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Disclaimer: The information in this article should not be regarded as medical advice.  If you are receiving medical treatment or taking prescribed medication, you are advised to consult your GP or health practitioner before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Arthritis means damage or swelling of joints.  Joints are where 2 bones meet. The ends of bones are covered by a thin layer of gristle or cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber when you put weight on a joint.

Cartilage is the tough, rubbery coating you can see on the ends of chicken thigh bones. It cushions the joints and ensures a smooth motion.

Joints are surrounded by a membrane called the Synovium, which produces a small amount of thick fluid, Synovial Fluid. This nourishes the cartilage and keeps it slippery. The Synovium has a tough outer layer called the capsule, which stops the bones moving too much. Ligaments on both sides keep bones firmly in place. These are thick, strong bands usually just outside the Capsule. Tendons are also on both sides and attach muscles to bones. They keep the joint in place and help to move it.

Osteoarthritis is the end result of a number of different episodes of damage to the joint over a period of time. Genetic inheritance may play a part with some people. Being overweight, injury to the joint and repeated minor pressures on the joint eg. some sports or occupations involving repeated kneeling or lifting. Osteoarthritis usually occurs at the knee (more common in women), the hip (equally common in men and women), the spine and in the hands, especially at the base of the thumb and in the fingers. Osteoarthritis can produce a mild ache to crippling pain, when Total Hip Replacement or Knee Replacement may be indicated.

In severe osteoarthritis, the cartilage can become so thin that it no longer covers the bone ends. The bone ends touch and start to wear away. The loss of cartilage, the wearing of the bone, and the bony spurs at the edges can change the shape of the joint. This forces the bones out of their normal position and causes deformity.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory auto-immune disease where the body turns against itself. Normally, inflammation is our immune system’s response to fighting bacteria etc. but in the case of rheumatoid arthritis the tissues and joints are attacked, which damages the cartilage, bones and sometimes the ligaments and tendons. When this happens the joints become unstable and deformities can occur.

Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women and usually occurs between the ages of 40 to 60 but can appear earlier. It can also be hereditary in some families.

With rheumatoid arthritis the symptoms can come and go unpredictably. Sometimes physical exertion, an illness, or an emotional experience may trigger a ‘flare up’ but other times there may be no obvious cause.

Helpful Tips

Information and education – knowing how and why arthritis occurs can help to slow down or prevent further deterioration.

Weight management – being overweight puts further stresses on the joints, particularly the knees and hips. A reduction in weight can make a significant difference.

Exercise – aerobic exercise where the individual raises their heartbeat, sweats and becomes breathless is good for the whole body and can help in the management of weight. It may also increase general well being. Local strengthening exercise is particularly useful in arthritis of the knee. By strengthening the quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh, pain can be reduced and balance and stability can be improved, therefore lessening disability. A physiotherapist can teach the exercises.

Frequent breaks in activities – it is sensible to have frequent breaks when gardening or doing housework to avoid mechanical stress.

Sensible footwear – a good training shoe for arthritis of the hip or knee is designed to absorb any impact when walking. Shoes should have a thick sole, no raised heel, a broad forefoot and soft uppers.

Drug therapy – No drugs are totally safe but Paracetamol is usually the first painkiller to try. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen may be the next choice but they have the potential to cause side effects especially stomach problems and may interact with other drugs. NSAIDs can inhibit repair of the joint.

Creams  – products that contain ingredients such as Boswellia, Capsaicin or MSM may help. Alleviate, an ointment from NEWAYS  has also been found to be effective.

Diet – Nutritionists recommend that we eat a diet which is 80% alkaline and 20% acid. Instead, most people eat the opposite. Acidic bodies also cause calcium to be leached out from the joints, making the condition worse.

Any allergens or food intolerances should be identified to reduce the load on the immune system, particularly with Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Milk, yeast, eggs, grains and citrus fruits are the common foods that cause intolerance (see list of foods to avoid).

Omega 3 oils from plant sources such as coconut, safflower, sunflower and flax seed are recommended to help lubricate the joints and therefore reduce the damage. MSM (methylsulphonylmethane) has also been found to reduce degeneration of the joints and can be taken orally or as a skin cream. Glucosamine is also recommended by Rheumatologists as it speeds up joint repair.

Doctors practising in nutrition recommend taking a multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement each day, which provides the daily values of all essential vitamins and minerals.

Foods that should be avoided
Arthritic hands
The colder months of the year can be miserable for sufferers of Arthritis. The cold and damp can play havoc with joint mobility, causing inflammation and pain. If you suffer from this condition you will see in the figures below that you are far from alone. The information that follows will hopefully provide you with some useful tips to help you get through the winter months with less pain.

Arthritis and Rheumatic disease affects around 8 million people in the UK

More than 3 million people have a significant disability

Osteoarthritis – the most common joint disorder in the UK affects more than one million people. It affects 10 – 25% of people aged over 65

Around 600,000 people have Rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis and rheumatic disease are the most common causes of long-standing illness, and account for one fifth of all visits to the doctor.

Salted foods

Fried foods

Burnt, charred or rancid food

Animal proteins—red meat

Foods containing nitrates

Citrus fruits



Alcoholic drinks

Caffeine—Coffee, Tea, & Chocolate

Packaged or processed food with artificial additives

Chinese food (contains Monosodium glutamate)

Dairy products


Refined flour

White sugar
Foods that may help Arthritis sufferers



Sea vegetables eg seaweed, kelp

Garlic and onions

Pineapple –contains the enzyme Bromelain


Apples, pears and paw paws

Water – at least 2 litres of filtered water each day

Herbal teas

Soya milk, Yofu (soya yoghurt)

Rice milk

Oats, oatcake biscuits

Rice cakes (with no added salt)

Brown rice


Flax seed or linseeds

Linseed oil

Cider vinegar

Tuna, mackerel and sardines

Nuts and seeds (make sure they are not mouldy) – Brazil nuts, almonds, hazel nuts, cashew nuts (not peanuts), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds (Tahini paste)

Dried fruits

Pulses –lentils and beans

White meat –chicken, lamb, and game

Herbs –basil, coriander, and ginseng