A stiff-looking hand with bony protrusions and bent fingers are entwined around a cup of tea… The cup weighs the hand down as it is making its way to lips that speak of excruciating pain. I can hear bone rubbing on bone and my mind starts wandering………..


Arthritis has been discovered in the remains of people more than 500 000 years ago. This makes it by no means a modern condition as believed. Arthritis affects animals (Osteoarthritis / Rheumatoid Arthritis), children (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis) and adults alike.

Osteoarthritis is characterized by bony changes of the joints, deterioration of tendons and ligaments, various degrees of inflammation of the joint lining (synovium) and a breakdown of the cartilage (tissue that cushions the ends of the bones between joints). Risk factors may include being overweight, aging, joint injury, genetic predisposition in joint cartilage, not properly formed joints and certain professions and sports that places stress on the joints.

Osteoarthritis(OA) is divided into two categories. In Primary OA there is no apparent predisposing abnormalities and the degenerative “wear-and-tear” process occurs after the fifth decade of life. Degenerative changes are brought on by stressing the collagen matrix (support structure of the cartilage). The damage results in the release of enzymes that destroy cartilage components. Aging of our bodies decreases the ability to synthesize and restore normal cartilage structures. Secondary OA is associated with some predisposing factor that causes the degenerative changes. Predisposing factors include: trauma (surgery, fractures along joint surfaces); inherited abnormalities in joint structure or function; presence of abnormal cartilage and previous inflammatory disease of joints (gout, rheumatoid arthritis, septic arthritis).

Interesting facts:

  1. Ulcerative Colitis (An inflammatory bowel disease) can occasionally cause joint inflammation with features similar to ankylosing spondylitis but also affecting large joints (hips, knees or ankles).
  2. Nightshade family (genus Solanaceae) vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants may trigger OA.
  3. Glucosamine sulphate is the most thoroughly researched and most effective natural approach to OA.
  4. Interesting clinical feature is the lack of correlation between the severity of OA and the degree of pain. The joint may appear normal, yet the pain can be excruciating. Then there are cases in which there is very little (if any pain) with tremendous deformity in the joint.
  5.  Antioxidants protect against OA – Results from the Framingham Osteoarthritis Cohort Study indicate that a high intake of especially Vitamin C may reduce the risk of cartilage loss and inhibit the progression of the disease.    

No single test can diagnose OA. A medical history, physical exam, blood tests (Full blood count, Erythrocyte sedimentation rate, Uric acid levels and Rheumatoid factor) and X-Rays will rule out other diseases and assist with the proper diagnosis of OA.  

The goals of treatment are to reduce / control pain, improve joint function, maintain a healthy body weight and achieve a healthy lifestyle. Analgesics (pain killers) and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs are considered among the most important in the treatment regime. Aspirin and similar drugs may actually contribute to OA by inhibiting cartilage repair. My choice of botanical medicine is Boswellia Serrata. The active component, boswellic acid, has demonstrated several mechanisms of action such as improving blood supply to the joints, inhibiting inflammatory mediators and preventing a decrease of cartilage synthesis. It is a natural anti-inflammatory that can be given to asthmatic patients. My product of choice is a soft gel capsule – Arthrogesic – from the Nutrissential Range by Apothecon Labs.   

Therapeutic exercise (aerobic and strengthening) can decrease joint pain and improve function. Avoid vigorous sports and activity as this may lead to trauma.

Dietary advice:

  1. Eat pineapple as it contains bromelain (an enzyme) which reduces inflammation.
  2. Reduce fat.
  3. Consume more sulphur-containing foods (asparagus, eggs, garlic and onion). Sulphur is needed for rebuilding and repair of bone, connective tissue and cartilage. It also aids in the absorption of calcium.
  4. Do not take an Iron supplement as it is suspected of being involved in pain, joint destruction and swelling. Instead consume Iron containing foods – broccoli, peas, lima beans, fish, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
  5. Avoid caffeine, citrus fruits, tobacco, salt, sugar, paprika, milk and red meat.

A multi facetted / discipline approach is always the best. Treat the body holistically. Agility is the key to longevity.