Natural alternatives for arthritis pain

Arthritis affects more than 40 million people in the United States, and that number is expected to nearly double in the next 20 years.

by Shalon Utah — 

Arthritis is a degenerative disease complicated by consistent wear and tear on the joint cartilage, causing a painful and disabling inflammatory condition. Arthritis affects more than 40 million people in the United States, and that number is expected to nearly double in the next 20 years.

Although arthritis is the leading cause of disability in older adults, they are not the only ones who get the disease. It is common among endurance athletes and overweight people, as well. Despite the prevalence of this disease, many people feel their only options are a lifetime of pain pills, or possibly surgery. Research shows some viable alternative options for people suffering with arthritis.

Among the hundreds of natural supplements, glucosamine is one of the most widely studied alternative remedies for people with arthritis. Glucosamine is backed by hundreds of clinical trials for its use in rebuilding joint cartilage. It is commonly taken with its buddy, chondrotin, for enhanced pain-reducing effects.

MSM is another commonly used supplement for joint pain that works by reducing inflammation around the joints. Glucosamine, chondrotin and MSM are commonly found together in supplements, but dosages vary widely. Make sure to check the dosage to be sure you are taking an adequate amount. Most people get results with at least 750 mg of glucosamine and 600 mg of chondrotin twice a day. MSM should be taken in doses that start at 500 mg to 1,000 mg a day.

Since glucosamine and chondrotin are derived from shellfish, people with shellfish allergies may have negative reactions. Fortunately, herbal alternatives exist for allergy-prone individuals.

The Ayurvedic herb boswellia has been shown to produce anti-inflammatory properties in arthritis sufferers. In a recent European study, boswellia worked just as well as COX-2 inhibitors in reducing pain and inflammation. It should be taken in a standardized extract of at least 60 percent boswellic acids.

Some essential fatty acids have anti-inflammatory benefits, such as the omega-3 fatty acid EPA, derived from fish oil, and the omega-6 fatty acid GLA, derived from borage oil or from black currant seeds. The enzyme bromelain, derived from fresh pineapples, has been shown to provide a significant reduction in arthritic inflammation. Make sure when taking bromelain that the product has at least 1,200 GDU (gelatin dissolving units) per 1,000 mg. Labels of enzyme products that contain either GDU or MCU (milk clotting units) provide a more accurate assessment of their potency than just milligrams.

The most important aspect in the management of arthritis when incorporating natural healing to assist with the pain is changing the diet. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, fruits and green vegetables is the best start in assisting with arthritis care.


Shalon Utah, C.H., C.N.C., is a certified herbalist and nutrition counselor with Mind, Body & Soul Wellness Center in Surprise, Ariz. or 623-876-BODY.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 1, February/March 2008.


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