Arthritis, a physical disease that also exacts on mental, emotional and economic toll is increasing at an alarming rate. Statistics suggest that presently one in seven Americans - nearly 40 million - have some form of arthritis and this number will climb to 60 million by 2020, according to the National Arthritis Data Workgroup of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
Arthritis slows down physical movements and cause pain in muscles, joints or tendons. At worst, it could cause enough agony to require hospitalization, says Jeffrey R. Lisse, M.D., director of the Division of Rheumatology and associate professor of medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Arthritis can also result in sleeping problems, decreased sexual activity because of pain and a weaker cardiovascular system, since many sufferers stop exercising when they have pain and swollen joints.
There are more than one hundred different types of arthritis but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a wear and tear disease that affects 16 million Americans and results when the cartilage in joints deteriorates from stress, overweight or injury. It strikes about 12 million women, who usually get it after age 55. Physicians may refer to it as degenerative joint disease and patients usually know this disease best as old age arthritis. There is no cure for Osteoarthritis and so the goal of therapy is to control the disease and possibly slow its progress by keeping the affected joints mobile, preventing further disability, and relieving pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease commonly affects people between the ages of 20 and 40 and women are three times more likely than men to get rheumatoid arthritis. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known but it is considered an infection in which heredity and body’s immune system plays a part. The goals of therapy are reduction of inflammation and pain, preservation of function, and prevention of deformity.
Various studies show that food plays a crucial role in the severity of arthritis. Nightshades (a family of foods that includes but is not limited to peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant) can classically cause a problem with arthritis patients. Norwegian researchers discovered that patients with rheumatoid arthritis saw dramatic improvements in their conditions within one month of beginning vegetarian diets. Other scientists have found that omega-3 fatty acids, abundant in cold-water fish such as salmon, herring and sardines, also ease rheumatoid arthritis pain.
According to Paul Caldron, D.O., a clinical rheumatologist and researcher at the Arthritis Center in Phoenix "A diet that's low in saturated fat and animal fat seems to be helpful. Eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and nonred meat sources of fat such as fish and chicken may cause the body to produce fewer pro-inflammatory substances. That's not to say a diet will cure arthritis, but it may modify the effects of arthritis.”
1. 'Age Erasers for Women', Rodale Center for Women's Health: Prevention Magazine Health Books, 1994
2. Soloy Theil, Megan, “Rheumatoid Arthritis”, Sun Media Corporation, Times Journal (St. Thomas, Ontario), September 13, 2003