All Posts tagged arthritis

Can Gin Soaked Raisins Help Arthritis Pain?

Some years ago, the newsman Paul Harvey recommended raisins soaked in gin for all manner of aches and pains, including arthritis.  Due to the popularity of his radio show, the news about gin soaked raisins spread rapidly, and people all over started trying it for their arthritis symptoms.  Many of those that tried it believed it worked for them, and they started to make their way into home remedy books, magazines, and other articles.  As a result, there are many gin soaked raisin recipes out there, and even more people who claim that the remedy does help their arthritis pain.

The most common recipe calls for a bottle of gin and a handful of golden raisins.  You place the raisins in a bowl, and pour enough gin over them to cover them.  You are supposed to let the mixture stand until the gin has evaporated.  This may take up to a week or more.  To store them, place them in a clean jar and cover it with a tight lid.  Arthritis patients are supposed to eat nine gin soaked raisins every day.  I have heard that they are a good addition to your morning cereal.

Although this remedy is popular, does it really work?  Currently, there is no scientific research that this remedy can relieve arthritis pain.  However, if you suffer from arthritis, it may be worth a try.  After all, raisins are good for the body.  They have lots of antioxidants that can help restore the cell’s working ability.

Raisins do contain natural elements that can help with arthritis pain.  Golden and white raisins both contain sulphides or sulfur that can help relieve arthritis pain. This sulfur is obtained when fresh grapes start to slowly dry out.  The drying process is assisted by the sulfur dioxide gas.  Raisins also have natural chemicals that have both anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritis effects.  The anti-inflammatory chemicals include ascorbic acid, cinnamic acid, coumarin, and myricetin.  The pain-relieving chemicals are ferulic acid, gentisic acid, kaempferol-glucosides, and aspirin-like salicylic acid.  With these natural chemicals, the pain relieving properties of raisins should be enough to treat the most common illnesses associated with pain and swelling.

Gin, on the other hand, is generally made up of juniper berries.  Juniper is what gives gin its flavor.  Juniper berries come from evergreens and conifer plants found in North America and Europe.  They are rich in terpenes and Vitamin C.  History indicates that these berries have been used since the Middle Ages.  Then juniper berries were used as a medicine to treat swelling because of its effective anti-inflammatory properties.

However, there is a possibility that gin soaked raisins are no more than a placebo.  The mind can be programmed to believe that a medicine is really effective. The same is true with this home remedy.  Some people can be bent on the idea that the remedy really works and so it does for them. When the mind believes strongly about a medicine, the body’s natural pain and disease mediators come into play.

At the end of the day, whether it’s the chemicals in the raisins and gin or if it’s merely a placebo, enough people claim to have relief from this home remedy that it is worth a try.


Chiropractic Treatment of Osteoarthritis

Chiropractic care can have a positive impact on osteoarthritis.  Because one of the contributing causes of osteoarthritis is abnormal wear and tear on a malfunctioning joint, chiropractic care can actually help treat a contributing cause of osteoarthritis.  Chiropractic care involves chiropractic manipulative therapy, also called a chiropractic adjustment, along with therapies such as ultrasound, electric muscle stimulation, and laser therapy.  Chiropractors also recommend stretches and exercises for their patients, and they advise on ways to protect your back.

There are numerous ways that chiropractic can help osteoarthritis.  The most important way is it restores normal joint alignment.  By aligning the joint and enabling it to move properly, chiropractic care can reduce further wear and tear and slow down the degenerative process.  In addition, chiropractic care relieves pain and inflammation in the joints, which goes a long way to reducing the pain in osteoarthritis patients.  Chiropractic manipulative therapy also increases the mobility of the joint which can help improve joint stiffness and lack of motion.

Therapies that chiropractors utilize help in junction with the adjustment to reduce pain and inflammation.  Ultrasound therapy sends sound waves deep into the tissues and joints and helps to reduce inflammation.  Electric muscle stimulation sends electrical impulses into the muscles to reduce pain and muscle tightness.  Both therapies work well, but the best therapy that I have found so far for the treatment of osteoarthritis is cold laser therapy.  Cold laser therapy goes to the cellular level and promotes healing at that level.  Some of its effects include accelerated cell growth and reproduction, accelerated collagen synthesis, increased cellular metabolic activity, anti-inflammatory action, increased vascular activity, and stimulated nerve function.   Most of these effects can help to reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis.

Proper body mechanics can help relieve stress on arthritis joints.  Good posture is a key to proper body mechanics.  Whether standing or sitting, your ears should be over your shoulders which should be over your hips.  Poor posture leads to extra stress on joints that can accelerate the degenerative process.  You can visit my other blog post on proper posture to see tips to improve your posture.

Finally, chiropractic treatment of osteoarthritis includes exercises and stretches.  The general rule with osteoarthritis is if you don’t move it, you lose it.  So range of motion movements, stretches, and light exercises are essential for maintaining fluidity in the joints and flexibility of the muscles.  The National Institute on Aging has a good site for exercises for seniors with arthritis.

