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Half the population over 60 years old
suffers from Arthritis


Chronic conditions progress in proportion to our inability to repair and maintain our systems and tissues.


The term arthritis refers more to the symptoms (inflammation of one or more joints, characterized by swelling, warmth, redness of the overlying skin, pain, and restriction of motion1) rather than a specific disease or condition causing them.  The most common form of arthritis is Osteoarthritis.  The following description comes from Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Osteoarthritis - 15.8 million Americans are afflicted with this disease.  It typically runs in families, and affects three times as many women, as men. It is a degenerative joint disease and related to the wear and tear of aging and involves deterioration of the cartilage at the ends of the bones.  The muscles, ligaments, and tendons holding the joint together become weaker, and the joint itself becomes deformed, stiff and painful.  The previously smooth surface of the cartilage becomes rough, resulting in continuous friction.  Most often there is some pain, but little or no swelling.  If any disablement occurs it is usually minor.



Here is what this looks like:


A more detailed description can be found at MedicineNet.  The "Power Points" of the MedicineNet description include:

  1. Osteoarthritis is a joint inflammation that results from cartilage degeneration.
  2. Osteoarthritis can be caused by aging, heredity, and injury from trauma or disease.
  3. The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is pain in the affected joint(s) after repetitive use.
  4. There is no blood test for the diagnosis of osteoarthritis.
  5. The goal of treatment in osteoarthritis is to reduce joint pain and inflammation while improving and maintaining joint function.

Let's look at these more closely in order to ascertain how much nutrition, especially vitamin C, may be involved as a cause or potentially a cure for Osteoarthritis.

Point one states that the source of symptoms is "cartilage degeneration".  As we know, vitamin C is critical to proper tissue development, especially tissues that are exposed to physical stress, such as cartilage.  If the degeneration is chronic, and not due to a specific genetic or disease cause, then this points very strongly to a chronic nutritional deficiency.

Point four reinforces that Osteoarthritis is a condition and not a disease.

Point five hints at the woefully inadequate prospects one can expect from the conventional medical community.

Point two shows us that, indeed, this is a chronic condition, one that gets worse over time.  This is why Osteoarthritis is often referred to as the "wear and tear" arthritis.  This designation is misleading.  It is not so much an inevitable consequence of years of use that causes this degeneration as it is a lack of our body's ability to properly maintain itself that causes Osteoarthritis.  H.J. Mankin of Massachusetts General Hospital stated it this way in a report presented to an International Congress of Rheumatology:

"the fact that the cartilages' response to degradation is replacements by new tissue."

Your body is not made once and then left to degrade over time.  Our body's are extremely resilient.  They are constantly remaking and rebuilding all the tissues of the body.  It is the reduced ability to replace and repair tissues that causes these chronic, degenerative conditions.  Proper nutrition provides the raw materials for these processes to take place.  Without adequate amounts of the required nutrients, these systems work at a sub-optimal level and their compromised abilities tend to show up over time.

So, how can we make sure our systems have the raw materials they need, what nutrients are particularly involved in Osteoarthritis and can this approach reverse the condition once someone is already suffering from Osteoarthritis?

  • Vitamin C

Studies early in the century provided mixed results at best.  Dosages of only a few hundred milligrams per day did not produce significant benefit, in fact, these studies usually showed no benefit.  The reason these early studies failed to show much, if any, benefit is the same reason even most current studies show mixed results at best - the doses are hugely inadequate!  From The Healing Factor "Rivers, in 1965, in a review article on the tissue derangements caused by a lack of ascorbic acid states, 'Abnormalities in this protein (collagen) are basic to the crippling deformities associated with rheumatic diseases and with a number of congenital connective tissue defects.'"

As we discuss in the section What C Does, vitamin C is a requirement for the proper development of the extra-cellular matrix, the ground substance between our cells that gives tissues their integrity.  If we are suffering from chronic vitamin C deficiency, as most all of us are, then our body's "replacements by new tissue" as discussed above will be lower quality and not up to the task of withstanding the stresses our joints are exposed to.  Only optimum amounts of vitamin C will allow the cartilage to be replaced with optimum new tissue. The Orthomolecular Research site discusses a study that indicates that there is a Favorable effect of vitamin C on osteoarthritis.  Vitamin C intake was correlated to reduced loss of joint cartilage, significant slowing the progress of the disease and reducing the risk of pain.

  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfates

There has been a considerable amount of enthusiasm these two nutrients as "cures" for osteoarthritis.  Several months ago, I met the nicest older couple, the Stearns, while on vacation.  I discussed vitamin C and they talked to me about glucosamine and chondroitin.  They and a number of their contemporaries they knew had been taking these supplements and receiving benefit from them.  This treatment is the subject of The Arthritis Cure by Jason Theodosakis, Brenda Adderly and Barry Fox.  Dr. Theodosakis presents much information on his website.  These nutrients appear to be very important to the proper development of the specialized cartilage that covers the ends of the bones in joints.  This is just the kind of nutritional approach that should be tried BEFORE "conventional" treatments, as nutrition is far less dangerous than drugs and allows the body to heal itself.  Even Hippocrates talked of using the "least sensational" treatment.

Unfortunately, the conventional medical community generally is quite ignorant of nutrition and quite comfortable with drugs.  Consequently, they are skeptical of nutrition and far more likely to suggest drug therapies.  The Arthritis Foundation suffers from these medical "blinders" in its approach to these nutrients, although they do appear to at least acknowledge possible benefit.  From their page on these substances, I quote the summary:

    There has been a great deal of media coverage and positive anecdotes regarding the use of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate for addressing the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Based on current information from promising though limited studies, the Arthritis Foundation believes the use of these nutritional supplements warrants the careful, in-depth study being prepared by the National Institutes of Health. The Arthritis Foundation urges anyone who wants to use these supplements to become fully educated about potential positive and negative effects. In addition, the Foundation encourages people to consult their physicians about how the supplements fit within their existing treatment regimens. Above all, the Arthritis Foundation recommends that the use of proven treatments and disease-management techniques not be stopped in favor of the supplements.

Logic would lead you to the exact opposite approach.  Let me try to assist my body to perform at its optimum level (nutrition, exercise, etc.) and if that does not produce satisfactory results, then try the more foreign and dangerous treatments and therapies offered by your family doctor.  In the paragraph above, the Arthritis Foundation states that "[A]bove all,...the use of proven treatments and disease-management techniques not be stopped in favor of the supplements".  Do they mean this to apply even if a patient were to receive benefit from the supplements and feel the other treatments were no longer required?  I find this statement particularly bewildering considering the pathetic results of conventional treatments for Osteoarthritis.

  • What to do if You have Osteoarthritis

From a nutritional standpoint, I must recommend vitamin C to bowel tolerance limits (see How Much to Take).  Additionally, the two supplements glucosamine and chondroitin appear to be very effective.  I have convinced my mother to try this therapy and early indications are positive.  Several reputable brands that include a combination of both supplements are on the market. Dr. Theo's page discusses these and you can visit our resources page for suppliers.

These nutrients, combined with a reasonable exercise program (see below) should produce positive results.  If you try this, we welcome your experience to share with other readers.

  • Additional Therapies

There are additional natural things that can have a positive effect on Osteoarthritis.  I refer you to an excellent resource page, Arthritis and Rheumatism Alternatives.

Vitamin B6 has shown to be very effective and should be supplemented, probably in the form of a high-dose multi-B supplement.  The Arthritis Solution by Joseph Kandel and David Sudderth does an excellent job of overviewing many treatment alternatives and has a particularly good section on exercise.


Arthritis References


1 The Bantam Medical Dictionary © 1981

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