by Tracey Roizman, DC
If you suffer from arthritis you might be interested to know that arthritis began to appear with great frequency around the same time that we stopped being nomadic hunter-gatherers. At this time we opted to be farmers and developed a more sedentary lifestyle. This time period, known as the agricultural revolution, has altered human culture in many wonderful ways. Arthritis, of course, isn’t one of them. However, we can derive many of the health advantages of the nomadic lifestyle without actually having to put all our belongings in storage and go on permanent “walkabout”. Here are some of the theories of how and why and some suggestions on making modern life more user friendly.
Very few modern American citizens are farmers. What, then is the connection? In fact, modern life has much in common with farming in regards to the root causes of arthritis. One important factor is the use of repetitive movements. When we learned how to cultivate plants we became specialists. The variety of our movements decreased and the repetition of a smaller number of similar movements increased. Farming, for instance, involves the repetitive motions of tilling, planting, weeding and harvesting. This trend has progressed up to the present. Factory workers and office workers alike engage in their own versions of tilling, planting, weeding, and harvesting activities. Who in today’s society hasn’t heard the term “repetitive stress injury? If you own and operate a computer you more than likely have experienced some form of computer related stress and strain. Add to that the amount of time we spend sitting at our desks and in front of the television and you can begin to see a recipe for back, neck, shoulder and arm strain. Over time it is easy for arthritis to set in.
Aside from the repetitive stress effects, becoming agricultural specialists has decreased the diversity of our diets. Since we learned to cultivate our food we have selectively grown only the things we like to eat rather than simply eating what is available and growing naturally. Thus, we have by choice limited our diets to certain staple foods. Selecting some strains of wheat or corn or rice over others changes these plants from their original form. Add to the mix the miracle of genetic engineering and you have a recipe for a dramatically altered food source. Change is good, but it happens that this much change in our food from its original form is not good for our bodies.
The connection between our modern high tech “super foods” and arthritis is two fold.
One aspect is that we eat too much of too few things. Our bodies begin to react negatively to these foods. Food intolerances or allergies result and along with them comes a certain degree of inflammation. This inflammation spreads throughout the body and effects the joints, where it goes by the name of arthritis.
In addition, there are some components of our staple foods that are difficult for our systems to process. Wheat for instance contains the protein gluten, which is allergenic. Eaten in small quantities and rotated with a variety of other foods it might not be much of a problem. Eaten in large quantities to the exclusion of other foods it can spell trouble.
The other aspect of the food-arthritis connection is a condition known as “leaky gut syndrome”. This occurs when the lining of the intestinal tract becomes damaged and allows large particles of food that haven’t been fully digested to pass through into the bloodstream. Cells are not capable of taking these large food particles and using them so they are seen by the body as foreign objects and are attacked by the immune system. Often times this generalized attack becomes further misdirected to include your joints and thus arthritis is born.
What, then, is the cure for the post- agricultural revolution arthritis- inducing modern American diet and lifestyle? In a word; variety. Do fewer repetitive activities and if that is not an option counteract the effects of those activities with chiropractic care, massage, and stretching and strengthening exercises to balance muscle tone and neutralize uneven wear and tear on your joints. Diet wise, eat less of the things you currently eat the most of and replace these foods with healthy alternatives.
Realistically speaking, it is not likely for the average individual to be able to fully live the nomadic lifestyle so here is a short list of useful supplements and foods; the “root cures”, for arthritis:
- Flax, walnut, primrose and grape seed oils are all high in the fats that discourage inflammation.
- The enzymes bromelain and papain, extracted from pineapple and papaya, help to digest and disperse some of the molecules of the inflammatory process.
- Vitamin C, glucosamine sulphate and MSM are categorized as joint food. They are the building blocks that the body uses to construct new joint tissue.
- Acidophilus produces chemicals that act as natural antibiotics and kill bacteria in your intestines that might provoke an immune response that could effect the joints.
- Antioxidants help prevent cell damage from free radicals which are produced when there is a lot of inflammation. Take lots of antioxidants.
- The spices ginger and turmeric inhibit inflammation inducing prostaglandins.
And here are a few food items to avoid:
- Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. These are highly encouraging to the process of inflammation.
- High quantities of meat and dairy products. These are acidifying to the body and must be neutralized with calcium from the bones, leading to osteoporosis.