If you are suffering from osteoarthritis and are interested in trying chiropractic care, feel free to contact me, and I may be able to help you find a chiropractor in your area.


What Can Tart Cherries Help?

I had a patient come into the office the other day saying that she was eating tart cherries to help with her knee and back pain.  She had heard about this from a well-known health column in the newspaper.  She had been eating the cherries this for a couple of weeks and thought it was helping.  I had never heard about eating tart cherries for arthritis and inflammation.  Over the years I have heard of a number of home remedies from patients, but this was the first for tart cherries.  So if you’re like me and never heard of this, here’s what a little research taught me:

Drinking tart cherry juice or eating tart cherries can help reduce arthritis pain and inflammation.  It also may be beneficial for people with gout, diabetes, muscle pain, back pain or neurodegenerative diseases.  The tart or sour cherry is also known as the pie cherry, Montmorency cherry, or the Balaton cherry.  They are different from the sweet cherries like the Bing, Ranier, and Lambert cherries that you normally find in the grocery stores.  Tart cherries are slightly lower in sugar, and most research studies I have seen tout the benefits of the tart varieties.  However, there was one study from 2004 showing that eating fresh Bing cherries may reduce arthritis inflammation and may help lessen the severity of other inflammatory conditions like cancer and cardiovascular disease.  Tart cherries are thought to be overall better because they have a higher concentration of therapeutic chemicals such as phenolic acids and anthocyanins than sweet cherries.

Phenolic acids are plant metabolites that have gained interest recently because of their antioxidant properties that protect against coronary heart disease, stroke and cancers.   Phenolic acids are simple molecules which are easily absorbed in the human systems and offer a host of anti-aging benefits.  Apart from making the cells stronger and decay-resistant, the most important phenolic acids anti-aging benefits relate to reducing anti-oxidant activity and preventing growth of abnormal cells.  The most important sources of phenolic acids anti-aging benefits are blueberries and coffee, but they are found in cherries as well.  Phenolic acids are also known to be useful in controlling inflammation, boosting the immune system, and improving blood circulation, all of which produce significant anti-aging benefits in the body.

Anthocyan is a chemical found in plants that is part of the flavonoid family.  It is responsible for the dark red color of the cherry.  They are richly concentrated in the pigments in berries.  Laboratory-based evidence shows they have potential health effects against cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and bacterial infections.  Cancer research on anthocyanins has found that it stalls the growth of pre-malignant cells; accelerates the rate of cell turnover effectively making the cancer cells die faster; reduces inflammatory mediators that initiate tumor onset; inhibits growth of new blood vessels that nourish tumors; and minimizes cancer-induced DNA damage.   Anthocyanins have also been found to block cyclooxygenase 1 and 2 (Cox 1 and Cox 2) enzymes.  Therefore, tart cherries may have some similar effects or properties as Cox-2 inhibitor drugs like Celebrex.  While anthocyanins are found in other berries like strawberries and raspberries, tart cherries have the highest concentration of them.

In addition to the phenolic acids and anthocyan, cherries also contain high levels of beta carotene (vitamin A), vitamins C and E, and are a good source of potassium, magnesium, iron, folate, and fiber.  Interestingly, cherries are also a natural food source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

If cherries are out of season or you cannot find the tart cherries in your local grocery store, you have other options.  You can purchase tart cherry juice or tart cherry juice concentrates at most grocery stores.  According to the Cherry Marketing Institute, one 8 ounce glass equals about 100 cherries.  However, some of the beneficial compounds can be lost during processing.  Tart cherries can also be purchased dried.  One serving of dried tart cherries is about ½ cup.  Tart cherries can also be bought canned or jarred, but again, cooking destroys many of the compounds.  This also means that not much benefit would be gained from a piece of cherry pie.  Whole cherries can also be eaten raw or frozen (one serving equals about 1 cup), or blended into a smoothie with cherry juice, ice, banana, and other fruit.


Nutritional Supplements for Osteoarthritis

There are a number of nutritional supplements that have been proven to help with the symptoms of osteoarthritis.  If you suffer from osteoarthritis, I hope these supplements may give you some relief.

Vitamin C supplementation can help counter the wearing away of cartilage.  Vitamin C is used throughout the body to manufacture a variety of tissues, including collagen.  Collagen forms a network of protein fibers that lay down the structural foundation for many tissues, including cartilage, bone, tendons and muscles, all necessary to keep joints strong and operating smoothly.  One study by the University of New York at Stony Brook found that vitamin C encourages the growth of cartilage cells by stimulating synthesis of these cells’ genetic material.  The recommended dosage is 3,000-10,000mg daily in divided doses.  High doses of vitamin C can lead to diarrhea so gradually start taking it until you see how sensitive you are to it.

