Pain Relief

The Best Natural Remedies for Arthritis

By Justin Fowler-Lindner

In the United States, arthritis is the leading cause of disability for adults.

Are you at risk?

Women are 8 percent more likely to develop arthritis, and people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are between 31 and 49 percent more likely.

Fortunately, the following natural remedies for arthritis can reduce risk factors across the board:

  1. Exercise 
  2. Weight loss
  3. Anti-inflammatory diet
  4. Bone broth
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids
  6. Pineapple and papaya
  7. CBD (cannabidiol)

Managing arthritis is a life-long commitment, but with the right natural remedies you can have a shot at a better quality of life.

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a chronic joint condition that causes pain, stiffness, and in certain cases, severe inflammation. It typically gets worse with age.

Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Out of the 100+ different types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) are the most common.

Causes of OA vs. RA

The main difference between OA and RA is that OA is a degenerative joint disease caused by normal wear and tear, whereas RA is an autoimmune condition characterized by widespread inflammation.

Symptoms and Side Effects of OA vs. RA

Although inflammation can occur with OA, it’s usually less prevalent and isn’t a central part of the disease. Instead, the primary symptoms of OA are localized joint pain and stiffness.

RA, on the other hand, is much more complex. Common side effects of RA include prolonged morning stiffness, fatigue, low-grade fever, fluctuations in appetite, and other digestive issues.

Inflammatory foods, like sugar and processed dairy, can trigger flares: a condition where symptoms suddenly become worse.

With both RA and OA, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Relieving pain from arthritis is easier without the extra pounds to lug around.

Treatments for OA vs. RA

Because OA is just damaged joint tissue, it’s usually much easier to treat. For example, treating knee osteoarthritis can be as simple as adjusting your exercise routine, applying a heating pad, and eating less sugar.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, on the other hand, may not be as easy to manage. If you want relief from pain and swelling, you’ll have to reduce inflammation at the source: the gut.

RA is closely linked to intestinal inflammation, and when inflammatory agents pass into the bloodstream, they can trigger flares.

This makes it even more important to follow a strict anti-inflammatory diet. It’s also important to engage in activities that reduce stress, because chronic stress can aggravate gut inflammation and trigger RA flares.

7 Natural Remedies for Arthritis

By fueling your cells with the right nutrients and engaging in low-stress exercise, you can greatly reduce symptoms of arthritis.

Here you can find seven of the best natural remedies for arthritis.

1. Exercise

One of the easiest ways to improve arthritis symptoms is through movement.

Some arthritis-friendly health benefits of exercise include:

  • Lubricates the joints
  • Loosens stiff, soft tissue
  • Improves mobility
  • Strengthens the muscles
  • Balances hormones
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Weight loss

Synovial fluid is a natural lubricant created in the joint cavity, and movement stimulates the body to make more of it.

Strong muscles support the joints, reduce further joint deterioration, and loosen-up stiff tissue to allow for more fluid body mechanics.

Exercise also reduces stress by balancing hormone production and fighting inflammation. Although when arthritis symptoms are at their worst, it may be necessary to take a short break from physical activity.

Light stretching can help manage joint inflammation and keep the body limber without aggravating symptoms.

Here are some low-stress exercises for arthritis management:

  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Elliptical
  • Bicycle (properly fitted)
  • Yoga
  • Crunches and other core exercises

Always start slow and gradually increase the intensity to minimize the risk of injury.

2. Weight Loss

Could you lose a few extra pounds?

Losing weight can make it easier to manage arthritis symptoms.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, roughly 31 percent of obese adults have arthritis.

Weight loss is a lifestyle change that goes well beyond arthritis. It also supports cardiovascular health, balances hormones, improves sleep, and reduces the risk of serious disease.

3. Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Food can either trigger widespread inflammation or prevent it. The choice is yours!

RA, like all autoimmune diseases, is strongly influenced by diet due in part to abnormal glucose metabolism.

If you’re like most people, you probably eat too many inflammatory foods, like:

  • Sugar
  • Refined vegetable oils (soybean, corn, and canola oil)
  • Refined grain products (gluten-containing bread, pasta, and cereal)
  • Pasteurized dairy
  • Conventional meat and eggs (growth hormones, antibiotics, and inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids)

Unfortunately, these are terrible for arthritis.

Research indicates that a pro-inflammatory diet can increase enzymes that destroy joint tissue.

