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Eating to Protect Your Health and Your Arthritic Joints

Fruit and Vegetables

Eating healthily is more important than ever at a time like this. Notwithstanding the problems with finding food available in the supermarkets, there are still regular deliveries of all foods to the stores.  As explained in One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, The Mediterranean diet is recommended for both osteoarthritis and general health and well-being.   In addition to fruit and veg, this plant-based diet also comprises pulses, beans, nuts and fish,  chicken and turkey, and the all important olive oil – best drizzled over vegetables or salad.

Supplements boost the immune system

There are several supplements that can be helpful for osteoarthritis, and which boost the immune system at a time when you need all the defences you can muster.

  • Vitamin C is reputed to fight viruses, and has been proven to be effective in reducing inflammation in osteoarthritis and impeding its progress[1] Taking high amounts (such as 1,000mg or more) of Vitamin C cannot harm you as excess is excreted out of the body, although some people find it upsets the stomach.
  • Turmeric too has a good reputation for easing inflammation in osteoarthritis and is often taken as a spice, as a liquid, or in capsules. What is lesser known is that it has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties as well.
  • Vitamin D is made in the body when your bare skin is exposed to the sun a lot, but in reality after a British winter it’s likely to be low. Dr Andrea Darling and Professor Susan Lanham-New, the University of Surrey, claim, ‘Vitamin D can help prevent respiratory tract infections[2] so it is important to have good Vitamin D levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.’

Dr Rod Hughes, rheumatologist at St Peter’s Hospital, Surrey,  is convinced of the importance of Vitamin D for those with osteoarthritis, ‘About 50 per cent of the population is deficient in Vitamin D, due to lack of exposure to the sun. Deficiency can mimic arthritis providing the same symptoms. It’s very easy to take a blood test and treatment is simple with capsules or injections, and the patient gets better very quickly.’

Cider vinegar

Although not the most tasty of drinks, taking a dessertspoonful of (apple) cider vinegar in water every day is helpful for easing osteoarthritis, and it also is full of beneficial bacteria and minerals.  It’s important to buy Cider Vinegar with the Mother, which means it is not pasteurised and retains all its health benefits.

While it seems counter-intuitive to have an acidic drink, the body metabolises cider vinegar so that it turns alkaline. However, it does taste acidic so if you find it unpalatable add a teaspoonful of honey, another healthy food.

So do eat healthily and exercise regularly all the time, but particularly during this difficult period in all of our lives.  Stay home if you can and stay safe.

Blog post written by Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis.

[1] Chiu PR, Hu YC, Huang TC, Hsieh BS, Yeh JP, Cheng HL, Huang LW, Chang KL.

Vitamin C Protects Chondrocytes against Monosodium Iodoacetate-Induced Osteoarthritis by Multiple Pathways. Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Dec 27;18(1). pii: E38. doi: 10.3390/ijms18010038.

[2] Martineau et al (2017)

Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data.   Br Med J 2017; 356 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i6583 (Published 15 February 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:i6583

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Exercise in Lockdown for Osteoarthritis

Knee

We are all facing the very real threats of Coronavirus and many of us are self-isolating now, especially the over 70s. Life as we knew it has completely evaporated.  For anyone with osteoarthritis, there are plenty of things that you can do to help the condition and keep yourself generally healthy in the face of such a threat.

What better way to spend all our cooped up time than doing some exercise, at whatever level you can manage?  It helps to have an exercise slot during your very long day so that you remember to do it and it gives you something positive to do.

If you have an exercise bike, now is the time to build up the muscles around the knee which protect arthritic joints and make legs stronger.  Just 10 minutes a day can make your legs feel good and strengthen the knee area.

There are also specific exercises for  osteoarthritis in the knees,  hips and hands.

