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Arthritis affects millions of Americans today often with debilitating symptoms. Men and women of various ages suffer from arthritis pain, loss of motion, and limitations on activities. Although "arthritis" is a simple word and is associated with painful joints, there are dozens of variations of this problems, differing causes, and differing treatments. Although arthritis may seem like an incurable problem, advances in natural medicine aimed at removing the underlying problems are helping many people to get rid of arthritis. Certain pains that may seem like arthritis may actually be referred pain from a different place in the body. Some arthritis pains are caused by old injuries that have not fully recovered and left a joint somewhat unstable or injured. Some types of arthritis affect the whole body and slowly incapacitate the person, occasionally causing joints to permanently lose motion. Because arthritis has multiple causes, the discussion of arthritis must include many different possible treatments that correct specific problems. There are basically 2 approaches to arthritis. The first is to treat the pain and inflammation of arthritis with pain-killers and anti-inflammatory agents. The second approach is to treat the underlying problems that led to arthritis and/or to treat the problems that are holding the body back from self-repair. We focus on the second approach at our clinic.

Rheumatoid arthritis and certain other types of arthritis are basically autoimmune diseases. As such I find that they respond to therapies aimed at correcting autoimmune type problems. Causative factors like infections, leaky gut syndrome, food allergies, heavy metal poisons, nutritional imbalances, weak detoxification systems (liver or kidney), adrenal insufficiency, chronic inflammation, and others in various combinations affect rheumatoid arthritis. I find patients with arthritis, as well as other autoimmune diseases such as chron's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, MS, parkinsons disease, Hashimoto's disease, and ITP notice remarkable changes in symptoms when these underlying problems are addressed.

Osteoarthritis is more of a wear and tear problem. Muscular function needs to be investigated around the painful joints. Often weak or dysfunctional muscles are not moving or stabilizing the joint correctly, leading to grinding and improper movement of the joint. This, of course, leads to pain, instability, and joint damage. The first step in osteoarthritis is to stabilize the joints so that further damage is prevented. Second, repair nutrition aimed at supporting cartilage, connective tissues, and bone repairing must be supplied for the joints to heal properly.

I hope the following discussion of various topics will open your eyes to causative problems and treatment options for arthritis:

Infections: yeast/fungal/mold- a common infection these days. It is found in 90% of the patients that I examine. Exposure to high levels of antibiotics, steroids (topical or ingested), hormones (birth control pills, artificial thyroid hormones, estrogen replacement therapy, etc), or a high sugar diet makes individuals prone to yeast problems. To clear out a fungal or yeast problem a patient and often their spouse need to take special yeast killing medicines and follow a strict diet for 3 weeks. In worst case scenarios houses and air quality may need to be screened. Occasionally a "sick building" will be at the root of sick people's complaints.

*parasites- a common infection found in my patients. Exposure to poorly handled meats or vegetables, poor water supply, pets, or travel to foreign countries may increase risk of parasite infections. Parasites need to be treated with special antiparasitic medications. Antibiotics will not work on parasites.

*viruses- many people have compromised immune systems. With lowered immune system function certain people are prone to long standing viral infections. Viruses are not easily eradicated except by your own immune system and white blood cells. Any therapy for viral infections needs to be aimed at improving immune system function. Specific herbs, vitamins, and minerals will help.

*bacterial infections- certain bacteria are long term infections such as H. Pylori (a type of bacteria that lives in the stomach and upper digestive tract and causes ulcers and digestive problems). Certain bacteria may need to be treated with antibiotic herbs or medicines.

*Ask your health care provider to screen for systemic yeast infections, parasite infections, viral burdens, and possible low grade bacterial infections. The most common way to screen for yeast and parasite infections is with a stool sample being shipped to a qualified laboratory such as Great Smokies Labs for analysis. I find that infections are a primary factor contributing to inflammation, autoimmune type reactions, leaky gut syndrome, and food allergies. Food allergies further aggravate autoimmune problems.

Leaky Gut Syndrome: This syndrome is basically what it sounds like. The intestines have become damaged (usually from infections) and is leaking unwanted particles into the blood stream. This syndrome is associated with allergic reactions, arthritis, headaches, and a host of other problems. Eventually autoimmune problems seem to crop up somewhere down the road if leaky gut syndrome exposes the internal body to enough foreign proteins. The immune system actively tries to combat foreign proteins. If the immune system is hyperactive for long enough it can become confused and the immune system will start attacking our own body. Examples of autoimmune diseases are Multiple Sclerosis, Chron's Disease, Parkinson's Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and others. Leaky gut syndrome often spontaneously heals when infections are removed. Occasionally herbal formulas and certain vitamins, mineral, or amino acids are required to speed healing of the intestinal lining. It is worth mentioning that leaky gut syndrome will not heal with just healing nutrients alone. If there are untreated infections in the GI tract that are eating up your intestines, repairing the intestines with healing nutrients will not be permanent.

