People suffering with osteoarthritis and chronic joint pain in recent years have had the rug pulled out from under them. The primary medicines used by joint-pain patients are aspirin and Ibuprofen, which often aren't strong enough for ongoing pain relief, which leads them to seek prescriptions from their doctors.
Arthritis patients have been prescribed drugs known as COX-2 inhibitors, such as Vioxx and Celebrex, but these drugs have their own disadvantages, including increased risk of stroke and heart attack. In 2004, for instance,Vioxx was taken off the market. Moreover, all the above drugs have proven to adversely affect the gastrointestinal tract, leading to discomfort and pain in many people.
As a result, many patients are looking beyond drugs for relief, including diet and supplements.
Diet can be an important factor for managing chronic joint pain. Protein, for instance, is vital for manufacturing collagen, the "glue" from which we make connective tissue. If someone isn't eating enough protein — or too much of the same kind of protein — he or she may not get enough of the amino acids from which the body makes its own proteins, such as collagen. We break down food protein to amino acids, and then make proteins we need, plus other vitally important substances such as antibodies, enzymes and hormones.
Americans eat too many oils that can set the stage for inflammation. For example, we eat lots of vegetable oils and partially hydrogenated oils such as corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower and cottonseed that can initiate or worsen inflammation. We often find these in fast and processed foods in the form of trans fats. On top of this, we don't eat enough foods containing Omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as walnuts and cold-water fish. Making matters worse, too much saturated fat from beef and other animal foods can further worsen inflammation.
In general, we aren't eating enough whole vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices, though these brightly colored foods contain thousands of plant pigments and health-promoting compounds called phytochemicals.
Eating the rainbow of food colors is sound advice. Many of these naturally occurring plant chemicals provide anti-inflammatory action that helps with pain control and rebuilds connective tissue. Plant foods are also high in vitamins and minerals.
Modified diet can provide potent pain relief. Pairing sufficient protein intake with "an oil change" is a good start. Eating more plant foods and fewer refined carbohydrates such as white bread and crackers will offer further benefits, especially when we implement lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and stress reduction.
All the above, combined with weight loss and targeted nutritional supplementation, lead to pain relief and joint revitalization far beyond what anti-inflammatory drugs can provide.
Work with your healthcare provider or a nutritionist to optimize treatment.
Michael Altman, a nutritionist at Ventana Wellness in Medford and the Centre for Natural Healing in Ashland, teaches at Southern Oregon University and College of the Siskiyous. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.