Vitamin E supplementation can provide some pain relief.  Vitamin E fights inflammation by neutralizing the biochemicals that are produced during inflammation.  These biochemicals, which are released by immune cells, contain free radicals that can damage your cells.  Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant which protects the cells from the free radicals.  In a study by Israeli researchers, people with osteoarthritis who took 600 IU of vitamin E per day for 10 days had significant reduction in pain compared to those not taking vitamin E.  The recommended dosage is 400-600 IU/day.  You can also supplement with selenium, a mineral that increases the effectiveness of vitamin E in an amount of about 200 micrograms a day.

Vitamin B12 can help build up bones.  A few years ago researchers at the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles discovered that B12 stimulates cells in the bone that generate new bone.  This could be important to people with osteoarthritis because underneath the degenerating cartilage, the bone also deteriorates, causing additional pain and further cartilage erosion.  This led researchers at the University of Missouri in Columbia to try giving B12 to people with osteoarthritis in their hands.  They found that people who took 20 micrograms of B12 and 6,400 micrograms of folic acid (another B vitamin that works in concert with B12) for two months had fewer tender joints and better hand strength and took less medicine for pain that people not getting this B vitamin combo.

Niacinamide can also help osteoarthritis.  Niacinamide is a form of niacin, one of the B-complex vitamins.  Niacinamide is often recommended as an alternative to n iacin because it produces fewer side effects.  Some nutrition-oriented doctors have been recommending nicinamide for osteoarthritis since the 1940s, when it was found to be helpful in relieving swelling and joint pain and improving muscle strength.   Improvement is usually noticeable after the first few weeks and becomes even more pronounced with continued treatment.  Very severely damaged arthritis joints respond slowly or don’t respond at all.  If you decide to try niacinamide for osteoarthritis, make sure you do so under medical supervision.  Treatment requires dosages of 500 mg twice a day to 1,000 mg three times a day.  Any dosage of 1,500 mg/day or more has the potential to cause liver problems.  Blood tests for liver enzymes should be performed after three months of treatment and then annually thereafter to make sure there is no liver damage.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate have both been proven to help with osteoarthritis.  These supplements give your body the nutrients it needs to build cartilage.  You can see the research behind these supplements in a previous post I wrote on Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate.  A few warnings about these supplements:  glucosamine sulfate can raise blood sugar in diabetics.  Chondroitin sulfate can cause bleeding in those taking blood thinners.  Also glucosamine sulfate should not be taken if you are allergic to shellfish because it is derived from the shells of shellfish.


Medical Treatment of Arthritis

pills3Medical treatment of arthritis is mainly composed of medications and surgery.   Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is usually the first medication recommended for arthritis pain.  The next commonly used drugs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen.  NSAID side effects are usually gastrointestinal in nature.  However, long term usage of NSAIDs can lead to kidney failure, liver failure, and ulcers.   There is a class of drugs called Cox-2 inhibitors (such as Celebrex) that are often prescribed for arthritis patients.  These are NSAIDs that don’t cause as much stomach irritation.  However, Cox-2 inhibitor usage can lead to heart and stroke problems as well as ulcers.

Oral steroids such as prednisone and hydrocortisone are occasionally used for treatment, but they are more often used for rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis than with osteoarthritis.  Short term side effects of oral steroids include sleep disturbances, increased appetite, and weight gain.  Powerful painkillers, such as codeine, and synthetic narcotics, such as Vicodin can also be prescribed.  The chance of becoming addicted to these types of drugs is always a consideration.

Topical analgesics such as Ben Gay and Biofreeze can also be helpful.

If oral medications are not working sufficiently, a medical doctor may recommend injections of synthetic corticosteroids.  These corticosteroids can be injected into the affected joint spaces.  This helps minimize the use of oral forms of these drugs, which have a greater risk of causing such systemic effects as fluid retention and suppression of adrenal and immune function.  However, it must be remembered that there are significant side effects to steroid injections.  They are known to weaken tendons that can lead to tendon rupture.  The injections can also weaken cartilage and thin bones.  So in reality, their side effects can help contribute to the conditions they are trying to treat.

If you have problems with knee arthritis, your medical doctor may recommend an injectable medication called hyaluronan.  Injectable hyaluronan is often referred to by its most commonly known brand name of “Synvisc”.  Other brand names include Orthovisc, Euflexxa, and Supartz.  Synvisc is typically administered as a series of three injections into the knee joint, each injection spaced about one week apart.  Synvisc has been shown to help alleviate arthritis symptoms for 6 months, and to delay the need for knee replacement surgery.  Hyaluronan is present in normal joint fluid and responsible for the lubricating properties of normal joint fluid.  The lubricating effects of joint fluid allows for the cartilage surfaces of joints to glide upon each other in a smooth fashion.  Most orthopedic surgeons will agree that there is likely a temporary benefit of Synvisc injections, but in the long-term additional treatments are probably necessary.

Ultimately your medical doctor may recommend surgery.  They may do surgery to “clean up” the ends of the bones.  If destruction progresses to the point that pain or lack of mobility becomes unbearable, joint replacement surgery may be recommended.