Food Allergies: food allergies almost always follow leaky gut syndrome. There are many different types of immune system responses to certain foods. Science is still classifying and learning the many different ways the immune system reacts and overreacts to foods, infections, etc. Food allergies always stress the body, burden the immune system by weakening it (then you are susceptible to frequent infections), make the immune system hyper-active (then you start attacking your own body as in rheumatoid arthritis), deplete nutrient reserves, and often cause unpleasant symptoms such as low energy and headaches. It is imperative in most chronic health conditions to investigate food sensitivity reactions. There are two main types of allergic responses:

*Fast response food allergies (IgE mediated responses)- some food allergies react quickly, with in 10 to 15 minutes and are characterized by swelling, itching, breathing difficulties, and redness. Certain ways for detecting IgE allergies has been the skin scratch method. The problems with the skin scratch method is that it only tests for IgE mediated allergic reactions and does not test for ANY other types of allergies. This is like only looking for half or one third of the possible problems.

*Slow response food allergies (IgG mediated responses)- most food allergies that seriously affect the health and are not recognized are slow response allergies. These allergic reactions may cause headaches, fatigue, sleepiness, moodiness, depression, pain, and may eventually lead to autoimmune problems if exposure is long enough. Commonly blood testing is done to identify these types of allergic foods. A problem with blood testing is that a large amount of false positive results are found which leads to too many foods being identified as allergic.

*All possible allergy-causing foods need to be identified, a desensitization protocol done, and an avoidance period of usually 3 weeks is needed to usually permanently correct food sensitivities. Ask your health care provider to test for both IgE and IgG mediated allergies, then follow a desensitizing protocol such as NAET, and after a period of time re-introduce the foods back into the diet.

Heavy metal toxins: Heavy metals are commonly involved in patients suffering with chronic health problems. Our exposure to toxins such as mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic, copper, cadmium, and others is increasing with time. Rather than "where are we getting exposed to toxins?" we need to be asking "where are we NOT being exposed to toxins?" Trace levels of heavy metals are in our air, water, food, chemicals, and environment in general.

*After exposure to toxins our body often stores toxins that it is not able to detoxify. As each person's body has higher levels of toxins problems with body function increase such as endocrine problems, hormonal imbalances, loss of menstruation in women, mental problems, autoimmune problems, headaches, joint pains, loss of flexibility, and obesity. Heavy metals need to be identified and a gentle detoxification protocol implemented. Ask your health care provider to screen for heavy metal toxins.

*It is worthwhile to note that one source of mercury poisoning may be from mercury amalgam (or "silver") fillings. I would encourage everyone to NOT use mercury amalgam fillings in their mouths. Rather, use ceramic or other non-toxic fillings. In our area are dentists that choose to work with non-mercury amalgam fillings. I highly suggest you contact our office or research on your own which dentists are aware of this health concern.

Homocysteine levels: Homocysteine is a toxin that is naturally produced in our bodies as a result of protein metabolism. Normally, homocysteine is eliminated from the body or converted into non-toxic substances and recycled for use in other ways. When the body is deficient in certain vitamins and minerals it cannot effectively detoxify homocysteine from the body. When homocysteine levels rise heart problems and inflammation follow. Homocysteine has been called the single most important factor that we can change for heart disease. Homocysteine is being recognized as more important than cholesterol as an indicator of poor heart health. Homocysteine also is a toxin that can cause inflammation and pain throughout the joints and muscles of the body. Toxic levels of homocysteine have been linked to osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, preeclampsia, depression, Alzheimer's, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, spontaneous abortion, placental abruption, renal failure, and type 2 diabetes. It is very important to screen for high homocysteine levels and take action if action is indicated. If your homocysteine levels are high, certain B-vitamins are necessary to detoxify homocysteine naturally.

Nutritional deficiencies: Nutritional deficiencies in general may be behind certain health problems. Without the right minerals, vitamins, proteins, essential fatty acids, and correct amount of water we die. With sub-optimal amounts of necessary nutrients we feel bad, cannot repair our tissues, and fail to thrive. With the correct amount of nutrients we are able to more fully function, self-repair, and have vital, robust lives.