  • For arthritic fingers: try some gentle stretching/splaying of the fingers, or make a fist with your hand and then completely relax it.
  • For knees: sit well back in the chair with good posture. Straighten and raise one leg. Hold for a slow count up to 10, then slowly lower your leg. Similar exercises can be done lying down or standing. If you are unsteady on your feet hold on to a firm surface and do a few squats bending your knees so that they are over your feet, making sure you only do as much as you can.

Knee squats

  • For hips: Hold onto a work surface and march slowly on the spot bringing your knees up towards your chest alternately. Don’t raise your thigh above 90 degrees. Also, holding on to a surface, bend each knee in turn, putting your heel up towards your bottom with the kneecap pointing towards the floor.

Heel to butt

There are more diagrams (courtesy of Versus Arthritis) in One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis with helpful instructions.

So with all this time on our hands, do something helpful for your fitness, to keep your joints working well and avoid getting bored.  Above all, stay safe.

Blog post written by Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis.

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My Journey to Managing Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis

One Step Ahead of OsteoarthritisIt crept up slowly with a little niggle here and there, and a bit of stiffness in the joints and then I wondered why my knee seemed to hurt when I played tennis. So I went to the doctor and was referred for an MRI, worried that I might need to have an operation. So it came as some relief to be shown the scan and see that it was osteoarthritis, no damage, and no need for an operation.  I was told to carry on playing tennis and do other exercise.

After a couple of months I was back to playing tennis with a support on my knee and that was eight years ago, and I haven’t had to stop since.  But then my thumbs started hurting, and the joints in some of the fingers felt swollen.  I was wary of arthritis in the hands as I’d seen my mother’s gnarled fingers and didn’t want the same to happen to me.  So I had them X-rayed and sure enough it was osteoarthritis.

I am a health journalist and I follow a natural lifestyle, so that seemed to be the way to go. And to be honest the doctor didn’t really offer any alternatives. They tell you to take Ibuprofen if the pain is bad, but strong drugs are reserved for chronic pain and due to the side-effects they certainly don’t hand them out to anyone who has a bit of osteoarthritis.

I also take the view that with many health issues there is so much you can do yourself that it’s not necessary to suffer.  So I started researching the subject and found out that I needed to make my diet more alkaline and much less acidic as acidity in the body is a problem for osteoarthritis (and many other conditions).  This simply involved some adjustments to what I ate, but no major changes.  I almost cut out certain foods  like tomatoes, aubergines and potatoes, and decided to drink much less wine.

I was already exercising quite a lot – tennis, tai chi and yoga – but I added some specific exercises for knees and hands and made sure I did some every day.  Tennis clubs are full of “older” people wearing knee supports yet doctors seem to think that it’s a good idea to continue with any exercise that you are used to doing.  Tai chi and yoga are both very good for osteoarthritis, and classes are often manageable for the less mobile.

I experimented with different supplements, that are known to be good for osteoarthritis (glucosamine, chondoitrin, rosehip, and more) but settled on turmeric and (no-blush) Niacin or Vitamin B3).  I took cider vinegar in water every day and gradually things began to improve, although I should emphasise that you can’t actually cure osteoarthritis but you can reduce inflammation and pain.

By not taking my thumbs and fingers for-granted, as I had done all my life, and trying to avoid putting undue pressure on them,  I have found that they don’t cause me many problems any more.  In fact, and this is quite amazing, they are straighter and stronger, and the knuckles are far less inflamed – happily they are not now very noticeable to other people, which is a good thing.

It’s important for me to keep my weight down as a few pounds extra can make all the difference with my knee and it can start hurting.  I also need to avoid too many stairs downward,  so often take the lift just to avoid them. I can walk down steps perfectly well but it puts unnecessary pressure on them.

Once it becomes a way of life to manage osteoarthritis, it is easy to do and prevents too much pain or discomfort.  My own experience and my background as a health journalist made me decide to write One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, so that others can benefit and take a positive approach rather than feeling downhearted about it.

Blog post written by Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis which is now available from Hammersmith Health Books!