A Naturopathic Approach to Arthritis

  • Tara Andresen

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Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis both lead to chronic joint pain and can be improved with Naturopathic treatment.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and develops from joint cartilage degeneration. The erosion of the cartilage eventually leads to joint pain, swelling and stiffness. The most common joints affected include the hips, shoulders, knees and thumbs. OA will cause the joints to be stiff for the first 20-30 minutes in the morning but then the pain and discomfort will increase as the day goes on. Diagnosis of OA is usually done through x-ray.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic progressive autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation. Autoimmune diseases result from the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking its own tissues, in this case around the joints. Joint deformities often develop as a result and affect mainly the wrists, fingers, ankles and feet. Diagnosis of RA is usually done through bloodwork along with Xrays.

Naturopathic treatment for OA and RA differs because one is due to cartilage degeneration and the other is an autoimmune disorder. However, both types of arthritis typically benefit from treatment with acupuncture as well as anti-inflammatory herbal support and diet changes.

There are specific acupuncture points that work to improve surrounding muscle function as well as improve joint movement and these are typically incorporated into a Naturopath’s treatment plan. Herbal support can vary because there are a wide variety of effective anti-inflammatory herbs available. Examples of some herbs include Harpagophytum, Boswellia Serrata, Curcuma Longa and Capsicum Annuum. You should consult your Naturopath before taking these herbs since the dosing used will determine the effectiveness of outcomes but also, your Naturopath will be able to identify possible contraindications when taking these herbs.

Specific diet changes have been shown to improve pain in both OA and RA. There are certain foods that promote inflammation and as a result make pain worse. Removal of these foods can decrease OA and RA pain. For example, nightshade vegetables (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, etc) have been studied in conjunction with OA and removal of these foods from the diet improves pain scores. Conversely, there are certain foods that promote anti-inflammatory processes in the body and consequently reduce pain. For example, cold water fish, which is high in omega 3 fatty acids decreases inflammatory cytokine levels in the body.

In addition to the use of herbs, diet changes and acupuncture, your Naturopath may also prescribe certain nutrients and enzymes that have been shown to improve OA and RA. For example, glucosamine in adequate amounts has been shown to halt cartilage degeneration in OA patients.

To find out more about Naturopathic treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis or Osteoarthritis, contact your local Naturopathic Doctor or book your appointment with Dr. Andresen at one of her Toronto Naturopathic Clinics.