respond to diet modification

Arthritics respond to diet modification

Stephen Langer

Arthritics Respond To Diet Modification

Controlling caloric intake, sharply reducing animal and vegetable fats, cutting out foods containing sugar and white flour and boosting calcium supplements have helped arthritis patients.

One of the greatest pains experienced by arthritics is the constant insistence by the medical orthodoxy that nothing can be done to correct their ailment and that aspirins and other painkillers are the only answer.

Fortunately, research in the last decade indicates that something can be done to help this condition and to relieve its pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune system inflammatory disorder, resulting in joint and muscle stiffness, joint erosion and pain. As in other autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks these tissues as if they were foreign invaders threatening the body.

Three times as many women as men develop rheumatoid arthritis. The disease may attack young mothers right after delivery, probably as a result of physiological, biochemical and emotional stress.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative rather than an autoimmune disorder and is an erosion of the cartilage between the joints in which bones rub against one another, causing difficult and painful motion.

This condition usually occurs in people who are overweight or whose joints are painful from extreme overuse day after day. Athletes in contact sports and heavy laborers are particularly prone to develop osteoarthritis.

These ailments are the enemies of well-being, physical good health and peace of mind. How do we beat them? By a variety of methods.

Roger Wyburn-Mason, a prominent English physician, said that rheumatoid arthritis may be due in part to an amoebic parasite. Dr. Wyburn-Mason found amoebas in his patients and treated them successfully with anti-amoebic drugs.

Other major causes of arthritis are digestive imbalances, high-fat diets, food and environmental chemicals and pollutants, stress, food and environmental sensitivities and allergies, adrenal exhaustion and malnutrition.

Yucca, a folk medicine used for more than 1,000 years by Native Americans, is a natural desert herbal product shown to be helpful in both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis by double-blind studies of Robert Bingham, M.D., of the National Arthritis Medical Center in Desert Hot Springs, Calif.

In a one-year study, 68 rheumatoid and 97 osteoarthritis patients were divided into two groups, both continuing their prescribed medication. One group received a 300 mg tablet of yucca daily, while the other group was given a look-alike placebo tablet.

More than 60 percent of the group taking yucca reported gradual relief from arthritis symptoms including swelling, stiffness and pain with no side effects, plus a bonus of unpredicted benefits, among them better circulation, clearer skin, healthier hair, relief from headaches and a significant drop in blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure.

How did yucca accomplish all this? The biochemical reasons have not yet been worked out. For that matter, neither have those for aspirins. However, Dr. Bingham suspects that yucca protects “friendly microorganisms” in the gut, enabling them to control bacteria that create toxins causing allergic reactions.

A diet high in fat seems to invite the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. In a study at Wayne State University College of Medicine, six rheumatoid arthritis sufferers placed on a fat-free diet for seven weeks became symptom-free.

The same patients were then challenged with both animal and vegetable fats and within 72 hours, the symptoms all returned. Studies on dietary fat and rheumatoid arthritis now in progress may soon disclose why limiting fat seems to relieve this condition.

Eliminating fats, of course, is not only virtually impossible but would be biochemically disastrous. But with a few sacrifices, patients can restrict their fat intake to between 20 to 30 percent of daily calories.

Weight-reduction diets that work often lessen arthritis symptoms by reducing joint strain and in some diets by restricting certain food groups to which a person may be sensitized or allergic.

James Braly, M.D., a noted food allergy specialist based in Encino, Calif., said that rheumatoid arthritis may result from inflammatory responses when food-containing immune complexes are deposited in and around joints and related tissues, causing the release of painful chemicals.

The nightshade food family includes eggplant, red and green peppers, Irish potatoes, tomatoes and tobacco, all common allergens which may invite symptoms of arthritis in some individuals.

Nightshades often are hidden ingredients in processed, canned and packaged foods and should be avoided. Chemical additives, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides of all kinds can trigger arthritis attacks.

Thousands of chemical pollutants in our food make the intestinal lining prone to allow partially digested food to enter the bloodstream (a condition known as “leaky gut syndrome”). These molecules are much larger than those of digested nutrients, so our immune system regards them as enemies and creates an inflammatory response to eliminate them.

Repeatedly eating problem foods can, therefore, lead to symptoms of arthritis in susceptible individuals. Food and chemical sensitivity are just two of the countless stresses we encounter daily.

Unchecked stress often leads to adrenal exhaustion and more nutritional imbalances. Deficiencies of vitamin C, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6 cause “distress” and have been shown to start arthritis attacks.

In his book Vitamin B6: The Doctor’s Report, Dr. John Ellis described his experience treating thousands of arthritis patients with vitamin B6. The symptoms many of these patients experienced were swelling, numbness, tingling, reduced sense of touch in the fingers and hands and pain in finger joints that impaired hand movement and weakened the grip.

Six advanced cases had pain and stiffness in the shoulders and knees, muscle spasms in the back of the legs and arches of the feet, locking of the finger joints and intermittent claudication or “restless legs.”

All of these symptoms responded to 50 mg daily of vitamin B6 when they weren’t caused by injury. Vitamin B6 therapy also helped many arthritis patients whose arms fell asleep at night. In some instances, bony protrusions at the fingertips (Heberden’s nodes) shrank and became less painful.

Vitamin B6 therapy began to bring relief after several days. Vitamin B6 usually alleviated elbow pain and improved finger flexibility within six weeks. Nighttime muscle cramping, weak grip or loss of the sense of touch generally improved within the same length of time.

When Dr. Ellis’ arthritis patients added 25 mg of pantothenic acid to their regular diet each day — an amount which can be furnished by diet or nutritional supplements — some showed improvement of symptoms within two weeks.

An old myth says arthritics should decrease their calcium intake. Modern science says otherwise. Stress which often precedes the onset of arthritis actually draws calcium out of bones and teeth as does a dietary deficiency of this mineral.

Therefore, it’s important for arthritis patients to increase their calcium intake, rather than decrease it. Various studies have revealed that a liberal intake of calcium seems to decrease the sensitivity of arthritis-caused pain.

Rheumatologists E. Abrams and J. Sandson, both medical doctors, claim that some joint stiffness and pain of arthritis are due to thickening of the synovial fluid, a natural lubricant of the joints.

When blood levels of vitamin C are high, the synovial fluid is thinner, allowing easier and greater range of motion.

A total dietary approach has been found helpful too. In research performed at the Brusch Clinic in Cambridge, Mass., the following regimen brought reduced pain and swelling and increased the joint range of motion for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers:

* Limiting water intake to an hour prior to breakfast, but drinking room temperature whole milk and soup at mealtime.

* Cod liver oil at bedtime or one or more hours before breakfast.

* Calorie intake controlled between 1,800 to 2,400 daily.

* Elimination of all junk foods including cake, candies, cookies, ice cream, soft drinks and all other products containing white flour and white sugar.

The various successful approaches to coping with arthritis mentioned in this article open the doors for orthodox medicine to go far beyond aspirins and other painkillers.

PHOTO : Dietary therapy helps arthritis sufferers.

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