Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of dis-ease in the body. Osteoarthritis can be called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis affecting mainly the knees, fingers, lower back and hips but can occur in any joint in the body. 27 million Americans are afflicted with osteoarthritis and most of them are over the age of 65 years old. This is why it is dubbed a ‘wear and tear’ type of disease. The pain and aches of osteoarthritis are the main reasons for using NSAIDs or other over the counter pain medication. These medications do not come without risk and when natural remedies for osteoarthritis are available and effective, it is worth giving them a try.
How Do You Get Osteoarthritis?
According to conventional medicine and the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis can be caused by:
- Genetics – Some people carry a gene that predisposes them to lack of adequate collagen synthesis. Or some may have slight variations in the ways the bones fit together allowing collagen to wear away quicker.
- Excess weight – The more you weigh, the greater your risk of osteoarthritis. It is thought that the extra weight contributes to inflammation which wears away at the joints.
- Overuse of joints – This is the wear and tear theory. The more you use your joints in a repetitive manner for years, subjects them to cartilage breakdown over time.
- Metabolic disorders – Too much iron in the body causes growth hormone to increase which affects the joints.
According to functional medicine, which is a practice of looking at the interconnectedness of symptoms in the body in order to target the root cause, arthritis can be caused by:
- Low circulation – Joints are a part of the body that has less circulation. The overuse of joints damage the cartilage. Cartilage metabolism is slower in comparison with other tissues making it much more difficult for defects in cartilage to heal spontaneously.
- The gut – the source of inflammation in the body that is wreaking havoc on the joints is usually far distant from the joints. The source is usually the gut. More on this later as I explain further.
- Insufficient muscle mass – our joints are designed to support flexibility and movement, not weight. When a person is overweight or has too much fat to muscle ratio, this puts undue pressure on the joints that are not designed to withstand the weight.
- Low testosterone in men– causes insufficient muscle mass critical to supporting joint health.
- Low cortisol levels – cortisol is a natural anti-inflammatory and lower levels subject you to more aches and pains. Most Americans are suffering from acute stress 24/7 reducing their adrenal gland function for supplying the body with cortisol due to overuse.
- Food sensitivities – can cause inflammation and gut permeability resulting in low-level immune responses that result in aches and pains in the joints.
Conventional Remedies For Osteoarthritis
- Analgesics – such as acetaminophen and opioids are available over the counter and by prescription. These pain medicines come with side effects and risks. There is no question that opioids are addictive and acetaminophen comes with liver damage warnings.
- NSAIDs – like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and celecoxib work to decrease inflammation. NSAIDs can do damage to the gut lining leading to severe health challenges when used in excess. Ibuprofen comes with warnings that it damages hearing. You can get these drugs over the counter or in prescription strength.
- Steroids – are powerful anti-inflammatories and are prescribed by a doctor in pill form or injected in a doctor’s office. Steroids carry serious risks including headaches, osteopenia, weight gain, headaches, bone fractures and should never be taken lightly.
- Surgery – to replace knees and hips and other replaceable joints.
- Devices – like canes, walkers or other devices to take the burden off of the joints.
Conventional remedies carry side effects risks and do not address the root problem of osteoarthritis. Getting to the root of arthritis is the way to finally address the actual issue so you can take steps to resolve and heal over time.
Natural, Functional Medicine Remedies For Osteoarthritis
The first order of business when reducing pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis is to find products that can help reduce inflammation naturally and without the side effects of drugs. Always check with your doctor to see if any natural therapy is contraindicated for any medicine you may be taking.
- Omega 3 fatty acids – 2 to 3 grams of EPA/DHA in divided doses a day can help inflammation along with:
- Meriva Curcumin – (500- 2x day) Meriva is a trade name for a very absorbable type of curcumin. Meriva is about 10 times more absorbable than plain curcumin and is very effective for pain and inflammation. You can start at 500 mgs and go up to 1000 mgs if needed. If you’d like more support you can add this to the omega/Meriva curcumin mix:
- Boswellia extract – Boswellia is extremely effective for osteoarthritis pain and inflammation relief. Boswellia has been used since the beginning of time to treat inflammation. Some products include curcumin, Boswellia, and bromelain together for a very effective pain-relieving product.
- Bromelain – Research shows that the bromelain enzyme may reduce the swelling and discomfort of arthritis.
- Collagen – in the form of bone broth or powder supplement to support proper building blocks for protein absorption which help build muscle mass.
Now that you have some natural remedies to help with pain and inflammation, it’s time to address the root cause of your osteoarthritis.
- Go gluten free for 4 weeks and see if gluten sensitivity is the cause of your inflammation in your body and joints. Many people are gluten sensitive and do not tie their headaches, joint pain, and other health issues to the fact that they cannot tolerate the effect gluten has on their system.
- Better yet, run a food sensitivity panel (IGg) to see if rampant food sensitivities are causing low-level inflammation in your body. Eliminate these foods for 3 months to get to the root cause of aches and pains.
- If you’re a man, get your testosterone level checked and see if it’s low, you may be suffering from low muscle mass and weight gain which is a factor in joint pain.
- Get your red blood cell magnesium level checked. Most Americans are deficient in magnesium and magnesium is needed for healthy muscle function. Healthy muscle and adequate muscle is needed for joint support. Low levels can contribute to joint pain.
- Many men and women are insulin resistant and do not know it. Insulin resistance comes years before diabetes without any warning signs. If your fasting glucose is above 90 and your HBa1c is greater than 5.7, you may have insulin resistance. Your doctor will not alert to you that this is a problem, so you have to push it. If you are insulin resistant your muscle to fat ratio is off you have less muscle and more fat putting more pressure and inflammation on your joints.
In conclusion, finding natural pain relief is always better than relying on over-the-counter or prescription medication which always comes with side effects or risks. Once you find a pain reliever that helps you, it’s time to get to the root cause of your arthritis pain and inflammation. Finding the root cause can reduce or eliminate your need for any type of pain relief which is the goal!
Linda is a Functional Health Coach.
I hope you enjoyed this article and please feel free to leave me a comment below!