In general, a healthy arthritis diet consists of:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (avoid large quantities of high-sugar fruit)
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Bone broth
  • Wild-caught fish (salmon, sardines)
  • High-sulfur foods (broccoli, kale, onions, cabbage, garlic)
  • High-antioxidant foods (vegetables, herbs, spices)
  • Healthy fats (coconut and olive oil)

Now let’s take an in-depth look at a few of these arthritis-friendly foods…

4. Bone Broth

Collagen is a protein that provides the structural building blocks for the skin, bone, tendons, fascia, and other connective tissue, and as it turns out, bone broth is packed with it!

The body interweaves dietary collagen with core proteins called proteoglycans to form a mesh-like tissue that absorbs impact. At the same time, cells called chondrocytes use collagen to continually produce joint cartilage as you age.

According to a recent meta-analysis, “A growing body of evidence provides a rationale for the use of collagen hydrolysate for patients with OA.”

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The oil found in wild-caught fish, like salmon and sardines, contains large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids: some of the best nutrients for fighting inflammation and treating arthritis.

In fact, a 2018 study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that people who ate fish more than twice a week had significantly lower indicators of RA.

A 2014 study arrived at similar results: over the course of 18 months, patients were treated with borage oil, fish oil, or both. All three groups exhibited a significant reduction in RA symptoms after nine months of treatment.

5. Pineapple and Papaya

The proteolytic enzymes found in pineapple and papaya have potent pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Bromelain, for example, is a digestive enzyme found in pineapple that may improve joint mobility and decrease swelling in patients with arthritis.

Then there’s papain: an anti-inflammatory enzyme found in papaya.

In a 2011 human study, papain successfully suppressed inflammatory cytokines and alleviated inflammatory conditions.

On a similar note, a 2015 human study tested an enzyme supplement called Wobenzym against the NSAID diclofenac.

Here’s what they found:

“Wobenzym is comparable to the NSAID diclofenac in relieving pain and increasing function in adults with moderate-to-severe painful knee OA and reduces reliance on analgesic medication.”

To top it all off, Wobenzym had fewer adverse effects.

6. Curcumin

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that fights inflammation.

In a 2014 study from Japan, curcumin significantly reduced the expression of interleukin (IL)-6: an inflammatory cytokine linked to RA.

Another study published in the medical journal Oncogene evaluated the therapeutic strength of a dozen different anti-inflammatory compounds. Out of the bunch, curcumin was among the most effective.

Turmeric has been used for thousands of years as part of Ayurvedic medicine, and today there are over 13,000 peer-reviewed studies supporting all sorts of health benefits.

Research shows that curcumin may treat cancer, blood clots, depression, reduce inflammation, and treat pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

In a 2015 rodent study, researchers found that, “Curcumin attenuates arthritic pain by inhibiting glial activation and the production of inflammatory mediators in the spinal cord, suggesting a new application of curcumin for the treatment of arthritic pain.”

Another 2012 pilot study divided RA patients into three groups and treated them with either curcumin (500 mg), diclofenac sodium (50 mg), or both. The curcumin group scored significantly lower than the diclofenac group for RA symptoms.

7. CBD (cannabidiol)

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a potent anti-inflammatory compound that may be an effective treatment for arthritis.

CBD is one of 100 phytocannabinoids found in hemp and marijuana plants.

It influences the body through the endocannabinoid system: a recently-discovered network of receptors that regulates all other body systems, including the immune system.

CBD products derived from hemp are legal in the U.S., and they won’t get you high like marijuana.

Here’s what the research has to say about CBD, inflammation, and arthritis:

  • A 2017 rodent study found that, “Local administration of CBD blocked OA pain. Prophylactic CBD treatment prevented the later development of pain and nerve damage.”
  • A 2016 rodent study found that, “Topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviours and inflammation without evident side-effects.”
  • In a 2018 study, CBD reduced several markers of inflammation with no cytotoxic effects.

Today, you can find a long list of CBD brands and a wide range of products, including edibles, sublingual tinctures, topicals, and capsules.

Creams, lotions, balms, salves, and oils are the best for fast-acting joint pain relief.

However, if you want to experience the holistic anti-inflammatory effects of CBD, edibles and sublinguals are also great options.

Combined with exercise, weight management, and proper nutrition, CBD can be part of an effective comprehensive treatment plan for arthritis.

Dealing with Arthritis

If you struggle with arthritis, you aren’t alone, and there are plenty of ways to reduce your symptoms. Talk to your doctor about these naturally remedies for arthritis, and other recommendations that he or she may have for your condition.

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