Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Self Help For Rheumatism, Arthritis And Winter Aches And Pains

Pain, swelling, stiffness inflammation and deformity of any joint or group of joints means more winter stiffness and discomfort. But you can help yourself by changing your diet.

Eat more salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines, mussels, other shellfish for Omega-3 fatty acids; liver, carrots, broccoli, apricots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe melon for vitamin A and beta-carotene; sweet peppers, kiwi fruit, oranges, Brussels sprouts, cabbage for vitamin C; avocados, fresh nuts, asparagus, sunflower seeds, olive oil for vitamin E; white meat, wholegrains and cereals, eggs, Brewer’s yeast for B vitamins.

Eat less red meat, red wines, fortified wines like sherry, port and Madeira, and large amounts of other alcoholic drinks, game, caffeine, salt and sodium-based food additives – for rheumatoid arthritis also eat less dairy products, corn, wheat, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines (all members of the nightshade family). Food allergies may be a factor for some sufferers.

Joint problems are universal and few people will live their lives without some disorder. They’re nothing new, ancient skeletons have been found with osteoarthritis, and now archaeologists tell us that even Tyrannosaurus Rex probably suffered from gout.

Nature has an armoury of things that help. Herbs like Devil’s Claw in Flexiherb, Ginger, Green Lipped Mussels, Cod Liver Oil, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, and lots more.

Arthritis means joint inflammation and there are more than 200 different types, the most common being osteoarthritis, through gout, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, spondylosis and even bunions. In the UK alone 20 million people are affected by arthritis each year. Two thirds of them suffer pain and discomfort every day and arthritis is the most common reason that professional athletes give up their sport.

In all forms of arthritis food would seem to play a major part. Eating the right things (see list above) has both a protective and a therapeutic effect, eating the wrong ones can greatly aggravate symptoms and may even be a causative factor. There is also the possibility that some allergic reactions to food and food additives might be to blame.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the weight-bearing surfaces of the joints, affecting cartilage and bone. Injury, repetitive use in occupations, sports and hobbies, obesity, heavy manual work, can all be the root cause.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects many joints, often in the extremities. It is an illness which continues over many years, usually starting with general pain, stiffness, tiredness, tingling in the hands and feet, then swellings and increasing deformity. A lifetime of acute phases and remissions is the normal pattern, mostly starting around the age of 40, though juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an ever increasing problem, women are affected three times as much as men and there is frequently a family history. Steroids, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), gold injections, joint replacement, fusions, are all part of the orthodox treatment of this rheumatoid disease which may be linked to deficiencies of the immune system.

Ankylosing spondylitis is gradually progressive inflammatory arthritis in the joints of the spine, most commonly in men between the ages of 20 and 40. It develops very slowly and is identified by the ’bamboo spine’ seen on X-rays. In time the spine becomes progressively more rigid and sufferers - ten times more men than women - can become badly incapacitated.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) also involves the connective tissue in many areas of the body and again, it’s thought to be due to deficiencies in the immune response mechanism. Young women are most frequently affected; ten times more than men, and during childbearing years, 15 times more. A number of factors have been identified as triggering the onset of lupus, sudden and unexpected exposure to strong sunlight, infection, severe emotional stress, and some prescribed medication, particularly penicillin, sulphonamides, anti-convulsants and occasionally, oral contraceptives.

The typical symptoms are fever, accompanied by acute joint pain, moving from joint to joint throughout the body. Often there are skin eruptions on the face and hands, exhaustion, loss of appetite, and anaemia, together with the classic and typical ’butterfly’ rash across the cheeks and nose.

Those with lupus usually have to avoid exposure to sunlight, so extra vitamin D becomes essential in the diet. Fish oils, oily fish, fortified breakfast cereals, egg yolk, fortified margarine (only those without trans fats are acceptable). Kidney problems and high blood pressure are common with this condition, so a very low sodium intake and lots of water are essential.

For rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and lupus, all red meat, meat products, red wine, port, sherry, Madeira, refined carbohydrates, sugar, coffee, strong tea, and all dairy products, should be avoided. It’s best to cut them all out and then add them back gradually, and in a matter of weeks it’s possible to identify those foods which cause allergic or adverse reactions.

Vegetarians can get the necessary calcium and natural plant hormones from soya beans and tofu, and there is growing evidence that a vegetarian diet helps in the relief of all forms of arthritis. The same advice is true for osteoarthritis, except that dairy products and the nightshade family do not seem to have an adverse effect. Some sufferers of all types find their symptoms reduced if they avoid corn and wheat.

Ginger, turmeric, garlic and evening primrose oil are great natural anti-inflammatories, take evening primrose as a supplement and use the others liberally in cooking. Ginger makes a delicious and refreshing tea.

Take care with your choice of vegetable oils, usually healthy corn, safflower and sunflower oils can aggravate already inflamed joints, so stick to olive or rape seed.

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FlexiHerb is a highly effective extract of the African plant, Devils Claw, one of the most fascinating and ancient herbs. It’s proper name is Harpagophytum procumbens and it grows throughout the Kalahari Desert where it’s been used by the Bushmen as a source of lifesaving liquid and as a remedy for all kinds of aches and pains.

I lived with the Bushmen for a while and went digging for the enormous root of this tiny flower in the sands of the desert. I must say you’d have to be dying of thirst to drink the bitter juice but its anti-inflammatory effect is legendary and now well proven by science too.

FlexiHerb is a registered herbal medicine for the relief of muscle and joint pain caused by over use, sport, physical work, arthritis and rheumatism.

Green lipped mussel extract from health stores and pharmacies will also help, as will all types of oily fish – but not if you have gout.

Cod liver oil, fish oils and Glucosamine may all help too.

Many simple plants are valued by herbalists with ginger, dandelion, pineapple and turmeric among the best.

Use NiteHerb, a registered herbal remedy of Valerian to help with sleep, as all types of aches and pains will keep you awake. Insomnia causing chronic fatigue is never good news for the immune system and the natural self healing process.


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MigraHerb® Feverfew capsules.

MigraHerb® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the prevention of migraine headaches exclusively based upon long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the label.

tickLessens frequency and severity of migraine attacks

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MigraHerb® 30 one-a-day capsules.
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Vitano® Rhodiola rosea tablets.

Vitano® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, such as fatigue, exhaustion and mild anxiety, based on traditional use only. Always read the label.

tickHelps revive both mental and physical performance

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Vitano® 30 tablets normally £13.27
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NiteHerb® Valerian tablets.

NiteHerb® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances due to symptoms of mild anxiety exclusively based on long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the label.

tickA natural solution to a good night's sleep

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NiteHerb® 30 tablets normally £6.12
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Multi-buy deal also available.

» For more information visit www.niteherb.co.uk