*Today, more than ever, people are mineral and vitamin deficient. We don't have to just eat junk food to be lacking in vitamins and minerals. Often "healthy" foods, vegetables, fruits, and meats from the grocery have less than half of the mineral content of foods 60 years ago. Shopping for foods that are grown organically helps with this. Sometimes multivitamins are recommended.

*A sign of a poor vitamin is one that has the toxin stearic acid or calcium stearate. Stearic acid is a saturated fat that makes absorption of the vitamin much more difficult. I suggest looking for vitamin manufacturers that encapsulate rather than make vitamins in tablet form. Also a sign of a poor vitamin is one that uses the poorly absorbed calcium carbonate. If your calcium is in the form of calcium carbonate, in my opinion, it is worthless. Discuss with your health care provider which nutrients will be helpful for health in general and also helpful for joint repair.

Digestive deficiencies: People with arthritis can have digestive dysfunctions. Often they are not absorbing the nutrients that they are eating. Some people may not be making enough acid in their stomach and can benefit from acidic enzyme therapy such as hydrochloric acid tablets with meals. Some people may have poorly functioning pancreatic function and so may benefit from pancreatic enzymes. Some people may have a poorly functioning liver and gall bladder with low secretion of bile salts. Bile salts may be helpful for digestion and emulsification of fats. Without the proper digestive enzymes food may pass through without really being used for health. Along with proper enzyme replacement it is silly to not investigate why the organs are not producing their enzymes and support their return to function. Infections from H. Pylori bacteria can interfere with stomach acid production. Certain liver problems such as viral burdens, toxic overload, and others can interfere with bile production. The pancreas needs proper nutritional support. Digestive enzyme therapy will hopefully be temporary until your own body begins making adequate levels of its own enzymes. Ask your health care provider to screen for digestive enzyme deficiencies.

Adrenal Function: Poorly functioning adrenal glands are associated with low energy and poor resistance to stress. The hormones that are manufactured in the adrenal glands help normalize blood sugar, combat inflammation (associated with arthritis), make sex hormones, DHEA which can be thought of as an anti-aging hormone, and provide a feeling of wellness and energy. Most people with chronic diseases have poorly functioning adrenal glands. These people may benefit from adrenal glandular nutrients or vitamins and minerals which directly support function or healing of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands respond well when a person identifies their foods which are causing allergies and they avoid them for several weeks. Many cases of chronic fatigue are corrected simply with adrenal support and avoiding specific foods. Certain adrenal stimulants may need to be avoided for a while during your return to health. It is also helpful for a person to avoid concentrated sugars, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, partially hydrogenated fats (margarine, etc.), and artificial sweeteners because all of these can stress adrenal function.

Liver Function: A normally functioning liver will help to detoxify the body of toxins AND filter the blood before it enters the rest of the body. A normally functioning liver produces bile salts which aid in digestion. The function of the liver is extremely important for people with chronic illness. Since the liver is so important for cleaning and detoxifying it needs to working properly because people with rheumatoid arthritis are usually extremely burdened with toxins. It is usually not possible to detoxify the body well if the liver is not working well. So detoxifying must also include support for the liver. If a person is attempting to detoxify heavy metals with a congested liver, metals may just circulate in the blood stream and never really leave the body. This is extremely stressful for the body. So certain vitamins and minerals may be needed to support liver function and help the liver to do its job.

Repair Nutrition: for the person suffering from arthritis it is important to supply the joints with the right nutrition for repair of the cartilage, ligaments, tendons, or bones that are involved. Often one of the missing nutrients is enough water. Without the correct amount of water our cartilage loses its lubricating properties. Instead of gliding, joints begin to grind! So water is necessary for joints to repair. I suggest about 8 glasses of water a day. This does not include fruit juice, tea, or sodas. Also helpful for joint repair is glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, N-acetyl glucosamine, vitamin C, zinc, and adequate protein. These repair nutrients are not enough if the joint is physically unstable and continuing to grind or if there is systemic infections and inflammation in the body. Remember that joints can only heal with the right nutrition AND if the underlying problems are treated also!

At the Nutritional Healing Center we strive to use the cutting edge of nutritional medicine to help people recover from chronic diseases such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, migraine headaches, arthritis, diabetes, and asthma. If we can be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call and make an appointment.